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frame safety vs slide safety?

13198 Views 16 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  pff
Besides location, what other differences are there between the two?
Is there a mechanical reason for the location is it purely just personal preference of the gun designer? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each design? Only owning a revolver and a Glock, I have not come across this issue yet but it may become relevant in the near future.

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Hello. I do not know that one is any safer mechanically than the other but for most of us, the frame-mounted thumb safety is usually easier to operate quickly. It is in a more natural location to be pushed down (for fire) and up (for safe) compared to the slide-mounted safety which almost always operates in the reverse (down for safe). (Makarov pistols have the slide-mounted safety and are an exception to the "rule" in that their slide-mounted safeties operate in the same direction as the frame-mounted ones.) Because the slide safety is by necessity higher than the frame-mounted ones, many find them less comfortable to use at speed.

Most slide-mounted safeties also serve as a hammer drop such as the S&W, Beretta, Bersa and Ruger, to name a few but again, there are exceptions. (The Star Model 28 has a slide-mounted safety and does not drop the hammer.) Frame-mounted thumb safeties usually don't drop the hammer when engaged but again this is not a hard and fast rule for some do, such as the Beretta Model 84.


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I hve never found a slide mounted safety/hammer dropper to be in the anatomically correct position for me. Many times when trying to get an M9 into action quickly, I find myself stumped on how to quickly get the safety off. Probably just a training issue because I have seen many many IDPA shooters kick my hind parts using them. Thus proving LtCol Jeff's dictum, "It is the man and not the machine".
Mechanically, the slide mounted safety locks the firing pin while the frame mounted safety locks the sear.
I prefer the frame mounted thumb safety. Never liked that frame mounted finger safety on the Steyr for example.

People do odd things. When the German military adopted the USP, they kept the frame mounted thumb safety, but made it work the same direction as their old slide mounted safety on their old Walther P38 (backwards from normal for USA): up is fire, down is safe.
I prefer a frame-mounted safety ala 1911, Hi Power, CZ75, etc. My concerns with a slide-mounted safety include not only the issue mentioned above about the slide-mounted safety being in an awkward position for rapid manipulation, but also I see a possibility of inadvertent flipping of the safety when racking the slide during malfunction clearance drills if the pistol has a slide-mounted safety.
Howdy folks,

I think the mechanical aspects have already been presented. So I will simply mention on difference I normally find between the two styles. In the slide mounted safety/decocker most are designed to be able to safely carry with a round chambered and the hammer lowered/safety off. In this configuration you would simply draw the pistol and fire the first round DA, then the remaining rounds fire SA - using the Smith pistol as a good example. The same would apply to the Beretta 92, most Rugers, and most slide pistols designed to fire DA/SA.

My agency issued a Smith pistol at one point, and our training stressed the weapon should be carried with a round chambered and the safety off. This allowed the weapon to be drawn and fired without the need to manipulate the safety lever (lever/decocker). At the end of a string of fire, I instructed folks to decock and then move the safety back up to allow ready firing at the next command.

So I largely see it as a matter of training. Many folks see the slide mounted safety/decocker is for example a Smith pistol to be more user friendly when carried safety off. Others prefer to manually thumb the framed mounted safety (1911/BHP/CZ75 et al) off during their draw and grip acquisition. I think it really comes down to what each individual shooter feels the most comfortable with. I shoot both styles well, but simply prefer the frame mounted safety lever as I generally prefer to carry SA only pistols. But again, they just seem to work the best for me. I simply suggest that folks find a make/model/style they are the most comfortable with, and then practice until safe operation of the platform becomes largely automatic for them.

Hope this helps a bit, but it is designed to address training issues more than the mechanical differences.

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Two guns, just to mix things up a bit, there are some guns with frame mounted safeties that allow you to de-cock and carry either C&L or hammer down, safety off. The Taurus PT99 is but one example.
Howdy sir,

Yep, much like the CZ 75B in DA/SA with the manual safety. It can be carried cocked and locked, or with the hammer manually lowered so the first round can be fired DA. But good point as usual sir (tips my hat).

One thing we find with terrifying regularity is that during a malfunction clearance a slide mounted safety often gets inadvertenly applied so you get through the drill and suddenly you have yet another malfunciton - the gun wont go off.

I have started calling the slide mounted safety a "Suicide Switch". You can train around it (by grasping the slide at the front always) but it is more difficult and not as natural.

FWIW, the S&W safety doesnt seem to get activated as often as others but I would want a spring loaded one that always returned to "fire" were I to carry a gun with the safety on the slide.

Jim H.

My preference has always been for frame mounted safeties. In an SA/DA pistol I like the the SIG style decocker.
I no longer carry pistols with slide mounted safeties for the reasons Jim H. outlined above. As much as I liked my Beretta 92 Compact it stays in my safe.

Howdy folks,

As both Mr. Jim and Mr. Wes have pointed out, that is a recurring issue I have observed with many slide mounted safety/decocking levers. I have owned pistols with this type of system in the past, to include several Smiths and one Beretta. At present my pistols either sport the frame manual safety or are Sig decockers only. Again these are my choices as I simply find they work the best for me.

For many reasons, including the added "safety" of leaving the lever in the safe position when stored at home, some shooters may prefer this system over the framed mounted manual safety. As I said earlier, to me it is simply a training matter, and folks should use the system they feel works the best for them.

During training I began to refer to the safety/decocking lever on our issued Smith pistols as a "deadman's lever" as I wanted to impress upon my colleagues that if they did not return the lever to the fire position prior to holstering, they would probably die in a shooting situation. Far too many times on ranges I have seen the lever inadvertently lowered while clearing a malfunction, and even more times during tactical courses the shooter under pressure forgot to return the lever to fire. I did note that most shooters only had to have this situation happen a few times before they became much more deliberate in working the safety/decocking lever.

During tactical courses I did try to place the shooters under some pressure to help that aspect of training be more real world. Initially under that pressure I noted that many shooters failed to return the lever to fire prior to reholstering.

It is not my intent (nor do I feel the other gentlemen wish to either) to "trash" that style of safety system. But it does indeed have some potential problems related to it not found in most frame mounted manual safeties.

I only added my comment to reinforce the valuable info just offered, and to remind folks it is a training issue they should indeed practice in my opinion, if they elect to carry a pistol with a slide mounted safety/decocking lever. I am a firm believer that what a shooter does in training is largely what they will do in real life. To me the time to have the problem and learn to correct it quickly, then find a way to avoid it totally is in training. If the problem occurs in a real world situation it may well become a deadman's lever.

Just my thoughts. I also hope they will help to reinforce the need more training for those using that system on pistols they have recently purchased. I feel it is much better to learn how to avoid such problems in training, than in a real world situation where the results could be tragic.

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Oddly enough, Beretta had a perfectly good system with the original 92 - with a safety on the frame which not only worked in the right direction, it was also a decocker.

Taurus, under license, still makes this gun (I think Josh has one right?).

The great advantage here is not only getting rid of the "dingus" on the slide, it can be carried "cocked and locked" at the shooter's option.

The only problem I presonally have with them is that my grip style places the thumb on top of the safety and when I am shooting rapidly with a Taurus I end up decocking the gun inadvertntly...that is not a malfunction and you can shoot through it but it is annoying. But then that could easily be avoided by someone who shoots only this style gun by adopting a grip with the thumb below the safety....I just am not going to retrain myself to shoot one gun (the H&K works the same way but I dont inadvertently decock it).


Jim H.
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I had slept since then.... a mind is a terible thing to lose :-[

Had a Beretta once upon a time, and one reason it left here was this very problem. Racking the slide almost always put the safety on, and sometimes 'short-stroked' because the safety movement sorta felt like you'd hit the stop.

(The other reasons were the guy who sold it to me wanted it back, and he had this like-new 6" 586 in .38 special.......)


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