Why can't the Europeans design a proper thumb safety?


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Billy Shears
July 30, 2009, 06:44 PM
I picked up a SIG 556 today, with a view to possibly adding it to my collection. I thought it was a great looking rifle, and I have read universally positive reviews of its accuracy and reliability on the internet. Moreover, the rifle seems designed so that the controls all operate almost identically to an AR-15/M-16, which in terms of ergonomics is one of the best designed rifles ever fielded. Then I put my hands on it and cursed as I had to shift my grip uncomfortably around in order to operate the safety lever. While my hands are not large, they aren't really small either. At 5'9", I'm an average size guy, with average proportions. It really irks me that this is not a rifle I can simply maintain a proper firing stance and grip with, and just flick the safety off with the thumb of my shooting hand, just as I can with an AR, or my beloved (original Costa Mesa) AR-180. This is a serious problem, as far as I'm concerned, drastically affecting the usability of the rifle, especially if I ever had to use it under stress.

And this is not the only European military-style rifle with this problem either. I used to have a G3 sporter that I got rid of partly because of this exact same issue. I also have a parts kit L1A1 that isn't quite so bad, though it's still a bit of a reach to get my thumb on the safety -- I can do it, but only just, which makes it just a tick slower.

It is simply NOT that hard to design a safety lever long enough to be easily operable with the thumb of the shooting hand. Whey the %#&& can't European gun makers seem to get it right?

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emerson
July 30, 2009, 06:57 PM
You may not like this reply but the placement of the safety is a matter of design preference. Plenty of people use (and presumable like) the rifles you mention, or they wouldn't still be in production.

I imagine if you had most of your experience with this style of rifle you would be cursing any other because the safety would get in the way.

briansmithwins
July 30, 2009, 07:03 PM
Buddy of mine swore that HK G3 rifles were designed for trolls from the Black Forest. Apparently said trolls have 4” long thumbs.

OTOH, I get on ok with my AK’s safety. It mostly stays off and my finger stays off the trigger. BSW

TexasRifleman
July 30, 2009, 07:05 PM
People whined for years for SIG to bring a 55x rifle to the US market to have an alternative to the AR.

Now it's here and people are unhappy because it's not like an AR.

I'm confused.

HorseSoldier
July 30, 2009, 07:13 PM
I've got big hands, and manipulation of the Sig 556 and FAL safeties has never been a problem for me. Even with my hands, though, the HK set up on the G3, MP5, HK53, and such just doesn't work.

Z-Michigan
July 30, 2009, 07:30 PM
I have XL hands with very long fingers and I can actually make the HK G3 safety work as a thumb safety, but it's a reach. I think many designs just don't pay much attention to ergonomics, or maybe they start moving things around at the last minute.

Dr. Tad Hussein Winslow
July 30, 2009, 08:08 PM
Then I put my hands on it and cursed as I had to shift my grip uncomfortably around in order to operate the safety lever.

Yep, that's what turned me off to them, when I was narrowing it down to 556 vs. Rob XCR. I cannot fathom why either. Otherwise an excellent rifle.

Rexster
July 30, 2009, 08:30 PM
The 556 safety lever works fine for me, with my medium-to-somewhat-short thumbs. It is the AR15 safety that I dislike. While I can reach it fine, a semi-auto AR15 is ready to fire when the safety lever is pointed at the ground. That is, to put it bluntly, and, of course just my humble opinion, STUPID. For the better part of two decades, every weapon I trained to use for serious purposes, is ready to fire with the safety pointed at the target, more or less. Whether it is flipped up, or down, to get it there, safety lever pointed at enemy equaled "fire." Then, I bought an AR15, and no matter how much I trained, in live fire as well as dry repetitions, over several years, I still feel the mental warning bells that something is wrong when I flip the dingus down. Dingus, of course, being Col. Cooper's term for the slide-mounted safety lever on certain double-action autopistols.

In short, what works for some does not work for others.

briansmithwins
July 30, 2009, 08:35 PM
As I recall, in the original design the AR15’s safety did not point forward for safe. It was changed to that direction at the request of the Army, who wanted the safety to be engaged if it got caught up in brush while being dragged on the ground, instead of disengaged. BSW

Billy Shears
July 30, 2009, 08:45 PM
People whined for years for SIG to bring a 55x rifle to the US market to have an alternative to the AR.

Now it's here and people are unhappy because it's not like an AR.

I'm confused.
Why? I thought I made myself perfectly clear. I'm not expecting it to be just like an AR, but the AR does have superb ergonomics (except for the charging handle), and this particular flaw of the SIG 556 could be cured with a slightly longer thumb safety lever.

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