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The best-and worst-rifle safeties

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by Dr T, Apr 12, 2018.

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  1. Dr T

    Dr T Member

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    A recent post on this forum got me thinking about rifle safeties. They perform their function--preventing the hammer from striking the firing pin--in a number of different ways. These range from preventing the trigger from being pulled (SKS) to a physical barrier preventing the hammer from falling completely (the cross-bolt on newer Winchester and Marlin lever guns and some of the T/C in-line muzzleloaders).

    After thinking about it, I have decided that I have some very distinct preferences. In general, a safety should be reliable, easy to operate, and hard to disengage accidentally.

    I think that the combination half-cock/cross-bolt safety on the leverguns is one of the best. It is also highly disliked by a number of traditionalists because it is not, well, traditional. When I was younger and caught up in the thrill of the chase, I caught myself carrying a pre-64 Model 94 Winchester with a round and the chamber and the hammer cocked. While this is basic young, naive stupidity fueled by adrenaline, it also convinced me that a backup system would be highly desirable. Unfortunately, it took an accidental discharge to drive the message home. Fortunately, the only thing to suffer was a mesquite tree in the wrong place at the wrong time. I find that the crossbolt on the leverguns is well placed and easy to use.

    Another very good safety is the three-position safety on the Ruger M77 Hawkeyes. The above mentioned incident has made me very cautious when unloading a gun.

    Falling into the so-so category are the two position safeties in all of their varieties. One of the more irksome things is that for some the safe position is forward and others the safe position is back. This is a mite confusing going from an old Marlin 22 WRM bolt gun to a new one.

    The worst safeties? I have two candidates. Both of these are military rifles.

    The first is the simple trigger block on the SKS. Every time I shoot the gun I think about how easy it would be to break.

    The second is the safety on Mosin Nagant. It may be just me, but I find that the safety on my two old hex receiver guns are almost impossible for me to engage. There must be a trick I have never learned. Granted, this is battle rifle designed for sustained fire under very adverse conditions. But I tend to get paranoid at the best of time.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. rbernie
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    rbernie Contributing Member

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    The Savage tang safety seems reasonable to me; it can be used to both block the trigger and block the bolt, or just block the trigger, or block neither. It's location is also inherently ergonomic.

    On the down side - it keeps the rifle from firing by blocking the trigger tail from moving, and not by positively intercepting the firing pin assembly. In that regard, it's probably not as failproof as designs that actually block the striker/firing pin from hitting the primer.
     
  3. ClickClickD'oh

    ClickClickD'oh Member

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    Best: A proper Marlin.
    Worst: A Marlin that still has it's safety in.

    It's a lever action rifle for cripes sake. The safety is the hammer. Don't fiddle with the hammer and the gun absolutely can not go off.
     
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  4. edwardware

    edwardware Member

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    Count me as a fuddy traditionalist; my Marlin 336 has a blued steel plug ilo that fugly safety plunger. I believe the half-cock notch is perfectly adequate.

    I would add that a safety must be hard to accidentally fail to operate (related to your point, but distinct). I own pistols I won't carry because the thumb safety shelf is too small to provide tactile feedback. My 1911's thumb safety shelf is impossible to miss; my LC9's shelf is so small you have to look at it to determine it's position. It's easy to operate, but also easy to miss; if I were to carry the LC9, I would pin the safety off.

    The AR15 safety demonstrates this nicely. Your firing hand thumb can ascertain state without disturbing grip. The tang safety on my M77 and nubbie on my Rem 700 are the opposite; ascertaining state requires looking or breaking grip.
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2018
  5. Ironhand54

    Ironhand54 Member

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    Best: Trigger guard safety on the Garand. Fast, sure, simple and battle proven.

    Worst: Pull and twist firing pin knob on older 22 bolts. In the weak hands of a child they are an AD waiting to happen.

    IronHand
     
  6. Newtosavage

    Newtosavage Member

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    Ironhand beat me to them (both):

    Best - like the Garand, the trigger guard safety on the Ruger Mini-14 and Mini-30 is superb and intuitive.

    Worst - any safety you pull on and turn (like my old Winchester 57 .22 rifle).

    Of course, the real "worst" safety is the one that doesn't work when it should.
     
  7. WestKentucky

    WestKentucky Member

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    Worst? Lack of. I usually am a traditional guy, but I believe it to be a wise step away from tradition to increase safe operation. My 336 is old school no-safety. My dads is about 4 years newer and has the safety. I would rather carry his because you can’t know that you know it’s safe without a safety. A hammer can snag a piece of brush and get pulled. Once the hammer is back you can’t just change your mind about a shot, you have to ease the hammer down with risk of a thumb slip.

    Best? Mauser? Auto safety on with pull of bolt. You know that gun is safe when you chamber each round.
     
  8. P5 Guy

    P5 Guy Member

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    Mosin-Nagant safety.
     
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  9. Kendal Black

    Kendal Black Member

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    Another vote for the Garand, M14, M1A, Ruger Mini type. The safety is in the best possible position for a split second correction when you realize you forgot to set it to "off." Otherwise it is out of the way and unlikely to snag on things or be disengaged inadvertently, and at the same time, it is simple and quick to engage. Best ever.

    Worst? The original, early M1 Carbine push-button safety that grunts sometimes mixed up with the mag release.
     
  10. jmr40

    jmr40 Member

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    The problem with all traditional lever actions is unloading them. Virtually all AD's happen as rounds are being cycled through the action at this time. I don't much care for the newer guns with them, but wouldn't let an inexperienced shooter hunt with a lever action for this reason. It seems simple enough, but they are more AD's with lever actions than any other rifle. The 2nd leading cause are the times when the hammer is pulled back to take a shot, or when initially loading, and the shot is never taken. When lowering the hammer on a live round there are many AD's when the hammer slips. Another problem is that the exposed hammer can become caught in brush and cock the rifle without the owner realizing.

    I'll admit I don't like the safety on lever actions and most of mine are older versions without them. But the crossbolt safety that blocks the firing pin will prevent all of the above from an AD.

    I like the 3 position wing safety common to Winchester 70's and clones. The Ruger MK-II is probably the best.
     
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  11. maxxhavoc

    maxxhavoc Member

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    Beat me to it.
     
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  12. Newtosavage

    Newtosavage Member

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    For a hunting rifle, I agree. A 3-position safety is very nice to have, whether it be the Ruger or the ones on my Savage rifles. It's nice to be able to work the bolt with the safety on.
     
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  13. rbernie
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    rbernie Contributing Member

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    I never thought too highly of a safety design that requires me to put my finger inside the trigger guard to operate. Most trigger housing mounted crossbolt safeties are equally as easy to use/set/determine by feel if they're on or off, and don't require that I put my boogerhook into the same place as the bang switch.

    I actually sold my 1936 Auto5 in favor of a 1964 version specifically to get a safety that was, well, inherently safe to operate.
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2018
  14. edwardware

    edwardware Member

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    And in addition to that. . . every M1 safety I've handled is WAY too stiff to be pushed forward with the trigger finger. Mine are stiff enough that they require breaking grip and using my thumb.

    And then, when it's time to engage the safety, the action is in the same direction as pulling the trigger, but shifted forward 2 inches. Mechanically it's brilliant, but less than ideal ergonomically.
     
  15. Chuck R.

    Chuck R. Member

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    Agreed, it's just something that makes me scratch my head.
     
  16. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    H&K 770 et al. Safety is on the left side of the stock, between trigger guard and magazine well.
     
  17. PapaG

    PapaG Member

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    Type 99 Arisaka
     
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  18. Kendal Black

    Kendal Black Member

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    Try engaging the safety with your palm under the rifle, sliding back to press the safety with the blade of your hand.
     
  19. FL-NC

    FL-NC Member

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    Best- Garand or ambi AR. Worst? AK.
     
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  20. edwardware

    edwardware Member

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    Is that solely because you can't reach it without breaking grip? I always thought the AK's combined port cover/bolt lock/safety was a great idea, just lacking a little more design to make it reachable from the pistol grip.
     
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  21. boom boom
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    boom boom Moderator Staff Member

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    Try using the flat of the palm to press in and rotate on an Arisaka T38 or T99 Safety. I find it easier to use by far than the Mosin.
    The original suicide safety on the Browning A-5 is probably one of the worst inside the trigger guard safeties. You also could do as the French did in the MAS 36, Lebel, and Berthier, they left the safeties off entirely.

    Personally like the m1917 and P14 Enfield safeties.
     
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  22. FL-NC

    FL-NC Member

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    Not only for that reason, "real" AK's go from safe to FULL auto FIRST, with the third (downward-most) position beng SEMI. That also make lots of noise clicking and clacking as they are being manipulated.
     
  23. JeffG

    JeffG Member

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    Often, in the field, I don't use the safety, it remains off. Keeping my finger stays outside the trigger guard, serves as the safety. Coming to a fence, jumping a creek, I'll engage the safety against the possibility of a fall. Or I will just open the bolt. The best type of safety for me is the center mounted thumb push, located behind the bolt. Savage uses it.
     
  24. HB

    HB Member

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    ^ Are you not concerned about brush pulling the trigger? What advantage does walking around with the safety off provide?
     
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  25. PapaG

    PapaG Member

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    I know how to operate it. It is a pain to have to take either hand, top the gun and use your palm. Compare to Tang or the Win 70, Ruger 77 MkII. Those are fine.
     
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