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Firearm safeties

Definition of a firearm safety

A safety is a mechanical device that should prevent a firearm from firing when engaged. A safety works by stopping the firing pin from striking the primer. Safeties come in a range of styles which vary with the manufacturer. The following are examples of the four most common safety types.  

REMEMBER! The safety is a mechanical device and consequently can fail. Although it is important to know how a safety works and how to use it properly, a safety is no substitute for the most basic rule of firearm safety: ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.

Types of safeties

Push-button safety
A push-button safety is located on the trigger guard. It blocks the trigger or the hammer when engaged and may have a visible red band when the safety is in the OFF position.

Slide or tang safety
A slide safety features two positions of operation. In the ON position (a green-colored dot or the letter "S" may be visible) it blocks the firing mechanism of a rifle or shotgun. In the OFF position (a red-colored dot or the letter "F" may be visible) it enables firing of a cartridge or shot shell. A tang safety, found on some shotgun models, is engaged when the letter "S" is visible on top and in the back of the receiver.

IMPORTANT! Be aware of your firearm and its specific safety mechanism. In most cases, RED MEANS DEAD! If you see a red color dot, your safety is off and your firearm is ready to fire.

Lever or pivot safety
Located either on the bolt or just behind the bolt handle on the frame of the receiver, a lever safety blocks the firing pin when engaged. For some firearms, the lever safety located on the bolt will have three positions. The back position (towards the shooter) does not allow the bolt to be opened, and the firearm will not fire. The middle position allows the bolt to be cycled, but the firearm cannot be fired. In the forward position, the safety is OFF, and the firearm can be fired. Other safeties feature only two positions: ON and OFF. These types of safeties are marked either with green and red dots or with an "F" for fire or an "S" for safe.

Hammer or half-cock safety
The hammer safety is less common than those listed above. It is typically found among lever action and break action firearms or antique and replica firearms. In the half-cock position, the hammer does not rest on the firing pin and the trigger is locked. When the hammer is pulled all the way back into the cocked position, the firearm can be fired. Be sure to check the owner's manual as some manufacturer's firearms are only safe when the hammer is in the "fully forward" position.

IMPORTANT! The trigger must be pulled to move the hammer from FULL to HALF-COCK position. Make sure that you have full control of the hammer and that it does not slip from your grasp.

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