1911 Grip Safety

The history and fitment of safety devices for a classic handgun.

by RK Campbell

Over the many years I have used the 1911, carried the piece, and worked with the handgun, I have had interesting discussions concerning the grip safety of the 1911. I regard the grip safety as a fine feature that offers an extra margin of safety. Some do not. We may acquiesce to their wishes on a Bullseye gun but not a carry gun.

Some point out that John Moses Browning did not originally incorporate a grip safety into his design. He did not include high visibility sights and a lowered ejection port either. The 1911 was a pistol with plenty of stretch in the design. It is true that the grip safety of the 1911 handgun was not originally incorporated into the design by Browning but by the designer in charge of the Colt program. The addition was proposed by the U.S. Cavalry, at the time the most influential branch of the Army. The pistol was intended to be used during a cavalry charge and fired from horseback. It’s worth noting that if you fire from the back of an untrained horse, you’ll likely need a parachute.

If a trooper dropped a cocked pistol the grip safety would prevent the pistol from firing and shooting the trooper or horse. The grip safety is pressed out by a spring and in doing so blocks the trigger. In a way, the grip safety is a “free” safety in that it doesn’t have to be consciously manipulated. Spring tension from the grip safety is controlled by the right hand tab or finger of the spring as viewed from the rear of the pistol. You may affect the trigger pull by altering or moving the left hand tabs, but the right hand controls the grip safety.

The proper release is for the grip safety to allow the…

Read more in the August 2019 issue.

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