Thumb-Safety Glock

(photo and text by Miles Vining)

Trials Glock with thumb safety
Trials Glock with thumb safety (photo by Miles Vining, courtesy UK National Firearms Centre, Leeds)

One of the more revolutionary and innovative features of the Glock series of handguns is in their signature slogan “GLOCK Safe Action”. This is based on the fact that although there is no external hand operated safety device, there are three internal ones: trigger safety, firing pin safety, and sear safety. This has paved the way in modern day handgun designs to put the responsibility of firearms handling upon the user and not on an arbitrary lever. There is also the tactical requirement of readily getting the gun into action. But was there ever even an experimental Glock made with an external safety? During the initial Austrian Army trials of 1982, the Army wasn’t used to the fact that a military weapon could be issued without an external safety. So the Army requested a trial pistol with one and sure enough, Glock produced one for them to examine. The conclusion was that it was not needed, but one of these pistols exists today in the National Firearms Center, Leeds, England. Formally known as the MoD Pattern room, the author found this external safety Glock in one of the handgun drawers. The pistol has a newer magazine with extended floorplate so the original magazine must have been mismatched.

58 Comments

  1. Regarding your photo of the Glock 17 with safety, I have one of them in my Glock collection.They were made for the Tasmanian police when they converted over from revolvers a number of years ago.The first 50 were made at the factory with safety units as pictured.Later orders were the standard models.Obviously they were not thinking too clearly for while the Glock is the best military weapon in the world for law enforcement purposes, especially of the uniform type a manual safety is an excellent idea.Two of the pistols were retained by the local Glock sales people and when the law in Australia was changed he took them to Hong Kong.Then when the Communist took over he had to get rid of them so that is how I got one on a Form Six.
    Smith and Wesson has realized why a uniform police self loader should have a safety which is why they offer it and a magazine safety on their M and P series of handguns.It is a shame that they are burdened down with the trigger spring issue.It is also a shame that Glock will not offer their pistols with such devices.
    Tim Mullin

    • Quote; “Obviously they were not thinking too clearly for while the Glock is the best military weapon in the world for law enforcement purposes, especially of the uniform type a manual safety is an excellent idea.”
      I would dispute the part about a Glock being the “best” at anything. They are not even in the top half when accuracy is concerned, Their ergonomics are terrible. (Long trigger stroke with indifferent let off and grit in most of the stock guns I’ve fired.) The sights are crap and they do not whear well when shot with full house military and +P+ civilian ammo.

    • Tim:

      I have been searching for a Glock 17 with a factory-installed manual safety for years. They were sold in at least 17 countries around the world. I have seen photographs showing slightly different configuration of the thumb safety lever compared to the one depicted in your photograph. I have also seen photographs of Glock’s with a factory-installed safety (totally different design)positioned above the magazine release. Any idea where I might find a Glock with a factory-installed safety?

      Mike

    • I thought it was the Tasmanian Police that asked for a manual safety on their Glocks wasn’t it? Either way, that is slightly different and is marked “S” and “F” rather than coloured dots, and the shape of the switch is slightly different as well (it is symmetrical as opposed to biased to make it easier to disengage). To be honest, before the picture loaded when I saw that this was a manual safety Glock in England I would have ut money on it being one of those Gen 3 Glocks with the SA80 type cross bolt safety that the MOD asked for back in 2009ish before ending up going with a vanilla gen 4.

      Off the top of my head, I think there are at least 4 Glocks with manual safeties that have been trialled but not adopted: this one for the Austrian Army, the similar one for the Tasmanian Police, the cross bolt one for the British Army, and the Glock 21 that they were going to submit for evaluation by SOCOM before the trials were scrapped.

      • Ah, quite probably Tasmania, then. Could’ve sworn I saw a picture of one with a slide mounted safety too, in the same position as the “happy switch” on a G18. Can anyone confirm?

        • Don’t know about a slide mounted one on a real Glock, but there is a .22LR clone called the ISSC M22 that has a slide mounted safety of the same design and position as the Glock 18 selector switch. I think there are also various after-market safeties that replace the rear cap of the slide with a safety of some sort. I have seen cross bolt safeties in this position (similar to those full auto adapters), as well as one that is a sprung button that you hold with your thumb to engage the safety temporarily when drawing/holstering. I actually think the latter is quite a good idea, as it is when holstering or drawing a Glock that I am most nervous (well, not nervous, more “aware”) about accidentally catching the trigger on something. With one of these, you just keep your thumb on the back of the slide until you are pointing in a safe direction (I carry in a Safariland SLS so my thumb is on the back of the slide anyway while I am drawing so there would basically be no difference).

    • Huh, never heard of that Portuguese one. That appears to be exactly the same safety that is on the prospective British Army one. I wonder who asked for it first? Timescale wise it seems that this was adopted by the Portuguese Police before Glock were showing it off for the British Army, but I remember that at DSEi 09 Glock were specifically saying that it was designed for the MOD, and the ergonomics were made to be similar to that of the standard SA80 weapons to make the training easier. Either Glock were lying, or the Portuguese police have a hell of a lot quicker procurement process and took advantage of the MOD contract (if the latter, this would perhaps explain why it was apparently not properly tested and a massive failure, and why the MOD ended up going for a standard Glock).

  2. I never was too fond of people running around with internal-only safety guns. Yes, the internal mechanisms work great against accidental discharge due to dropped guns, but they don’t help against user errors, especially the finger in the trigger guard.

    • Good point that, it has a safety everywhere apart from were it’s needed i.e. you pulling the trigger, accidentally. Trip up or something, silly design. Besides safety this, safety that. Bring back Pritchard bayonets, and skull crusher spiked butt caps, if you drop it and it goes off it’s got just as much chance of hitting a German as yourself.

    • There is no substitute for training and putting the finger in the trigger guard is stupid and against all sylibii. There is also no cure for stupid! ADs are a fact of life and the only cure is training, training and more training!
      In more than twenty years of packing, all of which requiring the safety to be engaged when the weapon was in the holster, I never heard of an AD from any well trained operator, regardless of the condition of cary.
      Thus ADs’ are a defect of training, not the design of the gun. Nothing what so ever can be done to prevent an AD caused by stupid.

  3. I recall that John M. Browning added a grip safety at the request of the U.S. Army.
    You want a Government contract, you play by their rules.

    • The grip safety on the 1911 was needed due to the heave original trigger. The trigger had enough mass that if you dropped the gun it could fire due to the inertia of the trigger mass.

  4. Glock trigger bar carries sear as an integral bent over it and blocking the trigger also blocks the sear at the same time. This means, when a glock is cocked and its trigger pushed forward by striker exertion, automatic trigger safety locks the firing elements permitting the pistol to carry via loaded chamber as in the case with a 1911’s
    “Cocked and locked” mode. For service use, this is more than enough security for a handgun. But for domestical use, it is necessary a manual safety for intruders other than the owner, like the children. In the picture, pistol seems uncocked and safety is off position with manual latch downward in the form of usual application. When taken upward in cocked form, it seems to block the trigger bar backward movement as a dublicant for the automatic trigger safety. But also dublicating the most important defect of that safety’s, as permitting the slide manual retraction letting the striker bottom lug overriding the sear against to the plastic safety ramp as harming the pistol’s drop safety in case of the trigger is pushed forward by hand when the gun is uncocked mode. Glock’s automatic striker block is not a “Drop Safety” and the intention of its presence, is to avoid accidental discharging if a slide/frame separation occurs via a loaded chamber.

    • In the real world, not just target shooting at the range, that is sometimes easier said than done. Try chasing an armed suspect shooting at you. It is very easy to accidently trip, fall, run into something or someone, all of which can cause you to accidentily hit the trigger.

      • “Try chasing an armed suspect shooting at you. It is very easy to accidently trip, fall, run into something or someone, all of which can cause you to accidentily hit the trigger.”

        So your justification for putting a manual safety on a pistol is to expound upon the statistically unlikely possibility of an unintentional discharge in situations in which that manual safety would not actually be engaged.

        No credible firearm instructor would advise his students to engage the safety on their pistol while it is out of the holster and they are actively engaging a legitimate threat.

          • I should have said, I take the safety off immediately prior to taking aim. I wouldn’t actually wait until I had the threat in my sights.

        • @HSR
          “So your justification for putting a manual safety on a pistol is to expound upon the statistically unlikely possibility of an unintentional discharge in situations in which that manual safety would not actually be engaged.”

          Would you cite your source for the statistics you mention?

          Thanks,
          John

  5. The British Military have adopted this Austrian oxymoron as our sidearm, what a bloody disgrace look at it, it’s plastic, that’s no good as a club.

    Safe action indeed.

    If you pull the trigger, without doing anything, it goes off.

  6. They should have to have this model in the Police, to prevent rioting, when they keep shooting unarmed black people by tripping over kerbs etc.

    If the safety was on, it would prevent this outcome.

  7. They only came to the conclusion it wasn’t needed, because it was cheaper, like buying a plastic pistol was.

    Our lot will be blowing each other away accidentally every two minutes with no safety, pulling the trigger to see if the safety is on.

    Maybe Austrians are just smarter “oooooh! I’m an Austrian I’m so clever!!”

    Lost the war though didn’t you, bloody Germans.

  8. I don’t know. Although I am not a big fan of Glocks (I only own 6), I still have all of my body parts intact. I have a G29 and a G33 in my concealed carry rotation, and even with IWB carry, I have no more holes in me than I started out with. 🙂 Before the Glock, lots of people carried DA revolvers w/o safeties, and nobody complained about them being dangerous to the user. If people just kept their fingers off of their triggers before lining up the sights(and not pointing the muzzle at their various appendages), I don’t think there would be much of a problem. Then again, if we could ever invent a mechanical device that could prevent stupid, the world would be a much better place.

    • While it is true, if you don’t touch the trigger you wont have an accidental discharge (except in the event of a mechanical part failure), this still doesn’t take into account random events outside of your control. Sure, while shooting at the range there is no excuse for an accidental discharge, but in an actual life and death situation there are many unexpected things that can and do happen to cause an accidental discharge. Remember you are being shot at (or under the threat of being shot), you are moving around, other people are moving around you, your focus is on the bad guy, not on objects around you that might cause a trip or fall. There are too many variables for you to have complete control. This isn’t a competition shooting where everything has been done to make the course as safe as possible. Having a manual safety that you can disengage a split second before you intend to fire just makes the weapon that much more safe. There is no good reason not to have a manual safety, unless cutting manufacturing costs is more important than preventing injuries and death.

  9. I have seen articles in magazines talking about installing a thumb safety on your Glock. It was from a reputable gunsmithing business, so this is an idea that wasn’t dead as of just a couple of years ago. I have no idea if this service is still available.

  10. Hey, get that thing away! All we need is some anti-gun idiot to see those and ruin all Glocks by making manual safeties obligatory!

    (I’m not messing around that much here)

  11. Great Britain should have upgraded to,

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Browning_BDA

    this from the Browning high power in my opinion.

    After using Sigs, also…

    If it’s good enough for Finland, it’s good enough for us.

    We could simply have rang Santa Claus and got his maintenance and procurement info about it, and used that.

    A plastic pistol with no safety, honestly I’ve never heard the like, the Austrians must really lay on the prostitutes at the golf course for the MOD sales people.

  12. A strange story. This piece is definitely not any experimental pistol for the Austrian Army trials, simply because the marking on the slide is the commercial one, established in 1983, year after the Army trials were closed.

  13. If folks that go in harms way, which I did would just stop and think for one second because that is all it takes when your weapon is in the hand of a perp after a struggle that you may have to draw and fire your back-up. When the Glock is in the wrong hands there is no safety and none can say their weapon will never be taken from them. That’s why both duty weapons (until I retired) had the manual safeties purchased at Brownells on my Glock 26 and 30SF. Remember!!!! There is no safety in the wrong hands just a few seconds that could save your life to go home and hug the wife and kiss the kids. But if you think you don’t need a manual safety please hug the wife a little harder and squeeze the kids a little tighter because you chose mano over personal safety. But don’t listen to me cause what do I know. Stay Safe!

  14. I’ve been shot at twice. Once I had a S &W Chiefs Airweight revolver and once a Glock 19. Whoever “Dave” is doesn’t get basic firearm use and protocol.

    A weapon must first be fitted to your hand. The user never puts their minter into the trigger guard until the decision is made to discharge the firearm. Safety or no external safety.. End of story.

    ADs I’ve witnessed have occurred when the trigger finger extended too far beyond the trigger guard. The length of the firearm grip was too small for their hand. While moving the finger backwards into the trigger guard they went too far and pulled the trigger prematurely.

    If you don’t understand these fundamental principles, please do not carry or operate a firearm at the range or utilize a permit to carry. An external safety does not compensate for a poor fit or ignorance in how to hold a handgun in a combat ready state.

  15. Ok I owned one. A Model 19 with an additional external safety fitted that could be quickly activated or deactivated by the thumb. So I can confirm that Tasmania Police definitely had Glock pistols with an additional external safety fitted by special request. I am an ex Tasmanian Police Inspector – served from 1985 to 2006 with 14 years as a Detective. Having a strength of around 1000 officers, TasPol used to draw its firearms instructors from each branch and I was one of them. The initial batch of Glocks were allowed to be privately purchased by the Instructors and registered to Tasmania Police for active on duty carriage. The brief history goes that Police in Tasmania rarely use their weapons. One of the first weapons routinely carried was the Wather PP & PPK and during those times a few unintentional discharges made the service nervous about semi autos for general duties. A widespread issue of Smith & Wesson snub nose .38’s carried us through the 80’s with a handful of Model 10 4 inch .38’s also being approved. The quest for greater accuracy and firepower lead to the initial order of Glock’s after assessment of a number of options but due to the service history with the Walther’s and a somewhat dubious lack of understanding of how safe the inbuilt safeties of the standard Glock actually were, the initial order of Glocks stipulated the fitting of the British research and approved external safety mechanism. Once a few standard Glock 17’s entered service and proper conversion training from Revolvers to Glock’s had occurred, all future orders were just for the standard Glock 17 and 19 and a few 26s. Most of the future ordered of Glock pistols were actually purchased by the department and had the Tasmanian Police Lion Badge engraved into them. ps: Even though I ended up using a Glock 17 and liking it a lot – I actually love my Glock 19 with the external safety. Cheers Ash ps: if you google image of Glock with external safety you will find them. Ciao Ash

  16. I too have one of these with the safety apparently they were also imported into Pakistan in the ’80s. Mine came in a lunch style box which also holds 50 rounds on the inside. The serial number plate on the frame is quite flimsy and keeps coming loose. However, a great shooter. Have shot it a few times.

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