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View Full Version : Riding the Thumb Safety of your 1911: for or Against?



TrojanSkyCop1
08-28-2007, 10:45 AM
My apologies in advance if this subject has already been discussed ad nauseam and if I'm simply being too dadgum lazy to do a Search function.:o

I initially brought up this subject in response to Gabe's "Is Getting Off the X Dogmatic" thread on the Tactics and Strategies Forum, and decided it was worth its own discussion thread. So with that in mind, how many of my fellow 1911 fans here (and for that matter, fans of other single-action autopistols like the Browning Hi-Power) like to ride the thumb safety.

And for those of you who don't, to re-iterate the question I initially raised on Gabe's thread, would y'all consider the old-school insistence on riding the safety to be "dogmatic?" I sure as hell do; a well-known instructor whom I otherwise respect (and therefore will remain anonymous) pissed me off a few years back when he got on my case for not riding the safety of my Springfield Mil-Spec; I personally find such a grip to be damn uncomfortable and awkward. I much prefer to do a thumbs-down, thumb-over-thumb grip, and I've never inadvertently bumped the safety upwards in 17 years of shooting 1911s this way.

If someone prefers to ride their safety, fine, just don't browbeat and lecture me like I'm some retarded schoolboy because I elect not to. :mad:

(If one did unintentionally engage the safety, I guess that'd be the polar opposite of the disengagement failure that's been discussed at length in one of the other recent threads!:eek: )

Thanks in advance for your perspectives.

barnetmill
08-28-2007, 11:10 AM
I did bend the pin of an after market ambidextous safety that I had installed on a 1911. I ride the safey and I assume that it was my thumb pressure exerted during recoil that cause the pin going through the frame to bend. I do not know if the pin was defection or if it was my technique that cause the failure. This never happen with a GI safety. My guns until recents years were GI or were guns built from GI parts.

The higher your grip the more control you maintain on a gun and riding the safety does maintain your grip in the highest position.

fish78
08-28-2007, 11:38 AM
I ride the safety, but I don't consider it dogma. I find shooting this way comfortable and natural...could be because I never spent much time with revolvers as a kid and learned to shoot the 1911 this way.

JohnH11B
08-28-2007, 12:16 PM
I do. I just leave it there after I thumb it down.

JBull
08-28-2007, 12:34 PM
I'm a "thumb on the safety" guy. It keeps your grip high, which minimizes the mechanical advantage the gun has during recoil, and also, your thumb has to be there at least once to take the safety off - why move it again especially during the draw stroke? I know of a few folks with smaller hands that find that grip very uncomfortable and they have no problem moving their thumb off the safety.

It's another personal preference. However you feel more comfortable is how you should shoot as long as you've experimented and made up your own mind.

The Searcher
08-28-2007, 12:39 PM
I don't ride the safety. I can but it is uncomfortable and makes me slower and less accurate.

I taught myself to shoot the 1911 and just put my hands where they felt comfortable. In 30 years of shooting them, I never had the safety pop up and I never had the grip safety fail to engage. Until fairly recently all the 1911's I shot were original 1911 and 1911a1 configuration without extended this and oversized that which may be why I never had problems doing it the way I did it.

I had tried to ride the safety on a pistol which had wings sized flaps installed in place of the safety. It was downright painful.

IMHO, riding the safety may lead to a grip that doesn't properly depress the grip safety. The only people who seem to have grip safety problems are the modern method types who use their high thumb hold.

I've also been griped at by the modern method mob about holding it the way the pistol works for me. It irratates me since it's obvious that they don't care about the results, only conformity.

Texican_gal
08-28-2007, 12:39 PM
Vote = keep thumb OFF thumb safety during shooting.

Almost seems as if the thumb could interfere with the slide otherwise.

I agree with The Searcher, who said: "I taught myself to shoot the 1911 and just put my hands where they felt comfortable."

Sam Spade
08-28-2007, 02:47 PM
There will be a proper single answer to this when we're all issued thumb of the same dimension. Get the hits, don't foul the gun (don't come off the grip safety, don't knock the thumb safety "on" unintentionally).

I was taught to ride it (at Gunsite back in the day) and I do and it works for me. An instructor who insists that you do so is taking a cookie-cutter approach to shooters, and probably doesn't understand what/why he's doing it. An instructor that insists that you give it an honest try under his observation at an introductory class is doing fine.

grimel
08-28-2007, 03:40 PM
Vote = keep thumb OFF thumb safety during shooting.

Almost seems as if the thumb could interfere with the slide otherwise.

You either have very small hands, very big hands, or a micro safety if you are interfering with the slide.

One must weight the advantages and disadvantages of any method before making a decision.

Pro:
If you are resting your thumb on the safety, it's probably off. This is a good thing.

If you are resting your thumb on the safety and shooting one handed, most likely it will point just a bit better (same for two handed just not quite the difference) notice how target grips are made. There is a reason.

Con:

If your hand, MSH, trigger, and safety combination is wrong for YOU it's not going to be comfortable. There really is a reason for the various items. Just because the gunsmith/instructor you've used doesn't know doesn't mean there isn't a very good reason behind something. The reason I wanted an arched MSH moved me well up in my gunsmith's eyes (asking for a 4.5-5lb trigger on my carry gun didn't hurt either).

hondo1911
08-28-2007, 04:35 PM
I ride it, and it works for me, never been a problem. Just do what works and feels comfortable for you.

Liberty or Death
08-28-2007, 04:41 PM
The higher your grip the more control you maintain on a gun and riding the safety does maintain your grip in the highest position.

This has been my experience, as well.

Riprap
08-28-2007, 06:34 PM
I never realized how hard I ride the safety until I stated training with Airsoft, prohibiting the Airsoft from cycling.

Come on you non-1911 guys…where’s the obligatory “I would never shoot a gun with a thumb safety” bash? Is it time to mix up some more Kool-Aid?

grimel
08-28-2007, 07:27 PM
I never realized how hard I ride the safety until I stated training with Airsoft, prohibiting the Airsoft from cycling.

Come on you non-1911 guys…where’s the obligatory “I would never shoot a gun with a thumb safety” bash? Is it time to mix up some more Kool-Aid?

Well, King's Gun Works makes a safety with a thumb shield for those who rub the slide.

BYcyclist
08-28-2007, 07:31 PM
I like that thumb position - enables high grip thumbs forward for rapid indexing. Muzzle is naturally aligned with my pointing left thumb using this grip.

InTheBlack
08-30-2007, 12:33 PM
Moving my thumb off the safety means I need to re-establish my grip. Takes time.

Thumb on the safety helps the Eno's style "most control from the support hand" style of two handed shooting because it creates some room for the support palm to go behind the backstrap a little.

And as someone said, combined with the correct shaped of MSH it can help your point, and also shift the point of recoil into the hand and away from an arthritic thumb joint.

I do feel I have a "stronger" one-handed grip with the thumb below the safety, and if time permits might shift. It doesn't seem to take any extra time to shift back onto the safety if I go back to a two-handed "thumbs forward" grip.

glocker
08-30-2007, 01:58 PM
Ive personally owned over 20 1911's in all different configurations.
I have tried thumb down, up, on the safety, etc., I currently shoot with an straight thumbs forward IPSC style grip so I do ride the safety, but I say do whatever allows you to get rounds on target fast and accurately.

Rex G
08-30-2007, 05:39 PM
I got away from the thumb-on-safety grip because that position kept me from reliably depressing the grip safety with my skinny hands. Yes, even extended grip safeties were not enough. I am still trying to get used to shooting with the thumb pointing at the target, parallel to the barrel, after not shooting a 1911 for several years.

Gun Mutt
08-30-2007, 07:08 PM
I always ride the thumb safety on a 1911. I used to vacilate between thumbs up or down until I did bump the safety on twice during the same range session. (Yes, I do have stupidly long thumbs; both distally & proximally.) This settled the issue for me, personally, once & for all.

FWIW, I shoot all my pistols with a high thumb because it works better for me. My j-frame of choice is the 638 because the hammer shroud gives my thumb a place to ride against so my high thumb grip works just fine for it, too. Only time I shoot thumb over thumb is w/my 4" 629.

TrojanSkyCop1
08-31-2007, 01:03 AM
Since CCRKBA sent out an email proclaiming this past Tuesday as "NAT'L EXERCISE YOUR RIGHTS DAY," I decided what better way to observe such a day than by shooting the world's most storied single-action autopistols, the BHP and the 1911, side-by-side! So I took 'em down to the range (my 1911's a stainless Springfield Armory Mil-Spec) and put 50 rounds of FMJ reloads through each.

I tried the safety-riding grip with both guns out of curiosity; it still feels awkward and unnatural w/the 1911 but actually feels pretty good with the Browning. YMMV, eh. :dope:

Tripplethreat
09-04-2007, 01:48 PM
Against. Only a millisecond is needed to wrap the thuimb after disengagement. This is what works for me. YMMV.

elmer_fudd_gantry
09-04-2007, 05:11 PM
Dare I mention that "riding" the safety is part of the Modern Technique doctrine? Hence the popularity of long, wide thumb safeties. The issue goes away if you shoot a Glock.

charlie xray
09-18-2007, 06:03 PM
I ride the safety thumb-on-thumb because that is the way I learned it and is most natural feeling to me. I have tried other positions for my thumbs and feel like I have less control of the firearm. The thumbs on the safety seems to resist recoil better. The thumbs forward feels the least natural (to me) because it seems my thumbs have nothing to do.

All that may be about to change since I have basel joint arthritis in both thumbs. Hopefully surgery will fix that.

CX

TrojanSkyCop1
09-18-2007, 07:55 PM
All that may be about to change since I have basel joint arthritis in both thumbs. Hopefully surgery will fix that.

CX

Godspeed on the surgery, Charlie! :)

rhino3-4
09-18-2007, 08:19 PM
Ride 'em cowboy! I ride the thumb safety only because a Gunsite TS makes it easy. It does not break your grip and you don't need a hump backed grip safety. Brownells has them. It looks bigger than bigger in the catalog photo than it really is. It is not like an early IPSC "gas peddle"

InTheBlack
09-18-2007, 10:53 PM
>>>
All that may be about to change since I have basel joint arthritis in both thumbs. Hopefully surgery will fix that.
>>>

Could you describe how it goes in the Fitness section? What are they going to do- tendon transplant, bone removal, cushion insert ??? Doc says it looks like I might have arthritis. He said that the new blue goop to inject in the knee is used for all joints in Europe; the FDA is as usual slow on the uptake.

TwoRavens
09-19-2007, 11:14 AM
I ride the safety. I went from 8 years of shooting glocks to the 1911, and keeping the thumb on the safety seemed natural for me.

I have not tested, but I suspect the thumb off the safety might be an issue in gun grappling (small probablility that it would happen... but still).

charlie xray
09-19-2007, 07:09 PM
>>>
All that may be about to change since I have basel joint arthritis in both thumbs. Hopefully surgery will fix that.
>>>

Could you describe how it goes in the Fitness section? What are they going to do- tendon transplant, bone removal, cushion insert ??? Doc says it looks like I might have arthritis. He said that the new blue goop to inject in the knee is used for all joints in Europe; the FDA is as usual slow on the uptake.

I am holding off until January since I didn't want to be in a cast for hurricane season or the holidays. I will be glad to report on how it goes since many of us are aging and may encounter this. What happens if left untreated - thumb pulls into the palm - gave me a picture of not being able to arm myself. That pushed me over to get the surgery. That and the pain.

My surgeon is supposed to be one of the best in the south. He will do the tendon transplant and create a cushion out of it. I believe he will remove some bone as well if I am understanding the brochure correctly.

CX

charlie xray
10-06-2007, 02:40 PM
Have you ever tried adjusting the engagement of the grip safety?

I adjusted mine with a small file, it took all of 2 mins each and now they dis-engage with the slightest touch, which is just the way I like them.

Cameron

Duh! I have been shooting 1911's for over 35 years and never thought of that! Thanks for the tip.

CX

erhard
10-06-2007, 07:11 PM
The only time I presented a Les Baer 1911 on a protection detail, the safety broke off. The gun still worked. Adrenaline or bad luck? For me on all my 1911 there are only the regular thumb safetys and while shooting the top of my thumb sort of touches the safety.

ace
05-05-2008, 11:31 PM
I don't ride the safety. I can but it is uncomfortable and makes me slower and less accurate.

I taught myself to shoot the 1911 and just put my hands where they felt comfortable. In 30 years of shooting them, I never had the safety pop up and I never had the grip safety fail to engage. Until fairly recently all the 1911's I shot were original 1911 and 1911a1 configuration without extended this and oversized that which may be why I never had problems doing it the way I did it.

I had tried to ride the safety on a pistol which had wings sized flaps installed in place of the safety. It was downright painful.

IMHO, riding the safety may lead to a grip that doesn't properly depress the grip safety. The only people who seem to have grip safety problems are the modern method types who use their high thumb hold.

I've also been griped at by the modern method mob about holding it the way the pistol works for me. It irratates me since it's obvious that they don't care about the results, only conformity.

I have hands like a tennise racqet.I had some one talk me ito puting on an extened thumb sfty,, bad Idea........now I have to change it out.........

sfgrng
05-06-2008, 08:45 AM
If it works for you, why change?

Don't worry about the newest, latest, coolest or bestest way to shoot.

Stay safe.

Firearmz
07-13-2008, 08:09 PM
My thumb rides on the safety and it rides in the same spot basically when shooting other types of semi autos. Thumbs forward just adds to more control of the gun in recoil.

dletsch
07-13-2008, 08:33 PM
I did bend the pin of an after market ambidextous safety that I had installed on a 1911. I ride the safey and I assume that it was my thumb pressure exerted during recoil that cause the pin going through the frame to bend. I do not know if the pin was defection or if it was my technique that cause the failure. This never happen with a GI safety. My guns until recents years were GI or were guns built from GI parts.

The higher your grip the more control you maintain on a gun and riding the safety does maintain your grip in the highest position.

Exactly - you ride the safety for the purpose of maintaining a high grip and therefore increasing your control over the weapon - the argument that you will activate the safety while shooting is BS.

dletsch
07-13-2008, 08:35 PM
Dare I mention that "riding" the safety is part of the Modern Technique doctrine? Hence the popularity of long, wide thumb safeties. The issue goes away if you shoot a Glock.

MT isn't always wrong. The also believe in pointing the firearm towards the enemy, IIRC.

pete f
07-13-2008, 10:27 PM
If you are riding the safety because you have had the safety engage during shooting, then you have a faulty fitted safety, a 3/32 ball mill in a dremel will fix the problem in less than a minute. there should be two dimples on the safety, one in the on position, the other in the off position. If the pistol was built correctly, it takes just slight MORE pressure to reset the safety to the ON or safe position, than it does to click it down. there should be firm and discernable CLICK when you move the safety.

If you position your thumb right, you can operate the safety up and down without relocating the thumb. this keeps the pressure of the thumb out to the side of the safety, and away from the slide which prevents "thumbing the slide" which slows the slide down and can effect function. This was so prevent that pachmayr made and sold thousands of integrated side guards which contained both the plunger tube and a small plate which kept your thumb from dragging on the slide.

dtom29
07-13-2008, 10:30 PM
Exactly - you ride the safety for the purpose of maintaining a high grip and therefore increasing your control over the weapon - the argument that you will activate the safety while shooting is BS.

I wouldn't say it's BS. It does happen. I don't think it's the overriding reason though. For some the low thumb position can result in an occasional inadvertent raising of the safety.

Gun Mutt
07-14-2008, 07:24 AM
Bumped mine on twice in the same range session. I think the size & shape of your hand probably has something to do with the likelyhood/bs factor of this happening to you.

Firearmz
08-12-2008, 02:03 PM
I am a thumb on the safety guy. I have never seen or had a thumb safety unintentionally engaged with a lef tside only safety. I have had it happen and seen it happen a lot with ambi safeties. Like it was said before, riding the safety helps keep the grip high in reference to the bore line reducing muzzle flip.

FL-Obiwan
08-12-2008, 03:13 PM
I also ride the safety. The thumb needs to be on the safety to dis-engage it and there is no reason to move it. I also trained to give the thumb a downward press before any string of fire. Muscle memory and all of that. ;)

Bluesman1967
08-12-2008, 05:46 PM
I have an extend slide stop on my gun, and if I ride the safety, it won't lock back when the mag is empty.

FL-Obiwan
08-13-2008, 02:40 PM
I've never cared for the extended slide stop. In my military days we were taught to slingshot the slide. The slide stop was just to lock the slide back, no more. My current Fed training is the same. Besides, I'm a lefty. My index finger manipulates the slide stop easily. ;)

I've also never had any problems with "high thumb". It has never caused me to not have the grip safety depressed. This with MANY thousands of .45 from a 1911.