Sunday, April 10, 2016

See, now this is an intelligent contribution to the safety discussion.

I don't regularly follow John Farnam these days, but he remains a valuable observer on tactics, technique and attitude, in much the way that I recall Mas Ayoob used to be.  And so I just ran across this post from Farnam, on the use of the rifle's manual safety, specifically within the context of the hot range.

It's worth reading, and considering.  Unlike anonymous commenters who try to suggest that Onlier Operatorer types are somehow above Cooper's safety rules,  Farnam has documentable street cred, and a known capacity as an analyst.

And so:

Most modern pistols (Glock, XD, M&P, SIG320, Walther PPQ, H&K VP9, FNS, Ruger AA) don’t have manual safeties, yet we still routinely move with them in our hands during training exercises, relying mostly upon a strong “register” position of the trigger-finger to prevent NDs. Still, we don’t prevent them all, no matter how careful we try to be!

Can we do the same with our rifles, or do we insist students keep the manual safety in the “on” position except when in the process of firing intentionally?

My answer to that question is:


I accept it either way, but I teach the former.

Of course, I tell students that I want the manual safety “on” when the rifle is slung, and I want them to check it frequently. Scant argument there.

However, when the rifle is in their hands, the position of the manual safety becomes optional.

The whole article is worth reading;  one of Farnam's particular eloquences is his ongoing defense of the hot range (as ultimately safer than the cold range), and you get a lot of it here.

This discussion of the rifle safety is interesting.  For a rifle with a truly ergonomic safety, like the Steyr Scout's tang-mounted roll switch, I don't really think I could be any faster one way or the other, as with a 1911 pistol.  Many other boltgun safeties are nearly as good as that (e.g., M700, M70, Sako).  But most "battle rifle" and "battle carbine" safeties I've met are not ergonomic to engage;  one has to shift hand positions to do it, and that does take time.

And there is this:  I suspect that Farnam's point is both in acknowledging a measurable raw speed value, and also in the attitude surrounding the use of the manual safety.  We should remember that one can observe all Four Rules with a cocked and unlocked piece;  none of the Rules makes any mention of a manual safety anywhere.  Presentation of the piece for firing always, always includes disengaging the weapon's manual safeties, if it has any.  For any drill that has the student randomly in and out of his sights, this doesn't need to change:  whether or not he re-engages a safety in between, every time the gun comes up to fire, that safety gets wiped off.

So, the discussion of when to re-engage any manual safety becomes intentionally decoupled from the discussion of when to dis-engage...and that does seem like an important observation to make.  There is no need to use a manual safety as any sort of bolster to Rule Three, and in fact it might be too easy to rely on it, however slightly, as a separate "proof" of a safe condition.

If it's really the attitude, and not the hardware--as we all love to say--then Farnam makes a good point here.  I'm happy for the reminder.

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