Handgun Radio 188 - Handgun Safety Mechanisms & Devices

Hello and welcome to Handgun Radio! I’m your host Ryan Michad from the wild woods of Central Maine, and this is your home for all the news, information and discussion in the handgunning world.


This week, we discuss the history of handgun safety mechanisms & devices!

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Week in Review:

Ryan: Got the rough cuts of the walnut grips started


Main Topic: A History & Discussion of Handgun Safety Mechanisms/Devices

Remington 1861 Percussion Revolver: Safety notches in cylinder, similar to those currently used on NAA Mini Revolvers.   Allows the gun to be carried with all chambers loaded.

Tranter Cap and Ball: Double Action with hammer block mechanism
S&W Safety Hammerless: Concealed Hammer and grip safety

Iver Johnson Safety Revolver: Transfer Bar safety


Early Pistol Safety features:   Grip Safety, Magazine Disconnect

Walther PP: Double Action, Decocking Safety, hammer block safety, Loaded Chamber indicator.

Walther P38: Similar above but uses a firing pin block.

Colt's pre-WW2 Swartz firing pin drop safety for the Government Model National Match.  Colt wouldn't go back to a firing pin drop safety until the 1980s, albeit it was a completely different design.

H&K VP70: DAO Striker fired with cross-block safety

SIG Sauer P220: First large production handgun with no manual safety,  just decocking lever

Glock Safe Action: Pre-Charged striker with firing pin block.   Trigger Shoe safety.


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Until next week, Have fun and SAFE SHOOTING!


HGR 085 - Single Action Safety

Hello and welcome to Handgun Radio! I’m your host Ryan Michad from the wilds of Central Maine, and this is your home for all the news, information and discussion in the handgunning world. This week, Weerd Beard and I discuss single action firearms and how they can be carried safely & how those mechanisms work!

Brought to you by the Firearms Radio Network

Week in Review:


- Some great videos coming out from Ian over at Forgotten Weapons from the James D. Julia auction house, be sure to go check those out!

  • Another one of my favorite channels on Full30 is Duelist. Mike Beliveau is the proprietor of the Duelist channel, and he does great videos on classic handguns and rifles. He writes for Guns of the Old West and does a great job. Go check them out!


Main Topic: Single Action Safety

Last week when Weerd and I were discussing inexpensive, not cheap handguns, I made a comment to him about how even though I understood all the mechanisms preventing accidental firing, I was still somewhat uncomfortable with carrying a single-action auto. I did it when I carried a Browning Hi-Power, but I still was sometimes leery. Weerd and I thought it would be a good topic of discussion to cover how single-action handguns can be safely carried while not worrying about accidental discharge.

What are the Conditions of Carry? (0,1,2,3, etc)

0 =  Ready to Go.  Chamber loaded, magazine loaded, hammer back, safety off.   All you need is a trigger pull to fire the firearm

1 = Cocked-and-locked.   Chamber loaded, magazine loaded, hammer back, safety on.   Safety need to be disengaged to reach condition zero

2 = Hammer-down.   Chamber loaded, magazine loaded, hammer down (preferably on half-cock) safety off.    This is a pretty lousy idea with 1911s,  but it is very viable for double-action guns like Berettas, Many CZs.  Technically this the the only way you should carry a traditional SIG Sauer

3 = “Cruiser Ready”  Chamber empty, magazine loaded, hammer down, safety off.   Generally this is a bad idea for carry, as you need to rack the slide and chamber a round.  There is a lot to go wrong here, from short-stroking the slide, to simply not having a free hand available to you when you most need it.    The term “Cruiser Ready” comes from how police carry rifles and shotguns in their cruiser.   There is actually some validity if you have the gun for specific circumstances, where the gun won’t be under your direct control, like a gun in a desk drawer in your private office, or a gun on your nightstand while you sleep.  Extreme caution should be used with this as it is still a loaded gun, but it is a bit safer than many of the other above methods.

4= “Unloaded”  Chamber empty, magazine (or magazine well) empty, hammer down, safety off.  This is frequently the definition of an “Unloaded” firearm.  Technically condition 3 is also “unloaded” as no round is chambered,  but in the eyes of the law this is the recognized definition of “unloaded”.

How do safety mechanisms in modern firearms work?

Single Action Revolver Safety:

  • On an old style single action (or sometimes double-action) revolver with a fixed firing pin, it is imperative that you carry the hammer on an EMPTY chamber. While at rest the firing pin is in direct contact with the firing pin primer and will fire if the hammer is struck. Use the load one skip one technique as shown in this video and watch this Hickok45 video showing how the guns can fire.
  • Single action guns like the North American Arms Mini Revolvers actually have notches between the chambers to rest the hammer down on a fully loaded cylinder.

Single-Action Auto Safety:

What makes cocked-and-locked carry safe?

Thumb Safety.   Most block the travel of the hammer, and either block the travel of the trigger, or disconnect the trigger.


Series 80

Firing Pin Safety (Heavy Spring, Light Firing Pin)

Is Cocked and Locked Dangerous?


Until next week, have fun & SAFE SHOOTING!!!

HGR 018 - Buy Used Not Abused

HGR 018 - Buy Used Not Abused

This week Ryan discusses the things to look for when buying a used handgun to make sure you get a quality firearm.

Brought to you by the Firearms Radio Network

Brownells helps make this show possible. Selection, Service, Satisfaction. Find it all at Brownells. Please visit www.handgunradio.com/brownells

Week in Review:

  • The Handgun Radio Listener Roundtable has been tentatively scheduled for Saturday, November 23rd. I’ll announce the time as the date gets closer.  I will post the link on the Handgun Radio Facebook page when the roundtable goes live on YouTube. It will also be released as an episode of Handgun Radio.
  • I spent some time out in the woods this past week with the Ruger .44 Magnum Redhawk. Didn’t see any deer yet, but I did do some distance shooting with the .44 on some steel plates.  As most of you know I am usually a Smith & Wesson shooter, and I am used to shooting double-action and single action with those guns. The Ruger trigger is different. It seems harder for me to hit with the Ruger using the gun in single-action. Using the Ruger in double-action, my maximum distance with the gun was roughly 35 to 40 yards with iron sights. In single-action I had a great deal more trouble.
  • Zack Carlson of The Gun Bench and a contributor to Gun Guy Radio and the Firearms Radio Network recently posted an article on his handgun hunting luck using a Glock 20SF in 10mm. He was using 220 grain Hardcast Buffalo Bore ammunition.  Go check it out!
  • Got some great response from the last episode of Handgun Radio.  I hope the stuff that was discussed in the episode in terms of refinishing handguns will be of assistance to you all. If you have any questions about something that wasn’t covered in the episode please feel free to email me at ryan@handgunradio.com

Main Topic: Buy Used Not Abused

Buying a handgun does not have to be a hugely expensive experience! I know I am often floored by the MSRP of some new handguns I see offered and I can’t imagine spending that much money on a handgun unless I was rich! (I wish!) However, just because the new ones cost a lot of money sometimes, doesn’t mean you can’t get a good quality handgun. “Used” should not be a dirty word when it comes to purchasing a handgun! If you know some of the proper ways to check the handgun for aesthetics and function, then you can really find a great used handgun, often for a fraction of its original price. I am not ashamed to admit that I have NEVER purchased a factory-new handgun. All my handguns have been bought used.  This topic will cover some of the ways you can check a Revolver and Semi-Auto pistol for function and to ensure you get a quality used firearm.

Checking Over the Revolver (Single & Double-Action):

  • It should go without saying, but check to ensure the revolver is unloaded. The techniques discussed here may vary slightly from brand to brand, but in general can be applied to the vast majority of revolvers.
  • Give the revolver a good external inspection for scratches, dents, wear and any other unusual things externally.  If the gun has been visibly abused on the outside, then there stands to be a good chance the gun was not taken care of internally as well.
  • Unless the work was done by an established company such as Turnbull Mfg., be wary of any refinished gun.  A gun that is refinished to hide abuse or damage may also be hiding similar surprises internally.
  • Another good indicator when looking at a used handgun is multiple damaged screw heads. One buggered up screw head may be a mistake or a slip of the screwdriver. Multiple damaged screw heads could be indicative of someone who did not know to use the properly fitting screwdriver for that particular screw. Most people who know how to do proper gunsmithing work will always use the proper fitting screwdriver.
  • Look carefully at the sights on the gun, whether fixed or adjustable. Look at the edges on the left or right. If they are bent or damaged, the gun could have been dropped and damaged in a way you may not be able to see with the naked eye.  At best, you may just need to replace the sights.
  • The cylinder should only move VERY slightly fore and aft in the cylinder window. This is called cylinder endshake. Having excessive endshake can cause primer issues, headspace issues and potentially a very dangerous situation in which the cylinder is unlocked. If you are mechanically inclined, excessive endshake can be corrected using the Yoke Endshake Bearings from Brownells. These small shims can be placed inside the cylinder to correct the excessive endshake. Many instructional videos can be found on YouTube regarding this process.
  • The cylinder should not hang up when opening, and the cylinder latch you push with your thumb should operate smoothly as well. Make sure the cylinder crane swings out smoothly when opened and when closing.
  • Some revolvers have fixed ejector rods, others have screw-in ejector rods. Most Ruger double action revolvers use a fixed ejector rod, where the Smith & Wesson revolvers use a screw in ejector rod.  Make sure you pay particular attention to the ejector rod. If it comes unscrewed, it can cause cylinder binding problems (this happened to me with my Model 66). Make sure the ejector rod operates properly by ejecting some snap caps, and make sure it returns to the forward position smoothly and under its own spring power. Place a straight edge underneath the ejector rod perpendicular to the revolver. Spin the ejector rod and check for any wobbling or runout. This can indicate a bent ejector rod, which can cause the cylinder to bind as well.
  • Check the barrel forcing cone, making sure there are no cracks or splits or damage there. The forcing cone is one of the highest-wear areas on a revolver. Damage here can affect accuracy greatly.
  • Check the cylinder stop in the bottom of the cylinder window. It should be undamaged and have sharp,defined edges. Push it down with a small punch and it should spring back up under its own power.
  • Look at the condition of the hand in the back of the cylinder window. It should move upward smoothly and should have sharp, defined edges.  Also look at the ratchet notches on the back of the cylinder, ensuring that they are not excessively worn.
  • Look at the firing pin hole, ensuring that it is not peened in any way from excessive dry firing without snap caps.  Ensure that the hole is properly sized and has defined edges.
  • Check the muzzle crown and ensure it is not damaged, and that the edges are sharp and defined. A damaged muzzle crown can SEVERELY affect accuracy.
  • Finally, load the revolver with snap caps, and check the single-action and double-action timing.  You do this by slowly cocking the revolver six times, ensuring that the cylinder stop snaps up into the corresponding notch in the cylinder just BEFORE the hammer reaches full cock.  To check the double-action timing, pull the trigger slowly through the double-action stroke. The cylinder stop should snap up into the notch just BEFORE the hammer falls.
  • Finally, check the barrel cylinder gap. You can do this using a set of Feeler Gauges. These are strips of metal of varying incremental thicknesses. Using these gauges, you can check the minimum and maximum barrel-cylinder gap and compare these measurements to specifications from the manufacturer to ensure they are within accepted tolerances.  Having excessive barrel-cylinder gap can cause excessive lead spitting, particulate gases escaping on firing and many other unpleasant things. Having too little barrel-cylinder gap can cause the revolver to bind up after just a few shots.

Semi-Auto Pistols:

In terms of semi-auto pistols, you can use most of the techniques discussed above in the revolver section to examine the aesthetics of the handgun. This section will cover mostly mechanical checks to ensure the handgun will function properly and safely.

  • Ensure all the external controls are in their proper place and they function positively. Check whatever safety features and controls are on the gun, and ensure they work & do what they are intended. (Ensure the gun is unloaded, as always.)
  • With the slide closed, press down on the top of the chamber hood (The portion of the barrel that is exposed in the ejection port.  With the slide completely closed, the barrel hood should NOT move at all.  If it doesn’t move, the barrel is locked up properly.  As you slowly retract the slide, the barrel should remain locked and move with the slide for a VERY short distance, and it should then start to drop down and unlock from the slide.  Note that this technique will not work on straight blowback pistols because the barrel is affixed to the frame and does not operate in the same manner as the tilt-locking Browning mechanism.
  • If possible, disassemble the gun so you can inspect the barrel and chamber. Ensure there is no rust in the chamber and that the bore is bright and shiny and the rifling looks clear-cut and well defined.  Any imperfections inside the chamber can cause cases to get stuck upon firing.
  • Examine the slide for cracks or any other small imperfections.  The slide on a semi-auto can be a very high stress part and some cheaper firearms may not have had their slides properly heat-treated.
  • One thing that is often overlooked is ensuring the gun has a magazine with it. Some older, more obscure guns can have very hard to find or expensive magazines.  Magazines for my Colt 1903 can run into the $100 range. Make sure the magazine functions positively and smoothly.  A worn magazine can be the cause of many functioning issues.

If the handgun passes these tests, then it should  be a fairly safe used buy.  Follow your gut though. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Cross-check online prices for used guns similar to the one you’re looking at to make sure the price you’re paying is in the right ballpark.  Inspect the gun carefully, and if possible test fire it! Many private sellers will let you test-fire the handgun if you just ask (and you seem like you’re ready to close the deal and all you need to do is test-fire it.) Even if you cannot test fire the gun, if it passes the inspection outlined above, you can feel pretty confident the gun will work well for you.


Until next week, thanks for listening and SAFE SHOOTING!!!!