Seen at the Gunsmithing Shop: Use the Safety, But Don’t Rely On It!

When I teach any firearms class I always address manual safeties during the preliminary brief. I always emphasize, “Use the safety, but don’t rely on it! It can and will fail!” Gunsmiths make a living fixing broken mechanical devices, and the safety on your firearm is just a mechanical device like any other.

Here is an example that is in my shop right now. A customer came in upset because in his own words “I nearly blew a hole through my living room wall…” That’s why we treat every gun as if it were loaded, right? Disassembling the Mossberg 500, I discovered that a metal tail had broken off the trigger itself. Yessir, snapped right off. I place a red arrow pointing to the rusty spot where the tail usually resides:

Mossberg FCG 1

This is a big deal because that metal tail goes through the piece I’m holding in my hands. The “Y” shaped piece is referred to as a safety connector. Its job is to point a piece of metal upwards in the receiver so the “L” shaped aluminum block underneath the safety can touch it when the safety is in the “safe” position. With the aluminum block holding the safety connector down, the safety connector holds the trigger down, you can’t pull the trigger, and the firearm is rendered safe. Unless, of course, one of these small pieces actually snaps off. Now the safety connector isn’t attached to the trigger anymore at all. Pull the trigger and the hammer falls, discharging this 12 gauge regardless of the safety’s position.

Mossberg FCG 2

I want to point out that this situation isn’t Mossberg’s fault at all. See, while I was poking around in the guts of this shotgun, I noticed that the owner had installed an aftermarket AR-15 style stock using a bolt from a hardware store. A bolt that was just a bit too long. A bolt that hit the “Y” shaped safety connector and pushed it forward, snapping off the metal tail on the trigger as the stock was tightened down. I’ll bet most of you didn’t know that installing a tactical stock improperly could break the safety. And that’s why we follow the multiple, redundant, carefully thought out rules of firearms safety.


  • And that’s why I would never trust a safety. Or even a sear.

  • Julio

    Thankyou for a most excellent and enlightening post!

  • ccw1911

    Nice catch.

    Manual safeties should at least block the sear or hammer or lock the sear and hammer together. These things that simply block trigger movement shouldn’t be called safeties.

    Of course we should never rely solely on any mechanical safety.

    • noob

      I always wondered what a truly modern shotgun trigger design could look like –

      a manual hammer blocking safety, but backed up with three backup safeties like a blade trigger safety, sear disconnector and firing pin block, sort of like a glock.

      • I don’t want to see frickin’ Glock triggers on shotguns.

  • 5

    I’ve killed two houses checking to see if the safety was on. One I had to shoot twice.

  • Mark

    The most basic thing you do after any any modification to your gun, even if it seems unrelated, is a function check. This shouldn’t have happened.

  • gunslinger

    any idea why my subscription to threads are coming in as “Re: Untitled” and lumping several article comment threads into one email by disqus? I got this article and the 50bmg round comments in a single email chain.


  • Komrad

    I’ve had an ND before. I assumed a shotgun (a Mossberg 500 in fact) was unloaded and “dry fired” it into a pellet trap meant for pellet guns. I had it pointed in a safe direction so nobody was hurt (the pellet trap even survived, needing only new newpaper filler), but it scared the hell out of me and had my ears ringing for a couple days.

    Moral, every gun is loaded and ready to fire, regardless of safety position, state of loaded/unloadedness (I don’t think that’s an actual word), or any other factor.

  • DiverEngrSL17K

    An excellent example, among many possibilities, of what could go wrong with a safety. Mark made a very good point about the necessity of post-modification function checks

  • Murdock

    excellent advice, this is what my 4-H pistol/rifle instructor tells everyone at the first class.

  • Auld Codger

    It proves the old adage,” A closed gun is a loaded gun “

    • phamnuwen

      #1: All guns are always loaded.