What Sets Glocks Apart – Is Your Gun REALLY Safe?

Top: Glock 19. Bottom: H&K VP9.

The recent controversy regarding the drop safety characteristics of SIG’s P320 handgun has some taking a closer look at their handguns. Drop safety is something that – in theory – is so mature in modern handguns that it should be a non-issue, but with so many different variations on the same theme (that theme being “Glock”) in the market today, how do we know these guns are really as safe as they could be? With that in mind, it’s worth taking a closer look at what makes a modern striker-fired handgun drop safe, and that’s just what Tom Jones of Pistol-Training.com has given us in a recent forum post. Jones lays out what makes a Glock a “Glock”, in other words, the carefully designed safety features of the company’s handguns which make them as difficult to accidentally discharge as possible:

Using generic terminology, the important features of a mechanically “drop safe” striker design, IMO, are:

1. A supported/blocked sear that can NOT release the striker unless the trigger is moved.

With Glocks, the “sear” is the the trigger bar. The trigger bar is supported by the so-called drop-safety “shelf” of the trigger housing. The trigger bar can not be displaced downward (and release the striker) unless the trigger is moved sufficiently rearward to clear the “shelf”. Designs like the VP9, P320, and PPQ don’t have this. I don’t have a PPQ, but both the P320 and VP could have this with slightly different trigger bar designs. However, this feature requires:

2. A properly designed and functional trigger “safety”. It’s important to understand that trigger “safeties” are not, and should not be thought of as, traditional safeties — because they aren’t. The purpose they serve is to prevent inertial movement of the trigger — that’s it. When I say that the trigger safety needs to be properly designed, I mean that it needs to intercept/interrupt trigger motion before any of the normal actions of trigger motion happen, i.e., that movement can’t result in the sear being unblocked/unsupported or the firing pin block being disengaged. Another aspect of “properly designed” is that the distribution of the mass above/below the trigger safety pivot point are such that any inertial event that would cause the trigger to move, would also cause the trigger safety to remain engaged.

While it’s not exactly fair to use as an example since it is a prototype and was never actually released, the SIG P320 prototype tabbed trigger safety is an example of one that’s not properly designed. Without depressing the trigger safety, the the trigger moves sufficiently rearward to fully disengage the firing pin block. No es bueno.

3. A firing pin block — preferably one that is directly acted on by the trigger bar and not another intermediate part (due to the attendant complications with regard to inertial events).

This is, in my opinion, the last line of defense and should only prevent a discharge if there were significant part(s) failures elsewhere in the gun.

Now, a supported sear that requires trigger motion before the striker can be released, typically means that you now have to operate the trigger to disassemble the pistol — and there have been a LOT of unintentional discharges because of this. The way that SIG and HK designed the takedown of the P320 and VP9 are great. They have a take down lever that can only be rotated if the slide is to the rear and the magazine has been removed. If the redesigned trigger bars I mentioned above were added to these guns, this would no longer be the case and the triggers would need to be operated (with the slide locked to the rear as the takedown lever is rotated).

Does a supported sear design require you to operate the trigger for disassembly? No. It’s possible to design a gun such that it has a supported sear and a VP9/P320 trigger-less takedown method. There are a number of different ways to accomplish this. One way is instead of having the sear be displaced by the action of the takedown lever, you have the entire sear housing (or trigger housing for a Glock) lowered a few hundredths of an inch when the takedown lover is rotated. Another is having a mechanism in the slide itself such that you can rotate the striker assembly so that it doesn’t re-engage the sear when the slide goes forward. There are many more. Before anyone tells me how either of these ideas won’t work or point out a “fatal flaw” in the idea, please don’t. I’m not presenting every possible detail of the designs here, just enough to get my point across — there is a lot more detail, I just lack the time and desire to fully describe it now. 

Coincidentally, it is possible to do the same thing with a Glock — disassemble it without operating the trigger with the slide forward — you just have to prevent the trigger bar from popping up as the connector is displaced inboard when the slide returns forward. It’s easier to do on an unmodified Gen5 because of the right side slide stop lever. 

I could write/talk a lot more about this sort of thing, but my typing skills are terrible and I’m out of free time.

Also, as an aside, I should point out that despite the trademarks filings, the thing that makes a Glock a Glock is not the external shape/appearance — it’s the internal parts and design. I say this to only point out that if someone puts aftermarket components (especially firing mechanism related components) into a Glock, it’s not really a Glock anymore. There are plenty of aftermarket trigger components available that alter/reduce things to the point that the internal “safeties” no longer truly exist or exist in name only.

As usual, I’m just some guy on the internet with an opinion. Many, if not most, people will disagree with me. I’m OK with that. 

Jones’ description of the safety features of Glock handguns is so complete and easy to understand that I don’t think I need to add much text of my own. So instead, I recorded a short companion video showing these features in real time:

Factor Glock handguns are some of the safest weapons around, but they are not (contrary to the company’s slogan) perfect. Disassembling a Glock requires pulling the trigger, which when combined with carelessness, can result in a negligent discharge. Other companies have sought to improve upon the Glock’s design with mechanisms that allow disassembly without pulling the trigger, but this often results in the introduction of a failure point which Glock’s do not have. Put simply: In order to disassemble a striker-fired handgun, the sear has to be able to move without pulling the trigger – and if that is possible, then (unless the mechanism has been extremely carefully designed) the sear can potentially release the striker and fire the weapon without the trigger’s involvement!

H/T, Tamara Keel

Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


  • USMC03Vet

    Yup. So hard to discharge it has its own meme, Glock Leg.

    • Badwolf

      Nice burn. But I think you know he means discharge wo pulling the trigger.

    • StupidShouldHurt

      If you’re too dumb to safely own and operate a Glock, then don’t get one.

      Get one of those guns which have so many safeties, their safeties themselves have safeties, and have included water wings and a set of depends.

      If you manage to shoot yourself with a Glock, it’s akin to slamming the front door on your hand. You really only have yourself to blame.

      • Nicks87

        +1 Agreed.

      • raz-0

        Not that you specifically said it, but what you said is half of the cognitive dissonance recipe.

        So.. you have a gun that can go off if dropped just right. And the only reasonable response is no gun should ever go off due to any kind of impact ever. Holding onto your pistol and not using it as a projectile is too much to expect of end user safety practices.

        But you have a gun that requires you to pull the trigger to disassemble it, or can discharge if say the plastic doohickey on a jacket’s drawstring gets between it and the holster. You are being way to nanny state if you suggest a manual safety be introduced or that a means of disassembly not requiring you to pull the trigger like you intended to discharge the pistol be implemented.

        FYI, in my world it is risk management, nothing is 100% safe, you are responsible for your own stupid, but it is really important the designers of things NOT keep critical info secret from you when you are choosing your level of risk.

    • Nicks87

      If you had a chance to talk to the people that have experienced “Glock leg” you would quickly realize that it was most definitely caused by operator error or just plain stupidity/recklessness.

      • Stuki Moi

        Or, most likely, just bad luck.

        I don’t have complete statistics, but I have as of yet to hear of anyone with a history of repeated “Glock Leg” incidents. Most of those who have had an incident, have been able to coexist with their Glocks on up to multiple occasions, without problem. Making “stupidity and recklessness” unlikely as sole explanatory causes.

        If, and I’m not saying this is true, incidents of “Glock Leg” is more likely per given measure of gun use than “Some-other-design Leg”, There is _A_ problem with Glocks. As I doubt simply issuing some guy a different gun than a Glock, magically makes him less stupid and reckless.

        Many may consider whatever that “problem” is, insignificant. Or more than made up for by positives. But the same, or equivalent, people shooting themselves in the leg more often with design A than design B, does indicate A has _some_ issue that B handles better.

        I ride motorcycles. They are just a superior way to get around any environment with any level of traffic and/or parking congestion, than cars. Besides being less likely to cause one to ponder voluntarily acquiring “Glock Head,” on account of sheer boredom……

        Most motorcycle accidents could have been avoided, if the rider happened to have doe something different immediately pre crash. But that doesn’t mean motorcycles have NO safety issues, compared to cars. To me, whatever those safety issues are, are worth it, for the benefits riding a bike brings. But I recognize there are issues. It’s not as if some riders suddenly decide to take up stupidity and recklessness, the day they have their first accident, after 40 years of riding accident free.

        • I didn’t understand your point. Of course you can be stupid/careless just for one moment in time, no matter if you did the same task for 40 years with perfect care and without incident.

      • ozzallos .

        Likewise, you would quickly realize it doesn’t matter how or why the discharge occurred, but that glock leg still has its own meme no matter how much you try and explain it away.

        • a_b704

          Wait – aren’t you supposed to put your finger on the trigger when you are drawing? 😉

      • raz-0

        so’s dropping your gun? What’s your point?

    • LGonDISQUS

      USMC03Vet – Part time trollin’ since 2013 or earlier. Stay at it, my brotha!

  • Harry Buttle

    The safety question this raises is pretty simple – How often do you drop your firearm v how often do you disassemble it?

    • Blumpkin

      If you aren’t responsible enough to check that a gun is cleared prior to disassembly, then you aren’t responsible enough to own a gun.
      I’d rather not have a pistol that can discharge without pulling the trigger.

      • You can say that all you want, but guns have to be issued to large departments where most officers aren’t “gun guys.”

        • Blumpkin

          So you are ok with a person carrying and potentially firing a gun in public when they are not even competent enough to check whether or not that gun is loaded? You don’t need to be a “gun guy” for that. That should be the bare ass minimum.

          • What I want, and how the world actually works are two completely separate things.

          • Blumpkin

            That’s the spirit! Why demand expectations and standards.. you’ll just be disappointed anyway.

          • Or maybe I am actually realistic, and know how the world actually works. Instead of being idealistic idiots that insist that everyone is perfect 100% of the time.

          • Blumpkin

            Idiot? Well you, sir, are a silly goose.
            I’m not asking anyone to shoot a 2″ group at 50 yards with a pistol as a criteria for 100% perfect.
            I’m just asking that you check the chamber before you pull the trigger upon disassembly 100% of the time. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. I would venture to guess that most of the guys who read this blog are checking the chamber 400% before they pull the trigger for disassembly.
            Level with us.. how many holes do you have in the wall of your gun cleaning room? it’s ok, everyone has room for improvement!

          • You are asking a bit too much. If you actually interacted with the average line officer you would know this. On a good day you would be happy that they know what caliber their gun is chambered in.

          • Blumpkin

            Then they shouldn’t be police.

            The way you describe law enforcement, I’m surprised we can stop these guys/gals from running around with all their ammunition in their mouths.

          • Some of them probably shouldn’t be in a job that involved carrying a gun, but yet they are.

        • Nicks87

          It doesn’t matter if they are gun guys or not. There are procedures, policies and training in place that, if followed, greatly reduce negligent discharges. It just requires the officer to make a conscious effort. NDs happen with all kinds of weapon systems regardless of design.

          • And there is no reason we can’t try to design out possible way accidents can happen. That is why even industrial equipment that used to rely on lock outs have safety equipment on them. Because procedures aren’t always followed.

          • Blumpkin

            the point of this discussion was that if you had to make a choice… is it is better to have a gun that doesn’t discharge when dropped…? or is it better to have a gun that you don’t have to pull the trigger to disassembly in the off chance that you are a moron and can’t check for a clear chamber?

            I choose to have a design that protects against the kinds of failures that are more or less out of my control. i.e…. every gun should be drop safe. period.

          • Except not every gun is completely drop safe. Long guns for example aren’t even remotely completely drop safe. Sure they typically won’t go off when dropped at common heights, but if dropped high enough at the right angle they will go off. That is why no one stores long guns in a vehicle with a round chambered.

            Lets say that I am a CLEO selected a new issue pistol, I would want a gun that is reasonably drop safe (ie will not go off in commonly encountered conditions), but also doesn’t require an officer to pull the trigger to field strip it.

        • MB

          Guns are tools, just like hammer are, learn how to properly use the tools of your trade or go home. Do officers know what the shift lever does in their patrol car? I hope so, so they should know the inner workings of the tool that might save their life some day….

          • Comparing guns to patrol car is like comparing apples to oranges. Outside of NYC every officer has a car in their life for years. For many officers the only training they receive on guns is a grand total of 40 hours during the Academy and maybe an hour or two every couple of years during continuing education classes.

            So they have a completely different relationship with guns than they do with cars. But they do have a basic understanding, at least enough to qualify though sometimes that may take two or three attempts even with the low standards.

            Anyways police departments are filled with all types, some are hard chargers that can shoot the wings off flies. You have the middle ground that are competent enough. And you have the people I am describing that barely know enough to qualify. The CLEOs have to buy guns that will work for all three groups, that means having guns that can be field stripped without pulling the trigger are desirable.

            And this idea of “They should be kicked out,” rarely works in reality because in many cases departments are badly undermanned, and often it is the diversity hires that end up in the bottom category.

      • Alex @Sea

        Yeah, it always makes me wince when I hear “the pistol can be disassembled without pulling the trigger”. Some people need to go back to Playdough.

    • Joel

      Disassembly: a conscious operation that can be controlled.
      Drop: often an unintended operation than cannot be controlled.

      • Blumpkin

        Joel’s a smart guy. Be like Joel.

    • noob

      It doesn’t have to be a “drop out of your hand” drop to need a drop safety. Take for instance a cop who has to physically restrain a ‘roid-raging suspect: what if the suspect repeatedly slams the whole police officer into a wall or something solid? If you were the cop, you might have your weapon in a retention holster while you have your hands full of ‘roid-rager but the whole assembly is bashing against the wall and floor and the last thing you want in that situation is the sear to disengage and one of your bullets to go flying through your calf. That would be less than helpful.

  • Funny, all I read in this article: “This is why Glock is the best gun ever and NO OTHER DESIGN IS GOOD SO YOU SHOULD ONLY USE GLOCKS”. Huh.

    • ORCON

      BREAKING: It’s all Glock, all the time around here.

    • That’s weird, because I use a Steyr most of the time. Must be those sweet, sweet Glock dollars I don’t get.

      • Giolli Joker

        I’s still Austrian.
        Guilty as charged.

  • Gun Fu Guru
  • Stephen H

    I’ve noticed the new Gen 5s do not require the trigger to be pulled to remove the slide. I’m not sure they’re supposed to do that…

    • Slab Rankle

      Gen 5 still requires pulling the trigger to remove the slide. The difference is that the slide does not have to be slid all the way forward to be lifted from the frame. This is achieved because of the new ambi slide lock lever cutout in the slide.

      Hickok45’s video shows this in great detail.

  • Gregory

    Like it or not, the Glock from an engineering standpoint is superior. Putting that aside, it may not be superior from an end-user standpoint. Now I know some of you may be a little butt-hurt by my words, but nonetheless they are true. The Glock is far from perfect but it works for me every single time I pull the trigger and that is what counts. If your gun works for you every time you pull the trigger then you are a winner.

  • Lew Siffer

    And always remember that whenever anyone, anywhere says “Your Glock does not have a safety,” THEY ARE SETTING YOU UP, either intentionally or not. You should (must?) correct them immediately and say, “the Glock has THREE safeties” and it would help if you would memorize “trigger, firing pin, and drop.” And if they come back with, “well, there’s no external safety” or “well, there’s no safety lever” you respond with “YES THERE IS” it is in the middle of the trigger.

  • PunkyBrewster’sCousin

    There is a way to disassemble a Glock without pulling the trigger:

    1. With the slide locked back, under the slide press the firing pin safety in with one thumb and pull the striker (firing pin) back in the ‘half-cocked’ position.

    2. Using a Glock disassembly tool (or any 3/8″ punch), place the tip between the plastic shroud/collar of the striker (firing pin) and the sear catch of the striker. Push forward on the punch, sliding the plastic shroud/collar forward with it, while simultaneously with the other hand using your thumb to push the slide plate down until it clicks out of place.

    3. With your thumb covering both the firing pin and ejector plunger, slowly slide the slide plate off. With the slide plate off, pull the striker assembly (firing pin) to the rear and out of the slide.

    4. With the striker assembly out of the weapon, unlock the slide and ride it back into battery. Slightly pull back on it (a few millimeters) and with the other hand, pull down on the takedown plate. Slowly ride the slide forward and off the frame.

    Yes, it takes longer, and requires a tool, but you CAN disassemble a Glock without pulling the trigger.

    • PunkyBrewster’sCousin

      *For some models, you would have to reach the firing pin safety through the inside of the magazine well.

  • insider

    There’s one glaring omission. The Glock isn’t fully cocked at rest, while a lot of others are. This in itself creates inherent safety in the design.

    • Mike

      This is what I was wondering, why it was left out. It is the Single biggest diffrence between glock and the other striker guns (except the old Rugers and Sigmas)
      When you pull the trigger on a glock, the trigger bar pulls the firing pin back (about the remaining 3/4s of the way) and the connector pushes the trigger bar down releasing the firing pin. Essentially a Glock is a double action only, should be advertized that way too. It is a Non-resetting double action, unless you have the New York Trigger Springs. Even if the firing pin block failed and the firing pin went forward with out being pulled back via the trigger, it is not normally enough to ignite the primer. Yes it is Partially Cocked when chambered, but it is really ony cocked about a quarter to keep the firing pin behind the firing pin block and behind the breach face to not hit the primer when chambering a round.
      Almost every othe single action striker gun-H&K, XD, S&W, Taurus, Walther, Sig has the firing pin fully or anlmost fully locked back and a drop sear keeping it back. The trigger just lowers the drop sear and engauges moves the firing pin block, letting the firing pin go forward. Basically the same as in a M60 Machine gun. The striker(which is ecentially the hammer) is cocked(locked back) whenever the slide is forward, only waiting for the sear to drop and firing pin block to move out of the way.

  • Actually it is accurate, as I said when dropped from common height they won’t go off. But you go up high enough it will go off, that is a hazard of the floating firing pin, and why cruiser ready is the suggested ready condition for all longguns left in cars.

    • Blumpkin

      Wrong. Physics.

      There’s not enough mass in a firing pin (by design) to set off the weapon from a drop.

      • George

        Um. You haven’t dropped one far enough then.

        • Blumpkin

          Oh yes, what was i thinking?

          Thank goodness the clouds aren’t too high otherwise we might all be killed by raindrops.

  • Royce Williams

    Like most gun nuts, I assumed that every other manufacturer of striker fired pistols incorporated a Glock like “partially tensioned” striker in their fire control design. Until the P320 debacle I was oblivious of the “full tension” striker concept which essentially is the same as a cocked hammer on any single action only semi-auto pistol or any revolver.

  • 3 of 11

    Disassemble a glock without pulling the trigger?
    1) lock slide back
    2) remove back plate
    3) pull firing pin assembly out
    3) slide forward hold down take down lever for slide to come completely off.

  • ozzallos .

    Somebody explain to me why there is a safety on the actual trigger itself for a glock? No, I’m being serious. Anything that pulls that trigger accidentally is likely to engage that safety anyway, or am I missing something tier one operator like?

    • Some Guy

      It’s a drop safety.

      • ozzallos .

        I thought it had a separate internal drop safety… Huh.

        • Michael

          It’s the ‘block the trigger so its inertia can’t activate the firing pin”-drop safety.
          First line drop safety, so to say, and the internal firing pin block as ‘last line’.

    • lee1001

      This is no such thing as “accidentally” pulling the trigger. If something pulls the trigger it’s your fault allowing that to happen. Ownership

      • ozzallos .

        Semantics that don’t answer the question, but thanks anyway.

    • wicapiwakan

      And what, exactly, would pull the trigger except the shooter’s finger?

  • a_b704

    My fault, I dropped my Shield .45 three times, when I was using a belly band. It did not go off, but I still no longer use a belly band.

    • Lew Siffer

      Thanks, you have saved me time and money and aggravation because I was considering a bellyband. I had three different handguns fall to the ground using a clip grip and also a Barami hipgrip. I no longer use those either.

      • a_b704

        I got a Kydex trigger guard for the shield, for pocket carry, but the gun sticks out of most of my pants. So, I had been waiting for Streamlight to make a TLR-6 for the Shield .45 before I got a real holster, that is why I went with a belly band, until the gun started falling out (at home.). After that, I just picked up a cheapie holster on Amazon (with a retention strap) in the meantime. I strap it in when I take it off and put it on now.

  • Good one—-

  • Lew Siffer

    Except for the foul language.