Honestly, this is more out of curiosity than anything. I have no real reason for putting this out there other than seeing if there’s a consensus on the matter. I came across something recently that just caused me to pause.

You see, when I was at the NRA’s recent ARC match at the Peacemaker National Training Center, there was a question during the initial safety briefing that caught me off guard. During the briefing, right after we talked all about the 180-degree rule and safe movement around the range, someone asked if we were required to put our safeties on during movement.

Immediately I thought to myself, “Well of course, dummy! Why wouldn’t you!?!”

But then the answer that came back was, “No, you don’t need to do that.”

I was floored, stunned even. You mean we weren’t expected to click our safeties on during position changes while we ran around with loaded weapons?!?

For context, I have always put the safety on when moving from position to position. I never wanted to be in a situation where I could be moving along, trip, and accidentally squeeze the trigger while regaining balance. It takes practically no time to click the safety on and off with the firing hand thumb, especially when using 45-degree selectors.

But it occurred to me that maybe I’m unique in this respect.

Over to You

So here’s the question at hand: how do you manage the safety on your rifle? When do you put it on and off? Do you put it on during reloads (I don’t), during movement? Are you a Delta operator who leaves it off all of the time and says your finger is your safety?

Am I overthinking it? I mean Glocks don’t even have safeties and that seems to work out just fine [sarcasm].

What do you think? If you were running the range, what would your rules be?

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Matt is the primary author and owner of The Everyday Marksman. He's former military officer turned professional tech sector trainer. He's a lifelong learner, passionate outdoorsman, and steadfast supporter of firearms culture.

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Sunshine Shooter

Always safety between positions. That’s what I do, and it’s the minimum I’d require for anyone under my supervision. When I was new to the AR, I left it off all the time. “It’s drop safe” and “Just practice trigger finger discipline” were two of the ways my mind though about it and allowed me to justify the practice, but I was looking at it incorrectly. I was looking at it from the position of “what if everything works as it should?”. Now I look at it along the lines of “what if something goes wrong?”. Putting your safety on while moving just puts one more barrier between you and an irreversible tragedy. The safety is easy to operate. The only reason not to use it is when you’re not used to flipping it on & off. That’s a training issue. If we’re supposed to be trying to improve ourselves by learning skills, then we should see the usage of the safety in the same light.

Some people will advocate going on safe between strings of rounds, even without moving, but I’m not at that level just yet.

As Pat Macnamera (an actual former delta operator) says: “Always an enabler, never a disabler”.


I concur. For civilians, competitors and even cops, that safety is important because if your actually doing anything that really matters, it is in less than ideal conditions and lives are at stake…its never going to be a good tone and you revert back, instinctively, to what you have trained and mastered.


My goal is to train myself to always switch the safety on and off, I am not 100% there yet. I do this because 1) the buddies I shoot with want that. 2) I think the benefits far outweigh any “negative” downsides to flipping the safety on and off (I can’t really think of one anyway…sure it could be slower for a newer shooter, but that is something that can be fixed with practice).

My two cents.

Jackie Treehorn
Jackie Treehorn

Outstanding discussion point.

Yes, ON. Manipulating the manual safety on a long gun is fundamental. It’s an essential skill of weapons manipulation, whether on the square range or going high speed. I was trained to go finger straight and automatically apply the safety EVERYTIME when coming off target, moving, transitioning, reloading, etc. Anytime I am not actively engaging a target(s), the manual safety goes on.

I would ask – even on the flat range, wouldn’t you want me to apply the safety on my long gun when not firing if I am in proximity of you?


As an end user or RO its safety on at all times unless on target. You are dealing with such a wide array of end users with a firearm and must take that into account. Plus adrenaline is pumping during competition which only adds to possibility of an accident. I agree with the mindset of “what if something goes wrong”. Never can account for when Murphy’s law of things going south will occur. Night patrol operations are but a good example where practice of good safety discipline pays dividends.

Borrowed from an very excellent post this is common practice on range trips.

I had this posted in AR15.com, but since I have abandoned ship I will repost here. Some of the terminology is probably different than what was defined as in the double taps post, but it is good shooting stuff.

Lesson 1 is Ready up drills.

LESSON 1- Ready up drills are the building block for effective short range rapid engagement shooting techniques, and can be done alone at any range allowing rapid (accurate fire) at 25m.

1. Before you even go to the range, you can practice your technique at home. Dry firing will not harm your AR, and dry firing is a key element of training. It establishes muscle memory and gets you comfortable with specific motions.

2. Get your AR and practice your stance. A good stance is based on a fighting stance. Footwork is not critical (you fire from the waist up, but balance is). But for CQB shooting, you want to be square on the target, facing it directly. This is because you move and shoot in the same position, walking and facing forward. Square to the target, non-firing foot slightly forward, knees slightly flexed. Lean forward slightly, if you feel like you are in a boxing stance than you are doing it right. Keep the butt of your weapon tucked into your shoulder tight using your firing hand primarily. Angle the muzzle at a 45 degree angle down. Keep your head up, elbows tucked in tight. WEAPON IS ON SAFE, finger off the trigger.

3. Practice bringing your weapon up smoothly (start in slow motion) and engaging a target. A piece of tape on the wall works. As you bring the weapon up to firing position, rotate the selector to semi as you begin to pull the trigger. With practice, you should get a good sight picture, go to semi, and pull the trigger in one smooth motion. Never move faster than you can do the motions properly. This applies to live rounds as well.

4. After dropping the hammer, keep the weapon in firing position with your firing hand and charge the weapon. Put the weapon on safe and lower it back into the ready position.

5. Repeat as necessary until it is smooth and natural. Never hurry up or speed you motions, speed comes with repitition. Speeding up prematurely leads to sloppy shooting and getting kicked off ranges… or worse if you do this for a living.

6. Remember: Square to the target, weapon only on fire while engaging, immediately back to safe.
/end Quote

Miguel Rodriguez
Miguel Rodriguez

Safety is always engaged when not pointed at a target. When the rifle is raised, it is flipped off. When lowered it is engaged. I also engage the safety when reloading an AR as some in the SOF community advocate.


Since I am, for now, in California, manipulating the safety is not quite as straightforward as it is in places where you can have a normal pistol grip. Ambi safety helps, but to flick it back on, I have to release the grip with the firing hand or the support hand. Once I move to another state, I will re-train, but for the time being, the safety is on when moving, but it is still off when I drop the rifle down to ready after shooting. In general, when not dealing with idiotic Claifornia laws, I side with the rule that safety is off when the rifle is on target and safety is on at all other times.


I trained at Asymettric Solutions for several years, with about 15 different instructors for carbine courses. MARSOC, JSOC, SEALS, Green Berets, Rangers, Marine Force Recon, Marine Raiders, Delta…cool dudes and every single one of them uses a safety when they’re not actively pointing a weapon at a target.

The reason I have been given, by all of them and in different ways, is because you’re off the teams if you have a negligent dicharge. One and your pooled, no one wants you on their team. Two and your flat out gone, kicked out.

And wouldn’t you know it, theres a chest and belt load if shite trying to snag that trigger at all times. I’ve had my safety flipped off by gear before.

If you’ve ever run and gunned and ate some gravel or tripped over a tree root, your hands wither open and drop the weapon or clinch and tend to squeeze the trigger…turns out I just ride the fall down and keep that damn finger off the bang switch. But the safety was on.

::side note::
Different groups had different SOP’s but all the Green Berets, who were not in the same ODA, all kept their safeties off when entering buildings and muzzle swept each other in actual combat. Then again, they walked down a hit firing line to switch their targets out when on their teams. They trained to excellence because their lives depended on it…I just got my hand held when my civvie butt went to class. Just trying to offer some perspective.


Maybe I am tainted by decades of military ranges but I see no reason to not have a loaded weapon on safe during movement on a civilian range. Hell, even in combat we habitually set our safties when changing positions. As you stated, when it is a habitual skill, manipulating the safety only takes a second and can be done in conjunction with getting into your next firing position. There is no time lost.


Manipulating the safety on/off is a habit that needs to be ingrained so that it just happens regardless of the situation- offhand, nighttime, under stress, etc. Unfortunately, in CA manipulating a featureless rifle can be awkward and sometimes dangerous.


I haven’t though it through completely, which is weird for me, but things that would definitely cue a safety activation would be movement or hands off the rifle (slung). I would not engage the safety during a reload or malfunction clearance, though perhaps after depending on the situation.

Our training is muzzle down, safety on, which I think is edging towards being a little silly.

The Hollywood Delta, “This is my safety,” just doesn’t cut the mustard. With a heavy vest, or even a plate carrier and a modest amount of gear, there’s just too many things to catch on the trigger. It can be a little unnerving even with the safety on.

Those random points basically define the extremes for me. The grayer areas I don’t have a hard answer for. I probably over-rely on common sense, of which I may or may not possess enough of at any given moment…

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