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?

Matt

Matt

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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25 Comments
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Sunshine_Shooter
Member

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… Read more »

Mark C
Mark C
Guest
Replying to  Sunshine_Shooter

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.

Nick
Nick
Guest

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.

Miguel Rodriguez
Miguel Rodriguez
Guest

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.

Jackie Treehorn
Jackie Treehorn
Guest

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?

Jackie Treehorn
Jackie Treehorn
Guest
Replying to  The Marksman

I can add to that if I may.. I had had the opportunity to be taught the particular SEAL way of weapon manipulation by an outstanding former career SEAL while training at Asymmetric Solutions. In terms of dealing with a reload or malfunction, both are treated the same. The reasoning is you might be fighting in the dark (or if a SEAL most always in the dark) and you can’t be 100% certain you’ve gone empty vs you have a malfunction. Both are diagnosed and treated using the same algorithm. I was taught this.. You’ve pulled the trigger and nothing… Read more »

ILya
Guest

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… Read more »

Mark C
Mark C
Guest

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… Read more »

Jerry
Jerry
Guest

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… Read more »

Brent Sauer
Guest

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.

Dtay
Dtay
Guest

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.

Todd
Guest

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… Read more »

Ben
Ben
Guest

Left handed and growing up hunting I left the safety off on my shotgun while carrying, because I couldn’t get the cross bolt safety off fast enough when a bird flew up. Unload or safety on when going over fences and dodgy terrain. I could work the pump faster than the safety. I’d focus on muzzle discipline foremost and where my fellow hunters were, always positioning myself on the far right end of the line, so the muzzle naturally points away from others. Fast forward to the AR and with great ambidextrous options and I’m running the safety like you… Read more »

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