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How to Tell if the Safety is On a Gun

Learn the crucial steps to identify if the safety is on a gun, ensuring responsible and safe firearm handling. Stay safe with these 5 gun safety tips.
Gun Safety in the Auto Mode and Ready to Shoot

Table of Contents

Guns, much like power tools or vehicles, come with their own set of rules and safety protocols. Understanding how to tell if the safety is on a gun is not just a piece of handy knowledge; it’s a vital part of responsible gun ownership. Whether you’re a seasoned marksman or a newbie to the world of firearms, this guide will walk you through the basics and beyond. So, let’s dive right in!

Understanding the Basics of Gun Safety

Before we jump into the nitty-gritty, let’s get one thing straight: handling a gun is no joke. It’s crucial to treat every firearm as if it were loaded, even if you’re absolutely sure it’s not. This golden rule of gun safety can never be overstated.

The Role of the Safety Mechanism

Every gun has a safety mechanism, but its location and operation can vary wildly from one model to another. In essence, the safety is a device designed to prevent the gun from firing accidentally. It’s kind of like the child lock on a medicine bottle – simple yet vital.

Identifying Safety Features on Different Guns

Pistols: Slide Locks and Thumb Safeties

Pistols often come with a thumb safety, typically located on the left side for right-handed shooters. Some models also feature a grip safety, which needs to be fully depressed (usually by holding the gun properly) before it will fire.

Pistol Slide Lock
Pistol Slide Lock (Source: Quora)

Rifles: Cross-Bolt and Lever Safeties

Rifles, especially those used for hunting, might have a cross-bolt safety near the trigger guard or a lever safety. These are usually marked with red to indicate a “fire” position.

Lever or Pivot Safety
Lever or Pivot Safety (Source: HunterEd)

Shotguns: Push-Button and Tang Safeties

Shotguns are a whole other ball game. They often have a push-button safety located near the trigger guard or a tang safety on the top rear of the receiver. It’s like a “stop” and “go” light right where you need it.

slider or tang safety
Slider or Tang Safety (Souce: HunterEd)

The Tell-Tale Signs of an Engaged Safety

  1. Visual Cues: Look for color-coded indicators (like a red band) or the letters ‘S’ (safe) and ‘F’ (fire).
  2. Physical Checks: Feel for the safety switch. If it’s flush with the gun body or harder to move, the safety is likely engaged.
  3. Audible Clicks: Listen for a click sound when toggling the safety. This sound can be a reliable indicator of its position.
  4. Test the Trigger (Carefully): While ensuring the gun is pointed in a safe direction and unloaded, gently test the trigger. If it doesn’t move, the safety is probably on.
  5. Consult the Manual: When in doubt, the user manual is your best friend. It’s like a treasure map to your gun’s safety features.

Safety Tips for Handling Firearms

  1. Always Point the Gun in a Safe Direction: This is non-negotiable. Always.
  2. Keep Your Finger Off the Trigger: Until you are ready to shoot, that finger should be taking a break.
  3. Regular Maintenance is Key: A well-maintained gun is a safer gun. Period.
  4. Educate Yourself and Others: Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to firearms.
  5. Store Guns Safely: Unloaded, locked up, and out of reach of the untrained and the underage.


Here are the 3 most common questions we get asked about safeties on guns.

Can a gun go off if the safety is on?

In theory, no. But mechanical failures happen. Never rely solely on the safety mechanism.

Is it safe to store a gun with the safety on?

While storing a gun with the safety on is advisable, it should also be unloaded and securely locked away.

Should I engage the safety mechanism while cleaning my gun?

Absolutely. Engage the safety and ensure the gun is unloaded before any maintenance.

Final Thoughts

Remember, knowing how to tell if the safety is on your gun is just the first step. Responsible gun ownership is a continuous journey of learning and practicing safety protocols. Stay vigilant, stay educated, and most importantly, stay safe.

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