The Hotly Debated Magazine Disconnect Safety

What is a magazine disconnect safety?

It is a mechanism which prevents discharge of a firearm when the magazine is removed, disabling the firing mechanism.  And just like every other safety (be it lever, grip, etc), it should be considered and aid and back-up rather than relied upon for one’s well being.

This mechanism is hotly debated.  Two arguments are usually made against such systems.

1. It prevents hot reloads where you are firing while reloading your magazine.

2. Additional complexity provides more opportunity for things to fail.

Let me address the first item.  In most cases, for most people, this one bears little real world affect. I know very few people who are capable of dropping a magazine, firing ACCURATELY, as they grab and insert a new magazine into their firearm. First off, accuracy is reduced when multi-tasking on so many levels. Your focus is to divided preventing you from  focusing on your target. Furthermore, there is an increased possibility of causing malfunction. By inserting at just the wrong time or limp wristing.

Granted a few people out there might have the skill to do such advanced speed reloads, these people are likely in the employ of the government and in constant training and activity on a level most of us cannot fathom. For the rest of us, it is relegated to the realm of  mall ninja. Most of us won’t even be aware of when we are on our last round.  A better alternative for most of us is to practice reloading smoothly. To ensure that we are trained instinctively to reload as soon as that slide remains open. And to practice inserting our magazine, releasing the slide and re-acquiring target.  As well as considering the tactical reload during a pause in action. If you’ve fired off several rounds, and have sought cover. It might be a good time to pop in a fresh magazine and increase your firepower.


Now, let’s address the 2nd item. Increased complexity can lead to increased failure. Where as I view the first item of contention to have little merit. I view the second one to actually have merit. The more points of potential failure, the greater the risk of failure in a like system.  Remember, the law of the universe goes like this: God, Murphy, and Physics.

You can play with the latter but don’t mess with the first two.  😉

That said, does increased complexity equate to increased failure. And furthermore, does it equate to increased risk?

Yes and no. In a perfect comparison of two near identical items of similar craftsmanship. The one with more complexity will fail before the one with less complexity.  However, in evaluating a product there are a lot more factors to consider.

First off the quality of manufacture makes a significant difference. Compare a Buick with a Yugo. Which one has a higher lifespan?  Clearly the Buick has better craftsmanship and reliability.

Let’s stick to our vehicle analogy for a second example. Which vehicles last longer?  The much more simple vehicles of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s or modern cars?  While modern vehicles have become increasingly complex (as Toyota’s recent problems exemplify), there has been a general improvement in reliability and lifespan.

This brings me to two conclusions:

1. Advances in manufacturing quality can allow modern firearms with additional complexities due to safety features to perform as well and even more reliably than older designs manufactured years ago.

2. While that same advance in manufacturing might mean a simply gun would be more reliable. The additional complexities can be added so that their risk of failure within the lifespan of the firearm are very slim.

This leaves us with a final decision to decide – does that minute increase in risk of failure exceed the benefit of safety?

Let me give a few examples of the safety benefit.  It’s been touted that the magazine safety disconnect allows an individual, who is struggling to maintain control of their firearm, to render their firearm inoperative by ejecting the magazine.

It also helps reduce the risk of improper handling.  The February 23, 2010 Tactical Wire reports on a tragic loss of life of a New Jersey police officer who shot himself while trying to install a grip sleeve. He had ejected the magazine but failed to remove the round in the chamber. No one is going to deny the improper handling of the firearm that led to this tragedy. But regardless of the failure of discipline, but for a lack of a magazine safety disconnect, that officer might be alive today.

For those who believe that you are immune to such mistakes, or that you are disciplined enough not to take such a foolish action. Fine. But can you guarantee everyone around you? How about at the range. Have you never had that ‘foolish’ person sweep you with the muzzle of their gun?  Many people own guns but do not fully understand how to use them. They remove the magazine and think they have unloaded the firearm.  Do you want one of these individuals to unwittingly sweep you as they click the trigger on a firearm they think is unloaded? Do you think you can run across the range, tell them to keep the muzzle pointed downrange, before their bullet reaches you?  Or would you rather there was just one more safety to prevent foolish and uneducated individuals from making mistakes that cost lives and give firearms a bad reputation?

Consider it…

I am of the opinion, in light of the benefits both for the preservation of life and the reputation and cause of firearm owners in general – that the benefits of magazine disconnect safeties outweigh the disadvantages.

Published in: on February 25, 2010 at 4:18 pm  Comments (8)  
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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I agree. I think one of the points of contention with gun owners is that they feel like the magazine disconnect safeties are forced on them and don’t see it for the feature it can be.

    Furthermore, I think that in a fight were going to be asked to retain our firearm more than anything. So if you were fighting for control of that gun, ejecting the mag is a viable option. It’s an action that can not even be noticed by your assailant. So if he gets a hold of your gun and starts trying to shoot you, you can pull out a secondary or other tool and finish the fight.

    I can’t think of anything more righteous than that.

    Great Job!

  2. I’ve never seen anyone make the first argument you claim is a major point of contention.

    I’ve never even seen mall ninjas claim that they keep firing while reloading…that’s just silly.

    The arguments I’ve seen more often (in addition to mechanical failure of the mechanism) is an inadvertent press of the magazine release button during drawing and presentation can completely disable the firearm and render it useless for self defense.

    Even if the magazine completely falls free, without a magazine disconnect, you can potentially at least get off one shot before having to deal with the problem.

    But, hey, as long as this is a personal decision thing, I’ll agree with you:

    As far as you’re concerned, the benefits of the magazine disconnect safety outweigh the costs. You can feel free to buy all the guns with magazine disconnect safeties that your heart desires.

    As long as I still have the option of buying guns without them, we’ll never have a problem.

    The issue is that your opinion (and that’s all it is) that magazine disconnects are a net benefit will be seized upon by those who love to tell others how to live their lives: “See, even pro-gun people think they’re a good thing” and they’ll use that to try to push people like me…in who’s opinion the benefits DO NOT outweigh the costs…to buy only guns that have a feature that we don’t want.

    Personally, I’m all about choice. Your choice to use guns with magazine disconnect safeties is just fine with me as long as I retain the choice to refrain.

    BTW: I do own one pistol with a magazine disconnect safety: S&W Model 22A .22 pistol. It is a range gun, not a carry gun (obviously)…and I’ve had failures to fire with the magazine inserted and locked but I didn’t insert it with enough force to disengage the magazine disconnect safety.

    Ironically, the magazine disconnect safety itself causes increased resistance just as the magazine becomes fully seated and can, itself, become the cause of not seating it forcefully enough.

    It’s an unnecessary point of potential failure that adds nothing not already covered by proper application of the four rules.

    BTW: The deal about disabling the firearm by ejecting the magazine so the bad guy can’t use it against you? What’s to prevent the bad guy from using the same technique against you? Or for it to happen accidentally while struggling with said bad guy over the firearm? That’s a wash in my opinion.

    In my opinion, the only true benefit of a magazine disconnect safety is to prevent us from shooting ourselves or others out of sheer stupidity.

    Not only is it not the government’s (or society’s) job to protect us from ourselves…there’s no cure for stupidity so it’s an endeavor that’s destined to failure from the outset.

  3. Personally I’m not a fan of magazine disconnect safeties for reasons Sailorcurt has already mentioned. But I’m also fine with their existence so long as they remain optional.

    I’m also not a fan of manual thumb safeties on my carry guns. So long as I have the option to purchase a gun without either safety I’m completely OK with it. The second they are forced upon me I won’t buy the gun.

  4. SailorCurt, you do make a valid point regarding drawing. With my Ruger I haven’t experienced any of the difficulties you mention with your S&W disconnect.

    And I do agree..choice should never be taken away.

  5. Your all missing the real problem, at the end of the day any binary safety is just one more thing standing between me and pulling the trigger. I don’t like manual safeties. I like the glock safe-action system.All the safety you really need without stopping you from pulling the trigger…..

    And who cannot agree with 15 round standard? 🙂

  6. I am of the opinion that people are different. And different people sometimes have different needs.

    Not everyone needs a magazine disconnect, nor even a safety. And if I were an officer, I’d probably not want a safety.

    But if I were an individual who had to carry in a handbag, fanny pack or other off-person carry. I definitely would.

  7. Exactly, James. However, let’s not fail to include the Kahr’s internal safety on the list (as long as we’re name-dropping…lol). I’ll take a striker over an external hammer any day for my CCW…but I digress…

    In my own opinion, it’s all about the individual using the weapon, and the employment of that weapon. I don’t view this so much as a topic of “choice” as I do a topic of functionality.

    In my experience, the magazine disconnect has had considerably more detrimental effect on timely firing (hitting the release while drawing), and more significantly, firing immediately after a “hot” reload (reloading a partially used magazine (not the John Rambo “shoot while reloading” scenerio used in the original post…please!). This is for the reasons already stated. The magazine simply has not been properly seated upon reloading.

    Again, functionality. I own and shoot several weapons with magazine disconnects. They provide an added layer of safety that absolutely adds to the safety of everyone around in most of the situations discussed in this forum. The safety of any shooting range is paramount…and these weapons are at home on any range, or backyard, for that matter…they just don’t belong in the small of my back if the “unthinkable” ever occurs.

    That’s my opinion…you’ve got yours, I just happend to share mine, too.

  8. Nope, don’t want the increased risk of a malfunction with a magazine disconnect.
    Real simple: 1. Engage safety, 2. Eject magazine, 3. Eject round in the
    chamber, 5. Keep your head out of your a** when using
    a firearm.

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