How The Glock Safety Works  (2022)

the glock safety how it works
Table of Contents

    Glock dominates the handgun market in both the United States and around the globe. The Glock is a semi-automatic pistol that was originally designed by an Austrian manufacturer called Glock Ges.m.b.H in 1982. As a top performer in reliability and safety tests, it quickly entered into the Austrian military and police service. 

    This pistol gained huge popularity and is now the standard in police and military all around the world. It’s known for using a unique polymer frame, having a short recoil, and implementing Glock’s trademark safe-action safety system. Unlike most other pistols and handguns, the Glock has no manual safety, an external switch that needs to be disengaged before the gun can fire. How then, is the Glock still considered one of the safest guns on the market? 

    In this article, we’re going to explain how exactly a Glock safety works. We’ll also explore the other common types of gun safety and how these compare to the Glock and cover some general gun safety that every firearm owner needs to know. One of the safest ways to store your gun is in one of the best biometric gun safes, a vital component in preventing accidental discharges. Read on to find out everything you need to know about Glock’s unique triple safety system. 


    A Glock gun.

    Glock uses a special Safe Action system to prevent accidental discharge.


    How does a Glock safety work?

    Not all Glock handguns use the same safety system, but the vast majority employ the trademarked safe-action safeties. This includes trigger safety, firing pin safety, and drop safety. Some Glock guns use pistol safety or fingerprint gun lock safety, and we’ll explore these later in the article. 

    Glock’s safe action system promises a consistent trigger pull from the first to the last round. Rather than having to disengage and reengage safeties, Glock users can concentrate fully on accurately shooting as many rounds as necessary without distraction. Three independently-operating mechanical safeties promise to prevent accidental discharge when dropped and also help the gun to function at extreme temperatures from -40 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit. 

    Because the Glock lacks a manual safety switch, many users call into question whether it is truly safe. The safe action system protects against most negligent discharge scenarios. However, the lack of physical safety means an accidental trigger pull could in theory result in the discharge of a round. That’s why some people call into question whether the Glock really has safety at all and if it’s truly safe to carry. Before we evaluate the safeness of Glock’s system, let’s find out how it works. 


    Glock safe action system

    The Glock Safe Action system is fully automatic, consisting of three independent passive mechanical safety features. All three safeties disengage in sequence as the trigger is pulled, and then re-engage when released. The first is the trigger safety, a system popularized by the Glock but invented by gunsmith Iver Johnson for use in the hammerless revolver. 


    Glock trigger safety

    Designed to prevent the gun from discharging if the trigger is not pulled, the trigger safety is effective at protecting you when the gun is dropped. This safety comes in the form of a lever incorporated into the trigger and is the first to be disengaged in the firing sequence. In order to fire the pistol, the trigger and incorporated safety must be deliberately pulled in unison. The trigger cannot move if the safety is not also pressed, preventing the gun from firing. 

    The trigger cannot engage if it is subjected to any pressure other than a direct firing pull. If the trigger protection is not forced back alongside the trigger, the pistol cannot fire. This double trigger safety is what causes so much controversy in the gun community because it does not protect against accidental trigger pulls. Many would argue that an accidental discharge, in this case, is the fault of a negligent gun user and not an unsafe gun, but since most guns carry a safety feature to prevent this, Glock pistols’ safety is called into question. 


    Firing pin safety

    The second safety system in Glock handguns is the firing pin safety. This mechanical system blocks the firing pin of your gun from moving forward into the position where it can engage. When the trigger of a Glock is pulled, the trigger bar pushes the firing pin safety upwards and removes the block from the firing pin channel. This frees the firing pin so it can move. If you release the trigger without firing, the block moves back and reengages the firing pin safety automatically. 


    Drop safety

    The final element of Glock’s safe action system is the drop safety. In the state of California and many others, drop safety is a specific requirement. It prevents or reduces the possibility of accidental discharge if a firearm is roughly handled or dropped on a hard surface. After the trigger safety and firing pin safety have been disengaged, the drop safety is the final obstacle to the firing of the gun. 

    Within the mechanical trigger housing, the trigger bar rests on a safety ramp. It engages the rear portion of the firing pin to prevent it from moving forward. When the trigger is pulled, it lowers the safety ramp to allow the release of the firing pin. After firing, the trigger bar moves up and reengages the pin. If you release the trigger completely, all safeties will re-engage. 


    Glock safe action sequence

    One special feature of the Glock Safe Action safeties is that the trigger can reset without being completely released. While the drop safety reengages after every round, the other two safeties will only re-engage with the complete release of the trigger. This allows for partial decompression of the trigger during which you can hear and feel the gun reset. After that, you can fire a subsequent round more quickly than if you had to disengage all the safeties again. 


    A person shooting a Glock.

    No gun is safe in the hands of an untrained user.


    Is the Glock safe? 

    One area in which the Glock undoubtedly excels is in drop safety. All three of the safe action systems make this handgun highly drop-proof, no matter how hard the pistol lands or on what surface. If the trigger isn’t pressed, not a single one of the safety systems can disengage and the firing pin is reliably fixed in place and unable to trigger a round. 

    The system uses as few moving parts as possible, aiming for a simple yet effective mechanism. This reliability is what makes Glocks so popular with law enforcement and military use, creating a gun that is always ready to fire, and shouldn’t accidentally discharge in the hands of a trained user. 

    Unfortunately, all three of Glock’s safe action systems rely on the trigger. With no manual switch to disengage from firing, an accidental trigger pull can result in a negligent discharge. While accidentally pulling the trigger is unlikely in the hands of a highly-trained individual, there’s always the possibility that someone untrained could get their hands on your gun. There are plenty of instances of negligent discharge of a Glock due to accidental trigger pull. 


    Glock holster considerations

    One of the most vital components of Glock gun safety is choosing the correct holster. Because every Glock safety feature relies on the trigger, it’s vital to protect this trigger with your choice of holster. We’ve established that the Glock is perfectly safe when dropped, or when the trigger is partially pulled, but full accidental engagement of the trigger is still possible. In this case, without an external manual safety feature, an accidental discharge is possible. Your Glock holster must have a trigger guard. 

    Should the retention strap on your holster or another article of clothing push firmly enough against your Glock’s trigger, the loaded gun will fire. Only one other negligent discharge situation is more common than this scenario, and that’s during cleaning. It is vital to remove the magazine and clear the chamber of your gun before disassembling it for cleaning, otherwise, an accidental discharge could cause serious harm. To disassemble a Glock, you must first pull the trigger, so clearing the chamber and magazine first is paramount. 


    Other types of Glock safety 

    Instead of keeping your gun in a nightstand gun safe, you could use a fingerprint safety system. The Identilock fits most popular pistols including the Glock 17 and Glock 19 and keeps your handgun readily available to fire yet completely inaccessible by anyone but you. Advanced fingerprint technology will unlock your gun in 300 milliseconds, but covers the trigger when engaged. This is an excellent combination with Glock’s safe action system as it protects against every eventuality of accidental discharge. The biggest issue with Glock safety is your gun in the hands of the wrong person, and using Indentilock fingerprint safety prevents this. Much faster than retrieving your gun from a safe, but just as secure. 


    Other gun safety systems 

    There is a huge range of different gun safety systems employed across the market. Some handguns have no safeties whatsoever, relying on a long and hard trigger press to prevent accidental discharge of the firearm. However, most governmental agencies require at least some safety features for a gun to be sold, and we’re going to compare a few of the most common against Glock’s safe action system. 


    A Glock with bullets.

    The manual safety lever is a popular feature seen on many handguns.


    Manual safety

    The most common form of any external safety system in any handgun is the switch or lever which immobilizes the gun. Many different designs are available, the two most popular being a switch which immobilizes the trigger, and one which disconnects it from the firing mechanism. This thumb switch may need to be pushed up or down depending on the make of the gun in order to engage or disengage the firearm. 


    Grip safety

    A lever located on the back of a firearm is a grip safety. It must be fully pressed by a firm grip of the shooter’s hand in order to engage the gun. As soon as the grip is released, the gun disengages and cannot be fired. This safety feature requires a very firm grip on the firearm in order to discharge, which is a great component of gun safety. The trigger and grip safety must be squeezed simultaneously so that a round can go off. 

    External safety systems may not be as reliable as Glock’s safe action system, as they can be accidentally moved by the user. Glock pistols can be considered safe if they are kept in an appropriate holster with a trigger guard, or better, locked away from anyone but a trained user. This can be with a gun safe or a fingerprint lock, just remember that the most dangerous gun is one in the hands of the wrong person. 


    General gun safety 

    Whether you carry or own a gun for the purposes of recreation, hunting, or personal self-defense, firearm safety is paramount. Unfortunately, while Glock’s safe action system is very effective in protecting against drops, situations such as a jacket pull discharge are all too likely. In addition, there are far too many instances of Glock’s firing during cleaning for them to be considered a safe gun. In reality, no firearm is safe. 

    To prevent negligent discharges from a Glock pistol, it’s vital to follow all gun safety rules. As well as storing your gun unloaded, with no ammo in the chamber, and keeping it safely locked away, here’s what you need to do to prevent negligent discharge of a Glock handgun:

    • Follow the primary rules of gun handling: These are the same for every firearm no matter the manufacturer. Always treat every gun as if it’s loaded, never point a gun at something you don’t intend to shoot (loaded or otherwise), and never place your finger on the trigger until you’re ready to fire. 


    • Use a quality holster: Never carry a Glock in your waistband or pocket. Make sure it’s safely placed in a holster with complete trigger protection until you’re ready to fire.


    • Watch out for clothing: When you holster your Glock, pay careful attention to any garments of clothing or other obstacles. Toggles and drawstrings of jackets have caused many accidental discharges; you may want to cut these off. Always carefully and gently holster your Glock checking each time for potential obstacles. 


    • Always clear the chamber and magazine before stripping and cleaning your gun. 


    Human error is always possible, no matter how careful you are or how highly-trained. Unfortunately, everyone makes mistakes, and military and police force individuals have accidentally discharged Glock pistols plenty of times. However, you can limit the chances of error by being as careful as possible and always follow these rules when handling your firearm. Remember, not following gun safety endangers yourself and those around you. 


    Is a Glock single action or double action only?

    There’s controversy about whether Glock handguns are classed as SA or DAO. Single action pistols mean only a short trigger pull is required to fire the weapon, whereas double action only requires a much longer and harder pull, which is considered an additional safety feature. Most Glock models have only internal safeties meaning they function as a SA gun, however, both military and government agencies in the United States require DAO guns.

    Glock’s Safe Action System is actually a hybrid, which is how it achieves both safe status as well as a speedy action. The internal slide half cocks the striker, whereas a SA gun would require the striker to be fully cocked. DOA would mean the trigger pulls the cocked striker the whole way before releasing to fire. Because Glocks partially cock the striker, it means a combination of both systems is used. The trigger doesn’t fully cock the striker so safety is improved without removing rapid-fire capabilities. That’s why the Glock is one of the most popular semi-automatic handguns.  


    Final Verdict: 

    The triple safety mechanisms in any given Glock handgun make it one of the most effective firearms for use by trained individuals. With trigger safety, firing pin safety, and drop safety, Glock offers a simple but effective system. However, the lack of a safety lever means that accidental discharge caused by jacket pulls or incorrect holstering is possible. We think the Glock is a safe gun to own if you’re well aware of these eventualities and are properly prepared for them. However, additional safety measures such as a fingerprint gun lock are an excellent idea for peace of mind. 

    The Glock remains the most popular handgun in the United States amongst security agencies and civilians alike, and this is unlikely to change. However, accidental discharges happen all the time, so it’s never a bad choice to brush up on your gun safety. Rules like removing ammo from your gun before cleaning may seem simple, but are forgotten shockingly often. Always prioritize gun safety and ensure you keep your firearm out of the wrong hands. 


    Bonus tip: Check out this video to see Glock’s official recommended cleaning practices! 



    Riley Draper

    Riley Draper is a writer and entrepreneur from Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a world traveler, he has been to more than fifty countries and hiked some of the most elusive trails in the world. He is the co-founder of WeCounsel Solutions and has published work in both national and global outlets, including the Times Free Press, Patch, and Healthcare Global. When he's not writing, he's probably on a hiking trip or climbing in the mountains.