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Monday, October 2, 2017

Gunsite Lowered Thumb Safety


If that title makes no sense, then you're not familiar with the 1911 pistol made by John Browning (peace be upon him): on the left side of the frame is a manual safety you move to 'off' or 'on' with your thumb.

Full-size 1911A1 with this safety pointed out.
Original picture from IMFDB; arrow added by me. 

It's simple, effective, and - like any other such - has a lot of variations out there, usually involving making the shelf which your thumb presses on longer, or wider, or both. However, there is another version in which the shelf is located lower on the safety, and that's what we're looking at here.

Original (from my gun) on the left, Gunsite low mount on the right.

 As you can see, that's a large of difference in the shelf location.

Why make a lowered safety? Some people have small hands, and a lower position makes the safety easier to manipulate. In my case, it's arthritis; sometimes my thumb doesn't want to go high enough to push the safety to 'off'. On the range, that's a nuisance; in a self-defense situation, it could be bad.

I'd read about these lowered safeties, so I dug around and found two companies that make them, Wilson Combat and Gunsite, in both stainless and blued steel versions. I decided to go with the Gunsite model because the thumb shelf appears to be located lower than the Wilson model. There were warnings in the reviews that the stainless tends to have a somewhat rough finish, so I was prepared for that.

Also, be aware that a new safety may require some fitting to your pistol, and fitting a safety is one of those "If you do not fully understand what you're doing, and how to do it, DON'T DO IT, take it to a gunsmith" things because  there will probably be some polishing needed on the piece that blocks the hammer and sear (shown below) to make it perform as it should.


I'm not going into how to do that; there are some very good instructions on the subject available online if you're interesting in changing the safety on yours.  Some new safeties will actually drop-in and work perfectly, but don't count on it.

I polished the outside with some 220-grit wet-dry paper to clean up the surface. The frame on this pistol has a bead-blasted finish*, and next chance I have I'll blast this to match.  Here it is installed:


I put it through the standard function checks (adding a lot of "slap it, bang it, try to make it fail") and it passed. A couple of days later, I was able to put a box of ammo through the pistol. The safety worked perfectly, and is a lot easier for me to use than the standard issue.

We'll see how it holds up in the long term, but right now I have to say it was worth the price and work, and is something you might consider for your sidearm.


*Literally blasting the surface with glass beads

The Fine Print


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