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Old 05-07-2010, 03:14 AM   #1
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1911 Safety Functions

We've heard the cry for years.

Cocked and locked! The way that Browning intended!

Uh...Noooo. Sorry. That ain't exactly accurate.

The half cock is NOT a safety. It was never meant to be a safety and it should never be used as a safety!

Wrong again.

Funny how these rumors get started.

Let's go back to 1910, when the first 8 prototypes were submitted to the US Army Ordnance Board for evaluation.

The new pistol was to be a sidearm for officers and mounted cavalry. Horse soldiers. The grip saafety was already in place, and it wasn't Browning's idea. It was Colt's. The Army had requested it for their 1908 and 1909 contract pistols because they'd seen the one on the Luger P-03 and P-08 and liked it.
So, when they contracted with Colt for a service pistol, they asked them for one...and got it. At the time, the cavalry was still using revolvers...but the plans for a new automatic pistol was already in the planning stages.

Fast-forward to Browning's involvement. The 1910 prototypes were in the hands of the Ordnance Board, and they liked what they had, but returned the guns with a final request. They wanted a manual, slide-locking safety for the cavalry to give the mounted troopers the ability to secure the pistol and return it to its holster in order to regain control of a frightened or unruly horse without risk of shooting the horse or themselves. Even then, they understood that a man under stress may forget to take his finger off the trigger before reholstering. A point that apparently escaped Gaston Glock's notice.

"Slide-Locking" because...under the adverse conditions of a battlefield...the guns may not be squeaky clean and well-oiled. If the slide happened to be pushed out of battery during the reholstering...it may not return when the gun is withdrawn, and possibly cost the trooper his life upon failing to fire.

Six of the origoinal 1910 models were retrofitted with thunb safeties, and the rest is history.

So...The thumb safety was added for the US Cavalry, and for the reasons stated above. That gave the user the option of placing the gun into an instant state of readiness when action was iminent...but was mandated to be returned to Condition Three when the emergency had passed...or to be safely reholstered while on a jittery horse...but not to be specifically carried contuinuously in Condition One. It COULD be...but it wasn't MEANT to be.

On to the half-cock.

Touted for years by shooters and gunsmiths alike to be nothing more than a mechanism to arrest the hammer should the hooks break and loose the hammer from its moorings, the half-cock is thus misunderstood. Like so many other things, Browning had a penchant for giving a single part a dual function. The captive half-cock notch was one of those things.

If all it was meant to be was a mechanism to arrest an errant hammer, it could have been much cheaper, easier, and faster to machine by using a simple, square shelf such as the one seen on the present Series 80 hammers. That captive notch is a fairly complicated cut to make on the hammer. That takes time, tooling, jigs and fixtures, and man-hours. That translates to money and a delay in filling a contract on time. If there's one thing that's been constant, it's corporate bean counters who look for ways to eliminate unnecessary steps.

In the 1910 patents...in Browning's own words...the half-cock is described as a safety position during his description of the method for lowering the hammer from the firing position without touching the firing pin. Incidentally laying waste to another rumor that the hammer should never be manually lowered on a loaded chamber.

But, let's look at the half-cock and see exactly what it does.

When the sear engages the notch, it's captive in that notch...sear and hammer interlocked...and pulling the trigger won't move the sear. The sear can't escape. The hammer can't fall...and the trigger is frozen until the hammer is recocked and returned to the firing position.

Ladies and laddies..if that doesn't meet the criteria for an active safety...I'd like to know what does.

To shoot down one more rumor...

"Browning "corrected" the flaws in the 1911 with the High-Power...and one of the first things that he did was to eliminate the grip safety."

How many times have we heard that one?

First...Browning died 9 years before the High-Power was finished. He had very little influence on the final design.

Second...As with the 1911...Browning didn't have a free hand in it. He didn't design what he wanted. He designed what he was asked for. The High-Power project was a military contract. If the people paying the bills had requested a grip safety on the P35...you can bet the farm that it would be wearing one today.

Last edited by JohnnyT; 05-07-2010 at 03:20 AM.
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Old 09-23-2012, 06:45 AM   #2
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Join Date: Sep 2012
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Nice post, I have always had concerns with the 'locked and cocked" carry method.
Thanks for confiming my thought on this.
Old 09-26-2012, 04:02 AM   #3
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Location: North Carolina
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No real reason to be concerned with cocked and locked from a safety standpoint. It's as safe as any loaded gun can be. The only way to make a gun completely safe is to never load it.

Bottom line:

Is gun. Gun not safe.
Old 09-26-2012, 04:20 AM   #4
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Location: Mid TN
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Are ye stirrin' the pot again?

How many bottle openers on a GI 1911A1?
Old 09-26-2012, 12:13 PM   #5
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Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: North Carolina
Posts: 724
It's what I live for, cohee.

Two...and...that depends on whether the pistol's got a lanyard loop set at the correct angle. Smith & Alexander's ain't.
Old 09-26-2012, 02:51 PM   #6
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Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: Mid TN
Posts: 346
Two is a good answer for a U.S. Marine.
(notice that I did not say 'ex-marine')
Old 09-27-2012, 03:38 AM   #7
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Location: North Carolina
Posts: 724
Well, I guess there are a couple more...but since I never, ever drank beer, and spent all my free time with the chaplain...I wouldn't know about the others.


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