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.
DON’T WAIT UNTIL YOU’RE ON YOUR LAST BULLET!
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?
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.