TTPs: Safety/Decocker Use

At my high-level gun school classes, we spent some time with drills that used each other’s pistols. This was a fun “battlefield pickup”1 exercise, and I learned a lot from it.

In general, most shooters had brought Glocks or other striker-fired pistols. But there was one SIG P226 (Legion) SAO with a thumb safety, and one FN FNX-45 that had a frame mounted safety/decocker (up for safe, middle for fire, press down to decock, it will rebound up). This let me get some time with these designs, and more importantly, get some type-specific instruction. And those are the topic for today’s TTP2 post.

The question that we’re going to answer is: When should I engage the manual safety or use the decocker? This is a pretty natural question to ask if your pistol has one, and you’re training for things more serious than standing on a firing line blasting away.

My instructors teach: Whenever you come off of your target, engage the safety or decocker.

This isn’t universal, and that’s okay. But I’m gonna go with it, because my instructors made a damn fine argument:

Recall that the decocker + DA pull or the manual safety exist on your pistol to provide an additional layer of safety between you and a nice, light, short, single-action pull. Protection against “trigger checking” in times of stress. Protection from errors in handling while you move. And so on. So, if it’s not on when you’re doing something other than shooting or getting your sights on target to prepare to shoot, what’s the point? Seriously, what’s the point of having a bunch of extra safety systems and then not doing your level best to engage them to keep you safe?

If you’re not using the extra safety systems, you’re quite a bit less safe than someone with a Glock (or similar) who is just keeping his finger off the trigger. He’s got a pull that’s longer, heavier, and generally worse than just about every single-action trigger pull I’ve found, double action pistol or not.

One other note: The FNX’s thumb safety/decocker is kind of hard to use both ways. There are similar units on USPs (HK split the safety and decocker apart in the P30), and it does allow for you to carry with the safety on and the hammer locked back. For the purposes of class, since we had another SAO gun for manual safety exercises), and since the guy who brought the FNX wanted to get time with that heavy double action trigger, we only used the decocker in class (i.e. come off target, decock, do not put on safe).


  1. Read: Excuse to play with everyone’s guns. 
  2. Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures. Hopefully the start of a new series. 

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