Ambidextrous safety part

Is There A Benefit To An Ambidextrous Safety?

A relatively common feature for pistols that's often feted as an upgrade is an ambidextrous safety. They're available on a great many pistols, though a person might wonder just what the benefits to one are.

After all, a safety on the non-dominant side just takes up more space in a lot of instances. What's the point?

There actually is at least one benefit, namely being able to actuate the safety with either hand. Seen in that light, one might argue that all safeties should be ambidextrous. However, it's really one of those things that's up to the user.

Benefit Of An Ambidextrous Safety

Most 1911s have ambidextrous safeties

The most obvious benefit of an ambidextrous safety is that it is ambidextrous, so it can be used by either hand should that become necessary. This is ideal if you shoot with a group of friends and occasionally pass guns around for others to try out; any lefties won't have difficulties.

That said, the usual reason for having an ambi safety is a little more tactically-oriented.

The primary function of an ambidextrous safety is that you can still operate the pistol from your non-dominant hand, should your dominant hand become injured. This is actually how they're a good idea.

It's something of a redundancy. Say your shooting hand is hit in an exchange of gunfire with a hostile person, or your dominant hand is otherwise pinned down. Do you give up? No; you put your pistol in the other hand and shoot him with that one. Should you need to, you can still operate the safety with one hand.

In this regard, the having two safety levers is better than one, which means it's a feature you might want in a gun you're going to carry everyday on your gun belt.

Ambidextrous Handguns: There's Not Many

Southpaw version of 1911

While that is the conventional wisdom about ambidextrous safeties, the odd thing about that is that there are precious few truly ambidextrous handguns. Triggers are certainly ambidextrous; you can squeeze it from either side of the trigger guard.

Granted, there are a lot of pistols that can swap the magazine eject button from left to right (and vice versa) but not too many have ambidextrous slide stops or allow for the slide stop to be swapped.

Revolvers are fairly easily operated by left- or right-handed shooters...until it's time to reload. Then it can get a bit awkward. Then again, you could always eschew a speed loader or moon clips for the New York reload and just not worry about it.

Is An Ambidextrous Safety Worth The Upgrade?

Is an ambi-safety worth the upgrade?

Depends on what you mean by "worth it," but it also depends on the ambidextrous safety you're looking to switch to.

One of the most common ambi safeties that people look to get as a factory option or as an upgrade is for a 1911. Typically, they're bigger than the thumb safety that you'd find on a GI-spec model, with an extended lever. Ostensibly it's for easier operation under duress, but some people find they have a habit of catching on holsters or clothing when drawing, or render the gun incompatible with some holsters.

They also increase the width of the gun by about a good .25 inches. This won't turn a gun from concealment wunderkind to perpetual printer, but it is something to bear in mind in a carry gun.

Some people also wonder about the safeties that are an option on some pistols, such as those on the Smith and Wesson M&P line. M&P safeties are all low-profile, so they aren't much of a hindrance should you decide to get the safety-equipped models.

All told, ambi safeties aren't a bad feature to have, but whether they're worth it as an upgrade or factory extra...well, that's really up to you. Best thing to do is try one out at a range if possible and see if there's something about having them that appeals to you. If so, go ahead. After all, the gun you like best, that you can work well with, is the best carry gun to have on you.

Sam Hoober 

About The Author


Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.

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