External safeties are one of those hot topics that tend to be a “love them or hate them” argument. Many savvy gun owners who have carried for years will tell you that you don’t need one. But many new concealed carriers feel more comfortable knowing an external safety is just one more step between their trigger finger and a negligent discharge. Regardless, quite a few long-time and new gun owners choose pistols with manual safeties because it came with the gun when they bought it or it is just what they prefer. 

Whether they use that feature or not is a very personal decision. Still, there are some great reasons for having a gun with an external safety. There’s also more than one type of external safety, and they tend to vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. The two most common types are manual and grip safeties. 

  • Manual Safety: Manual safeties are the most common type of external safeties. It’s a switch/lever that can be flipped to “safe” it prevents the trigger from firing the pistol. Designs vary, but the two most common types are a latch or block that keeps the trigger/firing mechanism from moving or a device that disconnects the trigger from the firing mechanism. Both are generally activated by the strong-side hand’s thumb. 
  • Grip Safety: Widely used on 1911s, a grip safety is a device normally located on the backstrap of the grip, which is depressed by the strong-side hand as you grip the gun. The grip safety is activated automatically when you release your grip on the gun. Several manufacturers now utilize a grip safety on pistols that aren’t 1911s. 

I’ve put together a list of 10 great pistols with external safeties in alphabetical order. They vary from full-size to micro-compact carry pistols, so you can decide which pistol with an external safety is perfect for your needs. 

Colt Gold Cup National Match

Safety Type: Manual safety and grip safety
Caliber: .45 ACP
Standard Capacity: 8+1 

Features: The Colt 1911 is the granddaddy of them all on this list and deserves a rightful spot at number one. It’s a proven firearm that was carried by U.S. troops in World War I, World War II, and beyond, and it has remained incredibly popular ever since. The Gold Cup National Match was an upgraded version that was introduced in the 1950s for competition to much fanfare. You can’t talk manual safeties on pistols without talking about the 1911 first. 


Related: Colt Gold Cup - Still Looking Good Decades Later

Springfield Armory SA-35

Safety Type: Manual safety
Caliber: 9mm
Standard Capacity: 15+1

Features: The Springfield SA-35 is the new kid on the block on this list, but it’s based on a proven design that’s over 85 years old. Springfield generated quite the buzz when they released the SA-35 much to the delight of Browning Hi-Power fans everywhere. The pistol features checkered walnut grips and a classic matte-blued finish to complement the modern upgraded sights.

Related: A Closer Look at the Springfield SA-35

Beretta 92 FS

Safety Type: Manual safety 
Caliber: 9mm
Standard Capacity: 15+1

Features: The Beretta 92 FS has been setting the standards for military, police, and tactical pistol for over a quarter-century. The fully ambidextrous safety-decocking lever makes it perfect whether you’re a right or left-handed shooter. 

Related: The Beretta M9 Strong Even in Retirement

Kimber Micro 9

Safety Type: Manual thumb safety 
Caliber: 9mm
Standard Capacity: 7+1

Features: Styled like a miniature 1911, Kimber’s Micro 9 is available in several models. All feature stainless-steel barrels machined to the tightest allowable tolerances. These aluminum-framed pistols have mild recoil for their size and are perfect for concealed carry.


Related: Unboxing Exclusive - Kimber Micro 9 Stealth

Mossberg MC2c

Safety Type: Unique “cross-bolt” manual thumb safety on certain models
Caliber: 9mm
Standard Capacity: 13+1

Features: This double-stack carry pistol features a host of integrated ergonomic and performance features. These include a stainless-steel slide, angled serrations for easy slide manipulation, a safe takedown system requiring no trigger pull, and standard low-profile snag-free three-dot sights. It also has a front rail for mounting accessories. 


Related: Why the Mossberg MC2c Wins as a No Frills Option

Ruger Max-9

Safety Type: Manual thumb safety
Caliber: 9mm
Standard Capacity: 10+1

Features: The Max-9 is slim, lightweight, and compact. This workhorse has a rugged construction with a through-hardened alloy-steel slide. It has a precision-machined, one-piece fire-control chassis and high-performance nylon grip frame. 


Related: Ruger Max-9 Shows Off Affordable Features in First 100 Rounds

Ruger Security-9

Safety Type: Trigger safety
Caliber: 9mm
Standard Capacity: 15+1

Features: The Ruger Security-9 is one of the most popular carry guns from Ruger for a reason. It features a full-size footprint, giving it a 15+1 capacity, and boasts features like front slide serrations and an accessory rail. The gun is also able to be disassembled without pulling the trigger for those who have that as a concern. 

Related: 9mm Showdown - Ruger Security-9 vs M&P 2.0 Compact

 Sig Sauer P938

Safety Type: Ambidextrous manual thumb safety 
Caliber: 9mm
Standard Capacity: 7+1 rounds

Features: This 1911-style micro-compact pistol is packed with features. It’s available in several models, which feature an all-metal frame. The ambidextrous manual thumb safety, magazine release, and slide stop are all where you’d find them on a 1911, making it the perfect carry choice for 1911 fans. 

Related: Sig Sauer P938 - A BUG for 9mm Fans

Smith & Wesson M&P Shield Plus

Safety Type: Manual thumb safety 
Caliber: 9mm
Standard Capacity: 10+1

Features: New to the market in 2021, S&W beefed up the round count on their original M&P9 to make a new micro-compact with a 13+1 capacity with the extended magazine. The new Shield Plus also has an improved trigger and front slide serrations. Thin and lightweight, this micro-compact pistol is perfect for everyday carry. The aggressive grip texture is angled at 18 degrees for a natural point of aim. 

Related: 500+ Rounds Later the S&W Shield Plus Continues to Impress

Springfield XD

Safety Type: Grip safety 
Caliber: 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP
Standard Capacity: Varies by caliber and model

Features: Springfield claims it redefined the industry standard for superior ergonomic comfort, ease of operation, features, and performance in one fell swoop with the Springfield XD. The XD features a grip safety along with the USA Action Trigger System and firing-pin block to make this an undeniably safe pistol. The standard Picatinny rail is perfect for adding accessories. Besides that, it’s just plain fun to shoot.



If you carry a pistol with a manual safety, always practice your draw while keeping in mind you need to click off your manual safety in order to fire. In the event you need to draw under pressure, you’ll rely on that muscle memory from all the dry-fire training and unholstering practice you’ve done. Your gun is of no help if it doesn’t go bang, and it won’t go bang with the manual safety engaged. 

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