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Handgun Safeties – The Firing Pin Safety: Second Time Around.
Charles Petty

When Colt installed a firing pin safety in the Government Model pistol in 1980, those who claimed it interfered with the trigger pull soundly cussed them. And it did. Interfere with the trigger pull, that is. Shooters decried the "new" Series 80 gadget and rent their hair and cried out, "Oh, woe is me." But they were wasting their breath. It seems the idea wasn't new at all.
In 1937, William L. Swartz designed a 1911 firing pin safety with no connection to trigger components. It was operated by the action of the grip safety. Today, examples with the Swartz safety are scarce collector's items, for Colt didn't make many. World War II proved the death of the Swartz safety, as wartime military pistols did not include it.
After the war ended the safety did not return. For reasons unclear, a firing pin safety became desirable in the late '70s, which prompted Colt to introduce a far more complicated system to do the same job.
We all know the most important firearm safety is human, not mechanical. But guns have used safeties for ages. Customarily, they prevent the gun from firing with a mechanical block that prevents the movement of a part, usually the sear or hammer.
Safeties can be active or passive. An active safety is a lever or button the shooter must move. We're all familiar with these. A passive safety does not require a deliberate operation to work. Guns have more of these latter ones than we tend to realize.

Series 80
Perhaps the best-known passive safety is the disconnector found on all semiautomatic firearms. This prevents the gun from firing unless the gun is properly closed and in battery. Firing pin safeties are also passive.
The original firing pin safety idea goes all the way back to 1909, but it wasn't until Swartz received U.S. Patent 2,140,946 on December 29, 1938, that Colt put one in a production gun. During the late '30s, the Colt National Match .45 pistol and the .38 Super were the only two Colt guns with the Swartz safety. It was approved by the factory for use in all Government Model pistols, but the onset of World War II prevented its installation.
The idea of somehow locking the firing pin is thought desirable because there is always a possibility a pistol might discharge if dropped. It takes a combination of things going wrong all at the same time for this to happen, but it can happen. Colt's answer was a design that prevents the pistol from firing unless the trigger is depressed. It was not well received and pre-Series 80 pistols were much in demand. They still are.
Criticism of the Series 80 safety was based largely on the fact that the trigger action included lifting the firing-pin lock installed in the slide. In other words, the trigger had to compress a spring and move a small part, adding to the poundage of the trigger pull. While this complaint has some merit, the fault lay more with the execution than the design.
Unless the Series 80 parts worked together smoothly, the shooter could feel a definite lurch in the trigger pull when the safety disengaged. It was not unusual to find rough parts or crooked holes that complicated things.
Some critics proclaimed it was "impossible" to obtain a match trigger on a Series 80 pistol. Of course that wasn't really true, but there was a certain learning curve for pistolsmiths to master the skills. A Series 80 trigger often took longer to hone than a standard trigger; gunsmiths consequently charged more.
But the Series 80 doesn't get as much criticism these days because of Colt's shrunken presence in the market. Hardly anyone buys a Colt right now, so hardly anyone complains. People are buying Springfield Armory and Kimber 1911s, both of which lack Series 80 parts.

Swartz Returns
Enter the Kimber Series II. In response to the needs of law enforcement agencies — which frequently mandate a firing pin safety — Kimber brought back the Swartz design.
Their Series II pistols have an updated Swartz safety. If I didn't tell you there was one, you'd never know. Okay, there is one way. Since the safety is keyed on the grip safety, if you were to fieldstrip the pistol and happened to depress the grip safety — something normally done when holding the pistol —
you can't remove the slide. It's one of those things that blindingly dawns on you after a few moments of absolute confusion. "Let go of the safety dummy," you tell yourself.
The safety uses a simple push rod that rides atop the point of the grip safety. When the grip safety is depressed the rod is pushed up and lifts the firing pin block located in the slide. The Colt Series 80 uses two little levers that are moved by motion of the trigger to do the same thing. In the Swartz design a "U" shaped block is lifted to release the firing pin. There's no effect whatsoever on the trigger pull, but the two designs accomplish exactly the same thing.
Today we can find some form of firing pin safety on most automatic pistols of recent manufacture. And, they operate in much the same way as the Colt. The good news about the Swartz/Kimber safety is that it's sneaky. Unless you know — you can't tell it's there. It just quietly does it's job with no fanfare. So you see, old is new again.
 

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Hmmmm.....

"The good news about the Swartz/Kimber safety is that it's sneaky. Unless you know--you can't tell it's there. It just quietly does it's job with no fanfare."

Yes, it's so quiet, sometimes you may not even hear a "BANG!"
If the gun doesn't go bang, you'll know the Swartz is probably there. At that point, it's not "sneaky", it's just "stinky."

Regards,
Sam :rolleyes:
 

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Sometimes you can tell even before you know its there, even if the pistol is unloaded. An improperly fitter Sch-warts system feels just like the grip safety tang is wearing on the back edge of the trigger bow.

Another way to tell when it is loaded it the slide may not go back into battery after the pistol goes bang.

The disturbing thing is not really the design of the safety, since when it is implemented and fitted properly it seems to work well. The disturbing thing is Kimber's unwillingness to recognize the problems when pistols are returned and correct them. I have been told by my favorite dealer that they have had as many as five pistols returned to Kimber at the same time and at least one had to be returned three times before Kimber corrected the problems with the Sch-warts safety.

Str8_Shot
 

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Is the main problem that the parts aren't fitted right, that the parts aren't polished well enough or both???
 

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Got to check out several Kimber models yesterday for the first time, nice looking guns!

I am wanting a pro carry model, but was somewhat disapointed with them after handeling the 5" versions. All the models I looked at were Series II.

The grip safety on the pro carrys were without a dought twice as stiff as the 5" models! Why is that?

When I held the 5" Kimbers with "my" grip the grip safety was obviously disengaged, and I couldn't even tell there was a grip safety there. This was the first 1911 style I have ever held.

With the Pro C model the grip safety seemed very stiff(like it needs a weaker spring), with "My" normal grip, I could tell that the safety wasn't 'all the way in". If I made an effort to force the gun deep into the web of my thumb before I wraped my fingers around it I felt like the safety was fully engaged. You know what I'm trying to say.

Again, why are the grip safetys diferent for each model?

And should the gun user have to make any mental or physical efort to ensure he has enough pressure on the grip safety?

Please educate me!
Later...
 

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There should be no difference in the feel and function of the full size versus the compact models, that's strange. I have one of each and can't tell the difference myself.

DWolf00,
Yes, the main problem with the SeriesII safety is that the parts are badly manufactured to varying tolerances and not polished, they even stamp a number right on the mating surface of the plunger in the slide. (This is obviously a bad idea.)
You'd think they'd figure it out by now.

The real fix is to hang in there and find a Series I.
 

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I was fortunate enough to find a Kimber Custom I, but had looked at several SII guns and I've been hesitant. I think I'll wait 'til they work the bugs out before I get a SII Kimber.
 

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The most hilarious thing I have ever seen lately is on the Kimber Custom Shop price list where for the bargain price of something like $250 they will convert your Series I to a Series II and stamp it accordingly on the slide. I have never really had the inclination to pay someone $250 to screw up my perfectly good pistol.
 

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Hey SA will put that ILS crap on too for like $75 or something!:barf:
 

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LMAO

Hey thanks for the article Ultra. Please pass this thread on to Kimber management :D

Yes, it's so quiet, sometimes you may not even hear a "BANG!"
ROFLMAO - and I thought the guys on this forum didnt have a sense of humor! I was lucky enough not to have experienced this with my short affair with the Kimber Series II - but from the start I could definetly fell the Series II via the grip safety needing to be "Death Gripped" to dis-engage my "Custom Shop" Eclipse Series II safety.
 
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