Tell If A Gun Safety Is On

No one should handle any firearm without knowing its safety features.

Most modern guns sold in the United States contain trigger safety mechanisms (for semiautomatic and bolt-action rifles, as well as pump firearms), cylinder safety mechanisms (for revolvers) or hammer safety mechanisms (for semiautomatic handguns) that will prevent the gun from discharging accidentally. In any firearm other than a revolver, you can engage the safety only when the weapon is cocked and ready to fire. The safety is located around the trigger or the hammer, in a position where the shooter can disengage it with either the thumb or index finger of his shooting hand. Manufacturers design most firearms for right-handed shooters.


1. Locate the cylinder safety mechanism on your revolver. This is usually on the left side of the weapon, behind the trigger. You engage it by sliding it forward with your thumb, and disengage it by sliding it backward.

2. Find the trigger safety mechanism for your semiautomatic rifle, bolt-action rifle or pump-action shotgun. Manufacturers generally integrate the trigger safety into the trigger ring housing, either in front of the trigger where your trigger finger will rest in a safe position while you’re not shooting, or behind the trigger. You engage such a safety by pressing the button in from the left side of the firearm. You disengage it by pressing the button with your trigger finger from the right side of the weapon.

3. Engage the hammer safety mechanism for your semiautomatic pistol. The safety prevents the hammer from falling and striking the firing pin. You will usually find this safety on the left side of the pistol just below the hammer. You engage it by flipping the lever up with the thumb of your shooting hand (for right-handed individuals), but only when the hammer is in the firing position, or cocked.

4. Look for the red band. The trigger safety mechanisms on most shotguns, semiautomatic and bolt-action rifles each have a red band on the button that is visible on the left side of the firearm when the safety is in the off position.