by Greg Ritchie
Magazine Disconnect safeties actually make a firearm less safe. How you ask? By violating the KISS principle, a rule that declares systems work best when they are kept as simple as possible. The magazine disconnect safety takes a simple operation and makes it complex by adding a step, or several steps as I will attempt to prove.
First, a magazine disconnect makes the operation of unloading and clearing a firearm more difficult. The best way to demonstrate this I believe is a IDPA match. Handguns are carried between stages cold and holstered. After shooting a segment the Range Officer will give the command to unload and show clear, at which point the shooter will drop the magazine and lock the slide to the rear, ejecting the chambered round. At this point the RO will verify the chamber is empty and issue the command, slide forward, hammer down. If your handgun is equipped with a magazine disconnect, you must reinsert a magazine to follow this command.
The same principle follows when putting away your carry gun. Drop the magazine, cycle the action to clear, reinsert a hopefully empty magazine to drop the hammer. Sure, the slide should be forward first to keep from loading another round into the chamber when inserting the magazine, but it adds another step. Another chance to make a mistake.
A magazine disconnect safety makes the practice of dry firing a more dangerous task. The first safety rule when dry firing is to remove all sources of ammunition from the area. The addition of a magazine disconnect safety requires that a magazine, an ammunition feeding device, be installed into the firearm when performing dry firing drills.
A magazine disconnect safety makes the practice of disassembling and assembling a firearm for cleaning more onerous. The best example I can think of is the Ruger MKII series of 22 rimfires. The MKII has the reputation of being one of the hardest handguns to strip for cleaning. The MKIII adds the magazine disconnect and requires the presence of a magazine making disassembly and assembly even more onerous.
While maybe not a direct safety issue, the magazine disconnect can affect the operation of the firearm. It can degrade the trigger and cause sticky mags. The Browning HI Power is a good example of this. It is known for a less than stellar trigger whose function is greatly improved by removal of the magazine disconnect. **Disclaimer, I am in no way recommending disabling any safety device on any firearm**
A magazine disconnect safety can have a negative effect when carrying for self defense. What if your magazine release is inadvertently pressed. We've all done it. Maybe when sitting down at your favorite restaurant the magazine release brushes against the chair arm. After your meal you are confronted in the dark parking lot by a bad guy. With a magazine disconnect you are unarmed. Without a magazine disconnect you at least have a single shot. Maybe not the best situation, but at least you are not defenseless.
One of the biggest arguments used by proponents of the magazine disconnects is that if you are in a struggle for your life, and your opponent is trying to take your handgun, you can press the magazine release and make the firearm inoperable. How many, if in that situation, would actually have presence of mind to drop the magazine? If you did have presence of mind, there is no guarantee that you will be able to drop the magazine anyway. And what if you did and that split second presented itself that would allow you to end the confrontation?
Finally, a magazine disconnect can cause a negative attitude toward safety. No magazine? Good, it's safe....BANG! Fundamentally no amount of mechanical safeties can take the place of safe gun handling. You can not idiot proof a device by adding more safety features, somebody will just create a better idiot.
KISS. Drop, cycle, inspect. No disconnect needed.