Adjusting Your Grip Safety
by Bob Londrigan, published in Front Sight Magazine, January 2011
One of the first things you learn when you start trying to shoot faster is that you need to be able to control the recoil in order to get the gun back on target as quickly as possible. In order to do this you need to get your hand as high on the gun as you can. This puts your arm more in line with the muzzle of the gun so that recoil goes straight back instead of flipping the muzzle up. However, this can also cause some problems. When you have a higher grip and you put your strong-hand thumb on top of the safety, you may not deactivate the grip safety. If your grip is high enough you may actually push up on the back of the grip safety. If the grip safety is not depressed, the tang on the grip safety will either block the trigger bow completely or the trigger bow will rub on the tang and make the trigger pull harder or gritty feeling. The severity of this problem depends on your grip, the anatomy of your hand, and how the gun fits your hand. We will look at several solutions to this problem that involve modifications to the gun. There are two things you can do to prevent or reduce the problem. One is to desensitize the grip safety so it releases the trigger bow sooner while the other is to deactivate it completely.
When we desensitize the grip safety, we are trying to get it to where it does not block the trigger bow sooner (with less depression of the grip safety.) You want the grip safety to still work when you are done but to do so with a bare minimum of movement downward. Before starting, make sure you have adjusted the pre-travel on your trigger to where you want it to be as this can affect the engagement of the tang on the grip safety with the trigger bow. Now, check to see if the grip safety is working properly. Do this test with the slide off and with the thumb safety, hammer, sear, and disconnector removed. It will be easier to see what you are doing if you remove the thumb safety and leave it off while you are doing testing/modification of the grip safety. If you have an ambi safety just put in the right side to hold the grip safety, if you have a single sided thumb safety put it in the opposite side of the frame. Now, hold the frame without touching the grip safety and pull the trigger. Make sure you are ready to catch the hammer so it does not crash into the frame just in case the grip safety is not working. The hammer should not drop. If it does, your grip safety is not working and will need to be adjusted/replaced.
If it is working, you can proceed by measuring the amount of engagement you have. Depress the grip safety and hold it down. Now pull the trigger back part way until you have taken up the slack but not dropped the hammer. Hold the trigger at his spot and release the pressure on the grip safety. Watch the grip safety closely while you release pressure on the trigger. The grip safety will pop up (you may have to pull the trigger to the front to get this to work.) The amount that it pops up is how much engagement you have and tells you about how much you need to take off the grip safety engagement surface. Take a look at the attached photos and you will see where you want to take material off. Go slow and make small adjustments. Testing often until the safety just barely pops up. Once you are satisfied with how it is working do another test to make sure it still functions properly. It you take too much off and the safety does not work, go back and take a little off the tangs at the back of the grip safety or the mainspring housing tangs until you get enough engagement to make the grip safety functional again.
If you want to completely deactivate the grip safety you have to go about it a different manner. There are several methods: wrap something around the grip to depress the grip safety (a strip of old bicycle inner tube or a rubber band works well), file off the trigger bow engagement tang on the grip safety, or my favorite which involves pinning the grip safety down. I like pinning the grip safety down because it gives a solid feel to the back of the gun where it meets the web of my hand. I don't like the grip safety moving around. It is also necessary to pin it if you have a really high grip on the gun that can actually push the grip safety up. The way I do it is to drill a hole in the mainspring housing about 1/2 inch deep. Then insert a pin in the mainspring housing. A 3/4 inch long pin works well with the 1/2 inch depth as it leaves 1/4 inch sticking up.
I then install the grip safety, thumb safety, and mainspring housing on the frame. Tapping the mainspring housing from the bottom leaves a mark on the grip safety that tells me where I need to drill it. Make sure the grip safety is completely depressed when you mark it for drilling. I then drill a hole in the grip safety that corresponds to the pin in the mainspring housing. Once you have the grip safety drilled, assemble the two parts and make sure the holes line up. If you have done it properly, the grip safety will now be held down by the pin (deactivated) and will not move at all. After you are done make sure to check the gun for function to make sure the trigger bow is not somehow dragging on the grip safety tang and you are done.