A Brief History Of The “Flipper”-Style Safety.
Back in the 1880s, the era of the top-break revolver, the Iver Johnson Company was competing with Smith & Wesson and two other firms. In addition to a less-fine-finish and lower price, they also tried a few innovative mechanical features. One of those was the first “transfer bar” firing system, designed by Andrew Fyrberg (often, alas, misspelled “Fryberg”).
Around 1885, there was obviously a discussion of possible safety features. Perhaps there was an incident in which a revolver was being thrust into a pocket, and the trigger caught on a button, with disastrous results. Anyway, the design team—Iver Johnson, Andrew Fyrberg, and R. T. Torkelson—went to work on the problem. The US Patent No. 339301, was granted on April 6, 1886. The trigger “flipper” had arrived. Between 1888 and 1908, it was used on four models of the Iver Johnson Revolver.
The device was very simple. A little spring-powered lever was set into the face of trigger, and its rear tail rested against the inside of the triggerguard. If the lever was not depressed, the trigger could not move. Wait a minute—couldn’t the aforementioned clothing button depress the lever? Er, well, yes. But not as surely as the trigger finger.
Even after the patent expired, around the start of World War I, no other maker used it. Then, in 1930, J.P. Sauer & Sohn of Germany used a similar device on their Behordenmodell pistol. While there were mechanical differences in this semi-auto, the function was exactly the same. After this brief appearance, the trigger-safety design went dormant for around 50 years.
Then, in 1980, Gaston Glock made it the only external safety on his new pistol. As everyone knows by now, the Glock was adopted as Military Standard by Austria, and later became the chosen police sidearm of many departments in the USA. In the years that followed, many firearms makers decided to include the trigger safety in their designs. This was partially influenced by “product liability” lawsuits, as any added safety feature helped in defense.
From a practical/mechanical standpoint, according to some industry sources, the trigger safety was intended to guard against accidental firing if the pistol were dropped on its back, preventing inertial movement of the trigger and trigger bar. Actually, given the minimal mass of these parts, you’d have to drop it off a tall building. In this universe, Mr. Newton’s laws still apply.
I won’t try to list here all of the pistols that have incorporated the “flipper” in their designs, but I will note a few interesting applications. Smith & Wesson did not use a lever, but provided the same effect with a 2-part hinged trigger. In the late 1990s, the Vektor from South Africa had a center bar that moved a cross pin laterally to clear. One of the more recent uses of a “standard” trigger safety is on the excellent Beretta Nano.
In the photo here, my 9mm Glock 19 has been rather extensively altered. It has the fine manual safety that Joe Cominolli designed for 10-Ring Precision. Also, I had always found the “flipper” to be annoying. So, I removed it, and filled the slot in the trigger with a contoured piece of black polymer. After this alteration, my 25-yard groups from a casual rest shrank from around 5 inches to a neat 2.5 inches. For me, apparently, trigger “feel” is an important factor.
By J.B. Wood
10-Ring Precision, Inc.
(Glock Manual Safety)
1449 Blue Great Ln.
San Antonio, TX 78232
Iver Johnson Arms & Cycle Works Firearms, ©2006, W.E. Goforth, 232 pages, photos, softcover, $34.95, Gun Show Books, P.O. Box 1189, Hudson, WI 54016, (715) 425-2338,
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