Handgun safety features: a review for physicians

J Trauma. 1999 Jul;47(1):145-50. doi: 10.1097/00005373-199907000-00029.


Objective: Handguns are a ubiquitous consumer product in the United States, which annually cause significant morbidity and mortality. Handgun safety devices are often proposed as potential solutions to this problem. Their effectiveness at reducing handgun injuries and deaths is intensely debated. However, to effectively analyze the potential utility of handgun safety devices, physicians need to be aware of the safety devices available in the consumer market and how they operate.

Methods: A wide variety of safety devices are available in the consumer market, which vary in terms of their ease of operation, cost, and the types of injuries they may prevent. We reviewed several types of handgun safety devices, including loaded chamber indicators, manual thumb safeties, grip safeties, magazine disconnectors, drop safeties, built-in locks, trigger locks, lockboxes, and personalized handguns. Each device is described within the context of reducing unintended discharge and unauthorized use.

Results: This review is not exhaustive. There are other types of safety devices that limit access to handguns. Many of these devices, such as barrel locks and chamber locks, work in a similar manner as trigger locks and have the same limitations. The user of any type of safety device should think about the types of injuries the device is designed to prevent and be aware of its limitations.

Conclusion: Physicians have the potential to reduce the risk of firearm injuries with their patients and communities. Providing accurate information on firearm safety devices and their limitations is important, just as it is for other aspects of health care advice. Armed with accurate information, physicians can hopefully be effective in firearm injury prevention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Firearms*
  • Humans
  • Safety*
  • Wounds, Gunshot