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AR-15 Won’t Go to Safe: Common Safety Selector Issues and How to Fix

Rifles are built to be dependable, and when your gun doesn’t go on safe, you could begin to question the quality of your rifle and your decision-making skills. The safety lever has saved thousands of lives, and having one that is faulty could be deadly. So why won’t my AR-15 go to safe, and how can it be fixed?

The most common reasons an AR-15 won’t go into safe is because the weapon isn’t charged, the safety selector detent is stuck, or the safety selector is faulty usually due to burs or wear and tear.

When the safety doesn’t engage on your rifle, it can be equal parts fear and anger. The gun could not be going into safe for a few reasons, and knowing what they are is half the battle. So read on and learn all about why your AR won’t go into safe and how to fix it.

Why Doesn’t my AR Go to Safe?

The safety engaging on your rifle is crucial to having a safe sporting experience. Safety is your priority whether you are shooting targets or going into the woods. By doing some checks on your weapon before going out, you can save yourself time and possibly lives.

The culprit behind the safety issue is usually a quick fix and will have you back at it in no time.

A few reasons your AR won’t go to safe are:

  • Isn’t Charged – Your rifle will not go into safe mode when it isn’t cocked, or charged, to fire. By pulling back on the charging handle, you can cock the rifle. Once it is cocked, the safety will function. There is no point in the safety when the weapon is not ready to fire.
  • Stuck Detent – The detent is attached to the safety trigger. If you remove the grip, there’s a tiny spring-like apparatus on the lower side of the safety switch. Take it out to clean and ensure that there are no bent pieces.
  • Faulty Safety Switch – The safety switch on your rifle could be bad. If there are burs or metal bits on the button, it could fail. Failure of the switch can often be chalked up to these tiny pieces of metal on the switch or the drilled holes in the lower.

Your AR going on safe is usually an easy fix. By checking the locations above, you have an excellent place to start. However, if you aren’t mechanically savvy, you might need to enlist the help of a handy friend or pay for a gunsmith to fix your problem.

I use either Brownells, Palmetto State Armory, or Optics Planet to buy parts, that way I always know what I’m getting and that it will actually show up.

AR-15 Won’t Go to Safe When Unloaded: How to Fix

If you are having issues with the safety of your rifle and it is unloaded, you should know a few things. The switch doesn’t toggle, meaning it’s not safe. There are situations where the rifle could be unloaded and not need the safety to be switched. You should read the owner’s manual if you cannot explain.

A few reasons that your AR-15 won’t go to safe when unloaded are:

  • Hammer isn’t Cocked – One of the main reasons a safety won’t engage is that it doesn’t need to. If the hammer isn’t cocked back and the bolt isn’t ready to crash forward, the weapon will not fire.
  • Ejection Issues – There could be a misfire in the chamber. The casing from the last round might not have been ejected and could be lodged in the bolt assembly group or the breach. You can bet the safety won’t engage if something is wedged in there.
  • Cleanliness – If you have a dirty rifle, it could hamper the functionality of the safety switch and internal workings. By taking some time out of your schedule to get in regular maintenance, you can protect against failings like the safety switch.

The safety of an unloaded rifle doesn’t need to be switched. There are no projectiles in the weapon, and a switch to protect against negligent discharge is redundant. Some rifles won’t go into safe if there are no rounds in the chamber and the weapon isn’t charged.

Here’s a quick video showing how to install a safety selector the right way:

How Does an AR-15 Safety Work?

The safety of an AR works like any other firearm. It places a buffer between the bolt and trigger that keeps it from knocking the rifle into action. There are different safeties, but the most common is the switch. It works on a selector switch that toggles with the other firing types.

Some ARs could have multiple firing types.

The steps to work an AR-15 safety are:

  • Find the Switch – The first thing to do when setting the safety on your rifle is to locate it. The most common spot is above the grip on the left side of the gun. It is placed here to allow you to toggle it with your thumb while still keeping the rifle in your grasp.
  • Toggle the Safety – Now that you know where the switch is, you should turn it over to the safe label. Some rifles could have two other settings, but the most common are safe and single fire. If you have multiple firing modes, like auto, you should know where the modes are located and not confuse them with safe.
  • Inner Workings – Once the safety switch is flipped, a bar will interfere with the firing mechanism of the rifle. As the trigger is pulled, the barrier will keep the bolt from coming forward and igniting the primer on the round.

The safety works by preventing the firing mechanism from moving when it is engaged. A bar crosses the back part of the firing mechanism to keep it from rotating around to trigger the round. Safeties can come in different varieties, so make sure you know how it works before breaking them out at the range.