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How to “Press Check”

How to “Press Check”

Treat all guns as if they are loaded. But what if you’re not sure? “Press checks” can confirm or clarify the condition of the firearm – chambered round or unchambered round. However, a press check is not enough to confirm if the firearm is unloaded as it does not address the magazine or its contents. Press checks have risen and fallen in training popularity over the past few years. Performing a press check has been considered a vital part of the make-ready process and criticized as range theatrics. A press check is all about peace of mind, and safety is paramount in performing them.

WHAT IS A PRESS CHECK?

A press check confirms the presence or lack of round in the chamber without fully cycling the slide and extracting and ejecting a potentially chambered round. A press check can be performed with a pistol, rifle or shotgun. For this example, we will focus on pistols. A few methods of minimal slide manipulating allow you to sneak a peak and safely confirm the gun’s condition. However, how you manipulate the slide is primarily based on your firearm and grip strength. 

WHY PRESS CHECK?

Simply put – When in doubt, check it out! Knowing the condition of your firearm is critical to firearm safety and preparedness. Assuming the gun is loaded with a round chambered is risky business. Be it for a competitive match or concealed carry drawing to aim and fire only to realize a click rather than the boom you wanted is a stomach-churning moment. When your scores or, more importantly, your life are on the line, you must know what is in the gun. 

WHEN TO PRESS CHECK?

#1) Completing the load and make-ready process: You have inserted, seated, and locked a full magazine into the mag well and sent the slide forward, but you did not watch the top round glide into the chamber. A press check would be appropriate to confirm if there is, in fact, a chambered round.

#2) Lost in Space: You are in a class or a range practice session and have been shooting for some time. Along the way you lost track of how much ammo is in the magazine and if there is a round chambered. Before starting the next shooting exercise, a press check and magazine maintenance would be appropriate to ensure you have the gun in the best condition to perform the task. 

#3) Measure Twice, Cut Once: You are not sure and want additional visual confirmation before feeling confident the gun is in the condition you want or expect. 

#4) “Don’t worry, it’s unloaded…”: Someone hands you a firearm with the slide forward and a seated magazine. You know better than to believe they know the firearm’s condition and want to check for yourself. Keeping the gun pointed in a safe direction, finger off of the trigger, you could perform a press check to sneak a peak before conducting a complete unload and confirm clear. 


Safety ALWAYS comes first!
4 RULES OF GUN SAFETY

  1. Treat all guns as if they are loaded.
  2. Never let the gun cover (point at) anything you are not willing to destroy.
  3. Keep your finger off of the trigger until your sights are on target and you have made the decision to shoot.
  4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.
  5. AND always secure your guns from unauthorized persons.

HOW TO PRESS CHECK

TECHNIQUE #1 – Two-Handed Rear Slide Serrations

  • Grip the gun securely with your dominant hand, trigger finger index straight along the slide, muzzle pointed in safe direction.
  • Keep the gun at a compressed ready position low enough to have a clear view of the ejection port.
  • Support hand c-clamps over the top of the rear slide serrations being careful not to cover the ejection port.
  • Apply rearward pressure to the slide pulling back just enough to open the breach. This will allow the extractor to pull back the shiny metal casing from a chambered round and pull it into view if there is a round there at all. 
  • Once confirmed, release the slide.
  • Check that the gun is in battery: Has the slide returned into battery and locked all the way forward? If yes, you are good to go. If not? With the flat of your palm, give the back of the slide a solid pat to push it back into place. 

TECHNIQUE #2 – One-Handed Rear Slide Serrations

  • Grip the gun securely with your non-dominant hand, trigger finger index straight along the slide, muzzle pointed in a safe direction. Safety Note: this technique can be performed in either dominant or non-dominant hand. The use of optics on handgun can add a level of complexity in the finger placement and gripping. Stay mindful of the placement of your fingers at all times ensuring none come into the trigger guard of lay on top of the ejection port.
  • Keep the gun at a compressed ready position low enough to have a clear view of the ejection port.
  • The pointer, middle, ring and sometimes pinky fingers (dependent on the size of your gun) of your dominant hand c-clamp firmly over the rear slide serrations.
  • The thumb of your dominant hand will wrap under the beavertail.
  • Your fingers pull the slide back against the resistance of the thumb opening the action enough to peek inside. 
  • Once confirmed, release the slide.
  • Check that the gun is in battery: Has the slide returned to battery and locked all the way forward? If yes, you are good to go. If not? With the flat of your palm, give the back of the slide a solid pat to push it back into place.

TECHNIQUE #3 – Two-Handed Front Slide Serrations

  • Grip the gun securely with your dominant hand, trigger finger index straight along the slide, muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
  • Keep the gun at a compressed ready position low enough to have a clear view of the ejection port.
  • Your support hand will grasp over the top of the slide, pinching the front serrations between the thumb and pointer finger, just behind the front sight. No part of your hand should EVER go in front of the muzzle. Be mindful of all of your fingers!
  • Apply rearward pressure to clear a view into the action.
  • Once confirmed, release the slide.
  • Check that the gun is in battery: Has the slide returned to battery and locked all the way forward? If yes, you are good to go. If not? With the flat of your palm give the back of the slide a solid pat to push it back into place.

PRACTICE TIPS

OOPS! You racked the slide back a little too hard and extracted and ejected a live round. Do not panic. If you applied too much force and racked instead of nudged the slide out of battery, should there be more ammo in the magazine, you will have chambered a fresh round. Other than being a little embarrassing, you are still okay but sadly down one round.

Are you struggling with slide manipulations? Many women experience challenges pulling the slide back against the resistance of the recoil spring. Slide serrations are designed specifically to give your hand more purchase to pull against the recoil spring. Trying different makes and models slide serration cuts may give you an idea of what fits you best. Additionally, if you cannot manipulate the slide due to grip strength or wrist or arm issues, asking for help may be the most appropriate option. Some manufacturers specifically offer reduced slide force semi-automatics, which may be worth exploring. 

Dry Fire is an excellent way to practice press checks without the stress of working with live ammunition. Utilizing snap caps or dummy rounds it is possible to simulate all of the techniques listed above. This allows you a chance to experience safe hand placement, learn the force required to manipulate the slide, before working with live ammo. Test driving teach technique in dry fire will help inform you as to which option is best suited for your body and firearm.


SAFE DIRECTION AT HOME

A dedicated safe direction or safe area at home to load and unload your home defense or concealed carry guns is a must. It is your responsibility to ensure that your firearm’s orientation is safe for all administrative loading/reloading/unloading tasks. Be mindful of who and what could be on the other sides of the interior and exterior walls and who could be in the space with you. Always ensure the environment is correctly set up for safety before administering to the gun. 


EQUIPMENT SHOWN IN THIS ARTICLE:

Firearm: Walther Arms PDP F-Series
Optic: Trijicon RMR

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