Unloading a Semi-Auto Firearm

Steyr M9-A1 semi-automatic pistol with magazin...

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One of my Krav students tonight asked about the proper way to ready a semi-automatic firearm for travel to the gun range. This is an important topic, so here it is for all of you too.

How you unload your firearm for travel, cleaning, or dry-fire is vitally important. I use the exact same procedure every single time. Hear me now and believe me later, people shoot themselves and others all the time by messing this up. If you hear about someone getting shot while cleaning their gun, they messed this up.

Procedure for unloading a semi-automatic firearm:

  1. With a firing grip, trigger finger outside of the trigger well, point the gun in a safe direction
  2. Remove the source of ammunition; e.g. the magazine
  3. Rack the slide AT LEAST three times
  4. Lock the slide open
  5. Put your finger (I use my pinky) as far up the magazine well as possible
  6. From top of the gun, but your finger as far down the magazine well as possible
  7. Put your finger in the chamber (part of the barrel where the bullet goes)

Yes I do visually check those three places (magazine from bottom, top and chamber), but if your finger fits all of those places a bullet can’t be there.

I don’t care if you are looking right at the cartridge that was ejected onto the floor in step three, you have not unloaded the gun until you complete ALL OF THESE STEPS IN THIS EXACT ORDER.

I’m not sure where I picked it up, but I have a procedure for loading a gun I previously unloaded for cleaning, transport, or dry-fire. While I am loading the gun I say, out loud, “This gun is loaded, this gun is loaded…” at least three times. Whatever reason you had for unloading the gun probably required you to press the trigger expecting the gun to be empty. When you load the gun you need to mentally make the shift to the gun being loaded. It is easy for your finger to migrate to the trigger for one last pull of your “unloaded” gun. Make sure your brain and fingers all know that the gun is now loaded.

None of what I said above gives you permission to violate the 4 rules with your “empty” gun. Why? Here are the rules, I bet you can see why:

  1. Treat all guns as if they were loaded
  2. Never point the gun at anything you are not willing to destroy
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are on target
  4. Know what your target is and what is behind it
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