Why You Really Should Be Conducting a Press Check

glock 27

Ahhh the press check. Is it a lost art? A useless technique only used by crusty old gunfighters of yesterday?  Or a necessary procedure that we all should be doing? I didn't realize there was even a debate on the topic, but then again, how boring would life be if the gun community didn't argue the merits of every technique and movement? I hope to provide you with reasons to do them and explain sure-fire methods anyone can use to safely and efficiently conduct them.

What is a Press Check … Really?

Called press check, brass check, chamber check, etc., it's the technique of pulling the slide back just far enough to visually and potentially physically confirm a round is in the chamber, but not far enough to eject it. The technique has additional benefits beyond confirmation of a loaded firearm.

Let's start with the obvious. For painfully apparent reasons, knowing the condition (whether there is a round in the chamber or not) of your firearm is essential. But it is worth pointing out that one can find several videos and accounts of defensive gun uses (DGU's) where the person thought they were ready for the fight, only to squeeze the trigger on an empty chamber. Additionally, over my decade-plus of firearms instruction, I have seen an unbelievably high number of people begin a shooting drill with an empty gun.

And I am not immune. I have been on the range thinking my gun was loaded, only to hear the embarrassing click instead of a bang. But how could this happen? There are a few possibilities.

  • One, we insert a magazine and flat-out forget to rack the slide.
  • Second, we ‘short stroke' or fail to pull the slide completely to the rear, failing to chamber the round.
  • Third, not inserting the magazine all the way.
  • Finally, A bad magazine can cause a failure.

In addition to confirmation that you have a loaded firearm, a brass check is a perfect opportunity to conduct a brief overview of your gun and ensure it is ready to go.

Here is a method of conducting your brass check. The support hand is forward of the chamber.

What You're Looking For:

In addition to confirming you have a round in the chamber, you can also make sure your gun is good to go by performing these quick checks.

  • Remove the mag and make sure it is filled. If you carry a full mag and one in the chamber, now's the time to top off your magazine with that extra round.
  • Ensure there is nothing obviously broken or damaged. For example, I have seen students show up to classes with loose/damaged sights or loose grip panels. Is your optic working? Is it cracked? Note: if you notice something is not right, unload the firearm before conducting even the most minor maintenance.
  • Ensure the slide is fully forward.
  • Ensure the magazine is fully seated.

3 Methods of Conducting a Chamber Check:

  1. Slingshot method: Handle the slide in the same way you chamber a round. Use the index finger and thumb of your weak hand. However, there is an inherent problem with this method. The problem is the potential to pull the slide too far back and eject the round.
  2. Front of chamber method: There are a few variations. Rest the gun in the support hand palm. Your index finger and thumb wrap around the barrel in front of the chamber. Pull the slide slightly to the rear, exposing the chamber.
  3. Behind the chamber method: Grasp the gun high around where the beaver tail meets the slide. Form your support hand into an ‘A-Ok' sign and wrap your fingers around the slide and sights. Pinch your hand together or think of ‘closing your grip.' The slide moves back far enough to see the chamber. You can conduct this with one or two hands, depending on your gun and hand strength.

Step one of this technique. The hand first forms an ‘A-Ok' type grip around the back of the slide and rear sights.

Step two in your chamber check. Squeeze your grip and pull the slide to the rear.

There are a few main reasons people use to argue against conducting chamber checks.

  • My gun is always loaded, so I don't have to check it. So my response is: How does it hurt to verify?
  • I have a loaded chamber indicator. While this could be one way to confirm a round is chambered, it is susceptible to error. Dirty loaded chamber indicators can stick, indicating a round in the chamber when there was none. And again, How could it hurt to verify with a visual check?
  • I don't want to run the risk of ejecting a round. Sure, if you are doing it wrong. But I would advise against using an improper technique to justify not conducting a useful check.
  • The slide may not go back into battery. This problem is solved by simply checking the slide as part of your press check. If it didn't go into battery, tap the back of the slide. Holstering could cause your slide to move out of battery. Usually, the gun will go into battery when drawn, but it is a great habit to provide forward pressure to the rear of the slide as you holster.
  • It Takes too long. No, I am joking, no one actually could use this argument because it literally takes seconds to conduct a brass check.

The ‘slingshot' method of conducting your press check is similar to the technique one would use to chamber a round.

What Press Checks Are Not:

It is important to note that a press check has a different purpose than a safety check. You use the technique I described to verify the gun is loaded It is appropriate to do this after chambering a round and before leaving your house with your EDC or at the range.

Chamber checks are not a substitute for ensuring a firearm is clear or checking the condition of an unknown gun. In these cases, remove the source of ammunition and lock the slide open. This provides a full view of the chamber and allows a physical check for an empty chamber if appropriate.

All in All:

I can't think of any legitimate reason someone would not want to verify beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have a round in the chamber.

If you got the bum scoop about the drawbacks of press checks, hopefully, I dispelled them. I hope there are fewer guns going ‘click' when they should be going bang and less embarrassing moments on the range with an empty gun.

Stay Safe!

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About Matthew Maruster

I follow my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who is the eternal co-equal Son of God. I currently live in Columbus, Ohio with my wife and daughter. I served in the Marine Corps Infantry. I was a Staff Sergeant and served as a Platoon Sergeant during combat in Iraq. After I was a police officer at a municipal agency in San Diego County. I have a Bachelors's Degree in Criminal Justice from National University. MJ Maruster Defense.


  1. Darkwing on December 13, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    I cary a wheel gun, no need to waste my time on this

  2. Bob Scott on December 14, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    What does EDC mean?

    • Matthew Maruster on December 14, 2017 at 9:02 pm

      Hi Bob, Sorry for not clarifying that in the article. EDC = Everyday Carry

    • Kimo on May 13, 2021 at 10:52 am

      Every Day Carry

  3. Brenda on December 14, 2017 at 9:31 pm

    My husband is a competitive shooter and has taught me the slingshot way of checking my gun. I like knowing that I am good to go.

  4. closer24 on December 15, 2017 at 6:45 am

    I know you’re going to disagree, but drawing the slide back a half inch on my Glock always tells me there is NO round in the chamber, I’d rather die myself then have an unintentional discharge during a high-stress situation and accidently kill a family member, or innocent bystander. With a Glock-style safe action trigger, It’s very easy to grab the trigger accidently in a high-stress situation and have your weapon discharge (even those trained to never touch the trigger during the draw). I check my weapon to make sure the clip is stacked and ready. If I can’t rack the slide when needed, then I’ll have to rely on a quick knife draw, which is just as deadly and silent. If I need to carry locked and loaded as they say, I’d use a 1911 or M&P style pistol with a firing pin safety. Now there are times when my EDC Glock may be at the kind of ready state you describe, but this would be a situation where there is a complete breakdown of law and order, no electric or utilities and gangs are running everywhere smashing and grabbing whatever they can steal. Our electric grid is so fragile and interconnected that a successful attack on our grid, (even a low tech attack) is completely feasible and highly-possible, future scenario. Get prepared people. Think water, and then think about water again…then harden your shelter (home/apartment/condo) and cooperate with your neighbors to form a green zone where you all look out for each other. Remember…ferocious love always protects…always.

    • Robert Duane on December 15, 2017 at 6:36 pm

      Carrying a weapon is something that requires one to be aware and sure of their actions. If one does carry EDC, they SHOULD KNOW the status of their weapon AT ALL TIMES. Most weapons have loaded chamber indicators. Or ports that allow a visual check of the brass. Both are useful. BUT, if one does EDC, they should already be 100% sure of the status of their weapon. Guns don’t empty themselves. And a weapon should NEVER be left where someone has access to it to possibly empty the round from the chamber. Carrying a weapon with an empty chamber is not smart IMO. And Glocks HAVE firing pin safeties, but they do NOT have CLIPS. if you believe that your Ninja skills with a knife draw will be enough protection, leave your empty gun at home.

    • Yames Jaeger on December 17, 2017 at 9:32 pm

      You should really invest in some “Force-on-Force” training. I think you’ll revise your SOP regarding carrying with a round in the chamber if you do. If I owned a gun that couldn’t be trusted with one in the pipe then I wouldn’t carry that gun.

  5. Js on February 22, 2019 at 9:17 am

    I’ve been shooting for 40 plus years I have never press checked. I Carey two different Firearms as my CCW. They are always loaded. if I heart makes a very distinct sound and feel when it properly loads around and if you are experienced shooter you know that sound and feel. All the examples you gave short stroking Etc will result in a wrong feel and sound. it’s the adrix 99% of the time people go to the range and put a magazine in the release the slide release round is chambered immediately because I saw it on Instagram or YouTube reach down and press check their gun. It’s pointless.

    • Matthew Maruster on February 22, 2019 at 12:05 pm

      Thanks for your feedback JS. I happen to disagree that conducting a press check is pointless. Why when we unload we do a visual and physical inspection of the chamber? It’s not because we are feeling for an invisible round, it’s because redundancy and a systematic method builds consistent outcomes.

      I don’t do a press check because I don’t know what condition my gun is in. I recommend it because it makes it impossible to holster a gun that doesn’t have a round chambered. And it gives 100% assurance that when you need the gun it has a round in the chamber.

      Why wouldn’t you want redundancy in checking your gear? It doesn’t come down to experience, as the level of experience one has or think they have is not always the same. And at what level of experience do you just know 100% of the time a round was chambered? Even if you are “100%” sure, confirming is certainly not unnecessary.

      Also for people with LCI’s etc, it doesn’t really matter because it’s about redundancy in checking your gear. Through my experiences, I have learned that you can never be overly sure that a round is in the chamber.

      You certainly don’t need to perform a brass check, and there are many people who agree with your opinion. Simply put, my opinion is that they are an important part of a process that leads to success.

  6. Jeff on March 4, 2019 at 6:53 pm

    The concern here is after a press check, how do you know your pistol is back in battery after you let the slide go forward under the less than full stroke of the recoil spring.

    My personal opinion is that weather or not to conduct a press check is totally up to the opinion of the owner. ?

    • Matthew Maruster on March 4, 2019 at 7:17 pm

      Jeff I completely agree everyone should make their own decision on if they do a chamber check or not. I believe it’s a good habit and system that ensures they are good to go before stepping out of the home.i did the same thing every day before I walked out of the locker room and into the briefing room before heading out on patrol.

      As far as knowing if the slide has gone into battery or not, the process wouldn’t be any different than any other time you rack the slide. It is easy to see if the slide moved all the way forward.

      I definitely appreciate the feedback.

  7. A. Ramsey on April 12, 2020 at 1:00 am

    Here’s my perspective if anyone cares. Just a note, as LE, I look at this from more of a duty and CC standpoint. I believe press checks are like indexing your weapon to ensure it’s still there. Everyone does it. A tap, a brush, something. You know it’s there, you can feel it, but even though 99.9% of the time that weapon will be there, you do it in case of the .1% that it’s not. Same thing with press checks. It’s to cover your rear in case you get lucky and pull that .1% odd. It takes all of 3 seconds. Load, rack, press, smack, holster. You’ve ensured that it’s loaded, ensured the weapon is in battery with a smack on the rear of the slide, and holster. I don’t know about everyone else, but I am going to do everything I can to ensure my weapon will go bang when the trigger is pulled, especially when my life, my family’s life, and innocent peoples lives could depend on it.

  8. Allen Benge on June 7, 2020 at 6:33 am

    The Sig I currently carry has a tiny port that allows you to see if there is a round in the chamber. I had a Springfield that had a little post that raised a small amount so you could feel that there was a round chambered by a touch of visual. It had much the same thing on the rear of the slide that indicated whether the striker was cocked or not.

  9. Shane on June 19, 2022 at 9:45 pm

    Sling shot, brass check, tap the forward assist, sweep the sights, check the sights, ejection port cover closed, weapon on safe!

    Why would the United States Marine Corps train every Marine to do a brass check if it were pointless? 40 years of doing something wrong is 40 years of experience I don’t want!!

  10. Bobby on March 26, 2023 at 10:23 am

    What does the term Barrels up mean. Forgive me but I am just starting out and new to all this.

  11. James on October 14, 2023 at 6:58 am

    If you are going to manipulate a supposedly loaded firearm to make sure it’s loaded why not clear the weapon and function check the entire weapon?

    To each their own. In my world if the magazine is in the gun the gun is good to go (round always chambered unless training on range for an in-battery malfunction). The Also if you are leaving your firearm laying around where some could manipulate it you are a careless gun owner.

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