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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
Have you liked us on Facebook to stay up to date on all we've got going on?