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Something’s bothered me for years: students asking if they can perform a “press check” — what’s properly called a weapons check — to confirm their firearm’s condition. Some pick up the habit from watching professional shooters. Others do it “to be sure.” At the risk of seeming harsh . . .

I tell them that armed self-defense is not a game. It’s combat. Why wouldn’t you keep your defensive firearm in the highest possible state of readiness?

There are times and places for a weapons check. But it’s not when you strap a firearm onto your body (unless the instructor specifically asks you to use an unloaded pistol or rifle).

I understand the importance of progressing students towards combat readiness at a safe and manageable pace. I start by teaching students strict safety protocols, in a safe training environment. I observe them for safe conduct while they manipulate their firearms, guiding them through as many repetitions as possible.

Like so many other trainers, I strive to impart the knowledge students need to develop the skills they need to defend their lives with a gun. But more than that, I work to give them the right attitude.

Why do students want perform a weapons check? Because we as instructors have failed. We’ve failed to encourage and empower students to understand the importance of readiness.

Firearms trainers should teach students the mindset needed to survive a violent encounter. They must put the proper emphasis on attitude.

The negative outcome: students who rely on their teacher to set the conditions for live fire. Rather than being in a constant state of readiness, they are unsure. Hesitant. In self-defense situations, hesitation can be fatal .

A commenter recently criticized my teaching as being too “operator” for the average student. I make no apologies for working to instill the warrior mindset. A gunfight is a fight with a gun. Unless you are ready to fully and completely engage an attacker, unless you have the warrior mindset, you are starting behind the 50-yard line.

Let me put it this way . . .

Ability to shoot is a matter of training. Willingness to shoot is a mental state. Readiness is a statement of fact. A warrior is ready, able and willing to shoot.

I am not saying students fail because they ask permission to make ready. But when you have doubts as to the condition of your firearm prior to a drill, that is a failure. If you have to ask the instructor if you can inspect your firearm prior to the buzzer then you run the risk of creating a lifetime of bad habits.

Once a student develops proficiency they must be encouraged to carry operationally ready as often as the curriculum or situation allows. They must be ready to protect life. So that the next time they pull their firearm from their holster — every time they pull their firearm from their holster — there is no doubt.

If the class level is appropriate to maintain hot firearms, firearms trainers must encourage students to cultivate the “always hot” mindset. I instruct my students on the importance of handling themselves responsibly with loaded firearms as soon as they can handle their gun safely.

There is nothing worse than drawing your firearm, aiming it at your attacker and hearing a click. To reduce the odds of that happening, start as you mean to finish.

If you feel the need to press check your firearm, you need to ask yourself why. And do whatever it takes to be confident in yourself and your gun’s condition. So that you’re as ready as you can be to fight. And win.

Jeff Gonzales is a former US. Navy SEAL and preeminent weapons and tactics instructor. He brings his Naval Special Warfare mindset, operational success and lessons learned unapologetically to the world at large. Currently he is the Director of Training at The Range at Austin. earn more about his passion and what he does at

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  1. So, just to clarify, he’s critical of the press check if a student is using it because they are unsure of the weapon’s status? Because I can’t really see a problem if you use a press check ONCE as part of loading your firearm initially.

    • I think we may have found a reason many people don’t get any training. One instructor tells you one thing, another tells you the first one was full of Shit and you wasted your time and money. The third one says “WTF U POS U SUK!!!”

      • Personally, I can always tell if an instructor is full of $hit; I look at his beard.
        If *I* like the beard, he’s got his $hit together. Otherwise, no.

  2. Jesus…. not every gun is for self defense/end of the world.

    Some of us actually have guns that we don’t carry. These guns are what’s called fun…. we shoot them at the range for FUN.

    This may actually be a reason.

    • Amusingly, the guns I don’t carry are stored empty. And yet, when I remove one from its case, I still clear it to be sure that it’s still empty.

      • I don’t store all the guns I don’t carry unloaded. Some of them stay loaded in the safe.

        It’s easy to get complacent when transporting and loading/unloading guns frequently.

        Press checks aren’t bad ideas. Sometimes even with a carry gun, I don’t always shoot carry ammo through them when having a good time at a range. Lots of loading and unloading.

  3. The first time someone hands me or I pick up a gun, I’m press checking.

    As for the paranoia: did I leave the stove on?

    • I only hand someone a gun with the action open and that’s my preference when someone hands it to me.
      Unless I am prepping the gun for a novice shooter at the range.

    • I never hand a weapon to someone loaded. If I’m going to hand off a weapon I drop the mag, clear the chamber, and, if semi auto, I leave the slide back when I had it to them grip first.

      As for the rest of this, every firearm I have is loaded with one in chamber. Otherwise I may as well be carrying rocks.

  4. I’m not sure I really ‘get’ this article, but maybe I just don’t read “operational platitude” fluently enough.

    “There is nothing worse than drawing your firearm, aiming it at your attacker and hearing a click. To reduce the odds of that happening, start as you mean to finish.”
    -and maybe check to make sure your gun is loaded beforehand?

    “If you feel the need to press check your firearm, you need to ask yourself why.”
    -Oh, well that answers my last thought. Wait, no it doesn’t. You might want to check because: shit happens? Because people make mistakes? Because in most cases there’s NO reason not to? If it’s just because you saw someone do it on TV, okay, but there’s other potential reasons.

    “And do whatever it takes to be confident in yourself and your gun’s condition.”
    – Being confident is only useful if you’re right. It can be deadly if you’re wrong but you refused to check because somehow that means you’re not the uberwarrior. Always being confident without checking means you better always be right. Great for machismo, maybe not so much in real life where someone isn’t literally on a long-range patrol in Afghanistan.

    “I make no apologies for working to instill the warrior mindset. A gunfight is a fight with a gun.”
    – Thanks Yogi.

    I mean, I feel like I kind of get the gist of the kernal of the idea being put forth here. But then in my mind’s eye I see some hapless student getting berated for wanting to check his or her weapon’s status because “self-defense is not a game. It’s combat” and I have to roll my eyes.



      Unless you loaded it, and have had it in your control at all times you are a complete and utter idiot for not validating the status of that weapon. PERIOD.

      If you assume all weapons are ready to fire, one of these days you are gonna be darn disappointed when you pull the trigger and it goes ‘click’.

      I know these guys are looking to make a name for themselves and a living and whatnot, but damn…

      • “There are times and places for a weapons check.”

        If you wear a firearm, and you always keep it ready to go, there should be no reason to ever wonder whether or not it’s loaded. It is.

        For people who tend to be forgetful (like me) I *personally* think it’s better to leave the weapon loaded at all times, and never have to wonder. If you don’t mess with it, unexpected things don’t happen.

        Take gun out of safe, strap it on. Done with gun, take it off, put in safe, repeat. No need to check for rounds or not.

        Someone hands you a gun? Check to make sure it’s unloaded. Out in the field hunting where the weapon is loaded/unloaded many times a day? Sure. But on a carry weapon, I don’t see why you’d unnecessarily manipulate it.

        • I keep my readily accessible weapons loaded. And I’m well aware of it.

          That said, I’m also well aware that being cock-sure of their status is a guarantee of eventual failure at a critical moment.

          YMMV. Best of luck.

        • “Take gun out of safe, strap it on. Done with gun, take it off, put in safe, repeat. No need to check for rounds or not.”

          Depends how many people have the combination, and who they are.

      • I think I’m mostly with you: I press check my EDC pistols when I put them on in the morning since at least while I’m showering they are out of my sight. It’s likely unnecessary, but as mentioned it’s habit, and I like to be sure.

        I think what the OP is saying is that in a live fire drill training class he is seeing students who have been training, or trained, in such a way that they aren’t used to having a loaded pistol in their holster, or aren’t used to it enough to be confident that the pistol THEY holstered, likely minutes ago, is loaded and ready to be fired when they draw it. If I’m right about yhe OPs meaning here, then I agree with him. Consider, if asked to put rounds on a target now with the pistol youre currently carrying, do you want to press check, or are you confident that it’s ready to point and fire?

        By the time I shuffle out the door for the day I know mine are ready, and wouldnt bother to check them either in a defensive situation or for a target drill anymore than I need to check to see if there are sparkplugs l in my car: I expect gunfire when I pull the trigger and for the car to start when I turn the key. I think that is what OP is after; students who show up at the line (and thus walk through life) with a weapon that is ready to fire, and which they are confident is ready to fire.

    • After reading some of Jeff’s articles and seeing the posted comments, it would seem that an above average amount of readers are either left ambivalent or eye-rolling. It’s abundantly obvious he knows what he’s doing, but I think everyone is kind of over the “seal/sf/marsoc knows best” mentality…

  5. You forgot the real reason to not do press checks: with my Sig DA/SA, I eject the chambered round almost every time. 8>)

    Seriously, so many pistols have a scoop out of the chamber, one can see the brass.

    • ^^This^^ +1
      Almost every pistol I own you can tell the condition of simply by looking either near the chamber for a cut out or a loaded chamber indicator.

    • Rick, a “press check” on a legacy series Sig does not require you yo rject a round. Simply point the pistol in a safe diection, cock the hammer and using your non-firing hand place your thumb near the hammer spur and the bend of yiur index finger on the rear sight and squeeze. The slide will slightly retract and you can see your chambered round or empty chamber. Then just decick the pistol using that lever. Fast and simple.

      • Maybe a better way if thinking about it is Why we need to understand doing this is important, also the ways of malfuntionings and out of battery situations that occur in situations that need ways to deal with.

  6. An interesting dilemma to be sure. If we keep our guns loaded and there are no Underpants Gnomes branching off into the ammo business, a loaded gun should remain… loaded. And yet I am also guilty of double checking a loaded gun before I go out. Even though I have no reason to believe it has unloaded itself in my presence, I check it.

    Maybe the author is suggesting we check before going out, so we don’t recheck it at the range?

  7. “Empower” your students. Hmmmm.

    If I want to make sure my pistol is ready to rock, I’m gonna check it.

    Guess I’m empowered.

    If the “range rules” of the guru don’t allow for such a thing, maybe the guru needs to be “checked”.

    YMMV – Live like you wanna live.

  8. I’m not sure I completely get this article. I took it as students need to take initiative and always know the condition of their firearm. That makes sense if the students are at the ready and have all ready checked.

    He is also critical of instructors not allowing students to have holstered hot handguns.

    The article seems to be for GLOCK or revolver carriers as he makes no mention of a safety. This sentence “To reduce the odds of that happening, start as you mean to finish.” This leads me to believe he doesn’t even believe safeties should even be used.

    So I guess he doesn’t like “Israeli” carry.

    • NJ; I’m not sure he doesn’t like Israeli carry so much as when he yells ‘that target is attacking your mother, do something!’ He doesn’t want his student to ask if they should chamber a round, but rather that they do whatever needs doing to start putting rounds on the target. At least, that’s how I read it.
      I think OP is concerned that some students are going to want to press check when drawing in an actual fight, and that this is bad for them. I’m hearing him bemoan a type of training scar, rather than having anything against press checks.

      • Correct. Many new shooters are unaware of everything pertaining to the gun.
        My wife still feels for the extractor protruding every time she starts shooting. When she bought the gun, the salesman told her that’s how to verify a loaded chamber and she has been feeling for that ever since.
        Even after constant reminders that she needs to stop doing that. If you don’t follow a process, press checks fill the gaps in the process. It’s better to just eliminate those gaps in the first place.

    • Lmao, i think of that guy everytime I see videos/articles on these “operator” trainers. You dont want to get roundhouse kicked while im wearing these bad boys.

  9. Holster it ready than you don’t need to check before you shoot. Press checking can build in a bad habit in the real world. Like never shooting low/no light with a light and 1 hand.

  10. I’m not sure I understand the point here.

    Is it:
    All guns are always loaded and chambered, and you’re an idiot if you check to make sure it’s chambered before you bet your life on it being chambered?

    The way I look at it, if it’s been out of my sight for five seconds since I last checked it, its status is unknown until I check it. Why am I envisioning a movie scene, where the Walther goes ‘click’, and the villain says “you should know to check your gun when you pick it up, Mr Bond”?

    That said, look at the picture accompanying this article. See how he points his gun at the ceiling?
    Don’t be that guy.

  11. Not sure I’m getting this article. He’s being critical of students for being careful ?

    • I cant be sure, but I think the OP isn’t being critical of either safety checks or press checks specifically but rather of students who have been told to make ready and holster then approaching the line and requesting a check before firing, as if they aren’t sure if the gun they just loaded and holstered is actually ready to fire or not.
      It’s a bit confusing as written, but if this is what he’s saying, it makes sense; if you loaded it, and you holstered it, you ought to know it will fire when you draw and press the trigger w/o checking it again. If you aren’t sure of your admin handling what are you doing in are live fire class? Do you intend to press check when drawing on aren’t attacker? I think that is what he’s getting at: train like you intend to fight, because you’re apt to fight like you have trained.

  12. “If you feel the need to press check your firearm, you need to ask yourself why.”
    And the answers are-
    1- so I know it is unloaded before I demonstrate an exercise.
    2- so I know it’s loaded before I stuff it in my holster.
    3- so I know it’s condition before I handle it.

    I could go on…

    • On #1 I’d just go ahead and remove the mag and clear the weapon. No point in just taking a peek if you’re wanting an empty chamber.

    • If I demo for an exercise I either use a red gun or completely clear it out, similar to if someone hands me a firearm I’m fully clearing it.

      I don’t have a problem with them in general, better safe than sorry, but make sure it’s fully back in battery.

      I generally just feel for the extractor bulge on my glocks to let me know it’s ready to rock, and my shield has a handy little viewport.

  13. Get more training. Pay thousands of dollars and devote great chunks of your time to get more training. I’m an operator and you civilian pukes will never be ready for downtown Kabul til you get more of my very expensive training.

    This ‘press check” thingy is a direct sign of the hollywood influence on the shooting world. If you’re over 30 you’ve seen dozens of hollywood heros in movies/tv that just before they crash the door to confront the bad guy they whip out their sidearm and with great flourish check to see if its loaded.

    I’ve never taken one of these operator’s courses. But I’m willing to bet that if I did I would see a lot of super ninja bullshit that I’ve seen Magnum, PI, Elliot Ness, James West and Reed and Malloy do on their operator as fuck shows.

    Rant ends.

    • I think you and the OP actually agree JWM. I’m pretty sure he is saying ‘you load it, you holster it, you’d better not need a press check when you draw it to fire/fight.’. Or he is saying to stop checking at the moment of fireing in training so as not to end up doing it when drawing in defense.

      On that tv/movie thing: I think my guns are broken. They just will not make intimidating mechanical noises when I gesture with them no matter what I do. There isn’t even a section in the manual of how to get it to make those noises. I must not be operator enough.

      • You can’t make your Glock brand Glock sound like a single action being cocked every time you draw ?

  14. I think I know what he’s talking about, because I see it a lot.
    1. When I’m at a match, shooters with some kind of “training” will do this; at the command “Load and make ready”, they will load a mag, then do a “press check”.
    2. When I’m at work; I hand a customer a pistol with the action open. They will then close the action and do a “press check”.
    I am sure they were trained to do this. But to my eyes, in situation 1, they are not completely confident that they seated the magazine and loaded the gun. I think Jeff is saying, this training is instilling a lack of confidence which I agree with.

    • I’ll do one after loading and before holstering. It’s rare, but sometimes a bad mag will not feed one into the chamber, and I don’t trust my ear enough to tell the difference at a 100% rate. Thus, I make sure before holstering…once it’s in the holster, you better KNOW.

      • I reload the mag. If it’s full, then there is no round in the chamber, find out why, and carry a different gun until you do.

  15. I’ve never heard the term “press check”.

    Is this because I’m some sort of ignoramus or is the author too operator?

    Regardless, the students are probably worried about not having their firearms in the instructor’s desired state of readiness. They don’t want to be singled out as a dumb ass in front of the class by the author.

    • ‘I’ve never heard the term “press check”.’

      I think it’s a hockey term.

  16. “There is nothing worse than drawing your firearm, aiming it at your attacker and hearing a click.”

    I don’t know which is worse: hearing “click” when you’re expecting to hear “boom,” or hearing “boom” when you’re expecting to hear “click.”

    Checking the gun’s status should prevent either.

  17. If you have to press check, you already failed to KNOW the status of the weapon. If that’s the case, go ahead and verify weapon status, learn from the failure, and maybe after the press check one will KNOW the weapon status then. If not, more learning and training is needed.

  18. All my guns have a loaded chamber window/indicator, so I don’t need to do a chamber check.

    AGAIN, I ASK: who came up with the term “press check”? There is no press being checked. Now that so much printing is digital, I rarely even visit the printer for press checks.

    • Come on, “press check” is called such because you MUST perform the check operator style by pressing the slide from the front to peek. You know that joe cool move, Patrick around here does a good one…er maybe an annoying one. lol.

      Really, if you don’t have front slide serrations and a stiff slide it’s really a “slip check” because your hand might slide. I think a “pull check” would be more accurate as more people do it by the normal pulling of the slide a few mm’s.

    • Dont know who coined the term.

      I originally read it from Jeff Cooper’s writings.

      On a pistol with no recoil spring rod (1911, P35) you can PRESS against the recoi spring housing under the barrel and CHECK to see if the pistol has a round chambered.

      So even though many call it a press check – we are no long PRESSING on most of our pistols.

      We are pulling the slide back.

  19. Golly I know my lowly Taurus is loaded ’cause it has a loaded chamber indicator. Operating operationally of course????

  20. Will all of there disadvantages, this is an advert for Israeli/Euro style CCW or open, ready-to-rock carry. I cannot tell you how many times at the range or in videos I have seen someone go to shoot and nothing – usually the “safety”. There is something to be said for a snub-nosed revolver that you just grab, point, and shoot.

  21. I dunno, but whoever thought up “press checks” in the first place should be taken out somewhere and shot. I’m not sure which is more ridiculous, the procedure itself or all the endless debate it has spawned.

    1. All guns are always loaded
    2. If you have a gun for self defense, it SHOULD always be loaded and ready to fire

    So… why ever would you need to “press check” your own self defense gun? Is it kinda like being in the habit of constantly checking your pockets for wallet and keys?

    I’m with the Gov. on this one. I just looked at my revolver and yes, it’s loaded.

    • Just typical OCD behavior. If there’s one thing that’s OK (IMHO) to be obsessive about is that your weapons are in the condition that you believe them to be, even if you always treat every weapon as though it’s loaded. While both of my non-revolving handguns are kept in the safe in condition 3 I still pull them occasionally and check. Yesterday I took my EDC (GP 100 Wiley Clapp) down for the first time in 3 years for a clean and lube (probably only necessary every 5 years or so). Even though the manual has you function checking as you reassemble, I still ended up going back, unloading and function testing the weapon twice after I was done. Maybe I’m just as OCD as the press checkers, so I won’t throw any stones.

  22. The picture at the beginning of the article perfectly illustrates why I believe press checking is wasted administrative gun handling. The safe direction on a range is DOWNRANGE. The photo shows the muzzle pointed up at the ceiling. When I load my gun, a round gets chambered, I check the loaded chamber indicator, and the gun gets holstered. Period. My gun is always with me and holstered. When I get home at night, it gets put in the bedside holster. No extra handling because I know there is a round in the chamber.

  23. First off do I press check on occasion? Yeah I do. Do I train that way? No I do not, nor do I believe press checks should be part of any training cycle!

    *BUT* there are times when it is actually advisable to double check personal gear. For example: I had knee surgery last Friday, so between the narcotics and the physical stability issues I probably shouldn’t be handling firearms this week… on the other hand I make one hell of a target right now (normal stuff to steal, plus pain killers and extra bonus I’m less able to resist)… so I secured my weapons “hot”. So when I can safely do so or must retrieve my weapons the first thing I’m going to do is check the chamber.

  24. FLAME DELETED The article says, in essence — if you have to press check, then you don’t know the status of your weapon.” That’s logically absurd on its face, because you press check to CONFIRM the status, in order to KNOW the status. That’s little different than saying “checking the air pressure on your tires is a failure of not knowing your tire status.” But you check your air pressure in order to know the status of your tires.

    • Who’s gun doesn’t feed a round when the slide cycles?
      There’s your confirmation.
      The tire pressure analogy was absurd. You know you have air in the tire. Confirming the pressure is more like confirming what pressure load you have rather than the existence of a cartridge at all.

        • If you can’t trust the gun to chamber a round manually racking the slide, can you trust it to cycle when firing?
          All guns should feed if the mag is inserted all the way and the cartridges are pushed all the way up in the mag. I see no way that the slide could come forward and not pick up a round as long as the magazine is loaded properly.
          This is what you should check for, not a press check.

  25. The instructor presumes everyone has a perfect memory. This attitude is wrong. NOBODY has a perfect memory, NOBODY. Enough people have been killed by “unloaded” guns (including one of my neighbors) that it is foolish NOT to check whether a gun is empty every time you take it out of the safe, hand it to someone, etc. My local gun shop (LGS), like most LGS’s, has a policy that every time an employee hands a customer a gun to examine, the employee always clears the weapon to make sure it’s unloaded. It doesn’t matter if they’ve cleared the same weapon ten times that day; it’s still a good practice to clear it every time before handing it to a customer (and it might also be a good idea to clear it again before putting it away), in case someone sneaked a bullet into the chamber or cylinder while they weren’t looking.

    The same thing applies to those who have a CCW permit (although I live in the last remaining state which never issues carry permits to civilians, New Jersey). NOBODY has a perfect memory, so even if you’re sure the gun was loaded last night when you put it in the safe, check to make sure it’s loaded before putting it in your holster.

    The instructor thinks everyone has a perfect memory. Have any of his students ever misplaced their cellphone, car keys, wallet, etc.? NOBODY has a perfect memory. At my LGS, I’m comforted by the fact that employees clear every weapons before handing it to customers — especially considering that I’ve seen plenty of customers sweep people in the store with the muzzle of a gun while examining it! Before going into battle, a good officer has his troops perform a weapons check (unless he happens to be leading Seal Team 6, in which case he can count on his fellow Seals to have done it themselves, but I’ve seen enough Army privates (and Lieutenants) make mistakes with weapons that I know you can’t trust every soldier to “be all he can be” all of the time). I was in Armor, and I’ve seen tanks come back to the motor pool from the firing range and then heard, “Shit, the gun’s still loaded!” (luckily it wasn’t my tank). If it happens to trained professional tankers, it can happen to anyone, if you don’t do your weapons checks — both types of weapons checks, verifying a weapon is unloaded, and verifying a weapon is loaded. Of course, you should always point your weapon in a “safe direction”, but sometimes there is no safe direction! When that tank came back into the motor pool with its main gun still loaded, there was no “safe direction”, believe me!

    • Thanks for understanding human nature and behavior.

      If one isn’t 100% sure of the status of a weapon, one takes the steps to be sure. Simple as that. No recriminations, no insults.

      This SEAL is another egomaniacal f-wit who has no idea what it’s like to not be “perfect” and a “god”. Because they never die in combat. Except when they do. For being imperfect….

  26. Another ‘expert’. In all fairness, there are some that need the info, here is as good as any. I press check my pistol from time to time. I will continue to do so.

  27. Easiest and most reliable way to check it is simply pull the trigger. From a tactical/training stand point the shock of the discharge that sometimes happens has value as well. Plus there’s a good chance you’ll get to practice some first aid in this scenario. Its win win win really.

  28. I only do press checks because it looked fucking awesome in Heat.

    I don’t do it with my finger in front of the muzzle like Pacino does, though.

  29. Steven Seagal in “Under Siege.” Does a few press checks of his 1911 usually before engaging the enemy. I think some guy named Jeff Cooper started it all!

  30. I am sure you had an idea and something you wanted to say but I have no idea what is was. I re-read the first 2 parg 3 times and I am still not sure what you are trying to say.

  31. I believe the safest gun is a loaded gun.
    The first rule of the Four Rules is to treat all guns as if they’re loaded.
    So… they ARE (loaded). Always ready.

  32. I get what he’s saying and he isn’t entirely wrong on that specific point. Still, the “too operator” criticism is probably accurate. Like most experts (and I fully concede he is an expert), though, he seems to think he knows not only more than anyone else, but more than everyone else combined. Like every other expert in every other field of endeavor, he’s wrong in that regard.

  33. This strikes me as the ballistic equivalent of “psychobabble”. Yes, I keep the firearms stored in my gun safes unloaded. Yes, I load one when I am going to carry it for self-defense or shoot it for practice. Yes, I check EVERY firearm which comes into my hands as if were loaded even if I am absolutely CERTAIN it is not. Mr. Gonzalez and his “warrior-mindset” may serve him well. If it does, fine. So does mine.

  34. My carry pistol is always loaded, even when I put it away. I know this, yet I confirm it’s status every time I strap it on. I check the action of every firearm I pick up, if it’s been out of my sight or control for any length of time. It’s fast, easy, and might one day keep me from perforating something that doesn’t need it.

  35. “Press check” must be a regional or perhaps institutional practice in some firearms training programs. Having participated as a student and instructor in hundreds of training hours conducted by a major LE agency, I don’t recall the term “press check” in a FA training course outline, or any other term to describe the act or motion of verifying “yep, my loaded gun is still loaded, just checking to make sure it hadn’t slipped my mind that for some reason I unloaded it”.

    Reminds me of what in my opinion was a ridiculous routine I observed conducted by LE agency in a northeast yankee state where officers at the beginning of their shift lined up single file and one by one demonstrated to their shift supervisor that yes, their duty weapon was still loaded. With deliberate militaristic seriousness, each officer unholstered their Glock pointed it muzzle down over a large barrel of sand bullet trap, removed the magazine, cleared the weapon, showed Sarge the now empty weapon, reinserted the loaded magazine, charged the weapon, topped off the magazine, then reholstered their loaded Glock just as it was to start with. I couldn’t resist asking if they had to do that $#it every day and was told yes, it was a beginning of the shift ritual.

  36. Maybe I’m just dumb but this article leaves me a bit confused and thinking in a bunch of different directions.

    [Skips rant.]

    As for why students do this, yes I agree with the author to some extent, it’s a failure of instruction. However, it’s also a failure of ranges, RSOs and the like. Many ranges I’ve been to have very strict rules about when a firearm may or may not be loaded and sometimes those rules vary. I was actually kicked off a range for drawing my gun from a holster, placing it on the bench in front of me, unloading my carry ammo, switching to FMJ and firing. Why, because some dickless control freak decided that I violated the “No drawing and shooting” rule.

    Now, I just told that guy to go fuck himself as I was leaving but most people don’t like confrontation and no one likes getting kicked off a range they paid money to be on over a rule violation that doesn’t really make a lot of sense, especially when no actual safety rules were violated.

    I would also point out that some classes have a “no ammo” rule in effect during portions of the class. They treat people like children who cannot be trusted not to just randomly start firing rounds at people, or walls or the ceiling or whatever. Brah, everyone here is here to shoot guns, WTF is this “no ammo” until you’re at the line and ready to fire thing? Did I break the rules by bringing a few boxes of ammo with me? I don’t even know.

    This is why, generally speaking, I don’t like ranges and I don’t trust “instructors”. You’re there to learn the safest way to handle a dangerous tool. Removing 100% of the danger isn’t possible and the attempt is counterproductive IMHO. It’s also condescending. Sure, if you want to have some rules that go a bit far in Pistol Handling I that’s fine but those rules and the reasons for them should be fully explained and it should be made clear that they will go away in the future. But when there’s a “no ammo” rule for Tactical Pistol 54 (OK, I made that up, it’s 3) that’s just retarded and annoying.

    So why do people do this? Probably because the rules vary so much from instructor to instructor and place to place that many of these people are probably rolling unloaded because they don’t know the rules and don’t want to get ejected from a class by some safety-Nazi who pulled out a BS rule to pocket their money and not teach them a damn thing. I mean, I might have an ID (intentional discharge) right into someone’s brain box if some asshat kicked me out of a class I paid a few hundred bucks for over having a loaded gun in a situation where I was supposed to have a firearm and ammo but not both at the same time under certain circumstances which I don’t really understand because of things that were never explained and wouldn’t make a lot of sense if they were.

    So, the long and the short of it I suspect, is that people err on the side of not getting kicked out. This means loading/unloading firearms and carting them around with you and going to a class room then a range etc etc and they simply don’t remember if the gun is chambered or not. On top of that, they don’t really know the instructor’s way of doing things and don’t want to be the student that get’s put on blast in front of the group for not doing something that another instructor would chew them out for.

    • Every range I’ve ever been to has, at the front door, a sign saying “All firearms must be UNLOADED and CASED.” And yet, “Colonel Jeff” Gonzales would have you assume you are loaded, and therefore breaking the rules. Yeah, I get it.

      • Not every range I’ve been to has such a sign but most do.

        My point with the drawing and shooting thing is that the way the sign was written it was clear that they didn’t want people drawing and firing as part of practice, that is practicing their gunfighting skills.

        I just ran into a guy who decided that the sign could be interpreted in a different way and that I had broken that rule. He was already mad at me because he tried to tell me a bunch of crap at the counter to impress his new female coworker and he didn’t like the fact that I was unimpressed by his incorrect BS and told him as much.

  37. I am confused as to why everyone who claims they do these “press checks” totally ignores the loaded chamber indicators built into nearly every modern made pistol. I own five pistols, Every one of them from 4 different manufacturers gave me the ability to tell with a glance or (On my XDM) the feel of a loaded chamber. No manipulation of slide needed to make sure it’s loaded or unloaded. When I want to verify clear, I drop the mag, rack the slide to verify gun is completely empty. Unneeded manipulations just raises the risk of a ND.

    • Probably because most guns have tiny, hard to see loaded chamber indicators that are mostly useless.

    • Because those indicators are mechanical and therefore fail.

      I’ve seen dirt cause a false “chamber loaded” indication on both Glock and Springfield pistols.

    • Because I took a file to my loaded chamber indicator, because I didn’t want it sticking up.

    • “Loaded chamber indicators” can be hard to see (especially at night), they can malfunction and #1 reason: Not all semi autos have them and when they do, see points 1 and 2. There is ZERO chance of a ND if you do it correctly. I’ll add that just racking the slide on a loaded magazine doesn’t ensure a round went into the chamber – if the magazine didn’t seat right, a round may not be stripped off and load. A press check ensures the chamber is loaded 100% of the time. Funny how this topic is bugging so many people, to include the author (I get his point but only if you’re dealing with highly trained and experienced students).

  38. Dear Jeff Gonzales;
    You will never be my instructor. A man who gets that bent out of shape is not a man with whom I will ever have business dealings, and is not a man I want to be in the same room with, frankly. Do you yell at your kids when they grabt the banister going downstairs? “Damnit! Evasion and escape is a serious matter!”

  39. Fundamental problem with presschecks is that they can induce a malfunction is done incorrectly. The only thing worse than hearing a click when you pull the trigger in a firefight is getting a dead trigger. I never press check my handguns or brass check my rifles. Why? I’ve caused my M16 to not fire the first round quite a bit because the BCG wasn’t fully seated after the.

    The way I was taught to load an M16 follows five basic steps.

    – Push the magazine in.
    – Pull on the magazine to make sure it’s seated.
    – Slingshot the charging handle.
    – Brass check the chamber by pulling back slightly on the charging handle.
    – Tap forward assist.

  40. After sleeping on it… I see Jeff’s point: that when it’s time for action, there shouldn’t be any hint in the mind second guessing about the status of the weapon: is a round chambered or is the safety on. I think I’m agreeing that once you have a holstered weapon, there should really only be one condition it should be in.

  41. When the day comes that I quit checking my weapons, that’s the day I’ll stop carrying weapons. And I’m sure it’s safe to say at age 68, with 22 years military and then some years in Law Enforcement I’ve carried and handled weapons longer than the Author.

  42. Wow, the visceral reaction of some people to the opinions of others never ceases to amaze me. I think some people are taking this a little too personally. I didn’t read this article as, “if you ever in your life check the status of your firearm, you’re a friggin’ moron”. I don’t think the author is talking about checking the status of your firearm before you put it on your hip for the day, or checking it when you’re plinking at the range. I read this in regards to his personal experience as a trainer, where people who have already made their gun ready feel the need to check the status again. A more adequate comparison to everyday life would be if in the middle of your day, after you’ve been carrying your gun for hours, you feel the need to unholster and verify that it’s loaded. This is something that you shouldn’t have to do because you should know it’s status at that point and be confident in that knowledge.

  43. So, let me see if I follow this guy’s thought. If I should know the status of my weapon at all times, regardless of confirming a check/observing the loading and unloading, then I should be able to do Tank gunnery blind without ensuring my Loader is loading the appropriate round, without ensuring my Gunner is indexed to the correct ammo type, that he’s on target and it’s a good target, and when my Loader calls ‘UP!’ that the main gun is armed and the Loader is clear of the path of recoil. Is that what I’m getting? I’m not supposed to-as the Tank Commander- observe ALL of the above(and oh-so-much-more not listed here) to ensure it’s happenning as it should, but should trust without verifying? Sorry dude. That ain’t how I was trained and it doesn’t make sense to me. If I feel the need to ensure my weapon picked up and chambered the round, I’m not asking your permission. I treat my personal firearms like I treat my tank- as a piece of equipment that may malfunction and it is my job as the operator to ensure correct function of that equipment. The one time you don’t check something is the one time it fails and is the one time it really mattered and you are now behind and trying to get caught up. Playing catch-up is not how I like to fight.

    • You seriously just compared a crew serviced weapon protocol to a pistol?
      You can defend press checks all day but the analogies I have seen on here are some of the most ridiculous things I have ever read.

      • +1 I’m glad that I’m not the only reading this that is astounded by the level of butt hurt this article has created.

  44. Am I the only one here who takes a flashlight and shines it down the barrel to see if there’s a round chambered?


    Press checks, 99% of the time, are pointless and stupid. I’ve seen “operators” on youtube that like to show off their gun manipulation skills. They throw in a mag, rack it fast, then press check it. Seriously. If they weren’t such f**ktards to begin with, there’s no reason to press check a pistol you just racked. (facepalm)

    • Love the splayed out fingers when they do that too. It’s so cute!
      And the faster they can perform the press check, the better. Some guys do it so fast it is on the holster move. You almost don’t realize they are doing it except for they seem to be using both hands to holster.

  45. My rule is simple: If my firearm has been out of my sight and/or physical contact or I am not sure if it is loaded it gets checked. Literally last night this came in handy as I was driving back from a friends house later than expected. I travel with my range bag in it is my Beretta 84F, along with extra loaded mags for both it and my primary, a Glock 17. I was driving in an unsavory area of town, and decided that I’d like to have my secondary pistol in the center console as my Glock lives at about 4 o’clock IWB. When I pulled my Beretta and did a check I found the chamber empty. I dropped the mag and realized that after a recent range trip I had not put a carry mag back in. So I loaded it and drove home much more at ease.

    I agree that if you are wearing your primary and not unloading it throughout the day, a press check shouldn’t be necessary. Though the article does make some concessions, the initial impression is that press checks are wholesale the stuff of amateurs and movie stars. On the firing line there shouldn’t be a question as to the readiness of your firearm, at least none that I can see. In the real world things are not so black and white, and it is this grey area that we as a culture preach preparedness for.

  46. AGREE! I admire the hell of out Travis Haley and Chris Costa but both of them employ and teach this method which to me was a little neurotic. it seemed like it would create more of a training scar than a safety procedure. but i am nobody so what do i know.

  47. Good article and I get what you are saying about the warrior mindset. Always know the state of your weapon. I always do a check before stowing a weapon or picking it up for the first time after taking it out of stowage but for for my EDC and the weapons I keep in various strategic spots around the house, I know what state they are in. During 2 1/2 years in Iraq and multiple trips to other garden spots as a security contractor, I worked hard to develop good habits. As for being too ‘operator’ oriented in your training, it’s the only way to do.

    And don’t pay much attention to all the goofy comments from people on TTAG, it’s just a trait of the site comments.

  48. Here’s why I perform a press check. I recognize that I am not infallible and that a firearm is a machine. Machines malfunction. People malfunction.

    It’s akin to checking the oil in your car. Do I expect there to be oil in the car? Sure do. Is there a remote possibility that there is no oil in the car. Sure is. Solution….check the fucking oil.

  49. I’ve been a state police firearms instructor since 1996. I’ve been an Army instructor since Washington crossed the Deleware. The proper term is “press check” not weapon check or anything else. But I don’t have a cool beard so don’t listen to me. This kind of thing is why so many people think so many instructors are so full of shit. I would not get wrapped around the axle over this as the author has unless the guys doing it had been on my team for a long time (like more than 6 months) or my student has needed to do it every single time before every single drill after I’ve said always keep your weapon hot. I think this article would have been better off sticking to mental mindset vs press checks.

  50. Jeez, when I strap on its in go position, stays that way until I unstrap before bed. Anything else you are not ready to fight period…. All, be ready and watch your six.

  51. Regan said it best “Trust with verification”
    if I lose 10 secs to check the status of a pistol I am going to carry then so be it.

  52. Every time I take my pistol out of the safe, pop out the mag, check the round count, reinsert the mag, press check, holster. Everytime. That way I KNOW there is a loaded gun on my hip.

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