Gentleman's Essentials: Unloading a Handgun

Discussion in 'Shooting Sports and Firearms' started by DeaconKC, Nov 6, 2008.

  1. Okay folks, this is not a political thread, so please leave politics out.

    How to safely check and handle a handgun.
    By DeaconKC

    “I found Grandpa’s old gun, is it loaded? What do I do now?”
    Hello, please allow me to take a few minutes so I can help you through this if you have never handled a firearm before. I am a licensed collector of firearms and a moderator at and handle firearms daily. I am not an “expert” just an experienced shooter.

    First there are three main rules of safe firearm safety. Follow these and you will avoid embarrassment, or worse, tragedy.

    Even if you have just checked it, or someone has told you its empty, still treat it as loaded. Also you will check it yourself and still treat it as loaded. This is the mark of responsible firearm handling and avoid anyone who ignores this rule.



    If you cannot use these rules, keep your hands off a gun. Sorry if this sounds blunt, but I handle firearms everyday and carry on duty and even among trained professionals it is easy to become complacent. In the last year I attended the funeral of a fellow law enforcement officer who died from a negligent discharge from his weapon. This happened in front of his 4 year old daughter. Safety first.

    Okay, now a quick introduction to handguns. There are two basic types you are likely to encounter, revolvers and semi-automatics [hereby called “autos” from here on out].

    Both come in a great variety of sizes, due to intended use. Here is a comparison pic of 3 revolvers all capable of firing .38 Special ammunition:
    From front to back a “snubbie” 5 shot, a K frame and a N frame.

    Okay, so here’s a good place to throw in some nomenclature [big word so you will be impressed]. I will use my buddy the “Deacon” to help point out different things as we go along….
    The barrel

    The grip [on an auto, this will hold the magazine]

    The hammer

    Cylinder Release

    How to check the revolver:
    First keep your finger off the trigger.
    Second look at the cylinder release. It may slide forward, ]Smith and Wesson, Taurus, Rossi], it may slide back [Colt’s] press inward [Rugers]. Taking the revolver in your right hand, keep your index finger straight along the frame of the gun.

    Manipulate the release with your thumb and using the middle and ring fingers of your left hand push the cylinder out of the gun.

    Now tilt the gun’s muzzle up and push the ejector rod, which is sticking out of the front of the cylinder, to eject the cartridges.

    Check the cylinder to make sure ALL the holes are empty. Then push the cylinder shut. It will latch back on it’s own. DO NOT “FLICK” the cylinder back into the gun. This is hard on the gun and will get you hurt by the owner of an expensive gun.
  2. I like the little helper in your pics!
  3. Okay, on to the autos…

    Barrel, grip and hammer are the same. But some autos do not have external hammers [Glocks, etc.]

    However, autos hold a magazine in the butt of the gun. It will require a different operating procedure to clear this gun.

    The slide release

    Magazine release, most will be right here, behind the trigger guard, but many will have the release at the rear of the butt of the gun.

    Again taking the auto in your right hand, and keeping your index finger off the trigger, press the release in. The magazine should pop out, it may fall clear or stop after coming out a little. If it stops just pull it the rest of the way out.


    You may need to manipulate a safety at this point to clear the gun. Some will have it mounted on the frame [pictured] or on the slide. Frame mounted ones will usually go down, and those on the slide will usually need to be rotated upwards.

    You will keep a firm grip on the gun [your finger is still OFF the trigger, right?] and grasp the slide with your left hand and pull it backwards. While you are doing this, roll the gun to the side until the remaining cartridge falls out. Let it fall, it won’t hurt anything, then pick it up. Now look into the chamber area to make sure it is empty.

    Some very small autos will not extract a cartridge from the barrel, these “tip up” guns will need you to use a pencil to shove the cartridge out of the barrel, once the slide is back. Most of these are in .22, .25 or .32 and are tiny pocket guns.

    If the slide locked back, use the slide release to let it go back forward.

    Congratulations, you have now safely cleared the firearm.
  4. Don't tell him that, he'll want a raise!
  5. Scotto

    Scotto Moderator Emeritus

    Very nice tutorial!
  6. Thanks for the great reminders. Since I know where to buy a gun, where can I buy a Deacon??
  7. LOL, yup try Shadowrun duels the Street Deacon!
  8. Very nice tutorial... many of my friends are gun enthusiasts, and I somewhat glaze over when they begin to discuss.

    I hope you don't mind me asking a question here though... I will eventually need to by a gun, as I hope to be a home owner soon. One thing that I have never seen is the type of hammer that is on the snub nosed S&W. It appears as if there is no "tab" on which to pull the hammer back with your thumb/palm. Is this an optical illusion, or does this revolver not need to be cocked before firing? Just curious...
  9. I think that's referred to as shrouded hammer. All you need to do is pull the trigger and it will raise the hammer up until the sear releases.
  10. Okay, there are 2 basic types of revolver cocking systems. The first is called single action because the trigger only performs one action, releasing the hammer [or striker]. This is the old "cowboy" type gun where you must manually cock the hammer for each shot. The second is called "double action" because the trigger performs 2 actions, cocking and releasing the hammer. Some revolvers have bobbed [see the little 5 shot in the tutorial], concealed or partially concealed hammers. The reason for this is to make the gun less apt to hang up on drawing in an emergency situation. If a revolver's hammer is totally enclosed, where you cannot manually cock the gun at all, it is referred to as a double action only.
    The descriptions pretty much cover auto pistols too.
    Hope this helped.
  11. Wow. Just amazing. A great tutorial. More folks should become familiar with firearms safety, and you've done a bang-up job! Kudos indeed.
  12. DeaconKC, thank you. That is exactly what I was looking for. Once I heard you say single action vs double action, I think that I may have known my own answer at some point. Anyways, thanks for the help.
  13. Jac


    Niiice 1911! :001_tt1:
  14. Thanks, it's a 1928 Argentine. Good shooter and still tight as a drum.
  15. Revolvers come with a few different hammer types determined by a users preference and the intended use. Most modern revolvers are double action and since you don't need to cock the hammer back, they can be made smaller or completely concealed inside of the frame. This makes it less likely to snag clothing when drawn from a holster and less likely to rub and irritate you if carried concealed under clothing.

    There are two basic types of trigger action on handguns, single and double action.

    Single action is generally simpler and just as the name implies performs just one action, releasing the trigger. The hammer or striker is cocked by something else. In the case of single action revolvers that something else is typically your thumb. On a semi-automatic pistol the hammer is generally cocked by the action of the slide. First by racking the side to both cock the hammer and chamber the first round, and afterwards by the action of firing the gun and it going through it's cycle of ejecting the case, cocking the hammer, and chambering a new round.

    A double action is generally more complicated in design and, again, as the name implies performs two actions. This time it both moves the hammer into the firing position and releases it to strike the primer of the round and fire the gun.

    Both have advantages and disadvantages-

    Single action almost always has a lighter and what some would say crisper trigger pull. It's also ofter a shorter trigger pull as less things are happening. This is preferred by some shooters for faster and to them more accurate firing.

    Double action is generally going to have a longer heavier trigger pull as more is happening. Many who prefer this do so because, as more pressure is required to pull the trigger, the chances of a negligent discharge can be reduced.

    Personally I think it comes down to preference. You can be just as accurate and fire just as fast with a double action as a single action so long as you practice IMO. And so long as you carry in a decent holster and keep your booger picker off the trigger until you want to fire SA is no more prone to unintentional firings as a double action.

    There is also another common type that blends the two referred to as DA/SA. On these types of guns the first pull of the trigger will be double action cocking the hammer and firing the gun. Once that happens though it will work like a single action cocking the hammer as the slide moves back after firing. These offer the benefits of both, less likely to go off if you snag the trigger on something, and lighter trigger pulls after the first shot. Again, I feel it comes to personal preference more then anything.
  16. that was a great episode I wish History channel did more of those.

    Tales of the Gun was one of my favorite shows on there.
  17. Thank you for the great read - it was really very interesting and well-set.



    P.s. Does gentlemanliness in the USA have much to do with knowledge of the unloading of handguns?
  18. Sort of depends on where in the US you are.

    In some places kids are generally taught these things (mine will be).

    It others gun is just another dirty word.
  19. Oh sure, I can understand their presence in parts of the US - but gentlemanliness? :)

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