When you carry a gun, you carry with you the responsibility to ensure that it’s not going to misfire or go off when it’s not supposed to. In this guide, we answer the question; What is the first step for both loading and unloading a firearm?
The basics explained here are elementary procedures in gun safety and should be followed by every first-time gun owner or any person getting into guns. Before we start with loading and unloading guns, we will take a look at some safety ‘tenets’ of gun safety.
Elementary gun safety tenets
- Treat every gun as if it were loaded
- Keep the gun pointed in a safe direction at all times
- Do not point a gun at anything you are not willing to destroy
- Keep your finger off the trigger until you are on target and ready to fire
- Always positively identify your target before firing
- Be aware of what is in front, behind, and to the sides of your target
- Use a holster when carrying a loaded gun
- Keep firearms out of the reach of small children
- Always use the correct ammunition for your gun.
What is the first step for both loading and unloading a firearm?
The initial steps to loading a firearm include the following:
1. Look at your weapon and know the condition it’s in. This cannot be stressed enough. Before you can even begin to load or do anything with your firearm you need to know the condition that it’s already in.
Is the trigger locked? Is it jammed? Is the barrel empty? Is there a magazine in the pistol? The answers to these questions will determine the course of action that you need to take.
It is, therefore, necessary to know the initial conditions of the firearm. Refer to the owner’s manual or consult with an expert, you don’t want the gun to go off in case it has any bullets loaded which you’re unaware of.
2. Once you’ve made sure of the condition of the firearm, find out if it’s been in store for long. Before we can begin to load and use the gun, we need to ensure the parts are well lubricated and functioning properly.
You don’t want to load a gun and later find out it’s jammed. In case you do find yourself in that situation, leave the firearm alone and call the emergency services.
3. Once you find out the gun is workable, look down the barrel and try to see toward the exit end (muzzle) of the gun, a gun without any bullets like that will be clear to see through.
4. If you find any dirt or any other kind of foreign particles, clean them. There are many alcohol-based cleaners. For dry stuff, consider using a cloth.
5. Once that is done, check the sights. The gun will have two sights, a front, and a rear sight. Make sure both are clear and free of any obstructions that do not allow you to see through both the sights in a straight line at the same time. A wrong sight will cause you to hit the wrong target.
6. After you’ve cleared the above points, move onto the first steps.
First steps to loading a firearm
We are going to look at two different ways of loading a firearm.
Method one – starting with the slide locked to the rear
Lots of shooting ranges require your pistol to have the top slide locked to the rear, in such a case you should follow this method.
- Pick up the gun or take it out of the holster. We need to double-check that it is clear, to do that, look down into the chamber – it should be clear. Look through the magazine well, should also be clear. Also, check the breach face right above the magazine well from where the bullet gets pushed into the chamber. Proceed to the next step if all the places mentioned above were clear.
- Take a loaded magazine, with a firm grip push it the right side up through the magazine well. If you’re not sure which side is the correct way up, refer to the owner’s manual. The manual can usually be found online or be mailed to you by the maker upon request.
- Push the magazine all the way through the magazine well, until you hit an end, apply a bit of pressure and if everything went well inside the gun, you should hear a slight click sound. The gun also gives light haptic feedback in case you’re loading in a noisy area.
- In case you did not get the clicking sound and the magazine appears to be stuck, refer to the manual or talk to your local gun shop. Do not attempt force with the gun.
- After the magazine is clicked in, we work on the slide. In this case, the slide was already locked back. We pull the slide with our non-dominant hand even further back and release. The slide should go all the way to the front and you’re loaded.
- What you can also do in place of the previous point, is to use the slide stop button on the gun. The pistols have two buttons on the side and the slide stop button is the one higher up. Refer to the owner’s manual for the exact labelings of your firearm. You can use your shooting hand or the non-shooting hand to push the slide stop. This makes the slide go and locks a bullet into the chamber, you’re loaded.
- Most modern pistols and semi-automatics provide some way of knowing whether you’re properly loaded or not.
- On a Glock, there’s a loaded indicator that sticks out to indicate that the gun is loaded. This indicator can be felt with your thumb. Some guns have small metallic pieces that stick up on the slide to indicate that the gun is loaded, while some will have a small hole on the top which you can look down through to see the brass of the bullets, and then you know the gun is loaded.
Read Also: How to Unload a Muzzleloader Safely?
Method two – when the slide is not locked to the rear.
- When the slide is not already locked back to the rear, pull it back once and see down the chamber to make sure the gun is clear before you add any new ammunition.
- If there’s a bullet that is loaded or there is a shell that is stuck in the gun, pull and release the slide back a few times to clear it. Do not attempt to clear the gun by firing it.
- Once that is taken care of, we take the magazine and push it through the magazine well. The magazine should be put in the correct way up, refer to the owner’s manual for which side is the correct way up.
- Keep pushing the magazine up the magazine well till you hear a click sound. The click sound means the magazine is now locked properly in the gun. It does not mean that a bullet is fed in the chamber. We have to do that separately.
- After you’ve successfully locked the magazine into place, pull the slide back as far as possible. You have to compress the spring inside the slide all the way back until it won’t go back anymore. Release the slide from your hand, this will cause the stored energy in the spring to lock a bullet from the magazine into the chamber with no problem.
Steps to unload a firearm
So far, we have seen two ways of successfully loading a firearm. Unlike the loading process, there is only one way to unload a firearm correctly. Ensure that you have followed each step properly while unloading the gun.
A gun that is treated as unloaded but which is actually loaded and potentially takes the life of a person or handicaps them for life. We begin the unload procedure as follows:
1. The pistol handle will have a magazine release button. Do not confuse the magazine release button with the load stop button which is actually used to lock a bullet into the pistol chamber. These buttons are close by on the gun so make sure to refer to the owner’s manual for the proper labelings.
Pushing the magazine release button will cause the magazine to drop. Any hand, dominant or non-dominant can be used to release the magazine. Make sure to catch the released magazine. The process described above is also referred to as “removing the source of supply”.
That is because the magazine is like a storage container for the ammunition (bullets in this case). You top up the magazine with bullets and load the magazine into the gun. So essentially, the magazine is a feeding device or a source of the gun, hence the term used “removing the source of supply”s
2. After the magazine is released, the gun may still not be bullet-free. A lot of new gun owners make this mistake. The topmost bullet of the magazine gets locked into the chamber of the pistol, ready to be fire.
Suppose the gun was loaded but not fired, there should still be a bullet in it ready to be fire – even when there is no magazine in the gun. The only way to release this bullet without firing it is to work the slide. We do that in the next step.
3. To clear the gun off of any locked-in bullets or remaining shells from the shots, pull the slide all the way back and release it once. This will pop the loaded bullet or stuck shells out of the gun. Work the slide a couple of times to make sure it is all out.
4. Now we do a test fire as a final step to make sure the gun is properly unloaded. Remember, you do the final check before declaring the gun as unloaded.
5. While you still have the ear protection on, aim at any of the targets around take the proper position, and pull the trigger. If you followed all the unload steps properly, the gun should not fire and make a blank trigger sound. The gun is now unloaded.
Learning to properly load and unload guns is very essential to gun safety. Always follow the safety tenets and keep everyone around you and yourself safe.
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