Safety and Training

Safety 101: How to Properly Clear a Pistol

How to clear a firearm video

If there is one thing that likely causes more negligent discharges than anything else it is improperly clearing or failing to clear a firearm. In plain English that means failing to remove the bullets from the gun. After that, someone or something presses the trigger. If you are lucky, the only thing that will happen next is a ringing of the ears and the requirement for a fresh pair of underpants. Unfortunately, this easily preventable scenario results in serious injury or death . Here are a couple videos to show you how and walk you through the procedure.

Which video did you like best? Why? Do you have a tip for clearing a firearm? Share your answers in the comment section.

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Comments (22)

  1. Something I forgot to mention. On my CZ-P07, there’s a 1/32″ gap between the face of the slide and barrel which allows a visual check to easily see a round in the chamber. It also has an angle cut on the slide end to make the slot depth only 3/32 ‘ deep, which makes it very easy to see if the chamber has a loaded round in it. I have no idea if other pistols have this feature, but I really like it on mine.

    1. I think that kind of peekhole is relatively common, but I don’t have much exposure to modern double actions.

      I like it, but it requires good light and other favorable conditions to confirm presence ÔÇö and is a poor way to verify absence. I will use it at a well-lit range to confirm what I think I did a moment ago, but will still “press check” when dressing for the street or in less than ideal conditions.

      And still require a full open visual to confirm unloaded.

  2. Weak hands or strong springs can make it difficult to do a quality visual while retaining the slide with a pinch grip. And I don’t like routinely fishing rounds out of the dirt or from under the sofa. I use a slightly different procedure:

    1. Trigger clear. 2. Aim clear. 3. Magazine clear.
    4. Roll pistol to the right, with the ejection port down. Using a thumb and fingers over-the-top grip, cycle the slide to lock back.
    5. Inspect right hand for an empty magazine well; inspect left hand for presence or absence of an ejected round. I count that as 1st check.
    6. Roll pistol to the left, with the ejection port up. Inspect chamber and magazine well for clear. I count that as 2nd check (and the mental break described by Mr Johnson).

    If I have reason to believe with some confidence that the weapon starts empty, I may cycle the slide with the magazine in place at Step 3. If the slide stays back, eject the magazine and consider 1st check clear ÔÇö proceed directly to Step 6. If the slide doesn’t stay back, there is something wrong with the pistol or with my belief ÔÇö carefully reevaluate weapon status and condition from the beginning.

    I’m not sure how to translate that effectively into left-handed, and can’t vouch its effectiveness except with my SA 1911 variants.

  3. Please use the right nomenclature a bullet is the projectile. Round or ammunition would be the correct use. Otherwise good information.

  4. Clearly the 2nd was on point. For a beginner, the first was too quick, too simplistic and not explained well enough.
    I found the 2nd much better as a training video.

  5. To Dave Dolbee:
    First, your reference to non-LEO’s as CIVILIANS is an inappropriate distinction. ALL federal, state, county, and city, civil law enforcement officers are civilians. The Posse Comitatus ensures that. The correct distinction for non-LEO’s in CITIZEN.

    The use of the term BULLETS to refer to ammunition doesn’t bode well for knowledgeable firearms users. I dare anyone to load a (modern) firearm with BULLETS and put it in an operable condition.

  6. I’ve always cleared my pistol by the 1st method & can’t imagine when I’d ever do it the 2nd way. I’d never remember all of those steps anyway since I shoot only once a week & never have the need or desire to hand my pistol to another person, since I always shoot alone.

  7. Peter Johnson’s video was hands-down better. Less than a minute long, the sound was good, there were no background distractions, and his voice was loud and clear.

    1. Except for one glaring problem! His entire presentation FAILED to mention the round in the chamber when beginning the process. The ENTIRE PURPOSE of clearing a firearm, whether it’s a pistol, revolver, shotgun or rifle, is to remove ALL ammunition from the firearm. Yet Johnson never even MENTIONS that vital piece of information. His video is ok for someone with experience handling firearms, but, in my opinion, is a disaster waiting to happen for the novice with firearms.

  8. Aside from the glaring use of “bullet” (how can you blame the media “pretty people” when our pros make the same error?) didn’t either of these guys ever hear of decocking a semi-auto? If you’re dealing with a striker pistol, you’ve got stored energy there and any glitch in mag ejection or other can release that striker into the primer. FIRST STEP – DECOCK, then eject the mag. Sure, ejecting should render the trigger inoperable, BUT………

  9. You can never hear this enough. Experienced or not, check it twice. Good review, good for a beginner, good all around. I liked them both, but the second one had more specific tips for how to hold the gun while doing the clearing and I thought it was more useful. I am not a novice, but like everyone else, what becomes routine can easily be taken for granted. I am glad I watched this.

  10. I have no concerns about my Sig 2022 with a hammer. I just don’t know how to disengage the “cocked” S&W 9mm Shield. If a round is chambered it is my understanding that I cannot decock it as I can with the Sig. Am I correct in thinking the only solution is to eject the chambered round?

    1. Like you, I don’t have any problems with de-cocking my Beretta M9A1 but I have to confess, I was also thrown by the comment about de-cocking a striker fired pistol. Not sure how to do that with my Glock 19.

      I liked both videos and the comment in the second one about letting the ejected round fall. I’ve seen guys at the range try to drop the ejected round in a range bag or on the bench and it always looks awkward and potentially unsafe as they rotate the pistol to an unnatural angle.

  11. I like the second video. Mike does what i do never take a cleared weapon from anyone without clearing it yourself. Even when i go to the lgs and big box stores i clear the weapon. I have had times were i hsve had to ask tbe clerk to remove rhe magizine before i woukd take control of the weapon at the gun 1 is geared more to those who have been around weapons for a time.

  12. Dave: Your “failing to remove the bullets from the gun” statement sounds like one of the media comments. I can have a gun full of “bullets” and they won’t present any danger at all except maybe jam the slide or get stuck in the magazine when I try to load it with cartridges.

    I do believe you know the difference, but as an old reloader, statements like this just jump out at me.

    1. Oldawg,
      I see what you mean and perhaps a better choice of words was in order. The article was written for the true novice with little to no knowledge of firearms. For that audience, they certainly know, or think they know, what a bullet is but not necessarily a cartridge. That is why comments such as yours, correcting the record, is so critical. Thanks for reading and bringing this to the forefront. ~Dave Dolbee

  13. Honestly, I didn’t watch either video. If clearing your weapon isn’t a reflex action, I question the fact that you own one. Perhaps all guns should come with a drill sergeant, that screams and brow beats you until safety is paramount. It worked for me. Even my granddaughters clear their pistols every time they pick them up or set them down. Of course…..they had a wonderful teacher.

    As always
    Carry on

    1. 70’s Ops,
      I agree, it should be reflexive and second nature, but let’s not forget, The Shooter’s Log also has readers preparing to buy their first firearm. While formal training is recommended, it never hurts to do a bit of homework first! Thanks for reading and all of your great comments. ~Dave Dolbee

    2. EVERYONE has to learn. Neither of us was born with the knowledge of how to clear a firearm. SOMEONE had to teach us. So, give the novices a break and give these guys credit for making videos like these so those who know absolutely NOTHING about firearms have the opportunity to learn properly how to handle them, hopefully BEFORE experiencing a negligent discharge.

      I do have one criticism of the first video. At no point does that “instructor” explain the actual purpose of clearing a firearm: to render it completely safe by ensuring there is no ammunition remaining in the firearm. And he also fails to mention the most critical, in my opinion, action: ensuring any rounds in the chamber are removed, as well as the magazine, since that is the ONLY way to ensure a safe firearm.

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