Press Checking

What is a “press check” and why and when would someone do it? In short, press checking your firearm is really verifying whether or not your weapon is loaded.


The internet people are saying press checking your gun is stupid.

I saw a couple of YouTube videos that claimed it’s an “improper way to handle your gun”. Some say that it’s “retarded” and it gives you a bad training scar because it becomes part of your draw stroke. Other instructors say that your gun is always loaded so there’s no need to do it. Press checking is a waste of time and is unnecessary.

“Stop doing these stupid moves. Man up and act like a professional gun handler. ALL GUNS ARE ALWAYS LOADED. Treat them accordingly, and once you load it, learn to trust the fact that it is ready to go bang; don’t keep fingering it doing ‘press checks’.” – Ken Hackathorn

From my personal experience, I completely disagree with all of these naysayers; especially the part that “your gun is always loaded”.

Why I Do It

You press check to verify. It’s not a range ninja move or cool guy thing. It’s not even a Hollywood thing, since the majority of their on-screen gun handling techniques are garbage and pretty much are dangerous.

Personally, every morning, before I walk out my door or leave the wire, I will do a press check on my concealed carry gun. Why? Because its part of my deliberate loading technique and mainly because it’s the last thing that I do before I holster my carry weapon and leave to start my day. It’s the same principle when you get in your car. You do check the gas gauge before you start your drive don’t you?

Additionally, when I get home, I don’t just take my gun off my belt and throw it somewhere. In fact, sometimes, I actually do dry fire practice with it. Or I decided to clean off all the lint that had accumulated on the barrel and holster. Or perhaps I decided to rotate my carry ammo. Whatever the reason is, my gun has now be downloaded and rendered safe during any of those activities. Also, it’s always been taught to me that if the weapon was not in your control at all times, then at that point, you will need to verify the status of your weapon before you decided to carry or use it.

However, the caveat is that if I plan on carrying it hot, then I press check my gun only once after the initial loading; which is at the start of the day or at the start of any training event. Those obviously are just a small example for when I do it. But like tactical reloads, there may be other times or places where you really might need to do press checks.

When I am in a training course, I’m constantly doing ammo management like admin reload, speed reload or tactical reload when I’m done with the course of fire. I do not however, press check my gun through out the day for whatever reason or at the beginning of the next course of fire. The training scar now comes in by doing the brass checking at any given point in the course of fire, rather than instilling proper ammo management throughout the course of fire.

As long as it (the firearm) is still in my control, the onus is on me to make sure it’s managed correctly.

Mindset vs Training Scar

Needless to say, whenever I compete in USPSA or 3 Gun or whatever form of shooting competition, then I only press check once whenever I first load and make ready because my gun was force to be rendered useless from the previous stage. Cause after every stage, I am forced to unload and show clear. (This too is also a training scar up for debate; because why would you want to unload your firearm when you’re done shooting each stages and not after the entire event?)

By the way, for all those who run the AR platform, do you chamber check or press check when you first load? What if you’re in the middle of dispensing lead candy and your rifle just stops working. Do you check the chamber or do you ignore it by just trying to do a speed reload, regardless if it could be a malfunction or whatever?

“His mouth is writing press checks his body can’t cash.” – MaximusNerdius

In a way, I do agree that too much press checking will create a training scar.

I’ve seen a certain training institute out in Nevada that teach their students to press check on an empty gun, load their magazine, then press check again and finally verifying the magazine before holstering. My personal opinion is that this is wrong and inefficient. All this is, is a training scar designed to have the gimmicky look. Again this is just my opinion in which press checking can be a training scar, if it’s not applied correctly.

Speaking from my own personal experience, I’ve caught myself a few times, after doing a speed reload, that I automatically would do a press check before resuming the course of fire. That was very bad and it took me a few weeks to break that habit. I realized that I developed that habit because I was shooting a lot of steel competition in which I was constantly press checking at the start of the stages that rarely needed to do speed reloads; until it was time to do it. I literally had to load my mags to 50% capacity to force myself to work on doing clean speed reloads.

On most pistols that I have used, the round indicators are horrible both visually and tactilely. I barely will see that indicator protrude far enough or feel it to know if there’s brass in there or not. Try doing that with gloves on!

Choosing the When

A couple of a years ago, when I had to deal with my injuries, while trying to go fast to “get back into the fight” in which I’d rack the slide, thinking that I was good to go; the only thing that I was able to hear was that loud click telling me that I was a dead man. There was no round in the chamber. This incident was caused either by an incorrect racking – short stroking the slide, improper seating of the magazine or a bad magazine spring that didn’t feed. So it’s either user error or hardware failure. But at this point, it was user error in which I mitigated the problem with the standard tap, rack, bang; not by pulling out the magazine, checking the magazine, reloading, and press checking it. The initial action, which is the correct action, is due to the fact that “I was already actively engaged” in an ongoing event. Not at the start or in a lull or ending.

The takeaway is that there is always a proper time and place to do press checks.

The other time was when this problem occurred was when I had only one arm to use; in which I had to resort to using my heel to rack my slide. It didn’t turn out so well due to me not sitting the magazine correctly. In which, I mitigate that by using my knee to slap that mag back in and then recycled the slide.

“If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.” – Admiral McRaven

Just Do It

Finally, one of the overlooked points the naysayers haven’t mentioned are the night time engagements. There are plenty of press checking techniques, some that I disagreed with, that will show you how to check for brass without visual confirmation. Visual confirmation is great but when you’re in the dark, in a low light no light situation, how do you verify your ammo; especially for those who don’t carry an extra magazine or backup gun.

Granted, everyone wants to reference the statistics of 3 feet, 3 rounds, and 3 seconds; however with the current change in the world, that statistics will probably soon become invalid, given the recent past events. Do you still want to just carry one magazine? How will you deal with the plus one factor? How will you manage your ammo?

Ask yourself this one question, if you know how to properly do a press check: Does it really hurt to verify that life saving tool is ready for you to use before you leave your house?

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Gunfighter Moment – Ken Hackathorn