When you're clearing a gun..

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When you're clearing a gun..

Postby Brian D. » Wed Jul 26, 2017 2:35 pm

The other thread about dropping a firearm during handling made me think of something else. At TDI and anywhere else I've been a range officer, there's a couple of bad habits I've observed during the "unload and show clear" portion of competition and training. Most of the specifics below are with semiautomatic handguns in mind, but the overall notion applies to ALL firearms.

When you unload, keep the muzzle pointed downrange throughout the process. Try to have a part of your mental focus on muzzle direction awareness during every second of handling the firearm. If that means you have to turn your body to rack the slide, then DO IT! Do not start letting the muzzle get sideways, or vertical. (Once the cylinder is swung out on a revolver, nobody minds if you orient the barrel upward, to let dirt fall out of the cylinder along with the brass. Same with muzzle-down during loading.)

Okay, you are starting to unload. Get the magazine out, put it in a pocket. If you happen to drop the mag, let it hit the ground and then forget about it for the moment, you still have a round in the chamber. I have seen too many people start to stoop down worried about the magazine, and "forget" they've still got a loaded gun their hand. Muzzle direction awareness is discarded because of the dang magazine. Stop that!

Now, it's time to get the round out of the semi-auto chamber: Are you going to try to "catch" the round as the extractor frees it? That's your call, but only if you can do it without letting your support hand interfere with the process. Once in a great while that shoves the primer right into the ejector, causing a KABOOM. (I have been witness to it three times in 30+ years.) The round being detonated right then and there isn't fatal, but your support hand will never forgive you for the powder burns and little pieces of shrapnel that result. (Neither will the range safety officer, if you shrapnel me him or her.) Now, if you'd instead like to let that ejected round just come out and land nearby, fine. But don't go after it, you STILL have a gun in your hand. Get the action locked open and let the range officer see the chamber.

At about this same point in the process, revolver shooters would be getting some mixture of loaded rounds and empty cartridges out of their guns. Catch those five or more objects in your support hand if you wish, but don't then try to sort them into nearby receptacles, you also still have a firearm in your strong hand. Put them in a pocket or something, for the time being.

Okay, so the range officer determines your firearm is empty and you are told to close the action, snap the trigger DOWNRANGE, and holster. When the range safety officer tell you that, don't point the muzzle a few feet downrange, but rather at the backstop. That's what it's there for. And after that, promptly but with proper care, do so. Make sure the gun is in its holster as far as it's supposed to be.

I guess I should add, these unloading/handling tips should be heeded during any and all "trigger time", whether you're by yourself plinking or at some kind of event.
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Re: When you're clearing a gun..

Postby dl1911 » Wed Jul 26, 2017 4:57 pm

Brian D. wrote:Now, it's time to get the round out of the semi-auto chamber: Are you going to try to "catch" the round as the extractor frees it? That's your call, but only if you can do it without letting your support hand interfere with the process. Once in a great while that shoves the primer right into the ejector, causing a KABOOM. (I have been witness to it three times in 30+ years.) The round being detonated right then and there isn't fatal, but your support hand will never forgive you for the powder burns and little pieces of shrapnel that result. (Neither will the range safety officer, if you shrapnel me him or her.) Now, if you'd instead like to let that ejected round just come out and land nearby, fine. But don't go after it, you STILL have a gun in your hand. Get the action locked open and let the range officer see the chamber.

Something like this happened the other month at AGLC's IDPA match. In this case I understand that shooter had his hand covering the ejection port. I believe his hand was a little more than some shrapnel and powder burns. People, just let it fall. At that point in time you should be concentrating on keeping it pointed downrange while clearing the round from the chamber. Nothing else! Yes it looks cool but there's one shooter that won't be doing it again! Once you're holster and the range is safe, you can pick it up. Worst case is you have to wipe it off. Is it really worth the risk if something goes wrong? Show off with your shooting, not any tricks. If you pull it back slowly so the round falls out the bottom, many R/SOs will even catch it as it falls for you.
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Re: When you're clearing a gun..

Postby calvin56 » Wed Jul 26, 2017 4:59 pm

Brian D. wrote:That's your call, but only if you can do it without letting your support hand interfere with the process. Once in a great while that shoves the primer right into the ejector, causing a KABOOM. (I have been witness to it three times in 30+ years.)

Please explain this. Neither of the guns in your signature line will allow this as the elector is too close to the slide to let it contact the primer without crushing the case. What am I not understanding?
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Re: When you're clearing a gun..

Postby Brian D. » Wed Jul 26, 2017 5:08 pm

calvin56 wrote:
Brian D. wrote:That's your call, but only if you can do it without letting your support hand interfere with the process. Once in a great while that shoves the primer right into the ejector, causing a KABOOM. (I have been witness to it three times in 30+ years.)

Please explain this. Neither of the guns in your signature line will allow this as the elector is too close to the slide to let it contact the primer without crushing the case. What am I not understanding?


Now you're straining my memory, but in two instances it was 1911 pistols with extended ejectors. (Shooters sometime have those added to "increase reliability". Okay, whatever.) The other time I don't recall what semi-auto it was. It has been known to happen with other semi-auto designs, if that support hand interferes just right.
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Re: When you're clearing a gun..

Postby JustaShooter » Wed Jul 26, 2017 5:11 pm

Brian D. wrote:Okay, so the range officer determines your firearm is empty and you are told to close the action, snap the trigger DOWNRANGE, and holster.


So I'm curious - why snap the trigger? You just unloaded and showed the RSO that the gun was clear, so I don't understand this part. I've also heard you shouldn't do this on certain guns, and guns with a magazine disconnect you literally can't - so why perform this step on those other guns?
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Re: When you're clearing a gun..

Postby dl1911 » Wed Jul 26, 2017 5:54 pm

JustaShooter wrote:
Brian D. wrote:Okay, so the range officer determines your firearm is empty and you are told to close the action, snap the trigger DOWNRANGE, and holster.


So I'm curious - why snap the trigger? You just unloaded and showed the RSO that the gun was clear, so I don't understand this part. I've also heard you shouldn't do this on certain guns, and guns with a magazine disconnect you literally can't - so why perform this step on those other guns?

It's a final check to assure that the gun is clear. People can make mistakes. One last check to make sure the gun is clear. If the gun has a magazine disconnect, you insert a shown to be empty magazine so the hammer/striker falls. Modern centerfire firearms are safe to dryfire, especially when it's only a few here and there as opposed to hundreds of dry fires practicing. Usually it's just .22LRs that you shouldn't dryfire. Even then, occasional dry fire shouldn't hurt it.

Actually, I believe the gun this happened with at ALGC was a 1911. From examining it afterwards, it looked like the primer had been struck by the side of the ejection port. If you pull the slide back very sharply and it doesn't clear the ejection port, it could have enough force to ignite the primer if it hits anything.
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Re: When you're clearing a gun..

Postby BadCrosshairDay » Wed Jul 26, 2017 11:27 pm

I read about that incident. Reminds me I heard about a similar thing happening with a rifle over 10 years ago but didnt make the connection.

At matches I always let the chambered round fly, but I've been in the habit of catching my carry rounds whenever I need to unload. Guess I'll stop now.
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Re: When you're clearing a gun..

Postby Brian D. » Thu Jul 27, 2017 7:24 am

JustaShooter wrote:
Brian D. wrote:Okay, so the range officer determines your firearm is empty and you are told to close the action, snap the trigger DOWNRANGE, and holster.


So I'm curious - why snap the trigger? You just unloaded and showed the RSO that the gun was clear, so I don't understand this part. I've also heard you shouldn't do this on certain guns, and guns with a magazine disconnect you literally can't - so why perform this step on those other guns?


Candidly, I've never been a fan of snapping the trigger right before holstering. But, it's standard practice at IDPA and IPSC. Other organized shooting done from the draw seems to follow the standard. You might note my main point about that in the thread starter was about pointing the muzzle at the backstop versus three feet in front of yourself.
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Re: When you're clearing a gun..

Postby Sevens » Thu Jul 27, 2017 6:39 pm

I think this OP is extremely well-written and that's the best we can get in a discussion forum. I believe that every bit written would be even far better demonstrated live to anyone and everyone that handles handguns.

I also agree that the dry fire is a well intended but lousy procedure. It seems that due to IDPA and IPSC, we are stuck with it. If I were King, it would be abolished and stricken from the record (but then again, all "forward cocking serrations" and absolutely every form of every idiotic "press check" would be as well. But I am not King, cue energetic applause and relief)

As for ejecting live rounds, my usual procedure is to actually cover the ejection port as well as I can manage with the intention of having that loaded round bounce down the empty magazine well, which does a fine job at keeping the "lost round" close to me rather than 2-3 feet back and to my right. A visual confirmation that no loaded round stuck anywhere inside is absolutely part of the procedure.

As for teaching others these seemingly small but extremely important bits... well, the best guys make this look so easy, but it is far from that. A real pro can teach it every time, never miss, say enough without saying too much and most importantly IMO is to be able to pull that off while never alienating his student. Like many, I cringe when I witness poor instruction and poor delivery. Personally, I think we have too many "teachers" and Range Officers that know and practice the proper fundamentals but suck out loud at teaching, sharing and expressing them to others. Especially to new shooters, who should be treated like an asset to the sport or hobby or lifestyle.
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Re: When you're clearing a gun..

Postby calvin56 » Fri Jul 28, 2017 6:46 am

Sevens wrote:
As for ejecting live rounds, my usual procedure is to actually cover the ejection port as well as I can manage with the intention of having that loaded round bounce down the empty magazine well, which does a fine job at keeping the "lost round" close to me rather than 2-3 feet back and to my right.


I think this is what the OP was cautioning against. If you interfere with the ejection process you run the risk of the nose catching on the port and driving the primer into the ejector.

Since I asked for a clarification I obviously didn't fully understand the original post so I could be all wet here.
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Re: When you're clearing a gun..

Postby Brian D. » Fri Jul 28, 2017 8:44 am

calvin56 wrote:
Sevens wrote:
As for ejecting live rounds, my usual procedure is to actually cover the ejection port as well as I can manage with the intention of having that loaded round bounce down the empty magazine well, which does a fine job at keeping the "lost round" close to me rather than 2-3 feet back and to my right.


I think this is what the OP was cautioning against. If you interfere with the ejection process you run the risk of the nose catching on the port and driving the primer into the ejector.

Since I asked for a clarification I obviously didn't fully understand the original post so I could be all wet here.


You understood just fine. I have seen three such detonations out of untold hundreds in which the shooter was covering the ejection port to catch a chambered round during the unload and show clear process. And probably 80-90% of the time, shooters just let the round come out without trying to catch it.
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Re: When you're clearing a gun..

Postby JonasM » Tue Aug 01, 2017 10:22 am

Many ranges have a shelf a little over waist height in your lane. Ejecting a round while holding the firearm pointed at the backstop, rotated right 90 degrees points the round straight down towards the table. Minimal bouncing, no bending down to get it afterwards.
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Re: When you're clearing a gun..

Postby The German » Mon Oct 09, 2017 8:46 am

Just look at the round in the chamber as a 25cent coin (about the same value...) - would you go above and beyond to prevent such coin from dropping on the floor? So why going crazy over a round falling into the dirt?
I think that "concern" about ammo falling on the ground came from competitive shooters that did not want anything to bend/get dirty on their rounds (whether it makes sense or not)- for the day to day shooter, if you pick a round off of the ground, wipe it off so it does not have any sand particles on it and it is good to go...
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