Unloading and Dry Practice

posted on December 25, 2020
Are you a new shooter, perhaps one of the more than 7 million people who bought their first firearm last year? Do you keep defensive firearms in your home, or do you regularly carry a concealed pistol? This new monthly department for America’s 1st Freedom is designed to provide some practical tips and drills to improve the skills of new gun owners and those who are looking to learn something new.

We begin with the most-basic thing of all: We must always assume a gun is loaded until we have personally checked it. Here are the steps to properly unload semi-automatic pistols and revolvers.

Semi-Automatic Pistol
1 Point the gun in a safe direction. Keep your finger off the trigger and completely out of the trigger guard as you do so. Also, keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction at all times.

2 Remove the source of the ammunition. In the case of a semi-automatic pistol, the source of ammunition is the magazine. Depress the magazine-release button and remove the magazine.

3 Pull back on the slide while pushing up on the slide-lock, and the slide will lock back. If there was a round in the chamber, it should eject as you pull back the slide. (Note: If you cannot safely manipulate the slide back and the slide-lock up at the same time, you may be able to put an empty magazine in and pull the slide back to its locking position. Be certain the magazine is completely unloaded before using it.)

4 With the slide locked back, visually and physically (stick your pinky finger in the barrel from the action end) confirm the pistol is unloaded.

Common defensive revolvers are a little easier to check.

1 Point the gun in a safe direction with your finger off the trigger and completely out of the trigger guard. Keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction at all times.

2 Push or pull the cylinder release and swing the cylinder open to the left.

3 Tilt the barrel up slightly (continue to keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction) and push down on the extractor rod to dump any ammunition from the cylinder’s chambers into your hand.

4 Look at and touch the chambers to make certain they are all empty. As an additional safety check, I like to count the cartridges to make sure I got them all out of the gun.

If you think about these steps–remove the ammunition source, then check the chamber(s)—you can also unload just about any other firearm, like a rifle or shotgun.

While the gun is unloaded, try some dry practice. I like to designate a dry-practice area in my home as the only place I will pull a trigger.

Dry Practice
1 Set up a target on a surface that will stop a bullet without hurting anyone if you somehow managed to accidently fire the gun.

2 Check the gun—and then check it again—to make certain it’s unloaded. Keep all ammunition completely out of the dry-practice area.

3 Exercising all the safety rules and fundamentals needed for regular shooting practice (gripping with both hands, looking through the rear sight and focusing on the front sight, etc.), point the gun at your safe target and smoothly press the trigger.

4 When the gun “fires” (clicks), the front sight should not move or dip. Keep at it until you can do this correctly, with no dipping or other unnecessary movements. Do this about 25 times.

Running through this routine of unloading and inspecting the gun—followed by dry practice—several times a week will lay the foundation for safe shooting. Dry practice is recommended by many instructors as an inexpensive, but very effective, way to improve both familiarity with your gun and your shooting skills.


NRA Logo On Blue
NRA Logo On Blue

NRA Adds ACLU As Co-Counsel, Bolstering Legal Team on First Amendment Case

The NRA announced the addition of the ACLU as co-counsel in its First Amendment case.

More Than Half of State Attorneys General Demand Answers from Biden

The group submitted a formal comment letter addressing the ATF’s proposed rulemaking regarding the “Definition of ‘Engaged in Business’ as a Dealer in Firearms.”

Another Armed Californian Saves His Family

Robberies and burglaries are increasingly occurring in the Golden State.

This is What Empowering Women Really Looks Like

With gun ownership on the rise throughout the nation, women are one huge demographic that has seen noticeable growth in this area. Such is why one NRA firearms instructor built a self-defense training company that caters exclusively to women.

What’s Next for Oregon?

When a circuit court judge imposed a permanent injunction against Oregon’s anti-freedom measure last week, it was just the latest skirmish in a year-long, up-and-down battle against the sweeping, poorly conceived law.

The Armed Citizen® December 4, 2023

True stories of the right to keep and bear arms.

Get the best of America's 1st Freedom delivered to your inbox.