Order of Operations: The Safest Unloading Procedure

One Simple Trick to Never have a Negligent Discharge when Unloading Your Gun!

(Why the Order of Operations Matters)

If you’re like me, you are regularly administratively loading and unloading your firearms. I usually discourage people from excessive administrative handling of guns (e.g. gun selfies, pocket dumps, moving gun from belt to some car holster contraption), however sometimes it’s necessary. Whether it’s for nightly storage, cleaning, or for daily dry practice, I seem to be constantly unloading/loading my guns.

Better at hashtags than guns.

There is no shortage of people who have had negligent discharges (ND) while unloading, usually while cleaning guns that require pulling the trigger to disassemble. It goes like this (or a similar variation):

  1. Be distracted
  2. Remove magazine to remove source of bullets
  3. Be about to rack the slide to clear the chamber when something interesting comes on the TV…
  4. Pull down take-down levers and try to remember if you racked the slide, decide you probably did.
  5.  press trigger…*ears ringing*…Whoops…

Order of Operation Matters

I never gave much thought to the process of unloading. I’d just take the magazine out, rack the slide a few times, then look for an empty chamber and empty magwell, and I was done. That had worked well for me for a long time because I try to not be complacent. Then Claude Werner asked me a question.

CW – “What is the source of ammo into the gun?”

Me – “the… magazine?”

CW -“Everyone thinks the magazine feeds the gun. It doesn’t. The chamber does. Until the chamber is rendered safe, the gun is loaded.”

Me – 

Unload and Show Clear

As a small aside, I have also adopted Claude’s method of marking the bottom of my chambered cartridges after unloading with a sharpie. A single line next to the primer. Rotate a cartridge with 5 marks to the bottom of the magazine. When the whole magazine has cartridges with 5 marks, shoot that magazine. This allows 80 unloadings in a 16 shot gun. This technique will prevent projectiles from pushing into the case from countless chamberings and keep your defensive ammo more reliable.

A small alteration in technique can pay dividends over the course of your shooting career. I’ve made the switch to this more robust and foolproof method.

Let me know what you think. Thank you for reading.

Be Safe,

Mark
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Securing Your Guns from Unauthorized Access

  1. All guns are always loaded.

  2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.

  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.

  4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

    —Jeff Cooper[2]

Reciting the four universal firearms safety rules should be part of your subconscious routine every time you see or handle a gun. No exceptions. I personally like to throw in two extra rules when I’m teaching people.

  1. Never try to catch a falling gun. (heard from James Yeager at Tactical Response)
  2. Prevent access to your guns by unauthorized persons. (heard from Claude Werner at The Tactical Professor)

Let’s concentrate on the last rule there. Who are we trying to prevent from accessing our guns and how do we prevent unauthorized people from accessing them? Obviously, we want to keep criminals away from our guns. But there are a few other groups of people that we want to deny access to guns that you should consider. How about our children, nosy neighbors, or our nosy neighbors’ children?

CNN Study – Kids access to guns is a preventable problem and 2 year old shoots himself

The easiest and most robust solution there is getting a large gun safe and anchoring it into the cement in the basement. This works wonderfully for storing guns for which you have no immediate need (i.e. not our go-to home defense weapons). But how do we keep home defense guns quickly accessible to us and not to them? I’ll list several options, some better and some way worse than others.

  • Elevated position. This is the worst of the bunch, by a long shot. If children are your only concern, it’s still the worst. The problem is that, yeah, they might not be able to climb up there and reach your gun yet, but when they can, it could be too late. Don’t do it once the kid can walk. I had a scary three seconds about ten months ago when my little guy was pulling himself up to standing that made me realize that if he can see the gun, he’ll find a way to try to touch it. Never again. Here’s some footage to demonstrate the point (thanks Chuck H. of the Topeka Police for posting this)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fnsf6i9FzA?rel=0&w=420&h=315]

This is probably high enough to keep him away for another year. But I don’t count on it.
  • Stack-On PS-520 Super-Sized Personal Safe with Electronic Lock
    This has been a very workable option for me for the last 2 years. I have an easy to remember code (different from the PINs that my son might watch us type at the grocery store) and I currently store this safe near the bed. I have also stored it in the coat closet near the entry of our previous home. I don’t have this lagged down, as I’m not as concerned with a thief breaking in and running away with this safe. It only contains my home defense setup (upcoming post on this). I can quickly roll out of bed and get my gear and enact my home defense plans. I preventatively change the batteries once a year and remind myself with a google calendar reminder.
IMG_4490
The only addition I need to make is a battery powered dome light on the outside of this safe so that I can fully see the keypad in the dark. I’m pleased with this safe.(key code version).

Gunvault SpeedVault SV500 gun safe
(key code version). This is my next purchase. I’d like to secure it on the first floor in a place that myself or my wife can access as we answer the door. I don’t own this yet, but I’ve been told that you can easily defeat the biometric version with some simple tools, so avoid that one.

I think this is a brilliant safe. Securing against a wall in a closet, or on the back of a cabinet, it should be a real winner.
  • GunVault NV300 NanoVault with Combination Lock
    This is the best $30 you can spend. You can use this as a travel safe when you visit hotels, in your car, or even in a drawer if you only need to secure a pistol. I programmed a palindromic number (same forward as backwards) so that under stress I could open the safe regardless of orientation. It has been a great all around value.

IMG_4487

  • On your person!!! This is what I do until I go to sleep at night. My ‘house gun’ is a Ruger LCP with a crimson trace laser, clip-draw , and a Hogue Handall. I don’t like the idea of having to request that a home invader standby while I open my safe, so I just carry a gun at home. Makes sense to me. If you read lots of defensive gun use stories online, you’ll see many examples of when a man has to engage a home invader empty handed and his wife runs to get the gun and has to make a near contact shot on the bad guy. There’s lots of considerations in this scenario that we can talk about soon.

That’s it for now. If you have any suggestions on securing long guns from kids, and keeping them quick to access, please let me know. I’ve been toying with some design ideas that I am considering building since no good solution seems to exist.

Edit To Add: Found this on Amazon. ShotLock Shotgun Solo-Vault This looks like it might be the ticket for a quick access shotgun if that’s the direction you want to go.