checking concealed carry stage

What's Is A Press Check?

Ever hear of something called a press check and wonder just what it is? A handgun press check is a simple technique for checking whether a firearm is loaded, in case you don't trust or don't have a loaded chamber indicator on your pistol.

It only works on semi-autos, so people who carry a revolver won't be using the technique.

How To Correctly Perform A Press Check

A press check is fairly uncomplicated. 

You grasp the slide and pull back just far enough to see the cartridge in the chamber, then you let the slide go forward again. 

You don't want to pull the slide all the way back - that will eject a chambered cartridge - but instead just enough to get a peek at the mouth of the chamber. 

A press check can be performed a number of ways. 

The original method was to press the slide back under the muzzle, which is where the practice gets its name, as the practice was developed back when a lot more people carried a 1911. You'd press on the recoil spring plunger and the barrel bushing with the support hand. 

What's become more common is to grasp the gun near the muzzle and pull back a little bit, just far enough to expose the chamber. 

You can also pull back on the rear cocking serrations, or even grab the slide while hooking your thumb under the beavertail of the frame and pushing the rear sight back with your fingers. 

Whatever method you use, the action remains the same. 

Why Bother With A Press Check? 

Some people decry the practice as range theatrics, unnecessary and so on. There's some truth there, but there's also some oversight at the same time. 

On the one hand, you should always act like a gun is loaded. Always. It's literally the foundation of safe gun handling and it should always be done, all the time, without fail or exception. If you always act like a gun is loaded, you don't need to check to see if a gun is loaded because you're going to be safe with it anyway! 

On paper, that makes some sense! But it's also a little short-sighted. 

Let's say you're taking a pistol out of your safe to carry it. Do you know for a fact that it's loaded? Do you store your guns that way? Do you only carry one pistol or do you occasionally carry a different gun? 

We could go on, but the point is that it is not difficult at all for there to be circumstances where you may not know to a certainty that a particular firearm you have is loaded. 

Or what if you stumbled onto someone else's gun? There are people out here that carelessly leave guns in bathrooms. Even police have done it and they're the professionals. A press check can tell you its condition. 

It's also the case that guns are machines and machines sometimes fail. So there's some value to checking to see if it actually chambered a round. 

Now can press checks be used as range theatrics? Absolutely. Do you have to do one every time you load the gun? No! Of course not. 

But does being able to quickly determine the condition of a gun have value? Yes, and trying to pretend otherwise is just silly. 

Why This Changed How Handgun Slide Serrations Are Made

serrations for easy brass check

Believe it or not, the press check changed how gun makers machine handgun slide serrations.

Have or ever seen a pistol that has forward serrations, up by the front sight?

Those are there in order to make press checking easier, or cocking by grasping that section of the slide. It would seem odd to do so, but some people do so or at least do so in some situations. It's an especially popular modification for tactically optimized pistols or option on tactical models of various handguns.

Likewise, a number of aftermarket suppliers that make slides for various handguns that do have front slide serrations, which are - again - at least in part purpose-built for press checking.

How To Check Safely...If You Don't Have a Loaded Chamber Indicator

checking handgun status

A lot of pistols these days come standard with a loaded chamber indicator - which, for those unfamiliar, is basically a little tab that sticks up when a pistol is loaded. Some older designs may lack it, but an LCI is actually mandatory in some states, such as California.

If one must press check, one should at least do so safely - as observing proper gun safety.

For proper press check safety, observe the rules of gun safety. Ensure the barrel is pointed in a safe direction and keep your finger off the trigger. That way, there's no chance of an accidental discharge and everything that one entails.

Definitely don't press check in public. If you are carrying and forget if you're in Condition Three or not, don't just whip it out and check it - excuse yourself to a private location to press check, such as a restroom stall, one's car or anywhere else where prying eyes and gun shy Johns or Janes Q Public won't see a gun and lose their minds.

Sam Hoober

About The Author

Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.