min read
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, as the action is taking the slide back a small amount, until the chamber is exposed. However, one doesn't want to take the slide back too far - else one will engage the ejector and expel a round from the chamber.

How big a worry is accidentally ejecting a round, though?

Not much, really - you just take the slide back far enough to see the round.

However, the "press check" technique is called that because the carrier/operator of the firearm "presses" the slide back from the muzzle end of the slide, rather than pulling from the rear. Hence, why it's called a "press check" rather than a pull check.

One of the easiest ways to do it is press on the end of the slide around the muzzle with one's thumb and forefinger until the chamber is exposed and confirmation of the loaded or unloaded status of the firearm is rendered.

The other method is to hold the slide further down; a lot of people will grip the slide behind the front sight, squeeze between the thumb and forefinger and do the same thing - take the slide slightly back and see if it's loaded.

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.