Clearing Presents Danger

Tamara Keel tells that sometimes the way people clear their loaded pistols gives her the willies. Too much focus on unloading the gun, and not enough on unloading the gun.

Top: Too much concern for controlling the cartridge; not enough concern for controlling the pistol. Left: The slide is firmly controlled and the muzzle points safely downrange.

 

Can I share a pet peeve with y’all? Sometimes the way people clear their loaded pistols gives me the willies.

No, I don’t mean the really bad way, where they forget to drop the magazine first and go putting a hole in the berm when they reflexively drop the hammer on their now “unloaded” gun; I’m talking about ways that look fine on the surface, but might actually be, well, less than optimal in the safety department. The reason that these two methods bother me is that they seem to put a lot of attention on the ejected cartridge and not enough on the pistol: Too much focus on unloading the gun, and not enough on unloading the gun.

One way looks really stylish and flashy: I’m talking about the one where they run the slide briskly, sending the cartridge on a glittering rainbow trajectory and then deftly catch the ejected round in midair. I’ll admit that it looks neat and all, but while they’re trying to play Joe Cool, with their attention focused on that glittering piece of flying brass, an appalling number of them forget that … Hey! Ken Griffey Jr.! You’ve still got a pistol in your other hand while you’re trying to run down that pop fly! It’s all too easy to fumble muzzle discipline when you’re focused on pretty, shiny, flying things.

 

Look, gravity works. I know that precious cartridge cost a whole quarter, but just let it fall on the ground.

 

The other clearing method that gives me the willies is one which looks much more methodical and careful than the “catch the flying cartridge” one. I’m talking about where the shooter carefully places their hand over the ejection port so that the precious live round, costlier and more delicate than a Fabergé egg, can be gently cradled in the palm of the support hand as it rolls free of the ejection port. Which is great, but again, too much attention is being focused on the ejected round and not enough on, you know, the gun. Besides, with you trapping it in the ejection port, if your hand on the slide slips, you could get a palmful of red-hot brass shards when the primer gets jammed up against something sharp by the closing slide.

Alternatively, when the shooter uses the second method, it’s possible for the round to not fully eject and bounce back toward the feedway. When this happens, if the slide is run briskly again, the primer can come in contact with the ejector in some pistols. Either way, the result is the same: burns, brass slivers, and maybe even stitches. Anybody who’s Range Officered enough matches has probably seen it, or knows someone who has.

Look, gravity works. I know that precious cartridge cost a whole quarter, but just let it fall on the ground. It’s okay to watch where it falls out of the corner of your eye, but most of your attention should be focused on safeing and securing the pistol. A little dirt won’t hurt the cartridge, and it’ll still be right there where it landed when you’re done, okay?

 

[ Tamara Keel has been shooting guns as a hobby since she was eighteen. She has worked in the firearms business since the early 1990s. Her pastimes include collecting old guns, writing, and being bossed around by house cats. ]

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