Three Gun, USPSA, IDPA, Steel challenge, Bullseye, Single Action Shooting Society a.k.a. Cowboy Action. All very different competitions yet all share one common set of commands.
When the shooter stops the Range Safety Officer will say:
“If Finished, unload, show clear.”
After the shooter follows this command the Range Safety Officer will say:
“If Clear, Hammer down and holster.”
The reason the shooting sports have such an amazing reputation for safety and it is why they are the same commands you should hear in your head every time you are done shooting. Every time.
One of the areas for potential accidents with a firearm is replacing a gun into it’s carry bag, safe or any other storage area without properly clearing it. I was uncomfortably close by when a hunter pulling a rifle from a case discharged a weapon he thought was empty. Funny how often gun accidents happen with “empty guns.” This time it only ended in embarrassment; but all too often it ends in tragedy. But if we followed these simple commands we would never have to experience the gut-wrenching fear that follows a negligent discharge. Lets break them down.
Unload! This means the weapon is empties of all rounds. There are many different ways that weapons feed rounds and thus there can be different methods of accomplishing this action for different guns.
Bottom line: If you do not know how to unload a weapon; DON’T LOAD IT!
Where people who know better make the mistake most often is with a magazine fed weapon. The most common error is they will attempt to clear the chamber before removing the magazine. This action will eject the round in the chamber; but then feed in a new round. The shooter thinks they have cleared the gun when in fact they have loaded the weapon. Always remember; magazine first; then work the action to clear the weapon.
Show Clear. To show clear it means that you look in the chamber. This doesn’t mean pretend to look; it means to LOOK in the chamber. Work the action several times and check not once, but twice and even three times is never a bad idea. Show Clear, Know Clear. Remember the next thing you are going to do is pull the trigger. Knowing that is what happens next; maybe one more quick peek makes sense.
Hammer Down. This means with the weapon pointing in the safest direction you have available to you, pull the trigger. Do not de-cock the gun! Pull the trigger. If something stupid is going to happen let it happen when your weapon is ideally pointing down range or at the dirt. Pull that trigger. With a striker fire gun you have just turned that weapon into a paper weight as it will require a full working of the slide to get the weapon back into fireable configuration.
So, every time you shoot. Every time! Hear the commands; if finished, Unload, Show Clear. If Clear, Hammer down.