If you ve been on the job for any time, you probably know someone who s been out on duty and discovered their gun wasn t loaded. Maybe it s even happened to you. A former chief of mine was man enough to reveal it happened to him one night when he was called out while off-duty.
Stuff happens. That s why we devise compensatory habits. In this case, you should know how to slightly retract your pistol s slide so you can see brass in the chamber. New pistols make it easier with mechanisms that allow you to check without manipulating the slide. Habitually check the chamber every time you pick up a gun that s been out of your control. These instances include taking the gun out of a safe, putting it on after a night s sleep, or any other time the gun s been out of your direct control even if it's just a few minutes and you re sure no one messed with it.
I also drop the magazine to ensure it s loaded, and after replacing it, I give it a good whack to make sure it s seated. Of course, you should also check the chamber to ensure it s empty for training drills, etc.
Note: Like anything, chamber checks can be overdone. Go to any shooting range, and you ll see shooters conducting checks almost every time they unholster their gun. There s no harm doing so on the range or in a match, but we should train for the way we ll have to fight. Habitually checking the chamber when the gun hasn t been out of your control is not only unnecessary, it s dangerous.
As George Harris, director of the Sig Sauer Academy, emphasizes, you should already know the state of any weapon in your control. Rob Pincus, training director at the Valhalla Training Center, points out that the middle of a fight is no time for a chamber check. Yet he sees this habit all the time when he runs students through force-on-force training. Remember: Under stress we automatically act as we ve trained.
Ralph Mroz is the co-founder and training director of the Police Officers Safety Association. For free force-training videos, visit www.posai.org.