On the Press Check

On Friday, Caleb had scheduled a post regarding the press check. He simply posed a question, and in true bloggy nature all of you answered with varying degrees of opinions and several insults. As you are all now stuck with me as primary content creator on Gun Nuts while Caleb is on a leave of absence for a couple months (a vast upgrade, I agree) I figured I would throw my opinion in with the bunch.

Now I'm a liar because I press-checked my M&P for this terrible photo. Also, I know my nails are chipped, sorry about that moment of weakness.
Now I’m a liar because I press checked my M&P for this terrible photo. Also, I know my nails are chipped, sorry about that moment of weakness.

Personally, if I’m picking up an unholstered gun, no matter its state or what it’s been doing, I press check it. Now, having said that, I haven’t looked inside the M&P that lives by my bed in like a week because, well, it’s been in a holster and it’s not like anyone’s been around to unload the thing. It hasn’t been touched since that night there was a screaming woman across the street (I’ve been trying to turn that into a blog post, but turning “I locked the doors and grabbed my gun and by the time I was at the window dialing the cops they were already there” into 300 words is more difficult than I previously imagined).

Press checks are an important part of a safety routine when you’re handling any firearm. On the same stroke, the holster is a lot safer place for a loaded gun than your hands. Which is why my M&P, for example, stays securely in its holster unless I know it’s been handled (so yes, the night with the screaming lady across the street it got a press check). My carry gun? Checked every morning before I holster it, because it’s being handled. It’s a pretty simple gut reaction for me.

So that’s where I draw the line between “paranoid about bullet gremlins” and “safety is the most important thing” (safety is the most important thing).


  1. Why would I crank my hand around awkwardly to press check if I can just check with two hands, would be my only slightly snarky comment.

    So, put me in the check it in the morning before I put it on, even if it was in the holster all night. But two-handed.

  2. I don’t know why everyone makes such a big deal about press checks…should you or should you not!? Do it if you want. Don’t if you don’t. I personally think it’s a great idea, mainly for the reasons you and Caleb mention…but the procedure does not make one a better shooter or ward of evil spirits. My day job until recently was a Navy flight instructor, and i always told my students that if you always put your gear down before you land, you’ll never land with your gear up. What I meant by this is the simple act of putting the landing gear handle down does not ensure the landing gear is down. Visual confirmation that it is down ensures that it is down. When you get to comfortable and say to yourself that it always goes down when I put the handle down so therefore I don’t really need to take the extra second to ensure it is down, is the time you are gonna land gear up. My .02

  3. Can anyone tell me why it’s called a “press check?” A press check is taking a run off a printing press to check for color, registration, and so on. How did this term migrate over to checking the chamber?

        1. It goes back at least to Jeff Cooper, so who knows what it was called before then.

  4. Well, around here I drilled it into the kids to ALWAYS assume the gun is loaded, because several are! Most don’t have one chambered, but a few do, Never had a accident, and my youngest is now 17, oldest is 34, they were told from the time they were able to walk to always ask me to get a gun if they want to see it so I can unload and make sure it’s safe.
    Worked for me…..

  5. I would agree that a press check is a valid safety routine with many handguns but not all. In this particular instance (and picture), I wouldn’t bother.

    S&W engineers have designed a handgun that doesn’t require a “press check” to confirm. The M&P series has a handy, dandy lil’ viewing port that allows one to confirm, at an instant, whether or not there is a round chambered.

      1. Exactly Jeff. The loaded chamber indicator on a M&P negates the necessity to perform a press check. Why else would anyone do a press check???

  6. Unless the gun has been out of your control, the incessant “checking” is silly and unnecessary. If you loaded it, it’s still loaded if you didn’t change anything. If you unloaded it, ditto. And the constant loading and unloading by some folks (and departments) is likewise silly and risky. Load, make ready, holster/secure, go about your business, period. It ain’t a tire and it’s not going to leak down..

  7. It’s called a press check because the likes of Jeff Cooper taught to press on the checkered guide rod plug to open the chamber enough to see brass (or not), presumably because the type has no loaded chamber indicator.

  8. Glad to see Gun Nuts has a new hand model. The one from that last “press check” article was uuugly.

  9. Visual indicators of a loaded chamber (hole to see casing, red dot, etc.) are nice for range days, but do not satisfy the need to confirm loaded status in a low-light situation. For that purpose I like the updated Glock extractor that has a tactile extension that is pushed outward when the chamber is loaded. Even in total darkness the shooter can slide their finger across the side of the slide and know if the chamber is loaded or not.

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