What's in a word?

The other day I heard the term “press check”, it was used by an instructor in a public format. The term caught my attention as I was curious why would he use the term, then I realized he was probably just substituting the term to describe a process.

So, what’s in a word or in this case a phrase. Well, a press check is a throw back to the days of lore where the old war horse was very popular. The technique was used to perform a chamber verification or that a live round was indeed chambered. It started by placing the weak hand thumb in the trigger guard and then the weak hand trigger finger on the recoil spring plug. Once both digits were situated the shooter would deactivate the safety and “press” his digits together which brought the slide out of battery about a quarter inch or so. From this point it was easy for the shooter to visually “check” the chamber and verify a live round was loaded. Hence the term “press check”.

The technique is mainly isolated to single action weapon systems such as the M1911. Just about any other modern day service pistol however requires a different technique from a mechanical point of view, but there is also the safety component that should seem obvious. While I did not witness this account, in discussing the technique with several range masters at a facility I once worked at brought about an observation one had made. A student who had traditionally shot a full size was working with a commander size, a slightly shorter slide variant. The shooter’s large hands engulfed the slide and when he released the slide his thumb accidentally bumped the trigger firing a round. His trigger finger was injured and in the recoil process his middle finger was also injured as the trigger was bumped a second time. Talk about insult to injury.

So, why do I bring this up. Well, a couple of reasons. Hopefully we as a community are not teaching this technique as there are several other substitutes far more efficient and safer. Another reason is about terminology. It’s important to use clear and concise communication when teaching or instructing and it makes more sense the instructor was substituting the press check term for the action of performing a more modern weapon’s check. Lastly, providing some history. The last point is depressing as I realize how old I am if I am bringing this up 🙁

So, what goes into a weapon’s check. Techniques vary from instructor to instructor, but the principle should not. It is one part to the two part act of making ready, task one is to fully load the pistol…then stop. However you load your pistol, it should replicate combat conditions. Meaning you should perform the load as if it were for real. Some will lock the slide back to facilitate authenticity, whether the slide is locked to the rear is subordinate to the action itself. As long as you perform a genuine action to load the objective is being meet. A critical step is you should always complete this part by obtaining a firing grip. Then begins part two, the weapon’s check. Visually inspect the chamber by pulling the slide to the rear, release and ensure the slide goes back into battery. Activate any safeties or de-cock then visually inspect the magazine, a good time to top off or exchange for a fully loaded magazine. Ensure your supporting equipment like lights and optics if present are functioning and that should complete the weapon’s check leaving you with a fully operational weapon.

On the range, we use the term “make ready”. It encompasses the two tasks; to fully loading and the weapon’s check. But now you know the whole story.

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