When handling a firearm, always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. Acting as if the firearm is loaded, even when you know it is not, develops good habits.
Many firearms have a safety switch, and many do not. A safety switch is designed to prevent a loaded gun from firing while the safety is engaged.
WARNING - Safety switches are mechanical devices which can fail, and are not always clearly marked. Never rely only on a switch to prevent accidents; always practice safe firearm handling and keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction - even with the safety engaged.
Unloading and Checking to See if the Firearm is Clear (Empty)
1. Keeping your finger off the trigger, pick up the firearm with your right hand: place three fingers around the handle, your index (trigger) finger on the side, and your thumb on the left side
2. Identify the magazine release button. It is often on the left side and near or on the handle.
3. With the firearm pointed in a safe direction, hold the firearm in a normal, upright position
4. Press the magazine release button. The magazine should fall out via gravity. If it doesn't, tug on it lightly until it comes out
5. WARNING - even with the magazine removed, your gun could still be loaded and ready to fire a live round in the chamber
6. Identify the slide release button. It is usually on the left side, and placed next to the frame (lower portion, often plastic) and slide (upper portion, always metal)
7. With your right thumb, apply upward pressure on the side release. At the same time, bring your left hand over the slide, and grab the slide near the rear of the firearm. Pull the slide back until it locks back.
CAUTION - when bringing your left hand near the firearm to pull on the slide, do not move your hand or your arm in front of the barrel. Bring your hand over the top of the firearm, not in front of the firearm.
8. Keeping the barrel pointed in a safe direction, visually inspect the chamber to ensure it is empty. Also check with your fingers just to be sure
9. The firearm should now be unloaded
CAUTION - even though you have just cleared the firearm to ensure it is unloaded, always keep it pointed in a safe direction.
Unloading the Magazine
If the magazine, after removal from the firearm, if it still has ammunition in it, follow these steps.
1. With one hand, grab the magazine. Important - grab it with the ball of your hand rather than the palm of your hand. It should be in your fingers only.
2. Use your thumb to slide the rounds forward. They should pop out easily
Sometimes hollow point rounds will get caught. With your thumb, apply light downward pressure on the rear of the bullet so the front lifts up and doesn't get caught.
Loading the Magazine
1. Identify the front vs. the rear of the magazine. Magazines lean forward, so the outward edge of the lean is the front.
2. With your right hand, grab the magazine in the ball of your hand (not the palm). It should be in your fingers, and it should be easy and comfortable to place your right thumb on top of the magazine on the feed lips
3. With your left hand, pick up the front of one round (the round bullet end, not the flat primer end) using only one finger - your index finger - and thumb
4. Place the round on top of the magazine but in front of the feed lips. The round will stick out half way.
5. Using your right thumb, press down on top of the round so it goes below the feed lips, and then use your right thumb and left hand together to slide it backwards into the magazine, underneath the feed lips.
NOTE: If you placed the round completely over the top of the magazine, you placed it on top of the feed lips and you won't be able to press it down into the magazine. Slide the round forward so it is sticking out halfway, then press down and slide backwards
6. Repeat this process until the magazine is fully loaded. As you add more rounds, the spring in the magazine will get stiffer. If you have trouble loading the last few rounds, don't worry - just leave them out. It's not necessary to fully load the magazine if you don't want to.
Loading the Firearm
WARNING - In general, you should not load a firearm until it is ready to use. Once you load it, you must ensure that it is in your control and pointed in a safe direction at all times. Safety is your responsibility.
1. Identify a safe direction.
WARNING - Ensure the firearm is pointed in a safe direction at all times
2. Ensure the firearm is empty and unloaded, using the steps above. This will prevent double-feeds and double-loading
3. Load a magazine
4. The slide should be locked back. If it is not, follow the steps for emptying and unloading the firearm (above)
5. With your right hand, and with your finger outside the trigger guard, pick up the firearm. Place three fingers around the handle, your index finger on the right side (away from the trigger), and your thumb on the left side. Ensure you have a comfortable, stable grip
6. With your left hand, pick up the magazine and place it half-way into the magazine well in the bottom of the handle
7. With your left hand, slap the magazine quickly into the magazine well. It should lock/click in
8. With your left hand, tug on the magazine. Ensure it does not pop out. If it does, slap it firmly and check again
CAUTION - Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, and keep your fingers away from the trigger
9. With your right thumb, press the slide release. If the slide release is stiff or hard to press, assist with your left thumb. Let the slide jolt forward on its own
CAUTION - Do not grab the slide or try to hold it or assist it as it moves forward. This may cause the round to fail to chamber properly, and may result in a malfunction or a failure to fire.
10. If your firearm has a safety, you will need to turn the safety off before it can fire.
11. At this point, your firearm is loaded and ready to use.