A Nurse with a Gun

Monday, September 24, 2007

Passing Guns

Question: When a salesman checks the chamber of a gun before he closes it and hands it to you, should you check it again? Wouldn't that be rude?

I always check a closed weapon that is handed to me. I always hand it back with an open chamber and a stern look in the other man's eye.

Click to enlargeProper etiquette would require the salesman to hand you a pistol with the slide locked back, chamber open, for inspection. A revolver would be handed to you with the cylinder swung open for inspection. A rifle would have the bolt locked back. Since he handed you a closed chamber, it was he who violated proper etiquette, not you. Thus your checking the closed chamber handed to you should not raise protest. Make sure you hand the weapon back with the chamber open.

Among experienced gun handlers and salesmen, this is how they instantly know if they are dealing with another experienced handler or a novice. Checking that closed chamber sends a subtle message that you know what you are doing. Handing it back chamber open tells the other person you damned sure know what you are doing.

This etiquette comes from the military. An inspecting officer is always handed a rifle or sidearm with an open chamber that has been checked by the bearer in the officer's presence. This occurs with formal inspections and changing of guards. It is courtesy. Note too, that when the officer hands the weapon back, the chamber is open, whether he has manipulated the action or not.The bearer then again checks the chamber before placing the weapon at rest.

Keep your booger hook off the bang switch too.



Blogger Leon said...

Great advice. I took a friend to a local gun show last weekend. He is preparing to get his CCW and wanted to look at what was available in used handguns. I gave him the same explanation as we drove to the show.

8:12 PM  
Blogger Freddyboomboom said...

Another note: If the person who handed you the weapon gets indignant about you checking after them, that's a hint to stay far away from that person...

10:12 PM  
Anonymous Seth from Massachusetts said...

One dealer I know even goes so far as to first check the piece, then hand it to the customer with the ejection port at an angle where the customer can clearly see into it, saying in a firm voice "It is clear" as he does so.

10:37 PM  
Blogger phlegmfatale said...

That is very good to know.

11:10 PM  
Blogger Chris Byrne said...

I have never NOT chamber checked over a gun counter, and never will. It only takes one ND (and I've witnessed more than a couple)to permanently ingrain that habit into you.

I also generally chamber check, and present a cleared and locked open weapon in personal situations; though if the person is someone I know to be competent in handling a weapon, I will simply inform them the weapon is hot.

If I don't know their competence, I will NEVER under any circumstances hand over a hot weapon.

12:05 AM  
Blogger Not Too Pensive said...

I am not yet a gun owner (what with law school tuition, books, a mortgage payment, food, and my wife's law school tuition and books as well... as I'm fond of putting it, the greatest threat we need to defend ourselves from at this point is starvation and homelessness) but I must confess to window shopping often. It never ceases to amaze me how poorly people handle firearms at the counter. Perfectly reasonable looking people never check the chambers, point them at whoever and whatever (salespeople, other customers, etc.) and start pulling the trigger. Even though I have only been handgun shooting a handful of times - and absolutely love it - even I know better than that. I always check the chamber, and magazine prior to putting my finger anywhere near the trigger, and always ask the salesman permission before actually pointing the gun anywhere (almost always the floor or an area where I'm directed to point) and pulling the trigger.

I can't say how many times some fool at the counter has actually pointed a gun at me and pulled the trigger, as if they were looking for "practice" on a person. To say it pisses me off would be a grave understatement.

1:06 AM  
Anonymous Will said...

I had a learning experience early on in my handgun buying days. several of us were watching a movie on a roommates new big screen tv. Movie had a big revolver with scope. Went to my safe, grabbed my Redhawk .41mag with a new scope mounted, swung the loaded cylinder open over my bed, closed the cyl and took it into the tv room. I passed it to someone with it closed, and he, and the others, proceeded to eye the screen through the scope before passing it back to me. Upon returning to my room, I discovered that one cartridge had remained in a sticky chamber! Thankfully, NO ONE had pulled the trigger, as is common in these gunhandling situations. (BTW, my room was unlit, as was the tv room.)
Always check the chamber when you pick up a gun, and never assume that it is unloaded! That was probably the cheapest major lesson I've ever learned.
Oh, and I proceeded to inform all the attendees of the mistake I had made, and gently pointed out that everyone there had made essentially the same mistake by not looking themselves. I love a teaching moment!

Xavier, this brings up a related question. Upon occasion, someone with known gunhandling knowledge will ask to see a handgun that is currently loaded. For this type of individual, I will normally state its' loaded condition, and carefully hand it over if the location is appropriate. Frankly, unless the intention is to feel the trigger action, or peer into its guts, I would just as soon not perform an administrative type function as that is the most likely scenario for an AD or out of battery ignition with an auto. In addition, an open cylinder is a somewhat delicate condition, and some auto aficionados can be unintentionally ham handed. Of course, if I am at all unsure of their skill/knowledge, I unload it, or decline to allow it to be handled.
Do you have an opinion on this?

3:53 AM  
Blogger Xavier said...

I do, Will.

Again, I fall back on military etiquitte. The bearer first inspects his weapon before passing it to his relief or inspecting officer to insure he does not give the other man a loaded weapon. Two sets of eyes are better than one. Saying "It's hot" is the obverse of saying "It's not loaded."

If I'm going to pass a known loaded weapon to anyone, I don't care if it's Jimmy Clark or Jerry Miculek, I empty the chamber, and drop the magazine on a pistol, or dump the cylinder on a revolver. The last thing I would want to occur is to be wrong about the weapon I handed them, saying it was loaded when it was not, or unloaded when it was. One move makes you look silly, the other makes you an outcast. Incidentally, this is why you shouldn't go around asking to see someone's carry gun.

The reason the bearer checks the weapon is to insure it is not loaded prior to relinquishing it.

If the recipient gets perturbed, I just inform them that is how I learned in the military. As you stated in your story, mistakes can be made regardless of competency, and the other man, no matter how competent, may also make a mistake in assuming your words are correct. The result could be tragedy. They check it to keep me safe, I check it to keep them safe. Together, we keep each other safe, as well as ourselves.

These are small things we give up within our egos to keep everyone safe.

5:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

is there any similar etiquette for single-action revolvers? just in case i ever buy an old Nagant 1895, which loads as if single-action...

8:23 AM  
Anonymous Weetabix said...

I always feel like they think I'm being rude.

But that doesn't stop me.

9:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's a shop here in San Diego that I don't go to anymore, because the guy behind the counter scoffed and gave me a look when I returned the pistol I was checking out with the slide locked back.

There's another shop I now go to more often, because the owner mentioned that he appreciated my proper gun handling.

11:43 AM  
Blogger Keith Walker said...

Not only do I visually check the chamber, I also stick my pinky in to feel if there is a round in there or not. I picked up that tip from XB on this blog some time ago.

If people get upset with me, I just explain that it isn't a matter of trust. It is a matter of avoiding a mistake... and ANYONE can make those.

4:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A couple of months ago I asked to handle a pistol on display at a local gunstore, and to my chagrin, the clerk (a pleasant middle aged gentleman who competes in IPSC) pulled the firearm out of the case, covered nearly everybody in the store (I had to move out of the way to avoid being covered by the muzzle), and handed it to me without even checking the action. Though I was taken aback, I didn't want to embarrass him or piss him off, since I wanted to purchase the pistol. However, after I inspected it I returned it to him, action open, ejection port visible to him.

7:33 PM  
Blogger Tennessee Budd said...

Amen, Xavier! I always check a weapon, and I never hand a loaded weapon to anyone else.
When I was much younger (teens), I was at a friend's house. I had my .410 with me, and he asked to see it. I said, clearly, that it was loaded. He proceeded to point it toward a spot high on one wall and squeeze the trigger! Thankfully, he didn't aim lower, as it was his parents' bedroom. He still has abysmal handling habits---and he NEVER touches any weapon of mine.

12:14 PM  
Blogger Last Chance Safari Company said...

more people are hurt by an unloaded weapon than any otherr type of weapon. cycling the action and returning to "ready to fire condition for any type of weapon allows for an ND. leaving the action open not only gives me confidence that indeed the firearm is unloaded, put also allows the weapon to be handled in an inert condition, but at all times it is important to remember that the gun has no conscience, and no ambition, your safety is all about how the weapon is handled. any shit for brains two dollar clerk that has a fragile ego because I am concerned with my sfety and the safeety of everyone else in attedance, won'tget my business

2:40 PM  
Blogger R Ryan said...

My .02

I've taught my boys, that if I check the chamber, show it to them, and then hand them the weapon, the first thing I expect them to do is check the chamber again.

When it comes to firearms, no amount of caution is too much.

8:14 PM  
Anonymous Sans Authoritas said...

"If I'm going to pass a known loaded weapon to anyone, I don't care if it's Jimmy Clark or Jerry Miculek, I empty the chamber, and drop the magazine on a pistol, or dump the cylinder on a revolver."

Xavier, I would recommend dropping the mag, then clearing the chamber.

5:16 PM  

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