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by Ben Jimenez 4 min read

Most experienced gun owners know how to unload a handgun. Unfortunately, two problems can arise. First, experienced shooters can become too relaxed with their firearms, which leads to accidents. Second, inexperienced gun owners who think they know how to unload a handgun make common mistakes that put everyone in jeopardy.

The following guide will teach new handgun owners how to unload their weapons properly. It will also remind veteran shooters to stay vigilant. No amount of experience with a handgun eliminates danger, so it makes sense to get an occasional reminder that focuses on firearm safety.

Safety First! Keep Your Finger Off the Trigger and Never Point the Weapon at Anyone

You’ve probably heard this since you were a child: never point your gun at anything you don't want to shoot!

If you have children you want to raise to respect handguns, you’re probably as sick of saying it as you are of hearing it.

Despite everyone knowing this rule, hundreds of people die in the U.S. from unintentional shootings. Because of this reality, everyone who uses a firearm needs to hear the message over and over.

Before you even start to unload your handgun, make sure you place your finger away from the trigger and you point the muzzle away from anything you do not want to shoot, including people, animals, and walls.

An abundance of caution is the only correct way to unload your handgun.

Remove the Magazine From Your Handgun

Holding your handgun in your dominant hand, push the magazine release inward. Have your non-dominant hand positioned under the magazine. When the magazine slides out, you want it to gently land in your hand. You do not want it to fall more than a couple of inches. The farther the magazine drops, the more opportunities you create for something to go wrong.

Place the magazine in a secure location, such as your pocket, a table, or a magazine holster.

You may still have a round in the handgun’s chamber. You can clear the chamber by pulling the slide back with your non-dominant hand. If there’s a round in the chamber, it should eject. Don’t take any risks here by placing your hand over the ejection port or trying to catch the round in mid-air. Just let the round eject and lay where it may. If you keep your hand over the ejection port, there is a chance that you could accidentally fire the weapon.

Remember, you should never have your finger on the trigger while unloading your handgun! 

Visually Confirm that No Cartridge is in the Chamber or Barrel

A round in the chamber can fly out of the ejection port quickly, so you might not see it. Take a few seconds to inspect the chamber to make sure it’s empty. Hold the slide back while you inspect the chamber. You should have a clear view with nothing in the way.

If you are not completely certain that the chamber is empty, do not proceed. Treat the gun as if it’s still loaded and ready to fire.

Avoid Common Mistakes When You Unload Your Handgun

Take special care to avoid the following common mistakes that people make when learning how to unload a handgun. Beginners tend to follow the rules closely. As you get more comfortable with your weapon, you might start taking it for granted. Do not let yourself get lazy!

Never Remove the Magazine After Emptying the Chamber

You must always remove the magazine first when unloading your gun. Otherwise, the magazine could load a new round into the chamber.

If you pull back the slide to eject a round from the chamber, then remove the magazine, the magazine could put a new round into the chamber. Always clear the chamber last. If you follow the steps in the wrong direction, you could have a loaded gun ready to fire.

Never Multitask While Unloading Your Firearm

Once you get to know your handgun, it should only take a few seconds to unload it. Give the process your full attention. When you begin the unloading process, do not:

  • Talk to your friends.
  • Answer the phone.
  • Reach for another weapon.
  • Retrieve your target.
  • Walk.

You only have one task on your mind when you unload your handgun. Don’t let anything else distract you.

Get to Know and Respect Every Part of Your Firearm

The more you know about every part of your handgun, the safer you can behave when loading and unloading it. Cleaning your gun regularly gives you plenty of chances to become familiar with every part of your weapon.

In addition to how to unload a handgun, many people wonder how often they should clean their guns. You should give your gun a light cleaning after each practice session. Even if you don’t use your firearm, you should oil it once per week.

Field strip, clean, and inspect every piece of your gun every time you practice. Whether you fire 50 or 250 rounds, you should field strip and clean your handgun afterward so it can operate as safely as possible. Carry your cleaning kit when you go to the range—having it will help you remember to clean the weapon before leaving.

Recommended reading: Complete Guide to Care and Maintenance of Your CCW Handgun

Protect Your Handgun With a Holster From Concealment Express

No matter what type of CCW you own, you can protect your model by carrying it in a holster from Concealment Express. Concealment Express makes all of its holsters from durable Kydex material in the United States. We’re so certain you will get the quality you deserve that we offer a lifetime warranty on every product we sell.

Browse our selection of IWB, tuckable IWB, OWB paddle, OWB belt loop, and hybrid tuckable holsters to find the perfect match for your handguns. When you have a holster that conceals your weapon without blocking access to it, you improve the safety of everyone around you.

If you have any questions, visit our FAQ page or reach out to our headquarters to get the information you need.

Ben Jimenez
Ben Jimenez


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