How to Clear a Handgun: The Basics of Handgun Handling

Whether it’s the end of a practice session at the range or you’re just looking to store away your personal firearm for a while, knowing how to clear a handgun correctly is pivotal.

Failing to unload and clear your weapon properly poses the risk of setting it aside with a round in the chamber. This is a scenario that you definitely want to avoid!

On that account, we’re here to guide you step by step through the process of unloading and clearing a handgun. We’ll also be underlining the two most common unloading and clearing mistakes that you need to avoid.

Let’s get busy!

How to Clear Handguns: Short Answer

Here’s what you need to do to clear handguns:

  1. In the compressed ready position, remove the magazine from your firearm.
  2. With your finger off the trigger, drag the slide open and lock it.
  3. Visually inspect the chamber to verify that it’s clear of any rounds.

How to Clear Semi-Auto Guns

Clearing a firearm is ensuring that it’s not loaded with ammo. That being said, just because the magazine well is empty doesn’t mean your weapon is unloaded and clear. There could still be a round in the chamber!

To verify that your weapon is unloaded and clear of all the ammo before you holster it or set it aside, follow these steps in the exact same order:

1. Assume the Compressed Ready Position

The compressed ready position, also known as the inside low ready position, is when you pull back your firearm close to your chest and rest your elbows against the sides of your body.

Why should you assume this position before clearing a pistol? Because it maximizes comfort and stability, which helps reduce muscle fatigue and prevent potential accidents.

Seeing as you’re only trying to clear your firearm and not trying to shoot any targets, try not to grip your firearm too firmly.

2. Remove the Magazine From Your Pistol

Now that you’re in the compressed ready position, it’s time to clear the magazine well. Firstly, take a deep breath and make sure that your finger is off the trigger and on the pistol’s frame.

Next, depress the magazine release button using your thumb. You can use your support-hand thumb or your strong-hand thumb, whichever feels more comfortable to you. From there, grab the magazine and set it on a bench or stow it in your magazine pouch.

3. Make Sure the Chamber Is Empty

After removing the mag from a pistol, most novice gun owners would set aside the firearm, thinking that they’ve cleared it properly. However, as you know by now, this is far from the truth!

Before setting the firearm aside, it’s crucial that you inspect the chamber to make sure it’s clear of any cartridges. To do so, you have to drag the pistol’s slide all the way to the rearand lock it. Make sure to do this with the muzzle pointed down slightly.

With the slide locked, you should now be able to see the pistol’s chamber; it’s the rear part of the barrel. Inspect it visually and physically to verify that it’s clear of live ammunition. If it’s clear of ammunition, then you’re pretty much done clearing your weapon!

If there’s a round in the chamber, all you have to do is rack the pistol three times and anything inside the chamber will be ejected, whether it’s a live bullet or a spent casing.

In case you don’t know, racking a weapon is when you drag the slide or the action all the way to the back and then release it.

It’s important that you carry out this step after you’ve removed the magazine from your pistol, especially if you’ll be attempting to eject a round from the chamber. Why? Because if the mag is in the well while you’re racking your pistol, you can accidentally strip another round from the mag and load it into the chamber. 

4. Engage the Safety Mechanism

Now that your weapon is unloaded and cleared, engage the safety mechanism to minimize the chances of a potential accident before you holster it or store it away.

Congratulations! You’ve successfully cleared your gun.

How to Clear Revolvers

Unloading and clearing revolvers differ from semi-autos, seeing as revolvers don’t make use of magazines.

To clear single-action revolvers, follow these steps:

  1. Point the muzzle in a safe direction.
  2. Open the loading gate and half-cock the hammer.
  3. Use the ejector rod to push out the ammunition, rotating the cylinder with each round.

To clear double-action revolvers, follow these steps:

  1. Point the muzzle in a safe direction.
  2. Push the cylinder release button and swing out the cylinder.
  3. Tilt your revolver so that the cylinder is pointed down slightly.
  4. Press the extractor rod to remove all bullets from the cylinder.

Note that revolvers don’t have a safety mechanism like semi-autos.

The Most Common Gun Clearing Mistakes

Before we put a period to this post, we feel the need to highlight the two most common gun clearing mistakes so that you can avoid them moving forward.

1. Pulling the Trigger to Show That the Gun Is Clear

This might be the most common mistake novice gun enthusiasts make after clearing a firearm! You should never pull the trigger in an attempt to make sure that a gun is empty. In fact, your finger should be on the gun’s frame throughout the entire clearing process!

Pulling the trigger should only be done with the intention of firing the gun. The only other scenario where pulling it would be appropriate is if you’ve cleared the gun and are attempting to disassemble it.

2. Clearing the Chamber Before the Magazine

Clearing a gun is a procedure that greatly depends on the order in which you carry out each step. This is why you need to follow the steps above in the exact order in which they’re listed.

Clearing the magazine comes before clearing the chamber. If you do it the other way around, you’d be clearing your gun incorrectly and you’d be running the risk of setting aside your weapon with live ammunition.

In Summary

As a responsible gun owner, it’s important that you learn how to unload and clear your weapon properly so that you don’t put someone’s life in jeopardy. Luckily, clearing a firearm is easy!

To properly clear a pistol, you must first assume the compressed ready position. Next, remove the mag from the magazine well, then drag the slide all the way to the back to check that the chamber is empty.

If there’s ammunition in the chamber, simply rack your firearm three times to clear it. Last but not least, engage the safety mechanism before setting aside the firearm. That’s all there is to it!

You need to avoid clearing the chamber before the magazine so that you don’t end up feeding another cartridge into the chamber. Also, make sure your firing finger is on the gun’s frame as you’re clearing it.