how to unload guns

Rules Of Gun Safety: How To Safely Unload A Gun

It's fairly easy to safely unload a gun, but it is best done with an abundance of caution. Most people who are into guns likely know how to already, but a refresher is always good and those starting to get into owning and using firearms should get all the practical knowledge they can.

First Step Of Unloading

The key to safe unloading is to remember the first of the four rules of gun safety, namely to treat every gun as if it is loaded. Yes, it seems ridiculous if you know it isn't because you unloaded it, but that isn't the point.

The point is to give every firearm the respect that it deserves. While guns are inherently inert, they can do grave harm to anyone within a few hundred feet to up to a mile (or more) away when discharged. Therefore, treat every gun as if it's loaded.

Additionally, keep your finger off the trigger at all times unless you intend to fire, or need to place an appropriate firearm (such as a revolver) at half-cock.

Point In A Safe Direction To Unload

The next step in a safe unload is to point the gun in a safe direction. What constitutes a safe direction? The direction in which the least likely amount of harm will be done in case of a discharge, i.e. away from people. The floor or the ground is safe, unless you're indoors with a concrete floor or on the second or further story up. The roof is right out in all cases - what goes up will come down.

Here's a top tip: for a portable clearing station, fill a five-gallon bucket with sand. Do not use water; while water does slow bullets, the requisite volume is more than a five-gallon bucket can provide.

Remove Cartridges Whilst Observing Proper Gun Safety

So, now that you've found an appropriate location to unload and you're observing proper gun safety rules, it's time to unload. How you unload depends on the type of firearm in question. There are two main categories - handguns and long guns.

How to Unload A Handgun

how to unload a handgun

Handguns are generally either revolvers and semi-automatic; how you unload a handgun depends on which

Modern revolvers have a fixed or swing-out cylinder. A fixed cylinder stays in place. Unloading is done by a pushrod, located under the barrel. The rod pushes cartridges through the loading gate, typically located on the left side of the cylinder. Typically, half-cocking is required to load or unload.

To unload, open the gate and half-cock the pistol. Rotate the cylinder until a cartridge chamber aligns with the loading gate. Depress the unloading rod until the cartridge emerges, and remove it. Rotate the cylinder until the next cartridge aligns; repeat until unloaded. Close the gate and de-cock.

To unload a swing-out revolver, undo the cylinder latch and swing the cylinder out. Swing-out cylinders often have an unloading mechanism as well, though these remove ALL cartridges from the cylinder. Depress the rod, remove cartridges, and re-latch cylinder.

To unload a semi-automatic pistol, release the magazine by actuating the magazine release and removing the magazine. Then, pull the slide back and eject any cartridge in the chamber, and slowly return the slide. Repeat, to make sure the pistol is clear. Unloading is complete once the magazine is removed and no more cartridges remain in the pistol.

How to Unload A Shotgun

how to unload a shotgun

The process of unloading a shotgun depends on the design. Most are pump-action, autoloading or break-action. Single-shot and double (and now triple) barrel shotguns are the latter; open the breach and the shells are either ejected via an ejector or pull out manually.

To unload pump-action, cycle the action by pumping until all cartridges have been ejected. Depending on the design, you may have to disengage the safety.

To unload a semi-auto shotgun, pull the charging handle to the rear, which will eject a chambered round. Return the charging handle, then repeat until all cartridges are removed.

How to Unload A Rifle

how to unload a rifle

Unloading a rifle, just like a shotgun, differs by design. The three most common types are autoloading, bolt and lever-action. Lever-action rifles are the simplest; simply cycle the lever until all rounds have been ejected. Be VERY careful to keep your finger away from the trigger; lever-action rifles cock after cycling and chambering the next round from the tube magazine. De-cock once unloaded.

Bolt-action rifles may require the safety be half- or fully-disengaged to unload, as full-safety will usually lock the trigger and the bolt, especially with Mauser-derived actions. To unload, first release the magazine. Box magazines will simply drop out; internal magazines may release the floor plate of the magazine and drop the bullets out of the rifle. Open the bolt to remove any chambered rounds. After all rounds are clearly gone, close the bolt, lock the safety and replace the floor plate if appropriate.

Auto-loading rifles typically have external magazines and thus are easy to unload. Release the magazine and manually cycle the charging handle to release any remaining cartridges. The rifle is unloaded once all remaining cartridges are ejected.

So there you have it - how to safely unload a gun. Be safe, and have fun at the range.

Sam Hoober  

About The Author

Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.

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