Updated: Nov 8, 2022
Really? Yeah, I didn't really want to write about the PSC, but it keeps amazing me how many experienced, long time shooters either...
- have never heard of the PSC or
- have forgotten about it or
- keep doing it wrong or
- do it incomplete or
- keep changing how they do it or
- don't do it when they are supposed to
Well, and? What's the big deal? Never mind... the PSC is just the most important and (should be!) the most often performed manipulation on firearms. If you go huugh, what's he talking about?? now, then you should definitely read on. You should read on anyway, of course. But if you don't know what I am talking about, then you actually must read on.
The purpose of the PSC is to make sure the firearm is in the loading condition you need it to be at that moment. The loading condition can be unloaded, unloaded with empty magazine inserted, loaded empty chamber or loaded.
One fundamental mistake people tend to do is to think they know the loading condition of a firearm.
For example: I know the pistol in the bag is unloaded since I always unload it when putting it there. So, no need to check when taking it out, correct?
Or: I always load before I holster the gun so when I draw it, it will be ready to fire. Why should I check after drawing it?
That's completely wrong thinking. Accidents and fuck-ups and the likes do not happen if everything goes as it should. We don't check the pistol because we doubt our habits or our memory, but because mistakes do happen and mistakes involving firearms can have really serious consequences. Whether you assume your gun is unloaded or you think your gun is loaded, in any case, if you are actually wrong, the situation can potentially end in a real catastrophe for you and for others.
So: better check and later check again and again. While you are at it you might as well do it properly, meaning correctly and completely.
The PSC is quite simple:
1) Check chamber
2) Check magazine
The devil is in the detail, as always. While the PSC is the same for all types of firearms, let's focus on the details of how to do the PSC with a pistol.
Draw back the slide just a little bit so you can visually inspect the chamber. If there is a round in the chamber you don't necessarily want to eject it, and then later search for it on the ground. You just want to check, so don't pull the slide too far back.
If your pistol has a hammer, it helps to cock the hammer with your weak hand thumb, check the chamber, then make sure the slide is fully in battery and then de-cock the hammer or put the safety on, depending on what is appropriate.
In the dark, if illumination is not an option, use your trigger finger to check the chamber in a tactile manner.
Finished with checking the chamber, smack the back of the slide with the palm of your weak hand to make sure it's fully forward and the pistol is functional. If the slide is not fully in battery, the pistol might not fire when you need it.
Eject the magazine and check whether it's empty, partially full or completely full. Most magazines provide some kind of loading indicator where one can see how many rounds it contains. If your magazine doesn't have anything like that or you are in the dark, just press on the top round to check the tension of the magazine spring and thus have a rough idea of how many rounds are in it.
If you intend your gun to be unloaded with no magazine inserted, just put your weak hand thumb into the magazine well for a positive check.
If you have additional magazines with you, it's good practice to check them all as well.
When to do the PSC
Always perform the PSC when:
- picking up a gun
- putting down a gun
- before handing over a gun
- after accepting a gun
- before holstering a gun
If there is time and the situation allows for it, perform a PSC when:
- after drawing the gun
- before potentially using the the gun
- after using the gun
At the beginning of this article I said that the PSC is the most important manipulation on a firearm. Making sure that the loading status of a gun is what you need it to be at that moment is quite important, don't you agree? Never assume anything.
Oh yes, and: of course, we will always treat a firearm as if loaded, no matter whether we just checked it or not.
I also said earlier that the PSC is the most often performed manipulation on a firearm. If you do the PSC one trillion times too many - meaning the gun was in the loading state you thought it is - that's not a problem at all.
But if you miss to do the PSC only one single time, when it would have been necessary - meaning the gun was not in the loading state you assumed - that can result in a lot of tears and regret or even worse.
So, keep doing the PSC! And do it correctly and completely. It's not a waste of time, it doesn't make you look insecure. To the contrary, it shows that you take firearms handling seriously, that you know what you are doing and it also makes you look professional. And, by the way, it may prevent you from being very very sorry afterwards, if you can still feel anything that is.
I really hope having less shooters wondering what I am talking about when I ask them to do a PSC in the future!