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Course Outline

Even something as simple as loading or unloading a handgun can result in tragedy if it isn't done properly. Here's how to do it safely.

The loading procedure depends on the type of handgun.

Loading Single-Action Revolvers

Single-action revolvers typically load through a gate on the right side of the frame.

To load a single-action revolver:

  • Point the muzzle in a safe direction.
  • Open the action; make sure the barrel is unobstructed.
  • Load a cartridge into each chamber. To rotate the cylinder, pull the hammer back to half-cock.
  • When the chambers are loaded, close the action.

Loading Double-Action Revolvers

Double-action revolvers have cylinders that are swung outward to expose all chambers for loading.

Loading handguns

To load a double-action revolver:

  • Point the muzzle down and in a safe direction.
  • With your right hand, release the cylinder latch. This frees the cylinder from the frame.
  • Swing the cylinder out and away from the frame with the two middle fingers of the left hand.
  • Make sure the barrel is unobstructed.
  • Load a cartridge into each chamber. After a chamber is loaded, rotate the cylinder with the left thumb and two middle fingers.
  • When the chambers are loaded, make sure the hammer is down (uncocked). Gently swing the cylinder back into the frame, and make sure it locks into place.

Loading Semi-Automatic Pistols

Semi-automatics usually fire rounds stored in a magazine that is inserted in the grip or handle.

To load a semi-automatic pistol:

  • Point the muzzle in a safe direction.
  • Make sure the barrel is unobstructed.
  • Put the safety on if the gun can be loaded with the safety on.
  • Remove the magazine from the grip by depressing the magazine release button. This button is typically located on the left side of the frame, behind the trigger.
  • Pull the slide to the rear to make sure the chamber is empty.
  • Place the pistol in a stable location with the muzzle pointing in a safe direction.
  • Load the cartridges into the magazine by firmly pressing them down and toward the rear of the magazine. Do not force them. Forcing the cartridges could damage the lips of your magazine.
  • Hold the magazine in one hand, and pick up your pistol with the other hand.
  • Insert the magazine into the grip until it clicks securely into place.
  • Pull the slide all the way to the rear and then let it go forward. This picks up a cartridge and slides it into the chamber.
  • Put the safety on if you were not able to do so before loading.
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