Tag Archives: checklist

Evaluating handguns for YOU

Before you buy a gun, you should go to a range that rents guns and try different ones out to see which one is best for you.

What does “try them out” mean? How do we measure “which one is best for you?” Here is a list of worthwhile items to evaluate for you to make an informed decision about an autoloading pistol. For those who are helping a prospective purchaser, demonstrate the technique but then place the pistol in a sterile (unloaded with slide forward) condition and let them do their own evaluation without comment or coaching. You won’t be there to coach them if they need to use the pistol for real; that’s part of the evaluation.

  1. Load the pistol. This has two components.
    1. Load a magazine to full capacity.
    2. Load the fully charged magazine into the pistol and chamber a round.
  2. Manipulate the controls of the pistol.
    1. If the pistol has a decocker, decock the pistol after loading it.
    2. If the pistol has a safety, engage it, and then disengage it.
    3. Remove the loaded magazine from the pistol.
    4. Engage the slide stop while safely ejecting the round from the chamber. The muzzle must remain pointed downrange during the unload sequence.
    5. Inspect the chamber visually and physically (with a finger) to be sure it is unloaded.
    6. Let the slide go forward.
  3. Shoot the pistol.
    1. For new shooters or prospective purchasers, use a standard silhouette target.
    2. Experienced shooters should use a more meaningful target.
      1. An 8 inch circle at 3 yards.
      2. A sheet of paper in landscape orientation at 5 yards.
      3. Two sheets of paper stacked one above the other in landscape orientation at 7 yards and 10 yards.
      4. A suitable target can be downloaded here. Printable Silhouette drawn face
  1. Fire six shots at each of four distances (Stages); 3 yards, 5 yards, 7 yards, and 10 yards. This will replicate the difficulty level of most States’ Carry License Qualification Courses of Fire. A Carry License Qualification is the most likely shooting task the average purchaser will use their handgun for so you may as well evaluate the ability to pass it. This shooting evaluation consists of 24 rounds so two different pistols could be evaluated with one fifty round box of ammo.
    1. The six shots for each Stage should be fired in three Strings of Fire. The magazine should be loaded with six rounds only except when evaluating stoppage clearance.
      1. Fire One shot
      2. Fire Two shots
      3. Fire Three shots
      4. If the pistol has a decocker, decock the pistol after each string and then disengage the decocker.
      5. If the pistol has a safety, start each string with the safety engaged.
      6. After shooting at each distance, czech to make sure the pistol is unloaded, let the slide go forward, and decock, if the pistol has a decocker.
      7. Record how many hits were made on the target and then cover them with masking tape. You should bring a roll of masking tape with you to the range.
      8. Start the next distance’s shooting by loading the pistol from a sterile condition.
    2. The 3 yard string should be fired with the Primary Hand Only, i.e., One Handed.
  2. Evaluate your ability to reduce stoppages of the pistol.
    1. When shooting the 5 yard Stage, start with the chamber empty and a six round magazine inserted. Attempt to fire the first shot on an empty chamber. After the click, tap the base of the magazine, cycle the slide, and then fire one shot (Tap-Rack-Bang). This is a simulation of clearing a bad round or a partially unseated magazine.
    2. When shooting the 7 yard Stage, start with the slide locked open and a six round magazine in the pistol. Eject the magazine onto the table, pick it up, insert it into the pistol, release the slide, and then fire three shots. This is a simulation of an Emergency Reload because most rental pistols will only come with one magazine. After the three shot sequence, fire the two shot String and then the one shot String.
    3. When shooting the 10 yard Stage, start with the chamber empty and a six round magazine inserted. Attempt to fire the first shot on an empty chamber. After the click, remove the magazine, cycle the slide three times, re-insert the magazine, and then fire three shots. This simulates clearing a double feed. After the three shot sequence, fire the two shot String and then the one shot String.

This evaluation procedure will give you a good idea of two different aspects of how well the gun works for you or a prospective purchaser. The ability to shoot the gun to pass a possible standard for obtaining a Carry License and also manipulation tasks that are frequently overlooked.

Here is a downloadable checklist you can take to the range with you. Autoloading Pistol Suitability Checklist