Clear that Chamber–Seriously Did you?

Tam posted something recently regarding always checking that a chamber is empty.  I have a story along those lines but without the ND.

For those that don’t know me I am quite anal about not having live ammunition within my safe, even more so chambered in a weapon.  There are three reasons for this.

  1. While the interior of the safe may not burn, the contents are safer should the safe exceed it’s fire rating.  With ammunition in the safe, the could cook off damaging equipment and valuable within the interior. 
  2. Ammunition in the chamber that cooks off could cause bullets to pierce the integrity of the safe.  Thus allowing the fire to do more damage to the contents.  This also depends on the type of ammo loaded, for instance 62grn penetrator will be an issue to your safe integrity.
  3. Lastly and most importantly, putting rifles in and taking them out of the safe while loaded is quite dangerous.  There was a news article recently about a man who ended up killing himself when the trigger on his 22 rifle snagged pulling it out of the safe.  Mechanical safeties can fail and I’m not going to trust my life to them.

Many look at putting ammo within the safe and say, well the safe will contain it.  Why in god’s name did you spend the money on the safe then if your own actions are going to render the protection it provides useless?  If you want to lock up your ammo, build a custom heavy rack with a lockable metal door.  If you want to be sly about it, make it a false wall and embed an RFID reader with a magnetic lock.

The bottom line is if I am needing a rifle and ammunition in an emergency and I’m going to my safe for it, I have planned horribly wrong.  So, every rifle as it goes in the safe is checked clear, and the hammer put down on snap cap.  This helps ensure my safety and those around me while putting in and pulling out of the safe. 

After Boomershoot 2010, I unloaded and cleared all my rifles and put them away as I normally do.  The next weekend I pulled out one of my AR’s to use in a private party.  I pull it out and swing on the trap area I’ve made and rack the charging handle.  To what should my lovely eyes did appear, not a blue or maroon snap cap, but a shining piece of brass and copper.

I immediately set upon trying to determine where my procedures lapsed during their last use.  I locked the bolt open and inspected the weapon.  First thing of note was that the safety was on, which considering the hammer is supposed to be down the safety should be off when stored in the safe.  For those who don’t know, an AR will not allow you to engage the safety while the hammer is down.  So obviously I hadn’t even dropped the hammer during storage.  I began to replay the unpacking from Boomershoot and I realized what happened.  We were in a rush, during the unpacking.  A buddy was helping me store all of them and uncasing them.  It was one of the last to go in the safe but was one of the first to be unpacked.  It was set off to the side without my actually having handled it.  When it came time to put it in the safe my mental inventory said I had, and it had been within sight the whole time.

From that experience my personal rule has become always check the chamber when picking it up if either of the following conditions are true:

  • I have been handling other firearms as well.
  • The weapon in question has been out of my sight, even if it’s in the safe.

My dad constantly told me growing up, “A smart man learns from his mistakes.  A wise man learns from other peoples mistakes.”  Between my mistake and Tam’s, please learn something!  Checking the chamber takes mere seconds and the ND depending on the cause can cost you everything.

Barron is the owner, editor, and principal author at The Minuteman, a competitive shooter, and staff member for Boomershoot. Even in his free time he’s merging his love and knowledge of computers and technology with his love of firearms.

He has a BS in electrical engineering from Washington State University. Immediately after college he went into work on embedded software and hardware for use in critical infrastructure. This included cryptographic communications equipment as well as command and control devices that were using that communications equipment. Since then he’s worked on just about everything ranging from toys, phones, other critical infrastructure, and even desktop applications. Doing everything from hardware system design, to software architecture, to actually writing software that makes your athletic band do its thing.

About Barron

Barron is the owner, editor, and principal author at The Minuteman, a competitive shooter, and staff member for Boomershoot. Even in his free time he’s merging his love and knowledge of computers and technology with his love of firearms.

He has a BS in electrical engineering from Washington State University. Immediately after college he went into work on embedded software and hardware for use in critical infrastructure. This included cryptographic communications equipment as well as command and control devices that were using that communications equipment. Since then he’s worked on just about everything ranging from toys, phones, other critical infrastructure, and even desktop applications. Doing everything from hardware system design, to software architecture, to actually writing software that makes your athletic band do its thing.

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2 Responses to Clear that Chamber–Seriously Did you?

  1. Weer'd Beard says:

    I keep loaded guns as well as empty ones in my safe. I just check them as obsessively as Tam does. Every time a gun leave my possession I check it as soon as its back in my hands.

    • Barron Barnett says:

      Tam stated her rule as whenever it leaves her sight. Mine has been modified for whenever it has been out of direct control. Sight or not. This was compounded by the fact that I didn’t load snap caps in any of them since I was going to be cleaning them over the next couple days. My buddy doesn’t know how it was missed since he was opening the bolts and visually clearing them as he uncased them.

      Bottom line is it is very easy to end up with a weapon you thought clear that isn’t.

      I hope what ever you keep loaded is up front and clear of snags. Or is a pistol on a rack. I’ve got an el-chepo safe on my list that loads like a wall rack. The goal is to bolt that in place in the bedroom and lockup the defense weapons when leaving. Currently they’re cleared and stored when we’re both leaving for any period of time.