Self-Defense Handgun Mechanical Function Check

The Brownells Way

Nice article over on Safety Solutions Academy. Most home defense guns will end up setting around for months if not years on end before being used in an emergency. You always should do a function check every month or so.

Mechanical Function Check

One of the primary considerations in a self-defense handgun is the reliability of that handgun. People have developed many methods to pistol function checkdetermine whether or not a particular handgun is functioning properly, but most of those methods require life fire verification. While this should be done with EVERY self-defense firearm, it is not practical to perform a live fire test after every cleaning and reassembly of a gun.

Ammunition Grand Opening at

Below you will find a process to verify proper mechanical function of your self defense handgun without needing to test fire. This process does not guarantee compatibility between your self-defense handgun and your self-defense ammunition that must be confirmed through live fire. What this test does tell you is that you handgun is in proper mechanical order.

Function Check

Function check is a manual verification of all the weapon's mechanical features, usually after cleaning and assembly, to ensure the gun is in proper working order. After verifying the chamber is clear, a typical function check might include:

  • Rack the slide to cock the hammer/striker.
  • Position the safety lever, if equipped, to the engaged position.
  • Press the trigger to verify the hammer/striker does not fall.
  • Position the safety lever to the disengaged position.
  • Press the trigger to verify the gun operates in single action mode.
  • Press the trigger to verify the gun operates in double action mode.
  • Press and hold the trigger to the rear while racking the slide to verify the sear engages and holds the hammer/striker.
  • Press on the rear of the hammer to verify it does not drop.
  • Release trigger, retract slide approximately 1/4-inch, press trigger and verify hammer/striker does not drop.
  • Release slide and verify it locks into battery.
  • Insert an empty magazine into the magazine well, retract the slide and verify the magazine actuates the slide lock to lock open the slide.
  • Remove the empty magazine, retract the locked-open slide, verify the slide lock disengages and ease the slide forward.
  • Point the muzzle upward, insert a wooden pencil down the bore, rubber eraser end first, until it rests on the firing pin hole of the breechface. Press trigger and observe the pencil jump slightly when struck by the firing pin (for large bore autos you might have to wrap tape around the pencil to center it on the firing pin hole)

Additional function checks may include verifying proper operation of:

  • hammer drop safety
  • decocker
  • grip safety
  • half-cock feature
  • magazine disconnect

If your owner's manual does not include a function check procedure, you can develop your own procedure using this paragraph as a guide.

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  1. Hello,

    In procedures 7 & 8, you can’t press the rear of the hammer simultaneously while holding the slide and pressing/holding the trigger to the rear. You need 3 hands to do this.

    Above procedures are a bit confusing.


    • Home Defense Gun says:

      I will check it out and correct. Thanks.

      • I probably have 18 or 20 ltitle potmetal wonders in .32 short that people have given me over the years, mostly Belgian made copies of mini Webley revolvers. Most lack the odd spring or two, but everything turns and goes clickity click. I’m waiting for a “Buy-Back” within a hundred miles or so, with something like a$50 to $100 dollar payout. Shortly after I got home from the Marines, Connecticut had a “Buy-back” of “Assault rifles”. On the list was the SKS. $125 buyback price, $95 per SKS at Hoffman’s Gun Shop in Newington. No brainer. I bought 4, turned them in (they were later auctioned off at the Motor Vehicle Dept.rather than being destroyed) and used the profits to get me a free SKS. The day after I turned them in, they dropped SKS’s from the assault weapons list. Which is really a howl, as every SKS in the world can be made full auto with the addition of a strip of beer can aluminum in one particular place, not that I would recommend it. Why turn a perfectly handy ltitle rifle into a spray and pray piece of crap? The really frightening thing about it was the phone exchange I had with State Police Lt. Colonel Moore. I wanted to make certain the SKS was really considered a demon weapon before I blew a month’s worth of G.I. bill peso on the deal, so I called C.S.P and ended up with the good Colonel on the line. I pretended to be a quite liberal West Hartford type, scared to death of firearms and annoyed at the “Gun Nut” kid brother who’d left the dirty, nasty things behind when he moved out of my cellar. The Colonel assured me they really were on the list, told me it was only a beginning, and they would never get guns off the streets until they disarmed the civilian population, eliminating private weapons that could be stolen. As I had, only a few months before, seen quite effective Viet Cong submachineguns made out of Renault shock absorbers, I thought that was amusing, but I agreed with him that the world would be a better place, and picked up the weapons. He encouraged me to bring the rifles down to be turned in, and I got my money from him, even though the weapons were, as far as he knew, the legal property of my brother, and he was aiding and abetting me in the theft of firearms. Can you say sociopathic scumbag? I still think of it as amazing, particularly in Connecticut. We have a tough but fair pistol permit system that is ruthlessly enforced by a panel composed of one cop, one member of the State Pistol and Revolver Association, and one non-government lawyer both sides have agreed is fair. Two out of three takes it for any application, and the background checks and handgun training required are more than many policemen get. And, for reference, most cops in CT are very pro-gun. Son #1 is an inner city narcotics detective with a scary amount of gunfights under his belt, and he knows too many cops who have been bailed out of ugly spots by armed citizens. He’s also seen dirtbags he couldn’t touch, end up on the wrong end of a shopkeeper’s 12 gage, and felt the world is a better place for their lack. It’s still frightening to think a loser like the Colonel could make it so far up the scrotum pole in a basically, by north-eastern standards, pro gun state. Eternal vigilance, etc.

    • , Thanks. See how easy this is? Not counting what Clay his crew were cairyrng, or had in their trucks, I had in my possession, and was responsible for, two .357 magnums. John’s the one in the truck- is a 6-shooter. Mine in my sack sitting beside me in chambers 5, and I’ve got a speed loader. Technically speaking, I don’t even need a permit to carry (although I have one). In Mississippi my home, my vehicle, my place of business (unless my business is disallowed, like a campus) falls under my domain.It’s not big deal to have a gun here. That’s as it should be.

  2. Well, since your State has over 9 million, that tells me about 2.5% of the Total Population (rough numbres) has a CCW Permit. But if you knock off about 2 million (underage, convicted Felons, etc.), that goes up to 3.2% of the Legal Adult Population has permits. So 1 out of 30 Adults at the Mall could be legally Armed at any given time. Yet, where are the Massive Pools of Blood?Wish Ohio had your numbres.

  3. These checks are good to do, but the ultimate check is live fire. I had a pistol with weak springs that would hang up the slide on blow-back. The fault was only found with live fire.

  4. Good advice but the article needs a better editor (misspellings, etc.).

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