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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