This is a command that is used in shooting sports, particularly the disciplines involving handguns. When a competitor is finished shooting his or her turn, the range officer will give the command. At that point, the competitor is expected to open the action of the handgun and show the range officer that there is no ammunition in the pistol.

Responding to the command of open and show clear lets everyone involved know that the handgun is empty and there is no chance of an accidental or unintended discharge. It’s a practice designed to keep everyone safe.

Among the many courses I teach is one called Basic Pistol. This course introduces a new handgun owner to safe gun handling as well as loading, firing, cleaning and storage. I teach my students to always open and show clear before handing a firearm to another person. I also tell them they should never take a firearm from another person unless the action is open.

I can’t count the stories I’ve heard of someone saying “It’s not loaded” and the next sound heard is a gun shot. Sometimes, there’s an injury resulting from this. Less often, but much worse, sometimes it results in a fatality.

If you had just taken a casserole out of the oven and someone approached it, wouldn’t you be inclined to say “Don’t touch that, it’s hot!”? Well, sure you would. You would warn them because you wouldn’t want them to be burned. I think it’s a natural instinct to warn people of impending danger. We don’t think about it, we just blurt it out. The same should be done when handing someone a firearm.

Like the countless stories I’ve heard of people saying “It’s not loaded”, I can’t count the times I’ve seen firearms passed from one person to another without opening the action to double check for the presence of ammunition. That’s a very foolish and irresponsible thing to do.

Some types of firearms have to be manually cocked to fire. Two good examples are cowboy style revolvers and single shot shotguns. I’ve seen people pick up a gun like that, cock it and pull the trigger! I’ve told people that did that, in front of everyone there, “You’re an idiot! You never checked to see if that gun was loaded!” Referring to the person that handed them the firearm, “He said it wasn’t loaded.”

Like leaving loaded and unsecured firearms around children, this is another subject I feel very strongly about. I taught my wife how to shoot and I’m proud to say she’s extremely careful when handling firearms. But I wouldn’t trust her anymore than I would a total stranger if she handed me a firearm without opening the action first.

If you need to hand someone a firearm, open the action and show that it’s unloaded. If someone needs to hand one to you, ask them to do the same. If they do, thank them for being cautious and compliment them on their safe gun handling. If they don’t, YOU open the firearm and check it yourself. Somebody in this party needs to be the responsible adult. You can expect someone to be responsible, but you can’t force them to be.

Worst case scenario, it only takes one shot to kill someone. At the least, the shot could damage property. I don’t want to be responsible for either one of those results. I don’t think you do, either.

Shoot safely!




About Jim

Retired from industrial construction and livin' the dream in the mountains of Virginia.
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