Maxon Shooters Blog

Jeff Gonzales: The Folly of the 'Press Check'

Something's bothered me for years: students asking if they can perform a "press check" -- what's properly called a weapons check -- to confirm their firearm's condition. Some pick up the habit from watching professional shooters. Others do it "to be sure." At the risk of seeming harsh . . .

I tell them that armed self-defense is not a game. It's combat. Why wouldn't you keep your defensive firearm in the highest possible state of readiness?

There are times and places for a weapons check. But it's not when you strap a firearm onto your body (unless the instructor specifically asks you to use an unloaded pistol or rifle).

I understand the importance of progressing students towards combat readiness at a safe and manageable pace. I start by teaching students strict safety protocols, in a safe training environment. I observe them for safe conduct while they manipulate their firearms, guiding them through as many repetitions as possible.

Like so many other trainers, I strive to impart the knowledge students need to develop the skills they need to defend their lives with a gun. But more than that, I work to give them the right attitude.

Why do students want perform a weapons check? Because we as instructors have failed. We've failed to encourage and empower students to understand the importance of readiness.

Firearms trainers should teach students the mindset needed to survive a violent encounter. They must put the proper emphasis on attitude.

The negative outcome: students who rely on their teacher to set the conditions for live fire. Rather than being in a constant state of readiness, they are unsure. Hesitant. In self-defense situations, hesitation can be fatal .

A commenter recently criticized my teaching as being too "operator" for the average student. I make no apologies for working to instill the warrior mindset. A gunfight is a fight with a gun. Unless you are ready to fully and completely engage an attacker, unless you have the warrior mindset, you are starting behind the 50-yard line.

Let me put it this way . . .

Ability to shoot is a matter of training. Willingness to shoot is a mental state. Readiness is a statement of fact. A warrior is ready, able and willing to shoot.

I am not saying students fail because they ask permission to make ready. But when you have doubts as to the condition of your firearm prior to a drill, that is a failure. If you have to ask the instructor if you can inspect your firearm prior to the buzzer then you run the risk of creating a lifetime of bad habits.

Once a student develops proficiency they must be encouraged to carry operationally ready as often as the curriculum or situation allows. They must be ready to protect life. So that the next time they pull their firearm from their holster -- every time they pull their firearm from their holster -- there is no doubt.

If the class level is appropriate to maintain hot firearms, firearms trainers must encourage students to cultivate the "always hot" mindset. I instruct my students on the importance of handling themselves responsibly with loaded firearms as soon as they can handle their gun safely.

There is nothing worse than drawing your firearm, aiming it at your attacker and hearing a click. To reduce the odds of that happening, start as you mean to finish.

If you feel the need to press check your firearm, you need to ask yourself why. And do whatever it takes to be confident in yourself and your gun's condition. So that you're as ready as you can be to fight. And win.

Jeff Gonzales is a former US. Navy SEAL and preeminent weapons and tactics instructor. He brings his Naval Special Warfare mindset, operational success and lessons learned unapologetically to the world at large. Currently he is the Director of Training at The Range at Austin. earn more about his passion and what he does at