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How To Cock A Gun | Pistol | Rifle | Shotgun| Ammunition Depot

How To Cock A Gun | Pistol | Rifle | Shotgun| Ammunition Depot
By Ammunition Depot
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How To Cock A Gun | Pistol | Rifle | Shotgun| Ammunition Depot

How to Cock a Gun [With Examples]


What Does It Mean to Cock a Gun?

In the olden days, to cock a gun was just that: You pulled the hammer back and cocked it to the rear. Pulling the trigger released the hammer, and the gun fired.

Today, cocking a gun is a bit different. Even with those modern firearms that are still hammer-fired, whether they're revolvers or semi automatic pistols, the process can vary quite a bit from gun to gun.

How Do You Cock a Gun?

Modern guns that are hammer-fired come in two options: Double action or single action. This refers to what happens when the trigger is pulled, but it also relates to cocking the hammer.

In a double-action pistol, the pulling of the trigger both cocks the hammer back and releases it to fire. You don't have to manually cock it if you don't want to.

In a single-action pistol, the hammer falls when you pull the trigger, but the hammer must already be cocked back. This can be done by using the slide on a semiautomatic-style pistol or by pulling the hammer back with your thumb on a revolver.

How Do You Cock a Single-Action Revolver?

Any firearm that has an exposed hammer can be cocked back manually, regardless of whether it's a single or double action. The method you use to do this largely depends on the type of gun you have. With a single or double-action revolver, you can simply take the thumb of your shooting hand and apply pressure down and backwards on the hammer until it's in the proper position. When it reaches the correct position, you’ll know  it's very obvious on guns that are hammer-fired.

If you have trouble reaching the hammer or are uncomfortable trying to do it with the same hand that pulls the trigger, you can use your support hand. Pull back on the hammer with your thumb, other fingers, or even the palm — whatever you find to be the safest and most comfortable for you. There's no wrong way to do it as long as you're practicing good gun safety, but you certainly don't want to be using a lot of wasted energy. Find the most efficient method for you. You can practice at home with an unloaded gun to become more familiar and comfortable with cocking your gun.

How Do You Cock a Semiautomatic Pistol?

For semiautomatic pistols, such as the 1911 and the Browning Hi-Power, there is another option for cocking. While these are hammer-fired pistols, they're also semiautomatics that utilize a slide. You can still cock the hammer back with your hand as you would with a revolver, but you can also use the slide. Many people are more comfortable using the slide since you can chamber a round at the same time, making the pistol ready to fire by chambering and cocking in one smooth motion.

There are also ways of making this action easier and more efficient. For example, sometimes in movies you see a person rack a slide by grabbing the rear of the slide with the index finger and thumb of their support hand and pulling it backwards. While this can certainly achieve the desired goal, it's far from the most effective method.

The best way of manipulating the slide on your pistol follows the steps below:

  • While holding the grip in your firing hand, reach over the slide with your support hand, palm facing down toward the gun.
  • With your thumb and other fingers facing toward your body, close your fingers and grip the gun on both sides of the slide.
  • With the support hand gripping the slide, push it towards your chest while pushing away from your body with your firing hand.

Essentially, you're doubling the force on the slide by pushing in opposite directions with both hands. This operates the slide with less effort because the force is applied from two directions simultaneously, reducing the overall energy required. Regardless of strength level, this method is best because it increases the amount of force while lowering your exertion. Remember: Work smarter, not harder.

Can a Gun Be De-Cocked?

Once you've cocked a gun, you're ready to fire. But wait — what if you don't want to shoot? Are you stuck with a gun that's ready to fire? No, because you can de-cock a gun.

How Do You De-Cock a Semiautomatic Gun?

Some modern semi automatic guns have some kind of safety de-cocker. Usually, this is a switch on the rear of the frame or slide that safely de-cocks the hammer, so you're not stuck with a gun that's ready to fire.

However, most semi automatic guns do not have a dedicated de-cocker. In this case, you have to either unload the gun and squeeze the trigger. If it's a hammered semi automatic gun, you can de-cock it like a revolver by placing your finger on the hammer and slowly lower it down when you squeeze the trigger.

Speaking of revolvers...

How Do You De-Cock a Revolver?

With a revolver, de-cocking the gun is a process. You must place your finger on the hammer, holding it in place as you press the trigger to release it.

When shooting, it's common to keep the trigger depressed to the rear until releasing it to fire another round. But when de-cocking, this can keep safety measures from engaging. Only press the trigger enough to release the hammer and then remove your finger for a better safe than sorry approach. Once the hammer is released, you can keep pressure on it with your finger, allowing it to slowly return to the closed position without firing a round.

Some people suggest an additional safety measure: Use both hands and place a finger or thumb between the hammer and gun in case your other finger slips when de-cocking the hammer. Allowing the hammer to fall unimpeded could cause a round to fire. It's not a bad idea to consider, but this is an optional precaution. If you learn the safety features of your firearm, you may feel comfortable enough with simply pressing the trigger and removing your finger while riding the hammer slowly down. Most guns are built with features that make this a fairly safe action when handled appropriately.

What about other types of guns?

While traditionally you only cock a revolver, there are things you do with other guns to achieve a similar result. In effect, you're cocking a revolver because you're making it ready to fire; you can take other actions to achieve this result with guns that aren't revolvers or hammer fired.

How do you cock an AR-15?

To achieve the same state on an AR-15, you must charge the gun. This chambers a round if a loaded magazine is inserted.

             Hold the rifle with both hands in the positions they would be if you were to fire it

             Keep your firing hand (the one pulling the trigger) on the grip

             Bring your support hand (the one holding the fore grip) to the top of the rifle, palm facing down

             Grab the charging handle on the left side — the T-shaped device at the rear of the upper receiver — with your thumb and index finger

             Press the release with your index finger while bracing it with your thumb

             Pull the handle all the way to the rear

             Release the handle completely, allowing the spring to push it forward unrestricted.

Boom; your AR is now "cocked" and ready to fire.

Side note: This process assumes the magazine was inserted and the bolt was already forward. If you're inserting a new magazine after firing the previous one empty, you could repeat this process, but know that the handle will feel loose until you've pulled it all the way back. So pull the loose handle back until you feel the tension and then let go. Or, just press the button on the left side of the rifle to release the bolt catch, and it will allow the bolt to charge forward after having caught it when the previous magazine emptied.

How do you cock an AK-47?

The AK-47 is similar to the AR-15 in that you're also charging it and using a charging handle. Mechanical operational variances between the two aside, the big difference between them is that the charging handle is located on the right side as opposed to the top.

             Hold the rifle with both hands in the positions you would use to fire it

             Switch the grip from your firing hand to your non-firing hand

             Reach up with your firing hand palm down

             Grab the charging handle with your index finger (or as many as you like and can fit)

             Pull back as far as it will go

             Release completely and allow the spring to push forward unencumbered

Now, just as with the AR, you're ready to go. Unlike the AR though, the charging handle is the standard method regardless of whether it is the initial charge or a reload.

As you get more comfortable with the rifle, you can charge it without switching your grip. There are other methods, such as holding the butt stock in your shoulder with the support hand and charging with the firing hand or reaching around and charging with the support hand by going over or under the rifle. These are typically more advanced methods, though, so save them for use once you've used the rifle a few times and are more comfortable with it.

How do you cock a Pump Shotgun?

There are few things as iconic or recognizable as racking a shotgun. It's also exactly as fun as it seems like it would be.

             Hold the shotgun with both hands in the positions you would use to fire it

             Stabilize the gun with your firing hand by keeping it on the grip

             Keep your support hand still on the fore end

             Grip and pull the fore end towards the rear

             When the fore end is all the way back, push it all the way forward again with your support hand

It's simple and straightforward; this will eject a shell and chamber another one, having the effect of both cocking and de-cocking the shotgun. Some shotguns may be stiffer than others, so the amount of force required varies, but that's all there is to it.

How do you cock a Bolt Action Rifle?

Even without having fired one, most people are familiar with bolt action rifles. Commonly used for hunting and by military snipers, it's another iconic gun style, making it fairly intuitive for even absolute beginners.

             Hold the rifle with both hands in the positions you would use to fire it

             Keep the rifle in position with your support hand

             Remove your firing hand from the grip

             Raise your firing hand slightly above the trigger area

             Grab the bolt handle with your palm facing upwards

             Push the handle up and pull to the rear in one motion

             Push the handle forward and down again until it's seated in place

Pulling back ejects and pushing forward chambers a round. Movements can vary, but your hand will often move in a half circle motion to complete both movements. Initial tries will be a little jerky and less fluid, but with practice, this will begin to become one motion rather than two.

How do you cock a Lever Action Rifle?

What you might think of when someone says cowboy gun, lever action rifles are actually a hammer fired gun, so you genuinely cock them. The difference between a lever action and a revolver is that the lever action rifle uses a lever to cock the hammer back — hence the name. You push a lever, which in turn pushes the hammer back to cock it.

             Hold the rifle with both hands in the positions you would use to fire it

             Remove your firing hand thumb from the top of the grip

             Pull your finger out of the trigger well

             You should now be making a "finger gun" with your thumb and index finger

             With the remaining fingers still inside the lever, push down and forward in a U shaped motion

             Pull the lever back up so that your firing hand is in position to fire

While some people want to try and do elaborate twirls of the gun as is sometimes seen in rodeos and movies, the standard push is still the most effective method. If, after you are well versed in this rifle and you want to try that method, by all means have at it. But make sure the gun is unloaded when you try, and be aware that it's harder than it looks.

How do you De-Cock a Lever Action Rifle?

Since the hammer mechanism on a lever action rifle is so much like a revolver, de-cocking a lever action rifle uses the same method as de-cocking a revolver. Put your thumb on the hammer and hold it, using your finger to apply pressure to the trigger. As the trigger releases the hammer, slowly ride the hammer down with your thumb until it’s all the way forward. Don't ride the trigger — just apply enough pressure to release and let go. Remember to point the rifle in a safe direction in case something slips.

How do you De-cock a Semi Automatic Rifle?

Semi Automatic rifles don't have a hammer, so they aren't able to be de-cocked per se. However, depending on the type of firearm, you can perform certain functions like charging it to the rear (as pictured) or even "dry firing." Ensure that the rifle is unloaded and no magazine is present. Then charge the handle to the rear, ejecting the round that was chambered. Verify once and for all that the magazine well, chamber, and feed areas are all completely clear of ammunition, and after that, you can safely fire the rifle to release the trigger tension.

As time progresses and you get more practice, you'll be more familiar with all of these methods and can branch out into some other nonstandard or faster techniques. As long as you stay safe, feel free to experiment and find out if something different is easier or more efficient for you.

Cocking and de-cocking a gun may seem intimidating or complicated at first, but as with all things firearms, it's best to find what you feel safest and most comfortable doing and develop your own routine. Stay safe, enjoy the experience, and do what works best for you.

1 month ago
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