First published in Blue Line Law Enforcement Magazine

The PROVE Procedure Illustrated
by Dave Brown

The PROVE procedure saves lives.

Firearms safety training is serious business. This is why it should be taught as a science, and not some collection of mystical secrets to be passed down to future generations upon learning some “secret handshake.”

Effective firearms training involves both knowledge about the physics involved and an understanding of how people best learn new skills.

The PROVE Procedure was born in the classrooms and shooting ranges of Canada. Developed by teaching experts and tested with thousands of learners, PROVE is the acronym that reinforces simple, reliable and consistent lifetime safety skills.

In addition, for the professionals who carry firearms every day to save human lives, safety and responsibility must become a part of daily routine, plus the actions inherent in the PROVE procedure should also closely duplicate emergency manipulation skills that are second nature to armed law enforcement officers.

No one is exempt from the laws of physics. Once a bullet has left the barrel of a firearm, there is no force on earth that can get it back again.

The PROVE Procedure
During the design of the new Canadian Firearms Safety Course (CFSC) and Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Course (CRFSC), various industry partners and subject-matter experts identified the need for simple, basic techniques that could be learned through constant repetition. They emphasized the importance of acronyms to help students remember safety rules and procedures. This is where the four basic rules of firearms safety became The Vital Four ACTS.

In addition, an acronym was suggested that would enhance learning of the actual steps in safety checking any firearm. That became the
PROVE Procedure, and is now incorporated into the CFSC, CRFSC and numerous other firearms safety programs around the world.

The PROVE Procedure has also been adopted as the standard safety-checking procedure in other industries such as film and theatre production. In 2016, the PROVE Procedure became part of the firearms safety training program for all IATSE film and theatre technicians across North America. (If a simple PROVE Procedure had been used during filming of “The Crow” in 1993, actor Brandon Lee would still be alive today.)

So what is the PROVE Procedure. In simple terms, PROVE defines the steps to follow every time a firearm is handled.
It stands for Point, Remove, Observe, Verify and Examine.


Step one is to point the firearm in the safest available direction. This direction may vary, depending on the circumstances. In training, a safe direction is pointed towards the backstop. Out on the street, a safe direction is where no one is standing or may be standing within the dangerous range of that firearm.

Step two is to remove all ammunition. Ammunition may be found in the chamber (or chambers, if a revolver) and/or the magazine. (The source for spare cartridges.) With a firearm with a detachable magazine, the magazine must always be removed first. Once the magazine is removed, the action (moving parts) are opened in order to expose the chamber(s).

In this example of a modern semi-automatic pistol, the magazine release button is depressed with the right thumb if right-handed, and the trigger finger if left-handed.

The handgun action is opened by grasping the top of the slide with the hand in front of the ejection port, pulling the slide rearward and pushing up on the slide stop into the notch with the right thumb (if right-handed) or the trigger finger (if left-handed.)

This ensures that any live rounds in the chamber will be ejected freely without becoming caught in the hand. (If a round accidentally detonates against a sharp corner while being removed, you want it happening AWAY from your hand!)

Notice the overhand grasp on the front part of the slide. The shooter should be standing sideways to the line of safe direction, and use an opposing motion with both hands to allow the shooter to lock the slide smoothly to the rear by using leverage instead of upper body strength.

An alternate method taught by some police agencies is to “pinch” the back of the slide at the rear serrations using the thumb and forefinger of the support hand. Either method works, although my preference is for the overhand grasp, as this uses fewer fine motor skills.


Step three is to observe that the chamber is now empty. With the cylinder out of the frame on a revolver or the action locked back on a semi-automatic handgun, carefully inspect each chamber to ensure no cartridges remain. Do not put your finger inside the action of a semi-automatic. (Strong springs can BITE if the action slips out of the slide stop notch.)

It is critical to remove the magazine BEFORE the action is opened. Serious incidents have occurred with a simple mistake of opening and closing the action to eject a cartridge in the chamber, then removing the magazine.

REMOVE the magazine, LOCK the action to the rear and LOOK inside that chamber!


Step four is to verify the feed path. This means to check the path that a cartridge follows from the magazine to the chamber. On a semi-automatic pictured here, once the magazine has been removed, inspect inside the grip for cartridges that may be stuck. On firearms with tubular magazines such as pump action shotguns or lever action rifles, check to ensure that the magazine follower is visible at the very rear of the magazine tube.


Step five is to examine the inside of the barrel (the bore) for obstructions. Due to the tremendous pressure that expels a bullet out the barrel, any obstruction in the barrel would not allow the aerodynamic pressure built up in front of the bullet to be released safely out the muzzle. The result can be a sudden and explosive rupture of the barrel.

The way to prevent this is to examine the full length of the barrel by inserting a cleaning rod down the end, or by visually inspecting it while keeping the firearm pointed in a safe direction.

PROVE for Law Enforcement
How does the PROVE Procedure especially apply to the police or armed law enforcement professional?

First of all, more than one officer in history has unloaded their service pistol at the end of a shift and found they forgot to chamber a round. Most of the time it ends with a sheepish look, a vow to be more careful and a prayer that the Duty Sergeant wasn’t watching.

By practicing the simple PROVE Procedure and integrating that with a consistent loading practice, officers ensure they never leave the building with an empty chamber.

It requires no extra steps. Adding unnecessary steps over-complicates a simple procedure. The more steps that are involved in daily loading and unloading, the more mistakes can happen.

If the officer follows the PROVE Procedure, their semi-automatic pistol is now safe and empty, and the action is locked to the rear. The pistol never leaves the strong hand. To load the weapon, the officer inserts a loaded magazine, closes the action by pulling back firmly on the slide with the support hand and allows the action to slam closed. (If done properly, the support hand should move in the OPPOSITE direction of the slide.) The weapon is then holstered.

Once loaded and holstered, the magazine is removed, topped up with one more round and reinserted into the grip. This gives a second confirmation that a round is in the chamber. There is no need for any extra manipulations or press-check of the chamber to ensure it is loaded. Provided the magazine is inserted before the action is closed, the round will always chamber. You will never run the risk of forgetting to rack the slide to chamber that first round.

Removing the magazine from a holstered firearm and topping it up with one the extra round not only fills the pistol to its full capacity but also acts as a double-check to ensure the chamber is loaded. If the extra round doesn’t fit, something is wrong. Give the magazine one final tug to ensure it is locked in place.

Notice the hand position and the simplicity of the PROVE Procedure. The pistol never leaves the strong hand, and that firm grasp of the back of the slide to allow the action to snap closed on a chambered round exactly duplicates what to do if you run out of ammunition out on the street and the threat is not yet over.

When that emergency reload drill is needed the most, the hand motions will have already been practiced hundreds and even thousands of times.

Keep it SIMPLE; keep it SAFE; and keep it CONSISTENT.


Dave Brown was the professional firearms instructor and subject-matter expert who first coined the PROVE acronym during the design of the Canadian Firearms Safety Course (CFSC) and Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Course (CRFSC). The PROVE acronym is now an integral part of firearms safety training around the world.

Dave continues to teach firearms safety, responsible handling and advanced shooting skills to police officers, military units and government agencies across Canada.