Police Safety Procedures
As published in Blue Line Enforcement Magazine

The PROVE Procedure
by Dave Brown

For safety procedures to be most effective, they must be simple, basic and consistently taught as an important component of the daily routine. When those safety procedures are being taught to police officers, they should also duplicate emergency manipulation drills.

It has been said that for something to become an automatic reaction in an emergency, a certain skill must be practiced hundreds, if not thousands of times. But even the most comprehensive police firearms training program could not include enough repetitions of what to do if your firearm jams or runs out of ammunition in the middle of a gun fight. This is where an integration of the daily safety checking procedures that consistently reinforce the emergency slide-back reload procedures help to form automatic reactions in an emergency.

The reality of deadly force encounters is that they are thankfully so rare that very few officers will ever be forced to use the skills we teach them out on the street in order to save human life. But if they
must use those skills, they must also be automatic reactions. There will be no opportunity for the conscious mind to deal with technical details and this is why the six basic skills of shooting - grip, stance, sight picture, trigger control, draw and reload - must be reinforced so much that they become automatic. Run out of ammunition in the middle of a gunfight, and I will guarantee that a well-trained officer will shortly be standing there in the middle of the street holding a fully loaded handgun ... and they will never know for the rest of their life who reloaded it for them.

The answer, of course, is that
good training reloaded that pistol.

This is why the majority of all the reloads we teach to police officers, the emergency slide-back reload forms the bulk of training. This is the one most likely to happen in a deadly force encounter.

Police firearms training is not an art; it is a science. It is a science is based on the physiology of the human body under stress, and it is the better understanding of the limitations of this performance under stress that differentiates modern police weapons training with traditional training methods.

So, how do we effectively integrate the same motions and muscle movements of a slide-back reload into the daily routine of handling the modern police semi-automatic pistol? Simple. We emphasize the importance of the PROVE safety checking procedure.

The PROVE Procedure
During the redesign of the new Canadian Firearms Safety Course and the design of an entirely new Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Course in 1998, the various industry partners and subject-matter experts all identified a need for simple, basic techniques that could be learned through constant repetition. They also emphasized the importance of acronyms to help students remember the basic safety rules and procedures. This is where the four basic rules of firearms safety became “The Vital Four ACTS.”

There were several suggestions for an acronym that would enhance learning of the basic safety checking procedure but they eventually settled on my idea of the acronym PROVE.

This procedure is now incorporated into the Canadian Firearms Safety Course (CFSC) and the Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Course (CRFSC).

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

This article will look at what each of these terms mean in detail.


Step one is to point the firearm in the safest available direction. This direction may vary, depending on the circumstances. In training, that safe direction is generally pointed towards the backstop, depending on the exercise. Out on the street, a safe direction is where no one is standing or may be standing within the dangerous range of that firearm. An important question to ask yourself is simply, “If this firearms goes off right now, will anyone get hurt?” The answer
must be “no”; once a bullet is fired, there is no force on this earth that will get it back again.


Step two is to remove all ammunition. With any firearm with a detachable magazine, the magazine is always removed first. Then the action is opened. Keep in mind that there are always two places in a firearm that may potentially contain cartridges: the magazine and the chamber.

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

Notice that the handgun action is opened by grasping the top of the slide with the hand in front of the ejection port. This ensures that any live rounds in the chamber will be ejected freely without being trapped in the hand. The inside of firearms may have sharp edges and corners. If a round accidentally detonates while being removed, you want it happening AWAY from your hand!

Notice also the overhand grasp on the front of the slide. The shooter should be standing sideways to the line of safe direction, and it is an opposing motion of the two hands that allows the shooter to lock the slide smoothly to the rear by using leverage instead of brute upper body strength.


Step three is to observe the chamber. Even if a round is ejected in step two, the shooter must confirm with certainty that the chamber is empty. Fatalities have occurred when people skipped this step, and people have been injured by what they are convinced are “empty” firearms. For example, if the shooter has done the REMOVE in the wrong order by opening the action,
then removing the magazine, the chamber may still be loaded. This simple mistake in the order of handling may have immediate and drastic consequences. This is why the PROVE procedure is emphasized so much in the CFSC and CRFSC. Once that action is locked open, take a look inside the chamber for any cartridges.

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 handgun 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, check to ensure that the magazine follower is visible at the very rear end of the magazine tube.


Step five is to examine 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 very explosive rupture.

One 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.

If you follow the PROVE procedure every time, a firearm will never surprise you. Police officers are not immune to the laws of physics and sadly, there are officers who would still be with us today if the PROVE procedure had been taught and followed universally.

Once the PROVE procedure has been accomplished, you will note that the police sidearm is now empty, with the magazine removed and the slide locked to the rear. To load the police sidearm, the officer simply inserts a loaded magazine, closes the action using an overhand grasp at the back of the slide and holsters the weapon. Once safely loaded and holstered, the magazine can be removed and topped up with one more round and then reinserted into the grip. Give the magazine one final tug to ensure it is locked in place.

Notice the elegant
simplicity of this procedure and the way it uses day-to-day manipulation skills to reinforce emergency immediate-action drills. Notice also that following this procedure makes it virtually impossible for an officer to forget to chamber a round.

There are few of us in the world who have not forgotten to chamber a round at some point point, but by following the PROVE procedure for checking the firearm for safety and then following the loading procedure as taught by your police academy instructors, this will not happen on the one day you needed a fully loaded firearm in your hand the most.

Unfortunately, very few of us in life will ever have the opportunity to know in advance when that day will be.

Dave Brown is one of those unusual people in life who has been able to translate decades of competitive shooting and advanced coaching into a successful career as a freelance firearms trainer. His clients have included a variety of police, government and military agencies. He incorporates a good understanding of the physiology of the human body under stress, the mental skills required to perform under extreme stress and years of experience into teaching professionals how to shoot quickly, effectively and accurately.