Blue Line


September 23, 2013  By Pierre Descotes

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How to proof-safe seized firearms

by Pierre Descotes

In this new century, many things have changed when compared to 20 or 30 years ago. Police officers are no exception has they get more and more educated, all for the best.


Another situation that has evolved is the criminality is the wider range of types of firearms that are being used to commit crimes which, for the officers that have to take care of them, can be problematic.

Over the past 12 months, many officers were approached to find out how they go about when they seize a firearm and proof-safe them. The most common answer was rather unexpected and somewhat scary but definitely dangerous.

The question was simple: how do you proof-safe a firearm found on the site of a crime and what do you do if no one knows how to secure it?

The most common answer was: I bring the firearm at the station and then try to find a “hunter” (sic) / person who knows how to open it.

This means that in many cases, seized firearms are being transported to the department without being opened to make sure the firearm is unloaded or is transported loaded into the vehicle up to the department and then, the officer in charge hope to find someone who can safely secure the firearm.

Not really the best situation.

Then again, in most cases, even if the firearm is unloaded, no action is taken so that any officer or person lookaying at the firearm can know right away that the firearm is unloaded and/or inoperable.

Any firearm that is not in a holster or in a case should be clearly identifiable as unloaded and secure from afar by everybody, especially when inside a police department.

With the new streets gangs and foreign gangs now operating in our country, many of them have lots of money to spend and buy new and powerful firearms. An HK MP-5 is no longer used only by the police: criminals also use them. But what about the officer who has never seen one but ends up having one in his/her hands and needs to secure it? At 15 rounds per second, just a slip of the finger could prove to be lethal. Also, it is not uncommon for someone who has never fired a fully automatic weapon to freeze the first time he or she does it and cannot manage to remove their finger of the trigger and empties the complete magazine. I have seen it and I have heard it from reliable sources. 2 seconds and you have 30 rounds gone wild.

At the 2012 Blue Line Magazine tradeshow, we were already offering a training on how to proof-safe any modern firearm that can be found out there. The reply to this offer was rather overwhelming.

So, the past 12 months were spent finalizing this training which became much more in depth than its first version with more firearms added to the training. This is a “hands on” training.

There are many ways to open an unload a revolver. There are even more ways to unload and secure a pistol. When it comes to rifles and shotguns, it is even more complicated and diversified. Loading can be done by the top, under the frame, by the front, by the rear, by the inside, by the side, etc… and then, we expect the officers to know how to remove the ammunition and secure all and any of these weapons.

Unless the officer is an expert, the operation of unloading a loaded firearm can be from very hazardous to downright dangerous, if not lethal.

I have heard many times over, officers unloading firearms by shooting it. What a mistake. What a dangerous mistake.

Although there are many reasons why this can be dangerous, we will talk about the two most dangerous situations possible.

Although uncommon in Canada but not impossible to happen, some peoples booby-trap their firearms so that should someone steal their firearm – or other – and try to use it, the firearm will explode in the hands of the unauthorized user. This may or will injure or kill the user. It is done in order to deliberately cause bodily harm.

This is very easy to do when you know how to reload ammunitions or know someone who can do it for you. It is very easy to make rounds of ammunitions that are overloaded to the point of exploding the firearm.

I know: I have done it often for research purposes. While working at the RCMP, Firearms Identification Section, I had one month off work as I missed my shot during setting a firearm for testing and it blew up in my hands. The right side of the shotgun was completely pulverized along with about 10 cm of barrel. I got lucky! none-the-less, I left lots of DNA evidence on the spot.

Picture number 1.

Blowing up a firearm is very easy so, please, NEVER shoot ammunition that you don’t know where it comes from.

Second: “dipping”. Many “experts” in reloading do what is called “dipping”. “Dipping” is when you are reloading some ammunition and the way you “measure” the powder that goes into the ammo is by taking the empty case and “dip it” into the powder to scoop the powder. Whatever goes in, goes in. No real measuring, no real weighing, nothing. If it fits in, it’s okay.

Well…, not really. Anyone who is serious in reloading will tell you that there are measures that MUST be followed to avoid injury or death.

Any firearm – handguns & long guns – using this type of “reloaded” ammunition may work for a while but may also give up and explode on the next round, this is again why you should never fire any unknown ammunition. For examples, please see picture number 2.

These are the main two reasons why you should never shoot unknown ammunition. There are others.

There are safe ways to unload a firearm or to make sure that it is unloaded. There are also easy ways to secure a firearm so that any person that sees you can readily see that the firearm in your hands is unloaded and secured.

The training offered by DESCOTES Canada is a one full day, hands on training with real live firearms.

The day starts with the various types of handguns, pistols and revolvers, their different mechanisms and functions.

Could you name 3 different ways to open a revolver? We show you 6!

From there, we move to rifles and shotgun magazines. This section alone is rather complicated as in some cases, the way you get the ammunition inside is different than the way you take it out. For example, the Winchester 30-30 is loaded thru a small door (gate) on the right side of the receiver but must be removed by the top. Although possible to be removed by the same door, it is rather difficult and uneasy.

In order to go thru the long guns, the various types of magazines must be explained first.
Once this done, we than go thru the shotguns and the rifles.

In the beginning of the day, every officer receives a bookaylet that will become their friend for their entire life as an officer. See picture # 3

Inside the bookaylet, there are some drawings of every firearm that will be used during the day. The drawings are at their minimal and each officer is expected to take notes during the day and write in their own words everything that is being showed and explained during the day. The officers get the opportunity to manipulate each firearm in order to join both writing with physical memory of the actions to do. See pictures # 4 to 6.

At the end of the day, about 95% of all actions and mechanisms that the officers may encounter during their life as police officers are explained during the training and found within their bookaylet. This later is thin and small enough to be placed in any pocket and remain invisible until needed.

Pictures 7 and 8 show some handguns used during training and how three of them open up.

Officers also shown ways to secure any firearm in a manner so that any person from far away can see that the firearm is safe and secured.

It is time to leave chance alone and hope for the best when firearms are seized and transported to the police station and hope to find someone to secure the firearms. We cannot expect every officers to already know and/or to remember how to secure all types of firearms. This training combined with the personal bookaylet gives a lifelong chance to avoid accidents of all types. Although it is impossible to see ALL types of mechanisms, not even within a full week, this one day training comes with a 24 hour emergency phone number for support regarding any firearm not seen during the training. Thru key questions, the firearm will be identified and from there, the officer will be guided to safely secure the firearm.

This training can be done directly at the police department that has room for it or in your city at a local congress centre. Classes are from 10 to 25 participant per class.

For more detail, please call or write.
Phone number (toll free): 1-855-296-2931
Web site:

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