The People of the Gun have little time for “Israeli carry.” They scoff at the idea of carrying a pistol with an empty chamber. “Why add an extra step to a defensive gun use, especially when adrenalin is flowing and time is short?” Safety? “Keep your finger off the trigger!” Yes, well, let’s take a look at the history and current state of Israeli carry in Israel.

Israeli Carry pre-dates Israel. Empty chamber carry was adopted and popularized by legendary close-quarters combat instructor W. E. Fairbairn. Fairbairn considered the relative frequency of administrative [gun] handling vs. gunfighting and declared chamberless carry the best method for people with limited training. 

Fairbairn institutionalized the method for the Shanghai police in the early 1910’s. His 1942 book Shooting to Live With the One-Hand Gun spread the gospel of empty chamber carry. 

For most of the 20th century, “Israeli carry” was the standard for military, police and civilians. The state of Israel was created On 14 May 1948. Its fighters/civilians carried their handguns in the “traditional” manner.

In post-war America, with the development of modern drop-safe semi-automatic handguns, Jeff Cooper and others argued against empty chamber carry. American police agencies and civilians followed suit.

The rest of the world didn’t switch to carrying semi-automatic pistols with a round chambered. And still hasn’t. While there are a few Israeli military units that carry pistols with a round chambered, Israelis continue to carry without a round chambered.

For one thing, it’s illegal to do so for civilians, most military and police. For another, empty chamber carry satisfies the same goal that inspired the practice in the first place: safety.

If you’ve been to Israel you may have noticed the large number of people carrying firearms. Armed soldiers (on and off duty), security and police are everywhere. I haven’t seen a more openly armed populace anywhere in the world.   

Despite the fact that Israel is surrounded and infiltrated by enemies, the likelihood of an attack by a terrorist or criminal are low. According to nationmaster.com, Israel’s murder rate is 20.47 per million people. In the U.S., it’s 42.01. 

Most of the altercations that Israeli police deal with are physical; gunfights between police and armed criminals are almost non-existent. (Israeli police don’t wear body armor.) Additionally, most terrorist acts don’t involve firearms and or bombs as they did in the second intifada.

There’s another important factor: most Israelis carrying a firearm don’t carry because they want to. They carry because they have to. This takes away from the sense of personal responsibility for their firearm.

All of which means that the odds of an Israeli being injured or killed by an negligent discharge are higher than the chances of facing a similar fate from a terrorist or armed criminal.

In the past year in Israel, with the uptick of car ramming and stabbing attacks by terrorists, the issue of chambered or not didn’t prevent any of these terrorists from being neutralized.

As for the “delay” caused by carrying unchambered . . .

To qualify for duty, all Israeli military and police units must meet a standard of 1.2 seconds for placing the first round on target at eight meters with a handgun, starting unchambered. I doubt that most chambered carrying U.S. gun owners can match that.

As a former IDF soldier and current U.S. civilian, I always carry chambered and train my students to do so. But I fully understand those who choose to carry without a round chambered, whether for safety or psychological comfort.

In the end, your ability to neutralize your threat won’t come down to whether or not you carry your defensive firearm with a round chambered. It will rely on the way you train and the circumstances surrounding the altercation.

Ron Grobman is the founder of Tactical Fitness in Austin, Texas

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58 Responses to The Truth About ‘Israeli Carry’

  1. Very well said.

    BUT, I think there is (or should be) a difference between an Israeli police officer, border guard or soldier who is on duty, patrolling or guarding a post, and a police officer, border guard or soldier who is off duty but still obliged to carry their weapon with them.

    In the case of the former, their attention and focus should be on looking for threats. In the case of the latter, the focus will be on being on time for a date, or picking up groceries, or whatever – of course a portion of one’s attention should always be reserved for looking out for threats, but it won’t be the primary focus.

    The other issue is weapon retention and control – again there’s a difference between carrying a rifle at port arms or slung across the chest while standing a post, and carrying it slung over your back while riding the bus to the beach in Haifa.

  2. Meh… I carry a rou nd in all 6 chambers myself. But I won’t knock anyone else’s decision on the matter.

  3. “The state of Israel was created On 14 May 1948. ”

    **edit: The >modern< state.

    Israeli police (mishtara) training is very different than American training with a very heavy emphasis on martial arts, batons, and nonlethal means. Moreover, there are physical standards for Israeli police — most are very capable in judo, krav maga, or other physical combat. Israeli cops shoot very few people compared to # of incidents. If you get too heavy (BMI) then you are put on unpaid leave until you get back into shape.

    Only special duty police carry chambered (those who are sort of like SWAT teams in US). Regular police don't carry chambered — they also have a far lower incidence of fatalities per capita.

    Military training is a TOTALLY different ball of wax:

    All active duty carry with chambered round when on actual duty. Period. This includes diplomat protection and surveillance. Also undercover units.

    All reserve (shlav bet or sherut leumi) carry with an empty chamber, or active duty when NOT on actual duty.

    So "yes" there is a thing called "israeli carry" for civilians and most police, but it is not universal in Israel.

  4. before kids I carried chambered, now that I have kids I carry Israeli–not because I changed my mind about the best way to carry, but to create another “tragedy buffer” if you will. If its not on my body its locked in a safe, but I am human so I do not rule out the possibility I will somehow leave it out by mistake for a few seconds/minutes and that is all it takes for the unthinkable to happen. No way a 4-yr old is going to rack the slide on a tiny pistol on his best day, hell I doubt my wife could without practice. anyway, to each his own, but Israeli carry gives me piece of mind-at least until the kids get old enough to realize and appreciate the dangers of firearms. I can live with the extra half second to rack if I have to clear leather. to each his own, but dont knock chamber-empty carry I say.

    • ^ This. I have a 5 year old and this is the exact same reason I don’t carry chambered. I also have several friends that have young children and Israeli Carry is very popular among them as well.

    • ^ I’ll add another +1.

      Two of my three children are old enough to respect guns, but still young enough to be curious. They don’t yet have the strength or dexterity to manipulate a slide. So empty chamber carry has a lot of advantages.

      Yes, I keep my guns in safes as a rule. But mistakes happen, and I need to acknowledge that I’m not perfect. I’m glad to have one further check against a tragic incident.

    • The only 100% fail safe way to make sure kids can never access a handgun in Condition 1 is to have secured on your person or locked away, so Condition 3 is a wise choice that makes it very unlikely younger children could fire the weapon if for some reason they were able to get access.

      During overnight stays at locations away from my home, if I’m not carrying my pistol it goes on a high shelf with an empty chamber and loaded magazine out of the gun.

      I’d rather err on the side of having to take a few extra seconds to load and charge the weapon in an emergency than take a chance on a curious grandchild picking up a pistol loaded and ready to go.

    • In public I generally carry with a round chambered, but because of my children at home I home carry Israeli. Same goes for my home-defense weapons- loaded mag on standby, ready to chamver a round. I like the term tragedy buffer too. Thanks!

    • I kind of split the difference and insist on carrying a gun with a couple safeties… One is a DA/SA with thumb safety, would require disengaging safety and heavy DA pull. Second is 1911 with thumb safety and grip safety. My kids are also taught to respect and not touch grown up guns… But day to day activities carrying or playing with my kids I appreciate some manual safeties…

  5. It makes more sense to carry a DA/SA handgun with a heavy double action and decocker, or a DA revolver than to carry without a round in the chamber. Sigs, for instance, have decockers and the hammer does not rest on the firing pin or make contact with it until the trigger is deliberately pulled.

    Carrying without a round chambered only makes sense if you’re carrying a single action without a drop safety, but that problem has largely been rectified in most modern handguns anyway. If a light trigger or no safety is the concern, then get a different gun.

    • A DA trigger is not a sufficient deterrent to a curious child. When they can’t pull the trigger with their fingers, they turn the gun around and use both thumbs. The double thumb press is one reason why almost all self-inflicted gunshots by small children are fatal head wounds.

      • Well said. Children (12 and under) are smart, but unwise. They have no idea often what the consequences of their actions truly are. But they are determined little buggers. If they want to accomplish something they will.

        I keep a few guns hidden around the house. All are condition 3/cruiser ready. My on body carry has always been condition 1.

      • This needs driven home harder.
        Its the mechanism as to how they get things to work, people without small children may not understand, but people with kids recognize this right away, they are very creative.

        YOU MUST ALWAYS STAY ON YOUR TOES WITH KIDS!!!!

  6. “The rest of the world didn’t switch to carrying semi-automatic pistols with a round chambered. And still hasn’t.”

    In the Czech Republic the change in police force carry happened when CZ 82 were succeeded by the CZ 75 PCR.

    CZ 82 was relatively safe compared to guns in Shangai in 1910 as regards negligent discharge, yet the force considered them not safe enough for in-chamber-carry. Anyway, what I wanted to point out is that the safety of firearms we are used to today should not be taken for granted, and we should not smirk at Israeli carry which came to prominence for that very reason (at its time).

  7. I carry with a round chambered. All of the firearms I carry are either DA/SA or DAO (P225, P226, P290, S&W 64x, etc.) and don’t have manual (thumb) safeties.

    If I was carrying a striker-fired pistol without manual safeties (Glock, P320, etc.), I wouldn’t carry with a round in the chamber. I have a P320 sub-compact that I’m not comfortable carrying chambered because of the light trigger pull and lack of safeties.

  8. I carry hot, shield with 1 in the pipe, mag topped off with a spare on my weak side. That said, I clear my weapon for range trips (monthly to swap to ball ammo) and cleaning (post range trip). Otherwise, I don’t see a need to clear leather daily. Unless you’re traveling in and out of secured areas frequently that require you to disarm why remove the pistol from your holster? Second, a few retired leos I know told me that in and out of uniform, they carried on paddle holsters while on duty to avoid handling a loaded, unholstered pistol. I’m not thrilled with my current setup as it’s easier to remove my belt than unsnap and resnap my holster but it still works well and I’m comfortable with this method of removing both pistol and holster. Maybe one day I’ll try an alien or crossbreed…

    • Alien gear is an excellent choice IMO, a shield would completely disappear under any kind of tee shirt. My double stack 9 is a piece of cake at 5 o’clock.

    • Pablo, you may want to consider Alessi Holster’s CWC-S or Ritchie Leather Company’s Close Wuarters Quick Release holsters. These holsters by design are more stable and functional than a paddle holster yet offer a safe way to take the pistol off your belt but not out of the holster. I started using them over 20 years ago when I had to go to courts, jails etc.

  9. Ive carried with one in the tube both on and off duty for the past five years. drawn down on several people. Its never gone off when i did not intend it to.

    however, if you don’t feel comfortable carrying with one in the chamber, but still carry, go for it. at least you still are armed.

  10. Gee I may get a GLOCK. Get in the GLOCK groups and you’ll get loads of derision if you talk about chamberless carry. I have a couple of lowly Taurus’ and love the manual safety. Chambered with safety on. YMMV…

  11. Very well said.

    It should be pointed out that despite the tens of millions of lawful carriers in the USA, accidental shooting rate is at an all time low per capita. I suspect many of not most carry with one in the chamber.

  12. I believe, that for most of us, the question boils down to experience and comfort. When I first started carrying I would not have a round in the chamber. That was my comfort level. As time went by and I became more familiar with my weapon, that changed. I couldn’t imagine not being in condition 1 anymore. My wife has been carrying as long as I; we got our permits together. She is just now getting comfortable with condition 1. Now I do carry a TP9V2 DA/SA with it decocked and I practice that first pull quite often. So we call that condition 1.5.

    • Would you rather serve in an army that answers to Obama as its ultimate authority, or one which answers to the Biblical God?

      /sarc

    • Perhaps because military service in the USA is voluntary, and service in the IDF is mandatory, particularly if you live there?

      Unless of course you have a very good reason to be exempt from service, which some people do. But that would doubtless exempt you from service in the USA as well.

  13. Solid article. I especially appreciate pointing out the reasonings for Israel specifically, and noting that Fairbairn kept a chamber unloaded for the safety of relatively untrained policemen. I’ve had the opportunity to handle one of the original Shanghai Police Fairbairn 1911s. They also had the thumb safety screwed down so that it could not be engaged.
    “Israeli” Carry is still popular in the United States Army as well, depending on station and status.

  14. Back in the 80’s when I was a youngster and had never heard the term “Israeli” carry, my Hi-Power was the only semi auto centerfire I owned and carried off duty because it was flatter and more comfortable inside the belt at the small of the back than my Python, I toted the Browning in “Condition 3” because I believed then and still do that it is significantly less safe to carry a single action semi auto pistol with no grip safety in Condition 1.

    With any modern double action or striker fired pistol, or a single action semi auto with grip safety, there’s no practical reason to carry the pistol “Israeli”/Condition 3 unless that’s the way you prefer and have trained for using a technique that sufficiently ingrains muscle memory to an acceptable and efficient level.

    If my Hi-Power or another single action auto with no grip safety such as the Sig P938 were my only carry option I’d carry in condition 3 after first reprogramming my muscle memory through practice as well as one hand/weak hand drills to hone alternative techniques to charge the weapon.

  15. “For another, empty chamber carry satisfies the same goal that inspired the practice in the first place: safety.”

    You can make the gun even safer by not having a magazine in there at all.

    Frankly, if I’m in situation where I feel the need for the safety of an empty chamber- kids around, off body carry, etc- I would want the safety of an empty gun.

    “To qualify for duty, all Israeli military and police units must meet a standard of 1.2 seconds for placing the first round on target at eight meters with a handgun, starting unchambered.”

    Big difference between being able to do that on the firing line when you know what’s coming and being able to do it under stress and surprise.

    And if they fail on the firing line, they get to try again without dying.

    • “Big difference between being able to do that on the firing line when you know what’s coming and being able to do it under stress and surprise.”

      Actually, the training we do was with hostile/non-hostile targets. You cannot qualify if you score less than 95/100.

      Israeli police training is more like US IPDA training than US police.

  16. I thought carrying with the hammer down on an empty chamber started in the “Wild West” with revolvers?

  17. Its tough enough to carry, but why not carry loaded. I know better and have been in training for over 40 years. A empty gun under stress is almost as good as brass knukels! Being a ole guy I prefer loaded. Its in my training. Hey and besides all my guns are loaded at home and ready for activity. p.s. I have no young children in my home and my older children have been trained these are not toys, they are dangerous items period. Oh and all of them fish and hunt better than me.

  18. The older I get, the more I appreciate the words “it depends.” Lost count of how many billions of people currently inhabit this rock. I do feel comfortable saying few, if any, problems or questions have a single correct answer. Kudos to the author for recognizing this.

  19. I can understand the reasons for “Israeli carry,” and if people aren’t comfortable with one in the pipe, then by all means they should carry Israeli style.

    For me, carrying without a round chambered is carrying an unloaded gun. Yes, unloaded, because that’s what it is. And I don’t want to concealed carry an unloaded gun.

  20. I prefer Israeli Carry because after I pull the trigger, I don’t want to risk the gun going off while I’m beating my attacker in the face with it when he’s already on top of me.

  21. I am with Ralph on this one guys. One other thing to remember, in the days of Fairbairn the 1911 was not drop safe. Almost all modern concealed carry pistols are in fact drop safe. Lots of the issues folks had with a pistol back in the day came from someone simply dropping the gun (worse if they tried to catch it on the way down),

  22. How much of the Carry method depends on the pistol carried?
    Spend enough tone with our foreign allies and you see two categories:
    1) countries that carry in Condition 1 (round in chanber) usually have DA/SA pistols like Berettas and SIG P-226s.
    2) Israeli Carry countries usually favor Glock (higher potential for ND) and Browning Hi Powers (BHP safety is notoriously stiff if the magazine safety is not removed).
    3) CZ countries go either way but Israelis have CZd and Glocks in their holsters

  23. I been carrying for over 20 years now. Always fully loaded and ready to go. If you choose to carry unchambered then to me you probably lack the mindset to carry in the first place. Go read Jeff Cooper’s “Principles of Self Defense” and the last few books by Mas Ayoob. Practice shooting a LOT. If you still don’t feel comfortable carrying fully loaded then maybe get some training. If none of that works then carrying a gun probably just isn’t for you. It’s not for everyone.

    • Are you saying that all those Israeli’s who carry without a round in the chamber lack the “mindset” to carry in the first place?

      Let me introduce you to the Israeli mindset. Most Israeli’s are not gun enthusiasts. They are proficient with guns because they have to be. Being surrounded by people who want to kill you has it’s downsides.

      Yes, guns are everywhere, but so is gun control. It’s very difficult to get a permit to carry a gun in Israel unless you are on active duty, are with the police, are a security professional, or live in the territories.

      No offense, but you seem to be an example of what we used to call “The Ugly American”. The person who thinks that just because they are American, they know everything better than everybody else.

      Well, you don’t. So I suggest that you enlighten yourself. Visit Israel. It’s a beautiful place. You might even learn something.

      • Thanks for writing that. I’m in Israel as we write and I have seen 1 civilian with a pistol. I also noticed many army people with empty magazine (cassette) wells AND an orange chamber flag.

      • I guess I should have prefaced my reply (I actually had a version with this included but it got borked up with a wonky connection). Sorry. I am really only speaking of American gun carriers with relatively modern pistols. I appreciate the cultural differences between what I enjoy here in America and what they do in other places but they don’t apply to me here. I know for a fact that a LOT of skittish new “gun guys” right here in America use the whole concept of “Israeli Carry” as an excuse for them not overcoming their own fears.

  24. I’d like to see the person who can carry un-chambered and draw from concealment and put a shot on target in under 1.2 seconds.

    Jerry Miculek probably. Not 99.9% of people who israeli carry.

    • agree with you, but 1.7 seconds is better than nothing since in reality racking with practice is still pretty quick. You get to where you do it as you bring it up anyway. Had a old salt who taught my NRA pistol instructor class who was a big proponent of israeli carry. tried to sell us all on it, though I only do it now due to small kids in the house. Anyway, he was working on designing a holster that you would push DOWN to simultaneously rack the slide and break the semi-auto pistol free of the holster. Seems like a pretty damned good idea if it can be made to work reliably. Haven’t seen it in the market place yet, and obviously it would only work with OWB belt carry, but I see wisdom in such a thing. Would address the safety concerns of condition 1 while eliminating the extra time to chamber in an emergency. one would just need to train to push down instead of pull up to clear leather.

      • You may want to check this video out of a Spanish police women demonstrating the automatic holster. You may or may not notice the holster though……..

        • yes I see your point. unintentional comedy with the shooting-from-a-moving-scooter too. looks like they solved the auto holster with some sort of “shoulder thing that goes up” hinged arm. I was thinking if a kydex compression arrangement that requires only pushing down to both cycle and release, where this thing requires a down and up motion-but great job finding this. the closest thing I have seen to an actual product. wonder if this is actually used anywhere.

  25. Lol. This is fake.

    In fact there are three major reasons for “israel carry style”:
    1. Shooting training is TERRIBLE in Israel. Period. Yes, there are some real Tier 1-2 units both in IDF and Police. Yes, there are some very serious (even world-class) instructors from around the globe. But army shooting program is runned by idiots and conscript girls (!!! not NCO’s and WO) are serving as “shooting instructors” with terrible shooting manuals! Notorious “instinctive shooting”? Lol. Relax. Now this is only “lock into gun with full force to major puke” championship. =)
    2. Gunzzz!
    “2) Israeli Carry countries usually favor Glock (higher potential for ND) and Browning Hi Powers (BHP safety is notoriously stiff if the magazine safety is not removed).”
    This!
    3. Gun control, limits, permits. And too high self-esteem and too liberal-mindset in too dangerous region. =)

  26. Didnt we just have a story about a father and son being murdered relating to isreali carry? The father pulled a gun without a round in the chamber for self defense and his assailant got his shot off first.

    I carry with one in the pipe. Even when i ran a 1911 regularly, it was always condition one on my person.

  27. Thanks, I have found myself not carrying at all with young children in my home, it literally takes 1 second of bad judgment with those little ankle biters that I am not willing to risk. I just saddled up Israel style and will be practicing my draw daily. I know all the benefits of one in the pipe and all the armchair cowboy comments but it’s better than locked in my car off body!

  28. The French also did it with the Le Francais handgun. They made this gun in .25 and .32. I believe it was the first self loading tip up handgun. It was like the berreta jetfire, except it was not made to manually cock the slide. You pulled the lever, loaded the barrel and then when you fired, it would auto load. The one designed for Gendarme(Type Armee) had a holder at the bottom of the magazine for a round. This was not meant to carry loaded.

    unblinkingeye.com/Guns/Francais/francais.html

  29. Since the author runs a shooting school in Austin, perhaps he is aware of a related issue that actually INCREASES the likelihood of NDs when carrying without a round in the chamber – how is that possible, you ask? It’s like this: The UT Austin administration is trying to impose on-campus carry rules that would mandate carrying with an empty chamber, presumably either because they think LTC licensees are basically unsafe and this would be safer, or just because they think they CAN, and they want to mess with LTC folks on campus as much as they can get away with under the new law. In any case, imposing this rule would INCEASE the danger of NDs because virtually no one in this country carries that way normally. This means there will have to be a lot of unnecessary manipulation of pistols in parking lots and elsewhere to remove a round from the chamber before entering a campus building, and again after leaving the building, when replacing the chambered round. All that handling, if done safely, should make no difference, but then, if done safely, neither would carrying with a round in the chamber. However, if the UT administration is correct in their belief that LTC licensees are inherently unsafe in their gun handling, then their proposed rule would greatly increase the probability of an ND occurring on campus, not DECREASE it.
    As for the importance of shaving the fractions of a second by having a round already chambered, I personally think that so much time is going to be spent in the OODA loop, deciding whether or not to take action, and if so, whether or not to actually shoot, that it won’t make much difference overall. That said, I personally, carry 24/7, either a 1911, or a Springfield XDm, (which has grip safety), always with a round in the chamber.

  30. Just to be clear about one thing, it is not illegal in Israel to go with one in the chamber. If that was the case then how could people carry revolvers. I live in Israel, volunteer police, and I carry a 1911 daily.

  31. Just curious, do Israelis who carry with an empty chamber practice much with one hand in case a hand is injured?

  32. “For one thing, it’s illegal to do so for civilians, most military and police. ”

    Where are you getting your information? This is sheer nonsense. If you have a CC permit, you can carry with a round in the chamber,. If you are a cop you can carry with a round in the chamber. Even in cases where a PD has a policy against it, it is still not illegal.

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