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.