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Chamber flags are devices that are designed to be highly visible and alert everyone in the vicinity that your gun’s chamber is empty. They’re required equipment at most competition shooting events, from 3-position smallbore to pro series 3-gun. But they’re just so boring and dreary. They feel too…plain. So I’ve started jazzing my chamber flags up with souvenirs from my other hobbies, just to cheer myself up a little bit. But even though Tapco sells a metric ton of these things a year, I’ve never seen them used outside of a gun show or competition. How ’bout you? Do you use them? Are they good range safety etiquette?

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  1. No, I don’t except when I was at Appleseed a few months ago, because they insist on them. The other ranges I go to that have “cold range” periods have an RSO that walks down the line and looks for open bolts. The only people there that I see use chamber flags are those shooting rifles whose bolts don’t stay open on their own.

    I do have a couple in my bag, though, just in case.

  2. REQUIRED at our public range when cease-fire is called. We handed out the commercial ones with a $1 deposit, and they still walked away with the shooters. So we started making them from a 6″ chunk of heavy weed-wacker line and some orange duct tape. They look cheesy, but they do work.

    When you have 50-60 shooters on a line, it is really handy for the range officers to be able to tell at a glance that the chambers are empty when people are going downrange. I carry a commercial one in my range bag to remind ME to make sure the chamber is empty when I am shooting in the local gravel pit.

    • We have a cost effective solution to your Chamber flag issue! You can even make money at the same time as making sure your range is safe. We make a chamber flag that’s cost effective, sturdy, that won’t collect moisture and rust your gun if accidentally left in the chamber! The best part about our product is that you can have them printed with your ranges name or logo for free! Check out our product at or give me a call at 316-267-4111 to discuss our product and request samples!

      • I found an “ejectable, glow-in-the-dark, moisture absorbing chamber flag” that actually works very well. I used to use safety flags only when required during competitions but now use this one to store weapons to prevent corrosion and have one in my Glock 19 kept in nightstand… pop it with 300 lumen flashlight for 15 seconds and gives faint glow all night (easy to find if needed). It also works flawlessly in my AR and Benelli M4. Heard about these on Overwatch Designs and then found their website Added bonus….Made in the USA in the great state of Texas!

  3. The only place I’ve ever seen them in use was on competition ranges. I think it makes a lot of sense in competition. You’ve got a lot of guys out there, RSOs don’t know what level of proficiency everyone is at so having a way to determine the state of a weapon at a glance is desirable.

    I’ve never seen them used on a military range, and I think they would be undesirable in that context. Part of military marksmanship training is to teach the discipline involved in handling weapons for a profession. Part of that expectation is that individuals follow safety rules and are accountable to know their weapon’s status. Woe betide the recruit on a BRM range who leaves a round chambered, or the selector set to fire, or doesn’t have the bolt locked to the rear when it’s time to go clear.

    Of course, I’ve also seen a lot of shot clearing barrels downrange. So I may be wrong…

  4. They are required at my range. All firearms must have a chamber flag in before anyone goes down range. This includes the rifle and pistol ranges.

    I also use them on my long guns for storage. If it doesn’t have one, it means its ready to use. Any home defense long gun has the bolt open and a magazine loaded, or a round ready to chamber (for shotgun) does not have one.

    Chamber flags are good as it allows you to handle firearms without having to check each one to make sure its not loaded. You should still follow the firearm safety rules even with a chamber flag.

      • My loaded guns are uncased and unlocked. If it’s cased or locked, it’s unloaded. Not that I’ve put a lot of “what if” thought into it, but now that I think about it, around my house, you’re not ever going to have to worry about picking up a “useless gun” in a pinch. If you can pick it up, it’s going to be useful.

    • “Chamber flags are good as it allows you to handle firearms without having to check each one to make sure its not loaded. You should still follow the firearm safety rules even with a chamber flag.”

      So which is it?

      I don’t use them and I check my firearms every single time I touch them to make sure they are clear and safe.

  5. Never saw the need to waste money on them. Rule #1 and #2 always apply. Always. A little chunk of plastic changes nothing.

  6. At my range, if you dont have them they give you length of red weed wacker cord. But are maditory.
    The RO can scan quicker and call the range cold faster

  7. Normally not as I am shooting on private property most of the time. If I am on a public range and the RO requires it, then yes I will use a chamber flag. No matter what firearm I pickup, I always make sure to clear the mag and that there is no round in the chamber.

  8. Yes to TTAG chamber flags. I need all the good cheap OBI’s I can get because for some reason I lose them all the time.

  9. I pretty much never go to public ranges. If I did go to a public range and had a flag, I would probably use it just to be an all around good doobie.

  10. Yes. I have them in various sizes. And I keep a few in my hunting equipment so that when I come out of the woods it’s clear I’m clear. They are also required at the range I go to.

  11. No, I don’t use them except when compelled to by the event I’m participating in. My club does *not* require them for general use by club members.

    Frankly, don’t see the point. What is the flag supposed to tell me? Those guys are messing around with a rifle, but it’s okay, there’s a chamber flag? Screw that. All guns are always loaded – NO EXCEPTIONS.

  12. I got in the habit of putting one in my gun when I fly commercial. That way at the ticket counter or at TSA stop when I open my case the gun already has the flag in it and is obviously not loaded. Actually had a State Trooper in Jersey comment about it and say he wished more people thought of that.

    • Ah, I forgot about that. I’d like to amend my previous response. My guns fly with chamber flags, for the exact same reason.

      • Because the TSA weenie was afraid and called the trooper over to examine gun for unloadedness. It led to me almost being late for my flight because the trooper and I spent too much time discussing the various manufacturers of 1911’s and who had quality control issues and just how we liked our 1911’s kitted out. It was rather fun watching the TSAbot squirm while we had quite to good conversation. Mind you all this happening in public view while checking in at Newark Intl Airport.

        • John,

          Wow! You survived an encounter with a NJ trooper at the airport. The troopers at Logan in Boston aren’t, shall we say, particularly conversational.

  13. My M&P 9 came with one. When I got to the range one time and went to take it out I realized that the last time I put it in it didn’t go into the barrel, it pushed up into a corner with the frame and part of the slide (around the little chamber window) got stuck in the little hole in thr back of the cone shaped chamber indicator. Jammed the action up real good since I could barely move the slide and took at least 5 minutes to unjam and get the gun in working order again. If I had needed to get to that gun quickly and I found it like that id be screwed. Definitely not using that flag in my pistol again unless I really have to

    • I have the solution to your flag getting caught in the slide. We make a chamber flag that’s cost effective, sturdy, that won’t collect moisture and rust your gun if left in the chamber! They are easy to get in and out of your gun quickly! They are 100% Made in the USA! Check out our product at or give me a call at 316-267-4111 to discuss our product and request samples!

  14. Yes, required at my public range for both handguns and long ones. Bright yellow plastic, sold by the range for a $1 each. I store them in the firearms’ cases.

    No biggie.

    • Follow-up comment: the guns are stored in their cases with the actions closed. The chamber flags are loose in the case and get used only at the range that requires them. As I say, no biggie.

  15. Only if I was required to at the range, store, airport, or something of that sort. Otherwise, no, I think they’re kind of silly.

    At home I keep all my mags and guns loaded, all of them, all the time, unless cleaning, or dry fire practice, of course.

  16. I use them when:

    Other people/groups are shooting on the range (whether they use them or not).
    (Because then they can see I’m safe without bothering me.)

    When I’ve got a group of people new to shooting in my party. (Because flagging it gets them in the habit of checking the chamber when they are done.)

    During competitions. (Because it’s required, and there are usually a lot of people around and distracted with the competition.)

    I don’t use them:
    If I’m alone on the range or with a small number of other gun guys who lock open actions and don’t touch firearms when people are downrange out of habit.


  17. At my range the RSO does a check on all the benches at each cease fire, all actions must be open and empty. I don’t use them on the bench but now put one in my AR rifles when they are in the rifle racks. I had one slip one day and the bolt closed from the jolt, didn’t notice it as I was at the bench when it happened.
    Red face!

  18. I don’t use them, mostly because I don’t have to. Also, my pistol holds open after the last round, so it’s kinda obvious when it’s empty. Still, I treat my weapon with great respect and if someone asks me to use one I will.

  19. I only use them on rifles without a bolt catch. But I like the idea of using them while flying, may have to adopt that one.

  20. No, because I always assume all guns are loaded unless personally checked and found to be safe. And while I’m at it (raises finger up to camcorder) “this is my safety, sir.”


  21. I always use them at the range, home – anywhere. Its part and parcel to the idea of setting a good example for others. I witnessed a death at a pubic shooting range that may (or may not) have been prevented with the use of one of these. I figure anything I can do to illustrate to the general populace (you would be surprised who goes to a shooting range) that not all gun owners are demons walking the earth is time well spent. The sooner we prove we are level headed, safety aware and generally good human beings the better of our cause.

  22. Um, no. A chamber flag can be in the ejection port AND a round in the chamber. In fact, at 3 Gun competitions, the chamber flag simply means the firing portion of the action can’t come into contact with the round or the chamber. It effectively renders the firearm inert until removed, but it does not mean the chamber is empty.

    • Depends on the chamber flag. My SIG P238 came with a hard orange plastic chamber block that wouldn’t fit if there was a round chambered. You can see a picture of it here. So if it’s a design like that, then no, you can’t have a round in the chamber.

      When I did Appleseed, they’re all about safety, and they made a point of saying that flags had to be inserted into the chamber, not just in through the ejection port and down the magwell.

      I guess the takeaway there is since some of them prevent a chambered round, and some of them don’t, you shouldn’t rely on any of them for your safety without actually verifying the condition of the weapon. In that way, you could almost say chamber flags are more dangerous because people might rely on them instead of an actual chamber check.

  23. I don’t mind seeing other shooters guns with flags when I walk down range to swap targets, so I think they might want to see one in my chamber as well.
    I still get a tingle in my back when I know 20 guns are pointing in my direction (down range) when I do swap targets.
    I know I know the four rules but I don’t know about ANYONE else.
    I am detecting a little hautie attitude here in the comments.

  24. First time I ever heard of them. I’ve flown with guns before, but I will NOT fly in der Homeland Security’s Amerika. Getting groped by some leering goon would surely lead to my getting pinched on federal assault charges.

    Kick out the TSA!!! And while we’re at it, KICK OUT THE JAMS!!

  25. I find them highly useful when you have rifle without a hold open. Like AK’s, a lot of 22’s like the Browning Auto and with the Ruger 10/22 hold open is such a bear to release, it’s easier to use a chamber flag. Also it can be helpful when teaching some one new, get in the habit of putting flag, forces them to open the action and check the chamber. I have some of the Tapco flags but you can use bright zip ties that you can get at Harbor Freight.

    • The 10/22 bolt release can be modified to release on pull-back without playing with the fiddly part. YouTube has a bunch of videos on how to do it yourself, or you can buy a modified bolt release from Brownell’s. If you do it yourself, go slow, do less than you think you should, and work on it ’til it works.

      You still have to play with the fiddly bit to lock it open.

  26. They are required at my range. If not used during a cease fire, you can have your range badge confiscated. So, yes, I use them frequently.

  27. I usually shoot on private land. I joined a club for a year. They did not require them. Didn’t even have a flag until my AR came with one.


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