Long story short, you need to carry your gun with a round in the chamber. If you’re going to have a handgun for concealed carry or self-defense, it needs to be loaded.
The point of getting your concealed carry permit and carrying a pistol – or having one in your home – is so you can defend yourself with it if presented with a lethal threat. If you carry without a live round in the chamber, it increases the length of time as well as the number of actions you must perform before doing that. That’s an unnecessary handicap.
Since fine motor control all but disappears under increased stress, it cuts down on the likelihood you’ll be able to make your gun ready before being harmed. Therefore, don’t do it.
Some people who carry a gun every day do so with the camber empty. If you aren’t confident enough to carry a loaded pistol, get some professional training and practice with your firearm until you are. Book a class or hire a private instructor so you can learn about gun safety, and learn to handle and carry firearms safely, competently and confidently.
If you aren’t confident enough in yourself or your gear to carry with a round in the chamber, you either need more training or you need better gear.
With that said, let’s go over WHY people engage in this practice and what can be done about it.
Primarily, people new to carrying a gun or keeping one around are concerned about a negligent discharge. As a result, many of them carry with the chamber of their semi-automatic pistol empty.
But a little bit of gear and some knowledge of gun safety can prevent this problem altogether.
We know more or less what causes an unintentional discharge. In most cases, it’s due to inadvertent actuation of the trigger – where the trigger is inadvertently pulled – or a drop-fire, where the weapon is dropped and the impact causes the hammer to strike the firing pin or the firing pin/striker itself to strike the primer of a cartridge in the chamber.
So, how can you prevent these things from happening?
The first step is to ensure adequate protection of the trigger guard.
Unless it’s placed in a safe, a loaded pistol should always be carried in a holster. The holster should be designed and made of material that’s durable enough to preclude anything from being able to snag or otherwise move the trigger once the gun is holstered.
This guards against an accidental discharge as the trigger can’t be pulled accidentally. Additionally, if said holster is carried securely such as on/by a belt of sufficient rigidity, the pistol won’t easily be dropped. If your activity level demands more retention than your holster provides, get a holster with a retention device, such as one worn by law enforcement.
Another common perceived safeguard is a manual safety. Click it on, and the gun can’t be fired.
Bear in mind, however, that a manual safety can fail just as any mechanical device can. Therefore, a manual safety on any pistol – be it striker-fired, double-action or single-action – must be treated as a link in a chain rather than a safety net.
However, any manual safety presents an additional challenge. Namely, you need to train to deactivate the manual safety should you need to draw and fire your pistol. If you need to get your gun out to defend yourself, you need to be able to index the safety with your fingers and deactivate it in time to save your (or someone else’s) life. It’s fine if you want a gun that has one, but you need to be sure you can operate it when you need it most.
With that said, If your pistol is carried in a secure manner on your person or placed in a safe, then it’s not strictly necessary to have one. However, some people do prefer them, so it’s worth mentioning.
Some women carry their pistol off-body in a purse. What if that’s you? For starters, it can be almost as unsafe as carrying in a pocket without a holster. Another common cause of accidental discharge is a purse that’s dropped, leading to a drop-fire, or when a child accesses a pistol from a purse and fires it.
There are two ways to solve this.
First, don’t carry a gun off-body. If you can’t stand to wear a belt and a holster, there are other solutions available, such as a belly band holster such as this one pictured below:
Easily concealed, with a polymer retention shell and a comfortable holster base, it will carry securely and prevent tragedy from occurring. There are other designs available, of course; this is just an example.
The other solution is, if you’re going to carry in your purse, get the RIGHT purse to carry with. Look for one that a holster can be mounted in, or at minimum has a dedicated pocket for carrying a gun that is not easily opened by small hands. A strong magnetic flap enclosure (look for rare earth magnets) and/or heavy-duty zippers should close the pistol compartment at minimum.
This also applies to carrying a gun in a backpack, messenger bag or briefcase. Keep in mind that carrying a gun in a purse or other bag also makes it more vulnerable to theft.
At some point, someone invariably brings up Israeli carry. Can that make carrying with an empty chamber viable? The short answer is maybe…but in the real world, probably not.
The Israelis evolved a method for carrying any semi-automatic pistol – whatever the make, model or operating system – in complete safety. Back in the day, they didn’t have a regular supply of sidearms for law enforcement or the military, so they had to come up with something that always worked for everyone.
The gist of it is a magazine is inserted into the pistol. When a threat presents itself, the pistol is cocked upon drawing and then firing commences.
Now, when it’s well-drilled, it’s actually viable. Here’s a good example on video:
The man in the video goes from slack to the first shot in just under two seconds. However, note that he must use his support hand, which you might not have in a real fight. Here’s a good comparison of the Israeli technique versus the standard technique of drawing a loaded pistol:
This shooter is clearly experienced. The time it took to go from the pistol holstered to the first shot was an average of about 1.5 to 1.6 seconds, from concealment and with a loaded pistol. Not blistering, but clearly experienced. With the Israeli draw, he added about another 0.3 seconds to those times. He also had to use both hands.
Now, again, that’s for an experienced shooter. For a novice? Under stress? It could get you killed.
To sum up:
You should carry with a round in the chamber; military personnel and law enforcement do and so should you. If you carry with good gear (and a decent holster is neither hard nor expensive to get) carrying with an empty chamber isn’t necessary. To be able to load and fire a pistol under stress and in sufficient time to save your own life requires a lot of training and also ideal conditions that may not be present.
What are your thoughts? Carry loaded or unloaded? Sound off in the comments!