The People of the Gun have little time for “Israeli carry.” They scoff at the idea of concealed-carry with a pistol that has 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 of this carry method and current state of Israeli method in Israel.
Israeli Carry pre-dates Israel. Empty-chamber carry was adopted and popularized by legendary close-quarters-combat self-defense instructor W. E. Fairbairn. Firearms instructor Fairbairn considered the relative frequency of administrative [gun] handling vs. gunfighting and declared chamberless carry to be the best method, with the highest gun safety, for people with limited training.
Fairbairn institutionalized the method for the Shanghai police in the early 1910s. 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” chamber empty was the standard for military, police and civilians. The state of Israel was created on May 14, 1948. Its fighters/civilians carried their handguns in the “traditional” manner, without one in the chamber.
In post-war America, with the development of modern drop-safe semi-automatic handguns, World War II veteran Jeff Cooper and others argued against empty-chamber carry conditions. American law enforcement and civilians followed suit.
The rest of the world didn’t switch to carrying semi-automatic pistols in a holster 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 in real life without a round chambered. They use the support hand to manipulate the action and put a round in the chamber.
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: sidearm safety for carriers and bystanders.
If you’ve been to Israel, you may have noticed the large number of people carrying firearms, including double action pistols and double action revolvers. Armed soldiers (on and off duty), security, police, and Mossad are everywhere. I haven’t seen a more openly armed populace with modern firearms 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 officers 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 a loaded firearm because they want to. They carry one of them 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 Condition One chambered or not didn’t prevent any of these terrorists from being neutralized.
As for the “delay” caused by carrying unchambered, racking and firing . . .
To qualify for duty, all Israeli military commandos and police units must meet an Israeli draw standard of 1.2 seconds for placing the first round on target at eight meters with a handgun, starting unchambered, no round under the firing pin. I doubt that most chambered-carrying U.S. gun owners can match that at the gun range, much less in the field.
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 a loaded magazine, but without a round chambered, whether for safety or psychological comfort, and regardless of each gun’s safety mechanisms.
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 of ammo 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.