I’ve had students ask if I carry with a round in the chamber. My answer is always an unwavering “Yes.” Why do I choose to carry a round in the chamber? Because if/when the shit hits the fan and I need to use my gun to protect myself, I don’t want to have to worry about racking the slide to chamber a round. Occasionally they’ll ask, “Racking the slide is easy and only takes a second so why not be safer and carry without a round in the chamber?”
Let me address that statement/question in components to clarify some misconceptions or misinformation and add a few bonus reasons…
- Racking the slide isn’t easy, and may not be quick enough. Under duress (and you will be under duress if you’re in a situation that requires you to use your gun) your motor skills will diminish, you’ll be shaking and/or sweating, you’ll be clumsy. If you want to see what it might feel like, soak your hands in ice water for a few minutes and then time yourself as you draw your gun (from your carry holster, concealed), rack the slide and get your sights on target. How long did it take? Be sure to clear the gun first. Double check that it is clear. Use dummy rounds aka snap caps.
- It’s not any safer to carry with an empty round. If you use a quality holster that covers the trigger guard and follow the 4 Universal Rules of Gun Safety, it’s safe to carry with a round in the chamber. Period. Firearms don’t randomly go off. The trigger must be pressed or the gun can’t fire. If the trigger is covered by the holster, it can’t be pressed so the gun can’t fire. If you follow the safety rules your finger will be off the trigger when holstering/unholstering (when most negligent discharges occur), so the gun can’t fire.
- The fewer steps before I have to fire the gun the better. Under extreme duress, you may forget to rack the slide and when you take your first shot you will hear a ‘click’ instead of a ‘bang’ and from everything I’ve read and been told, that is the loudest sound in the world when you’re in a gun fight. I’ve never been in a gun fight, but I can tell you that in a competition that click is a very loud sound. I can only imagine that it would seem much louder if it was my life in danger not just my score.
- Most gun fights happen quickly, and at close distance (less than 10 feet), and you may need to shoot before you can get two hands on the gun, before you extend your arms to the normal shooting position. Needing to rack the slide would prevent you from being able to get a shot off under these circumstances. Understanding that, defensive training instructors teach you to carry with a round in the chamber. All repetitions are done with the knowledge that the gun is ready to go the instant the muzzle is on target.
The video below is a perfect example of what can happen when you carry with an empty chamber:
Everyone once in a while news like this comes out and the issue becomes a hot topic on gun forums and facebook groups. People argue for both sides. In the end, the arguments don’t matter, every person who carries a gun needs to evaluate the information and make a personal choice about what condition to carry their gun. Do your research, make an informed decision for yourself, and be sure to dry-fire practice the way you carry.
I’ve made my decision. I’m confident that I’ve made the best choice for me. My dry-fire practice doesn’t include racking the slide when I draw from the holster. Every defensive gun class I’ve taken trains us to have a round in the chamber when we carry, so the gun is ready the instant I clear my holster and point the muzzle at the threat. The competitions I participate in have us start with a round in the chamber, so each stage helps set the memory of drawing from my holster and having the gun ready to go bang.
If you haven’t yet, take the time to do some research and make an informed decision for yourself.
If you’ve already decided, let me know in the comments what your decision is, and why. Thanks.