Empty Chamber Carry: Yes or No?

Empty chamber carry

Empty Chamber Carry: Yes or No?

Recently I have been privy to a string of email conversations that quite frankly has left me scratching my head. The source of these emails will remain withheld due to my own professionalism, but I felt that the topic needed to be breached here. The issue of concern? Carrying a firearm with an empty chamber. The argument for carrying in such a manner appears to be based out of concern for the carrier’s ability to properly retain their gun and maintain situational awareness of his or her person.

The basic premise of the argument for empty chamber carry is that it is inherently safer than carrying a handgun in a fully loaded, condition 1 status. Quite frankly, anything other than loaded and ready to be utilized lacks proper fore thought and makes you a liability to not only yourself, but others. Enough of the opinion… Time for the knowledge bomb.

But its “Safer”

I beg to differ. The hangup here is the definition of safety. Yes, an unloaded firearm is safer than a loaded one. However an unloaded firearm is not safer to the end user if the need arises for its deployment in a time is life situation. The purpose of the handgun is to provide an immediate means of personal defense against an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to yourself or an innocent. Being able to respond accordingly to such threats is critical to survival when fractions of a second carry the weight of lives. That being said, maintaining situational awareness and knowing the status of your weapon is paramount.

Body alarm reactions under stress are far different than what occurs under normal conditions at the range. We all fancy ourselves to be pretty high speed, some of us more than others, but lets be honest with ourselves: none of us are as good as we think we are. Being able to observe a threat, orient oneself to it, decide to draw your firearm, and then act appropriately to the scenario takes time. Adding the additional steps of chambering a round, obtaining your master grip, and then tracking your sights to the intended target area will only serve to slow your survival loop down. The old saying goes “you fall back on your level of training, not rise to the occasion.” This cannot be more true.

You must maintain good situational awareness, be proficient in your draw stroke, and utilize a quality holster to enhance retention of the firearm.

People aren’t trained enough

Valid statement. However this should not be the case if you intend on possessing and carrying a gun for self defense. I don’t believe in mandatory training. I do believe in personal responsibility, and carrying a gun requires quite a bit of it. Obtain some training. Strike that, obtain as much training as you can. With training comes knowledge and experience,and therefore confidence. I am confident in my skill set to know that anytime I unholster my handgun, my trigger finger will unconsciously find its place along the slide of my gun. This is a byproduct of training which has developed the muscle memory to the point where it just happens. That finger will not touch the trigger until my sights are on target. Period.

Go give me a few thousand perfect repetitions of a good draw stroke please.

Knowledge is Power

Know how your gun works. Understand that it is a mechanical device that must be told what to do. A quality modern handgun in a state of good repair will not go off until the operator presses the bang switch. A holstered firearm will not discharge unless something interacts with the trigger in such a way to cause it to go off. That something could be an article of clothing, foreign matter in the holster, or an errantly or intentionally placed finger on the trigger. Guard against such happenings and all will be well.

But the Israelis Do It!

Good for them. I call that institutional inertia, and it doesn’t mean that you should do it too. There are a variety of situations where condition 3 (magazine inserted, chamber empty, hammer down, safety on) may be required, such as department SOP’s or unit/guard post orders, but for concealed carriers such a method is impractical.

Spitting Distance

Ask yourself this: what would you do if the bad guy was pummeling the crap out of your melon while on top of you in the mount position and your only recourse is to draw and end him. How about if you need to push or carry a loved one with your support side arm while drawing and engaging an immediate threat? Can you draw your gun in either scenario, both of which are very possible, rack the slide without inducing a malfunction, and then get off accurate and effective shots? Have you trained that into yourself? Can you do it every single time without fail?

Be honest. Bull shit here will get people killed.

Parting Shots

It all boils down to the following: keep your firearm in a quality holster, and maintain trigger discipline. If these two rules are followed, all will be well. If you must carry off body, which I wholeheartedly do not recommend, take steps to ensure the security of the gun. Get training, and practice perfect. In effect, its all about taking responsibility for yourself and be a good concealed carrier. Be an asset, not a liability.

This is not the last you will hear from me on this topic. I plan on putting this whole issue to rest by using Simuntions in force on force scenarios as well as a live fire demonstration of distance and time to first round. Expect a video soon.

In the meantime, please share this post and leave a comment!

Robert Curran

Rob is co-owner of Tactical Dynamics Firearms Training and is a USMC veteran and active Law Enforcement Officer. Rob is a Sig Sauer Master Rated Firearms Instructor and holds several other ratings from various institutions.

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