Should you carry with a round in the chamber?
Imagine removing your handgun from the holster, pointing, aiming and pulling the trigger. It can seem like it happens in slow motion when you’re in a stressful situation. Your mind is trying to comprehend everything going on, your heart is pumping and you’re trying to do anything you can to stay alive.
What if, due to the stressful circumstances, you point and pull the trigger and hear… CLICK… or feel nothing but a limp trigger?
Would your stomach drop a little? I know I would freak out. Not every situation allows time to remove your weapon, rack the slide, grasp the gun with both hands again, point, aim and shoot. Would the thought of this be solved by always having a round chambered? The answer is “yes.”
Milliseconds count. When the term “loaded” means a round in the chamber and you need to carry, either open carry or concealed, with an unloaded gun, training to be faster with your draw will be very important. Carrying this way isn’t for everybody though.
In some cases it’s not legal. Deciding to carry with a round in the chamber can have benefits as mentioned above, but depending on the style handgun you’re carrying, you might want to consider all of the risks.
Part of the decision to make with some weapons is, to carry the weapon with the hammer cocked and ready to fire or not. Does carrying with your hammer back make it more likely to accidentally go off? Is it safer to carry a hammerless semi automatic pistol if you’d like a round in the chamber? Let’s talk a bit about both styles.
Make sure to reference the laws for your state about the term “loaded” refers to. Take a look at the gun laws by state HERE. The term can vary from state to state thanks to legal-speak. No matter what you read in forums and blogs and see on the news, following the wording of the law of the state you are in is a must.
One In The Chamber with a Semi Automatic Handgun
Guns like your Glocks, Springfield XDS, Smith and Wesson M&P and many other semi auto pistols have an internal hammer. Common concealed carry guns are hammerless. Without diving into the action (e.g. dual action only), a semi-auto can allow you to remove it from the holster and fire until the magazine is empty.
Many semi-auto handguns have an alternative safety. The Springfield XD series, for example, needs your hand gripping the handle and pulling the trigger at the same time for the gun to fire.
There is a grip safety as well as a trigger safety. When one of these isn’t depressed, the gun doesn’t fire. For me, I like these point and shoot type guns for concealed carry. Less to think about in a stressful situation the better.
Carrying with the Hammer Cocked
Some people carry one or a variant of it for both concealed and open carry. Guns with an exposed hammer usually let you pull back the hammer and put on the safety to allow the gun to be in a ready to fire position. Carrying with your hammer cocked is similar to having one in the chamber in your semi-auto handgun. The time saved can be life or death.
A professionally designed holster will prevent accidental discharge, take time to find the holster that has been specifically engineered for you handgun here: Concealed Carry Gun Holsters
While some people are very comfortable carrying this way, personally I’m not.
I feel like the slightest bump could let the lead fly right into my thigh. On top of the fear, I think it would take slightly longer to fire. Training will always increase your speed, so don’t discount a gun you like because it’s a little slower. Train more with it to gain speed and comfort.
Antique Shootin’ Irons: Some Lack A Transfer Bar Safety
In times long gone, people had to carry a revolver with the hammer over an empty chamber, for the simple fact that most pistols didn’t have a transfer bar safety at the time. This is a safety feature on revolvers, as semi-autos work quite a bit differently.
The transfer bar safety was originally developed by the Iver Johnson company for their Safety Automatic and Safety Hammerless revolvers, a line of hammer-fired and hammerless top-break revolvers. A transfer bar is basically a small metal tab that sits between the hammer of a revolver and the firing pin or the cartridge itself.
Transfer bars are linked to the trigger, much like the passive safety on modern semi-automatic pistols. A tilting link pushes the bar into place, blocking the hammer from striking the primer, unless the trigger is pulled. As the hammer pulls the rear, the bar drops out of place and allows the hammer to strike either the primer of the cartridge in the top-center cylinder or a firing pin the in frame which does so.
Colt SAA, Remington New Model Army and other revolvers of the day didn’t have a transfer bar safety, and thus were susceptible to slam-fire. If the hammer was let down over a live round, a discharge could occur IF the hammer was struck. This led to the practice of carrying the revolver with the hammer down over an empty chamber and thus with only five bullets in the gun.
This changed, of course, as revolver makers started adding them in the early 20th century. However, a number of companies currently produce replicas of antique/classic revolvers, including the Colt Single Action Army, Remington New Model Army, S&W Model 3 and so on. Some feature a transfer bar safety, some have a different system for carrying fully loaded and some don’t.
If you carry a modern reproduction of a classic revolver, make sure to check if your pistol has one. If it has no transfer bar safety, then you’ll need to carry on an empty chamber.
The Israeli Draw Method: Arguably The Only Way To Carry Without One In The Chamber
IF you’re going to carry with an unloaded chamber, arguably the only way to do so with any sort of track record of success is using the Israeli draw method.
Here’s the thing though: the Israelis train. A LOT. A person can get quite fast using the Israeli draw method, but it takes thousands of repetitions to get there. This is not a carry method for a person who doesn’t have the time to devote to practice.
So, the Israeli draw method came about in the post-war era. The Israeli military didn’t yet have a single supplier of small arms, so they had to take what they could get. This added up to a number of different makes and models of sidearm, each with their own manual of arms.
To standardize training methods, as well as figuring out a safe way to carry a sidearm, they carried with a loaded magazine but empty chamber. To make soldiers combat-effective, they had to drill racking the slide upon the draw again and again and again.
We won’t go into the full method, but basically the pistol is drawn from the holster and brought to near eye level. The slide is grasped and punched forward toward the target, loading the pistol and completing the presentation of the pistol.
Additionally, the Israeli method is to come out of the holster shooting. They don’t draw unless they are going to shoot. Not intend to shoot if the threat continues; they come out shooting, period, or at least that’s how the story goes.
A few different publications have run tests and found that a well-drilled practitioner loses a few tenths of a second, up to a half-second, compared to a person drawing and firing a loaded handgun. The key there is well-drilled; you need to train (and a lot) to get the technique down to muscle memory and to get fast enough.
However, most people who carry with an empty chamber are often novices, believing that carrying with an empty chamber makes the gun safer. In a sense it does, but good equipment and training more than make up for it.
Is There A Right Or Wrong Way to Carry a Handgun?
When you train with the gun and one in the chamber or not, the answer is no. Carrying your self defense weapon, be it concealed carry or open carry, should be as ready as the law allows. Every millisecond you can eliminate from your draw to firing is a better chance you will be the victor in the situation and not the victim. There is no wrong way as long as it’s within the confines of the law and you are comfortable with it.
There’s a fine line between what’s legal and illegal though. Know the laws for the state you are in and do not cross the boundaries.
You are more likely to have a run in with the police at a traffic stop or accident than you are a situation where you would draw your weapon to save your life. Even though there are some seemingly useless laws out there regarding guns, having a legal way to defend yourself is better than having nothing at all.
About The Author
Trevor Dobrygoski has been a freelance copywriter since 2009. He has written about many different topics over the years. His 9-5 is outfitting police and other public safety vehicles with all of the equipment the law enforcement and other first responders need to save lives. When not working and writing, he is coaching, refereeing and playing soccer.
Source: Alien Gear Holsters