One persistent question is, “should I carry with one in the chamber?” My answer is “yes,” but the reason may not be what you expected.
A Round in The Chamber Question Divides Gun Owners:
I have been carrying firearms daily for over 15 years now, first as an off-duty police officer. I carried my duty weapon with a full magazine and a round in the chamber, so the idea of carrying my off-duty concealed gun with one in the chamber came naturally to me.
I quickly realized that the fundamental question of carrying an everyday carry gun EDC loaded divided concealed carriers.
I'm not here to bash people who disagree with my decision to carry my EDC gun loaded. However, if you don't, I want you to consider carrying with a round in the chamber. If you want to carry condition-one (round in the chamber) I want to provide you with a way of gaining confidence to carry concealed with a loaded gun.
Common Arguments Against Carrying a Gun With a Round in The Chamber:
You might have heard (or used) some of these arguments to support an opinion that carrying with a round in the chamber is unsafe.
- It is just too dangerous. The gun could go off inadvertently and cause injury or death.
- It does not take that long to rack the slide and chamber a round.
- I like single-action firearms. It is not safe to carry them loaded with the hammer cocked.
- My gun does not have an external safety, so it is unsafe to carry with a round in the chamber.
- One of the safety rules states, “Keep the weapon unloaded until ready for use.”
Let me begin by addressing these concerns.
1. The Gun May Go Off Inadvertently:
Mechanical malfunctions causing them to fire without manipulation of the trigger can happen. Most recently, a specific gun could fire if a round if dropped in a certain way. If you maintain a quality firearm, the risk of the “gun just going off” is reduced to nearly zero.
Additionally, having a quality holster is important. Two must-have characteristics of a holster are that it:
- completely covers the trigger guard
- is designed specifically for your model of firearm
Focusing on holstering your firearm carefully; and not allowing strings, bits of clothing, keys, etc., from catching in the trigger guard will eliminate a dangerous situation where the is fired unintentionally.
Modern semi-automatic handguns, especially ones designed for concealed carry and self-defense, are equipped with internal safeties. While you may not see them, they keep the gun from going off unless you pull the trigger. Looking at the internal safeties of this dissected Glock 19 should help reassure that the gun won't just go off.
I understand, on the one hand, I say safeties can potentially fail, and on the other hand, say to trust internal safeties to keep the gun from discharging on its own. I am talking about redundancy in safety when it comes to internal safeties. Multiple mechanical safeties, coupled with safe handling practices, are what will keep you from having an “accident.”
2. It Doesn't Take That Long to Rack The Slide:
This argument most people make to justify carrying with a round in the chamber. I get it. If attacked, every millisecond is critical. But I agree that racking the slide to chamber a round doesn't take a significant amount of time. We are talking about maybe adding 0.5 seconds to your draw to the first shot time for those who practice this method.
However, racking the slide typically requires two hands. Consider most self-defense encounters begin with a physical confrontation, meaning one hand may be tied up in protecting your head against strikes.
Additionally, I have seen people not pull the slide completely back to rack the slide under stress. When this happens, you need to rack the slide again, exposing you to the attack even longer.
Racking a slide makes a distinguishable sound. There may be a situation where deploying your gun without drawing attention by racking the slide is essential.
3. Carrying With One in The Chamber for a Single-Action 1911 Handgun:
Carrying a single-action semi-automatic (1911 type) firearm with a round in the chamber and the hammer cocked can appear dangerous. And truthfully, it kinda' looks dangerous.
However, these guns are designed to be carried with a round in the chamber, hammer cocked, and external safety engaged.
People have carried single-action pistols for a long time. If the practice weren't safe, experts would not still carry them loaded.
4. I Only Carry Loaded if I Have a Manual External Safety:
Many guns come with or without external safeties to satisfy shooters’ preferences. Consider reading this article about choosing to carry a handgun with or without a manual external safety.
An external safety on your firearm can be good or a detriment, depending on how you look at it. Safeties are mechanical devices that, although rare, can fail. So, if your peace of mind comes from your gun's external safety, you are misguided. The way you carry and manipulate the firearm makes it safe or unsafe, regardless if there is an external safety or not.
Additionally, an external safety complicates the process of getting the gun into the fight and firing on the threat. This could mean a delay or an all-out inability to fire the gun.
An external safety is not all bad, though. Through proper training, the amount of time it takes to disengage a safety is negligible. If it gives the user added peace of mind to have it, it may be worth it. You have to make sure to practice taking the gun off safe as part of your draw stroke.
5. Is it a Basic Safety Rule Violation to Carry with a Round in The Chamber?
One famous gun organization states this as a safety rule: “Keep the weapon unloaded until ready for use.”
While it is generally correct, it doesn't apply to a gun being carried for self-defense. Your concealed carry, everyday carry gun should be ready for use. The firearm needs to be ready to be used against an attacker. In this way, it is appropriate (if you desire) to carry with a round in the chamber.
Understanding all that we have spoken about, I choose to carry a striker-fired, semi-automatic handgun without a manual external safety. And I choose to carry it ready with a round in the chamber.
I choose to carry in the appendix position, in a holster that completely covers the trigger guard area. I practice drawing my firearm from the same holster I carry every day. I practiced hundreds of times with an unloaded firearm until I could ensure that I was not inadvertently squeezing the trigger before the muzzle cleared my body.
I mention all of this because it takes time and practice to become confident that you will be safe throughout all aspects of carrying your firearm (holstering, carrying, and drawing). I chose to carry my firearm this way because it is what I felt afforded me the quickest response time. I trained and continue to work on technique, so I am confident that I handle the firearm safely.
I do not typically advocate a “one size fits all” concept to firearms training. If you choose a different way to carry, you are not necessarily wrong. Hopefully you have weighed the pros and cons and made your decision based on your confidence and comfort level.
Techniques to Overcome Fears:
Still on the fence about carrying with one in the chamber? Understandable, and if you’re not comfortable, you should not carry with a round in the chamber. You can do something to gain some confidence in carrying your firearm with a round in the chamber.
Carry your firearm unloaded, or loaded with dummy rounds/snap caps (one in the chamber is fine here). Have the gun cocked and ready to fire for striker-fired type guns, or have the hammer to the rear and the safety engaged for your single action 1911 type firearm. Carry your firearm like this for several days and while performing routine actions and even those you may find to be more at risk for inadvertently firing a round from your gun.
In a safe location, and while pointing the firearm in a safe direction inspect your firearm. If you inadvertently pulled the trigger, you will be able to tell, by seeing the hammer forward or the trigger pulled to the rear on your striker-fired pistol. If after doing this for some time, and observing that your firearm did not inadvertently fire, you may gain some confidence that you have an appropriate holster, and that you are manipulating the gun in a safe safely enough, not accidentally squeeze the trigger.
Here are some tips on how to train if you carry without a round in the chamber.
Ultimately, the type of firearm you carry and how you carry is a personal choice that you should make based on confidence and understanding of your gun. My suggestion is that you carry with a round in the chamber. However, I advise that you don't if you are not confident in your firearm or skill set.
Consider these 4 mistakes concealed carriers commonly make.
If you are confident in your safety and want to learn how to draw quickly and still get accurate shots on target, check out our Draw Like A Pro Course. It is a fantastic video course that will bring your draw time down without sacrificing accuracy.