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I Call BS on “If You Carry Without A Round In The Chamber You Might As Well Leave Your Gun Home”

Here is the meme I saw today that compelled me to write this article. Credit: Facebook Pro-Gun Memes Page

I've seen a meme with this quote twice in the last week so it is time for me to express myself on what I think is a dangerous and ridiculous line of thinking we often use in this industry.

To Be Clear I Think It Is Best to Carry With A Round In The Chamber

Before anyone calls me out or sends me hate mail you should know I carry with a round in the chamber and I strongly feel it is best to do so.

There are a lot of reasons why and speed isn't the only one even though it is often the only one cited in the argument. Carrying without a round in the chamber not only slows down your draw somewhat but it also reduces your ammo capacity by one round and complicates your draw should you ever need to do so one-handed.

RESOURCE: Carrying With A Round In The Chamber – To Do or Not To Do

RESOURCE: Podcast Episode 18: The Chamber or Not To Chamber

But Is it Better or Equally Good To Just Leave It Home?

No, it isn't. Having a firearm on you without a round in the chamber is still a significantly better place to be in a potential self-defense incident than not having the firearm on you at all. Any argument to the contrary seems crazy to me.

Yes, carrying without a round in the chamber means that one must rack it as part of the draw stroke but how much slower is that really? A well-trained shooter who practices that element into their draw can get it done in under 1 and 1/2 seconds total.

The delay added by racking the slide is probably 1/2 second. That might vary for others depending on the level of training and the carry position etc., but I have to ask the question: Does slowing down the draw by .5 to 1.5 seconds now mean that the gun owner shouldn't even bother carrying the gun? That extra second or two somehow means they might as well not have the gun at all?

Not all situations require a lightning-fast draw stoke. For example, in most mass killer events the majority of the victims have more than 1-2 seconds to react. They may have as much as 30 to 60 seconds to draw and present to the threat.

Let me take this line of thinking to an extreme. Let us suppose that in 99% of self-defense incidents the speed at which you can draw is so significant a determining factor of the outcome that the extra 1-2 seconds it takes to rack the slide means losing the gunfight.

This is, of course, crazy and not true but let us just suppose it was true. Then don't you think it would be better to have the gun than to leave it home in case one finds oneself in the 1% of situations where it isn't a determining factor?

RESOURCE: How to Train If You Don't Carry With A Round In The Chamber

How We Should Deal With This Issue

Telling gun carriers in our community that they shouldn't have the gun at all or might as well leave it at home is shameful. It divides us in a way that is unnecessary and it guilts people into feeling bad about their own journey or level of comfort.

I have to ask, do you really want someone who has gone through the time and expense to carry around a firearm for personal protection to leave it home instead of carrying it just because they don't have a round in the chamber?

If they are in the restaurant where your family happens to be eating when crap hits the fan will you say to yourself “I sure wish they had left that gun home instead of trying to save my family's life because they didn't even have a round in the chamber.”

OR, will you be grateful they were prepared to the degree that they were prepared even if it wasn't as ideal as you would like?

To take this to the extreme do you think we should tell people they should leave their gun at home if they can't perform a sub 1 second draw, if they carry a gun that holds less than a certain number of rounds, if they don't carry a spare magazine, if they don't also have an IFAK, if they carry in an ankle holster or other less than ideal carry position, if they don't also carry less-lethal options, or if they haven't passed the FBI qualification?

We should applaud concealed carriers who have taken any steps forward in their own personal defense and then focus on encouraging them to progress and educate them on the pros and cons of each decision. We should avoid shaming them or telling them that anything less than the perfect carry loadout is worthless.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Have you ever told someone they might as well leave the gun home? Has someone told you the same?

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40 Responses to I Call BS on “If You Carry Without A Round In The Chamber You Might As Well Leave Your Gun Home”

  1. Amaro Jaime September 9, 2019 at 12:42 pm #

    I’ve seen many people getting bashed online for not carrying a loaded firearm. I’m one of those that doesn’t carry my Glock loaded but as stated I can draw and rack my slide and put five holes in a bad guy before some can even unholster their firearm. I support both ways of carry. I think it’s BS to have anyone tell someone else that if they don’t carry loaded then they shouldn’t carry at all.

    • Charles Vlcek September 11, 2019 at 7:14 pm #

      Ive been in law enforcement for years and always have a round in the chamber that split. half second could nean life or death

  2. David Knapp September 9, 2019 at 12:59 pm #

    I appreciate your words on this topic. I do not carry with one in the chamber. My adult son tells me I should but I am confident that I could rack one and shoot if the situation ever came to be.

  3. D. September 9, 2019 at 1:14 pm #

    Carrying a round in the chamber gives you less time to respond down range. Racking a round with your lever is a split second, that you could loose. If you prefer no round in the chamber; then you better practice racking a round with a practice cap. Being able to point a gun down range, and shoot is the difference between racking a safe round and your life.

    That means grabbing your gun, racking the round safely, finger on the trigger safetly,,and pointing in the down range area towards what you plan to destroy or kill.

    When you carry a round in the chamber you take the extra thought away. You simply grab the gun, finger to the trigger safely, pointing the gun down range and destroying the object or kill the intended.

    • Dan September 11, 2019 at 6:38 pm #

      One thing no one ever mentions or doesn’t think about is a situation where someone else is able to get control of your firearm. This would most likely happen in one of two ways. The most likely would be during a physical altercation and yes it happens to cops quite often. The second would be if you get jumped from behind. In these scenarios not having one in the chamber is going to give you a few seconds to possibly remove your self from the line of fire while the DS try’s to figure out why the gun didn’t go bang. If you carry a backup weapon or whatever it gives you the chance to respond with those. The main reason I won’t carry one in the chamber is that that 0.5 to 1.5 second is not worth the possibility of an accidental discharge and yes that can happen with any semi. The only semi I will carry with a loaded chamber is a 1911 style with a grip safety. And I never trust a gun with hammer releases as I have had them go bang twice when they weren’t supposed to so much for Sig safety. Not to mention your chances of an extremely quickdraw is far out wayed by a slower draw a this isn’t the old west.

      • RichM September 12, 2019 at 9:37 am #

        Always Carry CONCEALED. That way your attacker doesn’t know you have something he /she can take a way.

      • Matthew Maruster September 15, 2019 at 2:36 pm #

        People do think about weapon retention, and there are classes on that specific topic. Learning how to maintain control of your firearm, is a much better strategy than not having a round in the chamber and hoping the person who just took your gun can’t figure out how to rack the slide.

        I can understand some people being concerned about carrying a firearm with a round in the chamber, but their goal should be to ultimately gain the confidence through training to carry with a round in the chamber (because it is without doubt the best way to carry a firearm for defensive purposes.) You shouldn’t degrade your ability to defend yourself, for fear in the threat may take your firearm away. Focus instead on how to retain your firearm, or get it in the fight quicker and stop the assault quicker. To me, this is the proper way to look at your concern.

        Additionally, it isn’t the .5 or 1.5 seconds more it takes to rack the slide that is of concern. Racking the slide with one hand is difficult, especially if your being assaulted or grappling during a fight. How about if one of your hands is severely injured? Sury you can rack the slide with one hand, but it is much more difficult and takes some skill. Hopefully if you carry with an empty chamber you have attended some training classes where one handed manipulation techniques are taught. You also may not ever get a chance to even attempt to rack your slide. There is also the potential to short stroke the slide and not pull it back fully. Therefore a round is never chambered. All of these reasons are more of a reason to carry with a round in the chamber compared to just the .5 or 1.5 added seconds.

        By ‘hammer release’ are you talking about a de-cocker? Which model of guns have you had that fire when the de-cocker is engaged? I am not aware of a modern DA/SA gun that has a problem of firing when the decocker is engaged, let alone more than one manufacturer or model. It would be beneficial to know which models so we can advise others of the potential danger or manufacturer recall.

        You said you will only carry with a round in the chamber on a 1911 because it has a grip safety. I really have two questions about this statement. First, couldn’t an attacker take your 1911 from you just as easily as any other gun? So they would potentially have your loaded 1911 to use against you. What I am trying to understand is how the potential for you to lose your gun to the attacker goes away because the gun has a grip safety.

        Secondly, the grip safety is disengaged the minute your hand establishes grip, so the gun is still in the holster and still potentially going to cross a portion of your body on the draw. So the grip safety really isn’t designed to keep you from shooting yourself. I don’t see a huge benefit in a grip safety. On the contrary, I have seen problems when people shoot from unconventional positions where their grip is changed and they do not engage the grip safety. But back to the draw, it would seem if you are gripping the gun without engaging the grip safety, until your muzzle rotates toward the threat, you may not have to worry about the attacker taking your firearm from you, moreso that it will fall out of your hand. About the manual external safety, it should be swept off as part of the draw stroke. We could debate exactly when in the draw it should come off, but if it doesn’t come off until the muzzle is aligned on the target, it’s way too late. Plenty of people have shot themselves or had ND/AD’s with 1911’s so the idea that 1911’s are any more safe because they have more safeties isn’t quite accurate. The points made on why having all the external safeties makes the gun/person safer, are the same exact points as to why it can also make the gun/person less safe. Sure it is one more step before the gun can be fired, but that means one more step before the gun is functional, and with all the things going on, one more point of failure in the process of stopping the threat.

        There are certainly times when a sub second draw is not necessary, but to think that a fast draw is never necessary, or hasn’t been necessary since the wild west is another example of the wrong mindset.

        Not trying to be argumentative, just trying to get you to challenge some of those ideas you have about using your firearm in the context of a deadly-force incident.

    • Tony September 11, 2019 at 9:32 pm #

      No, you point the gun downrange, then finger on trigger. Not the other way around.

  4. Brian D EBEL September 9, 2019 at 1:42 pm #

    I am relatively “new” to conceal carry. I have done it both ways as my comfort level increases, I get more training, and more confidence in the holster I use in everyday carry. I have heard from some of my “veteran” concealed carry friends often say “carrying without a round in the chamber is like not wearing your seat belt. you won’t have time to put it on when there’s an accident.” For me, I do want is comfortable. As I get more practice in and training, I will feel more comfortable with a round in the chamber everyday. In today’s world, not carrying is not a good idea.

  5. Terrill Kelley September 9, 2019 at 6:42 pm #

    Some guns like the ones my girlfriend an I carry dont have safeties and its a little dangerous pulling it out of the holster or even grabbing it off the night stand in the dark. Being a former Force Recon, United States Marine Corps I feel, with my training, I can draw and put multiple rounds on target faster than most. At night I also like to throw on the strobe light for the final confirmation thats its not my kids that I am firing at. To each his own. JMO dont shoot the messenger lol/

    • Silver Fox September 11, 2019 at 7:49 pm #

      Amen and semper fi! I agree with all that said. I live in the socialist people’s republik of Kalifornia. I can not even practice concealed carry outside where I live.

      • Jim W September 11, 2019 at 11:54 pm #

        Having a concealed weapon means that you don’t tell people that you are carrying concealed. The People’s Socialist Demokratik Republik of Kalifornia is a dangerous place. I would rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6.

  6. Richard September 10, 2019 at 2:53 am #

    I Conceal Carry with a round in the chamber but leave the saftey on! WHY? So that there is a slim chance of missfire when holstering or drawing. Forefinger on the triger guard as I use my thumb to to switch the saftey. One swift motion and shoot down range for center mass. The last thing I want is a missfire into my foot or a ricochet into somebody’s skull. Every gun is different so everybody has diferent preference. I’m comfortable with my draw and accuracy. Doc Holliday I’m not but badguys beware!

  7. Steven September 10, 2019 at 7:48 am #

    For me a senior citizen I do carry with a round in the chamber maybe for the young guys who are fast it’s different.I cannot run from a threat anymore so locked and loaded is my game!! Amen

    • Bob September 11, 2019 at 6:54 pm #

      I’m with Steven. I am a senior citizen and carry a round in the chamber. practicing, practicing, practicing, keeping my finger away from and off the trigger when holstering.

      When drawing as well I practice keeping finger off until my brain makes the decision it is time to unload when at the end of my draw or sooner (should the attacker be upon me). My P365 also has a laser for that reason. I practice at the range and at home (dry fire of course at home).

      I also carry pepper spray as a non lethal option for step one. But if elevated beyond step one (instantaneously or, subsequently) I am poised and ready to send shots should the situation require that response…without racking. My confidence in avoiding ‘accidental’ discharge is steeped in training. Dry fire (or draw without fire) with regularity.

      It is sad that we live in a time when all this seems prudent and potentially necessary. I pray I’ll never have to use my weapons, but also pray that should I be the one ‘sent’ into the battle that I, or others who carry will save lives of innocents or possibly our own. And I carry every day.

  8. Doug twigger September 10, 2019 at 8:40 am #

    I use to carry chambered but I now carry a Glock without a safety. My concern is the firearm discharging if chamber by accidentally hitting trigger at time of draw. Or any other times. Thoughts?

    • Jacob Paulsen September 10, 2019 at 9:42 am #

      Doug I think the best advice is for you to continue training until you are comfortable with your ability to draw safely without hitting the trigger. It is the fundamental key to any good draw stroke and if you were doing that for years with a different gun that had a more active safety then I suspect you may already have the skill. I’m sure you know that Glock cannot discharge unless something presses the trigger to the rear so it really just comes down to having the skill to draw without engaging the trigger and the confidence in yourself that you have developed that skill.

    • Matthew Maruster September 11, 2019 at 12:37 pm #

      Doug, totally valid concern. No amount of training can completely eliminate all the risks of carrying a gun. In my opinion, it boils down to how do you mitigate that risk so you give yourself the best shot at getting the gun running and into the fight the quickest. You already pointed out that carrying with a round in the chamber is a preferable method and the article cites many reasons this is true. So we don’t have to touch on that. It seems your concern is the fact that your Glock does not have a manual external safety. I see how the two subjects can bleed into one another. I wrote a rather indepth article on that specific topic https://www.concealedcarry.com/safety/do-i-need-a-safety-on-my-everyday-carry-handgun/

      But here are a few points to consider:

      First, training to keep your finger on the slide unless you make a conscious decision to pull the trigger, makes your default position, finger off the trigger and on the slide. When I say train, I mean hundreds and hundreds of draws. Habits are hard to break and do not develop overnight, or a couple trips, every so often to the range. A good method is to video record your draw. And play it back frame by frame. See when and where your finger moves to the trigger. And then do it some more. SIRT guns and similar, are a good tool because when the trigger is pulled you will see a laser. But this only shows when the trigger is pulled and not when the finger makes contact with the trigger. Some models have a take-up laser that activates with rearward pressure on the trigger. But still, the goal is to have you finger out of the trigger guard until the muzzle clears your body and is oriented toward the threat.

      Even on a gun with an external safety, there is a point in which the safety has to come off. Ideally this would occur simultaneously as the gun is drawn. It can’t always occurs once the gun is at eye level or even when the hands are joined, because there are defensive situations where you would draw and shoot one handed or draw and shoot from a retention position and the gun never comes up to eye level. The thing is that often people disengage the safety after the gun is drawn and when they begin to look through the sites or bring the gun to bear on the threat. This is safe as far as not shooting yourself while you draw, but it isn’t ideal for getting the gun up and running. So theoretically, if you’re doing it ‘right’ i hesitate to say that, you run the same risk of shooting yourself on the draw even if the gun has a manual external safety. A safety is not an excuse for poor trigger finger discipline, and when it is looked upon as one, the potential for injury is great.

      I won’t rehash the whole article, but just some food for thought, and check out the article if you have time. Might help you work thought some of those legitimate concerns.

  9. Eric September 10, 2019 at 8:58 am #

    Thank you for writing this. I have been feeling guilty about not having a round chambered when I carry. I’m relatively new to handguns and have been taking classes to become more proficient and comfortable. I have around 5 holsters for different situations so I’m still trying to work on comfort and correct placement and while doing so feel more comfortable with not having a round chambered. My draw is not the fastest but I still feel it’s better to have on me in case I need it. I’m rather active outdoors and worry more about bears who hopefully wont be shooting back at me although their charges are rather quick and dont leave a lot of time for thinking. I believe training os the most important aspects to carrying. Practice and repetition builds muscle memory for intense situations.

  10. Michael S Mince September 10, 2019 at 4:25 pm #

    Well, as with any carry method, it all comes down to practice practice and practice/train, train, and train. One things not mentioned is short-stroking, or during the stress of the encounter not managing to pull the slide back far enough to chamber a round. It happens during casual shooting, so it can also happen. Also anyone who carries without a round needs to instinctively know the one-hand methods to get a round in there on the chance that the other hand is busy.

  11. Eddie Chaps September 10, 2019 at 10:15 pm #

    Concealed carry is a very personal journey. You must always be willing to learn and see other alternatives and choices out there. I have always carried with a round in the chamber. But I started out with a sa/da hot and locked. Then moved to safety off hammer forward. Now I carry a striker fired M&p with no safety. Being willing to get comfortable with a round in the chamber may take practice but I believe any shooter can conquer it.

  12. Lance Son September 11, 2019 at 6:27 pm #

    Good article. I do carry with a round in the chamber, with a gun that has no manual safety, and I feel completely comfortable doing so. Also, I will always advise that others do as well, based on their own level of comfort, but always without any judgement.

    I think it’s shameful how some people are on social media… belittling others who don’t know as much, or don’t use the “right” gun or the “right” caliber, or don’t carry with one in the chamber. It’s bad enough that we have to deal with the d-bags that want to rob us of our 2A rights let alone having to defend against people within our own community. Social media is a great place to learn and gain new insights, but it also brings out the a-hole in some people.

  13. Gerry Dail September 11, 2019 at 6:36 pm #

    I carry an SR1911 and have never, even when I carried the same weapon on active duty in the Army, carried this type of weapon with a round in the chamber. I do not feel comfortable with the weapon cocked and locked in a concealed carry holster. I know, the side safety and the grip safety should offer redundancy, but I am just cautious.

  14. Terry Trombley September 11, 2019 at 6:48 pm #

    Finally, someone willing, at considerable personal cost I might add, to call out this dumb as a rock sentiment. Even if you carry without a round in the chamber, you are still 18 rounds nearer to safety and 100% better armed than 99% of those around you. A round in the chamber is generally always advisable but you are hardly disarmed without one. Even if you use your firearm as a club you are still better armed than most. If a person chooses to carry a firearm, it is their choice alone, based upon their best judgement how they can best do so in requisite safety. For what I have concluded are safety reasons, I never carry a pistol on my person with a round in the chamber when I am in a vehicle with my young grandkids and as with all decisions related to employment of firearms I own, that is no one’s determination or business but my own.

  15. THOMAS MANN September 11, 2019 at 7:04 pm #

    Just so you know, I always carry with a round in the chamber! Do what you feel comfortable with! With our modern firearms, there is no reason to be concerned about a round going off! Most modern firearms have a safety that needs to be clicked off before you can fire a round. Those that don’t probably should only be used by competent firearms users. If you are competent, then you have the choice of using a non-safety firearm or not and having one in the chamber or not. Do what you are comfortable with!

  16. Bill Schoettler September 11, 2019 at 7:31 pm #

    Suppose you’re carrying an empty chamber and approaching you is a “situation”. Still far enough away that you have plenty of time but still approaching. Now, to pull your gun and rack it is a threatening gesture, escalating what may be a misunderstanding. And if you don’t pull and rack and suddenly need a loaded gun, you’re f****d. Just think about it.

  17. George September 11, 2019 at 7:33 pm #

    Larry

    If i am carrying a pistol with no safety I will canny with an empty chamber. If it has a safety, and I trust the safety, I will chamber a round.

  18. Silver Fox September 11, 2019 at 8:06 pm #

    I am silver-haired 70 and over weight. I do not carry open unless it’s my rifle. I saw a Somali snatch an open-carry pistol and run away with it! Never recovered! When I try to conceal carry the gun will usually print unless I carry apedix position. Aimed straight at the balls!😲 So I carry concealed with empty chamber for my own peace of mind.(when I can) I do appreciate that Paulson does follow up on comments. I live in the socialist people’s republik of Kalifornia. 😡

  19. SoJerSailor September 11, 2019 at 8:34 pm #

    For me, the primary reason for chambered carry is that the other hand might not be available for racking. Many possible reasons – injury, supporting a child or another possibly injured person, holding yourself in cover or concealment, physically holding off the aggressor, etc. In that situation – not chambered and unable to rack – you don’t have a USABLE gun until you regain that other hand. There are alternatives, such as catching the rear sight against a hard edge (sole of your shoe, door jamb, furniture, etc) but you don’t want to do that for the first time under fire. If you carry unchambered, find and PRACTICE an alternate racking procedure. Might not be possible when grappling with the aggressor.
    Personally, I don’t like manual safeties – if it’s not there, it can’t possibly be in the wrong position. Concealed carry is the one instance where I like a grip safety – the gun can’t fire unless you have have taken proper hold of the grip. My choice – Remington R51.

  20. Lanny D Wren September 11, 2019 at 8:53 pm #

    In Nam had an SFC jump off a tank with holstered 1911. The .45 went off and shot him in the foot. The SOP was no round in the chamber.

  21. Bob Davis September 11, 2019 at 8:57 pm #

    not to worry, way not use revolver?

  22. Anthony wixon September 11, 2019 at 9:19 pm #

    I believe that those that chose to carry should. Chambered or not is up to the individual. I carry both ways depending on the feel of situation. Carrying, after all is the true point.

  23. Kent September 11, 2019 at 10:09 pm #

    Just a couple of thoughts. How do you know that you will be able to chamber a round if you are attacked? What if your support hand is injured, what if someone grabs your hand or arm or pins your support arm to your side and you can’t move it? What if you are pushing your child back out of harm’s way with your support hand? You might be able to draw, but can you rack the slide to chamber a round if facing one of the above situations?

    What if you are walking down the street and you see a couple of sinister looking guys approaching? You can’t pull your gun out in front of them and rack one in, just in case, can you? That would be brandishing a firearm, and that is illegal in most, if not all states. If you are uncomfortable carrying a firearm without a round chambered, that is your choice. But, in a real world, sometimes lightning-fast situation, you might not be able to draw and chamber a round.

    Train to draw your handgun quickly with your finger off the trigger. Always have the gun in some type of a holster that covers the trigger. Then, carry confidently with one in the chamber.

  24. Doug Harmon September 12, 2019 at 12:39 am #

    Your article is quite practical. Whether you carry with a round in the chamber or not, the old saw still applies. It is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

  25. George A September 12, 2019 at 7:05 am #

    Being slightly handicapped, and a senior citizen, I choose to carry without one in chamber for a few reasons. If the odds of ever having to draw the gun in a defensive situation are like a million to one, and then you add in the gunfight odds, for me, practice the draw and rack move and it completely removes the better odds of an accident. Just me, and believe that in one of those situations, it all comes down to muscle memory, and more practice will compensate.

  26. Bruce Gibbens September 12, 2019 at 8:08 am #

    I enjoy the comments. Consider me a paranoid old man. I carry my Charter Arms Bulldog 44 revolver in a fanny pack, waistband or back pocket depending on the situation; a .38 derringer in my pocket at all times, and an XD-9, sometimes chambered and sometimes not, depending on where I am.

  27. Ken September 12, 2019 at 8:29 am #

    I have a S&W MP 9mm with a laser sight, what is the recommended concealed carry method?

    • Jacob Paulsen September 12, 2019 at 8:31 am #

      Ken if your question is in reference to having one in the chamber or not then the specific made/model of gun or the presence of your laser isn’t relevant. The best method is to train and practice to the point that you are comfortable carrying with a round in the chamber and then do so. If I misunderstood your question don’t hesitate to let us know!

  28. Frank Kruger September 12, 2019 at 9:44 am #

    You do what you want, but for me, my trusty 45 is cocked and locked at all times..

  29. Steven Valenta September 13, 2019 at 8:55 am #

    When I stated carrying I too didn’t have one ready. One day I got stopped by the local PD. I told him I had a firearm. He removed my weapon and asked me why I didn’t have one in the chamber. I said I was not comfortable yet. He told me to get to know your gun. So I say to those who don’t carry one in the chamber, get to know your gun. They are much safer then they were years ago, but you still need to use common sense.

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