Chamber a Round?

A common question and misconception when it comes to every day carry is imagewhether carrying your handgun with a round in the chamber is risky. Negligent discharges (NDs) happen when a gun is fired because of the negligence of the person in carrying and handling the gun, inappropriately.

NDs – Common Causes

  • Not using a holster – The trigger is exposed and can be activated by foreign objects that get into the trigger guard. Carrying in a pocket or a purse without some kind of holster can increase this risk. The trigger guard should always be completely covered by a quality holster, even if the gun is inside a purse or pocket.
  • Using a broken holsterWorn out and broken gear can cause a ND. It is the owner’s responsibility to inspect equipment and replace it as needed.
  • Holstering without proper care – NDs often happen during holstering your gun when you don’t watch for objects that might get into the trigger guard, like concealment garments. Too often, people slam their guns back in the holster without taking due care. There is never a need to holster, quickly.
  • Using a poorly designed holster – The holster should be designed so that it is easy to keep your trigger finger away from the trigger guard. The holster needs to be made of quality material that protects the trigger.
  • Poor trigger finger discipline – Rule 3, keep your finger off of the trigger until you are ready to shoot. You need to train and build automaticity when it comes to trigger finger placement. This point can’t be emphasized enough. Finger off of the trigger until you are ready to shoot.

The Arguments

There are several arguments around this topic. 

  • Draw Stroke – Proponents of not chambering a round say that adding the step of chambering does not increase the time for a draw stroke very much. That is true, it only add a split second, if you have practiced it, over and over and over. However, that split second can be the split second that makes the difference between life and death. Proponents of not chambering a round like to say that the extra split second won’t make a difference in most cases. So, yeah, the proponents of an empty chamber are basically saying that they are depending on probability. Probabilities are not the basis of the decision to carry a gun. The decision is made because we value our lives and the lives of our loved ones enough that we choose to mitigate those slim probabilities with our decisions.
  • Short Stroke – What you will see, if you watch enough videos, is that when under pressure, it is very easy to short stroke the slide and fail to chamber a round when you absolutely must be successful. The stress and pressure of needing to chamber a round, quickly, can results in the shooter not pulling the slide all the way to the rear, and when it moves forward, it doesn’t pick up a round from the magazine and load it into the chamber.
  • Support Hand – Chambering a round during the draw stroke requires that your support hand is free. However, we will see, in many videos, that defensive shooters end up using their support hand to try to gain space from an attacker or to move them off of the mark. To be fair, we should all train to run our guns with one hand as we might become incapacitated. However, the plan to have the hand free may just not be possible to implement.
    NOTE: Be prepared to throw your phone down if you have it in your hand and you need to draw your gun. It amazes me how people just won’t drop that ever present phone.
  • Excessive Handling – NDs happen most often during holstering and un-holstering. It may make some sense in law enforcement where officers are required to un-holster and clear their gun at the end of their shift, then load and holster, again, at the start of the next shift. For a concealed carry person, however, it is simple to take off our holster, with the gun in it, and never expose the trigger and trigger guard to foreign objects and poorly disciplined trigger fingers.
  • Training – Israeli carry, the common term used, has been taught by some militaries and by some law enforcement agencies. The reason it is taught is fairly simple: They do not have the resources to property train and instill best practices. Israel, for example, has many short-term conscripts and rapid turnover of personnel, and it is a never ending process to get them through some basic training in handling firearms, safely. It is best to keep them as safe as possible, and the investment in high levels of training with handguns just doesn’t make financial sense.
  • Old Guns – Some older handguns did not have drop safeties. To overcome the risk of the gun firing if dropped, leaving the chamber empty was a good mitigation for the problem. However, no responsible concealed carrier would use an older gun without a drop safety.

Probability

I often hear people say that they don’t carry with a round in the chamber because of the probability of a ND.

To me, it makes little sense. We choose to carry a handgun to protect ourselves and our loved ones from threats to our lives or serious bodily harm. We make this decision despite the probability of it happening being incredibly slim. The odds are long that we will have to use our handgun in self defense, yet we make the decision to protect ourselves in those cases. Why would we choose to make it more difficult to deploy our gun in the event it is needed?

So, we have already made the decision to protect ourselves against some incredibly slim odds of a threat occurring. Yet, even though it is possible that we will not have time to draw and then rack the slide to chamber a round, some people will choose to include the time and effort of chambering a round and the risk of not being able to complete the process and then get good hits on the target before it is too late.

There are a couple of statements that I have heard that really bring the point home:

  • Trying to chamber a round when you absolutely need to bring your gun imageinto the fight is like trying to put on your seatbelt right before the impact of a car crash. It is too late!
  • Trying to chamber a round might be the last thing you “try to do” and you have until the end of your life to keep trying.

Malfunction

In the past, I have covered malfunctions, and I will do that again, soon. In the case of not carrying a round in the chamber, you have basically chosen to start off any highly stressful situation where you need to use your gun with a Type 1 malfunction, and you must clear it before you can actually defend yourself.

If you understand malfunctions and malfunction clearance, you should recognize that this is an incredibly bad situation. By choosing to not chamber a round, you are giving yourself the handicap of starting off with a malfunction. You are choosing to have a broken gun.

Solution

The solution is incredibly EASY.

  • Holster – Buy and use a quality holster.
  • Train – Train, and train some more, so that you have great trigger discipline. Trigger discipline needs to be burned into your brain so that it becomes instinctual. Keep training to keep your confidence levels high. Every single time I draw, or pick up, a gun, my trigger finger will be well away from the trigger until I am sighted in on my target and ready to shoot.
  • Gun in Holster – Keep your gun in its holster. Take off your holster with your gun inside it. Put your holster on, with your gun in it.
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