Should you carry with a round in the chamber?

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer:

I saw this posted on Facebook somewhere. The answer is “yes”.

Let’s put it another way: why would you NOT want a round in the chamber? For many, it’s because they are afraid. They are new to carrying a gun on their person, and they are afraid of what might happen. That the gun could “go off”. Well, modern handguns only “go off” in news stories and movies. Modern handguns are drop-safe, meaning you can drop them on the hard ground and they won’t go off from the impact. Guns don’t just magically fire; usually when they “go off” it’s because someone violated the rules. If the gun is securely in your holster and you aren’t fingering and fiddling with it, you have nothing to worry about.

So the fear is understandable (I went through it myself), but you must realize there is nothing to worry about, so long as you follow the rules. And a key rule is: holster it and stop fiddling with it.

I’ll put it yet another way. Do you know how fast an attack unfolds? Average gunfight lasts about 3 seconds. And given we’re the good guys, we only get to react thus we are behind the curve from the start. How much time does it take to rack one into the chamber? Maybe just a second, but if if you’ve got 3 seconds total to work with, that’s 1/3 of your time lost and you are that much further behind the curve; and that’s provided you don’t fumble. That’s unacceptable when every fraction of a second matters.

I’ve seen it over the years with some students that come to class with no round in the chamber. We have them perform some simple drills under modest but friendly pressure, and even giving them every advantage we can (e.g. round in the chamber, start from a ready position, fully mentally prepared). They often fail to take care of business within 3 seconds. So how can they be expected under extreme life-threatening pressure with far less advantage and head-start to be able to do what needs to be done? I had one student that actually had some conviction about no round in the chamber and racking on the draw. He held up modestly during class, but as the pressure of class increased, his skills decreased and I watched him fumble and fail numerous times. By the end of class, he was begrudgingly convinced that it was an unwise technique.

Yes, there are examples of people that can perform things like this wicked fast with fancy tricks. Great for YouTube videos, but just not a solid life safety technique.

In the end, I suppose you’re welcome to carry how you want. I would say if you don’t keep one in the chamber out of fear, I would recommend doing whatever it takes to overcome your fear, because when the flag flies, that fear is going to hold you back and slow you down far more than the lack of a round in the chamber (seek more professional training to become more comfortable and competent with your pistol). If you carry this way for other reasons, I would say to put your choice to the test. Take some Force-on-Force classes with Simunitions and try your technique out and see how it holds up under pressure. If you can make it work for you, more power to you. The key is ensuring you can have a technique set that truly works and covers the vast majority of cases. For most, a round in the chamber will serve them better.

8 thoughts on “Should you carry with a round in the chamber?

  1. Consider situations in which you don’t have both hands free to draw and rack. Maybe your support arm is injured, pushing aside a loved one, striking your attacker, or shielding yourself. Or maybe it’s your dominant arm/hand that’s hurt.

    • Indeed.

      I think some of this is predicated by stuff like: “you don’t know what you don’t know”; inexperience; lack of exposure; fantasy; square-range issues; etc.. This is why I suggested you gotta pressure test your techniques to see if they’ll really hold up.

  2. I usually carry one of two guns. Either the Taurus 617 (7 .357 rounds), our my XDs .45.

    The revolver is not an issue, but the XDs concerns me a bit given the recall. I sent mine in, and it’s supposedly fixed, but there’s still the nagging suspicion, given they messed up once and consumers ended up being test subjects, that they might not know all the problems.

    And no, I don’t “fiddle” with the gun.

    I like the gun, but I’m waiting to read more field reports, and meantime I’m looking for something in a double action only that’s an equivalent size and capacity.

    Meanwhile, I carry without a round in the chamber when I do carry it. Intellectually I know it’s limiting. The cautious part of me rationalizes that I lead a very low risk life (very low risk). Not optimal, but I’m temporarily ok with it.

    • I agree. These are mechanical objects, they are built by humans, and consequently they will not be perfect and can and will have problems, and failures that are outside of your control. When I had some similar doubts about my M&P, I just kept shooting the thing and using it as much as possible until I could either see the proof that it was solid or a dud — that’s the only way to know if it’ll work: to work it. On the same token, we cannot allow things that have worked flawlessly to date to lull us into a false security; we must keep them maintaned, and carry a backup.

      Things like this tho are the exception and not the rule. On the whole, there are reliable platforms out there, well-proven.

      But I would say… if you aren’t confident in the gun, why does having a round in the chamber, or not, matter? I mean, even if you could chamber it, what if it won’t work or fail in some other way? If confidence in the tool isn’t there, it’s not there. I would carry the Taurus, put the XDs in the safe (tho pull it out for many range trips to determine if it’s worthy or not), and shopping for something else. Kahr’s can be good, M&P Shield is growing a good track record.

      • The XDs conceals better (it’s summer).

        As for the gun, I have confidence it will shoot when I want it to (it shot all the kinds of ammunitions I’m likely to use without any glitches), however . . .

        This short article echoes some of my questions:

        Basically, I don’t understand what was wrong (apparently it could go off when you don’t want it to), and I’m not clear how the fix now prevents that.

        I read this:
        And a little more comfortable, but still not clear.

        • Roger that.

          Given all that… geez… not sure how you could build confidence then. If it were me, I’d either sell it or make it a safe queen/range toy, and buy a new one. For the reasons enumerated above, I believe carrying a round in the chamber is important, and if you can’t because the gun is untrustworthy well… yeah, time to go shopping.

          • Yeah . . . except I want to hear if the fix is a fix. I could not duplicate the issue, but I did not do a live round test. Even then, how many tests before one is 100% sure?

            BUT . . . short of a revolver, I’m never 100% sure about guns. I do like the gun, and it shoots well (and draws well). I think I’ll monitor the situation for a good while.

            Besides, I already have guns I don’t carry. One more won’t hurt.


          • Yeah… I don’t know how you could really fully regain confidence here.

            And even a revolver? That’s not 100%. I recall one day I pulled my 442 out, emptied it for some dry fire practice… and the trigger wouldn’t budge. It was running fine the day before at the range. I disassembled, cleaned it, reassembled, and it was fine. I can only guess some fine Lee County sandy loam must have blew in and built up enough the day prior. Just shows that all mechanical things can fail. So carry 2 guns. 😉

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