To carry a round in the chamber or not? (VIDEO)

A lot of people have asked me if they should carry their concealed pistol with a round in the chamber.  This question came up a lot when I was teaching a full schedule of concealed handgun courses.

To add another layer to this question, I’ve also worked in various sectors (like the nuclear security industry and even with some military units) where supervisors held different beliefs than I do about what constitutes safety and what was both safe and tactically prudent.

In order to explore this topic more fully, I’ve broken it down into the following categories: weapon retention, transitioning to a secondary weapon, open carry and concealed carry.

Weapon retention

One argument I’ve heard for not carrying a round in the chamber is weapon retention.  Some people think that if you’re gun is taken from you that the offender may try to pull the trigger and it won’t work.  I counter:

First, anyone with a clue will tap and rack, then shoot.

Second, train to retain your weapon.  Don’t let anyone near your weapon.

Third, kill anyone trying to take your gun.  Control the muzzle then stab them, eviscerate them, bite off their neck one bite at a time.  Anyone touching my gun is going to get my most lethal response.

Transitioning to a secondary weapon

Not carrying a round in the chamber has often been called “Israeli carry.”  I’ve watched the crème de la crème of Israeli special ops do transition drills—go from a long gun to a pistol.  Good dudes.  Skilled and all, but frankly—in my expert opinion—their transitions seemed slow.

Maybe they think they shouldn’t carry a round in the pipe because of weapon retention. I don’t know.  Whatever their reasons are, at the end of the day it’s slower when you have to rack a round.  Even a second could mean the difference between winning and losing in a gunfight.

Remember, in addition to violence, speed is an essential ingredient to win gunfights.

Open carry

If you’re carrying your pistol in the open , depending on what state you live in, you may have to keep your chamber empty by law.

As a cop, I carry open.  I’m not going to waste time trying to lock and load when a threat is right on top of me.  After all, most lethal encounters happen within 21 feet or less.  That means you don’t have a lot of time to respond, which underlines the point I made above about how speed saves.

Besides that, while I could use my gear to rack my slide (or my Magnetactical), it usually takes two hands to manipulate the slide.  That would hamper me from poking some attacker in the eye with my support hand and then filling him full of lead.  Who wants to do that?  I mean, I’d rather be ready to shoot, wouldn’t you?

Concealed carry

When students of mine asked me if they should carry a round in the chamber while carrying a concealed pistol, I’d usually answer something like this: It’s up to you since you’re the person carrying the gun. But personally, I always carry a round in the chamber.

To reiterate, there is simply not enough time to react, gain distance and fight when you still need to chamber a round.  This is especially true if one arm is taken out of the equation (i.e. your arm is raised to strike an attacker or protect your head).

That said, if you’re going to carry a round in the chamber or if you’re going to carry a gun at all, you must train, train, train.  Nothing replaces quality training.

Until next time, continue to hone your skills and keep adding to your tactical toolbox.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of

Safety warning: Jeffrey Denning is a long time professional in the art of self-defense and any training methods or information he describes in his articles are intended to be put into practice only by serious shooters with proper training.  Please read, but do not attempt anything posted here without first seeking out proper training.

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