The age old question of whether or not to carry your firearm with a round in the chamber is one that has been debated on forums and gun ranges for years. This was an issue that I struggled with when I first started carrying as well.

I knew the benefits, but to be honest I wasn’t comfortable enough with my firearm to take that step. Looking back I partially blame a Ranger buddy who convinced me early on that by racking the slide you were giving the would-be assailant a warning. After a few months of practice, training, and a stern talking to from an ex-cop, I saw the light and haven’t carried a day since then without one in the chamber. Carrying your firearm with a round in the chamber is a decision you have to make on your own. If you simply want the answer to whether or not you should- then the answer is YES (There’s your answer, you can stop reading now if you’d like). If you would like a little more information on some of the reasons why some people don’t, then please continue reading.

Some people believe that guns are blood-thirsty animate objects that sit in your pants (or purse) waiting for the opportunity to maliciously go off and wreak havoc. I hate to break it to you, they’re not. Guns are tools, and when they are used properly they can fulfill their purpose of recreation or protection. When used improperly, just like a saw or hammer, they can cause harm. Once it is realized that a gun, like any other tool, is only capable of performing its function through the use of an operator, you will see that any feeling of unease can be cured through the examination of a couple points.

Without fail there will always be an individual with the story of his uncle’s, brother’s, cousin-in-law (we’ll call him George) who’s Glock went off one day when he bumped into a hot dog cart, and now his baby toe is missing. Although we can all agree that this would be a tragic situation, flip-flops just wouldn’t look the same, that’s not something to worry about with modern firearms. So that leaves us with two primary reasons why folks might feel uncomfortable carrying with a round in the chamber:

  1. Bad Habits
  2. Bad Equipment

First we will discuss George’s tragic situation… The reality is that modern firearm technology would not allow for this to happen to ole George. Accidental discharges, like the one in this fictitious story, are a thing of the past. Due to components like Glock’s “Safe Action Pistols”- single action firearms today have internal components that don’t allow the firing pin to engage unless the trigger is pulled. In some pistols there are even more safety features (back-straps or external safeties) that require additional steps before firing. Meaning, the only way one of George’s “little piggies” could have been blown off is if the trigger was somehow pulled. So the fear of an accidental discharge should not be a cause of worry when you’re carrying.

Now on to our first point of why you may feel uncomfortable carrying with one in the pipe.

  1. Bad Habits: You might be apprehensive when it comes to carrying “hot” due to bad habits you may have formed through training, or lack thereof. Some people tend to treat a weapon with less respect when they believe it’s not chambered. You see it all the time, whether in gun stores or in your home- people ignoring the Golden Rules of firearms when they think the gun isn’t loaded. This lack of respect for unloaded weapons will undoubtedly have a negative effect on the way you handle a loaded weapon. Treating a firearm differently whether it’s loaded or unloaded creates two separate perceptions: 1.) An empty gun is a happy gun; and 2.) A loaded gun is a scary gun. The anxiety you have with carrying a loaded gun won’t go away until you begin treating all guns (loaded/unloaded) with equal respect. GUNS SHOULD ALWAYS BE TREATED AS IF THEY ARE LOADED. Deep down if you know that you’re not practicing the basics of gun safety, then it may be time to take a step back and go through some “re-training”.
  2. Bad Equipment: This issue is one that can be easily fixed in one simple step- buy a good holster. With so many options in the market, and the high cost of guns, some folks see holsters as an auxiliary accessory that can be picked up at any corner store like pot holders or a laundry basket. It’s understandable, you’ve just spent a chunk of change on a sweet new gun, and the last thing you want to do is fork over more dough for some fancy holster when a zip-lock bag and some rubber bands could serve the same function (ADVISORY: Using a zip-lock bag and rubber bands as a holster is a very bad idea. Please do not do that). That was my train of thought as a broke college student when I purchased my first gun from my Ranger buddy. I carried around the cheap little nylon “one-size-fits-all” holster he gave me for a few weeks. That was until I noticed one day while in a gas station that I was wearing a holster, but my gun had fallen out and was lodged somewhere under the front seat of my car. The need for a quality holster cannot be stressed enough. If you’re planning on carrying every day (and I hope you are) a good, comfortable holster will become closer to you than you favorite ball cap or pair of boots. Spending a little extra money to get a high quality product that is safe and will last is an investment you won’t regret.

When it comes to holsters, comfort is secondary to safety. Although it is important for the everyday carrier, you need to be sure that your holster meets a certain criteria. The three main things to look for when buying a holster are: does it safely secure your weapon, is it easily accessible, and does it guard the trigger. I’ll explain, you want to make sure that the holster holds your gun in place so that it doesn’t fall out in the middle of Home Depot and send everyone in the paint section running for the door. You also want to make sure that the gun remains in the same place you put it. Heaven forbid a situation occurs where you need it, and for some strange reason it’s now in your boot instead of on your waist.

Which bring me to my second point- easily accessible. So you have handled the first issue and you have a holster that hugs your gun nice and tight. Now you’re in a situation, heaven forbid, and you have to draw your gun. But even though you’ve located it you’re now having to wrestle it out of your holster while the bad guy continues to attack. These are both situations that can be avoided by making sure that the holster you have has the right balance of security (tension) and accessibility.

Lastly, you want to look for a holster that guards the trigger. A holster that securely covers the trigger will prevent you, or an object on you, from accidentally engaging it. Whether it’s your finger pulling the trigger when you’re removing your side arm, or an article of clothing snagging your trigger- a good holster will prevent both of these issues by safely covering all sides of the trigger-guard. Personally I prefer a holster that is custom molded for my gun (usually made with kydex or similar materials) for concealed and open carry. Fortunately there are a wide variety of these options available on the market at various price ranges that will provide you with all three of the above criteria (like These).

Long story short…

Experts across the board will agree that carrying a gun without one in the chamber is about as effective as not carrying one at all. The amount of time wasted chambering a round could be the difference in life or death (check out this video for a good example). I’m not here to tell you what to do, but if you aren’t to the point where you feel comfortable enough carrying with “one in the pipe”, address the two key issues above and go from there.

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