One in the Chamber

Dear Fellow Survivalist;

One of the many debates about handguns and carrying is about whether or not you should carry with one in the chamber. As with any other disagreement, there are advocates for both and each can list their reasons.

Like many other decisions that we make about firearms and self-defense, this one can have life-or-death ramifications. That makes it serious enough for us to pay attention to. Obviously we want to do what’s going to work best for protecting our own lives and those of our families, which might mean making a decision that we aren’t necessarily comfortable with. But then, carrying a gun on your belt and having to constantly pull your pants up because of its weight isn’t necessarily comfortable either.

The argument against carrying a round in the chamber is an old one. Those who stand by it are concerned about the risk of an accidental discharge. That concern goes back to the original six-shooters, which could go off if the gun was dropped and the hammer happened to be sitting on a cartridge. For this reason, many people carried those old six-shooters with an empty chamber under the hammer, only loading them with five rounds.

That’s a logical argument, if the handgun you’re carrying has that problem. There’s just one thing… modern handguns, including revolvers, are made in such a way that you could drop a rock on the hammer and the gun still wouldn’t go off.

With that being the case, why do some people still say that their gun could go off, if they carry a round in the chamber?

This mistaken idea is based upon past circumstances. Because guns could go off accidentally in the past, they still can. Forget about the idea of technological advances; guns haven’t changed. Only… they have.

On the other side of that argument is the reality that we never know what life-fire situation we might find ourselves in and how quickly we’ll need to get our gun into action. That’s the argument favored by those who advocate carrying one in the chamber. The seconds lost, chambering a round, could be all that it takes to lose your life.

A number of years ago, Myth Busters did a segment on the 21 foot rule, the idea that if someone is within 21 feet of you with a knife in their hand, they’re an imminent threat, because you can’t draw and fire before they can reach you.

There were two problems with their tests. The first was that they didn’t account for the element of surprise. In a real life situation, that person with the knife will probably have surprise in their favor, as it will take just about anyone one to two seconds to realize what is happening and react. That’s enough time for them to close the distance. The second problem was that they started out without a round in the chamber, so when they drew their gun, they had to rack the slide, before they could raise the gun up to eye level and aim their shot. So overall, the test wasn’t very realistic.

Statistically, more than half of the cases where people with a concealed carry license have need of drawing their gun, their assailant is within arm’s reach when they need to. If the pistol doesn’t have a round in the chamber, how in the world will they be able to draw and rack the slide in time to use it? For that matter, how will they manage to rack the slide if their assailant tries to stop them?

Any experienced police officer will tell you that they carry one in the chamber. Not only that, but they carry their gun with the safety off. Why? Because if they need to use it, chances are pretty good they’ll need to use it in a hurry. Having to take the time to rack the slide or having to remember to flip the safety off could be costly in terms of human life.

Some modern pistol designs are foregoing the traditional safety in favor of grip safeties or trigger safeties. The first popular pistol to use a grip safety was the venerable 1911, which has been around for more than a century. Even though the pistol had a traditional safety that had to be shut off before firing, turning that safety off, without gripping the pistol correctly, would allow the grip safety to keep the pistol from firing.

Glocks, which seem to be the most popular law enforcement pistol today, don’t bother with a traditional safety that has to be flipped off. Nor do they have a grip safety. The only safety they have is a trigger safety, probably the simplest form of safety there is. But that’s deemed safe enough for police departments to carry.

If a pistol is properly holstered, it’s safe. Holsters, other than competition ones, are made so that they cover the trigger. Therefore, it’s impossible to accidentally pull the trigger, while the pistol is holstered. Since police don’t just stick their pistol in their belt or in a jacket pocket, their pistol is safe all the time, even with the safety off. They understand this, and make the decision that they do with the intent of being safe and of saving lives.

You have to make your own decision on whether to carry with one in the chamber; but I always do. That way, if I’m ever forced to draw my pistol to defend myself or others, both it and I will be ready. It’s kind of like keeping my powder dry and my survival gear close at all times.

Dr. Rich

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