A Non-Binary Look At Carrying
With An Empty Chamber


If you carry concealed with an empty chamber, you will die a horrible death, and that Korean boy band with pink and blue hair, BTS, will sing your eulogy. #Fact.

Okay, so I have strong opinions about carrying with an empty chamber, but in fairness, I’m just like most other gun folks. We’re binary. Something is either the greatest thing ever or a bitter capsule of codswallop.

If you stop and think about it, most of us consider shooting techniques either right or wrong. If you don’t use a proper Weaver stance, you’re a ballistic studies failure. If you don’t shoot using the Isosceles stance, you’re a complete rookie or living in the past when men were men and shot blunderbusses. We see similar binary opinion-facts when it comes to guns. GUNS Magazine Editor Brent and I talked the other day and noted that reader mail on our coverage of any given gun tends to represent the poles. Either it’s a waste of iron ore or what Audie Murphy would choose to carry today, assuming he was still alive.

So, I think it’s time to embrace the non-binary lifestyle that’s so popular with the enlightened crowd these days and do a better job of considering different points of view.

Israeli Carry

While carrying with an empty chamber didn’t originate in Israel, it’s been the standard method there for decades. There are many stories about the reason behind Condition 3 carry, most of which derive from a safety goal related to a broad variety of weapons in circulation, short training windows and the like. The idea is to draw a pistol with one hand while immediately moving the support hand to the slide and chamber a round (if the situation warrants) to prepare to fire.

Hollywood also uses this to great effect. Whenever dramatic background music comes on, actors are trained to rack the slide, regardless of their gun’s actual firing readiness or lack thereof.

Safety: The Bottom Line

The whole reason to carry sans full chamber boils down to safety. No matter what you do, barring racking the slide, a gun with an empty chamber cannot fire. You can drop it. You can negligently press the trigger. You can cock and drop the hammer. Someone else can get their hands on it, and unless they chamber a round, it still won’t fire.

It sounds good when stated that way, and I know some folks who carry this way for these reasons. One of our esteemed writers Israeli carries, which got me thinking about becoming more open-minded regarding my aversion to chamberless carry. You see, his priorities are different than mine, and he went into this decision with eyes wide open, weighing the pros and cons from his perspective and based on his daily routines. To him, his daily touch contact with lots of other people escalates the safety benefit right to the top of the list, even if that means giving up some defensive scenario advantages.

I don’t care for Israeli carry personally, but that decision is based on the factors I prioritize higher (and lower) on the scale. My daily routines are different. The two factors that float to the top of my “things I care about list” are speed and the two-hand requirement. Safety, referring to concerns about other people accessing my gun, is lower on my scale because I don’t interact with people that way.

Speed Kills?

Because biology, physics and the relentless and unforgiving forward-only march of time, it’s gonna take you longer to react in a defensive situation. Depending on your level of skill and regular practice, we’re talking at least fractions of a second and perhaps more.

Fractions of a second, or even a second, give or take, don’t sound like much, but scenarios matter. If you’re sitting in your office studying the latest figures and hear gunfire down the hall, that slight time lag won’t matter one bit. If a guy steps around an alley corner with a gun drawn, that little bit of extra time might matter a whole lot.

One Arm or Two?

Sure, one can argue about slight time differences and their real-world impact all day, so for me, the A-number-one factor driving me away from Israeli carry is this. In a self-defense encounter, you don’t get to decide whether you have your support hand free to rack a slide. The other guy gets to make that decision.

In the classic fantasy self-defense encounter, where the bad guy is dutifully standing 10 or 15 yards away, making it clear to everyone he deserves a lethal force response, the two-handed draw and rack works just fine. When the guy behind you at Wendy’s grabs you, whips out a gun and shouts at everyone to hit the floor, you’ve just lost the ability to use both your hands in a defensive response. Of course, whether you can or should draw with one hand in that situation is a whole different decision loop.

The point is there are infinite defensive encounter scenarios where your support hand will be otherwise occupied. You might be fighting your way out of a contact distance encounter. You might be holding a child. Or a million other things.

The Point

Yes, there is a point to all this ranting.

Any decision we make regarding self-defense, concealed carry or the like, whether gear or technique, should be made with eyes wide open and lots of questions stacked up. Think in a non-binary fashion. In all likelihood, other presumably smart people may come to the opposite conclusion because their personal benefits and drawback math works out differently than yours as a result of their different lifestyles, situations and defensive priorities.

What are all of the benefits? Be honest.

What are all of the potential drawbacks? Be even more brutally honest.

Have you given healthy consideration to all of the scenarios that might intrude upon your decision?

Now, weigh the pros and cons and see how the math works out for you.

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