Should You Carry A Round In The Chamber?

One of the highest debated issues in the concealed carry world, next to open carry vs. concealed, is whether to carry a round in the chamber or not. People will line up on both sides of the issue.

Those who defend not carrying a round in the chamber preach about its safety. Not carrying a round in the chamber provides you a 100% chance of not having the gun go off in the holster. There is no doubt about it; not having a bullet in the chamber would make it impossible to discharge the round in the holster. There’s also the safety concern that if you took your gun and holster off, a child could get ahold of your firearm and accidentally fire a round hurting themselves or others. This would require some negligent behavior, but it has happened.

However, that is the only benefit. There are many more cons to an empty chamber. The most obvious, of course, is speed. It will be hard to draw your gun, rack the slide and fire a round on target faster than just drawing and shooting. That being said, speed will be relative to the shooter. Some gunslingers are crazy fast, like Jerry Miculek, so they might obviously be able to draw the gun, rack the slide, and fire quicker than you can with a loaded chamber. The point, though, is what can you do? It’s not about the fact that some of the best shooters in the world can do it fast. It’s about what you are capable of.

The other con of an empty chamber is that it demands two-handed manipulation. Can you charge your pistol and load a round in the chamber with one hand using your belt or even the bad guy’s face? Yes, technically, you could. The problem is that doing that just slows you down more, and if you have to be close enough to the bad guy to rack the slide off of him, then you could get fatally injured before you even get in the fight. If your assailant has a knife, he could be stabbing you while you try to charge your pistol. Knife wounds are no joke and could easily be fatal.

The third con of an empty chamber really goes with our second. It has to do with shooting from retention. Imagine fists, knives, or a baseball bat being swung at you. You are getting mauled by your attacker. Now imagine you’re up against a wall with nowhere to go; with a loaded chamber, all you have to do is clear the holster and point the pistol toward the bad guy, and fire. If you are unloaded, you have to rack it and fire from a retention position where you cannot present out onto the target. More than likely, you wouldn’t survive the scenario.

There are more pros than cons of carrying with an empty chamber. For our test, we shot at a leisurely 5-yard distance, which would be about as close as you’d want to be to an attacker while having to rack the slide. We tested out the speeds on the range with a shot timer, and Grant, our Chief Instructor at GunSpot, was over a full half-second faster.

We hope you consider carefully carrying with an empty chamber. If you are concerned about a negligent discharge in the holster, here are the two things you can do to avoid this. First off, carry a gun with an excellent reliable track record. Look up guns that have been drop tested and never fire. Glock is always an excellent bet for both safety and reliability if you don’t know of one.

Second of all, you need to have a safe holster. Don’t get a cloth or leather holster. You need to get a holster that is tough and will hold its shape. This will protect your trigger from being pulled. You will be safe as long as your trigger guard is completely covered and your holster has a good firm fit. There are several good holster options out there, but the one we have grown to like is the Tulster line of holsters. We also promote appendix carry because we think it’s a faster draw. So, we really like the OATH line of holsters from Tulster. These are quality holsters with good positive locks, and they ship out super fast. Other holster companies can take around 30 days, and Tulster can have same-day or next-day shipping for your holster, depending on the time of day that you order. If you have a reliable gun and a good quality holster, there is no need to fear carrying with a loaded chamber.

Dylan C. @ GunSpot
Dylan C. @ GunSpot

I'm the Creative Director at GunSpot. My main job is to create content that you can read or watch on The GunSpot Academy. I'm a video guy first and foremost but now, as you can see, I guess I'm an author too. Only out of necessity though!