The topic of carrying with one in the chamber or not is very controversial. There are people who will argue with you and tell you that if you don’t carry with one in the chamber you shouldn’t carry at all. That is their opinion and that’s ok. Others may be on the opposite side of the argument and inform you to never carry with one in the chamber because it is unsafe. That is their opinion and that is ok too.
But what is the right answer? Well, that’s up to you. As a concealed (or open if your state allows it) weapon holder, you have the ability to do whatever makes you comfortable. Whether that is carrying with just a loaded magazine, carrying with one in the chamber, with the safety on or off, it is your choice as long as you feel comfortable and you and the people around you are not in danger.
We aren’t writing this article to tell you what to do. We want to provide all the information we can to help you make a decision about how you want to carry. Both sides of the argument will be presented for you to absorb and consider.
In the mid to late 1900s a former U.S. Marine named Jeff Cooper created the modern technique of shooting firearms. With that came five different conditions of readiness that your firearm can be in. If you do research beyond this article you may hear people reference these conditions, so let’s go over them briefly.
Condition Four - Your firearm has been cleared, the magazine is not in the gun and the chamber is empty with the hammer down.
Condition Three - A full magazine has been inserted into the firearm but no round has been chambered and the hammer is down. This is sometimes referred to as Israeli Carry which we will touch on more later.
Condition Two - The firearm has a full magazine inserted and a round has been chambered but the hammer is decocked.
Condition One - The firearm has a full magazine inserted, a round has been chambered, and any external safeties are engaged. Also known as cocked and locked.
Condition Zero - A full magazine has been inserted, a round is chambered, and any safeties are disengaged. At this point, the only thing needed to fire the gun is a pull of the trigger.
Depending on the gun model you have not all of these conditions of firearm readiness may apply or there may be slight changes because of differences in firing type and safeties. Not all firearms have an external safety or hammer. The conditions we are going to be discussing are one and three. But to reduce any confusion we will just be referring to them as loaded with an empty chamber and one in the chamber.
Let’s dive into the pros and cons of both methods before we discuss a few more questions you might be asking.
Carrying With A Loaded Gun But An Empty Chamber
This is commonly considered the safe way to carry a gun, without a round in the chamber there is no chance of a bullet being fired unintentionally. Some people refer to this as Israeli Carry.
In the 1900s the Israeli Defense Forces did not have their own supply of guns. They inherited them, leading to uncertainties of the safety and condition of each firearm. To streamline the training process they taught everyone a universal carry method. The troops went through intense training to be able to draw, rack, and fire their weapons exceedingly fast.
So, if you hear people reference the Israeli Carry method they are referring to the above and carrying in condition three. This method worked for the Israelis but that doesn’t mean it is right for everyone. Training can play a big part in how you carry for multiple reasons. Now that we’ve covered the basics let’s talk about the pros and cons of carrying with an empty chamber.
Your gun can’t fire a round unless you intend for it to. Without a round in the chamber a gun can still fire if the trigger were to be accidentally pulled, but it would be a dry fire.
Carrying a gun, even without one in the chamber, makes you more prepared than someone who doesn’t have a gun at all. No one wants to be in a situation where they have to defend themselves but if you have no gun on you then you are probably going to hope you remember parts of Karate Kid. Whereas if you have a firearm on your person you are more prepared to defend yourself than someone who doesn't.
If you are fighting off a hostile or holding a child, any situation where you do not have both hands free you can’t chamber a round as fast as you probably need to. This could be the difference between life and death.
One less bullet in your gun. If you are checking a gun’s capacity on a manufacturer’s website you might see 10+1 or 15+1, for example.. The one indicates the round in the chamber, without that round you are down one bullet.
Carrying With One In The Chamber
Many people prefer to carry this way and feel it is the only way to carry. It is regarded as the most common carry strategy by experienced shooters, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Let’s cover some of the pros and cons of carrying with one in the chamber to help you make that decision.
If you are fighting off a hostile or holding a child, anything where you do not have both hands free you don’t need to chamber a round and you can fire quicker. The difference might save your life.
Increased capacity. You have an additional bullet and are able to have a full magazine as well. The capacity increase is not large but it could make a difference.
Your gun could fire unintentionally. No matter what way you carry the trigger could be pulled and the gun could fire without you intentionally doing so. Most of the time, this happens during reholstering when a piece of clothing or something is not cleared properly and gets snagged. This is another reason why training is important. When you carry with one in the chamber, if the gun were to unintentionally fire, a bullet would be ejected and could injure or kill yourself or someone else. You may hear this referred to as a Negligent Discharge (ND) or an Accidental Discharge (AD)
I Want To Carry With One In The Chamber, But I’m Not Comfortable Yet
Maybe you are not as confident in your abilities or you are worried the gun will go off without you pulling the trigger. There are a few things you can do to ease yourself into carrying with one in the chamber if that is what you eventually want to do.
If you are worried about the gun discharging, the first thing you can do is make sure you have a proper holster. Your holster should have a trigger guard that completely covers the trigger, minimizing any chance of something pulling the trigger.
One way you can get comfortable carrying with one in the chamber is to carry even when you are at home. While you are carrying at home, try carrying with a round in the chamber. Seeing that it never goes off on its own, you may become more comfortable carrying with one in the chamber when you go out and about.
Another way is to start by carrying with an empty chamber and count how many times it goes off, which would be never, without you pulling the trigger. Once you feel comfortable and trust that the firearm won’t go off on its own you may feel more comfortable carrying with one in the chamber.
The biggest most impactful thing you can do to not only get comfortable carrying but get comfortable carrying with one in the chamber is to practice. This can be dry fire or live fire practice, even both. Get comfortable with your gun and improve your skills, you may find that you trust your gun and yourself more. A trainer can also help with this. Our friends over at Carry Trainer do a great job with their classes, but there are other places you can seek training as well.
No matter what you should always practice good trigger discipline and ultimately carry however you feel comfortable. Don’t feel like you have to carry one way or another because someone told you to.
If I Drop The Gun Will It Go Off?
There is no guarantee that a gun will not go off if it is dropped. Even with modern guns and the drop safe features they have if a gun is dropped it could still go off.
Many of the injuries that occur from dropping a firearm are actually due to someone trying to catch it. If you try to catch it you could pull the trigger in the process and if it is loaded you have little to no control over where the bullet is going. It is best to just let it fall and not try to catch it, as it is less likely to go off this way. Once it does land when you go to retrieve it do so with caution.
How Long Should You Keep A Round In The Chamber?
Just like how a shovel sitting in your garage can get worn down over time, a bullet in the chamber of a gun can too. Even though it is not directly exposed to the environment over time it can still be affected by the lubricants inside your gun and tarnished by the oils on your hand when you loaded it into the magazine.
While there is no set length of time you should leave ammo in your gun, it is a good practice to rotate your ammo if you do not already regularly do so through range practice or cleaning. Old ammo has an increased risk of misfire and rechambering ammo too many times can shift the bullet’s position inside the casing.
Whenever you clean your gun you should make sure to safely eject any ammo you have in the chamber before disassembling. This is a good opportunity to refresh your ammo.
We've covered a lot of information about carrying with one in the chamber versus with an empty chamber. Ultimately, you should do what makes you comfortable. Each one has it’s pros and cons, you must decide which method works for you.
No matter how you carry, one of the most important things is a good holster. Our holsters are custom made for you and your gun model. With adjustability and plenty of customization options you can feel confident that your holster is going to be comfortable and secure. Made of lightweight durable Kydex our trigger guards leave you knowing nothing is going to accidentally pull the trigger on your firearm.
Please keep in mind that while we are not aware of any states that have restrictions on carrying with one in the chamber, if you have a valid concealed carry permit, it is best to check state laws to ensure there are no restrictions.
We recommend visiting our Holsters by Gun Model page if you are looking for holsters that are custom made for your weapon of choice. For all of our belt and holster options and for more information to help you choose the carry system that works best for you, visit our Vedder Holsters website.
Looking for items beyond holsters and belts? Check out our Resources Page for popular product links like lights, laser, first aid, maintenance, and more.