Some who concealed carry are nervous to carry their handgun with a round in the chamber. And on the surface, some arguments to support carrying a pistol without a round in the chamber may sound compelling:

“My pistol doesn’t have a manual safety, and I feel more comfortable carrying with an empty chamber.”

People may believe having a cartridge loaded is too high risk, but revolvers always have a round chambered. A firearm is an emergency, lifesaving tool. When you need it, you need it now.

“I don’t have to worry about dropping my pistol and it accidentally going off!”

Remember, guns don’t simply “go off.” They need to be made to fire. The operator needs to do a specific series of actions to make the gun fire. If your firearm goes off when you don’t want it to, it’s a negligent discharge.

“If I need to use my pistol, I can just quickly rack the slide and I’m ready to go.”

Here’s the problem: You don’t get to decide when you’ll need to use your firearm.

Keep One in the Chamber — Incidents Happen Fast

You don’t get to plan for a convenient time to defend yourself. Nor will you decide when or how the fight for your life starts. Your first indication you’re in a self-defense encounter might be a smack in the head, a shot whizzing by your ear or perhaps someone behind you shouting, “Everyone on the floor or I’ll shoot!”

You will be responding to someone else’s actions. By definition, you’ll already be behind the eight ball. When you reach for your firearm, you’re in a high-stress, dangerous situation. You won’t have time to think about or do extra steps. It’s likely you’ll be acting mechanically based on the neural pathways you’ve created in training. Leaving the chamber empty could end up with you hearing a click when you need to hear a bang.

Now you’re facing the problem of having to pause, then figure out and correct the problem, all while an attacker is gaining ground. The bottom line is that you may not have the time or opportunity to prepare yourself or your equipment for the required immediate response. Is it possible you might see trouble coming early enough to prepare? Yes. Are you willing to bet your life on that possibility?

Why You Shouldn’t Concealed Carry With an Empty Chamber

There are four factors you need to think about — hard — before deciding to carry your pistol with an empty chamber.

Time to Rack the Slide

Racking a slide only takes tenths of a second with practice. That doesn’t sound like much — until you add up how much you are already behind the curve. Your brain takes a quarter of a second or more to see and process a threat. With practice, you might draw a concealed firearm and get an aimed shot off in 1.5 to 2 seconds. You’re already several seconds behind the timeline of your attacker because he or she planned his or her actions in advance and started the festivities. Do you want to add time to your minimum response when your life is on the line?

Using Gross Motor Skills

When the human body moves from a normal state of everyday relaxation to the “I’m about to die!” state, things like coordination go downhill fast. Racking a slide isn’t a fine motor skill like needle-pointing the Mona Lisa. But in a moment of adrenaline-dump stress, performing the action rapidly and flawlessly will not be easy.

The Number of Hands You Have

Unless you resort to some method that requires even more manual dexterity, racking a slide requires two hands. What makes you think you’ll have two hands available during phase one of an armed encounter? Your support hand may be occupied fighting off your attacker, holding or moving a child, opening or closing a door, calling for help … or a million other possible activities. Assuming you’ll have both hands available to operate your pistol is kind of like assuming that nothing bad can happen if you avoid rough areas. Again, you don’t get to make these decisions; they are forced upon you.

Modern Pistol Safety Features

Modern carry pistols are almost always designed to be carried with a round in the chamber. Check with your manufacturer to be sure, but it’s a rare defensive pistol that’s not designed with drop safeties and other internal and external features to prevent negligent discharges. Even the ubiquitous Glock that has no visible safety devices is chock full of internal design features to prevent firing until you deliberately press the trigger. Millions of police officers across the country rely on this type of engineering daily.

Concealed Carry With One In The Chamber

Carrying your pistol without a round in the chamber may sound comforting, but be sure to think long and hard about how that strategy might play out in a violent self-defense encounter. There are too many tragic cases of armed citizens who have been killed or wounded by their attackers because they could not mount an armed defensive strategy quickly enough. There are good reasons every police officer in the country carries his or her firearm loaded and ready to go.

The first step in becoming more comfortable carrying with a round chambered is to get a decent holster. A hard, Kydex holster that protects the trigger will prevent the trigger from being pulled unintentionally. Then, when you practice, be sure to maintain perfect trigger finger discipline. This includes practicing pulling your gun from your holster. Good gear and good firearms training will help you feel more comfortable carrying in the safest manner possible.

This article is a compilation of previous blog posts authored by Kevin Michalowski, Tom McHale and Beth Alcazar.