Empty-Chamber Carry is Bullshit

Empty-chamber carry. Some people refer to it as Israeli Carry (which is funny because you don’t actually carry an Israeli with you), and among the naïve and the uninitiated this method of carry is the hotness. On the one hand I blame the lack of confidence that new firearm carriers experience when they just start strapping a handgun to their bodies for the first time. Everyone starts somewhere, and this anxiety is completely understandable. On the other hand there are certain instructors (a term looser than Charlie Sheen’s morals) who actively teach this method of carry, for completely bullshit reasons, usually demonstrated with more hissing than a pit full of angry Mozambican spitting cobras.

The “reasons” given as to why Israeli/Empty-chamber carry is supposedly the way-to-go are as follows (you may want to sit down for this):

  • Carrying a firearm with a round in the chamber is unsafe. This leads to negligent discharges, which cause injury and death.
  • If your firearm is taken from you, you will be able to take it back from the criminal before he is able to chamber a round by employing some sort of martial art technique.
  • You are capable of drawing, racking the slide, and firing just as fast, or even faster (I shit you not) than you would be able to if you were carrying one-up.

Oh boy…let’s start curb-stomping these in sequence.

Modern firearms, and by that I mean anything that includes a drop-safety, are designed to be carried with a round chambered. They do not simply go off by themselves, not even those Glocks that people seem so deathly afraid of (must be because they are Austrian). You (or something) will have to squeeze the trigger before the firearm will discharge. It is that simple: no trigger-squeezy, no bangy-bangy. The blame for negligent discharges lie solely at the operator: if you handle the firearm in an unsafe manner, suffer from bad trigger-finger discipline, and/or use low-quality and cheap holsters, you are setting yourself up for a ND regardless of whether or not you carry with an empty chamber. What you need to do is go get proper training from an accredited instructor, not a weapon with an empty chamber which doesn’t even remotely begin to address the fundamental problem you are experiencing.

As to the reason that if your gun is taken from you by your attacker, he then won’t be able to shoot you with it because he would first have to rack it (just like you would have to do, but anyway, who cares), but you will now have the advantage (mind blowing, I know) because you know Mystic Mountain Krav Maga and will proceed to judo-chop the living daylights out of his solar plexus (because that is how you roll) and retrieve your gun from his carcass. Because your bear hands (see what I did there?) are lethal weapons and illegal in 90 countries. Or something. Sorry, and excuse my Francaise, but fucking really? Really? Your entire system of self-defence relies on you expecting to be disarmed, hence the empty chamber, and then for you to retrieve your weapon by making use of unarmed combatives? Wow. Just wow. How about just learning some basic weapon-retention skills instead? What if you are attacked by more than one guy? Are you going to judo-chop all of them? If you want to argue this with me, fine: I am amazed that they allow you access to a computer in the zoo.

The third excuse for carrying in this method actually blows my mind. Now somebody get me a good medium and page Isaac Newton, but if you genuinely believe that you can perform three sequential actions just as fast or even faster than you can perform only two of them, then you are either an Immortal Space Wizard from Dimension X, or you have a really warped perception of reality. Now listen here: unless you are capable of doing really perverted stuff to the space-time continuum (in which case what on Earth are you doing reading this blog?) there is no way that you can draw your weapon, chamber a round by racking the slide, aim, and fire just as fast as you can draw, aim, and fire. No ways. If you believe this nonsense, then you had better ask your school for a refund on all those physics classes you took.

Folks, by carrying with an empty chamber you are setting yourself up for failure from out the starting blocks. I know of a gentleman who was a victim of a violent home invasion in Johannesburg, and because he carried with an empty chamber he could not respond to the threat effectively. He was shot dead as he attempted to chamber a round. Carrying empty-chamber has gotten people killed. Believing that you will have time to rack your handgun’s slide under duress is a dangerous fantasy, and it is likely clung to by people who have never been in a fight for their lives.

Last year I did an article about the reality of knife attacks, and just how fast and brutal they tend to be. I don’t care which Psychedelic Sacred Way of the Brofist school of martial arts you attend, but if somebody attacks you with a knife you are going to bleed…unless you are exceptionally lucky. Blood is slippery, and wounds hurt and distract. Anyone who has ever simulated racking a slide with slippery hands, or racking it with one hand, will tell you that this is not a situation you want to find yourself in then people are actively trying to kill you. One-handed slide racking is an emergency malfunction clearing technique, yet people who carry empty chamber may have to use this as their only method to get their gun into the fight. Your other hand may not necessarily be injured, but it may very well be occupied with trying to keep your assailant away from you, and you will be forced to rack the slide with one hand regardless. People who carry with loaded chambers do not have this concern to fret about.

Let me give you a quick reality check: with my incident last year I literally had milliseconds to respond to a deadly threat. There was no time to rack a slide. There wasn’t even time to properly aim. When things go south, they do so faster and more violently than you can possibly imagine. What people are taught in McDojo’s around the country pertaining to fending off a violent attack doesn’t even come close to simulating reality. If I carried with the chamber empty, and innocent person would be dead today.

There are exceptionally good reasons why internationally acclaimed instructors like Frank Proctor, Massad Ayoob, Mike Pannone, Larry Vickers, and Pat Rogers (RIP) do not teach empty-chamber carry: they have all walked the mile in hostile territory, seen and experienced things that by far most people have not, and have figured out what works and what does not work. The fact that they unanimously and independently conclude that empty-chamber carry does not work should tell you something. To not take anything away from local South African instructors, and we have some fantastic and knowledgeable people here, not a single one of our acclaimed instructors teaches empty-chamber carry. Because it is a bad idea and does not work.

Please don’t be another victim of this carry methodology. It has gotten people killed before, and will likely do so again. Understand your gun and its workings. Understand your carry set-up. Most importantly, understand why the safety sits between your ears and not on the frame of your gun.


41 thoughts on “Empty-Chamber Carry is Bullshit

  1. Nice write up. I expect you be covered in Golani spit shortly (due to all the hissing and posturing about empty chamber being the shiznizz)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Great article. I have carried my 1911 cocked and locked for more years than i can remember and h. Carrying empty chamber is just straight forward idiocy. ND’s are just that, Negligent Discharges, and i stress the word NEGLIGENT, and there is no way my 1911 can be called negligent. It is the creature behind the trigger!!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Good article. If you are stupid enough to believe reason 3 its probably better to carry with an empty chamber, safer for you and me to not have these okes running around with one up.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have to post this again, and, no, it’s not my quote :

    The only reason I carry 1-up is because I cannot fit two in the chamber.

    Good article, but I cannot be bothered trying to convert people. If they honestly believe it’s a good idea not to carry 1-up, I just leave them be.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A firearm is one tool among many in self-defense. Personally my “go to” is probably my knife. Similarly, would you argue that a fixed blade is the ONLY kind of knife to carry and that a folder is for posers who ought not to carry a knife? That’s just plain stupid logic.mdepending on the circumstance I carry either.

    People get hell bent in one direction or the other over one “safe” carry condition vs another. Really, is “one up” the only God-given full testosterone man way to carry and chamber empty for those with confidence issues who probably should not carry a firearm? Both approaches have their pro’s and their con’s and people on both sides of the fence do equally dumb stuff and beat their chests like gorillas and say dumb and offensive shit using straw man arguments to back themselves up. Both approaches are suited to differing lifestyles and personalities and are a matter of choice and training and therefore I teach and encourage both options.

    Let’s, at least, be mature enough to respect adults to make right choices for themselves and encourage them to carry and train accordingly and stop this kind of divisive nonsense.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It isn’t the only god given way to carry, but it is the fastest and most efficient way.
      If others want to carry any other way, then thats fine, but I would prefer that they did so knowing the possible consequences thereof. Interestingly enough, with education and experience, a lot of people move away from the empty chamber club as their confidence increases. Thankfully I only know one guy that has shot himself by accident while carrying 1-up, and even he admits that it was his error and manfully refuses to blame the gun.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I agree the divisive thing doesn’t help, nor do the umpteen ‘gunecdotes’ everyone seems to have. The gun community it the most inclusive and helpful I’ve ever been a part of, let’s keep it that way. We can disagree and give our reasons for doing so, but it’s no good to rubbish another approach.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Although I can absolutely associate with the factual content and analytical reasoning of the author, I fear many may not due to the overuse of sarcasm, cynicism and hyperbole. The tone used is typical of a parental rant, which is quite honestly unpleasant and often not even worth reading through to get to the actual facts and arguments. I often don’t understand whether the articles are supposed to be factual and to educate or to bitchfit. Perhaps the the general tone of the articles may need reconsideration to attract THE audience who would actually benefit instead of attracting views from the likeminded who already share the same views and feel the same way.


    • I have found that an audience receptive to fact is just that: receptive. The inflexible and unwilling to challenge their own perceptions feel insulted or aggrieved regardless of the tone used. This blog is not a diplomatic, namby-pamby source of information. We hit hard, we hit dirty, and we hit with the truth. Unfiltered as it may be. If people can’t handle that, they should consider hardening up a little.


  6. Great article bud.

    You did however forget the 4th gem of empty chamber. The one that indicates that while you are being as operator as possible and playing uber Ninja in the dark in your house, all you have to do is rack the slide and the sound will send running for the hills. SMH

    Thank you for all the great articles!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I enjoyed the write up and find nothing wrong with it. I however carry empty chamber due to the design of my pistol (standard safety is half cock and not double action). It would with this particular firearm be faster cocking it for one in the chamber than trying to cock back the hammer when needed in a stresfull situation!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I can’t for the life of me figure out why we’re even talking about this in 2016. The science is settled. If you’re “not comfortable” with a round up the spout or insufficiently trained to carry a firearm safely in that manner, do everyone a favor and leave your firearm at home.

    Liked by 2 people

      • I’m not Israeli nor an expert on how they do anything, but I seriously doubt you could find a single person in that country who trains regularly (more than an annual qual) who carries a pistol as their primary weapon without a round in the chamber.

        I did get to spend a day in Israel with a retired Army officer who carried. With a round in the chamber.

        Regardless of what the Israeli military does with their secondary weapons, the science is settled for people who actually train with handguns. Don’t carry a dead man’s gun.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Great article! I would have added the likelihood of causing a malfunction when racking the slide under extreme stress. There are those who struggle with disengaging a manual safety under those circumstances. Adding the requirement to rack a slide successfully adds a whole new dimension of potential awshits.

    Next, how about an article on the idiocy of open carry in urban environments when one can avail oneself of a concealed carry permit?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Something else I’ve never seen addressed in the empty-chamber argument:
    You may be able to draw and chamber just fine on the range, but if you do it for real, you’re already in a fight. Will your pistol chamber a round while it’s being slapped sideways, pulled forward by the muzzle, or twisted onto its side? Yes? Wanna bet your life on it?

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi there,
    I personally believe (no offense to anyone) that generally gun use should be taught by ex-law-enforcement or ex-military. I find such trainers more practical, especially those who have seen active service. Alternatively, gun use should be taught by those who have at least been trained by professionals – and by professionals I mean ‘ex-in-the-field-active-service’.

    Growing up, I was sort of adopted by a group of aging WWII vets, and just listening to men who have seen active service, just talking to them, can have an enormous influence. These were men who had engaged in combat in lethal environments like the desert or the jungles of Myanmar, where they fought not only the enemy, but an utterly hostile environment as well. There was an ice-cold no-nonsense practicality to them that I’ve since seen in other vets and ex-law-enforcement-military people. Those who put their lives on the line don’t throw those lives away. They always go with what works best, with what works FASTEST.

    I remember once taking out a rapist (too involved with his victim to be alert) by bouncing his head off a brick wall. Before he could use a weapon, he was out cold. That is the speed at which combat can unfold – at which it DOES unfold.

    Then there’s the crucial factor of stealth – sometimes the difference between life and death in combat. You chamber, you give away your position, even in the dark, even in hiding, someone else gets off a round first. Maybe they get lucky, maybe you do – luck is too fickle a mistress to have unnecessary dealings with.

    Well, I’ve said my say. I just have one thing to say, sir – you have this AMAZING sense of humor – this amazing style of writing! You’re a demi-god! How do you come up with stuff like this sentence?… “unless you are capable of doing really perverted stuff to the space-time continuum (in which case what on Earth are you doing reading this blog?)” – that had me in splits. Amazing sophistication, amazing humor! Keep up the great writing!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Came back to this page when someone left a comment, and read it all again a second time. Found parts that I’d missed the first time round…

    ‘there are certain instructors (a term looser than Charlie Sheen’s morals) who actively teach this method of carry, for completely bullshit reasons, usually demonstrated with more hissing than a pit full of angry Mozambican spitting cobras.’

    That had me in splits. Don’t know how I missed all that on the first read. You, sir, besides talking solid good sense, have an incredible sense of humor! It is a great pleasure to read your writing.

    Liked by 1 person

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