I recently read a story where a civilian who was concealed carrying fought back against an armed bank robbery and won. He shot the guy 3 or 4 times and the armed robber didn’t shoot back once, instead, he turned and ran out of the bank before collapsing.
That’s not the surprising part …
The surprising part is that the civilian was carrying without a round in the chamber (sometimes referred to as “Israeli Carry” for reasons I’ll explain in a moment).
So, does that mean that you should not carry a handgun with a round in the chamber?
Is it safer?
Here’s the story …
What is Israeli Carry?
So called “Israeli Carry” is another name for “Condition 3” carry. In short, there is no round in the chamber, the hammer is uncocked but a fully loaded magazine is inserted in the mag well.
That means that before you can shoot the gun, you have to rack the slide to chamber a round.
It’s called Israeli Carry because the Israeli military apparently used to teach it along with a standard curriculum on how to draw, rack and fire a first shot.
The technique/doctrine actually has its roots in the time period when the autoloading pistol was first developed …
From about 1907 to 1940 when Fairbairn and Sykes were working with the Shanghai Municipal Police they even made it a part of their curriculum.
Shanghai was a cesspool of crime from the Opium trade and fights with Triads were common for the police. After teaching those police, these are the same men who were recruited by the British Secret Service to develop the training for the British Commandos for the world war. When the US needed a similar training program for the OSS, they taught many similar methodologies from this lineage through Col. Rex Applegate.
Then it spread around the world, and Israeli somehow became the most recognizable military that used it. I’m not sure but I’m guessing that’s because they were still using it for the longest period of time (up until about 20 years ago).
Condition 1 (carrying with one in the chamber, cocked and locked) became the dominant method of carry when Jeff Cooper pioneered the so called “modern technique” later on.
Why Do Some People Not Carry A Loaded Gun
Quite simply, I think that most people don’t feel “Safe” with a loaded gun.
The idea of walking around with one strapped to their hip makes them nervous.
They think the gun could go off and accidentally shoot themselves or someone they love because it’s “cocked and locked”.
Let me go ahead and get something out of the way now …
When I First Carried a Gun, Having It Loaded Made Me Nervous
It actually did.
I had this fear that the gun would just “go off” simply because it was loaded. After all, the gun is loaded, so couldn’t the firing pin fail or something and just fire accidentally?
The truth is, learning the facts eased my mind.
You see, with modern guns, this simply doesn’t happen. The first gun I carried was a DA/SA Sig P225. That means that the first trigger pull was extra long (and heavy because it was actually a P6 German Police model gun) and it simultaneously cocked the hammer and THEN fired it.
It’s impossible for a Double Action pistol to “Go off” by itself unless you pull the trigger.
The gun I switched to, and now still carry, is a Glock 19 Gen 4 which is striker fired. There are no “external safeties” with the Glock pistol, so you would think that keeping it loaded is dangerous and that it could “fail” and the gun would just go off. But that’s not true either because the Glock was designed with multiple, redundant internal safeties they call their “Safe Action System”.
There’s the trigger safety, the FIRST in the series of 3 devices that must be engaged for the gun to fire.
If the trigger safety is not depressed, the trigger will not move rearwards and allow the pistol to fire.
Then there is the spring loaded Firing Pin Safety.
The spring-loaded firing pin safety projects into the firing pin channel and mechanically blocks the firing pin from moving forward. When the trigger is being moved rearwards, a vertical extension of the trigger bar pushes the firing pin safety upwards, clearing the firing pin channel. During the slide cycling process, the firing pin safety automatically reengages.
And lastly, there is the drop safety.
The rear part of the trigger bar, which has a cruciform shape, rests with both arms on the drop safety shelf located in the trigger mechanism housing. When the trigger is pulled to the rear, the trigger bar begins to move down off the shelf until finally separating from the firing pin lug. During the slide cycling process, the trigger bar is lifted and caught by the firing pin lug. The trigger bar is reengaged by the firing pin lug.
Essentially, you HAVE to pull the trigger for the gun to fire. It simply can NOT just go off due to the three safety measures.
This is NOT me bragging on Glock about how amazing their safety system is, but what I want you to understand is that modern handguns are extremely reliable and well made and generally have redundant safety measures like “drop safeties”, etc
Once I realized that a modern, loaded gun simply can not mechanically fire unless the trigger is depressed I became much more comfortable at carrying a loaded gun.
That and I actually forced myself to just carry the thing loaded. Do anything, enough, and you will grow comfortable with it in short order.
Why Condition 3, Carrying On An Empty Chamber, Is Obsolete Now (Just Like Point Shooting)
The truth is that carrying on an empty chamber was developed in a time when handguns simply weren’t mechanically reliable.
Further, it was developed and promoted by people who had to train a LARGE amount of “wet behind the ears” recruits quickly and safely to use a handgun.
It’s important to keep in mind that this was also the time period when “Aimed Fire” was thought to not be effective. In short, everyone was taught to “point shoot” (not using the sights) and shoot one handed most of the time too. The Fairbairn book is actually called, “SHOOTING TO LIVE WITH THE ONE-HAND GUN” because during this time period it was accepted doctrine that handguns were fired with one hand, and not aimed with the sights.
I actually have a friend that is Israeli and served in the military during that time and later became a firearms instructor (he also wrote a few articles for gun magazines).
I asked him about Israeli Carry and referenced an 80’s video on the method and point shooting and here’s what he said:
“… the system–and my opinions–have evolved since that video was made, around 20 years ago. For example, a lot of Israeli instructors used to be very doctrinaire about not carrying a bullet in the chamber. This makes sense in certain circumstances, and was very logical in Israel at the time, and even now to some extent. (I can explain, but it’s probably boring.) By contrast, in the US, this is less practical and I advocate carrying with a loaded chamber in nearly every circumstance.
The grip, stance and maneuvering are all pretty much the same. While they don’t look pretty, they are based soundly on human physiology and very well-vetted over many, many conflicts.”
Of course, I did not think it was boring and wanted to know every detail. So I got him to tell me more …
“In the earlier years of Israel, a lot of people were called to arms for security duty, but had little or not training with gun handling and marksmanship. To complicate matters more, there were multiple handgun models circulating around the various security forces. So one reason for the condition 3 carry was to get everyone up to at least a minimal level of skill as quickly and easily as possible.
“Carrying chamber empty means every semi auto operates in exactly the same way, whether single or double action, with or without manual safeties. So one single method could be taught that would work on all handguns. It also makes all modes of carry equally safe. (Holstered, tucked in waistband, “thunderwear” carry, etc.)
“Particularly with people who aren’t inclined to or even able to train a lot, condition 3 is the safest mode of carry. There is zero chance of a negligent or accidental discharge while carrying. So this is yet another advantage.
“Utilizing the Israeli method properly also causes the gun to be seated in the web of the hand, almost insuring an excellent grip on the handgun.
“So there are definitely reasons to carry condition 3.
“Having said that, Israel’s particular security threat is markedly different from ours. In Israel, at least when I lived there, there was virtually NO violent crime. (As an aside, it’s quite common to see soldiers on leave in line at places like the bank, with an assault rifle slung over their shoulder. You take your weapon home with you in the Israeli military, so often these guys aren’t even in uniform.)
“In the States, the primary reason to carry a firearm is protection against violent crime. Specifically violent crime in which you are the intended target. Contrast this with a generalized terror threat in Israel, and the distinction is obvious; Terrorists target groups of individuals, and are more readily identifiable. So in Israel, (like the States) you may be one of many who are armed on the street. But you may need to get your weapon into action to address a threat that is more distant from you than a typical violent crime. (Like if a terrorist is shooting into a crowd, or attacking someone with a knife, etc.)
“In the US, the most likely situation to draw and fire your weapon is during an attempted violent crime, such as a rape or robbery. Frequently, this involves one or more aggressive males crowding and focusing on a single individual. The dynamic is different, and I simply feel better prepared (after LOTS of practice!) carrying my firearm condition 1. ”
Now, when you see where the method gained popularity … and why it was developed … it makes more sense.
Does that mean it’s right for you?
Why You Should Keep Your Self Defense Gun Loaded
First, modern handguns are extremely MECHANICALLY safe. Almost all service caliber, sub-to-mid-size guns by the reputable gun manufacturers can be loaded and will NOT fire unless the trigger is depressed. They almost all have drop safeties and other redundant safety features.
That means the only variable when it comes to safety is you which is why it’s so important to follow the firearms safety rules.
Second, if you carry your gun in a holster that covers the trigger guard and trigger, then the ONLY risk is essentially getting the gun into the holster without touching the trigger. Once it’s in the holster, it should be impossible to fire.
Third, while you can carry with an empty chamber. Why would you?
The potential downsides are too great in my mind …
1. Racking the slide takes extra time
2. Racking the slide (usually) takes two hands. Whenever possible you want both hands on the pistol as quickly as possible for the best gun control.
3. Racking the slide is adding ANOTHER thing you have to do to successfully get the gun out of your holster, on target and shoot. In other words, it’s another thing that you can (and most likely will) mess up under stress.
The data shows that most gunfights happen in 3 seconds or less.
IF you think that carrying with an empty chamber is correct for you, then I encourage you to go to the range and see if you can draw from your every day carry concealment and rack the slide and make an acceptable (anatomically valuable hit) on the target in less than 3 seconds.
If you get a friend to time you, or set a timer on your cell phone, or set a par time on a shot timer — I think you’ll be surprised.
Just a little bit of stress can make it very easy to mess up even simple things like even moving a shirt out of the way to grab your gun and draw it. Adding more things to do is simply silly. In fact, that’s one of the benefits of carrying a gun without a manual safety (like a Glock but we’ll cover that at a different time).
What are your thoughts? Do you ever carry or store your gun with an empty chamber? If so why?