Only an Idiot would Carry with a Live Round Chambered

A rant.

I own two guns, one of which is a semi-automatic pistol. I blogged about it here.

Yes, I do keep my gun stored loaded. It has a magazine that holds seven shots and that magazine is full and inserted. The gun is in its holster, with a snap strap to prevent it from falling out (even though it fits snugly in there) or inadvertently fired.

I don’t carry it, even though I have a concealed carry permit here in Washington and had one when I lived in Arizona. I consider it a line of last defense in the event of a home invasion (which is highly unlikely where I live) and I can’t get away from an attacker. If a fight or flee situation, I’m not an idiot — I’ll flee.

Like most semi-automatic weapons, a round needs to be chambered before it can be fired. If you’ve watched any kind of movie with a good guy or bad guy getting ready to go into a dangerous situation, you’ve likely seen him (or her) chamber a round by pulling back on the gun’s slide. “Racking the slide” like this brings a round out of the magazine and into the firing chamber. The gun can now be fired with a relatively light squeeze of the trigger.

In other words, when a round is chambered, the gun becomes a very dangerous thing to hold or carry.

And this was proved (again) just yesterday. From a New York Daily News article:

Ruger Semi-Auto
I don’t know what kind of Ruger this idiot was carrying locked and loaded in his church, but it could have been this one: Ruger American Pistol, Semi-Automatic, 9mm, 4.2″ Barrel, 17+1 Rounds

A Tennessee man and his wife were hospitalized after he accidentally opened fire during a discussion about church shootings at a local church.

The unidentified man was at First United Methodist Church in Tellico Plains on Thursday when he was showing a handgun to other attendees at a dinner, according to police in the town south of Knoxville.

His unloaded Ruger was passed around, though the man in his 80s allegedly put the magazine back in and chambered a bullet when it came back to him.

Police said that another person walked up and asked to see the weapon when the owner pulled the trigger.

“Evidently he just forgot that he re-chambered the weapon,” Tellico Plains Police Chief Russ Parks told the Knoxville News Sentinel.

The bullet hit the man’s hand before striking his wife in the abdomen. Both were taken to the hospital and are not believed to have life-threatening injuries.

He forgot that he’d prepped the gun for firing and shot himself and his wife.

Why in the world would anyone chamber a round if he wasn’t ready to fire the gun?

Well, that’s something that the NRA encourages.

You see, the NRA stays strong and powerful and keeps its membership ranks full by convincing people who can’t think for themselves that danger is all around them and they need to be prepared to fight back.

I saw this firsthand when I took a concealed carry course in Arizona years ago, when my wasband bought the first gun for our household. (Back then, the course was required to get a concealed carry permit; I’m not sure if it still is. But we took the course because it was the only pistol training course we could find in our area; I had no desire to carry and still don’t.) The NRA-sponsored course had a very heavy emphasis on the importance of carrying a gun at all times to protect yourself. As the only woman in the class who made it clear she was not interested in carrying, I got special attention. The instructor and his wife came up with numerous unlikely scenarios where I might be called on to shoot an attacker. It was absurd. They assumed I was either an idiot or was looking for trouble. (No, I don’t spend my evenings hanging out on the fringes of Phoenix mall parking lots or take long solo walks in the bad parts of any town. Sheesh.)

You can see this mentality again and again. When Googling “Can you fire a semi auto without first chambering a round?” for some additional information for this blog post, the second search result was this:

Search Result
This is the kind of crap that keeps idiots brainwashed to carry guns with chambered rounds.

So yes, there are a bunch of Second Amendment yahoos running around carrying semi-automatic pistols with chambered rounds, all ready to fire at a touch of the trigger.

And they apparently do so in churches.

Keep in mind that it takes literally a single second to rack a gun’s slide. Does waiting until you’re ready to fire really save you that much time?

I don’t think so.

So yes, I’m a gun owner. But I believe the NRA is harmful to our nation and its people. And that we need sensible gun laws that include education so morons like this guy understand just how dangerous a chambered round can be.

12 thoughts on “Only an Idiot would Carry with a Live Round Chambered

  1. I’m with you on condition three carry. In my opinion as a 30+ year concealed carry permit holder, it is the most appropriate mode for nearly all CCW situations. Unless you are an on-duty cop or a combat soldier in a combat zone, condition one carry is unnecessarily dangerous and greatly increases the chance of accidental discharges. When confronted with an active threat, having a round chambered is completely appropriate. The other 99.99% of the time it is far more of a liability than an asset.

    The term “accidental discharge” is itself a misnomer, as the term “negligent discharge” is far more appropriate. Every single negligent discharge endangers the public at large, and gives a black eye to gun owners in general and CCW permit holders in particular. The urban liberal media is already woefully (and IMHO deliberately) ignorant of responsible firearms use and universally hostile to the entire concept of civilian concealed carry. The absolute LAST thing gun owners need is a string of irresponsible CCW permit holders negligently discharging their weapons.

    • You’re right: “negligent discharge” is far more appropriate.

      In all honesty, I think the “Second Amendment Yahoos” — a term I apply to the folks who carry BECAUSE they can, claiming that if they don’t they’ll lose that right, and are often dangerous in the way they carry — are making things harder for themselves and the responsible gun owners by doing idiotic things like this clown in Tennessee did. How can the media educate the public about responsible gun owners when the only gun owners who get into the press are idiots like this guy?

      No wonder so many folks on the left are so anti-gun.

  2. I respectfully disagree with your article, the training arm of the NRA is a very good thing. The political side has its good and bad, but the main mission is to protect the Second Amendment rights of U.S. citizens.

    The National Rifle Association published a set of rules in 2009:

    ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
    ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
    ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.

    So there it is: ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use. So why do you say that they promote carrying with a round in the chamber? Because of the one training class that you went to?

    All that being said, I have a license to carry permit in my state of Texas, and have had it for a good many years. I carry with a round in the chamber every single time the gun is in the holster. I personally follow Jeff Cooper’s Four Rules and have never had a problem, nor anyone I know.

    All guns are always loaded.
    Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
    Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
    Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

    Just because a few people are stupid, doesn’t mean you should encroach on the rights of everyone else. That’s what our U.S. Constitution is all about and the main difference between the Libertarians and the main stream Democrats and most Republicans now. Libertarians (and some Republicans) want the government out of everyone’s business and to get rid of or not enact “helmet laws” that tend to lead toward “big brother” telling everyone what they can and can’t do. So in closing, I respectfully disagree with your liberal philosophy that we need to “control” everyone and also your thoughts on carrying with one in the chamber and the NRA.

    • I used to think that, too. The education arm has lots of good information and safety rules. It really does.

      But ultimately, the money that goes to the NRA — even for education — supports the fear mongering the NRA uses to give people the idea that carrying is vital and keeping a round in the chamber keeps you “prepared.” The NRA exists to support gun manufacturers, not the people of the United States.

      I will NEVER take another NRA-sponsored course because I don’t want a single PENNY of my money going to that organization.

  3. A few years back, I saved the life of a guy who thought he needed to keep a live round in the chamber. When he was driving his delivery truck around some corners, following me in a car ahead of him, he decided he would unload the S&W double-action .40 cal. He did. Right into his inner thigh, severing the femoral artery. Had I not gotten a tourniquet on him within 2 min of the negligent discharge, he would have bled out.

    Condition 1 carry is just a recipe for a disaster. Esp. if your automatic does not have a triple safety feature, like my Browning .380. I had some friends growing up that were playing with an automatic. Left one in the chamber and removed the magazine. One kid shot the other in the leg. The triple safety prevents discharges when the weapon’s mag is removed, or if it is dropped with a live round in the chamber (grip squeeze safety). Plus the manual safety is on when a round is in the chamber.

    I know of soooooo many negligent discharges leading to serious injury or death. Why take the risk? I can’t imagine a scenario where one can’t draw and chamber a round if a threat is imminent.

    • I remember now that you told me the story about the guy in the truck.

      You know that a guy from the band Chicago was killed by shooting himself with a gun he thought was empty, right? Pulled out the magazine, but there was still a shot in the chamber.

      But you know, these Condition 1 carry guys will never agree, no matter how many people are shot and possibly killed by their carelessness.

  4. For a UK reader there are two extraordinary issues in the situation you describe.
    Firstly, firearms protocol. Unless in a condition of war or imminent threat to life, guns and ammunition here must be stored separately whilst not in use. It is the duty of the owner / user to remove magazines and to explicitly check that there is not “one up the spout” left by accident. Then the gun is stored and locked away and the ammunition put elsewhere. This simple rule stops these incidents here. Reading your post and Sean’s comment makes me think that ‘imminent danger’ is a more pertinent consideration in the US.
    The second issue is that this handgun debacle played out among octogenarians in a Methodist church! This is so bizarre I confess to laughing at the mere possibility of followers of John Wesley, the 18th century preacher of ‘perfect love’, passing round loaded handguns at a group social. Wesley fought against slavery and for ‘relative passivity’. Although he was not a pure pacifist, he would never have passed round a gun in church. That is pure ‘Monty Python’. (I have no religion).

    • The whole gun ownership thing is related to our Second Amendment rights here, which, of course, don’t apply in the UK. Rules vary from state to state on how guns can be carried, although I’m not sure if there are any rules about how they’re stored at home. I know that folks who are gun enthusiasts but don’t necessarily have them for protection or shooting often keep ammo separate at home. Gun safes are also very popular here to protect guns from theft or being accessed by children.

      And yes, I do agree that the church situation is absurd. But it’s a pretty good example of the state of things among Second Amendment yahoos who carry primarily because they CAN. The mass shootings we seem to experience on a weekly basis gives them justification for carrying. And life (and death) goes on here in the US.

  5. This is a debate I have been having with myself for a quite a while. There is a definite time lag to rack a slide. For home defense, generally you will be alerted before the threat is face to face. You have time to rack a pistol. For concealed carry, the only time you should pull out a gun is if you are certain to fire it. Racking will definitely put you at a disadvantage. My solution to this is to only purchase guns with safeties and even better, decockers. And you need to practice the safety OFF, fire sequence so it’s automatic and you don’t get burned by the safety ON.

    The safety feature in a pistol makes a huge decrease in the likelihood of negligent discharges.

    What is curious is that some manufacturers (one is in the top three brands) do not offer safeties on their pistols. Many others have few models in there lines with safeties. I don’t know how the desirability of no safeties came to be, but it is Not for me.

    And one more thing, whether you won a gun or not – “situational awareness”. It’s hard to keep in mind, but it certainly could save you from some bad situations and is worth studying and practicing.

    • Situational awareness can definitely keep a person out of trouble. I can’t tell you how many times my New York City street smarts has alerted me to a possible bad situation that I was able to avoid.

      I remember one payday in New York when I realized I was being followed away from the bank where I’d just cashed my paycheck. Before descending into the underground passageway back to my office building — which is where he likely would have grabbed my purse or done worse — I stopped in front of an open shop, turned to face him and give him a good look, and then stepped into the shop. When I came out five minutes later, he was gone. He knew he’d been made and left, possibly to find another victim.

      It’s the people who wander around, not paying any attention to what’s going on around them, who become victims. Thieves in big cities prey upon them. Likewise, it’s the people dumb enough to put themselves into situations where danger is real who find themselves in need of self defense.

  6. I can’t help but agree with you on the lack of situational awareness, and it’s getting worse as people grow ever more obsessed with their cell phones. It seems like the default mode for the majority of the human race is heads down, eyes glued to the screen, completely unaware of what happens around them.

    And you are right about the diehard condition-one fanboys. Most of them fetishize the Colt 1911 type pistol (in.45 ACP of course) to the exclusion of all else. To them condition-one carry is a religious devotion, separating and elevating their exalted ranks from the rest of the unworthy. No amount of statistics or common sense can change their minds.

    For the rest of us, being aware of our surroundings gives us time to rack the slide and chamber a round if and when appropriate. In fact, drawing a pistol and clambering a round sends an unequivocal message that you are armed, aware, and prepared to defend yourself. I have personally used this to avoid having to actually fire a shot in an attempted robbery situation.

    As far as requiring weapon and ammunition to be kept separately under lock and key, why bother having a weapon at all? This completely negates the effectiveness of a firearm as a self-defense tool. I will however state that all responsible gun owners should store their weapons securely when not in their immediate possession. Leaving firearms lying around unsecured, whether loaded or not, is criminally irresponsible. Stolen guns are a big part of the crime problem in this country, and leaving a gun unlocked in your car or home is an invitation for theft and tragedy.

    If you can afford a firearm, you can absolutely afford a lockbox to secure it when you are away.

  7. Maybe I missed something reading on my phone, but having a round in the chamber doesn’t mean the hammer is also cocked, but probably this depends on the gun. Autos with a hammer can still be uncocked when chambered. I think my Glock (been out of my hands for a few years now) was always cocked if there was a round in the chamber.

What do you think?