Not too long ago, we posted an article (by me!) about carrying or keeping a gun with a round in the chamber. Long story short, I let it be known that I thought carrying with an empty chamber is a mistake.
Some folks in the comments section raised objections, as they are often wont to do. I felt a few of the points that were raised had enough merit to discuss further. Some of these points were deliberately avoided for reasons I’ll get into. Others…I just didn’t think about and for some pretty good reasons.
The most common objection was “something is better than nothing” (or words to that effect). The idea is that a gun with cartridges in it — but not having one in the chamber — is close to being loaded and is therefore better than a completely unloaded gun.
In a prima facie, on-paper, in-theory sense, that’s true. In practice? You need to load the gun, aim and fire while under stress in the event that you actually need to use it.
Granted, is loading a pistol, a shotgun or a rifle the most complicated thing in the world? No, but it requires that everything go right when there’s a higher chance of something going wrong.
You know, due to the stress of OH MY GOD SOMEONE’S BREAKING INTO THE HOUSE AND HE’S GOT A GUN!
Again, carrying with an empty chamber isn’t wrong, but it just isn’t quite right.
If a person was going to leave a gun in Condition 3, they had better practice loading and firing the pistol, because not doing so just might get them killed. Which, of course, is why it’s better to keep your self-defense gun – be it a concealed carry pistol or home defense gun or whatever – with a round in the chamber.
Single action revolvers
Credit where due, it’s true that in days long past the best practice was to carry your revolver with the hammer resting on an empty chamber or on an empty primer nipple in pre-cartridge pistols. The reason was that there wasn’t anything between the hammer and either the nipple or the primer of the cartridge.
If dropped, the hammer could contact the primer and therefore, fire.
Eventually, revolver designs changed. The good folks at Iver Johnson (related in name only to the company that exists today) developed a lifting bar that sat between the hammer and the primer of the cartridge. That connected to the trigger, which only dropped out of the way when the trigger was fully pressed.
Many revolvers also changed; whereas the firing pin was once integrated with the hammer . . .
Today’s revolvers have a flat hammer. The hammer connects with a firing pin that’s integrated into the frame, which strikes the primer.
Here we have a conundrum. Modern revolvers (Smith & Wesson, Taurus, Ruger, Kimber) have transfer bar safeties and as such there’s no need to mention it.
A number of gun companies still produce single-action revolvers. For instance, you have Ruger’s Blackhawk and Vaquero models, Heritage Manufacturing’s Rough Rider series, replicas made by Pietta, Uberti and Cimarron and so on. Hell, Colt still makes the Single Action Army.
Then you have the big, scary, single-action magnums by IWI (the BFR) Freedom Arms and custom guns from Jeff Linebaugh.
Herein layeth the rub:
SOME of these guns (Ruger, Rough Rider, IWI, Freedom Arms, Linebaugh) have transfer bar safeties and thus can be carried fully loaded.
As for the replicas, these are hit-and-miss when it comes to carrying on an empty chamber. Uberti, for instance, makes some models with a transfer bar safety and also a few with a floating firing pin, which drops below the channel to the primer when the hammer is fully forward and can thus be carried fully loaded.
You’d figure Colt would have gotten with the program by now and made the SAA with a transfer bar. They DID make a variant with one (the Colt Cowboy) but they don’t offer it anymore and the SAA is sold sans transfer bar.
Now, to rein in this trip into the weeds.
I didn’t mention this stuff because in the original post because the number of people out there who keep a single-action revolver as a home defense or self-defense gun is likely negligible.
Furthermore, every person I know or have talked to who does have a single-action revolver – Rough Rider, Blackhawk or a replica – has other guns that they use for those roles. These aren’t exactly the most concealable guns out there. People who carry them are so rare that I felt like it wasn’t worth mentioning, and I’m probably still right.
After all, this ain’t Dodge City and you ain’t Bill Hickok.
And then there are GLOCKs
Next, there was some discussion about GLOCKs. A loaded GLOCK, some of the comments went, is susceptible to the dreaded “GLOCK ND” (negligent discharge). Therefore, it’s unsafe(ish) to carry or store with one in the chamber.
Folks, a GLOCK (or any other striker-fired pistol) is perfectly safe with a little intelligence combined with a bit of assiduity. If you were to compile a list of incidents of the “GLOCK ND” and start reading through them, you’ll find that in virtually every single instance, human error was the culprit.
Discharge during take down? Didn’t check that the gun was clear.
While carrying or holstering? It was being carried in an improper holster or the operator got careless in putting the pistol back into the holster, by not making sure the path was clear.
Or some jackass was pocket carrying his G43 without a holster and something snagged the trigger. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again. If you’re going to pocket carry, get a pocket holster.
The anti-GLOCK crowd — and they are nothing if not noisy — also raised the objection that since a striker-fired pistol is so easy to discharge (a simple pull of a relatively light trigger) then it’s inherently dangerous to have those guns in a home with small children.
On paper? Maybe. But that would be true for almost ANY gun that didn’t have a manual safety engaged.
In the real world?
First – much like the Israelis – Fairbairn and Sykes had to teach officers how to carry safely in a manner that got them street-ready quickly.
Second, they also trained. One of the first shoot houses ever built was built by Fairbairn and Sykes to train their officers.
Third, the reason that actual experts (I would say I am knowledgeable to a point, but an expert I am not) recommend NOT carrying in Condition Three is for the reason that it takes a lot of training and repetition to get truly proficient and most people with a lot of training and proficiency don’t carry their pistol unloaded.
To sum up: there were a few objections to my original post that, on their face, had some truth to them. However, there still isn’t a compelling reason to carry a gun or keeping one for home defense that isn’t loaded which can’t be gotten around with a bit of training, a bit of brains, or a bit of extra gear.
Still disagree? Sound off in the comments! Want to vent about something? Sound off in the comments.