Today's feature is from our companion service, the Tactical Wire.
I carried a gun in police uniform in 1977 -- this one, a Colt National Match. When it was carried, it was in Condition 1: completely loaded, safety on.
The information superhighway is littered with potholes, orange barrels and detours. You can see some of the silliest things there. One of the most recently seen bits of nonsense has to do with carrying loaded handguns.
Yes, you read that right. I’m not talking about Bubba at the gun shop or one of the weekend range commandos but, apparently, a military trained self-styled instructor who’s so terrified of loaded firearms his comments rival “Moms Against Commonsense” -- or whatever loon outfit’s -- talking points.
A friend in social media brought this guy to my attention. He refers to “reckless American "gun experts" promoting this dangerous practice (carrying a pistol with a round chambered) and it's about time they are called out on their irresponsible wannabe Rambo attitude” of carrying loaded handguns.”
The agency I was part of issued semi-auto pistols from 1986 -- when it was this S&W Model 645 -- until retirement in 2004. Agency policy was to carry loaded all the way up, including the chamber. Below, this shot was taken when I instructed on the range. We taught them to carry guns loaded - not half-empty.
He goes on to note that he doesn’t have the time to discuss the notion, but that “carrying with a loaded chamber is asking for a ND to happen, and eventually someone is going to get killed.” He compares it with reckless driving, smoking cigarettes – and notes that, with his special education, “you can draw and rack the slide just as quick (if not quicker) than someone with a loaded chamber.”
I imagine you could learn how to walk down stairs on your hands too, but how much effort and time will you devote to it? It’s not necessary, he says, to carry the gun loaded.
We’re speaking here of semiauto handguns. It goes unrecorded as to which chamber I must have empty in my revolver to be truly safe.
Stupid as I am, I had to chime in.
“Carried a semiauto in uniform as a peace officer . . . in 1977. Was issued semiautos for LE duty 1986 - 2004. If we'd had someone who carried "half-loaded," there'd have been some "time on the beach" and mandatory retraining before an outright release from service. . . . this dangerous practice" is SOP in the USA.”
Well, he responded. In his country – the one before this one – he stated that someone would be jailed for the heinous crime of carrying a handgun with a round chambered. He went on to note that “Your so called "SOP" is reckless and dangerous and need to change (sic). This dangerous practice needs to end NOW, and old timers still stuck in the past unable to get with the times should just give up carrying a weapon altogether.”
Bless his heart.
FBI notes there are a total of 13,217 state and local law enforcement agencies in the US that reported to Uniform Crime Reporting and they employed about 765,000 sworn officers -- in 2008, federal LE agencies employed around 120,000 more full-time law enforcement officers. As noted, I was part of that “club,” taught peace officers in in-service and assisted with basic. I was a trainer in firearms and defensive tactics.
I’m in the US, carrying handguns in the same way that all those US peace officers carry their firearms under agency policies. After noting that, he responded that – in spite of it being LE agency policy at the federal, state and local levels, “There is absolutely no justification for carrying with a hot round in the chamber. This practice endangers the person carrying the weapon as well as all those around them. Try overcoming your childish arrogance and get through your head that empty chamber is THE ONLY way to carry a weapon.”
The rules are summarized in an effort to keep them at the forefront of the mind -- all guns are always loaded is the first one. It sets the tone and the mindset. The handgun is always loaded when worn, the long gun kept chamber empty until needed, as shown at Paul Howe's CSAT, below.
A helpful correspondent wanted to help him cement his claim about speed with a range challenge, but he said that “(he) can't take up that challenge. NOBODY is allowed to ever carry with a loaded chamber at my facility under any circumstances. We take gun safety very seriously, even if many other American gun owners don't. That said, the speed at which someone can draw and rack the slide depends on his/her level of training. Someone untrained will obviously be slow, while someone well trained will be ridiculously fast.”
I won’t waste time with the remainder of his position – I can’t do it justice.
Let’s look at it this way: we carry handguns because people can be very skittish around folks armed with shotguns and rifles. Aside from the fact that it’s hard to keep long guns under our immediate control like handguns – and that didn’t help in the recent Massachusetts case where an officer was disarmed and murdered with his own gun – long guns don’t have the same safety features that modern handguns do to make them “drop safe.”
I’m okay with chamber-empty long guns – I just don’t trust them. And, unlike our friend from overseas, I damn sure don’t trust half-loaded pistols. The majority of accidents were accompanied by a claim that “the gun wasn’t loaded!”
Except that it was. And what does our hero do when the fight is over – assuming he gets it loaded without dropping it, inducing a malfunction or getting it taken away from him – and it’s time to manage the aftermath of a deadly encounter?
Is he going to get it restored to “half-loaded” and holstered before other people get there? – People like cops? – And their guns are loaded, I can assure you.
If you have a pistol that’s of an older design or not safe to carry loaded – don’t carry it. Buy a newer gun. Learn how to use it, learn when to use it – and learn other things to keep yourself and others safe.
Learn this: All guns are always loaded. It’s a matter of fact. I don’t care what that fellow’s rules are or what the range rules are – I look at every firearm the same way. It’s loaded, right now, until I can get it directed into a safe backstop and I physically check.
Even then, that’s temporary. I’ve handled guns in the armory, checked them set them aside – and checked them the next time I picked them up.
It’s not a matter of what’s in the chamber. It’s what’s between your ears. If you think a silly “chamber empty” rule is going to make you safe, the US military has a long history of accidents showing that’s simply not true.
If I carry these . . . which chamber do I empty to "be safe?"
If you decide to carry a pistol half-loaded, that’s your business. You’re doing yourself no favors and you need to consider how much fumbling it’ll take to get yourself ready – as well as what happens when your ears are ringing, people are screaming and the police are coming to the scene – and what you’ll have to do to get that (presumably now loaded) pistol holstered.
But think about it now, before you need it.
And I hope you never do.
- - Rich Grassi