Israeli Carry Is Obsolete; Keep One In The Chamber

Israeli carry, otherwise known as carrying with the chamber empty, is a topic of much debate among concealed carriers. Go to any concealed carry forum and you’ll find numerous discussions on the topic – lots of people go back and forth about carrying with one in the chamber or not.

The truth is that there WERE good reasons for carrying with an empty chamber, and in some cases still are. However, most people are far better off carrying with one in the chamber.

Why It Was Called Israeli Carry

Israeli Carry

It isn’t that carrying with an empty chamber was invented in Israel, but it was – at some point – a common practice there. While there isn’t exactly an exhaustive amount of documentation to prove exactly when and where the custom was kicked off in that country, the story goes that sometime in the past 40 years or so, nearly everyone carried a gun in that manner in Israel.

The reason, the story goes, is that there were a proliferate number of pistols and of a wide variety of makes and models. As we know, many guns are as good as others but some certainly aren’t; this was just as true in previous eras. As a result, the standard operating procedures for one weren’t the same as another.

However, what can a person do to guarantee safety with any make or model of firearm? Carry with an empty chamber. Since doing so guarantees that nothing will ever go wrong, such as a drop fire, and works for every make and model, it would make perfect sense if a person had to use whatever gun they could get instead of a gun they actually wanted and could operate with confidence.

Drop Fire Is Not As Present A Danger

Carry with an Empty Chamber
The main reason to carry with an empty chamber is to prevent a drop fire, where a sharp knock (caused by dropping a loaded gun) can cause the firing pin or hammer to strike a chambered round, causing an accidental discharge.

This isn’t as present a danger today as in previous eras.

Largely, the practice of carrying with an empty chamber dates to the 19th century, when a drop fire was a very real danger in the firearms of the day. The old classics from the era, like the 1858 Remington, Colt Single Action Army (aka Peacemaker) and all the Winchester lever action rifles you can shake a stick at were all susceptible to drop fires.

Since people of the day certainly recognized the potential, the practice emerged of carrying revolvers with the hammer lowered over an empty chamber. Likewise, lever action rifles were carried with an empty chamber or, on applicable models, at half-cock, as the half-cock position could function as a safety.

Even the original 1911 pistol (and indeed, any of the series 70 design) lacked a drop safety. That may have something to do with why a number of older field manuals recommend carrying a sidearm unloaded unless combat is imminent.

Most Modern Guns Have A Drop Safety

Partially Empty Chamber

Virtually every modern pistol today has a drop safety. It’s even required by law in some states.

One of the first drop safety devices was in fact devised by the Iver Johnson company in the 1890s, for their line of Safety Automatic revolvers – the transfer bar safety. While the trigger is fully forward, an eccentric (the bump on a camshaft) on the trigger pushes a small metal bar in front of the firing pin. To drop the bar away and allow a round to be discharged, the trigger has to be pulled, lowering the eccentric and thus dropping the transfer bar.

So…the trigger pull deactivates the safety feature(s). For some reason, that safety feature sounds mighty familiar.

Modern firearms include far more safety features than older designs. While this doesn’t mean accidents won’t happen (negligent discharges definitely happen, usually due to poor/careless handling, poor holsters and so on) it does mean that the primary reason for carrying with an empty chamber, aka Israeli carry, has long been eliminated.

Therefore, so long as a person is carrying a modern(ish) pistol from a reputable manufacturer…there’s virtually no reason to carry with an empty chamber.

  • HomerS

    Interesting background.

    Being nitpicky [ sorry 🙂 ] proliferate is the verb form of the adjective prolific. “there were a proliferate number of pistols” would be better as prolific, or proliferating.

  • Bill

    Training and practice ensures comfort and confidence with carrying a weapon.

  • Jim Chastain

    I carry with the chamber empty and train to load a round upon drawing; I have experienced no real legitimate delay in firing speed and I find that it leaves me more comfortable; not sure why there is any sort of debate to be honest

    • Mark

      Maybe not in training, but in a stressful situation you may short stroke, or not have a hand free to rack it. I used to be uncomfortable with a chambered pistol, especially since I have no manual safety, but I got used to it and never had an issue.

      There are a ton of cases where someone carrying unchambered got killed because they were unable to rack, either lacking time or ability.

      • Jim Chastain

        I am sure that is true, just as there are still numerous cases of accidental discharge with drops or impacts, as well as numerous cases of people firing while drawing their weapon. In the end I think it is personal preference and training – and that is just my opinion. I don’t think we benefit from any single philosophy in this regard, because the number one most important part of concealed carry is practice/training…which leads to the proper kind of comfort in the practice. When I said I am not sure why their is a debate what I meant to speak to was that either practice has its merits and validity. So an article the speaks to a preferred practice around having a round in the chamber may not be a good use of space. Rather, discussing the merits and drawbacks of each from a more neutral perspective would help.

    • KUETSA

      The reality is that this day in age, you can’t pull a gun on someone just for them looking questionable and being close. You will not know you are getting attacked until they grab you, at which point you very well could be fighting them off with your left hand/arm and drawing with your right, at which point you will NEED a round in the chamber.

      • Jim Chastain

        I do not disagree with you that there are certainly circumstances where it might be warranted. Sadly, there are places where violence is more prevalent. But I don’t know that it is yet the norm, and situational awareness, to me, is a very important skill to develop. I have lived in a number of large cities, and I have been in direct confrontations on numerous occasions – the threats are real and I do not ever begrudge someone who trains to carry with a round in the chamber AND who is in circumstances where that is the better course of action. However, if any of us can avoid those circumstances through awareness or what not we should

        • KUETSA

          Round in the chamber or not – I agree situational awareness is still paramount (As is a good physical fighting ability) – however, modern firearms are designed to be carried with a round in the chamber, and it is not an unsafe condition at all, as long as you holster it and keep it in a quality holster without fooling around with it till it may be needed. I tell new Glock owners to rack the slide with no magazine inserted to set the striker – then insert the mag and holster and carry that way to gain confidence that it would not fire accidentally. There comes a point that confidence is gained to carry with a round in the chamber.
          All that being said – I refuse to carry in the AIW position with the muzzle aimed at my femoral artery. Seems crazy to me.

  • Sig_Sauer

    I believe, when carrying, do what’s best for you and the way you have practiced. When I carry my 1911, it’s cocked and locked with a round in the chamber. When my wife and I carry our P226 or P239, being DA/SA, it’s been de-cocked and has a round in the chamber.

    Most importantly, always carry!

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  • I spoke with a friend that lived in Israel and he said they did/do this because it makes using a gun a rational process. If the chamber is empty, one has to purposely load the chamber to use it. There are no excuses for AD or ND and therefore the liability is 100% on the shooter as there are no excuses.

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    • Sir TuberKopf

      Active military in Israel operate on a militia model. The lions share of military live at home and have jobs. They rotate through active military assignments. When called they grab their gear and report.

      There were too many negligent discharges, also unsecured firearms were often around children. Few small children can rack a slide.

      They incorporated empty chamber training into the standard training routine and negligent discharges and child accidents vanished.

      When Israeli soldiers are called up, believe that a round will be chambered when there is the slightest threat, but not while loading trucks and prepping gear at their base.

      • Makes sense and both are right, just that you gave the background. Still, empty chamber is a bad thing when carrying concealed.

  • Depends, if you’re in public places a lot and you’re likely to have your handgun snatched from you, the way you carry it, then don’t keep one in the chamber, it gives you time to retrieve your own weapon before you get shot with it.

  • It is also a USA military practice called condition Yellow. It is made to avoid trip & fall firearm accidents, as well as any other accidental discharge, that gives you 100% safety with no drawbacks.

  • Chris Cole

    Never understood why so many people on any given issue, especially, always say “YOU NEED TO. Did this author or any other for that matter ever stop to think for one second that only a very few people who CCW or open carry are continually training in being safe with their fire arms? Hell, most cops don’t train. The author cited questionable quality of the hand guns in Israel as the soul reason they carry wirh a chamber empty. Maybe, but if one thinks about it saying that is about as stupid as can be. It doesn’t even make sense. Look at the IDF. It’s largely a conscript force, that you never really retire from. Israel in General is a place where SHTF (as far as an Isralie citizen go’s). They have the same guns we do and do just fine. Point is, folks who train twice a week, blow plenty of cash on classes, pony up the bucks for a good belt and holster and take the time to KNOW their weapon as well as retaining that weapon that’s ready to go, and go daily into situations where it’s a complete unknown ( security guards, cops) need to go with the chamber loaded. But the Joe/Jane blow who only watches the tactical toms on YouTube and doesn’t have to go up on a domestic violence call or walk up on a car with tinted windows would be better served with chamber empty. The author has no business telling anyone what they “need” to be doing and I believe he meant to say why HE doesn’t approve of “Israeli” stuile carry. Take what this guy says, try it out and do what works for you, and be ware of interweb tactical tom’s who spout off how many times they went to the sand box, and go get familiar with y’all’s weapon.

  • MrT

    “Drop Fire Is Not As Present A Danger” – Isn’t that a huge issue now with P320? I think it’s overhiped, since 1 accident / 500.000 P320 owners is extremely low, but saying all guns are now drop fire safe, is just not true. 🙂

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