Live Round in Firing Chamber?
Copyright © September 1, 2017 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
All Rights Reserved.
Should a live round of ammunition always be carried inside the firing chamber of the barrel of a firearm?
The above topic was being fiercely debated long before I was born. And it will continue to be fiercely and hotly debated long after I am dead.
This article will have absolutely no impact on that debate because after a person has firmly proclaimed his or her final authoritative position on this topic then there is almost no chance that the person will ever change his or her mind.
The reason I am taking the time to write this article is to provide some information for you to consider in the event that you have not already made a final decision on this topic.
There are two primary reasons for always having a live round in the firing chamber of a firearm:
Now let's pause and reflect on each of the above issues one-at-a-time.
- One Extra Shot: If the magazine of the firearm is completely full, then adding one additional live round into the firing chamber of the firearm adds one more round of ammunition that can be fired before the firearm has to be reloaded.
- Instant Response: If you should immediately need your firearm in an unexpected life-or-death situation, then having a live round already in the firing chamber of your firearm will allow you to shoot your firearm immediately without having to invest about two seconds (more or less) in loading a live round into the firing position of your firearm.
One Extra Shot:
It is true that having one extra round of ammunition inside the firing chamber of the barrel of a firearm will add one more round that can be fired before the firearm has to be reloaded. Anyone who says this is false is not telling the truth.
However, it is possible to carry extra loaded magazines for semi-automatic pistols and for semi-automatic rifles, or reloading wheels for revolvers, or clips of ammo for a bolt-action rifle. When you consider the number of total rounds in the extra magazines, or reloading wheels, or clips, then the one extra round of ammo in the barrel of the firearm becomes a trivial number.
Bolt-action Rifle: For example, if you have pre-loaded clips for a bolt-action rifle and each clip contains five rounds each, and you carry ten clips with you, then you have 50 extra rounds of ammunition in addition to the 5 rounds inside your bolt-action rifle. This equals 55 total rounds of ammo. It is true that 56 rounds of ammo is more but that one extra round of ammo is not a significant amount of additional ammo.
Pistol: If you have two extra 15 round loaded magazines for a semi-automatic pistol in addition to the 15 round magazine inside your pistol, then you have a total of 45 rounds of ammo. It is true that 46 rounds is one more round but the difference between 45 and 46 rounds is trivial.
No Extra Ammo: In you do not carry any extra ammunition with you, and the only ammunition you have is inside your firearm, then you will have to decide if the one extra round in the barrel of the firearm is worth the risk of that round being accidentally fired and injuring, or killing, yourself or some other person. This will be discussed in more detail later in this article.
Safe Extra Rounds: If one extra round of ammunition is really that important to you, then perhaps you should consider purchasing a higher capacity magazine for your semi-automatic weapon. Some magazines can be modified by adding a plus-two magazine extension to the bottom of the current magazine. This would allow you to carry two more rounds of ammunition in your firearm magazine and this would eliminate the disadvantages of carrying one live round in the firing chamber of your firearm.
If you need your firearm quickly in an situation that arises suddenly and unexpectedly, and if you already have a live round in the firing position in your firearm then you will not lose about two seconds loading a live round into the firing chamber. However, if you have the manual safety engaged in order to help prevent an accidental discharge, then you will invest one or two seconds in disengaging the safety so your firearm can be fired. In this is true then no significant amount of time is saved by having a live round already in the firing position.
Anyone who publicly advocates carrying a live round inside a firearm that has a manual safety that can be manually engaged, and if that person publicly recommends not engaging the manual safety, then that person will spend the rest of his or her life in court defending himself in a variety of never-ending lawsuits based on his advice being the primary reason that a person was killed or injured. Therefore I do not believe that an intelligent person would recommend loading a live round into the firing position of a firearm and then carrying that firearm with the manual safety disengaged (if the firearm has a manual safety).
The bottom line is that if a firearm has its manual safety engaged then there will be no significant amount of time that would be saved by having a live round in the firing chamber because it takes almost as much time to disengage a manual safety as it does to load a live round into the firing chamber. (Note: There are some people who will argue that with significant practice there can be a small time savings that may be important in a life-or-death situation. However, in my opinion, any small time savings would be completely offset by the possibility of an accidental discharge of the weapon.)
Glock Safety: If the firearm has an automatic safety, such as the Glock pistols that have the safety in the center of the trigger, then those weapons can be immediately fired if a live round is in the firing chamber. However, the shortcoming of this advice is if a live round is carried inside the firing chamber, then the weapon could be accidentally discharged while it is being removed from a holster or inserted into a holster. Something on the holster, or something on your clothing, could accidentally make contact with the trigger and the firearm would fire inside the holster inside your clothing. In my opinion, the chance that this might happen far outweighs any time that might be saved in having a firearm that was immediately ready to fire.
Stress and Accidents: In a life-or-death situation the chance of the pistol being accidentally discharged is much higher than in the calm no-pressure no-stress practice shooting situations that most people engage in. Sudden unexpected stress has the tendency to cause accidents. Therefore, if a person took all the variables into consideration, it would probably be better to not have a live round in the firing chamber of a firearm, and to invest the two seconds required to load a live round into the firing chamber of a firearm, instead of risking the chance of a deadly accident with your firearm discharging while you were attempting to bring it into service during a highly stressful emergency. If you do not load a live round into the firing chamber of a firearm until it is needed, then the firearm will normally be pointed away from you and away from the people you care about, and the chance of an innocent person being accidentally injured or killed will be greatly reduced.
If you do not have a live round in the firing chamber of your firearm then the chance of an accidental discharge of that unloaded firearm is zero.
However, if a live round is in the firing chamber of your firearm then there is a chance of an accidental discharge of that firearm that could injure or kill yourself or some other person.
The people who previously carried a firearm with a live round in the firing chamber and who accidentally shot themselves or another person will unanimously tell you that they made a terrible mistake believing that it was safe to keep a live round in the firing chamber. And they will all strongly recommend that you do not repeat their mistake of believing that a firearm accident would never happen to them because they were always going to be extremely careful with their loaded weapon that was ready to be fired.
Or you can listen to the people who strongly recommend carrying a firearm with a live round in the firing chamber. They will justify their recommendation based on the fact that they have not yet personally had an accidental discharge of their firearm and they have not yet accidentally injured or killed themselves or another person. What these people cannot truthfully say is that in the future they will never have an accidental discharge of their firearm because nobody can predict what will happen in the future except for God.
I have never recommended carrying a firearm with a live round in the firing chamber of that firearm.
I have always recommended that a live round should not be loaded into the firing chamber of a firearm until you are actually ready to shoot that firearm.
As I have mentioned many, many times in the past, you are an adult and you have the right to follow any advice you wish.
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