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Brutal Honesty Time: I’ve Been Carrying Wrong, And Practicing Wrong


I’ll be the first to admit, I’m far from perfect. My wife would tell you otherwise as she tells me I have a complex where I think I’m always right. Where does that come from? It comes from my insane character trait of wanting to know everything about a subject I care about. Buying a new car? I know most of the nitty gritty details about how much horsepower and torque the new X model has or the new Y model will have. Why? I don’t know. I just care about it so I absorb it.

So why then, if I look for so much information on topics I care about have I been going about firearm training and carrying practices incorrectly for all these years? I’ll admit it. I train wrong and I’ve been carrying wrong. It felt comfortable so I stuck with it and I didn’t want to get outside of my comfort zone, so I never changed.

My First Mistake

So, what have I been doing wrong? Well, for starters, when I carry any of my striker fired firearms I haven’t been carrying with a round in the chamber. If I’m carrying a single action, I do carry it cocked and locked. That just felt ten times safer to me in every way. There was zero chance of accidental fire with that method and it made me feel safer. So now I find myself reaching for the striker fired models more and more and yet I still find myself carrying what is the equivalent of a paper weight. The old adage of “nothing more useless than an unloaded firearm” keep coming up in the back of my mind. I can draw, rack the slide and get on target very quickly I kept saying to myself.

Until I actually tried it.

I’m sure if you’re a fan of concealed carry you’ve more than likely seen a few videos showing exactly why you want to carry with a round in the chamber. In my mind I hope and pray I never need to draw a firearm to protect my life or my loved ones lives, but I’ve always imagined I’d have plenty of time to draw, rack the slide and get on target. As I’m now coming to realize, most incidents are over in the time it would take to do the above sequence. These incidents happen so quickly that if you count on having a few extra seconds to prepare, you’re just fooling yourself. Demonstrations of attackers charging and being able to close a 50 foot distance in a matter of a second or two at full sprint are what got me to stop fooling myself. Also, if you have seen the video of the Pharmacist protecting his customers and his store against an armed suspect you’ll quickly learn that if the pharmacist counted on a 2 second window to draw, rack and get on target, more than likely the video wouldn’t have ended well.

So I’ll raise my hand, I’ll swallow my pride and admit wrongdoing. Don’t be like me. There are some very good articles on the Concealed Nation website outlining exactly how to go about beginning to carry with a round in the chamber. If you’ve been hesitant to try this, I suggest you skim through the articles and give it a read. It’s very eye opening.


My Second Mistake

Carrying with a round in the chamber is only my first mistake. I’ll bet there’s a lot of us making my second mistake. When you go to the range to practice with your carry rig (you are practicing, right?) do you fire at targets from 1 to 10 feet away or do you fire are targets 25 to 50 feet away? Studies show that if you need to use your firearm to protect your life, more than likely it will be at night, it will be from a distance of 0 to 10 feet and it will be over VERY quickly.

I’m extremely guilty of firing at 25 to 50 feet, so again I’ll raise my hand. I’ve been bad. I promise I’ll stop trying to hit bullseyes at 50 feet and concentrate more on placing 3 shots in a fist sized pattern at 1 to 10 feet. Being an over analyst, I’m the first to look at the accuracy of firearm tests in all the magazines. When I see a 3 inch group at 25 yards from a $3500 1911 I scoff a bit say it should be at least half that size for that much money. Brutally honest assessment? It would/could save your life with that accuracy, no argument. That doesn’t mean you should carry a $3500 1911. In fact, if I ever purchased a $3500 1911 two things would happen. 1) You’d see all of my possessions strewn about my lawn and 2) it would never leave the safe in fear of holster wear if I ever carried it. But that’s a story for another time.

In short, don’t try to fool yourself into thinking that carrying with an unloaded chamber is safer. Would you carry a dull knife for the same reason, or only fill your fire extinguisher half full in fear it could explode? No. It just takes practice, like anything else. And confidence. Negligent discharges DO happen, but they can be prevented. If you carry a Glock and are afraid of negligent discharge, there are products out there that immobilize the trigger and can be pushed out of the trigger guard in a fraction of a second. Some love it, some hate it. It’s up to you to determine what’s right for you. ALWAYS holster a concealed carry firearm and choose a holster that covers the trigger to help prevent negligent discharge.

Also, don’t get hung up on 25 yard accuracy and don’t be afraid to practice at what will first seem to be ridiculous ranges. People at the firing range are going to look at you funny at first. They’ll get over it. If they’re a serious shooter and concealed carry advocate, they’ll know exactly what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Some ranges will not allow you to holster a loaded firearm and practice drawing, so be sure to check the rules first. You may need to practice drawing at home, unloaded, but don’t assume the accuracy is automatically there at 10 feet and under because the distance is so short. Practice, practice, practice.

In closing, I’ll go find a blackboard and start writing “I will not carry unloaded and I’ll start practicing at 10 feet and under” 100 times until I’ve learned my lesson.


Categories: Beginners Guide, General
About Aaron McVay | View all posts by Aaron McVay

Born and raised Iowan. NRA Lifetime Member and firearm enthusiast since 6th grade. Aaron's interest in responsible carry issues has increased over the years, and is a large supporter of…

Born and raised Iowan. NRA Lifetime Member and firearm enthusiast since 6th grade. Aaron's interest in responsible carry issues has increased over the years, and is a large supporter of the 2nd amendment. Aaron is also a big 10mm Auto enthusiast and owns a Glock 29 Gen 4. One of his lifelong goals is to begin long distance target shooting out to and including 1000 yards. Aaron has a wife of 10 years, 3 kids and is an IT Consultant who specializes in Enterprise Content Management Solutions and process automation.

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  • Zak

    I’m upset about the bad photoshopping of the chalkboard and Bart Simpson.

    • Andrew in Raleigh

      Somebody got their layers mixed up…lol

    • It’s an automated generator. If you make a better one, we’ll replace it :)

      • Daniel Duncan

        How’s this? :)

  • Chuck B

    Before they closed the range that allowed me full freedom, I would shoot at the 7-yd and less ranges, point-shooting and/or Meat-on-Metal. After a few mags, my groups would begin to open up so I would step over to the 25- and 50-yd ranges for deliberate, aimed fire for one or two mags to regain my focus. Then when I went back to the pistol ranges, I’d be down to braggin’ sized groupings again.
    No training is “wrong” so much as it can be too lopsided; it needs to be varied enough to both prevent stagnation, and to be effective at all ranges. I would feel confident enough to make up to about a 50-yd shot on a silhouette target, but not further. (Think ” Active Shooter” scenario at your wife’s favorite Mall during Black Friday.) I’ve done further, but it’s outside my comfort zone if it can be avoided. I can make up to a 2-3-yd hit (6 ” paper plates are perfect trainers) without seeing the pistol in my hand, for those situations.
    Now I’ll say another prayer that it’s never needed.

  • Dion Bafundo

    You guys should do an article on ” not getting complacent”

    Ale me why…30+years no mistakes and one moment of


    Only saving grace wife knows I am very safe and cut me slack this one time.

    Complicity can kill you or some one else…..

    Let me know if you want the whole story.

  • Gerry Matheson

    What’s the concern about accidental discharge carrying a Glock with a round in the chamber? Are they more prone to a.d.?

    • Noah

      It has no manual safety to disengage like some other guns. Most striker fired, polymer framed handguns today don’t have a manual safety, including Glock, Sig Sauer, S&W, etc. I like them that way and am more than comfortable carrying all day with a round chambered, in a proper kydex or leather holster that retains the gun and covers the trigger.

  • C.Gould

    Although I see some of the author’s points, I encourage anyone who believes that carrying condition 1 is the only way to carry to read the article and comments in the link attached.

  • WeatherbyMarkV

    Haven’t been practicing at <10'. Guess I'll have to start.

  • Dion Bafundo

    Email sent

  • Arturo

    You find carrying chambered is right you. Others find that’s not the right choice for them. Since there is no single predictable self-defense scenario it’s not possible to say if one method is better than another. There is no “wrong” here, there is only wrong or right for you.

    • Arch Stanton

      I remember during the Zimmerman case, I was watching all the channels…Nancy Grace was making such a HUGE deal about Zim carrying with a loaded chamber and his safety off. I don’t know if the pistol he carried even had an external safety. But the way she put it sounded like a prosecutor (which I think she was at one time) going after him like he was just waiting for something to happen so he could shoot him. They made the whole scenario like he already had is gun drawn and ready, stooped over, slowing stalking the neighborhood!!!

      • TK-481

        Playing devil’s advocate here but if he had not had a round chambered and was able to do so after drawing and then fired, the prosecution would have argued that if he had time to rack a round his actions were not in self defense but were premeditated and that he was not in immediate danger or he would not have had time to rack the slide. It is a catch 22 really.

        • Arch Stanton

          That is an interesting perspective…..and a very possible prosecuting possibility. …Time to rack a slide….time to run away = premeditation or at least 2nd degree. Would hate to be the guinea pig on either side of that argument.

      • Kevin Snyder

        Old thread – but Zimmerman carries a Kel-Tec PF9, DAO, no external safety. LONG trigger pull.

  • Arch Stanton

    It seems counter productive that many ranges will not allow firing at close range….will not allow fast shooting (double taps, etc) and insist on at least 1-2 seconds between shots…..and……will not allow drawing and firing from a holster. But yet, everyone screams about “training”.

  • trashman716

    For those whp think it may be okay to carry unchambered, or safer just think….revolver, before the invention of semi auto everyone carried loaded, and so should you.

    • darthcoder

      How many carried their revolvers with hammer cocked?

  • NormB

    I’ve been a member of a handful of ranges around Maryland and the one I’ve been with the longest has a large steel range (as well as PPC, bowling pins and more). 15 years ago we could move those steel targets closer in to setup shoot/no-shoot scenarios for ATM, driveway/home invasion, gas pump, park using tables, trash barrels and all that. Then some a**hat shot himself in the leg with a ricochet from a plate about 3 feet away. Police report from the local ER made some of the RSOs, management and club lawyers unhappy. Then someone else did it. Then the low-T little old ladies (ahem, old f*rts) running the club decided there would be a mandatory 21 foot Tueller-range MINIMUM spacing for steel. It’s POSSIBLE though, even on a PPC range, to approach paper for point-shooting, situational awareness drills and more. You just need to be creative. If you want to do more, there’s CQB courses being taught all over the place, places where the RSOs still have some testosterone and the liability releases are lawyer-proof.

  • randigb

    Great article! Thanks!

  • Rede2hike

    You guys need to talk to your local cops. I’ve been carrying a Glock for 24 years on duty & have never had an accidental discharge. Why? Because we are taught, “never, ever put your finger on the trigger til you are ready & sure you are going to destroy something”. On average I draw my weapon in preparation to stop a threat several times a month.
    When we go to the range if you are caught with your finger on the trigger & it’s not a shoot scenerio you have to do push ups in front of the whole group. Do that several times & you don’t do it again.
    You civies need to also train under stress. Ever have somebody come at you swinging a knife, axe, bat, tire iron or jumping on you and knocking you to the ground in an attempt to beat your head into the ground and try to shoot the baddy off yourself so you can live to see your family again?
    How bout trying to draw your gun while you are sitting in your car, with your seat belt on as if a car jacker is trying to steal your car, with your family inside. Have you trained your kids, spouse on what they need to do in case of an attack? You better, cause if it will hit the fan & you have to shoot a baddy it’s pretty sure your family will be there.
    What type of holster do you have? Is it a good quality, retention style holster that if a baddy grabs your gun while it’s the holster the baddy just can’t snatch it out of the holster without a battle & kill you with your gun. Think about it, talk to your local police. We have to deal with these things every minute of everyday so we kinda know bout these things.

  • Rede2hike

    You must train as if your life depends on it, cause one day it will.
    Practice shooting one handed, weak handed, laying on the ground, kneeling, prone, behind cover, long distance 50-75 yards, close combat 1-7 feet, reloading 1 handed as if you are wounded, shooting at a target thru both left & right windows of your car without hearing protection, that will put the average house wife into shock. Mentally prepare yourself for multiple possible attacks. We are taught to constantly run “what ifs” over & over so are brain is prepared so if an attack occurs our brains won’t go into lockout.

  • el heffe

    “I’ve been carrying ‘wrong.'”

    “It’s up to you to determine what’s right for you.”

    These two statements are incompatible, because “wrong” is a universal principle of how one would be at a moral (or physical in this case) disadvantage at every interaction possible. Seeing as that may not be the case, the universal application falls apart and we are talking about subjective preferences. Your second statement alludes to this succinctly. Someone or something convinced you what you were doing wasn’t what they preferred and you researched it for yourself and found what worked for you. You cannot then dictate to other men what is wrong for them to prefer.

    I carry with a round in the chamber, however sometimes I don’t.

  • Sifter

    Respectfully disagree with your second ‘ mistake’. While it is true about your cited FBI statistics, close range, etc, it is also true that shooters in malls, schools and theaters may be, and often are, 25 or more yards away from an armed CCL. Not saying it is preferred, but i think absolute proficiency in longer range fire is also a must.