Round in the Chamber - Real Life Story

On the radio show, I talked about the problems of carrying a pistol with an empty chamber (Here and Here). Two callers said they do that for safety. They don’t want the gun to “go off.” Yeah. It won’t do that unless you pull the trigger. So, they are saying that they don’t trust themselves to not pull the trigger at the wrong time. That’s a problem. Also, neither one had thought about the real-world possibility of needing to draw and fire with one hand. How do you rack the slide to chamber a round when your offside hand and arm are tied up? Fighting off the bad guy, injured, holding a loved one while you retreat, etc.?

I received an email from “BB” about just this type of thing. He was very lucky he wasn’t killed when he couldn’t draw, rack the slide, and shoot the man who was trying to kill him with a knife. There’s much to learn from this first-hand account. Here's his note:

"When I first got my permit to carry (about 16 years ago) I was young, without training, and very unsure of many things in life. It was recommended to me by the salesman who sold me my first semi-auto (I had been carrying a .357 snub nose prior to that) that I carry with the chamber empty so that it didn't 'accidentally fire.' He didn't take into account that the firearm I was purchasing (a Ruger P97DC) could have the hammer decocked and fire in double action. He said 'If there's no round in the chamber, there is no way that it can go off.' Being new to semi-autos, I took his word for it, and carried that way.

Fast-forward a number of years to when I was carrying my first striker fired gun (Walther P99 with the QA trigger). I was leaving a Bible study late one night from a coffee shop in a questionable part of town, and as I was doing so, someone across the street yelled "STOP HIM!" I looked, and saw the woman who was yelling had a rifle in her hands, and a man had run across the street and was heading toward my friends and me. So I handed my Bible to my buddy, and stepped in front with my arms wide to grab the guy. He had a bag in one hand, didn't see anything in his other. He turned to cut down the alley by the coffee shop, where my car happened to be parked. So I ran after him, and cornered him. He turned around and asked me if I was a cop. I'm a big guy, shaved head, and goatee at the time (full beard now), and was often mistaken for a cop. I didn't answer his question, but instead said "Drop the bag!" The guy did not drop the bag, instead he lunged at me, and that's when I saw he had a knife in his other hand. So I staggered backward, and drew my handgun. Remember when I said I had no training? This is where this matters.

I fumbled to draw it, and then because of proximity, I was not able to use my off-hand to rack my slide - while carrying without one in the chamber. Suddenly I was in a very bad position. I managed to use my shoulder to keep his knife-arm at bay and got my other hand on the slide. I racked it, and brought it to bear. It was about that moment that Mr. Knife Man decided he had somewhere else to be.  

Fortunately for me it was a very cold winter day, and I was wearing a heavy hunting jacket. His knife did not reach my skin. But I needed a new hunting jacket and shirt. It could have ended MUCH more badly for me than it did.

I'm very fortunate that I can review that incident from the perspective of a Monday Morning Quarterback, and that the coroner wasn't reviewing the incident over my body. I learned a lot that day, most of which was that I didn't know how much I didn't know (something you often say). Now I would not be so quick to chase the guy, but rather try to keep an eye on him for the police. Try to identify clear direction of travel, get as detailed a description as possible, etc. I had no idea what was happening, and I reacted based on partial information, a cry for help, and good intentions. Not enough to make a good decision in that case.

Since then, I have done many responsible things, and made many better choices regarding taking my self-defense seriously, and being as well educated as I can be. Finances prevent me from being able to take the truly good classes, but reading from pros, interacting with local law enforcement, watching videos made available by reputable trainers, etc. has gotten me into a much better place today than I was a decade ago.  

So thank you very much for bringing up this subject! I, too, get incensed when I hear anyone advocating for empty-chamber carrying. That can cost lives. Training, practicing with the firearm, repeated EMPTY GUN draws to build muscle memory to avoid the trigger, so many things that can be done in the home and at the range to improve on the core fundamentals which keep us safe. We are without excuse to be improving at least a little, and focusing on the fundamentals.  

Please feel free to share my story on the air if you so choose. Maybe someone else can learn from my mistakes.

BB in PA"