Wednesday, September 29, 2010

THE MYTHS OF THE ISRAELI METHOD OF CARRY, or why carrying chamber empty isn’t so bad.

We’ve all heard the warnings. If you don’t have a round in the chamber you might as well carry a rock! A gun without a round in the chamber is just a hammer! Anyone who carries a gun with the chamber empty must be afraid of their gun! Not carrying with a round chambered means you must not have any training! Well, my friends, as with so many of the things we hear in the gun world the myth sometimes overpowers the reality.

Let’s start with a clarification. Although often referred to as the Israeli Method or the Israeli Technique, carrying chamber empty (C3) is not restricted to the Israelis, nor did they develop it. It is gotten that label because of the fact that the Israelis popularized it as a method of carry and developed an entire method of presentation around empty-chamber carry. And their reasons for doing so are quite pertinent: a method of carry that allows safe carry with quick response time for (at that time) a largely untrained population with a diverse variety of firearms. I use the term as one that is easily recognizable, even if not technically correct. I prefer referring to it as “Condition 3”, or C3 for short. The history of C3 goes back to the early days of the autoloader, and is still being written today.

When autoloaders first came on the scene the normal and expected method of carry was with the hammer down on an empty chamber. The handgun would be drawn and the chamber loaded only when one was anticipating trouble, and the safety used as a temporary situation until the gun could be returned to its proper mode of carry, with the chamber empty. Lots of folks aren’t aware of it, but the 1911 was originally designed without any safety, as Browning felt it was irrelevant.

The most important development in C3 history to me was the adoption of that method of carry by the members of the Shanghai Police under W.E. Fairbairn. As the result of a number of incidents, Fairbairn (along with Eric Sykes) began to develop a new way to bring Shanghai P.D. officers to a high level of expertise with their handguns given the limited amount of training time and resources available to them. This training included, in part, carrying the gun with an empty chamber and then chambering a round as part of the draw stroke. This proved to be quite successful and when World War II broke out Fairbairn and Sykes were tasked with training commando units in close combat, including pistol use. They chose the chamber-empty target-focused method that had worked so well for them at Shanghai P.D., and for many of the same reasons. C3 allowed a person to safely carry and adequately use a firearm with a very limited amount of training. Fairbairn also wrote several books which also served to popularize the chamber empty carry method.

Chamber empty carry was the dominant method of carry for military, police, and civilians for most of the 20th Century. Toward the end of the century the rise of double-action autoloaders and the influence of Jeff Cooper’s Modern Technique made significant inroads, although chamber empty is still the dominant method of carry worldwide.

So, with a history of successful use behind it why does C3 create such a storm of controversy? Critics argue it is too slow, that it can’t be used under many circumstances, and the myths flow like water. Let’s look at some facts.

1. SPEED. The most common argument is that racking the slide during the draw is just too slow. The facts are that racking the slide is only one part of a complicated picture, and not a particularly important part from the perspective of speed. Let us assume that racking the slide adds a half second to your total presentation time (which is pretty slow, by the way). And let us assume that you can draw and fire at the 2 second mark. If the attack comes before you can draw and fire (2 seconds) having the chamber loaded or not doesn’t matter, as you don’t have time to draw and fire at all. If the attack comes after a 2.5 second time frame having the chamber loaded or not doesn’t matter, as you have time to chamber a round. Only if the attack happens in that critical time frame after 2 seconds but before 2.5 seconds does the chamber condition matter. Also the speed of presentation can also be affected by such things as type of holster, where the firearm is carried, and so on. Yet we don’t see a big fight over IWB versus OWB, or thumb-break versus open top, or appendix carry versus carry at 4:30, although each of those can impact the speed of presentation just as much or more than chamber empty versus chamber loaded.

2. SAFETY. Another common argument is that you won’t be able to chamber a round under various scenarios. You might only have one hand available to you. You might be fighting off someone with your off-hand and wouldn’t be able to rack the slide. You might be shot in one hand and wouldn’t be able to use both hands to rack the slide. While there is an element of truth to those fears, let’s look at them carefully. First I would suggest that anyone who carries an autoloader should be capable of racking the slide and manipulating the firearm with one hand. If you can’t, perhaps a revolver would be more appropriate. The arguments for needing both hands to draw the gun are the same arguments that would be accurate in case of clearing a malfunction. But more importantly, this is only one side of the safety argument, and a questionable one at that.

To truly look at the safety issue we need to move beyond the “I’m in a gunfight right now” mentality and move more toward the “What is the risk involved in carrying a gun day in and day out?” Let’s face it, for most of us the actual gunfight scene is not going to happen. If it happens it is going to involve a few seconds of our life. Admittedly they are going to be extremely important seconds, but we have to balance that against the thousands of hours we will carry the gun, and the thousands of times we administratively handle the gun. Only then can we do a proper risk assessment.

Whether we like to admit it or not, mistakes happen. And even though we talk a lot about how if people will just follow the 4 safety rules, or if they will just get more training, an honest assessment shows that we don’t follow the safety rules all the time and even the best trained among us make mistakes. Fairbairn recognized this long ago and formalized a response: Keep the chamber empty until you need to use the gun, and then empty the chamber ASAP after you are done. Let’s face it, if there isn’t a round in the chamber the gun cannot discharge.

Chamber empty lends itself to situations where there is a lot of administrative handling. Visualize the person who has to go into the Federal Courthouse several times a day. He has to unload and reload each time. Loading and unloading are the times that are the most prone to negligent discharge. Many shooters have said they want an empty chamber on their house gun because children or others may get hold of it. So they charge the chamber each morning and remove a round from the chamber each night. Perhaps these folks could be better served by maintaining the gun C3.

3. FIREARMS. Lots of folks out there still have, and for whatever reason, still carry/use a firearm that is literally unsafe to carry with the chamber loaded. Noted firearms author Mas Ayoob discussed this in an article for Backwoods Magazine (Feb. 2007) stating, “You don’t want to carry a round in the chamber of any semi-automatic pistol that doesn’t have a firing pin lock. It’s not drop-safe.” Those include most autoloaders made before the 1970s, the first generation Smith & Wesson autoloaders, a number of inexpensive pistols like Jennings, Lorcin and Raven, and so on. Even some modern guns, in certain conditions, can be problematic. Ayoob (Guns Magazine, Feb. 2001) again says, “Condition Three does have its place for carry, however. If I am carrying a gun like a Glock, which does not have a manual safety per se, and do not have access to a holster which covers the trigger guard (as is strongly recommended by the Glock factory), and have to shove the gun into my waistband, I'll make sure the chamber is empty.”

4. PERSONAL ISSUES. Here we get into an area that covers a multitude of issues. Some folks just aren’t comfortable with a round in the chamber. We all know that being comfortable about what you carry is important, so that personal preference and concern can matter. For me personally, I find the safety and long, heavy initial DA pull of some traditional DA/SA guns troublesome. When using firearms like those based on the Walther PP-design I find I actually get an accurate first shot of faster by racking the slide and firing SA than flipping the safety and then fighting through the DA pull. A friend has used a Browning Hi-Power for decades, and has always had trouble with the safety. For him, chamber empty works better.

5. MINIMAL TRAINING. Sadly, many if not most gun owners do not train regularly. In fact, I’d hazard a guess that most gun owners don’t train much at all. And it was for those people that the Israeli Method was designed. Going back to Fairbairn, the chamber empty carry was designed to allow those with minimal training to safely carry a firearm. That was also the rationale behind the method early on for Israel. We do a lot of carrying and administrative handling of a firearm, not so much actual shooting. So recognizing that failure and working it into the system is a good idea. C3 carry recognizes that the danger to the carrier is as great as or greater from negligent discharge than actual attack by a criminal. By acknowledging this problem of minimal training by many gun owners and carriers we can then examine a carry method that reduces the danger while still allowing an effective response.

To conclude, most people tend to look at problems from their own point of view, without considering that others might have different concerns, different needs, different levels of training, and so on. Failure to recognize this is harmful to open and honest debate, and in some cases becomes blatant elitism. From my position, I tend to suggest chamber loaded carry as the normal and standard default position, just as I tend to suggest a DAO autoloader as the standard default weapon for those who choose to carry an autoloader. But just as a SA auto might be better for some persons or for some situations, chamber empty might be better for some persons in some situations. There are advantages and disadvantages to each method. The Thinking Gunfighter looks at his own situation and tries to identify what maximizes his advantages and minimizes his disadvantages and makes an informed decision.

116 comments:

  1. This is by far the best post on this I've ever seen. I've carried a 1911 in Condition 1 for years, but I'm probably going to switch to C3 now.

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    1. I hope you are never on the ground fighting for your life and carrying C3. It's hard to chamber a round in that kind of situation.

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    2. This also depends on the situation. On a ground fight (in your example) a bigger person might take your C1 weapon, while pinning you down, and shoot you with it. While a person you could keep from grabbing your weapon, you could easily win in a ground fight unarmed.

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    3. The advantage of a pistol only works if you already have it out and there is some distance between you and the person you want to shoot. You cant walk around with a pistol in your hand and even police officers make mistakes with pistols. If he is too close for you to chamber a round run or fight. Anyone dumb enough to lose or drop their cell phone is dumb enough to have a firearm accident.

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    4. 2 comments: If you carry C3 you might as well cock the hammer. It makes racking significantly lighter especially if you have a 23# mainspring. If you have a DA type pistol, chambered, but hammer down, I would leave the safety off. One less thing to worry about when adrenalin hits. And a long trigger pull is pretty safe, just like a revolver.

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  2. Thanks. I don't necessarily recommend anyone switch based on what I write, but often we carry a certain gun or in a certain manner because "someone" told us that was the way to do it without considering individual needs and issues. Consider what is best for you and your situation and then make an informed decision.

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    1. Have you ever tried competition with someone who is proficient with draw and fire with a C1 1911 for example, verses time to draw, rack and fire? Like a side by side shot on the timer? With shot placement being a factor as well? I don't how you can win this. As Jordan's book states there is no second place winner. I carry c1 with 1911s. I have since 1970. I would also ask just how many people have been killed or wounded by a pre-firing pin block 1911 being dropped? Out of all the 1911s that have been in use since 1911 I suspect its not even possible to plot it the number is so low.
      If someone jumps you from behind a car in a dark parking lot and your gun is holstered with an empty chamber and he has a knife in his hand and is already in contact with you how do you fend off the knife AND rack the slide? Or do you just let the guy stick you 2-3 or more times before you can get a shot off, if you ever do? Please wait mister bad guy I need to chamber a round so I can shoot you? An unloaded handgun is a poor club unless its wired to a stick. Is there any statistics on Israelis shot while racking?

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    2. "I would also ask just how many people have been killed or wounded by a pre-firing pin block 1911 being dropped?"
      how many have been killed or wounded while racking? How many have been killed or wounded when any c1 has fired?

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  3. A pretty darn good article, but a couple things should still be addressed.

    1: Browning's design did have a safety before the thumb safety was added in the form of the grip safety. Not trying to knit pick, just adding an observation to an otherwise technically correct posting.

    2: The issue of carrying Condition 3 while trouble is not expected vs condition 1 when trouble is expected really should not apply to civilian carry. This is mainly a Military procedure as peacetime carry etc is done condition 3, but when one knows they are in harms way they are to charge the weapon.

    In civilian carry we don't have the luxury of knowing when trouble is around the corner and our firearms in most cases should be carried ready to fire. I will concede to your point on guns without firing pin safeties, especially guns of "lesser repute"

    3: Those without training are even more likely to short cycle the slide, if they aren't trained enough to be comfortable with a cartridge chambered, what are the odds they will fully cycle the slide in a lethal encounter?

    4: Administrative handling: I agree in part with you, my wife just came across a story where a guard shot himself in his car after a shift and he hit his femoral and bled out, phone in lap, 911 dialed but passed out before he could hit send.

    This is a big reason I am fond of IWB and OWB holsters with snap loops as their method of attachment, rather than remove the gun itself I can remove the holstered gun keeping the trigger guard covered. A paddle holster and others offer this same benefit and if I were to be in the habit of arming/disarming/rearming multiple times a day, I would do so using a holster more suitable for such a task. There is also a video of an officer retrieving his sidearm from a gun locker in a jail and he manages to shoot himself and a fellow officer. The gun is dropped right in front of a line of inmates while both the "victims" run off. C3 surely would have prevented this.

    In the case of officers arming and disarming, what would the officer risk if he is trained mostly with condition 1 being the norm (most dept policies I am aware of mandate condition 1 carry) and he "forgot" to load the chamber in a time of need based on C3 not being the norm?

    I agree that one should carry in a manner that suits their needs, but I would hope and pray that C3 carry was only a temporary means of carry until they became comfortable with carrying a firearm C1.

    Rule #1 is have a gun, and I'd rather someone carry C3 than be unarmed.

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  4. Hi J.D., and thanks for your input. I'd respond to some issues:
    1. Yes, Browning did have a grip safety before the thumb safety, but that also was added at the request of the military, according to what I have read. AFAIK, the original design did not have either type of safety, and that is from a source I tend to trust. If you've got something that shows otherwise I'd appreciate if you could forward it to me, as I certainly don't want to put out info that is incorrect and I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers!
    2. Again, it becomes a balancing act. Speed of presentation versus safety while carrying. I don't promote one over the other, and experience and personal factors come in to play. Just as we don't know when trouble is around the corner we also don't know when that administrative handling slip is around the corner. Which issue takes priority for each person can and does vary.
    3. I disagree. I've taught a bunch of new shooters and racking the slide has not been a problem. In fact, my experience is there is less of a problem racking the slide than remembering to hit the safety.
    4. I agree. There are a lot of ways one can address the administrative handling problem, but as you and I both know the ones that need the most work are often the ones who deny there is any problem. Heck, if we could just get everyone to practice the 4 Rules all the time, we wouldn't need any of this! As for officers carrying C3 while being trained for C1, I'm with you, that is just a disaster waiting to happen.

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  5. Decent and inteligent article, thank you.

    I try to add some notes to the topic:

    1. I've noticed that people carrying 'empty chamber' sometimes start to be a little bit careless regarding to basic safety and gun handling. They differ 2 possible states of gun - in chamber when on the range, empty chamber when carrying - and can (un)consciously switch their safety behaviour according to the state THEY BELIEVE the gun is in.
    And we all know - a lot of ADs came from 'empty' guns.
    (This is not C3-carry offense, just my personal view to consider.)

    2. For some reasons my gun (C0/1 carried Glock) is unloaded when resting in my home safe. And after time I've noticed (with a little fear), that my unloading procedure ending with trigger 'click' starts to be more automatic than I ever wanted.
    My personal tip for 'in chamber' carriers who often unload their guns (as noticed in article) - if possible, don't push the trigger when unloading the gun. It can help to avoid a trigger pushing to became routine.

    Now I push the trigger only if I want to:
    - shoot
    - dry fire
    - disassemble the gun
    - unload the gun where the 'click' is requested - IPSC stage, government building, ...

    Always fully knowingly and willfully, no automation, no routine.

    I think this works, at least in my head. Of course, multiple gun check when unloading is vital (by both sight and touch).

    Enjoy shooting and keep safe.

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  6. Thanks yarco, especially in regard to your note #1. C3 carry doesn't mean you get to forget about the safety rules, it gives an extra layer of protection IF you forget them. Good point.

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  7. Great post.

    Let me speak with authority on the one issue here which I can.

    Having up close, personal and extensive experience with Israel, I can assure you that C3 is chosen based around the type of threat they are facing. Namely, a CORPORATE threat. In other words, they are not armed to combat a PERSONAL threat to themselves only, but rather to protect all those around them. C3 is perfect for this situation as it assumes that a gun is not pointing directly at "you", but rather there is a threat toward "us".

    Illustration: My wife carries her Glock 19 in C3 at the school where she works. (By administrative permission I might add) Her threat is not a PERSONAL one where she would likely face a criminal trying to assault her alone. Rather, the treat would be CORPORATE in the form of a phycho intent upon hurting everyone. This situation allows more time (theoretically of course) for ALL THOSE with guns to respond.

    In Israel, when "A" gun is drawn, "ALL" guns are drawn. C3 works quite well for this type of threat, and is extremely safe for everyone.

    Just my bit. That, and $4.00 will get you a cup of joe @ starschmucks.

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  8. Fantastic post. Very helpful. I admit to being overly influenced by the super fast readiness crowd.

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  9. Thank you all for your very insightful input. It's nice to hear from intelligent gun professionals. From the above reading, I've seen a few trends: 1. Follow the 4 safety rules. 2. Train to proficiency with your weapon and equipment. 3. No one technique works for every weapon, person or set of equipment so see #2.

    Additionally, I had learned some time ago that the reason the Israeli's went to this technique was to have continuity over a range of weapons they may use or pick up on the battlefield.

    My concern with carrying C3 is that while restraining or shielding family members ie. children, you will most likely have to perform a one hand rack to chamber a round. Something I definitely don't want to fumble with in a fight for life.

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  10. All you have to do to realize the folly of carrying an unloaded chamber is to do some realistic force-on-force scenarios.

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  11. A somewhat strange comment, given the fact that chamber empty carry has been tested and found to work fine over and over in real life, in some of the most dangerous areas of the world. And of course there are very successful examples of people doing FoF training from C3. But such comments are a good example of how myths get started. Somebody who usually doesn't know how to do something (or can't do it very good) is put into an artificial situation where only one aspect of something is tested. They naturally don't do very good, so no they think it means their problem is shared by all people at all times. They completely ignore the factual history of something, such as the history of successful C3 carry and use.

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  12. The following is from "shooting To Live".

    "...[the instructor] should make it perfectly clear that the pistol, when carried on service, should have a charged magazine inserted but that it should never be carried with a round in the breech. He should show that when it is desired to fire all that has to be done is to load in the manner described in para. 2 (c). He should then proceed to demonstrate the extreme speed with which it is possible to draw, load and fire by this method, which compares more than favourably with the alternative of drawing, pulling down the safety-catch and firing a round already in the breech. It should be shown, too, that the first method (with breech empty eliminates the fumbling and uncertainty inherent in the use of the safety-catch"

    "[para 2](c) To load the pistol turn it over, as in Fig. 6, grasping the slide firmly with the thumb and forefinger of the left hand. Push forward with the right hand until the slide is felt to be open to its fullest extent (Fig. 7). Immediately that point is reached, release the hold with the left hand. The slide lfies forward, taking with it and forcing into the breech the topmost cartridge of the magazine, the pistol pointing to the ground meanwhile (Fig. 8). Turn the hand to the "ready" position (Fig. 3), the pistol being now cocked and ready for action.

    For this snipet from "Shooting To Live" and the pics of the Figs see:
    http://www.pointshooting.com/1acarry3.htm

    The language and pics were taken from the Marine Corps pub of the book which makes it fair game.

    To bad it isn't given wider publication as that could result in the savings of Police and Civilian lives.

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  13. I appreciate the emphasized administrative handling for sure, but all that loading and unloading also might introduce confusion. "Did I load it or didn't I?"

    Flicking a safety off and on still strikes me as easier and faster than racking the slide, and afterward if no shots are fired, having to go through the process of the administrative reload once again. It seems like it introduces too much room for error.

    Aside from my personal beliefs, it was a great article, David.

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  14. For those unfamiliar with it, "Shooting to Live" was written by Fairbairn and Sykes and originally published in 1942.

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  15. Thanks, JD, and you make a good point about the possible confusion. I would suggest that anytime there is confusion go with the "empty" default. Sort of like John Farnam, who teaches to always rack the slide after inserting a new magazine as the default when loading/reloading.

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  16. I decided to carry my lc9 in C3 despite the gun being a DA, having various safety mechanisms, and being carried in a Nemisis holster that covers the trigger. It's not that I am uncomfortable with C1, I just try to look at it logically. I agree with the authors argument that racking the gun takes minimal time and effort but my decision is also based on (as weird as this may sound) my experience carrying a cell phone. My various cell phones have had keyboard locks and I have been carrying one for several years almost all the time. Once or twice in my pocket over the course of that time I have grabbed my phone only to realize I was on the line with someone I had pocket dialed or I received a call from 911 wanting to know why I had called them. It is very bad luck that I had hit the correct series of buttons that would unlock the phone and dial a number and yet it happens. Kind of like a thousand monkeys on typewriters given a million years and one of them typing Shakespeare's works. I don't fear my gun going off in its holster as easily as my cell phone dialing a number but if I could reach into my pocket and flip the safety and pull the trigger, then the same could happen if I bumped the safety down when I was walking and then bumped the edge of a table the wrong way or something really stupid and unlikely like that; but hey, it could happen and I couldn't live with myself if it injured someone. So, no round in the chamber, no negligent discharge.

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  17. A second thought I had is: Yes, we don't know when we are going to be in a situation where we would need to use deadly force. It could potentially happen at any time; however, I do know that when I'm with company at a friend's house a life or death situation is much less likely to arise than when I am on my way home from my friend's house. I would prefer to treat my personal safety as if I didn't have a concealed weapon, but still be mentally prepared to use deadly force if I were forced to. What I mean is that I concentrate first and foremost on knowing where I am and where I am going, where I could escape, who I am with, where I should avoid, etc and my concealed weapon is a fall back after all of that. I think that in the firearms debate on condition of carry general/common sense personal safety is neglected by some who are so mentally or physically prepared to use deadly force that they don't consider the most basic thing that has to happen in order for them to be in a deadly force situation: them being there. Every action is a choice. I choose the path I take home and what time I leave, I choose to talk on a cell phone or to be alert, and I choose to look like a victim or not. I also choose to practice my draw, rack, and aim so that I can be ready if I need to. As was stated, I would rather trade that split second racking the gun for a greater level of safe concealed carry 99% of the time. I then compensate for that extra split second by being aware of my surroundings and mentally prepared for what I have to do without error if I would have to do it.
    I think it is a good idea to remember that an attacker has to spot you, choose you as a good target, choose a place to attack, and make an attack. I doubt said attacker is a ninja, so the place they choose to jump out from will be a place you can spot and give a wide berth. Nor are they going to be so stealthy that you never hear them walk up behind you. The author gives a minimum of 2 seconds response time and I agree that an attacker can advance a pretty good distance in that time but not at a speed that's going to allow them to stop before your boot connects with their stomach. You can try and draw but there are other options (personal defense classes are fun, smart, and good exercise in my opinion) and if you are prepared then you should have a few seconds, certainly enough to rack a pistol. I believe that a concealed weapon should add to one's personal security but not be the center of it. For me personally that means carrying C3 over C1 the majority of the time. The author of this article makes one of the best arguments for C3 I have heard.
    -Stephen

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  18. Always carry my 1911 in C3. Also, leave it by the bedside in C3. Mostly for safety reasons. It's a matter of practice. I've done it so long I assume C3 and pull and rack.

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  19. While we should be able to rack the slide with one hand, how often do people practice this under time constraints and when they do not have freedom of movement? Considering that many civilian attacks happen quickly and at close range, it may not be entirely reasonable to expect people to do a one-handed rack while moving or defending themselves.
    As for fumbling with safeties, it depends on the pistol and the user. Personally, I have no trouble with the safeties on my 1911, but I have trained for a long time with that design. If you are worried about fumbling with the safety, practice more. Dry fire is free!

    As for general safety, you bring up many excellent points. Condition 3 is certainly administratively safer, although I still dispute the assumption that most situations will allow for racking the slide on the draw stroke. I simply don't think the statistics support that assumption for people who carry concealed in public.

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  20. Above where David wrote "go with the 'empty' default," I was a little confused by the wording and just realized he meant "if you don't remember if you are C1 or C3 when you need to employ the gun, assume C3." This makes a great deal of sense because if you are in C1 and incorrectly assume C3, you just pop a cartridge out and have one less round in the magazine. Compare this to incorrectly assuming C1, when you end up clicking on an empty chamber. Someone (I'm not well read enough to know who) said the loudest sound a gun ever makes is a 'click' when you need it to go "BOOM".

    Interestingly enough, this winds up to be the opposite of the correct assumption of gun status (loaded or unloaded) for all other situations (safety conditions) when we all know that the gun IS loaded.

    The common thread being, assume the gun is in the "worst" possible state for whatever you're trying to do. (If you need to fire, assume it's empty. If you need to NOT fire, assume it's loaded.)

    Thanks David and everyone for your contributions and thoughtfulness.

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  21. Anonymous said:
    [quote]although I still dispute the assumption that most situations will allow for racking the slide on the draw stroke. I simply don't think the statistics support that assumption for people who carry concealed in public.[/quote]
    This comes up regularly, and about all we can say is that if there was a problem with being able to rack the slide in these situations it would have shown up by now, but it just doesn't seem to be a problem. Carrying C3 isn't something new, it has been around for a long time, and as pointed out in the original post if you don't have time to rack the slide there is a very good chance you won't have time to use the gun at all. Certainly there will be some small segment of incidents where racking is not possible. But the point is that one has to balance those times with other incidents where having the chamber loaded creates a problem. There is no "one-size-fits-all" solution, each person needs to assess their own lifestyle, their abilities, their situation, and decide what gives them the best chance.

    An excellent point is made regarding training. As always, no matter what you decide to do you need to practice, you need to train, you need to become good at what you do. Whether that be hitting a safety or racking a slide, a bit of training can reduce a lot of weakness.

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  22. I have been trained in the Israeli method and have carried C3 for almost 3 decades. I have no problem or fear about carrying in this manner. When on duty I carry C1 according to dept regulations. Again no problem. Much easier to be trained in C3 and switch to C1 than visa versa. The most I would ever loose is a rd that I may suddenly rack out of the chamber when muscle memory quicks in. I just wish everyone who carries a gun would learn how to be proficient. Learn both C1 & C3 carry than choose which you like best.
    Jake Starr

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  23. I want to carry a Glock 26 so I can have 10 rounds of 9mm in a platform that is almost 100 percent guaranteed to work every time.I do not trust myself to be completely aware at all times and to not shoot myself or others with the Glock trigger.Double action revolver,different story.Carrying the Glock in c3 not only makes it one of the most reliable guns but also makes it one of the safest.I carry and store it with the trigger depressed so one glance tells me that not only is the chamber empty but that the gun is not cocked and therefore cannot fire.For civilian use this level of safety far outweighs the risk ,IMHO

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  24. While the author does present well thought out logic, it is a method that is outdated and unneeded. Quality modern firearms do not just go off and adding ANY extra motor skills to a high stress situation will inject the possibility of failure.

    When your life is on the line any extra variable is not acceptable.

    The first rule is to treat every firearm as if it was loaded. If you are not comfortable with your firearm in C1 status, then you should of bought a firearm with a manual safety.

    There is no recorded event of a bullet actually discharging of its own accord. It can only happen if the firing pin contacts the primer with force. Quality modern firearms generally have a firing pin block or disconnect.

    C3 carry is a solution to a problem that only exists with people who should get more training.

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  25. Anonymous makes some nice points, but also seems to miss the issue. First, just because something is outdated and/or unneeded does not automatically mean it no longer serves a purpose or is useful. Since the development of the automatic transmission a standard transmission has been outdated and unneeded for passenger cars. Yet every year many people choose the standard because it fits their needs better than the auto. Yes, modern firearms do not go off by themselves. But mistakes are made on a regular basis with modern firearms, and C3 provides an additional layer of safety for those who choose it. And yes, while adding extra motor skills injects a possibility of failure C3 carry was specifically designed to provide the greatest safety with the lowest chance of failure in presenting the firearm for service.

    The statement is made that “When your life is on the line any extra variable is not acceptable.” Sorry, that is just not true. Extra variables can help or hurt because one cannot look at them in that lone context. MOST of the carry time your life is not on the line, so one needs to consider the carry method in that context AS WELL as the “life on the line” context. And then we see the old problem of “if you are just better trained it will all be good.” Again, while that is nice in theory the reality is the basic rules of firearms safety ARE violated every day by many people, and there are negligent discharges no matter what the level of training. But Anonymous actually does give a reason for C3…most gun owners will not get more training, and because of that the increased level of safety provides one of the justifications for C3.

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  26. A very thoughtful and well written article.
    As a police officer who carries and is a fan of the Glock in all it's variations, I usually carry with a loaded chamber and in a conventional holster. But, depending on the mode or method of carry, empty chamber would make sense("merlin pack" being a good example). Also,I have a DA/SA semi auto in my collection that sometimes gets carried chamber empty on those rare occasions I use it.

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  27. "I find I actually get an accurate first shot of faster by racking the slide and firing SA than flipping the safety and then fighting through the DA pull"

    This is exactly why my wife carries c3. She carries a Walther PK380 and her thumb just doesn't quite reach far enough the move the safety without changing her grip.

    I know.. I've tried talking her into getting rid of it and carrying a gun that she can manipulate better (besides, the safety works backwards :-) ) but you know how people get.. They like what they like, and she is very accurate with it.

    The answer for us has been to spend a lot of range time with her running against the timer. With us both drawing from concealment, her time runs between .6 and .7 seconds slower pretty consistently.

    She has confidence in her draw and shooting and carries a lot more than she used to, so I'll live with it..

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  28. I'd suggest that if her time shows that much difference she might want to address how she is incorporating the rack into her presentation. What slows lots of folks down is they sort of draw, then stop and rack the slide, then restart the draw stroke. The faster way (if she is comfortable with it) is to incorporate the racking movement as a part of the draw itself without any stops and starts.

    Having said that, this is a great example of what C3 supporters like to point out. Different situations, different people, different guns, different needs and concerns can all lead to different solutions. For your wife this is a gun she likes and shoots well, and carrying it C3 allows her to use it confidently where a different gun or being pushed into C1 might make her less comfortable.

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  29. "I'd suggest that if her time shows that much difference she might want to address how she is incorporating the rack into her presentation. "

    I just realized I left out an important bit of info. that is she .6 to .7 seconds slower than *me* (which tells you nothing.. duh..) but she normally is about .4 seconds slower than me anyway, partially because she's coming from a covered IWB and I'm not so we are talking .2-.3 real slowdown and it might be .1 less than that.

    She is getting really fast at making the rack just part of a smooth press out.

    The cool bonus is that she now drags me to the range to get in extra practice and 1000 .380 was a welcome birthday present.

    Yes, I'm liven' the dream.. :-)

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  30. That sounds more along the lines I would expect. Getting the rack into the press out is the trick. Sounds like you and her have done a good job.

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  31. Mr Armstrong, I enjoyed reading this article after searching the web on opinions regarding carrying C3. I served 10 years as an MP (USMC) and cut my teeth on the M1911A1 which was carried C3. I recently retired after 20 years in LE (SoCal) and of course carried C1 all of the time.

    As a former DeTac and Firearms Instructor, I now choose to carry C3 even though I know there is "peer" pressure to carry C1 and seriously question my tactic. I think my LE training and experience reinforces my thoughts on carrying C3 as a "civilian". I know based on my own Officer Involved Shooting incident(s) what the ramifications of being involved in a shooting are, and the questions that will be asked. I am comfortable with my training and know I can deploy my weapon platform quickly from C3 to C1.

    I don't wish the prospect of being involved in a shooting on anyone. Personal Survival and Firearms tactics/responsibility is much more than just relying on C1.

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  32. Good points, Retired, and congrats on making it to that status! And you hit on the real issue,IMO....are you comfortable with your training and carry method. Different people can have different points of concern and thus focus on differnt techniques, carry modes, etc.

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  33. David, this is the most thoughtful article I've read on carry conditions, thank you very much. I agree that handling risk should be considered as part of an overall safety assessment. And type of holster as well for that matter. I think that C3 could be a very viable carry method, but I'm wondering:

    * if there are schools for civilians that teach this approach in their training (teaching how to draw, rack slide and get on target quickly and safely from concealment).

    * if there is data/research publicly available that shows the measured efficacy of C3 in real-world situations. I doubt the militaries are dumb; I'll bet they've done a lot of research on this.

    * which military units around the world currently use C3.

    Thanks again for writing the article.

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  34. Thanks, North. To answer your questions:
    There are some schools that teach this. Off the top of my head try:

    http://israelicombatshooting.com
    http://www.summitselfdefense.com

    I know there are others out there but those I am familiar with and can recommend.

    Research? Sadly the entire state of firearms research is horribly lacking. But, having said that, all the research I have found indicates that the difference between C1 and C3 in actual instances is negligible. As mentioned above at the extremes it matters, but that has to include the extremes at both ends, not just the quick-draw end. I think it rather telling that virtually every organization that used autoloaders up through the late 1900’s carried them C3 and felt it was effective enough to continue the practice when alternatives were available. And even today lots of places still advocate C3 over C1.

    As for who still uses C3, heck if I know. Things change too fast. I know that recently (within the last decade) large segments of the U.S. military still carried C3, police and military in South Africa, Russia, many Asian areas and others all over the place did so also. In fact, I’d hazard a guess that C3 is still more common than C1 on a global basis. But if there is a comprehensive listing I’m not aware of it.

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  35. I was on the fence about this for a long time until I stumbled across a copy of the original 1911 USGI Colt manual (available on archive.org) which states-

    "DO NOT CARRY THE PISTOL IN THE HOLSTER WITH THE HAMMER COCKED AND THE SAFETY LOCK ON EXCEPT IN AN EMERGENCY".

    It seems clear that both the the US Government and the manufacturer agree that condition 1, at least as far as the 1911 goes, was unsafe. This despite the fact the weapon that was fully intended to be carried by active duty servicemen going into combat.

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  36. Thanks for that info, Jim. Times do change, as do attitudes about techniques and such, but it is important to understand history. We often hear people claim that the 1911 was designed to be carried in C1, but it seems all the contemporary information we can gather suggest just the opposite, that it was designed to be carried C3 and only charged when preparing for combat. Now, that doesn’t mean that nothing has changed in the last 100 years, but it does mean that C1 hasn’t always been the “right way” to carry an autoloader.

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  37. I'll keep it short - carrying in C3 is dangerous. It requires 2 hands and the gun may jam in the process.

    Carrying in C1 is safe, as long as you don't do stupid things with the gun.

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  38. Well, again the myths come up. It is not any more dangerous than any other method of carry, it simply changes the danger issue to a different segment. And while it is easier to use two hands anyone should have the ability to charge the weapon with one hand. But more importantly how often do these fears manifiest themselves? We just don't see these problems occurring with any regularity in real life.

    And again we see only one side of the issue, which is a balance between the problems of C3 versus the problems of C1. Yes, carrying C1 is safe as long as you don't do stupid things with the gun. Unfortunately we all do stupid things with the gun at some time, as evidenced by the number of AD/NDs out there across the spectrum of gun owners. Carrying in any condition is not safe if you do stupid things with the gun.

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  39. I personally always carry C3. This is why, when you carry continuously you are not always fully alert to your surroundings. If someone reaches behind you and pulls your gun, like in the grocery store line for example, carrying C3 gives you time to react and disarm that idiot without anyone getting hurt. Plus, I do have children in the home. By never, and never mean never, having a round chambered, you never forget to rack the slide before a shot. Great article.

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  40. Thanks. A good point you emphasize is that one should decide how one is going to carry a firearm and then use that method all the time, not alternate between "today is a good C1 day with my Glock, but tomorrow I think I'll carry C3."

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  41. As a recent recipient of a Wi concealed/carry permit,new to pistols and still trying to decide on a pistol, I found this article very informative. The permit, along w/the thought of carrying a weapon gives me pause to think of all the possible scenarios and situations that I will encounter carrying a weapon. I have joined a local gun club and will have to find the time to familiarize myself w/my new gun and develop a respect for it and the responsibility that goes along w/ it. I will, because of this article,practice a carrying C3 and becoming proficient at it. Thank you, Mark.

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  42. Welcome to the world of CCW. Something to do right away is find someone at the gun club that can help you get started on the right track with your training. Also the folks at the gun club might be able to help you decide on which pistol you want, as most gunners tend to be pretty good about letting new shooters try out some of their guns. And remember, don't carry C3 just because this article says it is a valid option. Be a Thinking Gunfighter and carry C3 if that option is what works out best for you and your situation, not because somebody else said it was a good idea!

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  43. Just found your blog and I must say your article is excellent. Both in the military and afterward I was trained to carry C3 and was taught to draw a pistol, chamber a round and present the weapon for firing in 1.5 seconds. This simply comes from hundreds of hours of training, both with live rounds and dry fire (using snap caps). You did an excellent job of pointing out that training is the issue - not the weapon. Our cultural malaise teaches people that you can go through a one-time course, buy a random weapon and then carry it around loaded and that's it. I see this at my local ranges which can be more frightening than some of the bad neighborhoods in my city. The key is train, train, train - every day if possible.

    Thanks for a great blog!

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  44. Thanks Jeff, and I'm glad to hear you have such a good presentation time. Lots of folks just don't believe that one can present with speed from C3, but as you point out with some training we can get excellent times that rival C1 presentations.

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  45. I've carried Condition 1 for 34 years now. I don't see any reason to change. In fact, as I grow older, with various aches and pains starting to creep in, I see that as one more reason to keep on carrying my 1911 in Condition 1.

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  46. I don't advocate change nearly as much as I advocate determining what fits your needs and then becoming good at that. I would suspect that after 34 years change would be counter-productive, barring some issues that forced the change.

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  47. Two deaths this week reported on public media,
    One was a cops two year old got dads gun, boom, Dead. another, female grabbed cop from back at party, boom, Dead.
    Both could have been avoided by EMPTY IN THE CHAMBER!!!
    Ken W.

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  48. So true, Ken, and that is one of those things that we talk about. Guns are dangerous because they help us fight danger but that danger also can hurt us. Many forget that. The danger is both external (attack by bad guys) and internal (accidents, negligent handling, etc.) One can move the danger around a bit...more internal than external or more external than internal...but it is always there. We need to recognize the dangers from both directions and plan accordingly.

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  49. I knew a Capt. Armstrong many year ago from your part of the world, we were fellow members of ASLET, any relation?
    Ken

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  50. Don't know about the Captain part, but I was the state director for ASLET for several years.

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  51. Great article! I recently obtained a CCW, and have struggled with trying to decide between the 2 carry options. I've heard bloggers and podcasters take the position that if one isn't comfortable carrying a weapon in a C1 state, then one shouldn't own any firearms at all! That sounds extreme to me. In fact, the impression I get from much of the gun community is that anything less than C1 is heresy. As for the notion that one of the advantages to C1 is that one cannot predict danger, I have to partially disagree with this. I don't do stupid things with stupid people in stupid places; I also have a fairly good "Spidey" sense. My concern with danger is more along the lines of Aurora, Colorado, the Sikh temple shooting, etc. I think in situations such as these, there is plenty of time to put the weapon into battery.

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  52. "Incidents rarely occurred in reaction time (i.e., ¼ second increments). Most commonly, criminals acted in a shark-like fashion, slowly circling and alerting their intended victims. The defender(s) then had time to access even weapons that were stored in other rooms and bring them to bear."

    This is a quote from a NRA article you posted. Pretty much puts the kabosh on the "I need to always have a gun in a C1 state because I won't have enough time to draw, rack, and fire" argument.

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  53. I generally take the position that if one doesn't have time to rack the slide then perhaps going to the gun isn't the best option. If the success or failure of your response is based on that small fraction of a second one might consider another response. There are times when the quick-draw may be needed, but they seem to be few and far between.

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  54. HUh, been doing this for years, didnt know I was in such good company

    no round in the chamber, hammer already back, off safe, find that to be the safest and pretty darn quick way to present a firearm if needed, and a few combat tours that I have returned from kinda proves the point

    plus if you dont know you need a weapon drawn, based on any given situation, you are probably already a statistic, and just dont know it yet

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  55. There are three really good points in that one comment. First, it is good company. Although many folks denigrate C3 carry it has been around a long time AND lots of folks choose to carry that way. They don't get all the attention, but you'd be surprised at the number of guys and gals that anyone would consider a hard bring-down that carry chamber empty either all the time or at certain times.

    Second, C3 is certainly safer from a carry standpoint and it is fast enough for almost all situations. Those who don't know often argue that only someone who is afraid of their gun would carry C3 but we find lots of combat vets who select that mode of carry.

    And third, yes, if you are in a situation where you don't have time to draw and rack it is questionable if you should go to the gun as a first response, as you are already quite a bit behind the curve. Good points, and thanks for contributing from a BTDT perspective.

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  56. You can't argue with math. C1 carry is mathematically going to eventually (given a long enough time) result in a mistake during loading and unloading procedures. Everyone has dropped a cell phone before and they have only been around for a couple of decades and people are 'training' with them 30 times per day compared to 2 times per month with a firearm. People will argue that they take more precautions with firearms since cell phones can't kill you, but fatigue is safety's worst enemy. It is not realistic to think you will always be awake and alert to safely handle a loaded weapon if you carry everyday over the years and not ever have a forgotten round or an accidental drop after a long day. If you left the chain lock off a chainsaw everyday for a long enough time, eventually you would have an accident no matter how careful you are or how much you respect the saw's trigger. People make mistakes and C3 helps to keep mistakes from being fatal.

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  57. I personally carry C1 when the weapon is on my person but keep the weapon C3 when at home for added safety. If someone enters the home they have to breech the house which give me the short amount of time I need to rack the slide. The Peruvian DIRSEG (Secret Service) uses the Israeli method and are very good at it. I would presume that having an C3 gun around dignitaries and El Presidente makes everyone feel safer. As they do not train in our (USSF) methods, I didn't train them. I did help them with some logistics once and fired one of their COFs using C1 methods. We all had fun. I see no "real" advantage/disadvantage for C3 carry. Just an alternate method. The Myth I see here is the myth in closed minds. "My method is the only way, period, dot!" That dog don't hunt in my book. You must evaluate your need, your skills, your weapon, your statistical confrontation, and your probable adversary to determine the methods that are right for you.

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  58. Good comment, Tyler. I don't remember who it was, but somewhere along the line someone said "There are two kinds of shooters...those who have had an accidental discharge and those who will have an accidental discharge." I don't necessarily subscribe to that philosophy, but you are right, C3 certainly provides one more layer of protection from an accident.

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  59. Thanks for the info on the Peruvians. I wasn't aware they were operating from C3. I guess that is one more nail in the coffin of "nobody who knows anything about shooting would carry C3." And you have hit the key point. There is no advantage or disadvantage, just an an alternate method for different concerns.

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  60. One of the best articles on C3 carry I've come across. As one "Anonymous" wrote, I carry a Glock 27 in C3 mode. One look at the trigger lets me know that it is not cocked. A pistol with no round in the chamber is an inanimate, inert object---safe among children. It can only be made lethal by racking the slide when a threat occurs. Teachers should be trained in this mode of carry per today's tragedy (12.14.12) in Newton, CT. Of course, we have to persuade the liberals to allow guns in schools for trained personnel first.

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  61. Thanks. And yes, we really need to push for the idea that "gun-free zones" should be more accurately referred to as "evil-empowerment zones." Sure, it would be great if we could make sure no bad guys ever got their hands on guns, but the idea that we make things better by insisting that ONLY bad guys have guns is just ludicrous.

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  62. Came across your Blog whilst researching topics in connection with 'Israeli method of carry' - This being the same method of carry that has served me well over the years...originating from a time half a million years and a lifetime ago (or so it feels!) when I first received specialist training in the military 30yrs ago!

    Your Blog as a whole is quite refreshing and that article was great to hear someone not continually sounding off and advocating that we must always only carry our pistols 'locked & cocked' at all times...!


    The 'Israeli method' or Condition Three, though not limited solely to that nation has served me and colleagues well over the years and whilst obviously it is the choice of the user to carry as he/she wants - through training and repeated practice I have found it to be just as equally fast, reliable and safe (for me to use) as compared to those who prefer only Condition One.

    Whilst you first posted this Blog entry some time ago now, all points raised and the majority of support gained in feedback is again most refreshing. Have had to print it off so can read properly (it must be an age thing that I read better off paper than online lol).

    Thanks again.

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  63. Thanks, Rapscallion. You make a couple of points worth emphasizing. First, not that long ago this was the standard method of carry for many, such as in the military. Second, when done right the difference in speed, reliability and safety is insignificant. That, for me, is the key. The differences, if any, really don't make much difference and history shows that both work. So pick what feels good for you and works for your situation.

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  64. . . . so I asked Uncle Bob if he'd show me his gun, and he said, "Of course." A moment later a sinister-looking Colt Python was on the table between us. Stupidly I asked if it was loaded. "Of course it's loaded!" he replied. "There is nothing more dangerous than an unloaded gun."

    Could the same thinking apply to what you think is an empty chamber?

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  65. It shouldn't. First, there is nothing stupid about asking if a gun is loaded, and many things are far more dangerous than an unloaded gun. Sadly, silliness like this still pops up in the world, thus the need for Thinking Gunfighters.

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    Replies
    1. It might not be stupid to ask, but it would be stupid to trust the answer.

      I think that's the point of that old saying.

      Good article and great discourse in the feedback section. I choose to carry c1, but I've never been of the opinion that it's the only "right" way.

      Delete
  66. Mr. Armstrong, Thanks for a great article.I have also read countless threads of people bashing C3 carrying. I have always felt more secure carrying C3 no matter what anyone else has said. To each his own.

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  67. Mr. Armstrong,
    At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I have to say this is one of the more enjoyable reads I have come across in my new found joy in firearms. I am a newly acquired ccw permit holder and am still in the process of becoming comfortable with carrying everyday. I also have to say that since I started researching firearms in general all I have seen is the "cocked and locked is the only way" far too much. It almost made me think that I was inadequate to carry a weapon because I prefered c3. I have actually argued with close friends that carry about this and they continually have the close minded approach of some of the commenters here. Truth be told, I am not afraid of the firearm, I am afraid of complacency. So bravo and thank you for crafting such a wonderful article and promoting open minded thinking!
    Nick k.

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  68. Thanks, Nick, and welcome to the world of CCW!

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  69. Great article. I always carry C3, simply to avoid the possibility of ND/AD during loading/unloading. I feel that the safety that adds far outweighs the extremely remote odds that I will ever have to draw and fire within a time frame that racking the slide would be impractical, much like the even more remote scenario of having only one arm available. In any scenario where that half-second it takes to rack the slide is unavailable or only one arm is available, you would likely not be able to use the firearm, anyway.

    Thanks for the wonderful info.

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  70. That is sort of the key to the issue. You have competing costs and benefits. YOU have to decide how to best minimize the cost to you while maximizing the benefits.

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  71. Probably the best article I've seen trying to give a framework for thinking about this issue. Bravo!

    I'd just like to add a couple of points. First,fine motor skills deteriorate faster under stress than gross motor skills do. Taking the slide while presenting would generally be a gross motor skill, while downgrading the safety is a fine motor skill. I don't know how this balanced out in the end, except that the "omg extra step your can't rack under stress" crowd likely overestimates the strength of their point; in fact, they may have it backwards.

    Second, starting training at C3 and under the assumption that the gun is in need of racking seems to me to allow make fewer assumptions about the fund's readiness. As already noted, erroneously racking costs a little time and a cartridge; not realizing you needed to rack may cause you to believe the gun is jammed, when it is not. This could be very big deal.

    Third, C3 proficiency may allow you to switch platforms more comfortably than C1. Moving from a 1911 to a Glock for some reason? No problem, C3 will give you a similar margin of safety, even if you are not "trained up" with the Glock. If you ever change your platform, having a C3 base to fall back on would probably be a benefit, at least safety-wise. This is really the "C3 was to train a bunch of noobs" argument applied to more experienced people.

    Fourth, anecdotally, learning C3 and moving to C1 seems easier than learning C1 and trying to move to C3. Meaning, I think C3 offers more flexibility over your training life. Well, maybe.

    Fifth, some of the benefit of C1 comes from an assumption about the engagement with the Bad Guy, namely, you are behind the curve already because you are un-drawn and in gun fight. The odds of getting in such a situation can be cut down (but not eliminated) through situational awareness and selective aggression.


    Typing this up, it strikes me that I look like I'm advocating C3 over C1. I am not. C1 offers a real, tangible benefit with countervailing risks. C3 also offers a benefit at a risk. I'm just tired of e-warriors arguing that if you don't carry C1, then you are afraid of the gun and decidedly are not bad ass enough to own a gun. C3 always seems to get short shrift. Like many other decisions in life, it's a matter of which risks you are willing to manage and which benefits are more meaningful.

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  72. This is a great article. I carry a glock 26 in C3 with a full mag. I choose C3 for many of the reasons most commenters give, that extra layer of safety. I also have small children, which is the reason I carry and the C1 enthusiasts would argue that I should carry C1 for that very reason. Lets face it, it is more likely that despite my best effort and my retention holsters one of my kids could get ahold of the gun than for my family to be caught in a gun fight.

    My children are not strong enough yet to rack the slide and when they are, they each will receive firearms safety and training from a professional instructor. Also, if my glock is not on my person, it is locked up in a safe and still in condition 3.

    I also agree with many commenters that the C1 crowd is a loud one. All over YouTube with videos demonstrating that small difference between racking the slide and drawing and firing in C1 can be life or death. Despite what many would say, what they don't show you is simple situation awareness. I also feel that if caught in a SD situation, I could without a doubt prove to not only a jury of my peers but a DA that the criminal had ample time to understand my intent and warning before the attack and that I indeed was not going out on a mission to "kill".

    I live in an anti-gun city, almost excessively anti-gun full of lawyers with the "I just wish a mother f------ would mentality" to prosecuting SD shootings. I need all the help I can get other front if I ever had to fire in SD.

    again, thank you for this fine article, it's great to read an opinion from the other side. Bottom line IMO is carry how you feel comfortable given your circumstances.

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  73. UNKNOWN writes: "Like many other decisions in life, it's a matter of which risks you are willing to manage and which benefits are more meaningful." That is what it all boils down to. Strengths and weaknesses, advantages and disadvantages, cost and benefit....however you phrase it one needs to understand an issue and make an informed choice that works best for them.

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  74. Dumb article. I'll take the risks of carrying condition one anyday, over not being as quick to fire when my life depends on it. It never happens according to plan. You mean well, but are overthinking the hell out of it. Jobs with guns are inherently dangrous. Deal with it. And negligent discharges are not common among those who are trained. And it doesn't take THAT long to be trained well enough to be safe at all times.

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  75. Dumb comment, but I posted it because it shows some of the problems we've discussed about being a "thinking gunfighter" here and in other areas. You talk about how you would make a choice based on your cost versus benefit based on your needs and training, but then seem to say since that is what is good for you then it must be good for everybody. Yes, a certain element of danger goes with carrying and using guns. Trying to figure out how to minimize that danger within your won cost versus benefit analysis is not dumb, it is the mark of someone who thinks about their situation and needs rather than blindly following what someone else says. As for negligent discharges, sorry, but a little investigation will show that training really isn't that much of a barrier to negligent discharges. Many of the best trained shooters out there have had negligent discharges and many more will.

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  76. Boy, I'm glad I didn't waste any money training with the author of this article. A huge fail on many levels. Most gunfights happen inside of 5 feet, would you really want to have to rack the slide while grappling with an opponent or when you have a split second to get off a shot before a retention issue develops? Is he really trying to convince readers to carry with the chamber empty because guys did it 80 years ago or poor nations with no training do it??????

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  77. I debated a bit on if I should even publish this silliness, but I decided that it is worth a bit of discussion as it points out so many of the problems that come up with mythologies. Let's start with the idea that apparently the writer has never had any training in C3 as those issues are discussed and addressed in any good training program. So we have the on-going problem of "I have no idea what I am talking about but I think I will comment anyway." And of course we have the also common problem of "I will argue against something that has never been said." No where does the article try to convince anyone to do anything. The thrust of the article is understand the strengths and weaknesses of both methods then decide what works best for you and your situation. And of course the writer then goes on to compound his display of ignorance on the topic by suggesting that C3 is only validated because it is 80 years old or used in poor nations with no training. Both, of course, are demonstrably false as C3 is still used today and it is used in countries that are well-recognized for their expertise and experience. So once again we see the need for Thinking Gunfighters as opposed to this apt demonstration of ignorance and belief in myths. Carry on, friends!

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  78. There really is no wrong way to look at this. From my personal experience in the Marine corps Infantry we carried C4 or C3 when we were on base or any other administrative situations. Most of my time overseas was spent off base and we wouldn't be caught dead with our weapons out of C1.
    I realize that the situation is different. We were in immanent danger. Because of this I feel more comfortable carrying C1 when there is a possibility of danger to me and my loved ones.
    I also agree with gear being a big factor as well. I carry a m&p 40c without a thumb safety and mostly carry on a molded leather or Blackhawk holster that gives positive protection over the trigger. When I carry on a soft holster then I carry in C3 even though I would prefer C1. I do recognize the danger of no safety and a soft holster. When it's on my night stand I keep it C1 (no kids in house, just me and my dog) but I also practice regularly so I don't accidently grab the trigger when I'm half asleep (or less likely to).
    I belive this debate falls back to the military answer to all things...... "SITUATION DICTATES"

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  79. Good point, Justin, and that is the essence of the issue IMO. It is not a "right or wrong" one-size-fits-all answer, as you said the situation dictates. If only more people would understand that!

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  80. I know we are talking auto loaders here, but I also at times carry a 38spl that matches My wife's, who carries CC. I do this so that if needed, we have ammo to share, and she is totally familiar with my weapon as well as hers. On occasion I carry a SA .45, and have carried 1 from day one as my holster covers the trigger, and the gun has a backstrap safety on it.I therefore feel confident in my ability to be safe and ready. I thoroughly enjoyed your very well written presentation, and value the information contained therein. Thanks again for the info, and some insight that I have never had the opportunity so read.

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  81. When I went to Ayoob's LFI in the early 90's, he made us do the Tueller Drill. It's on Utube and Wikipedia, if you want the details. It's true: we could reach someone with a contact weapon from 21 feet in less than 2 seconds.

    As any shooting video or personal experience shows, at CQB distances of street encounters, we are unlikely to have even 2 seconds to draw, chamber and fire before we make physical contact, unless we are running away for cover or something. It is likely that it will be such a surprise and shock to the untrained person that it's even happening, that they are likely to forget even that their chamber is empty, because they are busy assessing the confrontation, and preparing to press the trigger.

    In the Zimmerman shooting, I think he would not have been able to shoot, if he were carrying C3, because Martin would have interfered with the chambering. If he somehow managed to chamber and shoot, I think he would have been more seriously injured before that. If he had gone to C1 from C3 right before the confrontation, he would have been crucified in court, and convicted of premeditated murder.

    I don't know about Israel; although I heard from an Israeli acquaintance that they are not as permissive with armed civilians as Americans believe. For me, I am more comfortable with DAO autoloaders in C1 with the heavy trigger pulls, which are really no different from revolver triggers. With adrenaline, even an untrained person will be able to pull it like it's not even there, and under stress will likely only have the time and composure to do that.

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  82. Regarding the Tueller Drill, see the SPEED section in the original article. We just don't see many altercations happening in that tiny fraction of a second where it matters, and as pointed out that tiny fraction of a second can come from many other sources, such as where you carry the gun, holster selection and so on. So again we back to the issue of what particular issues concern you and what compromises you feel provide the best overall protection for you.

    As for forgetting to rack the slide I would assume it is about as common as forgetting to hit the safety on safety-equipped firearms. I'm just not aware of this being a problem anywhere except in the imagination, and given the widespread use of C3 over the years I just can't help but think we would have found some evidence of this being a problem.

    The Zimmerman case is interesting to look at but any suppositions are just that. We can second guess what might have happened given other facts but that is all it would be, a guess. Again, given the long history of success with C3 it is clear that these alleged problems just don't seem to happen very much.

    You have found the DAO auto in C1 fits your needs. Others reject that as a less than optimal choice for their needs. So again, how do we maximize the advantages and minimize the disadvantages for each issue as it relates to our particular situation and our particular needs? I do think that statements like "and under stress will likely only have the time and composure to do that" seem to fly in the face of reality given the history of firearms use.

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  83. Nothing wrong with a good .38 revolver, Roy. I'm of the opinion that if the entire CCW world went back to revolvers it really wouldn't change things much, if at all, and would probably make things better for many.

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  84. Thank you very much for this well-thought-out article. I recently acquired my first handgun, a 1911, and I've been debating whether to carry C1 or C3. There was a lot of peer pressure on internet forums to go C1, but I just feel a lot more comfortable with the idea of C3 (part of which is based on my shotgun ownership; I wouldn't every carry it somewhere C1). Reading this, I agree with it 100% that C3 may be a better choice for some, and I think there's two issues that, combined with everything you've said here, are pushing me further toward C3 carry:

    (1) Flicking the thumb safety off is a fine motor movement, and racking the slide is a gross motor movement. In a panic, I trust the latter a lot more than the former.

    (2) Safeties are often very small and vary incredibly from gun to gun in location, feel, stiffness, and whether they're ambidextrous. But if you can rack one autoloader, you can rack 'em all.

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  85. #2 is an interesting point as I have been told by folks I trust that it was one of the justifications for the Israelis focusing on C3. Early in their existence there was a mixture of firearms available, and the "one rack covers all" idea was easier to train than trying to ID and use the many different safety designs on the different handguns.

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  86. This is an outstanding article. Only C1 because there might not be enough time to rack? Hmmmm, the same could be said for holsters. There might not be time to draw so we should all walk around at a low ready? No. Eveyone must come to up with their own solution on this. I would rather the guy sitting next to me in the Denny's be in C3 than in "I got nothing" when the bad guy starts shooting.

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  87. Yes, that is one of the things opponents of C3 never seem able to explain. Everything we do can result in a trade-off for time. The type of holster we use, where we carry the gun, the type of gun, and numerous other things can all impact the time factor. Yet the only time difference that seems to matter to many is the time to rack the slide.

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  88. What a great article. Bravo Mr Armstrong. Very detailed and with lots of Informational history.


    The C3 method in my training courses have proven time after time to be ineffective. I run people through the Tueller Drill at 21' (7 Yards) using Simunition guns and even the guys that practice the draw with a rack to load one in the chamber almost always have less than a 30% survival rate. In my opinion and through analyzing students and myself it will not suffice in modern day deadly threat situation. FBI statistics reports constantly state gun battles occur within 3'-5' with an average round count of 2.5 rounds per shooter.

    CAPT Jarvis Nelson Osorio
    Firearms Instructor at SOP9.com

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  89. Thanks for the comments, CAPT, and feel free to send me some of your own thoughts or articles if you would like. I'm always looking for material that fits into the format of the blog.

    Regarding C3 and the Tueller drill, yes, as discussed C3 will be slower for many, if not most. The issues always go back to if the time difference matters and how the speed plays into the overall needs of the person using the firearm. There is always a compromise to meet our own situation in a manner we feel improves our chances.

    Regarding the FBI stats I always like to point out those are based on a very narrow bit of data that is contradicted by a lot of other research. As a researcher I strongly support using information to guide our training and planning but I also suggest one should always make sure the information is applicable. Is the information based on police encounters or non-police? Is it a compilation of data from failures, such as officers who were killed or is it only officers who won, or is it a combination of both? The fact that the shooting itself might average a 3'-5' distance doesn't mean that was the distance at which the fight began. So we need to be careful about how we use that data.

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  90. Thanks for the article. Far more sensible and considered than what I've been reading elsewhere about concealed carry.

    Seems convincing that the improved safety aspect of C3 carry outweighs the 0.5s difference it makes to draw.

    Or…come and live in Australia. No guns.

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  91. Thanks Rick, and you Aussies have my sympathy about your gun laws. Hopefully one day the folks "down under" will fix that problem!

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  92. I have been teaching this method for years in my Utah CCW permit class. I was also In the Marine's 1974-78 as a assistant coach. ( Rifles ) lol Most permit holders never train, for them they will most likely , take a moment to assess the situation decide to shoot or just draw. Also I seen a comment about being on the ground, well if I know I'm going on the ground it takes only .5/sec to L/L a round. besides it really does make sense for most civilian shooters to use this method. I teach ( NOT ) to use a safety, but to ( BE ) safe all the times and you will never need to rely on it. In this method it just makes sense.
    No disrespect to anyone at all. As a matter of fact when we teach a class this is one of the first questions I ask. If a shooter had been carrying loaded I let it be to muscle memory ( that's safer for that shooter to leave it alone )
    Bottom line were talking everyday people not Marines
    Their firearm will be in more safety situations than a military members would.

    Fantastic article

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  93. Thanks, Jerry, and you make a good point about the key to so much of this stuff...what is YOUR situation and what are YOUR needs. Lots of difference between the Marine in the field and the CCW holder on the street, well-trained versus un-trained, etc.

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  94. While you say that C3 has never proven to have issues, I have seen a video that convinced me C1 is the only way to carry.

    Owner of a jewlery store tried to draw as a couple of guys came in with guns. He tried to rack his gun 3 times while ducking from fire, never got a round in. He ended up dieing.

    Seems like racking the slide under extreem pressure is an added risk I won't do. Besides modern handguns (like my XDM) have multiple safeties. Given a good holster, I will NEVER carry C3.

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  95. First, nowhere in the article does it say there are no issues with C3. There are issues with C3, just as there are issues with C1. The idea is to figure out what issues are important to you. As for the video you mention, I'm quite aware of it and in that video it would not have mattered if the gun was in C1, C2, C3, or any other. In fact it is not even clear if the gun was C3 and he is trying to rack or if it was C1 and he had a malfunction. So as any kind of evidence it is pretty weak. And if racking under pressure presents an added risk you don't want, that is fine, I would suggest yo don't do it. The point is that we each need to figure out what works best for us in our own situation and for our own needs. For some that might be C1, for others that might be C3.

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  96. Erudite - lucid - and stays above the fray. Well written.

    Even though I have chosen C1 for myself - this is certainly a good starting place for considering the C3 option. Indeed this is exactly what I needed to help someone else who felt more comfortable with C3 but pressured into C1 - see it's "OK" to go C3 too.

    Bravo, -P

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  97. I'm an NRA Certified Pistol Instructor and have been carrying a concealed handgun for years. Though my concealed carry choice has always been a .38 snubby, I do love the 1911. I've never been comfortable carrying C1 or C3 (for different reasons) in public. As was previously commented, I don't carry my deer rifle around deer camp in C1 condition for the same reason. Great article, good read. Mark

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  98. Re: ICORP 1970
    I'll try to address this in order:
    Yes, I have tried competition with folks shooting C1. I usually shoot C1 for competition. In competition one usually knows exactly what is going to happen, things are choreographed in advance, and administrative handling is usually done under controlled and supervised conditions. And in that particular situation the nod will almost always go toward C1. The problem, of course, is that real life isn't like that.

    I don't know how many people have been killed or wounded by dropping a 1911, but I do know there have been a significant number of people killed or wounded due to AD/ND of firearms.

    Regarding getting jumped in the parking lot, please review point #1 in the article. If he is already in contact with you trying to draw your gun isn't the best response. Do you just let the guy stick you a half-dozen times while you are getting your gun out of the holster and dialed in on the Bad Guy? Please wait Mister BG while I get my gun out from under my shirt?

    And yes, an unloaded gun is a poor club. However, a gun with a full magazine and an empty chamber is not an unloaded gun. I think anyone who has ever been in the military would suggest trying to argue your gun was unloaded as you came of the firing range with a full magazine and empty chamber would have gotten you a pretty strong lecture on the difference between loaded and unloaded.

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  99. Very informative article and comments. Yes, I read them all! A link to this article was posted on a forum, where someone asked about the Israeli draw and the OP was quickly battered into hidding by the C1 only advocates using all the usual reasons that have been listed above.
    Two things that I haven't seen mentioned when C1 only advocates argue that you may only have one hand available to draw with, because you are carrying something or doing another task with the 'other' hand.
    1. They assume that the 'one' hand they have available to draw with, is the same hand they use to draw their pistol. I try and be reasonably efficient in day to day life and often use both hands for general carrying of items!
    2. What is their plan, if after they have drawn, they have a malfunction. Would they then consider putting down the item they were carrying in their 'other' hand to clear the jam?

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  100. Excellent points. It seems many of the arguments offered against C3 are applicable or a problem only in reference to that specific issue and are totally ignored outside of that narrow view.

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  101. Fantastic article. Extremely helpful! I've been contemplating on whether or not to acquire a CC license for sometime now. As a result I have been researching which condition i would be comfortable with and C3 just makes the most sense to me.
    I've never carried, so i can't contribute to the effectiveness of C1 vs. C3. I was however an intensive care nurse for 3 years. My units specialty was trauma and we received a plethora of gun shot injuries and here is what i learned through my experiences:
    1. ND occurrences outnumbered assault occurrences by about 6 to 1
    2. Patients who were victims of a ND had a higher survival rate than patients who were directly assaulted with the firearm, about 4 to 1.
    3. I have seen ND with patients whom had 30+ years of experience with firearms.

    The take home?

    It is not my business to tell people what I think is the "best" or "right" way to carry a firearm, and it probably never will be. Thats probably because there is no "best". I think the author has done a wonderful job integrating that concept into this article, but please here me out. If you can carry your firearms in a fashion that can reduce the likelihood of an ND or AD, please, please at least consider the thought. I cannot describe a worse feeling than having to tell a father that we couldn't save his son because the father accidentally pulled the trigger on a live chamber.

    I know what you're thinking, "i practice. I train. I use gun safety. I would never make that mistake." I hear it nearly every time someone comes in for a ND, be it self inflicted or from another person. We are humans and because of that we make mistakes. Unfortunately with a firearm it only takes one mistake to destroy not just one but potentially multiple peoples lives.

    Just some food for thought

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  102. Thanks for your input. ICU nurses get to see a slice of life that many others are not aware of and don't want to know about, and it is good to get that perspective. You have hit on the core of the issue, that there is no "best" way for all. There are advantages and disadvantages to C1 and C3 and each person needs to figure out what best meets their needs. Does one focus primarily on the gunfight problem itself or does one focus more on the day to day administrative issues surrounding CCW? Neither one is right for everyone and what is a good solution for one can be a bad solution for the other.

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  103. Great Article! Well thought out, and yes, I think there is a time for both C1 and C3 when I'm armed. For example, if I have a deep concealment pistol with a light trigger down the front of my pants, I prefer C3. With a DA auto in a quality holster behind my right hip I am all about C1.

    I don't want to rehash all of the points other people have made, but I will add a few things that have not been mentioned in order to help others make a more informed choice. One is that stealth can be a significant tactical advantage in both offensive and defensive situations, and racking the slide is noisy! I have moved through areas that suddenly seemed more threatening and when that happens it feels MUCH better to have a C1 carry. There are times when you may even want to discreetly draw your firearm before making the decision to shoot and you cannot do that if you have a C3 carry that you are programmed to rack when removing from the holster. There may be some people who do not understand this, but they are probably the ones who also don't understand that for tactical purposes, a dark finish on a pistol is far superior to a shiny one .

    Back to beginners though. I know that people (especially newer shooters) sometimes regrettably put their finger on the trigger before the pistol is on target and they have made the decision to fire. Nevertheless, I suspect the danger of an AD's occurring because of this would actually be enhanced if the person was racking the slide with their finger on the trigger instead of just holding the gun. Therefore, a C3 carry may not be the added barrier to an AD that the user had hoped for. There is no substitute for training and no cure for stupid, but for newer shooters, carrying DAO pistols or snubbie revolvers with longer triggers probably provide a better level of safety against AD's than a C3 carry.

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  104. Good points. However I will point out that racking the slide, if done right, should not be a noise or stealth issue. The rack is part of the presentation, only done when one has ID'd a target and is coming onto that target with the intention of shooting it. It should not be done prior to that point, so one would not draw, rack, then decide to shoot. It should be draw, decide, then rack as the gun comes up to the target. The only thing the BG should hear after the rack is a loud "bang" as the gun fires.

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  105. Great article, I know this is old but a good article. As many have said I'd agree it depends on the person and what condition they carry. Of course when I was in the military we commonly carried c3, however I have currently carried in c1.

    My simple rule has always been always assume loaded this way no negligent discharges happen.

    Same could be said about those who always carry c3 always assume this is the condition and that all you may loose is one round if it was in fact in c1.

    Some training videos for Leo's have shown that a person with say a knife can cover a distance of 20 feet and teCh you before you can draw your firearm. Which could be considered as a reason to carry in c1.

    However no matter how you carry, training is key. Always train with what you carry often . If your thinking about getting a firearm and don't have training then seek out training and try out different firearms before you make a purchase. If you have had training, continue to train because you can become rusty, forgetful, complacent, etc.

    Train often, train with what you carry, and of course remember the safety rules.

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  106. Thanks for writing this article. The chance of any of us every being in a SHTF scenario where an extra second or two to rack a slide is astronomically low. Each person should carry how they feel comfortable. There are plenty of videos of people demonstrating a C3 draw with a slide rack and I firmly believe that with regular practice a C3 draw is virtually as fast as a C1 draw. Carry how you are most comfortable, train, and maintain good SA and you will be G2G.

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  107. That is the key to the issue. It is a balance between competing issues, and for most the balance is closer than some might think. You might need a quick draw, but the chances are slim. C1 might be a bit faster than C3, but the difference is small. Do those chances and differences matter to you, and if so how much? How do we balance those with the AD/ND risk, the administrative handling issues and so on?

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  108. Mr. Armstrong, your article is a breath of fresh air, and I appreciate your tactfulness, but I don't mind saying that I think you are wearing the "kid gloves" here. Maybe that's appropriate, because the C1 cowboys are not the kind of people who will ever admit they are wrong, while the people who are mature enough to want to listen to the most considered voices in the room rather than the loudest ones, will appreciate your approach.

    But to the "if you're not carrying C1 you might as well be carrying a rock" crowd:

    While I appreciate that there exist in the world situations that demand C1, I think anyone who is honest with themselves will admit that for the vast majority of us, and essentially ALL civilians, they are effectively nothing but fantasies.

    A very few people - like soldiers in an active war zone, though I wish they were carrying anything better than a handgun in that case - can justify carrying C1. Frankly the rest are just fantasizing themselves an action-movie hero when they talk about the crazed attacker running at them at full tilt with a knife -- with no warning whatsoever. You simply aren't going to find yourself in that situation as a civilian, in the same sense that you simply aren't going to be hit by lightning. You're going to either have a few seconds' time to decide what to do, or you're going to have ZERO time because the criminal was prepared enough to incapacitate you with NO warning.

    If I carry nearly every day over a 40-year span of going out in public, I'm going to handle my weapon around 30,000 times, EXCLUDING any training time.

    I wish everyone would genuinely stop to think about that.

    I hope to pass that time without ever needing to defend myself or my family. But even if I'm not that lucky, it's likely to only be once in my life. Anyone remotely honest with themselves will accept that the action movie scenario of even one whole second making a difference between life and death is vanishingly small WITHIN the realm of real-life self-defense scenarios.

    Are you going to plan your life around the one-in-many-millions chance that you are THAT extremely rare person, in exchange for increased risk to you and your family the other 30,000 times you'll be responsible for operating your weapon correctly, many of which are guaranteed to happen at your most fatigued and complacent moments, within a few feet of the people who are most important to you?

    I remember in the '70s, many cowboy types who refused to wear seat belts because they didn't want to be stuck in their cars if they rolled off the road and landed underwater. I wonder how many innocent kids were killed or maimed in otherwise-survivable car wrecks because those moronic parants didn't put them in a seat belt because of their fantasy of living out that particular CHiPs TV episode. Don't be that moron.

    When you decide take an active responsibility for the security for yourself and your family, make sure you're actually IMPROVING it. Think with your head, not your testicles.

    Look, I know you mostly mean well, but you're wrong, and the ones who pay for it could be the very people you for whom you purport to be taking responsibility.

    Basically, grow up.

    Use the safest method that puts lethal force under your command when you need it, not the one that makes you feel the toughest.

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  109. Hard to argue with any of that, Dave, and it just emphasizes the main point for consideration. Think about what you are doing and think about it in a calm, rational manner, then decide on a plan of action that maximizes the advantages to you and minimizes the disadvantages. Where are your greatest risks, how do you manage those risks, how do you balance those risks with other risks?

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