How Long Can You Keep a Round in the Chamber?

For all intents and purposes, you can leave a round in the chamber of your firearms indefinitely. However, there are some issues related to leaving a round in the chamber that need to be considered. Maintenance, training, and other factors all play a part in determining how long you should keep a round in the chamber.

This article will discuss a few topics related to this question, including what it means to keep a round in the chamber, why you should keep one in the chamber, and how safe it is to carry a loaded firearm.

What It Means to Keep a Round in the Chamber

To chamber a round means your gun has a loaded cartridge inserted into the chamber and is capable of firing. There are many ways to accomplish this depending on the kind of gun you are using. Coincidentally, this is an important component of being a knowledgeable and safe firearms owner.

You may have heard the phrase ” 10 + 1″, “15 + 1”, or something similar. A gun capacity that is indicated as “10 + 1” means the gun carries eleven total rounds. The full magazine has ten rounds, and the “+1” is the round that is in the chamber. I would consider the weapon fully loaded at this point.

Why You Should Keep One Bullet in the Chamber

Now that we know what it means to have one in the chamber, let’s figure out whether it is safe to carry a “loaded gun” with you.

I will just cut to the chase on this one…Yes, it is safe to carry a loaded gun. Not only that, I highly recommend you carry your firearm loaded, especially if it is serving in a self-defense capacity.

If you are interested, do a little research on the phrase “action vs. reaction” and you will find all the information you need to make a decision on the topic.

But, to save you some time, I will drop a little info provided by Force Science Institute below.

Speed of Assault

Our research tells us a standing suspect can draw a pistol from their waistband, point, and shoot in an average of .25 seconds.2 Our research also tells us that after the first trigger pull, each subsequent trigger pull will average another .25 seconds.3

At those speeds, how many rounds can the suspect fire before the officer perceives the gun, decides to shoot, and pulls the trigger?

Speed of Response

Well, we tested how fast officers can shoot when a simple light comes on. That’s about .31 seconds.4 .25 seconds to recognize the light and another .06 seconds to pull the trigger. But that was a very simple scenario. See light…pull trigger.

Force Science Institute

This means that having a loaded gun can save you valuable time and life whenever the need arises. If you don’t feel comfortable carrying a round in the chamber, my advice is to seek out qualified training. Then, keep training until you feel confident and comfortable.

How Safe is it to Keep One in the Chamber?

For a first-timer, you are probably concerned about carrying a gun with a bullet in the chamber ready to shoot, especially as it relates to the safety aspect. Well, it all hinges on your training as mentioned above.

It would be a lie to tell you your firearm cannot discharge on accident or as a result of mechanical failure (But, I am inclined to say that very thing). However, with a quality firearm from a reputable manufacturer, the odds are overwhelmingly in your favor. But, no one can say this applies definitively across the board.

Nevertheless, if you handle your gun safely and have the right holster, the chances for an accidental (non-negligent) discharge are significantly reduced and almost non-existent.

If you are still uncomfortable, you need to get used to handling your firearm and understand all the safety procedures. Again, insert qualified training.

Accordingly, you can consider a weapon with more safety features, such as grip safety and thumb safety, among others. These features should make it “safer” for you to carry a loaded firearm, but they can never replace proper gun handling.

Let’s take Glock for example. Glock’s SAFE ACTION® System is a fully automatic safety system consisting of three passive, independently operating, mechanical safeties. All three safeties disengage sequentially as the trigger is pulled and automatically re-engage when the trigger is released.

This creates an extremely safe platform that is widely used around the world.

Did I mention training?

Does the Law Allow You to Carry a Gun With a Round in the Chamber?

Before carrying a loaded gun, first, review the applicable gun laws within your state. However, no state forbids you from carrying a firearm with a round in the chamber, as long as you have a legal concealed carry permit or its equivalent.

Accordingly, it is essential to understand that various states have varying descriptions of what they consider a loaded gun. Some would say the gun is loaded once the magazine is inserted into the firearm.

Can a Gun Discharge if it is Dropped?

Manufacturers are always cautious to avoid lawsuits concerning the safety of their guns. However, there is no guarantee that your firearm will not discharge if it drops. With that in mind, you should also understand that it is not recommended to try to catch a weapon falling from its holster.

The chances are that you can have the firearm discharged negligently while trying to catch it mid-air. So, why not wait and recover it once it has settled on the ground?

Staying on the Glock bandwagon, take a look at the video below starting at the “1:28” mark to see an animation of how the Glock safeties work, particularly the drop safety.

How Long You Can Keep a Round in the Chamber?

So far, we have discussed why it is good to carry a gun with one in the chamber, but how long can you really leave it in there?

Personally, the only time I take one out of the chamber is when I am rotating out ammo or going to the range.

If you aren’t in the habit of shooting regularly you need to make the time to go to the range. I will typically burn through old self-defense ammo on range days.

Also, if you aren’t rotating your self-defense ammo you should consider that as well. I like to rotate mine out after 6 months for peace of mind. Will it last longer, absolutely. How long, I don’t know. This is just something I like to do.

Some folks may prefer to completely unload their firearms while at home. But, there is not a problem with having one in the chamber as long as other safety measures are followed.

Lastly, you should know that re-chambering the same bullet frequently can have adverse effects on your firearm’s reliability and safety.

The more the round is chambered, the more at risk you are of pushing the bullet into casing more than it should be. As a result, you can greatly increase the pressure produced by firing that round.

Additionally, keeping a magazine loaded indefinitely can also create issues according to some. However, others say leaving your mags loaded is not an issue. Others say the repetitive nature of loading and unloading may cause stress to the springs as well. Pick your poison on this one.

Final Thoughts

As much as some people are never comfortable carrying a gun with one in the chamber, it is highly recommended that you get training and get used to it. Not only does it save you time, but it could also be the difference between saving your life or not.

When it comes to how long you can have a round in the chamber, it all depends on your routine. This could be a matter of weeks, months, or years.

Stay safe, be dangerous.

Cody Martin

With over 18 years of federal law enforcement, training, and physical security experience, Cody focuses his time nowadays on both consulting and training. He regularly advises individuals, groups, multinational corporations, schools, houses of worship, and NGOs on security threats while conducting customized training as needed.

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