I have experimented with many different carry techniques. From full-size to sub-compacts, IWB and OWB. Even Open Carry sometimes when I am in the wild. But none of these styles invoke the controversy of carrying a hot gun versus a cold one.
I will admit, I have heard a lot of good reasons why some shooters choose to carry their defense pistols without a round in the chamber. Constantly loading and unloading their pistol at the beginning and end of the day presents its own set of challenges, especially if you aren’t a professional duty-carry shooter. Purse carry is also a major pain as holsters that cover the trigger are difficult to effectively manipulate.
There is also the fear that every shooter at some point needs to embrace that a loaded gun is far more dangerous and presents a much higher risk of accidental discharge versus a cold gun. None of these facts can be denied. But is this reason enough to advocate for carrying a cold gun? After all racking a slide can take just a fraction of a second. Well let’s examine what’s on the line.
FBI crime stats provide some pretty good insight into their live shooting encounters. Typically I say you need 5 bullets for each bad guy. This is because many defensive encounters lead to an average of 5 rounds per shooter. But the FBI has even tighter guidelines. They claim most defensive encounters involve a distance of 3 yards (10 feet), with 3 shots fired in 3 seconds.
Add to the fact that a bad guy can close 30 feet (10 yards) on you within 3 seconds, that does not leave a lot of time for your response. Again, racking a slide takes just a fraction of a second, but this time may be valuable to you in a defensive situation.
WHEN TO SHOOT
The experts talk about imminent danger as the ultimate measure of when to deploy your pistol. If you do deploy a gun defensively, it should ONLY be done with the intent to kill the other person. Guns don’t scare perps, bullets do. So when we talk about when to draw and shoot, it is in the context that you are in imminent danger, or innocent lives are being threatened.
Given the averages from the FBI, however, in an even tighter situation like a 10 foot distance between you and the perp, and their ability to close that distance within 1 second, you don’t really have a lot of time to fiddle with racking a round into the chamber, much less defending yourself from blows or guarding innocents.
So why would you choose to carry a cold gun knowing these facts? Most shooters are not even aware of this data, and so the risk they feel they are offsetting by the act of carrying a cold gun in their minds justifies the additional risk they are likely and unknowingly taking-on by doing otherwise.
Regardless of how you decide to carry, most defenders agree, carrying a hot gun is the best method to be prepared for a defensive encounter. And with the technology built into most 1911 or modern handguns, or the advancement of holster options, the argument surrounding accidental discharge is not a strong one. What it really comes down to is the shooter’s level of confidence in their pistol and their training.
When I took my first defensive holster class admittedly I was very concerned about accidental discharge. Was I confident in my skills? Nope. Did I know how to manipulate a gun in a thousand different ways? I still don’t. But as time passed and my skills sharpened, I learned how to manage the risk, and I learned which guns were proper for my carry style.
The most frequent issue I see with inexperienced shooters is either a lack of basic training or overconfidence. Some shooters are just really good right out of the gate. And willing to listen to coaching that will take them to the next level. Too many shooters just don’t have the same experience or skill.
My general rule with any inexperienced shooter is you cannot advance to intermediate until you have shot at least 2,000 rounds, over 2 years of practice, and have attended at least 2 days of classes that involve shooting from holster. Repetition is everything in this business.
Skipping ahead just means you are skipping a skill or the repetition that is necessary to cement those skills into your discipline. And this breeds overconfidence. If you think you are going to respond like John Wick with no experience, you need to put-down the remote and buy some training ammo.
Don’t rush your training, make it intentional. Don’t just poke holes in a target. And make it iterative. With each session build on your last. Over time and repetition, you will acquire the skill to confidently carry a hot gun. And best of all be ready for not only longer distance encounters, but the ones that offer little notice or a safe distance.