A Nevadan captured the above image of an open carrier grocery shopping without a magazine in his pistol. The man preferred to carry his “clip” in his pocket. His gun was unloaded. It is not uncommon for some armed citizens, uncomfortable with carrying a “loaded” gun, to have a live round in the chamber. Neither having an empty chamber or no magazine in the pistol is a good idea.
In Israel, the standard is/was to carry the pistol with no round in the chamber. This was because the early Israeli military carried a wide variety of handguns with different safety features and it was difficult to teach everyone the varying manual of arms to carry each type of pistol safely. So, for universal safety, they told everyone to keep the chamber empty until it was time to shoot. Thus we see the Israeli draw from the holster and the quick chambering of a round.
The person who is carrying an unloaded pistol is not an Israeli soldier. They are someone who lacks all confidence in their weapon and their skills. I dare say they are afraid of their gun. Unless the gun is defective, modern firearms do not fire when dropped or when drawn from a holster (re-holstering is something else). A gun by itself in a holster is no more threat to anyone than a car parked in a garage.
So why carry an empty gun? This isn’t California of 1968-2011 where unloaded open carry was the only way to legally carry a gun for most who lives in the state’s urban areas. Nevada has no requirements to carry a handgun unloaded like that. The only reason is fear.
Fear is usually caused by ignorance. If we do not properly understand risk, we can’t make a good assessment of the danger we face. The empty magazine well carrier almost certainly has very little experience with firearms. Probably very little time spent shooting them and he’s probably never carried until now.
Learning about firearms involves a lot of stuff. Knowing how it works doesn’t necessarily mean you can describe Glock’s three safety features, how the drop safety on a modern hammer fired semi-auto works, or why modern revolvers have an articulated firing pin. That’s okay; most people don’t know how brake systems work, but they know that brakes will stop the car and don’t drive 5 MPH everywhere.
The Dunning-Kruger Effect states that low skill people are unable to recognize that they do not possess the skills they think they do. Literally they are too clueless to know what they’re missing. You can’t fix something unless you know it’s broken. Hopefully the unloaded carrier gets more into guns and realizes his mistake. We all have had embarrassing moments like that.
The unloaded carry guy is misplacing his confidence. An unloaded gun is little more than a talisman to keep trouble away. The carrier thinks because he is carrying a gun, he’s now immune to attack. I would argue that because it is unloaded, an astute bad guy knows that the carrier is likely an untrained amateur with poor situational awareness and does not possess the skill to proactively identify a threat, draw, and load, let alone retain the gun in a struggle.
So not only does it signal to people who know guns that this guy is unprepared and an amateur, it puts him in danger of a criminal. With his abilities over-estimated, he’s likely to find out that when he’s in trouble, it isn’t so easy to dig his magazine from his pocket, load it into the pistol, then chamber a round. Under stress, especially life threatening stress, fine motor coordination goes out the window. People are sometimes hard-pressed to pull the trigger properly. Have you heard the phrase “all thumbs”?
We can’t fix these people, but we can gently speak to them and provide helpful forums where they can be educated. The gun community as a whole needs to reach out to new, unconfident carriers and help instill good practices and habits.