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Loaded Chamber Indicators Are Worthless

Pictured is the loaded chamber indicator on a Ruger SR9. You can read our Ruger SR9 review here.

As you might have guessed from the title of this post, I’m not a fan of loaded chamber indicators. At best, they are an unnecessary part of your gun and should be ignored. At worst, loaded chamber indicators can contribute to bad safety and operator habits.

What are they?

A loaded chamber indicator, as the name suggests, is a safety device on semi-automatic handguns designed to alert the operator in some way that a round is in the chamber. The idea that loaded chamber indicators impy is:

  • Red flag IS visible, gun is NOT safe. “If you squeeze the trigger, I will go boom.”
  • Red flag NOT visible, gun IS safe. “It’s ok to squeeze the trigger, I’m safe.”

Why are they there?

Loaded chamber indicators are added to guns presumably to make them more compliant with gun safety requirements, regulations and laws in some of our more non-gun friendly states.

The goal in adding a loaded chamber indicator is clearly safety, but do they make guns more safe? I contend that this protectionist intent can actually lead to bad habits, both from a safety perspective, and from an operator’s perspective.

Loaded Chamber Indicators and Gun Safety

If you remember the four rules of gun safety, you will remember that rule number 1 is that guns are always loaded. If you are relying on a loaded chamber indicator to tell you when your gun is safe, aren’t you ignoring rule number 1? And what are you doing with the gun when the red flag isn’t up that you shouldn’t be?

So from a safety perspective, I don’t see this adding any value, and I think it can actually lead to a false sense of “safety” which in turn could lead to bad habits.

Loaded Chamber Indicators and Gun Operation

So what about gun operation? Oftentimes you will hear people say they like loaded chamber indicators because they provide a visual and physical indication that the gun is loaded.

While I buy this argument to a certain extent in some situations like low light, personally, I would never rely on the little red flag. I would instead perform a proper press check to verify a loaded chamber.

What Do You Think?

Agree? Disagree? Maybe I’m missing something…let me know in the comments!

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22 Responses to Loaded Chamber Indicators Are Worthless

  1. TK March 23, 2012 at 10:35 am #

    Completely agree. I don’t have to worry about that with my G19!!

    • Brandon March 23, 2012 at 10:35 am #

      Thanks TK!

  2. Ftown March 23, 2012 at 10:51 am #

    I got a SR9c and I love it. It was my first semi-auto and my second gun I ever got. I wanted to have more safety features than less, and since I am in Illinois, CCW wasn’t a factor.
    I have never made the correlation that the LCI being down makes the gun “safe”. I use it simply to know if there is a round in the chamber, that is it. I think you make a bit of a leap to state that it’s ok to pull the trigger if the LCI is down. The LCI, to me, has nothing to do with the trigger.
    I have used it to show new shooters that when you drop a loaded mag, it does not mean the gun is unloaded (using a snap cap).

    • Brandon March 23, 2012 at 11:00 am #

      Thanks for the feedback Ftown. I would caution against relying on the LCI to tell you if a round is in the chamber. I have seen them malfunction on more than one occasion, both being stuck in the up position, and being stuck in the down position.

      Glad to hear you like your SR9c, we have a review coming soon on it.

      • Ftown March 23, 2012 at 11:05 am #

        Great. Had an early problem with trigger reset, contacted Ruger and they paid for 2-day shipping back to the factory, fixed it and returned it. Ever since it’s been perfect. No failures of any kind after 1000+ rounds.

        http://i.imgur.com/vGtTC.jpg
        and
        http://i.imgur.com/bMw63.jpg

        • Brandon March 23, 2012 at 11:19 am #

          Awesome pics!

  3. RomeoTangoBravo March 28, 2012 at 7:32 am #

    Loaded chamber and fireing pin indicators have always annoyed me. I really have no issue with them until they start adding extra parts onto the firearm in order to accomplish thier purpose. I agree with your sentiments about checking the chamber manually if you are unsure about the firearm’s loaded state. Either visual or tactile it is a simple affair.

  4. Nick April 19, 2012 at 11:17 pm #

    I actually know someone who got so used to a loaded chamber indicator he assumed his 1911 had one, pulled the trigger, and put a .45″ hole through his apartment ceiling (he luckily lived on the top floor). Apartment complex eventually gave him a month’s rent free because they thought that a bullet had crashed through his ceiling.

    • Brandon April 20, 2012 at 7:39 am #

      Wow…well at least he had the good sense to point the gun in a “safe” direction. Perhaps you should send him this post on gun safety? :)

    • Neal April 20, 2012 at 3:14 pm #

      he sent me the post, yea I’m guilty of this.

  5. Ashtonian18 April 22, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

    I certainly agree with Brandon.
    I guess it could be possible for one to forget what the status of your defensive carry weapon is. I personally take that very seriously and cant think of a single occasion when I honestly didn’t know what the status of my own weapon was had I been the only one handling it. IMO anyone carrying defensively would be nothing less than negligent without paying careful attention such a thing. The only way to know for sure if a weapon is or is not loaded is to put eyes on the empty chamber, and remove the source of ammunition. Trusting any other method to determine a weapons loaded status is pure complacency.

  6. NS December 6, 2012 at 10:07 pm #

    I have a Ruger SR40, and I personally like the indicator. Why? Not from a safety standpoint alone. However, it saves time on the range after you reload so you don’t pull the slide back only to eject a perfectly good round on the ground in front of everyone else. Rather embarrassing…

  7. Suzanne March 10, 2013 at 8:39 am #

    I totally agree with NS, I love the indicator on my CZ. During classes when told to ‘make ready’ I can just reach down while it is in the holster and feel that there is one in the chamber…one less process than others without the indicator.

  8. pase' doble March 26, 2013 at 8:24 am #

    I have an SR9c with the indicator. Strange, I have never used it. The four rules work best for me. Doing the repetition, a lot of times verbalizing during range shooting keeps my mind on what I’m doing. Just saying…. that’s the way I was taught.

  9. mike March 26, 2013 at 9:06 am #

    My EDC is an XDsc. It has an indicator, but I never look at it, instead relying on the 4 rules and a press check.

  10. Chris March 26, 2013 at 10:07 am #

    I don’t really care one way or another about the LCI, as I always visually confirm a chamber’s status. Having said that, I do like the firing-pin indicator on my XD as quick confirmation that my weapon IS ready to use (never that it’s not ready…that’s what press-checks are for).

  11. James May 22, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

    Does the LCI affect the mechanical operation of the firearm? Like the internal firing pin safety affects the trigger on a CZ-75b?

    I agree that the LCI should not replace a press check. However, I collect ND stories as a means to fight my own complacency. Almost all of them are lifelong shooters who forgot to do the manual check. Having one more cue that dropping the mag doesn’t unload the weapon seems like a good thing. That is, LCI can never say the weapon is safe, but it could remind you it is not.

    The ultimate safety device is between the ears, but some designs work better with that equipment than others.

  12. Pugster February 4, 2014 at 10:01 pm #

    I think it’s a great idea the LCI. Plenty of negligent discharges could of been prevented. Even experienced gun people have ND. Those who think it won’t happen to them ate probably the ones who need the LCI.

  13. Ralcor495 February 18, 2014 at 1:13 am #

    Is it legal to remove indicator?

    • Brandon February 18, 2014 at 9:36 am #

      Where I live, yes. You need to make sure with your state/local laws.

  14. JD October 25, 2014 at 8:02 am #

    I Love it on my SR9C and
    The Kids and Wife agree.
    We are beginners and Need all the safety we can get. Thanks for the malfunction warning though!

    • Brandon October 25, 2014 at 9:41 am #

      Thanks for the feedback JD – just don’t rely on it. If you are unsure if your gun is loaded, learn to safely perform a chamber check.

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