The Israeli pistol technique--reconsidered

The Israeli shooting method is controversial in America. It is taught at some American gun ranges, demonstrated and discussed on YouTube, written up in shooting publications,  never losing its ability to spark discussions as to whether it does things all wrong. The controversy centers on the Israeli practice of carrying the pistol with the chamber empty, loaded magazine inserted. You rack the pistol as you present it, which readies it to fire. Some Americans insist that this is sure to get you killed, though a lot of live Israelis could tell them otherwise if asked.

But let us leave aside, for the moment, the question of carrying chamber empty. It is only one part of the Israeli technique. Some Israelis in particularly tense duty assignments have taken up the practice of carrying the holstered pistol with a round in the chamber. It saves them less than one half of a second to the first shot, in an emergency draw-and-fire scenario. I suppose every little bit helps.

When you do the Israeli technique starting from chamber-loaded carry, you do not rack the slide on the draw, but the rest works the same. Apart from the question of racking on the draw, the method consists of a particular shooting stance and aiming method.

The stance is a good one, the isosceles lowered a bit by placing the feet apart in the martial arts horse stance (ma bu, kiba-dachi). It's very stable and encourages you to aim with your arms thrust equally outward and forward, the gun's barrel approximately perpendicular to the line between your shoulders.

The aiming method is to focus your eyes on the target, the pistol well up into your cone of vision, so that you see the target over or through the sights.  It is target focused shooting, not a technique that focuses on the front sight al la the Modern Technique, but it establishes a coarse visual reference between gun and target. It works better than pointed fire from the hip or some other low hold, in which you cannot see where your gun is pointed.

My experiments to date lead me to the odd conclusion that the Israeli method is something I can fully recommend, whether or not you feel comfortable walking around without a cartridge in the chamber. If you simply cannot stand the idea of an unloaded chamber, you load it. For a long time I have endorsed the Modern Technique, but I am rethinking that. At the least, I have to say the Modern Technique is not the only good method. The isosceles works really well. Stabilizing it by lowering it works well too, and takes into account the natural tendency to crouch in a gunfight. Taking coarse aim with your focus downrange works all right on close targets, which are the most common kind. Aiming that way is quick and does not fight the natural tendency to look at deadly threats instead of your front sight. Pulling your attention back to focus on the front sight, as the Modern Technique requires, is counterintuitive. We know that some people have had trouble doing it under stress.

The Israeli SOP of carrying chamber empty makes sense for that country's circumstances. It is an extra layer of safety, appreciated where nearly everyone has military training and knows, more or less, how to use a gun, but not all are equal in skill and attention to detail, and some may be out of practice. It allows the Israelis to have guns available where guns are likely to be needed, in the possession of those who may need them, with little chance of accident, giving up less than half a second as time penalty for the extra margin of safety an empty chamber affords.

Like the rest of the method, the procedure for racking the weapon to make ready is well thought out. Bring the gun, held sideways, to chin level. Clamp your off hand's thumb along the top of the slide, clamping with your fingers from the other side, and push the frame of the gun forward with your firing hand. When the slide is fully to the rear, push the gun forward and out of the grasp of the off hand. Now turn the gun upright. The gun is charged and can be fired one-handed, or you can now bring your off hand forward to take up a two-handed grip on the gun.

You don't like the Israeli method because you just have to have a round in the chamber? Try the method but skip the part about carrying with the chamber empty: It's excellent either way.


  1. Hey mate! Nice blog you've got here, although it looks like you are not that active anymore. Anyway, if you check out the comments every now and then, I'd like to send you a leather holster for a brief honest review of it for one of your guns. In case you are interested, drop me an email. Regards Al.


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