pistol handgun ready conditions
Dan Z for TTAG
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“Carry condition” isn’t a subject as hotly debated in the gun community as, say, stopping power or GLOCK vs. 1911, but it’s up there. What is a carry condition? It’s the state of readiness you use for a handgun (usually one you’re carrying). It’s a sort of code for the number of steps needed to make the gun ready to fire.

Since you’re likely to hear these terms used the more you’re around firearms and the people who use and carry them, it’s a good thing to know what they mean (especially at a range or other location where specific carry conditions may be mandated in certain situations).

A handgun can be carried in a variety of ways that require different amounts of effort to make it ready to fire. These carry conditions were laid out by Col. Jeff Cooper who’s credited with originating the “modern technique” of using handguns for self-defense.

Keep in mind that Cooper’s carry gun of choice was a single action only 1911. That’s a pistol which has a grip safety and a thumb safety. If you carry a DA/SA or striker-fired pistol (with or without a safety), not all of this will apply.

Here are the five carry conditions as handed down by Cooper from least to most ready:

Condition 4: The pistol’s chamber is empty, the magazine is removed, and the gun’s hammer is down.

It’s extremely unusual for anyone to carry in Condition 4 as making your handgun ready to fire takes considerable time and effort (draw, insert the magazine, rack the slide, aim, pull trigger). That’s a lot of steps in a self-defense situation.

Condition 3: The pistol’s chamber is empty, a magazine is inserted, and the hammer is down.

Also sometimes known as Israeli carry, this was the normal state of carry for the US military when the 1911 was the standard-issue sidearm. Condition 3 requires the defender to draw the pistol and rack the slide to load a round in order to make it ready to fire.

That takes an extra step, and can be impossible if your support hand is otherwise engaged. But many people who carry a handgun aren’t comfortable doing so with a round in the chamber. If you’re going to carry in Condition 3, you’ll want to practice your draw and slide rack — a lot — in order to make it as quick, smooth and instinctive as possible.

Condition 2: A round is chambered, a magazine is inserted and the hammer is down.

In a single action only pistol like a 1911, the hammer must be cocked when in Condition 2 before the gun is ready to fire. Few carriers use this condition outside of the movies where the hammer cock is used for dramatic effect.

There’s also increased danger of a negligent discharge when getting your pistol into Condition 2. The 1911 doesn’t have a de-cocker. So that must be done carefully by pulling the trigger and lowering the hammer with a live round in the chamber. If your thumb slips during the process, it could cause the gun to fire.

Condition 1: A round is chambered, a magazine is inserted, and the hammer is cocked with the safety engaged.

Commonly referred to as “cocked and locked,” the only thing the gun owner must do to fire after drawing the pistol is disengage the safety. This requires training to do smoothly and regularly in a self-defense situation.

Condition 1 is the most popular method for anyone who carries a single action only pistol like a 1911. It makes some people nervous to see a gun’s hammer carried while cocked, but in a 1911, two safeties — the grip and the thumb — have to be disengaged for the pistol to fire.

Condition 0: A round is chambered, a magazine is inserted, and the hammer is cocked with the safety off.

In condition zero, all that has to happen to fire a round is a simple trigger pull. With a pistol like the 1911, which is known for its light, crisp trigger, that’s not a condition most carriers are comfortable with. Still, the pistol’s grip safety has to be disengaged to fire.

At the same time, people who carry striker-fired pistols like a GLOCK, M&P, P320 or other others with no external safety are essentially carrying in Condition 0. Safety in condition zero comes down to familiarity and training with your carry gun.

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  1. I carry in condition ‘A’ss. Apparently the constitution expressly forbids itself from being the law of the land depending upon zip code. So I cannot get a carry permit.

    In order to carry deep concealed I shove my gun up my ‘A’ss. If I am busted by the cops they will have to work for their evidence.

    • Funny we should be having the how people carry conversation.
      TSA just published their year in review on their blog.
      Another record year for gun seizures.
      That’s 6 years running!
      The number of guns with a magazine in and one in the
      Chamber has held steady at about 35% .
      So at least among irresponsible gun owners, the majority carry empty chamber, loaded mag

  2. For God’s sake.

    If you are afraid to carry chamber loaded get a revolver.
    In 1923 the Commandant of the Marine Corps expressing ordered Marine carrying the 1911
    while guarding the mail- a good story – to carry the 1911 cocked, fully loaded, and hammer off and additionally ordered the flap of the military holster be turned back and over.
    The shotguns- probably Winchester 97s- were to be kept at ready chamber empty.
    A lot of things were settled one hundred years ago that hobbyist still debate.

    • ON THE OTHER hand, 1980s assigned Army guards (Infantry 11B/etc) traveling with ammo/high explosives on the interstate were to be condition 5. With their ONE 5rd M16 mag in ammo pouch. Same when assigned as cantonment area gate guard (with M16/sidearm). Many years later, the stupidity of this still astounds me. I assume the same/worse stupidity today given the woketards ruling DOD.

      • Early 80s USN standing topside watch on a fast attack sub in port with a 1911 with no magazine. If an incident were to occur we were to go to the JOOD and request a magazine to deal with said incident.

      • To neiowa
        You may think it’s stupid.
        You have to look at it from the standpoint of the officer in charge.
        If you have a negligent discharge, his career is over.
        He sees the troops as a bunch of 18 year old knuckleheads.
        You are still armed, but can’t have an n d

    • Uh… if you’re afraid to carry with a loaded chamber so you get a revolver what are you supposed to do, leave all 6 chambers empty?

      • Nah, just the one under the hammer. Load one, skip one, load four. Works for single action Colts and clones. I can’t say that I ever understood the reason. My clones have a “half cock” that frees the cylinder for unloading, reloading but locks the trigger, a second half cock that locks both the cylinder and the trigger that is apparently drop and finger safe, and a full cock which is ready to fire. So it can be fully loaded and left on the second half cock safely. Alternately, Ruger (and second generation Piettas) have transfer bar safeties that prevent firing unless the trigger is pulled, so they are drop safe and wandering finger safe with the hammer down and the gun fully loaded.

        • Not feeling comfortable with carrying c ocked and locked is the reason I went back to packing my cowboy gunm. I used to carry the 1911 with one in the chamber and the hammer on half c ock, it’s faster clocking the cowboy gunm and easier too.
          Ain’t no way I’ll ever stick someone’s Glock in my pants, unsafe, might have an unintentional discharge. Thatd be a sticky situation, well for me anyway.

        • “fully loaded and left on the second half cock”

          This is an awful description overall, but I guess you mean the so-called “safety” notch? If it’s a modern clone it’s probably fine anyway but the original “safety” notch was only to catch the hammer if your finger slipped while pulling it back, NOT for carrying.

          Again it doesn’t matter for a new manufacture gun with a transfer bar or equivalent. Originally though, those notches and leaving an empty chamber most certainly did serve a purpose.

        • Because old school SAA pistols had the firing pin on the hammer itself so if you had six rounds in the gun the hammer would be down on the back of a live round… if you hit the back of the hammer hard enough it will strike the primer hard enough for discharge.

    • lol my wife keeps her .357 revolver in condition 3 (more or less). the first trigger pull will drop on an empty chamber. We have no kids, so I’ve asked her why she does that.

      Her Answer, “I dont want to shoot someone by accident.” I guess that makes sense, but I kinda think I’m not going to shoot anyone by accident.

  3. Dont forget to keep the first round up a fmj so it will feed
    And sprinkle a little garlic on the bullet for well you know

    and of course you can draw and get a hit from the holster with a chamber empty gun
    in one second or so, sure you can, and you are a better hand than most any competitor I have seen.

    • “Dont forget to keep the first round up a fmj so it will feed”

      You laugh but in “Guns, Bullets and Gunfights” Jim Cirillo describes he and his partner doing something similar: They’d doctor up extra-lethal hollowpoints and carefully single-load them as the first round over a magazine full of FMJs because the FMJs were the only thing that would feed in their 1911 pattern pistols.

      Obviously he’s a bit fuddy (on top of being straight-up murderous) but the book is still worth a read if you can find it.

  4. jwm
    you are in jest but some have actually concealed a weapon this way.

    Of course a stay in prison tends to loosen the bung hole quite a bit

    • Happened over in Illinois just a couple months ago. A crack hag had a Bersa 380 up her HooHa. That was found during the jail search.

  5. Charlie Miller ready, half cock on a loaded chamber, grip safety tided down by rawhide strap and shoved into my pants Mexican carry. Done it for years with no problems.

      • Say, one of those would be the perfect size for his big revolving. I had one of those for my daughter to use for hauling her bears while out on walks back when she was, oh, 3-4ish. She rode in the big wagon and held the handle of the small one, or sometimes walked. It may not be an actual Radio Flyer, don’t recall, but it’s small & red. She said it’s still buried in the basement. It may show up in her apartment some time, along with all 168 gallons of her webkinz critters…fill that place plumb to the door…

  6. I carry condition -1 … because that’s what it can be if I need to pull the trigger and have no other choice, the world minus one (-1) bad guy for each trigger pull.

  7. thank you for acknowledging that all of the plastic fantastic, striker fired, DOA pistols such as a Glock are usually carried in Condition 0. This is why it is common to meet people who suffer from the unfortunate medical conditions such as Glock Walk or even worse, Glock Cock (also known as Glock No Cock.)

    This is why I will stay with my Third Generation Smith and Wesson, semiautomatic pistols with a manual safety. Technically; I always carry in Condition 2, but with the safety on. Since the safety mechanism rotates the firing pin out of alignment with the primer, it is impossible for the pistol to discharge negligently.

    • Elmer, “common to meet people” with the ailments you describe? I’ve never met one, and I’ve met a lot of people that have carried striker fired pistols for years. Myself included. Though, I admit my primary since about 1979 has been a condition one 1911. Just curious. How many people have you personally met with a Glock gimp?

      • Gotta agree with Gadsden on this one. The only Glock gimp guy I can name is old Tex Grebner and I don’t think he walks with a limp anyway. That Lee Paige character might or might not limp, but you could argue a manual safety might have saved him from his stupidity. Those are the only ones I could name off the top of my head and I never met either of them.

    • Been carrying a Glock 32 for years, condition 0. No mishaps. Just carry it in a holster that covers the trigger.

      • ^ This ^

        Johnny stated the obvious with respect to strike-fired single-action-only semi-auto (sheesh, that is a lot of hyphens) pistols when we carry them with a round in the chamber and no external safety or external safety disengaged.

        Modern pistols (such as I described above) have an integral trigger safety (which may or may not be readily visible) and they will not go BANG! unless something pulls the trigger back. As long as you keep your semi-auto pistol in a good holster which covers the trigger, it is just as safe as any 1911 carried with the hammer decocked and the safety on.

        • uncommon, you can’t carry a 1911 with the hammer down and the safety on. At least the thumb safety. The grip safety doesn’t care what the hammer is doing.

        • Gadsden Flag,

          Ah, thank you for the correction.

          Hopefully everyone understands the point that I was making.

        • I have a Kimber micro 9mm which is almost and exact replica of a 1911 and for CCW I carry it everyday in condition 2+…. Hammer down on one in the pipe, full magazine and believe it or not the safety on. The Micro 9 safety runs independent of the sear or whatever so you can put in on and it makes it unable to rack the slide or pull the hammer back until you disengage it.

    • common?

      Been carrying a Glock for 30 years at least. I don’t have an unfortunate medical condition such as Glock Walk or even worse, Glock Cock … and I’ve had to use mine several times. I only personally know three people who do not carry a striker pistol EDC, a few hundred at least (combination or friends, associates, colleagues, etc…) are the ones that carry striker pistols none of them have an unfortunate medical condition such as Glock Walk or even worse, Glock Cock. Of the hundreds of people I’ve seen on the range annually practicing with their EDC striker pistols none of them had an unfortunate medical condition such as Glock Walk or even worse, Glock Cock. And comparatively, upon some simple cursory research, I find very few instances, relatively, where a striker pistol carrying person had an unfortunate medical condition such as Glock Walk or even worse, Glock Cock, and in fact I find, comparatively and relatively, just as many with the implied “Glock Walk or even worse, Glock Cock” ‘condition’ while carrying non-striker pistols.

      Now I don’t know everyone in the world nor have I done exhaustive research in a qualitative sense … but I’m really wondering how ‘common’ is this “unfortunate medical condition such as Glock Walk or even worse, Glock Cock” that you claim is common?

      • .40 cal Booger,

        I am only aware of one instance where the relatively light single-action trigger of a semi-auto pistol (such as a Glock) was a significant contributing factor to someone unintentionally shooting themselves in the leg. And I did not know the person personally–I literally saw a video on the Internet.

        The man was seated in his vehicle when he decided to stuff his pistol into his waistband or holster. Unfortunately, he shot himself in the leg and severed his femoral artery–he bled out and died within a few minutes. The failure in that case was NOT the relatively light single-action trigger on his pistol: the failure was attempting to stuff that pistol with its light trigger into his pants/holster while sitting down and without being able to clear any/all possible objects which could snag his trigger.

    • Seeing as it’s winter up here, I currently carry my 45super Witness ( CZ clone ) condition one. I know it could also be carried hammer down with safety either on or off, but cocked and locked has the trigger much further back, leaving room for a possibly gloved trigger finger. Also, OWB crossdraw hides nicely unter winter jacket and is useable while in my jeep.

  8. Depends on just which weapon I am using/carrying that day. Revolver in a holster with a gunbelt, hammer down on an empty chamber. 1911 Cocked and locked in the IWB holster.
    Same with the Hi-Power Browning. Walther would be hammer down with safety on and 1 in the chamber. Just a little longer DA trigger pull. Glock is still with 1 up the spout. Seldom do pocket or stuffed in the waistband/belt. Had a call years ago on the abulance that ended up being a body pick up. Some dumbass had a pistol in his waist band and shot himself in the leg. Femoral Artery. Bled out before we could get there. Coroner said he also shot off part of his manhood.

    • Thumbs up on the black powder. However, they’ve got these newfangled cap things that do away with flint, frizzen, and pan. Of course, they are tiny, and hard to manipulate with gloves on, and you don’t get that cool jet of sparks & smoke hitting the fella next door at the range. Nah, never mind, on second thought you’re good to go as is. Plus you can still hunt the frontloader only season in PA.

  9. What do you call it when you’ve got all 6 chambers loaded, hammer down and there is no magazine?

  10. Up until the Mumford Act in 1968, it was legal n California to openly carry loaded firearms. A Black Panthers protest march at (and in) the state capitol put and end to that, but it was stll legal to openly carry an unloaded firearm. That “right” (Condition 4) came with one major caveat: the police had the right to do an “e” check (so named after a subdivision of the applicable Penal Code provision) that allowed an officer to disarm you and to check to see that the firearm was indeed unloaded. This too came to an end when small groups in the Bay Area and San Diego started to openly carry unloaded in 2012. This raised such a kerfuffle with the soccer moms that that practice was soon outlawed as well, making it illegal to carry a firearm in any and all urban areas without a CCW. The constitutionality of this ban is rather suspect after Bruen, leading to some rather “interesting” arguments presented by AG Bonta in a couple of cases pending on remand from the Supreme Court. In fact, although the Ninth Circuit ruled in Peruta that there was no constitutional right to a CCW (notwithstanding the open carry ban), the AG recently argued that the ONLY way to legally bear arms in urban areas is with a CCW. This is as much as saying that there is no right to openly bear arms in urban areas, the Second Amendment and the long tradition if concealed carry bans dating back to the early 19th Century notwithstanding.

    • That’s Mulford, not Mumford. Mumford’s is a deli in Urbana, OH that makes really good potato chips.

  11. Condition 0 and a good holster with full trigger coverage, usually AIWB. 3:30 sometimes. P32twenty0 most often in recent years.

    If you run the same, highly recommend the Tact!cal Tr!ggers over the Gray competition intermediate. Very close to a single action feel, and I run it @ 3.5#. Can be had in up to 5#. Little more expensive than competitors offerings, but so worth the squeeze.

    Safety converted, used for re-holstering purposes only. Do not fully trust non safety equipped anything pointing at muh junk, except once in a proper holster.

  12. Interesting that the picture shows a gun I own and everytime I carry it in condition 1 (on my hip) it ends up in condition 0. The thumb safety is just too easy to manipulate.

    • Maybe try a different holster. My 1911 leather has a little plastic knob in the body side that prevents the safety from disengaging as long as it is properly strapped in.

  13. I’m amazed that this is even a discussion anymore given modern weapons, training and real life vs barber shop bullshido

  14. In the military you take the Ollie North position and just follow orders. But this isn’t the military and we can do better than military-spec. Here in the world you have options.

    There are good reasons to not leave one chambered in certain situations, at certain times, with some guns. I would not recommend condition 1 for a pump shotgun being stored in a safe. But that is a very different thing from carrying a holstered sidearm. I’m not suggesting anyone do things they are not comfortable with. I am very much saying that if you want to carry in condition 1 and don’t just because of fear of accidental discharge then you either have the wrong gun or the wrong holster. Firearms stored in safes should be completely unloaded but anything that is out and being given a duty should be setup to perform that duty. when you don’t have a firearm ready to go then it’s just going to make things harder. Everyone must decide for themselves. But in self defense, you want to start the fight without handicaps if possible. That’s why people use hollow point ammunition and why people get training. Many things have changed over the last hundred years and firearms technology has progressed. There simply is no legitimate reason to settle for 2nd place. You have the right but with that right comes responsibility. Not being loaded means you can’t fire.

    Not being prepared is not going to be forgiven by an attacker.

  15. Condition 4- Frantically retracing your steps to find where your mag fell out..because your mim part mag catch have broken..

  16. I carry condition 3. Works for me in my situation. If I was forced to live in or be in an area where robberies and car jacking are not unusual then I would carry condition 1.

  17. “Condition 3 requires the defender to draw the pistol and rack the slide to load a round in order to make it ready to fire. That takes an extra step, and can be impossible if your support hand is otherwise engaged.”

    Sack up and inertia rack. Worse case scenario you throw a hip out along with your disabled arm…

  18. The only gun that can’t ND is a gun without a round in the chamber.

    If memory serves me right the NRA pistol exam used by many states as the final exam for safety courses designed to be the classroom component when applying for a concealed carry permit has a question on it. IIRC it was question 16 when I took the test. It asks whether a safety can be trusted to make a gun safe. The only correct answer out of 4 multiple choice answers is that a guns safety is a mechanical device and can not be trusted in any way.

    Steyr striker fired tupperware on my hip. Israeli carry is all I’ll do. Ask Victoria Rutledge.

  19. Pfft. This noob doesn’t even know about “Condition 6” — slide separated from the frame in one pocket, frame in another pocket, empty magazine in a third pocket and loose ammo in a fourth pocket!

    It’s like he’s some crazy risk-taking maniac or something!

  20. The condition number is academic…whatever I happen to be carrying that day (most typically a Sig P365 but occasionally a Ruger LCR or CZ P01) must start projecting heavy metals with a trigger pull. Considering that reaction always lags action I don’t want to be having to rack slides or cock hammers or even snick safeties if/when I need it.

  21. A comment on Israeli carry: There is actually a tactical advantage to Israeli carry- not only safety… When I was taught this in Israel, the gun is brought one handed to the chest and then the slide is grabbed by the other hand as the pistol is punched forward thus racking the slide as the gun comes forward. The advantage of this is that your grip of the gun is corrected and adjusted as you rack the slide. If you practice…then you’ll find the gun will always be presented for firing with the perfect grip…..

  22. Recently added a Sig P320 XTEN 10mm to my EDC armory. There are a number of reports of P320’s firing w/o trigger pull. The P320 is now the Army’s (& who else?) official sidearm in 9mm, but with a manual safety installed. Whether those AD w/o trigger pull reports are legit or not, I’m not comfortable with carrying it Cond 0 even in a good IWB hybrid kydex/leather strong side holster with good trigger protection, as the striker is fully cocked – not like the Glock partial cock. Not to mention the 10mm’s scary power should it AD. So I sent it off to abprototype to have their manual safety added. They were quick and the install looks like factory work. Works perfectly & I can now carry cond 1 with confidence.

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