Concealed Carry

Carry Conditions — How Should You Carry?

HK USP45 and SIG MK25

Col. Jeff Cooper, in all his glory, left us with more than a love for the 10mm and the rules of gun safety, he provided us with the conditions of readiness for carrying a firearm. These are in terms of how quick and easy the gun is to get into action. 

Being from Cooper, the stages are in reference to the 1911 mode of carry, but I’ll explain/adapt some of the concepts to other pistol options. Sometimes, we may skip a condition that does not apply, for example, handguns with no hammer or manual safety. 

CZ 75 SA
This is considered Condition 1, or “cocked and locked.”

Condition 4 

Chamber empty, magazine removed, hammer down

This is the least-ready condition, meaning that it takes the most actions to fire the gun. The shooter must insert a magazine, rack the slide, disengage any safeties, and then…  fire the pistol. 

This is not a method in which many people carry a firearm. However, it is fairly common for storing in the household. Some take this further by keeping the gun in a locked safe. I won’t say that this is wrong — only you know the day-to-day conditions of your life or any children/guests that may be around, so only you can decide what is best for you. I will say that this is the least prepared condition for a threat. It will take you quite a while to get your firearm ready and engage the threat. 

If you do carry in this manner, I assume it’s an off-body method, such as in a bag or vehicle. While you are more prepared than being unarmed, you are not in a position to engage an immediate threat. 

HK USP45 and magazine
Here we see Condition 4: The chamber is empty, magazine is removed, and hammer is down.

Condition 3

Chamber empty, magazine inserted, hammer down

Also often referred to as Israeli carry because it is how the Israeli military trains, Condition 3 packs the pistol with a magazine loaded and the chamber empty. This was also standard fare for the U.S. military back when the 1911 was issued. 

To ready the pistol, one need only to rack the slide to chamber a round. This is OK for industry use, as it keeps people from making mistakes. Using a pistol is also less common when you’re issued a rifle or on a military base. 

This is not optimal for concealed carry where seconds are precious. You could get a jam when trying to chamber a round, you may not have a free hand to rack the slide, or you may just run out of time. 

The psychological factor of having a firearm with a round in the chamber can be a big hurdle for some. Understanding the layers of safeties on your firearm can help. Most modern pistols feature a firing pin block, which prevents the firing pin from moving forward and striking the primer to set the round off. There are other passive safety options, such as a grip safety, which disables the gun from firing unless your hand engages it in a firm shooting grip. 

If you are going to carry in Condition 3, train drawing the pistol and racking the slide to ensure you are proficient. This should become second nature as you present the pistol on target. 

HK USP45 magazine inserted
Here we see Condition 3: A magazine has been inserted, but no round has been chambered.

Condition 2

Round in chamber, magazine inserted, hammer down

In regard to a single-action pistol such as the 1911, this method is less than ideal. If you have chambered a round, you must manually drop the hammer (safely) without firing the gun. This renders the pistol useless until you recock the hammer. It also introduces a greater chance for an accidental discharge. One slip of your thumb when lowering the hammer, and you better have that muzzle pointed in a safe direction.

However, on a double-action/single-action pistol, this is the ideal carry condition for most. You have a round in the chamber and decock the pistol (often with a lever that does so without risk) and you need only overcome the long, double-action trigger pull for your first shot. 

In most cases, you also have an exposed hammer that can be pressed with the thumb to further help secure the action when holstering and unholstering. If the trigger is snagged, you’ll feel the hammer pressing against your thumb, which will hold it forward and prevent any further travel of the trigger. 

HK USP45 hammer down
Condition 2 looks much the same with a round inserted and the hammer dropped.

Condition 1

Round in chamber, magazine inserted, hammer back, safety on

Condition 1 was Cooper’s go-to, and it makes sense for a lot of people — especially if you carry a 1911. Your firearm’s ready to go, all you need is to disengage a button/lever for it to be ready to fire.

It’s also worth considering that most people, even those who carry every day, go their entire lives without ever needing to draw their pistol. It does, however, spend a lot of time on the hip and in the holster around non-threats, so perhaps an extra layer of safety is favorable. Many people prefer a gun to have a safety simply because it makes them feel more comfortable. If a threat should occur, it’s easy to disengage as you’re presenting the firearm on target. 

For many decades, the 1911 was the go-to semi-automatic, and it just made good sense to utilize a thumb safety. It still does, if that’s the type of pistol you carry. It’s even the standard for the military, with most military pistols incorporating a manual safety (SIG M17/18, Beretta M9, HK USP). 

HK USP45 hammer back
In Condition 1 the magazine is inserted, a round is chambered, the hammer is back, and the thumb safety is engaged.

Condition 0

Round in chamber, magazine inserted, hammer back, safety off

On a single-action 1911 with its light, crisp trigger, you’d be crazy to carry in Condition 0. However, if you carry one of the common striker-fired options that are so popular nowadays, you likely already do. Pistols such as the Glock or SIG P320 (no manual safety) tend to be carried with a round in the chamber, meaning all that’s required to fire the pistol is to pull the trigger. Increasingly, today’s offerings are coming with lighter triggers, some nearing that of a decent 1911. 

Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A quality holster that has been form-fitted to your specific firearm, and proper trigger control, negates a lot of the risk. However, you must be conscious of some added risk. 

On the other hand, this is the fastest method of carry to get the pistol into action. Just draw, aim, and you’re ready to shoot. In your heightened state of alertness, adrenaline pumping through you, you won’t need to remember to chamber a round or remove a manual safety. This allows you to focus on the threat and getting accurate shots. With the right pistol, this may be ideal. Of course, you can train to remove a safety or rack a slide on the draw stroke, so it’s not an issue and becomes second nature. However, that requires more time and training

HK USP45 hammer back safety off
By disengaging the thumb safety, the gun goes into Condition 0. All it takes to fire the pistol is to pull the trigger on a light, single-action pull.

Final Thoughts

The condition you carry will depend on your comfort level. Many people just don’t feel safe with a fully-loaded firearm. I recommend those people get more training and familiarity before carrying. Others may only feel safe with a manual safety engaged, which is understandable. 

Modern holsters with a secure, form-fitting mold do wonders to protect the trigger. This adds another layer of security. 

Your condition of carry (and likely your comfort level) will also depend on your perceived threat level. How likely are you to believe an event will happen? How concerned are you by that event? Despite the world we live in today, I’ve met people who believe nobody actually ever gets attacked. I’ve also met those who believe — and some rightly so — that a threat lurks right around every corner. I try to reside somewhere in between, with an understanding of what might be. 

Glock 43 and S&W Shield Plus
Striker-fired pistols are often available with the choice of a manual safety or not.

Modern tactical thought dictates you should carry in Conditions 2, 1, or 0. This will depend on the type of firearm you’re carrying. DA/SA pistols such as the SIG P226 are typically carried in Condition 2, with the gun decocked. Handguns such as the 1911 tend to be carried in Condition 1 — cocked and locked. Many striker-fired pistols, such as the Glock, are toted in Condition 0, as there is no manual safety to engage. Keep in mind, which gun you’re carrying and the best method for you to carry it. Oh, and train, train, train! 

What condition do you carry your firearm? How about at home ready? Share your thoughts in the Comment section.

  • 1911 hammer down
  • CZ 75 SA
  • HK USP45 and SIG MK25
  • Glock 43 and S&W Shield Plus
  • HK USP45 and magazine
  • HK USP45 magazine inserted
  • HK USP45 hammer down
  • HK USP45 hammer back
  • HK USP45 hammer back safety off

About the Author:

Alex Cole

Alex is a younger firearms enthusiast who’s been shooting since he was a kid. He loves consuming all information related to guns and is constantly trying to enhance his knowledge, understanding, and use of firearms. Not a day goes by where he doesn’t do something firearms-related and he tries to visit the range at least a couple of times a month to maintain and improve his shooting skills.

His primary focus is on handguns, but he loves all types of firearms. He enjoys disassembling and reassembling firearms to see how they work and installs most of the upgrades to his firearms himself, taking it as a chance to learn. He’s not only interested in modern handguns and rifles, he appreciates the classics for both historical value and real-world use.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (11)

  1. I love my Taurus TH40C for concealed EDC. It allows me to carry in Conditions 0-4, being a hammer-fired, DA/SA pistol loaded with safety features. I always carry in Condition 2 outdoors.

  2. For reference to my comment, I carry a Kimber Ultra Carry .45, OWB, side position, with extra mag in the holster. Condition 1. Easy enough to unlock safety with my thumb when drawing and I practice weekly and evert time I remove it from my holster.

  3. I appreciate all the comments about what condition to use. I have to wonder about the folks uneasy about carrying “ready to go” (see condition 0″). I would suppose many of you never carried a revolver that is already ready. (Could be in condition 2 or 0.) Double action is always 0.

    I agree with Rockit on his answer to Archie. In addition to the danger of hurting yourself, you also cannot draw effectively from a sitting position (think car).

    Everyone be safe, but also effective when needed.

  4. @ARCHIE MORRISON: “I CARRY MINE IN THE SMALL OF MY BACK NO HOLSTER”. Oh WOW! SCARRY!!! Sounds like a recipe for becoming a paraplegic. On a non-manual safety firearm, when carrying, the trigger should always be covered, for safety, in preventing accidental discharge. Like in your case, repositioning it, trigger catches on your skivvies, and BANG! Holsters are duel purpose, they aid in negligent discharge prevention, keep your body perspiration from destroying the firearm from rust, caused by your salty perspiration, and come in price ranges to fit all income levels. A friend told me to say this.

  5. Then there is the old Ruger P95DC, which not only allows any and all the carry positions above, it also has ambidextrous safety, and magazine release, so it can do all the above with either dominant hand.

    In the 0-position, one has to appreciate the strikers like the Glock which aren’t really cocked until the trigger is pulled. Dangerous part is in holstering ones like the Glock.

    While Carrying ones like the 1911 in the 0-position, in an appendix carry, is almost a guarantee for an addadicktome operation. Choose wisely. 🙂

  6. This is a good, informative article. I appreciate people not ragging on Condition 3 being ineffective. No, my pistol is not a “paperweight” in C3. In C3 I will never have an accidental discharge. I can draw and chamber a round in two seconds (paperweight?). To me, carrying with a chambered round is an undue mental burden. I would rather be paying attention to the world around me and enjoying life than worrying about that accidental discharge. However, in certain neighborhoods and situations I would definitely carry with a round chambered. Stay safe. j

  7. I LOVE MY GLOCK 45 9 MM BUT I WHISED THAT IT HAD A MANUEL SFATEY I CARRY MINE IN THE SMALL OF MY BACK NO HOLSTER

  8. The half cock notch on a 1911 was NOT designed to be a safety, like a Winchester lever action. The half cock notch on a 1911 is there in case your thumb slips while cocking the hammer. That notch can break if hit the hammer is hit.

  9. Carry is Condition 1 with magazine full.

    Home at bedtime, it’s Condition 0 with extended magazine and suppression. Whenever I’m out of bed, the firearm’s locked in the safe!

  10. For the 1911 you didn’t mention the half-cock.
    In the half-cock carry the pistol won’t fire.
    But it is easier to fully cock the pistol from the half-cock compared to round in chamber and hammer dropped because the breakover in the cocking motion has already happened.
    It’s almost as fast from the half-cock as it is from the cocked and locked… almost.

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