Concealed Carry

Cocked, Locked and Ready to Rock!

Springfield Armory 1911

Colonel Jeff Cooper, one of the masters of self-defense handgun methods and training, believed that the 1911 was the perfect combat handgun. According to Cooper, there are three conditions in which you can carry your pistol. For the safest and most effective way to carry any single-action, semi-automatic pistol, Cooper taught students to carry in “condition one” or “cocked and locked.” This means that your firearm is carried with a round in the chamber, the hammer is cocked, and the safety is on. To fire, all you have to do is flip the safety and pull the trigger. Some people, however, feel more comfortable with extra safety precautions such as leaving the chamber empty. This is carrying in condition three.

These three conditions, simply labeled condition one two, and three are a part of Jeff Cooper’s Modern Technique. Cooper developed these different techniques, including his awareness color codes, to train people in practical, self-defense handgun. He was an author, instructor, WWII and Korean War veteran, sat on the board of directors at the NRA, and started the Gunsite Institute. To learn more, read The Legend that was Jeff Cooper.

The three conditions I am covering apply only to single-action, semi-automatic handguns. GLOCK, S&W M&P, Springfield XD, and other double/single-action handguns and revolvers operate differently. Therefore, the three conditions do not apply. A single-action handgun is one that the hammer must be manually cocked for the gun to fire. If you look at a traditional 1911, you will see the exposed hammer at the back of the pistol, but if you look at a GLOCK, there is no external hammer. Examples of single-action pistols that the three carry conditions apply to are the 1911 and 1911-style handguns, CZ 75, Browning Hi-Power, SIG Sauer P238, FN five-SeveN, and full-sized Magnum Research Desert Eagle pistols.

Condition three

Condition three means you carry your pistol with the hammer down, a loaded magazine, and no round in the chamber. In order for your gun to fire, you will have to rack the slide to cock the hammer and load a round into the chamber; then take off any safety. This condition is also called “Israeli Carry.” Rumor has it Israeli defense forces received damaged, unsafe guns with unreliable safeties. They thought carrying in any other condition was unsafe. Condition three is believed to be the best way to carry your gun to prevent an accidental discharge. However, to someone who is untrained, condition three is the slowest way to have your firearm at the ready.

Condition two

In condition two, your gun has a round in the chamber, a full magazine inserted, the hammer down, and the safety on. Before holstering your gun, carrying in condition two requires you to load a round in the chamber. This means you must pull the slide back, cocking the hammer. Therefore, you must carefully and safely lower the hammer after you have loaded the round. To many, this is considered the safest way to carry because the hammer is down—not ready to fire. However, it is also considered to be the unsafest method, because attempting to release the hammer back down with a live round in the chamber has caused numerous accidental discharges.

Condition one

Condition one is the preferred way to carry your single-action handgun. It is the way Cooper taught. Everyone I know who carries a 1911 prefers to carry in condition one. Condition one means you have a round in the chamber, a full magazine inserted, the hammer cocked, and the safety on. To fire the gun, all you must do is flip the safety.

Two other conditions have been added to the original three. Condition four is no round in the chamber, no magazine inserted, and the hammer is down. In my opinion, condition four is pointless when discussing methods of concealed carry, because your gun is not ready in a moment’s notice. Condition zero is a round in the chamber, a full magazine inserted, hammer is cocked, and the safety is off. Condition zero is a variation of condition one, however most do not feel it  is the safest against an accidental discharge in condition zero.

Do you carry a single-action handgun? If so, what condition do you carry in? Tell us in the comments section.

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Comments (23)

  1. Condition 1 is the way I carry my 1911. I feel this is the safest,fastest way to bring my pistol into action. The grip safety still has to be depresseed for it to fire.

  2. Condition one, cocked and locked, all of the officers on my police dept that carry 1911’s carry it that way and we train that way.

    Sgt Buz Hodges
    Range Officer
    Maple Park PD

  3. Sig p238 in Condition 3 for now for concealed carry. I may move to condition 2, but not comfortable w/ cocked & locked just yet.

  4. Okay, I’ll admit, my personal carry is either a Taurus PT-145 (a double/single action striker fired .45), or a S&W 645 (an external hammer double/single action .45), so I’m not speaking from experience but what’s to prevent FOD when carrying in condition one? By FOD, I mean Foreign Object Damage – as in some piece of debris or other object obstructing the hammer and thereby preventing the weapon from discharging when needed? I carry my SW 645 with a round chambered, a full magazine, and the hammer down with the safety on (condition two). Of course, at this point I should point out that the safety lever is also a decocker. To fire, one draws, flips off the safety and a double action trigger pull discharges the weapon and puts it in single-action mode. A far reduced chance of anything coming between the hammer and the firing pin. Seems to me that condition two is the more reliable and safer method.

  5. Cocked and locked. If you aren’t comfortable carrying a 1911 in Condition 1, then carry something else. You could die with the slide in your hand, trying to chamber one. I carry in a Fobus and I have developed the habit of periodically checking my Safety whenever I change from seated to standing or walking, and vice versa (the Beaver-tail Grip Safety is still in place, of course). The muscle memory of grip, safety off, fire proficiency is easy enough to attain. Incidentally, My Springfield 1911 fits in the same Fobus as my KelTec PF 9. Easy enough to switch out if the 2 pounds of 1911 will hamper anticipated action or reaction. Just saying.

  6. If your going out in badass territory than condition one is the only way to carry. But if you carry just to carry than condition three is best. Anyone with any knowlage and practice can draw, pull the slide and fire in a second. If you can,t than get a revolver. Forget the Movies how maney people have you shot in your lifetime?

  7. I am a very experienced shooter but new to the 1911. I wondered why the strap on my leather holster would fit only if the hammer was fully cocked. Now I understand. My son (a certified firearms instructor) pointed out the advantages of Condition 1 the first time we shot my new 1911. I feel the 1911, despite its excellence, is too big/heavy for concealed carry so I carry either a Kahr CW40, a Ruger LC9 or a Beretta PX4 Storm Compact .40 caliber, depending on the situation. I like the added stopping power of the .40 over a 9mm and certainly compared to a .380. I am a large man, so I can handle the added recoil. But the formidible 1911 is an excelllent choice for open carry times — it “Identifies You” as the old Packard ads used to say. BTW, I no longer use the leather holster; replaced it with a Blackhawk Serpa (as shown in the photo). It has the big advantage of making it unlikely that some thug is going to pull your weapon out of the holster and use it on you (or steal it). Be safe and be ready, The Mesa Gun Geezer.

  8. read a fascinating article indicating that a US Army MSG taught the early (50s?) IDF the old US military ‘manual of arms’ for the 1911, which was holstered, chamber empty, etc; great for what it was designed for: back-up wpn for 1919A4, .50MG, mortar crews, tankers, MPs showing up pistols drawn etc., not to replace the US cops’ DAonly revolver of the day. The Cols’ approach to the 1911 was to use it as a LEOs’, civilians’ defensive, quick-response, guck-draw piece, & to shoot as close to a .45 carbine as possible, i.e., weaver grip/stance, rapid fire (DVC), max range, max rate of fire, etc. Saw a couple youtubes on Israelis maxing-out the empty-chamber quick-draw; impressive, but the Col would say: “an ingenious solution to a non-exisistent problem.”, (like DA autos, hi-cap mags). I’ve read 2 gun-mag articles on ‘shoot-offs’ between a ‘revolver guy’ vs an ‘auto guy”; long-story-short, they did about the same in terms of ‘times’, accuracy, even after they traded guns & re-shot the course-of-fire again! I’d like to see an ongoing challenge-shoot-off between 1911 fans vs TeamGlock shooters (then each go against McKulik/.45rev (sp?)

  9. I carry my 1911 in mode 1 & 3 . My opinion is condition 2 is not the safest way to carry and is not realistic . Dropping the hammer on a live round never a good thing unless you have a bucket of sand or a back stop every were you go . Also the large spoon on S & W your thumb has to come around from the side (my wife) unless you have large hands leaving the gun in three fingers or a second hand must be brought up to maintain good control if you need a second hand might as well rack the slide with it My 1911’s will not allow the saftey on unless the hammer is back so having a round in the chamber hammer down and saftey on is not possible . The bottom line is if your saftey is the most important thing carry in mode 1 if the people around you are the most important then mode 3 is the way to go .

  10. Condition 2 is where there is a loaded magazine, a round in the chamber and the hammer is down on the live round.

    It does NOT have the safety on…as the thumb safety cannot be engaged unless the hammer is fully cocked.

  11. I carry a Glock 23. It has a fully loaded clip and one in the chamber ready to draw and pull the trigger when needed. The safety is the trigger pull.
    I also carry at other times a Ruger LCP 380. It has a fully loaded clip and one in the chamber ready to draw and pull the trigger when needed. The safety is the trigger pull.
    I rarely carry one of my single action pistols. When I do I have the hammer on an empty chamber. The safety is knowing I have to cock the hammer then pull the trigger.
    I practice drawing and firing with all my guns from all the places that I keep them. The most dangerous, in my opinion, is the ‘ol cowboy draw from a side holster. Drawing and firing in that manner is really a matter of timming and skill.
    Not all guns have a safety to be taken off before firing anymore.

  12. Before assuming the liability of carrying a weapon for personal defense make sure to educate yourself. Learn your weapon and practice. As long as there are inexperienced shooters there will be negligent discharges. However, for those looking for the ideal way to carry a single action weapon condition one is in my opinion the best.

  13. Frank S.K.,
    You are right. I did mean to say that the safety is off. Thank you for pointing that out. I have corrected the post.

  14. The way I see it is that the 1911 is not the best choice for CCW for the inexperienced shooter. While I believe that JMB’s 1911 masterpiece is among the best innovations of the twentieth century, it does require that the shooter be at the very least least familiar with the basic fundamentals of the SA platform to ensure the safety of all involved. If not, I would recommend that either a revolver or DA semi be considered instead.

  15. Both Tom and Frank have good points. I think most inexperienced shooters will gravitate toward the more exotice 15, 16 and 20 shot semi’s. The 1911 is usually the pick of a more experienced shooter who knows the quality and relability of his piece. Depending on where I am, I employ both methods one and two. And Frank, a very good point, never put your finger on the trigger until your ready to shoot. A good place to practice this is at a range target shooting, over and over again.

  16. I think you meant to say “condition zero… safety off” instead of safety on.

    Also, I’m a firm believer in keeping your finger off the trigger ’till you’re ready to fire. That’s the only real safety you need. An inexperienced shooter, if he follows this rule, will not shoot anyone that doesn’t need a lead injection.

  17. Condition one is the best way to carry a model 1911 only if you have a lit of practice with your weapon, but it’s dangerous for an inexperienced shooter. Why? Because in a stressful situation it’s too easy to point & pull the trigger.

    A inexperienced shooter should carry his weapon in condition three. This forces the person to rack the slide to chamber a round & cock the hammer. The additional delay will likely prevent him from doing something stupid like pulling his weapon on a intruder and going “bang, bang, bang” without positively identifying who the intruder is, or isn’t, first.

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