So Jeff Cooper was a genius, and he was in love with the 1911 as a duty and carry pistol. To condense teaching he named the carry conditions of the M1911 Pistol:
Condition Four: Chamber empty, no magazine, hammer down.
Condition Three: Chamber empty, full magazine in place, hammer down.
Condition Two: A round chambered, full magazine in place, hammer down.
Condition One: A round chambered, full magazine in place, hammer cocked, safety on.
Condition Zero: A round chambered, full magazine in place, hammer cocked, safety off.
So let’s first talk about the Two that gets a lot of talk:
Condition 1: “Cocked and Locked”, for any true single-action gun with a short and relatively light trigger pull, and a manual safety that will keep the gun from discharging. I this is a BARE MINIMUM for safe carry, as a light trigger like the one on the M1911 doesn’t have a ton of feedback before the hammer drops.
Of course even in this straight-forward condition there are some guns that seem to muddy the waters. Guns like the Springfield XD or the Walther PPS are striker, not hammer-fired guns, but the striker is at full-cock but unlike most Single-Action guns the trigger pull has a good deal of slack and resistance built into the trigger pull. Now while mechanically these guns are Single-Action because the only action performed by the trigger is dropping the striker (besides disengaging the passive safeties), I would argue that these guns shoot more like a Double-Action gun than a Single Action, and can be lumped in with those. More on that later.
Now on the other side of Carry is Condition 3 where your chamber is empty but you have a loaded magazine ready to go. Now on a 1911 the safety blocks the hammer, and with the hammer down the hammer also blocks the safety so to get a 1911 running from condition 3 is to rack the slide. Still there are many guns where the safety works independent of the other parts of the gun so you can have the gun with the hammer or striker decompressed and the safety in the “on” position, and even rack the slide with the safety still engaged.
Really I won’t discuss those differences in condition 3, I’ll just say that if you’re carrying DON’T CARRY CONDITION 3! If it makes you nervous to carry your gun in a condition where you can easily draw and fire, read my post on easing into carry, and get over your fears, no guns is designed to only be carried in condition 3, they are all designed to be safe carried in either/or condition 1 or 2. I will say that Condition 3 is a decent idea if you want to keep a gun at the ready but off your body. Like a nightstand gun, racking the slide is one of those coordinated efforts that if somebody manages to pipe a round, they’re old enough to know better. (That is if the person had training…YMMV)
Now Condition 2 is the crazy middle ground. Now when Col Cooper wrote the conditions “Condition 2” required the user to thumb-cock the hammer like on a Single-Action revolver before the gun could be fired. Of course there are a world of Double-Action guns out there. If you carry a revolver of any sort you’re carrying it in Condition 2 (even a Single-Action Army with the hammer on an empty chamber, still cocking the gun will bring a loaded chamber up under the hammer), All the Classic SIG Sauers are designed for condition 2 carry. For these guns you draw the gun and pull the trigger.
Now to complicate things we have Double-Action guns with decocking safeties. A Beretta 92 when you flip the gun on “Safe” the hammer drops on the firing pin block. At this point the hammer is down over a loaded chamber so its “Condition 2”, but the safety needs to be taken off before you can pull the trigger, so that’s kinda like “Condition 1” if you disregard the long trigger pull. But you can safely flip the safety to “Hot” and holster the gun because you have the same condition of readiness as a DA revolver or a SIG P226.
And of course there are guns like the Glock or the S&W M&P. They don’t have a hammer, but a striker, and when the gun is ready to fire the striker is neither fully-cocked nor is it at-rest. Overall these guns generally have a lighter and possibly a shorter trigger pull than a true double-action pistol or revolver, but that isn’t always the case as they can be set up or tuned for a trigger pull that is damn near identical to a DA revolver….or into scary short and light SA trigger pulls that are often ill advised for carry or defensive shooting.
These guns overall FEEL closest in my book like a Double Action trigger pull, so I lump them in as “DAO” guns. So a Glock or an M&P or similar gun at the ready I consider “Condition 2”.
Of course we can further muddy the waters by pointing out there are “DAO” type guns that also have manual safeties (Like the Ruger LC9 or the Para LDA series…both of which guns have hammers that are partially charged) so you can carry them in “Condition 2” but with that added safety.
But really IMHO the added safeties are unnecessary, so you can consider them “Gravy” or an added failure points, but one should note if a carry or defensive gun has a similar package without the added switches and leavers.
So maybe that cleared a few things up…or confused the hell out of you.
Gave me something to do.