Conditions of Readiness Expanded

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.

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0 Responses to Conditions of Readiness Expanded

  1. Ben C says:

    You forgot condition Fife.

    Firearm unloaded, hammer down, magazine empty, one round in pocket.

    (Robbed from Tam’s comments many moons ago)

  2. Bubblehead Les says:

    Some more Mud for the Water time. The Browning High Power also has the same 4 Conditions applied to it, along with the Tokarovs that had a Safety Mandated before they could have been Imported. BUT the Original Tokarovs had NO Safety, so they were in designed to be used in Condition 2. HOWEVER, getting to Condition 2 with the 1911 design (which Hi-Powers and Tokarovs and the Polish Radoms and the Argentinian Ballesters are variations of the 1911) takes a LOT of Practice at the Range, and your Muzzle better be pointed at the Backstop. If your Thumb slips while trying to put the Hammer down, POW! I’d never recommend Condition 2 for the 1911.

    I know the Israeli Defense Forces and the Brits used to Mandate Condition 3 for their Troops. The Brits felt the Hi-Powers Safety was too small to manipulated in the Stress of Combat, while the IDF felt that if a Bad Guy grabbed their Pistol, they were too dumb to know how to use it, and they could take it back from them. But yeah, I believe it’s Valid only for the Night Stand/Gun Safe. It does take the tension off the spring, though.

    Finally, True Story time. Throughout most of my Naval Career in the 70’s and 80’s, we who had to carry a 1911 on Topside Watch were told we HAD to carry them in Condition FOUR, in a CLOSED Flap Holster, with only 5 rounds loaded into each of the TWO magazines we were allowed to have on our Person. The Naval Brass was so SCARED of “Accidental Discharges” that our Ship’s Security was held by People with EMPTY GUNS. In Fact, if I was caught with a Magazine in the Well of the 1911, even with the chamber empty (Condition 3) I could be Court-Martialed. But some of us were very glad that John Moses Browning designed his Pistol so that one could chamber a round, apply the Safety, then dump the Mag back into the Ammo Carrier. My reasoning was, at least I had one shot, and if I didn’t hit him, MAYBE the Noise would wake someone up, or I could Distract the Bad Guy enough to go Hand-to-Hand and take his weapon. So perhaps we have a Condition 1A and a Condition 1B for the 1911, depending on whether there’s a Magazine in the well.

    But this ability to fire a “supposedly empty gun” might have led JMB to put in the Magazine Disconnect into the Hi-Power, but I’m not sure. I do know that a lot of Police Depts mandated that their Semi-Auto Pistols MUST have a Mag Disconnect well into the ’80s and ’90s. Their thinking is one of Weapons Retention. If a Bad guy went for their pistol, they could always hit the Mag release, and render it useless. And a Lot of Police Depts. still have that rule in effect. I know Mas Ayoob still likes that concept. But for the Armed Non-Leo, I’m not sure it’s valid.

    But hey, we can always discuss the Merits of the Classic DA/SA pistols next, right? Have fun!

    • Weerd Beard says:

      I belive most of these early service pistols were designed to be carried Condition 3 (certainly all the old M1911 service manuals recommend condition 3, unless you are going directly into harm’s way, then Condition 1) But the 1911 has a half-cock notch specifically for for condition 2 carry.

      As for the military handling of soldiers and guns….a total idiot with an empty gun and a shrink-wrapped box of ammo will find a way to harm himself and others, and shouldn’t be allowed near a gun without supervision.

      A competent person can handle a cocked-and-locked 1911 with no troubles.

      This difference between these people is an hour-long lecture, and a few hours on the range….and there is no excuse for treating a US soldier like a total idiot, and if we have such idiots under the uniform they should be asked to leave.

  3. USCitizen says:

    Thanks for the list & definitions – I’m a single action Condition 2 type with the 1911 – safety off.

    • steve l says:

      me too, like the extra insurance in case someone else gains control of the weapon; the little colt mustang goes one better, you can carry it hammer down with the safety on, cocking the hammer moves the safety off

  4. RedeemedBoyd says:

    Want some more mud? My Walther P99QA doesn’t exactly have a condition 1 or condition 2. No hammer (striker) and no safeties (passive or otherwise) on the firearm. So I get to go between condition 3 and condition 0 when I carry that piece.
    That said, HOW I carry determines which condition in which I carry. If I’m carrying in a soft-bodied holster, pocket carry, etc, it’s condition 3. If I’m carrying in something which is hard-bodied, and will definitely not allow anything into the trigger guard (paddle holster, leather form-fitted, etc), it’s condition 0.
    Technically by chambering a round, and decocking the striker I am able to make it condition 2, however instead of having just a hammer to thumb back, it requires a partial racking of the slide. Try only partially racking in a SHTF scenario. The instinct is either ‘draw and fire’ or ‘draw and rack then fire.’ Ejecting a perfectly good .40 S&W round at that point of an altercation is downright embarrassing.

    • Weerd Beard says:

      I consider the P99QA a DAO gun as the trigger is shorter and lighter than most DA guns, but longer and heavier than a true single-action. Also I’m pretty sure the Walther has a cross-block safety that’s disengaged by the trigger pull to make the gun drop safe and safe if the sear hooks were to ever break.

    • North says:

      RBoyd – What made you choose the QA over the SA?

    • RedeemedBoyd says:

      Weer’d – You are right, those passive safeties do exist. I tend to forget about them.
      North – I chose the QA because the pull feels a lot smoother than the SA. They are both nice, but the SA has a distinct point where the pull changes, the QA is much less obvious. Also, when I was considering the differences, it seemed to me that the SA had a longer return to reset than the QA, but that could just be a perspective issue, as I didn’t measure them precisely.

      • aczarnowski says:

        If I had to do it again I’d buy a P99QA instead of the P99AS for the same reasons RedeemedBoyd mentioned (mine’s in 9mm). The two different trigger pulls are something I just don’t need to deal with given today’s other designs. For example, the M&P. Which I jumped ship to about three months after getting my P99AS. So, actually, I’d buy an M&P instead of the P99QA if I had to do it again.

        Frankly, I’ve always avoided the whole condition discussion. There are guns I won’t carry because they can’t be carried safely – aren’t drop safe, don’t block the pin or whatever. These are fun toys to bring to the range and talk about esoterics like conditions with buddies. Assuming the item is outside that lineup, I lump everything into double or single action trigger with or without safety. Load it, put the safety on if it has one (1911, Beretta 92, up to you with Ruger’s SR and LC series) and put it in your holster. Everything else is too much information when I’m trying to reverse the process under adverse conditions.

        • Weerd Beard says:

          Hence these days (besides my love for the M1911 which is more luggage from my past) I’m just a huge fan of DAO guns. My Revolvers with exposed hammers, I never cock them, and I love guns like the Glock and M&P for their minimal approach for user-operated safety. Want the gun to shoot? Pull the trigger. Want the gun not to shoot, don’t pull the trigger, and trust us it won’t go off without you doing that!

          That’s good engineering….and its been around for over 100 years. So much for “Progress” 🙂

  5. mike w. says:

    I hate Walthers AS trigger. The QA is far better IMO. Also, like Weer’d Ive always just lumped it into the DAO category

  6. RedeemedBoyd says:

    I’ll agree with not being a fan of the AS. (Yes, I meant AS above, I just happened to make the same typo that North did.) I do enjoy my QA. I’m now in the market to sell my existing .45 (I’ve had it for about 10 years, and am hesitant to part with it, but it’s time I did.) and replace it with an M&P .45. I’ll be keeping the Walther, and will continue to carry the Walther, just probably not nearly as often as the M&P when I get it.

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