October 31, 2012

Cocked, Locked and Ready to Rock! Cooper’s Conditions Explained

(GunReports.com) — Colonel Jeff Cooper, one of the masters of self-defense handgun methods and training believed that the 1911 was the perfect combat handgun, writes CTD Suzanne on the Cheaper Than Dirt! blog.

To read the full blog post, click here

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, Col. Jeff 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.

Springfield Armory 1911

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 color code of awareness, to train people in practical, self-defense handgun. He was an author, instructor, WWII and Korean War veteran, sat on the board of directors for the NRA, and started the Gunsite Institute.

The three conditions I am writing about 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 without a round in the chamber, the hammer is down, and a loaded magazine is in the pistol. 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 and then take off any safety. This condition is also called “Israeli Carry.” Rumor has it that 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 your gun 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 Col. Jeff 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 is cocked, and the safety is on. This means that to fire the gun, all you must do is flip the safety.

Two other conditions have been added to the original three: condition four, which means there is no round in the chamber, no magazine inserted into the weapon, and the hammer is down. In my opinion, condition four is pointless when discussing methods of concealed carry. Condition zero means there is a round in the chamber, a full magazine inserted, the hammer is cocked, and the safety is on. Condition zero is a variation of condition one, however most do not feel the fire is the safest against an accidental discharge in condition zero.

Comments (10)


Posted by: Anishinabi | December 7, 2012 8:46 AM    Report this comment

Ah yes, there is much to be said about the peace of mind one gains when carrying and handling a piece with a rebounding hammer. With such a weapon, one need only to keep the finger out of the trigger guard to be relatively safe. This is especially true when the pistol has a firing pin block as well as a rebounding hammer. As long as we abide by all of the cardinal rules of gun handling, these mechanical devices simply add to the safety of all concerned.

Posted by: canovack | November 3, 2012 12:33 PM    Report this comment

After shooting a Series 70 Govt and Officer Lightweight for years, I remember the first time I took apart my newly acquired Series 80 Combat Commander. Getting the disconnector mechanism back together correctly took a while and took the wind out of my sails. No longer able to brag about my reassembly time for a Colt .45. Regarding the trigger difference, I do feel my Series 70 has a much smoother trigger than the Series 80, even after a 3.5 lb trigger job and adjustable trigger. The trigger pressure is about the same but the Series 80 trigger is still about more "grainy" as I would call it. I do like the way the trigger lets down to an off hammer position with the disconnector. The hammer will not go all the way down unless you give it a second squeeze, unlike the pre-80 or true 1911, which lets the hammer down to right on the firing pin or down to a careful half cock. The SIG SA/DA has a nice hammer rebound condition that is very reassuring when it goes into the docked double action mode.

Posted by: Anishinabi | November 3, 2012 11:44 AM    Report this comment

Been carrying a 1911 since I was 18 yrs old, so ah would guess that makes about 51 years I've been carrying old slabsides with it cocked & locked through 3 serious conflicts totaling 5 yrs in combat and I've never had it go off until I wanted it to and yes when it did the other guy came in, in last place. As always the old firstsoldier.

Posted by: firstsoldier | November 2, 2012 10:37 PM    Report this comment

Old model 1911s, like the Colt Government Model I purchased in 1964, along with all those GI pistols that are floating around at gun shows, may allow the firing pin to move forward, if dropped where the position of the pistol directs the resultant force of inertia to drive the firing pin forward into the primer of a chambered round. With that the case, even a pistol of that vintage that is cocked and locked may discharge if the forces act in the right direction on the firing pin. Pistols with firing pin blocks that keep the firing pin locked, unless/until the trigger is pulled fully to discharge a round, aren't supposed to discharge under any conditions unless the trigger has been pulled to clear the firing pin block from the path of the firing pin. Like you, Anishinabi, I don't know statistically how likely it may be for such a discharge to occur. When ever I carried my Colt Government Model, purchased in 1964, I often carried it with a round in the chamber and the hammer down, figuring that as long as the pistol was secured in a retention holster, it likely wouldn't be liable to drop. I never could feel comfortable with a cocked and locked pistol in a holster.

Now, since my carry pieces currently consist mostly of SIG Sauer pistols in DA/SA or DAK persuasion, along with S&W M&P pistols, I no longer concern myself with whether the firing pins will slide into a primer, since all of these pistols have firing pin blocks in them. I'd guess the same is true of the modern incarnations of 1911s as well.

Posted by: canovack | November 1, 2012 5:54 PM    Report this comment

The link doesn't work. Re: I was taught in the service that carrying with a round in the chamber was unsafe because of the inertial firing pin being capable of advancing to discharge the weapon if dropped. I am sure that is true of many other handguns and rifles like the M94 Winchester. But I am not sure that is much of a risk, or how much less of such a risk is with a handgun with a hammer block, where the firing pin also may travel independent of the hammer if dropped in a certain way. The only one free of that risk seems to be the striker-fired pistol, like a Glock, the XD or my PPS. Correct me or help discuss this point further if you all would. Thanks

Posted by: Anishinabi | November 1, 2012 3:35 PM    Report this comment

The USP pistols offered by H&K also offer Condition One (cocked and locked)carry; the controls are pretty much the same as on the 1911. They offer the additional advantage of DA triggering, and the safety can be on when the slide is retracted. These are immensely reliable handguns, and the full-size USP gives significant advantage in mag capacity, with its 12-round double-stack magazine. The compact model carries 8 rounds in a semi-staggered arrangement.

Posted by: PALADIN85020 | November 1, 2012 1:38 PM    Report this comment

Further amplification, here, may be appropriate. In addition to the Para Ordnance LDA pistols, the Star Firestar series of pistols are 1911 pattern pistols that also permit loaded chamber carry, with hammer down, and safety engaged. I also believe, but cannot verify, that the Star BM and Model 31 also provided for the same safety locked carry with the hammer down. I have owned two BMs and one M 31 but presently do not have any in my collection with which to factually verify my comment.

Posted by: canovack | November 1, 2012 12:45 PM    Report this comment

Only 1911 pattern guns I've encountered that could be on safe with hammer down as in condition 1 & 2 descriptions are Para LDA's.

Posted by: Kayaker48838 | November 1, 2012 11:40 AM    Report this comment

"Condition zero means there is a round in the chamber, a full magazine inserted, the hammer is cocked, and the safety is on."

Correction: In condition zero, the safety is OFF.


Posted by: Lee W | October 31, 2012 11:31 PM    Report this comment

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