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4 Handgun Carry Conditions: Best for Concealed Carry?

Collection of Travis's Pistols
We go over all four handgun carry conditions and what they mean for you. Plus the ideal condition when it comes to concealed carry.
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    You know what no one tells you about boot camp?

    The way you are forced to memorize any number or Marine Corps facts. These facts are screamed at the top of your lungs repeatedly in the form of ditties.

    These are short phrases based on Marine Corps knowledge. These cover a variety of topics and you are required to scream them as loud as you can on command.

    full metal jacket war face

    The ditties teach recruits the General Orders, Rank structure, famous Marines, as well as the conditions of the M16 service rifles.

    These conditions are necessary in the military and even in the general gun world because language matters. Having a universal language among gun owners is important.

    What I Carried M16A4 Clone (2)
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    Let’s go through all of them so by the end you’ll be a pro as well.

    Table of Contents

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    Different Guns

    Knowing what the different conditions of your firearm makes it simple for an RSO or an instructor to issue orders based on what condition your weapon should be in.

    However, the conditions of weapons can vary between weapons.

    It’s entirely rational that the M2 .50 caliber, belt-fed, heavy machine gun has different conditions than your Glock 19.

    Collection of Travis's Pistols
    Collection of Travis’s Pistols

    While the overall wording and conditions are different between weapons the general conditional requirements are typically the same.

    Since none of you guys are firing machine guns commonly we are going to be talking about concealed carry handguns. If you do commonly fire machine guns shoot me an email.

    Military recruiters need not apply, you guys already tricked me once.

    Ya’ Boy with an ACOG equipped M249 Helmand Province Afg 2009
    Ya’ Boy with an ACOG equipped M249, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, 2009

    Jeff Cooper, a Marine and famed firearms instructor, invented the weapon’s readiness conditions to help create a universal language among shooters. While it was built around the Colt 1911 but it has evolved into all weapons.

    Handgun Carry Conditions

    Condition 4 – Super Duper Safe

    Condition 4 isn’t a condition of carrying these days.

    A long time ago open carry was legal in California, statewide, but you had to have an unloaded weapon. These days that’s long gone and Condition 4 is an admin condition.

    No Right to Bear Arms
    California had/has some odd laws

    Condition 4 is valuable to know at the range or when training and listening to commands. If you are told to make your weapon Condition 4 you are essentially unloading and clearing the weapon.

    glock condition 4
    Glock, Condition 4

    To make your weapon Condition 4, it has the magazine removed and the chamber cleared.

    With revolvers the cylinder completely clear.

    If the gun has a manual hammer it is forward and if the weapon has a manual safety that can be engaged, it is engaged.

    This is a universal safe way to store a firearm and if you are at the range, you may have to Condition 4 your weapon when you are not on the firing line.

    Condition 4:

    • Magazine removed or cylinder empty
    • Chamber cleared
    • Hammer or striker down
    • Manual safety engaged if possible

    Condition 3 – The Silly One

    If you carry in Condition 3, I’m probably going to make fun of you.

    Not really, I would suggest you get better firearms training and increase your confidence with a weapon.

    Condition 3 is also known as Israeli carry, although it actually has little to do with Israel.

    Arguably, what popularized “Israeli Carry” was actually Fairbairn and Sykes’ book “Shooting To Live“, one of the first books dedicated to combat pistol shooting.

    Condition 3 only applies to semi-automatic weapons and is a state of carrying with an empty chamber but a loaded magazine in the weapon.

    For a rifle or shotgun, this is commonly called “patrol ready” also.

    I won’t advise carrying Condition 3 since it requires you to draw and then rack your weapon before firing.

    New gun owner attempting to ready their weapon while carrying in condition 3 during the Great Boogaflu of 2020, colorized

    Some people can admittedly do this very quickly, but the time dedicated to training this skill could be spent practicing drawing and firing without dancing around your gun.

    Carrying Condition 3 also means you’re counting on having both arms in the fight.

    God forbid you are carrying something, shielding your child, fighting an attacker off with one hand, so on and so forth. If you don’t have both hands you’re going to be slow to chamber and slow to fire.

    tis but a scratch
    Try to rack a slide with only 1 arm… it’s not easy.

    Condition 3 is an ancient means to carry that dates back to Pre-WW2 time frames.

    Back then drop safeties weren’t a thing and if you carried an autoloader Condition 3 was a legitimate practice. In fact, it was one of the most popular ways for police and military to carry since it also arguably reduced the amount of training required.

    If you are a gun hipster and are carrying a period correct 1903 Colt then maybe you should carry Condition 3.

    1903 pocket hammerless
    Colt 1903 Pocket Hammerless, still a cool looking gun!

    If you carry a modern weapon then dropping it won’t be a concern. If you are that scared of carrying a loaded gun then consider obtaining some firearms training and becoming more confident with your weapon.

    Condition 3:

    • Chamber empty
    • Hammer or striker forward
    • Magazine loaded

    Condition 2 – The Weird One

    Condition 2 is one of the weirder ones.

    It applies to pistols and revolvers that have an exposed hammer.

    A Condition 2 weapon is a weapon with a magazine in place and a round in the chamber, but the hammer forward. With revolvers or DA/SA guns, this is the most common way to carry the gun.

    Condition 2 also applies to single action only weapons like 1911s and guns like the Single Action Army. However, it works a bit differently between the two weapons.

    Condition 2 1911
    Condition 2 1911

    The SAA has no safety so you’d never pack it with the hammer peeled back, it would stay in condition 2.

    The 1911 does have a safety and it’s unlikely that you’d carry a 1911 with the hammer down and in condition 2. Locked and cocked makes a bit more sense with a 1911 than a SAA.

    With DA/SA guns and double-action revolvers with an exposed hammer Condition 2 is likely where your weapon sits. Striker fired guns typically won’t have a provision for Condition 2.

    condition 2 striker uncocked
    condition 2 striker uncocked

    I say typically because guns like the P99 and it’s Canik and Magnum Research clones exist with a DA/SA striker-fired design.

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    While it’s not considered a hammer it’s hard to argue that a decocked P99 with a round in the chamber isn’t at least in the spirit of Condition 2.

    As far as concealed carry condition go Condition 2 makes sense for some guns and is a bit nonsensical for others. Condition 2 even applies to some heavy machine guns, but that’s another article for another day.

    Condition 2:

    • Chamber loaded
    • Magazine loaded
    • Hammer down

    Condition 1 – Locked, Cocked, and Ready to Rock

    Condition 1 is a weapon with a loaded magazine inserted, a round in the chamber, the hammer to the rear and the safety on.

    Condition 1 in many ways only applies to automatics.

    Condition 1 1911 and CZ-75
    Condition 1 1911

    There doesn’t seem to be a way to Condition 1 a revolver because there isn’t a safety.

    Webley-Fosbery 1902 Revolver Rock Island Auction
    Okay, ya, there are guns like the Webley-Fosbery 1902 Revolver that has a manual safety. But a manual safety on a revolver is VERY rare. This example sold at Rock Island Auction for $17,200

    Condition 1 as Jeff Cooper defined it wouldn’t apply to modern handguns like the Glock series, or most striker-fired polymer-framed guns because they lack a safety.

    Not only that but DA/SA guns that just feature a decocker can’t technically be in Condition 1 either by the strictest interpretation.

    In my many ways a Condition 1 Glock, DA/SA with Decocker only, or revolver would just be a round chambered with a full magazine or a cylinder loaded and your finger off the trigger.

    Condition 1 1911 and CZ-75
    Condition 1 1911 and CZ-75b

    Condition 1 is typically where a gun sits when it’s ready to be fired and used defensively, but is also a safe way to carry the firearm.

    For DA/SA guns with a decocker only that’s with the hammer forward, and the same goes for revolvers. I don’t know of anyone who carried a revolver in single-action mode, or a DA/SA with the hammer back without a safety in place.

    With a DA/SA gun with a safety like the CZ-75 or Beretta 92FS you can carry in Condition 1 without issue.

    What I Carried Beretta (2)
    Beretta 92FS in condition 1

    The 1911 is the perfect example of a weapon that can achieve a perfect Condition 1 existence.

    There are very few that fit this stern view of Condition 1 so Condition 1 and 2 are basically blended with modern handguns.

    Condition 1:

    • Chamber loaded
    • Magazine loaded
    • Hammer back
    • Safety on

    Condition 0 – Oh Crap

    Condition Zero is new and outside of Cooper’s conditions. Condition Zero is you are firing, or just before you fire.

    The safety is off and the gun is on target. Your finger is on the trigger. This is go time for lack of a better word.

    The safety being off is relative to the gun being fired. Condition 0 isn’t one you hear about often, but since its crept into the gun world I’d figure I’d mention it.

    Condition 0:

    • Ready to fire
    • Magazine loaded
    • Chamber loaded
    • Hammer back
    • Safety off

    What Condition to Carry In?

    When you are carry concealed Condition 1 should be your go-to, or Condition 2 with a DA/SA safety free gun or revolver. The gun needs to be prepared to fire with little being done by the shooter.

    This allows you to draw, get on target and defend yourself with the most speed possible and with little thought or complicated actions. At the end of the day, our goal is to survive, to end the threat, and to live another day.

    With such a lofty goal, I prefer to carry in a condition that requires me to do as little as possible and is as quick as possible to put into action.

    What about you, how do you carry? What do you carry? Let us know in the comments! If you’re looking for concealed carry pistols, take a look at the Best Concealed Carry Guns!

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    27 Leave a Reply

    • Commenter Avatar
      Gary

      I carry an HK USP 40 in condition 2, safety off. DA/SA allows ready but with 12~15# trigger pull, something that I anticipate will not be accidently pulled in the heat and confusion of a threat while maintaining the spring in a released state and no worries to remember to find and release the safety. This fits my recurring training schedule that is rarely better than every 6~8 weeks. And concealed carry is a perishable skill. (I shoot other disciplines every week)

      March 8, 2024 8:27 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Andrew

      Condition Zero is an accurate and honest way of describing how all the most common duty type pistols are now carried - chamber loaded, no safety, firing components pre-cocked to a degree that the trigger has a single action trigger pull weight. There is no functional difference between the safety of a cocked Beretta 92 and a Walther PPQ.

      November 10, 2023 10:32 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Brian

      I carry Condition 3. Served 2 tours in Iraq with the US Marine Corps. I have practiced drawing from condition 3. I choose to do so because I am not living in a war zone. I am situationally aware and if someone gets close enough that I can't pull my weapon and use it efficiently I lost my focus. I think the condition you carry in should make you comfortable. I also hope to never have to fire my pistol. Chambering a round may very well get me out of doing so. As it is a universal language that tells everyone the same thing. A bullet comes next. Do I need more training possibly. But I have trained and I have served in a combat zone. To suggest that I do not have enough confidence with my weapon for my choice of condition is well just foolish.

      October 14, 2023 11:49 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        TJ

        Agreed, the author has obviously never served, in a combat zone or anywhere. Another computer wannabe warrior! It is all situational awareness and geography.

        March 16, 2024 3:17 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Matt

      My Star M40 Firestar is capable of condition 1, but I carry in condition 2. I don't know why I do, it's just the way I was taught.

      September 18, 2023 6:49 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Mike

      Sorry disagree you should carry in the manner best trained for and most comfortable with.

      February 3, 2023 7:34 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Eric

      What’s the issue with condition 3? It’s a way to carry your gun safely without the need to have the mag out of the gun. A toddler can take a gun and manipulate the hammer, safety and trigger - not rack the weapon.

      August 7, 2022 11:28 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Ardy ghass

        I agree with you a 100%, unless you're in a war zone you don't need to carry your sidearm in condition 1.

        November 18, 2022 9:36 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Joe

        Thats like not wearing your seatbelt but having your hand ready to pull and latch it in right before impact. There are many obstacles one could face that would hinder racking the slide, think about it.

        December 29, 2022 9:24 am
        • Commenter Avatar
          alex

          i don't live in a moving car, though.

          August 20, 2023 10:18 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        Ben

        Came to the comments to say the same sort of thing. What people don't want to talk about when they make those cool guy gun comments like "I'll make fun of you if you carry in condition 3" is all the random variables that come into play during an average day carrying. In a perfect world with a perfect procees in place, sure, carrying in condition 1 is perfectly safe. Guns don't come in my house unless they are condition 3 or 4 because I have two toddlers, and frankly even as much as I've trained it only takes ONE mistake or slip of mind to present the possibility of an accident happening. I don't trust my memory or ability to be perfect every single time to take a condition 1 gun into my home, take a moment to make it safe in condition 3 or 4, then put it in the gun safe (parents who have experienced multiple screaming toddlers upon arrival home might be able to relate).

        February 1, 2023 9:11 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      AngryCops

      I approve your use of me over racking the slide

      September 29, 2021 2:32 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      xx

      You effed up. The Beretta 92FS/M9 CANNOT be carried Condition 1. Readiness condition is condition 2. The safety decocks the pistol.

      September 24, 2021 3:03 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        John

        100% Correct

        They F’d up Zero too.
        All striker fired weapons with no external safeties are all carried condition ZERO as are DA/SA & DAO Pistols that have no external safeties like the entire classic
        Sig P-Series P5 220, 225 226, 228, 229, 239.
        SMH people that think they are gun people and are only posers writing articles.

        December 16, 2021 12:18 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      chris

      I guess I'm carrying my P30S V3, which has both a decocker and safety, in C2 ??... chambered round, full mag, decocked, safety on. I practice safety off during draw, and maintaining speed & target during the first DA pull. Practice, practice...

      August 20, 2021 9:38 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        xx

        Putting the safety ON on a decocked handgun is redundently dumb.

        September 24, 2021 3:06 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Nolan C Conley

      " (Condition 3) If you are that scared of carrying a loaded gun then consider obtaining some firearms training and becoming more confident with your weapon."

      I purchased a Springfield Armory 911 .30 1911-style auto and carry it in my jeans pocket at all times. I also do a lot of construction and yard work.

      Upon first receiving the pistol (which I really like) I carried it in condition 1, after a day's work I checked the pistol and the safety had slipped down from the safe position to the fire position. The trigger not being pulled was the only safety left. Contacted Springfield and they installed a stiffer spring in the safety lever and told me I need to carry in a holster. I carry in my jean's pocket in condition 3. Springfield innovatively cut a "hook" or slanted inward section to the rear Trijicon equipped iron sights. Facilitating reliable racking.

      A friend asked why I foolishly carried C3, so I pulled my pistol, racked it on my jeans and was in low ready position within 2 seconds. I've also been trained by an FBI firearm instructor and have practiced on the FBI simulator. Learned things there that I could have never imagined before.

      Each individual weapon has it's own quirks. I'll take my SA 911 in my jeans C3 any day, safety off. Thank you for your service Travis! We pray for military soldiers, cops and their families every night!

      May 23, 2021 9:13 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        xx

        dumb

        September 24, 2021 3:08 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Mike

        The biggest problem you have in your carry condition is the weapon rolling around in your pocket! In a world where most people (maybe you also) carry their phone in a holster, and you as a construction worker carry your tools in some bag or container, you should have more care (& truth be told, more respect) for not only your safety, but those around you. If you don't have faith (and rightly so) about the safety aspect of carrying your weapon around like a pack of life savers - maybe you should simply change the location before the condition.

        This is only food for thought!!!

        November 26, 2021 9:57 pm
        • Commenter Avatar
          yy

          "This is only food for thought!!!"

          Doesn't make you sound less stupid.

          April 29, 2022 1:07 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      David

      I feel dumb carrying on condition 3. Striker fired with no manual safety I think of some situations where that would not be right for me. I think the solution is a small 1911.

      January 20, 2021 8:09 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Rick

      The plunger tube on a 1911 is held on to the frame by two tiny riveted nipples on the inside of the plunger tube. That is all that is keeping the plungers and plunger spring in place to keep the thumb safety lug blocking the sear engaged against the hammer ledge. I've seen thumb safeties poorly fitted that allow hammer drops and I've seen plunger tubes come loose. I would love for the 1911 to have a more sturdy safety system in regard to the thumb safety. I've built dozens of 1911s over the years and was an FFL for many years.

      August 30, 2020 9:13 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Will Huckette

      I carry (Taurus G2c) in condition 0. This doesn't mean 'oh crap' though since there still are a couple things that must happen first before the gun will fire. When it's holstered, that's safety #1. Then the trigger safety itself is safety #2. I only use the thumb safety when I take it out of the holster to move it to another safe location. When it's on me, it's always "ready to go."

      May 14, 2020 12:15 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        xx

        That isn't condition 1. It is striker fired, not hammer fired. The "conditions" were developed before their prolific use. It is more akin to condition 2.

        September 24, 2021 3:11 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Jeff

      You can also carry a striker fired SAO ( Sig P365 manual safity or S&W M&P 40 m2.0 manual safety) in condition 1.

      April 12, 2020 8:23 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Bull o' the Woods

      I took a class once with a Sig P226 just to see how I liked running that gun. Because I was used to the 1911, I kept forgetting to de-cock when re-holstering. No negligent discharges because I kept my finger off the trigger. It was unnerving to repeatedly find myself in "Condition 0" by mistake. That class put me off DA/SA autos for all time. Now it's mostly Glock or some other striker-fired semi-auto.

      April 12, 2020 11:11 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Brian

      Travis,

      Great run down and a fun read. While I am a former Marine and retired Naval Officer, I never felt the need to own personal firearms until the the past few years. You website has been and remains a great resource for the fundamentals as well as continuing training. For EDC, I have a Sig P365XL and carry in condition 0 or 1, depending on your point of view: Chamber loaded and magazine in. There is no safety and it is striker fired. In short, ready to fire when drawn.

      I do have a backup for deep conceal that doesn’t quite fit any of the actions you discussed. It is a Remington RM380 double action only (DAO) with about a 12 lb trigger pull. You really have to mean it to send a round down range. I also carry that one with the chamber loaded and magazine in. It really likes to digest Remington Golden Saber and Fiocchi JHP. On occasion, it will stovepipe Hornady Critical Defense.

      Appreciate what you do.
      SF!

      April 11, 2020 9:58 pm
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