4 Handgun Carry Conditions: Best for Concealed Carry?

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.

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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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570
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

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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6 Leave a Reply

  • 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.

    2 days ago
  • 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.

    4 months ago
  • 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."

    8 months ago
  • 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.

    9 months ago
  • 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.

    9 months ago
  • 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!

    9 months ago
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