Colonel Jeff Cooper: Carry Conditions and Firearm Safety - ITS Tactical

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Colonel Jeff Cooper: Carry Conditions and Firearm Safety

By Bryan Black

Depending on how long you’ve been shooting and what kind of instruction you’ve had, you may have heard of Col. Cooper before.

Cooper’s wisdom has been heavily integrated into modern shooting and today we’ll look at a few things you should commit to memory if you own or carry a gun.

Colonel Jeff Cooper

Col. Jeff Cooper led a life dedicated to not only serving his country in WWII and Korea, but teaching his fellow man how to become more proficient with a firearm.

In 1976 he founded Gunsite Training Center just north of Prescott, Arizona. Gunsite was first known as API (American Pistol Institute), developed to teach rifle and shotgun classes to Military, Law Enforcement and Civilians.

Today it’s well known as a resource for learning the basics of defensive pistol and skills with shotgun and rifle. Despite Cooper’s sale of Gunsite in 1992 he continued to reside on the property where he lived his remaining years passing on his knowledge.

While Col. Cooper died in 2006, his wisdom and spirit will always be with the shooting community.

4 Rules of Firearms Safety

Proof of Col. Cooper’s legacy is evident in every basic to advanced shooting class we know about. If an instructor isn’t teaching the 4 rules of firearm safety to a crop of new students, they’re reciting it to a group of advanced students to hammer home it’s importance.

While their have been some slight modifications to these, depending on who’s saying them, the premise is always the same.

  • Rule #1 – All guns are always loaded.
  • Rule #2 – Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
  • Rule #3 – Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
  • Rule #4 – Identify your target, and what is behind it.

As I’m sure you’ve seen people at a range muzzle sweeping and with their fingers on their triggers, there should be a test every time a firearm is purchased. You should have to recite these four rules out loud, from memory!

It never fails that some feel just because a gun is unloaded, it’s ok to point it at people! (See Rule #1)

These are the core fundamentals that everyone should have committed to memory and be able to rattle off at any time.

Carry Conditions

Sig Sauer P225The condition in which you carry your firearm is a heavily debated issue and one that I’ve taken a stance on before. In my opinion a gun should always be carried with a round in the chamber. The use of a external safety, is entirely up to the individual and their level of training.

I would strongly agree that a single action gun without a firing pin block (safety) should not be carried with a round in the chamber and the hammer down. Without the block in place, the hammer movement could cause the gun to fire even the trigger wasn’t pulled.

  • Condition Four: Chamber empty, no magazine, hammer down.
  • Condition Three: Chamber empty, full magazine, hammer down.
  • Condition Two: Round chambered, full magazine, hammer down.
  • Condition One: Round chambered, full magazine, hammer cocked, safety on.
  • Condition Zero: Round chambered, full magazine, hammer cocked, safety off.

I carry a Sig Sauer P225 daily which is a DA/SA (Double Action, Single Action), which means that the first squeeze of the trigger cocks the hammer and fires the weapon, successive shots are single action which don’t require the heavier trigger pull needed to cock the hammer first, as the slide travel is cocking the hammer.

My Sig is carried in condition two as the chart goes, but to me this is condition zero. This is because I don’t have to worry about cocking a hammer with the double action pull and there’s no manual safety to remove to fire. This is a primary reason I favor Sigs, in addition to featuring a decocker. I happen to like that my finger is my safety.

I would also like to strongly suggest that you to read this article if you carry your weapon in a leather holster or carry a weapon with a trigger safety. I bring this article up merely as a reminder to check your equipment and know your weapon’s capability.

What kind of gun do you carry and in what condition?

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  • Alden

    How do the carry conditions apply to a glock or xd? (since there is no hammer or external safety)

  • Kris

    I am sure my post will be like many others, but I carry a Kahr PM9 or a Glock 21 in condition zero/two. Neither have a hammer or external safety.

  • GuardianEthos

    I carry a Reminton 1911, condition 1.

  • Matt Semans

    Glock 19 Condition One, Kydex Hoslter

  • Alden

    Glock 19, condition 2-1-0. Just gonna call it ready. 🙂

  • Jose Soto

    On duty: H&K P2000 .40 in Condition Two.
    Off duty: Either a Glock 22 or a Glock 27 in Condition One.
    I always carry at least one spare mag off duty.

  • Murphy

    Kimber 1911 condition 1

  • I have two of Col. Cooper’s books: The Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth; and Principals of Personal Defense. Both of them are good books, but I would highly recommend Principals of Personal Defense to really drive home the defensive mindset. It’s not a practical book, in that it doesn’t teach you how to shoot or stay out of a fight all together. Instead, it talks about being alert, decisive, aggressive, fast, cool and ruthless; principals that will serve you well whether you’re armed or not.

    As for me, my handgun of choice is a Kimber 1911 carried in condition one. I do own an XD, and the reason I prefer not to carry it is that I don’t trust carrying it half-cocked on a loaded chamber. And if I need it, I don’t want to have to rack the slide. I figure people have been carrying 1911s in condition one for decades without incident, and taking the safety off when you need the gun to go bang, bang, bang ain’t no thing when you’ve trained for it.

  • Hello from Canada, where concealed carry is illegal.

    Condition Canada: Chamber empty, no magazine, hammer down, pistol trigger locked, in the gun safe. Call police and wait while bad guy kills you.

    • Paul Corrie

      It would be funny, if it weren’t so unfortunate.

  • boba fett

    Aw yeahhh. Good stuff.

    Also, I miss my p6 for the same reasons mentioned. 😐

  • Glock22 RTF2 – Condition 1
    Cross Breed Holster
    No extra mag. I figure if I’m jammed up and 16 rounds can’t get me out, I can pick up a bad guy’s down range.

  • aaroneous

    XD .40, in a severely cut [modified] Crossbreed IWB, Condition 1/0 [ready]. Whenever I store my gun, I remove the round from the chamber, put it back in the mag, then put the mag back in the gun. I’ve always felt that doing that routine of chambering/unchambering a round whenever I put my holster on and take it off is part of a good reminder of the four rules. It also forces me to think about what I’m doing.

    • Casey

      Watch out for bullet setback if you chamber the same round over and over… I generally chamber a round twice, then it gets tossed in with my training ammo.

  • Reddog

    Sig P230, condition 2 (DA/SA-no safety, so also condition 0.)

  • Tank

    SA 1911 micro compact – Condition 1
    M&P 9 – Condition 0/2
    Glock 19 – Condition 0/2

    Before anyone asks, no I do not carry all 3 at the same time.

  • JLS

    Glock 19 – Condition 1
    1911 Govt – Condition 1

    ***I know there is some argument and debate on what condition a Glock is in when you have a round chambered. I consider it Condition 1 because the Glock does have safeties engaged given your finger is not on the trigger. There is the safety on the trigger mechanism and the firing pin block, thus there is a safety ON defining condition 1***

  • Marty Black

    Condition 3 because I can chamber and duck at the same time. This is normal EDC in friendly territory, anywhere else is condition 2 which also dictates which weapon. Normally a DB380. Glock 20 alternate.

  • johnyD

    SIG P239 Condition 2/ Extra magazine, two when I have the room

  • Bill – Jackel

    Springfield Custom, Officers grip, Commander slide, condition 1

  • treestump

    I carry a pre ban cz75, condition 1. took about 3 weeks of training to incorporate the safety into the draw, but now that i’m used to it, and the sweet single action that follows, i cant imagine carrying any other way.

  • I carry a S&W 645 condition 2.5 That would be condition 2 plus safety on. Safety is disengaged as my hand slides down the handle in preparation to draw. Then it is in condition 2 as I come to bear on target.

  • Mike Honcho

    When/Where did Cooper originally put the safety rules out? I know they were tweaked over time, but does anybody know the original source?

  • Don

    Glock 27, condition zero. To me, the Glock doesn’t have conditions 1 and 2 – by racking the slide, you go straight from 3 to zero.

    IMHO, Zero = “pull the trigger, without consciously disengaging any safeties, and it goes ‘bang'”. Some might say that the Glock’s trigger safety is equivalent to a 1911’s safety; I’d disagree. If I put my finger inside the trigger guard and squeeze, the Glock fires. To me, that’s condition zero. It’s functionally equivalent to a 1911’s condition zero (after all, a modern 1911 might have a “grip safety”, and don’t we still call it condition zero even though you have to squeeze the grip?). IMHO, the Glock’s trigger safety is more analogous to a modern 1911 grip safety.

  • XDM 40 compact – full mag, empty chamber, not cocked. (condition 3) I have spent many, many, many hours drawing and racking the slide; it’s almost a trick for me now.

  • Lavon

    Taurus .45 ACP 24/7 OSS, Condition 1.

    I say Condition 1, but curious…The 24/7 OSS has a de-cocker when the safety is enabled, which puts it in DA mode. So wouldn’t this technically be Condition 2, just with an added manual safety?

    Much easier to just say “Condition 1” if ever asked by law enforcement.

  • SharonMcKenzie

    I have various carry options, but prefer revolvers because there’s nothing to remember like whether the safety is on or off; my finger is the safety.  I normally carry either a .38 sp. “snubbie” or a .327 Federal Magnum with a 2.2 inch barrel.  Both can be used DA or SA by manually cocking the hammer, so for practical intent and purpose, both would be carried in Condition 2 because the hammer is down.  I also have a semi-auto that I carry in my pocket from time to time, a Ruger LC9 9mm, which I carry in Condition 1.  Like the Sig, it’s DA/SA so I could carry it in Condition 0, with the safety off, since that first trigger pull is pretty darned heavy for a small firearm.  It also has a magazine disconnect so if the mag is not fully seated you can’t pull the trigger.

  • Pete

    FN 1910, 380 Auto. Striker fired. Full mag, empty chamber. Slide/trigger block safety + grip safety. Very safe gun for pocket carry. Very small gun, racking the slide is done is a sec. Removing safety is done with one small movement of the thumb, grip safety is not even worth mentioning as it comes to saving time.

  • JE17

    I just started carrying a Colt Mustang. Right now I’m carrying condition 3 but as I get more comfortable I will reach condition 1. This might be different than a 1911 but I am able to put one in the chamber, put the hammer down and then re-engage the safety. Meaning to fire I would need to draw, take safety off, pull hammer back and then fire. I have attempted this and am able to do it one handed which is obviously bether than condition 3 because I don’t need two hands. So it’s condition 2 but with the safety also on. Is there a reason I shouldn’t carry like that? It will not fire like this, I’ve tried. Everything I read though says never carry a 1911 condition 2 and the Mustang is basically just a scaled down version of that.

    • JE17

      Wow, just saw how old this was. I’ll try elsewhere.

    • Jon C.

      When you get more confident try to carry in at least condition 2 or 1. From a tactical point of view this is your best chance of being able to defend your life. You want to have to do as little as possible when your panicking..

  • Buffalospirit

    AMT 1911   Open carry in MN and WI.  Conceal on occasion too.  I carry;  and always have, in condition 1.   Round chambered, cocked, locked and at ready.  I generally carry two extra mags but when I know I am going to be in a larger community or dangerous place,   I carry four and extra loose ammo.  Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.

  • JimMonty

    Ruger LC9S Pro… Condition 3.

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