There are 5 conditions of carry that were originally developed for a 1911 model handgun. Most of these conditions still apply to modern day semi-automatic handguns like the Glock, M&P, and Springfield XD. Although some of these conditions are inherently “safer” than others, they all still rely on the carrier’s own safety practices. I’ll cover these from safest to least safe.
Condition 4 – This is an empty chamber and no magazine in
the weapon. I call this California Carry because this is/was the only way you
could open carry in CA.
Condition 3 – This is an empty chamber, hammer down, and a
loaded magazine in the weapon.
Condition 2 – This is a loaded chamber, hammer down, and a
loaded magazine in the weapon. I’ve also heard this was hammer at half-cock for
the 1911 folks. For the striker fired folks (Glock, XD, and M&P, et al.),
this one does not apply.
Condition 1 – This is a loaded chamber, hammer cocked,
safety on, and a loaded magazine in the weapon. For guns with no external
safety, remember the trigger is the safety here. Keep your finger off the
trigger and there won’t be any loud bangs. (Keep your booger hook off the bang
Condition 0 – This is a loaded chamber, hammer cocked,
safety off, and a loaded magazine in the weapon.
Now, what condition should you carry your pistol in? In my
opinion, you should always carry in Condition 1. If you’re not comfortable
carrying in this condition, feel free to back down to the condition you are
comfortable with until you can become comfortable with Condition 1. That will
only come with training and confidence. Remember too, any operations other than
drawing and releasing a safety will take precious time if you’re in the heat of
a fight. If a bad guy already has the drop on you, do you really want to take
the time to be doing fine motor skills like inserting a magazine or racking a
slide? Sure, you can practice this all you want, but you’ll still never be as
fast as you can be without having to perform those same tasks.