The legendary guru of the combat 1911, Jeff Cooper, came up with the “Condition” system to define the state of readiness of the
1911-pattern pistol. The are:
Condition 0 – A round is in the chamber, hammer is cocked, and the safety is off.
Condition 1 – Also known as “cocked and locked,” means a round is in the chamber, the hammer is cocked, and the manual thumb
safety on the side of the frame is applied.
Condition 2 – A round is in the chamber and the hammer is down.
Condition 3 – The chamber is empty and hammer is down with a charged magazine in the gun.
Condition 4 – The chamber is empty, hammer is down and no magazine is in the gun.
The mode of readiness preferred by the experts is Condition One. Generally speaking, Condition One offers the best balance of
readiness and safety. Its biggest drawback is that it looks scary to people who don’t understand the operation and safety features of
Condition Two is problematic for several reasons, and is the source of more negligent discharges than the other conditions. When you
rack the slide to chamber a round in the 1911, the hammer is cocked and the manual safety is off. There is no way to avoid this with
the 1911 design. In order to lower the hammer, the trigger must be pulled and the hammer lowered slowly with the thumb onto the
firing pin, the end of which is only a few millimeters away from the primer of a live round. Should the thumb slip, the hammer would
drop and fire the gun. Not only would a round be launched in circumstances which would be at best embarrassing and possibly tragic,
but also the thumb would be behind the slide as it cycled, resulting in serious injury to the hand. A second problem with this condition
is that the true 1911A1 does not have a firing pin block and an impact on the hammer which is resting on the firing pin could
conceivably cause the gun to go off, although actual instances of this are virtually nonexistent. Finally, in order to fire the gun, the
hammer must be manually cocked, again with the thumb. In an emergency situation, this adds another opportunity for something to go
wrong and slows the acquisition of the sight picture.
Condition Three adds a degree of “insurance” against an accidental discharge since there is no round in the chamber. To bring the gun
into action from the holster, the pistol must be drawn and the slide racked as the pistol is brought to bear on the target. This draw is
usually called “the Israeli draw” since it was taught by Israeli security and defense forces. Some of the real expert trainers can do an
Israeli draw faster than most of us can do a simple draw, but for most of us, the Israeli draw adds a degree of complexity, an extra
step, and an opening for mistakes in the process of getting the front sight onto the target.
With permission of The Sight 1911A1