“She was murdered three hours ago.”
I’ll never forget the moment. It was early, and I was sleeping well until now.
I woke up to a ringing phone. The head of scheduling at one of my businesses just told me that my employee was murdered.
English is my native language, but for a moment I forgot every word of it. What do you say to that? “Murdered?”
A woman I formerly saw every single day was murdered by her husband. I trained her myself.
He slit her throat in her sleep because she was leaving him.
She had lost a lot of weight, cured her depression, and turned her entire life around. He was a parasite who never worked and expected her to be the man of the house.
He stabbed her over and over after she was already dead.
Three weeks before he murdered her, she had told me she didn’t feel safe with him in the house. I told her I thought she should kick him out, because the house was hers. She wouldn’t do it.
I offered her a weapon, since she knew I had several. “Just leave it under your pillow, just in case.”
She wouldn’t do it. “I don’t have it in me to kill, not for any reason.”
“Not even if he tries to kill you?”
“No. If it comes to that, then I guess he’ll have to kill me.”
She wasn’t ready.
I truly wish she had been.
The Conditions of Readiness is an idea that has been around for a while. This is an idea we apply to weapons, but once again we’re going to broaden our focus. Your weapon might be ready, but are you?
Where Did The Conditions of Readiness Come From?
Where did this idea come from, exactly? You shouldn’t be surprised, because he conceptualized or popularized most great ideas in the modern self defense gospel. The answer is Jeff Cooper.
I’m not going to steal Cooper’s ideas without giving him credit. I’ve actually seen some blogs and professional trainers do this, and I don’t want Business and Bullets to be like them.
As a matter of fact, I have no problem telling you to read it from Cooper instead of me. You shouldn’t have a problem with it being an affiliate link. If you care about your safety and you’ve never heard of Jeff Cooper, I really recommend you read his book.
What is the Idea Behind The Conditions of Readiness?
The idea behind the Conditions of Readiness is a simple question.
How many actions must you perform to make ready?
The fewer actions you must perform, the better off you are. You still have to think of safety, though.
All you really need to know about the idea behind the Conditions of Readiness is that we are trying to be as ready as possible without sacrificing an acceptable margin of safety. Nobody wants to shoot themselves in the ass when they’re trying to get on target.
What Are The Conditions of Readiness?
Condition 0 – A round is in the chamber, the hammer is cocked, and the safety is off.
Condition 1 – A round is in the chamber, the hammer is cocked, and the safety is on.
Condition 2 – A round is in the chamber and the hammer is down (not cocked).
Condition 3 – The chamber is empty and the hammer is down and the magazine is loaded.
Condition 4 – The chamber is empty, hammer is down and no magazine is in the gun.
Breaking Down The Conditions of Readiness
Cooper had the 1911 pistol in mind when he came up with this concept, but it applies to all weapons. This goes against what is usually taught, but it’s not a stretch to apply the Conditions of Readiness to a revolver or a bolt action rifle.
The biggest problem I have with just about all today’s “experts” is that they either parrot what earlier experts said or they outright steal the ideas of earlier experts and claim it was their innovation.
There is nothing new under the sun, including this quote.” – Lloyd
We should take the ideas of the past and try to apply them outside of their original intent and see what we can learn.
We’re going to do just that with the Conditions of Readiness. We’ll stick to pistols for now and look at revolvers (and ourselves) in a moment.
We carry different pistols differently. By design, some pistols are safest to carry in a Condition of Readiness that isn’t safe for another type of pistol. Let’s look at that a little closer.
Conditions of Readiness – Condition Zero
For a pistol to truly be carried at Condition Zero, it must be safe to carry with no action needed to fire it except pulling the trigger.
Once upon a time, there were no pistols considered safe to carry like this. Now we take it for granted because most modern pistols are carried in Condition Zero.
What happened? Glock happened.
Possibly the most common handgun in the world by now, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what a Glock is.
Since the Glock became a standard in the law enforcement community, pretty much anybody that wants to compete in the LEO sidearm market has to emulate the Glock. That means polymer frames, high capacity magazines, and no standard manual safety.
Glocks are designed to be carried in Condition Zero. The safety is on the trigger, so there is no manual safety to disengage. Point and click.
Your only options with a Glock (or similar pistol) are to carry it in Condition Zero or Condition Three. There is no manual safety, and there is no external hammer. Conditions One and Two are out.
Conditions of Readiness – Condition One
For a pistol to be in Condition One, it must be carried with a round in the chamber and the safety engaged. Disengaging the safety as you bring the gun to bear makes it equally fast as carrying in Condition Zero.
Gun guys call this “Cocked and Locked”.
People have been carrying cocked and locked for over 100 years. I don’t know if this is an American thing or not, but both of the single action pistols I routinely carry were originally designed by an American named John Moses Browning.
JMB could be the subject of an entire post on his own.
If you’re not familiar with him, just know that he’s probably the most prolific and important firearms designer of the past 150 years. Sure, Sam Colt designed the revolver, but Browning designed everything from pistols to machine guns.
1911s and Browning Hi Powers (and clones of both) are designed to be carried in Condition One. The safety doesn’t even function unless the hammer is cocked. The only other safe alternative is Condition Three, but it isn’t as quick into action.
You could carry a single action pistol in Condition Two, but you’d probably shoot yourself in the foot.
Conditions of Readiness – Condition Two
For a pistol to be carried in Condition Two, it must be carried with a round in the chamber and the hammer down on that live round.
Some pistols are designed to be carried in Condition Two. Pistols like these are almost always of European descent.
Think of the Walther PPK. The Beretta M9. The Sig Sauer P226.
In old European pistols, the magazine release button was on the butt of the pistol. That’s a shitty place for it. The Europeans got smart and stole the American location for it and put it on the frame.
These European – American fusion styled pistols became popular in America in the 1980s.
The American Military started using one and still uses it today, but that’s too long of a story to get into here. Lots of police departments started using them as well.
The heyday of these pistols started when cops quit carrying revolvers and ended when cops started carrying Glocks. Some departments still carry them, but they usually carry high-end pistols. The truth of the matter is that good traditional double action pistols are expensive and they’re harder to use.
The first shot is in double action and subsequent shots are in single action. You have to learn two different trigger pulls, so this isn’t a very effective system. You can train around it, but it isn’t intuitive and it’s the hardest type of pistol to master.
These pistols usually feature a “decocker” to make getting into Condition Two safer and easier. If your pistol is meant to be carried in Condition Two and it doesn’t have a decocker, then carry it in Condition One.
Don’t make easy things hard.
Conditions of Readiness – Condition Three
For a pistol to be carried in Condition Three, it must be carried with an empty chamber and a loaded magazine. That means you have to rack the slide to load the chamber before you can fire.
I shouldn’t have to tell you why that’s a disadvantage. It may not take long, but it’s going to take longer than flicking a safety and pulling the trigger.
There are advantages to Condition Three, though.
If you exclusively carry in Condition Three, then action type is irrelevant. All pistols function the same if you only carry in Condition Three.
Pull back the slide, release it, point the gun, pull the trigger. Doesn’t matter if you’re shooting a Glock, a 1911, a Beretta, whatever.
Another advantage is if you’ve got a gun stashed in the house and someone who has limited training needs to use it. My wife has exclusively shot pistols as if she carried them in Condition Three, so she doesn’t have to think about how to make a particular pistol ready.
This gives me the advantage of not having a pistol ready to fire laying around the house. That’s a factor to consider if you’ve got small children. The moment you say they can’t do something is the moment right before they do it.
It’s still better to carry your gun the way it was designed to be carried, but Condition Three at least has its uses.
Conditions of Readiness – Condition Four
For a pistol to be carried in Condition Four, it must be carried with an empty chamber and without a magazine in the gun. In other words, the pistol is a fucking paperweight.
An unloaded gun is only going to kill one idiot: You.
Let me give you an example.
My great uncle is walking around with a bullet in his back because he was trying to get back his car. Someone stole his car and sold it, and he was rightly taking it back.
His son, who was a low-level competitive fighter at the time, was confronting the new owner of the car. The new owner pulled a pistol and tried to shoot my cousin, but he missed and shot my uncle in the back.
My uncle crawled to his son’s car, got his pistol out of the dash, and rammed the magazine into the gun. Then the magazine fell out.
It wasn’t even the right magazine for that gun, and they didn’t know that beforehand because they “carried” in Condition Four!
The story has a happy ending, though.
My cousin beat the coward nearly to death, and my great uncle survived. The doctors decided to leave the bullet in him. Every time it rains, he gets reminded of the folly of keeping his gun unloaded.
Conditions of Readiness and Revolvers
You might be thinking, “Hey, I don’t need to know any of this. I’m a dedicated six-gun man. This is useless for me.”
Yes, you don’t have to think about it as much. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think.
Double Action Revolvers
When you carry a double action revolver, you’re carrying it in Condition Zero. Expand your thinking and remove the distinction between revolver and pistol.
How many actions do you need to take to make the weapon ready?
None. Pull the trigger and the gun goes bang.
With some Double Action Revolvers, you don’t even have the option of cocking the hammer because they don’t have exposed hammers.
Lacking a hammer isn’t a big deal for a self defense revolver because you’ll do better shooting if you exclusively practice double action shooting with them. That’s coming from a single action sixgunner.
You should ingrain the idea that your double action revolver is in Condition Zero and remove the possibility of cocking the hammer from your mind. Under stress, a cocked hammer on a double action revolver usually leads to a negligent discharge.
You cock the hammer and fire. In the stress of the moment, you don’t realize you’ve relaxed enough to reset the trigger. Your attacker mounts another attack and you grip the gun harder out of reflex.
Your finger is still on the trigger. You clench your hands in a stress response. Bang.
Congratulations, you’ve just wasted one of your five or six rounds. Maybe two, if you’re really unlucky.
Remove the possibility of cocking the hammer by ingraining the concept of your weapon being in Condition Zero.
Single Action Revolvers
If you carry a single action sixgun, you carry it in Condition One. The trick is, each shot is in Condition One. You have to take one action (cocking the hammer) every time you fire the weapon.
This is different from single action pistols like the Browning Hi Power because they stay ready after the first shot is fired.
Without a doubt, the most difficult type of handgun to master for self defense. You can do it, but that doesn’t mean you should.
Carry it if you want to. I carry one sometimes, but I don’t lie to myself about how effective I’d be in a firefight with it.
Why Does the Revolver Man Need to Think About Conditions of Readiness?
Easy, Ernie. It’s tactics.
Tactics are MORE important to Revolver Roger than they are to Pistol Pete.
Fewer rounds per reload plus less safety (double action) and longer time to make ready per shot (single action) means Revolver Roger needs to form a better battle plan than Pistol Pete.
Double action revolvers are easy to fire more than once under stress, and you don’t have many rounds to begin with. Before you know it, you’ve run that Ruger dry. Keep your finger off the damn trigger until you’re ready to fire.
Single action revolvers require you to cock the hammer every time you fire. You cycle from Condition One to Condition Zero every time you fire. That means you have to find cover or concealment every time you cock the hammer.
Life isn’t a fucking video game.
If you’re going to carry a revolver in the modern world, you’re going to have to think about your tactics. You can’t just present your pistol and pull the bang switch until the bad guy drops.
Most people that run handgun drills have run “failure to stop” drills. I call these “shot ’til they drop” drills. Try running them with a revolver and speed-loading.
You’ll probably never have to worry about being in a fight. If you are in a fight and you’re carrying a revolver, you’re going to have to pay much more attention to your tactics.
In all honesty, your own condition of readiness is going to matter a lot more than your weapon’s.
Conditions of Readiness and You
There are at least three things you need to address to know if you are ready. Your mind, your body, and your soul.
Your mind is your primary weapon. How many moves do you have to make to get your mind ready for a fight? Will you thrive, survive, or struggle to stay alive?
Are you observing Cooper’s color code? Are you living a life of relaxed alertness, or are you hunched over and looking at your phone?
Do you know how to leverage the OODA Loop? Can you make several good moves at once? Can you prevent your attacker from doing the same?
Your body is your secondary weapon. The moment chooses you, not the other way around. If you had to fight for your life right now, is your body ready?
Have you been hitting the weights? Are you strong enough? You don’t have to be able to bench a bus, but you have to be able to save yourself.
Have you been getting your cardio? Have you learned how to fight? If you lost your gun, would you curl up and wait to die?
Make no mistake. In the arena there are only two outcomes: either you will die, or the other man will.
Have you made peace with this?
“I don’t have it in me to kill, not for any reason.”
She knew she couldn’t kill, even if her life depended on it. She was a loving woman and wouldn’t hurt anyone. The very man that should have been her protector killed her.
She had a ready mind, and a ready body, but she couldn’t be ready in her soul and she knew this.
Killing doesn’t come naturally to human beings. Even killing for survival. If it did, we’d have claws on our paws and fangs in our jaws.
The first time I killed an animal, I didn’t know how I should feel. I was able to cross that line, and I saw that I was able to do so again as long as my actions were honorable. I can kill an animal if it dies to feed my family.
I approach self defense with the same mindset. I’ve made my peace with the mark of Cain. I have to live to support my family, and I’d be selfishly hurting my family if I allowed myself to be killed.
I am willing to suffer for them. Financially, legally, socially, spiritually. Killing a man hurts you on many levels.