How To Carry Cocked and Locked
Feb 8, 2017
The Finer Points of Cocked and Locked Carry
One of the most popular carry methods is to cocked and locked carry, where a pistol is carried with the hammer cocked, a round chambered and a manual safety engaged. Not all pistols are capable of it; a semi-auto pistol with a manual safety is required.
However, for those that do carry in this manner or might be considering doing so (or a pistol that does), there are a few things to know about how it's done right.
Good Old Condition One
Cocked and locked carry is also referred to as "Condition One." Like just about everything defensive pistol, the genesis of the terminology is Col. Jeff Cooper, who codified a number of "conditions" of a pistol.
Each condition represents one step closer to being ready to fire and a corresponding descending number of actions required to fire.
For instance, Condition Four is where a handgun has no magazine in the mag well, no round is chambered and the hammer is cocked. Condition Three (aka Israeli carry) is where a magazine is inserted, but nothing else; Condition Two is a magazine is in the pistol and a round is chambered but the hammer is fully down.
Condition One, aka cocked and locked, is where a pistol has been loaded, charged, the hammer is fully cocked and the manual safety engaged. Condition Zero is when the safety is removed; all that's needed to fire is a trigger pull.
Mostly, it's only possible with single-action semi-auto pistols such as 1911 pistols or the Browning Hi Power, or double/single pistols that have a manual safety without a decocking function, such as certain CZ-75 models and their respective clones.
Comfort And Your Gun Belt Will Matter
Most pistols capable of classic cocked and locked carry are on the large side, so it behooves you to have a good gun belt, which is frankly necessary for compact and full-size pistols. The garden variety 1911 weighs more than 3 pounds loaded, despite being slimmer than most other full-size guns.
An insufficient gun belt will cause your gun to shift about and sag while carrying, which is never pleasant. So to ensure a good carry experience, as well as secure retention, make sure you have a good strong gun belt.
Also, another good suggestion is take steps to ensure your comfort while carrying. A cocked and locked pistol can, for some people, rub you a little raw.
It comes down to the extra bits on the slide. You see, a slide stop/release and takedown bar don't stick out too far on most pistols, but thumb safeties have a tendency to protrude away from the slide to a certain degree. The effect is that, unless you're carrying a firearm in a holster with a sweat shield, it's going to stick you in the side periodically.
It isn't bad, but it can get annoying. Therefore, consider wearing an undershirt between the gun and your skin, especially if carrying in a high-riding OWB holster.
Get An Appropriate Cocked And Locked Holster
The best cocked and locked holster design is one with an "open top." It isn't that you can't carry with a thumb break; in fact many do for condition one carry. However, there's something you should consider.
Just like the Glock safety system and others like it mandate that any striker-fired pistol be carried with full trigger guard coverage, you may want to avoid a thumb strap on a gun you're going to carry with an engaged safety is the thumb strap may inadvertently de-activate the safety.
It really doesn't take much. Just a little rubbing this way and that way and click - the safety is disengaged. Now you have a single-action firearm that's fully cocked, with nothing but a short trigger pull in the way of a discharge.
Even a bit of clothing can trip the safety as well, if you're wearing the gun in the right place and the right kind of clothes for this outcome to occur.
Granted, there are certain counters. The 1911 in particular has a grip safety; the pistol cannot fire unless the grip safety is depressed and deactivated BEFORE pulling the trigger. Additionally, many of the pistols capable of cocked and locked carry have a firing pin block drop safety AND a half-cock notch. These features further ensure against a discharge caused by anything other than a trigger pull.
That said, if you do carry in condition one, make sure that safety deactivation is part of your regular defensive shooting practice. If you do any draw and fire drills, make sure to disengage the safety as part of your presentation and firing. That way, you'll learn to do so automatically, should you need to pull your pistol when it matters.
About The Author
Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.