On my first night as a peace officer, the training officer I was assigned to asked, if I was prepared for a war. I was carrying a cocked and locked, hammer to the rear, safety on, Colt Combat Commander .45 in a Safariland holster. Two spare magazines were on the left front. I may have been a little ahead of the times.
I had read everything Jeff Cooper and Chuck Taylor had written, true, but I had also listened to the reports of soldiers of the greatest generation. I had also done my own research. I felt that I was as well armed as I could be with a handgun.
When he followed with ‘Damn hammer is cocked’ I had to explain cocked and locked carry. I am not certain he was convinced.
A very experienced Sergeant I knew carried his 1911 hammer down, and figured he had time to cock the hammer. A detective I knew carried his Series 70 chamber empty—a more serious tactical drawback. That was 40 years ago. After seeing double action revolvers cocked in the holster, and more than a few SIG P series re-holstered cocked, I understand the concern of that training officer.
When the 1911 handgun is properly carried, the hammer is cocked and the safety is engaged locking both the slide and sear. The safety is moved to the fire position after the pistol is drawn, not in the holster, and as the handgun is moved toward the threat. After the threat is engaged and neutralized or the time to re-holster comes, the safety is moved to the safe position. Pressure is applied to the top of the safety to move the safety off and to the bottom to place it on. This is Condition One carry mode.
Condition two is when the hammer is carried with the hammer down and the chamber loaded. This condition has some merit for home ready but not for concealed carry. Lowering the hammer on a loaded chamber demands care and careful handling. Cocking the hammer on the draw isn’t the fastest or most sure maneuver.
The final carry mode is just nonsensical and a very poor choice. This is Condition Three, which is carrying the handgun with the chamber empty. If you do not trust self-loaders, then carry a revolver! This carry means you will need to use both hands to make the pistol ready, which may not be true of the fumble prone hammer down carry. (A very small pistol such as the Springfield 911 is much easier to cock than a 1911. With the Browning High Power, it is more difficult to cock the hammer.) The full-size 1911 should be carried cocked and locked, or you should look for another handgun. Period.
It is interesting that the first Browning designed self-loaders demanded that the hammer be manually lowered and then cocked to fire. After the Colt 1900, John Moses Browning designed his Colt 1903 with a slide lock safety and also a grip safety. The 1911 followed. The Winchester 1897 shotgun had an exposed hammer and also demanded cocking the hammer to make it ready. A great improvement was the Winchester Model 12 shotgun. Like the modern Remington 870, the Winchester 12 featured a hidden hammer, as did the Colt 1903. When you cannot see the hammer, folks seem to have fewer problems with the cocked hammer.
Today, most handguns in service are double action only pistols. It is ridiculous to believe they are safer than the 1911, but they are easier and cheaper to train with. Bean counters love them. Then there are quite a few single action pistols that are passed off as safer because the trigger presses the sear a bit before firing, in the manner of the Dreyse pistol. That is a single action in my opinion and single-action folks normally carry without a safety. I don’t carry one of these pistols. Many do and since they cannot see the hammer, they do not give it a second thought.
What is happening is that folks are afraid of a handgun’s carry mode, but they like the firing characteristics. Sorry, that isn’t very bright. I cannot sugar coat the problem at the cost of your life. Do a few range drills. Whatever time you are able to achieve drawing a single and racking the slide or cocking the hammer before firing, you will be behind the curve of a properly carried cocked-and-locked, single action pistol. And this time will be slower during the stress of an actual attack. Although I prefer the 1911 by leagues, I would carry a Glock chambered, loaded, and good to go over a chamber empty 1911—and so should you.
How it Works
When the pistol is loaded, and the hammer is fully cocked, the safety may be pushed into position. The wing of the safety butts against the sear. The hammer cannot fall—although if it did, the half cock notch would catch it. With the Series 80 guns, the firing pin lock would keep the firing pin from running forward even if the hammer fell. The trigger must be fully pressed to the rear for the firing pin to be released forward even if the hammer strikes the firing pin with the Series 80 guns. The advantage of the 1911 is that the pistol is safe when carried close to the body with the hammer cocked. When the pistol is drawn, the handgun is pointed toward the target as the safety is released and we have a light, crisp, straight to the rear, trigger action that invites a trained shooter to make good hits.
Recently, I became aware of a rather dumb means of carrying the 1911. A correspondent enlightened the author that some carry the single action cocked and locked, safety on, magazine inserted, and the chamber empty! Use the handgun as it was designed—or use another type. That is pretty straightforward.
Do you carry cocked and locked, prefer double action only, or striker fired? Share your carry preferences in the comment section.
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