Condition 0 versus Condition 3: It seems less important than where you carry.

Speed does matter in a gunfight, but I’ve always wondered exactly how much. This post has always ruffled some feathers, but I have yet to receive any meaningful, data based critique of what it written here. So proceed with an open mind, and not make any assumptions.

Please watch this video, and see how different carry positions, drawing to one or two hands, affects time to shot:

Now, if someone tells you that “carrying in condition 3 will get you killed on da streetz!” you should wonder if small of back carry won’t also get you killed in the streets, as they are essentially the same time penalty. As a condition 0 draw with one hand from small of back is still slower than a condition 3 draw from an outside the waistband holster.The problem with using any sort of dogmatic answer, or using a very specific data set like LEO lethal encounters to draw broader conclusions is that every tactical situation is unique. You don’t know what is going to happen that you’ll need to draw a pistol and possibly pull the trigger.

There are people who can do it faster:

So how much difference does that make? That half second has to be quantifiable in some way in terms of probability of success in surviving a violent encounter. One trainer found that his difference was about two well aimed shots on someone charging from 21 feet, but he still got shots off from condition 3. Using standard handgun single round incapacitation and rounds until incapacitation data (you can take a look at the data here: ) , it takes about 3 shots to “stop” an attacker (using 9×19 and 40 S&W data, it is between 2 and 3 rounds to incapacitate), so being only able to get off two aimed shots instead of four reduced the chances of stopping the attack to 43% instead of 47% [(.33×100)+(.33x(.33×100)=43] versus [(.33×100)+(.33x.33×100)+(.33x.33x.33×100)=47%] That single shot difference works out to a 4% chance difference in stopping the attacker using, at least using a fairly simple statistical analysis. That means you are looking at one more “killed on the streets” for every 25 violent encounters for similarly trained and equipped personnel for condition 3 over condition 0.

That statistical analysis is pretty horrible because it doesn’t take into account aimed fire and point of impact, as the biology of the bad guy plays a huge role in whether or not the bad guy gets incapacitated or not. If nothing else it should illustrate how difficult it can be to get good numbers on things with a large number of variables. Even worse, that is based on just one instructor’s personal time difference, and I don’t have a broader data set to draw firmer conclusions from.

Now I am leery of using the Tueller drill as justification for anything more than implanting the lesson that you need to increase your situational awareness, and a uniformed police officer wearing an outside the waist open carry service pistol really should be carrying with a round in the chamber. But I’m not sure that someone who has to dig under a cover garment, reach behind their back, and draw a pistol is automatically going to die either, as you can see from the statistical analysis above that the most important shots for ending the fight are the first two. Of course the problem with statistics is that YOUR particular tactical problem is going to be your unique anecdote, not something that will be easily overcome by statistical analysis.

But still, be wary of instructors who are unwilling to question the prevailing Dogma of the gun school community, it means they’ve stopped learning themselves. As long as you handle your firearms safely, that is what is important to me. If you are slower than molasses in January in the northern hemisphere and still carry, by all means still carry. You just may be the person who saves me from being blind sided while I stand in front of the bank clerk because you were in the right spot at the right time with a gun, and I wasn’t paying attention to what was going on behind me.

Edit: Some tactical Timmy’s are all pretty much calling “heresy” on this, claiming that I’m making excuses for not being as fast as humanly possible. Here’s a representative comment:


Talk about missing the point. That dear readers, is more proof that you can write something as clear as possible and someone will only read what they want to read. I wrote this post based on an idle musing I had about measuring time as a % of success at stopping an attacker. I also don’t believe that everyone, everywhere, needs to go around in condition zero with an outside the waistband holster (which is the heresy here). Also, having completed ECQC, I found nothing earth shattering that changed my mind about anything I wrote here, Craig was quite up front that there is no sure fire way to survive every violent encounter. Heck, there’s no sure fire way to survive every day. If you have the ability to take ECQC, I recommend it, but not because it’s going to turn you into an elite fighter, but because it is heavily focused on managing unknown contacts and maintaining a safe distance so that you can have reaction time.

I also believe that not all training is appropriate to everyone who carries a firearm. For example telling a woman who is 80 lbs overweight or a man undergoing chemotherapy for cancer to go to ECQC is not something that I would do, there are less intense courses which are much more appropriate to the medical condition of those people (good medicine always starts with not making the situation worse). Would I encourage a woman who is overweight to carry? Yes. Would I encourage a man undergoing chemotherapy to carry? Yes. I firmly believe in working with people where they are, not some ideal of where people should be. Would I encourage them to carry with a round in the chamber? Only if they are comfortable with that, and have a good holster that they are very familiar with.

Am I going to tell anyone that if they don’t lose the weight and get over the cancer that a knife wielding attacker is going to kill them on the streets if they can’t draw and double tap in under 1.5 seconds? No. Because my crystal ball is broken and I can’t see the future, and falling into that dogmatic thinking is ignoring the reality of someone’s situation and substituting magical thinking.

I can’t be too hard on the Tactical Timmy’s of the world, I used to be one myself. Then I learned that tabs are just pieces of cloth, deployments don’t impart any special skills or wisdom, and high speed low drag training really looks and feels a lot like building muscle memory. I learned that people who carry in condition zero sometimes shoot themselves, or others, and people who carry in condition three don’t. I learned that simply saying, “well you didn’t train hard enough” doesn’t cover when the weapon malfunctions. I learned that after 24 hours of no sleep you are as impaired as if your were intoxicated, but Uncle Sam still expects you to safely handle all assigned weapons. I learned that there is no way to make anything 100% safe, and there are no guarantees that millions of dollars of training will save your life. I’ve seen high speed low drag operator types die, and persistent overweight guardsmen rise up and refuse to quit. Of course none of that matters, because my experiences aren’t your experiences.

Now, once again, if you are a cop, you need to carry in condition zero and be proficient at drawing and firing your service pistol. The risk profile for a police officer is unique enough that I can confidently say this based on all the data available to me, criminals do use ambush tactics on cops and reaction times are miniscule. For private citizens, the data set really is a lot murkier, as criminal to citizen interaction is much more financial transaction oriented, so working on skills managing unknown contacts is a much more necessary skill.

In the end my opinion is worth everything you paid for it.

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