Situational Awareness the Key to Self-Defense

situational awareness

The most successful gunfight is the one you avoid completely. Today we’re going to focus on situational awareness in public. If you’re carrying in public, you have a duty to yourself and everyone around you to pay attention to your surroundings.

A huge part of self-defense is avoiding conflict. Contrary to the media hype over mass shootings, most defensive gun use is due to more personal conflicts such as assaults and robberies. There are no exact figures on this, just statistical analysis. I’ve saved the most important part for last.

Jim Mattis is a retired Marine Corps general and former Secretary of Defense who once said, “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.” Although originally intended for Marines interacting with civilians in a war zone, we can still draw valuable lessons from it and apply them to our daily lives. Remember, our goal in defending ourselves is not to “kill” someone but to “stop the threat,” but his guidance still applies.

Situational Awareness Prevents You from Being an Easy Target

The first point is easy. People who look like they are aware of their surroundings are less likely to become victims. If you’re walking through an urban area or even a shopping mall with your earbuds in and your head down, you’re not making yourself invisible; you’re making yourself an easy target. Keep your head up. Look around. Make brief, but definite, eye contact. Walk with purpose. Do not look like a victim. Predators prey on the weak, so don’t look weak.

Avoid Walking Through Unknown Groups

Avoid walking directly past or through groups of young men. I don’t care where you are in the world or what color someone’s skin is. Groups of idle young men have a lot of potential to be a threat. The more economically depressed the area is, the more likely that is to be true. Avoid such groups, but never make it obvious you’re doing so. If you can’t avoid it, follow the advice from the previous paragraph about not looking like an easy target.

Sitting Down in Public

Sitting down in a public place requires some careful consideration. Whenever possible, sit so you can see the door or the most open parts of the location you are in. If you sit in a booth, sit on the outside, not the inside. When you enjoy a good meal with good company, it’s easy to get lost in conversation, but being aware of your surroundings doesn’t require much effort.

Groups of Unknown People

Look at the people in groups, see who is coming and going, and be sure to notice if someone is approaching you well before they get there. If you’re in a coffee shop working on your laptop and otherwise have your head buried in something, just look up once in a while. Some of us do this naturally, and for some, it takes extra effort, but you can train yourself to do it with a little practice. Eventually, you won’t even notice you’re doing it. Oh, and don’t wear earbuds there either. In fact, never wear earbuds or headphones in public, ever.

Road Rage and Carjackings

You need to be more aware of what’s going on when you’re driving. Road rage and carjackings are always on the menu these days. When I strap on a seatbelt, I’ve gotten into the habit of lightly tucking my shirt in between my sidearm and my hip so that it’s accessible.

If someone jams on their brakes in front of you and gets out of their car to come toward you, they may or may not be a physical threat. It takes some training to know when and when not to pull your firearm, but the key to that decision-making process is, you guessed it, situational awareness. Don’t forget, your first option should always be to drive out of the attack.

There are plenty of videos that show angry people assaulting people in their cars. There are even more videos that show angry people just being angry without being an actual threat.

Stay Calm

The greatest lesson of all, when it comes to situational awareness, is to STAY CALM. If things get tense, if a potential threat starts to present itself, or even if an actual threat quickly emerges, you must remain calm. If you don’t, you’ll get tunnel vision and miss everything else going on around you. Freaking out has never solved anything. If you’re carrying a firearm and you panic, innocent people, including yourself, could get hurt.


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