Stop a Gunfight Before It Starts With Situational Awareness


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De-escalation: Defuse a Dangerous E...
De-escalation: Defuse a Dangerous Encounter

The best way to win a gunfight is to avoid being in one. Good manners go a long way toward keeping you out of trouble.

To stop a gunfight before it starts, follow these guidelines

  • Know Your Responsibility
  • Stay Alert
  • Actively Avoid Trouble
  • Be Polite
  • Keep Track of Your Family
  • Prepare For a Quick Exit
  • Stand Your Ground
  • Call For Help
  • Not All Fights Are Avoidable

Carrying a Gun Awakens Your Responsibility

As a newly minted Concealed Weapons Permit holder, the first thing I noticed was a heavy responsibility. Before I had a way to defend myself, I could go anywhere I wanted without considering whether I might need to use a weapon when I got there.

Sure, I had less say in the outcome of someone else’s aggression, but I had not thought too deeply in that direction. Either I would survive an attack or not. Any place that seemed dangerous was a place to avoid.

Now I find myself wondering if I am the person who could end a situation that was about to go bad. I look for the exits when I enter a new space.

Alertness is Key to Preventing Trouble

I scan for nervous or aggressive people who may be planning something I won’t like. I pay attention to whether my back is against the wall or exposed to a roomful of people I can’t see.

This new alertness is called situational awareness. Everyone needs to practice situational awareness whether armed or not, but it comes to the forefront of your mind when you have a deadly weapon within your reach.

The levels of situational awareness propounded by Jeff Cooper include Condition White (unaware), Condition Yellow (alert for signs of trouble), Condition Orange (aware of a threat), and Condition Red (actively responding to a threat).

Read my article on the color scheme of situational awareness to explore the levels of alertness as they pertain to daily life.

Actively Avoid Trouble

Just as an unarmed person should avoid dangerous situations, so should a concealed carrier. If you think you need a gun to go there, you should find a way not to go there.

Life being what it is, however, you will find yourself in sketchy situations: driving at night and having to stop for gas, leaving work late, meeting someone you don’t know well, dealing with a car breakdown while driving through an unfamiliar part of town…living life.

Be Polite

Now that you have the ability to defend yourself, do your best never to need to draw that weapon. Robert Heinlein said “An armed society is a polite society.”

If you realize that an interaction gone awry could lead to the use of a gun, you are more likely to hold back that biting comment when someone cuts in line or takes too long to prepare your order.

The most important part of situational awareness is prevention. If you don’t feel safe, leave. If you can’t leave, behave in a mild but assertive manner.

Keep your voice friendly and audible. Use all the polite words like “please” and “thank you.” Smile.

Think about any comments you might make before you make them. Filter them through your mind and imagine how they will sound to the others in the room.

Make friendly, brief eye contact with a potential assailant. This says, “I am aware of you. I don’t want to harm you but I know what you look like.”

Something like, “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that seat was taken” can diffuse the tension if it was truly a misunderstanding. Give up what you don’t need to keep for the sake of keeping peace.

Know where your friends and family are.

If something happens and you have to leave in a hurry, you will want to take your family with you. Teach your kids to keep you in their line of vision when you are in a public place. For older kids or a spouse, keep track of their whereabouts with texting.

Make sure your family members know how to read a situation too. They can be helpful in getting you out of there or getting themselves into a safer area so that you have one less detail to worry about.

Prepare For a Quick Exit

Stand or sit in the corner of the room, with your back to the wall and your eyes on the exit. Don’t encumber yourself with a pile of packages. Know the path of least resistance if you should have to leave in a hurry.

Stand Your Ground

If someone does approach you in a way that feels aggressive, do your best to leave. If you can’t leave, stand your ground physically but make allowances verbally.

Walk like you know where you are going. Use what I call “military bearing:” chest up, shoulders back, stomach relaxed but not drooping, alert eyes, hands empty to prepare for engagement.

In the absence of conciliation, get your hands ready to draw. Make a command: “Get back!”

Call For Help

The do-it-yourself model of defense will only get you so far. If you have the option of summoning help, now is the time to get the police involved. Sometimes bullies leave when someone bigger arrives.

Your companions may be able to leave the room and summon the authorities if they see a situation escalating.

Not All Fights Are Avoidable

When the threat is unavoidable and you have no other recourse, make the decision that you will shoot. Don’t show your opponent a weapon if you can’t use it.

The look on your face should let him know that you intend to protect yourself. Know the consequences of your actions and do what you have to do.

This is a good time to review the four cardinal rules of gun ownership:

  • Treat every gun as if it is loaded.
  • Don’t point your gun at anything you aren’t willing to destroy.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
  • Know your target and what is beyond it.

When the situation has concluded and you are able to do so safely, call 911. Let the dispatcher know that you felt your life was in danger.

Explain that you announced your weapon, or showed your weapon, or used your weapon, and you need the police to investigate the situation. Be the first to call so you can set the scenario for the police.

Don’t volunteer any information beyond the threat and what you had to do.

The next call will be to your lawyer, or to US Law Shield. You did buy a liability policy when you got your permit, right?

Stay safe and keep away from trouble. You can address trouble when it follows you, but don’t invite it.

When you are ready to learn more about this or any other gun topic, contact Double Eagle Gunworks LLC. Chris will be happy to teach you what you need to know. Sign up for our newsletter to stay informed of upcoming classes.

Watch our calendar for upcoming Concealed Weapons Permit classes. Visit our Double Eagle Gunworks channel on YouTube for helpful videos on gun related topics.

Chris is a Federally Licensed Firearms Dealer and can help you with the purchase or transfer of a firearm.

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Carla Pittman

Carla is a Speech Pathologist working in Home Health by day and a blogger by night. She married Chris in 2008 and is working to help him unite his love of guns with his passion for teaching others to carry safely. Her other impetus for blogging is to make Americans aware of their Constitutional rights, which are at risk in the current political environment.

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