Situational Awareness for Personal Defense

posted on June 12, 2017
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Col. Jeff Cooper used the Color Code to describe degrees of situational awareness for the armed citizen. Condition Yellow was described as being relaxed alertness. His point being that we should be alert to what is going on around us during our waking hours. It is critical to being able to spot trouble while we still have plenty of time to prepare to deal with it in some way.

Sadly, some folks will make the claim that they are always aware of what is going on around them. You have to wonder if they are kidding themselves, trying to impress us or trying to sound tough. I'll let you in on a little secret: None of us are as alert, 24/7, as we ought to be.

Some examples of when situational awareness can be lacking might be appropriate. Suppose I have been suffering from the flu for three or four days – all of us should be able to identify with that. Now I am heading to the drug store for more medicine, hoping I don't throw up again or pass out. Does anyone think I would be as alert as I should be to my surroundings? I certainly don't.

I once left a restaurant with a well-qualified defensive instructor. Seeing a dog running around the parking lot, the instructor wondered aloud who it might belong to. I replied that I thought it belonged to that man wearing the Smith & Wesson revolver. "What man with a revolver?" came the reply. "The one right over there with the nickel-plated K-frame in open carry," I said. Alert? No, I don't think so.

Among my own lapses in situational awareness are a few experiences with rattlesnakes. On several occasions, I have nearly stepped on rattlers I absolutely didn't see until they started to coil up. I have lived in rattler country all of my life, and there is simply no excuse for my not seeing them. Clearly, I could have used a lot more Condition Yellow.

The other day, a reader commented to me that he was always alert, every time he was away from home. Now, think about that for a minute. Hadn't he heard about home invasions? Just because we are at home doesn't mean we should let our guard down. Bad things happen everywhere, and the home is certainly no exception. But, to soften the blow, even Col. Cooper once commented that he was not as alert as he felt he should be when he was on the grounds of his beloved Gunsite Academy.

Clearly, it is to our advantage to be in a state of relaxed situational awareness during our waking hours. The farther away that we detect possible trouble, the more options we have as to how we will deal with it. Time and distance are on our side. Being truly alert may mean that we can resolve the issue without having to do any shooting, maybe not even drawing our gun. 

But complete, relaxed situational awareness is not a state of mind we ever accomplish to its highest degree. It is a goal that we should continually strive to attain, even though we know that there is always room for improvement. Knowing that and understanding that gives us a much better understanding of the work that is ahead of us.


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