Think Fast

Your reaction to a violent encounter might depend on your ability to out-think your opponent.

posted on July 8, 2023
Sheriff Jim Wilson

A young police patrolman of my acquaintance was checking his buildings while on late-night patrol. One of those businesses was an auto parts store that was in a stand-alone building. As the officer eased up in front of the dark building, he clearly saw someone inside the store. Late at night... no lights on... most probably a burglar. But, the building had a front door and a back door so the officer was in a quandary as to what to do until his backup arrived.

This young officer merely turned on his siren and all of the lights on the squad car and drove in tight, fast circles around the building until backup arrived. At which point two burglars were arrested inside the building without incident. One of them later told investigators that he wasn’t about to come out with that maniac out there trying to play like a race-car driver.

In another case, in another city, a man was accosted by a robber, armed with a large knife, who demanded his wallet. Appearing to be nervous and scared, the gentleman fished for his wallet with his left hand that was shaking so bad that the wallet hit the pavement about three feet from him. The robber’s eyes followed the falling wallet for just an instant and when he looked back at the victim, he was looking down the barrel of a .45 semi-automatic.

This citizen had planned for just such an encounter possibly happening. He purposely carried his wallet where it was accessible to his support hand and practiced the nervous routine. It gave him that split second to turn the tables.

It is a simple fact of human nature that some of us can think faster than others. But we can all work to improve our ability to successfully respond to a surprise encounter with criminals. Part of it is to realistically imagine the things that could happen and work up a variety of realistic responses. You need several ideas because this is definitely not a “one-size-fits-all” kind of deal. For example, a face-to-face encounter might be handled one way while the same situation with the criminal approaching from behind can change the whole thing.

Another excellent way to improve our ability to successfully respond is to take force-on-force classes using the little paint cartridges called Simunitions or other similar marking cartridges. These are much different than an afternoon spent playing with paintball guns and a group of friends. Proper force-on-force classes are carefully scripted. The only thing is that everyone knows the script except you, the victim, sorta like real life in that regard. Equally important is the fact that you, the victim, are debriefed after each scenario. An instructor talks with you about what you did right and what you could have done better.

The idea is to improve your ability to think fast and apply good solutions to the problem. In doing so, you have the best chance of taking control of the situation away from your attacker.


Camfour Custom Springfield Armory 1911
Camfour Custom Springfield Armory 1911

First Look: Camfour Custom Springfield Armory 1911 Garrison Pistol

A case hardened slide and frame is just the beginning. 

First Look: HYDRA Survival Package

One gun, four calibers, one case.

Review: Garmin Xero C1 Pro Chronograph

Every once and a while, something really is game-changing.

New Rifle Suppressors for 2024

The latest products to tame the roar of your rifle.

First Look: Field & Range Cases from Federal Ammunition

Rugged gun cases for the rugged outdoors.

Concealed Carry Clothing With Style

How to dress to the nines while carrying a nine. Or a forty. Or a forty-five.


Get the best of Shooting Illustrated delivered to your inbox.