In recent weeks, we’ve looked at many of the issues surrounding the proper use of a concealed carry firearm. This week, I’d like to talk about some of the mental aspects of being prepared.
Colonel Jeff Cooper was a legendary warrior and firearm instructor who gained world wide fame with his innovations in small arms combat. A former Marine, Colonel Cooper’s best known innovation was a concept he called the Combat Mindset.
According to Cooper, while fighting and tactical skills are important, it’s our state of mind that matters the most. Our approach to our environment is what determines whether we are aware or unaware of potential threats around us.
“Condition White” is the term Cooper used for the lowest possible level of awareness. In Condition White, you’re unaware of your surroundings, and oblivious to any possible threat.
Have you ever “tuned out” while driving for a little while, only to realize you’d driven part of your trip without even thinking about the turns? Or, has anyone ever come up and tapped you on the shoulder, or said your name, and it startled you, not knowing they were there?
We do lots of things this way, especially if they’re familiar to us. We leave our car and just go right in the house. We walk through a parking lot while focused on our phone. We sit in restaurants and theaters focused solely on our meals or the movie.
Unfortunately, Condition White leaves you completely vulnerable to an attack, and you won’t even see it coming. If you are attacked, you’re likely to be so shocked, you won’t have time to formulate a plan of action. The only thing that might save you is luck, or an inept attacker.
This is NOT where we want to be. Instead, we need to learn to live in what Cooper called “Condition Yellow.”
In Condition Yellow, you’re actively scanning your environment, 360 degrees. No threat is presented, but you’re in a relaxed state of alertness. You realize the world is a dangerous place, and you know you might have to defend yourself.
You know you have the training and capability to do it, and you’ve already given some thought to how you might deal with some different scenarios. This doesn’t mean you’re looking for trouble, but you’re on the lookout for trouble that’s looking for you. You’ve got your radar working.
“Condition Orange” is the state you’re go to when you pick up a potential threat from Condition Yellow. Something has happened to trip your radar. It might only be a feeling that something “isn’t quite right,” or you just don’t “like the look” of that person who happens to be staring at you.
While it might turn out to be nothing, you’re preparing to act if it is indeed something. That thing has your attention, although you’re not giving up your other scans, especially “your six.” But now you’re actively assessing the situation and formulating a plan if it is something.
You have a response programmed so that if they do ________, you do _________. You’re not going to overreact, or react inappropriately, but you’re ready to act, if it comes to that.
You can stay in Condition Orange for a long time, if required, but it can be taxing. The goal is to get more information about the potential threat, your environment, and your options so you can come up with a plan to get you out of the situation. Or, if you can determine that it was a false alarm, you can then go back to Condition Yellow.
If the worst happens, then bam, you’re right in “Condition Red.” It’s hit the fan, and you’re fighting for your life, or someone else’s. It’s on, and you have no choice but to engage, because even if you are retreating, you’re still under attack.
At this point (hopefully), you’re working your plan of action, that you formulated back in Condition Orange. You’d better have some skills and training to back it up, though. Otherwise, you may be out of luck, and out of time.
In Condition Red, you’re responding to a threat that means to cause you harm. You’ll have to measure your response to the severity of the threat, and be able to articulate why you did what you did. But you have no choice but to act, and your actions may save your life.
If you find you can deal with the threat without resorting to extreme violence yourself, that is preferable. But if you find yourself in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm, you’ll have no choice but to respond with lethal force yourself.
Again, training is crucial. As is a concealed carry permit, if you’re a law abiding citizen. Or an off-duty weapon, if you’re in law enforcement. And also 1,000 reps on the mat, or 1,000 rounds at the range. Competence breeds confidence, and the only way to be competent is to practice. Preferably under stress, because there will surely be a lot of stress happening in Condition Red.
The problem is that if you were in White, you didn’t even see it coming, so the jump from White to Red is too much, too fast. Sometimes it jumps from Yellow to Red, but at least you had a little warning. If you can go to Orange first, you’ve got a fighting chance, and maybe a tactical advantage through the element of surprise.
So there you have it. Stay in Condition Yellow in all but the most secure settings. Maybe even then. Know your surroundings. Pay attention to your environment. Jump to Orange as soon as you become aware of something “off.” Get a plan together in your mind, just in case it goes to Red, and then fight like hell to survive if it does. If it turns out to be nothing, go back to Yellow and go about your day.