Situational Awareness For a Longer Happier Life

by January 11, 2011 01/11/11
Situational Awareness

We’ve all heard that the first rule of a gun fight is to have a gun, but what about the first rule of living? I propose that the first rule of life is “Have the right mindset.”

An important part of mindset is situation awareness, or the way it was always told to me growing up, pay attention. Being aware of our surroundings can do many things for us. It can help us notice our buddy as he trips on something allowing us a quick chuckle. It can help us notice a big smile on a kid’s face, brightening up our world a little bit.

Situational awareness can also help us notice the gun barrel pointed at us. Or, if you are not situationally aware it might not, which is exactly what happened to me…

Lack of Situational Awareness

I’d been carrying concealed pretty much every day for about a year, but would occasionally not put my gun on, rationalizing to myself that it would be OK because I was just going down the street or would only be gone 15 minutes. Well, one Saturday my wife and daughter were going to birthday party and I had a couple of hours to myself. Like most of you reading this I figured I would head to the range.

I loaded up some guns, ammo, and other junk to take to the range and climbed in the car. Sitting in the parking lot I realized my carry gun was still upstairs in my small safe on the nightstand where I leave it at night. I thought about getting out of the car and going to get but just figured “hey, I’m just going to the range, I’ve been to this range dozens of times and nothing bad has ever happened before, it’s going to be fine.”

What I didn’t think about was that this is an unsupervised outdoor range that my buddies and I had always talked about being dangerous. The trash cans that are 10 feet behind the firing line are riddled with bullet holes. But hey, this was where I went to relax, my proverbial happy place where I could go and just focus and my front sight and forget about all the worries from the rest of the week. I got complacent.

At this point let me say that no one can stay in condition yellow all the time. Your mind needs some down time, some time in condition white to keep it from burning out. This was something I wasn’t doing at home where I should have been occasionally letting my guard down and relaxing. I was constantly thinking about this, or worrying about that; instead of taking that much needed time to relax and re-focus. Turns out I was doing my relaxing and re-focusing at the range.

When arriving at the range I would look around and make sure there weren’t too many people or anyone that gave me a bad vibe, basically assessing the situation. I paid attention, but once I got setup and started shooting I would just go into a strange kind of front site induced zen. It was just me, the gun and the target; nothing else on the planet mattered. Of course I didn’t figure out all of this until after having plenty of time to think about it after getting shot.

Getting Shot

Situational Awareness

I had walked over to ask the only other guy shooting on the handgun range if we could go cold so I could setup some targets. He told me that it was no problem, just let him finish the magazine he had in. It seemed like such a simple request at the time. I leaned on the shooting bench in the next lane over waiting for him to finish so I could head downrange. I was looking over at the cars at the rifle range to see if I recognized any of my buddies cars, when I heard a gunshot.

Not a strange sound to hear on a gun range, right? At first I didn’t think anything of it, except it felt like someone stepped on my foot. When I looked down all I remember is seeing a hole in my shoe and thinking “that’s odd, how did I get a hole in the top of my shoe like that?” I had just been shot, but was in a complete stage of denial and shock. I was so far into condition white that my body couldn’t explain to my brain that I had been shot, at a range that I had previously joked about being dangerous. Our minds can’t go straight from condition white to condition red. It’s like a row of gates and you can’t jump all the way to the end, you have to go through them in sequence.

By the time my brain finally understood and accepted what happened the shooter was gone. In the minute or so I was standing there looking at my foot the guy jumped in his truck and ran. An hour later when talking to the trooper I could only give a basic description because I hadn’t been paying attention. As I’ve heard it said on a certain gun forum, I had the situation awareness of an f’ing rock. And what did I have to show for it? A .22 caliber hole through my foot, a ruined pair of sneakers and an important lesson learned the hard way.

Follow Up

Now it’s over six months later. I’m healed up for the most part, even though the doc still wants to cut me open and put some pins in my foot. I walk fine and can run for about 3 miles before it starts to hurt enough to tell me I should stop. I went through a demeaning two month investigation to be sure the wound wasn’t self inflicted which left me feeling very bitter about life for a while. Nothing like being a victim and treated like suspect, but the worst is over now. Could I not walk for a while, yes. Was the pain annoying as hell, yeah. Did I get a little depressed about being stuck inside and being investigated, yup. Life goes on though and time is an amazing healer.

So why did I spend the time to mention not bringing my carry gun at the beginning of this article? Because what happened was only one of a million bad things that could have happened. I’m sure some of you have heard news stories about bad folks showing up at a range to steal someones guns. Heck, I could have been robbed, carjacked, attack by a wild animal, or the Chinese could have invaded! The point is that I’d made my self unprepared to deal with those potential problems. We have to have the right mindset and we have to realize that bad things can happen anywhere at anytime. I’m not saying we should live in fear, far from it. But we should take an honest look at our lives and what situations we find ourselves in, and the ones we could find ourselves in.

So from you to me, please pay attention to your life and carry your damn gun. Not just to avoid danger but also to encounter some joy. Maybe it will be as simple as spotting a five dollar bill on the sidewalk or noticing your cell phone is still in your pocket as you throw your pants on the laundry. But maybe, just maybe… it could save your life. I leave you with this quote from John Steinbeck:

“The final weapon is the brain, all else is supplemental.”


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Deanna Rebelo
Deanna Rebelo

Is the investigation still open? Have they found the guy? I'm sure you can still picture what this guy looks like. ;) Glad you're safe. Thank you for the pics.

Parkour Matt
Parkour Matt

Man crazy story!! But you make a great point. Sorry about your foot.

Joe Klam
Joe Klam

Sorry, but I'm confused. How would having carried your (other) gun have helped you any? You'd still have been shot in the foot (by accident) because you weren't paying attention to the man with the loaded gun. Perhaps you would have shot him in revenge? Its hard to imagine how that would have been a better outcome for you in the long run.

Buddy
Buddy

I'm glad you decided to share your story. You've been around guns your entire life & have always demonstrated excellent safety habits. Thank God it was a .22 & was not some where more vital.

This or worse could easily happen to anyone. Situational awareness is the best deterent any of us have.

Buddy
Buddy

I'm glad you decided to share your story. You've been around guns your entire life & have always demonstrated excellent safety habits. Thank God it was a .22 & was not some where more vital. This or worse could easily happen to anyone. Situational awareness is the best deterent any of us have.

Rob Kroupa
Rob Kroupa

When I'm at home I run with my Glock 19 in one of 5.11's select carry pistol pouch's. It actually works pretty well.

mattdrum182
mattdrum182

Never feel bad about being "that guy" at the range.

the pitbull469
the pitbull469

yeah, I carry a Glock 19 and have been since i was old enough to legally carry, but i wish i had an LCP. Even the G19 is too much gun to carry on a six mile jog.

adam
adam

This is what might have happen. This happen about 3 miles away from where my story took place. He was a friend of my brothers I only knew him in passing. He had a mustang that had some work done to it. Much like my formula. The story his friends and my brother tell me goes as so. He was driving and the guy/guys tried to carjack him but being he tried to fight back (being a martial artist) he got shot but was able to fight back to his car to get away, After driving off he passed out due to blood loss after he crashed the guys that tried to carjack him that were following him shot him again and took off.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/orl-bk-powell-slaying-victim-021709,0,1331549.story

http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2009-03-08/news/homicidebrief08_1_ving-tsun-robbery-powell

adam
adam

This story gave me chills when I read it. It made me think of what could have happen one day I was at the unsupervised rage I go to a lot. Everyone calls cold range and most of use are nice and leave the action open on our gun to show there empty. I see this lever action rifle with the action closed and the hammer back. So I ask the guy I saw shooting it if he could open the action just for my amusement. He looked kinda pissed I asked him to do this. So when the freaking gun opens the action a 45-70 round ejects out. I'm like WTF yea thanks man I really want to get hit by a freaking 45-70 round while swapping target. I'm glad you made out as well as you did and did not end up in a wheel chair or dead.

Rob Kroupa
Rob Kroupa

I always have a trauma kit around, same as you I have had guys poke fun at me for taking it to the range. I had it with me that day, I make the call that the bleeding didn't seem to be that bad and instead of doing self aid I just booked it to the ER. There was surprisingly little bleeding overall.

Misty
Misty

Rob really speaks truth here. While we joked (I'm his wife) about the range being dangerous I also knew it was his zen spot and never thought oh it could happen to us, as the cliche goes. He has his trauma bag and glock he normally carries but all of that was left at home that day. It always seems its "that day" when you need it. What I find funny is the commanders wife all called me and I heard your husband has been shot, so I turn the jeep almost on two wheels trying to u-turn to the hospital. But when I got there I looked at the shoe and looked over at the doc and said it was a .22 hugh! He was like what all ya'll gun nuts. So yeah situational awareness does pay off because at that moment before I saw him I was able to resaurre my self he was ok. Adam I just watched the You Tube video, things like this really would be a great campaign for "gun control" what would happen if you weren't carrying. Its like the other side never sees it that way.

Kevin B
Kevin B

Thanks for sharing! Glad things eventually worked out for you...

Eric S.
Eric S.

It takes a lot to admit that you weren't prepared that day and then writing about it. You bring up some great points and I can totally relate to the front site "zen".

I get crap from "colleagues" when I wear my vest and have my IFAK with me on our range days. Most are in the front site zen before they even start shooting!

I really like LTC Grossman's thought on leaving your gun at home: When your driving down the street without your gun look at all the fire hydrants you pass. Then say to yourself, "the fireman are more prepared than me" (nothing against you fireman out there haha).

Eric S.
Eric S.

It takes a lot to admit that you weren't prepared that day and then writing about it. You bring up some great points and I can totally relate to the front site "zen". I get crap from "colleagues" when I wear my vest and have my IFAK with me on our range days. Most are in the front site zen before they even start shooting! I really like LTC Grossman's thought on leaving your gun at home: When your driving down the street without your gun look at all the fire hydrants you pass. Then say to yourself, "the fireman are more prepared than me" (nothing against you fireman out there haha).

Mike Petrucci
Mike Petrucci

Well said JB! I'll be honest and say that I never think of there being any 'true danger' myself. If I just look at it like you do... "I am certain that on this day there is going to be shooting" then it makes total sense. Sometimes I just get lulled into a false sense of security because of safe past experiences. Staying alert and aware is a must.

JB Gilpin
JB Gilpin

And you had your trauma kit with you, right? I hope so. You make some great points about being prepared and I agree completely. But it always amazes that people will go to a range, where they know for a certainty there will be gunfire, and never consider the possibility that someone could get shot. Including themselves. I always would wear my vest to the range on our qualification days and the other guys would laugh at me. As I used to tell them: "Of all the days in my career, I am certain that on this day there is going to be shooting. Of course I wear my vest." Thanks for the story.

Matt Jones
Matt Jones

Rob great story! I know the feeling about "Range Zen" for it is often my place to escape as well.

Mike Petrucci
Mike Petrucci

Whoa that's a crazy story! Thanks for sharing! And not to sound gross, but I loved the pics. Just as a quick question, for my own curiosity, what do you carry? Or do you rotate between a few handguns?

Nick Price
Nick Price

Reread the second to last paragraph. He goes back to that point there.

Rob Kroupa
Rob Kroupa

I'll never feel bad about it now

adam
adam

This is what might have happen. This happen about 3 miles away from where my story took place. He was a friend of my brothers I only knew him in passing. He had a mustang that had some work done to it. Much like my formula. The story his friends and my brother tell me goes as so. He was driving and the guy/guys tried to carjack him but being he tried to fight back (being a martial artist) he got shot but was able to fight back to his car to get away, After driving off he passed out due to blood loss after he crashed the guys that tried to carjack him that were following him shot him again and took off. http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/orl-bk-powell-slaying-victim-021709,0,1331549.story http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2009-03-08/news/homicidebrief08_1_ving-tsun-robbery-powell

Rob Kroupa
Rob Kroupa

I carry a Glock 19 the majority of the time and when I can't carry a real gun I throw a LCP in my pocket.

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