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