Closing Distance: Personal Space and Body Alarm Response - ITS Tactical

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Closing Distance: Personal Space and Body Alarm Response

By Bryan Black

ClosingDistanceMainYesterday morning while stopping at a gas station to put air in my tire, I was approached by a stranger. The first words out of his mouth were to ask “if I was from around here,” immediately sending me into condition orange.

It’s interesting to note that this happened just a day after I sat through a CHL (Concealed Handgun License) renewal class, where we got into a good discussion during the class about muggings, vehicle thefts and how you’d react during those situations.

We all have our preconceived notions of how we’d react in a violent encounter, but the truth is that we’ll never truly know until we’re put in that exact situation.

Cooper Color Code

I’d like to explain my statement earlier about condition orange and provide a brief example of the Cooper Color Code here for reference. We’ve previously mentioned Colonel Jeff Cooper here on ITS, in regard to his carry conditions and firearm safety rules, but he is also known for advocating a color code to describe a person’s state of mind. Not so much in regards to a level of alertness, but purely the mental state.

The following comes from his book, Principles of Personal Defense:

  • Condition White – You are unprepared and unready to take lethal action. If you are attacked in White you will probably die unless your adversary is totally inept.
  • Condition Yellow – You bring yourself to the understanding that your life may be in danger and that you may have to do something about it.
  • Condition Orange – You have determined upon a specific adversary and are prepared to take action which may result in his death, but you are not in a lethal mode.
  • Condition Red – You are in a lethal mode and will shoot if circumstances warrant.

Condition Orange is definitely what my body kicked into when presented with this stranger that approached me in the parking lot of the gas station. I’d like to explain one more principle of what occurred to me though, before going into the rest of the story.

Body Alarm Response

The body alarm response is what naturally happens to your body during an elevated state of awareness and the adrenaline dump that comes along with it. This is typically referred to as “fight or flight,” but more appropriately described as BAR.

During a body alarm response, the characteristics exhibited are rapid heart beat and it’s counterpart, rapid breathing; tingling of the extremities, degradation in fine motor skills, tunnel vision and that sinking sensation in your stomach. You should embrace these characteristics as your body’s early warning system and be glad they’re working, not let them control you and succumb to the “fear” you might think this means.

As blood is drawn into your core from your extremities (that tingling sensation and possibly numbness), you may recall the smallest of details during this heightened level of awareness. Blood being drawn away is also what can cause loss of fine motor skills, which aren’t as “fine” as you might expect. Check out this article on ITS for more on the loss of fine motor skills.

There are ways to control body alarm response through, meaning that through training and preparing yourself, you can mitigate it’s effects. One of the most powerful training tools is embracing it.

My Experience

Now back to my story. What happened is, as I was walking inside to get change for the air pump at the gas station, I was approached by a cleanly-dressed stranger. He had come from the direction of a nicer vehicle that was parked alongside the convenience store building of the gas station. I immediately assumed that it was his vehicle, but I quickly flipped through a memory of just a few seconds ago where I’d noticed him floating around a gas pump.

As he approached my path to the convenience store entrance, my plan was to ignore him and keep walking inside. This plan quickly went out the window, as he encroached rapidly while asking the question, “are you from around here?” That particular question, along with the quick approach into my personal space, immediately sent me into condition orange.

My first reaction, even before answering him was to look at his hands and start walking backwards. I’m actually really proud of myself, as this is what I’ve been over and over with in my head, “watch their hands, watch their hands.” I’ll ding myself on walking backwards rather than stopping prior to when I did, but I think a lot of that is how we realistically encounter people every day.

In a perfect world, I’d like to say that I follow the 21 ft. rule, which was highlighted by an article in SWAT Magazine in 1983 called How Close is Too Close? In that article, it states that a healthy adult male can cover the distance of 7 yards (about 21 ft.) in 1.5 seconds. Coincidently, the study also showed that took about 1.5 seconds to draw a sidearm and put two rounds center mass on a human-size target at 7 yards.

You make that quickly approaching adult male an armed attacker and you can see why it’s called the 21 ft. rule. Realistically, we allow people within this 21 ft. perimeter each and every day; for me this day was no exception.

Putting distance between myself and this stranger was also something I was proud of, although moving backwards is never a good thing. Just like the guy in the movie Snatch say, “whenever you’re in reverse, things come from behind you.

As I put distance between myself and the stranger I answered yes to his question. At this point he continued to approach with his hands down by his side, while stating “Do you know if there’s a Petsmart around…” I cut into his statement, putting up my left hand and saying “Just wait right there and I’ll answer your question.” My right hand also moved backwards towards my gun. I never placed my hand on it, or gave away its position, I was just cognizant of where I was moving my hand to.

His immediate response was to put both his hands up and say “Ok, I was just trying to find the Petsmart… I found the Petco, I just can’t find the Petsmart.” By now I think he realized that I didn’t like him invading my personal space and he finally seemed aware of me putting distance between us.

I gave him some simple directions to Petsmart, but was very short with him, continuing to watch his body position. After he said thanks for the directions, he turned around and walked off as I walked closer to the building’s door. I noticed him walk right past the car I had assumed belonged to him and round the corner behind the building. After getting change for the air pump, I exited the building.

Ensuring to keep my head on a swivel all the way back to the air pump, I didn’t see the stranger again. I brushed off the encounter until I was back in my vehicle and on the road. It was then I really took stock of what happened and the indicators that warranted my elevated condition. I truly feel that my actions prevented me from becoming a victim, or at least made me appear to be a hard target. I think the stranger was up to no good and my reaction to his closing distance made him rethink his battle plan.

I wanted to share my story with you today, because I think it helps to reinforce how important it is to listen to your body and an example of how your conditioning can take over, even when you don’t plan for it to. I think that If I hadn’t mentally rehearsed this scenario thousands of times in my head and been exposed to it during my training, the outcome would have been dramatically different.

If you’ve got a similar story to share, post it in the comments, I’d be interested to hear of situations like this that might have happened to you.

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  • Edward Taylor

    Have used and taught the Tueller drill for many years now, still love the look of surprise on people’s faces when you make it too them with the rubber knife in short time. Teaches that reaction time is something you need to focus on, not just being a good shot. Bravo!

    Ed Taylor
    Crew Leader

  • Bob

    Thanks for the annecdote. I’m in crowded urban settings on a daily basis, and presenting as the hard target is often the only defense from predatory individuals.

  • lo

    so, this is a story of being asked directions, which caused you to reach for your gun, and be harsh with a stranger, despite his offering no threatening behaviour whatsoever. What a sorry state of affairs. Good luck…

    • Sorry you see it that way, but it’s how I reacted to someone rapidly invading my personal space. And I didn’t reach for my gun, I was just ready to if needed.

    • straps

      You could dismiss this as a story about hyper-vigilance, or you could go macro/micro and come away with a better understanding of your behavior–and that of others. I think that’s the take-away. (Oh, and I, like others, have heard the color codes and FoF and other terms without knowing their history or meaning–this article is a good rollup of that info).

      If you don’t assess your reactions to seemlingly mundane situations that stop short of force, someone else is likely to get the last word in that once-in-a-lifetime situation that doesn’t. Might be a jury, a dirtbag or a coroner. ESPECIALLY important if you are in lawful possession of a firearm, but just as relevant in a situation where you may be processing a BAR and weighing less-lethal but nonetheless ethically and legally complex options.

      Me, I HATE gas stations….

    • Alexander

      It’s being vigilant in seemingly normal situations that keeps you from being a statistic. No one walks up to you and says “I’m going to attack you”. The author did nothing wrong and presented no weapon. He stopped a complete stranger that was rapidly encroaching on his personal space in an unsecured environment. When was the last time someone asked you for directions at punching distance while still moving in somewhere as confined as a gas station? For that matter, who the hell shops for pet food in the early morning?

      Better yet. Lets say that that man was FOR SURE going to attack or mug the author. What would the attacker have done differently? Seems like rapidly approaching someone while asking a seemingly innocuous question to momentarily confuse and stifle before attacking and mugging is a fantastic option.

      Bryan kept his head on and avoided a potentially bad situation. To everyone watching he did nothing but back up and tell a stranger to keep their space.

      Way to keep cool and stay collected Bryan

    • Simon

      Love the site, though this story really made me raise my eyebrows. It seems to go beyond recommending constant awareness of one’s surroundings (a good thing) into incivility at best and creation or escalation of a situation at worst. Please help a future tourist – is this common behavior between people in the states?

    • Sam

      Yes, welcome to America. We have more criminals in our prison system than many European countries have citizens, and you may meet some in your travels here. Our culture teaches the best defense is a good offense. We average a major war every seven years since our creation, it’s what we do, like it or not. It’s all about not being a victim, your choice.

    • ARandomGuy

      no, its not common in the states

    • Ben

      Yeah, cause if the guy was gonna try to mug the author he totally would have been carrying a sign that said so..

    • Cowboy

      Why would a nonthreatening stranger only wanting directions insist upon invading another persons personal space? It has been my experience that anybody actually wanting directions simply asks whether you know where X is rather than feeling the need to encroach upon a persons space.

      Not being wary of a stranger closing distance for seemingly no reason is a good way to get mugged.

  • Curtis

    Maybe I’m just too naive and trusting. I generally enjoy reading the various articles on ITSTactical, but your reactions in this story seem a bit over the top to me. Your description of the story does not send off any warning sirens in my head but like I said, that’s me being the naive one. Maybe the “you had to be there” details are not fully intact. How close was he when you stopped him? What if he would have taken one step closer, would you have drawn your weapon? Surely he would have stopped dead in his tracks then, but in a situation that to me would not require a weapon it would reflect poorly on gun owners and perpetuate the “vigilante” stereotype.

    • Thanks for your feedback Curtis. I do think that had someone approached you in the manner that this guy did, it would have been hard to not get a warning sign. He was literally arms length when I stopped him and started moving backwards. Guess I missed relaying that detail. I don’t think I would have drawn my gun if he would have taken a step closer, but I would have verbally warned him loudly to stay where he was at. Now if he would have presented a weapon it would have been a different story, but this is why my hand was ready but not anywhere near to drawing my gun.

      It’s also easy to say that the situation didn’t warrant a gun reading an after action report like this and I would agree with you in this situation. As I said, I felt that the way I handled it prevented it from escalating and who knows what this guy might have had tucked in his waistband within easy reach.

    • Sam

      I agree with your first sentence. Gun ownership is not about being a vigilante. A vigilante takes the law into their own hands for unjustified purposes with a negative result. Gun ownership and carry is about reserving the right to defend yourself against a threat. Ask yourself a very personal question, if the advancing stranger in this story had been dressed in ‘street’ clothes and wasn’t asking seemingly harmless questions, just advancing and staring at you, what would your reaction be? If your answer is anything but drawing a weapon, then I’m sorry but you will be someone’s victim one day. Good job Bryan, you were two seconds from Red I’m sure. I’m more paranoid than you, but I travel with my wife and infant son, so I’m always loaded for bear, and so is she. Curtis, embrace the gun, it will love you back.

  • Curtis

    Also, in Urban settings the 21ft rule might as well be a mile because there’s no way you’re going to avoid being within 21ft of people.

    • Which I mentioned in the article. All of us come within 21 feet of plenty of people each day, it’s hard to avoid.

    • Chuck

      But predators often give off different ‘signals’ than normal people and we instinctively know when we are being sized up as prey. I suggest “The Gift of Fear” as a good read. It has some anti-gun crap at the end, but the main point is right on, and is worth reading. He interviewed lots of people that were attacked and the common thread was that they almost all said “I knew something just wasn’t right, before he attacked” so the author explored that aspect and why they didn’t act when they could.

      It is because we are raised to be polite and to assume that other people are nice..
      The predator takes ADVANTAGE of our natural instinct to be polite and you end up trapped.

      We have thousands of years of evolution where were were on the menu as often as not so I tell my kids and wife. “IF you get that odd, something is just not right feeling” EVER… Get out of the situation now. Be rude if needed. Be loud…

      There are worse things. You could end up on the menu..

  • BPo

    Bryan, was this at a gas station on 287? I had a very very similar situation occur on Monday but I wasn’t carrying on my person (in my vehicle) because I had just left crossfit. I completely ignored him and never gave him my full back. He said, “hey buddy” sharply a few times but I didnt respond. I hung out in the store looking at beer even though I was there for water, until he walked outside.
    Just curious as to where this happened to you.

    Thanks for the input and reminder to stay on top of situational awareness.

    • Hey brother, actually it was off 287. So you were in the store when he was talking to you?

    • BPo

      I was walking from the pump into the store when he first said something. Initially, I didn’t know if he was talking to me, but as soon as I heard “hey buddy” I realized it was directed at me. I didn’t look at him directly, but I kind of broadened my eyesight (if that makes sense) to see his angle and judge whether or not I could make it to the door before he caught up. I’m like you in that I’ll use firm commands to try get people to stop (especially when people approach me while I’m sitting in the truck with my seatbelt on), but since I wasn’t carrying and was completely fatigued. I just wanted to make it inside before him, avoid conflict (Krav Maga rule 1), and reassess.

    • It would certainly be interesting if it was the same guy. Broadening your eyesight makes perfect sense… I very much go out of my way to avoid conflict as well and this was one of those rare situations when I moved past the point of being able to avoid the situation at hand.

    • Bryan

      Interesting. Seems like the 287 corridor (North & South) is really getting hairy these days. Similar circumstance around Rhome and the guy was pretty persistant about “directions”…


    • Bama

      I’m sure you don’t react this way to every stranger (jeez that would be exhausting); there was just something about THIS particular one that got your instincts to fire. And you were right, apparently, since your buddy seems to have had an encounter with the same guy at the same place.

      And I’m a big believer in the value of instinct plus training. I’ve been a bouncer for 30 years, bars and concerts, and part of my JOB requires me allowing strangers with varying degrees of sobriety get close enough to me to hand me their IDs. And since they’re my patrons I can’t really default to the assumption they’re all dirtbags until they prove otherwise. I’ve gotten REAL good af sizing a man up within a few paces. If you can’t afford to spend 3 decades working bar Security I’d recommend getting training in this sort of thing. And I’d strongly suggest looking into the training Bryan has been trough. It’s clearly worked well for him.

  • Brian O.

    I had a situation a few months ago that put me into defense mode. For a little background I live in a town of about 15k people, with many being college students. The area is also fairly liberal where people really go out of their way to try and be polite but at the same time items of self-defense are frowned on.

    Anyway I was in the local Co-Op in the afternoon when it was pretty busy and I had just stopped into grab a few things so I could get some cash-back to pay my barber across the street. I grabbed my tea and an apple and went to get in line and as I was walking up to the shortest line I noticed a guy who kinda sorta seemed like he might be trying to decide if he wanted to get in the line I was heading for but couldn’t seem to make up his mind or he was looking at the magazine rack. Since I couldn’t tell I just hopped in line.

    He quickly fell in behind me and I could hear him muttering under his breath something about me being rude. I simply ignored it and waited in line patiently. As I waited the cashier was talking with the two ladies in front of me, being polite and asking about their day as he did his job. The man behind me started muttering “oh why don’t you just strike up a conversation, just take your time” among other off-hand comments. My alarm bells went off telling me that there was something not right about this guy and there was no way I’m giving him my back. I positioned myself so I could at least see him with my peripheral vision but I usually kept an eye on him. I kept an eye on him as the two women in front of me were each helped and left and he continued to behave strangely and make his comments about the state of things in the line. Once I got to the cashier he greeted me politely and was talking with me and occasionally looked at the strange man that was near me as I could tell his spider senses had gone off as well. Then the man raised up both his arms to his sides and pumped them outward on either side of his body towards both myself and the shopper behind him. With his hand coming so close to my face I finally spoke to him and said “keep you hands out of my face.” His reply was that “I need my space.” After I told him he had plenty of space, which he did for a shopping line, he got a little more aggressive and told me that I had been eyeballing him since he had come in the store which I found ridiculous but said nothing about. The cashier was clearly getting nervous and as he was giving me my change the guy stuck his hands in his pockets and pulled out a folding knife with the blade still closed and in his fist. As soon as I saw this I pivoted a little more and put my hand on my cold steel XL Espada that I happened to be carrying. Needless to say mine was bigger. As soon as the guy had grabbed his knife my senses had been even more elevated than they had before. As I was considering pulling my knife if he made any sudden movements my tunnel vision opened up and I remembered the small children, elderly, and other shoppers. No one else was even aware that the gentleman across from me had pulled a knife, not even the cashier. As the cashier finally finished giving me my change I kept my eye on the guy and back out the front door which I was right next to so I could diffuse the situation and not risk anyone around me getting hurt, myself getting hurt, or ending up hurting this guy who I could pretty clearly tell from the beginning had some psych issues.

    That was the end of my event for the moment and I actually came back after getting my haircut to inform the manager (who happened to be a fellow shooter) about what had transpired. To my pleasant surprise they were actually reviewing the tape as this man had caused problems before. I made a few mistakes but I also learned some lessons and more importantly than that no one had been hurt. I don’t think I could ask for much more than that.

    • Good story Brian and good on you for catching him drawing a knife. It was definitely a good decision to leave yours sheathed, what happened as you left? Was the knife still in his hand? I would have personally had a hard time just leaving without informing someone after I’d see something like that. There’s certainly nothing illegal about him holding a closed pocket knife in his hand, but when you put the other things on top of that it changes things.

      Glad you did go back to alert the manager after that though. Thanks for sharing!

    • Brian O.

      I don’t completely remember if I saw him pocket the knife or not so I can’t say either way. The reason I left without saying anything, and believe me I did think about having not said anything later, is that I could clearly tell that for whatever reason I was the main cause of this guy getting worked up. For that reason I felt if I left the situation would be diffused and he would relax. I think he quickly went into his own condition orange when he picked up that I was paying attention to him and by me leaving it allowed him to calm down. I didn’t feel he was a threat to anyone but me at the time. Like I said though, I made some mistakes and with 20/20 I’d have notified someone. Also for some reason I had forgot my phone because I definitely considered calling the cops. Not notifying someone immediately was my biggest mistake. I did however learn from it.

    • Kyle

      I appreciate what this thread is teaching/reminding us about situational awareness. However, as more people are walking the streets constantly fearing they will become the next victim, it seems as though many are becoming so aware of their surroundings that they are forgetting how they themselves are attributing to their own environment. What is missing is the fact that carrying a concealed weapon changes the way we would normally react to a given situation. So sure, this guy sounds like nothing more than your typical New Yorker out of place in a small town – maybe having a bad day on top of that. But with that having been said, what REALLY is the justification for carrying an XL Espada in a small, liberal, college town? The arrogant statement alone: “Needless to say mine was bigger” suggests that perhaps you were indeed giving off signals that you were unaware of because you were paying more attention to the massive overreaction you had stowed upon you. Please pay attention to BPo’s reminder of Krav Maga Rule #1 – By all means necessary, avoid conflict first. This should not just be a rule for those of us who practice this discipline, but for all of us who carry concealed weapons for personal or professional use. With such a frame of mind, you may better serve your community as an asset, rather than another liability.

  • btork

    Talking about being at Orange alert. I have had a similar sistuation at a gas station where a guy by the entrance puts his hand out like we where supposed to give him something. My mother, wife and kids where with. left the wife and baby in the car (locked) and took my 4yr old in to use the bathroom. The guy follows us in and keeps eyeing me up. At the time i hadn’t got my conceal carry permit so i had a pocket knife. while my mom was in line to buy a pop the guy gets right behind her, real close to her purse. it looked like he was about to grab and run with her purse. He kept looking at me and back away when i made eye contact with him. Then i took out my pocket knife and acted like i had a sliver i was trying to pull out (dumb i know). But he immediately got out of line and left the store.

    A month later at the same gas station the guy is there again, sticking out his hand as if asking for something. I observe from in the car. A lady walks out the store, he grunts and sticks out his hand and the lady walks by unnoticing. She digs thru her purse in her car, pulls out a buck and some change, gets out and says “here Alfred get yourself a soda’.

  • Justin

    Just wanted to add that now in the LE world they’re starting to teach 30 ft rather then 21. The theory is even if you pop the bad guy within that 21 ft, you’ll still get cut (unless you hit the light switch).

    • Ryan

      I was actually just noticing that in the posts, im Mil LE and they started teaching us that just recently

  • Armbruster

    I’ve been in LE for six years now, there of those as a Defensive Tactics Instructor and on the SWAT team. It’s good that you hit on the hands, hands kill (unless your Chuck Norris). Always watch the hands and look at what thier focus is on. Are the watching you to see if your an easy target? Are they looking at that shiny new watch you have or that IPad you just put in your back pack? In most urban settings though, the 21ft rule can’t be applied. So what I reccomend and used is try to put an obstacle in thier path to buy you some time.

    My personal experience with this is that I responded to a suicidal subject that had chased after people in parking lot of a mental health clinic trim attempt to recive treatment. I was the first officer on scene and my back up was a few minutes away. I parked about 50 yards away from the subject and approached him. I could see that he had cut himself badly and that he was armed with a fairly large blade (over 4″). As I got closer to the subject I would make sure that I kept a vehicle, preferably a small passenger car between me and the subject while spoke to him to calm him down. My thinking was that if he wanted to fight he would have had to run around the car to attack, which would provide me plenty of time to use my less lethal/lethal options.

    Luckily, once my backup arrived he deployed a shotgun with bean bag rounds and the subject was taken into custody without incident. Though 95% of the readers won’t have backup officers responding to thier aid, remember to watch a persons hands and try to determine where there focus is.

    There are a ton of other things I can hot on, but my thumbs are getting tired on this iPhone after my CrossFit WOD! Thanks ITS!

  • Amber

    I had an issue that definitely threw me into alert, and taught me a lesson about always carrying. I was driving across country with my two dogs to visit my family. It is a HUGE drive, so we were going to do it with a nap or two along the way. I stopped at an IHOP parking lot at about 2am. They are open all night, the parking lot was well lit, and it was well trafficked. I also always travel with my Glock 22. However, the Glock was in its case in the car, and I just needed to take the dogs out for a quick pee. I walked maybe 50-75 feet from my car to a grassy area next to a closed strip mall (same parking lot as the IHOP, but nobody was in this area). I actually work as a dog trainer, so I have pretty good dogs, and I think that may have saved my life.

    While the kids were having a pee (and we’d been standing there a good three minutes), a transient male came out of the shadows, carrying a plastic bag. I hadn’t really noticed him, exhausted as I was from driving all day, and I immediately had alarms go off. He was staring at me, like STARING at me. I’m only 5’5, 125 and this was a full-sized adult male. I kept it cool, made eye contact, and then he started getting crazy. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing out here?! You had better hold on to those fucking dogs or I’m going to cut their fucking throats.” He then pulled out a large fixed blade knife and brandished it at us from a distance of maybe 15 feet. “Those dogs come anywhere near me and I’ll fucking kill them. You fucking people need to learn some control.” I calmly held the dogs and said, “We’re just having a bathroom break. Everything is good.” The ENTIRE time this was going on, my dogs were staring this guy down, calmly, but alertly. I have an 80lb Rottweiler and a little 40 lb Dalmatian X. Thankfully, after years of training, my Rottie waits for Mom to be upset before he gets upset, and his little sister does whatever he does. The guy walked past us, knife pointed at us the entire time, muttering to himself. We watched him until he was out of site, went back to the car, grabbed the gun (idiot!) and moved the car in a bit.

    I have always been one of those people who tend to remain calm in bad situations and am pretty proud of myself that I kept my cool. The whole time this was going on I was thinking of something my defensive tactics instructor said, “If you are going to get into a knife fight, expect to be cut.” I was readying myself for the attack, focusing on his movements, expecting that the dogs would distract him while I went for the knife and sensitive areas. The dogs aren’t weapons, in case anyone was going there. Those are my furkids, and like hell if I’m going to let some whackjob hurt them. The gun went with me everywhere after that.

  • Mark

    Being a former correction officer I always am looking at everything. I notice things most will never see because they are wrapped up in their little world. I learned to play the what if game. What if he shanks this guy, what if he try’s to shank me. Inside your personal space is NOT 21 feet. This is why I carry in my front pocket, so if I feel the need I can put hands on my weapon without anyone knowing. I have never gotten to “orange” out in public, but I do believe it is because of all watching and being aware of what is going on around me.

  • Jeff

    My wife had an orange moment several Christmas’ ago. We were meeting up after work at the local big mall to get dinner. She was up on the parking deck adajcent to several external entrance stores and a car behind her was flashing his lights and ‘gently’ honking. She continued and found a spot. The vehicle angled in behind her and the driver got out. She was unarmed at the time with both kids in the car but she cracked the window to see what he needed.

    The other driver was dressed in work clothes and was trying to convince her that something in the front left wheel well was broken, that he saw ‘sparks’ etc. She went from orange to REALLY orange as he continued to verbally coax her out of the car to see this ‘thing’. She had already dialed 911. He hoofed it. She then called me and I made my way out of the resturant where I was waiting and linked up with the police and mall security. Descriptions were given and we went on to dinner…although it was a tense dinner.

    Interesting thing was she had just finished reading ‘The Gift of Fear” and noted afterwards that she knew immediately that something was up and made mention of going ‘orange’ somewhere in the interaction.

    alls well that ends well

  • Gary

    I hate to say it, but we currently live in a world where its better to make yourself aware of potential threats rather than risk falling victim to some scumbag. Unfortunately we see stories every day regarding innocent people having their worlds torn apart by some selfish criminal…stories of elderly WW2 vets having their wife rape and murdered in front of him…stories of family friends abducting a mother and three daughters in the middle of the night, resulting in the death of the mother and at least one of the daughters, with the other two still missing. The world has absolutely gone to shit, and I would rather not trust anyone, than trust someone and have them take the ones I love on a ride through hell. I will definitely re-evaluate the way I interact with strangers in public…to me your story sounds like this guy was scouting for potential victims…why would he be walking around looking for a pet store first off…and for him to just walk off around the corner of the store seems odd. Who knows, you could have been airing up your tires and wound up with a knife to your neck or something.

    I rarely ever pick up hitch hikers, but at one point years ago I had offered a ride to a man and his beagle, he was looking for a ride up north and was definitely not going to find a ride at the store he was at…I offered to take him about 5 miles down the road to where most of the truckers stop to fill up thinking he would have a better chance at finding a ride there. The guy seemed nice enough so I let him in and began making my way to the gas station. It was at that point when I realized the potential threat the man posed, and how easy it would have been for him to attack while I was driving. This put me into what you described as condition orange, making me much more aware of the man’s actions, the location of his hands, what his dog was doing in the back seat, etc. I’m sure the man actually posed no threat, but I could not help but thinking of how easy it would be for him to pull a knife and force me to the atm or something. Silly I know, and it sucks that we really can’t trust people…but like I said, I would rather be like that than become a victim.

    • brad

      While I would never advocate not being vigilant, the world has not “gone to shit”. Granted, 24-hour news cycles, cable news networks, the internet, etc. would have you believe as much. However, if you actually look at violent crime statistics, it’s safer in the United States now than at almost any time in our history ( That chart only goes back to 1973, but it illustrates the point that it is actually safer (from a violent crime perspective) now than in any time in recent history.

      This is not to say terrible things never happen to good people. It’s just that we hear about them with far greater regularity than in the past. Today, we see stories about kidnappings all across the country. 30 years ago you’d be lucky to hear about such an event just a couple towns down the road. Just because we hear about more tragedies doesn’t mean there are more tragedies.

      That being said, each individual should take whatever means they feel is necessary to protect themselves and those they love while remaining within the law (however silly it sometimes is) and without encroaching on the rights of others.

  • Paul BaiLey

    One night when I was a grad student at the University of Illinois, I was walking down a street on the dangerous north edge of campus, known for its muggings and assaults. I was thinking about a physics problem and not paying much attention to my surroundings. Three young men approached me. One of them split off from the other two and walked ahead of them and past me. The other two spread across the sidewalk in front of me, blocking my way. The words “classic muggers triangle” flashed through my mind and I felt a great sense of disgust at myself for being so oblivious as to fall into such a trap.

    I had thought about what to do if ever confronted with such a situation, and armed myself as well as I could. I was aided by further arming myself with knowledge about muggers tactics from stories I had found of those who had been mugged. I searched for those stories and studied them and digested them. So when the attack started I recognized it immediately and so gained an important edge: a sliver of time.

    I knew that what was about to happen was the two men in front of me would distract me while the one behind came up to put a knife to my throat or a gun to my head. Having secured that overwhelming advantage, he would either kill me outright or threaten and terrify me into giving up my wallet, my book bag, and possibly my shoes too.

    The adrenaline hit and, without hesitation or further thought, in my sliver of time, I executed the plan I had formed in thinking about this sort of situation beforehand. I stepped to the side of the walk, onto the grass and turned sideways, so that the two blockers were on my right and the rear man was on my left. As I did, the two blockers started their distraction routine, laughing loudly over nothing.

    I lowered my head and opened my eyes wide so that I could use my peripheral vision to watch all three men at the same time. I brought my left arm up to cover my chest, using it as my shield, and slid my right hand into the opening of my book bag, which was slung by a strap from my right shoulder. In the bag I had a notebook, two textbooks, and a kukri, a large knife with an 11 inch blade, illegal to carry, I suppose, but better to be caught with it than without it.

    I grasped the handle of the kukri and took a deep breath. The two blockers were still laughing because from the time I woke up and saw the attack coming in until just then was a little less than one second. The value of forethought and preparation.

    My plan was to slash at the hands (the advice of Musashi) of whoever first showed a weapon in order to freeze him or drive him back. Left or right. Then I intended to pivot and slash the other way, right or left, to freeze or drive back the man or men in the opposite direction. Then I would pivot again and stab for center mass or throat of the man who had showed the weapon, and proceed afterwards as seemed best.

    I guess in Cooper’s system I was at condition red. I had thought things through before and my intent, once someone showed me a weapon, was to kill all three of them, or die trying. I did NOT expect to survive the attack. As I took hold of my friend Mr. Kukri I was sure I was about to be killed, but I was also sure I could take at least one of them with me, and maybe two. It all depended on immediate unhesitating execution of the plan. Much depended on surprise, the surprise of the predators not expecting a ferocious response from someone they had mistaken for a sheep.

    The thought of their surprise tickled me, and, I couldn’t help it, I smiled.

    There was enough light there on that street that they saw it, they saw my smile, the two blockers did and it froze them. They cut their laughter off and ducked their heads and scurried past me. The rear man glanced back and turned and just kept going. It turned out they really didn’t want to find out what I had in my bag.

    I watched them go, standing there at the side of the sidewalk and then tottered away, highly relieved tha I had NOT had to implement my plan and that I was, after all, going to survive the night.

    What do we take away?

    First, be situationally aware, dumbass, and don’t go wandering around with your head up your wazoo in Indian Country.

    Second, arm yourself, with knowledge as well as hardware.

    Third, have a plan based on that foreknowledge, and be ready to execute it without hesitation. I think it was my complete lack of hesitation, or doubt, that concentrated the minds of the muggers and caused THEM to doubt.

    Fourth, smile. If the shit is about to hit the fan, you might as well enjoy yourself.

    • DonTapouT

      Dude, that last line made my freakin’ day!

  • John B.

    Well played Bryan. Very well played. I hoist a Guinness to you, sir.
    Anyone can armchair quarterback your situation, but you executed your “plan” so the guy had to react to you. You reset his OODA Loop.
    You walked away and went home to your family from a potentially bad situation. That’s a WIN.
    It does not matter what this guy’s intentions were, what matters is because of your training, knowledge, and desire for self preservation, you made split second decisions which helped you throw him off of his game, and you survived the encounter. Everyone can learn from this.
    Thanks for sharing your experience, and thank you for bringing us ITS Tactical.
    By the way, Paul BaiLey, you hit the four bullet points right on the head.

  • Turf

    2 stories

    I had the opportunity to go on a short course in Europe with my university. Included in the trip were 2 or 3 weeks of free travel (no supervisors). This was before I really took an interest in self defense, but my dad has always been about protecting himself and his and made sure I had at least a little heads up about Europe. Our team leaders also made sure to warn us of potential threats but to a lot of young college kids in Europe, I think a lot of us were thinking about where we wanted to visit more than who to watch out for.

    There were a lot of “sketchy” situations I encountered with my group in Europe, but the 2 most dangerous occurred in Rome.

    Right after we got off an absolutely terrible Italian train filled with very questionable people, my group was exhausted. We were concerned about one of our team, because he was the only one he got no sleep at all. He said all he wanted was some breakfast. After getting a little something, he rejoined our group circle of about 8 people (we were trying to figure out what to do next because we didn’t even have a plan of where to stay…another genius move on our part). A gypsy woman came over and started rubbing her stomach at our group like she wanted us to give her something to eat. We were in a crowded train station and we all had our backs to her so we just ignored her (I usually try to help the hungry but not when it is going to endanger others). For some reason, our friend turned out of the circle and faced the woman, and she started talking real fast in Italian and might have even reached for his food. He then said a little loudly something to the effect of, “Woman, what do you want!” She then spit on his food and arm and walked away, and he got angry and yelled, “Are you kidding me!”

    Now, I was upset that my friend was treated that way, but I was probably a little slow being so tired and what could I do. She wasn’t threatening him further and even if Italian law recognized spitting on someone as assault, we don’t know the language and I figured Roman police would have better things to deal with. Since I wasn’t doing anything, I decided to see what else was going on. I noticed several other men who were dressed very similarly to the gypsy one at different points around our group. After a little while, these men joined the gypsy woman and left. My team discussed the incident later and recognized some potential threats. The rude gypsy woman may have been just trying to get some food. However, she may have been a distraction intending to draw the whole group away from our belongings so her accomplices could relieve us of them while we were dealing with her. Maybe she intended to have one of us hit her so her team could have come in afterwards to give us all a whooping, taken are stuff, and been “justified” by self defense. Who knows. I just know that the one woman threat I originally assessed was much larger and that by focusing on that one threat, I could have opened myself to much greater threats.

    The second instance also occurred in Rome. It was late at night, the last buses were pulling out for the night, and my group wanted to go to the Trevi Fountain. We had our maps out trying to quickly find which bus would take us there. One guy (passenger) leaned out of a bus and asked us in English where we were going. We told him, and he said for us to get on the bus. I had a tingle of “I don’t like this” but ignored it. We got on the bus and were on our way. Turns out he was traveling with a friend. He said that he was Egyptian but had studied in England for years (hence the English). There was another man with him but he didn’t talk much. The first guy was asking us all sorts of questions about our trip and our group, and I had slipped out of Yellow into a White color code of awareness. That friend mentioned in the earlier story was just chatting it up with them. He told them about the gypsy story and the Egyptian said, “Yeah, you just really can’t trust anybody.” This woke me up and put me in Orange. I thought, “Yeah, you’re exactly right, we can’t trust anybody and anybody includes you buddy.” So, being abroad in Europe, my carry weapons were severely limited. I had a small leatherman micra and curled my fist around that (taking out the blade would have been dangerous concealed in my pant pocket and that tiny blade is very impractical for a fight but I thought it might help a little as a fist load).

    Now these guys were actually going to take us to the Trevi Fountain. An idea which had now made me very uncomfortable. I decided not to get out at any stop that look deserted. We came to a stop and they said that this was our stop. There were plenty of people around so I felt fine. Then they said that this one was actually the wrong spot and that it was the next one (now I am more uncomfortable). The next stop had less people but there were people around. We got off the bus with them and started toward the Fountain. I tried the best I could to make sure the females in our group had at least one male of our group nearby. I sized up our new “pals” and felt like our group of 5 guys and 3 girls could handle these 2 but if they drew down on us or took us down an alley where 25 of their buddies were waiting, we would be in deep trouble. Luckily, we stopped at one point to get our bearing at which point my cousin and I got our group to meet and then “wander” away from these guys. I asked who of our group knew our new friends may not have been too friendly and most were aware. However, some of our group were completely shocked and were worried about the information they gave them (hotel info, where we were going, etc.).

    Luckily these were the situations that I believe had the most potential to have been serious situations in my travels. I learned some valuable lessons without a high price. Basically, be friendly but don’t endanger yourself by putting yourself in compromising situations and/or giving too much info about yourself. Also, if you are being distracted by something strange you need to ask yourself, “Why I am I being distracted?” For example, there were puppet shows from time to time on the subway in Europe. Some hope you will give them a few coins…some our hoping you will be looking their way while their friends take a lot more than just a few coins.

    Trust in God, be aware, educate yourself, and do the best you can.

  • Danny Korn

    This post is quite timely for me, as I’ve been really thinking about this a lot lately, and particularly in the past day or so. I try to always be aware of my surroundings, what vibes I’m getting from people, and what my options are should something happen. I do, without thinking of it consciously as such, tend to think of my state of mind in terms of the color codes described in this article. My friends have often joked about it and think I’m worried about nothing or am overly paranoid. They joked about it, that is, until this weekend, when someone was robbed at gunpoint in the middle of our (generally safe) campus. Not on the edge of campus, close to town, nor in any of the quieter areas of the campus. Right in the middle of campus. Just goes to show that nowhere is safe and you can never be too aware.

    Oh, and, of course, since the gunman is still at large, my friends don’t joke about my level of alertness anymore…

  • l j

    This past winter I was skiing with the family. My 7 year old daughter and I were in line for the chair lift. In the line near us (maybe 5-8 feet away) there was a younger boy, maybe 5-6 and he was poking at who I think was probably his older sister, teasing her, stepping on her skis, etc. He was being annoying and everyone in line was probably tired of his antics.

    A male adult who he was with (I assume his father) was just standing there. All of a sudden he back hands the boy on the side of his head, hard enough to knock the boy down (the boy was wearing a helmet, but still it was a really hard hit).

    Everyone else in line (including me) was just standing there with our mouths open. The boy stood up and didn’t look hurt. The guy starts yelling at the boy and my daughter looked at me and she was scared. The guy stopped yelling and I said to him that if he hit his kid like that again, I’d do the same to him. Probably not the best choice of words because he went off that I was threatening him and I couldn’t tell him how to parent, etc. Another guy in line then said something to him and the guy went completely nuts.
    I figured any second somebody was going to get hit (I am a horrible skier and still had my skis on…I figured it was going to be bad).

    Then bad dad puts his hand in his pocket and says he’s got a gun and he’s going to shoot us. All I could think to do was to stare him down. He wasn’t close enough for me to grab and there was no where we could move to. There isn’t a color code for “This is going to hurt and I don’t have a clue”.
    Luckily, I think he was just bluffing and we were just staring at each other. He finally got out of line and left and his kids followed. Somebody must have said something or the staff saw it because before he reached the chalet, the ski hill staff stopped him and were talking to him. I talked to the guy who was running the lift and he said that they knew the guy and would take care of it. The part I regret about it is I should have called the police myself because I don’t know what ever came of it.

    I would have never thought something could go so bad, so fast in what was supposed to be a friendly place. I had always figured I’d break my leg or something, not get into a confrontation on the ski hill. As often as I fall, I don’t even carry a wallet when I’m skiing, because I’m afraid of losing it. My daughter was really scared and it took us awhile to settle ourselves down, but when she later retold the story to her mom and sister, I think that she was ok and maybe even a little proud of her dad.

  • FeNuts

    Great article man! You were totally right in the way you acted, brother. I had a situation that I had to take action on, actually. As my girl friend and I were leaving a movie, headed towards the parking lot, two guys started heckling my girl; saying things like “Hey, what are you doing with that fag” and “Nice ass, come over here girl” ect. I pulled her close to me and told her everything was alright and not to worry. I noticed that The men had gotten up, and started towards us, this threw me directly into condition orange. I told my girlfriend to stay close and do as I say, both of us knowing that I have taken six years of training in kung fu san soo as well as ten years of Shotokan. The men continued heckling as they approached. Finally I spun around and asked if I could help them; they told me to give them my possessions and walk away from my girl friend or get hurt, more or less. I told them to let us leave, but they grabbed my girls arm. I went into condition red. I removed the first guys arm from my girls and broke his wrist then hit the second square in the chest and probably fractured a rib or two ( a possible over reaction but I was proud of my reaction). I immediately called the police told them the story and found out we were not the first couple that had been harassed by these guys. I ran into the same two guys a few months later, while walking with my girl friend, so I tipped my hat said gentlemen and saw the fear go through their eyes as they blew me off. It was unfortunate that they pushed the situation to this point, but my reaction was swift and the police agreed I did the right thing.


  • Eia

    This is a very reasonable post. I live in the Sarasota, FL. area, not far from the location where two British tourists were shot and killed (amongst other things) []. While I must admit having no idea what they were really up to, I certainly know what two acquaintances of mine were doing when they were robbed; they were riding their bicycles home, each on separate occasions, no more than a few hundred yards from one of the more posh art-schools in the nation (Ringling Art School). Fortunately neither of them were seriously harmed. I read the negative comment above, which inspired this comment. The only credit I can lend it, is that it is actually unfortunate that being prepared for bad situations is a wise precaution. Otherwise, awareness and preparation has, will have, and could have saved many lives. Not all criminals are complete morons. Not all attackers send postcards (twitching shoulders & frothing profanity) beforehand, and even if they did, there may be distractions. The price of being a little grumpy – but levelheaded – is a small one in these times of economic decline and coming difficulties — a small one regardless. I wish more people had a better sense of personal space; I strongly believe my own has spared me multiple instances of trouble or worse. Also, the context of gas-stations reminds me of such things as the rash of rest-stop / highway shootings, where scumbags would pose as inquisitive tourists or victims of mechanical failure, then rob and kill those kind enough to engage them. I guess it would be silly to muster a bunch of examples; and there is, after all, a bit of Zen to a serious — but peaceful — mindset. Be aware. Be informed. Be responsibly prepared. ..Reasonable enough.

  • jellydonut

    Critic commenters: He wasn’t ‘asking for directions’, he delivered a bullshit line once he realized the article author was on the defensive.

  • Cpl. Adams

    Hi there.
    I am glad I have got to experience this situation as well. I was on my way home from work at around 00:30. I decided to hot up taco bell. As I was pulling out of the drive through, two guys yelled “hey!” The distance was about 25 feet. I stopped the vehicle because maybe it was an emergency. As I stopped, I pulled my blackhawk! CQD Mark 1 Type E out of my pocket. The guys stopped in their tracks. I guess it was the movement I had to make in order to pull it out of my pocket. I told them to stop there and asked what they needed. It turned out, they just needed a jump start. They couldn’t see my knife, because I was in my car. What I do is pull the knife out when their not looking, and hold the blade against your leg, and if I am wearing a long sleeve, cover most of it with my sleeve. Sometimes I have to go out to cars and ask what they are doing in the parking lot after hours, where noone is around.

    I came across another situation with the more intent of hostility. I was Active Duty in the Corps, and we were issued a small pocket knife that attaches to my key chain. On a Friday night, I went to Palm Springs to hit up a party this girl invited me to. As I was driving through the parking lot of the place, this kid stood in front of my vehicle, requring me to stop. When I did, he walked to my side of the door. I tell you I was prepared and had that small knife in my hand opened, ready to put it to use. I wasn’t scared, but was excited to use it. I am not sure why I was, but I was damn it.

  • XPO172

    Shop Smart …. Pet S Mart.

  • Allen

    This article really seems to have hit home judging by so many passionate comments. When I was 16 and about as sheep as you could get, I was robbed at gun point as I got into my car after airing up my tires at a gas station right next to my high school. It was a real turning point for me that changed my psyche forever because the guy wasnt even that good. I should have seen it coming 10 miles away. Anyway, I have been LE for seven years now and before that I’ve worked in some real nasty parts of Ft Worth so I have had a lot of contact and experience with the shadiest of street people. So I was at a gas station in plain clothes a while back and this guy who I immediately recognize as a user is walking throught the parking lot. I am standing by my car filling up and watching him when he makes eye contact with me and starts my way. He was probably about 12 feet away when I casually removed the nozzle from my car, pointed it right at his face and calmly said, “can I help you”. His reaction made me laugh after the fact. He did a 180 with out a single word and walked around the back of the building never to be seen again LOL. So, PAY ATTENTION, BREATH, AND THINK CREATIVE. God Bless to All.

    • Kenny

      I used to travel a lot for work which means rental cars, which means stopping for gas in areas you’re not familiar with. Thankfully I’ve never had anything come up, but I have been “eye-balled” by a few nefarious looking individuals while filling up a rental car on my way back to the airport. I just thought to myself, “If one of these douche-bags starts something, he’s getting a face full of gas.”

    • Mike H

      Allen, I just laughed hysterically for about 30 seconds at work after reading this post- now everyone is staring… haha you made my day.

  • Andrew

    That’s an awesome story, and points out something i’ve heard about attackers not always looking like the thugs in the movies. when i was a freshman in college(about 18 yrs old) i went to a metal concert with some friends. We did this often and never ran into problems. at one of the shows though there was an individual in the mosh pit that was being extremely reckless, tackling people on the outer edge for fun. (if you’ve never been in a mosh pit, the people on the edges are not engaged in the activities, and are therefore not targets for the festivities usually). when this guy tackled me, i reacted as i would in wrestling and turned him over pinning him to the ground. very quickly i was pulled up by security, who had seen the entire event, and he was removed from the building. during this one of my contacts had fallen out and they let me go out to my jeep to look for solution. i only had one shoe on (which i later learned was stolen by the kid who tackled me) and a loose contact in my left hand walking to my jeep late at night. i heard someone yell at me and realized him and approximately 4 or 5 other people (i couldn’t see very well) were following me and gaining ground. i pulled out a knife that i had had on me the entire time and held it behind my back to make it visible to them. at that time i had had no training at all in any type of self defense, but this seemed like an acceptable show of force as i was probably about to be attacked. they immediately stopped and yelled to security that i was armed. after looking in my jeep for contact solution and putting on an extra pair of shoes, i went back inside with my knife out handing it directly to the guards at the front. to this day i wonder what would have happened without that small show of force. i believe the escalation is known as show shout shove shoot.

  • Sam

    Thanks for sharing your story. I have a good story as well, from years ago in the days before I became ‘aware’ and walked through daily life blissfully ignorant in condition white. This ignorance allowed a crazy homeless woman to get her hand on my very small son before I was even aware of a potential conflict brewing. Squatting next to my son to talk to him, just outside of a Starbucks on a busy street in a ‘safe’ neighborhood, I see a hand with something in it reach past me, seemingly offering whatever was in the hand to my son. At first I said ‘no thank you’ politely, but the hand kept going. Then I blocked the path of the hand toward my son, and once I did that she reached past my hand and grabbed his arm. Only now did I become aware of a problem – much too late. I knocked her hand away with my left hand while grabbing my son with my right, putting him behind me with my right and holding her away with my left. She starts screaming ‘don’t touch him!’, apparently hallucinating that its her child, and starts swinging at me with both fists. She landed a couple of times on my face, but she couldn’t hurt me that way as I outweighed her by about 100lbs. All this time I’m just holding my left arm out in front of me, holding her back. I was completely unarmed at this time – nothing defensive/offensive of ANY kind. Eventually I shoved her back, and she went flying. Then she grabbed a metal chair and held it overhead, threatening to throw it at me. I got ready to play catch, but something finally happened in her head because she then just put the chair down and sat there, mumbling to herself. That was the first and last time I ever found myself or someone close to me in danger while in condition white. It will never happen again. Good luck!

  • Jon

    I had something like it but worse. I had just returned from Afghanistan and drove from Florida to Texas for a wedding at Fort Hood. I had my brand new XDm sitting between myself in the drivers seat and the center console. Now I had always been trained as an MP to never lower my window in a area that I felt unsafe or was unformilure with, this night I failed that. I was tired and pulled into a gas station. My girl went inside to use the restroom and I sat in the car (window down). A male approache my window before I could react, he said “hey man you got a light?”. Before I could turn my head he pulled out a knife and put half of his upper body in my window. Thinking fast I grabbed him with my left hand, pulling him in close, with my right hand I drew my XDm and forcefully shoved it into his chest (so hard that it caused a jam but I didn’t know till later). I spoke calmly “drop the knife of I drop your ass”….well needless to say he dropped the knife (which I carry till this day) and he ran with the indent of my pistol in his chest. To this day my girl (now my wife) still has no idea it happened or where I got my knife from.

    • Kenny

      Nice. Jon “Drop the knife or I drop you” (insert last name here)

    • DonTapouT

      SWAT magazine did a great article on not pressing your gun into an attacker as this can cause your gun to be pushed out of battery, causing a failure to fire. I had never thought of this until reading the article and it’s something I frequently remind my self of when contemplating different scenarios in my head and during training exercises. I like to carry with a weapon mounted light, however, which would make this a non-issue, but I still carry without is sometimes so I still have to be aware.

  • miguel

    Nice article. I’ve always been aware of my surrounding and thinking ahead of the what if shit(excuse the language) happens. Guess it’s all with the martial art training in me that always keep me up and aware of things.

    I was vacationing with my girlfriend to the east of coast of Canada, Toronto. My girlfriend had some friends in Toronto and wanted to chill. So she did and I just stayed behind to explore on my own and what not. I was walking the streets and just exploring. As I was walking down a street I passed this guy who obviously looked homeless. I glanced back to him just to see him again. As I continue my walk I felt this 6th sense that I was being followed, and something was about to go down. I was passing by a store window and quickly glanced at its reflection to see who was following behind me. It was the same homeless guy who I passed by was following me. His walk was getting a bit quicker and his body language was giving away signals too. So what I did was walked a few blocks, stop by a store and just looked through the window like I was window shopping. He passes me and now I’m behind him following him. I could tell he was uneasy because he was glancing back often. So what he did was stopped dead at his track, turned around and signaled me to keep walking and like bowing at the same time. At that time I only had a pen on me because as I’m out of town I don’t normally have my folder and multi-tool with me. But with the pen I have some skills to use it as a improvised weapon hitting pressure points.

    What I notice that drives away or make someone think twice of trying to do something to you is keep a strong posture, have a “walk” that deliver a strong signal that you ain’t to be mess with, and just look confidence. It works many times with me. There are times when I use my martial art skills to use reasonable force to subdue someone, but haven’t really use it to a full extent where someone is badly injured or even worse being dead. Hopefully that day never comes where my skills cause real bodily harm.

  • Greg


    Good article and it brings to mind some of the things I try to be aware of at all times. Many people will dismiss it as paranoia, but they have likely never been outside their comfortable little world in suburbia. Your experience made me think about a couple of things that will increase survivability in any/all encounters: situational awareness and personal preparedness. I am a big believer in working WITH your natural bodily responses to prepare for any and all eventualities. We train this type of thing all the time.

    If you are not familiar with it you might check out Gavin DeBecker’s book, The Gift of Fear. It addresses many of the same things you have talked about here. I remember a line from a medical journal I read while doing some research. I don’t remember the authors’ names or when it was published, but I think it came out of The Journal of Nuero-Psychiatry or something similar. Anyway, one of the opening lines stated that, “fear is a hypothetical construct”. I guess it goes back to FDR’s quote of Francis Bacon, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Really powerful stuff if you take the time to think about it an apply it to your training and mindset.

    Anyway, keep up the good work.

  • Ken

    Bryan, I think you had some pretty good instincts. The biggest red flag, after the fact, was the suspect exiting towards the rear of the store. This is a classic tactic. It’s typical for criminal to park nearby, but not in sight. They run around the corner and jump in a car for a hasty exit. They are able to get out of the area and hide their escape mechanism, i.e. license plate with make and model.

    While I’m not advocating this, but as LE I might have been very curious and followed him possibly to get a tag, to confirm his story, etc. Most likely from a good distance and fully prepared to run like hell (don’t want to be seen as the aggressor and have to shoot someone defending yourself. Unless you live under a rock you know what I mean.) I check on suspicious circumstances all the time–I’m a nosy bugger. As LE I love good witnesses and cameras–criminals hate them.

  • Andrew

    “I found the Petco but can’t find the Petsmart?” WTF? Don’t the sell the same stuff— pet food? Let me get this right, you left the , drove to a gas station, to then ask strangers for directions to Petsmart? Yeah, sure you did.

    I really really really need pet food….but Petco—-never. What kind of animal do you think I am? Shopping at a Petco— my animals demand only Petsmart products!!!!

    Yeah, I think it is safe to say the guy was up to no good. Let’s hope his attack plan is as screwed up as his bs excuse used to break contact.

  • JWhite

    I’ve dealt with this kind of thing before. I myself have been asked seemingly innocuous questions only to find this guy trying to “step” up to me. I too put my hand out and started yelling “Stay away from me” (California/LosAngeles) while reaching for my Benchmade. Bums out here in Venice Beach consider tourists soft targets and all to often people let them into their space. I’ve become accustomed to ignoring them while tracking their position in relation to my path. It’s not because I dont care about them, it’s because I care enough about my self to not end up in a hospital with a bottle cracked over my head, my wallet missing and some kind of MSRA eating away at my skull. It happens all the time around here, I listen to the scanners and follow community twitter feeds.

    The other half of this story…

    My girlfriend… Is going to get me/her into trouble. Recently there has been a wave of violence at a 7-11 up the street from me. Armed robberies, ADW’s, shootings, they found a dead body in a neighboring alleyway for christ sake. The surrounding neighborhoods are seeing a slight increase in violence due to latin gangs loosing turf, so they are naturally fighting over whats left of the ungentrified neighborhoods slightly east and west of Lincoln Blvd near Rose. Anyways… I know that 7-11, I used to go there often when I lived 2 blocks away. I’ve observed drug deals go down, guys on bikes “checking” people asking “you from around here boy?”, I’ve see what looked like crack heads pan handling, I’ve seen very intoxicated people bumbling around bumming smokes and change off people. From the looks of it, the air is thick with pestilence. All it’s going to take is one of these guys being a little more desperate to make a buck before you hear police or ambulance sirens. As I approached the parking spots available, I usually pick the one that is mostly lit, and doesn’t have cars on either side. I noticed a guy standing near the door, and as I pulled up started to move between the two doors, not quite to the side of either door. He mumbled something to me, and I just shrugged it off, I noticed someone coming out so I opened the door for them, I figure put a person and a door between me and this guy, my girlfriend was right behind me…. Or was she? He mumbled something, usually they mumble compliments to women as a means of getting their attention and possibly drawing them closer. What does she do? Walks over to the guy and says “what was that? hee hee” she has this guy no more than arms length from here, WAY TO CLOSE FOR COMFORT. It’s not me, so I did second guess, I assumed because she was comfortable with it, he was indeed bumming a smoke off her or something, I watched for a second just waiting for this guy to do something. I know it is kinda pussy of me to do that, but I figure violence of action is going to put him down faster than if I step into his zone and I’m to close to notice that punch or knife. She’s a small gall, ~105lbs, 4’10” she’s a soft target, I assumed (fail) that he would be less inclined to use violence, rather, he would resort to size as a determining factor in his potential extortion. I’ve seen it with my own two eyes before. I spoke up in a commanding voice, “Lets go Amy” and she didn’t listen. I’m not the type to boss her around, or yell at her like that, but I don’t trust people and this guys all up in her space, clearly intoxicated, I went to condition orange. I didn’t think about it much until we left and I was looking around for other people as we approached the car.

    I went home that night and Re-Read Jeff Coopers Principles of Self Defense, and tried to get her to read it, but she kinda blew it off like I was “just being paranoid.”

    I’m pretty uncomfortable with her “oh its no big deal” la la land perspective. She’s to willing to put her self in a situation that could turn out bad, and by proxy, involving me.

    I’m 100000% with the Author on this. He did EXACTLY what he should have done. No weapon was drawn, he came off as a hard target, and issued verbal commands while placing himself in a situation where if need be, he was able to respond accordingly.

    • JWhite

      Also, I shoudl add another note.

      Since this 7-11 has added these new RedBox DVD rental machines outside of their store, ADWs, robberies, and fights have increased.

      I’ve noticed that when people walk up to the machines, they aren’t paying attention to their surroundings. Keep an eye out for RedBox Machines next time your out and see how unaware people are. Its’ like they go into Condition White while they picture themselves sitting in their living room watching the latest DVD they are reading about.

    • Ken

      I feel for you, man. Unfortunately, it’s probably going to take she herself, or a close friend or family member, to be a victim before she opens her eyes.

      When you’re with her being an alert and attentive companion while she’s out and about is a good deterrent without being smothering and controlling. Hope for open eyes before something bad happens.

    • runs-guns

      Sounds like she doesn’t respect you. I’m not paranoid, controlling, or out to prove anything, but I have a tendency to turn alpha REAL quick when I go condition orange, or when women or children are disrespected, but it’s usually surprising when someone i know sees it (simply because I am usually polite and courteous guy, almost a beta).

      I have had only one woman not respect and appreciate that reaction. This woman I was dating was downright insulting when I asked a guy at a party to give ‘us’ some space. She said something along those same lines, suggesting that I was over reacting and moved to the space between myself and the other guy; her back facing me while talking to him.

      At this point I moved back inside the house (without saying anything to either of them) where I stayed for a few minuted to say goodbye to the people that were hosting the party. Shortly after, I went back outside to ask if she needed a ride and drove her home. I never called her again, nor did I return any of her calls after that.

      Later on that night, from what my friends said, another woman ended up slapping him and screaming at him because he touched her inappropriately. The guy was a creep and I could tell. I believe that if the party wasn’t such a sausage-fest, the guy might have done a lot worse.

      My lesson in this situation was this: if a person that you befriend (or court) is “Tra-La-La” and oblivious to perceiving a threat, and is also incapable of trusting your perception of a threat, they are a MASSIVE liability to your own welfare and survival. SPECIALLY if they challenge your judgement in such a situation.

      When I am involved with a woman, I make it my responsibility to protect her, even if that means losing my own life in the process. I believe that’s part of my duty as a man. However, that type of woman will be the one that will ruin BOTH of your days (potentially your lives) and typically leave you to pick up the pieces when the circumstances present themselves. Their ego (trying to ‘act cool’ and make people like them) will very quickly turn them into a victim, and they most certainly will not be able to handle themselves in the aftermath of being victimized.

      The last thing I would want is to be involved with a woman like her when that happens. Not to be selfish, but I’ve got my own life to worry about. I don’t need to babysit as well. Specially not a person that might ‘lemming’ right into a predator’s trap against my own judgement and warning.

      (I hope all that makes sense.)

    • Mumashik

      “My girlfriend is going to get me in trouble”

      Let me get this straight – there is a 7/11 you KNOW lots of bad people hang around all the time, people have been robbed, stabbed and kill there and YOU CONTINUE TO GO TO THAT 7/11!?

      – Are there no other convenience stores near where you live?

      – Does that 7/11 and ONLY that 7/11 sell an item you want SO BAD THAT YOU ARE WILLING TO RISK YOUR AND YOUR GIRLFRIEND’S LIFE!?

  • panos gkanas

    unfortunately carrying a firearm o a weapon whatssoever is illegal unless you are in the police force but I carry a small pocket knife which easily releases its blade.The blade is about 3.5 cm (1.1 inch) but it will the job.Your reaction was correct because you didn’t have a way to know his true intensions and he could easily be marking you as a target for someone else.By the way I have been taught that the levels of alertness are 5, the ones you said plus condition black which is panic. You are unable to react in anything and most likely you will get killed.

  • JAE

    Paranoid. I live in a “rough hood ” and I see allot of shady people but never react like this.
    Some people should just stop being sacred and acquire some street smarts and dont jump right to orange. Im not saying not to be aware but to have your Gun as your fist line of defense is not the way to handle any situation (To me). The mind should be conditioned as well as the body to not react to situations like this so dramatically.As a guy that lives and works in “non permissive environments” I guess I just posses these opinions and views but I only here stories like this usually from the upper class/caucasian people and females. All in all a good read and and alternative viewpoint in witch I respect.

    • JAE

      For a militant/tactical well trained guy like you to react like this is weird.

  • Concerned Citizen

    I read with great interest your article on BAR. I offer the following three situations for readers to ponder. The first-Situation 1- happened to me about a month ago, while gassing my vehicle. I noticed two disheveled people, one male, one female outside the convenience store where I usually fill up. It was a sunny Sunday morning, and visibility was optimal. As I got out to begin the process of gassing, I noticed the pair conversing and staring at me. I had sunglasses on, they did not. (I keep a legal weapon in my vehicle.) Remembering what Vladimir Vasiliev, director of North American Systema stated, I had my driver door open, facing the pair. As I continued to pump gas, I noticed they had started to advance. Not making eye contact, I nonetheless watched them, and slowly started to prepare myself, controlling my breathing, blading my body, and moved towards the concealed weapon. At that moment, they must have realized I had a clue, for they stopped, as I had commenced to adopt what Richard Marcinko calls an attitude of “pain, pestilence and death.” They stopped midstep, and moved back towards the store front. They did not openly acknowledge my decided change in body language, but it was clear that they read on a different level that I was not only aware, but was ready for combat. As I prepared to drive away, a young mother pulled up close to me, with a small child in her car. Same actions by the two dirtbags, until they saw me look directly at them, and lo and behold, a police officer pulled in about 10 seconds after that-way to ruin their day!
    The next-Situation 2- I witnessed, while coming home last summer from Russian Combat Systema training. I pulled up to a favored gas station, and I saw the following-one police officer, with a suspect pinned against his car, three others, sitting curbside, crying and carrying on outside the convenience store. (Not the same one mentioned in situation 1.) Anyway, while the officer was yelling at the pinned suspect words to the effect of “what did you throw out the window? why didn’t you stop when you saw my lights?” etc, another person came out of the store, who apparently was a friend of the four at issue. I watched this, and wondered if the officer was aware of the situation he was in. If the other 4 had decided to jump him, his back was turned-his sidearm was not drawn, and it could have turned out terribly wrong! I watched, and was about to offer aid to him, but at that moment, 4 state trooper cars came onto the scene, lights flashing, sirens blaring. Hope that officer learned a valuable lesson!
    Situation 3-this was relayed to me about 5 years ago, by one of my students. She had stopped to gas up after leaving work around 2230. As she was gassing, she noticed a man leave a store, and come towards her rather quickly, while questioning her about where she lived, etc. Fortunately-1. the student had finished gassing when this happened., 2. she jumped in her car, locked the doors and windows, and 3. remembered what I taught her and others in her Women’s Studies class about being aware! and was able to drive off, as the dirtbag charged her car full speed and tried to get in! She was very shaken up, as you can imagine, but otherwise unhurt. Sad to say that we have to be aware all the time, but it is imperative that you always go home to your family.

  • SF

    You did good.
    This is called by Craig Douglas/Southnarc, “Managing Unknown Contacts”. Kelly Mccann, Gabe Suarez, Mike Janisch, etc all treat these things similarly.
    This happens often. Anywhere there is a modern watering hole, there will be predators and prey. Predator will attempt to close the distance on you using a ruse of some kind of street story, asking for directions, money for a bus, gas money, etc. If you allow someone to close space with you, you lose options. You can’t pull a lethal weapon on someone if you can’t articulate the need, so you have to use awareness, verbal and nonverbal skills, and be prepared to use force, so manage these contacts.
    If you show yourself to be a hard target, the street predator will often leave you alone and look for something easier.
    Be aware, tell them to stop right there, create distance, and tell them I CAN’T HELP YOU.
    They will get the message and go away. If they don’t go away, you have a bigger problem and will have to use other ways of dealing with it.

    • chet brooks

      Google “Managing Unknown Contacts” for SNarc’s info,here is a link if it not censored,

      It is well worth the read,an is a skill worth developing.
      I would have other layers of defense in addition to a gun.
      Everyone has an opinion,I think you did OK.

  • Chuck

    Ok so this is not in the same league but I was at the local chinese eatery with my 20 year old daughter. I’m facing the door, daughter has back to door..

    I always look at the hands, then eyes then back to hands of everyone that walks in a door. Always..

    A woman walks in with a scroungy ‘boy friend’ and has her right hand already in her ‘bag’ slung from the left shoulder. It was exactly how I would have my hands if I was getting ready to cross drawing from a ‘sinister’ maxpedition. She glanced at everyone, but kept focused on the kitchen. No smile.

    I got that hair on the back of the neck feeling.. I’m thinking.. Armed Robbery.. Drug related.. ..

    The boyfriend move oblique to the girl.. In my mind, so he could see into the kitchen area and see the customers but out of the line of fire. He did exactly what I’d expect a partner would do..

    Said to my daughter “Let’s order the orange chicken.”

    For my family. “Orange” used out of context. (we had already ordered) is the universal “Dad, just went to high alert… Obey orders, no questions..”

    My daughter looked at me and I just shook my head and looked at the floor.. meaning.. “not yet, but if I move get the #$% down..”

    Yes. my mind was racing.. I was thinking all sorts of.. “My daughter is between me and them.” “IF they do this, then I do that..” “If she draws, do I respond to gain surprise, or wait..” “oh shit..” (let’s be honest.. if you aren’t thinking that at that point they must be made of cast iron..”

    I picked up my coke with my left hand, turned ever so slightly in the chair and slipped my hand onto the grip. (crossbreed, concealed 3:30 right side..).

    The owner came out of the back with an order, the woman pulled a wallet out of her bag and everyone was just fine..

    To this day, I have no freaking idea what the heck the whole ‘come in the door with hand across front, in bag..” was about and why the boyfriend took up the position he did, why the intense look..

    My instinct tells me that something was way the heck off there and I guess I’ll never know what the “issue” was.

    I can tell you that having my daughter there with me, changed the dynamic. On one hand, it was the ‘omg and my daughters here TOO’

    I don’t know if this makes any sense, but on the other hand, I felt very, very focused because I knew exactly what I intended to defend and how I intended to position myself to shield her, so in a way, I had fewer decisions to make..

    Anyway, I really enjoyed your story. Thanks for sharing it.

  • robert Shannon

    Thanks for the info on the blowouts kits and the Tucson shootings, I real appreciate it. I’m a member of chicago Firefighters Local 2,”Health and Safety Committee”, and with the intel from your website we were able to obtain modified kits with Quick-Clot for the NATO summit. We probably have more shootings on a given day than some war zones. (49 shot 10dead in one weekend). Hopefully we won’t have to use them.
    Hats off to you!

    • That’s awesome feedback Robert, thanks for your post! I’m glad you were able to use our Website to help protect yourself and those in the line of duty. That’s why we do what we do! Stay safe out there!

  • robert Shannon

    I’d also like to thank all are vets past and present serving the world over in the war on terror. Chicago Firemen need Hero’s too! God Bless you all!

  • DonTapouT

    This article is right up my alley and I couldn’t help but grin while reading it. I work for a plumbing company and one of my jobs is to fill up all of the company vehicles every night at the gas station as our guys don’t take their trucks home. We have about 45 trucks so it takes some time to get them all taken care of every night. I have been doing this for about four years now and have encountered countless situations like this. I can honestly say that all of the time I spend at the gas station has sharpened my senses, situational awareness, and overall attention to detail. I have had more than a few scuzzballs approach me with similar scenarios as mentioned and over time my reactions, such as my body position, body language, and attention to their body position, body language, etc., has greatly improved and served me well. As much as I hate my job, I am extremely grateful for the lessons I have learned and continue to learn on my daily trips to the pump. As a result, I can better take care of my family and myself, as no matter where I am, I am always paying attention to my surroundings in such detail that sometimes it feels like slow-motion. As I said, I am definitely grateful for this, and I know it will serve me well in my everyday life and in my military career as well.

  • peter

    Travelling the world by bicycle, I am often what you call a stranger.
    Ive not reached the US yet and I hope the number of scared, `intimidated by life` gun carriers I meet is low. Most of the time things are just as they seem, stop thinking of someone you dont know as a stranger or foreigner, think of them as a visitor.
    I was a Scout and still do my best to be prepared, I think many of you in the US live your lives in fear and by doing so the terrorists won.

    • RvrCtyAK

      Peter … I’ve read a couple of comments here from folks who have “not reached the US yet” or are from various lands elsewhere. Please understand, Americans don’t live in fear. We choose NOT to tolerate the sources of fear. We have a rich History of not only standing up for ourselves, but also standing up for others who can’t or won’t do the same. You may notice our troops around the world sticking up for the little guy to this day. Americans wove into the Foundations of our Country the RIGHTS to defend ourselves from lesser life-forms who choose to prey upon decent folk. Many of us believe in the Power of righteous violence (Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry, The Justice League of America, or John-By-God-Wayne dammit. Take your pick!!) So, how about you and folks like you you who have never been here put a muzzle on the attitude that all Americans are club-swinging, gun-toting, fear-mongering neanderthals? Instead, come on over, extend your hand to shake, introduce yourself like a decent human being and enjoy the sights,sounds, and culture of the USA. Ass-hats like the ones described in these stories will be dealt with accordingly.
      End of Rant.

  • Chris C

    Once, late at night, I was walking a few blocks back to where I lived at the time from the convenience store for a cola. I could hear quiet footsteps behind me, then louder, and I was aware this person was trying subtly to catch up to me. I decided to throw off his rhythm. I slowed a bit, and then turned around, looking right at him. He had something in his hand that he quickly put back in his jacket, too quick for me to see what it was. He then asked if I knew what time it was, fidgeting a little bit. I told him, roughly, keeping eye contact. I then asked if that was all. He said yeah, and backed off. I didn’t have to reach for my weapon, and I’m glad I didn’t. But I was ready for the situation. It’s not about being macho. It’s not about having your hand on your concealed holster thinking it’s a security blanket. It’s about being ready, if necessary, and vigilant, because you just might have to defend yourself. You never know when that moment may come.

  • I can totally understand this whole step back distance stuff if I was downtown Compton on a Friday night at a ghetto convenience store and I am all into code Orange whatever BS? But I think you were a little happy on role playing what you learned in your CC course and probably tripped out an honest guy needing some kibble for his ferret! He probably soiled himself.

  • Matt W

    One thing that consitently concerns me about these stories, is that many of the known “bad” guys are just going free. Sure they ignore you when you prepare to defend yourself or smile confidantly. But your mother / sister / friend / Innocent person or whoever is going to come out of that store next, or pull up and fill the tank with that “evil” person just waiting to kill, steal, or injure.

    Do any of you think about that fact that you just let “evil” go free to kill, maim, and steal from others? Sure they let you, a fellow “wolf” pass, because you were not an easy mark. but they are just waiting for the next sheep to come by.

    “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)

    I am not saying that you should take matters into your own hands, but think about and realize what you are letting loose on society each time you let someone who demands your money and your girlfriend go free.

    And the LE out there should really feel sad about this state of affairs, where good men are punished for doing anything.

  • SSGT

    I really appreciate the fact that I’m not the only one that a: feels overly paranoid in certain situations and b: is willing to ensure that the safety of others is paramount over their own.

    With that being said I had an Orange situation a few years back.

    I had just recently returned from a convoy tour in Iraq and had still not quite come down from that deployment high of EVERYTHING is out to kill you. My wife, daughter, and I were at a BW2 in a nice town in northern Colorado. A group of about 5 guys walk in wearing loose fitting shorts and shirts, all in similar colors, and all acting in a similar manner… thugish, if that’s an acceptable description. I really paid no extra attention to them other then I was simply aware that they were in the restaurant and located somewhat near us to my back. (I normally sit facing the front door… and that IS because I’m paranoid!) Everything was going just fine until two of them were at a gaming station, that was directly next to two other patrons, when one of the thugs started cursing loudly at the game. After a few min of this going on the couple at the table asked him to stop. Did they do it in the nicest of ways, probably not, but it was no more rude then how the thug was acting. The thug stopped and walked away back to his friends leaving the other thug there by himself. The thug left at the gaming station walked over to the table and loudly asked in a threatening way if they had a problem with him and was leaning over their table. I quickly asked my wife to take my kid to the car and wait on me there. I was not carrying and my wife knew where my weapon was in the car in case she needed to use it. I wasn’t in the best of position, no weapon, and my back to the majority of their group, but I was mentally preparing myself for war. I was always taught that when shit hits the fan, your violence needs to be bigger then the bad guys, and I still had a LOT of leftover violence from Iraq. My hearing sharpened and every other sense in my body went on high. I remained calm and acted like I was waiting on the waiter to bring my check while I was widening my vision. Every situation played through my head and I had a plan for each. Eventually everything just calmed down and I walked out of there, but not till after I talked to a manager about calling the cops and allowing them to handle a potentially hostile situation. It still remains one the calmest moments of clarity I’ve ever had in a chaotic situation and I certainly learned that I need to listen to my senses. IF your hair stands up, PREPARE to fight.

    Oh, and my poor wife was sitting out in the car in tears. I asked her what was wrong and she said she was afraid that I was going to kill those guys and that our vacation weekend would be ruined! hahaha…

  • Patrick Muphy

    For those who have said you overreacted, they obviously have not been in this kind of situation. To many people it might only seem like the guy was simply asking for directions, but as you know, when you’re in that situation it becomes obvious very quickly that something just doesn’t feel right. I’m currently in college and I live off campus, and it seems like it is every week that I stop at a gas station and encounter somebody who “needs” something. Even though I encounter people like that on a regular basis, there have been a few times when I’ve been approached by an individual and it just hasn’t felt right, and I am a firm believer in the idea that if it doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t. Thankfully my experiences have turned out the same way yours did and I haven’t had to deploy my TASER (still have a few months before I’m of age for a CHL).

  • glenn beck

    maybe he had a microsd card in his anus?

  • John Q. Public

    I read this once and thought to myself “what an asshole” So I read it again and came up with “paranoid asshole” So the proper way to avoid getting shot while asking YOU for directions at a gas station is to yell at you from whatever You consider a SAFE distance? Seriously, If a stranger in an elevator attempts polite conversation do you back into a corner and reach for a gun? Seriously though, there are people in this world that prey on others. but speaking on averages they are a very small part of the population. There is an old saying to the effect “An armed society is a polite society” Think about that one for a moment. Now, just suppose that the “well dressed man” in your gas station story was an equally paranoid, gun carrying preacher, Can you reason how this might of turned out? Treating every encounter with a stranger as a life or death struggle will sooner or later be just that.

    • Thanks for the asshole comment, that’s exactly what I was going for. Give me a break man, you weren’t there and it’s obvious you don’t understand the situation. My reaction was a direct reflection of this guy’s body language, the speed at which he approached and a number of other factors as detailed in the article.

  • Joe Canadian

    Two weeks ago I was fishing and some redneck with a .22 lobbed six shots at my brother and I because he wasn’t paying attention. A few years before that, we were fishing, and some idiot nearly killed us tossing boulders over the edge of the cliff above us.

    Point being there’s usually more to fear from stupid than there is from malignancy. Cuts both ways, too. I’m not going to start wearing body armour and a flak helmet while fishing.

  • Sim

    My wife and I were out late after watching a movie in Fayetteville, NC. I hadn’t eaten supper so pulled into the drive through at a Burger King. While waiting for a car in front of me to place an order, I heard a plain, clear voice tell me to “have my gun handy because I may need it”. That may sound crazy to some but whether it was a sixth sense, gaurdian angel or divine intervention you’ll have to decide for yourself.

    Without any thought or second guessing I grabbed my pistol from behind the wife’s seat and tucked it under my left thigh. Seconds later a guy walked up to my window from the blind spot and asked me to roll my window down. I cracked the window an inch or so and asked the guy what he wanted. He made out like he couldn’t hear me and became more persistent and nervous acting while still trying to get me to roll my window down more. He claimed he just needed a few dollars for some gas or whatever.

    I told the guy I knew he could hear me because I could hear him fine and to go ahead and say what he wanted or move on. The guy grabbed the car window with both hands and it seemed he was about to jerk the window out or break it. I reached down to grab my pistol and the guy immediately let the window go and raised his hands and made a big show of saying “don’t shoot me” over and over. I never pulled the pistol but told him he best be moving on and he did.

    When I pulled around the Building to the drive-thru window the guy was standing with four other guys in an adjacent parking lot and pointing at my car while telling the other guys whatever.

    I can’t say for sure since the guy never threatened us other than putting his hands on the window but I am pretty sure his intentions were to rob us at the very least. The guy was clean cut and neatly dressed and didn’t look like someone living on the street.

    This was before North Carolina had a CCW permit but I always had a weapon in my vehicle. I am sure glad I did that night. Just the knowledge of that pistol being there saved all involved some trouble.


  • Lonnie W. Brooks

    Great article, while some might say the person was just paranoid, you never know at the air pump, coming out of a store etc. Their skills to put distance between the two of them is a great lesson for everyone to read. I taught combatives for several years in martial arts and if there is anything that I and my fellow instructors taught was this, in this day and time you cannot assume and you cannot take chances. Keep space between you and the other person.

    Even though I taught martial arts and grappling, I never want anyone to be close enough to grab me or get me to the ground. I want to finish the fight before it gets that far along. Thanks for sharing the article.

  • Michael

    what is it with you paranoid Americans?
    Someone approaching you to ask whether you were from ‘here’ might be someone asking for directions. You would clearly come closer than 21 feet, say, around 6-9 feet to show politeness rather than shouting at the person.
    You know what, that chap scares me less, than those over paranoid people who shoot first, then ask…

    • Joe33

      What is “with” us Americans is a profound sense of liberty and what is ours. An inherent right to protect our most precious civil right, our life. You weren’t there. Random, violent crime happens every single second. Nobody thinks it’s going to happen to them, but it does. I’m doubting that you have even the slightest amount of tactical experience, although I could be wrong. If you do, I’d say go back to 101 class. If he got bad sense about the person approaching him, there probably was a reason for it. The most basic and valuable part of SITUATIONAL AWARENESS is “trust your instincts”. It is obvious. Perhaps the stranger had no ill-intent at all but just lacked good judgement. Either way, he went on his way with everyone’s health and dignity intact- a good thing. Oh no! So the poster may have been short and “rude” to the guy! Oh the horror! I have been in situations like this, worse than this. And people like us (Americans since you want to stereotype) could give a flying fuck what the “guns are scary, guns are bad”, spaghetti-armed, brain-dead, Eurotrash wannabes think, who permeate our world (and unfortunately America as well). Hope is not a strategy, but good luck with that anyway.

      You do your thing. We’ll do ours. Have the best day ever.

    • Martha

      As a female on the site: I’m very uncomfortable with people, particularly strange men, getting very close to me very rapidly and very aggressively. Particularly the ones who reach toward you. I do realize that some people are just overly friendly and have no sense of personal space, but I would rather come off as a rude bitch than let my guard down for the one person who gets close enough to sucker punch you, mug you, or otherwise harm you, with just a split second notice. You can’t be too careful.

  • Mark5

    Thanks for sharing the cautionary tale.
    I have a related set of questions and might appreciate your thoughts.
    The background: I live in Canada (don’t laugh), and I am not in law enforcement although I have tremendous respect for the mindset. I have had a couple of ‘bully encounters’ in the past few months and would like general advice on how to deal with bullies.
    Specifically, when to de-escalate, when to ignore, when to respond, how to best shut down the verbal assaults and how to best telegraph the fact I am ready to protect myself and my young children.
    One case had this dude road raging out of the passenger seat of a pickup, in a mall parking lot and the other was a wierd lady raging in the Walmart (don’t laugh) around her cart…
    I would like to think I could find a peaceful approach, and as a Canadian, I am good at saying sorry
    for someone else’s faults – and I walked/drove away safely – but I can’t help but think there is a better attitude/mindset/approach.
    Thanks for any constructive feedback.

    • Jacomus Winterhart

      You sure can find a peaceful approach in the majority of encounters, I’m British and we practically invented saying sorry for someone else’s faults, so I’m with you on that!

      First up, how best to signal that you are ready to protect your family. This is probably the most important thing… at the last minute. As soon as you move into any kind of defensive posture, you are inviting the other person to asses the threat you pose to them, then make the decision to back down and lose face, or press home an attack. You force them to make a decision, and if they are already hostile and keyed up, they are going to choose to attack.

      What do you want from the situation? My answer is that I want to win it, not just want to – I *will* win. Winning, for me, means taking whatever action necessary to prevent an escalation of the situation. Different people have different ideas of what winning is to them and there is no ‘right’ answer, you just need to suit your tactics to your own personal answer.

      Taking your two examples: Road rage guy. Ask yourself what he wants, then decide how you win based on that. What does he want? A chance to show that he is a bada**, most likely. So how would I win? Deny him the opportunity. He is still in his truck, so is not an immediate physical threat (which is good, because I’m weedy!). My course of action would either be to head into the store, keeping eyes on him until he gets bored or picks another target. Alternatively, leave. If he stays put, great. If he follows, well it’s time to practice your E&E driving. Taking a circuitous route, not to your home and not heading anywhere remote, just twisting and turning, utilising a U-turn round a T junction, or slowlane plodding on a highway and if he is still dogging you, get on the phone to the cops – he is now a threat to your life.

      The weird lady in Walmart, well, you’ve already won that – she is a weird lady in Walmart! Breeze on.

  • carlos49er

    My wife, our two little boys and I were walking out of a Toys R Us on a remote side of shopping center. Only several cars in the lot and no one else coming in or out of the store. The shopping center was busy though. As I first came out of the store I noticed two figures coming toward store from the far side of the parking lot, no cars so they were on footmobiles. Our car was about 50 yards, at 45 degrees from the exit. Halfway to the car I noticed the individuals had shifted their course to intersect with ours at the car. I now see these are two boys in their late teens, a little scruffy looking, but nothing out of the ordinary. I was still thinking they are only passing by but doughtbful since on the other side of us was the highway. With only a few yards from the car I was confident that they were headed for us for whatever reason, so I changed direction away from my family to meet them. My wife has taken enough self defense classes to see what was playing out and continued straight for the car with the kids. I was not armed so my reason for closing with them was to create space between them and my family. If anything bad happened, it would have to be hand to hand and I didn’t want it to go down next to my kids. At the time my thought process was, “I don’t need to win the fight, just buy them time to escape”. We were closer to the car than the store so going back would mean being caught in open ground with no cover. A few steps later and I’m standing in front of the teenagers with my family behind me. The lead boy was a bit taller than me, probably 19 or 20 years old. He starts with “Hey” and I said Yes. He asked me what time it was which I provided then they headed back the way they came. I’m 5’10” 200lbs, fit, far from buffed but I can bench press more than my weight. I can only guess they were sizing me up and opined that I was not an easy target. People approach me all the time for whatever and I never give it a second thought, but there are some people and situations that just give you that feeling when things aren’t right. I like what Robert De Niro said in the movie Ronin, “Whenever there is any doubt, there is no doubt”.

    • Bonzo Bananas

      Maybe they needed to know the time?

    • Time Cop

      Maybe they should buy a watch.

    • Dina G

      Bonzo = BOZO

  • Uri

    Great post Bryan.

    Listening to your body and observing the possible adversary can help keeping you safe. Another thing that is important to notice is when the would-be (or actual) attacker stops talking. When a confronting person stops talking this is signal that whatever he is up to will start happening. During a fight for example, there is all that “macho talk” prior to the actual fight, then the talk is over and the first attack happens. This is due to the way the brain works.
    If an attacker stops talking get ready.

  • Just saw a Mythbusters episode this morning, Duel Dilemmas, that tested this distance theory revolving around “bringing a knife to a gun fight.” They came up with 24 feet but in their case the shooter needed to cock the gun. In the 16-18ft range the knife attacker won before a round could get off, much less an accurate one, and this was from an open carry position. Here’s the link to the show

    • Marc B

      Looks like they removed that particular video from youtube but google the show name and you’ll find it elsewhere.

  • me

    Violence leads to violence.

    You morons are a big part of the awful gun culture ruining our world and turning it into a paranoid, dangerous, violent place. You don’t deserve all the things you have, for peddling nonsensical, self-righteous crap like this. You should be ashamed, and I hope you all get what you deserve.

    Have the best day.

    • It’s called instinct brother, hopefully one day you learn to listen to yours.

    • Really…where do you live.
      I live on North Shore of New Olreans.
      been asked for my money twice when in N.O…..they never got it.
      life is more violent than reported….people must be aware of there surroudings, better safe than sorry.

    • Time Cop

      “Violence leads to violence.”

      Did you have to study with the Dalai Lama to come up with that asinine conclusion?

      “…and I hope you all get what you deserve.”

      Does someone need a hug?

    • CodeNameNero

      Ignorance leads to death.

      If someone I did not know approached me in the middle of the night with no witnesses around, I would be on alert as well. Especially after trying to maintain distance with the individual, while the individual continues to close the gap. There are always warning signs of danger, you just have to learn to listen to them. And yes, we may be paranoid, but at least we (and our families) are safe because of it.

    • Josh Thompson

      My apologies, it appears I missed a bit of information in the article, and that it took place in the morning, not at night. However, the end result is the same. The writer of the article is safe, and in the worst case scenario, only feelings were hurt (oh boo, hoo)

  • What

    1) Dude asks you for directions
    2) You almost shoot him
    3) You’re an ~OPERATOR~

  • Jared

    Long time reader, first time commenter. Thanks for the article

    I’ve had a couple of situations, nothing too intense. I’m a pretty big guy at about 6’1″ and 260 pounds. (try to think athletic football lineman big, not just fat big) Hopefully that’s an advantage to me, and my dad is retired LE who gave me some tips.

    One story I do have to share happened to a friend of mine. He was lost driving home from seeing his sister. His GPS was down, unfamiliar territory, etc. So, he stopped at a gas station to ask for directions. While inside the shop the clerk wasn’t of much help, but as he explains it, a “googly eyed” homeless man offered to give him directions if he gave him money for a cheeseburger at Jack in the Box across the street. My friend accepted, gave the guy some money, and he gave my friend directions.

    My friend headed back out to his car which was then surrounded by a group of men. They turned and started walking towards him. One guy pulled out a knife and demanded my friends wallet and car keys. As my friend was reaching into his pockets to grab his stuff, the “googly eyed” homeless man showed up out of nowhere with a gun in hand, and scared the thugs off. Asked my friend if he was ok, thanked him for the cheeseburger, and then disappeared into the night.

    On a side note, what is it about gas stations/quick e’ marts that attract attention?

  • Bonzo Bananas

    I have never read such insanity in my life. Some poor guy politely asks a regular question and you treat him like this? I’d love to hear the story he tells about the mad man who freaked out when he asked where the pet store is.

    I can only presume that you either live in a war zone or suffer from paranoid delusions. Acting like this you are more likely to kill an innocent person that protect yourself from anything. Time for a mental health checkup.

    • I think you may be in need of the checkup to the one thing that’s never going to lie to you, instinct.

    • Bonzo Bananas

      My instincts are often wrong as are most people’s. If you live your life in a state of paranoid fear, your instincts will tell you everyone is about to attack you.

      Strangers walk within 21 feet of me every single day. Often they’ll walk within touching distance. Sometimes they even ask questions yet I never feel the need to treat them like they’re about to attack me.

      Guess what? Despite living in what is one of the most dangerous cities in Europe, I’ve never been attacked in over 50 years. I can’t think of anyone I know who has been.

      Isn’t that a more pleasant way to live?

    • Your instinct or gut is all you have brother, it has nothing to do with paranoid fear. People walk within 21 feet of me all the time too and I don’t “try to shoot them” as some have suggested in these comments. Please continue to put your head in the sand and pretend it can’t happen to you, I certainly won’t.

    • Time Cop

      “Strangers walk within 21 feet of me every single day. Often they’ll walk within touching distance. Sometimes they even ask questions yet I never feel the need to treat them like they’re about to attack me.”

      Hey buddy, could you bend over and pickup that bar of soap I dropped?

    • Prepared

      ‘Bonzo,’ you’re simple: you’re simply confusing preparedness and caution with ‘paranoia,’ you’re simply forgetting- or at least omitting- that just because you “don’t know anyone who’s been attacked” in “one of the most dangerous cities in Europe,” there are those who have been; after all, it’s “one of Europe’s most dangerous cities.” And you’re simply afraid and unfamiliar with firearms and conceal law and practice. But simply? Your unfamiliarity with these things isn’t anyone’s fault but yours, and the sooner you realize we “live pleasantly” with firearms, the sooner we can get you on the range. Hey, perhaps you’ll enjoy it, and we can start getting you actual experience with what you’re talking about.

  • Jacomus Winterhart

    First up, I want to say thanks for sharing and it was sure interesting to read the 21′ article.

    With regards to where you say you moved your hand towards your gun, but didn’t give away it’s position… you go on to say that the guy’s next response was to hold his hands up (I’m assuming up from the elbows, not above his head!). His response tells me that he clocked that you were moving your hand towards a weapon. People only put their hands up like that for one reason – to try and show that they don’t mean any harm, it is a psychological response to a close quarter threat. If you had raised your fists into a boxing stance (for example), he likely would have had an identical response. I’m not trying to take anything away from you by saying that, its just my interpretation from what you wrote combined with a security training course where I learned that someone carrying a weapon will move their hand closer to it when they are under stress, which is usually backwards, whereas an unarmed person under stress will move their hands closer together and forwards. Of course, that doesn’t always hold true, but I think it’s a fairly good ‘in general’ tell-tale to keep in mind.

    I’m a big believer in listening to your gut, because if you get used to ignoring it – you may ignore it the one time you really need it.

  • Tim Ingram

    I find this discussion to be funny. If you consider self defense to be brooding violence then you are not using the brain you were given. Being prepared for any incident life may throw at you is not a moronic ideal. First of all my life is important to me and so is my family’s. I have a savings account incase I lose my job or any financial burden arrises. Then I think it would be smart of me to do the same with my life. I do not know where you are from, but I would prefer to come off rude, if that is the case, over being robbed or physically harmed when I could protect myself. I was a police officer for a while and was also in the military… one thing I learned from both employments is that violence in inherent in human nature. Being prepared and paranoia are two different concepts. Preparedness is being ready for anything life throws at you, while paranoia is believing everyone is out to get you.

    I was out with my brother one night after going out and we were driving back through Jackson, MS. We stopped at a gas station so that he could go in to the restroom. While sitting outside with the car running I was approached by a homeless individual. As he got to my car I couldn’t get my passenger window up because it was manual. The guy reached into my car and grabbed a bottle of cologne out of my cup holder then stood there for a minute before running away. This happened before I had the military and police training. Had that man wanted anything more or had a gun I would have been s*** out of luck. I learned that any person will do whatever it takes to survive. I am sure he thought that it was going to be something more valuable when he grabbed the cologne.

    I was only 18 and unprepared for that. Now I understand that in those situations I would rather be the one ready to protect my life because there may not be anyone else there you can rely on. The next time I was approached with a similar situation things went differently because I was prepared for it. Whether or not that guy was wanting a bottle of cologne or more, I took a different stance and was prepared. I was calm and just showed that I was aware of the fact that this individual was approaching me. Before he got halfway to me, he turned and walked in the opposite direction. I want to preserve life and not take it, but I will do what it takes to protect myself and my family. I am sorry if you find it that violence breeds violence, but sometimes to preserve life you must take it.
    I hope for the best but plan for the worst.

  • nitpicker

    This article should be called, “I’m very, very paranoid.”

  • CCW-Jim

    Before I offer my opinion I’ll share some quick background information. First, I love this blog and have been a long time reader. I have my CCW, am a former Marine, have trained extensively with Suarez International, am an assistant instructor at a self defense school, and am very involved in the gun community.

    Although this will probably get down voted I’m going to offer my opinion. Unlike some of the other guys here I’ll do it respectfully (as a gentleman should).

    This article reinforces my biggest problem with the gun community. Paranoia. Trust me, I understand wanting to keep yourself safe and I understand being aware and trusting your instinct. I do both of those things.

    I live in a big city which is good for me because I’m a VERY social person. I go out a lot and I make conversation with many people along the way. Its because of this I have so many friends. My city is also full of other very social people as well. For me, personally, when someone approaches me who doesn’t look like a gang banger I don’t automatically “move back and get ready to pull on them if I have too.” Just the other day I was outside a store when I man, decently dressed, in his mid 20s comes out to me. “hey sir!” he shouted. I turned around and looked at him, sized him up for a moment, and seen that he was most likely not a threat. He returned 20 dollars to me that he seen me drop inside the store. Nice guy. 99.9% of people who approach you in the day, and who doesn’t look gang related or homeless is harmless. Could that man have wanted to hurt me? Sure… but I could also win the lottery.

    Yes, I let him into my personal space because he didn’t seem like a threat. What if I was wrong? I would have to assume that with all the training I’ve had I would have had an edge.

    The fact is, I’ve met some VERY amazing people in my life that has contributed a lot to my growth, both emotionally and financially, who I have met randomly on the street. If I would have been paranoid and acted cold to them I would probably not be in the great position I am in today.

    I think many people in the community forget that most American’s go their who life without carrying a gun and they get by just fine. Obviously, I have a CCW and I carry pretty much every day. Its better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. That being said, as long as I continue to follow the “three S rule” (Don’t go to stupid places, with stupid people, who do stupid things), and continue to use common sense (like going the other way if a person walking towards me looks suspicious, not walking donw dark alleys at night, ect) then I know I’ll probably never need my gun…. like most Americans never do.

    There are so bad people out there but don’t let the fear of them stop you from living life and meeting people.

    Thanks for reading and keep up the great work on the blog. 🙂

  • James E

    First Bryan, thank you for telling your story with open honesty. Second to all those that criticize ANY of his action, I say to them, when and if you are ever in that type of situation, you just know something’s not right, in my team we called it your Spidey Sense.. Listen to it and your right 100% of the time, don’t listen and it drops to 50%.. Bad odds if it’s a man with bad intentions your gambling on!

    We’ve all had our Spidey Sense go off, especially if your a parent, something tells you not to let them go, they hate you for and the next day you find out someone got in trouble or hurt, or worse.

    One last comment, Evil only announces itself in the movies, in reality it rips through your life in a nano second, only leaving the unprepared only enough time to think “this can’t be happening to me?!”

    Thank you ITS for making this continuing well of knowledge available to all..

  • Katie

    I found your website through my interest in trauma/emergency medicine and I really enjoy learning new things since I don’t know much about military medicine/equipment/tactics. I am a medical student that moved to a new city to start med school last fall. I went to popular (60+ cars in parking lot) grocery store that is in a busy shopping center in a safe area of town during broad daylight. When I walked out with my grocery cart and grabbed my two grocery bags, a 6’2-6’4 well-built (~200 lbs) man walked toward me from around the corner of the store. My gut told me something was off about his body language so I was ready. He asked if he could help me carry my groceries but I took a step forward and faced him directly, pushed my cart directly between us, and firmly but calmly said “No” and stepped back two steps into the store (He came at me right as I walked out the door, before I actually got out into the parking lot so that was the only place to go without turning my back to him). He approached and grabbed the next woman who walked out immediately after this happened, punched her, and took her purse and ran. Keep in mind he could have easily over-powered me – I am 5’4 and 115 lbs and I was wearing a freaking sundress – but I think the reason he left me alone was because 1) I was calm yet confident and 2) I didn’t make an easy target to someone who wanted a quick steal. When I am out and about my head is always on a swivel (15+ years of playing competitive soccer as a defender means if you have my attention and you move, even in a crowd, I have your butt tagged so I can predict your next move) and I don’t dig around in my purse or talk on my phone while I am going to my car even during the day. The woman he robbed was on her phone and not paying attention (I am not blaming her, but it could have been the reason he picked her over me). I stayed with her while EMS and police arrived. She was VERY lucky – only contusions and no fractures, concussion, or lacerations – especially since she got punched since she didn’t immediately give up her purse. I was able to ID the douche bag on the security cam and give a detailed physical description but they never found him. I was ok until I got back home to my house and then I started shaking…it could have so easily been me that he hit and robbed! Both her and I were lucky he didn’t have a gun or knife! On the security cam, he was at his closest only about 3 feet from me so reading about 21 ft/1.5 seconds gave me chills.

    My daddy always told me that your most important defensive weapon is your brain and your ability to fight the urge to panic and not let the adrenaline cloud your judgement. This was the difference between giving a police report and being treated at the hospital that day.

    To everyone on the forum who has more experience and training than I do, do you have any advice? Did I do the right thing by backing up in to the store? Would you have done anything differently? Thanks ahead of time for any advice, I really appreciate it!

  • Cameron Gray

    I really enjoyed this article. My wife and I were talking about this last night. She has come to realise that she really doesn’t pay attention to her surroundings and doesn’t like the idea of becoming a victim through negligence on her part. She read an article about women being prepared (not armed) but prepared by simply by having situational awareness!

    On another note. I notice that every negative comment has been left by someone who did not use a real name!

    • Thanks for your thoughts and feedback Cameron. It’s amazing how negative comments are typically left by anonymous people LOL! Stay safe!

  • philip

    had a similar situation not to long ago and got my brain turnning too. pulled into a gas station late at night on my way home from work. as i started to pump i noticed a sketchy guy comming out of the store. looking around i noticed there were no other cars and he just kinda hung around the entrance. as i watch this guy i have alarms going off because of the way he was acting. he kept look over my way and then he started approching me. about now my mind is in over drive and im thinking about my gun under my shirt. im standing behind my open door wich is almost touching the pump so it is creating a barrier between me and him. as he approaches me he is saying something but i cant hear him because i cant hear well. i raise my voice and ask what. so he would have to answer before he got up to me. he was asking if i could spare a dollar. i didnt want to pull out my wallet so i grabbed 4 quarters and handed it to him. no real threat but it got me thinking.

  • Trapperjess

    This is a good article, i had an exipernce a few years ago. I was 19 and working a gas station in my small quiet hometown when a nice newer car pulled up and pumped a tank of gas, noting too extreme. What changed the situation was when the man opened up his rear car door and pulled out a long gun (looked like a shotgun but i couldnt be certan). The man then walked around the front of his car and moved twards the front door. I saw this and hollered for my co-worker to get to the back and call the police. I reached under the counter and hit the panic button and grabbed the pepper spray under the counter. The man must have heared me yell and ran to his car and left, never to be seen again. It ended well but still sends chills up my spine, had i not been looking he could have very easily breached the door and it could have ended badly. What further concers me is that many gas station employees dont even look out the window to see whats going on. A week after turning 21 I had my CPL in hand and a 38 in my waistband. Good article and keep up the good work.

  • J apprécie la façon dont vous abordez ce sujet. Bravo !

  • Dina G

    This is for the negative comments about this article:
    Ted Bundy looked harmless but was lethal to most women who had the misfortune of crossing his path. Is it better to be polite or to be alive? To all the idiot morons who call instinct paranoia, I hope to god you do not have daughters! If you do, and pass on your ignorant sophomoric ideals to them then you have given birth to just another victim who will be one of the sad statistics we read about in the papers. I have a friend who was approached by Bundy and is alive today because she trusted her instincts to not get in his car. He was wearing a fake cast at the time, was clean cut good looking, and looked harmless but looks can be deceiving. So if you want to think that acting in a manner that shows you are not an easy victim is somehow wrong, thats fine but shut the Fu*k up with your stupidity and keep it to yourself, you dumb tool.

    Thank you for a great article. I just found your site and think every woman should be trained on how to get out of restraints. You are doing a community service and I have book marked your site.

  • Miranda

    My mom is a manager at a local gas station. One day about 3 months ago she needed to get some shelves from another station in the next city over and asked me to go with her. While she was talking to the maintenance guy to get him to unlock the back door so she could pull the truck around there, a man with his arm in a sling asked me if I would help him carry his stuff. At first, I didn’t get any creepy crawlies or anything because we were in a gas station in the middle of the day with a bunch of people there, but he just kept asking me to do more and more stuff. I helped him with his stuff out to his car and that’s when I hit “condition orange.” As he was putting his bag of stuff in the back seat, I asked him what he wanted me to do with his milkshake things that he got. He then told me to sit them in the front cup holders, and instead of being a stupid little girl, I said no. I’m almost positive that he would’ve kidnapped me if I had reached into his car because he would’ve been in a perfect position to just grab me and throw me in. To beat it all, he stood there in front of me, took his arm out of his sling and reached into his pocket for his keys. Thank God I know karate and basic defense techniques.

  • Martha

    Thanks for another great article. I’m not a gun owner so all of the comments about paranoid gun bozos bother me–it’s not about being trigger-happy, it’s about being prepared and aware!

  • Adam

    I have to kind of lean towards the guys that are saying this article airs on the side of paranoia just a little bit. Of course everyone will come back and say that I clearly have “no tactical experience” or I’m a “naive moron waiting to be attacked” but thats fine, I do not need to validate myself or post my resume. I can tell the writer of this article is a little less than a trained professional and is definitely misinterpreting the 21′ rule, which is actually a great rule of thumb, if used correctly.

    There is a very fine line between being overly paranoid and “listening to your instincts.” You can be assertive and have good situational awareness without reaching for your gun any time an individual gets within 21′ of you. That gentlemen, (and ladies) is a mild case of paranoia no matter how you look at it. Suppose that guy looking for pet smart was also a tacticool concealed-carry operator like you and saw you shadowing your intentions to pull a weapon on him? That could have turned into gun-fight at the OK Corral for absolutely no reason, endangering the lives of anyone else that could have been standing around, while you two idiots shoot it out with each other with absolutely no real world experience whatsoever except for reading some articles on the internet and taking a stupid basic concealed carry class.

    Of course, be aware of your surroundings, and if anything seems wrong, it probably is, but just like in hand-to-hand fighting, you never want to show your opponent what you intend to do before you do it. That is ASKING for something bad to happen, whether the person that is your potential opponent actually means to do harm to you or not.

    • Adam, that’s a hell of a first comment from you on ITS Tactical and equally as ignorant. You straddle the line of making good points and blatantly name calling for no reason. Calling me an idiot and referring to my training as being nothing more than “articles I’ve read on the internet” and a “stupid basic concealed carry class” is more ignorance that I typically care to listen to, but I wanted to approve your comment to let everyone witness your thoughts as your own, just as my words in the article are my own.

  • peter

    Back in high school gym class, one day I was late and went into the locker room.

    I smelled smoke, but didn’t think much of it because it was common.
    After this, I heard footsteps. The person, likely high at this point, was still in there. Their footsteps were enough to identify their location.

    Condition Yellow.

    The shower was turned on, I heard a snap, and they began to move towards the lockers (where I was).
    I created distance, moving towards the back of the locker room so that they would never see me.

    At this point, they did something unexpected, taking a route by which they would see me. I relaxed my eyes so that I could more easily identify reflections on the lockers, as he was behind me. Hearing spiked.

    From a combination of a minor, fast change in light on locker I was watching and the sound of something moving rapidly through the air, I elevated immediately to condition red. Ducking right, I narrowly dodged the shower knob that had been hurled at me, which shattered on impact. My second reaction was to turn around to face the attacker, but they were already gone.

  • Jennifer

    I have had this kind of encounter at my family home. Growing up with a father in the military and being a young women, it has been embedded into me to always be aware of your surrondings. It was a late evening were my parents were out, leaving me home alone. Waiting on my boyfriend to arrive and help tutor me when school work. The front porch light was out, I heard a knock on the front door. And seeing someone with the stature of him I went to open it for him. But for whatever reason i had an odd feeling. So i turned on the light, and it wasnt him. It was an older gentelman. He was asking if the tires in my front yard were for sale. I told him that there were not any tires in my yard. This went on for a couple minutes. And then I realized that my neighbor had some out for sale. I went on to tell him it was my neighbor, but he kept on saying it was mine. Feeling a bit uneased because I was home alone and there was no cars in the drive way, I silently got my dogs attention to come by the door with me. Making it were the man could see him. Thinking maybe he was just confused. He then went to say that for me to come outside and look to prove it to me. But I knew we didnt have any tires for sale nor any in our front yard. I then started to think about the things my father has taught me. Its visibly dark outside, around 8o’clock, no cars in the driveway. Something isnt right. He then said is your father home. Full alert went on. I told him my father was sleeping and would not like to be bothered. I told him to leave the property and then proceeded to call my grandfather which lives a house down. And he knew to come down, and he was armed. Then to call my parents to have them come home. I then watched through a window and saw the man walk down the road some and get into a car. Knowing that the man had other plans than to buy tires. Be happy that there was a door between us. And that I know always to be aware of my surroundings, Even in my own home.

  • Jennifer

    And Also had an incident just happen the week before. Going to walmart by myself. I look a few years younger than I actually am. I was going to get food items for a christmas party that I was going straight to. A women that did not look in great condition and disshoveled. And carrying a toddler on her hip. Came straight up to me as Asoon as I got out of my vehicle, not even giving me time to lock my car. Having heard of this before as a lure. I tried to distance myself. And with her coming closer as each time as I did this. She went on to say about just having moved her and getting a job. But needed money for a hotel. She kept looking over at someone in the distance. I pulled my side bag closer to me. Said I didn’t have that much money. And started walking backwards for a bit. Locked my car, then went on to turn around and walk into the store. As I came out of the store, I saw her walk up to a odd looking man standing next to a car. I then hurried to my car and left.

  • Doug

    The posts in this thread and the book “The Gift of Fear” all hit home with me as I reflected on an incident that occured to me in Latin America a few years back.

    I had lived in country for several years, grew up in South America, spoke Spanish like a native, and felt as comfortable as one can in a big city in a third-world nation. Like most people, I had my daily routines and tended to slip in into “condition white” if I wasn’t paying attention. On this particular day, I felt and did not disregard, the alert signals that come from something that isn’t quite right.

    I was walking into a park on a Saturday morning with the plan of enjoying a cigar and reading a book in the sun. I’m sure I looked like a typical American, with my wrap-around shades, jeans, and “fanny pack” when another pedestrian asked me for directions to a nearby mall. I told him how to get there and moved along the path to a bench. The conversation struck me as strange, however, since nobody would normally engage a stranger in conversation in this town, much less ask a foreigner for directions. Without even being aware of it, I moved my awareness to the next level.

    As I entered the park, two men walked towards me. One wore a suit and another stood at a distance, but I could tell he was with with him even though he was dressed casually and tried to seem uninterested. The man in the suit commented on my cigar, asked where it was from (the Domican Republic), and tried to find out if I was from the Dom Rep. My immediate reaction was one of danger and I believed these two people were planning to mug me (Was this paranoia? More on this later). I moved my hand to my waist pack and told the man in no uncertain terms that I was American but that I lived in the country, taking an agressive stance. His only comment was that I was obviously at home. He then turned and walked away.

    I kept my eye on him (and his partner) as they walked out of the park and passed by the man who had asked for directions. They all continued along the road away from the park and towards a nearby tourist area.

    Nothing had happened and many would say that I was unjustified in sending a physical signal that I was perhaps about to draw a gun.

    A few weeks later a friend of mine was approached by the same people (based on descriptions) who told him that they were with the local police and tried to convince him to come with them. He ened up striking the man in the suit and running away but grabbed the fake police badge they had shown in him during the incident. The difference in this case was that my friend did not speak good Spanish and appeared to be an easy target since he was older and overweight. What they did not know is that he was a former Marine and also a long-time resident.

    After reading “The Gift of Fear” I could see many of the pre-incident threat indicators were present in my situation and that my reaction was justified both by my sense that something was wrong and by the later incident with my friend. Would they have mugged me or just tried to con me out of money? Who knows? But the whole thing makes clear to me the difference between paranoia and unjustified fear versus an awareness of people who are in your personal space and things that aren’t quite right.

  • Darla Castleberry

    20 years ago on “Oprah” of all places someone made a comment. ” Humans are equipped with the same fight or flight as any other animal on the earth, yet humans, especially women will put them off and down play them”. I have kept that in the forefront of my head. I listen to my gut, keep my distance and don’t allow others into my space. This is an excellent site and I will be sharing it and back often.

  • Cristyn

    Both of my grandparents are funeral directors and it is not unusual for them to get death calls in the middle of the night. One particular night, my Poppy had to go to the funeral at approx one in the morning. My gg was asleep in bed when she heard a noise in the kitchen and she figured it was my Poppy and that he had forgotten something. When she came into the kitchen, she was unarmed, half asleep, and in only a robe. The back door is located in the kitchen. A man had broken the window and was walking around, and had seen my grandfather leave clearly thinking the house empty or of no threat. As soon as she realized the situation, she got closer, and yelled “WHAT are you doing in MY house?!!?” This was not smart at all but still she scared the guy so bad he ran out of the house and she called the police. She definitely should not have confronted him but seeing as she was unarmed and alone and had already alerted him to her presence, there was not much to do.

  • Liz

    Years ago, I was approached by a man in a parking lot as I was getting out of my car. I jumped, moved so the car door was between me and him, and he told me that he didn’t want to hurt me he just wanted to know where the liquor store was. I told him, got back in my car, and left. Since it was New Year’s Eve and the liquor store was kind of hard to spot, I later felt that I was being silly. After reading “Gift of Fear” I realized that I did the right thing. Why would you approach a stranger and say I don’t want to hurt you, unless that’s exactly what you want?

  • MarySmith3

    I was walking in the parking lot towards my car (grocery store), and a man about 6-6 tall was walking towards me. My natural reaction was to avoid walking right into him and thus, I veered off the track we were both on, but he then mirrored my veer-off and was once again on course for colliding with me. I veered off a bit more and he mirrored me, until we were right up to each other. I refused to back down. We both stopped right up against each other. He said nothing as he looked down at me, and I said nothing as I looked up at him. But I made sure he got my vibes: That I had no fear and that he had better NOT mess with me — even though I was a woman at least eight or 10 inches shorter. For several seconds we just locked eyes. Then he exited my personal space and continued towards the store. What the heck was THAT all about, I wondered. “If you act like prey, you’ll be treated like prey.” He was much bigger than me, but then again…a zebra is much bigger than a lioness, but guess who always wins the fight!

    • Joe Sumbuddy

      MarySmith3  Excellent story and very creepy!  Glad you are okay.

    • realwolfbilly

      MarySmith3 Idiot, he probably saw someone bigger behind you, he had 0% fear of you. If you want to keep yourself safe start thinking realistically.

    • MarySmith3

      realwolfbilly MarySmith3   Hey Real, would you feel smart if I told you that NOBODY was behind me or near me? And that’s the truth. The guy got scared off by my posture, eyes and vibes. There is more to being able to prey on someone than who is bigger. Besides, I’m pretty sure I was stronger than him anyways. He didn’t exactly look like a gym rat.  Height does not automatically give you physical power over someone else. Nor does gender.

  • Ceyla

    I have spent a lot of time on this planet and have been attacked or accosted several times. These incidents came from totally blind spots and I can identify with everyone who has written of bad or nearly bad situations. I am one of those individuals who somehow “collects” people. I can be in a line of folks and be the one selected to give assistance of some type. I have learned to listen to my “little voice” which clues me in to negative people and situations and I totally agree with the people who say that you should always pay attention to your instincts. Fortunately I have great peripheral vision which also helps me out a lot. Now I am always aware of situations around me and I make mental notes of areas I enter and compare them to conditions in these areas as I get ready to leave. On several occasions I have avoided precarious situations by asking for store security to see me to my car. A female nurse I know was at a large shopping mall (before the invention of cell phones) in an early summer evening. She was stopped by another woman who said that earlier she had seen an unsavory person hanging around that isle of vehicles. My friend thanked her for the information and opened the trunk of her car to put in her belongings. As she closed the trunk something drew her attention to the backseat. Crouched on the floor was a male individual with a long bladed knife. My friend calmly walked from the car and flagged down a mall security van. They called police who apprehended the man. He had been wanted in nearby cities for rape and assault with a deadly weapon. Nowadays I don’t ever go to a gas station after dark, and I don’t frequent any place where I know I’ll be leaving after dark, but am constantly vigilant regardless of the time of day.

  • Anonymous

    About a decade ago I was driving across town. I noticed I was running low on gas, and pulled off the interstate in the decaying urban core. There was a gas station right at the off ramp, but while the pumps accepted my card, the store was closed. A man in his mid thirties approached the station on foot walking directly toward me, with unkempt hair and disheveled clothes. He smiled, looked me in the eye and loudly yelled a greeting at me, something like “Hey, buddy! Can you spare some change?” just as he was about thirty feet from me. I stepped backward between the pumps and scanned my exposed rear. There, twenty feet from me was another similarly maintained man, moving quietly toward me. I quickly moved my back toward the store, threw open my jacket and prepared to draw and kill both of these clowns. My hand hovered inches over my right hip.

    Both men turned smartly and walked quickly to the sidewalk where they talked quietly to each other, casting wary glances in my direction. I gave a loud involuntary laugh, and they jogged across the street. I cleared the perimeter of the gas station, finished pumping- and left promptly.
    He was too loud, he stared too intently, as though he wanted me to focus on him and ignore my surroundings. It almost cost both of them their lives.

    • GI JAKE

      @Anonymous haha, sweet

    • realwolfbilly

       I bet you are either a cop or a sheltered little country music loving bootlick who fears his shadow and  watches movies fantasizing about dominating and murdering other people. Average people don’t jump right to murder when some bums come over asking for change, not only because it is wrong to react that way but also because the common citizen gets prosecuted and screwed when they defend themselves with a firearm, so they save it for very last. You cops and spoiled sheltered big babies are the least streetwise, most sheltered little teachers-pet brown nosers ever, you just want to be seen as “heros” and “tough” but you either have never really done anything and learned the consequences or you have never done anything without your badge and a get out of jail free card. Dangerous cowardly pathetic little wimps who shouldn’t be outside alone, let alone armed.

  • Anonymous

    This is strange how similar your story is to mine. I was pumping gas in Atlanta, Georgia at about 6 AM and it was still dark out. While pumping I noticed a man floating around the gas station wearing a semi ratty suit and messy hair. He began walking my way, and I instantly had a bad feeling about his demeanor and how intently he stared me down as he walked toward me. He was about 3 yards away from me when he began to reach into his coat pocket and pull out a napkin with writing on it. I started thinking that he was going to try and distract me with reading whatever was written on it, and pull whatever shady move he had planned. And to make matters worse my Glock 19 was in my glovebox as I was wearing sweatpants in prep for the 14 hour drive back home. Thankfully the pump hose separated us, and I opened my passenger door to grab it if necessary. 

    The writing on the napkin explained that he was deaf and needed money to ride the bus back to wherever it was he was from. I gave him no money, and he finally wandered to the next pump over to harass a girl that was fueling up. At this point i threw my 19 into my waistband and watched to make sure he wasn’t trying to do anything but ask this girl for some money. 

    He eventually left the gas station without incident and I was on my way. That was a very strange encounter, and I’m thankful that nothing became of it. The biggest mistake I had made was I didn’t scan the rear of me as I was talking to this allegedly “deaf” man. I hadn’t even thought of a two-man team with one man being a distraction. I am very lucky that this wasn’t the case.

  • dranderson007

    I know this is an old post but I had to reply to some of the comments made by Adam above. 
    Obviously Adam you have never been in combat with another human. Probably not even a school yard fight. That is OK and nothing wrong with that.  

    What I am stating however is that your comments regarding paranoia or way off base.I have been engaged in close conflict and its not so cut and dry. 

    Being an armed citizen requires more responsibility to be aware. Police are killed more often by their own gun than that of the criminal. It is important whether armed or not to be prepared for the contact if it happens. If you are surprised you must quickly turn the tide in your favor or you will loose. Suggest you read about the OODA loop developed by USAF Colonel Jon Boyd and you will better understand what I am saying. 
    A little paranoia is a good thing. Mindset is an important
    part of your self defense. 
    that 21 feet you will be cut period if he has a knife.  The knife wielded
    by a determined attacker is more dangerous and deadly than a firearm. If the
    person wants to dispatch you it can be done quickly and quietly if they know
    what they are doing. More often than not you will experience threat display
    from the criminal element. The reason is they want something from you… Your
    money, your cooperation, your person whatever. You may occasionally encounter
    the psychopath who enjoys watching the fear in others but its more rare. Most
    often they are looking for a target. They are just like predators looking for
    prey. Predators look for easy prey and will not target something that may cause
    them death unless the numbers are superior or they are desperate

    As for your comment to never show your opponent what you intend to do. That is a good general statement for when the conflict is definitely going to happen. However something as simple as a movement to better position yourself for the contact will show the predator that you are not a prey animal. They will often sense something is off with this one and move on. Does it work all the time… No. Will it sometimes yes. But the circumstances dictate the action. It depends on the threat level and what is happening around you. You must make that call. Its is not “ASKING” for something bad to happen. Its actually giving the threat displaying animal over there a way out. He will know its about to escalate and may decide to back down. I am not saying that you brandish the firearm at this point either. Although that may be called for. You must make that decision based on the threat at the time.

  • LauraSCEO

    @CCW-Jim That’s fine. If you’re a guy. And big. And have training.

  • Joe Sumbuddy

    @Liz  Yep it sounds like something a fast-talker would say.

  • Joe Sumbuddy

    @Adam  Being obviously ready to reach for a weapon would cause most attackers to back off, I would think.  You’re not making much sense.

  • KiraKelly


  • KiraKelly

    @Patrick Muphy asking for some favor or whatnot is a typical RUSE and PLOY to LURE you, how can these retards not SEE that?? I won t take the chance when my guts telling me otherwise!

  • KiraKelly

    @peter we re not talking about  people like YOU we re talking about dealing with REAL THREATS EXTREMELY DANGEROUS PEOPLE TO OUR LIVES AND SAFETY!!

  • KiraKelly

    @runs-guns PERFECTLY…
    i hate deniars which this idiot ffemale most certainly is

  • KiraKelly

    @FeNuts wish u beat em up more what a bunch of scumbags!

  • MattBowyer

    I can’t help but wonder upon reading this whether you did anything to stop anyone else from becoming a victim – if you really thought he was up to no good?

  • Joe Sumbuddy

    The system won’t let me see my original comment that you’re replying to.  It was quite some time ago so I do not know what you are referring to.  Sorry.

  • realwolfbilly

    If you cant defend yourself without killing then it must only be when you are facing either a very powerful enemy or facing an enemy under extraordinary difficulty. If you just jump straight to killing when you have other options, ESPECIALLY if you are in law enforcement, then you are a weak person and a self righteous murderous hypocrite and criminal and you will die by the sword (and probably go to hell).

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