Monday, July 9, 2012

Training – Scan and assess . . . . Scan and assess . . . .


I had an experience today on the way to the range that I thought I’d share. Nothing to do with weapons but with the process of living the color code.

One of the things that can take your life sideways in a real hurry is to simply let life flow by. In Jeff Cooper’s world, this would be Condition White:

White: Unaware and unprepared. If attacked in Condition White, the only thing that may save you is the inadequacy or ineptitude of your attacker. When confronted by something nasty, your reaction will probably be "Oh my God! This can't be happening to me."

Or, you can do your best to live in Condition Yellow:

Yellow: Relaxed alert. No specific threat situation. Your mindset is that "today could be the day I may have to defend myself". You are simply aware that the world is a potentially unfriendly place and that you are prepared to defend yourself, if necessary. You use your eyes and ears, and realize that "I may have to shoot today". You don't have to be armed in this state, but if you are armed you should be in Condition Yellow. You should always be in Yellow whenever you are in unfamiliar surroundings or among people you don't know. You can remain in Yellow for long periods, as long as you are able to "Watch your six." (In aviation 12 o'clock refers to the direction in front of the aircraft's nose. Six o'clock is the blind spot behind the pilot.) In Yellow, you are "taking in" surrounding information in a relaxed but alert manner, like a continuous 360 degree radar sweep. As Cooper put it, "I might have to shoot."

A threat can take many different forms, one of which can be a man with a gun. Another could be a woman in a dark red Chevy Impala.

I’m headed for the range, crossing a small bridge just north of town. There is a right turn lane that begins immediately after the bridge to a road that joins from the right and leads to – among other things – a quarry. In front of me are two very large dump trucks going to get a load of crushed rock. Construction season is in full bloom in our county with virtually all the quarries in the county going at full tilt.

Our speed is 55, slowing a bit so the trucks can pull into the turn lane. By the time they are fully in the lane I am closing on the front truck pretty quick and am about ½ way past his bed when a woman in a dark red Chevy Impala simply appears from in front of the truck and then directly in front of me. The road the trucks are turning down “Ts” into the road I am on though the drivers must stop before coming onto the highway. This lady obviously stopped, saw the trucks turning and ASSUMED there was nothing in the lane next to or behind them. So, out she comes.

These instances are good training examples of muscle memory rather than thinking. Without telling my body to do anything I:

  • · Breaked hard
  • · Turned slightly right and released the break so I didn’t loose full control of my Jeep
  • · Breaked hard again
  • · Turned slightly right again and released the break so I didn’t loose full control of my Jeep
  • · This allowed me to miss the rear bumper by a ½ foot or so
  • · It allowed me to miss the front of an umteen ton dump truck by a few feet
  • · And, it allowed me to continue merrily on my way to the range none the worse for wear.
  • · It also helped that it was obviously not my day . . . . . that day will come, but it was not today

So just a little reminder for folks taking all those defensive pistol classes out there where they hammer on Cooper’s “Color Code” or the NRA’s “Levels of Awareness” – we do it for a reason. Many threats, whether from weapons or folks driving cars, jump at you right at the Condition Red Level:

Red: Condition Red is fight. Your mental trigger (established back in Condition Orange) has been tripped. "If 'X' happens I will shoot that person".

If it’s an existential threat and if you respond poorly, your day is not going to end well. Bottom line?

Keep your head in the game 24/7 . . . .


  1. Yep, it's not ALWAYS about guns... Glad you were head up and scanning!

  2. Could we have a description of condition "orange", please?

    Good for you in avoiding the Impala. Around here, it's usually deer that test one's reflexes. Iowa is evidently more exotic tha Wisconsin, what with having Impalas and such.

    1. Morning Robert,

      Yep, those damn, exotic Red Impalas!!! Perhaps they'll migrate and grow in Wisconsin as well!! :)

      My wife has family in Waukesha - we usually spend a week there every 4 months or so. She take dressage lessons from a nearby instructor and I just take my office along since it sits within my notebook.

      I did a post on my take on Cooper's Color Codes a while back - here's the link:

      Orange kinda sits in that narrow area between "paying attention" and "FIGHT!!!!!". See if what I wrote makes sense. If not, drop a note and we'll chew on it for a bit.

      Have a great day - thanks for stopping by!


    2. Thanks for the reply, Bill. I read the linked piece and it makes sense. We recently had a nighttime mugging on the sidewalk in front of the house next door; my first thought was "I was sitting in the kitchen in view of the scene- Why didn't we hear a bunch of shouting? My second thought was "I was carrying, I'm kinda glad I didn't know."

      Off-topic: try the Delafield Brewhaus on the way home from Waukesha. Don't tell my cardiologist about the sausage platter...