Training and educational requirements vary from state to state for obtaining a license to carry a firearm. Some classes focus more on legalities while others highlight safe gun handling skills. Training beyond your CCW classes is crucial. We should all be lifelong students concerning all aspects of utilizing a firearm for self-defense. Being able to run your gun effectively, incorporating safe gun handling skills and comprehension of gun laws are all essential.
However, to be a truly responsible gun owner, it requires the additional training of your most powerful weapon for self-defense: The mind.
A firearm is a tool and only as effective as the shooter. You may have a gun, but this does not mean you now have the absolute means to defend yourself. As gun owners we must begin to think beyond the gun. This is where critical thinking skills and situational awareness come into play.
Some people believe their gun makes them invincible. We must remember that in a threat situation we could be encountered by someone who also has a firearm coupled with more training and better gun handling skills.
When you own a firearm the primary goal should be never having to use it. This can only be accomplished by utilizing critical thinking skills and good situational awareness.
4 Ways to Sharpen Your Situation Awareness
Understanding and incorporating situational awareness should be a crucial part of our everyday lives. Our go-to reaction should always be to avoid. To put it simply, we must pay attention to our surroundings and make purposeful decisions. This sounds like good common sense and should be simple enough; however, the reality shows this is not the case for most people. Consciously practicing good situational awareness will sharpen your critical thinking skills and eventually become second nature. I want to give you some basic principles that you can start utilizing for yourself as well as your family.
Where to Start?
- Gut Instinct: One of the most vital strengths we have is our gut instinct. We cannot ignore that still small voice telling us when something or someone “feels off.” We often dismiss this feeling as paranoia or over-reacting. If you sense anything that seems abnormal, acknowledge this, and do what is necessary to avoid them or the situation.
- Don’t Be a Soft Target: Many people think that only women or children are easy targets–this is not the case. Right now, the number one identifier of a soft target are people on their cell phones. Being on our cell phones, either walking or sitting in public keeps us zoned in on our phones and unaware of what is happening around us. All our senses are focused on our phone making us an easy target and oblivious to our surroundings. If you must be on your phone, stay aware, look around and pay attention. Stand with your back against a wall while scanning your surroundings as much as possible.
- Body Language: Demonstrate confidence. Walking with your head down or shuffling your feet for example, gives the appearance of a timid or weak person. Walk with your head up, look around and make eye contact. It is ok to look someone in the eye in a non-threatening manner. This is not a stare down or scowl of intimidation. Making eye contact simply lets people know you are aware that they are there. It allows others to perceive you as non-submissive and prepared
- Scan your Surroundings: Pay attention to people, entry and exit points, possible escape routes, potential obstacles, etc. An example would be where you position yourself in a restaurant. Is your back towards the door? Do you know where all the exits are if there is a threat or emergency? It can seem overwhelming but one way to really start making this a part of you and possibly fun for your family is to turn it into a game or fun quiz afterwards. Ask questions like: Where were we sitting? Who waited on us? Where were the exits? What were the people like around us? Doing this, or something similar is a great way to develop critical thinking skills and situational awareness in others. This can be done for restaurants, the grocery store, parks, basically any type of public place or atmosphere.
Training your mind with critical thinking skills, situational awareness, and the ability to recognize a true threat situation is the most valued training you can have. These are just a few key points to steer you in the right direction.
There are many firearms instructors who provide valuable classes that teach these points in greater depth. I would encourage everyone, firearm owner or not, to seek this type of training.
If you have accepted the responsibility of owning a firearm, the responsibility to train in every aspect needs to be accepted and encouraged as well. When this is truly understood you will be on the right path to being vigilantly prepared.