Concealed Carry

Determining the Self-Defense Mindset

Young man in red shirt and jeans uses a vehicle to shield him while he practices

Part 5 in our concealed carry series.

When it comes to personal defense, there are plenty of ridiculous statements about the mindset. The combat mindset may suit a combat Marine, but self-defense demands a different mindset. I am not going to be hurt or defeated, and my primary objective is protecting my family and myself. I want to maintain the ability to act effectively and morally under stress. The proper perspective must pass muster as to what is legal and must go further into what is moral.

2 paratroopers walk along a busy street with guns pointed down, yet ready
These young “paras” are patrolling and making certain the author has a good vacation unhindered by threats. With what color code are they operating?

A good definition of the time when you must fire your weapon is when the actions of the adversary are so terrible you must stop him, and, if he dies as a result of being stopped, it must not matter morally or legally. That is a high standard. You will not maintain the defensive mindset unless you develop judgment and self-control.

Thinking about specific situations is training and shooting in IDPA are also decision-making processes since training prevents confusion. The proper mindset offsets anger. Fear is controlled. The training must be rigorous, and the self-trained must concentrate on physical and mental training.

A prerequisite of the self-defense mindset is that you must be confident in your abilities. If you are not fully aware of your abilities and limitations, then when a threat appears, you will panic or act inappropriately. During my training of interested people, I have stressed that the firearm is not there to enforce your will or prevent a butt whipping; it is there to save your life and for no other reason. When the time comes, you must have studied the ethical and moral questions and have absolute clarity in your mind as to whether your actions are correct.

If you are unsure, you will hesitate and be killed, or you may shoot someone who did not warrant the action. Whatever you are forced to do, you want to retain the faith of your family and be able to live with the consequences of your actions.

Your mind or spirit directs the body, which must have technical and practical ability.

An important part of the personal defense mindset is situational awareness. Be alert to your surroundings. Many people go through life asleep and oblivious to the dangers around them. They may sidestep an open manhole cover and not slip on a freshly mopped floor but then miss the street person who is going to assault them for their wallet.

Clarity of thought is important.

The personal defense mindset has served me well in areas where I could not be armed with an edged weapon or handgun. I practiced avoidance. If your mind is cluttered and unfocused, the added stress of an attack puts you into sensory overload. Everything you have learned is useless or forgotten. An important part of the personal defense mindset is making the decision to defend yourself.

There are some who have a problem with fighting another human, and that is understandable. What is not understandable is being unwilling to defend your family against an attack. If you wish to lay down your life rather than injure another, that is your right; your partner and children may not be able to make that decision for themselves.

If you do not have that clarity of purpose and think you may regret your actions, then successful self-defense is not in the cards.

Conditions of Readiness

View of a blacktopped street from the highest floors of a building
Have you thought of taking a look out the window before you journey into the street? It is a good idea.

For some time, the color codes of conditions of readiness have been used to qualify the “combat mindset” we have modified into the personal defense mindset. They are very good and useful descriptions of personal awareness.

Condition White

Totally unaware. In Condition White, you are unaware of anything about your position. You are relaxed and consumed with your own thoughts and ramblings. You will not see a threat until it is upon you. Predators pick those likely to be the easiest to overcome. An individual in Condition White is a good target. Condition White should only be experienced when you are asleep or behind your own locked doors.

Condition Yellow

Relaxed alertness. While a normal person cannot maintain the higher forms of alertness for hours on end, most of us may keep up Condition Yellow for all of our waking moments. You realize there is an endless possibility of attack, although there is no specific threat. You are prepared to move into action, and you notice anything out of the ordinary. You see the details.

Condition Orange

Alert and focused. You have identified a threat. Condition Orange is the next stage after yellow and is normally stepped up when you have encountered a potential threat while in Condition Yellow. It actually may not be a threat, but there are reliable indicators that a person is a threat. You are alert and focused and, if possible, you leave the area or danger and call the police.

Condition Orange is not always triggered by a person, it could involve:

  • A dark alley that you find in your travels because you are lost.
  • Returning home to find your front door ajar or a window broken.
  • A loud drunkard on the corner who may be a threat. You  walk around him or avoid him, just as you would swerve to avoid a collision in traffic.

Condition Red

Young man in red shirt and jeans uses a vehicle to shield him while he practices
This young man is practicing for a worst-case scenario. He has a plan in effect (and he is the best shot we know).

State of Readiness. At this point, a confrontation and defensive action are practically inevitable.

  • You have identified the threat.
  • The threat is approaching in a threatening and combative manner.
  • The threat’s attention is focused on you and has the ability and intention of harming you.
  • You are all but in the middle of the fight.

That is the essence of Condition Red. Condition Red does not mean the fight is unavoidable and you are in a high state of readiness; it means the fight is on.

What training have you taken, or will you take, to make sure you are ready to defend yourself and your family? Share in the comment section.


About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (15)

  1. I woke up to a man sitting 6′ from a tent in my back yard where my 2kids had been sleeping that night. Walked him around front of house with my Mossberg and called sheriff dept. Then was told that they couldn’t arrest him for tresspassing, even though it’s posted on all sides of house,because I have to ask him to leave and if he doesn’t leave then they can arrest him. This man had just gotten out of jail 2days ago for assault.
    Now I was mad but used enough force,which was the sound of the Mossberg cocking, because this guy was sitting where my 5 and 8yr old boys were sleeping and it is a homeowners assc. development and the police did nothing. So I think it’s the situation that happens that makes up what needs to be said.

  2. Avoid a “butt whipping”. I was in a position were I was afraid my concealed handgun wauld be discovered during the push and shove portion of his speach. If discovered, I would have to use my weapon or get it used on me. I knew all three people and knew them to be dangerous. Fortunately, I was able to talk through it. Fortunately.

  3. “I have stressed that the firearm is not there to prevent a butt whipping;”

    Actually it is. You are not required by law to allow yourself to be beat so badly you are ready to pass out before you fire your weapon.

  4. Actually code “balck”…from my mentors means that you are out of control yourself and not focused, engaged or able to use the proper force due to a lack of clarity. Not a good place to be and usually the result of being poorly trained so that when things escalate you have clear mindset to respond properly.

    1. Agreed, Mr. Kelly.

      I understand the USMC has been known to use “Code Black”, beyond Col. Jeff Cooper’s Color Code of White, Yellow, Orange, and Red. My understanding of the most common use of this is when engaged, situational awareness goes quickly from White to Red, or a similar advance in condition skipping the middle codes all together.

  5. I’m with klesb on this one. If you walk out your front door in the morning thinking everyone you encounter will have your well being in mind, your an idiot.

  6. Very good and comprehensive article one must have self control awareness and know their limitations if they wish to carry a weapon there are a lot of training courses out there so ignorance is no excuse for being undertrained or firing without justification. I have been on both sides of the gun at times and neither is pleasant x navy and armed security officer

  7. I like to think of an additional color code beyond Red.

    Condition Red is when you have positively determined that a significant threat is happening NOW.

    Condition Black is when you take quick and decisive action against the threat or to escape the threat. This may include deflecting/dodging the knife/fist/ etc., or shooting to stop the violence, or it could even include running away.

  8. “During my training of interested people, I have stressed that the firearm is not there to enforce your will or prevent a butt whipping;”

    I suggest Bob Campbell update his training. “Disparity of force” should also be considered, and the practice of kicking in the head, stomping, and the Travvon slamming a person’s head against the concrete are clearly the credible dangers at the beginning of a “butt whipping” There are no longer Marquis of Queensberry rules when assaulted – if there ever were! Do not let someone assault you “just a little”. Once you become incapacitated you are the assaulter’s mercy,

    1. My understanding is also that it is always best to avoid the problem first. It is not normally a good idea to carry concealed so you can shoot your way out of something you intentionally created yourself with a ‘John Wayne’ mentality.

    2. Agreed. Avoid first.

      However, walking down the street these days can result in your being “cold-cocked” with no provocation. And, once you are on the ground there is a good chance you will not get up – ever again. That is all at the discretion of your attacker.

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