Exclusive Web Extra: Your Personal Safety

It’s Not Up To Anybody Else — You Own It.

By Roy Huntington.

Published In The American Handgunner Personal Defense
2012 Special Edition.

Your number one option for personal security is a lifelong commitment to avoidance, deterrence and de-escalation.”

Yes, it’s as simple as that. While it may sound glamorous to carry a gun and engage in running gun-battles with terrorists, in actuality — it’s not. I worked the streets of San Diego for 20 years in a wide cross-section of jobs, from uniformed patrol to driving police boats and ATVs. I worked traffic division where we cleaned up after fatal crashes, took suicide reports from the distraught parents of teenagers, worked a bit of undercover vice, conducted investigations as a relief officer, trained new officers at the academy and got shot at four times in my career. (Actually, it was a blast.)

What I learned, is it’s very much unlike the movies. It was rewarding at times, but never glamorous. People and officer-friends bled real blood and died real deaths. A punch in the face from a punk I was arresting for drunk driving hurt later — badly. My uniform got torn, scabs from fights took a long time to heal, and I attended too many officer funerals.

The citizens I helped endured tragedies nobody should have to go through. From those suicidal teens, to distraught husbands killing wives, to random acts of violence against families who were simply trying to enjoy an evening at the movies. It was often ugly, tiresome and it got old to be around. Do you want to know the most infuriating thing about it all? Much of it could have been avoided if only the victims had been paying better attention and were properly educated.

personal defense

Duh … easy-to-steal goodie bag, eyes down, phone in her ear …
I’d say she’s in condition white, pretty much oblivious to what’s
going on around her. An easy victim, if you ask m

personal defesne 3

Uh-oh, maybe that shortcut wasn’t such a good idea after
all? Avoidance of potential trouble, along with a heightened
state of alertness can, and does, keep you out of problem spots.

Some Facts

First off, the police in your community are under absolutely no obligation to protect you, at any level — period. Shocked? No, it’s true. There have been many court cases where the final verdict was only that police had to work toward assuring some semblance of general safety for the public at large, but were not responsible if something happened to you. I’ll say that again: The cops don’t have to protect you. Besides, they can’t do it anyway.

If by some miracle a cop happens to be driving by at the same time you’re about to be assaulted, he might be able to help you out. But there’s a reason for the saying, “Cops: minutes away when seconds count.” Most agencies like to advertise their average response times. For some city agencies it might be as little as 4 or 5 minutes, (still an eternity if you’re getting your butt kicked or worse, eh?). But, that also means sometimes it’s 20 minutes or longer. If you live in a county or rural area, response times can drag out for hours. And that’s for an emergency call. I know, because I’ve personally covered county units who were responding from 35 miles away, and my city beat just happened to be closer.

I recall many nights on patrol where calls were “stacking,” meaning the dispatcher had a list of many calls pending. She would try to assign the most critical ones to units. I’ve often heard them say, with obvious desperation in their voices, “Is there any clear unit for a robbery in progress?!” Then some unit would reply, “Um, I can drop this burglary in progress and respond to that robbery if you want?” What if it was your house being burglarized? Or your house being robbed? Or a man with a gun in your yard?


It’s a nice day bike riding, what is there to worry about?
Dogs, angry drivers, wasp nests — are you paying attention?
If an angry driver cuts you off, are you thinking about
de-escalation? How about avoidance?


Where I live in the country, we keep guns handy since the local gendarmes
can be hours away from responding. Chances are good we’ll have to solve
our own problems; hence, we do everything we can to avoid and deter and
keep our final options open.


Let’s look at our first sentence again and break it down, paying close attention to three very important words. What do we mean by avoidance? Contrary to what many people may think, there’s nothing wrong with avoiding conflict. I’ve had people tell me, “Hey Roy, why do you try so hard to avoid any kind of conflict? I mean, you’re always easy-going and don’t seem to get upset about things that would really get my goat.” Even when I was a cop, I never let a suspect, irate citizen or inept supervisor “get my goat.” Why? Because it keeps you out of hot water — or worse.

Once, when traveling with my father as a kid, he pulled into a gas station to ask for directions. For some reason, the clerk there was having a bad day and lit into my dad. “Sure, you want directions for free, but aren’t buying any gas. Why should I help you?! Why don’t you just get out of my gas station!” (That sort of a thing.) I vividly recall being mortified; this was something new to me. Adults yelling at each other?

Except, my dad didn’t yell. He was very calm. I don’t remember what he said, but I very much recall his obvious calm demeanor; he smiled, waved, thanked the clerk and we drove off immediately. I do remember saying something like, “Are you going to let that man talk to you that way?” or words to that effect. And then I had a life-changing exchange with my dad, which frankly, affects the way I live, to this day. He explained, “Son, if you think I’m going to let that guy ruin our day, you’re wrong. It’s generally better to simply avoid a fight and move on. Nobody gets hurt, and you’ll find it’s hardly ever worth it if you stay and end up in a fight.”

It hit me like a 2-by-4 across the side of the head. It was okay to walk away? Nobody would think of you as a sissy? I remember sitting in the backseat thinking about it intently for a long time. Sure enough, the first time I was in a situation where I had to make a decision to simply walk away or stay and duke it out over something silly, I walked away — and felt just fine.

I always considered that my Rule #1: avoidance. If something confrontational comes up, and you can avoid it, do so. And let’s expand that to mean: Avoid any situation, location, conduct or poor planning that will put you into a situation likely leading to danger.

Think about where you live. Is the mere fact you live in a certain area of town putting you and your family at a higher risk factor? Is the fact your car isn’t maintained well likely to lead to a breakdown somewhere? Are you prone to leaving your door unlocked, or your keys in the car? Do you give out your phone number to strangers? Have a Facebook page with too many personal facts on it? Do you walk dark streets back to your car after eating out, without paying attention to your surroundings? Do your kids walk home from school alone?

Oh, there’s plenty more. How about leaving home with a cell phone only half-charged? What if you need it and you’re out of juice? Got some tools in your car but only know how to make basic repairs? Is your spare tire good? When you park at the mall, do you pay attention to your surroundings? Who at you? Is the streetlight burned-out? Do you return to your car with packages in your hands, keys buried in your pocket or purse, head down — oblivious to your surroundings? You’re asking for it. You’re not doing your part to merely avoid a potential dangerous situation.

Do you have a decent fire extinguisher at home? Several? I have seven spaced throughout my house. Total cost was about $200 at Home Depot; they’re pretty good ones. How about flashlights? Got a good one, or just one of those 99-cent plastic ones, with old batteries sure to emit a dim, orange glow? I just bought a 10-pack of cheap LED flashlights at a discount store for $10. They work, and even came with the batteries. I opened it and put ‘em all around. We live in the country and it gets real dark, real fast.

There’s simply no excuse not to be basically prepared. If you can afford it, be better prepared. We have a whole house generator that runs on propane and it’s air-cooled. Virtually zero maintenance. Having it helps me avoid any problems associated with a full-scale power outage. (Editor’s note: Roy and Suzi live in Joplin, Mo. The house wasn’t damaged by the recent tornado, but the power was certainly out … well, not for them anyway.)

Just think about it. Where in your life are you leaving yourself open to danger or attack? Do you have porch lights burned-out and been too lazy to change them? Does the car have bald tires? Are your children unsupervised at times? Does the neighbor’s pitbull roam freely? Look around you and at yourself. The vast majority of these fixes are easy and only take a change in routine or location to have an impact. Virtually any of these changes can increase the odds of your personal safety a great deal. Factor in a few changes, and you’ve just raised the bar higher than most people.

There’s a term cops use for the volunteer victims who are basically fodder for criminals. Cops call them “sheeple” and call themselves the sheepdogs trying to protect them. But sheep tend to be oblivious to what’s going on around them, and if danger looms, they run about in confusion. The sheepdogs do the hard work. I’ll bet there’s not a sheepdog out there that didn’t wish the sheep would at least pay attention to help avoid danger on their own!

Doing any or all of this makes you less vulnerable. Which brings us neatly to the next word.

gun range

If guns are a part of your plan to keep things safe, get training. If you
don’t, you’re only asking for even more problems. If you don’t train,
when the bomb drops you’ll resort to your training — which will be nothing.

defense class

Ever been in a fight — a real one? If not, you should take a class where
you get to beat on someone for real. Oh, and get a few knocks yourself
so you know what it’s like.


The color code of awareness can help deter potential problems. It’s simple and easy to understand. If you’re in white mode, it means you’re essentially going around with blinders on, paying zero attention to your surroundings and are oblivious to the elephant in the room. When you’re sleeping, you’re in white mode — the fact is most people are in white mode when they are awake too. These are the people who walk into a bank being robbed, after passing by the guy at the front door with a gun in his hand. They don’t notice the fact people are lined up with their hands up and are surprised when the robber says, “Hey stupid, put your hands up!”

“Huh? What’s going on here?” they usually say. When I was a cop, almost every report I took from the victims of street assaults, burglaries in progress, robberies or car thefts always said the same thing: “I couldn’t believe it was happening to me.” Believe it, be aware before it happens, then chances are it won’t happen to you.

Being in yellow mode means you are aware of your surroundings and know what’s going on. The fact that there are two guys in that car over there, a dog is nearby eyeing you and your kids are not in the street are situations you are well aware of. If you have your car keys in your hands ready to unlock your car door and your packages are ready to be tossed down if you need your hands free, shows you’re in yellow; prepared, cautious and paying attention. You look if you hear a funny sound, you pay attention to a fast car passing, hear the siren in the distance and could recall the color of the shirt on that “kinda’ weird guy” you saw a few minutes ago. You can function in yellow anytime you’re awake. If you don’t, you’re an idiot and I’ll gladly tell you you’re a sheeple and part of the problem.

An interesting aside is the fact if you’re with a cop, even if off-duty, and they hear a loud noise, or notice something weird, they will often glance at their watch. Later, what time they saw whatever was going on might be important. It’s automatic, and normal and shows they’re in yellow. You should be too.

You’re not paranoid, you’re not being ridiculous, and it’s not over-kill. It’s simply smart, and it could quite easily save your life or the lives of your family. Be aware, be smart, look, pay attention and question why you see things out of the norm and you’ll be a harder target by tenfold.

For example, let’s say you see a thug hanging around your car. You should now be in orange mode, focusing on the potential threat you have identified. “There, that guy is a threat,” you say to yourself. Then take whatever action is needed. And probably the best action is almost always avoidance. Walk back to the mall and call the cops. Get yourself out of the line of fire, away from the danger and to safety. You’re not being afraid, you’re not being timid, you’re just being awfully smart.

What if you see a car driving erratically ahead of you? It means you’re paying attention, not yapping on your cell phone or yelling at your kids. A drunk driver? Someone having a heart attack? You don’t know, but you went from yellow to orange instantly as you focused on the possible threat. What can you do? Avoid it. Take the ramp, slow down or anything to get out of the threat zone. You’re not a sissy, you’re smart.

If things go past the orange level, you’re in red, and that usually means you’re having to take some kind of action to defend yourself. If you choose to carry a firearm or a less-lethal device, you’ll be deploying it in the red zone. It’s the time-to-take-action point. Keep in mind, you can go from orange to yellow back and forth many times during the day, but chances are, once you’re in red, you’ve got your hands full. If avoidance can get you out of red and not endanger anyone who is relying on you for protection, do it.

I’m not going to cover guns and such, but if you do carry a concealed weapon, I hope you’re smart enough to get the training you need to go with it. If not, well … you’re an idiot. When the time comes you’ll always revert to training, and if you haven’t trained, then you’ll revert to nothing. Think about it.


What police agencies do best — take reports after the crime occurs. Where
were they when you needed them? Probably taking a crime report from
some other idiot without enough sense to avoid the trouble in front of him.


Do you live in what might be graciously called the rough part of town?
Just moving to a safer area can significantly reduce your potential to
become a victim of a violent crime. Think about it.


Let’s say you went to yellow, then orange and suddenly in the middle of a situation you want to avoid, but are were forced into for any number of reasons. What now? What do you do if confronted with a fight you have to intervene in, or an irate driver who follows you into a gas station, an angry parent at a PTA meeting, the cop who seems to be having a bad day and has you stopped for an infraction? Do you bully through or act like the tough guy? Neither.

Remember avoidance? Remember deterrence? Now, put everything together. Use skills to de-escalate the situation. I’m not kidding when I tell you to buy a book on basic interpersonal and negotiation skills and read it. Usually, a few words, followed with assertiveness, confidence, the impression of genuine care (even if it’s baloney) and a certain amount of good luck, can actually serve to get your butt out of lots of hot water.

When I was a street cop, I could generally talk my way in-and-out of most situations. I rarely got physical, and when I did, it was usually with someone who was already past any kind of sense; whether it be from drugs or simply because they were crazy. You have to be ready to go to red if necessary; but it’s worth trying de-escalation if you have the time, experience and wherewithal.

I used to teach a basic negotiation skills seminar. I’d teach it to cops, citizen groups, even did some “lunch” seminars at corporations. I offered very simple skills for people to get what they needed from a situation. Often, it was purely to de-escalate something that had gone too far. But like one guy told me, “Hey Roy, you can use these skills for everything from getting out of tough situations to getting your kids to eat their green beans.”
He was right.


The ASAP Survival Pack supports two people for up to 72
tough hours with food, water, a GPS and more. Avoiding
problems? Deterring trouble, or just being smart? All of the above.


An actual picture in my actual house. A strong
ready position means you can deter trouble.
In this case, the fire extinguisher, light and
handgun on a neck strap with a reload handy
can prevent trouble and help keep us out of it.

Final Thoughts

I could go on for thousands of words; offer you some very specific situations and actions to take from them. But it’s better to offer a response mode for the unexpected — whatever that might be. Let’s just come out and say it: “If a situation doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.” Learn to develop your instincts; learn to listen to them, and then learn to trust them.

Stay in yellow all the time. Your kids or neighbors might be in oblivious white, but there’s no reason you can’t be in yellow, paying attention to what’s going on around you. If that sounds like a good idea; if you like taking responsibility for your own safety, the safety of your family and the people around you, then you are a sheepdog. Trust me when I say, it’s a good feeling to be a sheepdog and not a sheep.

public places

Looks like fun, right? But don’t go into it with blinders on.
Pay attention since nobody is responsible for your safety
but you. Condition yellow here, at best.

Looking For More?

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This special edition can help you make sure you have the right accessories and many other resources to ensure that you can defend yourself and your family.

Personal Defense

PERSONAL SAFETY: It’s Not Up To Anybody Else
KIDS AND GUNS: Starting ‘Em Young
THE AK-47:
Then And Now
SELF-DEFENSE: For Those With Physical Disabilities
STAG ARMS MODEL 3: Upgrading A Combative Carbine
MARTIAL BLADE CONCEPTS: Practical/Realistic Self-Defense
CARRY STRATEGIES: What Goes Where And Why
WHICH SHOOTING SCHOOL? How To Choose The Right One

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