Perception matters. Just the other day, I was talking about gun owner stereotypes with another shooter’s. They were fans of guys like Lucas at T-Rex Arms who show that regular civilians can get “kitted up,” too.
I think it’s great that we have the opportunity to kit up with good quality gear and take a training class. But there are also times where we want to keep a lower profile that doesn’t scream “Look at that tactical guy!”
At the same time, I’m not looking to start a discussion on “gray man” theory. Frankly, I think most of the information out there on that topic is silly.
Instead, I want to talk about profile as a philosophy. To illustrate the point, I’m relating it to my own experiences with the military.
You’ve probably heard of DEFCON before, right?
For classification reasons, I’m not going to get into what exactly we did as the DEFCON changed. Honestly, it’s not relevant to this discussion.
Instead, all you really need to know is that the lowest condition, DEFCON 5, correlates to normal peacetime readiness and DEFCON 1 means war is imminent.
In this case, war doesn’t refer to small regional conflicts like what we’ve been doing in GWOT, either. We’re talking World War-scale violence and exchanging nuclear weapons.
The Geopolitical Dance
When it comes to these readiness conditions, there is a delicate interplay between showing you’re prepared to defend yourself and coming across as if you’re looking for a fight.
This plays out at local levels just as effectively as it does on the international stage. Think of a beat cop wearing a classic police uniform while patrolling the neighborhood. This might be the lowest level of readiness but it’s still a law enforcement officer with a weapon. Their appearance is decidedly non-threatening to most people.
The next level up might be similar. But instead of one officer, there’s three or four. Maybe there’s a patrol car nearby with long guns stored in it.
Now think of a protest. A peaceful protest might include many police officers forming a line along a cordon, but still wearing the classic uniform. But if the protest turns violent, now we see riot uniforms with shields, helmets, more armor, and crowd control equipment.
At the highest levels, you start seeing special weapons officers armed with long guns, plate carriers, and even armored vehicles. Think of the images hitting the news after the Boston Marathon bombing.
The point I’m getting at is that there is a continuum from daily peaceful behavior all the way up through donning warfighting gear.
My argument is simple: we, as civilian gun owners, should take note of the example in our own behaviors.
Defensive Conditions and th
Let’s bring this discussion back to Lucas at T-Rex Arms, my own series on load-bearing equipment, and our fictional “Scenario X.”
If you don’t recall, “Scenario X” is a thought experiment about your suburban neighborhood after a natural disaster. State and federal resources are focused on the densely-populated urban areas. Everything went pretty smooth for the first few days without power, but it’s grown considerably more difficult as the weeks go on. Local criminal organizations, unhindered by routine law enforcement patrols, are spreading out and attacking surrounding communities. You and a few friends are establishing a neighborhood security effort.
I argue that kitting up with plate carriers and tactical gear puts you on the spectrum closer to DEFCON 2 or DEFCON 1. At this point, you are expecting a fight and putting yourself in the best position to respond.
So what happened to the first three levels of readiness?
For our purposes, I’ll ignore DEFCON 5. That was our “day to day” condition that we left behind as soon as “Scenario X” started.
DEFCON 4 and DEFCON 3 are much more about perception than fighting. Our goal is deterrence. An adversary, such as one of our fictional criminal groups, should be able to look at our neighborhood and decide that there are more risks than potential gains, and they should go elsewhere.
The nuclear business is all about deterrence, and I lived and breathed it for a decade.
When we talk about the subject on a broad scale, we’re talking about a mixture of capability and the will to use it.
This isn’t so much about direct threats and saber rattling so much as it is about implying capability and willingness.
Let’s change contexts for a minute.
There are a lot of studies out there done with prison inmates to try and figure out how and why the select specific targets. The results are remarkably similar over time. Criminals behave like predators: looking for easy targets of opportunity with minimal risk to themselves.
Predators are adept at watching how potential prey move and act. They can tell the difference between someone who is confident and someone who is afraid, alert or unaware, and also look at relative strength levels. I even read one example where the interviewee said they wouldn’t attack a woman in the video because she carried herself in a way that implied training and self-defense
We should apply the same thinking to our personal behaviors and our neighborhood. At lower levels, say DEFCON 4 equivalent, even the appearance of physically fit individuals routinely patrolling and observing the area might be enough.
Any weapons could be concealed under clothing. In fact, concealment is probably preferable. Long ago, there was a thread on AR15.com about surviving through the economic collapse of Argentina. The poster, Ferfal, eventually started a blog on the subject.
I don’t agree with everything Ferfal says, but he has a few good points about long guns drawing unwanted attention- especially if you’re by yourself.
Escalating Your Posture
As things “heat up,” then concealed carry might become open carry. First with a battle belt, then long guns, and finally a full load
The occasional pair of people walking the perimeter might become fixed lookout posts with binoculars and radios. I’m not getting into security plans or anything like that, I’m just saying that you start thinking in terms of visible indicators that you and your neighborhood are not easy targets.
Just keep in mind that every decision to escalate comes with associated visibility and risk. For example, if others notice that you have a lot of security, does that imply you have a lot more valuables? If the potential adversary decides they can deal with your use of force, are you now inviting attack?
Let’s Keep it Real
Lest I go down the path of talking about doomsday prepping and patrol plans, let’s keep this simple.
Your plan, whatever it is, should allow for a variety of “tactical postures.” By that, I mean your primary day-to-day shouldn’t look all that different than it normally would. When by yourself, the goal is to not draw attention to yourself, but don’t appear helpless.
Carrying openly, and even strapping on plate carriers and combat
Play the deterrence game, it’s easier for everyone in the long run.
It Isn’t About You
One final plug here: remember that this isn’t about you. Your plan for these kinds of scenarios should not be to go at it alone. Trying to stick it out by yourself is a recipe for failure or worse.
Defense, and deterrence, is a team sport. The time to be organized is now, well before any “event.”
I will admit my own shortcomings here. The folks I’ve trained with in the past are scattered all over the state and country. I don’t know people in my neighborhood all that well, save for a few I have passing conversations with.
Perhaps that’s an article for another day.
Matt is the primary author and owner of The Everyday Marksman. He’s former military officer turned professional tech sector trainer. He’s a lifelong learner, passionate outdoorsman, and steadfast supporter of firearms culture.
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