Category Archives: Awareness

Failing the Interview


To my knowledge, John Farnam coined the term “Failing the Interview.” It is an acknowledgement that the victimization process has two parties, the criminal and the potential victim. Criminals rarely attack victims by doing a ‘Tueller Drill.’ With very rare exceptions, criminal usage of what is commonly called the Tueller Drill is almost exclusively confined to ‘Breaking out of encirclement’ when confronted by the POlice.

Even the most inexperienced criminal knows that proper victim selection is paramount to continued success in criminal endeavors. Poor victim selection, especially in environments where potential victims may be armed, can lead to incarceration at the least and even being shot to death by the victim.

Rather than an abrupt approach, criminals observe a potential victim and decide whether they have or can gain a significant advantage over the victim. It is the first step of Boyd’s Process from the viewpoint of a criminal predator.

This can occur either as an Ambush or during a Movement to Contact, i.e., a hunting expedition. If they feel they can gain an advantage, the victimization process begins. If the criminal doesn’t feel they can gain an advantage, i.e., a GO condition, then they wait or search for another potential victim. This victimization decision process is “The Interview.” It usually takes place without the knowledge of the potential victim, although at times it will be an actual verbal interview.

What I’m looking for, Claude, is big ole bag of money.

A polished and experienced armed robber or extortionist to me on one occasion.

“Failing the interview” is the result of the potential victim’s portrayal of self as being someone who will be difficult to gain an advantage over or who will be uncooperative with the victimization process.

Well, what I’ve got is a bunch of empty tool bags.

My reply to the criminal.

I was tempted to say “I get off work at 10 p.m. Meet me in the parking lot and we’ll get this over with today” but I decided to avoid getting The Last Word In. For both of us, this was merely a rehearsal rather than an actual incident. Criminals practice dry repetitions of their repertoires just like we do.

What is the process to Fail the Interview? The first step to set ourselves up for success in this regard is to be aware of our surroundings. Both we and criminals have an Area of Interest and an Area of Influence.

Joint Publication 3-0 Joint Operations

We want the criminal to make a NO GO decision on us while we are still in his Area of Interest and before we reach his Area of Influence. The NO GO decision is the absence of a GO decision. The default for criminals is NO GO because criminals know there are plenty of two-legged cheeseburgers walking around and the next one will be along in just a minute or two.

The second step is to portray ourselves as someone who is aware of and will not cooperate with the victimization process. Although the term ‘victim blaming’ is has been in vogue for some years, that concept is often an excuse for ignorant or foolish behavior. When someone gets badly sunburned, we don’t blame the Sun, we ask why the person spent so much time in the Sun without adequate sunscreen.

As my colleague Brian Hill points out, walking around with one’s face buried in a cell phone places a person in a posture of submission. Whether the person is actually submissive or not, that posture sets the tone for the victimization process to begin. Blithely talking on a cell phone in transitional spaces is another key indicator to a criminal that the potential victim is not paying attention to their surroundings. This is a way of setting one’s self up for predation. Being aware of our surroundings is a passive way of defeating the predator’s intent.

There are also active ways of Failing the Interview. The easiest is to openly indicate an intent to be uncooperative. Changing direction, displaying positive body language, or simply saying NO are non-violent ways of signaling an uncooperative attitude. They fall into the areas of Escape and Confront in the Avoid, Escape, Confront, Resist paradigm.

The list of ways to Fail, or Not Fail, the interview is extensive. The first step of all of them is to recognize that The Interview exists and make conscious and continuous efforts to Fail it. If we are effective at Failing the Interview, we won’t have to escalate to the Resist step of A-E-C-R. Preempting the need to go to active Resistance is our best bet for avoiding a Negative Outcome, either during the encounter or afterward.

In every encounter, there is an element of chance.

John Hall, former Head of the FBI Firearms Training Unit

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Purchase of any book includes Serious Mistakes Gunowners Make.

STOPP Presentation at Rangemaster Tactical Conference

The Tactical Professor’s Bus Odyssey

This is a short explanation of my bus journey back to Atlanta from the 2019 SHOT Show in Las Vegas. It’s mostly humorous and we had fun doing it. It was recorded at the Rangemaster 2019 Tactical Conference in New Orleans.

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STOPP Presentation at Rangemaster Tactical Conference

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Intended Victim not ‘Subject’

The man did not know he was being followed according to police and once at the man’s home, [the shootee] allegedly produced a firearm and confronted the subject [sic] as he was trying to get out of his vehicle and go into his home.

‘Subject,’ in POlice terms, is almost always used in the context of a wrong doer. In current times, the default treatment of anyone who shoots someone else is that the shooter is a criminal who must then prove his or her innocence. While some States provide some legal protection for self-defense, unless you never travel outside the county you live in, those protections cannot be relied on. ‘Stand Your Ground’ should always be viewed as a courtroom strategy not a tactical option. Keep that in mind. Do your best to AVOID or ESCAPE prior to being forced into CONFRONT or RESIST.

Surveillance Detection is a useful skill. Your car mirrors are a tool for you to use frequently, especially at 5AM. It’s beneficial to always take a few turns for Surveillance Detection purposes prior to committing yourself to turning into your driveway or other place you cannot escape from. Once you are Decisively Engaged because your path is blocked, you are forced to CONFRONT or RESIST.

Note also that “the man was able to retrieve a handgun of his own.” ‘Retrieve’ most likely means that the gun was in the car not on his person. This mention is not intended as commentary about leaving unsecured guns in cars. Rather, it is an observation that many of the incidents in my database involve successfully accessing guns that are stored off-body.

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Purchase of any book includes Serious Mistakes Gunowners Make.

Recognition Primed Decision-making (part III)

The Victim Mix

Elements of The Victim Mix

  • Lack of Awareness
  • Lack of Preparation
  • Failure to React

In 2007, the FBI’s Law Enforcement Bulletin described a series of inputs to what the authors called “The Deadly Mix.” While this article and concept pertains principally to law enforcement officers, it also provides a model for how we can think about enhancing our own safety.

Altering just one element of the deadly mix can provide a multitude of changing circumstances and outcomes with which to challenge each officer.

The Deadly Mix

Our end goal for the Recognition Primed Decision-making process in the context of Personal Protection is to avoid becoming victims. RPD allows us to set ourselves up for SUCCESS instead of FAILURE.

Awareness = Recognition

Preparation = Primed

Decision-making = Action

A key part of that process is to understand our internal processes that lead to failure. The Victim Mix uses the concept of ‘tolerance stackup.’ In that way, it is akin to the Four Rules of Gun Safety. Violating one Rule or Element will rarely lead to problems. Breaking two or more can, and often does, result in failure.

On the other hand, a person who is Aware, Prepared, and Ready to React is very difficult to victimize. The article illustrates its point by summarizing two actual incidents. Part of the analysis of the incidents described the impact of perceptions and assumptions in the encounters.

In the two incidents presented, it was the offender’s perception of both officers’ behaviors and the assumptions that he made that significantly altered his actions and resulted in the attack on the one officer and not on the other.

The Deadly Mix

Understanding the inputs to The Victim Mix allows us to reduce our vulnerabilities. Reducing our vulnerabilities allows us to Avoid and Escape undesirable situation before it becomes necessary to Confront and Resist predators. That is key to setting ourselves up for SUCCESS.

A fight avoided is better than a fight won.

John Farnam

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Package Deal Update

I’m gratified that Thinking Clearly about Self-Defense and Personal Protection has been well received. One reader sent me the following comment, which I found quite gratifying.

I went through the book quickly and my initial impression is that it is superb. Tremendous intellectual effort and incredibly sage and mature counsel on the subject. It’s also incredibly in-depth and thoughtful.


I want to spread the word as far as I can so I’ve now included it in the Shooting Drills Package

The Package still includes Serious Mistakes Gunowners Make, also.

I appreciate the loyalty of those who have already purchased the Package, so I will be sending previous purchasers a download link for the book.

Two non-gun related books heavily influenced me in writing the book. The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli and Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends by Martin Lindstrom are both very insightful books about topics that aren’t often discussed.

Without knowing a proper name for it, I’ve been working with ‘small data’ for decades. I think Lindstrom would have approved of the Deloitte & Touche Real Estate Capital Markets Database that I created years ago. It started out with a few notes in Word and eventually grew into the broadest analysis of Wall Street’s entry into the commercial real estate finance business that has been done. Even the Wall Street soothsayers were only tracking 20 percent of the data in my database.

Contrary to the popular opinion that “the plural of anecdote is not data,” Lindstrom’s work shows that the opposite is actually true. All of Gary Klein’s work about decision-making is based on small data. Concealed Carry Skills and Drills, one of the books in the Package, is based on the concept of small data.

The collection of books in the Package presents a very comprehensive view of using firearms and other tools for preservation of life. Tools, skills, philosophy, and pitfalls are all covered. Those who are serious about our Art will find them useful reading, I am sure. I hope you will consider purchasing the collection.

Surveillance Detection


I had an encounter yesterday with some unpleasant people while grocery shopping. When I got back to my car, they pulled up nearby at a somewhat odd angle in the parking lot. Since I wasn’t sure if they planned to initiate a confrontation, I quickly drove out of the lot.

After such an encounter, it’s prudent to take a Surveillance Detection Route that does not lead directly home afterward. Doing so isn’t particularly difficult but it does require a little thought at the time. You also need to use your rear view and side mirrors regularly during the process. And have a safe place to go if it turns out you are being followed.

First of all, turn out of the parking lot in the opposite direction that you would take to go home. As you drive, look for signalized intersections to turn onto non-arterial through streets. If possible, hit the red light. Sitting at the red light for a minute will allow you to scan the cars behind you without being an inattentive driver. Make at least three turns watching your mirrors after you turn. Contrary to popular opinion, they don’t all have to be Right Turns. Sitting in the Left Turn lane at a signal will frequently give you a better scan of the cars behind you by using your driver’s side mirror than you can get through the rear view mirror. You’ll also have a slightly longer view of the traffic behind you as they turn.

Image courtesy of US Department of State

What you are looking for is vehicles that repeatedly make the same turns as you do. It doesn’t have to be the same vehicle that was involved in the initial encounter. Pairs of people often have two cars and the other vehicle might be the one following you.

Once you go into the Surveillance Detection mode, make a conscious determination you aren’t being followed before you decide to head back in the direction of your home. If you are being followed, don’t go home. Go to a safe place. POlice stations are overrated as safe refuges because they are often unmanned after shift change. Even Atlanta Zone Headquarters in the middle of the afternoon are sometime completely locked up. A woman was murdered in the lobby of an unmanned small town POlice station a few years ago by her estranged husband who was following her.

A better choice is someplace that is usually occupied by some kind of First Responders. Fire stations are one example and hospital Emergency Rooms are another. Even these aren’t fool proof but they are generally a better bet than going to the POlice. Think about several possibilities ahead of time and have them in mind as contingencies if you do need to go into the Surveillance Detection mode.

You could also call 911 but that requires you to able to link up with a patrolling POlice car or go to some place you’re directed to by the dispatcher to wait for help. Waiting for help in a stationary location when you’re being followed is an invitation to disaster. Driving to a safe place is probably a better idea.

Sound your horn even before you get into the safe refuge. Turn on your flashers and, if possible, activate the car alarm. If you have any kind of defensive tool, think ahead about how you might employ it should the situation require. That’s another good reason not to have a pistol stashed under the front seat or some other place it might have shifted around from.

Usually, when someone following you realizes that you are aware they are following, they will break off the pursuit. Don’t count on it though. You want to be prepared to play the game completely to the end. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re NOT out to get you.

On a separate note, a reader of Thinking Clearly about Self-Defense and Personal Protection sent me the following note. It is spot on so I am reproducing it verbatim.

Hi Claude,

You might want to put a notice at the beginning of your book to make sure you have an Internet connection when reading the book, because a lot of the text won’t make sense until the reader reads the article at the hyperlink. And there are a lot of them.

Good thought. Thinking Clearly about Self-Defense and Personal Protection contains numerous references to incidents in The Real World™ to provide context for the concepts in my articles. For copyright reasons, I can’t reproduce the articles in the book, so I link to them. An internet connection will be invaluable for understanding the context behind many of the concepts.

Thanks for the tip. Winner, winner, he receives the complete package of my books with my compliments for his suggestion.

Thinking Clearly about Self-Defense and Personal Protection

My new book is finished and available on my Payloadz store for download as a PDF.

Fighting is a ‘game’ of minds.

–Rich Grassi, Editor of The Tactical Wire

Mental preparation for Personal Protection using tools is what the book is all about. Mr. Grassi’s comment encapsulates that concept superbly.

This book is a collection of my articles and essays, some previously published, some unpublished, some published but no longer available. The focus is on the mental processes that lead to achieving Positive Outcomes and avoiding Negative Outcomes. Many of the articles reference actual incidents to provide context from The Real World™ for what would otherwise be hypothetical or theoretical topics.

As alluded to in the title, Self-Defense is only a subset of Personal Protection. Often the person being protected is not ourselves but a loved one, friend, or innocent bystander. While gunowners usually think of a confrontation occurring between themselves and a criminal, the fact is that we are usually around other people. The possibility that another person will probably be peripherally involved and perhaps in danger is high. This simple fact requires serious thought ahead of time because people do unexpected things under stress.

The book is organized into several sections. Each section contains a number of articles that pertain to a topic. In many cases, an article relates to several sections so the most appropriate category was used.

  • Mindset
  • Awareness
  • Know the Rules
  • Decision-making
  • Incident Analysis
  • Negative Outcomes
  • Appendix of shooting drills

No publication can be a definitive work about such a broad subject but my hope is to stimulate thinking about the complexity of the subject from a different perspective than usual. It’s 105 pages of discussion that often gets overlooked when we talk about Personal Protection.

If you would like to purchase a copy for only $7.99, here is the link.

As with all my books, Serious Mistakes Gunowners Make is included with your purchase.

Children are creative

The statement was that the child put a speaker next to (the shelf) to crawl up and get (the gun)

Crawford County Prosecutor Matt Crall

Grandmother charged after her 4-year-old Galion grandson shoots himself dead with her unsecured pistol.

The woman had left a loaded.22 caliber, semi-automatic pistol on top of a shelf.

Leaving loaded and unsecured guns lying around, even on a top shelf, is irresponsible. I’ve known a number of people who think that’s an acceptable practice but it’s actually idiotic. When children live in the household, as the boy did in this case, it’s even worse, if that’s possible.

I’ve been encouraged to write a Second Edition of Serious Mistakes Gunowners Make. Sadly, I’ve acquired a lot of new material, although all of it follows the same pattern.

OTOH, this murderer should simply be thrown into an active volcano forthwith.

According to police, the shooter fired bullets at a residence from a nearby alleyway, and one of those bullets struck Trinity, who was jumping [on a trampoline] with friends.

Minn. Girl, 9, Is Fatally Shot While Jumping on Trampoline with Her Friends

Breaking Contact (Part 5)


Our goal in personal protection is to force a break in contact. We want them to go away, or we want to go away. One or the other.

The final segment of the CCW Safe Series about my concept of Breaking Contact is posted.

This edition focuses on success stories. I like those.

[W]hen a concealed carrier enters a self-defense situation with the goal of breaking contact — as opposed to a goal of killing or disabling an attacker — the defender has a substantially higher likelihood of avoiding a deadly shooting or making a successful self-defense claim when all else fails.

Shawn Vincent

Cover is your friend

The teen ducked behind a tree. The prosecutor’s report said one of the rounds fired by the deputy was recovered later from that tree, and several other rounds were recovered from other trees between the teen and the deputy.

A deputy and a trooper mistakenly fired 8 rounds at an innocent boy.

Be aware of not only who is around you but what is around you, including things that can prevent you from getting ventilated.

Trooper 1 stated to investigators that at the time he exited his patrol vehicle he believed the gunshots he was hearing (Deputy 1’s gunshots) were actually that of LEATHERMAN towards himself. He stated he fired in self-defense at LEATHERMAN believing he was being shot at.

My Battalion Commander made the comment during Civil Disturbance training that the POlice are, at most, used to operating in pairs. Pairs generally only exist in large urban areas. When an ad hoc group of POlice come together, such as in this case, it’s very easy for things to go South quickly. The LAPD has very strict requirements for a supervisor to assume command as Incident Commander when groups of officers assemble. In cases such as this no such control mechanism is possible and things can easily get out of hand, as they did. My advice is that if you see a group of POlice from different agencies gathering, leave the area immediately.

Note also that Officer 1 was downrange of Deputy 1 and Trooper 1 while they were firing at the innocent bystander. Struggling with Subject 1 on the ground to take him into custody might have saved that Officer’s life.

BM is the innocent bystander

The full 27 page report from the State’s Attorney about the incident is available to download from the news article.

Another of my rules is that if I were to hear shots fired, I am going the other way as quickly as I can. Nothing good comes from ‘running to the sound of guns’ as a Private Citizen. Something something, curiosity killed the cat, something something.