Mundane Movements: Parking Lots, Part 2, Exiting the Store, Loading your Vehicle, and Going Home

After our shopping is done and we tuck that impulse bought stuffed animal in with the little one, it’s time to go from the relative safety of the store back out into the world. We can break this down into phases and have plans for each phase of getting back to the car. We have to leave the store, walk to the car, unload the groceries, load the baby, get ourselves in the car, and drive away. Each of these phases will afford us unique options for maneuver and tactics. I’ll list the phases, and in a later post discuss some of the tactics we can use in case things start going sideways.

Before we coast back through the front door towards our perfectly parked car, there’s a few things I’d like you to do:

  1. Stop. Put your receipt away, put your wallet back in your pocket, and be in the moment.
  2. Hang up your phone. The conversation can wait. Voluntarily eliminating 180 degrees of your peripheral vision while simultaneously using spare mental processing power for a conversation is just asking for problems. Hang it up.
  3. You don’t need a soundtrack to walk to your car. Remove the ear phones if you rock out while you shop.
  4. Get your car keys in your hand before you leave the store. If you’re carrying groceries, carry them in your non-shooting hand. If you’re carrying your child, carry him/her in your non-shooting hand. Your shooting hand should be holding your keys. This eliminates embarrassing and time consuming fumbling in pockets or purses once you’re at your car door. The longer your attention is fixated on a small area, the more time you are not keeping your head on a swivel looking for any unfolding situations.
  5. As a pro-tip, I HIGHLY recommend carrying an OC (EDIT: Pepper Spray) keychain on your key ring where legal. If you follow our rule to have your keys in your hand, then you ALSO have a less-lethal option in your hand. Note that not all pepper sprays are created equal. It is best to avoid the gas station pepper sprays, and ante up for a quality brand, and even some training cartridges so you can practice. I personally can recommend Sabre Red – Spitfire or the ASP key/palm/street defender Upon approach by an unknown contact, it is easy and non-threatening to throw up a fence and have your OC in perfect position to deploy if the situation escalates. The Man to see about learning how to employ the fence from managing the initial contact, to initial assault, to gun deployment is Craig Douglas of Shivworks. Don’t miss an opportunity to train with this man.

    The Fence – Shown by Craig Douglas – codified by Geoff Thompson. Google it!

Phase 1: Leaving the Store

As you break through the threshold into the parking lot, snap a glance left and right towards those hard corners at the edges of the building. Look for loiterers, rapid movement, changing movement patterns and people paying attention to what you’re doing. If you notice something strange near the entrance, turn around and head back into the store, or head in an oblique direction to where you parked. After you walk 50 or so feet away from your car and finally make a sharp turn towards your vehicle at the other side of the lot, they will either be forced to follow your erratic movement and give themselves away, or break off and wait for the next one. This is a cheap and easy method of surveillance detection.

Phase 2: Movement Through the Parking Lot

Walk towards your car, stealing glances at the folks in the parking lot. You’ll see most of them staring at their shoelaces, playing with phones, or zoned-out staring at the entrance of the store contemplating what pizza rolls they wanted. You’ll also immediately notice others who are paying as much attention as you. You’ll probably incidentally meet eyes with them. Give them a nod. Either they’re good guys running in condition yellow like you, or you just let a predatory actor know that you’ve seen them. This is usually enough to dissuade opportunistic predators. As you move along the parking rows, play the game of looking for places to quickly position the buggy (with baby) in a safe position of cover or concealment in case the need arises. Unlike the short post about shooting while carrying your child, we might have our baby secured in a buggy which allows for us to draw aggression to ourselves while trying to regain initiative. You have more options when your baby is not occupying your hands. Making these sorts of activities a game allows it to become habitual and is less mentally fatiguing. This phase of movement is probably when you will be selected for the criminal interview that will probably start as you approach your car.

Phase 3: Unloading your groceries

Unlock your car and stow your keychain/OC combo in your waistband or pocket. I like to park the buggy with baby still buckled in, between my car and an adjacent car. The name of my game is ‘avoiding task fixation’, so I try to not go more than thirty seconds without a quick glance around. Again, practice this and make it a game. Unload your groceries, lock your car, unstrap your baby and pick them up, and return your cart to the corral (Do your part, cart jockeys have a rough life). Get back to your car by following the previous strategies.

Phase 4: Loading your Child

I have an entire post in the works regarding how to mitigate risk when securing a child in a car seat. For now though, let it suffice to say that the more often you can break your attention away from securing the little one, the better.

Phase 5: Driving Away

There is no magic here. Get in, start the car, put it in drive, and GO. The mistake I see people make ALL the time is starting the car to let it cool off and immediately picking up the cell phone to start texting. I have watched people sit in their cars for 5 minutes without the first glance around. You simply can not afford to be immobile, occupied, and unaware.

In summary:

I know this post was sort of long winded and had lots of repetition. The reality is that it doesn’t take too much extra work to deselect yourself as the easy mark. Consistency is key.

In future posts on this subject I will cover the car seat conundrum, some ways to shut down approach stories, developing a verbal playback loop, Pepper Spray considerations, options on tactics if guns need to come out, and whatever else I can think of. Let me know if you do things differently and what you’d like to hear about. I’m genuinely interested in learning a better way of doing things. My knowledge was built by keeping an open mind and standing on the backs of the brilliant thinkers that have come before.

Let’s learn together!

Mundane Movements: Parking Lots, Part 1: Positioning and Movement INTO the Store

This post is universally applicable to the person who wants to decrease a criminal’s ability to close space and gain positional dominance via maneuver and avenues of approach, while simultaneously increasing their own ability to maintain reactionary space, preserve positional dominance and set them self up for an uneventful departure after the shopping is done.

The goal is to make predatory movements more obvious. We are looking for odd behaviors from unknown contacts. For instance, someone rapidly changing direction when you do, stopping when you do, or anything else that makes your spider sense tingle. The better we can observe and control our positioning in the public space, the more obvious a predatory movement will appear.

‘Nowhere’ isn’t the name of a bad part of town where all the crooks live, it’s where people come from when we lose our situational awareness and are task fixated by the myriad distractions we encounter daily.

With some simple games and positioning techniques, you will see more than the average iPhone fixated member of our society. You will be the harder prey, and the predators will choose to hunt those that don’t see it coming. The most likely time for an ambush (according to my private security detail friends) is when you’re either parking or leaving in your vehicle. For parents (Joe Six-Packs) like us, I would go on a limb to say that leaving is the most vulnerable time we spend in the public space. In order to have a safer departure, we can position our vehicles upon arriving at the parking lot to set ourselves up for success.

Nothing is as common place as the leisurely walk you take to the grocery store to fill your shopping cart up with the diapers, milk, and eggs you need for the week. Contemplating the next meal, it’s easy to let your mind wander. With a little one in the buggy, it’s also easy to be focused on them while trying to dodge traffic in a busy parking lot. Depending on where you live, you might find yourself shopping at a big box grocer, a gas station, a mom and pop store, whatever. You might park in an open parking lot, a dank parking deck, or next to a gas pump. I’ll lay out some best practices on positioning and parking to maximize your reactionary gap and therefor maximize the time you have to make decisions. Regardless of where you are forced to park, the guidelines are similar.

  • Picking a parking spot. This topic could be divided into several scenarios (light conditions, area of town, parking structure, etc). But really it’s not necessary. The goal should be to park in such a way that positions you as far from hard corners (e.g. dumpsters, corners of gas stations, cement pillars, stairwells) as is reasonable. When possible, you want to keep the ‘angle of threat’ to a minimum. That is, if you park far enough away from a gas station that you can see both sides of the building within your peripheral vision, you’re in good shape. You want distance from large visual obstructions that would limit your view of the area immediately surrounding your car (box vans and the like).
  • I prefer to park NEAR a cart corral now that I shop with my son regularly. The corral disallows another vehicle to park next to me, AND it is a quick walk to drop my cart off without leaving my son unattended, or making him walk with me across a busy parking lot.
  • When feasible, ‘combat park’ your vehicle. That is, back into your parking space so that when it’s time to leave, you’re driving straight ahead and can do so quickly (H/T Marc S.) Going forward is always easier than backing up, and quicker too!


  • Reminder:  I’m a realist. Ideally we would drive around the parking lot scoping for a perfect spot and mean-mugging all the people who make us feel uneasy, but eventually we just have to follow some guidelines and get on with our lives. Do your best with this and at least make it part of your considerations for day to day life. Some days there won’t be any spaces near light posts or shrub dividers. That’s OK. Use some of these guidelines. Just being aware of these principles will give you a distinct advantage.
  • Entering a store (specifically a gas station), always park at the pumps whether you need gas or not. By positioning here, you can see all of the hard corners of the building, the dumpsters, and any loiterers that look out of place. Also, Avoid RedBox DVD rentals on the outside of convenience stores. These seem to be the new ATM robbery zones. Task fixation will allow someone to ‘come out of nowhere’ and take your money, or worse.

quickmart front

Upon entering a store, make a direct line to the deepest corner of the store. Turn around and take a quick view of who is there, where they are, and what they’re doing. Don’t need to be obvious, just give it a few seconds. You’ll notice quickly if something is out of place. Look for the main bad guy and possibly a seeded back-up guy. They’re cowards and often run in pairs. Make it a game and eventually it won’t feel like a chore. Then, shop as normal.



  • When parking in a large open parking lot, some similar rules apply. When possible, park near light posts (especially in the dark) as well as cement/bush dividing areas. You’ve eliminated an easy approach from a flank and you will quickly realize if someone is circumventing the natural obstacle to close distance with you. You also will have the time to maneuver yourself to keep cars between you and an unknown contact. You have all but eliminated 180 degrees of approachable avenue and increased your reaction time as well as your ability to determine if someone is up to no-good.

shrubpark light

This post is more generic in that it applies to anyone. Not just parents with children. The same principles should be used regardless of who you have with you. Having your partner (spouse, significant other) with you makes these logistics much easier. More ‘switched-on’ observers help to increase avoidance and de-select you as potential prey.

The next installment of this topic will include how to get back to your vehicle after the shopping is done.

If you find any useful info in this rambling, please share it with your friends and encourage them to share. I just want to get this information out there because I want people to think and keep themselves and their families safe.

NOTE: Inspired by material from (Craig Douglas, Claude Werner, The Total Protection Interactive Hive-mind)



Parent’s Training is Resource Limited Training, part 1

I do not know anyone who has had a child and magically found more time and money for training. I certainly didn’t. Suddenly there’s a lack of all the resources you used to take for granted. This deficit of time, money, and well-rested hours requires us to re-prioritize our training and become more efficient in our practices. Let’s talk about some ideas to compress more training into less time, while spending less money. This topic could easily bleed into several posts, but I’ll try to lay the groundwork here. This post will concentrate primarily on time savings. Reducing training expenses will be a later post. My approach is an integration of periodization, combining cross-discipline skills when possible, having training opportunities at home, and a whole lot of dry fire. 

Throughout this whole process, keep your mission statement in mind. Why are you doing all this? Once again, define this for yourself. A comprehensive mission statement might be, “I want to live a long and healthy life and enjoy it with my loved ones”. You then will have to decide which skills demand the most attention to achieve this mission.

First, make a list of the skills you want to build and maintain. Here’s mine as an example:

  • Physical fitness: strength, endurance, mobility
  • Shooting Proficiency: speed, accuracy, decisional shooting, competition, training courses
  • Emergency Medical training
  • Martial Arts/ Combatives

Now, figure out how much time you want to allocate for training each week. Well, let me clarify and say, “How much time can you actually spend on training?” because it’s probably not as much as you’d want. That’s OK, you’re a Dad/Mom now (or just a busy human being) and you have to spend time with the family that you’re trying to protect. Let’s say it’s two hours a week. If it’s more, good! If it’s less, that’s fine too. You have to work within your limited resources and unlimited desires.

I totally want to go lift weights right now… no really.

Next, decide which thing you suck at most. This will be the priority. This part is important, because it’s easy to want to train what you’re already good at. This can happen with shooters who want to shave a few tenths off of their draw, a runner who wants to shave minutes off of their mile time, or a Jiu Jitsu player who wants to get the next stripe on the belt. Don’t forget that it is very likely the Pareto Principle applies to these endeavors. Honing your shooting to the limits of human ability means that you’re likely ignoring another aspect of your training. Get good enough, and then focus on the next weakness.

In sticking with the mission statement I wrote above, the best probability for achieving my goals (and probably yours too) is to give top priority to Physical Fitness. As Larry Lindenman pointed out at his lecture at the PaulEPalooza 2 Training Event, we’re much more likely to die of heart disease or some other preventable disease than in the gunfight we have been training for. The reality is that the bulk of the training time should be spend on physical fitness. We should concentrate on the aspects of fitness (strength, endurance, and mobility) in periodic blocks to give our bodies enough time to get the training adaptation we’re after, and then switch to a block of time concentrating on another aspect of fitness. Larry recommends, and I have used, 8 week blocks of time on your current weakness. Within this 8 week block, use 75% of your training time building that weakness, and the remaining 25% on maintaining the other aspects. After 8 weeks, switch to the next fitness goal, and put rest on maintenance mode. repeat. Luckily, the non-fitness aspects can be maintained and even built in conjunction with the physical fitness goals. You probably will have to make concessions in your training because life gets in the way.

This guy doesn’t need to be working on his draw-stroke. Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses.

Note: I’m assuming my audience isn’t an Elite in any of the disciplines that I’ve listed. If you’re a Crossfit God/Goddess, you can probably skip some WODs and prioritize getting some medical training or firearms training. You get the idea.

Here’s a few tips to streamline your training:

  • Keep a journal. Whether you’re strength training, shooting, or running. You simply won’t be able to document your progress without a record of where you’ve been.
  • Film yourself. Use your phone and take some video of yourself doing your practice. Compare this over time. Send it to a peer and ask them to critique you. The feedback loop is important for course corrections. It will make you mo’ better, mo’ faster.
  • Get a few pieces of home exercise equipment. Nothing fancy is needed here. A pull-up bar, a kettlebell (bought or made), a sandbag, TRX bands, whatever. Build a home gym if you have the resources. Try to cut drive time out of your training allotment and you’ll have more time for training. Do the work by whatever means necessary.
  • Combine training time with family time. I’m thinking mostly of fitness stuff here. Get out and hike or walk with your family. Two birds, one stone.
  • Schedule your training when it doesn’t impact your family. If you have to get up early to dead-lift, suck it up buttercup.
  • Dry-fire while you’re taking a dump.
  • Depending on your training budget, try to get at least one course of professional training during the year. Try to choose coursework that will yield the greatest progress towards your goals. This takes honesty with yourself, and a dedication to your mission. It’s easy to go to man-camp and hose 1500 rounds of carbine ammo in a 2 day course. Try to avoid that trap.
  • Combine training when possible. Throw a few repetitions of dry fire after a set of push-ups, do push-ups while you recover from sit-ups, or do a sport that also trains your combative abilities. Try to increase the time efficiency by combining skill building with attribute building.
  • Don’t train for longer than 60 minutes at a time. Whether at the gym, or shooting, you probably have diminishing returns after about 60 minutes.
  • Do a perfect draw stroke every night and get a perfect sight picture as you’re securing your gun for the night. This gives you 365 practice draws a year, for free. 
  • Perform mental rehearsal and visualization. See yourself performing a perfect draw stroke in your mind. It’s free, and can be done while you’re getting ready in the morning.
  • Choose your shooting drills wisely. Here’s The Tactical Professor discussing training priorities. Concentrate on mentally demanding, low round count practice sessions.
  • Train with a plan. If you don’t have a plan you’re going to waste time figuring out what to do, and probably will default to something easy that you’re already good at. Nuts to that.
  • Train things you don’t like to train. Because if you don’t like training it, you’re probably bad at it. Bring up the weaknesses.
  • Compete. You are forced to perform in front of others, perform on demand, and are directly compared to your peers. People often say that one Jiu Jitsu tournament is the equivalent of several months of gym training time. The importance of this cannot be overlooked. Find a sport (shooting, power lifting, whatever) and plan on competing in it. You’ll train harder and with more focus.
One path will make you feel good about yourself, the other will make you better. Choose wisely.

Keep in mind this same approach would work with a single person with no spouse who has a huge training budget and training time. At some point, choices have to be made and priorities chosen.

What time savings training tips do you use to get more out of your training time? 

Get training, and then go spend some time with the family!



Securing Your Guns from Unauthorized Access

  1. All guns are always loaded.

  2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.

  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.

  4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

    —Jeff Cooper[2]

Reciting the four universal firearms safety rules should be part of your subconscious routine every time you see or handle a gun. No exceptions. I personally like to throw in two extra rules when I’m teaching people.

  1. Never try to catch a falling gun. (heard from James Yeager at Tactical Response)
  2. Prevent access to your guns by unauthorized persons. (heard from Claude Werner at The Tactical Professor)

Let’s concentrate on the last rule there. Who are we trying to prevent from accessing our guns and how do we prevent unauthorized people from accessing them? Obviously, we want to keep criminals away from our guns. But there are a few other groups of people that we want to deny access to guns that you should consider. How about our children, nosy neighbors, or our nosy neighbors’ children?

CNN Study – Kids access to guns is a preventable problem and 2 year old shoots himself

The easiest and most robust solution there is getting a large gun safe and anchoring it into the cement in the basement. This works wonderfully for storing guns for which you have no immediate need (i.e. not our go-to home defense weapons). But how do we keep home defense guns quickly accessible to us and not to them? I’ll list several options, some better and some way worse than others.

  • Elevated position. This is the worst of the bunch, by a long shot. If children are your only concern, it’s still the worst. The problem is that, yeah, they might not be able to climb up there and reach your gun yet, but when they can, it could be too late. Don’t do it once the kid can walk. I had a scary three seconds about ten months ago when my little guy was pulling himself up to standing that made me realize that if he can see the gun, he’ll find a way to try to touch it. Never again. Here’s some footage to demonstrate the point (thanks Chuck H. of the Topeka Police for posting this)


This is probably high enough to keep him away for another year. But I don’t count on it.
  • Stack-On PS-520 Super-Sized Personal Safe with Electronic Lock
    This has been a very workable option for me for the last 2 years. I have an easy to remember code (different from the PINs that my son might watch us type at the grocery store) and I currently store this safe near the bed. I have also stored it in the coat closet near the entry of our previous home. I don’t have this lagged down, as I’m not as concerned with a thief breaking in and running away with this safe. It only contains my home defense setup (upcoming post on this). I can quickly roll out of bed and get my gear and enact my home defense plans. I preventatively change the batteries once a year and remind myself with a google calendar reminder.
The only addition I need to make is a battery powered dome light on the outside of this safe so that I can fully see the keypad in the dark. I’m pleased with this safe.(key code version).

Gunvault SpeedVault SV500 gun safe
(key code version). This is my next purchase. I’d like to secure it on the first floor in a place that myself or my wife can access as we answer the door. I don’t own this yet, but I’ve been told that you can easily defeat the biometric version with some simple tools, so avoid that one.

I think this is a brilliant safe. Securing against a wall in a closet, or on the back of a cabinet, it should be a real winner.
  • GunVault NV300 NanoVault with Combination Lock
    This is the best $30 you can spend. You can use this as a travel safe when you visit hotels, in your car, or even in a drawer if you only need to secure a pistol. I programmed a palindromic number (same forward as backwards) so that under stress I could open the safe regardless of orientation. It has been a great all around value.


  • On your person!!! This is what I do until I go to sleep at night. My ‘house gun’ is a Ruger LCP with a crimson trace laser, clip-draw , and a Hogue Handall. I don’t like the idea of having to request that a home invader standby while I open my safe, so I just carry a gun at home. Makes sense to me. If you read lots of defensive gun use stories online, you’ll see many examples of when a man has to engage a home invader empty handed and his wife runs to get the gun and has to make a near contact shot on the bad guy. There’s lots of considerations in this scenario that we can talk about soon.

That’s it for now. If you have any suggestions on securing long guns from kids, and keeping them quick to access, please let me know. I’ve been toying with some design ideas that I am considering building since no good solution seems to exist.

Edit To Add: Found this on Amazon. ShotLock Shotgun Solo-Vault This looks like it might be the ticket for a quick access shotgun if that’s the direction you want to go.