The Cornered Cat
Looking Around

My Fb feed at the moment is full of trainers talking about “Checking Your Six” and being “Tactically Aware” and doing “After Action Scans.”

Most of that is garbage.

It is not garbage in the sense of being useless, but garbage in the sense of being clutter. Noise. Added complications. This tactical clutter turns what should be a common sense and practical and ordinary thing into a game of “Let’s Pretend.” Let’s pretend you just shot someone, now let’s pretend to look around. Maybe we’ll even suggest you look around in a complicated, mechanistic way that you cannot even practice on your ordinary range.


Looking around after we shoot should definitely be a thing that we do. But we should not be playing “let’s pretend!” when we do it. We should not be doing it as a “tactical exercise” and we certainly shouldn’t be just going through a complex series of motions just because we think we might need to do something like that “someday.”

We should be looking around after we shoot for a simple, very real reason: because it’s a good idea to look around sometimes. Shooting is a high-concentration exercise, just like programming your next stop on your GPS, or texting a friend, or counting your change. And just like we should remember to look around every time we’re done concentrating on these other activities, so should we remember to look around every time we’re done concentrating on our front sights.

Looking around should be a thing we do simply because it helps us stay safe in the here-and-now. Immediately. Today. Right now and every time we’re at the range practicing with our firearms as part of our normal, everyday lives. Because you know what?

Ranges are NOT 100% crime-free.

There are no utterly safe places in this world. None. This includes wherever you shoot. Bad things can happen there just as they can happen anywhere else.

On the lower end of the scale, valuables get pilfered. Ask anyone who’s ever had a good set of muffs or an entire bag walk off how that feels. You set your stuff on the table at the back of the bay, and go forward to tape your targets. When you return to the back of the bay, some of your stuff is … gone. Where’d it go? Good luck finding out.

On the higher end of the scale, there’s violent crime. It’s rare, but not unheard-of. Those of us who shoot on remote private ranges aren’t immune. In fact, we may be more at risk. The criminals in the 1986 FBI Miami shootout, for example, stole several of the firearms they used in their crimes from people who had been shooting alone on public ranges — shooting or beating those people and leaving them for dead. Within the past few years, similar things have happened to a man shooting alone on an outdoor range in Oklahoma (he recovered) and to another man in Pennsylvania (he died).

It’s not unique to outdoor ranges, of course. Irony-minded criminals have been known to steal guns, at gunpoint, from people leaving indoor ranges — sometimes shooting their victims in the bargain. Which probably goes to show that just owning a gun, or even having it with you, isn’t going to do you much good if you don’t see trouble coming. Or if you’re not prepared to counter it when it does.

So, yeah. Look around when you’re done shooting. Do it every time. But don’t do it because you’re playing a game of “Let’s Pretend.” Instead, look for the answers to these questions:

  • Who is on the range with me?
  • Who has come onto the range or left the range since the last time I looked around?
  • What is everyone doing?
  • Is anyone loitering around my stuff? Or paying more attention to other people’s stuff than seems natural?

It’s not a tactical exercise or a range dance. It’s just, you know, looking around.

3 Responses to Looking Around

  1. PabloM says:

    Looking around had save me a couple of times. Good practice…yellow condition, you know…

  2. Fred says:

    Interesting. I have had training in which I was instructed to “check my six” but found myself looking for some of those you mentioned and;

    – who has a gun in their hand, in which lane/bench
    – what direction is the muzzle pointed
    – is there any unsafe activity in general
    – does anybody look like they absolutely don’t know what they are doing (worse than me, smile)
    – do any of the participants look nervous, perhaps new-ish and in need of a friendly tip or reminder or simply a quick hello type conversation

    I’m not necessarily against the drill but, I found myself fake-ily looking behind me as instructed then checking the range for the stuff we should be actually looking to check.

  3. BobG says:

    I always keep a pistol concealed at all times at the private range I belong to. When going forward (except for the small pistol range), I either lock up all guns in my nearby car, or I take my rifle along on the sling. I have no intention of turning around from the target to see my own rifle pointed at me.


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