Hand-Picked Daily GUN DEALS, and Exclusive Coupons Codes >>>

[Guide] Situational Awareness: Head on a Swivel

Learn how to be more aware of your surroundings and get ahead of anything bad that could potentially happen with our Situational Awareness Guide.

Things are a little crazy right now. A lot of people are worried and there are lots of unknowns.

Today it’s COVID-19, shortages of supplies, and societal unrest things are piling up. But tomorrow it could be something else.

AlienGear Shapeshift Holster
AlienGear Shapeshift Holster Shoulder

One thing you can do is to take control of what you can and pay attention to what’s going on around you.

We are going to break down certain tips on how you can become more aware of your surroundings and get ahead of anything bad that could potentially happen.

Put on your tinfoil hats ladies and gents!

Table of Contents


Exit Strategy

One of the simplest things you can do to prepare yourself is to know your exits. Scanning for exit signs when indoors is quick and painless.

When out and about, keeping your eyes open and processing the data that is coming in is important.

If things go sideways when indoors, knowing your exit strategy ahead of time can be paramount. Crowds stampeding can be a very real danger.

Especially if you are with your family and have children. Knowing the most direct route to potential safety can save lives.

headout meme

For all the men and women with little children, all this requires is recalibration. If you are like me, you probably try to figure out where the bathrooms are when in a new place.

Toddlers, or even my pregnant wife tend to take bathroom breaks like a drunken tiny roommate. This is the same thing. Mind your exits.

In an outdoor setting, this can be easier. A large group of people that may fear for their lives are still a danger, but typically there will be much more room for movement and better visibility.

But here is a clue. Stay away from large groups when possible.

Mob Mentality

One of the biggest things to steer clear of are large groups of people.

men in black - people are dumb

Everyone considers themselves to be upstanding individuals. The problem is when things get bad a mob can swell. At that point, normally upstanding people can sink into chaos and anarchy.

During this COVID-19 crisis currently in 2020, we don’t have to worry much about large groups. At the time of this writing, most states have declared some form of quarantine or stay-at-home order.

I feel it is still important to talk about the mob mentality, though.


When society crumbled with Hurricane Katrina, mobs of people moved through neighborhoods looting homes and businesses.

Local man loots boxes of cereal and Ramen in the wake of Hurricane Katrina
Local man loots boxes of cereal and Ramen in the wake of Hurricane Katrina

During the LA riots, shop keepers took to their rooftops to protect their livelihood. Societal breakdown makes people do crazy things.

This doesn’t have to be an extremely large group either. For example, while hiking with my two small children I have run into other hikers. Pandemic or not, I get my kids to close ranks when near groups or around strangers. 

When out and about, it’s smart to be aware of your surroundings and above all where your family is.

Be a Hard Target

This can be one of the harder things to accomplish for some people. For some, it’s not in their nature to be defensive, especially if you are an extrovert or outgoing.

The goal isn’t necessarily to be a jerk or to have people hate you. Being a hard target involves a little “flexing” and using proper body language.

Brewster Body Shield
Brewster Body Shield, not exactly the kind of “hard target” we’re talking about but you do you.

Whether consciously or subconsciously, proper stance and body language have a huge role in being a hard target. It’s been a part of animal nature even before we were walking on this planet.

Looking big, aware, and ready to handle anything dissuades predators and predatory behavior.

Now for people, we can’t necessarily walk around with our hands up and growling at everyone that walks by. You can try it, but it may backfire with someone punching you in the face because you’ll look like an idiot.

You also don’t need to look like a “Tactical Timmy” wearing your favorite Gruntstyle t-shirt with MultiCam pants.

tactical timmy

I learned a lot about body positioning while in the Marine Corps as a military policeman. The same stance while interviewing people is a smart approach when dealing directly with a person.

Open hands at chest height with legs shoulder-width apart is a solid platform while also maintaining readiness and defensive positioning.

Proper stance and body position can say a lot about someone. Stance should be upright with your head up. You can’t see what’s coming when you are staring down at the ground.

Earbuds need to disappear as well. Properly hearing what’s around you is important to awareness.

Spidey Sense Tingling

The most important thing to rely on is your gut. If something feels wrong, act accordingly. Intuition, a sixth sense, or whatever you want to call it can save your life.

When you open your other senses, your brain can take in a lot more data.

That data can be used to predict what may happen next and what steps can be done.

I am not saying you are a psychic by any means. This is all done by your conscious mind as well as your sub-conscious. The point is you need to unplug from typical creature comforts.

spidey sense

That means eyes off your phone and stop listening to music. The next time you take a walk start training to be more aware of your surroundings.

You might be amazed by how many people float by without paying attention to what is going on. Don’t be a sheep. Be the shepherd.

Parting Shots

Being situationally aware must be a full-time job. But it doesn’t mean you have to be at 100% all the time.

It is a spectrum that you can slide through given your specific circumstances and assessment of danger or a threat.

You don’t have to be a paranoid hermit. You just need to know when to flip that switch.

Have you ever been in a dangerous or potentially dangerous situation where your situational awareness helped you stay safe? Have you ever taken any training on situational awareness? Let us know in the comments below!

For some really detailed information on the defensive mindset, check out some of our selections for Best Firearm & Shooting Books. You may also be interested in the Definitive Concealed Carry Guide or for some non-lethal options the Best Stun Guns.

All Tested Stun Guns
All Tested Stun Guns

The Best Gun Deals, Coupons and Finds

Subscribe to Pew Pew Tactical's sales and deals email.

5 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    Matt G

    Great article, Ken. It would seem like common sense, but that trait left town with the stick shift and library research skills. I'm amazed how many parents have their heads buried in their phones while their 5 year old decides climb the fence at the zoo's tiger enclosure. Your point on positioning is key. As an ex military cop, keeping balance and a low center of gravity has saved me a few times from falling drunks and irate domestic cases. Head on a swivel, brother. Look forward to reading more of your advice.

    January 9, 2021 5:17 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    I have been practicing situational awareness for most of my adult life 35+ yrs I am almost 60 yrs old and my SA has helped me avoid problems and once even get the drop on a bad guy. I have found that also learning what other peoples body language is saying plays a big part of when to go from yellow to red. I have been trying to teach my young 11yr old daughter to have situational awareness and to always have a plan for the what if's.

    May 13, 2020 5:37 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    If someone is taking a tv during a hurricane, they are looting, but someone taking ramen noodles is trying to eat...

    May 6, 2020 10:15 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Ken Whitmore

      True, but that also doesnt mean they arent dangerous. Someone willing to steal, may also be willing to commit violence for what they need/want.

      May 7, 2020 11:43 am
      • Commenter Avatar

        Agreed. You might have that flavor of Ramen noodle he's looking for.

        May 8, 2020 7:39 am
Join the community! Log in
Please provide a valid email address.
Password is required.
Please provide a valid display name.
Please provide a valid email address.
The password should contain at least 8 characters with at least one number or special character.
Please accept in order to continue.
Trouble logging in?
Type your email address and we’ll send you a link to reset your password.
Please provide a valid email.
Type your new password and hit button below to confirm it.
Field is required.
Account already exists
We already have an account registered for email address () which is linked to your Facebook account.
To log in type your Pew Pew Meter password below.
Field is required.
Account already exists
We noticed that you have previously logged in with your Account which is linked to the same email address () - we can link both of your accounts together.
In order to link your accounts, hit button below and log in to your Account with the same email as above.

Account in Pew Pew Meter means more

Check what do you get by creating an account
Check and save your reviews!
Bookmark and compare your favorite firearms
Manage your newsletter subscription
pew pew tactical logo

new here?

Personalize your experience.
Select what level shooter you are!

pew pew tactical logo

level up your gun knowledge

Thanks! We'll send you the latest guides and training tips geared towards your level.

pew pew tactical logo


You'll now receive newsletters of our best articles on techniques, guns & gear.

$47 value

yours free!

targets targets

practice targets

printer icon printable

our 9 favorite targets and drills


practice targets

printer icon printable

enter your email to download

We'll only use the information provided according to our privacy policy.

success icon

Ready to Download

Click below to begin your download

download pdf