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Why We Say “Head On A Swivel,” And When People Attack

Criminals suck, and you need to keep your head on a swivel to ensure you're not about to turn into a victim. This statement, head on a swivel, is also known as “situational awareness.”

Why do we say you need to keep your head on a swivel, and/or have proper situational awareness anywhere you go? Because crime can and will happen just about anywhere and you stand a better chance at surviving if you can see the attack coming.

That's one of the reasons why we firmly believe that you should carry a gun just about everywhere you're legally allowed to do so (we cannot condone violating local or federal ordinances for hopefully obvious reasons).

We also believe, however, that just carrying your gun isn't enough. You also have to be able to use it to defend yourself, and there's also the topic of this article: which is that you need to be able to recognize the threat in order to do that.

Bad guys generally use a few different methods for an attack:

Ambush —

The ambush usually comes when you don't expect it. You never even see the bad guy coming, or hiding in the wait for you. He usually sneaks up on you when you're least expecting it.

This is perfect for him because if you're not expecting an attack and if he catches you off guard, there isn't a whole lot you can do about it unless you've got a super fast draw with a round in the pipe at the ready.

(We always recommend carrying a loaded gun. And, if you're not comfortable with one yet, carry however you feel comfortable as you work up to the point where you can carry with a round in the chamber.)

The alternate, is to be completely aware of your surroundings to the point that you can defend yourself to some degree if someone ambushes you.

Carjackings are often the result of this method of attack, and so are ones in and around your house. Though, these types of attacks can happen just about anywhere to include walking down the street.

Gaining Trust —

The other popular method when an attack usually comes is when a criminal tries to gain your trust. He'll ask you questions like:

  • Do you know what time it is?
  • Do you know how I can get to this destination?
  • Do you have a cigarette light?

And any other marginally deceptive question where a close proximity is required. And, that's the key here, for the most part (unless they're using their question as a diversion so another can attack you by ambush).

Here's the deal with each of those questions … Everyone these days has a cell phone so in theory everyone should know what time it is.

I don't smoke cigarettes so I never have a lighter on me. The last one can be a bit tough, but I usually just say no I'm not sure how to get there (because I am actually bad at giving directions).

These questions are immediate droppers of guard. Psychologically, we have an instinct to help other people. It's kind of like the damsel in distress sort of thing.

The main point here, is that you should try to create space as much as possible whenever someone strange is approaching you. When I'm approached by someone I don't know with a question, I create space.

It can be awkward, especially if the person has decent intentions. But, I'm unaware of their intentions until after the scenario has passed and my comfort level and willingness to survive always trumps any awkwardness anyone may feel.

Always try to create space between you and anyone else you don't know so you can react appropriately.

As I create this space, I bring my hands up in front of me. That way if I have to protect myself from a physical attack my reaction time will be that much faster and I can still get to my gun with my strong hand if I'm protecting myself physically with my support hand.

This type of attack will usually come when you're walking somewhere. Though, this has happened to me once when I was in the car with my daughter and I was on edge because of it. Thankfully, nothing came from it.

Distraction —

The above two methods are usually premeditated types of attacks. The distraction method can be premeditated or an opportunistic method that some criminals will use. While I list them both here, they are both totally different.

The premeditated distraction usually has a team of at least two bad guys. One distracts you while another attacks you. Again, create space upon first interaction with someone, bring your hands up to a more defensive position, and be aware.

Prevent yourself from being distracted by someone.

Finally, we have the opportunistic distraction. Sometimes, bad guys don't know their target until they see him or her being distracted by their own worldly cares.

Are you a tourist in an area with a camera taking pictures?

Are you filling up your gas tank?

Are you at the ATM machine in your bank?

Are you changing your tire at the side of the road?

Are you window shopping walking down the street?

Are you staring at your phone?

If you're doing any of these things, chances are good that you're distracted to the point that you don't see a bad guy ready and willing to hurt you to take your stuff.

You've turned yourself into a target.

Many times, the bad guy doesn't know who he is going to attack, but he is on the lookout for some distracted individual to take advantage of.

This type of attack can happen just about anywhere because we're all distracted, all the time.

Make yourself a hard target. If you're aware of your surroundings, and can react properly to these situations and even practice them in your mind, you'll be better off. Leave your thoughts on this as well as anything I may have left out in the comments below.

You may also want to check out some of our training:

Fighting From Cover

Complete Home Defense

Vehicle Firearm Tactics

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7 Responses to Why We Say “Head On A Swivel,” And When People Attack

  1. Cindy Lee Muir September 17, 2019 at 8:51 pm #

    This helped me to remember to stand with my back to my truck when filling up with gas. This way I can see anyone coming from all 3 sides.
    I usually stand facing the gas tank or the pump.
    THANK YOU !!!

  2. Jose R Díaz-Correa September 18, 2019 at 8:33 am #

    You left out the “love tap”, while standing still at a traffic light they tap your bumper so you get out of the car to investigate the “damage” to your car. At that point one of the team goes on to the passenger side to take out whoever is on the passenger side (hint: when you open your door it’s almost always using the power door lock switch, leaving ALL doors open), while the primary attacker engages you. Always look at both mirrors before getting out of the car (the accident may be genuine) and get out of your car unlocking only your door using your support hand while your strong hand is already on your lawful concealed carry gun while under concealment (you definitely don’t want to face a judge for brandishing a firearm on a perceived threat). That way you will have a better chance of surviving that kind of attack.

  3. Marion September 18, 2019 at 10:40 am #

    This is a nice “article” and the simplicity of it as much as many people would thing of it, then that is something that can be easily ignored and forgotten when you go with your own daily life. However, you don’t need to become paranoid that everyone out there is trying to get you, but in my opinion or my own was of dealing with this “situation awareness” is that I made a habit of looking at everyone that is acting suspicious, perhaps being really dubious, such as not “fit” to any present “scenarios”, if I can use the comparison that way. Besides all of that I always pay attention at peoples waste just in case I can spot any firearms “impression”, as well as I look at peoples’ lower feet also for any potential “bulky” area perhaps meaning that they might be armed. I personally try to be seated as much as possible in a distance at any restaurant or dining place and facing almost the whole interior or that place, look for “cover” spots just in case that might be “necessary” and look for solid items that I can use as a cover, including for an easy exit. On the other hand, I also get a little uneasy while someone ask me these upper mentioned questions, such as the ones from this article, since I totally agree with the fact that not knowing what time it is it is more than “strange”. Not to mention that anyone can buy a very cheap watch these days and let “you” know what time is it, seriously. I also get uneasy with people getting very close to me, like almost “invading” my space, therefore I pay an extra attention to such situations, since an innocent intention will not come right in your face asking you for a cigarette or directions, meaning that something it might not be “right”. I personally pay attention at peoples’ hands as much as possible, in particular at these that have their hands in their pockets, and if that area appears “bulky”, therefore I always try to take a step or two back easily facing the “target”, just in case he/she might “jump” on me. I also pay attention to females too, since females can also be very unpredictable and can perfectly fit the description of a regular criminals. I have seen it so many times since I work in Security lately. Therefore don’t be surprised to see that females are not as much as dangerous like any regular criminal as being a male for example. They can get too amptup and create some damages, since some are not really that impressed with your “muscle” as a male, and go right to your face without even blinking. Therefore, yes, OT an extra attention to anyone looking or acting “dubious”, since these dudes are always looking for “something”. There is a lot to add here, so I will let this to “sink” in your own perception. Thanks for reading. Stay safe.!!!

  4. Gary Boham September 18, 2019 at 12:15 pm #

    Okay, so let’s say we go to Denny’s for breakfast. I better hope there’s a table (not a booth!) where I can see all the entrances and even the parking lot, so I can see trouble coming. And the waitress better have a menu in Braille, because I can’t afford to take my eye off the doors and windows. No thanks, I don’t need a knife and fork because I’d have to look at my plate to see what I’m cutting or picking up. Instead, I’ll just pick pieces up with my fingers and stuff them in my mouth.
    C’mon! I’m tired of these guy’s who still live in the basement of Mom’s house trying to tell me how to be ‘alert’ in the real world. YOU try to ‘put your head on a swivel’ for one full day and then tell me how successful you were (assuming you left the basement and joined the rest of the real world).
    I don’t argue with most of your tips of things to watch for, but “always be in Condition Yellow” is simply not realistic, and you do your readers a disservice by suggesting that it is actually possible.
    Ignoring one’s surroundings is certainly not smart, but there’s a middle ground between being clueless and being obsessed.

    • Marion September 18, 2019 at 8:41 pm #

      Yo Gary , you are really trying to be “smart” but you ain’t at all here..!! Sorry, and I am not sarcastic at all.. Let’s cut the crap talk, and let’s admit that not only you are clueless and arrogant while explaining pretty much “nothing” dude, other than being an “idiot”…no disrespect…but also being more than a “dick”, in a metaphorical way.. You are the kind of guy that you will not act sanely in any of these critical situations since your stupid and idiotic “sarcasm” will most definitely get you in trouble if that is how you behave in “your” real world dude.. I never insulted you or anyone else here as far as my post showed, and therefore I don’t see any reason of why you will be an arrogant and disrespectful douche acting like you are talking the real life vs clueless talk.. Now to respond to your post just a little bit more, then there is always a good position to be seated and watch the whole place no matter how much you will like to disagree…however, since you like to be “picky” and “debatable” then of course stick with your “plans” and you will be fine I “would” assume…however, I will NOT dine with you dude IF I would be anyone that might know you in any shape or forms.. Stay safe buddy..!!

  5. Marion September 18, 2019 at 12:41 pm #

    Hi Jose, appreciated for your input too. It is a good example too I would like to admit.. However, no matter how much “you” (general speaking) will try to prevent and be aware of all circumstances, then there is also an element of surprise, unfortunately. Criminal become smarter and smarter despite the fact that they are not always perfect in their crimes, but there will always be a victim since in many situations these low lives act in groups so you really have to be on your edge at the time, and be ready for any surprising encounters. Well, that is not easy, unless you were trained that way and/or have an extensive experience of such “surprising” confrontations. Unfortunately, majority of the CCW holders are NOT that advanced for that type of multiple attacks in the same time, coming from multiple individuals, let alone fighting all of them in the same time too. That is why I mentioned that paying attention at anything and everything that does not fit the environment at any given time, it is paramount. Refuse politely any question.. And also, going back to this article when it comes from giving directions for example, then I always say this : I am sorry, I am not from this area, basically trying to cut off the question and limit the distractions, but always facing the “threat” much longer or until it gets to a safer distance, so that “encounter” will not be considered any problem anymore. I have been asked numerous times by a lot of dubious people to let them use my cell phone for example, since they need to make a quick phone call. So, I always tell them that I would not like to do any of that and that my phone it will not be for rent so I apologize too about it. Now, if you see someone on the road having vehicle or mechanical problems let’s just say, then I always slow down look immediately while I am slowing down in the middle of nowhere for example, since sometimes these encounters can be very dangerous and perhaps the type of ambush situations, and then I tell the individual/s that I can call 911 for them IF that is what they need, but I will NOT get out of my car, and I will definitely NOT get involved into any of that “help”.. I mean, it can be views as being VERY rude and VERY inhuman I will agree with that too, but these days “you” can NOT trust people and your life it is more important than any Good Samaritan gesture, as long as you still help that person by calling for help.. It’s not like you are a “chicken” or to scared, as well as being paranoid about these real life encounters, including that scenario can easily be as much as innocent and/or truly the case, such as someone honest and not harmful being stuck on the road, but me personally I would not take any chances unfortunately.. Again, it is so hard to trust people these days and therefore acting cautious it is the best way of not being a victim..

  6. Jo October 30, 2022 at 2:01 am #

    Good points, and great detailed examples. I need to move to a different county or state since it’s hard getting a concealed out here in Los Angeles. But you’re right it’s always good to be mindful, and conscious of your surroundings. Especially these days. Streets are hot in some places. Keep doing that good work bud, and for all these critics in the comments I could tell they’re miserable. And “hurt people like to hurt others.” 🤙🏼

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