Mindset – The Zen of the Snake Shot

If The Zen of the Flip Flop (my recent commentary) represents a careless state of mind leading to failure, The Zen of the Snake Shot would be the opposite; a prepared state of mind ensuring success.

The first step in mental preparation for combat, survival, or just living in a difficult world is acceptance – you must accept and understand that the world can be a dangerous place. There may be people who wish to harm you or those you have chosen to protect. There are dangerous places, situations and animals in the world as well, and you need to have made up your mind, right now, that you may have to deal with them. Accepting this reality and anticipating having to do something about it is the first step in developing a successful state of mind.

If you live in my part of the country snakes are a fact of life. You learn to keep your eyes open, look where you are going, and be careful where you put your hands. Part of my preparation for the possibility of encounters with rattlesnakes out in the desert includes wearing a pistol and packing a spare magazine with a couple of shotshells. When I went to the range this morning to do some gun testing I was carrying my Novak/Colt Lightweight Commander chambered in .45ACP along with a spare magazine loaded with two shotshells as the first rounds up.

The next step in mental preparation is alertness. Once you have made up your mind Evil could be lurking about your best defense is to see him before he catches you by surprise. No matter how well trained and armed you might be, if you are taken by surprise you are relying on luck or the incompetence of your opponent to see you through. Just being alert, aware and knowing what is going on around you can keep Evil at bay and has stopped many fights before they could start.

The range I was using has a side berm covered in brush separating it from a small range with steel targets. I could hear some quail clucking and calling in the bushes but then they went into alarm mode. That got my attention so I headed over to the side range for a look. When I got there the quail were frantically running and crying out, something I have seen and heard before when they are alarmed over a predator in their midst.

Jeff Cooper taught us the Color Code so we could have a tool to keep us in a prepared state of mind. Made up of four colors, the Code represents, not how much danger we are in, but our readiness to deal with problems. White is the first color and this represents a relaxed, unprepared and generally helpless state of mind. People who subscribe to The Zen of the Flip Flop are in White. The next color is Yellow and represents the state of mind we should be in any time we are out and about. It is a state of relaxed alert, meaning we are aware of our surroundings and can’t be taken by surprise. The next color in Cooper’s Color Code is Orange, a state of specific alert. Something has gotten our attention and needs to be dealt with. Although many alerts in Orange are quickly settled, leaving us to drop back into Yellow, some require all of our attention and may take us into Red, the last color in the Code. Red is often referred to as the mental trigger – if he does this I will do that- but it can also represent having made a decision to fight or flee.

The quail scattered as I walked down range, scanning and in Orange. What’s the problem here, and will I need to deal with it? Seeing nothing, I turned to go back, and there it was: a rattlesnake had slid in behind me and was lying there, stretched out with head up, about 15 feet away. Red!

We don’t tolerate rattlesnakes on the range, there is too much danger a student could get hit and medical help is too far away. We kill them when we find them on the ranch. Having prepared for just this eventuality, I executed a tactical reload, placing the spare mag with the snake loads in my pistol, racked the slide to put a shotshell in the chamber and let Mr. No Shoulders have it. End of problem, back to Yellow.

Anticipating danger, being alert, being prepared and using the Color Code are the keys to success. Bear this in mind; when you are aware, alert, trained and armed you have the ability to command your environment. Knowing this allows you to walk untroubled through a dangerous world. The Flip Flop people live in constant fear; the Snake Shot people have nothing to be afraid of.

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Ed Head (1949 - 2022) was a regular on Shooting Gallery, Gun Stories and Down Range TV. He worked for almost 30 years in law enforcement, first in the United States Air Force and then with the United States Border Patrol, retiring as a Field Operations Supervisor. During his Border Patrol career, Ed worked in a variety of patrol, investigative and training capacities. Ed had an extensive background as a firearms instructor, having trained thousands, ranging from beginners to police, military and special operations personnel. Having taught at Gunsite for 20 years, Ed first trained there under the world famous shooting school’s founder, Jeff Cooper, then later ran the school as the operations manager for more than five years. Ed passed away on September 16, 2022.


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