“Always Be Prepared.” It’s not just good advice for Boy Scouts; it’s good advice for everyone. But what, exactly, does it mean to be prepared? Many people have the desire to take their preparedness and protection into their own hands. The ability to do this properly has a lot of moving parts. It can include the use of lethal and less-than-lethal force—such as a firearm, pepper spray, or martial arts—and the skills to respond to worst-case scenarios—like being able to render first aid. Ideally, we strive to never be in those scenarios. No one wants to be put in a situation where they might be a victim and have to cause bodily harm to someone else in order to protect oneself. (Notice that I said oneself and not one’s stuff. Your personal belongings aren’t worth fighting over. They can be replaced. Your life cannot.) Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world full of perfect people and perfect places. Sometimes, we find ourselves in places where we’re more likely to be victimized. “Well, just don’t go to those places,” some might say. Sure, we know it’s not wise to walk down dark alleys alone, but it’s not always that easy to spot a location where trouble could crop up. We’re going to take a look at five places where you might not expect trouble, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take precautions and shouldn’t be prepared to deal with it should the need arise. To do this, we’ve enlisted the help of the Pro-Staff from Shoot Like A Girl, Inc. Shoot Like A Girl is an organization that empowers women in the hunting and shooting industries. Members of the Pro-Staff include hunters, competitive shooters, firearms instructors, and more. In just 10 years, more than 18,000 women have participated in their programs.

karen butlerthe president of shoot like a girl
Karen Butler is the President of Shoot Like a Girl.Shoot Like a Girl

Here to offer some guidance are Karen Butler, Angie Kokes, Christa Forrester, Janeen Wyatt, Taryn Stewart, Amy Hunter, Shasta Sitton, Cindy Minor, and Susan Dillman. Whether you’re a man or a woman, the advice they offer is equally applicable.

Some things will apply to many of the locations we will cover, so let’s go over some basics:

  • Don't go looking for trouble. Karen's biggest piece of advice is remembering that "having a concealed weapon is not a hall pass to put yourself in dangerous situations that can be avoided; however if you ever find yourself in a situation where you must use your firearm to protect yourself, you need to have practiced and be proficient with your firearm."
  • Know where the exits are located. Christa, Janeen, Cindy, and Susan all suggested looking around and finding multiple exits.
  • Stay off your phone! Taryn advises you to never be so immersed in something that can act as such a big distraction. Your social feed isn't that important.
  • Trust your gut. If something seems odd or out of place, it probably is. Christa, Amy, Shasta, Cindy, and Susan all agree.
  • Angie has some great advice about feeling panicked: "When you want to panic, don't! Breath, think and move. Panic helps no one. You can neither predict nor practice every possible scenario. Continue to breath, move forward and make the best decisions based on what you know and have trained for."
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Look around and simply keep apprised of who and what is in your immediate area. Every single one of the Pro-Staff stressed the importance of this.

OK, now for some locations and things to consider and remember:

shasta sitton of shoot like a girl
Shasta Sitton is an author with Whitetail Press. She is a member of Prois Hunting and Shoot Like a Girl.Shoot Like a Girl

Movie Theater

“I tend to sit at the end of rows just in case there is ever a need for a quick getaway,” says Shasta. Your instinct may be to sit in the middle for the optimal viewing experience, but then you’re blocked in by people on either side of you.

Susan suggests that you “treat every place you visit as a new situation.” Even if you’ve been to that theater a thousand times, don’t get complacent because it’s familiar.

Big Box Store

“Pay attention to shoppers in stores,” advises Cindy. “If you constantly see a person in different areas of the store and they never have any items in their arms and no basket, tell an associate.” People rarely go window-shopping in stores that sell a little bit of everything.

cindy minor of shoot like a girl
Cindy Minor lives in Oklahoma and is an avid competitive archer and is a member of the Shoot Like a Girl leadership staff.Shoot Like a Girl

Take a mental inventory of the layout. “Look for barricades and other areas of cover and concealment,” advises Christa. Those big chest freezers can provide good cover.

Parking Lot/Garage

Cindy says you should “always pay attention to cars you are going to walk by or you are parked next to.” Someone could be lurking to grab you, so avoid vans or work trucks if at all possible.

“Take extra precautions on your transitional areas,” advises Janeen. Don’t get complacent when you’re going “from store to car or other locations.” Just because it’s a short distance doesn’t mean there can’t be danger.

susan dillman of shoot like a girl
Susan Dillman is a registered nurse, archer, and Shoot Like a Girl pro staff member.Shoot Like a Girl

Restaurant

“Booth or table?” The host or hostess will certainly ask this after finding out how many are in your party. Pick what works best for your group, but also do a quick scan and see how the restaurant is set up.

“I tend to sit in the back of crowded areas,” says Shasta. It allows you to keep an eye on (most) everything and everyone around you.

“Wild Bill” Hickok lived (and died) by this methodology. Find the exits and sit somewhere that enables you to see all of them.

"Green Space" - Parks, Trails, etc

Cindy warns that you should “never walk next to large vegetation, such as a bush, that someone could hide behind and jump out at you.” Now, in places like this, it may be hard to say “never,” so just be extra cautious and aware when you’re near dense areas and bushes.

taryn stewart of shoot like a girl
Taryn Stewart works at Firearms Solutions in Oklahoma and is an avid competitive shooter and firearms instructor with SLG.Shoot Like a Girl

Taryn says you should exude confidence at all times. “Walk tall and look people in the eye,” she says. “Make sure they know you see them.”

Shasta agrees: “An attacker is less likely to harass someone who looks them in the eye and looks like they may fight back.”

Takeaway

“Never say it won’t happen to me,” cautions Taryn. No one ever expects to be victimized, and yet, it happens. So be prepared. Go to the range regularly, take classes in martial arts, learn how to use a tourniquet.

airport walkway
All crowded, high traffic areas pose particular risks.File photo

Finally, a note on concealed carry: Chances are if you read this specific article on this specific website, you either already carry concealed or are considering doing so. With that in mind, here’s a few ways to ensure your gun stays concealed:

  • Wear a proper cover garment that doesn't make your gun obvious. On the opposite end, a heavy coat in warm weather will also bring unwanted scrutiny.
  • Have a good holster. Retention is key at all times. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to run, you don't want to worry about your gun coming out of its holster.
  • Buy a good belt. This is just as important as having a good holster. A proper belt will be able to handle the added weight of your gun and holster. If you're constantly having to hike up your pants because your belt isn't doing its job, then you need a new belt.
  • Stop fidgeting with/touching your gun. If you've got a good cover garment, a quality holster, and a rugged belt, then the gun isn't going anywhere. Touching your gun when its concealed can be a giveaway to astute observers.