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The Truth About Condition Yellow



This is what Condition White looks like.

It’s not paranoia; it’s responsible gun ownership.

The self-defense visualization technique for armed citizens known as “Condition Yellow” has recently been the centerpiece of a typically disingenuous article from the anti-gun establishment, which won’t surprise those of us who keep an eye on the mainstream media. Misrepresenting the intentions and mindset of armed defenders as “paranoia” or “hypervigilance” is a fairly typical slander among the gun-hating media and, sadly, we’re all kind of used to it. Regardless of what the folks who pebble their pants every time they see a gun-shaped object think, the truth about Condition Yellow is that it’s the best way for citizens who carry self-defense firearms to win a gun fight–by never getting in one in the first place.

Condition Yellow vs. Condition White

This is what happens when you’re Condition White behind the wheel. (Image courtesy of HBO)

The first way to describe Condition Yellow is to list what it isn’t. I’ll explain:  Col. Jeff Cooper pioneered a coherent system for assessing your relationship to the things that are happening around you, and he did it by color. That system goes like this: Condition White, Condition Yellow, Condition Orange, and Condition Red. (Some people add a “Condition Black” as well, but that’s really a subject for another column.) Condition White is a state in which we are not at all aware of our surroundings, and ideally we should only be in that state while we are asleep. However, it’s extremely common (if not the norm, sadly) for people to spend a lot of their waking hours in Condition White. Constantly allowing ourselves to be distracted by our smartphones or, yes, wearing noise-canceling headphones can put us into a state in which we’re not paying attention to the things that are happening around us at all. That’s not a great idea for anyone, honestly, but it’s particularly to be avoided when you’re carrying a concealed firearm in public. So, the first thing to know about Condition Yellow is that it’s not Condition White. What else isn’t Condition Yellow…?

Condition Yellow vs. Hypervigilance

No matter what Amanda Marcotte would very much like to be true, Condition Yellow is not the same thing as hypervigilance. Hypervigilance is a psychological condition that people who struggle with anxiety disorders and PTSD experience—translated from Clinicalese into English, it’s a state of “living in fear, waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

Condition Yellow, on the other hand, is part of a defensive mindset but is not a stressful state at all. It’s best described as “relaxed alertness.” Perhaps the best analogy would be to liken it to the way most of us feel when we’re driving.

Think of it like this: When we get behind the wheel, we all know that we’re about to pilot a one-ton machine loaded with explosives at 55+ miles per hour. We know that we’re surrounded by other people, many of whom are either idiots (if they’re going slower than we are), or maniacs (if they’re going faster), who are also piloting one-ton machines loaded with explosives. And yet, we’re not afraid—we just keep an eye on our mirrors, and on traffic patterns around us, and we go about our lives.

So, we’ve talked about what Condition Yellow isn’t—now let’s talk about what it is.

No, not that.

Condition Yellow vs. Threats

Condition Yellow is a way of living your life that will help you, as an armed citizen, to defeat threats to your safety the best possible way: Nipping them in the bud. Condition Yellow is scanning the parking lot as you walk to your car at night—not because you think you’re necessarily in danger of being mugged, but because it’s a habit. Condition Yellow is making note of the fact that there’s someone hanging around the dog park who doesn’t seem to have a dog—not because you think he’s definitely an evil dognapper, but because it’s a little unusual. Living in Condition Yellow enhances your safety by making it possible for you to evade and avoid a potential threat long before it gets to a point where you may need to defend yourself physically.

Now, how to get oneself into the habit of being in Condition Yellow all the time? That’s an article for another day…although we’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments!


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