The 5 Stages of Situational Awareness

Situational awareness is often underestimated, but it’s crucial for our well-being. The concept dates back to the teachings of Pierce Brooks, a LAPD officer who emphasized the importance of knowing where you are when you need to seek help.

Colonel Jeff Cooper, a World War II combat Marine, introduced a four-color set of awareness codes. Some instructors prefer a five-color code, which adds Condition Black for a lethal assault in progress. Knowing the difference between when to capture a threat and when to use deadly force is essential, given the legal implications.


I think this overcomplicates things, especially for those new to the defensive use of deadly force. If the student wants to learn more about a fifth color code, they’re welcome to do so…as a separate exercise.

In the meantime, instructors, especially USCCA-certified instructors, need to stick with the textbook, and with what the local CCW issuing authority says is required. Going beyond that puts instructors into questionable legal ground, even though it’s a well-known attorney offering the additional material.

There’s my two cents’ worth. The change might be worth something someday.


I haven’t heard of any situational awareness training being required anywhere as part of qualifying for a CCW license. Though I would argue that having good situational awareness skills is more important than having a firearm in the vast majority of situations people find themselves in.

Color codes are an easy way of visualizing and explaining different threat levels. But I don’t think there is all that much difference between the 4 color system and a five color system. In fact it is possible to have very good situational awareness without using a color code system at all. My awareness of my surroundings kept me out of a lot of trouble long before I ever heard about color codes.


Situational awareness is taught in class with USCCA
and the Color Codes (White, Yellow, Orange, and Red)
is taught in your USCCA ( Conceal Carry Home
Defense Fundamentals Book ). Offered in ELearning
by USCCA, and the book is used to help Certify
USCCA Instructors.

The CODE “Black” is an Alert Code added by the
Military. ( Cooper ).

You can take Situational Awareness Courses in
other classes by other teachers and companies, in
fuller detail.

This course or courses are not required for your
CCW anywhere.

I am very much aware that it can help you keep SAFE
and Alive. You will never sleep on your feet or do to
much daydreaming in wrong spots.

I am on my 8th year now with USCCA and you learn everyday something new.


I can never get enough of situational awareness resources.


You’re in Sac, it’s always Orange-Redish


You would be amazed on what you missed by not paying attention around you!


I know numerous people with a CCW that can’t even properly handle their firearm let alone be situationally aware. Scary. If you are going to go through life without situational awareness you may as well leave your firearm at home, you are only going to be a danger to yourself and others.


My ‘Built in’ SA are those little hairs on the back of my neck.
More times than I can remember they stood up, wiggled, Moved
and SHOUTED at me BSIH! (Bad Sh** is Happening!)
I PAY ATTENTION when I am Outside of my home.
I PAY ATTENTION when I am inside my home
I AM not addicted to my phone
I Carry 24/7 when awake and when asleep it is within reach when sleeping
Today bad characters are looking for that golden opportunity to strike
If THEY are paying attention and you are not they win.
Anything that IMPROVES your chances be they Color codes, Training, Training, and yeah more Training
WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE and the LIFE of your Family I am all for it.
WE need to be better and sharper today more than ever. This isn’t a GAME
This is Survival of the Smartest
All these Topics and discussions HELP us.
Head Shots, Training, Situational Awareness, Legal (especially Legal)
‘After a shoot’… It’s all good, It teaches me almost every single time
Sometimes I can be as ‘Thick as a Brick’ I need to be taught over and over for it to stick sometimes.
Situational in’t one of them.


This is EXACTLY what we are talking about! Situational Awareness! Even while eating my Beloved WAFFLE’S! EVIL has gone too far!
Don’t sit w/ your back to the door
Head out of your phone
Scan area often


When you hear or read the Words Situational Awareness you walk each day being open to your environment, every movement and moment
of the day, like Breathing and your heart beating.

Many people ignore their surroundings and for
example of a young boy at the time, 2021, his Daddy
and Mommy bought him a firearm. At 15 years old!!!

2023, with all the evidence of this young man hearing voices and having serious mental issues and he
ask for help and demanded, but failed.

This young man is now 18 and has been charged with
murder, and he will spend his life in prison. Over
20 people were killed or hurt by this person.

The signs of Sickness and Abuse were there and
His Parents refused to get help and the illness got
Worse to the point of using that firearm on other

Mom, is facing multiple murder charges ( 4 )
Involuntary man slaughter for not seeking help
for her mentally impaired son. All the signs
and Situational Awareness was ignore until the many
Young People lost their life’s.

The Dad can be be held accountable for the same
charges too. You do not tell a son suffering from a
serious mental illness to suck it up.

Situational awareness is a everyday skill to learn and
follow. It is not a fictional novel or part time.

The signs were ignored and people failed.


Isnt that kind of limiting?
Only what someone thought to put in a book?
How about stories that illustrate the point.
Or the 16 hours (illinois) of listening to someone read the power point slides.
I get the desire for structure…but gun defense seems highly dynamic.


It wasn’t my intent to imply that any such training is required to obtain a CCW. However, as we all know (I hope), training is ongoing, and obtaining a CCW is only one stepping stone on that path. My worry is presenting material which is too fine-grained for people who are new, or relatively new, to firearms. There’s only so much that can be packed into a statutory-eight-hour class, and going too far “into the weeds” takes attention away from other material, material which a given jurisdiction may wish an instructor to emphasize above this particular topic.

To a certain extent, I also disagree with Mr. Ayoob regarding the transition between Condition Red and Condition Black; to my way of thinking, the difference is purely academic. If one wishes to review and adopt his line of reasoning, well and good, but at least for now, that ain’t me.

As I said, this is just my two cents’ worth. Someone should probably save up the change; it might be worth something someday.


Most of the color code training I went through and studied stopped at red though I am seeing black referred to more often now. I would say that the color codes themselves are all academic as they are just trying to teach a system for situational awareness which ideally would be trained and practiced enough to be an automatic response without having to waste any time pondering what color you are currently in.

Agree that situational awareness is not something you are going to be able to get into very deeply in an 8 hour introductory firearms class. Ideally those classes should focus on safety and basic skills while providing a brief introduction to the many more important topics people need to pursue on their own if they want to become effective self and family defenders. Hopefully materials and resources would also be provided to encourage them to take and help them find more in depth training.


Hello and welcome @Glen53

You are good!

As a civilian, we are only taught the 4 codes of awareness. Black is military. That is when the shooters are at their worst and bullets are flying. The
Military has in gauged in their mission to stop the enemy, this is not a novel or movie and no one wants
a war, but it is going on today.

Police and military personnel are trained to run to, but as civilians are to run from.

I have the desire and seek to help others to find shelter
and cover, but we all have to have the part of this issue
to avoid and not be at the shooting at all cost.

As a CCW, we have the state laws that must be followed
and there are states that more strict and crazy.

Your input, your Knowledge, your help is needed and

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I think the color codes give people a VISUAL, that’s it
It gives the importance of escalation of events
It is a CONDITION: YOU ARE HERE White to Black (or RED for some)
But you new or Vet Know it already, you just need to TRAIN -UP and wake it up inside.

I’m boring some Gunner’s here with my droning on (I know)
But those Little hairs on my neck is my COLOR CODE
(I know some serious people who universally called the Angel Whispering or Breath)
If you hear that often enough I tend to believe it’s FACT.
When that happens I snap to
I AM already on Guard as I enter a shop, or even now just leave the house.
I’m not paranoid, Just fully conscious.
I’ve even taken (some may say extreme measures) When I open the garage door
I am OUTSIDE my Truck. Not inside looking out the rear view. If I see legs, Guns Up!
I’ll apologize later if I have to but what are you doing standing by my doors so close?
You better have a Fantastic answer first, Then I will say sorry.
It only takes moments to be Jumped.
Garages are THE WORST for Security. Thin Metal or wood (rare), Pry able, My windows
are only at the top. No View of the street. Skell’s drive around w/ assorted Openers hoping for the
same frequency. Then ‘BAM’ they could get in.
Does anybody have a travel mug? keys in hand? Briefcase? hands full getting into your car?
How about little children? Do you observe in a parking lot how long people have their backs to the
outside world? Strapping a kid into their chair, dicking around w/ the groceries? On the phones?
Checking stupid e-mails? Heysus! You’d think these people are Bullet Proof.
As I said, I’m NOT paranoid, but my alertness is on full.
Every bodies should be also today. It only takes a minute to get DEAD folks. There’s NO do-overs.

Where We Go 1 We Go All.

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Many USCCA Members are Military, here are a couple
of Situational Awareness Programs. Military and
Police Services make the Best Teachers.


Here in Arkansas, the State Police mandated curriculum for both Basic and Enhanced CHCL does, in fact, include violence avoidance with situational awareness as a key aspect. Each state has its own training requirement, ranging from none or basic four-rule safety lecture, to extensive legal and shooting. Hard to sort them out without deep research state-by-state. Neither the USCCA Reciprocity pages nor go into that detail.


We all have 5 senses, but over time I skipped over the 6 and developed a 7th sense. Those back of the neck hairs are my antenna connected to that, I think. I stop look and listen also. :us: