Given my line of work, I’m often asked by clients and associates if I offer a “Self-Defense Class.”  Those desiring self-defense would be hard pressed to find it in anyone class.Related image

Courses or Classes will provide awareness or perhaps instill confidence in a specific area or skill.  Ultimately the culmination of awareness, training, experience and mindset is what prepares you.

In·tu·i·tionnoun: “The ability to understand something immediately, without conscious reasoning.” 

Trust Your Gut. When the hair on the back of your neck stands up, your subconscious is in overdrive. Don’t ignore it. There are entire books on this topic including one by Gavin DeBecker, The Gift of Fear. 

Below is a classic example of intuition I encountered some time ago on the first day on a rush workplace protection job.  The Company had a specific threat concern due to one individual.  Details were relayed to me by the potential target turned hero.

Late in the afternoon a strange subject entered a secluded and minimally staffed office.  “He looked at me and immediately the hair stood up on the back of my neck”.  “His behavior was strange” and he didn’t ask the same questions as other customers.  His statements and actions were coercive.

Fortunately the employee was sharp, trusted their gut and took command of the situation resulting in the subject departing and police being contacted.  Details of the case involved multiple Pennsylvania counties and the subject was after about a week.

“At the time of his arrest he had in his possession a bag containing duct tape, handguns, rope, a ski mask, chains, padlocks, matches and manifesto of specific actions he planned to carry out ”

This subject had patterned potential victims’ work schedules, home addresses, churches and schools via social media and open source web information.

Had the employee not trusted their gut or tried to convince themselves they were being judgmental, the results would have been very different.  Trust your intuition. Trust your gut.  If it was wrong, any reasonable person will understand.

Awareness and Avoidance

Work to quickly remove yourself in a manner preventing escalation.  Use a ploy, feigned urgency, illness or simply leave. Go towards help, call for help and or police.  If you’re only option is using a phone or computer communicate your location and need for help. At the very least take action to improve control of your environment.

As a child I was fascinated by National Geographic shows of animals in their natural habitat. The quintessential African watering hole and predator prey relationship.   It was nearly always the animal with its head down, the inexperienced or animal lacking confidence that was brought down by the pride of lions or crocodiles.

21st Century Humans have a different dynamic than the watering hole but in many ways its similar.  As a Protective Security Agent I’m often provided with advance knowledge as to a hostile actor’s history, background and mindset.  As a Private Investigator performing private and court appointed investigation for crimes like Robbery, Assaults, Home Invasions and Murder, I have the added insight of reviewing evidence, motives and interviewing witnesses.

Many folks throw around the term, “Situational Awareness” ad-nauseum. Basically it means being aware of change or potential for change in your environment.  Some folks have a more innate ability than others.

Everyone loves to Monday Morning Quarterback but let’s be real – no one is switched on all the time. Changing pedestrian and traffic flows, scanning and assessing individuals, surveillance, counter surveillance, surveillance detection, cover and concealment, intercept and counter ambush points, intelligence, weather, etc…..even a skilled professional is challenged to monitor this stuff 24/7.

But being aware during your day to day activities isn’t really all that hard.  Below are several simple points for consideration.

Posture & Body Language

When scanning for criminal threats, we use body posture, behavior, exaggerated and subtle motions and cues to detect threats – Criminal do the same things identify victims.

A 1981 a study conducted by Scientists Betty Grayson & Morris Stein validated what our human instinct and intuition have always known. 

In their paper titled, “Attracting Assault: Victims’ Nonverbal Cues”   They wrote, “Potential victims may be signalling their vulnerability to would-be assailants through gestures, posture, and exaggerated movements.”

“Simply walking with confidence can deter crime”

Physicality and Fitness falls into a New Years Resolution category for many.  Fitness is an important part of combat.  In high school I was a member of the boxing club – nothing like the movie, Fight Club with Brad Pitt, so I’m allowed to talk about it.

Our Coach, George Yaniger Sr. was formerly a sparring partner to famed professional boxer, Smokin’ Joe Frazier.  Coach Yaniger was definitely an individual to respect although a few joked that Coach took too many of Smokin’ Joe’s punches.  But to me, he had character. Coach’s boxing training instilled two valuable lessons: 1. You resort to your training, and 2. Learn to fight tired.

Many people have limited experience with actual physical combat.  Perhaps childhood spats with a sibling or the occasional playground scuffle.  Others were fortunate and maybe competed in wrestling or martial arts.  Some grow up brawling as a matter of course…….

Many physical attacks last seconds.  When seconds turn into minutes the minutes feel longer.  Having confidence and ability to fight tired and keep your wits about you is invaluable.  It can be honed.  Enhancing your fitness level, even just a bit will increase confidence in overcoming obstacles.

My wife is fit.  She is an experienced ultra-marathon runner and together we have a membership to a running club (I show up for social functions).  For many folks in this club fitness is a lifestyle and anecdotally I’ve noticed it’s members are much more realistic and confident about overcoming violent crime.

An individual I assisted is another case was the survivor of a violent encounter.  After being found not guilty at trial the perpetrator became emboldened to persist even years later.  This escalated into stalking, disturbing text messages via spoofed phone numbers and vehicle intercepts at all hours.

“They’re following me right now, am I allowed to call 911?”

If even remotely concerned, do not hesitate to call police and request an Officer investigate suspicious activity. Even if they seem grumpy, police would rather respond a thousand times for nothing than show up once after it’s too late.

After coaching this person and assisting them navigating proper law enforcement channels, I felt good the matter would be resolved……fast forward and a week and my phone rang, “They’re following me right now, what do I do, am I allowed to call 911?” I reminded them, “Yes, give me your location, go towards the nearest occupied area, hang up with me and call 911!”

The stalker neglected to follow this person to the into the occupied area then disappeared when police arrived on scene.  The perpetrator was subsequently charged and measures were taken to prevent future stalking.



Do you control your environment?  Doors locked?  Lighting?  Alarm or Surveillance Systems?  Elite Agencies with missions such as the U.S. Secret Service use highly effective techniques, like locking doors, windows and closing blinds and curtains.  How secure are your locks and windows?  How good is the lighting?


Are you or a loved one associated with a targeted items, entities or information?  One tragic example in Lehigh Valley, PA shows two cell phone store employees being targeted – one was murdered and another abducted by senseless criminals.

Who has information about What you’re doing, Where you are, Where you’re going, Who you’ll be with, How you’re getting there – see the pattern?

When should someone expect to hear from you and what do they do if they don’t?

Another example is bumper stickers.  Bumper Stickers?  What information do these travelling billboards provide to a passerby?  I lament my Cop buddies with vehicles adorned with stickers like, “Thin blue line”, “Protected by Smith & Wesson” or, “Glock Perfection.”  If a criminal walks past 500 vehicles, which vehicle do you think they’ll target to steal a weapon?

The ever popular “stick figure” bumper sticker adorning minivans everywhere(I love minivans btw) provide potentially sensitive details about the household.  Perhaps depicting a single parent with one child? A goldfish but no barking dog?  Your employer parking pass and the school spirit sticker provide the other details.  Don’t get me wrong, these are just considerations – I like bumper stickers as much as the next guy.

Looking for a self-defense course? Research and check the bonafides of instructor(s).  Someone who claims they’ll teach you to defend yourself inside or outside of the home or provide weapons / self defense training in several hours is doing so with a lacking and rushed curriculum.

Tools, less lethal and lethal weapons may include:

  • Pepper spray – someone always suggests wasp spray (do not use wasp spray)
  • Impact weapons
  • Tasers
  • Lethal Weapons & Firearms
  • A bright flashlight

Understand that most often you get what you pay for.  Not all experts are good teachers and vice versa. If on a tight budget options may include your local community college, law enforcement agency or other community programs.

Consider contingency planning with your spouse and/or children. The dynamic changes when you’re with a loved one, family or friends.

Ideal Curriculum: Awareness, Avoidance and Mindset are a good start.  Combining fitness and a legitimate martial art / combative training is even better. Other important considerations include less lethal, lethal and firearms training coupled with understanding use of force continuum and applicable law.

Speaking of Law. The use of force in defense of yourself or others can be found with a simple google search of your respective State Legislature.  At first, laws seem intimidating to read and comprehend although after some review you’ll learn to navigate and interpret the language and learn interesting points to impress your friends and colleagues.  If unsure, consult with an expert, your District Attorney’s Office or criminal defense attorney 

Generally speaking it is often best practice to retreat from a threat before using force, if you can do so reasonably.  Pennsylvania use of force in self-protection and the protection of others can be found here.

Good News

In recent years violent crime rate statistics have reportedly dropped around the country.  This is good news.  That being said, “Statistics are great, until they happen to you.” Stay safe and stay prepared!

While I still don’t plan to offer a Self Defense Class, I will continue offering Personal Safety & Security AwarenessProtective Services, Active Threat Training conduct Handgun Instruction, ,CPR AED training and Emergency First Aid training.

Ever Dot Torture?

Need a good way to spend 50 rounds of ammo?  Try the “Dot Torture” target

Instructions are printed on the target itself reportedly designed by a man named, David Blinder

Firing 50 rounds on this target is just enough to identify areas requiring improvement and to humble those who think they’re top shot!  The drill calls for drawing from a holster although it can also begin from a ready position.  Its a good way to utilize 50 rounds of ammo instead of just blasting away and makes for a good competition between shooters – Head the range and try it out!

Don’t forget the basic rules of gun safety!

PDF VERSION TO PRINT: dot-torture-target PDF

Don’t forget the basic rules of gun safety!

dot-torture-target PDF



Legal Process is the paperwork which initiates action in a civil, criminal or administrative legal proceeding.  In order to initiate the action documents must be served on the defending individual or entity.  A qualified and unbiased 3rd party who can attest to completing the service is the Process Server.

Do you ever say, “You’ve been served?”  Well, generally no……

The stereo-type of serving people legal papers, even within the industry is that folks receiving legal documents are hostile, threatening or even combative.  While this may be true in many circumstances, I rarely experience this.  Some of the more dangerous serves I’ve conducted were subpoenas for criminal trial on gang members although some folks being served have been so cordial and engaging we find ourselves in pleasant conversation.

While you never know how the person may respond or what their situation may be, the way a professional Process Server presents and conducts themselves may influence the outcome of the transaction and possibly the course of the legal proceeding.

“You never know how the person may respond or what their situation may be. The right Process Server has potential to influence the course of the legal proceeding”


Individuals who “evade service” are difficult although not impossible to serve.  We actually specialize in these cases and law firms often contact us after the Sheriffs Office, Constables or other Process Servers have failed.  Review testimonials here.

I’ve served Gang Members, Medical Doctors gone off the grid, Foreign Nationals who’ve eluded service around the globe and people who deny their identities.

Oddly enough the most difficult serve I’ve ever had was a geriatric woman avoiding a divorce.  Initially she fled to Asia to avoid being served.  Upon her return several attempts by the initial Process Server failed.  After dedicated surveillance, I was able to determine this was because the subject was routinely exiting the home via her bedroom window, crawling under the neighbor’s hedgerow, through a swing set then crossing a lawn in order to get to their vehicle and depart the area undetected.  She must have been doing this for weeks or longer…..

I was able to intercept and successfully serve the subject.  The budget for that case was on the higher end although the teary eyed laughter from the grateful client as I relayed the story of her climbing through the rose bushes was priceless.


A licensed Investigator can investigate, locate, conduct surveillance and serve legal process in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

Information for Pennsylvania can be found here: PA CHAPTER 400. SERVICE OF ORIGINAL PROCESS

Our clients include: The U.S. Dept of Justice, Law Firms, Attorneys, Paralegals, Corporations, Individuals and other entities around the globe


The agent completing the service will complete the return of service, proof of service or affidavit provided.  If necessary they will generate their own detailed affidavit to reflect the facts and details of the service.


Each case varies.  Our General fee is $65hr + mileage – a fee is applied for rush service requests under and in some cases we’ve have had less than a 2hr turn around time.  Sometimes clients need to serve an individual they cannot locate – this requires investigative effort and increases the fee.

Our clients receive skillfully executed service with tact, professionalism and attention to detail.  We are not a bulk service provider.  Each assignment is undertaken with the sole objective of effecting service even on those evading service.  Near immediate mobile updates and scanned documents are scanned, uploaded and sent from the field.

If the service is not highly important, you may wish to contact the local, Constable, Sheriffs Dept or a budget process server.  If you case is important, sensitive or urgent in nature contact us.

Nicholas Group – Investigative & Security has experience serving individuals, Local, State and Federal Government Agents, witnesses, corporations, expert witnesses, hospitals, law firms, banks and others with International legal documents, civil complaints, criminal subpoenas, notice of deposition, divorce complaints, civil suits, child custody, family law and other legal matters in Pennsylvania.


Contact the Office.  Documents can be delivered to our office via e-mail, FedEx, USPS or other postal carrier.  Billing is permitted for Corporate and Attorney Clients.  Rush service is available for an additional fee.

For cases sensitive in nature or those evading service, any details about the subject(s) including description, photos, vehicles, workplace etc. are helpful and will benefit the client’s budget.


Col. Jeff Cooper – considered to be the Father of modern firearms safety and techniques.


A firearm is a tool and lethal weapon capable of firing a projectile at over a thousand feet per second.  Guns are not toys, props or gimmicks.  If someone confuses gun handling with machismo or handles a gun in an unsafe manner – simply leave.  Ingrain safe gun handling into your subconscious by always treating a gun as if it is loaded and following these rules.


Once the gun is in your hand it becomes your responsibility.  Keep it pointed towards something that can absorb the impact and energy of a fired bullet.  If the gun is unloaded, refer to rule #1.   Put things into perspective – the target backstop at the gun range, an earth berm, solid trees, the ground, an unoccupied vehicle, etc. are all better places to point a gun rather than towards another person.

Pointing a gun up may at times be the only option although remember what goes up must come down.  When I’m inside a building handling even an unloaded gun, I go so far as to not point the gun towards the ceiling when floors above are occupied.  At the Gun Store professional staff will safety check firearms before presenting to you.  Even though the staff literally just checked the gun in front of you, it’s now your turn to ensure the gun is unloaded (ask if you don’t know how).  This action does three things: 1. Verify for yourself the gun is unloaded.  2. Demonstrate your knowledge of firearms safety and respect for others.  3. Reinforce safe gun handling into your subconscious.  Before handing to another person you’ll want to demonstrate the gun is unloaded.

Index/trigger finger “HIGH INDEX”


“High Index” is a fancy way of saying keep your trigger finger off the trigger and placed above and outside the trigger guard.  There are multiple reasons why.

All good instructors will teach these rules however many won’t explain or perhaps don’t understand why………learn from an instructor who can explain the specific reasons why, provide insight, real life examples and experiences.


Failing at this rule gets innocent people killed.  Many firearms instructors say, “There is a lawyer attached to every bullet you fire.”  Speaking from experience I say that is false. As someone who performs investigative support for litigation, private and court appointed criminal defense for crimes involving firearms, I can tell you there is not, “A Lawyer” attached to every bullet.  There are potentially half a dozen or more lawyers attached to every bullet.

People believing they’re home is being invaded too often recklessly and negligently fire without identifying their target – you can likely imagine all the legal liability in the world is nothing compared to the grief of accidentally killing a love one.  Take a handgun safety course.

” The goal is to ingrain safe gun handling into your subconscious “

For more resources including firearms safety for young children click here.


“My advice?  Start with a quality Outside the Waist Band holster, professional training and practice to proficiency. “

There we were in Northern Virginia – Surrounded………Dozens of  people, some invigorated, some frenzied, others – despondent.  We were at a shopping outlet and my Wife and I had just entered the COACH® store.  It was a special occasion and were buying her a purse.  My Wife being very sensible would likely never purchase a designer bag herself so this was my doing.  Inside the other men and I exchanged knowing glances however that day I came to realize:  All purses are bags but not all bags are good purses.

Purses are utilized to secure important items.  The best are made of quality materials to suit one’s utility and taste.……just like holsters.

People drop $50 on a bar tab yet balk at spending money on serious things like lethal weapons and training

Buyer beware.  So called “expert” gun writers promote the manufacturers that advertise with them.  No specific brands or models are headlined in this column and there are many holster makers out there.  I will share my current go-to holsters below.


OWB = Outside the Waist Band Holsters attach to your belt and carry on the outside of your pants on the hip, or slightly forward or rear.  OWBs are the most common and comfortable.

IWB = Inside the Waist Band holsters carry inside your pants sandwiching the holster/gun between your pants and body and attach to your belt line.  These offer more concealment and tuck the weapon closer to the body although do compromise comfort and ease of draw and weapon presentation.

AIWB = Appendix Inside the Waist Band are often just IWBs position in the front of your body (appendix) although some are tailored specifically for AIWB.  Carrying appendix positions the weapon in an accessible and defensible position at the front/center line of the body.  The muzzle will be pointed toward the wearer’s groin and femoral artery (yes people have shot themselves “there”) – not ideal for the those without firearms safety knowledge, the faint of heart and those with minimal exposure to firearms and experience.

DUTY HOLSTERS are most often spotted on uniformed law enforcement and armed professionals.  Carried on a heavier duty belt they are more rugged and include security mechanisms to mitigate gun grabs by bad guys.

Some quality holsters are less than $40 but stay away from cheap material

Many moons ago I bought my first duty holster.  It was floppy sloppy nylon junk.

Holster Material should provide rigid support and fully cover the trigger to prevent the trigger from being pulled/snagged while inside of the holster.  Many modern holsters are made of a thermo-plastic called, Kydex®.  Others made with injection molded plastic or synthetic materials.  Some IWB “hybrid” holsters combine materials and offer a flexible flat backing coupled with an outer shell molded to fit the gun- these holsters are comfortable and hold handguns quite well although do have drawbacks.

*Many negligent discharges(accidents) happen while holstering, un-holstering and re-holstering.  Professional firearms instruction is suggested.


LOOPS are the gold standard on OWB holsters.  Your belt runs through the loops of the holster and secures both together.  Loops are good.

CLIPS often found on IWB holsters are designed to clip over top of the belt and snag the bottom lip of the belt to prevent the holster from being pulled out.  Not as secure although provide easy off/on.

SNAPS are designed to loop around the belt and snap into place with a button or snap accessory.  Strength and retention may vary.

PADDLE HOLSTERS have a “paddle” which is placed inside of your pants.  The holster rides around the outside of your pants and the paddle snags the belt line from the inside.  Paddle holsters are more bulky and may not be as secure.  The Pro is they’re easier to put on and take off.


SHOULDER HOLSTERS include a rig which slings around your shoulders with the pistol basically positioned under your armpit.  I’ve never bothered with them although know some folks who spend a lot of time seated or driving like them.  Fans of TV crime drama and nostalgia seem to like this type.

CROSS DRAW HOLSTERS mounted on the belt also provide accessibility and comfort while seated.  To me the cons outweigh the pros.  There are also larger variations commonly used for larger caliber hunting handguns.

ANKLE HOLSTERS are popular with folks not wanting a gun on their waistline.  An ankle holster can conceal small frame handguns under a pant leg.  The weapon is not readily accessible and to me the weight of a gun on my ankle feels funny.  That said they offer concealment for the limber among us.

POCKET HOLSTERS are more like sheaths for small handguns and are typically placed inside of a pants pocket.  They cover the trigger and help protect the firearm and clothing from wear although do not have much retention aside from the natural compression of the pocket.  Over time a good pocket holster molds to the contour in which it is worn.  I sometimes use these holsters when carrying a small sub-compact handgun with a heavier Double-Action(DA) trigger.

CONCEALED CARRY BAGS & PURSES fall into the category of “off-body” carry and should be carefully considered.  They do provide excellent platforms for carry and concealment although are not often within immediate possession and control.  They can be left, forgotten, found and searched.  They can be snatched from a shoulder or rummaged through by children.  If considering off-body carry expect responsibilities not to be taken lightly.  One reference on the matter is posted here by Melody Lauer.

BELTS. Ideal CCW belts are made of strong rigid material.  If your belt folds and flops like a tortilla it may become a liability.  There are plenty of great belts on the market ranging anywhere from $20 – $200+.  The width of the belt(s) and holster attachment(s) should correspond.  Fashion Belts:  I’ve seen many Police Detectives carrying guns on fashion belts and wearing sub-par holsters.  Not ideal.

FIT. The holster and gun should not feel sloppy, flop around or feel top-heavy on your belt. A good holster will hug and move inline with your body.

RETENTION. Refers to the method(s) your holster employs to retain or hold the firearm.  Retention is important.

Place the gun(unloaded) in the holster, hold it by the belt attachment then flip it upside down and shake it – the gun should not fall out.

Some holsters have adjustments for tuning the retention.  Most often a tension screw.  Traditionally a thumb break/snap was used – currently the most common retention is pure friction fitting tightly to the the pistol and sometimes combined with other methods such as a mechanism depressed by your thumb or finger, manipulating the gun in a specific manner or a combination of these.

There are manufacturers producing holsters requiring a press/swipe of your trigger finger near the trigger guard to unlock the pistol.  I recall these holsters coming to market and thinking them innovative although was curious and envisioned them prone to mechanical and safety misgivings.  These holsters became all the rage and flew off the shelf onto hips of Cops & CCW citizens everywhere……Fast forward several years and the trepidation proved correct.  Now many facilities including LAPD and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center as well as Independent Firearms Instructors, myself included, dissuade or even outright ban their use.

WEAPON ACCESSORIES like Weapon Mounted Lights, Lasers, Red Dot optics and the like may require holsters tailored to the specific accessory.  Some holster makers offer variations fitting popular handgun accessories.  Order accordingly.

MAGAZINE HOLDERS Many folks like to carry a spare magazines.  There are many spare magazine holders on the market.  They correspond with the type/size of the magazine.  My experience is to keep it simple.  

GIMMICKY STUFF Some holsters prove good for very specific and often gimmicky applications.  Avoid gimmicks.

“Open Carry.”  Here’s my take.  The cons of Open Carry outweigh the pros.  There are only a few practical reasons for it.  A: If you’re in uniform.  B: At the Homestead/Farm/Ranch or C: At the range.  Open Carry fits well in few places.

One often overlooked matter is the proper and safe draw and presentation of a handgun.  A quote attributed to Col. Jeff Cooper, “Owning a handgun doesn’t make you armed any more than owning a guitar makes you a musician.”  Learn how to safely draw and manipulate your pistol from a holster with a knowledgeable and experienced firearms instructor.

My Holsters…..


I have drawers full.  Here are the current go-to’s:

A.  AIWB DeSantis or sometimes a BladeTech holster with belt belt clip

B. OWB Raven Concealment with belt loops

C. For the occasional uniform details I wear an OWB Safariland which accommodates a weapon mounted light and has retention mechanisms for added security

LEARN TO SHOOT (click image)

WHERE TO BUY If you know the model there are deals to be found online.  Local guns stores are a coin toss – You may find an excellent selection and the benefit of handing and trying the holster on.  Some stores have a terrible selection with sophomoric staff.

You saw a few of my choices listed above.  My advice?  Start with a quality OWB holster, professional training, and practice to proficiency.

” Start with a quality OWB holster, professional training, and practice to proficiency”

To learn how to shoot handguns and shoot them well contact Nicholas Group for your Private Instruction or Group Course today.

Seasonal Security

You may wish to consider a few Security Tips to maximize your Christmas & Holiday Season.  As you travel, acquire gifts, and experience a higher volume of visitors a few quick tips below will help you.  For more information contact a qualified Security Professional.

Holiday Security Tips for the Home:

  1. Maintain communication with a discreet and trusted neighbor(s) if you will be traveling out of town
  2. Window candles provide decoration and security illumination using little electricity
  3. Keep packages out of view through vehicle or house windows
  4. Limit public social media posts about being away from home
  5. Do not discard packaging for expensive gifts in a manner visible to all
  6. Conduct a professional security assessment
  7. Ask Santa for an Alarm or CCTV system.  Modern technology is plug and play and often smart phone friendly

Business Security tips:

  1. Offer customers personal escorts to their vehicles
  2. Use the buddy system when walking out and encourage employees to do the same
  3. Do not place signs indicating when your business will be left unattended
  4. Make your business highly visible via lighting, reducing obstructions, shrubbery etc.  Contact us to for CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) services.
  5. Security systems can be effective and offer a savings on insurance premiums
  6. Conduct a professional security assessment

With Holidays fast approaching, a Merry Christmas, Seasons Greetings & Happy Holidays to our Clients, Associates, Colleagues and Community!

For these Security Consultant Services and more, contact Nicholas Group today.

Outdoor Exercise and Personal Security

Outdoor athletes have always impressed me.  They push the limits of their body in uncompromising environments and seek the best within themselves.  In groups they never leave a buddy behind and as individuals seek challenges, take the calculated risk and surmount obstacles.  In other words, Grit.

Personal safety is your responsibility and responsibility sometimes requires a bit of planning – which reminds me of a story……….Years ago in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania a seventeen year old boy thought up an ingenious plan to reduce transit time to a remote fishing spot deep in the wilderness.  He did so by riding a mountain bike in pre-dawn darkness down an ill maintained access road. 

Careening down the steep rocky mountain trail proved any false move would crash him into certain oblivion.  

About this time it dawned on him that he was miles from the nearest road, no one in the world had a clue where he was and it being 0’dark thirty it would be the entire day or longer until someone noticed him missing.  It just so happens that teenager was me and the only actual plans in my seventeen year old brain, naturally involved girls.  

Who knows what disaster could have taken place but you get the picture.

Lets take a few minutes to remember the good habits we already know but sometimes forget when it comes to basic preparedness when venturing out. As Colonel Jeff Cooper said, “Safety is something that happens between your ears, not something you hold in your hands.”

SAFETY IN NUMBERS.  Speaks for itself.

CHANGE IN DYNAMIC.  An overturned kayak, medical emergency, lost keys, stranded vehicle, twisted ankle, shifting weather or light conditions are game changers.  A few precautions go a long way.

CARRY YOUR CAR KEY.  It takes less time to thread your car key through the drawstring of workout clothing than to hide on a vehicle tire or under a gas cap – and by the way there’s a far better chance your vehicle will be there when you return.  We’ll suggest another reason in a bit.


Going solo – let someone know:

A.) What you’re doing

B.) Where you’ll be

C.)When you’ll return and what to do if you don’t.  

A simple note, call or text message is cheap insurance.  True story: A guy went hiking in a desert and had to cut off his own arm to escape a tragic hiking accident.  He didn’t tell anyone where he was going.  His knife was dull.  They made a movie about that guy – don’t be that guy.  


Better yet a smart phone.  Now, I know what a few of you are thinking – you’re thinking, But I’m a supreme athlete and way more minimalistically cool than those Power Walking, Sidewalk Jogging New Years Resolution people at the gym.  Yes that’s true, but carry a phone.  Benefits include communication, GPS, music, camera, a flashlight and apps – Lots of apps, workout apps, heart rate apps, clock apps, map apps and post work out pizza ordering apps.  

A phone in a decent case, external pocket or bag will mitigate potential for damage.  Many phones also allow programming of family and friends as ICE(In Case of Emergency) contacts.  And remember in locations with poor signal reception, standard text messages may transmit even when phone calls do not.


Everyone who watches TV knows 911 Rescue Centers automatically find your phone’s GPS location and dispatch rescue helicopters within minutes, right?  Don’t count on it.  Even in populated suburbs with a precise location, it will take precious time for emergency personnel to navigate and respond. 

By the way, which way is North?  Seriously, ask yourself right now – Do you know your cardinal directions?


While it may not always be feasible to carry an entire kit with you it is feasible to have a couple items on you and especially in your car.  My wife and I each keep a basic first aid kit, tourniquets and Quik Clot trauma paks in our vehicles.  You can get the latter online for $19.99 and you never know when it may come in handy in the field or on the road.  If you haven’t already or its been a while, consider taking a CPR AED and Stop the Bleed Course.


While communicating is a good rule you may want to consider against openly broadcasting plans.  Social media posts could attract the wrong attention so make public posts carefully.  

A number of my law enforcement buddies call unnecessary attention to their personal vehicles with bumper stickers advertising, “Protected by Smith & Wesson”, Fraternal Order of Police insignias etc.  When I ask them whose vehicle is most likely to be targeted by a gun thief they typically walk away grumbling something unintelligible……


In the great outdoors hazards including four or two legged predators may pose a threat.  Humans are gifted with ability of observation, thinking, planning, intuition and instinct.  Use and trust them.  Consider switching a predictable routine and be mindful of music blasting headphones drowning out approaching danger.  Be aware of your surroundings, take natural cues and remove yourself from a situation before it escalates. 

Personal space between humans may range three to ten feet depending although it should be recognized that humans can close a distance of twenty + feet in less than two seconds and an “unarmed” person can weaponize a rock, stick or even the ground. 

The human body’s natural alarm response to a threat has been honed since the dawn of man.  This is commonly known as fight, flight or freeze.  When facing a threat we typically experience an adrenaline dump, increased heart rate, tunnel vision and impaired fine motor skills.  This in turn prepares your body’s core strength to take action.  

If an attack is imminent, only the involved person can decide the best course of action.  Techniques often effectively employed to counter an attack vary although could include:  Creating a scene, dominating the assailant and escaping.  

Something as simple as your car key clutched in a fist makes a last ditch improvised weapon and defensive tool.

” Remember, if you are attacked there are no time outs or do-overs.  Commit to your actions and never give up – if necessary, flip the crazy switch “

Defensive tactics and items: This is an entire topic in itself as self defense tactics and martial arts are a whole ball of wax.  Take a moment to develop your own philosophy by asking yourself: Is my life worth defending?  

If self defense poses a concern for you, talk to a professional, better yet talk to five professionals and question their motives, ideas and reasons.  Get full and comprehensive answers, information and experience to satisfy your curiosity.  

Should you wish to carry a defensive item become knowledgeable, comfortable and proficient with that item.  The mere watching a video, scanning the internet or taking an introductory class does not translate to proficiency.  

Remember, if you are attacked there are no time outs or do-overs.  Commit to your actions and never give up – if necessary flip the crazy switch.


Next time you venture out consider this information.  We all want to maximize enjoyment outdoors.  Whether it is a small mishap or serious emergency a few simple precautions will provide peace of mind and lend to a favorable conclusion.

Organized Retail Crime in Pennsylvania

Originally published by Pennsylvania Municipal Police Officers Education & Training Commission, Volume 37, Issue 3 September 2014.  Abridged.

Does your jurisdiction have a Shopping Center? Retail theft arrests? On the surface, retail crime can be regarded as petty — yet often enough offenders are linked to activities on the radar of professional law enforcement (regional and interstate organized crime, gang activity, and narcotics to name a few). The FBI has consistently linked revenue of Organized Retail Theft (ORT) groups to terrorist organizations since September 11, 2001.

On December 23, 2013, Pennsylvania again strengthened its retail theft law by passing Senate Bill 731 (Act 131) into law. The retail theft section of the law, being a cooperative effort led by Sen. John Rafferty (R-Berks/Chester/ Montgomery) and Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery) provides a stricter penalty for burglary, robbery, and theft by specifically amending the grading for the offense of retail theft. Act 131 comes on the heels of the 2010 passage of HB 1720 (Act 33), which added §3929.3. Organized Retail Theft to the crimes code, a felony offense for individuals guilty of managing an ORT “Enterprise”.

The FBI estimates merchants lose in excess of $30 billion each year due to this activity, the revenues of which have been linked to terrorist organizations. Theft activity also poses a significant health risk to consumers who unknowingly purchase stolen infant formula, medication, and healthcare items which could have altered expiration dates or may have been improperly stored.

The good news is that agencies in the Commonwealth are now prosecuting offenders under §3929.3. The passage of Act 131 also reduces the felony threshold for retail theft from $2,000 to $1,000.Doing so brings Pennsylvania more in line with other states in the U.S. with lower felony level thresholds.

The spirit of the law is to discourage organized crime from viewing Pennsylvania as a target-rich environment as they have in years past. The average shoplifter requires a substantial haul to reach this level and the summary and misdemeanor thresholds remain $150 for first-time offenders. Another section of this act provides language that now constitutes the use of an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program as a prior offense, stating “…the court shall include a conviction, acceptance of Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition or other form of preliminary disposition, occurring before the sentencing on the present violation, for an offense under this section…”

These two recently updated laws have given Pennsylvania law enforcement additional resources to combat retail crime. “Whether or not you signed up for the first time offender program, it is still a prior offense and this law will help clarify for the patrolman and district magistrate where sometimes the law is interpreted differently”, said Detective Gary Hammer of the Colonial Regional Police Department, who has a number of retail locations in his agencies’ jurisdiction.

It is clear that Organized Retail Crime (ORC) has links to gang violence, drug activity, and even terrorism. This puts our children and our communities at risk. Hopefully these laws will provide law enforcement officers with the correct tools needed to prosecute offenders to the fullest.” With up-to-date retail theft statutes on the books, Pennsylvania retailers and police agencies have the ability to continue combating and mitigating the persistent issue of retail crime, which adversely affects citizens and government across the Commonwealth.