Self-Defense Tip of the Day: Sit With Your Back to the Wall

Normally, I take the last seat at the bar at my local Sushi joint. It’s near the kitchen. I have an excellent view of the room and a chance of escape should worst come to worst. Why not? It doesn’t cost me anything to sit with my back to the wall. Unfortunately, my normal seat wasn’t available last night. So I sat in the middle of the bar with my back to the door. The tsuris came from two seats over. A wild-eyed woman who recognized me (but I not her) started lacing into me about guns. I said “I don’t think we should talk” and moved to a table at the corner. I kept a close eye on my antagonist—and decided I’d never make the same mistake again . . .

This threat had announced itself. What if I hadn’t seen it coming? Check this from yesterday’s report New security for US troops in Afghanistan to guard against Afghan insider threats . . .

In several Afghan ministries, Americans are now allowed to carry weapons. And they have been instructed to rearrange their office desks there to face the door, so they can see who is coming in, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the orders.

Two U.S. military officers working in the Afghan Interior Ministry, one of the most heavily guarded ministry buildings in Kabul, were gunned down at their desks on Feb. 25. While Allen did not detail the new measures in a briefing earlier this week, he acknowledged that changes had been made.

It’s common sense (especially in a war zone): position yourself for survival. But I know plenty of concealed carry guys who don’t think strategically when choosing where to sit or stand in a restaurant, bar, store, school or anywhere else, for that matter. Nor do they have an exit strategy.

Knowing that danger’s coming, seeing it coming, may provide life-saving seconds to get your self-defense decision process and habitual firearms manipulation skills started. By the same token, if you know where you need to go if you need to get the hell out of Dodge it saves you equally valuable time that would have to be spent searching for escape.

I reckon the best way to get this sorted is to form a habit. Check out the best place to sit or stand, and the best way to leave, as you enter a new space. Then silently tell yourself “I can relax now.” It’s not true, exactly. But it is kinda sorta. More importantly, the thought will provide the reward your mind needs to establish an important safety habit.



  1. avatar IdahoPete says:

    Brace yourself, Robert – the anti self-defense cockapoos should begin yapping about “paranoia” any minute. Of course, they classify Condition Green as paranoia, and believe everyone should walk around in an oblivious, “texting while walking” state.

  2. avatar Ben Eli says:

    This is one of the hardest thing to do as a student. A lof of rooms have desks positioned with the back towards the door, and only one point of entry/escape. In those cases I tend to pick a seat close to the door, but not necessarily the first seat you see when you enter the room. In such a case, is that the best seat in the house? Curious what y’all think.

    1. avatar LeftShooter says:

      Ben Eli,
      I think you might have it analyzed. Other considerations might be do you have windows and how close to the instructor are you? My thoughts here are that the windows might serve as an exit, even if you are on a higher floor. (Check for trees or bushes or awnings to break your fall.) Also, if I try to think like a bad guy, I might focus first on the classroom leader, in which case you might sit close to the door but not in the same field of view as the instructor–so you might make your escape with less chance of being seen.

      Also, unless you are armed, please get out fast. You will likely be able to be more of a help to the others in the classroom if you can get out to raise the alarm and provide information to law enforcement. Of course, keep your phone on you and not in your back pack or jacket. I’d also plot the best two routes to wide open spaces for your egress from your classroom.

      Last, please remember (as reported here on TTAG not too long ago) that college campuses are actually statistically quite safe, notwithstanding the obvious well-publicized exceptions. Stay in Condition Yellow and learn as much as you can!

      1. avatar Ben Eli says:

        Thanks. I started paying attention to the windows and I now sit close to windows. Fortunately these classes are on the ground floor.
        You’re right about schools being statistically safe. Unfortunately we’ve had ten bomb threats this semester and a spree killing in one of the university buildings, Western Psych.

        1. avatar IdahoPete says:

          You might also get into the mindset of responding with force to any attacks – as in, keep a heavy book bag with you that you can throw at the attacker on your way out. Or keep a few “exercise handweights” of 2-3 lbs each in your bookbag, just to let you “work on your arm strength” in between classes. They would make excellent defensive projectiles, and not have the social stigma of a couple of rocks.

      2. avatar the last Marine out says:

        You can use many things as a last ditch weapon, such as a big strong pen, or carry a comb that is pointed at one end, even a chair picked up and throw it, next always look for a fast exit points , have more that one exit…fire , people with weapons , keep alert and survive,,, this is our REAL WORLD ….

  3. avatar Not Too Eloquent says:

    Did you get her number? She sounds intriguing!

  4. avatar J- says:

    Its a famous story up here in South Dakota, Wild Bill Hickok was shot in the back of the head by Jack McCall because Wild Bill didn’t take his usual seat at the card game with his back in the corner of the bar. The opinion of all the witnesses was that had Hickok been in his usual seat, McCall wouldn’t have gotten the drop on him and Wild Bill would have drawn and killed McCall.

    1. avatar Tom says:

      I tend to keep that in mind when I am at a public place.

  5. avatar BubbaStuckInCali says:

    Did anybody notice that those aren’t Americans in that picture… believe it or not, I noticed that his gun was an L85 before I saw his flag on his shoulder. This is probably the last thing anybody is trying to notice, given the article.

    1. avatar Hazzard Bagg says:

      I noticed that goofy dome of a helmet.

    2. avatar JR says:

      I was wondering what kind of rifle it was.

      1. avatar bob says:

        It is a tavor they are a bullpup asault rifle developed by the israilis and i think that is an israli defence force soldier.

        1. avatar Mike S says:

          There is a Union Jack, and “ISAF” right on his shoulder.

        2. avatar bob says:

          have bad computer screen, disregard

    3. avatar the last Marine out says:

      You are right that is British battle dress, not American, But it has always been very American to be independent and able to take care of our well being, be it self-defense , or making a living, We Americans got to the top by not following the Europe SHEEP ( Socialism) has failed everywhere… Why live a failed life style ????????? History proves that we fail because we will not learn from the past and wisdom that proves that you are who must take care of you…. Liberty has never failed , harder yes , it means you must get off you butt and take action for your life………

  6. avatar MadDawg J says:

    Plan for the worst, and hope for the best

  7. avatar Buuurr says:

    I have always done this. Even before moving to the U.S. and having acquired a firearm. I don’t like being surprised and my family has a nasty habit of trying to get someone to have a coronary. So best way to avoid that was to do as above. I do it on airplanes too. We pick our seats and I make sure that when we are on the plane and those people in the exit rows who always want to change seats (I don’t know why… exit rows have more room and you are the first one out in case of emergency) are changed with me and my wife. Depending on the plane one or both of us have a hatch directly to our left or right.

    Restaurants are a ditto. Often times they try and position us in the center of a room or in a busy area. We don’t like this because we like our privacy and because we don’t like our kid yelling and upsetting the people around her. So, a booth seat next to an emergency exit at the far end of the room is our choice. If not we both usually decide to leave. Me because I always have my back to the wall and my wife because she likes her privacy.

  8. avatar Tim says:

    I have always sat with my back to the wall even before getting into self defence. When I was younger, I had a uncle who would always tell me not to turn my back on people in a public place. In all fairness though, my uncle had pissed a lot of people in town off, but it’s still just a habbit from when I was younger. After getting into self defence, I learned to scan people in a room I walked into and determine if they would be a threat and to look for exits. One of my favorite resturants has a corner table surounded on three sides by walls, but one wall has a window in it. I won’t sit there even though I can see everyone in the resturaunt, I can’t see what’s happening on the street behind me. With a giant window behind me, I might as well be out in the open.

  9. avatar Nick Leghorn says:

    I take it your previous attempts at seduction were unsuccessful?

    1. avatar Dirk Diggler says:

      maybe she wanted a refund?

  10. avatar mgoug says:

    Awesome. Thanks for another great tip/reminder Robert.

  11. avatar traye says:

    They had to TELL military members this? Holy Hell. I don’t have people shooting at me on a regular basis and I would NEVER sit with my back to an open room.

    1. avatar Graybeard says:

      Traye –
      You misunderstand. Not tell, allow. As part of the BS around our interaction with the Afghanis our men have been disarmed and their offices set up where they had their desks facing all different directions.

      Now someone up the chain got tired of writing letters home & let our boys arm and position themselves for defense.

      On another note, with the pic reminding me, one of the things when you’re got your back to the wall is to look first to make sure the wall doesn’t have an IED. There’s a story behind that…

  12. avatar Aharon says:

    Good common sense advice to mention here. What use is owning or carrying a gun if someone can walk up behind you and stab you in the back of the neck?

    1. avatar CarlosT says:

      Is this another subtle request for a knife post?

      1. avatar Aharon says:

        No. Yet that is a great idea!

  13. avatar Ralph says:

    Good advice. ‘Course, the real danger in a sushi restaurant is the fish.

    1. avatar Aharon says:

      Please define fish. The human fish or the dead fish-fish?

      1. avatar Tom says:

        No, the fish flops around on your plate and you stab it.

    2. avatar LeftShooter says:

      As a fisherman, sushi isn’t food to me, it’s bait.

      And yes, I seem to have a genetic predisposition to sitting with my back to the wall. (I do remember, though, the “Dead Man’s Hand” of Aces & Eights legend—the hand Wild Bill Hickock supposedly had been dealt when he died.) Which, given genetics, proves funny when I go out with my eldest daughter, because we end up doing a circle dance around the table until one of us acquiesces to the other and gives up the choice spot. Happens every time, but we both have good situational awareness, so it’s all good.

      1. avatar Ralph says:

        Rule Number One: The one who’s carrying is the one who gets to survey the room. That seems like good tactics.

        Rule Number Two: If you’re both carrying, the best shot should get the wall seat. That’s also good tactics.

        Rule Number Three: Finally, the one who’s paying gets to make their own rules. That’s not tactics; that’s economics.

        1. avatar LeftShooter says:

          Rule 1, check. Rule 2, check. Rule 3, children as an economical proposition? Nearly impossible.

      2. avatar Aharon says:

        Speaking of fish, how come this blog hasn’t featured a review of spear-guns?

        1. avatar Robert Farago says:

          We don’t have a spear-gun expert or literate dilettante. You? [email protected]

  14. avatar RAN58 says:

    I recall a shooting that occurred several years ago in the city of Visalia, Ca in an Arby’s. The man was sitting with his back against a wall. The shot came from outside Arby’s it had been fired by some crooks in a gun fight with Police at the nearby strip mall. So I would imagine one needs to insure the wall is thick enough to stop a bullet.

    1. avatar Bob says:

      I disagree, but with reservations that RAN58 will like.

      A wall usually doesn’t stop bullets. Therefore, it is not the best COVER in a gun fight. However, since people can’t see through it, the wall does provide excellent CONCEALMENT. Since they can’t see you through the wall, they probably will not be attacking from that direction.

      So, you should not say to yourself, “I can relax now.” You should say, “OK, I can relax a little, because I don’t have to worry about an attack coming from that/those directions.” Right, RF?

  15. avatar Michael B says:

    This is SOP for police officers. If it’s solid advice cops follow, solid advice for me to follow too.

  16. avatar James says:

    I heed Wild Bill’s advice, and always sit facing the door of anywhere I’m at.

    Look what happened to him the one time he broke his own rule.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      Look what happened to him the one time he broke his own rule.

      He lost with top pair?

      1. avatar James says:

        That, too.

  17. avatar Sam says:

    I picked this habit up from my father when I was still young. My other military friends think I’m paranoid everytime we go out to eat but since I always make a fuss about it they’ve pretty much just become accustomed to me choosing the seating everywhere I go.

    1. avatar Roadrunner says:

      Got the same habit from my dad as well. I always sit with my back to the wall if possible. If not, with as much of a view of comings and goings as possible, and with the occasional 270 or 360 degree scan. Can’t be certain, but I’ve had the feeling a few times that just having a little situational awareness stopped bad things from even getting started.

  18. avatar Charlie says:

    At the risk of sounding like a hipster, here goes: I’ve been doing this before it was cool. Alwas a good practice to have a full view of your surroundings. Especially with enemies like mine.

  19. avatar g says:

    You folks eat at some dangerous sushi joints! LOL.

    However, I agree in that being aware of your surroundings is probably one of the best ways to stay safe.

  20. avatar Ropingdown says:

    I clearly live in much too quiet an area. I always grab the wall seat when I can, but it’s really just so I can see any talent that walks in the door. In areas in which I’d have reason to grab the wall seat for defensive reasons, I don’t stop and eat. Give it time, I suppose, and maybe things will get worse?

  21. avatar Mitch says:

    Pure paranoia. Ridiculous. The world is a dangerous place, but you are talking about covering your back in SUSHI RESTRAUNT. Does anyone else see how crazy this is? Your not a covert agent, and you are not in a war zone. Wake up, and realize your just another guy, eating sushi. Chill the hell out… This site is giving the anti gun crowd every bit of ammo (ha, see what I did there? Ammo!) they could ever need to paint gun owners as a bunch of whackos. I’ll leave it at that. For anyone else that is on the fence on gun ownership/rights/right to carry/what have you: No, we are not all this paranoid and *out of touch*. Don’t drink the kool aid, people. This is madness.

    1. avatar Longtime Lurker says:

      This is Spar… ah mever mind.

      1. avatar Tim says:

        It doesn’t matter if you’re in a sushi restraunt or wherever. A nutjob can go off anywhere and anytime. It’s not “paranoia” it’s situational awareness. I don’t know about you, but I carry for protection. Part of protecting yourself is not putting yourself in a position to be a victim in the first place. For example, not turning your back to a bunch of strangers.

    2. avatar Mikeb302000 says:

      I see it, Mitch. I was going to remind Robert that too much situational awareness will give him heartburn, if not worse.

    3. avatar Robert Farago says:

      If I had engaged the woman in the kind of argument she was seeking, I am 100% sure violence would have ensued. Not from me to her (I am not a violent man). But her towards me or, perhaps, from her male companion if I challenged her aggressive inanity vehemently enough. I’ve been in enough bars and lived long enough to know when someone is spoiling for a physical altercation.

      Also, violence doesn’t make an appointment. Sure, you’re more likely to face an assault on the street. Or a robbery in a bank. But you never know when something bad’s about to go down. Taking minimal precautions is not mentally demanding or (in most cases) inconvenient. And if you do it as a matter of routine, you will not forget to do it when you ARE in a higher risk environment.

      1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        I’ve been in enough arguments with pious lefties over hunting issues in California to know from that they’re unhinged cowards.

        Unhinged, because their politics have become their morality.

        Cowards, because they’ll attack you while your back is turned. Cowards are dangerous people, because they’re scared of retaliation, so they’re going to try to cause real injury to prevent your response.

        You are not being paranoid.

      2. avatar harp1034 says:

        Robert, this may have been planned. The woman and the man with her knew what you looked like and exactly where you were. She was trying to provoke you. Armed man attacks unarmed woman. That would make us all look bad and put you in serious legal trouble.
        You did the right thing. We can all learn from this.

    4. avatar Bob says:

      Hmmmmm Perhaps you haven’t been paying attention Mitch. Maybe YOUR Sit Awareness is faulty.

      Nidal Malik Hasan, Ft Hood dining facility (a criminal defense-free zone) – 13 killed 13 people, and 29 wounded

      Luby’s cafeteria in Killeen, Tex (another criminal defense-free zone)- 23 people killed and more than 20 wounded

      Waffle House – 0 killed, 0 wounded – because the perps noticed an OPEN CARRY citizen sitting in the facility

    5. avatar Michael says:

      Guns or no Guns,… ever since I was a kid my Dad always taught me to face the door when I sit down in a restaurant.

      1. avatar Eric says:

        My father taught me the same….makes sense with a gun or no gun.

    6. avatar IdahoPete says:

      And anyone who has smoke detectors and fire extinguishers in their house is a paranoid whackjob, unless they have actually had a fire start in their house. I mean, come on, people – when was the last time your house burned down? We are just providing ammo to the anti- fire extinguisher groups.

      1. avatar conley says:

        my father cancelled his flood insurance… hadn’t flooded where he lived EVER… yeah, about 5 months later he had 6 inches of water in his living room… you should always be prepared. i know you were joking, but it just reminded me of that.

      2. avatar mikeb302000 says:

        Idaho, I’d say smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are in the category of seat belts in the car. They’re reasonable precautions. Carrying guns is more in the category of meteorite fallout protection, but even worse. The elaborate meteorite protection system is not so often misused like guns are.

        1. avatar MadDawg J says:

          You are not looking at the larger picture. Just because you do not need a gun for protection does not mean others do not. I recently helped a man pick out his first gun and taught him how to use it. His reason for getting a gun and a CCW permit? His twin brother is a police officer on an anti-gang task force. More than once he has been approached and his life and his kid’s threatened by gang members who though he was his brother. His chances of needing that gun are astronomically (pun intended) greater than getting hit by an asteroid. I also have good reason to be armed to defend myself. Applying your particular situation blindly to the situation of ever single person who lives in the US (313+ million) is absurd to say the least.

          Do you have any facts to back up your claim of legal guns being “so often misused”?

        2. avatar MadDawg J says:

          Arrg, my /b is being ignored and edit does not work.

          ETA: Interesting, if you expand the edit screen then it lets you edit (on an iPad). GTK

        3. avatar mikeb302000 says:

          MadD I don’t deny that some people really do need guns for protection. But that does not apply to most of you. Sorry I have no proof for that, it’s just an educated guess.

          “Legal guns are so often misused” is based on the news reports I get from the biased liberal media, plus my not insignificant experience with basic human nature.

          Most reasonable people admit that gun owners are just like everybody else. They suffer from all the social ills and problems as the population at large. It’s not so difficult to conclude the obvious from that.

        4. avatar MadDawg J says:

          What news reports? I don’t see frequent articles about legally owned guns be used against innocent people. What are you claiming is obvious? Unless you are claiming that the vast majority of the population are homicidal lunatics just waiting to go on killing sprees but would only use a gun not any other weapon, I see no point to your last paragraph other than that it also shows that instead of using facts you are using your conclusions based on your perceptions of the populace. Hardly an accurate method.

        5. avatar IdahoPete says:

          Well, Mike, in 60+ years I’ve never had a fire in my house, and I’ve never known anyone who has. Doesn’t that show that anyone buying fire extinguishers is paranoid? I don’t have any evidence for this, but it appears that it is a reasonable extrapolation of my life’s experiences.

          I will not accept your premise that I should not be prepared for an unlikely event, if that event is potentially life-threatening. That is why I have fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, and yes, firearms. Assault, robbery, rape, and murder are all statistically far more likely to happen than a meteorite strike or even a home fire.

    7. avatar the last Marine out says:

      I always sit in the back- food eating places, near the fire exit door, seems I have read several TRUE stories about some nut comes in and starts shooting people at will, the guy at the back can make a fast exit, or see it coming. Next always sit in the last seat in aircraft the most safe in a crash, and yes terrorist do try and take control of a plane , but he’s got to control the front first… Welcome to the REAL WORLD…. same thing bus , train, car , always the safest in the back for crash, fast exit, or street attack… name means what it says the last Marine out of North Viet Nam, front of my unit was over-run and being in the back saved my LIFE …

  22. avatar gunfighter 2012 says:

    Oh, Magoo! Who’s really drinking the kool aid here?

  23. avatar ThomasR says:

    Yep, you either get it or you don’t; it’s no more paranoid than always wearing your seat belt even if you’ve never had an car wreck, you never know when an accident or a homicidal maniac will happen.

  24. avatar Daniel says:

    I’m going to nitpick and say that the photo used above (while a stunning work of photography) is not illustrative of this point. Placing yourself against a wall as in the photo above can invite bad guys to come right around the corner. Just sayin’. Make sure your point of egress is just that: A point of egress. If bad guys can come from that direction, you need to move.

  25. avatar 230therapy says:

    There’s a general scramble among my friends to acquire the “tactical” seat every time we go out.

  26. avatar cyriaque says:

    For those of you who think this is foolish, you don’t live in Baton Rouge.

  27. avatar Nate says:

    I do this for the obvious reasons mentioned in this article but I was surprised to hear about other guys doing this who are not gun people, never been in LE/Military, etc. My family looks at me weird when we go to a restaurant and I have to sit in a specific spot but its just the way I’ve always been. Part of it is I don’t like being startled so I like to see people coming from a long way off. I hate places with entrances to my front and back unless I’m with a equally aware friend and we sit face to face and (literally) watch each others backs.

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