Make Ready

More Than Just A Command
; .

Ken P. Campbell is the CEO of Gunsite but his real-world experience,
like all Gunsite instructors, is critical to understanding what it takes for
students to survive violent encounters. Photo: Gunsite

Editor’s Note: This is the first bi-monthly edition of our new column, “Make Ready.” The column, which we are alternating with our sister publication American Handgunner, will feature defensive shooting tips from the instructors at the world-famous Gunsite Academy.

Gunsite is much more than America’s oldest and largest privately owned firearms training academy. We help you prepare for life, long and short term. It begins with “Make Ready.”


Besides handgun training, Gunsite offers instruction on a wide variety
of platforms, working from contact distance to thousands of yards, on
their 3,000+ acre property. Photo: Brent T. Wheat

The Foundation

“Make Ready” in Gunsite terminology means to protect your eyes, protect your ears and load or verify your pistol is fully loaded. It is done in-that-order! One does not check the pistol and then raise a handgun toward your head while adjusting your glasses and hearing protection. The order is specific and important, just like the Viking motto: “Pillage, then Burn!”

One must make ready for life the moment your eyes open to begin the day. Want to have a bad day? Start out with a bad attitude the moment your feet hit the floor. Want your kids to have a bad day? Start out with a frown with them in the morning.

Once those feet hit the floor, you want to be alert and aware of your surroundings. We don’t expect Kato to jump out at Inspector Clouseau alá “The Pink Panther,” but we must be ready and aware of our surroundings.

When we leave the relative safety of our home, we “Make Ready.” We look about to see if anything appears out of the norm. We trust our instincts. If something seems out of the norm, we are ready — or maybe we simply return to the safety of our home.

If we are out and about, shopping, sight-seeing, at work, we have made ready. When we go to the restaurant or mall food court, we are ready. This does not mean we walk about with our hand hovering over our pistol in a bounding overwatch with our partner. Rather, we are alert and aware of our surroundings, casually observing for things appearing out of place — and something many never see. We are ready because we know where the exits are, what is concealment and cover, where our loved ones and friends are. We are ready in knowing what our friend or partner can do to support our readiness in the event a crisis unfolds.

Your readiness is supported by your alertness. Who else is in the restaurant? Who else is in the convenience store? Who is parked next to you at the fuel island? If you don’t know or don’t recall, you did not “Make Ready.”


Students at Gunsite learn what it takes to survive dangerous encounters
from instructors who, as Cooper said, “have seen the elephant.”

Practical Principles

If a crisis does appear — and we have made ready — unpleasant surprise is virtually non-existent. Jeff Cooper wrote of this in his treatise Principles of Personal Defense where he plainly discusses the seven (7) principles: Alertness, Decisiveness, Aggressiveness, Speed, Coolness, Ruthlessness and Surprise. This small (43-page) book will help you learn how to prepare your mind for an event.

Cooper was also famous for his Color Code of White, Yellow, Orange and Red. If you can make this Color Code and seven (7) principles an everyday part of your life, you will be ready.


Here Kevin Michalowski (below, left), Executive Editor at USCCA and
GUNS Magazine Editor Brent T. Wheat practice clearing one of the indoor
live-fire simulators at Gunsite. Photos: Brent T. Wheat

Jerk That Smokewagon …

So, if we are ready, does this mean we “go to guns” at the first sign of trouble? Not so.

Being ready means we have some plan(s) in place to escape, evade, avoid or fight.

Our best answer may simply be not going in the gas station market. As an old patrol Deputy, I would look in the windows of the “Stop-and-Rob” before I would enter. Friend and noted trainer John Farnam said: “Don’t go to stupid places, with stupid people and do stupid things.” Sage advice.

If your instinct says something is wrong, if it “raises the hair on the back of your neck” or your “woman’s instinct” is telling you something — Listen! This is a large part of making ready and being ready.

Throw out the machismo or “I’m a Gunsite graduate, I can handle this.” The best win of a fight is one you can avoid. There is a time to fight, but we’ll talk about this later. Here, we focus on “Make Ready.” Be prepared to walk away from a situation, to slip out the back door, to cross the street, to be a good witness. If the situation escalates, you are ready.

When you awake, if you start “Ready,” it is easier for you to maintain the relaxed readiness every day.

So, our range command on the firing line of “Make Ready” is really the culmination of a learned mindset. It began long before you did your research on what pistol and equipment to purchase, your study of what firearms training is the best and before you strapped on your pistol and gear. “Make Ready” is a life choice helping us and helping our family and friends stay alive in today’s quickly-changing world.

Author Sheriff (Ret.) Ken Campbell is the CEO of Gunsite Academy. During and after his long law-enforcement career, he has taught pistol, carbine, rifle and shotgun courses at Gunsite since 1992. He was appointed Gunsite Chief Executive Officer in 2019.

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