Stacking the Deck

I had the opportunity to do a ride-along for half a shift or so with a deputy from my local Sheriff’s Department last night. We had some interesting conversation and experiences, about which I may share more later, but one thing stood out for me that I wanted to talk about.

At one point, we stopped a vehicle for minor traffic violation. As the deputy walked up to the car, I noticed that he touched the back of the trunk with his hand, and that he walked all the way around the vehicle rather than approach it from the side where the traffic was passing. Nothing ended up being amiss, the driver of the vehicle was given a warning rather than a citation, and we fairly quickly got back on the road.

When I asked the deputy about his actions afterward, he told me that touching the trunk is a habit he’s gotten into, that the main reason he does it anymore is so, if there’s someone hiding in the trunk, he’ll feel them trying to open the trunk before they can jump out and ambush him. “I know, that’s not something that’s very likely,” he admitted. “Still, it does happen, and since I’ve decided to do everything I can to come home at the end of my shift, anything I can do to stack the deck in my favor helps.”

This led to an interesting discussion of other things we can do to “stack the deck” in our favor. For a cop, wearing body armor – even though it leaves head, neck, legs, arms unprotected – is another example of stacking the deck. No, it’s not a perfect solution that absolutely eliminates all danger. But it makes the officer just a little bit safer at least some of the time, and the cost of wearing it is low enough that any extra little edge counts.

I think it’s useful for civilians to think about what we can do to “stack the deck” in favor of our own personal safety. Obviously, simple awareness is a big thing, but what little things can we do? Carrying a flashlight is one that comes to mind for me. Will it save my life magically by its mere presence? No, of course not. But are there enough situations where it might give me that extra edge to make it worth the minimal added hassle of carrying one and keeping the batteries fresh? You betcha.

Another “stacking the deck” discussion (which I wrote about previously) was the one that broke out recently on the Handgun World GRRN forum. The topic of the discussion was the importance, or lack thereof, of long-range shooting skill with a pistol. Some people argued the skill wasn’t worth practicing because “how often do you need to do that?” And you know what? they’re probably right that the chances of you needing that skill are small. But look at the question in terms of “stacking the deck” in favor of your survival. The cost of acquiring and practicing the skill is pretty minimal, and in the situations you need it, it might be the edge that keeps you alive. Why would you NOT want to have it in your toolbox?

What things do you do in your daily life to “stack the deck” in favor of your survival? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!


  1. My favorite is don’t do stupid things with stupid people in stupid places said by John Farnum.

    • That is a great rule, isn’t it? Though it requires you to know if you’re with a stupid person, in a stupid place, or about to do something stupid. History tells me that not everyone has the ability to recognize those things.

      Which is why one of my favorite sayings is, “Experience is what allows you to recognize a mistake the second time you make it.”


  1. […] my last post, I mentioned the ride-along I did two days ago with my local sheriff’s department. I learned a lot from this experience, so I’m sure […]

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