Predators vs. Prey

A little while ago I read a conversation on social media where an individual described an ‘encounter’ that he felt he ‘won’. He described going to a McDonald’s drive-thru in a bad part of town late at night with his wife, who, according to this individual, was very drunk (and was the passenger). The short of the story is that this individual got into a shouting match with 4 thugs and rather than driving off or de-escalating the situation, chose to continue to shout at them through his open car window while waiting in the drive-thru line. As this person tells the story, he and his wife waited in the drive through line for his food in spite of the ‘thugs’ leaving their car and aggressively approaching his vehicle.


He stated he didn’t have his pistol on him but had locked it in the trunk of his car. After they got their food, this man drove to a parking lot adjacent to the McDonald’s to retrieve his gun. He claims that the ‘thugs’ followed him to the parking lot and at that point, he was standing at his trunk and had his firearm in his hand. As they drove past, he turned to face the thugs while holding the gun in Sul and ordering them to move along. In this conversation on social media, I challenged him as to why he didn’t drive off when the ‘thugs’ got out of their car and approached his. That is when he revealed that he and his wife went to this particular McDonald’s because it was closer to them (rather than driving to the better part of town, 10 minutes away). He also stated that he didn’t want to look like ‘prey’ to these individuals.


This comment regarding looking like ‘prey’ struck me not just as dangerous but also as insidious and recklessly glib. I have read this thought in various permutations on social media sights frequently enough that it seems that this is a mentality that is beginning to pervade the training community and not for its benefit.


To illustrate my opinion on this, let’s take a look at the situation this individual described. In the very first place, he violated one of the key tenets of what I refer to as the Farnam Stupids. (“The best way to win a gunfight is don’t go to stupid places, don’t hang out with stupid people and don’t do stupid things,” John Farnam.) It was stupid of this individual to go to the McDonald’s in the bad part of town with his wife, late at night after drinking. It is easy and obvious to simply state that this individual shouldn’t have done that. Well, he did, he put himself in a stupid situation. This fact still isn’t the worst part of this story. What I see as the bigger issue with this story is his refusal to leave once a negative engagement happened to avoid looking like ‘prey’.


This analogy paints a dangerous black and white context to self-defense. The situation described by this individual was not a cut and dried “shooting problem.” Without going too far down the what-if rabbit hole, I will point out that this man was outnumbered and didn’t have someone with him who could have watched his back. Rather, he had someone with him who would have been an additional factor to manage had he actually engaged the 4 thugs. Getting away from the potential danger is infinitely more preferable than seeing a loved one shot—or being shot. I believe it is reasonable to stand your ground when your means of escape are gone. In this situation, the means of escape still existed. Even worse, once he and his wife left, he put himself back into the situation by stopping and retrieving his gun. Ego can never be the driver of the decision to fight, especially when escape is still possible and infinitely more preferable. For this man, thinking that he was going to look like ‘prey’ and standing his ground was a nod to ego and therefore needlessly risky.


The reason I use the word insidious regarding this “Predator vs. Prey” mentality is that it does not allow a range of solutions. It forces a default “fight” response, completely ignoring the “flight” option. Carrying this terrible analogy to its end, if you are not prey, then you must be a predator, right? Looking at this in a context of uncertainty, you can see how this model completely falls apart as a defensive solution. For example, if you are approached in a grocery store parking lot by someone begging for spare change and if this person doesn’t go away when you refuse to give him money, do you become prey if you simply get into your car and leave? If you don’t want to be the prey of the beggar, should you switch and suddenly become the predator? Then what—move away from your car to initiate an attack? Think about explaining to the police that the bum approached you begging for money but rather than leaving when the person didn’t take no for an answer, you shot him. Could you defend that?


This predator v. prey mentality casts the option of escape as a cowardly solution when, in fact, it is frequently the most ideal conflict resolution. I encourage anyone using this verbiage to strike it from your defensive vocabulary as it forces the riskier solutions to be used without consideration of the safer solutions first.

  1. the single best piece of advice I was given when I was considering a carry permit was, “When you start packing, you give up your right to defend your honor.” It appears to me that the gentleman described in the article allowed his ego to override prudence.

    • Absolutely, SteveW. This is a crucial point that, if overlooked, is dangerous not just to the individual but to anyone who is a lawfully armed citizen. Great point!

Leave a Reply