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Old December 3, 2012, 01:47 AM   #1
pax
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Cooper's color codes

Lots of misunderstandings about Cooper's color codes online these days. Here's what Cooper himself had to say about the codes, from his Commentaries (vol 13, no 7):

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Cooper
"In White you are unprepared and unready to take lethal action. If you are attacked in White you will probably die unless your adversary is totally inept.

In Yellow you bring yourself to the understanding that your life may be in danger and that you may have to do something about it.

In Orange you have determined upon a specific adversary and are prepared to take action which may result in his death, but you are not in a lethal mode.

In Red you are in a lethal mode and will shoot if circumstances warrant."
One nuance that's often lost on people who haven't made a study of this, is that the codes do not indicate an external level of danger. They are purely internal, and indicate both your willingness and your ability to respond if trouble threatens you.

Recently, someone suggested that anyone wearing a firearm should always be in "condition orange," ready to instantly do battle. This is a misunderstanding both of the color codes and of the nature of an armed default setting.

It's just a gun, guys. It's as emotionally laden as a pair of shoes. I wear mine, most days and most places. If you'd rather go barefoot, do so. Just don't tell me I have to be a jumpy nervous wreck just because I wear my clothing differently than you do! The door's locked and I'm relaxed, and I cannot for the life of me imagine being more relaxed when less prepared.

The gun -- safely stored in a secure holster -- isn't going to "go off." If yours might, under similar circumstances, you might want to consult a gunsmith. Or a professional firearms trainer who can help you learn better safety habits.

Online, tactical ninja wannabe's make "Condition Yellow" sound like some grimly stupid place to live. It's not. Here's another, less tactical but no less accurate way to describe the same mental level of alertness:
The service of philosophy, of speculative culture, towards the human spirit, is to rouse, to startle it to a life of constant and eager observation. ~ Walter Pater
Or this:
Along the way, take time to smell the flowers.
Or this:
Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams. ~ Ashley Smith
It's truly a joy to live a life of noticing what's happening around you. It would be a sad life to live in deaf and blind numbness, all but immune to the glorious sights and sounds and smells of the living world.

pax

Edit: I owe an apology to jmortimer, which I am making public because my offense was public. He had a typo in his post ("orange" for "yellow") in the thread that sparked this one. He's quite familiiar with Cooper's work and the color shift was a simple typo on his part, not a lack of knowledge. I truly did not intend to "call him out" with this thread, simply to take the color code discussion out of a thread where we had hijacked another conversation, and instead direct it to a thread where it could thrive on its own. However, I didn't take time to be sure he was cool with moving the discussion over, and there was some bad timing in that he was correcting his post while I was writing this one. Can't blame him for getting heated below. I'm leaving the post above unedited for thread continuity, and want to thank jmortimer here for his patience with my bumbling.
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Old December 3, 2012, 02:01 AM   #2
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Good comment. In martial arts, specifically among bushido students, there is the philosophy of "dead awaiting death". Similarly to Cooper's color codes, it denotes a mindset necessary for combat where you accept fully that you may die at any time. It did not mean that the swordsman or spearman was just waiting to be slaughtered, people with this mindset were especially fierce in battle because they gave no thought to preserving their own lives above successfully completing the objective. Back at home, they courted, sang, wrote, and generally lived happy lives, but in battle they were nothing to be trifled with. People with this level of training are able to turn it on and off as the situation demands. People who cannot turn it off usually wind up in mental hospitals.
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Old December 3, 2012, 02:07 AM   #3
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I was just about to start a thread, on this, but Kathy beat me to it. So let me add this.

When Col. Cooper lectured us on the Color Code, when I took my first class at Gunsite in 2002, he emphasized the mental preparedness elements. And here is John Scharfer's excellent summary:
Quote:
White - Relaxed, unaware, and unprepared. If attacked in this state the only thing that may save you is the inadequacy and ineptitude of your attacker. When confronted by something nasty your reaction will probably be, "Oh my God! This can't be happening to me."

Yellow - Relaxed alertness. No specific threat situation. Your mindset is that "today could be the day I may have to defend myself." There is no specific threat but you are aware that the world is an unfriendly place and that you are prepared to do something if necessary. You use your eyes and ears, and your carriage says "I am alert." You don't have to be armed in this state but if you are armed you must be in yellow. When confronted by something nasty your reaction will probably be, "I thought this might happen some day." You can live in this state indefinitely.

Orange - Specific alert. Something not quite right has gotten your attention and you shift your primary focus to that thing. Something is "wrong" with a person or object. Something may happen. Your mindset is that "I may have to shoot that person." Your pistol is usually holstered in this state. You can maintain this state for several hours with ease, or a day or so with effort.

Red - Fight trigger. This is your mental trigger. "If that person does "x" I will shoot them." Your pistol may, but not necessarily, be in your hand.
The Color Code has less to do with alertness, although that's an element, and more to do with your mental state.
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Old December 3, 2012, 02:17 AM   #4
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Incidentally, I disagree with the good colonel when he says that if you are armed, you "must be in yellow." I believe that's a generality that's quite situational, not an absolute.

For example, last night, returning late at night from a long day up north, with someone else in the driver's seat, I napped in the car most of the way home. Napping, of course, would be the ultimate condition white. The gun remained safely on my hip the whole time, which was the most reasonable place for it to be under the circumstances.

But then, I have excellent carry gear and a generally relaxed attitude toward life.

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Old December 3, 2012, 03:21 AM   #5
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I disagree with Cooper on several points, one being his requirement for yellow.

Where Cooper was or was not right could be a thread that would lead to lots of arm waving and incoherent screaming.

Pax's nap is an excellent example of the absurdity of the requirement.

As a confirmed coward, I read Cooper's "Principles Of Self Defense" with some amusement. Having been a victim of crime, and having submitted to force (while armed, no less) I do not appear to meet Cooper's definition of a man. Fortunately, that is not the definition that matters.

I'm thinking of forming an association along the lines of "Armed Cowards".

The reason this bears on the color codes is that a coward's "red" trigger is probably lower than that of a brave person's trigger.

We scare easier.

Another reason I don't teach the color codes is because it's very similar to pain-- it's too personal to lay out uniformly. The pain that is an 8 to some people is a 3 to others, and the alert state of mind that would be red to some people would be asleep to others. The scientist who performed experiments in London and who were "mildly annoyed" by the blitz come to mind.

I teach two states to my self defense students, with a hair line in between: before the break in concealment and after one opens fire.

I teach avoidance and de-escalation. I teach cowardice, I teach leaving, running if you're followed, begging if you're caught.

If none of that works, and when the alternative is worse than a life in prison, then I teach two ways to open fire.

There is no color in any of it, but then I'm not very tactical.

The best reason I don't teach color codes is that there is no pre-arranged system, there is not a specific trigger, action, state of mind, event or anything else that can tell you when to draw and open fire.

Every situation is unique.

While it can be argued that practicing a higher state of alertness may prevent the need for a weapon, it can also be argued that that is independent of the weapon, and can be practiced without a weapon.

Therefore, tying a color code to weapons training strikes me as a mixed message, because being alert is a Good Thing (tm) with or without a weapon.
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Old December 3, 2012, 04:56 AM   #6
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The color codes were originally taught in the context of awareness "while on duty" . I dont think he meant to say that everybody in their day to day life should be in yellow 24/7 while armed on one hand but on the other hand they should always have "carry awareness" and situational awareness when carrying.

No his rules dont dovetail into "taking a nap" BUT they do dovetail into things like drinking while armed (for civillians) - if your drunk you should have the common sense to put your gun away because you sure arent in yellow anymore
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Old December 3, 2012, 12:57 PM   #7
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"I disagree with the good colonel when he says that if you are armed, you "must be in yellow." I believe that's a generality that's quite situational, not an absolute."

I agree with Colonel Cooper. If you are wearing a gun you cannot go to Condition White. Per his specific instruction,"... if you are armed you should be in Condition Yellow."

I should hope that all who carry in public are "aware" of the fact that they are armed at all times. Many a LEO has been disarmed and killed by their own gun due to a lack of situational awareness. How much more so should a citizen who is carrying be in "yellow?" Much more, even if they are highly trained.

As I said before, Condition White is a good thing and allows us to fully enjoy life. The following from InSights Training Blog fairly well sums it up:

"It is important to remember that the color codes are not about the nature of the threat, but about your actions, readiness, and responses based upon the situation. The color codes give us a way of organizing these states and making decisions.

Condition White
Generally condition white gets dismissed quickly as being “unaware” or “unprepared” and students are admonished to “not be in condition white.” Unfortunately it is neither possible nor even desirable for this to be true. This belief that condition white is undesirable stems from people thinking it comes from not paying attention, when in fact it is just as likely to driven by paying too much attention to something.

When you are watching a movie, reading a book (or writing a blog post), you are focusing your attention on something other than your immediate surroundings. This might include the active exclusion of wider sensory inputs, like listening to music to mask the sound of traffic. If you are reading this page you are not looking out the window. We willfully exclude and ignore our surroundings on many occasions because the task we are doing requires our complete focus and attention. If you are focusing on your sight picture then you are not paying attention to your surroundings (at least for the duration of the shot and it’s follow through.) If you are literally asleep then you are most certainly not paying attention to your environment.
The point I am getting at is that we need to recognize the moments when we are going to be in condition white and control the circumstances when this happens. We can go into condition white when have other security measures in place (locked doors, dogs that will bark, alarm systems, people that will serve as our early warning.) The idea is that we don’t want to be surprised by the threat before we get a chance to prepare, at least a little bit, to deal with it."

I think this is good advise.

Last edited by jmortimer; December 3, 2012 at 02:40 PM.
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Old December 3, 2012, 01:30 PM   #8
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Quote:
The point I am getting at is that we need to recognize the moments when we are going to be in condition white and control the circumstances when this happens. We can go into condition white when have other security measures in place (locked doors, dogs that will bark, alarm systems, people that will serve as our early warning.) The idea is that we don’t want to be surprised by the threat before we get a chance to prepare, at least a little bit, to deal with it."

This exactly what I said earlier, and as they, great minds think alike.

That you want to roll around in your "crib" all "strapped-up" every waking moment is your choice. But let's not pretend that one should "go white" while armed and enjoy life, because that violates the "Code" and according to the "code" you don't numb-nut while armed. For you, and Captain Hector Barbossa, "... the Code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules." I'll stick with Col Cooper's original rules as they make more sense that what I have seen here. BTW, do you have the same opinion of Col. Cooper's "Four Rules" and which ones do you advise we compromise?
I put a J frame in my pocket this morning when I got dressed. I am reading this, in a hotel room, behind a locked door, apparently in condition white, because I am reading a computer screen. I fail to see the harm in having a J frame in my pocket while I am doing this. When I turned on the computer, should I have locked it up? I don't see why I should bother to unload my gun and put it in a safe, and why that makes me any safer.

Could you explain it to me in terms other than "Jeff Cooper said so"?
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Old December 3, 2012, 01:51 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jmortimer
...I doubt you will find any first rate tactical training group/company/instructor that would suggest otherwise...
Sir, please be advised that Kathy Jackson (pax) is a first rate tactical training instructor.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jmortimer
...That you were a passenger in a car and took a nap and determined to go to Condition White was your choice, but you also could have stored your handgun while you slept...
Now that would be just silly. As a matter of safety, it's best to avoid handling a gun if possible. The safest place for pax' sidearm was in her holster, on her person.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jmortimer
...Now I get it, that you have to rationalize "constant-carry" as I call it, when you are at home, as you have gone on record as such. You have a vested financial interest to parrot the same rather than admit that "constant carry" is is a huge compromise on the joy of life...
It should not, however, be necessary to point out to you that pax is a member here, a moderator here and a well known and respect instructor. Your casting aspersions on her motivation is out of line.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jmortimer
...let's be clear that it was never intended that someone stay in Condition Yellow as long as one is awake. It takes some effort to stay in this state, and ultimately is unhealthy...
Where do you get that? In fact, that standard formulations of Condition Yellow (see post 3), contradict you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jmortimer
...Generally condition white gets dismissed quickly as being “unaware” or “unprepared” and students are admonished to “not be in condition white.” Unfortunately it is neither possible nor even desirable for this to be true. This belief that condition white is undesirable stems from people thinking it comes from not paying attention, when in fact it is just as likely to driven by paying too much attention to something...
Not according to Jeff Cooper (Jeff Cooper's Commentaries, Vol. 13, pg.4, emphasis added)
Quote:
...The Color Code refers not to a condition of peril, but rather to a condition of readiness to take life. Fortunately most people are very reluctant to take lethal action against another human being. Most people are reluctant to shoot for blood on a harmless game animal, until they become used to it. To press the trigger on a human adversary calls for a wrenching effort of will which is always difficult to achieve and sometimes apparently impossible. Thus we live our days in Condition White, which may or may not have anything to do with our danger, since quite frequently we are in deadly danger and do not realize it. Any time you cross directions out on a two−lane highway you are at the mercy of that character coming towards you in the opposite direction. Usually he is okay, but when he is under some sort of chemical influence, or is psychologically upset, he may only twitch his wheel to produce a multiple fatal accident. Most of us would prefer to live in Condition White permanently, and many do, but those who are more aware of the nature of things are often in Yellow, which is a condition in which we are aware that the world is full of hazards which are human, and some of which may be obviated by our own defensive action. When one is in Condition Yellow he is aware that today may be the day. He is not in a combat mood, nor is he aware of any specific situation which may call for action on his part. There is a vital difference between White and Yellow, and it has to do not with any specific enemy or a set of circumstances, but rather with your awareness that you individually may have to take decisive action on this very day. If you are attacked in Condition White, you will probably die, or at least need a stretcher. If you are attacked in Condition Yellow, you will probably win, assuming that you are armed, awake and aware. The difference does not lie in the deadliness of the hazard facing you, but rather in your willingness to take a very unusual action...
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Old December 3, 2012, 01:57 PM   #10
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Could you explain it to me in terms other than "Jeff Cooper said so"?

My hero, anyway,you are in private, but if it were me, I would be aware of the fact that had I had a loaded firearm (I like J Frames too) with no safety in close proximity to my - lets just say "body." You can minimize the danger by not having a model with a hammer and having a certain holster, or whatever, to further minimize the danger, but in the end, you have a loaded firearm on your person, condition yellow. As to how you manage your firearm, you have to decide. In a hotel room, by myself, I would would have the gun out, near me for immediate deployment. Bottom line, I would not forget the fact that I was carrying a loaded gun, never ever. I would not purposefully forget that fact. Condition yellow. Obviously, as humans we can be distracted, willfully or otherwise.

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Old December 3, 2012, 02:06 PM   #11
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"Where do you get that?"

According to Cooper:

"You can remain in Yellow for long periods, as long as you are able to "Watch your six." (In aviation 12 o'clock refers to the direction in front of the aircraft's nose. Six o'clock is the blind spot behind the pilot.) In Yellow, you are "taking in" surrounding information in a relaxed but alert manner, like a continuous 360 degree radar sweep."

But I believe that Col Cooper said that the only time you should be in condition white is when you are asleep. So I was wrong on this point. He was an intense man. I can't stay in Condition Yellow all the time. I believe he could. I'm not up for that level of commitment, but if I'm carrying a firearm, I'm in Condition Yellow.

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Old December 3, 2012, 02:13 PM   #12
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No one could sum up their entire defense/gun handling philosophy in a few sentences. Cooper was a logical, common sense type person. He gave us some great axioms. He wrote them to be as simple and succinct as possible, but surely he didn't mean for us to abandon reason, logic, practicality and common sense. Its more than obvious to me, that ultimately the fine details of his color code system, must be dictated by individual needs and circumstances.
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Old December 3, 2012, 02:18 PM   #13
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"Recently, someone suggested that anyone wearing a firearm should always be in "condition orange," ready to instantly do battle. This is a misunderstanding both of the color codes and of the nature of an armed default setting."

As I explained to you, I intended to write "Yellow" and not "Orange" and corrected my post accordingly.

Last edited by jmortimer; December 3, 2012 at 02:44 PM.
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Old December 3, 2012, 02:22 PM   #14
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"...that ultimately the fine details of his color code system, must be dictated by individual needs and circumstances."

Generally, yes, but there is no ambiguity about the simple fact that, to his mind, and mine for that matter that: "You don't have to be armed in this state, but if you are armed you should be in Condition Yellow."

You can disagree with his statement but you cannot dispute it is categorical.
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Old December 3, 2012, 02:26 PM   #15
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Quote:
...but if you are armed you must be in yellow.
When he said "must", he was saying "should", as in it does no good to be armed if you are at White.

Quote:
..reason, logic, practicality and common sense.
Something not enough people possess.
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Old December 3, 2012, 02:47 PM   #16
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@jmortimer

Okay, lets take Pax's example of napping in the car. I don't personally know her, but I've read her book*, perused her web site and read her posts here on TFL. I feel fairly confident in assuming that most times when she is awake, she is relaxed and alert. Which is the very definition of condition orange. So she took a nap, with I'm guessing her husband, or at least someone whom she had great confidence in driving. I going to guess again and say that she probably would have woken up, or been woken up if the vehicle would have come under attack.

Now then, which would have been faster? To unlock the glove box and retrieve her weapon, or reach for it at the spot on her side where she normally carries it? See what I mean by common sense and circumstances coming into play.


*I gave a copy to my significant other and my Mom last Xmas, but I read it first.
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Old December 3, 2012, 02:53 PM   #17
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@Nate45

"Which is the very definition of condition orange"

Funny you should say that, as that is the definition of Condition "Yellow" not "Orange" and that is what precipitated this whole thread when I wrote "Orange" when I intended to write "Yellow" and got called out for it. My mistake.
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Old December 3, 2012, 03:12 PM   #18
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So now that I've made the same innocent mistake you did, do you think I'll be castigated and have threads of derision written about me for years to come?

I said I liked her book though, maybe she won't come after me.
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Old December 3, 2012, 03:22 PM   #19
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Only on an enthusiast's board would we be debating one’s mindset while one is relaxing at home watching TV.

First, weren’t Cooper’s Colors meant for on-duty? Second, I know of zero people (and I would not want to know them or hang around them) who are in condition yellow at home while doing something mundane, such as, making dinner, watching TV, or reading a book.

Just because someone wears a gun at home doesn’t automatically mean they are in condition yellow. Sure, one can argue the “you got a gun on you, you need to be responsible…etc…”, however, it is a holstered gun. As long as the handler is not doing stupid things, the gun isn’t going to jump out of its holster and fire on its own. If someone jumps through my window ninja-style wanting to do me harm while I’m watching TV, gun or no gun on my hip, I’m probably in big trouble. Now, with that said, what is to prevent someone from escalating their color conditions in split seconds?
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Old December 3, 2012, 03:40 PM   #20
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I'll have to tell my wife what she started. Lol.
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Old December 3, 2012, 03:54 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Onward Allusion
If someone jumps through my window ninja-style wanting to do me harm while I’m watching TV, gun or no gun on my hip, I’m probably in big trouble.
2012, not having a ninja resistant house.

When you're enjoying some family entertainment and this happens, you'll wish you'd have done it.
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Old December 3, 2012, 03:56 PM   #22
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Quote:
So now that I've made the same innocent mistake you did, do you think I'll be castigated and have threads of derision written about me for years to come?

I said I liked her book though, maybe she won't come after me.
This shows that neither you nor jmortimer are alert enough to be in condition yellow and are now unworthy of Colonel Jeff Cooper's color code.You must now turn in your Jeff Cooper Fan Club cards and decoder rings.

Seriously though, we should look back at the lives of people like Jeff Cooper, Jim Cirillo, Charles Askins, Jack Weaver, Ray Chapman, etc., etc. with admiration. We should admire them as men. We should bear in mind men are not perfect, and principles are not absolute.
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Old December 3, 2012, 03:58 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jmortimer
...According to Cooper:

"You can remain in Yellow for long periods, as long as you are able to "Watch your six." (In aviation 12 o'clock refers to the direction in front of the aircraft's nose. Six o'clock is the blind spot behind the pilot.) In Yellow, you are "taking in" surrounding information in a relaxed but alert manner, like a continuous 360 degree radar sweep."..
Provide a verifiable citation. When I quoted Colonel Cooper I provided a verifiable citation. If you're going to do so you also need to do the rest of us the courtesy of doing the same and allowing us to validated the accuracy of your claim.

In addition, you've thus far demonstrated that you apparently don't understand Colonel Cooper or the Color Code very well, so I'm not going to accept your claims about something Col. Cooper supposedly said unless you do validate your claim.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Onward Allusion
...First, weren’t Cooper’s Colors meant for on-duty?...
No. See the discussion on John Schaefer's website and to which I linked in post 3 and the quote from Jeff Cooper's Commentaries I set out in post 10.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Onward Allusion
...Second, I know of zero people (and I would not want to know them or hang around them) who are in condition yellow at home while doing something mundane, such as, making dinner, watching TV, or reading a book....
On 26 May 2002 I was with Jeff Cooper in his home at Gunsite in Arizona. I was there by his invitation to watch the Monaco Grand Prix.

We sat in his den watching the race and chatting. After the race, we repaired to the living room to continue chatting and to enjoy some refreshment provided by Mrs. Cooper. Both Col. Cooper and I were armed, and I dare say in Condition Yellow the entire time, but it really had no perceptible effect on either of us.

People who have not had a full grounding in the Cooper/Gunsite Color Code consistently erroneously believe that each level represents some step-up in alertness and associated tension. But it really doesn't. Let's look again at what Colonel Cooper wrote (Jeff Cooper's Commentaries, Vol. 13, pg.4, emphasis added)
Quote:
...The Color Code refers not to a condition of peril, but rather to a condition of readiness to take life. Fortunately most people are very reluctant to take lethal action against another human being. ...To press the trigger on a human adversary calls for a wrenching effort of will which is always difficult to achieve ...Most of us would prefer to live in Condition White permanently, and many do, but those who are more aware of the nature of things are often in Yellow, which is a condition in which we are aware that the world is full of hazards which are human, and some of which may be obviated by our own defensive action. When one is in Condition Yellow he is aware that today may be the day. He is not in a combat mood, nor is he aware of any specific situation which may call for action on his part. [B]There is a vital difference between White and Yellow, ....The difference does not lie in the deadliness of the hazard facing you, but rather in your willingness to take a very unusual action...
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Old December 3, 2012, 04:09 PM   #24
MLeake
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Cooper was a Marine, as almost all of us know. His concept of color codes is not so different from the separate but related concepts of "Threat Level" and "Weapons Status."

Threat Level is based on regional intelligence assessments, while Weapons Status is based on ROE and perceived readiness requirement - which is influenced by, but not the same as, Threat Level.

The higher the Weapons Status, the faster the theoretical response capability to threat, but the higher the potential for ND / AD and fratricide. (Particularly with automated systems.)

Cooper basically amalgamated the concepts, and codified for individual vs unit use.
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Old December 3, 2012, 04:35 PM   #25
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I can see how it could also apply, in a sense, to the level of danger you perceive. After all, that affects how you are armed, I assume. Cooper, I believe, described how some assume away danger when there was good reason not to do so. This doesn't apply just to situations in which you may be attacked by another person but by a dangerous animal. If I remember correctly, he mentioned being on a hunting trip in Africa. He along had his rifle with him while they sat around the campfire (or some such occasion) when something big with teeth and claws showed up. But it is human nature to be "extra careful" if you think there is a need to be.

I don't remember any older writers ever mentioning such a color coding system. That doesn't mean none existed, only that writers didn't mention it. However, not many writers of my father's generation and earlier ever wrote of self defense like Cooper. Do you suppose anyone else had any sort of awareness coding?
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