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"No one should have known" you CCW'd — "Being the Gray Man"

Discussion in 'Carry Issues' started by Sam Spade, Aug 21, 2011.

  1. Sam Spade

    Sam Spade Staff Member Lifetime Member

    May 4, 2003
    Best title I could come up with. We might also go with "Being the Gray Man". This musing is prompted by an exchange in another thread that went like this:

    The fact is that most people's version of "concealed means concealed" relies heavily on others' lack of perception and on people generally being lost in their own little bubble. It relies far too heavily on that, IMO. Once you get into a world where someone's actually looking for concealed weapons, the average guy's odds of being "made" go up. And once you get into a situation where the attention is actually on you specifically, the odds skyrocket. Yeah, yeah, that doesn't happen much. I'm writing about when it *does*.

    "Being Gray" means fading into the background of where you're moving. There is no one formula for this, because what works in a law office doesn't work in a garage. The one exception to this is the guy who dresses and carries himself like a janitor. That level of service worker can move about most anywhere and be like everyone else, or be overlooked by everyone else. Let me start by talking about what *isn't* gray.

    • Gun gear isn't grey. This means exposed Wilderness belts, cute little raven pins on your hat, as well as the more obvious Tshirts.
    • Political wear isn't grey. It invites attention from both people who share the advertised views and people who oppose the advertised views. In the case of 3per, Gasden or similar advertisements, it invites LE scrutiny of your hands and waistband. Sorry, guys. I'm writing about the world as it is, not as some would wish it.
    • Cover garments beyond an untucked polo or workshirt aren't grey in warm weather. The number of people wearing vests (or worse, photographer's vests) compared to the number of people who use them to cover a gun? C'mon.
    • 5-11s aren't gray (I'm alternating spellings because I can :cool: ) There are plenty of Colombia or similar cargo pants that are quite popular. 5-11s and clones, though, are cop clothes. Cops look at people who look like them, crooks look at people who look like cops.
    • "Loud" colors aren't gray. Red attracts the eye. Neon attracts the eye. Bright attracts the eye. Attracting the eye invites being remembered, being scrutinized, and having your CCW noticed.
    • Pocket clips (folding knives) and pouches aren't grey. The crook is looking for an easy score. Seeing the clip from a knife makes him look harder before he looks away. The cop on "scan" is looking for weapons, and seeing an indicator of one he'll look for others. Belt pouches mean electronics mean stuff to steal to the crook. Seeing one piece of temptation, he's ready to look for others.
    • Posture and actions different from the crowd isn't grey. Stay to the right, go with the flow, walk, don't run. Being alert and attentive is good for you. Having your head on a swivel is doing an imitation of a crook looking for witnesses. There's a fine line on that last.

    Okay, that's a start. My goal is to discuss things you can do and avoid doing so as to avoid unwanted attention to your person. Specifically, I'm talking about avoiding attention that makes people end up noticing that bulge at your waist. There's lots more, but you can start by going to public places and watching people. Notice how many your attention is drawn to when they do something from that list.
  2. alabaster

    alabaster Swollen Member

    Mar 18, 2009
    Some REALLY good points there. I think the way you walk and carry yourself is something to look at too. I've had some pals of mine that hones to goodness walk different when carrying. Almost like they're barney bad a** back in high school or something. A swagger like "I wish you would". Shame some people are like that, but it draws a lot of attention. I like to wear vests, but stay away from "Tac vests" and photog vests for just that reason. I tell you another. I have a couple of buddies that swear by the hip-pack carry. I think it's lame, #1, but that's personal taste and totally subjective. #2 is that if you see someone that looks like me with a hip-pack on, no question. That cat's packin'. Stands out big time, IMO. I've had people argue that point, or that a man-purse is in style and can be used without much drama, but I beg to differ. There aren't a whole lot of guys than can do that and not look out of character.

  3. Garweh

    Garweh CLM

    Aug 12, 2002
    Upstate New York
    I always play a game when I am in public places such as malls. I look for predators. I look for those who may be CCWing. I look for plain-clothes LE. Amazing how much you actually "see" when you are looking for it!

    The "predators" are the easiest to spot, the plain-clothes are more difficult. CCWers are usually somewhere in between because, if they are not being obvious, they carry themselves differently and they tend to "touch" certain areas.

    Years ago I was in a mall and I was looking for a sheriff's deputy as I needed some info on a friend in the department. Took me 5 minutes to find the UC and ask him to get a message to my friend. She later told me that he was not pleased and she asked me what gave him away. He wanted to know how I "made him". Still get a smile over that.

    As for me, I do not advertise that I am carrying. I do not wear gun gear or 5-11s or tactical vests. In the summer, I wear cargo shorts and a t-shirt. Carry IWB or in cargo shorts pocket in a Desantis nemesis holster. I usually wear cargo shorts till mid-December and then switch to cargo pants. Shorts again late February or early March. The shorts do attract attention in the winter, but most just dismiss me as a quack!
    nursetim likes this.
  4. :rofl: I only know of one guy who carries a man purse. He's been carrying one for so many years it has become part of him. And he CCWs all the time. Probably 24/7 for all I know. And of course, it's never in the man purse.
  5. OldCurlyWolf


    Aug 7, 2010
    Then there are those who don't swagger or strut or anything similar, but their very presence says "Start something at your own risk".

    They stand out also. They are the ones that most LEO'S don't mess with because they don't start things. The only exception to that of which I am aware are those LEO'S who have an inferiority complex of some type(Yes, they do exist, thankfully a small minority). They really dislike ANYONE who has a modicum of self confidence.
  6. whoops dude

    whoops dude

    Jul 17, 2011
    Most of the time the guys I have made just look like pmc's. tactical pants, boots (insert brand here), web belt etc etc.
  7. 2afreedom


    May 6, 2007
    The South
    Yeah a guy with a Glock hat, photographer's vest, fannypack, and 5.11 pants is really not doing much to conceal anything. I don't think I have one piece of clothing with a firearms logo on it and I certainly don't have any 5.11 anything. Why someone wants to wear all those flashing lights that scream, "I have a gun!" is beyond me. Concealed is more than just not having a Desert Eagle strapped to your hip.
    Willard likes this.
  8. ericridebike


    Dec 18, 2010
    Great thread! Lot's of good info here.
  9. RussP

    RussP Super Moderator Moderator

    Jan 23, 2003
    Central Virginia
    Thanks, Sam, good thread.

    Subtlety is important in being "gray". Your head-on-a-swivel comment is a good example. I was in retailing back in another life. My positions gave me an opportunity to observe how bad guys (and girls) acted while casing a store. The best were the most subtle. Small movements, slow movements of their head and body along with natural actions associated with shopping.

    When a security person would notice them, and often security was more obvious than the shoplifter, they would slowly move on to an easier target.

    Lesson learned from those days payoff now when I carry concealed into a strange environment. You'll never know I am aware of your presence until you get into my personal "space".

    There is a skill to scanning for trouble. The secret is, don't look and act like you have a secret. Watch what people in Condition White do. Do the same thing, only be in a heightened level of situational awareness.

    Practice and have someone watch you practice, someone who can be brutally honest with you. It will pay off.
  10. Dragoon44

    Dragoon44 Unfair Facist Lifetime Member

    Apr 30, 2005
    Anyone can be aware of their surroundings, but being aware without appearing to be looking around all the time is a skill that requires development and practice until it is second nature.
    Forester157 likes this.
  11. cowboy1964


    Sep 4, 2009
    I try to not use the Wilderness Instructor belt unless it can be covered. Besides, it's not great fashion.
  12. UtahIrishman

    UtahIrishman BLR Silver Member

    Nov 11, 2001
    I wear cheap knock off 5.11's because I find them comfortable. I sometimes wonder though if I am 'broadcasting' more than I want to though with them. I don't wear anything else that's 'cop' or para military in nature though.

    I've started putting my flashlight in one of the pockets instead of on my belt to go more with the blending in process.

    I'm interested in blending in more. Though I don't think 5.11's by themselves necessarily make you stand least not around here.

    Another thing I used to do was when I would enter a restaurant I would stop at the door and scan the room. I'm more circumspect about that now.
    Forester157 likes this.
  13. Sam Spade

    Sam Spade Staff Member Lifetime Member

    May 4, 2003
    How to practice observing without looking:

    First, sunglasses are cheating. Notice how people with dark (anyone wear mirrors anymore?) glasses both conceal their gaze and draw attention to their stares? The slow steady movement of the head doesn't seem to really rest anywhere, does it. The head in one spot seems to send that view boring into you, even if it's off by a few degrees.

    Notice how you can be aware of things that aren't in the center of your field of view. Another thing that takes practice, but there are plenty of opportunities to practice. As I type this, there's a flashing Robar ad at the top of the screen. I can see when it changes out of the corner of my eye. I can see more detail while I'm still looking off a bit. I can read it, even when I'm looking a few lines down from the actual text. If you watch TV by looking at the corner of the screen, you can still follow the action and describe the characters, right? Off to the mall, where you scope the babes (or hunks, I'll be an equal opportunity whatever I am) without ever staring. An associated level of discipline here is not having your head snap and lock on when something really interests you--you track the approach and departure of the person without looking at him/her. Describe what he was wearing and carrying in his hands without having stared (look back for confirmation).

    A similar drill is to look at the individual for a second, a second and a half (thousand-one-thousand). Now, give a description: sex, race, age, height, weight, hair, eyes, clothing, tatts, jewelry. What hand does he use (where's the watch, where's the cell phone, what hand is the bag in)? Is she married (ring, of course)? What store did the bag come from?

    (These are observation exercises, you can work slight variants to make them KIIM games. Keep It In Memory drills are things used by scouts and snipers to improve their ability to report.)

    But you're learning to do all this without being seen doing it. As Russ said, slow and smooth head movements. No staring, no jerkiness. After you have the concept based on your observations of the general population, you use those broad scans to find trouble and then these more directed looks to analyze if it's really trouble. Can you spot Loss Prevention at WalMart?
    humbleopus likes this.
  14. ThreadKiller

    ThreadKiller Socialism Sucks

    May 5, 2004
    I've never given any thought to the fact that MY situational awareness might draw attention to me, i.e., my head "swiveling." Still, my eyes will keep moving regardless.

    I don't care for 5.11's. Not only may they broadcast a certain attitude, the deep back pockets carry the mags too low and are darn uncomfortable to sit on.

    Good topic.
  15. Warp


    Jul 31, 2005
    I must admit, I have put very little thought or effort into this. I don't generally mind being obvious that I am very aware of my surroundings. I have believed that that alone can be a good start on deterrence. If somebody is checking me out I think I want them to know that I am aware.

    But then again the start of this whole thing was a person illegally carrying concealed and I don't tend to do that.

    I am working on my people watching/scanning as I work a "security" position part time. Watching is pretty much all I get to do, but I suppose that is a good thing.
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2011
  16. Warp


    Jul 31, 2005

    I shall try this
  17. To me, one of the biggest give aways for a carrier are the obnoxious metal or plastic clips on an IWB holster.

    I had a salesman come into my office(granite company) last week and I literally saw the CBST clips from the parking lot looking out my window. I just chuckled.
    Saugeye Tom and dinguskang like this.
  18. cowboywannabe

    cowboywannabe you savvy?

    Jan 26, 2001
    blending in is not hard at all. but it seems to me that from what ive noticed, when a new ccw'er gets their ccw gun they become "tactical". the same for the rookie cop when off duty or the security guard who aspires to be more......
  19. happyguy

    happyguy Man, I'm Pretty

    Central cone vision is usually less than 5 degrees. This is the area where you can see detail. Anything outside the central cone is perceived as color, vague shapes, and movement. This is peripheral vision and it is unlikely you will be able to change that very much. It is hard wired.

    Happyguy :)