Getting ready without appearing ready can be quite challenging. It means intentionally fitting in with your surroundings. This allows you to go about your usual day without standing out or attracting notice. Some folks refer to this as the “gray man principle,” while others call it just acting normal.
Being able to surprise others can be really important when you’re dealing with dangers or risky situations. On the flip side, blending in can also make it less likely for you to become a target in the first place.
Potential hazards and dangerous people
People often talk about situational awareness when discussing this philosophy. It means paying close attention to your surroundings to understand and analyze what’s happening. This skill is crucial for responding effectively to different situations and forms the basis of overall preparedness.
A key aspect of situational awareness is threat perception. This involves assessing the level of risk posed by an individual, a group, or even the environment itself. When it comes to people, our job is to determine if they’re a potential threat, a real threat, or no threat at all. Accurately gauging threats allows us to react and take defensive measures as quickly as possible.
It’s possible for people near you to carry weapons for legitimate reasons, just as you might have valid reasons for carrying your own. However, it’s wise to stay aware of anyone in your vicinity who might be armed. This information can be combined with other signs, like nervousness or aggressive behavior, to judge if an armed person might be about to use their weapon for harmful purposes.
Identifying a weapon isn’t foolproof, no matter how skilled you become. Even with experience, you won’t have a perfect track record. Additionally, there are factors you can’t always determine, like whether carrying a weapon is legal or the person’s intentions. Many people carry firearms and knives legally as part of their daily routine.
The indicators we’re going to discuss mainly apply to those who might be carrying weapons illegally, lack experience, or are using makeshift methods. Proper equipment and training can often eliminate many, if not all, of the cues we’ll mention. Now, let’s examine some common signs related to carrying weapons, particularly handguns.
Holsters or No Holsters
Common criminals usually avoid using holsters. Wearing a holster on their belt makes it inconvenient to quickly get rid of the weapon and holster. For example, if they commit a crime and need to discard the gun, dealing with a holster slows them down. Carrying handguns in an improvised manner, like in the waistband or pocket, allows for fast disposal with minimal effort.
To spot potential threats, pay attention to unconventional ways people carry weapons, different from the typical concealment methods. Focus on examining areas like the front of the waistband, the small of the back, and pockets.
Bulky Clothing and Suspicious Outlines
Keep an eye out for noticeable bulges in clothing or layers that appear unusually bulky, possibly hiding something. Weapons can often create visible outlines underneath outerwear, and wearing bulkier clothing is a common tactic to minimize this visibility. Sometimes, these outlines are quite conspicuous, while other times they’re harder to spot.
You’re more likely to see these outlines when someone is moving, twisting, or bending over. Essentially, any action that causes their clothing to tighten against their body can be an opportunity to spot a concealed weapon, especially around the waist.
Is one side of their clothing sagging? If so, consider what might be causing the imbalance. This can be especially noticeable when someone is carrying something in their jacket pocket or the front pocket of a hoodie. However, it’s essential not to jump to conclusions, as other personal items like large smartphones can also create this effect.
Furthermore, if someone avoids removing layers of clothing when indoors or in situations where it’s customary to do so, it might raise suspicion. Extra layers and bulk can help hide weapons, but only when it’s logical to wear them. Factors like the environment, weather, and social context all influence how people dress. Use these factors to establish what’s typical and watch for anything out of the ordinary.
Unusual Clothing Choices
Keep an eye out for clothing choices that don’t seem to match the weather or the occasion. For instance, wearing extra layers when it’s scorching hot outside is a red flag. In my previous role in private security, we had a rule to keep our weapons and gear hidden when in public.
This rule didn’t apply during special operations or enforcement actions, but it was standard practice for regular activities. As a result, you often saw people wearing clothing like a fleece vest, or some other type of cover garment.
Regardless of what you wear, these looks just don’t make sense in the sweltering Texas heat of August. They pretty much scream that someone is trying to conceal a weapon.
Identifying Strong-Side Bias
To figure out which side a person might be carrying a concealed weapon on, it’s essential to identify their dominant side. This doesn’t mean you need to be absolutely certain, but a quick assessment can help you make an educated guess. Here are some quick cues to consider:
Handedness: Observe which hand they use for tasks like writing, handshakes, pointing, gesturing, or opening doors. This can give you a clue about their dominant hand.
Wristwatch: Take note of whether they wear a wristwatch. Typically, a watch is worn on the non-dominant (support) side.
Movement: Pay attention to how much they swing their strong arm. Some individuals might keep it closer to the concealed weapon to hold or secure it.
It’s worth noting that most people are right-handed, which statistically increases the likelihood of the concealed weapon being on the right side.
Once you’ve determined their dominant hand, you can have a reasonable degree of confidence that this will be the hand they use for any sudden actions. Even when a weapon is carried toward the centerline of the body, like in appendix or small-of-the-back positions, it’s usually oriented toward the strong side.
Signs of Restlessness
Pay close attention to people’s hands, as the saying goes, “watch the hands.” Keep an eye out for individuals who regularly touch or seem to be checking on the condition or position of their concealed weapon. This behavior can occur consciously or subconsciously and is observed in both illegal and legal concealed carry situations.
However, it becomes more noticeable in cases of illegal carry due to the often less-than-ideal methods employed. For instance, someone using an inside-the-waistband technique without a holster might experience movement of the weapon simply from walking. This movement requires frequent adjustment, which involves more effort than a simple security check and presents a better opportunity for observation.
Body Language Clues
People often use their bodies to shield concealed items from casual observers. In doing so, they may adopt unusual body positions to keep the concealed item out of sight. This behavior can also become apparent when someone engages in physical contact with another person.
Whether it’s involuntary contact in a crowded setting or deliberate contact like a hug, watch for signs that the person is awkwardly positioning their body to protect their concealed weapon or avoid it coming into contact with the other person. These body movements can provide valuable clues about their concealed item.
Clues in Grasping Behavior
When someone is carrying a concealed weapon using a suboptimal method, they often find themselves compelled to grasp or clutch the weapon during physical activities. Activities like running, jogging, or even a brisk walk can easily displace a handgun tucked inside the waistband.
This observation holds true for individuals who prefer to conceal their weapon in their pocket. Pay attention to signs of grasping behavior at the start of any physical activity. Once the physical activity concludes, watch for them releasing their grasp, often followed by a quick adjustment to reposition the weapon. These behaviors can provide valuable insights into the presence of a concealed weapon.
Notable Changes in Walking Style
While less frequent, it’s still conceivable for someone to carry a weapon inside a boot, shoe, or an ankle holster. Regardless of the specific method, concealing something within the leg of your pants or inside your footwear can result in an abnormal walking style. The added weight and discomfort typically lead to noticeable alterations in their stride, which can manifest as visible cues such as an uneven or shortened gait. These changes in how someone walks can be indicative of concealed items.
As straightforward as it might sound, what a person says can hold as much significance as their actions. When you encounter or observe someone exhibiting pre-assault cues alongside very explicit language suggesting violence or the intent to use a weapon, it should be taken seriously. It’s not unusual for individuals to issue threats regarding the use of a weapon before an actual event occurs.
As you start to observe someone displaying these characteristics, it heightens the likelihood that they might be carrying a concealed weapon of some kind. However, is this foolproof? No, it isn’t. Does it automatically mean a pending violent confrontation? Definitely not. This is just one aspect of the information-gathering process.
If an individual exhibits several of these signs while also appearing visibly agitated or uncomfortable, it’s a cue to enhance your situational awareness. At this point, you should seriously consider your options for escape or response in case the threat escalates.
It’s crucial to remember that many of the same behaviors mentioned above are also exhibited by law-abiding individuals who legally carry concealed weapons, which might include you. It’s essential to be mindful of how we may unintentionally reveal our lawful carry and avoid surrendering any advantage we may have.
Understanding what to look for when trying to identify a potential threat allows us to prevent displaying those same cues when we’re legally carrying. It’s also unwise to assume that individuals with malicious intent aren’t watching for these behaviors. In fact, they might be more observant, as it’s a fundamental part of their daily survival. Experienced predators often develop a keen sense of which victims are vulnerable and who might put up a fight.
While we can’t control all threats and situations, we should continually strive to improve what we can influence. Enhancing threat perception reduces the time between taking action and reacting. Additionally, it equips us with the ability to mount an unexpected countermeasure against potential threats. Being blindsided by a threat makes it challenging to respond effectively.
As you become more adept at spotting concealed weapons, and hopefully better at concealing your own, it’s wise to assume that everyone could be armed and prepare accordingly.