Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Gray man concept

The Grey man concept is quite simple: Even though survival minded and probably well trained when compared to the average person, carrying some gear which will likely include a handgun, the modern survivalist will not look like a freak of nature, like some sort of paramilitary lunatic or commando wannabe, but will instead get lost in the crowd because there’s nothing peculiar in the way he dresses or behaves. This is something that at first glance shouldn’t be hard to understand, but as always, when it comes to matters of balance between extremes, it can be tricky and what is reasonable for some may not be for others.

What you DON’T want to do is:
You don’t want to attract attention towards yourself, wearing bright color clothes or in a fashion that isn’t in tune to your cultural surroundings. This requires objective observation of the current reality you live in. Example; Wearing a typical gaucho poncho, even though its traditional local clothing, its not something people wear these days around towns and cities. You might as well drop by the 7.11 dressed in your cowboy action shooting costume and expect no one to notice you. Yet an arab head garment like a shemag has becomed pretty common among young adults given the leftists times we live in and the piece being worn commonly by young people and roadblockers, occaisoanlly to cover their faces. So as in many other countries it is now considered fashionable and no one will look at you twice because you have one around your neck. Che Guevara t-shirts are unfortunately very common among the brain washed high school and college aged people, but it is a well remembered icon and people will notice it. It is better to avoid entirely symbols and shapes that the brain remembers better, that goes for everything from peace symbols to religious or political images. Logos in general should be avoided. Lets not even go into shirts with gun brand logos or in your face statements like “I don’t start problems, I finish them” usually going along with gun images. You might as well wear a sign around your neck that says “I have a gun”.

5.11 pants, combat desert tan boots, riggers belt, along with vests full of pockets aren’t kidding anyone. Anyone with half a brain will understand that the vest is being worn to conceal a gun, and that the vest itself is probably full of expensive gadgets. Most important, you will be noticed and remembered by the people around you.

You dot want to lie to yourself either. Letting yourself go and turning into a fat slob, never training a day in your life, never carrying a gun because its uncomfortable , (or any other gear for that matter), wearing sweat pants and some greasy old tshirt, that’s not being gray man, that’s actually BEING like the sheep you’re trying to hide among. Gray man is being capable yet managing to go unnoticed.

 Yes... take away the AR and mag pouches, the guy still looks like Blackwater.

What you WANT to do is:
While the image you want to project is the one that the average person will forget the second he takes his eyes off of you, you also want to project one that the wolves DO notice and know you are not to be messed with. Do you achieve that with a 45 ACP printed in your shirt and “I don’t dial 911”? No. Listen, its easy to get the entire gray man thing wrong when you don’t have an actual need for it, when your environment isn’t demanding it and putting it to test. I’ve read so many wrong notions about this subject, that’s why I writing this article. A couple days ago for example, I was talking with my shooting instructor, even though he’s a cop that trains the local police, he dresses in civilian clothing as soon as he can. Why? Because cops have guns, and in the crazy times we live in they are actually being targeted because of their weapons. This clearly proves in actual real world experience that you DON’T WANT TO BE IDENTIFIED AS THE GUY WITH A GUN. They’ll kill you to get it, or if a maniac wants to shoot up the place he knows exactly who to shoot first.

So while you don’t what to scream out to the world that you are armed, you want to be acknowledged as someone that is aware, alert, and is not a soft target. You do this by training and actually being capable of putting up a fight, by looking alive when you have to, yet not look like a human scanner when the situation doesn’t require it. That will bring unwanted attention to yourself. Don’t stand in the door way (tactically speaking, it’s a bad place to stand in anyway) and scan the place completely with your eyes from left to right, giving the stare of death to anyone that looks at you. You can just as well walk in as you keep chatting with your buddy or wife and grin ask you make a quick mental not of the people inside, standing to the side to keep the door open for your friend to come in and at the same time use that as an excuse to look around without dragging extra attention.

You want to carry what you believe needs to be carried but in a way it doesn’t scream “tactical” even if it actually is by definition. Jeans do ok, you can even get by with the 5.11 pants as long as you don’t look like the guy on the Blackwater website and you combine with other comfortable yet “normal” looking clothes.
The dull colors are important but if you dress all tan with a tight polo shirt you’ll look like a contractor, if you dress all black you’ll look like a Goth weirdo that may want to shoot the place up. Try combining colors so that you look normal, and again, leave the Glock polo shirt and the Suarez international patch in your Maxpedition Jumbo pack for the range. Yes, we ALL know your Maxpedition Versipack probably has 5000 bucks worth of stuff. As nice as they are, as much as I’d like to carry one around, Maxpedition bags just scream gun and tactical gear, not to mention that they look expensive and if I carried one of those around here all those little pockets would be a God’s send for ever pick-pocketer in Buenos Aires. Maybe the least tactical wise thing about the Maxped bags, is that in a high crime area you want to avoid all those pockets and zippers, better to have one big flap covering everything. They look good, I like them and I’m sure they are very practical but those two issues make it a no-no, at least for high crime areas.
Carry what tools and gear you need but don’t make it obvious you’re doing so, a day pack or messenger bag works, ordinary looking ones are better and surplus satchels don’t drag much attention, they don’t look expensive.

The rigger belt is nice. I get it that since you use a belt anyway, why not use one that is sturdy for gun carrying and can be also used for emergency rappelling or simply extract you from a wreck, but it also screams gun, so cover that buckle, don’t tuck your clothes in when wearing one out in the world. Same goes for folding knife clips. By now everyone knows what they are. Cover them or if you can’t, put it completely inside the pocket, specially when you visit places where it may be a problem to carry a knife. An untucked t shirt that isn’t to tight will hide what needs to be out of sight.

Vests in particular, cameraman vests, whatever it is you want to call them, there’s nothing gray about them. I get the idea of carrying stuff, but man, that’s why bags where made in the first place, and whatever needs to be readily accessible can just as well go in a concealed holster or your pockets. If you need seven AK47 mags readily available maybe you should go for a load bearing vest and seriously consider moving somewhere safer.

When it comes to clothing, a tailor is your friend. I have a brown leather jacket that looks good but had very poor fabric lining inside. Ten dollars worth of synthetic gabardine and 50 bucks worth of tailor later I had the same neat looking jacket but with a greenish gray tough fabric on the inside as well as two extra large reinforced pockets for whatever needs to be carried in there.

Tan combat boots are pretty hard to disguise, they  pretty much look like what they are. Some go along well with jeans but others are pretty obvious. Leather steel toe (or polymer)work shoes are just as tough and then some, and if you buy the high end work boots you get some excellent quality for a decent price, both comfort and protection. They also look more like hiking boots, in spite of being rated for various levels of security, against impact, slipping, electric discharge, etc. 

One last word regarding minimum weaponry: Some Special forces Army SEAL ninja masters will say that, while you need twenty mags as a bare minimum for combat, you’re overkilling if you carry more than one or two extra mags as a civilian. God forbid a backup gun! Then again you ask someone that’s been into a handful of gunfights as a civilian and he’ll usually have a spare service size gun as his backup and not less than 5 extra 15+1 capacity mags. 



cryptical said...

Great article. Blending in is definitely a skill, and one that should be practiced. Spend some time people watching at a mall or downtown, trying to spot people that are out of place. Some stuff I find interesting would be watches that don't fit with the wardrobe, e.g. a G-Shock with a suit or a nice watch on a bum. Sunglasses, especially when it's cloudy or indoors. Generic ball caps (pick one up with a local team logo).

Haircuts can tell you things about people. It's hard to change a haircut on the fly, shaggy hair on a well-dressed person, a crewcut, long hair, they all give an impression. Sometimes it doesn't fit.

Tattoos are interesting as well. There's a big difference between something artistic and a jail tattoo. I'd wonder about a guy in a business suit with knuckle tattoos, or something on his neck.

It's all about being alert (which we all should be anyways, right?).

Now you can turn around and look at your own look, try to pick out the details that other people will notice about you. Eliminate the things that draw your eye on other people from your outfit.

Anonymous said...

Excellent read!! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

If you are civilian who has been 'involved in several gunfights' surely the advice "and seriously consider moving somewhere safer" is most relevant?

Anonymous said...

''... and he’ll usually have a spare service size gun as his backup and not less than 5 extra 15+1 capacity mags.''

Unless you are a cop or you live in Somalia, Iraq or Mad Max world, for a typical civilian, that IS overkill...

Bones said...

If you live somewhere that makes you feel like you need 5 x 15 round reloads, you should probably think about moving. Or perhaps instead carrying that AK with the 7 mags.

Matt said...

I learned long ago that I can't disguise being a large caucasian. I have learned to fit in. Often I look like a generic tourist, because that is what people are looking for. I never look like I have lots of money, or much of anything worth stealing. When home I don't look like a guy that would carry a gun. No expensive watches, glasses, belts etc. I literally don't own gunny promo-items, bumper stickers etc. When going throug check points I don't get stopped because I look like I belong and don't provide an excuse to give me a hassle. When I am questioned, I stay polite, converstaional, open and freindly.

dc.sunsets said...

How long does it take to fire several 15 round mags? My armchair view is that you would be counting on your adversaries to miss an awful lot during that time, or else you're squatting behind cover and launching rounds blindly without exposing anything but the hand that's holding the gun.

I know there are many stories of people shooting and shooting and no one getting hit, but I can't escape the feeling that if I think I need more than 20 rounds "in public" it is time to move, or show up with a friend and his rifle.

DaShui said...

Fer Fal a great money making opportunity for you.

You have the name- why don't you design your own line of grey man products. Such as a Maxpedition type bag without all the zippers and not so tactical looking? Maybe even work with BBM.com to add body armor. I, for one, would be interested in buying.Today my weather is 105 degrees, and 90% humidity. Almost impossible to wear enough clothes for C.C. Even carrying a daypack would leave my back covered in sweat from the lack of ventilation.
Think about it.

Maldek said...

Hi FerFal,

great an long article with lots of arguments to strengthen your point.

There are 2 scenarios where the "grey man" concept would work very well.

a) You are in big city (like B.A. or NY or London) with millions of people, crowded together. Grey man is good.

b) You are the bad boy yourself.

n nature however the opposite of your arguments is true.
The most dangerous animals tend to warn their surrounds in one way or the other. Can be bright colors, or special sounds (like rattlesnake) ...and this concept has worked millions of years.

If indeed LEO's are targeted by criminals BECAUSE they have a weapon (to rob said weapon) it is time to move on. Today. Right now.

Anonymous said...

With what is ahead, even living in a small town could be frightening, and heck, the big city already makes me nervous. Most handgun fights are accuracy by volume. Once it starts flying, everyone typically just blasts away. Reports indicate that. I would not count on remaining cool enough for well placed shots if it presented itself at all, and with a handgun, several hits would be necessary, so Ferfal's recommendation is realistic. And knowing that an aggressor is likely to spray and pray, wear them down and out. It works in paint ball as well. The best defense is, of course, avoiding such a situation, so I'll stay in the small town despite the economic disadvantages and I'll stay in cover as around here, as a pissed off neighbor is just as apt to take you off hand from as far as 300 yards. During hunting season, it's hard to get close to elk.

About the gray man approach. Always the best policy anywhere. Living in a small town has many advantages if you can keep food on the table. Of course you can grow some of it. Fortunately in my town hunters wear all sorts of camo year round, it's the fashion! Even some of the vehicles are camo'ed up. Personally tho, I'll fit in anywhere and law enforcement lives in the community and does not get away with being too corrupt for long. So, there is in fact safety numbers, even when the numbers are small and harder to see.


Anonymous said...

grey man...urban camouflage..same thing. don't "stick out". or, if
you do, try the old trick of a
Red Hat. "well, officer, he was
wearing a Red Hat." that's all
most will remember. no one will
be able to accurately describe
you, other than the Red Hat.

EN said...

Good stuff. I practice Gray man tactics daily. I even go out of the way to keep my internet profile low so as to keep my personal views unknown to those around me. I carry a bag that's completely generic, but strive hard to not look like a tourist. I look local, and try hard not to stand out.

Anonymous said...

That "overkill" setup is perfectly good for when you are in a nice neighborhood and are 10^100% SURE you're NOT going into a gunfight (other wise I'd bring an AR/AK). Yeah 2 mags might be good enough. But 2glocks on the belt (and snubby in the ankle) is even better. 2mags on each side of a belt and a "happy stick" in a bag is perfectly comfy and CONCEALABLE with normal clothes on. And who said the guy who faced the terrifying reality of a gunfight lived in a place where he "needed to move?" WTF kinda thinking is that. Bipedal predators do this thing called walking. And they can also get into cars and drive. Certain kinds from Somalia with certain "viewpoints" have "apparently" also been able to fly/"econo-cruise" their way to Mexico and "nature walk" into the US. So if you can't function with above setup. Fine no harm done. But don't badmouth perfectly reasonable people who decide to take proactive steps to protect themselves.

P.S. To author: GREAT article!! I'm glad there's others out there who think that 5.11 vests, BDUs, and "tacticool polos" are being a bit too obvious.

Anonymous said...

Copied from a different setting:

"if you really want to go incognito, get a hiking BOB in a non-military color; sew on a a patch or two (Greenpeace, PETA, Canadian Flag) and you are now transformed from a wolf to a sheep."]


Xamuel said...

I basically learned how to do this while I was homeless-by-choice in college. The experience taught me that there are a lot more "invisible homeless" walking around than one would think. Of course, we think of the panhandlers on the street, but I wouldn't be surprised if a *majority* of homeless are actually of the invisible variety, they might even be your friends and you just don't know it.

Anonymous said...

Here's a good podcast interview with Ferfal if you want to listen to him talking about his experiences in Argentina during the economic collapse, and how he dealt with it. It's in 2 parts. Part 1: thehumanpath.podbean.com/2011/09/19/050-surviving-the-economy-collapse/
Part 2: http://thehumanpath.podbean.com/2011/09/20/051-the-right-attitude-in-a-society-breakdown/

Anonymous said...

That its like not look the real grey man!! The grey man use your head like our head!!!