New Year’s resolutions to improve ourselves are great ideas.
One area in which people who are part of the “gun culture” can make a resolution is how we approach the way we talk about personal safety. We can become less obvious, less “tacticool,” less noticeable. Why does this matter? Because in general, people who are serious about personal safety don’t want to stand out. And it’s time to embrace that fact.
A concept that’s been around for a while is “gray man” (made popular by the novel,“ The Gray Man”), soon to be a movie. In short, the goal of the “gray man” is to become seemingly invisible to the rest of society. With respect to firearms ownership and how we choose products, focusing on the things that help us to stay “gray” or less noticeable should be high on our list.
Why Become Less?
It is my belief that firearm owners and those who believe in human rights should not hide. We should not let the narrative about our beliefs and how we carry ourselves be dictated by others. With more than 8 million people having purchased their first firearm in the last couple years, the rights to personal safety and gun ownership have never been more popular. The constant attacks on those rights and those of us who embrace them are, however, popular topics for mainstream media outlets. Silence on our part is not a good strategy.
However, perhaps precisely because the media and others not in our corner want to paint gun owners in a poor light, when it comes to the possibility of exercising our right to self-defense, being as plain, “gray” and unremarkable as possible only helps you and everything you believe in become less of a target.
Less-noticed means that you lower your risk of being attacked. Not advertising that you might have a firearm or something of value decreases your risk. That's why logos may be a bad idea. It’s why dressing like a “Tactical Timmy” is not a good plan. It’s why those who are serious about personal safety prefer discreet branding.
Why does this matter for women in particular?
On average, women are physically smaller and generally are not as strong as most men. Mothers often have their children with them, and don’t want to make their family a target. Women can be strong and aware, and can provide for their own safety, but can also take steps to make sure they’re as “gray” as any man. There are countless headlines in the news about women being targeted for theft and other crimes.
Here are some tips for making your personal safety more “gray.”
Look For What’s Normal
For any given environment, aim for what is normal. Are tactical pants what you would wear grocery shopping? Maybe concealed-carry leggings are more “the norm.”
Avoid Creating Stimulus
Avoid creating images or situations that stand out or make people take notice. This is why “printing” (allowing the outline of your firearm to be seen against your clothing) is taboo. It’s also why advertising your favorite logos or brands can make you a target. Regardless of how silent you may be, a firearm that is visible as you exit a vehicle creates a stimulus. While it could send the message to leave you alone, the overall goal should be not to let anyone know that you carry concealed.
Find the baseline or norm for the environment you’re in, and stay there. If you walk through an area on your way to the bus every day and nobody pays you any attention, that’s your goal. Become un-noteworthy in how you dress and how you act.
Think About Your Demeanor
Conventional advice on how to handle yourself for personal safety says to walk confidently, to make eye contact, don’t appear to be an “easy target.” But if you want to remain unnoticed, just being unnoticeable is your goal. That means not having conversations, not catching people’s eye. Just casually observe what’s going on as if you are absorbed in your own business. Don’t wear your fancy perfume, don’t do things that make you stand out.
Think About Your Speech
Don’t share unnecessary information. The less information your give others, the better. There are those who want to influence others; my writing is one way I try to accomplish this. But there’s a time and place for it!
In my personal life, I take measures to be less noticeable, especially when I’m travelling alone. I don’t put stickers on my car, no patches on my bag, no logos on my clothes. I might have a Glock 17 in my waistband, but I’m likely wearing running tights, a T-shirt and plain jacket. I might have an AR and two mags in their required location while I travel, but you’re not going to assume so when I’m driving my minivan. I might have thousands of rounds of ammo when we travel to a match, but you’re only going to see cooler bags, the leftover fast-food bag, and empty water bottles in my car at night. I try to make it look as much like a “mom van” as I can when I travel, so my competition firearms and I are not targets. And when people ask the purpose of my visit, as much as I want to promote the shooting sports, depending on the location, people present, and if I’m alone, you’ll probably hear me say, “Just travelling.”
The Goal is Safety, Not Attention!
In an era of never-ending social media and marketing trying to grab your attention, it’s good to stop and look at whether grabbing attention is a wise decision in your personal life.
It’s OK to be unnoticeable and enjoy your freedom with no fanfare, no Instagram posts about how empowered you feel. And while the “influencers” out there might enjoy showing you how and what they use for a concealed-carry firearm that day, and just how their outfit covers it up, it creates risk. They’re basically advertising what firearm they have and exactly where it is. It can give people with ill intent information that they shouldn’t have. It’s certainly not “gray”; it’s more like a neon sign saying, “Here’s my gun!”
Paying attention to dressing, behaving and even what we are buying in order to concealed carry with the goal of not grabbing attention might seem a little “paranoid.” But any one of us can be a target for theft or worse. Realizing this and simply carving out a life without advertising tactics to others is a way to put safety first.