If a man needs a cloak, I give him mine. I used to view it as an opportunity to buy a new, better one. That materialist mindset is a thing of the past. This new gestalt has an interesting by-product: stealth. For example, instead of carrying my laptop and gun stuff in a tactical briefcase, I tote a supermarket cooler bag. It occurs to me . . .

that the bag makes me less of a target. By the same token, I now have less stuff to steal and less attractive stuff worth stealing. Again, less of a target. More of a “grey man.”

I hope that doesn’t come off wrong. I’m not espousing “poverty chic.” There were times in my life when I couldn’t afford stuff, and had to settle for going without, or lower quality than I desired.

I love America’s free market(ish) system. I don’t begrudge anyone buying anything their heart desires (I’d still like to own a Porsche 911 Carrera 4S). Or as much of it as they want.

But there are strategic maybe even survival advantages to living life — armed and fabulous — a bit more on the down-low. Have you considered/implemented the stealth advantages of living a quieter, less “flashy” life?

67 Responses to Question of the Day: Got Stealth?

  1. Dazzle camouflage. Nobody takes a second look at the bald guy in an eye watering Hawaiian shirt driving a dirt crusted wrangler. Everything is designed to draw attention to the things least vulnerable to it. Nobody notices the fact that the wrangler has a suspension rated for 600lbs more than its stock weight or that the Hawaiian shirt is covering a slim OWB holster with a picture perfect Glock 34.

    The idea of stealth is not to prevent your potential enemy from seeing you. It’s to lead them to making incorrect assumptions about what he’s seeing.

    • My wife and I are building a rather high security home. We figure its greatest security attribute is that even though newly built of steel reinforced concrete, it will look like a little creepy old witch’s cottage. Its exterior finish will be pre-distressed. It will look like the kind of place you would bypass if even you were just asking for directions. It is also at the end of a 2 mile dirt road to nowhere and abutting a national forest. Not much traffic.

    • Pwrserge: “The idea of stealth is not to prevent your potential enemy from seeing you. It’s to lead them to making incorrect assumptions about what he’s seeing.”

      Well said. Very well said. Unlike my clumsy compliment.

      • You’re conflating stealth with camouflage. The point of stealth is to prevent your enemy from detecting your presence: i.e. seeing/hearing you. The purpose of camouflage, on the other hand, is to trick their brain into misconstruing what their eyes are seeing.

        • Uh oh, the semantics police are here!! Everyone dump your cups!

          “Alright everyone, move along. No more fun to be had here.”

    • You’re conflating stealth with camouflage. The point of stealth is to prevent your enemy from detecting your presence: i.e. seeing/hearing you. The purpose of camouflage, on the other hand, is to trick their brain into misconstruing what their eyes are seeing.

    • I parked next to a car at the post office earlier today. The car had multiple NRA stickers, an “Assault Life” decal with an AR silhouette, several cleaver gun-rights bumper stickers, etc. It was perhaps the least covert vehicle I had ever seen.

      I wondered if I could spot the likely driver when I went into the post office. Yup, there he was–old guy with a limp, wearing an NRA hat.

      • I’m hesitant to put any kind of stickers on my car for fear someone will take offense and vandalize my car. So, no pro-gun stickers, no military stickers, no pro law enforcement stickers, Trump stickers, anti Hillary stickers, etc. Yes, it’s my right to display them under the 1st Amendment, but, there is likely to be a price paid for doing so.

        • The only sticker on my truck says “Don’t blame me. I voted for Pat Paulsen!”

        • The only sticker on my car is a “26.2” magnet. Running marathons is popular among liberals and conservatives so it kind of fits in anywhere. Yeah I know if I wanted to go complete “gray man” I would have no identifiable markings at all, but, you know, marathons are tough and I earned it, dang it!

  2. Well I OC so it kinda ruins the ‘stealth’ aspect, but you would be shocked how few people actually see the gun that’s right in front of them. I don’t wear any tactical clothing (apart from my survival bracelet) and I don’t have any stickers or labels on my car that might give away the fact that there’s a gun in it (except for my zombie outbreak response team badge… I couldn’t help myself). If it’s on my person I don’t worry about it being stolen, but I try to make my car as inconspicuous as possible to thieves.

    • If anything, your zombie response sticker will make thieves think you have Nerf guns in your car 🙂

  3. Nothing is more conspicuous than something out of place. Humans are exceptional at recognizing what is different. A shopping bag will get you noticed faster than a nice briefcase bag or backpack anywhere other than a grocery store. The last thing you want is “why is that here, what’s in that bag?” Puling off a “grey man” is dependent on so many factors that it really takes attention and training to pull it off. Your posture is the most important thing, not what you wear or what you carry.
    Just live your own comfortable personality.

    • That comment is deep. Lots to think about in it.

      I’d think a grocery bag is not too out of place most places. At the very least walking around in urban centers.

      But that does depend a lot on who is carrying it.

    • I agree that the shopping bag looks out of place. I once took the deposition of fairly unbalanced guy who kept a folded over brown paper bag (old style grocery bag) next to him on the floor. There he was, giving testimony about his lawsuit while this mystery bag sat there. Everyone in the office, was nervous about that bag.

      Better to just pare down what you carry. What are the odds you’re going to need three backup methods of firemaking? Two knives? Can you leave the backup gun and medical kit in the car? Less stuff means less to draw the eye, clutter the hands, and less chance of someone wondering whether or not it would be worth it to steal your bag, whatever it looks like. If something bad goes down, the smart guy is going to drop whatever is in his hands anyway to deal with the problem.

    • “Your posture is the most important thing, not what you wear or what you carry.”

      I was going to say pretty much this. Posture and demeanor are things that people notice more than most other things about your appearance. Yes, things that stick out will make you more noticeable to random people but they’re not the folks to generally worry about because their attention is passing at best and even if you do flag their attention they generally have no idea what to look at in terms of sizing you up because they have no interest in doing so.

      Posture, how you carry yourself, is something people will notice from a mile off. Some people walk with “authority” while others walk with a casual and rather sloppy stride and there are people doing anything and everything in between. The way you carry yourself will be noted consciously or unconsciously by those around you and it tells them a great deal about you.

      Demeanor, how you actually act, is something that will draw the attention of those who pay attention. Generally speaking people don’t pay much attention to what’s going on around them. Those that do pay attention generally fall into two broad categories: good guys on the lookout for trouble and bad guys looking for ways to cause trouble.

      You can lie about a lot of things for a variety of reasons and do so convincingly if you try. The way you carry yourself and the way you your survey your surroundings however will generally give you away and are not something you can easily lie your way out of if some obnoxious person takes an interest and starts poking into your business.

      Simply put, a basic understanding of body language is something that is instinctual in us and if someone notes the way you act or carry yourself, questions you about it and your answers don’t match what you body says they may not know what’s going on but they will know something is off unless you’re willing to go so far with your lies that you make them uncomfortable to the point that they stop questioning the mismatch and just want to get the hell away from you (Which btw can be very effective. I’ve put on a flamingly gay persona more than once to avoid a fight in a bar.).

    • Those are cooler bags so they are lined with material to help keep cold items cold for the trip home. Probably not the best padding, but if you put your laptop inside a sleeve case, it’ll do fine.

  4. I think the concept of “gray man” has a whole lot less to do with how much it cost, compared to whether or not things seem like they belong. I’d never fit in on Rodeo Drive, but I’d also stick out like a sore thumb on 165th and Grand Concourse in the Bronx. I blend in just fine in south Austin.

  5. A high school friend and I got moderately nice road bicycles in the late 60’s and would do 20 or 30 mi rides together. He went away to college and told me of a student there who had bought a $650 road bike (about $4.5K in today’s dollars) and had immediately taken a rock and scratched the paint job up and then rubbed dirt all over it. My pal & I were appalled, but knew the logic was perfect. Thieves steal nice stuff, not junk.

    • This is not entirely true. I watched a TV special many years ago about how thieves work. The producers created an experiment: They took a brand new girls bike and set it, unchained, out on a street corner in a rough part of town. They then filmed the bike to see what would happen. Several hours passed, and while a few people stopped and looked, no one took the bait. After a few hours the producers went out and beat the bike up a bit. They ripped off one of the tassels, threw it around a bit, and knocked it on it’s side. Within an hour, someone had grabbed the bike and taken it with them.

      People are sometimes hesitant to steal really nice stuff because they know the owner will come after it much harder. If it is older or in worse shape they have a better chance of getting away with it.

      • Had they locked it with a really easy to break lock, I bet the new one would have gotten stolen.

        TommyJay’s buddy was on to something. Take my road bike, for example. A Trek 1200 (Trek’s lowest end model at the time) bought new in 1990. Battered looking as hell, flat grubby looking.

        With some equally-looking and battered rather high-end parts. Like Dura-Ace and SRAM Red drivetrain from 1999, and tires that run about 80 USD a pair. A headlight that is very bright and cost someone a bit over 300 USD. (The light goes with me if I’m away from it.) Secured if I’m away from it with a length of proof chain sleeved with a mountain bike innertube and locked with a old and battered and stout padlock.

        Since it gets parked usually with a bunch of expensive carbon fiber wonders, no one gives it a second look.

        Someone mentioned looking like you belong where you are, that was proved awhile back when that couple just walked into a White House invitation-only party. On the White House grounds. Right past the Secret Service agents supposedly providing security.

        They were good-looking, dressed impeccably, and most important, carried themselves like they belonged there. (The posture that was mentioned).

        My gun stealth – My fast-access Mossy 500 folder was inside a suit hanging in my closet. All handguns locked in a steel lockbox bolted to the wall studs…

  6. Speed, surprise, and violence of action is pretty hard to achieve when you dress like a mall ninja.

    I’m all about being a ‘grey man.’ No NRA stickers on the truck, no shoot-me-first safari vests or 5/11 pants, and absolutely no tactical ANYTHING in my day to day. A tactical camo backpack with molle pouches hanging off and morale patches saying ‘Let God sort them out’ isn’t exactly stealthy in my urban environment.

    I carry religiously, and have never been made. Concealed means concealed.

    • “Mall ninja” is as much a mindset as it is a modality.

      If you’re running around with your deep concealment EDC and your even deeper concealment BUG, steely eyeing every entrance/exit, sizing up each and every potential adversary, scanning for every conceivable hidden weapon in each body’s contours, and endlessly envisioning scenarios starring yourself which rival the opening sequence to any Bond film, then you’re a mall ninja.

      You’ve gone far beyond prudent preparations and plunged head first into Walter Mitty fantasy land. That you may only be equipped with nothing more exotic than just some off-the-shelf Keltecs and no other gear, doesn’t change a thing.

  7. “Have you considered/implemented the stealth advantages of living a quieter, less ‘flashy’ life?”

    Nope. Due to finances, it’s the norm.

  8. “No matter how good you are don’t ever let them see you coming. That’s the gaffe my friend. You gotta keep yourself small. Innocuous. Be the little guy. You know, the nerd … the leper … shit-kickin’ surfer. Look at me. Underestimated from day one. You’d never think I was a master of the universe now, would ya?”

    — The Devil’s Advocate (1997)

    Words to live by.

  9. Work smarter, not harder. That’s the game you’ve got to play when going grey. I think piling a bunch of stuff into a single pouch bag is a bad idea. Hell, just getting a lighter out of a pocket when my keys are the only other thing in there is a project sometimes.

  10. Only thing that isn’t concealed is the small Ruger logo on back window of Jeep Commander–minus the Ruger name.

  11. I tried to be inconspicuous once. Then I realized my distaste for colours other than green or brown, that I have an aversion to poor quality clothing, and the fact that I see no reason to pay for a haircut more than once every 5 or 6 years when I buy a new shaver. I’m not being brash when I say – I figure that the look and demeanor warns off lower order criminals as well as useless snowflakes. As for those with both the competence and experience to look for what I am, as well as the ill intent to do anything malicious about it? Few and far between. And anyway, most people are too oblivious to notice me open carrying, much less what I’m actually wearing or concealed carrying. I’ve had co-workers ask, after months of seeing me – wait, is that a gun? I open carry at work, conceal carry outside. Part of me feels bad about thinking it, but so far as I can tell most people are unobservant jackasses. The rest are either decent people or competition. Train harder than the competition. That is all.

  12. It doesn’t take a lot of deep thought to become a “grey man.” All you need to know is how people dress and act in your environment. What works in a Washington DC suburb is not what works in Western Wisconsin. When I lived in Virginia I dressed in what I call “LL Bean tactical” because the last thing people think when they see you all preppied up is gun if they bother to notice you at all. Out here in Wisconsin you can walk around in camp and not get noticed because everybody does it. There is no secret decoder ring that turns you into a ghost. That is movie stuff.

    • All you need to know is how people dress and act in your environment. What works in a Washington DC suburb is not what works in Western Wisconsin.

      tdiinva beat me to the punch. If you are going into or coming out of a grocery store, an insulated shopping bag is excellent concealment. Walking around Wall Street — not so much.

      If you are frequenting a business district where many people dress business casual, dress business casual. If they carry document satchels, carry a document satchel. If they dress in suits and carry briefcases, dress in a suit and carry a brief case. If people are wearing jeans and shirts and have common daypacks, wear jeans and shirts and carry a daypack. If in doubt, dress up one level. (Better to be over dressed than under dressed.)

      • There’s an additional angle – When interviewing for a better job, find out how folks who have that job dress, and emulate them.

        Let them think you’re just like one of them…

    • This is true. The key is to know one’s environment. I live in, and grew up in, a tourist mecca. One of the local’s favorite games is “spot the tourista”. It becomes easy after a while. Sure, our batting average is not 1000 but it is pretty darn high.

      There are a ton of clues: to stylish, not stylish enough, to confident, not confident enough, too interested in …, not interested enough in …, and so on.

      Over time, (read as: As I’ve gotten old) the game has morphed somewhat into “spot the non-native”. Similar rules but being local is no longer a pass, you have to have been local since birth to not get noticed.

    • As long as you’re not wearing a fatsuit like scarjo. I overuse the stealth camo in MGS because I’m lazy, but if you bump into someone it gets knocked off.

  13. I live in a condo complex with detached parking garages (formerly carports). I carry my pistols out in a in a reusable cloth shopping bag. It is not unusual in California since the plastic bag ban. Rifles a re bit harder, I usually go out at 4:00 to 5:00 am to lock them in the car the day I am going to the range. It pays not to advertise.

  14. Wow. Funny to read some of the comments.

    I agree with the gist of the poster.

    However – what works for you might not work for me and vice vs.

    At 50+, an old Lands End Canvas Briefcase work for carrying what wont fit in my pockets.

    People are less observant in their comfort zone (work).

    They will tend to be more observant out of their comfort zone (street, new neighborhood).

    Human nature – the trick is to be more observant everywhere. (Try not to look like food for the predators).

    Just looking around makes you less of a mark. I look AT people. Let them know I see them.

    but …I see a guy my age with a grocery cooler, he better be with his wife….sarc

  15. My only “non-stealth” lifestyle choice is my suitably gray and unassuming 2006 Forester XT. Only the hood scoop gives it away as anything but a grandma mobile.

    • This!, and some of this stuff is laughable. If you’re down to doubting the wealth you’re showing, get out of that area. If you doubt you can defend the wealth you’re showing, work on your basics, and if you’re this paranoid, you need to change lifestyle, location, both, or seek treatment.

  16. I wear gun t-shirts and hats sometimes. If I want to go grey I do, but I don’t get all jazzed up about it. Sometimes, I want to show I’m Pro 2A, and make snowflakes look for a safe spaces. (I haven’t had anyone ask me about them though.) Another thought, a lot of rural areas in the country camo, military style bags, and guns are the norm so not looking like that is not being a grey man either.

  17. Wholeheartedly agree. We had an event at my place of work that cashed in on the close proximity to Superbowl 50. We were briefed ahead of time that all sorts of alphabet agencies would be attending in uniform and plain clothes. Those Feds in civilian clothes had the same haircuts, oakley glasses, ball caps(no sports logos) and tactical sand or black lightweight SWAT or tactical boots. They walked around in pairs and were painfully obvious to me.

    • When traveling abroad we were brief to let our hair grow out a little. Nothing says US government like high and tight. We also always carried our personal passports to present at immigration. All the red passport did was identify you as a target without providing any benefits of the black (diplomatic) passport. The red passport got you into US government facilities and onto the evac helo.

  18. I don’t advertise anything. Other than an American flag decal on the auto window. Likewise in my home. Quite honestly I’ve only been around the gun thing for 6 years and peripherally for much longer. And a lot of gun owners seemed like hillbilly yahoos. Especially in Indiana…I try to distance myself from the showoff crowd. And nobody knows nothin’ about me…

    • Dude, you have spilled everything about yourself on here except your real name, address and phone number. Your profession, your wife’s features, how many kids you’ve got, where you live, etc.

  19. HEY! Shannon Watts is all over the news about 2 girls getting kicked off a United Airline flight! Violating RIGHTS claptrap. Where’s Dirk when you need him?

      • RF or Dan Z –

        It it’s not to much bother, how about shooting an e-mail to Dirk telling him he’s missed?

  20. Fit in where you go isn’t just some tactical “grey man” BS, it’s just good old fashioned common sense.

    And if you can’t fit in, be something others can understand in their context. Like I will never fit in at a hip hop concert, so if I look like a “suit, that would make sense.

    As far as looking like some kind of poor bum all the time to avoid getting robbed, no thanks, I didn’t work hard to live like I didn’t work hard.

  21. Don’t dress to match your surroundings; act like you belong there and the environment will match to you. (I think I read that in the Stainless Steel Rat books)

    • Carry a clipboard and look like you are working. Nobody notices a guy with a clipboard and a hard hat.

  22. I saw a Prius with an NRA bumper sticker and a USMC window decal in an Academy Sports parking lot a while back. About as bad as my Subaru Outback with the little Springfield Armory sticker. Hard to sort out the mixed messages. :-).

  23. jeans, cheap black or gray skull theme tshirt, bald, tattoos, salt n pepper goatee, easy going, non threatening smile. brown or black chukka boots, couple of silver skull rings. Everything is clean, nothing torn or dirty. I rarely speak when I’m out, and when I do it’s softly. I’m fit but I don’t bulge with muscle. I carry concealed, couple of knives, spare mag. I’m so invisible people actually walk into me. Most people under the age of 30 ignore me because I’m ‘old’ , most people in my age group dismiss me as ‘young’. my gf says that I just blend in, I’m freakishly quiet when I don’t want to be noticed. She’s even walked by me on more than one occasion when I was waiting for her after work. it really pisses her off.

  24. Maintaining a low profile is always a good idea. I drive an old (10+ years) Subaru Forester with no stickers about shooting or firearms. The car is backed up to my side gate to make packing and removing guns and associated gear unobtrusive. My house is a nondescript residence on a quiet street in an average suburb.

    I carry a laptop in an old backpack. Nothing says “mug me” more than a laptop satchel while talking on an iPhone. My phone is a commodity Samsung on a provider plan.

    I’m about as a grey man as I can be considering I’m 5’11, solid build, with close cropped grey hair.

  25. i’ve been me way too long to do much else. i think it’s best to attract little attention. it can be fun to do the opposite. but fun and safe are like security and safety.
    i think it would behoove many of us to minimize excess.
    this applies to conduct as well; spotting the ugly american while abroad can make your skin crawl.
    nondescript is great for third world travel (italy, ha). walking advertisements really standout there. for instance when i visit jamaica i rent an apartment house, a dirt bike and wear my canoe gear of fifty years. after my pale becomes sunkist, the escapees from the all inclusives become beacons for attention.
    i imagine i am only a target to those who would consider anything a target.

  26. Stealth is better in black. Years ago, when we went to a lot of concerts and pro hockey(ticket biz), my wife came up with the ideal solution to bring in booze or wine. She would use a half full handbag, black, of course and any “contraband” was covered with a black piece of material. All the guards saw was a bunch of girly stuff in a dark handbag – BRILLANT!

    It always worked! It won’t fool x-ray, but casual inspection, sure. A black bag with anything you want covered by a black rag, should work. It might not be real easy to get to the gun right away, but such are trade offs in life.

    • I have used black on black to even carry concealed where there was a search into where CCW was not encouraged. Unless there is wanding, won’t go there anyhow, I just ignore the signs that require you to be an unarmed victim.

  27. I have a talent for being misjudged, everyone see;s a wimp butt they have no idea i’m a highly trained ninja warrior! lol.

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