5 Ways to Spot Concealed Carry

David Higginbotham Defensive Use of Firearms Rapid Fire This Week

A couple of weeks ago, I had breakfast with a friend at what was supposed to be a family friendly, eclectic sort of place. As we were eating, close to 20 bikers showed up. Though they were well behaved, the crew looked pretty rough. Many of them had weapons on them that were clearly meant to intimidate.

So my friend and I played a game I’m sure many of you have played before. We call it “who’s got a gun.” On this particular day, the game started at our table. “You carrying?” I asked. He nodded. I wasn’t. So I looked around the room.

Dark clothes and crazy-ass plaids help hide guns.

Dark clothes and crazy-ass plaids help hide guns.

“Who’s got a gun?” is sometimes innocuous. Most of us who carry concealed guns have agreed, however silently, to protect ourselves and our loved ones. Some of us are also the sort who would come to the aid of others in need. If you’re going to face trouble, wouldn’t you like to do so with an ally? With someone who thinks like you?

Other times, the game isn’t a game. Not all who carry concealed weapons carry them for the right reasons. And knowing who is a threat to your safety can save your life. There is no substitute for situational awareness.

So here are five ways people reveal that they’re carrying. Would it be too obvious to start with they #1 most overt way: they accidentally show their gun? Maybe. But it happens. I see people bend over or shuffle clothing or other actions that sometimes reveal a glimpse of a grip.

1. Printing

Printing is easy to see if you know what you’re looking for. Some guns are hard to conceal, and some holsters, too. Keeping the gun covered isn’t enough if the bulk of the package pushes out in a weird way.

Check for odd angles on the strong side, above the strong side pocket, or middle of the back. Loose baggy clothing is another tell.

This coat is great for winter. But in May, it should raise eyebrows.

This coat is great for winter. But in May, it should raise eyebrows.

2. Dressing warm

This leads us to #2. Winter makes “Who’s got a gun?” harder to play. But The warmer months are easy. Some in our tribe only have one carry gun, and they will over-dress to help with concealment.

I’m also leery of those who are not in our tribe who over-dress. It is safe to assume your run-of-the-mill thug may have to work with what he has on hand, and if that’s a full sized 1911, that’s what he might try to conceal.

The trench coat motif is the obvious cliche, but I’m just as leery of the hoodie when it’s 90 degrees.

3. The Peg-Leg

Ever try to conceal a big gun inside the waistband and then realize that it keeps you from bending over naturally? Most people put on holsters when they’re standing up. Almost every means of carry is effective in this position. But then they go to get in the car, or they need to sit down at the restaurant and they can’t because they’ve got a GLOCK 19 in an appendix carry holster and it is jabbing them in the thigh (or worse) when they try to sit.

A by-product of the Peg-Leg is the awkward holster shift sit-down maneuver. You’ll know it when you see it, and it is awkward because the shifting happens to center on the crotch. And there’s a gun there. And you wonder why so many people are against appendix carry.

It is hard to balance out all of your gear when you are carrying a gun.

It is hard to balance out all of your gear when you are carrying a gun.

4. Weak-hand gear

This is an advanced skill, and one you might want to work on with prolonged character studies. Look at your friends, for example. People are creatures of habit. If you know someone is right handed, but they’re carrying their knife clipped into their left hand pocket, odds are there’s something more important on the right side. Something they need to get to more quickly.

I’m guilty of this one. Gear gets heavy. I carry a light, a knife, a wallet, a phone, keys, a gun, and a spare mag. I have to balance the load. I’m also useless with my left hand. So I keep a tool for personal defense close on that right side. When I can’t carry a gun, I typically have my knife there. In the summer, when I tend to carry a small .380 in my pocket, I shift everything around. It would be awkward if anyone paid close attention.

5. Body language

And now for the most advanced. So many of us have who practice situational awareness have our alarms tripped by something much more subtle than seeing the outline of a gun. Body language is something I only learned to read after I started to carry. I was overly conscious of people getting too close to my gun. I avoided close personal contact–and shrank from hugs. I often turned slightly sideways to keep the gun hidden behind me (if I was carrying on my right hip).

But there are other tells. Some people who carry can’t stop touching the gun. It will be a subtle hand movement, or an odd brush of the arm. I associate this behavior with those who haven’t habituated to concealed carry.


In the end, I’d say this: Get a good holster. Carry in the same place as much as possible. Be as aware of your own tells as you are of others. After all, the last thing you want to do is become a target simply because you are concerned about becoming a victim.

My choice for those hot summer days. The bad part is that it makes me look like I'm carrying two phones.

The Kel-Tec P3AT in a Recluse pocket holster–my choice for those hot summer days. The bad part is that it makes me look like I’m carrying two phones.

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  • Jason December 22, 2018, 3:00 pm

    I always carry a knife on my weak side…ALWAYS! This is a carryover from 23 years on the beat. I always had a weapon available to me while protecting my strong side weapon if need be. Carrying an alternate weapon on your weak side is not a bad idea with open carry or concealed. Just saying is all.

  • Tom June 10, 2018, 7:36 pm

    We have concealed and open carry. It is almost better, that others can see what is there frankly, and believe me they are carrying too. Because I drive a lot for business, my holster is a old fashion leather ‘tanker’ system. The grip sticks out sometimes as I sit, but it mostly fits under my rib cage otherwise and can be covered with a vest. The bandolier is hard wide leather second belt (can carry a few pounds of 44mag thug or bear ‘repellent’) and it acts almost like a back brace. It is real comfortable, doesn’t making you limp, but oh it might make you look fatter you know.

  • Damon November 23, 2017, 7:06 pm

    While you can call it personal preference, I prefer to go with common sense… At the end of the article you stress the importance of a good holster and then go to show an example of a holster (your summer carry solution) without a trigger guard.

    • Gary Fowler November 24, 2017, 10:58 am

      If you ever shot a Keltec, you will know that a trigger guard is not necessary for the 12+ pound trigger pull. I had one (traded it) and my neighbor who is a very strong woman couldn’t even pull the trigger on it.

  • Todd March 14, 2017, 3:16 pm

    In my experience the average person is so oblivious you could walk around with a parrot on your shoulder and nobody would notice. The people who look for guns are the ones carrying them whether it’s a good guy or bad guy. The biggest give away to me for a good guy is to much advertising in their clothing, whether is is the 5.11 pants, vest, etc some guys dress daily like they are in an idpa match. The bag guys give it away by to much touching, since they rarely carry with a solid setup the weapon is constantly shifting and needs to be resecured.

  • Brian January 20, 2017, 9:19 am

    Barf most of you clowns have no clue what’s up. Jesus most of sound like you are itching to get in a gun fight with somebody.

    I bet 500 bucks I’m the only guy on this board that has ever had to actually shoot someone in self defense.

    It’s nothing like all your stupid what if scenarios, and all your equipment prep????? God I gotta laugh.

    • H December 14, 2017, 4:55 pm

      We are ALL in awe of you and your claim to having shot somebody.
      You must be SO PROUD!!
      You sound PROUD, while others aren’t so FULL of ourselves we are compelled to brag about such exploits.
      But, “God I gotta laugh.” Is the BEST part of your “stupid” comments.
      YOU fit that description, so take your Juvenile bragging and go away. Your C.O.D. is showing, Junior.

      • Rodney December 19, 2017, 1:55 pm

        The person he shot was likely himself. The guy is a turd in a punch bowl.

  • Hello,
    Enjoyed each article and I have read several.
    I have carried since 96 when I first received my CCW Permit. I have carried everything except a 25cal.
    My present carry is a Sig Sauer, 357 Sig 125 grain Speer H.P. Item No. 4360. As I left handed I cross draw from the inside of the right side of my belt.
    I also carry a Model 60 in my left pants pocket with a piece of oxygen tubing sloped up over the hammer with 5/8″ left to extend back from the end of the hammer. When you quick draw the tubing allows you to draw as if you had no hammer.


  • Scott Kinison June 21, 2016, 1:55 pm

    I carry a Sign P250 sub compact in a sneaky Pete holster. Very comfortable and doesn’t show much and if does it looks like case for a phone or electronic device.

    • Russ September 4, 2016, 11:36 pm

      I also have a Sig P250 in .40 cal. Excellent pistol. I use an Outbags holster that can be used inside the waistband or outside on a belt, very comfortable.

  • Jeff April 11, 2016, 9:49 am

    There’s a silver lining to being an old guy with a somewhat arthritic right hand. I can’t really handle much recoil. I carry every day all day and at home, but even my wife and kids don’t know. Why? Given the arthritis, I have to carry small calibers. My favorite is my Beretta 3032 Tomcat. I carry it in my right pocket in one of my five sets of Cabela’s Trailhiker II pants with a DeSantis pocket holster. It’s absolutely invisible, and I can actually put all the rounds into 3″ at seven yards with either hand, rapid fire. Yes, I shoot it once a week, whenever I go to the range! If I think there might be trouble, i.e., when going to the rougher neighborhoods around, I do the same but with my ultra-dependable Bersa .380. I’ve never had a jam or misfire with either pistol, no matter what ammo I use. Used to have the tiny S&W revolver, but it banged the heck out of my knuckles and thus discouraged shooting it often–never a good trait in a piece on which you might have to stake your life. Beware the old grey panthers 🙂 Especially those who practice alot!

    • Todd Gregory April 11, 2016, 11:16 am

      I too have noticed since getting my Beretta .22 that I practice a whole lot more. Between the cost of 9mm and the snap, even with an all metal 5″ gun, I have shot the hell out of the 71. I’m not bad with the 92 but with all the practice and the zero recoil of the .22, I’m so much better with the 71. It hides better and I’m a better shot. I’m more comfortable carrying a mouse gun. Especially a Beretta.

  • Todd Gregory April 11, 2016, 9:39 am

    I’ve been carrying for about a year in the socialist republic of Illinois. The first summer was just getting used to the idea. I’ve been shooting for decades but actually walking around with a loaded weapon on your hip is a different animal. Anyway, all winter I got used to carrying a Beretta 92 iwb on my right hip. It tends to cant forward and for Christmas I got an NRA shearling iwb. Now that spring is here I find that it isn’t quite so comfy picking up the kids from school with a full-size, double stack, duty side arm tucked under a T-shirt. So, I picked up a Beretta 71 pocket pistol in .22. It fits anywhere and everywhere in either an iwb or a sticky. It goes everywhere with me. The single stack .22 you have with you is better than the .4(fill in the blank) or hi cap 9mm locked up at home.
    I also have to agree wholeheartedly with the comment that you could have an AR or AK on a shoulder sling and most people would be too busy texting or surfing to notice. Also, most people aren’t gun people and would be shocked that anyone would bring a gun with them anywhere. But everyone has a tablet or 6″ smartphone in a holster on their strong side hip so they can tweet as quickly as possible. They don’t know the difference.

  • Jake January 4, 2016, 9:05 am

    I carry daily (except at work due to the type of work I do, my weapon would get excessively dirty daily.) I use a OWB for my full size M&P 40. And as long as I do wear a shirt that was shrunken by the laundry, I M good to go. When I dress up or need to be more concealed I ll use a alien gear IWB holster, both for my full size and M&P shield. Although that the only way I Cary my shield right now. But over the years I ve learned. Your holster system is nothing without a good thick leather gun belt, and not a Walmart special. I use a 511 tactical leather one right now and have alien gears new belt on order.

  • Veronica Marks December 8, 2015, 5:27 pm

    I feel like it’s becoming increasingly important to be able to spot someone who is concealed carrying. With the most recent mass shootings, it makes me want to be better at recognizing things like this. I really like the tip about overdressing for the weather. I agree that I’d be pretty worried about seeing someone shifty in a hoodie if it’s hot outside!

    • ewic holder February 22, 2016, 6:41 am

      Why? Mass shooters aren’t sitting there quietly, eating, with a gun hidden in their pocket. They come walking right into the “gun-free” zone with their gun(s) out and start shooting!

      • Tom February 22, 2016, 8:42 am

        Tell that to the folks who went to church in Charleston, SC and sat there with Dylan Roof.

        • Jessie July 8, 2017, 1:03 pm

          This is exactly why I as a deacon especially carry at church after all Jesus did say “sell your cloak and buy a sword ” Sword = gun in the modern day

      • Stargzer February 24, 2016, 12:44 pm

        Tell that to the Howard County, Maryland, deputy shot in the head at a Panera Bread restaurant recently. He asked the guy at a nearby table, “How’s your day?” The guy was a fugitive from Florida who shortly pulled out his gun and shot the deputy in the head, then killed another one outside. He finally got his.

  • Granddaddy October 21, 2015, 1:41 pm

    I conceal, but do not usually care if someone notices- concealed carry is legal here in AZ with or without a permit.I conceal big guns, little guns, medium sized guns, and often 2 or 3 guns. If anybody ever noticed, they never said so. One of my favorite anecdotes comes from when I was working a tourist shop in Sedona one very cool night, and a guy came in looking to buy a hoodie. We were alone in the store, and he asks me if he can try it on. Sure. So he starts to pull off the sweatshirt he was wearing and then stops and says, “Ooh – I forgot – hey, I just need to tell you I’m packin’ but it’s OK! ‘Cuz I’m a FED!” and he holds up his badge for me to see. I said, with a big smile, “That’s OK, pardner, I’m packing too!” and showed him my little Walther. “You’re in Arizona. EVERYBODY is packing. I don’t get nervous ’til the guns start coming out!” His eyes got wide and we got to talking and I found out he had been on the border “observing” for 3 weeks – said he had never arrested so many people in such a short time. I told him I was glad he got to see that firsthand, and to tell his buddies in Maryland, where he was from, what was what. Talking guns, he did mention he likes his Glock, and polymer because he does a lot of work oceanside, and they stand up to salt air better. Being a Chicago area native before I moved to the desert, I’d never encountered that issue- thought it was interesting-maybe useful to someone out here.

  • Batman October 10, 2015, 10:37 am

    Sheepeople with their heads buried in their smart phones everywhere you texting, tweeting you tubing you could walk around with a AK47 under your shirt and 99% wouldn’t even fuc*in notice!

    • Mikial February 22, 2016, 5:37 pm

      Sadly, you’re correct, to an extent at least. It seems they either go into a meltdown because they saw *horrified gasp* a gun, or they are completely clueless. Open carry is completely legal where i live, so it isn’t all that unusual to see some guy in Wal Mart or riding a motorcycle or in the tat parlor openly carrying. Consequently, people here don;t seem to react as much as they might in some places.

  • Wilson October 8, 2015, 7:22 am

    I carry a S&W BG 380 in a DeSantis super fly in my rear pocket all the time, where ever. Completly concealable, summer or winter. The super fly stays in your pocket when you draw. Have tried several forms of carry. This works for me.

    • Becker April 11, 2016, 10:25 am

      I too carry a S&W BG .380
      It’s a great gun for small women like myself. It’s lightweight and very easy to conceal. For a long time I carried in my pocket without a holster because it’s small enough to conceal by carrying in your pocket. And when I first purchased it I tealized that it was harder to conceal with a holster. I recently decided to buy a holster for it and now I feel like EVERYONE can see that I’m carrying.

  • James Walsh October 7, 2015, 7:04 pm

    I worked plain clothes law enforcement for twenty years- ten years were in Los Angeles. In the winter (or what passes for winter there, you could wear a light jacket and cover anything. In the summer I wore a colored tee shirt and a loose unbuttoned shirt over it. Not perfect because when its approaching 90 degrees outside, some will wonder, but only one guard in a Federal Building asked me about it, after seven years of walking past him.

  • joe October 7, 2015, 10:05 am

    One suggestion I have is to worry a bit less about printing. If you’re legal, keep in mind almost nobody out there is looking at your waist and the shape you might intermittently print is probably not obvious as a gun to the average non-gun person. Further, a gun person suspecting you might be carrying is still unlikely to know with any certainty that it’s not an iPhone 9 unless your shirt comes up.

  • Duncan October 6, 2015, 3:19 pm

    I carry a Ruger SR9c with a Crimson Trace laser in a Uncle Mikes inside the waist holster (size 16 if anyone is interested). I’ve been carrying for 2+yrs. If I am outside, I’m carrying. In the summertime, I wear slightly oversized T-shirts. For the people that I know, that do not know I carry, they have no idea that I carry. Once I tell them I carry, they say that they can tell the I’m carrying. The only time I have had anyone notice is when I walk into gun shops (the workers notice sometimes)..

  • Robert October 5, 2015, 10:55 pm

    I carry an EMP 40 with 2 choices depending on the situation. I have a handmade leather shoulder rig which carries horizontal on the left, my weak side, Cross draw. The second choice is a riding vest. The left pocket carries, again, cross draw. The Springfield magazine carrier is curved just right to lay flat in the pocket on the right. No high speed mag changes in either case

  • Bob Novak October 5, 2015, 9:25 pm

    I carry a CZ-82 everyday, I carry from the time I wake up until I go to bed. I use a custom made Sticky holster IWB. I work in a kitchen wearing a tank top, T-shirt and shorts. I use to worry about printing with the apron tied around my waist, but after experimenting with different ties, I found one that works. Experiment, find what works for you, and is comfortable enough that your not checking your concealment every few seconds.

  • alcycle October 5, 2015, 8:29 pm

    I carry with a ISWB leather holster & a full size MP 9mm, but when I really want to look ‘natural’…I carry my SW 642 in my pocket, using a DeSantis pocket holster…..this is almost invisible & really easy to get out!! When in summertime Florida & wearing a T-shirt & shorts I carry a 22cal Bobcat in a small DeSantis……in my pocket or back pack….NO ONE will spot this!!!!!

  • Tony P. October 5, 2015, 3:53 pm

    This is very subjective issue. I am an extra-large man 6′ tall, & 260 lbs. I can carry almost anything I want and easily conceal it, even though I live in the land of “Endless Summer”, which it isn’t always either. But this maybe a help to someone out there. I’ve found that a mid-sized semi-auto (Glock G19) in a tuck-able type holster (T IWB to be more than adequate for concealment & rapid engagement. I use a tuck-able holster which has slots for a belt, so that it can be worn as OWB pancake type holster as well. This to me is the most comfortable why to carry, but it requires discretion in your clothing choices: dress for success, is the rule of the day. This particular holster works better for me with a Velcro ballistic belt right over my under-garments under my dress clothes. Its tucked in, but not weighing down my pants, but I use this set-up only when I dress-up. Ordinarily, I just wear an appropriately sized classy & loosely-fitted shirt not tucked into my pants. Sometimes its better just to carry a pocket .380 Auto, or .22 WMR. Where I live now, we don’t have such an annal state/local government that bulk, & bulges are an immediate cause for search & seizure, thank God. Try this, after you’ve dress, and have concealed your EDC weapon, take a close look at yourself in a full length mirror; turn from side to side, and even try to raise your arms, and bend over to touch your toes. and try to see what those around you might be seeing. Just use common sense, be calm & CARRY ON!

  • RAM6 October 5, 2015, 2:02 pm

    I have the permit, but don’t carry every day, particularly in the summer when I can’t effectively conceal the weapon. In the Winter it’s easy. I carry in a holster inside my belt line to the right of my spine. Any coat I wear covers it even bending over, which I studiosly avoid anyway and squat down when a bend over would be the norm. My firearm is not large it’s a 9MM Taurus G2 so size is not the issue. Suggestions for the summer would be welcome as whenever I leave without I feel that somehow I might regret not having it.

    • SL001 December 7, 2015, 6:35 am

      Hi, Im from South-Africa and we hardly get any really really cold weather. I have a Taurus PT809E and I use the Comptac M-Tac Minotoar IWB holster to carry. I used it with shorts, jeans and cargo pants. I use it to work, social events/places and so far had no issues with printing/showing of FA. It really is a comfortable holster that I use to carry anywhere and everywhere.

    • michael anderson July 17, 2018, 4:08 pm

      Try out a DeSantis Nemisis. I carry my S&W J frame in my front pocket of my jeans in the summer. Ordinarily, when I have a coat or outside shirt in the winter, then I use an OWB. The DeSantis Nemesis is one of the top five CCW holsters for summer time.

  • Lou Fisher October 5, 2015, 11:53 am

    I heard a report of the college shooting that a student had a carry permit and was armed, but in another building. He wanted to respond and was told to stand down, stay with others in a classroom and get under a desk

    • Pvt.Joker December 7, 2015, 12:42 pm

      The problem I have with that story is this:
      Who tells a guy with a gun what to do?

      • Richard Dillon October 27, 2016, 8:04 pm

        Right ?

    • robert powell August 6, 2016, 1:06 am

      The shooting was here in Oregon at the UCC campus. My friend “John” was the concealed carry person.He was about 100 yards from the building the shooter was in.He was told by his teacher told him to stand down.He was going to go anyway but heard the police sirens.He stayed where he was because he did not want the police to think he was the gunman.

  • Neil Morrison October 5, 2015, 7:47 am

    I carry a XMD 9mm 18+1, when I get up in the morning, I put it on, and at night, when I go to bed, I take it off. The few times, when I do not carry.(court, Fed Blds). Then I feel naked.

  • Dr. Strangelove October 5, 2015, 6:17 am

    “Peg leg” is not always a tell. My hip replacement does that on some days, too.

    • Fresnel November 6, 2015, 12:17 am

      Nothing’s a for-sure unless you actually see a gun, though. That print on the beltline could just as easily be a phone holster, an insulin pump, or a colostomy bag.

  • Bill Gustus October 5, 2015, 5:48 am

    As for the inside waistband appendix carry. I have been carrying either a H&K USP Compact 9 or a Sig P-229 in a Garrity’s Gun Leather In-Victus holster daily for the last 2 years. The holster is very comfortable and very difficult to spot by most people. It is very fast to draw from and is always where your hand can get to it. You can get more info on them at http://www.garritysgunleather.com

    Garrity’s Gunleather is proud to announce the new In-Victus AIWB holster; the first leather IWB holster dedicated to appendix carry. Over a year in research and development, this holster was created through the consultation and design input of several dedicated shooters (from different backgrounds and professions, and different physiques; including local and federal law enforcement and trainers), all of whom carry daily and who had devoted themselves to appendix carry but had yet to find the perfect carry set-up. Noted firearms trainer Todd Louis Green was the impetus behind this design. (Even if you are not considering appendix carry, you owe it to yourself to check out his web-site http://www.pistol-training.com, for a wealth of information including various range drills, pistol endurance tests, and printable targets). Six prototypes for as many different pistols were tried, each tweaked based on the recommendations of the experienced team of testers; until this final version was achieved. From the beginning, the goal was to fly-in-the-face of conventional theory regarding AIWB carry (that it could only work with compact firearms and an athletic build), and create a holster that would conceal any size firearm on any body type. No easy feat, but through the use of several unique features, some of which have never been used in holster construction before, and all working in conjunction to enhance concealment; we believe it has been accomplished. (A tip of the hat to local tester Dr. Kurt von Rice, for suggesting the particular design feature that works to tuck in the butt of the pistol). AIWB offers several advantages over other more conventional carry methods in terms of speed of presentation, drawing while seated (especially in a vehicle), firearms retention, and the pistol being accidentally bumped in a crowd, or intentionally found in a “bump frisk”. This is also an excellent woman’s holster, and this mode of carry is a great alternative for females, as with this position hip-size/shape and a shorter torso are not issues. I know several local female officers who carry this way off-duty. The price reflects the extensive R&D and T&E that went into the numerous prototypes, the labor-intensiveness of the design, and that fact that each holster will be individually hand-crafted for the particular end-user. Based upon the experiences learned in building the prototypes, the unique features that make this design work in terms of tucking in the butt and top of the slide will be individually custom made based on that customer’s build and make and model of pistol. (Therefore two holsters both made for Glock 19s as an example may not have the identical characteristics if the customers are of different body types).

    Left to right: Sewn-On, Allen Screw Attached & One-Way Snap

  • biff wilcox September 30, 2015, 9:32 pm

    Why weren’t you carrying?

    • Dave Higginbotham September 30, 2015, 10:25 pm

      I knew someone would ask. I was headed to the range for a class, and I’d packed up everything that morning at the hotel, including my carry gun (without thinking) and then said–“what the hell. I’m only going to breakfast, and then to the range–I can skip it for half an hour”

      • TamJo October 2, 2015, 3:05 am

        That half hour could have been the one time you needed it. I hope you admonished yourself.

      • Ken Myers October 6, 2015, 11:44 am

        I found myself in that predicament one day, except for ‘Betsy’ the derringer, like you nothing happened thank goodness. I did spend quite a bit of time saying to myself Lt. Col. (Ret.) Dave Grossman’s line “Take a deep breath and say ‘baa’…” I did feel almost naked.

      • Tom May 14, 2018, 9:18 am

        …“what the hell. I’m only going to breakfast, and then to the range–I can skip it for half an hour”

        Famous last words.

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