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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.