Blend or Bleed: Will You Make the Right Choice?

By Ryan Domke
Posted in #Survival
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Blend or Bleed: Will You Make the Right Choice?

November 24th, 2022

5 minute read

When I was growing up, I was encouraged to not worry about “fitting in”. While I agree with that sentiment to this day, I now realize that there is most definitely a time and place to do just the opposite. Standing out in the wrong place or at the wrong time can put a target on your back, which is why having the ability to be a “gray man” can literally save your life.

gray man
Are you ready to defend yourself? Or, is the entire situation avoidable in the first place?

What is a “gray man”, you may ask? The gray man has an exceptional talent that will likely never be noticed, which is by design. He blends in with the crowd, doesn’t draw attention to himself, and avoids confrontation.

Some believe that the gray man concept only needs to be applied in SHTF scenarios, but I would disagree. Even in day-to-day life, it can help by reducing your chances of being targeted by a criminal or being confronted by the drunk on the sidewalk as you walk to your car from dinner. Flying under the radar is not a bad thing in many cases.

How it Works

Believe it or not, there’s a scientific explanation behind why blending in is so beneficial. There is a part of our brain, called the Reticular Activating System (RAS), that processes stimuli and responds to whatever details happen to stand out. Think of it as a filter of sorts, only making you notice things that seem out of place, or things that might be perceived as threats. Anything from bright colors, loud noises erratic movements and more, can trigger it to take notice.

being a gray man
Keep your gear hidden by utilizing an inside-the-waistband holster for your firearm and a deep-carry pocket clip on your knife.

Your attire plays an obvious role in mitigating or attracting immediate attention, but there is so much more to take into account. From your vehicle, to your home and even how you carry yourself, they all need to follow this principle if you want to avoid becoming the focus of a threat.

Your Attire

Your attire includes your clothing and your EDC gear. It’s one of the first things people notice. I’ve heard many people say it’s as simple as wearing low-key colors such as gray and black. That’s true in some cases, but I believe it’s more about matching the environment you’re going to be in.

gray man carry
While avoiding eye contact is preferred, at the same time, you don’t want to come off as shady and aggressive, or the opposite, scared.

If you’re invited to a 70’s-themed costume party, showing up in all gray and black will actually make you stand out. If you’re going to be in the woods, camo would make sense, but not if you’re walking through the mall. If it’s 90 degrees out, long pants and a hoodie aren’t going to be your best bet. In short, it’s less about the colors of your clothing, more so about the style of them.

I think it’s safe to assume that if you’re reading this article, you likely carry some sort of gear on a daily basis. Whether that be a firearm, knife or flashlight, keeping them hidden and discreet is always a good idea.

Don’t advertise if and what you’re carrying. Have you ever seen someone open-carrying at the grocery store? If you have, everyone else probably noticed as well and was likely staring. It’s not something you see often, so it stands out. It can also make you a target for confrontation.

Your Car and Your Home

Many of us are proud of the guns and gear we own, and also the beliefs we have. However, using your vehicle as an advertisement for them by putting stickers all over it will not only draw attention, but let people know what you may have inside.

gray man truck
Making sure you don’t have any “loud” decals or stickers on your vehicle will help you blend in with traffic and not draw extra attention from thieves.

A large “I love my AR-15” decal paired with an NRA sticker can put a target on your vehicle. SHTF scenario or not, people may want to steal your guns and will assume they are in the vehicle.

The same goes for your home. Let’s think about something as simple as a flag. Flying an American flag out front is common, and you probably don’t even notice them half the time. But, flying a bright yellow “don’t tread on me” flag or a black Punisher skull flag will definitely grab people’s attention, and also scream “I have guns in the house”.

The less you advertise, the better.

Your Demeanor

One of the least touched-on aspects of being a gray man is how one carries themselves. From an external perspective, you want to avoid eye contact, match the movement of others around you, and avoid giving off an overly confident, aggressive or even scared vibe. Just like with your attire, you want to mimic your surroundings as much as possible.

what gun does a gray man carry
Heading out to run errands with the 5” Prodigy in an outside-the-waistband holster doesn’t fit the gray man idea. A Hellcat in an IWB-style holster is a better choice.

Internally, you want to be sure to observe everything and everyone. Essentially, it’s practicing situational awareness, which you should be already doing all the time anyways. What you’ll start to notice is others not behaving like you will stand out quickly. Then after a while, those that are like you will also be noticeable, but that will take time and lots of people watching.

Spot Others Like You

It can be beneficial to be able to spot other gray men for a couple of reasons. By paying attention to spotting them, it can help you adjust your own techniques moving forward.

gray man plate carrier
The color of clothing is not the only factor to consider, but also if the clothing fits the area. The author demonstrates that dull colors on a plate carrier would still be a bad move.

Since they likely share a similar mindset and are likely prepared like you are, you can try to remember who they are in case there is a time you need an additional resource. Even though you should never rely on anybody else, it can be good to be aware of them.

Final Thoughts

You truly never can know, if or when sh*t will hit the fan. Being prepared is not the same as being paranoid. If you become a gray man, it does not mean you are some paranoid person who is scared of everything. It means that you take your safety and well-being seriously. There isn’t much you can control in regards to others’ actions, but you can prepare yourself for how to avoid certain scenarios or react to them. Remember, it’s never too late to start adopting the concept and skills of being a gray man!

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Ryan Domke

Ryan Domke

A freelance writer, photographer and social media consultant, Ryan Domke is a shooter with a passion for both guns and tactical gear. He has a commitment to learning as much as he can about firearms and sharing that knowledge with the firearms community.

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