How To Tell If Someone Is Armed – Carrying A Gun


When observing ‘a subject’ for the purpose of trying to determine whether or not that person is possibly armed, what is the first crucial trait that you should try to determine about that individual?

Here’s the answer, as well as the things to look for – how to know (suspect) that someone is carrying a gun:


Note: The following information is excerpted in part from the document, “U.S. Secret Service Training Guide: Characteristics of the Armed Individual” sourced from, for your interest…

(formatting and emphasis added)

…by looking for possible indicators such as Wristwatches, Writing, Smoking, Lighting Cigarettes, Holding/Moving Objects, etc. to help determine a favored side.

With that said, 88% of the people in the U.S. are right handed and the majority of those right-handed people who carry handguns illegally carry them in the right front waist band, loose!. WHY? Because they see it in the movies and it’s the “cool” thing to do…

An individual who carries a gun on their person will periodically touch that gun both consciously and unconsciously.

This is called a Security Feel.

• Touching
• Feeling
• Adjustments
• Stiffer Arm

Watch for conscious and unconscious body movements which may reveal that someone is carrying a gun.

Here’s a list of potential reasons and clues for indicative body movements and/or ‘security feels’ of the gun, and adjustments made by those who may be carrying a gun (especially those who carry as described above).

Check for:

• Cause for slippage of weapon and the conditions that may cause it
• Stiffer arm on gun side
• Holding
• Bending
• Macho feeling
• Running (from crime, rain, traffic, bus, subways, cab, etc.)
• Leaning
• Sitting
• Reaching
• Crouching
• Turning from view for adjustment
• Pulling pants up, down
• Pulling clothing down
• Shorter arm and leg swing on gun side
• Protective turning of armed side
• Arm over center of body, etc.
• Turn and hold in crowds
• Looking down at gun
• Arm or part of arm holding snug
• Security hold with elbow on gun
• Getting in/out of vehicles

While walking or running (especially in the rain), you will notice a short or stiff arm swing and short leg stride.

Look for features that stand out, attract your attention, and arouse your suspicion.

• Clothing: Does the clothing fit the season?
• Does the clothing match?
• Is the clothing loose, or baggy?
• In cold weather, is the individuals coat unzipped or unbuttoned?
• Look for the individual wearing only one glove.
• When concealed in a jacket pocket, hood, or bag, gravity pulls that weight down – Firearms have WEIGHT
• Look for uneven dip in clothing or bags.
• Tailored in/worn out, etc.- build of subject
• Does shoes/boots match clothing (conditions)
• Does work outfits match conditions
• Pants, belts (no belt loops, but is wearing belt)
• Ponchos (wide arms, etc)
• Chains, straps, hats, etc.
• Socks (use elastic as ankle holster)
• Pockets
• Hoods and drawstrings
• Color combinations
• Gloves (one hand gloved, the other in their pocket)
• Outer garments (Are jacket, pants, shoes coordinated for dress/work/leisure?) BULGES and certain body movements observed to discover the smallest/best concealed unholstered weapons.

(this info is via Secret Service, so unconventional means are listed as well)

• Waistband (Front side, crook of back, etc.)
• Pants (Pockets, cuffs, etc.)
• Pockets (Pants, jackets, coats, etc.)
• Hats (Including hoods of sweatshirts, jackets, etc.)
• Underwear (Protective cups, etc.)
• Shoes and boots
• Bags (Hand, backpacks, pouches, shoulder)
• Radios, cameras, video recorders (all sizes)
• Grocery bags, boxes, shopping bags, etc.
• Hollow books, newspapers, cigarette packs & boxes
• Holsters (Bought, made, stolen-All types)

What about your experiences? Have you ever noticed or suspected that someone else was carrying a gun? What were the signs? Any additional ‘tell-tale’ signs?


  1. I have been carrying for many years. All of the indicators mentioned above are for real. I have observed these indicators both in others and myself. Over the years I have made a very conscious effort to train myself not to exhibit these indicators and it is very difficult to over come these indicators.

    I have wondered before if other people ever thought about this. Good article.
    Have a good day to all.

  2. Good Morning Ken, Thanks for this instructional article. I live in a world
    where guns are not carried. A few may have them at home but the general country club set carries golf clubs not weapons. So this is something I should become more aware of because the SHTF might happen in my life time.

    BTW, I’m reading One Second After as several people on this BLOG have mentioned it. I’m at the point were the town is starting to function under martial law. I’ve heard about martial law but have no idea what it is all about. Because this situation (meaning martial law) will probably happen when the SHTF. I think we should all learn more about it. Would you be willing to do a BLOG topic on it? Like could the martial law authorities take our food supplies or our property and say they have the right under martial law. Sorry to be off topic but it is on my mind.

    1. Not only can those in power confiscate your food they feel you are hoarding, your weapons and ammunition, they can also detain and punish with very little evidence or legal proceedings. They can also harbor soldiers with you under your roof.
      Basically, the Bill of Rights ceases to exist under martial law.

  3. Silly me.. I decided to do a search on past BLOGs and discovered you have
    done this topic. I will go read them.

      1. Just read your article and the replies. It is scary what rights the government can take away from us by declaring martial law. Good comment from one of the peanut gallery members that congress has 90 days to repeal a presidential declared martial law. Nice checks and balance addition by our forefathers. I just hope it is enough should the president ever declare martial law.

  4. • Look for the individual wearing only one glove.

    Michael Jackson carried a gun?

  5. If you carry a gun in my area you look normal most people do. I carry most of the time. Some people in my area open carry. I think some people think its cool to let people know that you are armed and lose the surprise advantage. I try to look like any other old guy and no one pays me any attention.

    1. @ hogdog
      Personally I like it when others carry “open” that makes them target #1 for the Bad-Guys. If they want to be mucho and stupid, I say go for it. It seems that “carry” is becoming a really stupid fad for those that don’t really know the world.

    2. I also feel that concealed carry is safer for you, but wonder if people who openly carry discourage the bad guy from starting trouble in the first place.

      (Okay, that guy is carrying so I have to take him out. I wonder who else is carrying ? That guy looks like he might so he’s target two. Oh – THAT guy. He definitely looks like he’s carrying ! You know – maybe this isn’t the time and place to do this …)

      Remember the Western movies bar scenes where the guy sitting on a high chair in the corner with a shotgun kept the peace ? Sort of that thought.

  6. I admit I have not been very successful at picking out people who carry. I never would have thought carrying can affect the way one walks. Thanks for the list Ken. This will help as I try once again to pick out those that carry.

    1. For most who regularly carry (the typical law-abiding citizen), it is often difficult or impossible to tell since they have adjusted and adapted to it, however for those who are of the other element (the criminal variety for example) – they often carry ‘stupidly’ – and will be easier to identify in general. Either way, there are ‘tells’…

  7. I found out someone was carrying on accident once–I was dancing with him and my hand hit his gun. I would never have guessed. But that’s another big one–if you’re in a social situation, there will be contact at some point. Are you comfortable with these people knowing you carry?

  8. The next time you see Putin on TV, watch his gate/arm-swing as he walks( focus on his right arm). Classic example.

  9. If you’re carrying concealed and someone notices it, in Florida, according to the law, it’s called ‘Reckless Display’, and you can be arrested and charged. Even if you have a Concealed License (Permit).
    That’s why an ‘Open Carry’ law would solve this. Many Floridians with Concealed Permits do not carry in public for this very reason.

  10. I carry always.

    I watch people in every situation and location, and try to identify those that are carrying.

    There are “tells’ that you can lean to recognize, as listed above.

  11. Still better to have it and not need it, etc…especially these days. Blessings.

  12. Two words; ankle, holster.

    They even have pouches for the opposite leg for extra mags and the extra weight will help even out weight distribution and prevent your gait from looking odd. Also, it’s much harder to have an accidental display as compared to a belt or shoulder holster. With practice they’re quite easy to get to when you need to, even while sitting in a car. The ones with calf bands help distribute the weight and keep your firearm tighter against the leg too. Of course, this obviously rules out the wearing of “skinny jeans”. :)

  13. have carried on an off since I got ccl, but last year started carrying regularly, switched to carrying a Ruger LC9s only 7+1, do not know it is there most of the time.

  14. I have noticed some of these tells as well and am (still) practicing not to show them myself. Also, I heard a long time ago that “a gun is like a parachute. If you need one and don’t have one, chances are you will never need one again.” Just something I think about and tell to my non-carrying friends.

  15. Ok, here is a stupidly true story for ya all to laugh at, a friend (ex-friend) that I knew carried and I were having lunch at some Podunk café. About 1/2 way through my Green Chili Sausage Burrito drinking a gulp of goooood tea his 45Colt falls onto the floor with the noise of a bus driving through the place. I swear I blew 2 cups of tea out my nose…. As I sat their looking at him like a dumb shit he did not even realize he had dropped it. I leaned over the side of the table, pointed at it laying there and asked if he was going to pick it up or shall I. Needless to say that was the LAST time we had lunch, I figure if he is that careless than he’s likely to get me shot because of his antics.

    What can I say, things can go wrong at times.

  16. I am an old man. well kind of old, 62.

    I was a military sniper and still would prefer a long distance confrontation. I don’t carry firearms on my person, but I do carry several types of knives.

    On a normal day I will have two to three fixed blade knives and one or two pocket knives.

    At 35 feet I can still draw and throw a knife very accurately at a target of my choosing.

    Knives weigh less and are generally easier to conceal, and even open carried knives draw far less attention than a fire arm. The average uninformed individual would perceive the person with a sidearm to be the first danger rather than a person with a fixed blade knife.

    Knives are quiet and in a preemptive situation knives do not break concealment if used properly.

    Handguns are ok, but only those who are experts should consider themselves safe to any degree.

    Remember, there are seven miles of nerves between pointing a “gun” and pulling the trigger.

    I have no doubt that in the right situation, 90% of the people would pull the trigger. Just don’t find yourself in the other 10%.
    Know that if that situation arises, you will not have to to consider your options. You will have only the time to react. Those who react have a chance of survival. Those who do not, have no chance.

    There are other was of telling of people carry a weapon.
    One less distinctive is this.
    People who are right handed tend when walking to travel in a slight right direction. Over a long distance people who are not aware, will walk in circles. Same goes for left handed people.

    In normal circumstances , (going for a walk together..etc ) this is usually unnoticeable. However if someone is armed on the right side, they tend to lead to the right a bit more. They may even walk slightly high stepping on the armed side. Especially if it is a leg or ankle rig.
    With an ankle rig, they may tend to dip the toe forward when they are walking. A natural compensation for the unnatural weight.

    You can test this theory by using ankle weights on yourself or a friend.

    Even a quarter pound weight should be plenty.. Now just forget about the weight and walk. If you constantly watch to see what you are doing, you have just added another tell.

    To become accustomed to wearing an ankle rig, use a weight as close to the weight of the weapon and the ankle rig as possible. Wear it all the time except when you are wearing the ankle right.

    Carrying a concealed weapon of any kind has to become second nature. Your awareness of it should exist only in your “subconscious” mind.

    I urge everyone that has not carried for a life time to realize something. If you feel secure just because you are carrying a weapon, you may die without ever knowing how insecure you were.

    Carrying, firing or throwing a weapon should be natural, done without thought or conscious effort.

    Every time I pull the trigger, it surprises even me. Not in a shocking way, but in a way that lets e know I didn’t make a conscious effort to do so.

    Sometimes, this is the simple difference in life and death.

    If someone comes to my house I do not know, I do not just go to the door. I go to another door and go all the way around the house. Instead of being faced by a stranger who could be friend or foe, I am now behind them and I know if they are alone or not.

    Sorry about the long rant, but this is the way we teach our community members. There are over sixty of us, many are former military.

    Those of us who have paranoia from our military experiences hold on to it dearly and share it with others.

    I told a VA doc once who said I needed to get rid of the paranoia.”Paranoia does not kill you. It may make me look in my rear view mirror more often, or take a longer route to get where I am going, it may make me get up and investigate a strange sound, but it has never caused me any harm. So thanks, I will keep mine, hell it is better than watch dog and I don’t even have to feed it.”

    1. @oldnaturallist
      Good info, thanks for the input
      One little thing tho. 62 is NOT old, hell I’m the same age and feel like a kid in a candy store….

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