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how to tell when someone is armed

Detecting If Someone Is Armed

Situational awareness is part of the defensive mindset, and one thing to be aware of in any environment is if someone is armed. Therefore, it behooves a person to learn how to tell if someone is armed, as being aware is getting one step ahead of being unaware.

Granted, you can't detect intentions, as an armed person may simply be just another law-abiding concealed carrier like yourself. They also might not be. However, here are some tips, tricks and things to look for.

Behaviors That Indicate A Concealed Handgun

ccw handgun

People carrying a concealed handgun tend to exhibit certain behaviors. These behaviors are common among people who are engaged in lawful concealed carry and unlawful carry; you will never be able to discern intent or lawful carry by any of the telltale signs that a person is carrying a gun.

Here are a few of the signs to watch for:

Shortened gait on strong side. One of the telltale signs is a slightly truncated gait on one side of the body. Most likely it will be on the right side; more than 90 percent of the population is, after all, right-handed. Carrying a firearm on the strong side, especially in a holster on the waistband, may cause a person to shorten their stride, both consciously and unconsciously due to the presence of something on or about their leg that normally wouldn't be there.

They make a "security feel" check. If a person seems to be touching a particular area often, and again it will often be on the right side on or about the hip, there's a good chance that's a "security check" or possibly a spot adjustment. It's especially common among newer carriers and people who aren't carrying with a sufficiently strong gun belt.

Turning the strong side away from approaching people. If you notice a person that tends to turn their strong side away from people as they approach, that's a likely indicator they're concealing something. For instance, it's common for people carrying to only give "side hugs" with their weak side.

Resting hand on the gun. If a person is resting a hand in an odd location, it's a good indicator that that person is armed.

Concealed Carry Clothing Indicators

ccw clothing

There are also some obvious concealed carry clothing signs, or in other words aspects of a person's clothing that can indicate that they're carrying a concealed firearm. This can be how they dress, or how their clothing appears.

  • Bulges in natural places for concealed pistols. The most natural concealed carry positions are on the strong side hip, between the 1:30 and 5:30 positions and with or without a holster. Look for obvious bulges, which would be caused by something larger than the mere contours of the body or how the clothing lays on the body. Bulges through outerwear or even less mistakable.
  • Style or size of clothing doesn't match other clothing. Notice a sweater or jacket that's oversized or doesn't necessarily fit with what a person is wearing? It could be concealing a gun. Often enough, people will have a favored garment that reliably conceals to their satisfaction; however, it may only match with certain outfits. A clearly oversized shirt, sweater or jacket is also a telltale sign. Someone's wearing a trench coat on Memorial Day? They're probably concealing something.
  • Open jackets in cold weather, closed garments in hot weather. If a person is walking around with an open jacket, whilst inclement winter weather indicates doing so is a likely sign of mental illness...good chance they're carrying. If a person is wearing a fall jacket in July...they carrying. Or they need to get to a doctor.

Other Indicators of an Armed Person

indicators of an armed person

There are some other indicators of an armed person to be aware of. For instance, if you see Glock and NRA bumper stickers, tactical pants and boots and a "Second Amendment" T-shirt on a person who works in an office...good chance they're carrying.

Another good indicator is a stiff strong-side arm. If one arm is clearly rigid and carried stiffly, that's a common signal of a concealed gun as well.

While these are some of the most reliable indicators of whether a person is armed, there is something that you can't discern from any of these signs: the intent of the person carrying. That's impossible to know. They could be merely another concerned citizen, lawfully carrying a firearm for the purposes of self-defense. They could be an undercover or plainclothes policeman. They could be a maniac.

Once someone figures out how to read minds...we'll get right on teaching people how to do that.

Sam Hoober

About The Author

Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.