Selco Explains How (and Why) to be the Gray Man
In our interviews with Selco, he has frequently mentioned the Gray Man principle. This is something that people in the preparedness community mention a lot, but many don’t fully understand it. In this week’s interview, Selco explains how – and why – we should embrace being the Gray Man, even before the SHTF. ~ Daisy
In your articles, you frequently mention being the Gray Man. What exactly does this mean?
It is a simple concept that comes to be very important when SHTF, and it is often completely opposite of how a lot of preppers are planning to look or act.
In the shortest definition, it is staying uninteresting or simply looking and acting like most of the people around you in a particular moment.
It can be used in a lot of situations when SHTF, during prolonged periods of time, or during short-term events.
How can you use the Gray Man concept for your home so it is less likely to be targeted?
It depends on the situation, but in case of a serious collapse in urban settings “home invasions” (especially in first period) happens based on opportunity and what can be achieved from that invasion.
In other words, yes, if your home is less protected then it is easier to get inside, but in terms of SHTF the more your home looks like a place with valuable things inside, the higher chances are for being attacked.
Remember it is a time without (at least without proper working) law and police force. That means there are no police coming to help after a few shots. There is only you and the attacker.
Having a home with visible cameras, expensive equipment, attack dogs, alarms and similar (especially in a neighborhood where that is not usual) clearly makes you different and gives attackers the idea that there are valuable things inside.
Having all that equipment in times when there is law and order makes sense because police and help are only a couple of minutes away.
When the SHTF in Bosnia, the first houses that were robbed were known rich guys’ houses. It didn’t matter that they were defended and had steel bars.
When 70-100 people (who are mostly armed and not disturbed by the police) start attacking a house with only a few people inside, there are no steel bars and no smart strategies.
Not if the attackers have a strong enough motivation to get inside.
Do not give that motivation to them.
I am not talking against alarms and dogs, but I am advocating a more “subtle” way of home defense, and more fluid, more Gray Man type.
Just making your home “gray” alone is a big topic, but here are a few suggestions:
This is the first step of home defense of the Gray Man principle. Using your weapon should be the last!
In one of the previous articles, there was a comment along the lines of “If I make my home look abandoned, then it is going to be targeted, so it is a wrong suggestion.”
The concept is to look like everything else around you. In a prolonged urban SHTF, there are going to be houses around yours that are going to be deserted, ruined, looted.
Sometimes it makes sense that your home looks like that too. Like if 50 people are coming through your neighborhood looking for useful things, it makes sense if your home and yard look on “first glance” looks like someone already looted it (like most of the houses on the street).
Sometimes the best defense is to look like there is no defense. You still can be prepared and ready.
There is no universal advice. In case of prolonged collapse, different tactics will work for different regions, based on the situation.
For example, in my case, it was very useful (and still is) to put few “mines” signs as a deterrent. In your case maybe it is cool to have a few biohazard signs that you may put in front of your home, or in case of a pandemic, a sign that says “bodies inside.”
It works in drastic situations. In my case after some time, people simply avoided going inside places where they suspected bodies were.
Think about what can work in your case.
Think in layers
Your defense should not start at your house door because by that time you have lost some of your advantage. Think in layers.
For example, the first layer is a neighboring house, the second layer is your yard, and the third layer is inside your home.
Use advantages (and disadvantages) in your favor
Example: if you have a yard in front of your home, look now for possible ways that intruders could approach. How many of those ways are there? If there are 4 potential ways, is it possible to watch all of them? Can you minimize that to only one way by funneling the attackers by using obstacles, garbage, etc.? Simply put yourself in the attacker’s mind and see what he sees.
Sometimes something simple like planting a bush or tree on a spot in the yard will funnel an attacker to where you want him to be. But at the same time, that bush or tree may obstruct your view, so use your common sense.
Alarms or traps
Popular opinion says that deadly traps need to be used when defending your home during the SHTF.
It is a final solution, because once when you use deadly force (with trap) you are bringing everything a new level. Often, it is simply wrong and you have gone too far.
Think about traps and alarms in layers too (I’ll call them traps, some of them are alarms actually). An entire book could be written about using them when the SHTF, but for this article think just consider these ideas.
- An alarm that will let only you know when someone is approaching without letting the attacker know he has triggered something (for example in order to approach your home he need to move from his way something noisy that simply stay there)
- An alarm that will let you know someone is approaching and also let the attacker know he has triggered the alarm so he clearly understand someone set it there and that the place is probably guarded.
- Traps that are combinations of above-mentioned with the option of hurting the attacker.
There is a situation for each of the above, but using the wrong one can be dangerous. For example, do you want to use a deadly explosive trap for two guys from the neighborhood who are just checking whether you have something to trade?
It is cool to know how to construct something from scratch, but sometimes a cheap Chinese “purse alarm” in combination with a fishing line will give you an SHTF alarm that may help you a lot.
Think about using these in layers, too. If someone clearly ignored your warning devices, perhaps closer to home it is the place and time for a “hurting” trap.
All of this gives you precious time to get organized inside your home, to decide what to do and how to act.
One popular opinion is that “I will have a shotgun. Nobody will come through my door”
For the people who have not experienced a violent collapse in urban settings, remember that other people will have weapons too, and other people may come in bigger numbers than you have.
You need to think in layers in order to maximize your chances of success.
How can you use the gray man concept personally?
“Operations Security, or OPSEC, is the process by which we protect unclassified information that can be used against us. OPSEC challenges us to look at ourselves through the eyes of an adversary (individuals, groups, countries, organizations). Essentially, anyone who can harm people, resources, or mission is an adversary.” (USDoD)
OPSEC is a very good word, but like a lot of other things in the prepper world, some folks have turned it into a parody.
It is not about immersing yourself into the world of conspiracy theories; it is about how it“…challenges us to look at ourselves through the eyes of an adversary…”
Just try to look at yourself through the eyes of your adversary, whoever that might be in your opinion.
So, for example, if you are driving a car with a sticker that clearly shows your opinion about something, ask yourself, is that information that can be used somehow against you?
Tomorrow, if a riot starts, will that make you a target?
Maybe if you are going to prepper conventions then discussing openly at your work place about that and about your latest investment in buckets of dried food, will that make you perfect target when the SHTF?
The examples are many, but it’s all down to how you look and act today or when SHTF.
One big signs during SHTF was to have very clean clothes and to smell nice.
It is a drastic example, but you need to understand that in those times if you looked like that it meant you were doing very well, because the essentials were food and water and weapons, and most folks had problems securing that. So obviously you were doing really good, way better than most of the folks.
It is a drastic example, yes, and it may not be like that in your case but you get the idea.
A trained man can learn a lot about you by watching you for some time, no matter if the SHTF or not.
He can learn from the way you walk, how you leave your car, or how you are standing in a bar. He can learn from if you are carrying a weapon or not, with your choice of footwear or clothes, by your hobbies, etc.
Understand that by your look and activities you are giving up information that can cost you way too much when times get bad.
How can you use this when you are out with your family?
Your family should follow your basic rules about staying gray, again without turning life into a conspiracy theory.
There is no use in trying to blend in if your kid talks in school about how his dad is preparing for the end of the world with enough food storage to last for 40 years.
A good example of being gray and still solving the problem of preparing your family for hard times (and making them preppers) is by practicing skills without the story.
They do not have to believe that society will collapse, but you still can teach them useful skills through activities that they understand and reasons that they understand: camping, fishing, team building, martial arts (sport, health) car repair, cooking meals at home, buying more food (money saving), or hunting (weapon use)…you get the idea.
Is this something you should only use during a crisis or should you practice this all the time?
It is a good thing to use the gray man mentality even today, and not just because of practice. But also because once when SHTF it may be too late to go gray because some people will already know important information about you, and it is too late to hide it.
What’s the easiest way to suddenly become forgettable if you are caught up in a crowd?
You need to set up a clear list of your priorities in case something bad happens and go by that list. It is easy to become forgettable in crowd because crowds have their own psychology. Very often you need to “flow” with the crowd because you cannot act differently than the folks in the crowd. It can be dangerous, and it can turn you into a target.
I often use the words “if everybody is screaming you need to scream too”, because, otherwise, if you are with a bunch of scared people you will look way too confident. They will think either you are the leader (if people are members of your group) or you are a target for them (if they are not connected to you).
It is about how you look to other people, not about how you really are.
Are there different levels of “gray”? If so, can you explain them?
Yes, it is more about thinking outside of the box and about the different applications of gray.
Something bad happens in your city (pandemic, dirty bomb, civil unrest…) there is curfew and nobody is allowed to leave city until order is restored, but you see it is bad and you want to leave city to your BOL.
There are people in streets confused and waiting to see what is going on ad what will be. You will mix with them with your backpack with food and ammo inside, lot of people do carry small backpacks, students, athletes, etc. You want to blend in.
But if you put sleeping mat on your backpack, you are sticking out. A simple sleeping mat gives away you.
(This is a real-life example from one of my bugging out courses).
Very often even trained people stick out simply because they confuse necessity and comfort.
One of the often-mentioned questions is:” how will I figure out (when SHTF) if I should carry my weapon openly or hidden?”
The simplest answer is to check the situation and understand which of those two options makes you a more probable target.
Sometimes running out with an assault rifle means you’ll be seen as a threat and shot down, but in other cases running around unarmed will make you easy prey.
Do you have any personal stories about people who used this strategy vs people who did not?
I knew a man (I still know him) who in the early days of the SHTF understood some things. He went the station and fill 4 barrels with 80 liters fuel each. He brought them in trailer and hid them in his garage, and nobody saw him.
A week or two later, fuel became rare 50 times more valuable. He used only it as heating fuel very frugally.
And then he gave 10 liters to his relative and asked him to be quiet, then other relative heard from first man and asked him for 10 liters. He gave it to him too because how he could refuse him?
Then 20 days later in the middle of the night, a couple of guys broke into the garage. The man went out and they beat him badly. They took his fuel, searched his house, and took all food (he was smart so he bought lots of food too). He ha a lot of problems ensuring them that he did not have more interesting things hidden somewhere.
He is still alive, an old man now. He thinks the S. is gonna hit the fan again, but all his discussion about prepping and similar stops right there.
And…anything to add?
The gray man philosophy is nothing elaborate, but it should affect all of your fields of prepping, from simple things like where you are buying your stuff for preps (and in what quantity and what reasons) to who you choose to discuss your visions of tomorrow’s collapse with.
In short, as far as the people outside your circle are concerned, you are not a prepper, you are like majority of folks and trust in the system. You do not believe that something bad is gonna happen, and when it happens you have to act surprised like them.
More from Selco
- Selco on Martial Law: Forget your “movie illusions about being a freedom fighter”
- How the SHTF in Bosnia: Selco Asks Americans, “Does this sound familiar?”
- SELCO: The Brutal Truth About Violence When the SHTF
- Selco: The Reality of Barter and Trade in an SHTF Economy
- Selco: Who Survives and Who Dies When the SHTF?
- Selco: How to Stay Warm During a Long-Term SHTF Situation
- Stories from an SHTF Christmas: An Interview with Selco
- Selco: What an “Average Day” Is REALLY Like When the SHTF
About the Author
Selco survived the Balkan war of the 90s in a city under siege, without electricity, running water, or food distribution. In his online works, he gives an inside view of the reality of survival under the harshest conditions. He reviews what works and what doesn’t, tells you the hard lessons he learned, and shares how he prepares today. He never stopped learning about survival and preparedness since the war. Regardless what happens, chances are you will never experience extreme situations as Selco did. But you have the chance to learn from him and how he faced death for months. Read more of Selco's articles here. Buy his PDF books here. Take advantage of a deep and profound insight into his knowledge by signing up for his unrivaled online course. Real survival is not romantic or idealistic. It is brutal, hard and unfair. Let Selco take you into that world.