Last Updated on November 18, 2020
Have you heard of the Gray Man concept? The earliest record I could find of this in prepper/survival circles was in a post on the Western Rifle Shooters Association website by someone calling themselves Habcan. I don’t know if he created the concept or copied this article from another location, but I recommend reading the article if you haven’t already. For those who don’t know about the Gray Man concept, I’ll summarize it for you.
The Gray Man concept simply means blending in and not sticking out. You want to dress, move, and act in a way that is completely forgettable. This is done so that you do not draw unnecessary attention to yourself as you go about life and I think the initial focus was on people who were carrying concealed firearms.
There are lots of examples of how this larger gray man concept could work in your favor to keep you safe and many survival and prepper blogs bring this concept up as a way to live or a strategy for how to avoid becoming a target of people intent to do you harm.
I was thinking of this idea in a different context though as it related to life after a SHTF scenario. One of our readers contacted me with some questions after reading a post from Selco on the SHTF School blog.
Selco is from the Balkans and lived through the Balkan war from 92 – 95. He has created an excellent online course titled “One Year in Hell” that offers training derived from his own experiences living surrounded in the real SHTF world of a war zone and without power for a year. He also blogs and writes in a post about “Survivalist Hate” where the people in a real-life SHTF scenario turned on what we would call a prepper who was only trying to help.
Did you ever hear of “survivor’s guilt”? Feeling of being guilty because you survived but many others you know did not. There is something else that can “help” you to not feel that, because it can kill you. It is what I call “survivalist hate” by people around you.
I often read how people want to help other folks when SHTF, and it is really good, but in reality it works different.
When SHTF, I mean real SHTF, most of the people will not like you because you are prepared, people will hate you, even if you help them. They will hate you because you are prepared and you have food, water, weapon and shelter for you and your family, and they do not have anything like that.
I have seen how people robbed man, and his family, torching his house because he had lots of goods (he gave some of that stuff to some folks week before) and by that logic folks said that he knew that S. is going to hit the fan, and he was like guilty for them. People were angry that he prepared but did not tell them.
This is what you can call “survivalist hate”. Think about it, sentences like “he could have warned us” or “he must have stolen this from somewhere, otherwise he would have not that much”. Do not expect normal logical thinking. It does not happen much in normal times and is less in survival scenarios for most common folks.
It was these words that caused our reader to question how much they should volunteer to help their community in an emergency. Mark had been thinking about trying to organize resources in the community now, before any crisis, but reading Selco’s story above had him reconsidering going out on a limb, telegraphing he might have resources or skills and potentially becoming a victim like the man robbed for his supplies.
This is what led me to consider the Gray Man concept as it could be applied to your home and resources if the SHTF. It is one thing to control your appearance and actions in a crowd to avoid detection, but what about your supplies in your home?
Always invisible in plain sight
Depending on the crisis, I have to believe there is a timeline of phases that people go through. The crisis would dictate that timeline to a large degree in that an Earthquake for example would destroy everything relatively quickly and then you would be recovering for some time afterward. The initial violence would be upfront and then people would start dealing with problems after the shaking stopped.
It would be similar to any other natural disasters I assume. Something like a regional war or an economic collapse or even pandemic would cause a different timeline but regardless of how long it took people to start feeling the effects of any crisis eventually your neighbors could be dealing with illnesses or injury, disruptions in food, safety concerns from looters or approaching military forces.
Unless you were quarantined in your homes, invariably neighbors would be talking at some point, sharing information and learning how others were faring. It is at this time that the prepared individual could fall into that situation described above.
There are many aspects to this and realistically how you act toward your neighbors and the situations you could face after a crisis could be the subject of a dozen articles but I will focus on this one viewpoint in this post. There is something to be said for charity and something else for self-preservation.
If we were faced with a situation like above, what could you do to keep your family safe and your supplies that you have been storing up in your hands and not the hands of an angry mob?
Gray Man never draws attention to himself
Two things come to mind when trying to think about the Gray Man concept and your home. The first is that before anything happens you want to be practicing OPSEC as much as feasible in your situation. The fewer people know about the supplies you have stored, what you may be preparing for, your political beliefs, etc. the less likely they are going to think of you if something happens.
I have said it before, but unless you live in an area where this is common (and there are lots of areas where it is) I wouldn’t be seen out at the Chili’s in your camouflage pants and army boots. Don’t get me wrong, I have these myself, but I save the camo for hunting season. Whenever I am hunting, there are thousands of other guys who look just like me and I blend in. Not necessarily at Chili’s but you get the point.
If you are getting supplies of food shipped in, make sure these are dealt with in a way that doesn’t draw attention. I wouldn’t stack boxes of MRE’s up in front of the shed while your neighbor is mowing their grass. If you are loading guns into the car for a trip to the range, do this discretely.
I normally do a quick visual check to make sure no one is outside first and back the car into the garage so I can get them loaded quickly. Have a safe being delivered to the house? Try to do this during the day if most of your neighbors are at work. Large purchases from Sams or Costco could be construed the same way. A bulk pack of toilet paper is one thing, but 5 – fifty-pound bags of rice or several 45 lb. pails of freeze-dried food are another.
Are you practicing open carry to make a statement at the same time?
The next part and probably the harder of the two to pull off would be after SHTF. How do you keep your supplies secret? How do you maintain OPSEC whenever everyone else is watching you simply because they have nothing else to do?
Gray man avoids confrontation
It would really depend on the scenario I think. For instance, if everyone was without power, I might not light my house up at night. Knowing that you have a power source, maybe solar panels could give it away that you have resources they don’t have. Of course, the situation will dictate how badly you are hated for having power if your neighbors don’t but I think eventually it could cause problems.
Let’s say there wasn’t an EMP but the grid was taken down by terrorists. Every appliance still works, but the power simply isn’t coming through the wires anymore. Your electricity could at a bare minimum provide conveniences like power for fans, the ability to recharge batteries or enable entertainment devices. One of the prepper supplies I made sure I had was a giant roll of heavy black plastic. This has many uses, but one of them could be to blackout my windows. At night, I could run electricity and not draw attention.
Food is another resource that will be tough to keep secret, especially if you are cooking outside. The smell of food to a hungry person is not something you can easily keep a lid on. You could heat water outside and use that for your freeze-dried foods as one way to keep the fact that your family is still eating somewhat under wraps. Eventually, though people will notice that you aren’t getting slimmer.
What about weapons? This is one that I have considered because I have made preparations that would allow me certain tactical advantages over my unprepped neighbors. What if there was the threat of violence from people walking through and looting? Would I go walking down the street in my tactical holster, bulletproof vest and battle rifle on day one?
Probably not, but eventually if things got bad enough that might be my daily outfit. I think if that were the case, my neighbors and I would have other things to worry about than what I had in my house. My hope is that if things ever get that bad, I will be able to help my neighbors and my contributions on that front will give me grace. Maybe that is foolish.
Even if you are completely secretive about your supplies or your neighbors are completely self-sufficient themselves you could face a time when someone is banging on your door demanding you to share what you have. Have you thought about what you would do if that happened? Like I said, there are many aspects to this concept and the final, possible confrontation is for another post.
Practicing the Gray Man concept for your home in a SHTF scenario might put that off for a little while longer though or prevent it entirely and I think that is the whole point.