No Weapons Signs

How to tell if someone is carrying a concealed handgun

No Firearms Allowed Signs
Unholstered firearms are much easier to spot than holstered ones. Fortunately, criminals haven't caught on yet.

In the world of comic books, Spiderman is lucky enough to sense danger before it happens – that's his "spidey-sense" at work. The rest of us are only left with our common sense, our instincts, and our occasional flash of insight when something isn't quite right. None of those things are foolproof, so we're sharing a few tips we've gathered on identifying someone who might be carrying a concealed weapon.

Keep in mind that you don't know someone is armed until you see their weapon, and if the person is a stranger, they might be a plainclothes police officer – so respond with caution, and if you think you or anyone else is in a threatening situation, call the police immediately.

To summarize a useful infographic by a former NYPD officer from the Anti-Robbery Tactical Unit, perps carrying handguns may tip off prudent observers with a few “tells”:

They may adjust the weapon every now and then, because the heavier grip will tend to fall and the barrel will rise, resulting in a need to rebalance, especially if it's crammed down their waistband or someplace else insecure.

People carrying guns may wear unusual clothing to conceal them, like a trenchcoat in summer. If they have a handgun in their pocket, look out for a telltale bulge or something very heavy weighing down one side of their clothing.

If you had a gun, you'd want to protect it, right? Handgun carriers in particular will tend to shield or cradle a concealed weapon if they have to move quickly; when they walk, a gun wedged into their pants will change their gait slightly, with their hand on that side stopping a little short.

Most gun crimes are perpetrated with handguns, and the majority of perps carry their handguns tucked into their front waistband on their strong side (so on the right for a right-handed person), with the small of the back taking second place. You can tell someone's strong side quickly with reasonable certainty – if they use their right hand to brace themselves on the subway, or if they catch something with their right hand or use it to defend themselves, for instance.

If you think someone might be armed and you’re stuck in a confined space with them, these tells won’t be conclusive, but they may give you some clues. Studies by the FBI have shown that criminals almost never use holsters (which make concealment far easier), so in most cases, people who do use them aren’t the ones to worry about. Of course, that’s not always true – so if someone indicates that they have a gun, even one you can’t see, the safest thing to do is assume they’re right.  If you see one you’re not expecting, you’re probably best served contacting the authorities.

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