Gray Man Tactics

Based on some of my other articles, I have had a few people either ask me what the Gray Man principle is or people give me their interpretation, which isn’t the same as mine.  Ask 10 people, and you’ll get 10 different answers, but I thought I’d give my take on it here, and explain how I apply it professionally.

The Gray Man concept owes it’s roots to the intelligence and counter-intelligence community, as well as the executive protection world.  The way best to protect someone is not be seen until you need to be seen.  As an example, watch the video from this week when Andrea Mitchell was nearly attacked by a transexual activist and her executive protection team swooped in out of nowhere and dealt with the threat.

Another historical reference for the Gray Man is the Apostle Paul of Tarsus, the Original Gray Man:

To the Jews I became like a Jew…

To those under the law, I became like one under the law…

To those not under the law, I became like one not having the law…

To the weak, I become weak…

1 Corinthians 9:21-22

I say that a bit tongue in cheek, but think about it…in order to move freely among people who could immediately turn him in if he was found, he blended in to every sector of society, and at it’s heart, that is what the Gray Man principle is.

Study the area and people you want to blend in with, and then make yourself as nondescript as possible among them.  The current pandemic requiring masks in public is a Godsend for this kind of cover. The masks also hide our surveillance radio earpieces.

To illustrate it, let me just give an example of how I do it, as I enter the current protests and crowds to gather evidence and conduct risk assessments for my clients.  Everyone has seen the protests on media, so black clothing is a must.  When venturing out among a crowd like that, I wear a black hoodie or pullover type shirt over a black t-shirt with some kind of writing or logo on it (that’s important, I’ll explain in a second).  I also wear blue jeans because pretty much anywhere in North America, blue jeans fit in. I throw on a baseball cap with a logo on it, and wear a mask and sunglasses.  At this point, the only thing that can be described is the clothing and skin color.  I wear a black backpack, because black is the most common backpack color.  Inside the backpack (in addition to bulletproof panels from, I keep a solid color baseball cap with NO LOGO, a different color face mask, and a different color hoodie, along with a packable jacket.

With these changes, if I was noticed by someone and knew they were watching for someone matching my description with a certain ball cap on, I only need a few seconds behind a tree or around a corner to remove the first hoodie, switch masks, switch ball caps, and remove the sunglasses.  Already, I am a completely different person than who they are looking for. And I can do it a few time with just a couple of extra items.

The T-Shirt should have a logo or writing on it, so that it doesn’t appear that you are wearing just an undergarment, because you took off another shirt.

The hat with a logo is because in our modern society, everyone keys on logos.  They’ll be looking for someone in a Michigan State ball cap, but I’ll be in a plain tan one by then.

I know that a lot of guys in the preparedness/tactical community swear by their 5.11 pants or their Tru-Spec pants, and I’m no exception, I wear them daily.  But…when I’m operational INSIDE a protest, I have “to become like one not under the law…”, as Paul put it so well.

How Not to be a Gray Man

It doesn’t have to be elaborate…and more importantly, DON’T OVERSELL IT.  I’ve seen people try to look like a homeless guy because “nobody looks at the homeless guy”….believe me, EVERYONE looks at the homeless guy and unless you are indeed homeless, you will stand out.  I can’t stress enough to not try too hard to “fit in” (Think Justin Trudeau and his antics literally everywhere he goes).

Another area of being a gray man is behavior.  Certain behaviors are immediately apparent as proof that you are watching people.  Being too visibly aware (guilty) of your surroundings is a sure giveaway.  Move slowly, stand often, and most importantly, respond exactly like everyone else.  The left DEMANDS 100% ideological agreement and if you fail to clap, or nod your head, and chant along, you WILL be spotted.  Don’t write notes, use your phone.  Everyone else will have their phones in their hands, making videos and taking photos, so fit in, but don’t make it readily apparent what or who you are filming/photographing.  Use a note app on your phone. LOCK YOUR PHONE.

Let me be blunt….ANTIFA has a VERY STRONG counter-surveillance and security program.  They may not take any action in the beginning, but may follow you to your car.  I’ve noted them recording license plate numbers and taking lots of photos.  They are a VIOLENT organization.  You DO NOT want to be identified.

If you are confronted by their people, resist the temptation to argue or jump into a political discussion “since you’ve been made anyway”.  Remember your ultimate goal…gathering information and evidence (more on that in a few) and not being detected.  If they ask you to leave, act disappointed, but agreeable.  Leave immediately (but don’t go straight to your car).  Leave them with a nagging doubt about whether or not you were actually gathering information.

Understand also the legalities of where you are.  Are you somewhere you have a legal right to be?  Generally, at a protest the answer is yes, but don’t follow people inside to film them looting a store, because you would then first be committing burglary, and second putting yourself in a position where it would not be legal to defend yourself.  

This matters, because just the other day, ANTIFA/RevCom security asked the police to make a person taking photos of them (it wasn’t me, I have better Fieldcraft than that) leave the area of the protest, and the police told them squarely that they had no legal right to ask anyone to leave, since they were in a public area.

A side note….Just last night, Steven Crowder ( had his people identified within the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest Zone because they were livestreaming; resist the temptation to stream or post, until after you’ve left the area.  They monitor that.

Your vehicle should also be made as “gray” as possible.  I’ve never put political or other stickers on my cars because I’ve always done this kind of work and I want my car to be as nondescript as possible.  Take care with what is visible through the windows.  I drive an SUV, so I cover up the bags in the back and take care not to leave clipboards or surveillance equipment/radios on the seat.  Park a long ways away and walk in; I’ve watched ANTIFA/RevCom security people do sweeps of parking lots looking for occupied cars or signs of surveillance.  When parking, always park front end out, facing the parking lot entrance, not necessarily the event.

Several people asked me, so why even do this?  First, before you can fight an enemy, you must know them.  Sun Tzu said that if you know yourself and know your enemy, you need not fear the result of a thousand battles.

Second, I’ve been involved with a project for three years tracking these groups and developing video evidence and stills from live-streams and photos to tie people to criminal events.  The natural extension of that is to get out and make videos of attendees before the ever put their masks on and begin destroying property or assaulting people.  We’ve had success at tying people back to photos taken earlier.  Below is the current wanted poster for people involved in trying to take down the Andrew Jackson statue.  Some are clear screen grabs from surveillance systems, but others are clearly photos taken from people circulating among the bad actors, gathering evidence to later turn over to the police.

If the police won’t get out and do it, it’s incumbent upon the citizens who still care about our nation and our system of government to get out and gather the evidence.

If you want to read a fun set of books that give a bit more detail, check out the Gray Man series (soon to be a movie) by Mark Greaney (

I hope this article helps explain some of the basics of the gray man principle, which really boils down to just not standing out at all.


Published by JD

I am the author of the Tactical Wisdom Series. I am a personal protection specialist and a veteran of the US Marine Corps. I conduct preparedness and self-defense training.

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