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Selco Explains How (and Why) to be the Gray Man

Daisy Luther
March 5th, 2018
The Organic Prepper
Comments (39)
Read by 7,286 people

This article was originally published by Daisy Luther at The Organic Prepper

by Selco 

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.

Example one:

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.

Example two:

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 

About Selco

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 like Selco did. But you have the chance to learn from him and how he faced death for months. Real survival is not romantic or idealistic. It is brutal, hard and unfair. Let Selco take you into that world. Read more of Selco’s articles here: And take advantage of a deep and profound insight into his knowledge and advice by signing up for the outstanding and unrivaled online course. More details here:

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Author: Daisy Luther
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Date: March 5th, 2018

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    • Genius says:

      Like the old saying “ass gas or grass, no one rides for free”. They are probably of no value other than sex objects so they gotta pay with their only asset. Life sucks (literally), especially if your stupid!

    • Archivist says:

      I was told by a couple of 20-something girls who rented from a state senator that they didn’t have to pay money for their rent. I think the term back then was “paid in trade.” This was back in the late 1970s.

      So this has been going on for many years.

    • Frank Thoughts says:

      I don’t have a problem with this. If both parties agree, that’s their business.

      Let’s face facts: there will never be enough high-paid jobs (like doctors, lawyers etc.) to absorb all the pretty women out there. Math dictates some will have to trade on what they have that is unique and valued: their beauty and their sexual abilities. And this has been the case throughout human history and in all societies.

      I don’t call this ‘exploitation’: I call this predictable market forces. It has always occurred when society goes broke (Weimar Germany, former Soviet Union). Just enjoy the moment!

  1. buttcrackofdoom says:

    i was just wondering….if selco was being attacked, did he go AFTER his attackers?….or just let them walk away when unsuccesful, to attack another day, or to turn over info about his location to, the army, let’s say……it’s probly a rich target if you have successfully defended it, no? are you listening, selco?

  2. aljamo says:

    “Paranoia strikes deep, into your life it will creep. Starts when you’re always afraid, step out of line they come and take you away”. I have the poor looking from the outside covered, even green stuff growing on the outside covering. The neighbors frown at me.

  3. buttcrackofdoom says:

    i ride a bicycle around town about 15 miles most days. i am greyman. i don’t wear fancy-assed bicycle clothes, but i DO have an expensive bike. if my bike breaks and i got to walk it home, i am fairly comfortable in daylight doing that. at night it is a different story, depending on the neighborhood. lately i have been riding it at night, but i ride main road sidewalks, so that someone is watching most of the time, and it’s a lil safer. i carry a backpack with extra chain, and a tube filled with slime, along with a lot of tools, so i know i can get going again in 15 minutes. a great way to develop a good bugout bag is to start bikin’ or walkin’, and take notes about what you DON’T have, when you stumble across a need for sumthin’. i never wear gold or jewelry. ALWAYS have a GOOD flashlight, with extra batteries to replace the ones in your flashlight that are dead whenever you go to use it. a multi-tool, toiletpaper or napkins and electrical tape can be a great first aid. also some 550 cord and a folding knife….and a firestarter could be handy. a fleece cap, and shemaugh or scarf and gloves pretty much rounds out the basics that should always be very close to you.

    • Philosopher Deplorabilis says:

      I want to ditch my car. What about those tires that are solid? Never go flat? Is that an option?

      Thanks. Oh, I don’t want an expensive bicycle I want one that works on pavement or mud.

      • buttcrackofdoom says:

        i haven’t tried solid tires. weight is very important when riding a bike, and those tires are probly heavy, just my 2cents. we use tireliners between tire and tube, and then the slime from walmart, gallon size….about 8 pump strokes per tube….just put slime in beforehand when you put it in your pack…. BTW, if you got oddball tires, like 29″, you most likely can use a “wrong size” tube in them, in a pinch. i used to have to buy 20$ tubes for my fattire bike…27.5″x3″, but now i just buy regular 2″ wide tubes at walmart for 3.88$, and they work bitchin’. when changing a tube, always check/scrape out all those goatheads that caused the puncture in the first place…feel very carefully inside, and dig them out from the outside of tire. even if the tire goes flat, put a lil more slime in, and punp it up and ride a couple mins… might even take a couple times doing that, but unless it’s a huge hole, slime seals it up. i ride a mountain bike mostly on concrete or pavement, but i do like to be able to ride the dirt or sides of road to, but any bike will do, if you got all that stuff above covered….remember the chain must be for the number of gears in the rear sprocket….a 9 tooth chain won’t work on a 10 speed cassette……you know what?….just buy a used GOOD bike, instead of a walmart new bike would be my advice…..and cannondale, or comparable is much easier to ride because they are so much lighter. and then you need a trailer for it to haul lots of stuff…..get to pedalin’!

        • check out tannus tires, they’re incredibly light. I got them and they weigh considerably less (you save pounds, not just ounces) than the typical setup & are good for 10K miles or more. Lots of youtube videos on them.

        • Yahooie says:

          And some bike shops do trade-ins on GOOD bikes so if you don’t see something in the want-ads or Craigslist, try a well established bike shop. You will know it’s been looked over by their technicians, too.

          Also, some better bike shops offer assorted classes on bicycle maintenance so if you get stuck out someplace, you can fix it and ride back home (vice walking it).

          My personal ride is a recumbent (well into the not cheap range) so my fanny doesn’t get saddle sore. I can ride as long as I want when I’m in top shape.

      • buttcrackofdoom says:

        the problem with a GOOD bike, is that you can’t leave it outside the store, because someone will take it from you while inside.

        • Yahooie says:

          I’ve got the heavy duty cable locks for my ride. No one would be able to take it. I don’t have any way to protect it from vandalism though so I stay away from crummy neighborhoods (aside from my own).

  4. anticomie says:

    Good luck. You will be a grave man if you are in the city.

  5. Beowulf says:

    I could never be a grey man. I am 72 years old and have lived in the same county 50 years. Every one knows me and know what I am capable of. If people loose weight like in Venezuela and my family does not we are burned right there. I will say a person could use gold that so many on here mock to buy claymore mines. If you set one of those off on the enemy at 20 to 25 yards there will be broken bodies. The first battle will be the easiest. After that they will plan. Lock and Load.

    • Genius says:

      Or make your own, it’s not too hard. Make traps, mines, all kinds of ways to force multiply. Leave poisoned food where you know they will steal it. Leave gas cans with a little sugar laced gas around for them to steal too. A million ways to fook a-holes up without even being there…

    • Archivist says:

      So, you lose weight like everyone else. Don’t wear new clothes. Ask everyone you meet for food. But make sure you don’t have food on your breath.

      • Genius says:

        Ha ha ha, Mr. Burger breath askin for food! The thing is most folks are sooo fat they can live off it for at least a year lol. I won’t be meeting too many people anyway as the only time I will be out and about is hunting or recon and I will be in the middle of nowhere.

  6. Traitor Hator says:

    Put new shackles on bug out trailer ,they were worse then I thought. Saw videos of people cutting then off with torches. But if you spray them every day for two weeks with penetrating oil . You can get them off. Coated them with copperized anti seaze. And the nuts with silicon glue to stay. Also coat lug nuts with RTV black silicon so they don’t vibrate loose. Added ameriseal leak stop to tires . Used a oil injector hypodermic needle type after removing the valves. Wasn’t easy. It contains small threads to stop leaks. Dual axl trailers . With electric brakes on all four wheels might be the way to go?

  7. Traitor Hator says:

    I say balance your trailer tires, no matter who tells you otherwise.

  8. Traitor Hator says:

    Frank James said the three greatest battles were , Thermopila, the Alamo ,and centralia , were 100 gurrila fighters on horse back met .And all opposing forces were either dead or off their horse after one charge. Seems a large number is nesseserry.Hard for maybe most anti social Preppers?

  9. Heartless says:

    Selco as always presents the ABC’s of rational survival.

  10. Illini Warrior says:

    if you want to get into unnecessary firefights and stack up the bodies … nest into your home pretending it’s deserted with dumbazz signs and garbage thrown across the yard – instead of bypassing yours for another of the truly deserted homes it’ll be a battle …

    make your presence known – strength shown – it’ll be their decision to die stupidly ….

  11. Traitor Hator says:

    Red , Blue , or grey. Take your pick?

  12. Archivist says:

    Being gray now means you should act a little like others.

    For example, I have a Facebook account where I post a little bit and “like” other posts once in a while, just so I fit in. Drudge is popular, so I go there. Internet Movie Database is popular, so I go there once in a while.

    You know the government will single you out if you don’t go to any of the most popular sites.

    I buy the same assortment of groceries and use the store card like everyone else. When I buy extra stuff, I pay cash and don’t use the card. I borrow someone else’s, sometimes even the clerk’s card.

    When I buy gas, I usually go to one store that has a rewards card. If I want to buy extra gas, I pay cash and don’t use the card.

    It’s a game, and I’m playing all the time.

    In fact, I’m wearing a gray shirt right now.

    • Genius says:

      Well shit! I guess I stand out like a dick in a disney movie huh? I pay cash for everything and don’t have a socialist media account either. I do use store cards but they are in no name lol. I had one from an old phone number that was now some other guys name ha ha ha. Gee Mr. Schmidt, you buy a lot of beer lol. Thank you Mr. Schmidt 🙂 That poor fook was probably on some alcoholic watch list ha ha ha. But hey, he got a lot of points! I’m probably on some list or another anyway for all the gun parts etc. I buy online. So to all you NSA fags… get off your knees, I know when I’m licked 😛

    • buttcrackofdoom says:

      i use an old customer’s phone number i used to know. they had 8 kids, so every store in town she had registered for to get the discounts. when you got that many kids, you will always be signed up for the discounts! and i pay cash, so they got no idea who i am at the grocery store.

      • Blu-j says:

        These stores are supposed to have to give out these cards without collecting your info anyway.
        One time I just went up to the cashier and ask for the card and told her that I wanted to remain anonymous and she said fine. Another time I did the same thing at a local pharmacy and the idiot broad said “ok just give me your phone number”. I ended up going to the pharmacist and complaining loud enough so I got the card. I always pay in cash, and I value my privacy deeply.

  13. Frank Thoughts says:

    Live in the most humble place in the rich neighborhood. Never be the only white guy in a black neighborhood. Make sure there are lots of geographical obstacles to your neighborhood so that it is harder to charge through the area with a car or a mob.

    Prevention is the best cure: notice who is moving into your area. Use neighborhood watch, the police etc. to chase out criminal and undesirable elements. With the new technologies, more and more low-lifes will find themseles easily identified and pushed out of good areas. Face recognition technology has come leaps and bounds and can easily be used on smartphones to ident somebody and report them. One clever thing to do is to report somebody to the Chinese. They have systems that are way better than in the West. Get the local violent kneegrow in a Chinese database and their movements will become restricted.

  14. Steadfast says:

    Once again, great advice.

  15. George W says:

    “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?”
    Manny are wearing T-shirts and sporting bumper stickers that proclaim their political and gun views, I decided sometime ago that it was time to become the grey-man. I removed all bumper stickers (including NRA) and I wear just plain cheap clothes. If you think it is still wise to sport your conservative views on your car and person then you are sadly unaware of just where we are in the war. Oh, and BTW, I know the great god of gov-ment monitors all this but they know when I fart anyway. It’s the sh*thead on the street I am concerned about.

  16. Yahooie says:

    I think I may have slipped into grey man status a long time ago. As a single woman, I’ve always made sure that numerous protections and alarms are in place. My cats always alert me when someone sets foot on my property. No they don’t tug at my pant leg but I know from their behavior that something is up. I have had felines that would dare to go out and chase off an intruder (if I let them) but I never declaw so they would do some damage.

    Thorny roses are one of my favorite layers. Planted beneath windows, only the most prepared and determined will brave entry. Unsupported climbers will bow over and their many “arms” will thwart entry. Heck, I nearly need a suit of armor just to trim them. LOL I need a pair of sturdy leather gloves and a thick coat to do it but still get stabbed in the legs. (No leather pants.)

    I also have sheers and/or blinds and shades on the windows (in addition to curtains/drapes) so people cannot just take a look inside to see what I have. Windows are covered before lights go on in the evening.

    I have assorted vining plants in front so miscreants would likely trip before reaching a window. Front door has a guard chain on it, too, so someone cannot push the door open when it’s on.

    My car is plain…well, for this area. It would stick out in a small town in the Midwest as I have discovered when visiting friends or relatives.

    Maybe I’ve gone too grey-man. If I go into a store and need a salesperson, I usually have to go tap them on the shoulder to get their attention.

  17. Ummm says:

    Those cameras in those stores are most likely using facial recognition just like everywhere else. Prepping is a good idea. Trying to defend a home at all is not. When it happens you need to hide. Unless your part of a small army. But that means mouths to feed, tempers, and unpredictability or even betrayal. Out of sight out of mind.

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