“Characteristics of the Armed Individual” Secret Service Training

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Public Intelligence was able to get their hands on a short training document from the US Secret Service. Titled “Characteristics of the Armed Individual” by Sgt/Tech Kevin Porter, the document is basically a “how – to” guide on spotting concealed carriers. For the Secret Service, this training is invaluable, as some of these signs may be precursors to attacks on their charges.

The guide itself is rather basic, mostly written word of generally common-sense spotting techniques that most law enforcement would look for during any encounter.

The first and basic step is to “determine (the) strong side” which can be determined by looking for cues such as watches, writing, smoking, and other daily tasks.

Then, according to the Secret Service “An individual who carries a gun on their person will periodically touch that gun both consciously and unconsciously.” (I disagree with this, carrying on a regular basis and with training, many concealed carriers will not touch their firearm, but can see how for MOST encounters, this is true).

Perhaps the most interesting nugget (At least to me) is that the “the majority of right-handed people that carry handguns illegally carry them in the right front waist band, loose.” The document then explains that its because doing so is “cool”, seen in the movies” and “where it is most secure and accessible.”

You can see the whole document here, courtesy of Public Intelligence.


Nathan S.

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry in weapon design, operations, and sales. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

Nathan can be reached at Nathan.S@TheFirearmBlog.com


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  • Big Daddy

    Here in Texas you go with the idea that everyone is carrying.

    • Just Sayin’

      I attended a training session on active shooters at work the other day, put on by the chief of police. The curriculum was “Run, Hide, Fight”. When we got to fight he asked “Ok, by the raise of hands, who here has their concealed carry permit?” I looked around and thank goodness nobody raised their hand, although several of us were in the audience, and those are just the ones I know about. What a stupid question!! It was disturbing on a couple of levels. The chief went on to poo-poo concealed carry as a deterrent, it was obvious he’s not a fan. He said the best thing to do is to keep a Louisville slugger behind your office door….

      • Vhyrus

        “guns are bad, mkay? But a baseball bat is totally cool.”

        What’s it like knowing your police chief is certifiably retarded?

        • RICH

          I WOULD USE MY GUN AGAINST A BASEBALL BAT ANY DAY ! ! I WOULD ALSO WIN…..!

          • Just Sayin’

            Not to mention there are many people who couldn’t swing a bat hard enough to stop an active shooter, even if they could were in range.

            Firearms are the great equalizer.

          • Mattblum

            Guns are good. Knives are good. Baseball bats are good. The only true weapon is the brain. Train the mind and body and you will be able to use the tools. Without training, they aren’t much. At a distance, I want a gun. Within grappling distance, I am pretty happy with a knife. Either way, the idea is to disable the assailant while taking as little injury to ones self as possible. If that can be done from a distance, it’s generally better. That is why we shoot. That is why we practice. Don’t discount anything that can alter the balance in your favor. There isn’t anything that can’t be weaponized with a bit of thought. That being said, filling that shooter full of the bullets of your choice is the option to be preferred.

          • Phil Hsueh

            Hmm, makes me wonder how I might weaponize my stapler or my tape dispenser. I suppose if worse comes to worse I could always take my computer and/or monitor and smash over the head of a potential active shooter, my company might not like it but I’m sure my wife wouldn’t mind.

          • Mattblum

            Both items will harden your hands and can make quite an “impression” if used to strike soft targets. Lots of stuff on a human being that can be disabled by a strong strike. True, to use them you’ll have to get within striking range, and I personally would consider that a desperation move in an active shooter situation. However, when desperation happens, one reacts accordingly. Way better than huddling up and waiting to be shot.

            For that matter, winging that monitor or computer at the individual could be just enough distraction to get lethally close.

          • Chrome Dragon

            You’d be better off swinging it so as to concentrate the force from a corner. Aim for the temple – the skull is really thin there.

          • Retiredextremelydangerous

            Rock, Paper, Louisville Slugger…..Gun,! I win!

        • Jwedel1231

          Sounds like the Chief is a tool.

        • Retiredextremelydangerous

          A baseball bat? You never take a knife to a gun fight!

      • Nashvone

        If you plan on keeping the Lousville slugger behind your office door, keep a ball glove with it. Your lawyer will thank you later.

      • Anonymoose

        I’d rather have some Safety Slugs.

      • Tim

        Bats are difficult to swing in confined spaces….

      • Retiredextremelydangerous

        That’s as ridiculous as having school kids bring canned vegetables and keep them in their desk at school. The Idea was that in the presence of an active shooter, the kids would pelt the shooter with the canned goods. Bring a whole new meaning to “keeper of the peas.” Decisions, decisions. Should I launch the whole kernel or cream style corn?

    • Mike11C

      Well Big Daddy, that’s because we are.

  • John

    I like to carry mine in a jock strap around my neck. After all, it IS just an extension of my manhood, right?

  • Cal.Bar

    At what point does “intelligence” which is so generalized become meaningless. If taken in concert, the “characteristics” would apply to virtually EVERY person on the street for one reason or another.

  • Billy Jack

    I only appendix carry my lipstick knife. My hairbrush knife I wield with my left but I’m no southpaw! Take that coppers!

    • Bill

      So you’re a prostitute? πŸ˜‰ Those are EXTREMELY popular with the “sporting ladies.”

      • Billy Jack

        I doubt prostitutes have the tactical versions like I do.

        • Tom Currie

          I’m sure you have all the latest tacticool gear from your online mall ninja supply store.

        • Budogunner

          Only the best do. Those are the “smooth operators”

      • Wyatt Earp

        I thought pimps carried lipstick knives.

    • John

      Nothing beats a “butt knife”…..if you have to ask…you don’t want to know.

      • Tassiebush

        I carried one for a while but it was a bugg3r of a thing to use. It was hard to produce it in a tense situation and just plain dangerous to re sheath it.

      • Cymond

        You know the old saying, “Never bring a butt-knife to a butt-gun fight.”
        http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/rectalpistol.jpg

        • John

          Well, so much for ” taco night”! Now THAT would bring new meaning to words “accidental discharge”.

  • Bill

    Common sense isn’t common – cops miss guns during physical searches of prisoners, so any cue or tell that a person is carrying is of value. Many concealed carriers, cops included, WILL do a confirming touch periodically, just like checking to make certain that a wallet or car keys are still there.

    Most criminals aren’t the type to seek out training, or, as noted, holsters. For the zillions of handguns in our evidence room, there are only a handful of holsters. It’s also noteworthy when you consider the types of people the USSS is primarily trying to spot – mentally ill, emotionally disturbed persons or terrorists, not the cold-blooded professional assassins from the movies. The easiest way to get a Protective Detail Agent’s attention is to sweat in cold weather or wear a coat in warm weather.

  • Kelly Jackson

    It’s called Plaxico carry

  • Sianmink

    Yeah the guide doesn’t really work for those who carry regularly with a decent holster.

    but then, they don’t really worry about those people, cause they’re the good guys.

  • Joe Schmo

    This was not helpful to someone with a working brain.

    • Tom Currie

      Which is why DOJ needed to assemble and publish it.

  • Cymond

    Reminds me of this. I forget where I first saw it.
    FWIW, I often grab my hip while running to stabilize my car keys, which I keep clipped to a belt loop.

    • John

      They forgot “Uncomfortable look on face when gun is hidden in body orifice”.

    • Bill

      Ironically, that “upper body shift” is trained into LEOs as the field interview stance. It’s also often what boxers and martial artists will do before they are about to throw a strike. When somebody blades off on me, I know it’s about to get sporty.

      • Jwedel1231

        I’m going to use the phrase “get sporty” from now on.

        • Wyatt Earp

          Around here we say, “It’s about to get western.’ (Like cowboy gunfight western.)

    • Wyatt Earp

      Love this graphic.

      All I have to do is; Walk normal and avoid stoplights/rain.

      Yokas: Something about the way you walk.
      Bosco: What about the way I walk?
      Yokas: You kinda sway.
      β€”Third Watch

      I wear my watch on my dominant hand and a parachute cord bracelet on the the other. I usually carry a holstered cell phone on my non-dominant side that causes bulges. I constantly touch it to make sure it hasn’t fallen out. Hold onto the phone when I run. If I don’t do that, I shove it in the cargo pockets of my tactical cargo pants on my non-dominant side, where it creates a bulge.

      i could be shot by some secret service agent fresh from an encounter with a hooker/drunk for carrying a cell phone.

  • No one important

    Pretty sure I’ve read quite a few concealed carry articles discussing why appendix carry is the best for most situations.

    Nothing to do with being “cool”. It’s also the most comfortable.

    • M1911

      I’ve tried appendix carry with four different holsters. It was, by far, the most uncomfortable way for me to carry. YMMV.

      • Jwedel1231

        I carry a full size M&P9 with an APL light appendix. It is pretty comfortable for me, but I may have the magic amount of gut for my specific situation.

    • Marcus D.

      As long as you are standing, perhaps. Or if you only carry a snubby. For everything else, fuggedabouddit.

      • Bill

        Like the appendix itself, essentially useless in reality, with real guns, with real postures, in real life.

  • codfilet

    They are going to see me constantly adjusting the belt holster for my phone-that thing is always working it’s way forward, when I like it more by my side. As far as gun holsters go, isn’t a cross-body draw more useful for a right-handed person, both standing and seated?

    • Jwedel1231

      Seated, yes. Standing, it’s the same.

  • Very true brother—-

  • Jwedel1231

    So, it is illegal to carry a gun appendix? That is news to me.

  • Oldtrader3

    I have been carrying for years and have made a conscious effort to conceal in a manner which is stable and does not require any adjusting or even thinking about the gun. I am right handed but ambidextrous and my left eye is dominant. As for a stranger Profiling me as a CC, I doubt it.

  • Hugo Stiglitz

    I don’t think the author was condemning appendix carry…I think it was aimed at those who carry in the waistband without a holster. I find appendix carry to be reasonably comfortable if I won’t be seated for long periods of time. If I’m going to be walking around (especially in crowds) I find it to be preferable.

  • Mr Evilwrench

    I lose them with handedness, slightly right handed, enough to show right, but very left eye dominate, so i carry iwb on my 8.

    It’s a double stack .45 yet disappears on me, i’m just built that way. Any time i check, i just kind of brush it with my forearm while i’m doing something else.

    I stand straight and tall unless my back is acting up, but at that point it’s obvious the problem is my back, and the gun just hides in that.

    I’ve carried so consistently and so long that not only is it not a new special thing on my mind, it’s really unconscious, like carrying keys or a pen.

  • BigFED

    I’m not sure what some folks are calling “appendix carry”, but that is NOT a very comfortable or safe way to carry.

    1) A “proper” appendix carry (see the geek from “Criminal Minds”) has the barrel of the gun pointing, depending on the holster and cant, at ones hip joint or genitalia, neither of which I want as a target. There is also the issue that when or better IF one sits down, the handgun is basically inaccessible since it is being “retained” by ones, usually AMPLE belly and I AM including myself. And since we spend much of our time sitting, including when driving, it becomes obvious that access is restricted.

    2) And it is NOT that easy to conceal without a cover garment. That Geek from “Criminal Minds” does NOT have to be concerned about concealment. It usually takes TWO hands to effectively draw from the appendix position, one to lift the cover garment, the other to draw, especially with an IWB holster! And it gets worse if one like those Polo type shirts or other “clingy” type shirts.

    3) The good, old, hip/kidney carry has been a solid location since forever. I have carried (being fairly ambidextrous) on both my right and left hip just a tad behind the hip joint. I have walked around without a cover garment and some folks never even noticed I was armed! I used to use an IWB, but my “retention device” (my increased girth) got uncomfortable and I carry OWB almost exclusively now. I do have a couple of pocket holsters for my S&W 642 and Ruger LCP/LC9 types when I have to dress up. I have no problems going about my business, sitting or standing, etc. I wear a cover garment (vest, unbuttoned shirt, etc. and have never been “challenged” by anyone. Ironically, even when I worked in a gun shop, the fact I was armed (SIG 229, HK, 1911, etc) wasn’t even noted until maybe when the customer asked me what I carried and I pointed to my (one of) my guns.

    4) I do exersize caution and DO some of the discrete checks about gun security by using my elbows over the butt when moving though a crowd, etc.. Any “tells” that I use would only be noticed if I were the only person being observed. But, in a crowd situation like the USSS works in, there are way too many persons to “study” very long before having to “move on”!

    • Wyatt Earp

      In the “Identity” episode of criminal minds, the pseudo-bad guy tells Reed (The Geek) that he’s “just begging” for someone to take away his pistol carried in the appendix position. He was. I would never carry concealed or open in that position. I could rush Reed and take it away from him in about 10 seconds. Shows an amazing lack of situational/tactical awareness.

      Also, notice Reed is the only two characters in that story who carries open. I have no idea where Rossi carries his full size 1911 A1.

      • BigFED

        Also, Matthew Gray Gubler/Reid (and thanks for using his name, old man brain farts) is the only one using a revolver as he couldn’t pass qualification with a semi! At least that was explained (or the excuse) in the early episodes.

        BTW, Joe Mantegna/Rossi took the role on the show with the condition that he gets to use a 1911 style since he is a real life gun fan and that is what he wanted to use!!!

        And just for S&G, I have an old S&W 65 3″ FBI revolver just like Reid’s!

        • Cymond

          How the heck does he shoot a double-action revolver better than a semi-auto pistol?

          • BigFED

            In theory, fewer “issues”, i.e. manipulating the slide, locking the slide back, external safety (not on the standard Glocks), clearing the pistol (open the cylinder), etc. etc. Whatever the reason was that Reid was relegated to a revolver.

            And probably for many of the same reasons that Los Angeles PD had double action only revolvers for so long, officers cocking their revolvers as a display of “serious intent” and then having a ND (negligent discharge) when trying to de-cock, re-holster and/or having that ND strike a bystander or even the suspect with no justification, etc!

          • Cymond

            I don’t know what is involved in FBI firearm qualification, but it just seems the actual shooting part would be harder with a revolver.

            I can’t imagine quickly firing 30+ rounds through a revolver under pressure. The difficulty of reloads and the number of them would be challenging. It just seems so much easier to change the magazine once than reload a cylinder 4+ times.
            Sure, that can be overcome with practice and training, but so can the complications of a semi-auto.

          • BigFED

            I am just “reporting” the issue, not justifying it! I am an old guy, but I have always carried and used a semi-auto, especially back before they were popular.

            That being said, all courses of fire were “adjusted” to accommodate the disparity between the guns, just like the adjustment between a “duty” gun and the 5 shot “off duty” revolvers.

            And the “manual of arms” for a double action revolver IS shorter that for a high capacity semi. Not near as many as “what ifs”!

  • floogy

    I read this when I saw it on Yahoo a few days ago. It’s pretty rudimentary. It also really only applies to those carrying illegally. Almost anyone who is carrying legally and has done so for just a few months will show very few, if any of those signs.

  • Police Chiefs are appointed so voting won’t get it.

    • Phil Hsueh

      I think that he was confusing Police Chiefs with Sheriffs who are elected.

      • Miguel Raton

        It’s an important distinction: city police can’t do anything if Feds are knocking at your door, but the county sheriff can arrest them if they’re overstepping their authority. Same with reporting city police going out of bounds: the sheriff is your go-to. Amazing what one retains from their high-school civics course, eh? Elections can make a big difference. πŸ˜‰

  • Theo Brinkman

    You draw from a cross-draw configuration differently than you do from a strong-side draw configuration. 1) Draw straight up; 2) Rotate your wrist 180 degrees; 3) THEN level the barrel at the target.

    Do it like that, and you don’t sweep anything but the ground leading to the target, just like when you draw from strong-side.

    You can also replace step 2 above with ‘move gun to strong side’, so long as the barrel remains pointing *down* while you do so, and you take care to avoid sweeping your own feet.

    • BigFED

      Theo – At my age 70+++, I have been carrying for over 50+++ years as an LEO and/or a licensed/permitted civilian. Not many things about carrying that I have missed. Any kind of “cross draw” including shoulder holsters (and, yes, that is a cross draw) does involve muzzle sweep and considerably more than strong side hip carry. Under stress, it takes a deliberate amount of concentration to “avoid” sweep as it is a NATURAL product. In short, cross draw is a multi-plane act, up, rotational, out; while “standard” draw is two direction, up and out in a single plane! And NOBODY practices drawing enough to make a difference unless they are a competitor in some shooting competition! And I can’t count the number of calls where the mirror was a shooting victim! AND MOST IMPORTANTLY; There is a VERY valid reason why any open to the public range prohibits shooting from the draw!

      And police training isn’t much better. I was working re-qualifications on our local LEO range one time and there is a “bald spot” from a bullet impact about 4″ from where my foot was when the officer being qualified re-sequenced the instructions “draw, fire one round, re-holster”! Blew the bottom out of his holster!

      Cross draws are NOT even permissible in most departments and strongly discouraged in most situations.

      • Theo Brinkman

        No, contrary to your claim, it *is* possible to draw cross draw without sweeping. It lies in the second step I described. You don’t transition from holster to target by rotating your elbow horizontally. Rather, you rotate your wrist 180 degrees. At that point, the top of your gun is facing forward, rather than aft, and you bring it on target by raising your arm(s) just like you would from strong-side.

        If, in your 70 years of experience, you’ve been unable to learn that, it doesn’t speak highly of that experience with regards to cross-draw.

        • BigFED

          Theo – I didn’t say it was not possible, only that the average person doesn’t have the discipline to do it!. As I noted in my response, it requires a DELIBERATE amount of effort to avoid sweep. Average person does NOT practice that draw enough to become proficient enough. Not even LEOs!.

          And in my 50+++ years, not one of the agencies or LEO I work for/with allowed cross draw, so my experience with it IS limited, but in that time I found no valid reason to adapt or use cross draw over conventional carry. I am NOT trying to advocate either for or against cross draw, only that it carries with it, slightly higher level of risk. YMMV!

          There is a difference between possible and practical. Given the right circumstances, it may be possible to strike a wet match against a wet bar of soap, but I wouldn’t recommend it as a matter of practice!

          • Theo Brinkman

            You did make a statement that cross draw required sweep, “Any kind of “cross draw” including shoulder holsters (and, yes, that is a cross draw) does involve muzzle sweep…”. I was simply correcting that statement. Nowhere did I claim it was as easy as, or as safe as drawing from strong-side.

            Also, nowhere did I even start to imply that police are particularly well trained with firearms. I know that to be untrue, from the mouths of officers themselves as well as through the results of police shootings in which a 1:6 hit ratio is considered quite good virtually everywhere in the country. I am *firmly* of the belief that police need to be better trained, and held *at least* to the same standards that civilians are in that regard.

          • BigFED

            Theo – I agree. YES, I do agree that most LEOs are not prepared for those encounters, but we will differ on what training is important. My emphasis is on getting “lead on target” while most others go for the “scenario”. A “scenario” is a plan and plans never survive contact with the enemy! Be safe!