Is There a Difference Between an AR-15 Scope and More Traditional Ones?

The popularity of AR-15s and AR-10s has quietly created an evolution in optics. But, is there a difference between an AR-15 scope and more traditional ones?

The short answer is, well, not really. With the right mounts, rings, clearance and gear nearly any scope can run on any rifle. However, that high-powered hunting optic mounted on an AR may not be the optimal choice for the gun’s use. How it’s anchored makes a big difference, too.

AR-Specific Scopes

Today, shooters can choose any one of a variety of scopes designed specifically for ARs, some with ballistic drop compensating (BDC) reticles tuned to their pet .300 BLK or 5.56 NATO loads and anchor it on a whole new generation of QD-mounts that feature the return-to-zero reliability our battlefront warfighters deserved.

Should you insist on an etched reticle in your scope, or go with wire? I interviewed experts in the field and the answers were surprising.

The Global War on Terror, where CQB battles are often followed by long-distance engagements has pushed engineers to conquer the once-considered unobtainable Holy Grail of riflescopes. Today there are many optics capable operating flawlessly at zero magnification when things are up close, yet dial up in power when needed—without electronic interpolation. That was the first thing Leupold & Stevens Vice President of Product Development Tim Lesser mentioned when I asked. “Lower magnification optics used to be primarily purchased by big- or dangerous-game hunters, but now the 1-6 and 1-8 optics are some of the most popular models for AR users,” he said.  

[The Eotech 1-8×24 mm SFP Vudu the company introduced in January, seen above, is an example]

The sheer volume of AR sales makes it a driving force in the industry, but Lesser cautioned that putting a precise figure on how modern sporting rifles (MSR) are driving optics purchases is impossible. “Since MSRs are being used for anything from home defense to varmint hunting to 3-gun competition to big-game hunting, it’s hard to label anything as an AR-15/10 optic,” he said.

A growing number of companies are producing optics and marketing them as AR-specific, though. I reached out for comments on current demand, but those numbers will remain secret because none replied to our requests by press time. Nikon, which is leaving the riflescope business, still offers the M-223, P-223, M-300 BLK and P-Rimfire in a variety of flavors. Most are available with a BDC reticle. Bushnell dove in the market’s deep end with seven different specific offerings in 2014, including one for rimfire clones and a pair of 1-4×24 mms, red dot optional. It’s line continues to expand and improve. Add other companies with a full spectrum of reflex/holographic sights, backup iron sights, lasers and every conceivable configuration between, and there’s never been more for AR-15 owners to choose from.

AR-Specific Mounts

In fact, it’s easy to see how you can quickly run out of rail space. On a factory tour of Warne Scope Mounts I caught a glimpse of the company’s SKEL 30 mm MSR scope mount before it was on the market. The one-piece system with a 20 MOA slope built in is more for AR-10s, though, because it “…allows additional elevation adjustment in your optic when shooting ranges over 600 yards.”

Although more appealing to bigger bore fans, comments made by company spokesman Tom Paris apply to owners of all flavors. CNC machining on a one-piece mount minimizes change in point of aim when the optic/mount is removed and replaced, and those tight tolerances also negate the need for lapping the rings—a procedure often done to maximize gripping surface, hence secure hold, with the optic.

Some multi-piece mounting systems—not all—he explained, can reflect a slight skew/warp on one end or the other, which surrenders a tiny amount of bite on the riflescope. As a result, after long range sessions or the inevitable abuse, point of aim/impact can drift. He cited the company’s vertical rings as one of the two-piece systems that doesn’t suffer the effect.

As for overall sales in optics riding MSRs, “It has grown significantly,” Lesser said. “But with the variety of ways people are using ARs…it’s hard to pin down specific figures. You might not think of the VX-3i 3.5-10×40 mm as an AR optic, but for a whitetail hunter with a 7.62/.308 it may be the perfect fit.”

If Leupold & Stevens is any indication, the MSR’s impact in nearly every corner of the industry can’t be overstated. “Thanks to the versatility of the AR platform, we’ve seen increases across all lines,” Lesser concluded.  

Wireless Connections on your Gun

Wireless Connections on your Gun

The quest for improved technology knows no limits, and the firearm industry isn’t exempt. Owners can now build their guns better, faster, stronger and without a $6 million price tag.

Headlines covering increased gun sales overshadow the fact that the industry has been rolling out smarter, smaller and more reliable gear and guns at a record-setting pace. There’s a whole lot of advanced engineering being harnessed, and research and development teams continue to explore technology pioneered in non-related fields or blaze their own trail.

Crimson Trace’s tradition of innovation began more than 20 years ago, when it rolled out the world’s first and only instinctively activated, no-gunsmithing-required laser targeting system. Now that millions of Lasergrips are riding handguns, it may seem like good common sense, but there were skeptics at first. The naysayers were wrong and the under-reported skunk works in Wilsonville, OR, unveiled something radical four years ago—a wireless weaponlight and laser for long guns.

Traditionally, wire connects forward-mounted illumination/targeting devices on an AR to a switch or pressure pad near or on the pistol grip. Unfortunately, even a few inches is enough to hang up on things at the worst possible moment. It’s also vulnerable to heat, wear and, ultimately, breakage. There are solutions, but none completely remedy the problem.

Crimson Trace may have solved it by ditching the wire in its new LiNQ System, which consists of a Weaver or Picatinny rail-mounted light/laser and AR-15 style grip that retains the intuitive pressure-activated-switch. A side button on the grip allows users to toggle between white light, light and green laser (red will be available soon), laser, or laser and flashing light settings. A master on/off switch is also there, and an indicator bulb confirms contact between the units. Solid green indicates they’re talking, blinking means it’s searching for its mate and red indicates the connection is lost.

It sounds complicated, but settings are established at the factory, and, “The wireless connection is secured by more than 250-plus bits of coding, thus very specific once the communication is established between the light laser module and the control grip,” according to then Crimson Trace Media Relations Manager Michael Faw. “The units are shipped as paired units because it’s part of the testing in the factory—thus, ready to go and fully communicating.”

Obviously a pair of batteries are required, CR2 and CR123, and if one fails (operational life is two hours and spares store in the grip), “…you can change batteries without there being a loss of communication between parts,” he said. When not in use, battery drain is virtually non-existent, and if the grip’s cell goes down the weaponlight has manual controls at the rear.

The communication method will stay under wraps for a while, if Faw’s answer is any indication. “The two units communicate via a specially designed Crimson Trace system—and it’s definitely not Bluetooth, which can be hacked,” he said. He also indicated it’s not infrared, either, and mypatent and FCC-approval searches didn’t produce an answer.  

SureFire’s IntelliBeam does some of the thinking for you in low light, or more accurately, changing light. The company’s first auto-adjusting flashlight is an upgraded version of its popular P2X Fury that features an intelligent sensor and microprocessor-based system that continuously and seamlessly adjusts light output by evaluating surroundings. In an open field, expect all 600 lumens, but it dials down to 15 when conditions are right.

Burris’ Eliminator line of scopes has been around for a while, but still cutting edege. The optic’s built-in laser rangefinder determines distance, collates the information against your load’s external ballistics (easily entered by the user), proper holdover is calculated, and at the push of a button that precise location is shown by a red dot in the scope.

And, if you want to post video on social media of those holes punching in paper—day or night—ATN’s X-Spotter HD Smart Day/Night Spotting Scope fills the bill. It also live streams to your favorite device, but company President James Munn isn’t nearly as secretive about communication channels. “WiFi frequency is 2.4GHz,” he said, emphasizing it’s secure, thanks to WPA2 password encryption. 

KC Eusebio on Electronic Hearing Protection

KC Eusebio on Electronic Hearing Protection

From Howard Leight

Since its introduction, the Howard Leight Impact Sport electronic earmuff has become a favored addition to the range bags of shooting enthusiasts throughout the world—including five-time World Speed-Shooting Champion, KC Eusebio.

“I first used Howard Leight hearing protection products when I was enlisted in the U.S. Army,” sais Eusebio, who began competitive shooting over 20 years ago at age 8. “And it’s still the brand I trust today. After shooting over a million rounds in my lifetime, I just want to say thank you to Howard Leight for helping keep my ears protected and my hearing safe!”


Featuring a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) of 22, Impact Sport is a versatile earmuff for most shooting situations and environments, including rifle, shotgun, handgun, hunting and tactical applications.


Internal circuitry allows ambient and low-frequency sounds to be safely amplified up to four times to a peak of 82 dB, making it easy for wearers to hear range commands and conduct conversation, even in noisy environments. Amplification automatically reduces at 82 dB, attenuating hazardous impulse noises from gunfire. “Impact Sport’s adjustable amplification makes it a great hearing protection choice for competition, practicing at the range, or for hunting,” said Eusebio.

Slim, Lightweight and Comfortable Design

Impact Sport models feature a sleek, extremely low-profile earcup design with carefully engineered cutouts that facilitate the shouldering of a rifle or shotgun while maintaining clearance from the firearm stock. Lightweight and comfortable for all-day wear, Impact Sport models incorporate a padded headband with vertical height adjustments for a secure, non-slip fit. When not in use, the headband and earcups fold for easy, compact storage. “I trust Howard Leight to make reliable, long-lasting products,” KC said. “I know people who have used the same set of Impact Sports for the past ten years and they still perform great. Howard Leight sells replacement ear cushions, and you can even add Howard Leight Cool Pads to increase comfort on those hot summer days when it’s muggy and you’re sweating,” he adds.

Power Pluses

Howard Leight Impact Sport electronic muffs are powered by two included AAA batteries, which can be expected to last for over 150 hours of use. “A lot of ranges don’t sell batteries, so Howard Leight includes them with their electronic muffs to make sure their products are ready to protect right out of the packaging,” said Eusebio. “I’ve had this particular set of Impact Sport muffs for about a year-and-a-half and haven’t had to change batteries yet. One of the coolest features is the four-hour automatic shutoff that preserves battery life. After a long day of shooting, the last thing you’re thinking of is having to turn them off, so they’ll shut down automatically after four hours. The next time you use them, simply turn them off and turn them back on and you’re good to go.”

Multiple Colors

Howard Leight Impact Sport electronic muffs come in multiple colors to complement the individual taste and style of any shooting sports enthusiast, including Black, OD Green, Teal, Purple, Pink, and – KC’s favorites – MultiCam, MultiCam Black and MultiCam Alpine. “In addition to just looking incredibly cool, MultiCam patterns bring the advantages of stealth and concealment to hunters and tactical operators who want to protect their hearing in the field without compromising their cover,” Eusebio said.

Starting in July, Impact Sport will also be available in three brand-new Honor Collection colors to celebrate and honor our nation’s first responders. The unique One Nation, Smoke and Real Blue colorways are sure to be appreciated by anyone who values our unique American freedoms.

And if you’re looking for tips on shooting eyewear, here are some from Howard Leight as well.

Heed expert advice when it comes to disaster prepping

Heed expert advice when it comes to disaster prepping

Photo courtesy of FEMA

Whether it’s Mother Nature’s wrath or a manmade catastrophe, disasters are always unscheduled, usually unexpected and, by definition, life threatening. The COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example and highlights the reason you should heed expert advice when it comes to disaster prepping.

Mother Nature targets anyone she wants in a blink of an eye, and her ability to do so has been proudly on display this year. Hurricane season’s already warming up and tornadoes have claimed lives. Add terrorist plots, manmade catastrophes and opportunistic criminals who recognize when law enforcement coverage is thin, and it’s obvious relying on immediate help from authorities—even during the COVID-19 pandemic—can be a fatal error. FEMA admits on its Preparedness Myths Debunked web page, “It may also be several days before they can reach your area. As such, we must all embrace our personal responsibility to be prepared.”

Next Time Soon

Did you have the basics on hand before the COVID-19 pandemic struck? What happens if things escalate and the power goes out, cell phone coverage drops or water supply gets questionable?

Toilet paper is still scarce and there’s a meat shortage looming during this pandemic, so it’s too late to stock up right now. But this will not be the last “sporty” situation in 2020 and there are more coming.

Rather than pretending my dozen years of search & rescue experience makes me the ultimate authority—unlike some of the Internet’s armchair quarterbacks—the information provided in this blog comes from the folks who’ve responded to an understand urban emergencies. Their potentially lifesaving information is budget friendly, a refreshing reason to heed expert advice when it comes to disaster prepping.

I will, however, start with one free tip that I’ve seen come to the rescue of the dozens of outdoorsmen I’ve helped pluck off cliffs and return from the wilderness. No one disagrees on this point.

Power if the Mind

Your most powerful tool is a survival mindset and willingness to take responsibility in the situation. Bring that weapon to the “party” and the odds greatly increase you’ll not only survive but thrive in the chaos. It’s free, although likely tough to maintain right now during the COVID-19 pandemic. Polish that attitude to a fine finish, just in case there’s accuracy in the prediction that mankind’s “Darkest Winter” is approaching.

Do not surrender. You can and will survive. Put your mind to it and do so long before the next crisis knocks on the door.


Readers with families face an added problem in a disaster. Depending on when fate strikes, a spouse could be miles away at work or children at school.

You may have made it home, but if you’re unable to ascertain whether your child is safe, there’s going to be a serious temptation to brave the danger to locate him—possibly getting hurt or killed. Cell phones are the modern answer, but tornados topple cell towers, the power goes out, batteries die and circuits get so overloaded that nearly all attempts to call won’t go through. That’s precisely what happened on 9/11 and part of the reason phone service largely went black right after the Boston Marathon Bombing.

FEMA’s website has some handy tips, including, “Text messages can often get around network disruptions when a phone call might not be able to get through.” It doesn’t have as wide of a data footprint as phone calls, which also frees space for others nearby to get through to 911. As an added advantage, it will continue trying to punch that message through until it finally gives you an error message. It’s so effective that before Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New York, officials issued a reminder to text during the storm. If that doesn’t work, try sending an e-mail from your phone.  

If possible, keep a cell phone charger in your vehicle, and carry a backup battery. Program a loved one’s number into the phone under the name ICE (In Case of Emergency), which lets first responders know that’s the person you prefer to have contacted. As for your landline, according to the Federal Communications System, “If you have traditional telephone service, it may work during electric power outages—but you may need to use a ‘corded’ phone.”

In addition, recommends you, “Identify a contact such as a friend or relative who lives out-of-state for household members to notify they are safe. It may be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town, so an out-of-town contact may be in a better position to communicate among separated family members.”

Three Steps to Success

FEMA recommends a three-step program in your preparedness: Get informed, make a plan, and build a kit. provides free publications on its website, with some designed expressly for children.

Among the items it recommends you include in a basic kit are a battery-powered radio (avoid watching live videos as events unfold on your phone or you’re taking up emergency-call bandwidth), manual can opener, flashlights and three gallons of water per person. Of course non-perishable food items to last through the crisis are a critical ingredient.  

Fill up your vehicle’s gas tank long before a hurricane makes landfall and don’t forget about your pets. They need to eat and drink too, and all that begging just adds to the stress.

It’s not rocket science and the basics don’t require a huge investment. It does, however, mean you’ll maintain items like batteries in flashlights, check regularly and rotate food in the pantry while keeping some extra, just in case.

If you’re itching to finally get out of the house after shelter-in-place orders are listed, do so with caution. Criminals know there’s an overwhelming urge to escape the house—if only for a day trip. Law enforcement has some timely tips to avoid becoming a different kind of victim once COVID-19 eases.

The fine folks at FEMA didn’t foresee the need for masks and stockpiles of toilet paper. However, the wisdom they share is sound, free and for our safety, we should always heed expert advice when it comes to disaster prepping.

Here are more tips from NOAA and my review of a Midland radio to help you stay informed when the lights go out.

350 Legend FAQs

350 Legend FAQs

Winchester Ammunition introduced the .350 Legend cartridge to enthusiasts at the 2019 SHOT Show and a few readers have e-mailed with questions about it. Here’s a brief list of.350 Legend FAQs and links I hope help clear things up.

Who is making .350 Legend ammo right now?

Winchester already offers a diverse line of .350 Legend ammo.  If you like to keep things quiet, take a look at its Super Suppressed loads. Browning also introduced its line at the 2020 SHOT Show in January. Hornady is another manufacturer producing it, and the list of makers is growing by the day.

Will the .350 Legend run in an AR?

Yes, in compatible/properly modified modern sporting rifles. CMMG’s Resolute 300 Mk4 is already available, for example, and it’s getting good reviews. Below is one from Hickok45.

What bolt-action rifles chamber the .350 Legend?

Winchester makes XPRs in .350 Legend. In the Ruger American Rifle line you’ll find it in its Predator, Ranch and Go Wild Camo models. Savage and Mossberg also make them for the cartridge and models are added by manufacturers all the time. CVA even sells a single-shot, break-action version—and those Bergara barrels are accurate.

Is it really the fastest straight-walled cartridge every made?

We’ll defer to the expertise of Winchester Ammo, which writes, “Yes, the 350 Legend is the fastest SAAMI-approved straight-walled hunting cartridge for use in states that have specific regulations for deer hunting with straight-walled centerfire cartridges. Those states include, but may not be limited to: Michigan, Ohio, Iowa and Indiana.”

How does it compare to the .30-30 Win.?

Deferring again to Winchester, here’s the numbers when a 150-grain Extreme Tip bullet leaves a 20-inch barrel from both chamberings. In .350 Legend it is traveling 2,325 fps at the muzzle. Energy there is 1,800 ft.-lbs. From the .30-30 Win. chambering, it exits at 2,205 fps and generates 1,619 ft.-lbs.

Where can I find the ammo?

Don’t waste a lot of time looking for it at your local big-box store, but most FFLs are beginning to keep some in inventory. I use Wideners for most of my ammo purchases, and the majority of it’s online anymore. I’ve been very pleased by the service and follow-up through Wideners.

Where can I find the specs and technical drawings of the case?

I have more technical information posted in this blog, and there you will find a direct link to the SAAMI technical drawings for the cartridge and chambering.

And don’t forget to stay up to date on the latest about the .350 Legend by following this Instagram page dedicated to the cartridge!

Thank you for visiting my modest blog. Leave a comment if you have time and I hope you have a glorious day.

Tips on Shooting Eyewear from Howard Leight

Tips on Shooting Eyewear

Here are some tips on shooting eyewear from Howard Leight. Just because your shooting glasses meet ANSI Z87 impact standards doesn’t automatically make them the best choice for protecting your eyes while at the range, on the sporting clays course or while hunting.

“Acceptable safety eyewear for shooting sports starts with this key certification,” said Honeywell Safety’s retail product marketing manager, Tony Han, in reference to OSHA’s ANSI Z87 standard. “But a variety of other factors contribute to the overall performance of shooting sports eyewear. Beyond ballistic impact resistance, key performance characteristics like optical quality, lens coatings that perform under the harshest conditions, task-specific lens tints that optimize visual acuity in different situations, and frame designs that contribute to fit and comfort are all things that have helped to make Honeywell’s Uvex brand the world’s top-selling line of protective eyewear.”

Optical Quality

Good shooting glasses should sharpen visual acuity, not hamper it. Unfortunately, poor materials, engineering or production methods can result in shooting glasses with compromised optical quality.

“Poor optical quality can result in visual distortion, lack of visual clarity or a narrowed field of view,” said Han. “Similar to putting on a pair of eyeglasses that are the wrong prescription, these conditions can cause the wearer’s eyes to work harder by straining to overcome the distortion, even when the distortion is not immediately apparent. The result can range from a simple reduction in shooting performance to headaches and—even worse—long-term vision damage.”

Unfortunately for consumers, there are no established universal standards that regulate the optical quality of safety eyewear, so shooting sports enthusiasts are well-served to choose their safety eyewear from a reputable and well-established manufacturer.


Among the tips on shooting eyewear offered by Howard Leight is to consider the lens coatings, as well. Available on Howard Leight Shooting Sports Genesis and Hypershock safety eyewear models, Uvex HydroShield coating provides a 60X improvement over similar anti-fog products. It delivers consistent anti-fog performance, requires no maintenance and offers 99.9 percent UVA/UVB protection.

Whether headed to the sporting clays course or into the field to hunt, you want to bring your “A” game. That means having the right gear to support a solid performance, so make sure quality eyewear is included with your cartridges and shotshells.

Howard Leight Shooting Sports offers a complete line of high-quality Uvex safety eyewear for shooters delivering tough, scratch-resistant lenses that meet or exceed rigid ANSI Z787+ high-velocity impact standards, performance, comfort and style with multiple lens-tint options to optimize visual acuity and performance in most shooting environments.

How to Layer for Gun Photography

how to layer for gun photography

On occasion people ask about the approach I take to try and make guns and products look more dynamic in photos. I admit there are others better versed at the technique, but here is a beginner’s look at how to layer for gun photography. Hopefully, it will give you an appreciation for the work that goes into creating images for Shooting Illustrated, American Rifleman, Predator Xtreme and other publications I contribute to.  

It starts with dusting and cleaning, followed by positioning the gun or object, followed by more scrubbing and canned air. The lens detects very hair and particle, even those invisible to the eye. They look worse when you use a flash and fingerprints are a real problem.

Before you attempt this, Photoshop or image editing software is required.

Camera Setup

The camera goes on a tripod. My iPhone connects to its Wifi for remote triggering. In a pinch I use the shutter release timer. Any movement in the camera is a disaster when you layer for gun photography.

Products on a black background are easiest, so that’s the approach described here. The camera goes on manual and the shutter speed is usually at 1/200th of a second. Now take a picture. It should be completely black, everywhere. If not, dial the F-stop down or decrease ISO.

Most flashes and cameras don’t play together well if you increase shutter speed past 1/200.

Flash Setup

I use a single Canon 580 EXII flash connected to one Pocket Wizard with another riding on my camera. The setup and technique will work on any DSLR and many point-and-shoot cameras.

Flash output must also be on manual, at least in my case, because I prefer the simplest radio-controlled Pocket Wizards. Complexity is an enemy when running and gunning in the field and when it fails in the studio it’s just as frustrating.

The next challenge is directing the light only where you want. Letting it scatter around the room and light other objects defeats your work. There’s a workaround in image editing software, but it doesn’t always work.

The solution is to roll something up—a magazine, aluminum foil—into a tube and slide one end over the flash head. That way all the light produced directs out the other side in a small area without scatter on unwanted objects.

Hit the Shutter

Now point your “flash barrel” at one part of the object or firearm and hit the camera’s timer or shutter release. Be mindful you and it do not show up in the image.

Review the photo and make sure you have nice light on the targeted area. If it is too dark, increase the flash power or open the aperture slightly.

Keep trying until you capture something you like. Visualize it as only one component in a dozen parts before you delete failed attempts. It is easy to think they are not working when one could be that ideal light flare that adds to the look of a riflescope lens.

Once the camera settings are correct, aim at different parts of the gun/object and take a photo each time. Yes, it’s slow and painstaking to try and capture all the best-looking stuff—it’s a necessary evil, though.

Do not forget to take some from behind, both below and above, for rim lighting. In fact, I do those first at steep angles to avoid appearing in the photo.

Capture more images than you think are necessary. You can always delete anything that does not work and if you try again later, you’ll be cleaning again.

How to Layer for Gun Photography

When done, import the images into Photoshop or your image editing program—all of them. Now have the software arrange them into a single stack. In Photoshop you find that command under file/scripts, and then “Load files in stack.”  

Some programs have an option to automatically align. I never had good luck with it at all, so I ignore it. If your experience is better, let me know.  

Once stacked you simply change each layer’s blend mode to lighten. Hopefully, you will be surprised how well the final image builds.

how to layer for gun photography
First two shots in a layer

Editing Layers

Odds are good a layer or two will be too bright or show an unwanted item behind. Simply delete or turn them off. If you’re more advanced in photo editing you can also apply a mask or edit the individual layer to appropriate levels.

how to layer for gun photography
Add another layer

That’s all there is to it. Two hours behind the camera, another four in front of a computer and one of the 20 images or so required for a single story is complete. And people think writers/photographers are making a fortune.

how to layer for gun photography
A couple more to bring out foreground

The above image is the one I liked and it has more than a dozen individual photos stacked.Here’s a look at how it turned out in Predator Xtreme magazine. I used spares in a video on my modest Fear and Loading YouTube channel if you want to see more of the Sightmark Wraith.

how to layer for gun photography
And things are starting to take shape

Hopefully this short look at how to layer for gun photography gives you a better appreciation for the images on firearm websites and in magazines. Well, the good ones, anyway.

Of course, things don’t have to be this complicated. If you missed it, here’s a blog about inexpensive techniques to improve your gun photography.

Signs Someone Has a Hidden Gun

Putin, Russian, Gunfighters Gait, signs someone has a hidden gun, Guy J. Sagi, Fear & Loading

Accomplished photographers have at least one thing in common with smart self-defense enthusiasts—attention to detail. A  study released in 2015 , based on images of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “gunslinger gait,” underscores that fact. The way he walks is one of the many signs someone has a hidden gun.

There are other indications a person has a firearm on them, many detailed in The U.S. Department of Justice’s 2006 “Violent Encounters: A study of felonious assaults on our nation’s law enforcement officers.” Recognizing the clues it provides could be lifesaving.

None (as in zero) of the criminals interviewed in the study used a holster. That lack of retention, “…may have made their actions more exaggerated or noticeable, or it may have affected their behaviors in varied but related ways,” according to the study.

Body language

• Hand check—The urge to touch, tug or adjust that gun is common. “These acts become most observable whenever individuals change body positions, such as standing, sitting or exiting a motor vehicle,” according to the report. Running criminals often hold the gun in place.  Hands in pockets or visiting them too often is another of the signs someone has a hidden gun.

• Jock itch—“Many offenders in the three studies revealed that they purposely transported weapons in their crotch areas…because of the reluctance of officers to thoroughly search this location.”

• Blading—They also often turn their body, blade, to shield the gun from detection. One of the interviewed felons explained the habit. “Because they can’t see what I’m reaching for, I get that extra second.”


• Sagging—“Normally, personal items, such as wallets, keys, pagers, and cell phones, do not weigh enough to cause a pocket to hang substantially lower than the one on the opposite side.” Jackets droop or swing like a pendulum on one side when walking.

• Improper clothing—Heavy coats in the summer can hide guns. Jackets open in the dead of winter provide faster draws. And, “Similarly, if a man is wearing a dress shirt, dress pants, and dress shoes, why would he have his shirttail hanging out?” the study asks. It’s all about speed. The report also warns criminals often carry a gun under a coat or item draped over their arm.

• Hoodies—“One offender in the current study stated that he had several friends who carried firearms in their jacket hoods,” the report warns.  Eye hoods not worn during rain and snow with caution.


“Twelve percent of the male offenders in the same study [‘In the Line of Fire’] reported giving their handguns to females to carry for them when approached by law enforcement officers.” Female criminals also preferred storing guns in places officers avoid frisking. Ninety-two percent of the criminals interviewed carried their weapons somewhere in the middle torso—crotch, back, side, chest or belly.

Final signs someone has a hidden gun

Retired Border Patrol Agent and Gunsite Rangemaster Ed Head said your observation should include another focus. “I always looked at their eyes, face and neck,” he said. “People tense up before they launch and you can see this as their eyes narrow or squint, their facial muscles tighten and their carotid arteries in the neck throb as their pulse quickens.”

As for Putin’s walk, the experts claim his KGB training still shows. The gun hand remains close to where the firearm is, or was, holstered during his foreign intelligence service. This other arm and support hand rises, falls and swings in a normal pattern. The asymmetric stride is the gunslinger gait.