Category Archives: Small Unit Tactics

Re-Post: Essential Skills: Getting Home

Timely re-posting, nudged by a couple of readers.  Now that it’s officially summer, the pack contents will obviously change, but the principles remain the same.

First, DTG wishes everyone a ‘Happy New Year!’ ‘Happy Summer Solstice!’ in the hope that no matter how bad things look, the training, equipping and preparing you do and help others do will mitigate whatever we are facing as a People (which is  coming at us faster than a freight train bearing down on an unguarded railroad crossing with a couple of teenagers necking in a convertible who think the whistles they are hearing are in their heads).


To that end the first post of the year is going to focus on the importance of equipping yourself to make it home from wherever your commute may take you during the work day.  For those of you working from home, ‘good on ya’!  For the rest of us, we may have a ways to go, and our personal vehicle might not be available for part, or all, of the trip.

That said, let’s look at what we might need for winter (adapt for your own locality and weather patterns) every day in order to stay functional:

  • Complete set of sturdy clothing –  If you work in an environment that ‘business’ or ‘business casual’ is the norm, your dress slacks, button down shirt/bouse and sport coat/blazer is not going to cut it when trying to make it home, especially in bad weather.  If you have to traverse any less than hospitable areas, the dress clothes will mark you as a target to the local mutant zombie biker types lurking about.  You’ll want long sleeve shirts/blouses, field capable pants with belt (no camouflage, earth tones or greys are good – anything that won’t stand out, color wise), a weather appropriate jacket that’s minimally water resistant and optimally Goretex level water proof, and well-broken in boots and good, sturdy socks, such as the Vermont ‘Darn Tough’ USMC type of socks.  You get the picture; this needs to be in your vehicle every time you leave home.  Get a small storage container to keep it in so it’s unobtrusive.

danner hikers2

Personally, for my Get Home Bag, I keep a pair of Danner ‘Combat Hikers’ with a rolled up pair of Vermont ‘Darn Tough’ USMC Over-The-Calf socks in them.  There are other good quality boots and socks available; I prefer the Danner’s and the ‘Darn Tough’ brand for SHTF scenarios.  A note on the Danner hikers – they seem to run about a half-size bigger than usual, which really surprised me, as my experience on other Danner boots is the opposite – they run a tad smaller than size – so to make them fit perfectly, I put a pair of these in them (well worth the money) and it worked beautifully:

Sole Insoles

I’m not relying on theory here or other folks’ experiences; I’ve put about 40 miles on the combination pictured above doing training walks with a ruck weighing between 65 and 80 lbs for distances between 2 and 10 miles.  Very comfortable, very durable, and they don’t look any different than when I bought them.  Interestingly enough, you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for these – I got my Danner’s on eBay for $60 out the door.  The insoles I bought at Amazon for about $35.  Less than $100 all told, and worth every penny.  Next, they don’t necessarily look, ‘military,’ which, when you’re trying to blend in to ‘everyday’ scenes, might be a good thing.

I don’t necessarily think that walking will be my primary means to get home (the farthest I reasonably travel for business during a day is 50 miles from home), but if I end up having to walk, I won’t fail because my feet gave out due to poor quality footwear.  Consider that for a bit and then make your choice.

Pants & Shirt – I don’t like blue jeans as cotton is, ‘the cloth of death’ in cold, wet weather.  I prefer a blend, such as the cotton-poly or nylon-cotton pants available.  Brand doesn’t matter, so long as you remember earth tones or greys, and no camouflage.  The idea again, is not to look like some sort of tactical ‘operator’ walking the route you’ve chosen.  The idea is to look so unobtrusive that you may not be noticed, and if you are, scant attention is paid to you.  Remember the primary objective:  Get home to take care of your precious cargo.  Remember, you get what you pay for, so get the best you can afford.  Here’s a couple of examples:


Jackets we use include the Tru-Spec H20 coupled with the Wiggy’s jacket liner.  Check that out, here.  Wiggy’s products are extremely well made and really will make the difference in nasty, cold, wet weather when you’re walking.  The material used for insulation actually repels the water and keeps insulating much better than wool, even when wet.  As always, your call, these are only suggestions based on what we have and do use in training and every day preps.

Last item for clothing:  A hat.  We recommend having two.  One for rain (boonie type) that’s either water resistant on it’s own, or treated with copious amounts of Camp Dry or other brands of silicone.  The other hat should be a fleece or wool ‘watch cap’ so that you lose as little heat as possible in really cold weather.  Sure, when you’re walking you can regulate your body temp by taking the hat off for short periods (more than 80% of your body heat loss is through the head), but having it will also warm you up quickly.

Next time, we’ll talk about the ‘get home’ bag and various options you can choose for personal protection that are unobtrusive.  Oh…one more thing:  To actually get home, you’ll need to be in somewhat decent shape physically.  That means PT.  Great time to start, too, as it’s the first of the year!



One Type Of Realistic Planning And Training

Watch this again.

This dramatization promises to be a great teaching video that demonstrates various survival techniques that will work.  Note the size of the ruck sack, personal and equipment camouflage, and how he moves.  If one were moving from Point A to Point B (the safer location), one might use some of the techniques demonstrated.  Last note:  PT…can’t carry a full ruck (ammo, food, water, etc), rifle, web gear without being in shape.

Mason Dixon Tactical

A good friend posted this awesome video that shows one type of training scenario you can run that involves multiple skills you should be practicing if you are truly a Survivalist. Realistic scenario based planning, training, and preps (not the fantastical BS so many do because it makes them feel like they’re in the military) is what you should be doing. Is this scenario possible? Sure, especially in Alaska. Is it probable? No clue. We don’t have a Damned crystal ball, so it’s train for the worst and hardest to survive scenario, and the rest are easier.


American by BIRTH, Infidel by CHOICE

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Re-Post: Principles of Tactical Defense – Part V: Fully Prepared Positions and Improvements

Originally posted on 5 March 2014.

Now we can get into making your progressively developed hasty position into a fully prepared defensive position, along with some things that will make you more comfortable.  Remember, though, progressive development to the depth described herein is for positions that you will be in for quite some time, so don’t fall into the trap that you don’t have a “worthy” prepared defensive position if you don’t have a log overhead and waterproofed cover; conversely, don’t lull yourself into the dangerous mindset when you’re laying in your hasty position that, “we’ll be leaving any minute now….aaaaaaaany minute… I don’t need to dig any more.”

So, first things first.

How deep do you dig once you have a hasty position dug properly?  Easy answer:  Keep working until you’re armpit deep.  For the entire length of the hole, whether straight or curved, for a two man position.  A field expedient measuring tool is your rifle.  If you have a M-Forgery, extend the stock all the way, and measure four lengths (nice and tight), but no more than six.  Mark it with a stick or something in the ground.

Field Fort 10

Don’t make it two wide; just wide enough to get in and out comfortably.  The text book says ‘the width of two bayonets’.  That makes it about 2 feet wide.  The smaller signature leaves the least amount of space for things that go ‘boom’ to be thrown into where you are at.  If you and your buddy are big guys, with huge, wide shoulders, you may need to make it wider.  If you’re the leprechaun type (small, dark and cocky), you might need it to be less wide.  The key here is customization.  Really.  Make it fit the two of you.

Now when you’re building your front cover with either the spoil or sandbags you’ve gotten from your ruck (you DO carry 2 or 3, right?), build the wall far enough away so that you can dig impressions that your elbows can rest in to lower your profile just a bit more.  (You should have gotten by now that you don’t want to fire over your front cover if you don’t have to, because it silhouettes you and makes it easier for the ‘apocalypse zombie sapper squad’ to shoot you in the face.  Another reason for firing from the oblique and letting a supporting position fire to your front until the shit really gets bad.)  You can also dig impressions for any bipod you may be using to support the firing of a captured zombie belt-fed (remember, the S has HTF, and you’re using a captured weapon.  In times of peace, all NFA rules apply).

Here’s an example of each:

Field Fort 11

Field Fort 12

Ok, now we tackle the problem of not shooting our guys that may be in our line of fire.  We do this with ‘sector of fire stakes.’  Tree limbs about 18 inches long make good stakes. The stakes must be sturdy and must stick out of the ground high enough to keep your rifle from being pointed out of your sector.  Figure about at least an inch in diameter; 2 inches is better.  Sharpen them so they’ll go in the ground easier.  Then, hammer in aiming stakes (about an inch in diameter so you can tell the difference between the two in the dark) to help you fire into dangerous approaches at night and at other times when visibility is poor.  Forked tree limbs about 12 inches long make good stakes. Put one stake near the edge of the hole to rest the stock of your rifle on. Then put another stake forward of the rear (first) stake toward each dangerous approach. The forward stakes are used to hold the rifle barrel. To change the direction of your fire from one approach to another, move the rifle barrel from one forward stake to another. Leave the stock of the rifle on the rear stake.  (The positions to your left and right and front (if you are the ‘in depth’ position) will appreciate your attention to detail if you get into the shit after dark…..just sayin’.)

Field Fort 13

Now we get into making sure that if the ‘apocalypse zombie sapper team’ has hand-launched indirect munitions (grenades) that we have a chance (just a chance) to survive that if it gets into the hole (“hole” is an affectionate term simplifying the phrase, “prepared defensive position” and we (meaning you) can’t get out in time to avoid detonation.

Dig grenade sumps.  Two of them.  In the floor (one on each end). If a zombie throws a grenade into the hole, kick or throw it into one of the sumps. The sump will absorb most of the blast. The rest of the blast will be directed straight up and out of the hole.  You need to be away from the sump you kicked it into.  This may seem obvious, but it’s better to take away all doubt while you’re reading this and not have to address it in the middle of a zombie assault on your prepared defensive position (that if you opened fire first, the ‘apocalypse zombie sapper squad’ will most likely think it’s an ambush if they were trained in standard immediate action drills).

Dig the grenade sumps:

  • As wide as the entrenching tool blade.
  • At least as deep as an entrenching tool.
  • As long as the position floor is wide.

You can also slope the floor of the hole toward the grenade sumps for a pre-rain water drainage improvement that may also help any grenades to roll into the sumps.  If the sumps are filled with water, that can help diffuse the detonation.  Not much, but every bit helps.  Here’s yet another illustration:

Field Fort 14

Overhead cover is next.  You won’t need it for protection from artillery fragments or airbursts (I hope), but it will help keep you dry when resting, and it will provide a barrier against observation from the air (especially if the position is camouflaged properly).  Once you have overhead cover, depending on how you build it, you essentially have a bunker.  This can be good and bad, as it can give you a false sense of security.   A fully developed position sometimes lends itself to the feeling of hiding rather than fighting.  Just keep in mind at all times, a prepared defensive position is something to fight from, not hide in.  The real danger of a fully prepared position is that an enemy can move all around to find the weaknesses of your defense plan; you are stationary.  And any defensive perimeter or position can be penetrated, given enough time.  So, it boils down to being ready to leave the position and move to a more advantageous location to wrest the initiative away from the ‘apocalypse zombie sapper team’ should the situation warrant.  End of digression.

Field Fort 15Field Fort 16

To be sure, there are many more variations of prepared defensive positions that given the time and material, you and your NPT could prepare to include trenches, specialized weapon positions, etc., but that’s not the scope of this series.  You now have the basic requirements necessary to build an effective position from a hasty scraping all the way to a fully developed 2 man position.

Time to get a good e-tool!

Re-Post: Principles of Tactical Defense – Part III: “Digging In,” Also Known As, “Field Fortifications”

Originally posted 1 Mar 14.

There’s an extremely good reason why each buddy team in a NPT should have a sturdy, collapsible shovel (E-tool) between them (nothing wrong with each member having their own, provided the fitness level balances against the added weight in the ruck).  Simply put, when your security patrol is required by its mission or necessity to stop for over a few hours, prudence dictates the NPT should begin to dig in.  Prepared defensive positions will increase life expectancy of all team members if attacked away from your safe zone.

Digging in will provide both cover and concealment from observation in most situations, even if the NPT digs shallow ‘hasty’ positions.  In such a case, the position becomes part of the ‘micro terrain’ and just a few inches of depth may help make the team member invisible to an observer.  A lot of what follows is rehashed from various field manuals with some additional thoughts thrown in, however, even though you may find it a bit dry, it is sound in principle and works in application.  Let’s start with what your position must do minimally.

In any situation you find yourself, your position must:

  • Protect (cover) you from direct and indirect fire
  • Allow you to effectively fire your weapon
  • Conceal you from observation, and if at all possible, the position itself must be concealed from identification as a prepared position.

COVER – (Cover is always concealment, i.e., you can’t be seen when behind or under cover, but it doesn’t mean that your enemy doesn’t have a good idea where you are!)

The cover your fighting position provides must be strong enough to protect you from small arms fire, indirect fire fragments, and the blast wave of large explosions (nuclear in this instance is not an issue, because you’re dead anyway if you get hit with a tactical or larger nuke), say from a self-propelled gun or other large, indirect fire weapon. The position should have frontal cover to give protection from small arms fire from the front. Natural frontal cover (trees, rocks, logs, and rubble) is best, because it is hard for the enemy to detect a position that is concealed by natural cover. If natural cover is not available, use the dirt taken from the hole you dig to build additional cover. The cover can be improved by putting the dirt in sandbags and then wetting them.

Here’s an example right out of the field manual of what a prepared two person prepared defensive position should offer:

2 Man Position Shown from the Rear

2 Man Position Shown from the Rear

Now, from the front, which is from where you want to fight off the local zombie horde, you need the cover to be very strong.   It needs to be:

  • Thick enough (at least 18 inches of dirt-the more tightly packed or tamped, the better) to stop small arms fire.
  • High enough to protect your head when you fire from behind the cover.
  • Far enough in front of the hole to allow room for elbow holes and aiming stakes so that you can fire to the oblique without danger of shooting into another of your positions.
  • Long enough to give you cover and hide the muzzle blast of your rifle when you fire to the oblique.

Dig and build your position so that when you come under direct fire from your front, you can move behind the frontal cover for protection and still fire to the oblique (angle).  This illustration will give you a good idea of what you just read:

Position Capable of Taking Direct Fire While Allowing Occupants to Fire from the Oblique

Position Capable of Taking Direct Fire While Allowing Occupants to Fire from the Oblique

For all-round protection, to include protection from shrapnel from indirect fire weapons (mortars, rockets, etc), your position should also have overhead, flank, and rear cover. The dirt from the hole can also be used to build that cover, which protects against indirect fire that bursts overhead or to the flanks and rear of the position. Cover also guards against the effects of friendly weapons supporting from the rear, such as small arms fire. You should leave crawl spaces in the rear cover. This lets you enter and leave the position without exposing yourself to the enemy.

To increase your chances of survival from any sort of large detonation, you should insure that your fighting position has rounded walls hold up better against a blast wave than square or rectangular walls, and rounded walls are easier to dig.

Here’s an illustration of a text book prepared defensive position once complete:

Completed Prepared Defensive Position

Completed Prepared Defensive Position

Now let’s look at staying hidden.

CONCEALMENT (Concealment is not always cover…. and cover for lighter projectiles may just be concealment for heavier or penetrator projectiles…think about it.)

If your position can be detected, it can be hit by fire from someone who wants to kill you. If it can be hit, you can be killed in it. Therefore, your position must be so well hidden that the enemy will have a hard time detecting it even after he is in hand-grenade range (that’s pretty close; not many people can throw a grenade farther than 25 or 30 yards…). Think Maneuver Warfare here! Assaults at night are rarely done with weapons fire! Natural, undisturbed concealment is better than man-made concealment because:

It is already prepared.

It usually will not attract the enemy’s attention.

It need not be replaced.

While digging your position, try not to disturb the natural concealment around it. Put the unused dirt from the hole behind the position and camouflage it.  Here’s an example:

Camouflaged...except for the idiot silhouetting himself in the hole opening....

Camouflaged…except for the idiot silhouetting himself in the hole opening….

While digging your position, try not to disturb the natural concealment around it. Put the unused dirt from the hole behind the position and camouflage it.  Camouflage material that does not have to be replaced (rocks, logs, live bushes, and grass) is best. You should not use so much camouflage that your position looks different from its surroundings.  Your position must be concealed from enemy aircraft (think drones here) as well as from ground observation. If the position is under a bush or tree, or in a building, it is less likely to be seen from above. Leaves, straw, or grass placed on the floor of the hole will keep the fresh earth from contrasting with the ground around it. Do not use sticks, as they may stop grenades from rolling into the grenade sumps  (grenade sumps work against improvised zombie IED’s, too).  Remember, if you’re using man-made (burlap, camouflage nets, commercial material, etc.) concealment must blend with its surroundings so that it cannot be detected.  Yeah, that super tactical looking 7X8 sheet of camouflage might be all the rage, but if your position looks like you’ve covered it with a sheet, you’ve just marked yourself as low hanging fruit…ripe for the picking.

Here’s what a drone should see if it were flying over this text-book illustration of a prepared position:

Field Fort 5


In the next installment, we’ll get into determining fire sectors, setting them up, clearing fields of fire, and various types of positions that are all able to be improved by something called, ‘progressive development’.


Re-Post: Principles of Tactical Defense – Part II: All Around Defense

Originally posted 25 Apr 13.

In PTD, Part 1”> we briefly touched on the principle of ‘Vital Ground’ and what its characteristics are.  To review, “…ground vital to the defense of your position includes any position from which your enemy can overlook, bring fire to bear, or mount an attack from upon the area which you are occupying or defending.”

This time we’ll briefly touch on a well-tried method to achieve all around security through mutual support, defense in-depth and interlocking fields of fire with two buddy teams (or a fire team if you prefer). DTG calls it the, “Reinforced Triangle.”

As seen in the illustration below, these two teams merge into one with one person acting as a team leader (TL) who occupies the center position and oversees the defense should things get hot. Distances between the positions are situation and environmentally dependent, but the principles apply in 99.9% of all scenarios.

Key points: Each position has a fall back if necessary, each has interlocking fields of fire, each has defense in-depth, each has mutual support (any attacker should, in principle, and again situation and environment depending) be able to be brought under fire by one to two friendly positions, and each has primary and secondary fields of fire. The TL, due to his/her position, may seem to be overwhelmed with cover responsibilities, but remember that this is the ‘in depth’ position, and as such, the TL can prioritize fields of fire with the current situation. More importantly, for a small team, this is a ‘hide’ or ‘patrol base’ formation. If the position were to be occupied for any length of time, ‘progressive development’ methodology would be initiation (but that’s a subject for a different post!).

It’s simple and adaptable.

Try it. What methods do you favor?


Re-Post: Princples of Tactical Defense

Originally posted 26 Mar 2013.

The following information is provided as a sample of material presented in DTG’s “Neighborhood Protection Planning & Execution” training classes.  The principles described herein may be applied in urban, suburban, and rural settings.


Any place your team stops for any reason or is placed with the objective of holding its position is comprised of, and surrounded by, something called, “Vital Ground.”

It’s vital because of several reasons, the first two are:  A:  You are on it and you are vital to the mission, and B:  The area itself is vital to the overall mission of your team, neighborhood or command and control structure.

Before we get to the into the ‘meat’ of the subjecti, it must be clearly understood that ground vital to the defense of your position includes any position from which your enemy can overlook, bring fire to bear, or mount an attack from upon the area which you are occupying or defending.  Land features that are considered vital ground include, but are not limited to:

  • Hills
  • Densely wood areas
  • Prominent features such as water towers, sky scrapers, multi-story homes in open country, etc.

METT-C dependent, vital ground located outside of your Area of Operations (AO) may require constant observation by one or more Observation Posts (OP’s) or physical occupation or other area denial methods at your disposal.  A Neighborhood Protection Team, a Militia or other Civilian Indigenous Defense units usually do not have enough members to occupy and hold all vital ground, and must, therefore, have plans to re-occupy or re-take vital ground if lost to an enemy and a subsequent opportunity presents itself and such action helps achieve the overall mission objective.  That said, this discussion on tactical defense will limit itself to the principles of a variable strength active team from four to 21 members requiring a secure location for a defined period of time.  Note, also, please, that these principles should be tightly woven into your team’s battle drills so much so that anytime you’re training or operating, the employment of these principles become second nature.    Simply, doing so increases the probability of staying alive should the time ever come when you must apply what you’ve learned.

Figure Your NPT might be out for a bit? – Pt II


Again, in no particular order, are some tips for ‘world class patrolling for small teams’ gleaned from the experience of ‘quiet professionals’ in various theaters and branches of service.  Some were taught to me as a young NCO.  They all adapt extremely well to the Neighborhood Protection Team training to perform, and then executing a security patrol.

World Class Patrolling Essentials for Small Teams

  • Have the wisdom to break contact when you don’t expect it OR you don’t think you can win quickly.
    • Run when it makes sense (when it serves no purpose to stay and fight – remember , your NPT may not have any ‘replacements’)
    • Use ‘running away’ to bait a trap
  • Upon discovery of the MZB’s, set a linear ‘hasty ambush’ – tactic is to provide a quick ‘punch’ to aid in breaking contact
    • Execute only if no choice
    • Suppressive fire (one full mag) and fade away fast (battle drill)
      • Move to pre-designated RP
      • Move quickly/silently
      • All team members must be fully skilled in terrain association/nav – splitting up is viable in this situation
    • Tactic: For a “meeting engagement”  (that means that your NPT is deployed in such a way as they are prepared for contact but are not expecting contact and see them first) of smaller unit (that means smaller than yours)
      • Establish Base of Fire (BOF)
      • Remaining elements fan L & R
      • Encircle
      • Tighten Noose
        • Crawl low and slow toward MZB’s
        • Shoot only when target is seen
        • Take turns moving and firing
        • Move after shooting (slowly/imperceptibly)
        • Do not fire again until movement complete
        • Fire in any direction enemy seen with aimed shots
      • Destroy smaller Target
        • When sure MZB force has been sufficiently weakened, assault
        • No prisoners (no time, no facilities – this is a judgment call based on the dynamics of the situation – it is NOT a call for ‘execution’)
      • Fade away fast (no souvenir taking – only weapons/ammo/papers) – You are now trying to put as much space and time between you and any response force that might exist as possible
    • Remain invisible in RP’s
      • NO talking
      • NO unnecessary movement
      • NO lights
      • NO fire
      • Recamouflage partner
    • Pre-plan primary and alternate RP’s along route at all times. Ensure each member is aware of the approximate distance and azimuth to each RP as the patrol progresses.
    • NEVER take any ‘war story’ pictures of patrol members during the patrol. If the camera is captured, identity of patrol members becomes known.
    • Move at irregular intervals; 20 minutes moving – 10 minutes listening; 15 minutes listening – 5 minutes moving – 5 minutes listening – 25 minutes moving, etc.
    • Always ‘J’ hook before settling into a RP and set up a hasty ambush on the patrol’s back trail for 30 to 45 minutes.
    • NEVER break branches or limbs on trees or bushes. This is called ‘leaving a clear trail’.
    • Continually check the ‘point’ to ensure he’s on the right azimuth; change directions often; use terrain association whenever possible; DO NOT use the point man for compass or pace tabulation.
    • Ensure your rear security man/team is as skilled as your point team to pick up trackers.
    • If followed by trackers, change direction and ‘J’ hook often setting a hasty ambush on your back trail. If the ambush is executed, immediately on completion move to the currently designated RP and determine next mission steps.
    • If overflown by aircraft with loud engine noise, force a cough into your hand or elbow to clear your throat of phlegm and release physical tension. It won’t be heard.  If you must cough with no aircraft cover noise, cough into your neckerchief (ranger rag), hat, elbow or something to smother the noise.
    • Be unforgiving regarding noise discipline. NOISE WILL GIVE THE PATROL AWAY.
    • Be unforgiving regarding light discipline. LIGHT WILL GIVE THE PATROL AWAY.
    • Correct ALL team or individual errors as they happen, especially in rehearsal.
    • All food consumed on patrol is cold. No fires, no chemical heaters – chemical heaters give off an unique odor.
    • Keep patrol spacing to within approximately 1 arm’s length when in thicker concealment or in hours of darkness.
    • If dry weather, do not allow urnination on rocks or the leaves of bushes. Odor will carry, especially for multiple uses of the same spot.  Instead, dig a small hole, have all patrol members use it and bury it, or rock fissures if found.  Check urine color for significant dehydration.
    • Do NOT allow the patrol to set a pattern in movement or take MLCOA (Most Likely Courses of Action) that may have been deduced by MZB’s.
    • MZB’s shirt and/or pocket contents are more valuable than his weapon.
    • Carry one pair of extra large socks (or XXL) to put over boots when walking on or crossing a trail or stream.
    • Stay alert 24/7. People are like deer; MZB patrols will have a tendency to move between dawn and 1000/1100 and 1500/1900, season dependent, and they don’t have an indication YOUR PATROL is out and about.  So long as ambient light bright enough to see remains, you may see these patrols.

Weapons Man: Vision, Perception, Combat, and Court

He provides some great advice for protection of self, loved ones, and others during ‘normal’ times and SHTF while carrying and driving.  Read it all.  Awareness isn’t a “sometimes” thing:  it’s the only thing.  It’s your foundation as you take your first step into any situation, including a public road.


crash 1



“To some extent you can “train” the mind to expect the unexpected, but we’re limited by the physiology and wetware that’s in place.

We’ve seen the same perceptual misrecognition in aviation safety for decades; planes take off on runways where other planes still are sitting, land on top of other planes, take off on closed runways that are full of repaving machinery, take off or land on taxiways. Planes land at the wrong airport. Pilots misconfigure fuel feeds and pump all their Jet A overboard. And after each of these attacks, the pilots (if they survive) are ready to swear on a stack of Bibles that they didn’t see nothin’. And, like Jack’s ill-starred driver who intercepted the even-more-ill-stared Suzuki jockey, they’re telling the truth. At least, about what they perceived.

It was their own perception that lied to them, presenting a false truth at variance with the actual facts in the physical world.

This has applicability both in combat and in court.

In combat, aces like Oswald Boelcke and the Red Baron noted that most of their prey never knew the victor was there. They literally didn’t see even the great ace, who often flew an airplane that was solid or largely red, even as he crept up and killed them. Ground combat ambush survivors (a rare thing) also note, frequently, that they never saw it coming. Often a soldier is focused on the threat ahead of him when the threat to his side, the unseen threat that punches his ticket.

It’s not just soldiers this happens to. It happens to police officers. And it happens to concealed carriers.”


Key Lesson:  “… it’s the one you don’t see that gets you.”

Essential Skills – The Ambush – Pt III


“Condition of Use: The SHTF and WROL scenarios are common place; there is no capability for recognized ‘first responders’ to nullify the threat to your NPA (Neighborhood Protection Area) or keep you and your ‘precious cargo’ safe. You are on your own.

NPT Scenario: So, you’ve been diligent about getting a NPT established and trained before SHTF/WROL occurred (or even after, before things got really dicey with the associated steep learning curve), have been doing extensive reconnaissance, and have determined that a significant (you judge on what ‘significant’ means) number of MZB’s mean to come and raid your small, secure NPA for whatever staples you have. All first response entities that are out there are busy taking care of their own families and won’t respond (think police, fire, and ambulance response during Katrina).

Your reconnaissance team(s) has/have been out several times in the last few days, and they keep coming back with indications that you’ve been being reconned from without. There are definite signs you’re little NPA is being targeted by MZB’s.”


In Parts I & II, we looked at the Concepts and Principles of an ambush, it’s definition, the common elements of all ambushes, various categories as well as some of the skills required to successfully perform the task.  In this installment, we’ll describe the basic composition of the ambush team and some useful formations.  A note on formations:  There is no limit to the formations an imaginative NPT leader or team can come up with for an ambush.  Limitations are entirely dependent upon the available terrain, number of team members, weapons available, purpose, target, and not the least of which, the audacity of the NPT leader.

ABGD team

Let’s start with team composition.  Baseline fact:  There is no room in an ambush team for non-team players.  Everyone is dependent upon everyone else in the team to successfully complete the mission and return to the NPA alive.  If you have folks in your NPT that have a hard time taking direction, it might not be the best choice to include them on one of these teams until such time, if any, they demonstrate the capability of following direction.

The most basic ambush team is the single shooter, or, ‘lone gunman.’  He can be very effective if the task is to delay or disrupt, he’s very good at camouflage, marksmanship, can operate on his own (meaning he can subsist without support), isn’t prone to panic, and does not let himself get enveloped (aka ‘surrounded’), and if finding himself in that position, does as much damage to the MZB’s as possible before being taken.  It should be a matter of course that this individual has been highly trained in navigation, precision (as much as is feasible with his weapon) marksmanship, fire discipline, camouflage and concealment, is highly fit and can carry what he needs.

Small teams of up to four people can do wonders performing ambush, but they must all be highly trained as described above, and have the ability to work individually, in two man teams, and as a single unit.  Further, they should have a chain of command and be used to following plans, directions, mission intent, and submit themselves to the team leader.

Beyond the one man team, in larger ambush teams of at least 11 people, there are three elements:  Command (CE), Assault (AE), and Security (SE).

The CE has the team commander, primary communications team member, medic, and any ‘observers’ that may be along for a variety of reasons.

The AE is made up of the people who will perform the ambush once on site. The AE is further broken down into the primary assault team (PAT), the support team (SPT), and any ‘special task’ team (ST) such as prisoner handlers and others.  The primary tasks of the three sub teams are:

  • PAT:  The team that does the primary shooting and killing of the MZB’s.
  • SPT:  Provides fire support for the PAT with belt fed weapons (if possible) or highly accurate and fast designated marksman fire.
  • ST:  Prevents MZB escape by providing flank security and protects the rear of the PAT and SPT during the ambush and will cover the withdrawal of both the PAT and SPT sub-elements after the ambush is concluded.

The graphics below provide a good idea of what some of the teams will be occupied with while setting up and conducted a linear ambush.  In the first  case, the command element will have the Assistant Team Leader at the rear of the PAT along with the team medic or any observers present.  The SPT will be interspersed in the PAT, and the ST’s will be deployed to protect both flanks and the rear of the Rally Point and PAT. In the second case, the SPT will be divided with the PAT, and the ST’s will be deployed to protect both flanks and the rear of both PATs.

Linear Ambush

linear ambush 2

An essential task to note is the required complete security of the selected ambush site until such time the ambush is initiated by the Ambush Team Leader or a man trap, such as an IED either passively or actively controlled.  The ambush cannot be detected at all prior to initiation; if it is, the mission is a failure, and the team must withdraw as quickly as possible and elude any pursuers.  Complete security is achieved when the ambush is set and its presence cannot be detected by the MZB’s passing through until it’s sprung.  All around security must, without fail, be maintained by the ST.  The following graphic demonstrates the security teams getting into position before anyone else.

Security Teams in Position

If the ambush team is surprised by a flank or rear attack, the mission is a failure and the lives of the ambush team will be in jeopardy.  Some have said, and I agree, the Security Team is the most important element on the Ambush Team, for without them doing their job extremely well, chances of the Ambush team making it home are slim.  Last note:  Any non-combatants that stumble on the ambush site are detained until after the ambush and then released after all elements have withdrawn.

It should be noted that to get to and from the selected ambush site, the team will need to employ effective patrolling techniques that utilize individual and team movement skills.

As to formations, simply do a Google search for ‘ambush formations’ to come up with hundreds of graphics that can be adapted to your particular NPT’s training needs.  It doesn’t matter if you are urban, suburban, or rural, the same techniques can be employed.  All that is necessary is for your team to practice them ‘dry’ (without firing a shot). Here are a few examples:

V ambush

box ambush

L ambush

Again, this series is to familiarize you with the ambush.  The descriptions and graphics can only familiarize you with the subject.  Ideally, you should seek the guidance of a subject matter expert and have them train your NPT.  Following that, you might consider attending various schools that offer training in this area and then return to train your people.  Once they’re taken through at a ‘walk through,’ you’re going to have to repeat what you’ve learned over and over and over until it becomes second nature.  That means you must practice….a LOT.  You should also practice, over and over, moving into position, camouflaging individual and team positions, searching bodies in the kill zone post ambush, silent withdrawal, emergency withdrawal, Object Rally Point (ORP) establishment, entry, exit, withdrawal, and so forth.

Conducting an effective ambush is not something one may accomplish without some serious preparation.  These preparations must also take place in the climate and environment (as closely as possible) that your NPT will perform this task.  Think it’s hard in the summer time?  Try winter.  A whole new series of issues surface, but it can be accomplished.

Essential Skills: The Ambush – Pt II

L shape ambush

In Part I, the ambush was defined in finite terms along with common elements of all ambushes.

“Condition of Use: The SHTF and WROL scenarios are common place; there is no capability for recognized ‘first responders’ to nullify the threat to your NPA (Neighborhood Protection Area) or keep you and your ‘precious cargo’ safe. You are on your own.

NPT Scenario: So, you’ve been diligent about getting a NPT established and trained before SHTF/WROL occurred (or even after, before things got really dicey with the associated steep learning curve), have been doing extensive reconnaissance, and have determined that a significant (you judge on what ‘significant’ means) number of MZB’s mean to come and raid your small, secure NPA for whatever staples you have. All first response entities that are out there are busy taking care of their own families and won’t respond (think police, fire, and ambulance response during Katrina).

Your reconnaissance team(s) has/have been out several times in the last few days, and they keep coming back with indications that you’ve been being reconned from without. There are definite signs you’re little NPA is being targeted by MZB’s.”

This installment will describe various categories of ambushes as well as some of the skills required to successfully perform the task.

Ambushes can initially be divided into two categories: Purpose and Target

We’ll look at the purposes for an ambush first.

  • To Harass – Harassment ambushes are designed, and are effective if executed properly, to slow down an opposing force’s movement toward a particular location or objective. There is no attempt to get in close or to destroy the bad guys. It serves well as a delaying action. Harassing ambushes may be accomplished by one person or a large team.


  • To Kill – Killing ambushes are focused on killing a specific group or individual within the kill zone with a secondary objective of destroying equipment. They’re usually conducted by larger groups, say, for example, a squad (10 to 13 people), but can be done with smaller or larger groups, up to a platoon (33 to 44 people, approximately). Destruction of the ambushed party is projected to be extremely fast and complete. It may be comprised of personnel, explosives, organic light machine guns, or all of these. There are many and varied formations for these ambushes, which will be described later. Successful reaction to these ambushes requires a high degree of repetitive training by a group simply because reaction time and routes out of the kill zone will be extremely limited.
  • To Resupply – These are designed to equip or re-equip, supply or re-supply of the group performing the ambush, or a group the ambushing group is supporting. Complete destruction of the ambushed party is not the objective; gaining the material or equipment possessed by the ambushed group is the desired end result. Basically, it’s an armed robbery on steroids. The one element that will set this type of ambush party apart is the ‘carriers.’ Supplies taken must be carried out, and depending on the weight and containers, more carriers than ambushers may be needed, which will require the carriers (if not participating in the ambush) to be secured close enough to the kill zone to be quickly employed, but far enough away to ensure they won’t be accidentally discovered and will be reasonably safe until needed. Doing so also requires that well-trained NPT members be assigned as a security element for the carriers in the event that something goes awry during the ambush.


  • To Kidnap – Formally, this is called a ‘prisoner’ ambush. Both formal military and informal civilian groups have and continue to use this ambush to capture high value persons that may be from the opposition’s command structure or highly valuable to hold for ransom or propaganda purposes. As the object of this ambush is to take the primary target(s) alive, killing power must be strictly controlled. The ambush team must also be able to leave the ambush site quickly and cover it’s back trail to ensure they can evade any follow on response force.

kidnap ambush

  • Any of the Above in Combination – Depending on the group or entity, ambushes can always have a secondary purpose of capturing equipment or supplies, kidnapping important people, and so forth. Situational factors during planning will have the greatest impact on the specific type of ambush to be performed.

Now we can look at ambushes by target, specifically who or what is the ambush focused on.

  • Dismounted Groups – That means, groups or teams that are on foot walking along roads, trails, streams, in deployed formations, or in other areas they may be brought under fire. This ambush is extremely difficult to successfully perform on regular infantry type units in anyone’s military, provided the troops in question are well-trained in reacting to ambushes. One reason is that military units have front, rear, and flank security screening elements, and today, may in fact, have drone screens above the group moving that can see down into a probable ambush site and alert the military unit moving through the area.   When these types of ambushes are successful against military units, chances are that severe lapses in security combined with catastrophic failure by the troop commander, patrol leader, or members to take rapid counter actions to break contact or turn the initiative away from the ambushing party.  Conversely, these ambushes typically work spectacularly on the lone civilian dignitary who may decide to go ‘walk about’ without his or her trained security detail, even if they are personally armed, civilians typically targeted for this ambush do not train in counter-ambush techniques or carry enough ammunition or a weapon capable of getting them to safety.
  • Against Vehicles – The easiest ambush to conduct and most difficult to counter.  Speed at which the vehicle(s) move is no real defense against the ambush, as most of these use either improvised explosive devices (IED’s) or military grade explosives that are activated either by the ambushing party or mechanisms when tripped by who or whatever.  Speed is actually a liability to the targeted group due to vehicular spacing, reactions of drivers, ‘march’ control, and discipline within the convoy (two or more vehicles).

vehicle ambush

  • Against Watercraft – The more narrow the inland waterway, the better for the ambushing party.  This ambush is very similar to the vehicular ambush in execution and purpose.  Countering difficulty is magnified by the water itself, as dismounting can only be done when the craft reaches the shoreline.  Additionally, point, flank, and rear security duties, which can be performed by other watercraft, are subject to the same countering conditions as the primary watercraft or convoy.  If conducted for propaganda purposes, these ambushes can have great psychological impact on the economy of a state or nation by branding travel by boat as ‘too dangerous’.
  • Against Trains – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were ahead of their time.  They used train ambushes to their advantage and the methodology used then is still valid today.  These ambushes combine some elements of both the raid and sabotage functions.  Getting the train to stop at or near a desired ambush point typically requires sabotage of the track.  If successful, the ‘ambush’ team conducts a raid on the train and secures its objective or destroys the train, mission dependent.

train ambush

  • Against Aircraft – These require great stealth getting into position either at the ends of active runways, landing zones, or along the path of initial take off or final approach for fixed wing or within effective range for slow moving rotary wing aircraft which are always the most vulnerable areas for any aircraft.  Typically, groups that have aircraft available also have an area denial capability (also known as Air Base Ground Defense or Distributed Area Defense) to preclude the loss of aircraft.  When these are carried out, they usually require man portable Surface to Air Missles (SAM) or belt fed machine guns and trained gunners.  The ambush team also must possess the ability to quickly leave the area to ensure they are not taken out by any Quick Reaction Force (QRF).
  • Against Individuals – Comprised of any sized team against dignitaries, officials, wealthy people, rival criminals, or disfavored ethnicities.  The person can be walking, driving a car, riding a bicycle, sitting on a bench, having dinner at home, literally doing anything anywhere.  All that is required is confirmed intelligence on patterns, habits, locations, preferences, and likely courses of action the target may or may not take.

person ambush

Chances are, if you research this subject in more depth, you’ll be able to come up with quite a few more classifications that are valid; just remember that all classification systems everywhere are artificial, that is, there is none that is invalid, and the classifications are totally user dependent.  The key is to to determine common elements of what must be done, plan the task, rehearse it, and execute it effectively.

In the case of our fictional NPT scenario, that means stopping the MZB’s and getting everyone back inside the NPA perimeter with a minimum amount of damage.

Before we start to describe the composition of an ambush teams and effective ambush formations, we need to provide an overview of the skills necessary to be an effective member of an ambush team:

  • Be Physically Fit – Yes, we’re beating that dead horse again.  If you’re not fit, you’re not going to make it there and  back.  You’re not an asset, you’re a liability.  You may be carrying a lot of ammunition in and captured equipment/supplies out.  Regular rucking helps.


Ruck walk

  • Proficient with Personal Weapons – That means you need to be able to shoot.  Whatever you have.  Deliberately.  Accurately.  Aimed at the MZB’s.


  • Proficient in Individual Movement Techniques – High Crawl, Low Crawl, Stealthy Movement, Hand and Arm Signals (there is NO talking on a patrol, especially when you’re out looking for trouble), and so forth.
  • Land Navigation/Terrain Association – Sure, you might not be the ‘compass man’ or ‘keeper of the map’, but if you get separated, you’ll be glad you can figure out where you are, where you need to be, and how to get there, especially if it’s been made clear that there won’t be time to look for lost/separated members.
  • Camouflage – Individual, weapons, equipment.  This doesn’t just mean donning the latest and greatest ‘multi-flage’.  You might be in an urban environment.  Looking like everyone else is sometimes your only camouflage.  Being able to blend in to the surrounding scenery is a cornerstone of success.


  • Ability to ‘SALUTE’ – Every patrol, even an ambush, is a reconnaissance mission.  You must be able to accurately report what you have seen.  Others may have not seen it, and nothing is to be taken as ‘irrelevant’.


There are more, to be sure.  What would you add?

Next Installment:  Composition of Ambush Team and Basic Formations