Tactical Training – what it is and what it isn’t
To be effective in a tactical engagement a person must learn and master (as well as possible) a number of skills. From the obvious ones – bringing your weapon to bear, proper sight picture, breathing and trigger control, being able to fire from a variety of positions (standing, kneeling, prone, using cover) to the not so obvious ones – fighting positions (foxholes), interlocking fields of fire, cover and movement, etc.
There are various ways to gain this array of skills, some better than others. Best, of course, is to be a military trained veteran or police officer with SWAT training. Barring those your next best bet is probably paintball, if you can keep the scenarios (games) fairly realistic (the zombie or protect the president games are kind of out there) and reflective of your particular situation. Some will suggest IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association) as a good training tool, but I do not agree. IDPA will provide some good basics (better than ordinary range shooting) – drawing your weapon, engaging a variety of target types, avoiding no-shoot targets, etc. But their safety rules limit the realism of the training and can cause a regular competitor to fall into habits or thought patterns that would work against them in a SHTF situation. More importantly there is no means of working with a counterpart, so there is no attention to cover and movement which is the key small unit tactical foundation. In a real combat situation you should expect that your opponent will use suppressive fire to pin you down, allowing one or more of their number to get into a position to kill you. The only realistic way to avoid this is by using cover and movement with one or more of your group. In cover and movement one person fires (rapid aimed fire or general suppressive fire) allowing their fellow group member to move into a better position to either engage your opponents or to disengage and get away. However, for cover fire and movement to work the people working together have to be very comfortable working with each other. This isn’t a skill that one can learn from a book and expect to be good at. This is very similar to a team based sporting event, where the team that has practiced together will usually beat the team that hasn’t. If you want to turn a double-play in baseball or softball then your shortstop, 2nd baseman, and 1st baseman had better spend a lot of time on the practice field running over the process again and again. If you want to be able to use cover and movement (one or more of your side laying down cover fire so that one of more of your side can move) then you have to practice it, again and again, until its second nature, until each participant knows what the others are likely to do. Also important is knowing how fast each member is able to move, how else can you time your shots so as not to run out of ammo in your magazine while the person you’re trying to protect is still in the open and exposed? To get good at this you’ll need to run these types of drills over and over, using various weapons, and an array of situations. It does you no good to practice this exclusively with a combat rifle only to find yourself with only a shotgun in your hands when reality lands in your lap. You can get the basics of this down using empty weapons (so you don’t accidentally shoot anyone) and then progress to loaded if you have the opportunity to do so, though I expect that to be difficult if not impossible for most folks.
I’ve heard good things about training programs such as Front Sight, and I hope to check them out personally in the future. But such won’t be an option for most of us due to geographic and/or economic concerns.
Remember that you will fight like you’ve trained. If you train like it’s a game, you’ll fight like you’re playing and someone will make you very dead. If you train like it’s real, every time, you might just survive the experience.
Remember that you may not have your preferred weapon with you, so practice with a variety.
Remember that your opponents may have a variety of weapons, so practice with different engagement ranges. Long (in case they have sniper capabilities), battle (for those with combat rifles), short (for shotguns and similar), and close for handguns.
Once you master these basics you can move into more advanced topics like ambushes, recon by fire, etc. But until you can do basic things like cover and movement you should avoid everything else and just concentrate of those skills.
In my previous segment I talked at length about why maintaining a low profile is a key tactic in a SHTF situation. This time I’m going to expand on that a bit with a focus on trying to do so in an urban or suburban locale.
In the first installment I was focused more on rural or middle of nowhere low profiles. And I want you to understand that it would be several magnitudes harder to maintain such a “low profile” in an area where your neighbors aren’t miles or even hundreds of yards from you, instead many would potentially be mere feet from your “retreat”. Prior to the SHTF event you face the issues of how to keep your neighbors from knowing that you are prepping. How do you keep them from seeing you bringing home far more grocery and related items than they would ever consider? How do you store significant amounts of food, water, fuel, etc. without tipping them off? How do you keep them from seeing you taking weapons out of your home (for range time, hunting, etc.) or returning them afterward? When your neighbors are in a position to know what you’re doing it can be very difficult to maintain anything resembling a low profile. Doing things at certain times of day might reduce your visibility, but then again acting too different from the “norm” will also increase attention and speculation about your business. Some other things that could bring unwanted attention might include visibly supporting the NRA (bumper stickers and such) or similar organizations. The last thing you want is to create a situation where the entire neighborhood will immediately think of you as TSHTF. Sadly, conformity is your best protection in such a situation.
If you’ve managed to maintain your low profile prior to a TEOTWAWKI event in an urban or suburban locale I’ll suggest that your fun begins when you try to keep it up during the event. I say that because virtually everything you do will be different from what your neighbors are doing or will attract their attention.
Some examples: if you are cooking food, and the neighbors don’t have any, I guarantee it will attract their attention. If you have power for lights, radio, etc. and they don’t I bet they notice. If you can spare food for a pet, while the neighbors are eating theirs, it won’t take long for them to get curious. Obviously, some things will have more immediate impact than others. For example, cooking curry will be smelled far more quickly (and further away) than plain oatmeal. Some will say that you can use filters to keep such smells from attracting attention; I’ll agree that if you’ve done an excellent job in sealing your home you might avoid detection for a while, if you never leave your home! Cook bacon, eat tuna, have some beans and then go out among people who haven’t had those things lately. They will smell you before they can see you. Even with a totally bland diet, starving people will be able to smell you cooking. Even the fact that you are cooking, or have heat, when they don’t is enough to blow your “low profile” out of the water.
The “bottom line”, IMHO, is that the longer a SHTF situation lasts the harder it’s going to be to maintain a “low profile” in an urban or suburban locale. People in the area will get hungrier, and more desperate, with every passing day. It will get more difficult to not draw unwelcome attention. Locals will get more organized and I’m willing to bet that systematic searches of every home will take place, whether by “officials” or gangs will make no difference to you if your home is subject to such a search.
Another concern in any SHTF situation is defense. How will you protect yourself, your family, and your stuff in order to stay alive? Most of the people I’ve communicated with who plan on staying in their home (urban or suburban) during an event will have their nuclear family onsite. To me this means they will not have enough people to effectively defend their location. To offer any kind of effective defense you need at least 2 dependable people per side you can be attacked from. In a situation where you have mom, dad, and some pre-teens (as an example) living in a single family home you have 4 sides and enough people to provide a minimum defense of one side. To effectively defend a home, even a small one, you simply must have more people who are; dependable, armed, and ready to defend the location. Anything less is suicide.
I’ve spent considerable time contemplating what I should write about here. The term tactical has some obvious meanings. But to me the term suggests a wider range of sub-topics, such as the tactics for dealing with a biological threat, Pandemic Flu as an example. Over time I will address as many tactical considerations and issues as I can manage here. I welcome your comments, your questions, and requests for specific topics to discuss.
I’ll start with what I consider the foundation of tactical considerations for the survival minded. It is a simple concept when one first looks at it, but there are often nuances which are overlooked. I will endeavor to help you develop an understanding of the topic, and then to delve into those nuances.
The foundation of any tactical consideration is commonly known as “keeping a low profile”. This basically means doing everything you can to avoid attracting attention. Some will say that such isn’t a tactical consideration, but to me this is the key tactical consideration. It all boils down to what you are preparing for and what resources you have available to you during a TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It) event. If you’re part of a group that numbers in the hundreds, is well armed, is well organized, and has a secure location then keeping a low profile might not be a major issue for you. If you’re a small nuclear family with a husband, wife, and 2 young children I’ll suggest that keeping a very low profile is your only hope of survival in any disaster situation.
What does the term “keeping a low profile” really mean? To me it’s like an onion, the topic has layers upon layers. My first consideration is what the military calls “need to know”. Which means that no one should know about your plans and preps unless there is a definite need for them to know such details. This is also part of what the military calls “operational security”, meaning that no details should be shared that might compromise your plans or the security of your retreat. The fewer people who know about your plans, the fewer risks you take that critical information will be lost, stolen, or coerced during a SHTF situation.
But there are more considerations to this. How much info do you give away when you’re trying to recruit additional members? Might those who didn’t work out learn enough to show up during an event, and thus threaten your security? Might your discussion(s) be overheard leading unwanted people to show up at your door? With these considerations in mind recruiting should be approached with considerable caution. Care must be exercised prior to opening discussions with prospects. Topics to be discussed should avoid anything that threatens your security.
Beyond the Human issues there are also many physical considerations to be aware of. The military calls these light and noise discipline during the hours of darkness. The focus here being the avoidance of giving away your presence/location by making easily heard noises at night (when sound often travels better than during the day) or allowing light (from lamps, the interior of buildings, fires, etc.) to be seen outside of your retreat area. Even a lit cigarette can be seen for a long way at night; especially in areas where man-made light is absent, so you can imagine how much a large bonfire or high candle-power lamps will stand out and give you away. Similar concerns exist during daylight hours. Noise can still be an issue, with metal on metal, horns, animal sounds, and children playing creating sound that can travel for a long way. Smoke from cooking fires, blacksmithing, smoking of meats, etc. can be seen for many miles on clear days. Wearing of bright colors, or even colors that stand out from your environment, can attract attention from as much as a couple of miles. This is especially true if the viewer can observe your retreat area from a higher elevation.
We must also consider things related to trying to carry on after a SHTF event can compromise your “low profile”. If you travel to a local town (for trade, medical attention, news…) you might be followed home. If you patrol your immediate vicinity others might be able to localize your retreat based on multiple sightings of your patrols. If you utilize LP/OP (Listening Post/Observation Post) points others might spot the movement of your personnel to and from these positions, especially if they always use the same path(s).
Other considerations include how you handle things like hunting, realizing that a bow is much less noisy than a gun but that many find it harder to use effectively. How can you reduce the noise of your livestock? How do you slaughter an animal quietly? How do you handle noisy chores like blacksmithing? One possibility for many of these is to only perform them during inclement weather; sound doesn’t travel well during hard rains for example. But that could severely limit your opportunities to perform such work.
How you deal with all of these is largely determined by your specific situation, location, terrain, etc. But you have to think about them now, when your life isn’t immediately threatened, rather than during a SHTF situation. While you may need to adapt to meet the specific nature of the event, it is far easier to do so than to start from scratch during an event.
I hope this has helped you understand the importance of keeping a low profile, safeguarding your plans, and the tactical aspects of the topic. I look forward to your comments, questions, etc. and I’m looking forward to sharing many more tactical considerations here at the Tactical Corner.
Expect What is Normally Unexpected
The lesson here for the survival oriented is multi-faceted.
1) Do not get tunnel vision and figure that any attacker will come from a single
place. Ie. up the driveway to the front of the house… Expect that the bad guys
could be moving cross-country and literally stumble across you and your retreat.
Expect that they could have become aware of you (without you becoming aware of them)
and decided to launch an attack from multiple sides. Expect that there could
be a few of them, or dozens. Expect that they could be better armed then you. Expect
that they could use sniper tactics and wipe out most of your people before you even
know they are there. Expect that they could snatch a family member and hold them
hostage in the hope of forcing you to let them in without a fight.
2) Do not assume that a “home field advantage” will buy you much against a
determined opponent. There are many reasons for this statement. They may be far more
skilled in such matters then you are, which more than removes your “advantage”. They
may have overwhelming
numbers, and no fear of losses as long as they achieve their objective. They may
have such overwhelming firepower that your “advantage” does you no good at all.
3) Put at least as much effort in plans for defending what you have as you do in the
more mundane (“day-to-day”) aspects of survival. Not saying those aspects aren’t
critical, but this goes back to what I
said earlier about protecting what you have. No sense in giftwrapping your stuff for
the bad guys.
4) Do not assume that you have time “until things get really bad…”. My assumption
is that there are lots of opportunists out there. Any one of them might be
interested in your stuff long before the sheeple
stampede. So my assumption will be that we need security and defense from the minute
we initiate our plans.
5) Do not assume that remote locations, darkness, or anything else means you can
relax your guard. There are desperate people in the world today. There are
psychopaths galore. There are sociopaths by
the dozen. These folks are dangerous today, how will they be in any situation that
disrupts the normal “safeguards” of society? For you rural folks, how many drunks,
bullys, or other dysfunctional types (any Meth cooks?) are in your area today? What
will keep them in check when TSHTF?
In God We Trust… All Others, We Watch
Will all morals go out the window? Probably not. However I’ll suggest that some
modifications might need to be made by those who want to keep themselves and their
loved ones alive.
1) Do not trust strangers, do not take them at their word, doubt everything they
tell you until it can be verified/confirmed by independent means. You must protect
yourself, there probably won’t be anyone else capable or willing to do so.
2) Do not assume, EVER, that the people you will interact with share your moral
compass. Or any moral compass at all. People you’ve known for years could change
dramatically when the social and moral fabric of society slips. Also, you may not
know when desperation might make them do things you’d never expect.
3) Watch for those who might decide to accumulate power for themselves. Take away
external oversight and some folks let their greed for money, power, control, etc.
run away from them. If/when that happens then all bets are off.
4) Your statement that you are a Christian, and the suggestion that this would mean
that you would be immune to situations that might modify your behavior is somewhat
foolish. If you’ve been through such a situation in the past without having your
“moral compass” shift then I accept your statement as fact. If you have not then
I’ll suggest that it’s mere wishful thinking on your part. I have
seen people change dramatically in crisis situations. Sometimes it’s for the better,
and they become something more than they were in the past. Often it’s for the worst
and they turn from Jekyll into Hyde. Some of these were Bible toting, God fearing
Christians. In my experience one’s religious belief has little to do with how one
reacts to desperate times, though there are exceptions (good and bad) like with most
5) I’ll also suggest that fervent religious beliefs have caused as much war, as well
as other forms of large scale grief, as any other factor in Human history. If
people’s “moral compasses” were a surety of good behavior then that would not be our
sad legacy. For the survival oriented I’ll advise caution around the fervently
religious. It would be too easy for someone to name you (or your group) as heretics,
or apostates, and thus targets for murder, banishment, etc.
Like any other group you come into contact with after TSHTF look for their
motivators, and watch to make sure they don’t see you as a target of opportunity. Be
ever watchful against those who might target you for differences in race, creed,
color, langauge, political affiliations, or just about any other difference you care
I hope you have the luxury of maintaining your “moral compass” in a SHTF situation.
I don’t give you good odds, but I’d be happy if you can manage it. Personally, my
“moral compass” will be fairly flexible. Those coming into my area with malice in
their hearts and mischief in their minds will receive a very unpleasant welcome.
Those coming on a wave of desperation will be intercepted as far from our retreat as
possible and directed elsewhere. Those attempting to
establish control over us had best be doing so from the authority of the US
Constitution, I have no inclination toward serving a feudal lord or warlord. Those I
can help I will, but I know my abilities to do so will be very limited.