Setting Up a Practical Combat Rifle

img_0233
Durendal.

I don’t typically like writing about firearms on this blog, as there’s a lot of other outlets that do that, and I think that guns get WAY too much focus in the Survivalism and Preparedness community. They’re important and fun, but other stuff, like growing food and having a good store of tools, is just as important. That being said, like with all things, a baseline must first be recognized and then built upon, never detracted from- in order to maximize our capabilities.

Hanging out on the sidelines of a public range can be a hobby all to its own; watching the tacticool budget gun bunnies, the 500lb know-it-all benchresters, and even the undergrad Hipster, replete in leather buckle shoes and skinny jeans mastering his fundamentals with a .22. I’m not here to knock them at all, I enjoy the company (it beats the snot out of my other option I would have been doing that day), it’s just an observation. But another parallel observation was the sheer number of AR-15 type rifles on the line- every stall had at least one- and I think, at this point, it’s safe to say that Eugene’s garage project, once a taboo kinda-deal everyday folks thought ‘put you on the list’ has firmly cemented in its place as ‘Murica’s gun.

The fascination with the Stoner platform is largely due to it’s efficiency and ease of use, coupled with the fear of suspension of niceties and social issues reaching critical mass at some point down the road. A fear that is certainly not illogical. Regarding this however, there’s a few guidelines that don’t exactly transition from the hunting/range gun to a weapon you plan on defending yourself and posterity with- in fact, there’s a tremendous difference. Recognizing this need while honestly evaluating your skill and role within the Group/Tribe is paramount to building an efficient platform without dumping lots of money finding out what you thought worked in theory actually really sucks in practice.

The Rifle as a System

Much of the thinking (and writing) concerning combat-oriented weapons get hung up on the platform itself- and that’s a problem. The thing that goes Bang! is one part, but each component of your weapon is a piece of a larger system, each having a specific place and purpose, not there for winning the cool guy contest. The weapon, optic, ammunition, magazine, and sling are each interdependent- and this is a tough concept to learn just sitting on a square range. Some require more attention than others, with a few components being a matter of preference, but that preference only comes with experience built on an established baseline. All of this however is predetermined by our mission, and in this context, that’s a simple, reliable general purpose carbine that could be pressed into combat service from 0-600M.

The Rifle

If you’ll notice from the rifle pictured above, the weapon is kept pretty slick. Save for a couple of small add-ons (more on this in a second), it’s basically a bone-stock mid-length gas system gun. I strongly encourage a 1/7 twist barrel to stabilize both common 55gr and heavier 77gr SMKs. The mid-length gas system runs a little slower and cooler over the shorter carbine length. This means a little less wear on the bolt lugs in the long run, meaning a little more reliability. The maximum barrel length needed on a fighting 5.56 is 16 inches- there’s nothing a longer barrel will do for 5.56 that stepping up in caliber would do better. Everything else is basically what you’d expect from an off-the-shelf rifle. This is done for a couple of reasons. The first is that more modifications lead to shortcuts in training- bad, bad, bad. These take away from the muscle memory of running a stock weapon, and should the need arise to run one that’s not yours, you’re gonna have problems. The second issue is that modifications to the manual of arms or internal components leads to unpredictable reliability. This is the major qualm I have with homebuilt guns- if they’re sourced from a variety of makers, then there’s no established standard. Issues will result, being far harder to isolate and remedy amid various tolerances. So in short, every weapon of that type in an arsenal should match, both for interchangeability and mastery of the manual of arms.

Along with the focus on barrel twist is the need to wring the most accuracy possible out of our platform. To do this, while minimizing weight, I prefer a slim free-float tube (I can feel a certain former Sniper Instructor is slapping me in the back of the head as I wrote that…I can hear him screaming ‘Auto rifles CAN’T BE FREEFLOATED!!! ONLY ACCURIZED!!!’ while ‘helping’ us naturalize our ghillies) with a machined rail at the 12. I’ve never seen much need to go beyond 12 or 13 inches on a tube- everything longer, in my opinion, is just weight, as is extra rails. But to each their own in that respect, I like keeping as light of a weapon as possible for something I may have to carry long distances- even the diminutive M4 starts feeling like a cinderblock after multi day long range patrolling up and down mountains. It’s slick, but I can add rails if need be (I don’t ever foresee that need, unless someone has a AN/PSQ-23A STORM system they wanna donate). Generally I like everything centerline to the bore no matter the weapon, as close to the center of gravity as possible. This keeps the weapon balanced and the same when fired from either shoulder.

The Optic

Notice the AR pictured doesn’t have iron sights. I haven’t used AR irons since my days of rolling in PT pits at Sand Hill, and in this day and age, with the overwhelming number of quality optics out there even at relatively low prices, I don’t think they’re relevant. Now in saying that, there is a value in training with irons. Not too long ago MSG Paul Howe did a video of a shoot and move drill of varying distances with only irons. A lot of the youtube comments were hilarious- filled with apparent tacti-range nozzles ridiculing him for using irons, while failing miserably to realize the point. If you could run that drill with irons, doing it with any sort of optics would be a breeze. And MSG Howe, by the way, is not a man I question when it comes to training, and sure as hell is not a man you’d ridicule to his face.

Most people running red-dot sights maintain irons as a backup, and that’s understandable, as I’m not running to chop the irons off my AKs with red dots mounted. But the AR-15, at least in my experience, is a different animal. If the round allows my engagement range to go to or beyond 600M, which heavy match 5.56 does, a magnified optic, even low powered, is the way to go. I like as simple and rugged as possible- and that’s Trijicon’s engineering marvel, the Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight (ACOG). So while the ACOG may be a bit dated in some circles, I know for a fact the ACOG is bomb-proof. As in, blown up in an IED along with me, and still holds a zero. It’s a fixed four power, has very few points of failure, and requires no batteries.

TA-01.jpgI’m partial to the TA-01 reticle v. the TA-31 or the others since,  because I have lots of experience with it, it’s fast, efficient, and I can rangefind with the reticle. The stadia lines of the bullet drop compensator (BDC) represent 19in (the average size of a man’s shoulders) at the associated ranges, allowing the shooter to rapidly rangefind and engage. The system works very, very well in practice, and while the BDC is tuned to 62gr m855, it’s perfectly acceptable to the heavier bullet weights with training on a Known Distance (KD) range to verify the drop.

On a general purpose weapon, a simple, rugged optic beats the tar out of irons, and is far easier for new shooters to master. If you don’t feel like coughing up Trijicon cash (the TA-01 actually is not that expensive for what you get, with the TA-01 being around $800, but, I digress), Burris makes a great prismatic optic as well, in 3x and 5x varieties. I owned the 3x for a few years, selling it to a buddy to fund another project (the  rifle I bought it for was stolen in a break-in, so I used it on an AK with a TWS top cover after that). I really liked it, and would have no reservations about buying another one. Vortex makes one that looks identical, and given that its Vortex, is likely good as well.

The optic placement is very important. Not only is the eye relief/eye box critical to shot placement, it should be set right for your eyes with your nose to the charging handle, so that when you bring it up there’s no shadow at all keeping both eyes open. This is different between optics, so knowing where yours will be, repeatably, is critical. Associated with those fundamentals is bringing the weapon to your head, not vice versa, so training with someone beyond Bubba the Benchrester (or the clown spotting for Bubba claiming his shot went over the 30ft berm…think about that one, and yes, he really did say that) is recommended. A combat optic differs from any other in employment, so keep that in mind.

The Sling

A sling’s just a sling, right? Well, yeah, technically. They are however a requirement for a combat weapon. I like to keep them simple- I absolutely hate anything other than two points of attachment. A single point sucks for anything other than in and out of vehicles, and a three point sling gets hung on gear, loosens up on its own, and pinpoints you as a clown (seriously, you’ll look like that cherry Joe who’s trying WAY too hard). A two point, with a simple tension slide to tighten it on the fly (helps with steady aiming and keeps your weapon from flopping around during movement), works great. Viking Tactics, run by CSM Kyle Lamb, and Larry Vickers, both veterans of CAG, have their marketed versions that are good quality but the basic design has been around for a long while. I bought the one pictured many years ago before attending a school, used it in Afghanistan on both the M4 and M249, and since have picked up a couple more for my other weapons.

Speaking of Afghanistan, there’s a little story. Once upon a time there was this TL who was 100% squared away, 100% of the time. He had one of those push-in QD sling swivel thingies, just in front of the delta ring on his M4. Then one fine day, about day three of one of our multi-day Long Range Patrols, the little rollers keeping the swivel in place broke. Thoroughly PO’d at this cheap POS, he slung it into the desert of Afghanistan, never again to be used, replacing it with a hasty 550 cord loop. Since then, him and all of his associated miscreants (us) discovered the Magpul one piece sling rings, which bolt on and are infinitely more rugged. It is the only add-on thing, besides a simple sling, I really think is essential as the GI-standard M4 sling ring, 1 each, causes shifts in zero if yanked on hard enough and usually gets thrown out when you put a 12in rail to accurize (yep, there we go, I can climb out of the cold mud now) your rifle. On my weapons it gives me a memory point for hand placement as well, and I placed it far enough behind the first rail to mount my tac light ( Surefire G2 in a Vltor offset mount I’ve had for eons) in order to maintain that muscle memory and sameness across platforms. While I don’t look like some sorta Chris Costa wanna-be range knob, the manipulation is efficient and repeatable.

Magazines

In the tens (maybe hundreds, I dunno) of thousands of rounds I’ve shot in training (and the handful while deployed), the source of malfunctions I’ve observed from the AR platform have been overwhelmingly from magazine issues. To the contrary, there was one catastrophic bolt failure (two sheared lugs), but that was during a 5 day high round count class, at the very end, resolved by simply swapping the bolt. Getting back to magazines though, the AR mag was originally designed to be mostly expendable; and without a doubt, the first time one gets into a firefight, they will be. So have a lot of them. The aluminum GI mags have always worked well for me, as they’ve always been free and when the feed lips get bent on them I can throw them away and not shed a tear. The plastic ones from Magpul and a few others are ok too, but not above issues and are not the second coming, as the marketers would have you believe. The Magpul 7.62×51 SR-25 mags for example, suck (but that’s another topic, on a whole other animal), and the HK steel mags are neat, but I’ve always just kept with what I have boxes full of from my time in. The point is when a magazine starts giving issues, trash it…like the stuck up girl who turned you down for a date, it ain’t worth your time.

Concluding Thoughts

This is a baseline- something to be added to, but never detracted from. My experience has taught me that like everything, simplicity is best, and quality is King. For a general purpose weapon that one intends to use, the parameters are certainly different than those filling other roles. You’d certainly be very, very capable in keeping a stripped down rugged weapon that is practical for most purposes versus a rifle at home only on the range, provided you do your part in training. Because of this, it might be a good idea to take a step back and reevaluate the purpose behind your weapons, and reevaluate how to maximize your potential. You were granted a temporary reprieve, but socially as well as economically, things are not looking rosy. If you’re still fence-sitting, or still in need of that all knowing clue-bat, get on it. Simple, rugged, reliable, effective.

Keypounder sends-

“You are the lead station operator in the Resistance receiving station
mentioned in the first question.  You have received the message sent by
the operator in the capital at 1 pm local time in the first example on
160 meters and must now forward the vital information received to
Resistance HQ via HF radio.  Once you transmit this message, you will
immediately relocate to another predetermined location you have selected.

Assume the following:

-your station is located at approximately 65 degrees West and 10 degrees
North;
-Resistance HQ is located somewhere in the Intermountain Western united
States, New Mexico to Montana, Eastern Oregon to the Western Dakotas;
-Resistance HQ has receive capability 24/7/365 and will be waiting to
copy your message during whatever window you have told them to listen on
whatever frequency segment(s) you have specified;
-The message from the capital of Venezuela consists of 25 each 5 letter
encrypted groups.  You will re-encrypt the message prior to
retransmission using a OTP, but there will still be a minimum of 125
random letters to transmit;
-You are required to use any of the ITU region 1 authorized amateur
radio frequencies and modes from 1.8 to 29.7 mHz;
-You will have been onsite for at least a week prior to receiving the
message from the capital of Venezuela, and will have access to a small
house nearby the station site, but are forbidden to set up equipment at
the house;
-You are required to complete the transmission to HQ in less than 20
seconds, and to evacuate the transmit site in less than 15 minutes after
completing the transmission leaving no material behind.  You have 4
dedicated helpers with no electronics or radio training available;
-You have a compact 4wd crew cab pickup truck for transport, and
everything, your crew included, must fit into the truck.  No radio
equipment may be visible from outside the vehicle;
-Assume the ground is level farmland with very rich loamy soil planted
in low-growing crops or grass, with tall trees (>50′ high) at the field
boundaries with steel t-post electric fences around each field, and that
the field lines run north-south/east-west.  Further assume that each
field section is 8 hectares in area square. The surrounding general area
is agricultural, both crops and stock.”

Questions-

What frequency segment and time will you select to minimize DF
likelihood and maximize the chance that HQ will acknowledge it?  What
will your alternate(s) frequencies be, and under what circumstance will
you use them?

What antenna(s) systems will you use for transmitting this message?
How high will they be placed?  How will you orient and erect them and
take them down to minimize possibility of observation? Explain in
detail, including specifics of antenna and transmission line.

What mode will you use for transmitting the message?  If digital,
which specific mode and why?

Before you leave for Venezuela, you will be given an opportunity  to
study data available through NOAA on radio propagation.  Which ionosonde
stations will you study, and why?

What will your cover story be if you are stopped by Venezuelan security
forces?

Thoughts?

The Foundation-Squaring Away Communications Needs in 2017

I’ve received a number of emails over the last several weeks requesting info on various issues, recommended gear, etc…and while I certainly don’t mind answering the plethora of questions (it’s part of the reason I run this blog) much of the info has been previously addressed.  Due to the size and scope of the information contained, I know it can be cumbersome to find answers when you don’t even know what questions to ask, especially if you’re brand new to the signals and communications game.

So in the interest of the greater good, I’m compiling a list of previous posts to get you going. All I ask in return is that you use it, keep an open mind, and at a minimum try some of this stuff at home. Nearly everything I’ve written over the past year-plus in regards to commo covers field implementation and improvisation, sourced from identified needs as a LRSD member and RTO (if you don’t know what this is, google ‘special reconnaissance unit’ ) which at least in my worldview, has transitioned to the Survivalist networking paradigm quite well.

CA over at WRSA said among his New Year Resolutions is making all of those new AR15 owners shooters- Let’s up that ante and make all of those new Baofeng owners efficient communicators in addition to shooters. How do we do this? Follow this list.

Improvised Field Antennas

The Jungle Antenna: The first antenna you should build. Dirt cheap, simple, effective. Great for community networking and a perfect way to get your feet wet into constructing your own gear.

Moxon Antennas: The second antenna you should build is a directional antenna in a similar vein as the yagi- but just a tad bit simpler and more compact. While that Arrow yagi is nice, building a few Moxons for field use not only provides a good learning opportunity but also doesn’t cost $80.

DIY Dipoles for Any Band: The dipole is, hands down, the easiest antenna to build. In fact, the Jungle Antenna above is a dipole, stretched vertically, with two extra ‘cold’ radials added to form the bottom pyramid. It’s versatility is a large force multiplier, and understanding how to build one and how they radiate will lay the basic groundwork for all the other skills.

The Best DIY Resource Online, for any Band: Check this resource out. Once the basics are understood, there’s very few things you can’t build versus buy. if you’re of limited resources (or just a cheapskate like me) you seriously need to consider homebrewing.

Understanding Capabilities

QRP- Low Power in the Field:  Whether it’s a Multi-Day or simple security Patrol, Clandestine Communication across non-permissive environments, or just Survivalist power conservation, QRP is your bread n’ butter. Read and Do.

Commo Basics for Small Units: The requirements are listed and described here; there’s lots of carry-over between Survivalist needs and say, Militia needs, but the two are different. The planning process however is the same.

Maximizing Your HT: I can tell you all day that the Baofeng is a waste of money, and even show you why, but you’ll still buy them. Y’all just can’t help it. Well, might as well figure out how to make the best use of it.

Deployable Communications Concerns: That’s deployable, not deplorable, but meant to be deployed by deplorables. Building on the rather painful lessons to watch from the events of nearly a year ago, having the ability to rapidly create your own infrastructure is critical. No one is going to do it for you, and failure to build an effective package in the event you wanna take on ‘the man’ is going to all but seal your fate.

Operating Skills

The Signals Operating Index (SOI):  Before you key a mike, before you think about stepping off on that patrol, before you do anything at all, you plan. If you don’t, I promise, you’re gonna fail. We worked very hard on creating a competent SOI regularly before every mission. MSG Morgan’s (a retired Special Forces Communications Sergeant) instructions are top notch, simple to follow and on-point.

Intelligence vs. Information:  These two are not the same, yet all too often I’m served to some moron passing ‘intelligence’ my way which is little more than click-bait disinfo. Most often I delete and block those people- sounding like idiot street marxists (aka SJWs) they’re just as useless in the real world as the drivel they pass on. Written amid the “jade helm is martial law and the end-times sky is falling” moron hysteria, the lessons resonate just as true today as they did then.

SALUTE and SALT Reports: The bread and butter of field intelligence reporting, these two formats should not just be committed to memory but should be practiced on a regular basis. Failure to competently follow this format should result in that person’s expulsion from your unit or group. I know, that sounds awfully harsh, but it’s a Army-wide Skill Level 1 Task (every soldier has to demonstrate they can do it in Basic Training) so the reality is that this is so simple that if it can’t be followed competently, that person is too stupid or ill-disciplined to be reliable.

Planning Your Footprint: Your equipment doesn’t just magically work wonders and communicate over impossible distances; conversely we must know the exact capability of our equipment and where our signals are going in order to mitigate possible interception and interference (or at a minimum, gain an idea of how far away that OPFOR possibly is). Again, as with the SOI, failing to plan equates failure.

Report Formats: Building on our SALUTE/SALT format, these reports are used from covert or clandestine communications among special mission units. While a bit more complicated than the aforementioned SALUTE report (which is an Army entry-level task) these formats have been perfected by SOF troops since Vietnam.  Set formats are critical to efficient communications. End of story.

The Base Radio Station:  We’ve talked about how to communicate; who are you communicating with? How might that place or group be organized? What sort of requirements do they have, aside from a giant coffee maker?

Commo Windows: A couple posts back, dealing with our little math problem that only a few attempted to work through (but plenty felt the need to argue over), the issue of commo windows was at the real heart of the human problem, and constructing these in that context revolved around the time of day that particular HF band would be most effective for the intended task, which needed to be mathematically figured out. What the hell am I talking about, exactly? Read up.

Bulletproof Local Communications: Just about the simplest formula I can come up with for indestructible, damn-near-100%-reliable networking. The same basic needs can be met with MURS or CB if you’re not into the whole licensing thing, but the equipment needs and implementation (HT on the move, mobile in the truck or base, groundplane antenna up high) are pretty much identical. Secret Squirrel Cool-Guy Freq-Hop Digi-NSA-snoop-proof? Nope, just the opposite. But it works when all that complicated shit fails. And when done right (the human part of the equation) you can be just as sneaky, in plain sight.

Running Your Radio Semi-Covertly:  Another of the painful lessons of Malheur was telegraphing your equipment capabilities, allowing them to be not only easily compromised but rendering them all but useless. Professionals do it quite a bit different- and sure as hell don’t use the antenna of their set to point at people like some half-assed community organizer.

Scanning, Monitoring, Signals Collection

SIGINT for the Small Unit: Identifying what you need to cover before telling you what equipment you should buy. I know, pretty much the opposite of the consumerist-nature of the Prepper movement. Nonetheless, this just might kinda-sorta be the identification of the requirements and then how to do it on the cheap.

Creating a Signals Collection Section from Scratch: A re-iteration which builds on the previous post, consider this post a rudimentary crash-course in the functions and layout of a SOT-A or LLVI team. You should know what those two teams do, and if your group is composed of only shooter-ish types, you’re far behind the power curve. At a minimum you should use this post and the preceding to broaden your knowledge base.

Open Sources Primer on Equipment:  The Russians are coming! The Chinese are coming! Jade Helm Sky-Warriors in metal avatars are coming! DOOM! Wouldn’t it be nice to be rational for once, and realize there’s actually very few ‘secret’ technologies out there, if you put two and two together? I compiled a list of places to look, along with identifying frequency sets of foreign ground-use communications equipment. Those might just be important, should you wish to bring the pain all Red Dawn style.

SIGINT Software for SDRs:  This is fairly self-explanatory, with only four words in the post. But the programs contained in the two links are very valuable. Download them, learn them, use them. Also, have a computer with a Linux distro.

An SDR Signals ID Primer: Written and contributed by a signals collection pro, this post should be read multiple times over as a valuable introduction to exactly what you’re looking at and for using SDR.

REDZ SIGINT Jeep: A whitehat hacker did (and built) some neat stuff. Detailed is what he did and possibly how to use it.

SIGINT and the Guerrilla Radio: The granddaddy of this blog, this article predated the whole ‘brushbeater’ experiment by a bit, originally appearing in Sparks31’s Signal-3. Based on my experience of scanning analog traffic on the ground in Afghanistan, the article contains useful tips for both listening and transmitting, going beyond the technical skills of each and focusing on the human factor as well. Interestingly, it must have ruffled a few feathers, because a handful of trolls (and one who grossly over estimated himself) came out of the woodwork in force. Oh well…this ain’t a free speech zone nor is it a forum. Their presence is an indicator I’m doing something right.

Signals Intelligence Resources: The primer page that outlines the basic equipment requirements from simple and inexpensive to progressively more complex. Contained is the model I follow, based upon my real world experience. Your mileage may vary, but if you feel you know better than I, you don’t need my advice and I’ll offer a full refund in exactly the amount you paid for this information.

Summarization

Hopefully this compiled list of posts deep down in the list is found helpful in identifying and resolving your communications needs. While bewildering (I know it’s a lot of info to swallow), take it in chunks, read and then re-read, all the while comparing it to the capabilities you currently have and see if those needs can be filled. It’s not so much about the equipment itself, but about the skills and necessary capabilities. This is a concept foreign to many in contemporary society, but a critical one nonetheless. HF was left off the list- purposefully omitted, as the focus here is on building a basic station and gaining the essential ground-level skills. The foundation starts here, and there are no more excuses. And in case you were wondering in the post-election fog, you are not safe. Not even close. This nation is in just as much danger currently as it was on the afternoon of 9/11-01, perhaps more so (I believe we are in much more danger) and it is not the time to go to sleep. The street marxists have one logical move left having lost all other legitimate means. The governing entity would likely default to an increase in the consolidation of power (look at the friction in Chicago between the Mayor and President-elect; what’s being said is an indicator of the future response, although still better than option H). We cannot afford to lose sight of the very real enemies out there. Equally we cannot afford the same follies and missteps of the past. Take every step you can to be ready, including securing means of communications off the grid from social conventions.

There are no more excuses.

So you wanna be a Guerrilla RTO-

Keypounder sent me this question and wanted to pose it to all of you.

There’s a lot more to being an effective RTO than knowing how to key a mic, or even calculating a simple equation for antenna length, and one of the very serious reasons to get a license now is to start building that base of knowledge before it’s go time and you’re up the creek. This realistic scenario should make you think and point out holes in your working knowledge, that is, if you don’t wanna be renditioned off into the night. If you’re new, it’s gonna shine a light down the path you need to travel.

Post your responses or RFIs in the comments section.

guerrillaradio

You are a spy for the World Wide Freedom Forces and you want to minimize the likelihood that your signals, containing critical information to the Resistance, transmitted from the capital of Slobovia to your spy base in one of the provinces about 300 miles away, can be intercepted by the Slobovian Security forces (SS) who have alarmingly effective direction finding equipment. If the Slobovian Security forces catch you, you will die a gruesome death, and so will all of your contacts in the Resistance.

Not only does Slobovia have an excellent SigInt section, but they have agreements with neighboring  countries to provide DF lines of position to Slobovia.  To counter this technology, you have been instructed to use the 1.8 mhz amateur band  and have been given an antenna and transceiver set for this frequency.  You intend to use Near Vertical Incidence Skywave communication during time periods when the D layer of the ionosphere is ionized by the Sun, to keep signals from traveling any farther than they have to go in order to reach your base 300 miles away. The D layer is found 35 to 50 miles above the Earth’s surface. Assume Slobovia is on the Equator. Assume that the D layer is instantly ionized by the Sun.

Questions-
How many minutes before sunrise and after sunset is the D layer of the ionosphere fully illuminated by the Sun? (Assume only direct light from the Sun; neglect atmospheric scattering effects)
How many minutes before sunrise and after sunset do the Sun‘s rays just start to illuminate the D layer?
If there are thunderstorms ( which cause extremely loud noise and make communications impossible) 1500 miles to the west of you, and the ionized D layer is capable of damping that noise completely out, are you going to operate after sunrise or before  sunset?  What is the minimum time after or before; how much of a window do you have?

I’ll add – what modes may you utilize and what should be your PEP?

Re: Spam Can Ammo Caches

cache3
A large cache raided overseas.

From today’s letter to Survivalblog concerning caches…

A reader dug his up to inspect the conditions and commented on how well the Russian spam cans held up. The pictures tell the tale. cache1

cache2

The author indicated that he buried the spam cans in 2009. That gave them five years underground. They’re not looking too good. For that reason I felt it pretty prudent to post this, since I know many in the audience at a minimum has some ammo cached somewhere (among other essential items…right???)  and the experience needs to be shared.

I’m not picking on you (seriously), but this is not how you cache anything. Spam cans are great for shipping ammo and keeping it all in one place for a long period of time, but when exposed to water some problems pop up. Metal does what when exposed to water…rusts…right? Dirt does what over time…holds water right? Right? So while the green paint does a bit to mitigate the rust, it’s not going to stop it. In five years’ time he has a spam can that now is dangerous, because while it may not appear to be punctured, water still may have gotten in, which may have damaged your primers. Hopefully it didn’t.

Anytime you stick any metal in the ground, at a minimum wrap it in a plastic contractor’s trash bag (they’re very thick and generally much stronger than household bags) or spray it down with POR-15 (an extreme anti-rust primer…expensive but worth it) before sticking it in the plastic. If at all possible, take it out of the spam cans and put it in something more creative that doesn’t scream,”I’M AMMO!!!!”, along with a few other useful items that you’ll need if you’re digging up ammo (like the weapons themselves, maybe some kit and magazines to carry the ammo, maybe some spare tools, maybe some antenna kits…just a thought) Attached is the Army Special Forces Cache Guide for you to download. Read it over.

special-forces-caching-techniques-tc-3129a

 

Contact Medicine

genera3.jpg

Fact #1- If you’re planning on taking up arms, plan on getting hurt.

Fact #2- Statistically speaking, 10% of those injured will die from injuries sustained. Nothing you will do can change this. These casualties will be dead usually from first contact.

Fact #3- Of the 90% who don’t die, without a tiered response plan by trained and seasoned pros, many of them will die also.

Fact #4- In this era of government sponsored public endangerment, most public places are now an asymmetric battlefield.

Now that may not fit into your 3%er Rambo paradigm, but its the truth. So if you haven’t been a) networking, b) networking with the right people and c) training, you might just want to get on that. We are going to deal with how to stock a realistic personal kit that will actually save lives and won’t kill you or your patient in the process of using it. Simplicity is the watchword here.

Not long after I got out of the Army I was contacted by a local milita-type, who was a little too eager to show off his field kit seeking approval. What he called an ‘IFAK’ was stuffed to the gills with all sorts of crap that couldn’t be accessed when needed and was otherwise generally erroneous even if he could. This individual had no other training aside from a long out-of-date CPR course, which is to say, none at all. I tell you this story to illustrate a painful reality for many; not only is there little to no concept of what defines individual trauma response, but there’s even less of a concept of how to implement  a basic treatment plan. From here we will address what goes in a real Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK), how you implement it into your kit, and guidelines for use.

Keep It Simple, Stupid

The IFAK is not for treating others. It’s for others treating you. It is not for treating minor booboos and earaches, it’s for trauma that follows a strict definition based on the MARCH acronym, which we’ll talk about in a bit. The contents of the IFAK must be standardized across the board. We do this so that we know what’s in them, what each of those components do, and so that the next echelon of care can get a visual idea of the wounds by what items have been used. The IFAK is an immediate response to trauma in order to increase wound survival, hence it is very simply constructed and organized. This simplicity, like all things, is key to effectiveness under duress.

MARCH is the acronym to follow for treating trauma in order to save lives. CLS, or the Combat Lifesaver Course the Army teaches everyone in the Infantry (and probably everyone else too) is very outdated, or at least was according to the last doctrine I saw before I got out. The medics emphasized Responsiveness, Breathing, Bleeding, Fractures, Bruising/Contusions (as a sign of internal injury), and Head trauma, followed by treating for shock (which was very vaguely defined). The problem is that following that paradigm first takes too long and second is not placed in the order of what will kill you the fastest. MARCH is more logical and is as follows:

  • Massive Bleeding: While you won’t bleed out quite as fast as what’s commonly thought Arterial wounds, while they do gush for the first bit, are marked by very bright red blood will clot faster and re-route themselves. I’ve actually seen arterial blood clot to itself on asphalt in a street. Venal wounds which are dark blood take much longer to clot but bleed slower. Despite this, blood loss is the fastest killer, especially when dealing with blast injuries. The primary item that belongs in your IFAK is a tourniquet. You should have one in the kit and two more on your your person. There are two types of tourniquets you should consider. I know there’s a bunch of other ones that I’m sure work just dandy, but these two I’ve used and it saved the respective lives of those casualties. Don’t ask me about the other tourniquets.
    cat
    CAT

    The first tourniquet is the Combat Application Tourniquet, or CAT for short. It’s a long strap of velcro with a plastic windlass for tension. Because it’s plastic, it works just fine for arms but I don’t trust it on legs. Muscles sometimes spasm uncontrollably from blood loss or shock, and plastic doesn’t give me a warm and fuzzy. That being said, the CAT is the fastest and simplest for self-aid, AKA putting it on yourself, so it’s likely the first one to be used.

    sof-t
    SOF-T

    The second design is the Special Operations Forces-Tourniquet, AKA SOF-T. It’s a little more complicated, being a thick strap of nylon with a screw down strap tension and metal windlass. This is the one you use on legs(ideally) because once it goes on it will not come off by accident. A note on using tourniquets- they do NOT go, as erroneously taught in Army CLS, two fingers above or below joints. They are placed on single bone structures as close to the top of the limb as possible (to use the single bone as a compression point) to immediately stop any bleeding. Conventional wisdom used to teach that everything below the tourniquet would get amputated, and this is 100% false. Arteries love to roll and move, and slip in between double bone structures of lower limbs.The higher you go, the better the tourniquet works, meaning as close as possible to armpits and crotches. Roger?

    compression-bandage
    Compression Bandage

    The second item to go in your kit also addresses bleeding. The Compression Bandage,seen above, sometimes also known as an Israeli Bandage, is the most versatile bandage on the market and allows for a high level of compression second only to a tourniquet. In addition to stopping the bleeding, it also covers wounds, can be used as a stabilizer for fractures, and be made into a sling if need be. These three items alone, if you have nothing else, are a huge step to saving lives.

  • Airway: The second fastest killer is blocked airways, common in blast injuries and other facial trauma. There’s two steps to address this- lifting the chin of a casualty in the supine position (on their back) while clearing the lower airway (throat). NPA.jpgNext you’ll insert a nasopharyngeal airway, or NPA for short. It’s a small green or blue rubber tube that goes up the nasal cavity and and into the throat, creating a clear artificial airway from an otherwise damaged path. (Yes, it sucks. BAD. Every CLS trained Infantryman knows, because they all had to do it. If you’re prone to fighting, like I am, and have a deviated septum from a broken nose they suck that much worse. They universally suck so bad, that I had a SGM that loved to give them to soldiers who fell out of formation runs and ceremonies. He kept it in his pocket and made that soldier’s NCO put it him in as a sweet reminder to not do that again.) This being said, an NPA needs to be in your kit. It WILL save a life.

With these two areas addressed we’ve increased the odds of a casualty surviving many times over. Even if you forget the rest, a casualty stands a good chance of survival with the appropriate follow-on care. An additional note on hemostatic agents (such as Celox and Quik-Clot) because I know someone is going to ask- I don’t recommend using them unless you’ve been trained on their use by a professional. I have, and I don’t tell you carry them individually without training. Do they work? Yes, and quite well. But there’s a caveat. First, the untrained go for them primarily whenever they see blood. Wrong. That should be the tourniquet. Second, Celox is made of shrimp shell, so if your casualty is allergic to shellfish, guess what- you just killed him. Third, and this has to do more with Celox than the others (when used improperly) it can break off and cause an internal blood clot killing your patient sometime down the road. It is only used as a LAST RESORT in places a tourniquet cannot otherwise go, such as groins or necks. Last, higher echelon care now must take it off, causing more problems. So in short, use the tourniquet. Its simple. It will do what it’s supposed to, and let those with more training take it from there. 

  • Respiration: This is where CPR comes in. Get them breathing.
  • Circulation: We’re looking for swollen limbs, which indicate internal trauma. You’ll want the follow on medical aid to know about this, but there’s little you can do as a primary responder.
  • Head Trauma (H1): For head trauma, like circulation, you’ll want to make a note of it, then cover any open wounds to the head to prevent possible encephalitis. Further, upon recognition of head injuries, prevent the casualty from moving around. I’ve been that guy (catastrophic IED, I was in the turret nearly completely exposed) as well as treated that guy and he’s gonna say and do some strange things. Keep them as calm as possible if they’re awake.
  • Hypothermia (H2): The injured get cold FAST. It’s something we don’t think about, but open trauma causes the body to lose heat at an expedited rate which will kill an otherwise stable casualty very quick. The easiest way to address this is with a simple space blanket, available pretty much anywhere that has a sporting goods section.

So as a recap, our new acronym for treating casualties is MARCH- Massive bleeding, Airway, Respiration, Circulation, and Head Trauma/Hypothermia.

But wait- you didn’t talk about abdominal injuries- gunshots, sucking chest wounds, etc? No, I didn’t. The reason why is that there’s not that much without extensive training you can do for this type of injury. You can pack it with gauze (or a tampon) to keep it from getting worse, but the best thing to do is close it with a safety pin. You should not consider a needle decompression for a sucking chest wound if you have little medical training either. Doing so incorrectly or overestimating your skill can cause many more problems than it solves, possibly killing your casualty. Understand? Extremity wounds are the ones you can treat the easiest and also kill the fastest if untreated. So focus on what you can do (unless you’re trained in advanced medicine by an accredited institution) and leave the rest to people who know what they’re doing. I also didn’t reference pushing fluids- that’s left to those with training for not only administering fluids but for monitoring the patient for shock possibly induced by those fluids.

Your IFAK is built along this paradigm, stocked with a CAT and SOF-T Tourniquet, a Compression Bandage, a NPA, medical tape (to better secure the tourniquet and NPA- make sure it’s 3M and not the cheap crap), space blanket and a safety pin. It’s not expensive, the equipment is available on Amazon and should be on the hip (or accessible in a standard place) of every person on your patrol. Ideally it should be on your belt and not your kit (because your kit might come off of you, your IFAK is Line 1) and in the same position on each person, so they can each be accessed without searching for it.

boston.jpg
You’ll never know these days when just a tourniquet and an NPA might come in handy. I bet Boston’s responders would’ve greatly appreciated a few more among the crowd.

Since apparently everywhere is a potential battlefield in this era of government sponsored public endangerment, these basic techniques will be likely be needed in the near future. Act accordingly.

A SIGINT report from the RNC

Compiled and submitted by an anonymous donor:

2016 RNC Cleveland, Ohio SIGINT

The Republican National Convention was held in Cleveland, OH on July 18-21, 2016. Officials began implementing the security zone and closing areas off to traffic on the evening of July 14th. Monitoring of communications began on a periodic basis on 7/14/2016 and continued until 7/21/2016.

Equipment used was a Yaesu FT2900R with an Arrow J-pole antennae, A Kenwood TM-V71A, and a Uniden BCD436HP.

The following frequencies were observed to have active traffic during this period.

136.3750 AM USCBP Air to Air clear (Two UH-60 Blackhawks relieved each other to provide constant aerial support during hours of activity, Omaha 1 and 2). Usually at around 5000′

139.875 NFM Civil Air Patrol analog Tac #1 (Constant flight operations in the TFR zone utilizing a typical search pattern flight route) Usually around 12,000′

156.120 Unknown Encrypted

160.735 Unknown Encrypted

160.800 Unknown Clear

161.025 Unknown Clear

161.8750 U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Clear

163.6250 USCBP Digital Clear and Encrypted

163.6750 USCBP NFM Analog Clear and Encrypted

164.400 Unknown Encrypted

165.2375 USCBP Tac Digital Encrypted

165.295 Unknown Encrypted

165.785 Unknown Encrypted

167.635 Unknown Encrypted

168.500 Unknown Encrypted

168.835 Unknown Encrypted

168.8375 USCBP Air #1 Encrypted

170.145 Unknown Encrypted

170.550 Unknown Encrypted

170.860 Unknown Encrypted

170.880 Unknown Encrypted

171.250 Unknown Encrypted

171.3125 USCG NET 131 USCG Nationwide VHF

172.410 Unknown Encrypted

172.900 Unknown Clear and Encrypted

173.525 Unknown Encrypted

252.1000 USAF Reserve Command Post to CAP

282.8000 AM USAF CAP

298.950 AM USAF Aerial Refueling Routes, AR-217 Entry

348.9000 AM USAF Aerial Refueling Routes, AR-206H Primary

376.0750 USCBP Air Interdiction Blue 4 Encrypted (Believed to be a digital link)

Additional Notes

  1. Scan of 411.000 to 419.000 revealed no traffic.

  2. City Police Used the Regional APCO P25 system

  3. On the ground intel units initially using an unidentified encrypted frequency later began switching back and forth to the P25 regional net. Total of 21 teams identified (“Oscar” units) that blended right in with the demonstrators.

  4. OHP Ground and aerial units utilized their existing system throughout.

  5. City and OHP aerial units kept below the Blackhawks

  6. Despite all the planning many ground units were without water, food, and battery resupply for up to 18 hrs per day until nearly the end of the operation.

  7. Encryption only works when everything is working perfectly. This operation was in a built up urban area with easily available support. In rural or rough terrain areas it would be hit or miss. Often if the units were encountering problems communicating they would break into clear mode. OTAR (over the air rekeying) effectiveness is unknown to this observer.

  8. Optimum monitoring of this situation would have required a minimum of four trained SIGINT collectors to gather all the available communications.

  9. County EOC (Seperate from P.D. JTOC) was manned 24hr per day with EOC operators and ARES volunteers.

  10. A Second back-up EOC was also manned 24/7 at the American Red Cross in Akron, Ohio about 30 miles South in case primary EOC went down.

  11. Very very slow response to potentially serious info. Example, Out of State troopers reported seeing a male sticking his head in and out of a 7th floor building where all the other windows were closed. Also reported seeing a bright green light periodically from the same window directly overlooking parade route of BLM with P.D. Foot and bicycle units flanking, tailing and leading. Almost 3 hours later before a regular zone car responded to check area.

  12. Did not observe any use of federal or local inter-operability frequencies in the clear.

And there it is…done with simple, off the shelf equipment and good observation.

Someone is always listening, Part II

yagi-uda.jpgIn the preceding post, I very bluntly  pointed out, as a few of us have been trying to do, that the capability to DF and monitor anyone and anything indeed does exist. So now the question becomes ‘how do you work against it?’

Well, let’s examine some options and point out a few truths. The first, and largest, is that there simply is NO REPLACEMENT for working knowledge. None. You cannot master these skills without getting out and doing it. The second, is that you should have a healthy library to back up and supplement that working knowledge. Even for websites you find useful you should print out the hard information and file it away somewhere. Even if not perfect, always learning and always improving our positions is a must.

So while anything and everything can indeed be Direction Found and/monitored, does this mean will it? Thinking about it rationally here (which I know is a tough thing to do among some), likely not. Sure, the technology exists. It has for a LONG time (the HFDF network mapped in that link has been in place since the 60’s, and EWO birds have been able to do it even before then) But if there was one omnipotent eye of Sauron, why would resources be dedicated to the ground level, putting individuals at risk? Why not do it from the comfort of a leather office chair and a nice walnut desk? Because it doesn’t work quite like what you think. There’s a human factor, inherently error prone and often not used to pattern recognition.

Pattern Recognition?

Humans by nature set patterns. In fact, all creatures do it. Take a walk through the woods. If you have any experience tracking at all, you know instantly that deer follow paths and create trails. So do humans. You do it with everything, whether you realize it or not. The trick becomes recognizing those patterns. When complacent, we set one pattern behind what we do, and when the hunter is complacent, they become used to trailing one pattern, and usually make little sense of what “doesn’t fit”. In short, changing up what you do regularly keeps one ahead of the power curve. This is easier said than done, but is possible. For example, at the tactical level, one patrol uses low band VHF for intra-team communications, and the next patrol uses UHF, always following the simple rules of short transmissions, rotating callsigns, and directional antennas. Resistance is a thinking man’s game.

map.jpg Breaking out that map and compass

You know that critical skill that everyone who’s worth a crap in the ‘Liberty’ movement keeps telling you to get out and practice? This is one of those reasons why it’s so damn important.

The transmission points need to be known, preplanned, and have alternates. Why? Because you need to know where your signal is coming from in order to send it along it’s desired path, and in reality things don’t always go the way we planned. You need to know how to plot the points you’ll be transmitting to, so that you’ll know the rough azimuth to which the signal will be sent. wave-diffractionYou need to know how to read the terrain features on the map, so you can recognize elements which may block your signal, or may refract your signal (‘bounce’ it off of stuff, as seen to the left).

In order to make this work, any of this, one must understand much more than the simple ‘plug n play’ nature of common radio knowledge. The difference between, say, Vertical antennas, like the one on your HT or on the back of your truck behave one way while a horizontal dipole behaves in another, with highly directional antennas such as Yagis or Terminated Vees behaving in yet another. Confused yet? Don’t be. To put it simply, it’s like a flashlight vs a lamp. omni directional.jpgA lamp is similar to your vertical antenna, with the light flooding the room similar to the radiation pattern. dipole.jpgA dipole is like a lantern with two sides blocked, shining equally bright in both directions. A yagi is like a flashlight, illuminating whichever direction it’s pointed.

So understanding this analogy, plotting our points on the map to create pre-planned transmission sites becomes a critical part of our mission planning cycle. The RTO, Senior Scout, and Team Leader need to all be on the same page with this in order to be successful. Coordination with the other teams is a must. Have I conveyed how important the basic skillset is? I hope so.

Directional Antennas now become the tool of choice for your communications needs. random wireTwo flashlights pointing at each other in the dark. Get it? OK. So how do we get this done? Simple. As the diagram shows, a random wire cut to length for the frequency (234/Freq for length in feet for quarter wave, multiply by 12 for length in inches) and terminate with a Resistor to pull your radiation in one direction, end-fire off the wire. sloper antennaThese can be horizontal or sloped, whichever is field expedient for the desired task. Place another cold wire (no current) under the hot wire as a counterpoise if on the lower end HF to tighten the NVIS qualities. directional wireAnother, somewhat tighter antenna is the horizontal Vee. Built in the same manner as the single wire, it has a bit better, tighter pattern, as the random wire is fairly broad. The open end (gator’s mouth…easy to remember when cold, tired, and wet) is in the direction of the intended receiver. And if you want to get really fancy, build another matching antenna one wavelength (936/Frequency for one wavelength distance in feet) behind it, which will act as a reflector, just like the one on a Yagi antenna. One other important note is that the radiated energy is pushed into one direction, making more efficient use of your power in that direction versus radiating in an omnidirectional pattern all at once. Flashlight vs Lamp.

No, the sky is not falling.

All of this together makes a tough(er) nut to crack. It doesn’t mean you can’t be tracked or found by any means, but it makes the job a hell of a lot harder for the hunter. It also takes work and a lot of practice to get right, when you’re not cold, tired, starving, and wet, so doing it now fairly regularly is pretty important, that is, if you actually want to get further than the starting line. So while the capability exists in the OPFOR sense, the capability to beat it also exists, at least for those willing to put in the work. And for the rest, you’ll reap exactly what you sow.

A primer on 7.62 AK ammo

8m3-4Far and away, one of the least expensive rifle calibers out there to train with is the 7.62×39, leading many to stock up in bulk. The round itself works- sure, there’s others that increase range, accuracy and terminal effect, but essentially the round does fairly well what it was designed to do, used within the parameters of which it was designed, being the intermediate ~300M range.

That being said, the round needs no introduction to most of the readership. Veterans know it well, Hunters especially in the Southern US know it as the poor man’s 30-30, and range rats know it as the fun caliber to shoot on the cheap. Like the 30-30, it carries a similar energy and trajectory, punches through brush fairly easily without a significant impact on trajectory, and reliably does what you want it to. Many Survivalists have stocked away lifetime supplies of the round just based on it’s price point of both the round and the weapons that fire it. While its easy to ride down to the local gun shop or ammo website and pick up a few hundred rounds, not all of the ammo is the same.

Just like with 5.56, 7.62×51, etc, there’s a plethora of different rounds, some being better than others. Many, many folks I’ve run into are guilty of lumping it together in to one sole category as if there’s no difference. Concerning accuracy there’s not much difference between the stuff coming from Russia, but terminal effect-wise, the differences become more clear. If you’re buying bulk there’s a couple of specific rounds to look for, aside from simply what’s the cheapest. Of the loadings, there’s three general types of rounds themselves- Full Metal Jacket, Hollow Point, and Soft Point. Among these, as anyone familiar with terminal ballistics will attest, the SP round is generally the most desirable. Full metal jackets are great for playing on the range, but not my first choice for desirable ammo. Hollow points are the most confusing category to many, due to the wide variety of ammunition imported but not always clearly indicated. They range from simply being an AK version of Open Tip Match (a tiny hole in the tip with little to no expansion properties) to HPs with pre-fail cuts inside the round itself. 8m3-6

The common bullets weights for 7.62×39 range from 122 to 125gr, with a 154gr load on the market as well made by Tula. I don’t recommend bulking up on the 154 if you’re running an AK, as the additional weight may cause premature wear on the recoil spring, bolt carrier, and rear trunion. In purchasing bulk general purpose ammo, 125gr SP is most desirable of what’s commonly available sight unseen, with it being the best medium between mass, speed, effect, and cost effectiveness. It may not be a premium hunting round, but the chances of it yawing or expanding is higher than with simple FMJ.

8m3-8The next most sought after round is not as easy to come by, and a great amount of confusion surrounds it’s source. It’s known as 8m3, sometimes referred to as the “Sapsan” round after the original imported brand name. 8m3 is a 124gr HP with pre-fail cuts in the jacket, allowing greater fragmentation on impact. 8m3 has an intriguing story of how it came about, not unlike our load development changes in 5.56 and 7.62×51 coming from experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The 5.45 experienced shortcomings with Russian troops in Chechnya, ricocheting off of and fragmenting when hitting intermediate barriers, as well as having limited close range effectiveness. The extended engagement ranges of Afghanistan that favored the newer, faster 5.45 had given to close range fights in urban and dense forest. 8m3-10Although superseded by the 5.45x39mm AK-74 in Afghanistan, the AKM continued to be used in a limited, specialized role in conjunction with the PBS-1 suppressor and rudimentary (although high tech in it’s day) starlight scope, seen at right. The 7.62 round, being a great deal slower, was still quite effective within medium ranges and lost less energy from the effects of the suppressor.

This limited role platform was re-recognized in the next decade during the Chechen crisis, and the 7.62 was employed yet again due to it’s favorable attributes of energy retention at close range even when suppressed and superior intermediate barrier penetration. 8m3-9Other weapons have since been purpose built to fill this role (such as the 9x39mm VSS) but due to the sheer numbers of AKMs in the inventory, it still sees widespread use, even as recent as Crimea.

Recognizing the need to maximize the 7.62, Ulyanovsk ammunition plant (makers of Wolf Military Classic and sometimes Wolf black box) developed a new anti personnel round with pre-fail cuts to guarantee expansion on impact. The new 8m3 round was issued to domestic security units and was sold commercially. Fortunately it’s still available stateside for those careful enough to look.

8m3-18m3 is a 124gr bullet, most commonly found in Wolf Military Classic, but also occasionally in Tulammo, which used to be known as Wolf, loaded at Tula arsenal. Not all HPs are 8m3…only the 124gr, and not all of those either. One way to make sure you have 8m3 is to take a finishing nail or pin and rub the inside of the cavity, checking the pre-fail notches. The ammo works well, and is far superior in terminal performance to FMJ.

8m3-2The round’s effect, seen in this gel test, is a good demonstration of it’s wounding capacity just after it enters and creating a large channel.  It’s great ammunition and should be sought after if you’re looking to run the AK.

Conclusions

The Soft Point and 8m3 HP are the two most economical yet effective rounds on the market for the AKM. Caliber and platform arguments aside (which is a stupid, stupid waste of time normally argued by folks who’ve never fired a shot in anger) you as the shooter should be looking at every way possible to maximize the effectiveness of your equipment. Maximizing the lethality of your rounds is a great step in the right direction. This article is not meant to ignite a caliber or weapon shouting match, but rather inform based on the best of the options out there for the AK platform. You may not have enough ammo for what’s coming down the pipe, but you can at least know which rounds to acquire till that day arrives.

 

Supplemental Notes to “The Baseline Patrol Kit”

Based on some of the feedback from my last, I think it’s important to clarify things a bit. There’s a significant issue concerning equipment selection that’s often lost during gear selection conversations, that being task and purpose, which doesn’t translate well to either civilians or non-small unit focused troops. Shortcutting the experience to the end product can leave some scratching their heads or asking questions that might make some eyes roll; it’s the responsibility of the trainer to fill in those gaps.

First, we have to understand there’s a reason we’re out. Patrolling has one of two end goals; Recon or Combat. Recon is to find what’s out there, Combat to kill what’s out there. If can be broken down far further than that, but for now we’ll keep it simple. For a great vignette on how it works, I refer you to Dan Morgan’s The Patrol Series. Mission requirements must be identified before a competent plan can be put into place, and this requires a competent leader. If scouting or killing is not necessary, then maybe a change in posture needs to be considered. Mission dictates gear.

I’m Bugging Out, Man

The bulk of civilian focus is on 72 hour bags, AKA “bugout” kits. This concept is rooted in the large numbers of suburbanites planning some sort of emergency egress, with the idea being that it’ll be three days till someone helps them or they get where they’re going. Yeah…no. That’s not patrolling, that’s being a refugee. Have any of you ever seen an armed refugee? No? What does that tell you? I digress, but the fantasy of an armed doomsday uprising from the bedroom community is just that, designed to sell you inferior trinkets and cheaply made backpacks.

If you’ll notice from not just what I’ve attempted to impart here but from many, many others on any outlet of competent information is the concept of having rudimentary gear layered on your body, also known as Line 1. In addition, we would usually pack what’s known as a drop bag inside our ruck, being a small pack with lifeline gear, a couple bottles of water, extra trauma gear and a few extra mags, in case an emergency situation arose(AKA “compromise”) and our rucks had to be ditched and/or destroyed a la Bravo Two Zero. This drop bag was meant to sustain on the move to an emergency rendezvous point, which there are multiple ones planned based on 12hr, 24hr, and 72hr recovery plans.

For the light Guerrilla not covering the same distances as a SOF element of a standing Army, and being of the population they’re fighting to support, some of this load can be reduced.  Caches become vital in the Underground to combatant elements, as well as being on good terms with the local populace. Additionally, equipment lost by a military force can usually be replaced eventually. Not so concerning the Guerrilla. Every piece of equipment is vital, sensitive, and irreplaceable. The more infrastructure planning that goes into priming the region, the better the chances for success.  None of this is accomplished by building a “bugout bag” based on someone’s opinion and hoping for the best.

Ruck vs Patrol/Assault Pack

A square is a rectangle but a rectangle is not a square. They’re both backpacks…but they’re two different tools. Inserting into an unknown area with a small team and a laundry list of team equipment requires a ruck. Despite the ever growing options out there, the best ones for the money still are based on the large ALICE. The Tactical Tailor MALICE ruck and Blackhawk SOF ruck are both commercial versions of common mods guys would do to their rucks to enhance it’s carrying capabilities. Moving into an area for extended or indefinite operations requires carrying a ruck to accommodate the equipment required. And yes, they get super heavy in a hurry.

A patrol or assault pack is used for shorter duration or specific types of patrols. Once a team has set up in the area, a patrol pack’s role now becomes carrying mission required equipment to meet the needs of that particular patrol, leaving behind other less-critical items. If you’ve well primed your area of operations(AO) with equipment spread about among supporting cells, the need for large ruck may or may not diminish. Ideally, for the prospective Guerrilla, have and train with both.

Chest Rig vs. LCE

This is an argument I find kinda stupid, not for any sort of emotional attachment to gear that some folks seem to get, but simply because what works for me may not for you. And I’m fairly certain I stated that. LCEs fell out of favor largely with the advent of lightweight-ish armor and patrolling from vehicles in Iraq. A few mags on your chest is also quick and efficient and generally doesn’t snag stuff as your moving through dense underbrush. But again, what works for me, may be different for you.

I’ve heard a few grumblings about chest rigs that “it interferes with going into the prone”. I’ve never seen anyone with this problem, unless you have some sort of weak sternum or proclivity to laying in the prone with an inch of steel between you and the dirt, or you stack so much junk on the front of your rack that it looks like you’re laying on a ramp in the prone. Don’t laugh- I have seen that, from a few who should know better. Split-front designs, like the two rigs that I most favor, unbuckle the same way old timers unbuckled their LCE belts in the prone, as did the SADF with their Battle Jackets.

Sleep Plans on Patrol

This is probably the largest issue that cannot translate to civilians, and there’s really no civilian course I’m aware of that illustrates this. Sleep deprivation is a way of life when in the bush. The ‘shelter’ kit I pictured was actually nothing of the sort- it’s a base layer for building Hide sites. It’s not meant to be comfortable or cozy to take a snooze under the stars with my buddies- I’m hiding, observing an area or holding position in a RON(remain overnight) site, and moving out just before a designated commo window to relay my report.

If I’m comfy, I’m sleeping, not observing. I’m not pulling security. I’m not taking care of my buddies. The priorities of work at the halt go out the window. And I sure as hell can’t unass the hide in a hurry. Patrolling is not camping with camo paint, hence why you didn’t see any sleeping kit listed in my last.

Inside such a position, sleep plans are rotated, and it’s not comfortable. There’s a reason some of us can rack out anywhere, in any position…because most often it’s in less than desirable positions that in the field you get a few moments of shut eye. You may get an hour here or there, and rotating the sleep plan requires discipline among the guys on your team. It might sound rough, but its a way of life, at least if you want to survive. The Z monster happens to everyone, even the best, and it’s something that has to be trained for to work against. Your guys have to get used to working through exhaustion. And if you’re considering a Light-fighter Guerrilla paradigm and not training in this manner, you will realize the folly of your ways when someone who has kills you and your team.

North/South, East/West, Roger

I hope this clears the waters a bit…because the more important concern is that mission defines equipment used. I’ve described what works in a rural, traditional patrolling model. Your needs might be a little different, but the basics really don’t change. Keep it simple, keep it rugged.