Trust But Verify

Do all your compasses point in the same direction?

All too often, we will trust things we get or have because they come from “Official Sources”. How many pieces of gear did you buy, or do you have because “It’s official issue” to our military? Have you verified the bearings that are shown on one compass with another? What about maps? What is the source for your maps, and is it a “Subcontractor” for the original source?

While conducting a LandNav class back in April, I found out that the map we were using for the area I had chosen to conduct the class, had a glaring deficiency in it’s markings. As in all beginner LandNav classes I’ve taught (first time in this area), I use major, easily seen terrain features (roads, powerlines, pipelines, etc.) to help with keep students from getting lost. This class was no exception, and I used one of the well used roads in that area as the extreme Western “handrail”, and a gas pipeline “right of way” as the Northern “handrail”.

Map marked pipeline with black dashes. Actual pipeline in red. the blue lines are MGRS 1,000 meter grid squares. Notice how even the azimuth angle is wrong.

This gives students a safety net in case the get lost in the “area of operation” (AO), and they know if they follow their compass due West (270 degrees), or due North (360 degrees), the will come to one of these “handrail” guides which can then lead them back to the start point, which was where the pipeline and the road intersect. Problem is, the map was wrong. The map in question had the pipeline marked 550 meters North of where it actually was, and it didn’t even follow the correct azimuth, East to West.

550 meters is over half a kilometer. 550 meters IS A LOT! During the class, it was figured out that it was off using other major trail marked reference points, pace counts and multiple GPS’s (they are not always right either, so be careful trusting them), and people were able to adjust fire and continue with the class. Two weeks after I taught the class, I called My Topo, and made them aware of the issue. Their response was they would check it out, but that their info came straight from USGS.

I sent them a copy of the map, with the pipeline marked where it actually is as a reference. How did I verify it’s location? I used resection with my compass and map together with my pace count, as well as my GPS using the MGRS coordinates and elevation features. I mapped out a path I made in the area, and plotted it on the map using the above listed information.

Why am I telling you this? If you have an area you going to be using, especially if it’s a place you’ll be going to after a SHTF event as a safe haven, you need to verify that the map is correct as much as possible. As an example, during Vietnam, SF and LRRP Team Leaders would do an aerial recon of most of the areas they were going to be operating in, to confirm things the map and the S2 (Intel) were telling them were correct.  Just like we always tell you that you need to test your gear out thoroughly before you need it, you need to verify what the map is telling you is correct for your “AO”. Checking these things is not an exercise in futility, LandNav skills are something you should be practicing anyway, right?

In this instance, what if you were using that pipeline as a handrail (you can move quicker that way) to lead you out of your town to an area you think will be safe, or to an area where you were supposed to link up with friends? If you had used that one in particular, the terrain you were seeing would not have matched up with what the map was telling you it was supposed to be, and you could end up in the wrong, maybe a “non permissive” area. Worse yet, what if you had been moving a night (a good idea if things are bad)? Identifying that the terrain around you doesn’t match the map is a lot harder at night.

“Trusting but Verifying” is never a bad idea wihether it’s your acquaintances, your gear, or your information (in this case, your maps). LandNav is just one more of the Mountain man, Pathfinder, Scout and Infantryman’s skill sets that, as Survivalists, we need to be able to do well. This starts with correct information on your map, and you’ll never know for sure unless you check it (remember the LRRP/SF guys above). A Survivalist is a “Jack of All Trades”, a master of some (hopefully the life protecting and the life saving arts). We are not Infantrymen, we have to be much more than that.

Figured while I was out checkin’ the map, I’d do some ruckin’ and kill two birds with one stone. You do LandNav with all your gear…right?

JCD
"Parata Vivere"- Live Prepared.

 

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Prioritizing Realistic “Engagement” Training

Here’s the scene: OIF in Northern Iraq. Vehicle stopped by a “message” from an OH58 (smoke rocket impact in front of the vehicle). because it appeared they were trying to set off a cell phone initiated IED on the American vehicle patrol (Duke system was indicating signal in the area). Six Iraqi’s exit the vehicle (a Toyota sedan), and are being searched. One man searching personnel, One man pulling near security. One man supervising the search. All the Iraqi men have been asked for ID’s (which they produced), all the men had been asked if they had weapons, to which they all said “No.”.

Is this guy a threat?

In the midst of the “Search” guy doing his thing, “Security” yells “He’s got a gun!” (directed towards a man who hadn’t been searched yet), at which time “In Charge” guy (approximately 5 feet from the armed person in question) throw his rifle to his shoulder (from low ready) while flipping off the safety, and in the midst of taking up the slack in the trigger, notices two things. One, he can’t see the guy’s right hand (no weapon pointed at anyone…yet), and two, the guy looks scared shitless. In that moment, “In Charge” makes a decision to flip the safety back on, and hit the Iraqi in the sternum with the muzzle of his rifle knocking him to the ground, at which point he then secures the Iraqi “bad guy”, and disarms him of his Glock 19. Was the guy who took action wrong for not shooting someone who gave indications of being a threat? Maybe. What would you have done?

I hear a lot of talk about speed draws, buzzer to shot times with a rifle in fractions of a second. and split times that would make Jerry Mikulek look like an arthritic geriatric. The accuracy crowd is just as bad, claiming the need for sub MOA groups, or you’re not at “Operator” level (should we care about that?). Here’s a question. In the Accuracy, Speed, and Target ID tripod, what is the most important leg? Training to be accurate is great and necessary, simply due to the fact that “minute of angle’ training in good conditions, will translate to “minute of bad guy” performance under bad conditions. Training to be fast, especially with a handgun, is also important (up close and personal requires speed more than accuracy), and being able to run your gun fast, whether a rifle or pistol, will again translate to acceptable “second nature” performance when shit has gone airborne.

So tell me, what are you doing for your “target discrimination” training? Are you like most groups or trainers I’ve seen, who throw a “Don’t shoot” target in at the end of a course of fire, just to see if you’re paying attention, and to say, “Look, we make you think, right?”. What are you training for? Is it for a “Battle Royale with Gov forces? (I know, I know, you’re all “Grunts” right?) Is it to be an extra in the next “Mad Max” sequel gone “reality”? Is it for hard times in CONUS where the majority of the people out there will be innocents just trying to get through another day? Most people I talk to are Survivalists, and are concerned and preparing for situations that are similar to “One Second After”, what happened in Argentina in 2001,  or what Selco talks about here. If this is what your training is geared towards, shouldn’t your weapons training reflect what you will probably run into?

Most would agree that especially in the initial phases of any of these scenarios, 90-95% (hopefully 99%) of the people you will deal with on a daily basis are not bad guys. Obviously, this is not necessarily true in certain urban enclaves, but for the most part, although you should be cautious when approaching anyone except those already known to you, the large majority are not a threat. When training for the reality you feel you’re going to face, why would you only use one “Don’t shoot” target, in a group of ten. When more than likely, you will only have one or two “Shoot” targets (out of 10 or more) in reality. Muscle memory is a bitch, and if you primary training concern is accuracy and speed, and you only give a cursory overview to the importance of IDing the target, you will shoot an innocent before you’ve even thought to actually ID them, just because a certain “threat trigger” (like ” He’s got a GUN”) was initiated.

How fast can you ID a real threat? What are the signs? Because they’re armed? So are you. Because they seem jumpy? So are you, right? What would you do if you were out on a “Presence Patrol” of your area, and another patrol was coming up the trail towards you? Would you automatically throw up your weapon and demand they drop theirs? Have you thought that scenario through? Pointing your weapon at someone is an implied threat, correct? What other courses of action do you have? How’s about getting behind cover and communicating to those you’ve seen, asking who they are. and why they’re there.

One type of scenario I use in my classes during patrols is the “don’t shoot” guy. An armed guy (one of the MDT OpFor) runs across the trail in front of the patrol. Usually the patrol lights him up (blanks), so at that point we take an admin break, and conduct a “hotwash” AAR (quick on the spot after action review). I ask “Why did you shoot that guy?”. “Well…. he was armed.” is the normal response. To that I say “So are you.” Upon reflection, the students realize “Holy Cow, he’s right.”

I teach students to always be looking for the next available cover while on patrol, and that way, if they have a situation like this (THIS IS NOT THE SAME AS “REACT TO AMBUSH”!) they seek cover, and loudly communicate with those they feel could be a threat. Who knows, you might meet some kindred spirits in that situation. So back to the question “How fast can you ID a real threat?” I guarantee that your ability to ID a threat (unless they are shooting at you) is slower than the speed and accuracy response you can acquire with good training. So when you think about it, what good does that “light” speed, and “laser” accuracy do for you in a real world SHTF scenario? It is great as long as you keep it in perspective, and don’t forget the most important part of training should be target identification. Fast and accurate is still important, but not useful until after you’ve identified that it is a threat.

Things to look for: 1) Train yourself to always look at the hands. Their face can’t hurt you (well, most can’t LOL), but the hands are what holds the weapons that will kill you. 2) If you can’t see the hands, or a hand, look at their facial expression. It’s not hard to tell if someone is scared shitless (not that that means they aren’t a threat) by their facial expression, but usually, it is an indicator that if you appear less threatening (not pointing your weapon at them), it might deescalate the situation (regardless, on a patrol, you should take cover). 3) If they are holding a long gun, what position is it in? “Low ready”, “High Port Arms”, pointed at you? If it’s Low Ready, or High Port Arms, and stays that way, they haven’t become a threat yet (that’s how you should be carrying your weapon, right?), but if it’s pointed at you, it could be a threat, or it might not, and as said earlier, take cover.

What’s the point of this post? The point is that you should realistically evaluate your training scenarios, and make them reflect as closely as possible the situations you are preparing for and think are most likely. Making 8 out of 10 targets, “Don’t shoot” targets, might not be as fun as “getting your gun off” to ten to one “shoot” targets, but it’s not supposed to be fun, it’s supposed to be important. Training is about being prepared for “When” you have to use it, not “If” you’ll have to use it (that’s the proper mindset). “Train Hard, Train Right, Train realistically.” Anything else is just playing “Modern Warfare 3” in a fantasy camp.

By the way, the earlier story about the Soldiers and the Iraqi with the Glock. He was an undercover Iraqi cop, and was trying to catch guys who were setting off IED’s on American troops, and had gotten into their ring and was preparing to stop them when the .mil stop happened. He didn’t want to be ID’ed as a cop, and that’s why he didn’t tell the patrol Leader (Me) when asked. Think about that one after you already had said to yourself “I’d have shot that guy!”

JCD

"Parata Vivere"- Live Prepared.

Ruck It

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Killin’ two birds with one stone…..

Getting from point “A” to point “B” with a heavy load on your back, has been a requirement for everyone from the military and hunters, to hikers and refugees. Understanding how to do this as efficiently as possible, is in and of itself an art form, and you can usually tell who’s been doing it for a while, and definitely, who has not! In the end, you just “Gotta suck it up and do it.” because no one is gonna carry it for you, right?

There have been plenty of good suggestions across the blogosphere on everything from the correct way to pack your gear, to ways to get yourself to the point you want to be at, from a physical fitness standpoint. DTG offers some pointers here on packing your rucksack (this is what we call the backpack in the American military),  and here they talk about actually getting out and “Rucking” (American military term for backpacking on the road, or cross country).

My recommendations, concerning “Rucking”, are geared towards a “Bugout” scenario, for the NPT member, or survivalist, not a reconstruction of the US Army EIB (Expert Infantry Badge)/Infantry standard, which is 35 lbs. of dry weight in the rucksack, this does not include the weight of their load bearing gear, which contains water and other gear (the standard is 12 miles in three hours). My recommendations for load bearing gear are here, and I use a Large Alice rucksack or a Malice pack by Tactical Tailor modified like this.

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First things first. My minimum recommendation to shoot for in training, is to be able to carry your load bearing equipment (LBE) with the basic load for your rifle (6 extra mags, or 100 extra rounds for your boltgun), two 1-quart canteens, a personal blow out kit, and a knife. What ever your load bearing gear weighs, the ruck should make up the difference in the weight to equal half your body weight. Example: LBE weighs 25 lbs. you weigh 150 lbs., so the ruck would weigh 50 lbs. THIS IS A GOAL, NOT YOUR INITIAL RUCK WEIGHT! I ruck on the road a good bit now, and carry one of these blueguns to simulate the feel and weight of my weapon.

OK, so now we have a goal to shoot for, right? Is it a practical goal? Well, you be the judge. How much will a sustainment load weigh if you are carrying two weeks worth of dehydrated food, sleeping gear including shelter, and the rest of the needed gear to survive in a non-permissive environment? Wait, I know, you plan on living off the land exclusively, right? Let me know how that works out for you, because that is the fantasy, not the reality. I will carry 75% (150lbs) of my body weight every once in a while, simply for “gut check” purposes. Why? One, I’m realistic about what a sustainment load might weigh. Two, It might be my best friend or one of my kids I have to carry to safety or medical aid, and it’s nice to know I can still do it.

Now, how are we going to reach our goal? Here’s my suggestion, and this comes from over a quarter of a century of “Ruckin” with loads that have reached 75% of my body weight (200 lbs.). My first step suggestion is to start with a two mile walk with your loaded LBE, and enough weight in your ruck to equal 25% percent of your body weight. Time yourself, and see how you do. Next time, use the same load, but increase your distance to four miles, trying to maintain the same pace you did on the first two mile “Ruck”. Here’s a suggestion for the four miler, get a water blivet and fill it to help equal the weight you want to carry. If performing the four miler with the weight you have in your ruck becomes too much, empty the blivet, and continue to the finish. Each time you “Ruck”, increase the distance towards the four miles finish, before you dump the blivet water, till you’ve achieved the four mile point with the weight you wanted to.

Next up, you will start to add weight to your ruck in 10 lb. increments, still walking the 4 mile course, till you are at the 50% body weight figure that was your original goal. After this, it’s just a matter of first trying to decrease your time, on the course you’re already doing (gives you a good idea of your performance level), then you start to increase distance.

Tips for “Ruckers”. GOOD BROKE IN BOOTS, AND GOOD BOOT SOCKS! Don’t skimp, your feet will thank you. You have enough to think about, pain wise (shoulder, back, hips, knees, etc.), without having to worry about something you can mitigate or eliminate initially, right? In cold weather, make sure you are not comfortably warm (longjohns, goretex, etc.) when you start your ruck march because you will overheat quickly and, as stated earlier, why do something that will cause problems, when you can mitigate it right off the bat.

Conclusions: This isn’t the “Be all, end all” to ruck marching (not even close), but you have to start somewhere, and why not take the free advice of someone who’s carried a few pounds over perfectly flat terrain a few times in his life. BTW, I take my own advice. Last September, I totally rupture my left Achilles. I was fortunate that I had an option on whether to have surgery or not from the Orthopedic Doc, and chose “Not” (only a 1 cm gap). I went into aggressive physical therapy at week 5 (not my first serious ankle injury, Hell, I’ve dislocated both ankles in the past), and was back to work in two months (Docs told me in the ER the night I was hurt it was a minimum of four months out of work, and definitely needed surgery).

I started ruckin’ at three months with 50 lbs. and at four months I was carrying 85 lbs. and doing 15 min. miles (the 6 degree weather helped “motivate” my speed). I have been ruckin’ with 100 lbs since the beginning of March (month 6), and will be back to 120 lbs (what I was ruckin’ weekly before I was hurt) by June. You can do it, but you have to overcome the biggest hurdle, and that is you mind. I set what I believed were reasonable, realistic goals before I started ruckin’ again, and I’ve been fortunate to be able to meet them.

 

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P.S. Make sure someone else knows your planned ruck route, and an expected return time. Also, have the ability to communicate with your support base, in case you have problems (I have to use a radio, because there isn’t cell signal where I live).

JCD

"Parata Vivere"-Live Prepared.

Questions To Ask When Modifying Your Gear

How many times do you talk to a buddy who is into Survivalism, or militia type activities, and he tells you he bought a new piece of gear, simply because “Fill In The Blank” (a tactical gear authority, don’t you know), said it was the shiznit of all shizum, when it comes to that type of accessory. When I hear this, I usually ask, “What was wrong with the setup you had?”, and I usually get a blank stare, indicating that it was an impulse buy, and not meant to fill a glaring gap in their gear setup.

August '86 Wolverine

Me, “Ready for the Soviets” at 15 yrs old

Most of us that have been into Survivalism for any length of time, have gone through a number of equipment variations, especially when it comes to tactical gear. Mine started out when I was 13 yrs old, with an old WWII issue equipment belt, an LC2 M16 mag pouch, canteen w/ cup and carrier and a “Kabar” style knife that was made by my Grandfather. Over the next couple years, I added to that setup, and ended up with a complete LC-2 rig, which was exactly like the one I had issued to me in the military a year later.

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A SAW Gunner’s needs, concerning load bearing gear, are different than that of a Squad Rifleman.

While in the military, I learned that the equipment you carry and use, has to be directly related to what your job (duty position) and/or task at hand is (the military spells this out for each unit). Sometimes, depending on your duty position you’ll be required to carry more, sometimes less, but there’s always a minimum load/gear requirement (unit SOP) to get the job done, and sometimes, we could buy our own gear, as long as it filled the stated requirements (and the Sergeant Major doesn’t see it). How you are organized (set up by others, or by yourself…you know…THE PLAN!), and what you are organized for (you have documented your needed “What” and “Why”, right?), whether as a Survivalist, part of the Neighborhood Protection Team, or in the military, is what drives the acquisition and eventual use of the equipment.

We’ve all bought gear that appeared to be the answer to an apparent problem, only to be disappointed by poor quality, or just a complete lack of fulfilling the need (as you’ll see in this post). The purpose of this post is to review questions you might ask yourself before you acquire new gear, and hopefully, it might save you time and money in the long run. I will use a few gear changes I have gone through in last couple years as the example.

Question #1. Do I have a need to enhance my gear, and for what reason?

My Answer: Yes. While shooting a video a few years ago, I noticed my mag change time was slower than I liked. While studying the problem, I realized there was no way I could decrease my time, while still using the present flapped mag pouch I had. I thought my need was to find a mag pouch that was open topped, had good retention, but no retention strap (if available), and would accept mags for the weapons I regularly use (FAL/M1A, AR, AK). I have realized that initially, I did not ask the questions and address the overall concerns about the gear in enough detail, and I didn’t weigh the mag security/retention vs. speed issue. Overall, I was more concerned about versatility with different weapon systems.

Question #2. What’s available, and what’s the manufacturers reputation?

My answer at the time: The only one I’ve found is from High Speed Gear (Taco Pouch). I was fortunate that after doing the research, and talking to people that I found out used them (Friends and students), I couldn’t find anyone who had an issue with them. Looking back, when I made this first change, the initial response was aimed at speed. In reality I have determined that speed isn’t as important as retention in the Survivalist paradigm out in the boonies. However, speed is more of a necessity in urban and vehicle ops. I have since decided to go with “dedicated mag” type pouches (only fits one mag type) with a flap that has a durable and quiet (no velcro, snaps or fastex buckles for normal use) closure. I wrote a review of these pouches and they are made by my Friend John at UW Gear. These pouches are now what I use on my Tactical Tailor combat vest (I can easily switch from the 556AR to the 762FAL pouches due to the type of molle fastener strap he uses), but the Taco’s are staying on my plate carrier.

Question #3. What’s the price and in stock availability?

My Answer for my selections in 2015 and 2017: Moderate but acceptable price on the HDG Taco’s, and they were immediately shipped. I went through “Rifles Only”. Cost was $42 a piece, but it does everything (didn’t have to “make do”) I needed it to do from a speed standpoint, and is well made (no longer available from “Rifles Only”, but still available here). I bought two of the X2R double rifle carriers (for the assault vest), and two of the Double Decker single rifle. single pistol pouches (for the plate carrier). The UWG pouches I now use on my combat vest run around $25 and it will take some turn around to get them from John (he’s a one man operation). The quality and durability he builds into his gear is more than worth the wait time, and you are supporting an American small businessman.

Question #4. What is the minimum I need to accomplish the desired task?

Answer at the time I originally wrote this in 2015: I carry 8 mags on my TT vest, and was keeping the two closed mag pouches on my strong side as they were. Two pouches per vest/PC. Although I could have gone hog wild and bought four Taco’s for my assault vest and plate carrier, I actually only needed two. I placed these on my weak/right side (first mags used). If I need more than 4 “Immediate” speed reloads on a patrol (with the assault vest), I’m in way over my head, and have probably made a huge error in judgment by hanging around, and I need to adjust my situational awareness. I should have time to adjust mags from the strongside flapped pouches during a brief respite in the chaos. Now that I’ve switched over to UWG pouches on my combat vest in 2017, I use four across the front (similar to my original set up, but the pouches are better), whether it’s eight 30 rnd AR’s (around 8 lbs.) or 30 rnd FAL mags (around 19 lbs.).

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Old set up from 2007

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Vest set up change from 2015

Most recent change made to the vest in 2017

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Plate carrier for home use. Everything a person needs for immediate dealings with bad guys, and all in one convenient “grab and go” piece of gear.

Question #5. Does it meet the requirements, and is it worth the money?

My Answer back in 2015: Yes. My rifle reload time was cut in half , and the Double Decker’s on my plate carrier helped fix a “real estate” issue I was having. The PC is my “grab in the middle of the night” gear, and there just isn’t enough room on it for pistol mag pouches (2 mags), rifle mag pouches (6 mags), knife, and a holster, without putting the sides on it, and they are noisy (velcro) and make it hard to get on quickly. My answer now is that I feel better about having more security for my mags in the field and will trade that for speed (UWG mag closures are still faster than the first ones I had). As a Survivalist, the need for a speed reload in a fight has to be tempered with an understanding of your lack of resupply. Yes, I know reloading quickly is important, unlike most who comment,  I’ve been on the “Two way range”. I just think speed is not the only criteria to take into consideration when you are figuring what type of pouches you will use.

In conclusion, there are always good reasons for updating and changing out your gear. The post I did in 2014 on my choice from 2007 for load bearing gear had not changed in eleven years, except for the Taco pouches. Some of the choices I made in 2015 were changed in 2017 because I saw a need for more retention, than speed, and I rectified it. If you’re using an old LC-2 rig, and it covers what you need it to, knock yourself out (still a big fan BTW). Newer isn’t always better. Ask yourself the questions in this post, and they will help you answer some of the more important factors when you are buying tactical gear.

JCD

"Parata Vivere"- Live Prepared.