Commentary On A Good Southern Prepper 1 Video About Training

I watched a video this morning from southernprepper1 that was pretty much what I’ve been telling students for years. Unless you have some serious, and long term training, you are not going to be doing any offensive operations from your base of operations, retreat/domicile. What will you be facing for the most part? Will it just be inexperienced looters and thugs? Will the experienced looters and thugs have experienced Infantry vets? Will the threat be experienced gov contractors or even the military? Obviously, we won’t know, but we can make some assumptions, based on what scenario (economic collapse, civil war, or limited nuclear exchange) takes place.

Inexperienced looters and thugs will be a problem, but most of them are all about the quick score (both now and after SHTF), and not “making a point” (continuing with the “raid”) when they hit resistance. When it comes to looters and thugs bent on raiding (home invasion) a dwelling, either before or after SHTF, their primary concern is the initial response of the home owner (security measures or armed personnel), and the response of outside support (whether that’s the police now, or a Neighborhood Protection Team after SHTF).

Inexperienced looters and thugs are easily stopped by layered security measures like security lighting, security cameras, locked chain link fence, heavy duty door and door frame, shrubs under all the ground level, first floor windows that make window breaches with a buddy or short ladder more difficult, loud, audibly piercing alarm, etc., but the experienced version of the looters and thugs have planned ahead and done their “Leaders Recon” before hitting a place.

An experienced group will know if they need bolt cutters, a door ram, and/or shotgun for a breach. An experienced group will know if you have security cameras, and will have ways of defeating it from a concealed location (accurate air rifle or suppressed .22LR) An experienced group will have a assault plan and special teams for different tasks. An experienced group will know how many exits there are to the dwelling, and either hit all at once, or at least have them covered once the assault kicks off.

Something to keep in mind when discussing this stuff (the defense), is that the defense is a Hell of a lot easier than offense (usually they are fixed positions and not much is required physically), and it requires a lower ratio of personnel (defense is usually a 3 to 1 ratio meaning the defense only needs one person for every three offensive/attacking personnel) than the offense usually does. Generally speaking, preppers and Survivalists need to make sure they have their defensive plan ready and able to be carried out (enough personnel just for that) before planning on conducting any form of offensive actions.

I’m not gonna bother covering what happens if you got hit by contractors or military, because if you do, you had better already have a squared away escape plan in place because it would be the “Experienced looters and thugs” on steroids (MG’s, AT-4’s, breaching charges that make their own doorway, etc.). You do what you can to fight something like that, but have no illusion that the probability leans towards getting rolled over, even though the possibility is that you could still win. This is why having someone who knows how to set up security of your site is so important. A knowledgeable individual (Like southernprepper1 said, not someone who read it in a book) can give you the layered security set up that gives you advanced warning and also helps channel attackers, and restrict a site breach for a short while.

Southernprepper1 mentioned needing to be in shape for patrolling, and having experience and solid training. This applies across the board, whether it’s a local “Presence Patrol” (defensive measure designed to keep track of what’s going on in your area), or a “Combat Patrol” (offensive patrol designed to look for trouble and proactively mitigate it before it becomes an “in your face” threat to your area or group.

When you are a patrol member, your physical fitness is not just about you. If your lazy out of shape ass gets shot and killed because you couldn’t put down the three times a day “Double frufur latte with extra caramel and whipped cream”, and never did an exercise that didn’t involve 12 ounce Bud Light curls, that’s on you, right? Here’s the other side of that situation. OK, you’re a lazy ass, but want to get in on the “Cool stuff” like patrols, right?

How many of your buddies (I’d imagine you are all close if you are spending the apocalypse with them) will try to extract you (either out of the direct fire that dropped you to begin with, or out of the area of the fight via casualty evac) and get killed in the process because your fat ass slowed them down long enough to get wacked by the original ambushers? How many guys that are in shape, but got hit and needed extracting will get killed because your lazy ass can’t even move them out of the line of fire, let alone out of the area of the fight?

Presence patrols are a necessity after SHTF, even if it’s just a patrol that doesn’t go out of sight of your retreat. Am I saying do it even if you’re not in shape or a physically capable of performing it effectively? Nope, not at all. Getting ambushed within sight of your retreat still has the same issues, the only difference might be the amount of support fire you might be able to get from the retreat personnel (standing guard posts) while you are trying to get out of the kill zone. What I’m saying is that you are going to be lacking in an effective layer of your defense (one of the outer rings) if you cannot perform that function. Your call, but this goes back to the question of “Are you just playing at it, or are you serious?”.

For the most part, prepper or Survivalist groups conducting “Combat Patrols” is ridiculous. You should always be defensive in nature ( you are not an infantryman without infantry, no matter how you appear, even if you were an Infantryman), and unless you are performing an operation to get someone of your group back from a group who took them as a hostage, you are asking for trouble. Even performing a hostage rescue is almost an exercise in futility unless you have some really squared away experienced (know how to plan and conduct the op) former Infantry type soldiers.

A while back, I wrote a post about Battle Drill 4 (this BD is for up to a platoon sized element, but as a civilian trainer, I have only taught it at the Squad/ 9-12 personnel or Heavy Squad/up to 18 personnel level) called “React To Ambush, “A WAY”, Not “THE WAY”. In it, I mentioned this, a 6 man recon team will probably do things a little different than a 9 man LI squad”. How would they do this, and why? A 4 man fire team or a 6 man reconnaissance team (LRS) will usually react to contact (in this case a “near ambush”) in a defensive way (break contact) whereas a 9 man Light Infantry Squad or 12 man ODA can use an offensive technique (attack the attackers) to mitigate their perilous “near ambush” position and destroy the ambushers in place through audacity and maneuver.

This technique (near ambush response) is difficult for a well trained, experienced military infantry squad to perform, let alone some “Fly by night” militia or Survivalist group to undertake. Although I teach Battle Drills 1A (squad attack) and Battle Drill 4 (react to ambush) in class 2 of the “Bushbastard” (RSF-SUTATS) course, I also present the caveat that breaking contact is the default for any enemy contact, and offensive operations are generally a “no-no” for any civilian group, simply due to a lack of competence, experience, and confidence.

Southernprepper1 talked about “No tactics are better than bad tactics”, and for the most part I agree. I also believe that people that are trying to figure something out by getting training, even if it’s wrong, will probably do better than the group who never tried to even get training. The untrained group will have a response based on “fight or flight”, not a plan, and their survival will be dumb luck. A bad plan (plans don’t usually survive contact, intact anyway) is better than dumb luck, and “No”, this is not the same as the “I’d rather have luck over skill any day.” line.

I have seen some pretty ridiculous training, done by people who have read a book and think they know what they’re talking about due to that info. Hell, I’ve had guys who received their “Bushbastard” tab tell me they want to start qualifying others for the tab, and I told them “Not just NO, but HELL NO!”, until they qualified for their “Bushmaster” tab. “The “Bushmaster” course is a five class course that teaches “Wilderness survival”, “Land Nav”, “Combat Leadership”, and “Train the Trainer”, and has a final weekend that tests all the applicable skills learned from “Bushbastard” and “Bushmaster”. The “Bushmaster” course is not even listed on the website because the only people who can take it are graduates of the “Bushbastard” course and I don’t want inquiries about it if you don’t qualify.

Regardless of what someone who has taken classes from another professional trainer or I can teach you, I have given people plenty of advice on how to find a competent trainer, even if you’re not going the “Professional Trainer” route. Look for a guy who is a prior service Non Commissioned Officer or Commissioned Officer of the Infantry (Airborne, LRS, Rangers and Special Forces are all different tier levels of Infantry).

If you think they are BSing you (there are a lot of them out there), ask to see their DD-214 and look at block 1 for their name (make sure it’s them), block 4a for their rank, and block 11 for their primary and secondary MOS’s (the infantry military occupational specialty is 11 series, and although SF used to be 11 series, it is now 18 series) and if they say they have combat experience as an infantryman, it will show up as a “Combat Infantry Badge” in block 13 (one caveat is if a guy was a Special Forces member in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, there’s a good chance he might not have a CIB even if he was in combat, due to the nature of their job and where they were doing it).

If the aforementioned guy who wanted to train you (especially if it’s for money) is saying he’s an experienced infantryman but responds with, “My DD-214 is none of your business.”, tell him to take a hike. He’s the one that says he can train you because he’s experienced, right? Make him show you he’s experienced. As to the professional trainers out there, I can’t speak for them, but I am more than willing to show my DD-214 (or any of my other applicable training certifications) to a student at a class that has doubts as to my credentials (just don’t be a dumbass and ask me to send it to you in an emails like some have done).

Be realistic when you are planning for SHTF. If you are like a few Vet friends of mine (they call themselves “mobility kills”. You’ll get it if you’re a former grunt LOL), you know you can no longer (or never could if you’re round) function as a patrol member, due to your lack of physical fitness shape (for this exercise, “round” is a shape, but not the shape we’re looking for) or physical condition (you’re physically broke). Either plan on having a defensive perimeter that is well thought out, multi layered and has serious defensive potential and always with a secured escape route, or plan on finding others who can perform the presence patrol function to become part of your group whether in your actual dwelling/retreat, or in your Neighborhood Protection Area.

Unless your patrol group is prior service infantry, you are not going to be able to function as the “Infantrymen of the 7-8”, no matter what some trainer tells you (no trainer has the time to teach the whole 7-8 in their classes, no matter how many weekends you attend, and as southernprepper1 said, you need to know more than a chapter from this one book to be effective as an Infantryman during Infantry operations). Applying the standards of CTT that I spoke about in this post is definitely within the realm of possibility for the average civilian (because everybody in the Army has to do it, whether support or not) that applies themselves to the training, and gets in shape.

I’ve said many times, “Be a Survivalist who is a “Jack of all Trades”, master of some (preferably the life saving and life protecting arts).”. We are not Infantry, and if you desire to be, don’t go to a Damned tactical course, go join the Army or the Marines. Survivalists glean the needed skills from many areas to better their chances of survival in the non permissive world we envision our neighborhood becoming.

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A game cart loaded with a ruck for a long walk evacuation

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Survivalists really don’t want to conduct a Bug Out on foot with a metric ton of crap on our backs or even on a game cart but we’d do it because we know we will never be coming back to our home. Hell, we don’t even want to have to walk around the farm with a basic compliment of a couple rifle mags, a pistol and a knife on a battle belt. What we know is that the lines between “what we want”, and “what is getting more and more likely to occur” are getting further and further away from intersecting, and it would be foolish to not face that reality.

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Basic lightweight kit mentioned in this post. Pistol, pistol mags, three mag bandoleer and a full size fixed blade knife.

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Another variation of the “Around the farm” rig that you can use. The one above this is more streamlined and less intrusive for doing chores than this one is, but this one has six rifle mags included instead of three.

Here’s the parting thought. When you are looking for a trainer, ask yourself, does this guy try to convince you that he will make me a grunt, or does he want to make me a Survivalist. A grunt plans for the day or the week, a Survivalist plans for the month or the year. Planning beyond that timeline is an exercise in operational (but not logistical) futility, considering the variables that could exist. That doesn’t mean don’t stock up on food, first aid supplies, bullets, etc., it means if you do, you should disperse them, but that is a topic for another post.

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Being able to live like this is necessary, but it is also worse case scenario, and hopefully you will be able to get by with the earlier lightweight kit options most of the time.

JCD

A Repost of “The Fighting/Survival Load for Mounted and Dismounted Operations” With A UW Gear Eval.

This is a post I wrote in March of 2014. I have pretty much stuck with the same system which is my two tiered H-Harness with vest for dismounted ops, or belt and drop holster with vest/body armor for vehicle/Static defense ops.  I’ve been using this system for 9 years now and have found no reason to change.

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Optimizing the carrying systems for fighting gear has been a science many have failed to master through the ages. It obviously didn’t start with the invention of the firearm, but one of the primary features of fighting gear for firearms, is the initial load-out, and the fact that you will expend some of the fighting load you carry with each engagement. This is the reason for carrying as much as you possibly can of those fighting expendables (unless you have a resupply operation going on as well. Yeah, sure you do…….), while still remaining light enough to be mobile, and not tiring yourself unnecessarily.

I have used multiple load bearing systems throughout the last 34 years, and of that 34 years, 29 were in a  professional context, and the items I am about to recommend are largely (but not exclusively) based upon my years of training and fighting as a grunt in mounted and dismounted operations. It’s also based on the experience I’ve had as a tactical/survival trainer, and being able to figure out the gear situation, without the Company, Battalion, or Brigade Powers That Be, dictating their dress right dress edicts from on high, but not taking into account that everyone is different, and only a few things should be standardized.

A Layered Approach

Layering makes sense, whether it’s your clothing for cold weather, or your fighting/survival load for the battlefield. The levels have been talk about enough, so we won’t go into detail, but the basics are these. Level 1 is your on person every day carry (EDC) items that are in your pockets for the most part. Level 2 is your fighting/survival load-out, consisting of an load bearing harness of some sort, Level 3 is your ruck. On the level 2 gear, first up is the Battle Belt setup, which, I use as a survival load (Survival gear, handgun, and a knife). Next up is the combat vest, which gives the user a higher more centralized center of gravity, and has the option of being opened in the front, if you happen to be needing to get just a little lower. Examples of this are the FLC like a number of us used in the military in various configurations, and it is a good economical way to go. This is the standard molle tactical vest, pictured here over an H harness rig. (this one is a Tactical Tailor vest), and there is a lot of space to put whatever you need on it, with the caveat of , don’t overload it.

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Last but not least is the chest rig. Chest rigs are wonderful for vehicle patrols, but not as much so if your trying to dig in to avoid incoming rounds in the prone. I used a modified chest rig in Iraq, and can tell you it works well for vehicle ops, but unless you go with a modified version (not as common), using it on foot patrol based field operation are not optimal because of the aforementioned avoidance of incoming fire issues. The modified version I used was a Tactical Tailor MAV 2 piece version with the cover adapter to make it function as a one piece. This modification allows the user to put it on like a tac vest, not over your head ( pain in the ass if you have a helmet on), and also allows you to put you navel in the dirt if your being shot at, and the only available cover is a downed 10 inch diameter tree.

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As you can see, it’s easy to take off, which as anyone knows with a one piece chest rig, that isn’t generally the case, unless you undo an emergency release buckle. You can raise or lower the harness to suite your preferences.

The modular system I use for dismounted operations is as follows I use a LCE H harness and belt (with pad) with basic survival supplies in it as the base layer. This harness contains survival gear in the buttpack (poncho, rain suit, casualty blanket, fist aid supplies, weather dependent warmth supplies, battery charger, etc.). It has a pistol in a Bianchi flap holster (yes a damn flap holster, but before you tacticool asshats get your thong knotted, I can slide the flap on the inside of the belt, and I have a thumb break release) with two extra magazines, a fixed blade knife (leatherman, and nav gear is on the pants belt or in pockets), two one quart canteens with two cups, one stove, and a thermal imager (day or night capability).

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Over this I wear a Molle Tac Vest that contains a rifle mag capacity of 8/M1A, 8/AKM, or 12/AR, with supplementary stripper clips in the bottom of each flapped pouch when the shorter AR, or M14 mags are used. It also contains a IR strobe, GI Lensatic compass, tac light, extra multi tool (what can I say, I like redundancy), two pistol mags, and a monocular, another fixed blade knife, an IFAK/BOK (different color so it stands out), radio pouch, and an admin/water bottle pouch (water bottle if the vest is worn for urban/vehicle ops). A minimag AA LED light (cuz 123 batts fail quickly) Last but not least is a roll up dump pouch behind the admin/bottle pouch (keep in mind, I’m a lefty, so everything is ass backwards from you “normal” people, except for the IFAK, this should be in the same place for every member of your group).

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If I will be conducting vehicle operations, I use a pistol belt with a drop leg (OH GOD NO!) holster and knife rig both up high (for a drop rig) on my strong side It also has two pistol mags, my thermal would go on the weak side like the H-Harness, a roll up dump pouch, and a tac light pouch (pretty damn Spartan ain’t it?). This is attached to my pants belt with standard belt keepers.

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One of the nice things about a drop rig, is its ability to clear the bottom of a coat or gear while being attached to the pants belt.

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When it comes to body armor, if I use it (urban or fixed position defensive ops, and vehicle ops only) , I go with a slick Interceptor Body Armor (IBA) vest, with level 3+ ceramic plates, or a plate carrier (slick or with gear) with level 3 line-X coated steel plates (these 6.5lb plates are no longer available, but they make a lot of sense for the Survivalist. No matter what the “Know It Alls” and “experts” say about steel plates causing issues with your compass, I have tested that theory, and have found that it causes no more issues with a compass than wearing a vest or chest rig full of ammo, a knife, a pistol, and support gear would). With this set up, I can wear it under the tac vest, or MAV (as I did in Iraq), and there is nothing to get in the way.

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So how does it all go together: Level 2A is as follows:

H-Harness first with your survival supplies (buckle extender is for cold weather clothing), or you can use the pistol belt/drop leg rig for vehicle ops.

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Level 2B would be your Tac vest, with the majority of your fighting supplies (keep the back clear for a ruck), which if need be, you can ditch to run, and still have survival supplies on you (H harness)

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Wearing this rig with a ruck is fine, as long as it’s not an extended (lower/bottom end) ruck like the mil issue Molle 2, CFP-90, or ILBE. I’ve used it with the US Large ALICE (Tac Tailor MALICE 2) and a Bergan and have had no issues.

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I have received a number of pieces of gear from John Ammons at UW Gear. I mentioned above the mag pouches on my Tac Tailor vest, but I have a few more I want to show you. First up is the bandoleers that I received last year. I have spoken about them in my “Lightweight, Modular ‘Basic Load’ Options” post , and don’t have anything but good things to say about them. They are well put together and make a great addition to your gear if you want an easy way to carry three extra mags, whether on your person, or on your ruck.

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Next up is UW Gear’s “Swamp Fox rigs. I’ve tried out two of his rigs, one for AR’s that carry 6 mags, and one that will carry 4 mags for my FAL or M1A. If you want a good, lightweight rig for wearing by itself, or over a plate carrier, this is the one.

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The individual 2 mag pouches made by UW Gear are pretty squared away. The two mag pouches (this includes the two mag pouches on the “Swamp Fox” rig) are designed to retain the two mags with tension using the “Tuck Tab” closure (all UWG mag pouches have this), and it does not need velcro, a snap, or a fastex buckle to stay closed and secure with two mags in it. Unlike the other securing systems I mentioned, this system will not wear out and/or break like they can (can you say “durable item”?). When only one mag is in the pouch and it doesn’t have tension due to the fit of only one mag, there is a piece of velcro that will keep the flap secured.

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Please keep something in mind, This is my way of doing it. I’ve been using load bearing gear for a little while now (over three decades), and have found something that works for me, and have been using this specific system (variations of this for decades) for nine years now. These are just some thoughts I had on load bearing equipment, from a users perspective, not a Modern Warfare 3 tacticool theorist.

I don’t claim to know it all, but what I do know is what I am planning for and have been for about 36 years. My experience is not only from many years in different types of infantry units (higher and lower tier), but being able to apply those lessons to things I have done during my lifetime (farming being one of them). There are many people out there giving advice without any experience other than being prior service, and while that is helpful, it is not very practical from a Survivalist stand point. Ask yourself, are you an infantryman, or are you a Survivalist. The difference is drastic in some instances.

I have my gear set up to use for four basic scenarios. 1) I have to leave my residence on foot with only the supplies on my back with no guarantee of a place to go. It’s a heavy load and a collapsible game cart might be used as well. 2) I have to leave my residence in a vehicle, but due to the threat I will need to be moderately armed and ready for hostilities. 3) I have to operate out of a retreat, and will be on a moderate or heightened state of alert when outside the retreat performing tasks (imagine farming tasks and what you could wear while doing them). 4) I am operating as a member of a Neighborhood Protection Team and need to be able to perform as a guard post sentry and “Presence Patrol” member.

Keep in mind that if someone is telling you your gear (mil issue gear that was used by soldiers of the past) is useless, you need to question their motivations. The biggest problem with ALICE gear these days is finding it at a good price. There’s not much you can’t do with some good old issued ALICE and mil issue MOLLE gear. You don’t need fancy, expensive not issue gear to get by, but if you do, I recommend you contact John Ammons at UW Gear to get some (BTW, he is also a Tactical Tailor dealer). Enjoy (any questions, comment here, or email me at masondixontactical@comcast.net  ).

JCD

Brushbeater: Quantity vs. Quality: Putting the Handheld Radio in Context

Here’s some really good info and clarification by Brushbeater on the differences between Survivalist commo and Tactical commo.
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During the Communications presentation at the PatCon I focused primarily upon the common radio equipment among preppers and survivalists- CB radio because of its inherent commonality (and overcoming potential weaknesses) and the Baofeng UV-5R because it’s cheap and everyone owns them ‘BY THE CASE!’ as one gentleman in attendance pointed out. While that’s all good and well to have plenty of units in the field, and there’s a lot that can be done with them for those thinking outside the box, the ubiquitous  chicom handheld is FAR from ideal for any use other than an inexpensive testbed for antennas or running alternative modes going beyond just pressing a button and talking. The prevailing issue is that people want to do what is not easy to accomplish alone without knowledge of limitations- compounded in part by equipment and a larger part by knowledge.

There exists a strong differentiation which must be made; Survivalist or Retreat Communications is a different animal from Tactical Communications.

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I frequently get questions regarding Retreat Communications and have run  classes to address those needs- the backbone of which is Rugged Line of Sight Communications.

The former focuses solely on creating a parallel network to conventional communications, frequently (especially amongbeginners) in the form of local-scale networking around a retreat area. Growing up this was done by CB radio for our hunting club and in my later teen years by the Motorola Talkbout FRS units on foot with a CB in the truck. For localized security or communications with neighbors in a rural area this is relatively easy to do. Analog systems are fine for getting this done provided you understand that a) it’s NOT secure nor private by any means and b) it’s not the same as tactical communications. Tactical needs are different and involve attempting to mitigate the reception of your signal by potential OPFOR (the whole reason you’re being tactical- and the opposite of survivalist focus) so this means limited antennas to reduce the signal your putting out from the radio on your kit,

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Yagis are easily constructed and ‘beam’ a signal along the desired azimuth. Even for an analog signal, it provides at least a bit of security as well as focusing all of your radiated energy in one direction vs. the omni directional antenna you’re used to. Think flashlight vs. lantern.

directional antennas for longer distance transmissions, and creating pre-planned transmission points and times during the planning phase in order to add security to your communications, even if analog and unencrypted. And if you want an actual real-life feedback on the use of the UV-5R in a warzone, read this from fighters in Ukraine.

Once you’re done reading that, you can come back and we’ll work a little harder on squaring you away.

During the lecture I identified three common patterns among those new to preparedness communications:

  1. I want a secure way to talk to people I care about.
  2. I don’t really care about a hobby; I just want this to work.
  3. I want it to be simple and maximize its functionality.

This thought process is entirely understandable, considering the task at hand, but having a bunch of stuff on hand doesn’t exactly satisfy our above identified needs. First, all handhelds are extremely limited in range out of the box. Experienced guys know that the stock antenna is usually just about worthless, even on higher-end units. Antennas, as we talked about, make a world of difference and external purpose-built antennas are like night and day. Second, the common thinking among ex-military guys is that my equipment here works the same as the stuff I used while I was in. And that’s problematic thinking at best. I was an 11B, and in all of the various places I served there was an S6 or communications department that had already identified our needs and the equipment supplied and had it all down to an exact science- using the Line Unit example, Squad A will get XXX range with this PRC-147 or 152 and will get XXX range from this 117G in this area of operation, from which they will not deviate.

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If you look carefully at the illustration, you’ll notice there’s two frequencies (f1) and (f2). The Retransmit vehicle in the center is performing the same function as a repeater would, only mobile.

We’re only working with line of sight equipment in the low VHF band at the unit level and do not expect it to do anything other than what it does. If need be, we can set a re-transmitter (retrans) site as a relay to the rear when we plan our mission. Large scale mechanized maneuvers always utilize retrans sites and the mech guys who wrote or briefed Paragraph 5 of their Operations Orders remember this well. But above all, the S6 shack knows exactly what their gear is capable of with the assigned equipment. For survivalist communications, that retrans site would be the communications center of our retreat.

Building your own infrastructure is not so simple without experienced people to help you. You are your own S6 trying to get all this sorted out before the big dance and the field is broad and confusing on a good day, even more so if you’ve simply taken the ham cram and disappeared without talking to the more seasoned guys grading your exam. It is critical to understand:

  • You are not an Infantry Unit.
  • At best, you’re an irregular group based on voluntary participation and lack any of the supporting assets an Infantry Unit requires for survival.
  • You are your own S6. 
  • You have an unpredictable set of needs to address.

It’s super common to get confused, especially if all that you’re doing is snapping up and stashing kit without working through its bugs or thinking past plug n’ play. In addition, life deployed for contemporary conflicts doesn’t exactly correlate to making one a know-all survivalist (although it puts you FAR ahead of the curve). During the discussion it was brought up that one should strive to pick up Tech and General in the same sitting, with one very experienced gentleman disagreeing, pointing out that you should want to get to Extra for the additional learning it requires. And he’s exactly right. You should force yourself to learn the most even if you’re only doing the ham cram. It’s impossible to do if all you’re doing is waiting for that non-existent time when ‘I don’t need no license!'(if that’s your attitude by the way, stop reading this blog- we both have better stuff to do). Right now some folks are asking ‘If it’s so complicated why bother with it anyway?’ That’s simple. Having even a Technician-class license provides the absolute most options- far beyond anything license-free stuff provides and will make you lightyears smarter about implementing the license-free stuff if you’re still using it (and there’s no reason not to, by the way).

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This is a Yaesu VX-5R, which has been discontinued for a long while but is widely known as not only a rugged and versatile unit but is quite simple to operate. This one was purchased from a local Ham buddy for $25. I bought both of his. It’s been opened up, and in addition to transmitting on 6m, 2m, 220, and 70cm, and everywhere in between, it can also receive everything from Shortwave to Airband and above- capability the Baofengs can’t match. Pictured with an improvised Moxon beam antenna, this system is just about as flexible and capable as it gets- for less than $50 total.

You learn why and how your stuff works. And for those who embrace it, you get plugged into a network of vast resources. One of those resources is the ability to try stuff before you buy it and even in many cases offer lightly used gear at cheap prices.

Which brings us to our kit selection. Most of you out there own the ubiquitous Baofeng in one of its many incarnations, despite the fact that over and over it’s flaws have been well documented. But going back to our three points of mindset noted above, y’all buy them because they’re cheap and they work at least for a while. They shine in one area- an inexpensive learning tool. If you happen to burn one up from building an antenna and not checking the impedance match (the value your SWR indicates…also described as an efficiency rating of your antenna) or going far past the intended duty cycle (the talk-to-standby time ratio…in other words, how hot it can get during use without doing crazy stuff on its own like transmit across the entire spectrum it covers…something the UV-5R is notorious for) you’re not heartbroken. It can be a decent enough testbed for a low power repeater design, an inexpensive Packet transmitting platform (uh what??? Really??? Yes, really- but that requires some knowledge building that we might cover in the future.) or antenna designs without destroying more expensive units. But to be blunt, the Part-90 certification is a joke and these things should never be considered for anything other than standby use or for what I describe in this post from over a year ago. If you’re a survivalist or prepper your focus should be investing in kit that can take abuse for the long haul- stuff you can stake your life on, because the reality is that this is your aim anyway (and if it’s not, and you’re just buying cheap because it’s cheap you’re fooling yourself or playing a game). If you’re a militant of any kind buying cheap crap for the sake of having something equates failure as well. That’s the context of which you should be viewing all of your gear; this is stuff you must be able to rely upon when the chips are down. It should not be a matter of cost-per-unit comparison, as that logic is the same as saying a Hi Point is just as good as a Glock only because you can buy two of those for the cost of one of the other- it’s absurd. And while there absolutely IS a threshold of diminishing returns (such as comparing CZs to Sigs- CZ makes a better gun at a better price) the quality between extremes is night and day; you get what you pay for. And besides, good commo kit doesn’t need a flashlight on it. 

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JCD

HAM Advice From Warrior Capitalist

Here’s some good HAM advice

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PRIVATE DEFENSE NETWORK COMMUNICATIONS

QUICK STEPS TO YOUR AMATEUR RADIO (HAM) LICENSE.
The ham radio license seems one of the bigger preparedness mysteries. Communications will be very important in any event, whether a local event, a regional event (usually weather), or an all out, nationwide event. The previous requirement of knowing Morse Code was enough to scare many away. Fortunately things have changed for the better, at least for Private Defense Network (PDN) purposes.

An amateur radio license is really a license to experiment. This does not concern us, initially. Many of you will get hooked and go on to experiment, and we encourage that. There is much to know about ham radio and best learned on the job.

This article is designed to get you on the air in a week or less, with a radio, for around $100. Usually less.

Since we are taking a different approach attaining your ham radio license, we suggest you first get a radio. You’ve seen this if you’ve been looking: The Baofeng is probably the best beginner’s radio. Well, it’s cheap and it works well enough for a first time user. After you get your license you may find yourself in a spiral of more capable and expensive radios, but the Baofeng will work. Breaking a thirty some dollar radio is much better than breaking one that costs several hundred dollars. (Trust us: We’ve done it.) Buying the Baofeng will give you something tangible to play with while studying for the test. You can program it and listen to radio traffic. Instructions and videos are available on the net. It’s cheap, you’ll outgrow it quickly, but it will make an acceptable start and an adequate backup when you upgrade to an ICOM, Yaesu, Motorola, etc.
How and where to begin

Earning your license requires you to pass a test. There are three different licenses available. This study method works well for the first two, the technician and General license. The third, the Extra Class license, is its own animal. The technician license will get you talking regionally and will be most useful for local communications in a disaster: Getting news in and out of the area or communicating with family members in a bad situation. The General class license opens up regional and worldwide communications, independent of infrastructure.

The tests are structured to help you earn your license without spending months or years understanding the subject. The technician test consists of 35 questions from a pool of 426. Each question has four multiple choice answers. Passing the test requires you to answer 26 of these questions correctly. These tests are administered monthly by Volunteer Examiners from the American Radio and Relay League (ARRL). There is no charge for the license, but the ARRL charges $15 to cover the costs of administering the test. That $15 and the $50 or so dollars you spent on the Baofeng and accessories gets you to the “100 dollars or less”.
Step 1: Finding a testing location

Finding a test in your area is quite simple. Go to ARRL.org, enter your zipcode, and pick a convenient location and time. Some tests require pre-registration. Pick a test that is a week or more out and commit to it. Note that DSI can administer the test at your location.
Step 2: Finding the questions

There is an excellent resource out there that will be the focus of your study: hamstudy.org The site is easy to understand and contains all of the questions on all of the tests. We will focus on the technician exam. Selecting the technician section will yield three choices: study test questions, read test questions, and practice test.
Step 3: Familiarizing yourself with the questions

Some with an electronics background might instantly recognize the answers to the questions. For others, it might seem like gibberish. We’ve personally directed people to this site and all who have committed to the test have passed. For some it took a just a few hours of study, for others it took up to a week, but that was for the general exam. (Note that you must pass the technician exam to take the general, and so on.). Assuming you can dedicate an hour or two a day for a week, spend the first study period using the read question option. You will quickly determine whether this will be easy or require more effort. All of the questions are presented with the answer as well as the incorrect answers. You should be able to read through the all of the questions in your first study period.
Step 4: Flash Cards

After your first study period, move on to the flash card section. The questions presented to you cover the different subject areas of the test. You can click on the answer you think is correct and it is graded, the correct answer shown, and context. Your progress will be shown on the right side of the page.

Many of the questions fall into the common sense category. You will also notice that the questions that directly concern ham radio such as specific regulations, frequencies, and schematics will present an obvious answer with three not so plausible distractors.

On the last two study sessions before the real test you to want to move to the practice test section. These questions are specifically chosen from the pool as they appear on the actual test. You will be presented with 35 questions. Each question is selected from the different subsections, so this is more accurate in predicting your score on the actual test.

Each exam is graded upon completion, with the questions you missed linked to their sub section. You have the option to review the test: Please use it. The question you answered incorrectly will be shown with the correct answer. Remember, you must answer 26 of the 35 answers correctly on the exam. Before grade inflation, we called this a C. For the last two study sessions, take the tests over and over until you can pass 9 out of 10. We haven’t had a person who followed this method fail, yet.
Step 5: The Test

If you’ve diligently put in seven honest days of study, you should recognize the correct answers. You may have found that a few nagging questions you can never seem to get right, but for the most part you can answer the questions by just seeing the first few words of the question. Please read the entire question anyway. It helps with nerves.

Don’t forget to bring your $15 IN CASH with you to your test. When you arrive, you will be greeted by three Volunteer Examiners. These are three fellow amateur radio operators that have taken time to administer your test. You will be handed a booklet containing the questions, and a bubble sheet for answers.

We recommend you take tests, especially multiple choice tests, in this fashion: Sit down, relax, organize your scratch paper and pencil (It helps to jot down any formulas.), and take a look at the first question. If your studying has produced an amateur radio expert, the answer should be readily apparent. If it isn’t, don’t despair: SKIP the question. Move on to question two, same here. Ensure you don’t mark a skipped question inadvertantly. It helps to check every five or so questions. Answer the questions for which you are POSITIVE and SKIP the ones for which you are not sure. Do this all of the way to the end of the exam. When you get to the end, go back and count the number of questions answered. Our observation is most of people answer at least 26. Go back and make you best guess on the remaining questions. Even if you weren’t POSITIVE of at least 26 you are close, and logic will get you over the hump. You may wish to look online for test taking strategies. Our goal is to get you licensed, then trained, not to make you engineers.

Your test will be graded by each of the Volunteer Examiners. If you breezed through the technician exam, you can take your general exam on the same day if you wish. You won’t have to pay an additional $15 (cash) to take it. Many take all three exams in one sitting.

Getting a license isn’t difficult. If you are willing to put in a few hours over the course of a week, you are on the way to a stronger PDN. We realize this article is more about studying and test taking than amateur radio, but the resources listed tell you everything you need and take the mystery out of the process. Becoming a skilled ham is a lifelong process.

Don’t forget to join a local club. This is fun, as well as important, and hams love to help.

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JCD