MDT LandNav Essentials Course #103

Re-posted from MDT


Our LandNav Essentials Course this past weekend went well. Here’s an AAR from one of the students. I don’t post many AAR’s (they are for me to use to help improve the class, not to try and impress the readership here) but this was the first dedicated two days of “LandNav Only” class, and is the reason for posting this AAR.  I always posted AAR’s when I first started the MDT blog 4 years ago, to show what I offered, and I still always post at least one AAR from each new class that is developed. 

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Terrain : Appalachian  mountainous  , heavily wooded, and  rocky.
Weather: cooler high 20- to low 40s. Dress appropriately but not problem once moving.  Summer bring bug juice  and be.prepared to do tick checks on a regular basis. No issue in this class.
Physical condition : You have to be able to walk over longer distances with heavy terrain  including up and down some steep grades. There is a lot of rocky terrain so good boots with ankle support is a must. If you have respiratory, cardiac, or are morbidly obese this course will be very difficult for you.
What I learned:
I learned the parts of the lensatic and base plate compass. We learned how to read the standard 1:25000 military style maps.  JC preferred this style of map and I found it easy to work with. We learned how to use Eastings and Northing grid coordinates. How to find areas on a map and how to assign grid coordinates to features on the map. We also became adept at using the protractor for azimuths, distances, and locations.  The heavy forest (even without the leaf cover) made targeting specific longer range features difficult so we had to follow our compass azimuths more closely as compared to more open ground where it is often possible to target distant features. This forced us to rely on the compass. (NOT A BAD THING IN A COMPASS COURSE).
We learned how to plot out azimuths, estimate meters on the maps, and plan our courses. We also learned to use ranger pace counting beads. All invaluable skills with JC being right there to answer all our questions as they arose. We also learned how to address declination largely focusing on “grid North”.
Saturday morning was instruction and the afternoon was spent walking assigned courses using grids coordinates as teams. JC would walk with us and comment, correct as needed. 
 Each coordinates was checked by JC for accuracy. We did coordinates drills into the early evening until JC was sure we had the concepts down solid.
Sunday morning was more review
 Then we we given coordinates, that we plotted, found azimuths, estimated distances and we went out as a team. We learned to also recognize physical features (terrain association) and find them on the map. This really helped when we missed a target site, or questioned whether we went too far, or not far enough. We saw how varied terrain will affect pace counts.
Finally,  for our final solos we were given general areas  from our known location using general directions i.e ” feature  SSW  or East etc.  
We then had to identify the feature on the map, plot the coordinates, find the various azimuths, estimate distances and draw these course areas on a map to create pentagonal courses that were approaching 2 kilometers in total distance over a variety of terrain.  These were all checked by JC before allowing us to do our “solos”.
We had safety plans worked out for problems or injuries as the terrain was heavily wooded and there were plenty of rocks and undergrowth to tangle one’s feet. We had comms with JC if we needed it and he would track us on his map based on any features we provided if necessary.  We also had GPS to check out coordinates and as a back up. Lastly, JC built in geographic “handrails” to assist us with locations.
BOTTOM LINE: Excellent course!  GET SOME! 
Answered most of my spoken and unspoken questions. While a lensatic is great for taking a bearing day or night ( with tritium inserts).  Nothing beats a baseplate compass with a declination adjustment screw for daylight navigation. Really simplifies things.
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Great class and great students. No injuries (always a concern), and by the time the students performed their solo trek, they were capable of plotting and giving an eight digit grid location of their position via radio if hurt or incapable of continuing (a primary reason for knowing how to LandNav in the first place). The class timeline started at 0730hrs on Saturday and continued till 1700hrs. Sunday continued the class from 0800 to 1400hrs. so everyone who drove any distance (furthest was 3.5 hours away) had time to get home at a decent hour. Class cost is $250 per student.

UW Gear And Some Of What They Offer

One of the never ending issues for some people, whether in the Military or part of the Survivalist crowd, is the selection of gear that makes the carry and employment of their tactical gear efficient, durable, effective and fast. A lot of us have been fortunate enough to have come up with a system that is modular enough to cover the different weapons systems we might be using, and hopefully not break the bank while we’re figuring it out.

I have a good friend who lives in the Jacksonville, Florida area and makes tactical gear for a living (It’s not a hobby). The company is called UW Gear. I’ve known John Ammons for a couple of years now, and I can tell you that you will not find a more down to earth, friendly and helpful person when it comes to setting you up with quality tactical gear at a modest price.

I have a number of items made by John, and have been testing his gear for well over a year now. I can say without reservation that you will not find better quality at this price anywhere else. Below I will show a number of the items I have tested out, and put through the ringer and give my impressions of each type of gear.

First up is the individual mag pouches John sells. So far I have multiple, double mag pouches for three different mag types, the 20 round M1A/FAL mag, the 30 round FAL mag, and the 30 round AR Magpul mag. Below is the FAL two mag 30 rounders on a Tactical Tailor vest (John also sells TT gear). If you note the pic below that. It show a piece of velcro on the mag pouch, and this is to keep the pouch closed when only one mag is in the pouch. This is necessary because the ingenious retention tab that all John’s mag pouches use relies on tension to keep it shut, and if one mag is missing, the pouch flap doesn’t have the prerequisite tension to keep it shut without help.

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The tension type closure tab is one of the reason I’ve chosen to go with John’s mag pouches for all my rifles. This type of closure doesn’t break off, pull a snap through, or wear out/load up with dirt like velcro does. Been there, done that…..Hated it! Below is the same vest with the AR Magpul pouches in place.

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These mag pouches fill the roll of any standard molle mag pouch, and do a good job of retention but are still pretty fast. One of the nice additions you can get on John’s pouches is a sewn in molle strap. This strap is easier to work with (not as stiff) than a lot of the other pouch attachment straps I’ve used, and swapping out pouches is a snap. It also uses another tuck tab instead of a snap or a plastic catch.

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Two of the first rigs of John’s that I used were the four mag M1A/FAL 20 rounder Swamp Fox harness, and the six mag AR Magpul 30 rounder Swamp Fox harness. These go on like a vest, but fit and ride similar to a chest rig. I’ve use both rigs a good bit, and they are made to be durable and provide easy accessibility to your mags. They also have convenient molle webbing on both side to attach an IFAK or radio pouch. The swamp Fox rig fills the roll of carrying enough ammo without equipping for a combat patrol.

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Because the two center pouches are singles, and the two outside pouches are doubles, the double pouches have the extra velco for single mag retention.

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This is the Swamp Fox Rig for four FAL 30 round mags

Up to this point, all the Swamp Fox rigs have permanently affixed mag pouches and were four across. This next one is my Son’s rig for AR Magpul 30’s, and it has two central double mag pouches, and a molle accessory pouch on the right side (of the wearer), and a UWG molle blowout pouch on the left side. The advantage of this rig is that it is minimalist in the amount of space it takes up on ones chest in comparison to the four side by side pouch rigs. By the way, I am a big fan of John’s blow out pouch. It will hold an Israeli dressing, a pack of Quickclot, and a roll of gauze. It also has slots on both side to affix a RATS tourniquet.

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Next up are the two chest rigs we’ve tried out. When I say we, I mean my Wife and I. My Wife finds the Minuteman chest rig completely comfortable. In comparison, she didn’t like the way my Son’s Swamp Fox rig rode, and the placement of the buckles were uncomfortable for her. Her chest rig is similar to my Son’s Swamp Fox rig, but it does not open in the front and therefore is a little less broad across the chest. My Son’s Swamp Fox rig and my Wife’s Minuteman chest rig are minimalist in nature, designed for those who are smaller in size, or want a very small rig on there chest. Her Minuteman is set up just like my Son’s Swamp Fox rig and has the two central AR Magpul double mag pouches, a molle accessory pouch on the right side, and a molle UWG blowout kit on the left side We all carry our blowout kits on the left front of our rigs as SOP.

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The last wearable carry rig I’m going to discuss here is a chest harness that I use. Normally, I’m not a fan of chest rigs, but this one was a little different. It is designed to be minimalist in nature, and is a molle chest rig with one of John’s AR Magpul three mag shingles and a UWG blowout kit. The webbing is all thinner (not double or triple thickness with padding) and the retention flaps are actually a strap with the same tuck tab his flaps normally have. This rig rides very well underneath a light jacket or heavy shirt, and is about as spartan as you’d want, while still carrying what you need if the environment get’s “non permissive”. This rig would work out well if you’re driving from “A” to “B” and think you might need more than what your pistol and accessories might offer.

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I’ve already discussed the three mag bandoleers that John makes in this post and also here. They are a convenient way to have three extra mags available in a small rig that can be attached to your pack or on your person.


Final thoughts. It’s hard to find well made kit in the U.S. that doesn’t break the bank. John is a conscientious, hard working, helpful guy that will give you an excellent product at a fair price. He can also work with you on something that isn’t in the line up. I sent John two of the FAL 30 round mags (No one makes a pouch specifically for them) and he had the mag pouches and four mag Swamp Fox rig ready in a timely manner. Give him a shout and tell him MDSA sent you.


Brushbeater On Mountain Men And Survivalists

Brushbeater spells out the winning combination of the skills and mindset which made the mountain man a world class Survivalist.


The Mountain Man as a Rifleman: An Analysis of a Better Survivalist Strategy

mtn-menWhen it comes to survivalism, prepping and general self reliance, an overtone of a militant nature flows through the veins of many. Rightfully so. The ability to skillfully protect what is near and dear to a community is the backbone of why one would prepare. Often enough this necessitates a high focus on military weapons and tactics in an effort to mirror that same capability. Its not that such a focus is wrong- it is not, entirely- but rather a modification of Light Infantry method, or a rejection of such in lieu of a better approach, may be far more effective while keeping you and yours alive.

Take the historical Mountain Man from the fur trapper era. Rarely were they the lone wilderness dweller types as romanticized, but rather were usually private contractors that served dual roles as both trappers and scouts for the US Army. While hunting or scouting in small groups, these men were constantly on guard for everything from combat with hostile native tribes and predators to natural disaster to flat out bad luck. By necessity they had to be a jack of all trades, and a master of quite a few just to survive. This should sound familiar to many. Their requirement to live is your goal, whether you realize this or not.

mtn-men2Another glaring fact to coincide with this reality is that the furtrappers of yore were not Infantrymen of any type; in many cases the men of those groups had served in various uniforms during wars of their respective eras, some were criminals running from a rough past, and others just misfits or all of the above, but at this point they were hunters and most importantly, scouts. There existed no support for them in any immediate sense. Outposts were usually days away at best, with material usually being sparse as-is even when it arrived. Their only assets were their wit, their marksmanship, their teamwork, and their ability to remain hidden and sustained through healthy knowledge of their terrain. They were Survivalists of the strongest type. It is necessary then that their experiences serve as a lesson and guidelines to how a mutual assistance group or militia would work in a grid-down world versus attempting to mirror a disciplined and predictable Light Infantry model with limited or no required assets.

Haweye.jpgFollowing a man’s best asset, his wit, skill as a marksman often was the measure of quality and made their  reputation. James Fenimore Cooper’s Natty Bumppo (also known as Hawkeye) was the perfect illustration of this, being a mixture of many of the legendary frontiersmen of the day.  In every case be it fiction, woodslore, or real, the ability to streamline and perfect practical marksmanship is the most critical skill a man at arms can have and in a practical sense should be one of the benchmarks of your own training. You should be able to estimate range, know the approximate trajectory of your own rifle, and be competent enough to know at what range you can make a clean kill- and more importantly- when you can’t.

In stating this, it must be recognized that merely shooting from a bench or under controlled conditions cannot equate skill in the field. Shooting fast at stationary targets, alone, cannot achieve such skills either. The former does not push the shooter beyond a comfort zone, the latter only wastes resources and assumes a reactionary stance, reflective of police and military tactics during peacekeeping occupations. Having done the later overseas, it is no model anyone should adopt as their own on these shores. Neither work for any sort of effective defensive plan. The mountain man, knowing that every round must count, and every round will give you away, worked diligently to know where those rounds were going before they were sent. Marksmanship was every bit as much about making a clean kill with that one shot as it was conserving their own resources.

mountain man horsesIn the small unit sense, mountain men were team hunters. Each man in the team knew how to move quickly and quietly while assessing terrain. All the skills of team movement, such as knowing where each man in the group is in the hunting party, having an experienced pathfinder and tracker taking lead, and the others watching for any and all signs of danger, all being well versed in land navigation, were exactly the model of small unit prowess that many seek today. Further, they knew when and where to make an effective ambush, whether it was to kill game or getting the better of a team of hostiles.  The ability to see the game first meant the difference between them living another day or dying a very, very miserable death. In that sense their hunting party is synonymous to a type of Light Infantry, where one is hunting and only concerned with winning and withdrawing versus taking and holding terrain for follow on forces.

mountain man blanketWhere this leaves you, the soul concerned only with protecting his own God-given liberty and posterity, is to view your skills, training, and equipment in a different way than some in the contemporary sense may. The mountain man of yore had no illusion of their place in the world- they were not Infantrymen of any standing army and had no desire to be, had no supply line aside from what was on their backs or could be procured, and above all else, knew wholeheartedly the very fine line they tread between life and death. For some, perhaps that was all part of the thrill of living. But all of the above was and is predicated upon their skill with a rifle; the ability to make the shot under any condition while tired and cold. Simple and effective kit, a good rifle, and the skills to make it all work was, and remains, the most effective model of survival and personal defense versus training to be exactly the opposite. The traditional mountain man scout, both individually and as a team, serves as an effective example of what the survivalist should strive to be. The jack of all trades and master of quite a few, including expert proficiency with his chosen weapon. They were not Infantrymen nor troops of any real kind; simply hard, stubborn, self reliant and skilled men. And you should be also.


Go study, practice and do likewise.


Upgrading/Improving Your Rifles

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With limitless funding, we could all create the perfect survival/combat rifle imaginable, right? Barring that, we do what we can when we can afford it, and hope that we can get our weapons to where we thing they need to be before they are need for a real world event.

I recently acquired two items that are sold by Primary Arms and one that is made by XS Sights. The optics that PA carried that I received/purchased were the Holosun HS515C red dot, and the PA 1-6×24 SFP riflescope with the ACSS reticle. The item I purchased from XS Sights is the full length rail for my Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle. BTW, all three items are cheaper if you go through Amazon instead of the links shown.


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Top is Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle with the new scope rail, Next is a DSA ParaFAL with PA 1-6x ACSS, and the bottom is the SIG M400 AR pistol with the Holosun red dot.

To start off with, my awesome Wife, (WMD) bought me the Holosun red dot for my Sig M400 AR pistol for Christmas, and it’s performance is as good as any red dot I’ve used (most experience is with the Aimpoint M68 sight). This optic is waterproof, has a battery (2032) life from 20,000-50,000 hours. Has a redundant back up solar panel for powering with available ambient light, and comes with a “Killflash” lens cover and flip down lens covers.

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The 2MOA dot (with a 65MOA circle around it if desired) was able to give me half inch, three shot groups at 50 meters, and not only is this sight compact, but it co-witnesses well with my GG&G BUIS (back up iron sight). Rounding out the features is a quick release mount that is fast, but has a built in lock so it doesn’t accidentally come open.

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Note the small, cylindrical tube in hole of the QR lever. This has to be pushed forward before you can flip the lever over and pull the sight off of the rifle.

Next up from Primary Arms is the 1-6x rifle scope with the ACSS reticle. I was immediately enamored with this scope’s reticle when I first saw it advertised and read about it. The reason being is that the reticle in the ACOG on my M4 on my last deployment was very similar, and it appears the ACSS is just a refinement/evolution of the ACOG reticle, and the PA ACSS is faster at close range.

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ACOG reticle I used in Iraq

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Our ACOG’s came equipped with a “Killflash” device attached to the end of the sight.

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Primary Arms ACSS reticle for 5.56N, 5,45S, and the 7.62N. Note the similarities to the ACOG reticle.

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How you use the reticle.


OK, so I purchased the 1-6x ACSS for my ParaFAL because I wanted something that was a little more useful at distance than my Millet DMS-1 with a circle dot reticle, and the ACSS seamed like the perfect sight since I already had experience with a similar reticle on another rifle. At the range, I sighted it in 1″ high (.308/7.62) at 100 meters ( tip of the chevron, per the instructions), and it shot 1.5-2.5″ groups with Mil ball.

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Top is the Millet DMS-1 scope that the PA 1-6xACSS (bottom) replace on the ParaFAL.

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Keep in mind, this is a second focal plane scope, meaning to get the correct range and hold, it has to be on the highest power setting (6x). At 200 meters, it was dead on (between the bottom tips of the chevron). I haven’t had the opportunity to shoot past 200 meters yet, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about the reticle’s ability to range correctly at all the given ranges.

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DSA makes a decent brass catcher if you have need for one, it attaches directly to their scope mount via two holes in the rail.

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Ball detents keep the catcher attached, and the bottom has a convenient velcro opening to let the brass fall out in a nice pile if you don’t want it collecting in the bag.

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Holes for brass catcher shown in rail scope mount.

The final item I bought recently was the XS Sights extended rail for my Ruger Scout Rifle. The difference this made in the accuracy of the rifle was phenomenal. The rail has a built in ghost ring rear sight (sighted in at 50 meters) built into the back end of the rail, so I don’t have to worry about not having back up iron sights (the reason I didn’t use the Ruger supplied rings for a rear scope mount before. You have to take off the rear sight). As you can see in the below pic, the scope sits a good bit lower now and wears quick release rings. During the sight in, I actually shot two one hole groups at 100 meters. This might not seam like a big deal, but the best it shot before that was 1.5″ at 100 meters. A good cheek weld and lower sitting scope (no raised cheek piece) can make a big difference.

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Top shows the scope mount before and bottom is the new rail system.

Well, that’s it for now, let me know if you’ve tried any of these items, and your “mileage”.