Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Defending a fixed position - Gun Fight

The defense of a fixed position is a difficult topic to approach with any certainty. The difficulty increases because there is no way to anticipate what kind of force may attack you. The situation most survivalists seem to fear is that during a crisis, a desperate mob or a gang of cutthroats will hear of the food stockpile and come after it. There is also the unlovely possibility of attack to obtain women (for this there is ample historical precedent) or confrontation out of general meanness.

Having the guns and ammunition is just the beginning of being ready to resist such an attack. By far the best way to win a fight is to avoid it altogether. If nobody knows about your food stockpile, nobody will be making plans to steal it. (You might still be vulnerable to systematic looting, but if a gang of desperate refugees starts ransacking every house on your street, you should have ample warning before they get to you.) This principle is called "security of information." Before the disaster your special equipment should remain well-hidden, and after the event you should do nothing to call attention to yourself. During periods of famine, a well-fed person has either been hoarding food or has been indulging in cannibalism.

Either way, it's bad if rumors start to spread. Security of information also involves guarding your defenses. Never show your defense preparations to anyone who doesn't have a direct need to know about them. One untrustworthy person visiting your refuge could carry away vital information about your strengths and weaknesses. Sadly, it is common for a survivalist to encounter people who have prepared for disaster by buying thousands of dollars worth of guns and ammunition—but no food. The implication is obvious. Be very careful when you share your secrets.

After you have taken care of the security of information angle, you will need to carefully plan the conduct of your defense. Military manuals will be of some help, but remember that as a survivalist your goals are not the same as those of an army. Military planning tends to be based on the concept of "acceptable losses." How many members of your family are you willing to regard as acceptable losses? How many close friends? Your goal as a survivalist must be defense with zero casualties (on your side, at least).

The second point where your methods will have to differ from standard military practice is in the "chain of command." Survivalists tend to be very independent, and expecting them to unquestioningly obey "orders" given by some arbitrarily designated "commander" is plainly unrealistic. Soldiers submit to such arrangements because they know they will be shot by a firing squad if they refuse, but individual armed survivalists are not likely to conform to that same mold. Your military leader will not be able to sit back and direct the fight from some safe bunker. The group must be led by example, with the commander out in the worst of it, or you won't have any defense.

The third way in which your plans will have to differ from the military pattern is in the goal of your activity. Holding your tactical position is the only purpose of your defense. You will not be trying to slow down the enemy advance; you will have to hold your position without any chance of retreat, reinforcement, or surrender. The unique circumstances of survivalist defense simplify the situation to a very elementary level: You win or you die.

With these philosophical preliminaries out of the way, let's get down to the practical steps to take in planning your defense. A typical infantry attack of a fixed position (such as a machine gun nest) consists of the attackers dividing into two or more groups. One group creeps forward while the rest of the attackers fire heavily into your position. They don't really intend to shoot you at this point, but are trying to force you to keep your head down. (That way the creeps in the grass can crawl up close without getting shot for their trouble.) When the advance party reaches good cover near your position, they start shooting and keep you pinned down while the rest of the attackers advance.

In this manner, the whole attacking band can crawl right up to your door. Then, while several attackers keep you busy by shooting at you, the rest suddenly rush you. A very brief and very fatal close-quarters fight follows. That's the approach you have to be able to frustrate. The first thing to do is to go out to the actual site you plan to defend and take a good look at it. Walk all around and be sure to get a worm's eye view of all the angles. Locate every possible area of concealment. Get a large-scale topographic map and plot out every feature that could hide a prone person. Systematically examine every patch of trees, every bush, and each rise and dip in the ground. Check ditches, road banks, buildings, haystacks, deeply furrowed fields, flower beds, and anything else which might hide attackers from your view. Plot all such areas on your map. Then go back and double-check the areas which seem to offer no concealment. Look at them through the sights of your rifle while tying flat on the ground. Sometimes very slight changes in elevation can create areas of "dead ground" where attackers will be invisible from your position.

Now it is time to plot the position of all obstacles. Is there anything out there which restricts the movements of someone who is trying to sneak up on you? Are there any steep hills, cliffs, deep ravines, bramble patches, rose hedges, large streams, or overgrown thickets? Plot these obstacles on the map along with the areas of concealment. (Use two different colors.) Draw a circle on your map, centered on your defensive position, with a radius of 1,500 yards. This represents the absolute maximum distance at which a skilled sniper is likely to be a serious threat. Draw another circle (with the same center), representing the maximum range of your rifles (450 or 1,000 yards for light and heavy assault rifles, respectively). Take a good, long look at the map and ask yourself two questions:

First, is there anywhere within the 1,500-yard circle where someone might be able to shoot at you, but you wouldn't be able to shoot back? If there is, you will need to think about a contingency plan to deal with this problem. The solution might be as simple as buying one or two long-range rifles. At the very least, you will want to keep an eye on these possible sniper locations while trouble is brewing.

The second question concerns how the areas of concealment and 1he obstacles around your position combine to create corridors through which attackers will be channeled as they approach you. Perhaps a narrow ravine crosses your property. Attackers could crawl up the ravine and get near your house without being seen. Even discontinuous areas of concealment may link up in unexpected ways at dusk and after dark. (At sunset or sunrise, an attacker might cross an open area by staying directly in front of the sun. It is very hard to see a figure in the shadows when you have to look right at the sun in order to do so.)

Once you have identified the natural corridors approaching your position, you can begin to plan your defense. Your planning should concentrate on finding ways to block the approach corridors and ways to use the corridors as traps.

To seal off corridors, three methods can be used. The first is to remove the cover that allows the enemy to approach unseen. You might cut down a few trees or open up a thicket here and there. You might have to replace a board fence with one made of chain link or barbed wire. Deep shadows can be dispelled by eliminating the object that casts them or by lighting the area artificially. Maybe the dark side of the barn could use a coat of light paint. Most people won't want to bulldoze a no-man's land around their homesteads, but anyone can remove some of the unessential cover.

The second way to close a corridor is to obstruct it with a barrier. That ravine I mentioned earlier might better serve the ranch as a pond. A wild rose thicket or cactus patch can be planted across a line of approach. A barbed-wire or chain-link fence forms a very effective barrier.

Even though such obstacles can be defeated, you can arrange things so attackers must expose themselves or set off an alarm to do so. A few rolls of barbed wire strung concertina-fashion can be set up quickly at critical points. Concertina-wire barriers are cheap and very formidable when properly arranged. While you are setting up barriers, you might give some thought to blocking the driveway or road that leads to your property. That way no one can come speeding up and penetrate your defenses by surprise. The Cable guard barrier gate, an inexpensive steel cable barrier which can be installed between two moderately large trees in about an hour, may be of use to you in this situation. This cable forms a padlocked gate which you can open at any time, but which is extremely difficult to force or defeat.

The third way to close an approach corridor is simply to bring it into your field of fire. With modern rifles it is not necessary to stand on top of an object in order to defend it. After looking at your map of approach corridors, you might discover that the best way to protect your house will be to conduct the defense from a different part of the property. It might be better to establish a stronghold on the hill behind the house, for instance. You should especially consider the possibility of spreading your defenders around in two or three locations. Three fortified positions with mutually supporting fields of fire can be extremely difficult to assault.

As for setting a trap, once you have identified the approach corridors, your trap is half set already. The trick is to conceal the fact that a particular corridor has been brought under your field of fire. Returning once more to the imaginary ravine which crosses your property, you might decide not to obstruct it, but to leave it as an inviting line of approach. The trap consists of setting up a well-hidden outpost from which your defenders can fire down the length of the ravine. If your defenders hold their fire until the attackers have crawled well up the ravine, very few of the interlopers will escape.


  1. Interesting read, but I am in Northridge (not on a homestead) and if I draw a 1,500 yard radius around the house, I am drawing around the whole neighborhood. I know its not ideal but I was also around for the Northridge quake, the riots, etc and sometimes you're not able to get how do you defend an urban location?

  2. The remark about setting up fire stations outside of the main dwelling is excellent: just be sure the fields of fire don't include the fire stations themselves. Additionally, it is sometimes useful to employ area denial methods like napalm (petroleum jelly mixed with petrol & lighter fluid) to dissuade attackers who have occupied an obvious assault lane on their way to your house. While few people have the resources and skill to create C4, det cords and initiators, napalm devices are simple, reliable, and cheap.