A Realistic Bug Out

Since there are a few out there just now giving their impressions of whether you should or should not “Bugout”, I figured I’d post some oldies but goodies.

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2 January, 2017

Bergmann Rock

Most who know me, know that I am staunchly against most people planning to just “Bug Out” to the mountains when the SHTF. I advise people to plan on “Bugging In” where they are, or “Bugging To” a pre-planned location. The are a number of reasons why I’m against a “Bug Out”, but chief among them is that most who plan to do this are doing it out of laziness and/or an overwhelming lack of reality.

Laziness, because it is a lot easier to plan to just throw the pack on and grab the rifle, than it is to prepare to stay put, stock up on supplies, and plan a realistic defense. It would be great if it was that easy (and cheap), but it is not. After approximately two weeks, you will go from being a “Survivalist”, to being a “refugee”.

I say “lack of reality”, because most who plan to “bug out” haven’t even carried a pack any distance, let alone carried the weight of gear and food necessary to sustain ones self for any length of time. As I said above, not planning correctly will abruptly shove the “would be Survivalist” into the “refugee” category relatively quickly.

If you’re gonna “Bug Out” to the mountains, the plan my friend Bergmann has is the way to do it. It’s not a perfect plan, but then again what is? For his situation and location, he has come up with the most realistic plan he can, and is putting effort into preparing for it for years. Watch and learn.

If you have the opportunity, go check out his blog, you’ll more than likely learn something.

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JCD

American by BIRTH, Infidel by CHOICE

Preconceived Notions: “The Bugout”

Since there are a few out there just now giving their impressions of whether you should or should not “Bugout”, I figured I’d post some oldies but goodies.

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3 October, 2015

When I was new to Survivalism, I believed that “The Bugout” was the only way to go. I have had a backpack ready to go since I was twelve, and the only things that have really changed were techniques of how I’d “Bugout”, and where “Bugout”it stands in the order of precedence. I use P.A.C.E. planning in all activities related to survival. It was something I was taught when I first went into the military, and continue to this day. “P” is primary, “A” is alternate, “C” is contingency, “E” is emergent or emergency.

Bergmann Rock

Through the years, my thought on “Bugout” have evolved, simply because it makes sense to not put yourself into that type of situational risk unless all other options are denied to you. Keep in mind, a “Bugout” is not the same as a “Bug to”. A “Bugout” is when you’re headed out of your primary home with no clear home/retreat to go to. Most say “We’ll set up in the national/state forest.” These types generally have never “Set up” for an extended period (most not longer than a week, some maybe two weeks of camping at most, but it’s all good training). A “Bug To” is when you are headed to a clearly defined home or retreat that has been planned out (if someone lives there, they know you’re coming) and prepared by you ahead of time, and has supplies already laid in for your stay because it was part of the “plan”. Although “Bugout” and “Bug To” are primary residence evacuations, one (Bugout) is way too open ended to not be the last option available to you.

Let’s talk about “Bugout”, and why it should be the “E” in PACE planning. First off, how is the “Bugout” going to take place? In other words, what event will trigger your “Bugout”? Are you leaving on foot? Are you leaving by vehicle, and what is the load capacity of the vehicle (impending “Survival Vehicle” post coming up) . Are you taking a trailer? Do you have more than one vehicle (Convoy op)? Do you have a fixed location, even if it’s an area in the state forest you’ve reconned prior? How many routes have you created to get there, since one is most assuredly closed? Have you acquired detailed maps of the area? Do you already have a cache of supplies hidden there? We’ll cover some of these in order.

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What will trigger your “Bugout”? House to house searches by fedgoons in your town? If you wait that long, you’ll definitely need to go by foot, because vehicle traffic will be stopped through the “Cordon and Search” process. A plant accident or natural disaster (Katrina) with poisonous chemicals or severe weather headed your way? Well that’s a “no brainer” vehicle “Bugout” if there ever was one, but I’m fairly certain you won’t be headed to a state forest, right? Is it from a man made incident like what happened in Baltimoredore this year? Once again, even though leaving on foot might have to happen if it went off the charts insane (B-More was nothing compared to what’s coming when the EBT’s go down), but more than likely it’s a vehicle escape, and you’ll be headed to another home for temporary housing (an acquaintance had to do that with his mother during that incident, that was her CVS that burned down).

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I doubt you will perform a “Bugout” for an economic disaster situation. What good would that do to go to the forest because the economy collapsed. One scenario that sticks in my mind, especially due to my NBC (nuclear Biological Chemical) military background is a pandemic. Of course timing in this (like many other evacs) is crucial. Better a day early than a minute too late.  They will drop the hammer of blockade hard when they decide to do it (a good example is the movie “The Crazies”).

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If you’re planning a “Bugout” after a nuke strike, you might want to do more research. If you’re still alive, but in a dangerous area (high radiation on site or in the path of impending fallout which usually goes downwind of the target, but winds aloft are tricky), you probably should shelter in place (hopefully you have a basement), because exposure outside will kill you quickly if caught in the fallout. This is one time when a “Bugout” would be a good option, considering living in the forest for a couple weeks away from the radiation zone would definitely be the optimal choice.  OK, so we’ve talked about what will set the “Bugout” plan in motion, now to the “means” of “Bugout”.

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Are you planning to “Bugout” on foot? Did you read the account of the couple that was ambushed in “Patriots, Survive the Coming Collapse”? Although they were “Bugging To” a retreat, it was across the country (Chicago to Idaho), and took them forever because they lost their vehicles in the city. How much food can you effectively carry with your other supplies in your rucksack? I’ve found two weeks is about it, and that makes for a heavy ruck. Have you tried carrying your ruck with the actual load you’ve placed in it? You know, the one sitting in the corner of your spare room? What happens after the food runs out? Although you can extend what you’ve got with you by using game carts, you still will run out of the expendable items rather quickly. Wait, don’t tell me….you’re gonna live off the land, right? I know very few that could do this in reality (military SERE prepares you to exist and/or do without till they can recover you), and two things to note about them. One, they would never plan it as anything but a “last ditch” option. Two, they would tell you it would be existing, not living.

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Jeremiah Johnson's Friend

Wanna live like Jeremiah Johnson (watchin’ it right now to get me in the proper mindset)? If you’ll take note, first, he was assisted by Chris Laughty (I believe that is the spelling), and probably would have died like so many others that went to be “Mountain Men” if it hadn’t been for his help. Are you gonna go to “Rendezvous” each spring and pick up the hundred pounds or so of supplies with your pack animals? Tell you what, ask my friend Bergmann what he thinks of that kind of never ending existence. On another note concerning the food and supplies thing. Do you have small (unable to carry their own supplies) children? Guess what? you just effectively halved your total “Per Individual” food carrying capacity.

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Are you “Bugging out” by vehicle? It’s definitely the better option, but still, if you you are headed to a remote undeveloped location with no other supplies on site. You’ll get by longer, but you had better figure how to extend what you have for a long period. The good thing about a vehicle, especially if it’s of decent size, is it’s ability to carry you, at least three of your loved ones, all your personal “Bugout” gear, and some extras (a 12×12 tent with woodstove comes to mind. Oh wait, that’s right, I forgot you’re “Bugging Out” during the summer, right?). What’s the range of a tank of gas in your “Survival Vehicle”? Do you have extra fuel ( I keep enough spare TREATED gas cans for one extra tankful)?

Are you using a trailer? If so, this needs to contain the “nice to have” survival supplies, but not the absolute, survival “Have to’s”, because you need to be able to ditch it in an emergency. What’s the trailer do to your vehicle’s fuel economy when you have the survival gear loaded up? Don’t know? How can you say “I have a plan” without knowing basic info about your “Survival Conveyance”, whether it’s your feet (how far, how fast, how much weight) or your vehicle (distance, capacity of personnel and equipment, etc)? A big downside to a vehicle is being required to at least stay of passable trails, and more than likely semi improved roads. Oh, I forgot, you have a Monster that will eat up cross country and make it’s own trail, right? The upside is that it makes a “Bug out” more palatable as an option when you do the math, as compared to “bugging out” on foot.

Might a “Bugout” be necessary? Yes. Should you plan on it being anything but the last ditch option? No. The figures just don’t add up to success and long term survival. When it comes to PACE for me, I organize this way. PRIMARY: “Bug In” at my home with all the supplies I’ve prepared over the years. ALTERNATE: “Bug To”, and am headed to a property that has prepositioned supplies and family, and I’m taking my vehicle and trailer. CONTINGENCY: Longer route “Bug To” same as above, but to property of friends, and using two vehicles (convoy op) for security. EXIGENT/EMERGENCY 1: “Bug Out” to a secure, private, semi improved property site with vehicle. EXIGENT/EMERGENCY 2: “Bugout” on foot to a State forest within 10 miles of home (some prepositioned supplies, with an alternate another 5 miles away.

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I read a lot of Ragnar Benson’s (among others) stuff when I was a kid. Some of it was BS, and some had some real pearls of wisdom in it. One of the most important things I ever gleaned from his writing is something to keep in mind when planning any of your options. NEVER BECOME A REFUGEE! In most instances ( a few are not) primarily planning to “Bugout” without weighing and prioritizing other options first is planning to be a refugee, whether you like it or not. Read some of what Selco has to say, or better yet, look at the refugees walking across Europe and tell me that is something you consider as a viable option if others are available.

What’s the bottom line? If you have no options to “Bug To” after your “Bug In” option is expended, by all means plan a “Bugout”. Hopefully it will be with a vehicle, but if not, go to my buddy Bergmann’s site (you have to sign up, but it’s free) and get some advice on planning and prepositioning for the eventual “Bugout” operation  implementation. Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance (7P’s), right? Being a Survivalist has been a rewarding, but at times daunting, task throughout my life from a youngster till now. In the end though, it’s more about those we care about than what it does for us that’s important. That’s why realistic assessments of the facts, not fantasy, is crucial to your survival.

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JCD

American by BIRTH Infidel by CHOICE

Brushbeater Talks “Survivalist Commo”

Here is some good advice from a guy who knows his commo.

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6 Meters: Survivalist Magic

1005161506These days, nearly exclusively, when someone brings up survivalist communications, the default always resigns to some sort of chinese dual bander with the added justification “because its cheap!” Nevermind the fact that the build quality is junk and the thing will likely fail the person using it sooner rather than later, they keep being bought because the personality cults of the Internet tell them to…only because they’re cheap. But if one thought critically, all those folks having the ability to listen to hi band VHF and UHF might be a bad thing- especially if you’re looking for any sort of security.

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The VHF/UHF Basic Bandplan. Note the pink sections are for CW operation on 6 and 2 (50-50.1 and 144-144.1 MC, respectively). Although a bit dated, the diagram gives a good breakdown of the frequency ranges. Consider what your equipment is capable of, the potential OPFOR, and how to maximize capability to both effectively communicate and intercept.

Your area may be different, but around here there’s next to no activity on some of the other bands…you know, the ones Baofeng doesn’t make a radio for. Especially interesting for Survivalists is the capability the 6M band offers- with little to no overall traffic, great capability in rural terrain and many older repeaters sitting idle, 6M really needs more consideration for those actually concerned with creating a capable net versus those just cosplaying. Also nicknamed the “magic band” for it’s unpredictable long range qualities especially on SSB, 6m is just below the FM radio broadcast band (88-108mc) and the VHF television broadcast band (54-88mc); 6m occupies 50-54mc, with 51-54mc supporting FM mode. The band’s properties make it a very good performer in the hills with simplex use, and with repeaters can cover a broad area networking Survivalists spread near and far. The best part? Little traffic and well built equipment.

Here in central NC, many of the 6m machines were built by the same great group of folks, mostly retired engineers, and emergency communications was a significant

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Most 6m repeaters are robustly built from older equipment. Even a motivated newcomer with a Tech license can garner the good graces of an older owner of such a machine, adding a huge capability to both your skills and your area of influence.

focus when the systems were designed. Favoring converted GE Mastr II  and other converted commercial mobiles, these have been hardened and are designed to function when everything else fails. Although our 2m and some 70cm machines are similarly constructed, those operators on 6m are likely to be more proficient and not of the Baofeng-bandit category. Making it work in the field with simplex and not relying on repeaters, 6m has lots of options for those looking to embrace it. The old Cherokee AH-50 handhelds are a great find for those browsing local hamfest fleamarkets, as are the excellent Yaesu VX-5R and 7R, the later being a strong candidate for the most versatile and durable Survivalist radio ever made. All of these sets mentioned are incredibly well built and durable units; for those more serious about having great capability for years to come, these are excellent choices. Since they’re usually much higher priced, even a decade old, than their chinese imitations, many dabblers get scared away in lieu of the material satisfaction of buying junk…er, inexpensive stuff. Mobile and base options are plentiful but curiously underutilized; three of the most popular Survivalist radios, the Yaesu 817, its bigger brother the 857d and the old workhorse the Icom 706,

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Even an inefficient antenna such as this Maldol 50/145/440 duck have their advantages. Keeping a signal within a mile or so in the terrain as well as on a band not in common use is a good, cheap way to keep things somewhat bubba-proof.

each include all-mode 6m support providing a built-in capability for an excellent all-mode 6m station. Keep in mind that every operating option you have on HF, be it CW, Phone or Digital, you can do on 6m base to base.

Working the “magic band” is not without its issues however- there are drawbacks despite all the positives. For one, efficient antennas are large. Carrying a much higher signature than their hi band VHF or UHF counterparts, the antennas can be more visible to onlookers or get snagged up while moving through the bush due to size. Compact antennas can be found for the handhelds while moving or working, but are severely limited in the efficiency department. Not to say they don’t perform, they simply are a compromise between size and efficiency that some brands accomplish better than others. In certain situations this is not a bad thing. Another drawback is the positioning of the band itself. 50-54mc sits right within the military ground VHF band, as any user of the PRC-77 to SINCGARS can attest, and may be prone to interference from those users. Good gear and experience can both mitigate and turn this into an asset.

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One cool thing about 6m being sandwiched right in the military VHF low-band is that all of those cool diagrams from FM 7-92 and 93 all work perfectly. Those are two Army FMs that serve potential irregulars a good bit better than just thumbing through SH 21-76.

Although looked upon as a fun band by experimenters, 6m signals sometimes, especially in summer mornings, can be heard at incredibly long distances due to sporadic-E propagation, tropo scatter and meteor scatter reflection. This might get confusing especially if you’re hearing stations from several states away randomly, even on FM. Because there aren’t that many users, often people will lose interest unless there’s an active net, and encouraging activity locally can be tough. It’s also tough to convince newer operators to jump on board with new equipment, especially if they took the advice of a few and bought a boatload of cheap 2m/70cm handhelds simply because…they were cheap. But that being said some of the radios previously mentioned are not going to break the bank used, quality gear is worth paying for, and great deals can be found for those actively looking.

Despite a few minor drawbacks, 6m presents an option off the beaten path for the Survivalist group looking for something different; it’s cool to do something others ain’t. While low-band VHF might not solve all your issues, it’s versatility definitely goes a long way. Anyone in your group can take advantage of it with only a Technician license and it doesn’t parallel any of the license-free paths others are likely to be trafficking along. Between much better quality equipment and better operators on the band itself with limited users and great rural coverage, it might just be a Survivalist’s “magic” option.

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JCD

American by BIRTH, Infidel by CHOICE

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 talked 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.

It is sitting just a little lower than it normal would because the straps are set for wearing over my Interceptor Body Armor. See Army pic

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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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The mag pouches on this vest are for my FAL or M1A (.308Win) mags. The far left is a “Double Taco” pouch from HSG. The middle coyote and the O.D. one on the right are double .308 mag pouches from UW Gear.

 

 

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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For a lightweight pack I use a medium ALICE (left) if I am leaving my base camp/retreat with it on, and the CFP-90 patrol pack (on the top of the Large Malice2 ruck) if it is from a temporary camp I am operating out of.

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CFP-90 assault pack attached to the top of my Malice2 Large ruck.

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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The O.D. bandoleer on the top is for 5.56 thirty rounders, and the woodland one on the bottom is for 3 twenty round mags in 7.62Nato.

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The top rig is for 6 AR mags and holds two mags in each of the outside pockets, and one in the inside pockets. The bottom rig holds one twenty round .308 mags in each pocket for a total of four. That’s six pounds of mags for either rig.

 

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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Lightweight .308 rig with the drop rig belt and two “Taco” pouches which hold one pistol mag and one rifle mag each. This setup is very lightweight, but yet still carries a “basic load” for rifle and pistol, a knife and an IFAK.

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UW Gear .308 rig over a plate carrier.

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

American by BIRTH, Infidel by CHOICE

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

American by BIRTH, Infidel by CHOICE