The Difference Between A Garden Hose And A Fire Hose-A Commo Class AAR


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The majority of my 14 years was spend using conventional commo like this.

A long time ago in what seems like a galaxy far, far away, I was in a unit whose mission requirements dictated that everyone down to the lowest ranking “Joe” knew how to make improvise antennas for use primarily with our PRC 74 or 77 radios which was then slaved to a DMDG (Digital Message Device Group).

We (the “Joes”) sat through a number of classes concerning radio use. Considering the unit’s mission required that we be well out of range for regular mil commo, EVERYONE had to know how to make the antenna required for effective commo.

At that time, the classes consisted of a “Fire Hose” dump of info that would have been difficult for most to digest, let alone have a basic understanding of. Like many things I learned in the military, The initial “Dump” of info was through the “Fire Hose” technique.

We learned how to go through the motions to accomplish the task, and we memorized what needed memorized, but the understanding of the reasons for doing it that way, or in this case, the theory of the “Why” and “How” an improvised antenna worked was lost to many of us.

My good friend NC Scout and I have a lot in common, from some very similar background In certain types of units, to our philosophy as Survivalists. He was tellin’ me on the phone one night what his class consisted of, and we hadn’t gotten together for a while, so I said, “What the Hell” (after clearin’ it through the “First Sergeant” of course) and decided to go check out his class a few weekends ago.

NC Scout Commo Class01

My prep for the class over the next couple days consisted of going back and finding my old notes from those classes 27 years ago (which I had transcribed into a “Write in the Rain” notebook a number of years back), and square away my radio and field gear. I reviewed my notes over the next couple days, packed up my vehicle and left, the Friday afternoon before the class, on my 5 hour drive to NC Scouts teaching site.

Something that I’ve noticed (it’s pretty obvious to most who are observant) while putting on classes for Mason Dixon Tactical, is that classes such as we put on are as much a networking event, as a learning event. Upon my arrival, I met a number of guys that I knew of, but had not met. I got to know them over the next couple days and am glad to say they are now part of my “Network”.

As an aside, I’ve found a number of times over the last decade or so, you can neither count on, trust, nor believe many that you will meet through the internet. Two “Well knowns”  in particular come to mind that were given a high level of trust based on the Mil background they told me. One proved to be a snake and a liar, the other, a thief and a liar (go figure). What’s the saying….. “Caveat Emptor”?

So Saturday morning, after a kick ass breakfast, we got to the classroom work. NC Scout started with different radios, their positives, and for some, their negatives. Along with that, he discussed power supplies in the field. Next up was creating an SOI (Signals Operating Instructions) for our group. This is an important step. Since everyone there was involved in doing this, they now have experience in doing it for their own groups. NC Scout didn’t just tell us how to do it, he had the class actually make an SOI. Along with the SOI instruction, the class received a block of instruction in putting together an OpOrd (Operations Order), and where the SOI is included in that OpOrd.

Next up were report formats, and the “when”, “where” and “why” of their uses. Certain reports (“CRACK” in this instance), he modified the format slightly to fit the Prepper/Survivalist needs. After report formats we went on to using the radio, and how to speak on a radio (‘You, this is Me”) to be understood and verify that your message was received correctly.

We then covered the uses of radios with HF, VHF, and UHF frequency coverage, along with the advantages and disadvantages of each type. Unless you realize what you have, and how best to utilize it’s potential, your ability to relay info will only work if there is some luck involved. NC Scout covered the radio freqs, and the “How” and “Why” of there ability or inability to work in certain environments.

The next part of the class was where I received the most “real world” info. Everything else we had covered in the class was either familiar to me, I had a pretty good working knowledge of, or I had used it a lot (SOI and OpOrd for instance). Antenna theory was something that I was force-fed as a “Joe” and “learned” it (remember my “Fire hose” analogy), but I didn’t understand it. I now understand it, and am not only able to implement it, but feel comfortable with using the info.

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Using the “Cobra Head” we attached wires and insulators to create a “Jungle Antenna”.

NC Scout covered Di-Pole and Jungle Antennas in the class. We learned the theory behind their use, The history (including the Japanese and German answers to the same problem) and the reason they worked so well in their niche. Then we built (he had supplies for everyone to build one) a Jungle Antenna for use with a specific freq for OUR radios, using the formula we were give in the class. Imagine that, they worked……

NC Scout was able to make things we knew of such as the “Old School” TV antennas we had on our houses years ago, relevant to what we were doing in class (They are “Yagi” antennas, which was the Japanese answer to the “Jungle Antenna” question). He also made relevant why an antenna such as that has so many  forward cross pieces (we learned the are called “Directors”) by advising of the “Gain” achieved with the different number of “Directors”.

We learned about digital radios, and some really cool advantages of the different ones available. BLOS (Beyond Line of Sight) was covered, as well as NVIS (Near Vertical Incident Skywave), and the radio categories and freqs used with the previously discussed antennas and also the advantages (range and security), of their use, and the “How” and “Why” they work so well.

Some of Saturday and most of Sunday was spent in the field practicing radio use. Saturday afternoon was spent actually transmitting messages from one group to another using the different formats (SALUTE, SALT, ANGUS, CYRIL, CRACK, BORIS, UNDER) the class had been taught, along with using radio security measures with those reports.

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Most of Sunday the students spent in teams (that were flip flopped occasionally) in the field sending back reconnaissance (to the Tactical Operations Center) info gleaned from actual sightings of OpFor in the field. They put up the “Jungle Antennas that were built in class, and utilized the different reports they had been taught for various scenarios. From what I saw, the students became pretty comfortable with doing what was needed for relaying the info.

From my perspective, the AAR would go something like this:


What was the mission/task?

Teach basic radio/antenna theory, the types of radios and antennas available, their use, and conduct practical exercises.

Items needed for the class?

A notebook and a pencil or pen, a radio was not required. This was not a HAM only class, and was relevant to anyone wanting to learn the basics of the above mentioned “”Mission/Task” for the Prepper or Survivalist.

Was the mission/task accomplished?


What should be sustained?

The method of delivery, the area the class was taught, and the info put out was excellent, and needs to be maintained. The time was used efficiently. The classroom was sufficient (dry with tables to work on) for what was needed. The supplies given to us for building an antenna were a bonus. We were fed some awesome home cooked meals (Breakfast, Lunch, Supper/ Breakfast, Lunch) and I was stuffed in a good way after every one. The class took the theory taught in it and put it into practical application, and everyone (even the two young girls who came with their parents) got to participate. The chance to network with those of like mind and make new friendships can not be understated as a “Sustain”.

What should be improved?

Nothing, given the time constraints of a two day class. If we had more time, maybe more field time, but referring back to “It was only a two day class”, yeah, that’s not an option.


To NC Scout I want to convey a “Well Done Brother!”. To put it mildly to those reading this, I wish he had been the guy with the “Fire hose” 27 years ago teaching the antenna class to us “Joes” in the detachment. You made some things learned, all those years ago, not only understandable for this “Non Commo” guy, but I now feel comfortable with the improvised side of radio/antenna use.

To those I met in the class I want to convey that you guys made it a quite enjoyable time, and I plan on keeping in touch with a number of you. I know I said this in the class, but it stands to be reiterated that you guys are very lucky to have a guy like NC Scout putting out this info in such an easily digestible manner.

Great class taught by an outstanding instructor, Good people with the same goals and mindset, what could be better?

Ruckin' with the FAL

By no means am I a “commo guy”, but I always carry a radio in the woods. Now I know I can carry a conveniently compact antenna with me and get info out over a lot longer range than the standard antenna would have let me in the past. 


“Parata Vivere”-Live Prepared.



Compact Defense Rifles For The Survivalist

Update from 2016,

As a Survivalist, your primary role is not as a combatant, but as a “Jack of All Survival Skills”. As I’ve said before, a Survivalist should be a jack of all trades, master of some (specifically the life saving and protection arts). A Survivalist needs to understand farming/gardening, animal husbandry, woodsmanship, mechanical repair (vehicle, farming implement, and firearm), and the technical/tactical skills of first aid (TCCC), extended wound care, coupled with the defensive tactics implementation of firearms, blades, and empty hands.


While this is an extreme type of activity while having a rifle slung on you back (most rifles will flop around on your back), the Keltec SU16C is light enough that it isn’t a problem.

Although a Survivalist should always be ready to fight after a SHTF scenario has taken place, that is generally not his primary task on a day to day basis. If there is a good possibility that a fight will happen, and it is possible to carry more than just a pistol, you carry a rifle, period. Carrying a full size rifle all the time every day is extremely inconvenient if your primary tasks are not that of a grunt, and you have a choice.

While growing up on a farm, I can tell you that if you are carrying a full length rifle around (us kids didn’t have handguns, but during hunting season we always had a rifle handy), you are always looking for a place to stash it so that you can accomplish the task you are involved in.


Full size long guns are very inconvenient to carry while doing everyday chores.

Although a Grunt usually doesn’t have a dire need for a compact rifle unless he is operating out of a vehicle, the parameters of what a Survivalist needs and can use can be very different. A Survivalist uses the type of rifle we are talking about for defense of himself and those under his care. While the combat rifle is EVERYTHING to an Infantryman, the rifle is only one tool of many to the Survivalist.

Enter the Compact Fighting Rifle (CFR). Having a rifle that is reliable, durable, powerful, and compact is a tall order. There are a few out there, but they’re few and far between. I generally will only use a system that has been adopted by a military with high standards (this doesn’t apply to .22LR’s). I’m still waiting for the AR-10’s to be vetted and proven reliable to my satisfaction (still a lot of the feedback has been negative),  so I’ve never owned one.


A pic of a DSA SA58 (FAL) carbine I had back in 2002 during the ’94-’04 federal gun ban. No threaded barrel (integral brake) or folding stock was allowed, and this was about as compact as you could get with this type of rifle.

Others in the 7.62N (.308Win) category that I actually have owned and used are the M1A (M14), HK91 (G3), Valmet M76 (Finnish AK) and FAL, and I can vouch that, from my experience, they’re all reliable weapons with good reputations. In the last 31 years I’ve owned one HK91, one M76, seven FAL’s (of various configurations), and four M1A’s (of different configurations).

In the assault rifle caliber category, the majority of what I’ve owned were AK’s or AR’s with a few Mini-14’s and one Daewoo K2 (A Fed Ban model). I have had a dozen AK’s of various configurations, and a half dozen or so AR’s ( mostly carbines).


Although the M1A Socom in an EBR stock is somewhat compact, it’s loaded weight of 14.5 lbs. with an optic makes it somewhat cumbersome to be considered a “Compact Fighting Rifle”.

The US military has used the short M14 (16 inch SOCOM with Sage EBR stock) that weighs in at 13 lbs. empty, and is 34 inches long. The HK91 with the factory collapsible stock weighs 10 lbs. and is 33 inches long. The FAL carbine with folding stock is 8.75 lbs. (without rail handguard) and approx. 27 inches long.

In the rifles of the “assault rifle” calibers, you generally have the AKM and the M4 variant of the AR-15. The average folding stocked AK (7.62x39S or 5.56N) weigh in at 7.5 lbs, and is approximately 26.5 to 28 inches long. The average M4 weighs in at 7 lbs. and is approximately 33 inches long.


Of course we’d all love an SBR, but who wants to do that paperwork? Options in this category for the non SBR guys is the “Pistol” version w/ brace of the full size rifles. 

In the bullpup category (all the mil models are 5.56N), readily available, military tested rifles available to civilians, are generally the IWI Tavor TAR-21 and X-95, and the Steyr AUG A3. The TAR-21 is approximately 26 inches long and weighs in a 8 lbs.. The X-95 is almost exactly the same. The AUG A3 is almost 9 lbs. with its optic, and a little over 28 inches long. All the specs listed above are factory tech specs reflecting rifles with no accessories and no magazine.


Although the Keltec SU16C is a lightweight and capable rifle, I would relegate it to the “Truck Gun”, or “Get home Bag gun” and not give it the position of “Combat Rifle”. Empty, this rifle weighs right under six pounds with the optic and is 26.75 inches long. The only reason I still have this rifle is due to it’s super light weight and compact size.

So what is available for the Survivalist in the category of compact semi automatic rifles? We are going to look primarily at side folding stocked rifles, and Bullpups. I have never been a big fan of the Bullpup design, but I know some people that love ’em, and have nothing but good things to say. In the following paragraphs, we are going to look at what the practical weights are of different rifles when compared to the caliber of the rifles being covered.


Probably the most popular of the semi-compact fighting rifles. The M4 version of the AR-15 is usually around 33 inches long (stock collapsed) and in this configuration weighs 10.5 lbs.

First up, we’ll look at some Bullpups to see what their specs are. IWI is a well known manufacturer and is known for it’s reliable rifles. Pictured below (rifles in the center and on the right) are the Tavor’s X-95 and the TAR-21. they are both chambered for 5.56, and with muzzle brakes are 29.25 and 28.5 inches long. With a tac light, IR laser, and Elcan 4x optic, the X95 weighs 11.3 lbs, and the TAR-21 weighs 11.75 lbs.


The rifle that is pictured to the left is an M1A Scout in a Rogue chassis. The overall length with muzzle brake is 30 inches, and with a 6x Trijicon optic, tac light and DBAL IR laser, this rifle weighs 16.3 lbs. (compact but very heavy). Both the Tavor bullpups and the M1A (not in the Rogue chassis) are considered to be combat tested systems, and although there are a number of other bullpups out there in the 5.56, the Tavors seem to be the most economical in the combat tested category.

There really isn’t any combat tested .308 bullpups available out there that I’m aware of (the Keltec RFB is not combat tested), but as I’ve said, the M1A platform is a time tested system, and it has performed well in the Rogue chassis through a number of tactical rifle classes for the owner.

Next up we have two folding stocked Sig rifles. One is the model 556, one is the model 522 (it’s the owner’s cheap shooting “training rifle”). The 5.56N chambered 556 weighs in at 12.35 lbs. with an Elcan 4x, Vltor bipod, and a tac light. Overall folded length is 28 inches and 36.25 inches with stock locked open. The .22LR 522 weighs 12 lbs. with a Trijicon 6x optic, a Vltor bipod and a tac light. Folded length is approximately 27 inches and 34.5 inches with the stock extended.compact-rifle-post7

When this type of comparison is done, the calibers of the rifles in question are typically of the “Assault Rifle” variety. Although there are a number of compact rifles available in the usual 5.56×45 or 7.62×39, there are a few available in 7.62Nato (.308 Win). One such rifle is the DSA SA58 (FN FAL) Compact Tactical Para Carbine.


DSA SA58 (Para FAL) Compact Tactical Para Carbine with a 30 round mag at the top. AKM with Magpul Zhukov folder on the bottom.

Most will tell you that you can’t compare a battle rifle with an assault rifle in size or magazine capacity. Below are some picks of the FAL in comparison to a AKM with a Magpul Zhukov folding stock. The FAL weighs in at 11 lbs. with an optic, tac light, and DBAL laser. It’s overall length is 37.75 inches, and the folded length is 29 inches.


In the compact defense rifle category, it’s hard to beat the FAL Para or a folding stocked AKM.

In comparison, the AKM that is pictured weighs 10.5 lbs. without any accessories, is 36.5 inches long, and 28.25 inches folded. Here’s an interesting comparison. With a 30 round magazine the AKM weighs 11.75 lbs. and the FAL weighs 13.75 lbs. with 30 round mag. Normally, battle rifles use 20 round magazines, since they are the most convenient. Since people like to make the apples and oranges comparison with these two rifle types, I figure I’d show that the size disparity isn’t as great as some would have you believe.


The AKM pictured on top of the SA58 showing the size/profile is almost exactly the same, but the 7.62N cartridge far exceeds the performance of the 7.62x39S.

In contrast to the AKM with side folder shown above, this AKMS is a lot harder to put optics on.



The DSA SA58 Compact Tactical Carbine with it’s normal 20 round magazine weighs 12.25 lbs.

I mentioned earlier that you can own firearms that appear to be similar to the regulated short barreled rifles (SBR’s), but are actually regulated as pistols. I talked about this type of firearm in this post, and for the purposes listed here, it would be foolish not to consider a firearm of this type without serious thought.

Besides there small size, they can be carried loaded in many places you can’t carry a loaded rifle. The 11″ ParaFAL OSW pictured here is 23.25″ inches long when the brace/stock is folded, and 32.5″ long unfolded. It weighs 13.25 lbs. loaded (with a 30 rounder) as pictured here, and ballistics are 2325FPS with around 1800 FT LBS. with 150 grain Mil ball (I listed this because I was told it wouldn’t do any better than a 16″ AK ball ballistics. This shows that’s not the case).

The 11.5″ SIG M400 weighs in a 10.5 lbs. as seen (loaded) and including the DBAL. With the SB Tactical PDW Brace collapsed the length is 27″ long, and 29.5″ long extended. Both of these firearms have a Primary Arms Holosun HS505C solar powered red dot. The FAL has the short mount, and the M44 has the space for iron sight co-witness.

If you are looking for a super compact defense rifle, it’s hard to go wrong with one of the bullpups we talked about earlier, an AKM folder or FAL Para. There are a number of good rifles available to civilians these days, and the most important thing to keep in mind is that when you make your selection and purchase your rifle, TRAIN WITH IT! It makes no sense to have something for that purpose, but to not train and become proficient in it’s use.

This post is about being realistic. Be realistic in what you think you will be doing during a SHTF situation. If you think you will be running from firefight to firefight, like your Modern Warfare 3 video game, you need to read some of Selco, or FerFal’s stuff. Be realistic in the rifle you select as your “Go to gun”. A compact rifle for a Survivalist beats the Hell out of a typical full size Infantry long gun for all but a few limited uses.

Being practical, being realistic, and being ready is what it’s all about. Just like most people won’t carry their handgun if it is too large or uncomfortable for them to conceal, so to, the compact rifle will be carried more in a SHTF situation while doing the chores if it’s not a pain in the ass to transport.


"Parata Vivere"- Live Prepared.

Brushbeater On Mountain Men And Survivalist

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.


American by BIRTH, Infidel by CHOICE