Monday, June 27, 2011

Faux Combat

Before launching into this article I want to make it clear that I am not a combat veteran. I've never fired a bullet at anybody and if anyone ever shot at me they used a "silencer" and missed 'cause I didn't notice being shot at.

So, where do I get off talking about Combat? Well I've hung out with some guys who've been there, done that and have the T-shirts. And I pay attention.

So, how do you research "combat" without getting shot at or locked up for starting fights?

There's also the question of "Just how many gunfights can you reasonably expect to survive?"

Knowing what works and what doesn't could be the difference between surviving or not in a real world survival situation and since one can't expect to survive too many real combat experiences a way to "practice" has to be found.

There's vicarious "practice" such as you'd find at the movies or on TV but if you believe anything that Hollywood puts on the screen even approaches reality I've got a bridge in Brookline I'll sell you cheap.

For one thing, in the real world or combat you don't have an overview of what's happening like in the popular TV shows. There are no second camera shots of the other guy moving to hide behind another rock. There are no overhead shots so viewers can see the relative positions of the players and there are no previously filled in bits of plot that viewers know about but the protagonist or antagonist doesn't.

TV shows are the poor man's combat school giving excellent examples of what NOT to do.

To give yourself an idea of what real combat is like take a look at a real time, multi-camera view of a fire-fight.

Yes, yes I know the camera's angle of view is less than your eyes would see, but considering the amount of time the cameramen, helmet and gun mounted cameras are looking at the ground (seeking cover etc.) you can't really say you'd see much better with a wider field of view. Remember these guys are ducking real bullets.

There's also the faux combat of the pistol and three gun matches held at your local shooting range. But remember the difference between shooting at cardboard targets and live opponents is that the cardboard cutouts don't shoot back.

Also range safety and competition rules dictate shooting habits that could get you killed in the real world. Jim Cirillo of NYPD's "Stakeout Squad" fame who went 17-0 in real world gunfights angrily walked away from an IPSC match after being told his hits on three targets were disallowed because the edge of his shoe had touched the "foot fault line." Fault lines may be necessary to keep contestants from moving too close to targets, but as Jim said: "In all my gunfights when I was a New York City police officer, I never had to look down on the ground for a foot fault line."

IDPA rules are slightly better, but you get the point; at range competitions safety and fairness rules trump real world reality. That doesn't mean you shouldn't play with IDPA, just that in all of the "combat" shooting sports the main benefits are learning to shoot and reload your weapon under stress and not necessarily tactics.

A realistic form of passive "practice" can be found on the cable and satellite outdoor and sporting channels. An ambush is an ambush, the difference between combat and hunting is that the deer don't shoot back.

Recently I've been watching a lot of hunting shows on the Sportsman, Outdoor and>Pursuit (called the "Hunt" on the Dish network) channels (probably available to you if you've got cable or satellite TV) and I've noticed some similarities between hunting and fighting.

To begin with the old military maxim "No battle plan survives contact with the enemy" holds true for hunting too. Serendipity plays a big role in "walk & stalk" hunting and combat patrolling. Likewise for a hunter in a blind is not all that different from a carefully laid out military ambush.

No matter how carefully the hunters/combatants plan the "game" may thwart them by sensing them or simply taking a different trail without even knowing the hunters/combatants are present.

Those tempted to shy away from watching "Bambi" get shot are reminded that if everything goes to hell in a hand basket there'll be a shortage of hand baskets and your family's survival may well depend on retaining your hand basket.

Mule & Whitetail deer effortlessly hop over three strand barbed wire fences which hunters require more than a minute to negotiate safely. Yes, firearms safety is for survivalists too. You don't want to start the long march to your bunker in the bush by shooting yourself in the foot.

Les Johnson's Predator Quest show* does a great job of showing the part camouflage, stillness and concealment play in an ambush. But more to the point as you watch the show you'll see, over and over again, how coyotes come from unexpected directions, take unexpected routes and do what is least expected of them, just like in real combat.

*(Monday 9:00 PM
Thursday 3:00 AM
Saturday 3:30 PM
All Airtimes are in Eastern Time Zones)

So is this a combat manual? Far from it. If you want real combat training join the Marines.

What's that you say? Not enough people in your survival group for platoon sized assault maneuvers? Besides the wife won't man the M60 and doesn't want your son playing with rocket launchers?

Well, there is hope. If we scale down our survival scenarios to more realistic personal defense protection predictions two excellent schools present themselves: Gunsite Ranch (founded by renowned combat pistol instructor Jeff Cooper) in Arizona and Massad Ayoob's Massad Ayoob Group (MAG) headquartered in Concord, New Hampshire which conducts classes all over the country.

If you don't have the time/ money/ inclination to attend one of these schools there's always volunteerism.

First responders are trained to respond to emergencies by practicing both mentally and physically to deal with them. You can learn a lot from carefully selected cable and satellite shows, but hands on practice (Red Cross classes, IDPA matches and volunteer Search & Rescue/fire/police reserve/CERT training will take your preparedness out of the realm of mental images to practiced preparedness.

Sitting in front of a TV watching mainstream Hollywood dramas on network television will teach you the absolute wrong way to do just about everything. Often the only "reality" in network reality TV shows is the name.

Cable and satellite hunting shows, particularly coyote hunting shows, will give you a somewhat edited view of what happens in the real world.

The unpredictability of "pray" on hunting shows mirrors real world combat because the action of the animals is unscripted. Perhaps that's because it's so hard to get the coyotes to cooperate.

Superfluous Survival Tip of the week:

Survival Sleeping?
(OK, these techniques will work any time, but keep in mind that being awake and alert are prerequisites to informed intelligent decision making under stress. In the ubiquitous "survival situation" the tendency to try to stay awake in order to be ready to respond to whatever the new and frightening situation throws at you can be dangerous. Your body needs sleep and putting sleep off could leave you groggy at a time when you need to be awake and alert.)

1. Try to get eight hours sleep one uninterrupted period between 2200 hours (10pm) and 0600 (6am) if possible.
2. If forced to sleep for shorter periods (guard duty/refueling a generator or checking on makeshift repairs) try to get sleep in the largest chucks possible.
3. Waiting and watching is stressful. Exercise helps to "burn off" stress hormones.
4. Focus on sleeping. Be sure you can trust the people you are with, your dog or intrusion devices.
5. Try to schedule your sleep time so as to fall into a pattern.
6. Avoid alcoholic beverages, big meals or excessive sweets a few hours before your scheduled sleep time.
7. Avoid caffeine for five hours before your scheduled sleep time.
8. Fear of the unknown leads to stress and can keep us awake when we should be resting. Alleviate fear by breaking down problems faced into manageable portions. You may not be able to see how to fix the whole problem, but working on one little aspect of it often leads to epiphanies which make seeing how to fix the rest easier.

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tuscaloosa Tornado

The networks all cover disasters in a "big picture" (literally video from a helicopter window) sort of way with a few 30 second interviews with survivors. Such coverage doesn't help you understand the details what went on: what worked & what didn't.

I thought it might be instructive if we took a longer report from a real survivor. Scoutmom lived through, and is reporting on, the aftermath of the Tuscaloosa Tornado on April 27 2011. I'm picking out and quoting here a few of her more pertinent statements as the original is hard to read. [My comments are in black.] Hers are in red. I urge you to click on the link and read her full story for a deeper insight into what it's like to go through something like this.

so ok by now you guys know of the devastation and have seen the pictures and videos. … everyone was safe in my family but we lost a friend who for whatever reason wouldn't leave her mobile home. The tornado picked up her doublewide trailer and blew it to bits. They found peices everywhere. She was in the bathtub. …


Someojne got hit with a flying washing machine and a friend's trampoline was up on a telephone pole. ... (The guys ribs were broken, it's just a strange story).


People had PLENTY of warning.


One mistake we made was we left our radio at home, thinking that the people we were visiting
[taking shelter with] had one. ... NO RADIO! I coulda shot my husband!

Some people had phones that could get info, but it was very scary, not knowing, not being connected. The basement we were in was made into a hill. Some of the basement is even with the ground and you can go out a door right onto the level ground. The further back into the basement you go, you are underground. We had already sent the children into the back room and had bike and motorcycle helmets on as many as we could.

[Good thinking !]

We had pillows and blankets and had them on the floor. I imagine the men were trying to look outside, but suddenly they all started saying GET IN THE BACK.

[Typical men, shove the women & kids to safety then let their curiosity draw them into danger. Hey guys, who's going to take care of you kids and ladies after your gone? Act like an adult; get in the back with them.]


I was so upset to not have our radio!

This was her main complaint throughout the ordeal, don't let it by yours.

The cell phones weren't working, of course the power was still off.


People had come out of everywhere with trucks and chain saws. I was trying to call or text people to see if it was over, the cell phone was working intermittingly.


[When they tried to drive home they encountered a new set of problems.]

The roads were all blocked, we inched our way and by now traffic was thick as everyone had come out to see what was goin on and to try to reach loved ones. We finally pulled over and walked.


The cell phones were ringing like crazy as everyone was trying to contact each other. ...

Translation: Don't expect to be able to call for help or contact anyone by cell phone. Yeah, I know, we all "know" that; but do you plan for it?

We decided to go home and sleep at our trailer since we found out that the storms were over for us. People were already talking about looters so we wanted to be home.

We had a radio and some of the stations were covering nothing but the storm reports. ... They were our only sourse of information. ... Someone from a town called one of the first nights and said they were on their last candle.


[Do I have to say it? Lots of candles & extra batteries.]

Mistakes I made: My husband and I had NO CASH ( I know, I know, stupid) Stores could not take credit or debit bc the power was out. We did not have full tanks of gas. Neighbors were telling us not to go "driving around" to see the damage, to conserve our gas. We found out later that in some parts of Alabama people actually ran out of gas on the interstate bc gas stations couldn't pump.

[Expect lots of "Cash Only" signs in stores and non-working ATM's and gas stations after a disaster. And try to always keep your vehicle's gas tanks at least half full.]

I think the other stuff we were good on. We had plenty of food. We could have made it for at least a week with no power. We have a camp stove and propane lanterns, flashlights etc. We had enough water, our water didn't shut off but in some places it did and in other places they were twelling people not to drink the water without boiling it first, We had ways to charge our phones and stuff.

[She doesn't say, but I'll assume a solar charger or maybe charging from their car through and adaptor. Do you have an adaptor or solar panel to charge your cell phone and or portable radios]

I would like to recommend a radio that we had recently purchased. (the opne we left home, lol) It is a Red Cross Emergency Radio. It was $40 at Radio Shack. It gets regular stations and weather too. it can work on triple A batteries, solar or wind up. I think it has a 4th option but I don't know about it. We have listened to that thing day and night.

[The forth option is AC via a USB adapter (not included).]

When I finally was able to see my city ( we are rural in the county) I was shocked. Pictures do not show the devastation. The Red Cross is here. the National Guard is here. They actually have to be stationed in certain places to keep looters out. Samaritans Purse is here. Many. many volunteers are here. My daughter in law is in charge of a local distribution center at a local church. Every church is doing something, organizing, collecting, feeding people, something. The radio stations and facebook have been extremely instrumental in getting needs met.

I am exhausted so I will close this for now.

Later she updates her report. Click here.


Superfluous Survival Tip of the week:
I've just received my dead tree copy of Backwoods Home magazine and am, once again, impressed with the quality and thoroughness of the articles.

The July & August issue has (along with about a dozen other articles) a well written and well illustrated article on building and stocking a Survival Storeroom by David Eddings.

And yes, you can read old articles online (you'll be able to read Eddings article a few months from now) BUT unless you plan to download and printout all the articles every issue you won't have access to this fountain of knowledge when the power goes out. That's why I urge you to subscribe to the dead tree edition and begin building your library now.

To Comment on this article
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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Dressing for Armageddon

There really is no such thing as "Survival Clothing" and yet, as with everything else, there's always somebody willing to sell you some.

As I watched this video featuring Ron Hood a "very famous survival video maker…" my Bull $#!t detectors went off when he pulled an MRE form a rear pocket on his Scottevest. For one thing MRE's weigh about two pounds apiece and are the size, thickness and hardness of a hardbound book. Not something you'd want poking into your back every time you hopped into your HUMMER.

The sticking points for me are the price of these things ($100 for the Travel Vest with 22 pockets, $150 for the Outback Jacket with 20 pockets and $200 for the Expedition Jacket with 37 pockets) and the claimed utility of all those pockets.

Before I get into those points let me make it clear that this is not a hit piece on Scottevests. They're probably well made and may well get you through airport security quicker by virtue of being able to throw the vest on the X-ray belt as opposed to having to empty between 20 and 37 pockets before going through the metal detector.

Scottevests also have a slicker more citified look to them than my outdoorsy vests, but in an era where men wear Bermuda shorts with cargo pockets there's not all that much difference.

First the price
I've got a couple of vests sitting beside me as I write this. The one on my left is XX large and has a zippered collar with hood; two inner Velcro closured front pockets large enough for iPods and iPhones. The outside had three zippered and three Velcro closure pockets. It's an import and cost me less than $20 a few years ago. It would probably cost you around $40 today.

The vest on my right is XXX large because I used it as my "shooting vest" when I competed in local pistol matches. It's collarless and has two zippered inner pockets large enough to hold an Amazon Kindel DX (10.4" x 7.2" x 0.38") and two zippered outer pockets the same size. In addition it has five smaller Velcro closure pockets and two small zipper pockets.

I've got a real Remington® "shooting vest" (faux padding on the right shoulder) and some others I won't bore you with descriptions of other than to assure you that none of my vests cost anywhere near one hundred dollars.

Having between 20 and 37 pockets sounds convenient but gets bulky when you start filling them up with stuff. Ask yourself how many of the items the "very famous survival video maker…" Ron Hood pulls out of his jacket would you carry everyday?

I do carry a small camera, a note pad and a pen with me everyday. They ride in the left breast pocket of one of my Cabela's shirts.

My genuine Swiss Army knife .45 pistol and spare magazine ride on my belt.

I don't carry pocket knives on my shirtsleeves for the same reason I don't carry my pistol in an ankle holster: momentum. (During the very short time I tried to make ankle holsters work for me I discovered the constant forward, stop, forward, stop motions of walking cause the heavy pistol to try to swing around to the front of the ankle. Even making my own ankle holsters couldn't overcome physics without binding the holster so tightly about my lower leg as to cut off circulation.)

Putting a heavy metal object like a Swiss Army knife or even a small Leatherman Multi-tool in a pocket on the forearm of a long sleeve shirt would beat your forearm to the point of bruising with just the normal movements of everyday activity.

Further Ron Hood intimates that he carries an easy open knife for self defense in one of these lower arm sleeve pockets. That knife in a sheath on his belt or clipped to the top inside of his pants pocket would be exactly where he would expect it to be, in the position he expects it to be in.

In a lower arm sleeve pocket he can expect his defensive knife to be turned around with the wrong end at the wrong end when he grabs it and/or the wrong side out needing to be fumbled around to get the blade side facing out in order to bring the knife into play.

I submit he'll have one hell of a time getting that knife out of his sleeve pocket in anything resembling a hurry.

I'm beginning to think Ron Hood was running out of things to put into all those pockets for his demonstration.

I do like Ron's idea of carrying a short length of 550 cord around and plan to incorporate it into my every day carry in a sleeve pocket.

But there's nothing wrong with putting lighter objects in sleeve pockets, particularly in upper arm pockets. Many of my Cabela's shirts have small sleeve pockets on the upper left sleeve.

I guess the point I'm trying to make here is that if you've got so much stuff to carry around that you need 20 to 37 pockets to carry it all you're probably carrying around too much stuff.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
OZ writes:

(That's him firing the suppressed Springfield XD pistol in a recent issue of Tactical-Life online magazine.)

First, I gotta tell ya - I live at Ground Zero for all intents and purposes, and I really don't think we are going to face The Planet of The Apes anytime soon - but that's just me. I'm not sure from where this paranoia stems, but hey - it's cool by me. I am more concerned about violent crime, but crime is my vocation, after all.

First - I have nothing for or against the Scottvest, and I have been told that they are a fine piece of gear. Vests around D.C. seem to adorn just about every ignorant, useless, traffic-causing tourist wandering the streets, even if said tourists are wearing shorts and sandals and wool socks. (If they are from New York, that is usually the touristy uniform of the day.)

I am required to wear business attire to work every day - that means coat and tie. Now, I have a few shortcuts, but they do not involve clip-ons. Here, on the littorals of the Chesapeake, we have this phenomenon called HUMIDITY. As the temperatures rise from June to August, the only descriptive term is oppressively sweltering and the term "DAMN!"

I often commute wearing a collared shirt and a tie, and a decent pair of slacks and a pair of tennis shoes. Awaiting me at my office are two sport jackets and one pair each of brown and black dress shoes. Over my shirt and duty sidearm, if it is on my belt, I wear a vest which was made by EoTac. It is a lightweight ripstop black cotton blend. I like it because it is light, has a center vent in the back, and because it is a little higher quality garment it is almost wrinkle-free. It doesn't look all "tacti-cool," and I know that I got it for well under a hundred bucks, maybe half that cost. It has two upper and lower exterior pockets, and I think it has one inside that fits my iPod. That's it. Too simple.

I understand scorning the cost of the ScottVest, but you wear Cabela's shirts. Don't those shirts cost 40 to 50 bucks each? Wouldn't it be more cost effective to have ten $6.00 T-shirts from Wally World and one quality vest to wear over them all? (Yeah, I know you can get those shirts from Cabela's on sale. I have gotten similar ones from for far less than Cabelas charges.) OK - enough about vests.

Oh yeah - I wear a paracord bracelet. A kid in Florida makes them to raise money for his Dad so he can shoot matches on the weekend. They are cheap, he makes them in any color combo you want, it's a good cause, and if I ever REALLY need the cord, it's on my body. Had mine in less than a week. is where I got mine. (You can actually see mine on my wrist in a recent article in Tactical Life magazine. I am shooting a silenced Springfield XD. I can try to send the link if you like.

Let's talk about ankle holsters:

What gun were you trying to carry on your ankle? First - many guns are either too heavy, or even if they are lightweight, they are still WAYYYY too bulky in dimension to carry on the ankle. I tell my armed minions that they must "Dress for success," which is why we authorize certain backup guns in .38/.357, 9mm and .40 S&W. If you were trying to carry even an alloy framed Officer's sized .45 on your ankle, you are asking for disaster.

Remember - any gun you have is infinitely better than the 300 WinMag you left at home. And I'll let you in on a time tested, street-proven secret: It ain't the caliber, it's where you but the BB that matters. That being said - get a gun suitable for ankle carry, and carry it.

Second - what kind of ankle holster were you using when you tested the ankle carry option? I have found 3 types that work, and unless some new design has been made over the weekend, just about nothing else that I have seen is very effective: The Galco "Ankle Glove", the Renegade, and the Alessi. I have tried many gun and holster combinations over the years, and I gotta tell ya - those (and their clones,) are the only ones that really work. Are they cheap? Not really. And the best - the Alessi - is the most expensive. Here's another secret: You get what you pay for.

And I really can't believe you would attempt to make your own ankle holster. Really? REALLY? My Dad was a roofer. When I was a kid, if the plumber was over at the house working on the pipes on Wednesday night I knew that I would be on the plumber's roof first thing Saturday morning helping my Old Man flash a chimney or bash shingles or fix a gutter. The point is, my Dad used to say "I'm a roofer. I roof. Plumbers plumb - I don't." The late holstermaker legend and icon Lou Alessi was a dear friend of mine. I learned so much about holsters and holstermaking and history from him that it could probably fill volumes. And the more I learned, the more I realized that I use holsters, I don't make them. But it did give me a very discerning, if not critical taste for holsters.

I carry on my ankle as much as I carry on my belt, and I have for years. And I have no tendon damage or bruised tibias or anything like that. And no, I do not carry a single-stack polymer KelTec or other hideout gun like the fine NAA .32 ACP or even my old Colt Vest Pocket .25, but I would rather carry one of those than leave my big-bore fire breather at home and carry nothing at all. I usually have my all steel S&W 640 revolver in .357, or my Glock 26 on my ankle.

The wheelgun is heavy, and I have had it and my Alessi holster for it since 1997. Yes - the same holster. However, I have had my 26 since it hit our shores in about 1993 (?), and Lou made me an ankle holster for it way back then - and I still use that same holster. Again - you get what you pay for. And yes - I use ankle holsters exclusively when it is just too damn hot to wear even the light vest. The best carry gun is the one the bad guys don't know is there, right?

So take a crowbar to your wallet my brother, kit up appropriately, and dress for success.

Just my .02 cents.

Take care -

I reply:
No, I don't believe we're headed for a "Planet of the Apes" scenario anytime soon either. More likely a gradual decline like what happened in Argentina.

And I've nothing against Scottevests or tourists in shorts in wool socks. But then we don't get very many tourists around these parts.

I like your EoTac vest it looks a lot like a couple of mine, but neither yours nor mine are festooned with 20 some odd pockets.

I can get two of my "40 to 50" dollar" Cabela's shirts for the cost of one Scottevest and have two colors to choose from when I dress in the morning.

I like your idea of a paracord bracelet, but don't wear jewelry. And, hell yes, send me a link to your picture in Tactical-Life magazine!

I don't remember what brand, but it was a major brand ankle holster I tried out first with a Smith & Wesson .38 Airweight. Later, in desperation, I tried making two ankle holsters (one leather & one stretch nylon) for my little .22 Beretta mod. 21A but they didn't work out either.

While we're on the subject, one style ankle holster I've never tried (and never will) is those things that carry the gun upside down so that if the retainer comes loose the gun will literally FALL out of the ankle holster.
Superfluous Survival Tip of the week:

Keeping Your Freezer Colder Longer
If you have advance warning of disaster that may cut power to your area you can keep frozen foods colder longer with the following tips:

1. Before the storm/flood/etc. set the freezer to its coldest setting.
2. If you expect newly added food to have enough time to freeze, fill the freezer with foods from your refrigerator that would spoil before you could eat them in a prolonged outage.
3. The fuller the freezer is with solid frozen things the longer it will take to thaw out.
4. Partially fill plastic jugs with water to help hold thermal mass.
5. If you have to eat from the freezer before the power comes back on, KNOW what you are going to take out before you open it. Grab it fast and close the door!
6. Blankets and quilts around the freezer will help insulate it.
7. Be sure to remove the blankets and quilts when the power comes back on.

To Comment on this article
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