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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Urban Survival Skills - Tactical Movement: Basic Reaction Drills received an Anonymous comment on the Urban Survival - Tactical Movement on Foot post,……”Everyone should understand that the reason for the various formations and tactics is to minimize the possibility of an ambush wiping out the patrol/unit. To translate that; it means if you encounter the enemy and they see you before you see them the first awareness you will have is when they take out your point man or your tail man. The bottom line is there is no safe way to move through territory, woods or any terrain. There are steps you can take to mitigate the danger and other steps you can take to maximize the damage to your enemy but there are no "safe" movements through enemy territory. This means your sister or your brother or your brothers wife might die right in front of you. When the SHTF there is no safe".

UrbanMan Replies: Not only is the reason, for proper tactical formations and interval between patrol group members, to preclude getting a sizeable portion of your group or patrol wiped out in an ambush or chance contact,…. the formation and interval allows for your patrol to rapidly execute contact drills to either fire and maneuver on the threat or to establish a base of fire for other members can disengage or withdrawal.

The next step after your Survival Group becomes decent at executing Patrol formations; using arm and hand signals; crossing danger areas; conducting long term and short stay security halts, would be to develop, rehearse and get really good at contact drills.

Contact drills are the pre-executed maneuver and actions your patrol will take upon contact with a threat or a circumstance. These are typically called “reaction drills for chance contacts”.

Chance contact is defined as un-forewarned contact with the enemy, from any direction, during movement or a short duration halt. Usually specifically moving to make contact or break out from an area, the patrol will probably always attempt to break contact from any chance contact with the enemy, as your goal is survival and not achieving any military objective.

During normal movement (column formation), the greatest possibility of making chance contact with the enemy is walking into an enemy position or moving enemy patrol. One reaction drill is the "peel" method of breaking contact. Upon making contact with the threat the point man will initially hold his position, may not be able to give an arm and hand signal for the threat, then be prepared to immediately fire upon the threat in a design to make the threat hold their position so the patrol can break contact.

If the point man has to shoot, and upon completion of firing (several rounds) at the enemy, the point man will turn and run parallel down the axis of the movement formation, placing the patrol between himself and the threat if possible and not flag the fire of the other patrol or survival group members as he turns, peels and runs.

The point man will move to a location approximately 50 meters to the rear of the tail man and take a knee or assume the prone. This location is the immediate rally point. The second man/women in the patrol will also engage the threat with several rapid rounds just as soon as he/she can safely do so, then turn and peel following the point man. The rest of the patrol will also engage the threat then individually and in turn follow the man in front if him as he turns and peels.

The point man after gaining the immediate rally point will direct incoming patrol personnel to one direction, either his left or right, beginning to achieve a skirmish line. Upon the rear slack and tail man arriving at the immediate rally point, the patrol members will be positioned in a linear formation that is perpendicular to its original route of travel.

The patrol, from this linear position, can be prepared to engage fire and maneuver, bounding back to further disengage from the threat….or move forward to close with the threat or to recover a wounded patrol member.

This same drill can be executed with a chance contact from the rear like if a bandit group is trying to run you to ground.

If you are in a wedge formation, your reaction drill may look like the below picture, where patrol members just move up into a skirmish type line in order to bring all weapons to bear on the threat and be able to maneuver either forwards or backwards as directed.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010 received the following comment/question: "Anonymous said... ....Dear Urban Survival Skills, I was going to make a comment on the firearms training post, but I'll make it a question here. I read and hear the term tactical all the time like tactical firearms and tactical shooting. What does this mean and what do I need to know about this other than going to one of those weapons schools you recommended?

UrbanMan replies: Boy, you mentioned a topic that I have long planned to write on an article on and that is the word "Tactical", an over used and misunderstood term. You see "tactical carbine", "tactical handgun", "tactical knife" over and over.

What "Tactical" means to me is the employment of tactics within a series of skills. If you are on a flat range shooting at a target, even doing some advanced skills like "tactical" (there's that term again) re-loads, shooting at multiple targets or doing failure drills, I suggest that you are NOT being tactical, you are just doing some firearms training, alebit maybe more advanced than some.

If you are shooting and moving to cover, shooting from degraded positions, adding multiple tasks such as communicating on a radio, scanning and checking your six, communicating to and/or directing other members in your survival group to bound, move or to give you supressing fire as you move,......then you are starting to add tactics to shooting and therefore doing some tactical shooting/tactical training.

Determing which cover is best; shooting and moving (3 - 5 second rush) to other cover; low crawling from cover to cover; not getting sucked into cover but using it as a protective obstacle between you and your adversaries; practicing exiting your vehicle and engaging targets; setting up "shooting problems" to solve as you expect to encounter in real life based on your environment; using white light or shooting with night vision goggles; role playing (with no live ammunition) to simulate what goes wrong in one on one and one on many situations....this is stactical training.

When we start to do these things we are getting into the "tactical" world and better preparing ourselves to survive the coming collapse. The Army uses "Training Principles" - my two favorites being "Train you as Fight,....Fight as Your Train", and, "Train Using Realism". If we employ these principles well, then we are so much the better when we come to the point of relying on ourselves for surviving.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Urban Survival Planning - Financial Indicators: The Debt Crisis, since our inception, has been counseling on Survival Planners having a list of indicators that would precede and foretell the coming collapse. The idea is this list is self developed; based on factors and indicators you think are important to identify the near term coming collapse; and, should consider all factors – social, economic - financial and political.

UrbanMan uses a lot of financial sources, probably none more credible that Leeds who we have hyperlinked to this site just below the title.

Sandy Leeds, CFA is a Senior Lecturer at The University of Texas at Austin . He teaches graduate level classes in the MBA program and also serves as President of The MBA Investment Fund, L.L.C. Prior to teaching, he had careers as a lawyer and a money manager. He did his undergraduate work at The University of Alabama and also has a law degree from The University of Virginia and an MBA from the University of Texas . At UT, he has received many teaching awards, including Outstanding Professor in the MBA Program. He is married and has three children.

Leeds’ latest article, go to here:

Talks about the debt crisis and why you should be worried,…and if you are worried you should be preparing maybe just alittle more.

This is Leeds’ article in his words:

Here are a few quick points why you should be worried about the US :

1. By 2040, the US ’ debt-to-GDP ratio will be 425% (according to the BIS). This estimate is worse than the estimates for Portugal , Italy , Ireland and Greece.

2. We can only print money to solve the problem if we don’t mind inflation.

3. Even if you adjust for the effects of the economic cycle and you exclude interest payments, the US has a -7.3% structural budget deficit.

4. If the US wanted to reduce our debt-to-GDP to 60% by 2030, we would need to have a fiscal adjustment (lower spending or higher taxes) of 8.8% of GDP. While that might sound like a small number, realize that our tax revenue is approximately 18% of GDP.

Factors That Cause a Debt Crisis

1. Excessively large debt (pretty obvious).

2. Excessive dependence on foreign capital (which may flee).

3. Economic weakness (the debt-to GDP ratio grows if GDP is stagnant).

4. Political weakness (excessive spending and insufficient taxation).

5. Irrational exuberance (b/c investors don’t learn about the risks of debt from the past).

In the US , we could argue that we’re five-for-five (on these factors).

Six Ways Out of a Debt Crisis

1. Higher GDP growth.

2. Lower interest rates (to reduce impact of excess debt).

3. Bailout – capital from abroad.

4. Raising taxes / cutting spending.

5. Inflation (printing money).

6. Default.

Here’s a quick summary of these six exit strategies. The US is too mature for high growth. Eventually, risk premiums make low rates impossible. We’re too large to be bailed out. We don’t have the political will to cut spending or raise taxes. We’re unlikely to default (b/c we can print money). So, high inflation seems likely.

Key Lessons From History

1. Governments do not cut spending or entitlements. Similarly, they do not reduce taxes to stimulate growth. They do not tax consumption to stimulate savings. They do not grow their way out of the problem (without defaulting or depreciating).

2. Governments encourage central banks and commercial banks to load up on government debt. They often discourage foreign investment so that investors are left with little choice but buying domestic debt. They tend to default on commitments to weaker creditor groups. They condemn bond investors to negative real returns (through inflation).

3. Not all debt crises are the same. We have issued much short-term debt – so rates may rise ahead of inflation. We could have high rates in a deflationary period! This may mean that inflating our way out of the problem won’t work and we would have to default.

See…short and sweet. I didn’t clutter this report with any reason to be optimistic.

end of Leed's article.

In our view, this makes more certain and hastens the growing gap between the haves and the have nots, which is another way of declaring the extinction of the American middle Class. What happens when there are 30 million, 60 million or 50 million have nots who cannot afford to live?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

WIlderness Survival - Sword of Survival website

For those of you interested in wilderness survival, there is a site on the web, called Sword of Survival, that has a lot of Wilderness Survival type field expedient solutions mostly through videos.

It looks to be a new site, maybe a couple of months old, with the demonstrator seemingly doing all the videos himself. Really informal, but the information is good. I’ll be looking at this site from time to time, to refresh myself with old and mostly forgotten wilderness survival skills. Good reference for those who have never been trained in wilderness survival.

Go to:

In fact, everyone, whether they are planning to Survive a Coming Collapse in an Urban Environment or from a lavish and well protected Survival Compound in some remote part of the country, should still develop skills for surviving with minimal equipment in the wilderness. published an article on what we considered a basic list of wilderness survival type skills, go here to see this article. One could print the list of skills from this article and “work them off” as you train on them.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Urban Survival - Tactical Movement on Foot

UrbanMan received this request from an reader: “Could you do a post on how to move in a group through the woods? It is predominantly for me and my family, maybe my sister's brother and his wife would be with us, if and when we vacate our home and if our vehicle goes down or transport by car is not possible. If I had to vacate my house and move to my friends rural farm I would need to move through the woods about 29-30 miles, then parallel a state road about 30-35 miles to get to the two roads that lead to my friend’s farm where it’s another 16-18 miles.”

UrbanMan replies: You have the right idea wanting to learn how to move in the woods or really any type of terrain for that matter. Aside from very specific techniques and procedures, otherwise called Standard Operating Procedures or SOP’s, tactical movement is a function combining common sense, awareness of the situation and of the environment, and just plain being cautious.

Movement techniques must be known by all in your group and regularly practiced in order to be effective. People spend years learning how to plan and conduct a small unit patrol. I cannot do that justice in one post, however I will attempt to cover some basics of movement.

Things you will have to consider when moving, above food, water and what else you are packing, are light, noise and litter discipline, and, control of your movement formation. Ensuring that all shiny objects that you and others are wearing, which will reflect the sun or artificial light are reduced or removed; use red filters on flashlights or be very careful when you use a white light and then consider using one only under a poncho or blanket; talk to your members of your group either using hand and arm signals or by whispering in their ear (sound carries more than your think!);……ensure you and your group does not leave litter behind that someone can track you by or otherwise learn of your presence or passage.

Looks like you may be moving 75 to 83 miles. Your movement rate, under good conditions is going to be .5 to 1.5 miles an hour if you want to move in a cautious tactical manner, stopping for a 5 to 10 minute blow every hour and to do map/navigation checks, check and treat people's feet, adjust loads and just to sit and listen for what is going on around you.

If you move at 1 mile per hour, you can probably move 12 miles a day then it will take you at least 6 days to get where you are going. Figuring on a minimum of 3 quarts of water per person per day that's almost 20 pounds of water weight per person starting off. Remember 3 quarts per person would be an absolute minimum,... a more realistic number is 5 quarts per person per day which would be 30 pounds of water weight.

Movement formations. There are really only two basic movement formations you should be using:

The Column or File formation (think single file) is the easiest formation to control. Interval (or distance) between patrol members should be no further than what sight allows – you need to be able to see the man in front of you and behind you. Relatively speaking, this interval will be as close as a couple feet during periods of darkness, with minimal lunar illumination, to as long as maybe 15 to 20 yards. In very open areas, that distance may increase to 25-35 yards. The idea is not to have two people (or more) needless close to each other where it would be easy to shoot two or more easily,...or have a booby trap or other casualty producing device hurt more than is necessary. Plus people close together tend to talk,...when you talk, people can hear....remember noise discipline.

The point man is the navigator and picks the route, the tail gunner ensures dangers to the rear are picked up; everyone else watches the sides of the column. Same thing when you stop, assign everyone a area to watch.

Wedge Formation. This is a arrowhead or triangle type formation used to move across a wider area, and best used when contact with a potentially or known adversary is expected. Using the wedge and making contact with bad guys to your front allows for more than one person to engage and defend the group at a time (clear fields of fire). This is also a good formation, albeit at extended intervals between members, when crossing an large open field if you have to. From the Wedge formation you can easily establish a skirmish line and either fight/move forward or withdrawal with all guns in your patrol having the ability to fire without a friendly in front of them.

The Wedge formation is much harder to control, especially in heavy brush or thickly wooded areas. Members of the patrol in this movement formation need to not only be concerned with their respective area of responsibility during movement, but will have to constantly adjust their route to keep the interval and contact with other patrol members.

Crossing Linear Danger Areas: Whenever you cross linear dangers areas, which will be roads, power line trails, dirt roads, game trails or natural lines of drift you will need to be extra careful, in both ensuring that there is no traffic or observation on this linear open area, and, careful to sterilize signs of your passage as much as you can. Cross these linear danger areas in one line so the tail gunner can more easily sterilize the signs and foot prints of your passage.

A careful way to cross these danger areas is to send one or two people across to reconnoiter (that is a fancy way of saying "recon") the other side. A speedier way is call "Scroll to the Road" or the bump method, where one person briefly stops facing down one way of the linear danger area where he or she is "bumped" by the person behind him which is the cue to cross, then face the opposite direction in order to provide observation and security in both directions.

After each linear danger area you cross, hesitate for enough time for the tail gunner to sterilize signs of crossing. The person in front of the tail gunner provides security for the tail gunner as he/she does this. If you are going to stop for a blow (rest) don't do it adjacent or near to a linear danger area you crossed.

Crossing Large, Irregular Shaped Danger areas. Really only three practical ways to negotiate a large, irregular danger area such as a large farm or field. Extended file formation. Wedge formation,....or to avoid the danger area by skirting it.

Stopping for an extended time or through a period of daylight or night. Since it is practically impossible to avoid leaving signs of your passage, one way to give you some security against people following you is to buttonhook off your route of movement into a defensive or ambush position. This is a good idea when stopping for extended times such as a remain over day (ROD) or remain over night (RON) position to rest. Ensure that you defensive ROD or RON position allows you to observe your original trail and have a patrol member (or two) positioning to watch the trail coming into to your ROD/RON.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Urban Survival Skills Reader Disagrees with Survival - Collapse Book Choices received the following comments on the previous post concerning the two best Survival – Collapse Books to read,…..”Anonymous said,…..Shame on you for not including Lights Out. This is a exceptional story and taught me alot of survival in an upheaval. Good story to just read and enjoy also. One Second after was a sorry story and did not teach me anything.”

UrbanMan replies: Lights Out is an absolute must read. I just think it’s third in line and the other reader asked me to just recommend two.

In Lights Out, you would have to admit that things go pretty well for the main characters,…having a buddy who owns a gun store and MILVAN’s full of ammunition and guns a their house…..having grocery stores stay open well past when the EMP generated Nuclear attack occurs, and having a car parts store open long after the collapse as well.

Sorry you did not learn anything from One Second After. I guess I tend to learn from negative things as much or more than positive teaching. The things I learned from One Second After, albeit from what they didn’t do, are:

1. Be prepared from the get go. Food, Water, Survival gear, equipment and material.

2. Have more firearms (and ammunition) than just some black powder guns.

3. If you are not organized into a Survival Group before the collapse predicating event, then that becomes a priority to do. If you have to start small, then start small. Organized the neighbors on your left and right, then the street,….. then the people on adjacent streets. People are going to be looking for a leader. Be that leader to get them squared away with as minimal waste of time and resources as possible.

4. Have a plan for when the infrastructure collapse in regards to necessary prescriptions and medications, and how to store them.

Note: I know of a guy who is on dialysis. This particular type of dialysis can be done at home using bags hooked up to a body catheter. This is a nightly requirement,….he’ll die without it. Knowing that this gentleman has stocked six months of the bags he needs, plus he can go to a once every two days dialysis schedule in order to extend his dialysis capability.

If you are diabetic, what are you doing to do? The percentage of people that are diabetic is increasing every year. As you’ll remember one of the character’s in One Second After dies from lack of insulin. The sad fact about having adult on-set diabetes is that this is a highly reversible condition, if you have the gumption to stick to a diet of low glycemic foods and advanced doses of nutritionals.

What else I learned from One Second After:

5. Be prepared to address food supplies and rationing from the start. The characters in One Second After should have immediately started growing crops and building green houses.

6. Develop a communications and alert system with a plan on how to provide security and defend the community - which would be a logical extension from the group organizational priority.

This is my short list of what I learned. I hope it lets you reconsider the value of One Second After. The negative learning concept is something watching your buddy stick his hand down a hole and he gets his hand shredded by a sharp toothed badger. You see it and say to yourself “Heck,…I’m not going to stick my hand down there like he did!”…… so you learned from his bad example.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Urban Survival Firearms - Weapons Training Schools has received several private messages on facebook as well as e-mails regarding what we recommend in the line of firearms training centers or schools. If you are planing to survive a collapse and are going to depend upon yourself and your firearms for protection and security, then you owe it to yourself and those you want to protect to get professional training in the art and science of firearms.

I don't pretend to know all all the good shooting or weapons training schools that exist. However, after 33 years of carry a weapon, I either know the instructors, have been to the schools, have contracted them for unit training or have a close and respected friend who has.

Here are few schools that attendees won't be disappointed in. Worth of money not only for the training but to sit, learn and shoot in the company of dedicated professionals.

You don't want to wait until the SHTF then wish you invested the time and money. Anyway, I am not endorsing any particular school, again, just believe nobody would be disappointed with any of the below schools.

Renowned firearms Clint Smith runs Thunder Ranch. The mission of Thunder Ranch, Inc., Oregon is to provide distinctive personalized tutelage for individuals and small groups of civilian, corporate, law enforcement or military clients in the acquisition of individual defensive firearms and tactical skills.

Clint Smith states that: "The goal is to have the client acquire a higher level of personal skills under the direct supervision. In this venue the effort is not about promoting an institution or a teacher, it is about you, the client...are you reaching a new level of skill? This experience, this training, this skill advancement is about you the client."

Ignatius Piazza onws and operates Front Sight Resort. He say's: "He created Front Sight with one goal in mind: To be the absolute best defensive training facility for personal safety. To offer gun training, martial arts, edged weapons, contact weapons, mental awareness, defensive driving, executive protection, celebrity training, corporate team building, children and youth safety courses that more than satisfy the expectations of every student, regardless of the student's prior experience. Take one course at Front Sight Resort, whether a firearms training course, or any of our other world-class training programs, and you too will understand why students travel from across the country and return again and again for more of the Front Sight Experience."

Gunsite is a firearms school that uses sevral instructors, permanent and adjunct. Gunsite states: "Here, we teach Marksmanship -- how to hit what you aim at. However, Gunsite goes beyond this simple discipline to include the principles of Gun-handling and Mind-set. This we call the Combat Triad. We offer multiple levels of instruction in handgun, in carbine, in shotgun, in bolt action rifle and precision rifle. Each discipline is informed by the Combat Triad. Each Instructor at Gunsite is someone who has served in Law Enforcement, the military or both. Each Instructor is fully imbued with the doctrine and tradition of our school."

Covenant Special Projects is ran by Tom Buchino, a retired Special Forces Sergeant Major. CSP operates to serve domestic and international clients with customized, quality risk mitigation solutions.
Tom Buchino says: "We provide quality human solutions for a range of customer challenges in a discrete manner. CSP has the resources, the international experience and most important, the networks to operate ethically, legally, skillfully and according to the emerging demands of our customers."

"We provide high-end security services such as executive protection & special projects and security related assessments for corporate clients and high-net worth individuals as well as tactical skills instruction, at your location or at our facility the CSP - Tactical Ranch where we have ranges, classroom and field training sites."

"CSP provides governments, businesses and private clients with culturally aware, best practice, solutions in the full spectrum of security, training, assessment and risk reduction services."

"Lately, CSP-Tactical has been conducting firearms and defensive training for private clients with work or required travel in Mexico, due to the out of control violence and lack of security infrastructure there."

Competitive shooter John Shaw runs Mid-South. John Shaw says: "At Mid-South, we shoot pistol and carbine during our weeklong classes. Where else can you get all the training you need in a convenient weekly format? You can expect to shoot 2,500 rounds of pistol and 2,000 rounds of rifle. That's a lot of quality, disciplined trigger time, all in one week!"

Ron Avery runs Practical Shooting Academy. He says: "Our research shows that much of the training experienced by the average law enforcement officer, CCW gun carrier and firearms owner does little to prepare them for success when it counts. The training standards, precision, speed, mental and physical conditioning and tactical skills often don’t yield the results needed to survive the speed, surprise and violent action of the gunfight."

"Since 1989 we’ve provided firearms and tactical training to thousands of real world operators in law enforcement, military and government agency staff as well as civilians. Many have had to defend themselves in lethal force situations – sometimes against overwhelming odds. They’ve succeeded…and so can you!"

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Urban/Wilderness Survival - Dogs as a Survival Aid received a new comment on the "Wilderness Survival Task List" article,....Anonymous said,....."In my opinion I feel a dog is great for hunting, self defense, friendship, and tracking."

UrbanMan replies: Absolutely. I have several dogs,..mutts and mixes,..and their value begins with their companionship and loyalty. Humans are not meant to be alone and isolation can be largely mitigated with a dog. Cats just don't do it,...except for eating.

It doesn't take much for a dog to realize, learn then help you hunt rabbits. Having a dog helps when you hunt rabbits with rocks, since when you stun a rabbit with a rock, the dog can get to him quicker than you can.

Going to sleep in bear or mountain lion country is much easier knowing your dog is laying in camp with you to alert you and most likely take the first brunt of any attack.

They can serve as perimeter security and early warning, inside or outside a house and not just during a collapse but prior to that and as a counter measure against burglars and thieves. Many criminals do not grow up around dogs and are scared of them....even the small ones. So even if they just bark, they can be an great security asset.

Dogs can be taught how to track. This is not a "born with" skill for most dogs..
.....sure they have some genetic skills and a keen sense of smell,..but they must be trained. They can be trained to track on scent or sign. In fact the American Kennel Club (AKC) has some sort of tracking dog class and has periodic practices, probably at a location near you if you are interested in finding out more about training a dog to track outside of Federal Law Enforcement or the military working dogs.

I'm kinda partial to the working breeds: German Shepards, Retrievers, Australian Shepards, Blue Heelers, Kelties,.....but most of my dogs now are mixes and mutts, like I said. Several of them just showed up around the house and ending up staying. They stay pretty loyal if you just feed and water them, and pet them from time to time. Good, fairly low cost Survival Asset.

Plan for their survival food as well as your own. I buy several large, 50 lb bags of dog food and rotate them to ensure I have alot of hand, at least six months worth, for if/when the collapse hits.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Urban Survival Skills - Firearms Proficiency received a question from a reader asking about "what level of training and what of skills I would recommend in order to make someone proficient in a given rifle and therefore be a contributing member of a Survival Group."

Timely enough, I received an article, by Jeffrey Wall, Staff Sergeant, California Army National Guard, that was published in Small Wars Journal, that related to the current state of training and proficiency in the U.S. Army on small arms, including rifles, carbines, pistols and machineguns, but really focused on the primary weapon which is the M-4 rifle, or carbine if you want to get technical.

I would advise all to go to Small Wars Journal and read the entire article, very interesting with the historical connections. In fact, you may decide to get a subscription. I am posting some of Wall's article as it is pertinent to the question I received about what level of training does one have to have to be proficient in a firearm. My comments in the article are in Italics.

Afghanistan has become a rifleman’s war.

Because we are fighting a counterinsurgency campaign against a tribal warrior society we have and increasingly continued to limit the use of supporting arms (machineguns, indirect fire such as mortars and artillery, and Close Air Support).

The result is that we must rely more and more on our riflemen to engage and defeat the enemy. We know that 52% of the fights in Afghanistan begin at 500 meters and go out from there. The problem is that we don’t teach soldiers to engage with their rifles at those ranges any more. The Army gave up teaching marksmanship as a primary Soldier skill in 1958.

Vietnam tended to reinforce the misconception of rifle marksmanship being of secondary importance as much of the fighting there was at close range – either because of the thick vegetation and/or because the enemy grabbed us by the belt buckle and engaged at such close ranges that we could not bring our supporting arms to bear.

In either case, near or far, we now must rely on our riflemen to do the work. The trouble is they are not trained for it.

Army standards are to – ideally - train a rifleman going to war with 58 rounds of ammunition – 18 to zero and 40 to qualify on the “Pop up Target Range”.....again, that's 58 rounds.

What is not trained when Soldiers are sent to war after having fired only 58 rounds? Long range marksmanship, range estimation, the effects of wind and gravity on trajectory, short range marksmanship, gun handling skills such as rapid magazine changes and enough practice to cement these skills. ( I would include malfunction clearing, transitioning from rifle to handgun, and shooting from disadvantaged positions are necessary skills as well)

So we are sending Americans off to war with minimal rifle marksmanship training to engage an enemy on his turf with inadequate skills. Consider that the pop up target qualification course is all fired with a battle sight zero out to 300 meters. No training in reading the wind is given, no formulistic method is taught for wind estimation or how to calculate a wind adjustment even though the rifle itself has a half a minute of angle windage adjustment capability. Worse still is that many Soldiers don’t even attempt to shoot the 300 meter targets preferring to save those rounds to ensure a hit on the closer range targets. They have no idea what adjustments need to go on their rear sights to engage at 400, 500 or 600 meters. What we have then are soldiers whose effective engagement range capability is 200 to 225 meters.

Presumably you see the problem - the disconnect if you will - between the reality of the war in which we are engaged and our training regimen.

The author goes on to explain the Squad Designated Marksman (SDM) concept where every infantry squad has a better trained and equipped soldier capable of engaging targets with precision at longer ranges. The SDM necessarily has an optic equipped rifle. Furthermore he makes the case of spending the money for the necessary ammunition for training, and in his view, 3,000 rounds to train all Soldiers to engage targets, proficiently, from 0 to 500 yards.

The author breaks down the ammunition expended at each range: 1200 rounds - 0 to 100 yards (the author says... "this is the range zone where the pucker factor is greatest; where the shooting skills must be instinctive, i.e. based on“muscle memory”);

1500 rounds to shoot known distance range to 600 yards and an unknown distance range to at least 700 yards; and, 300 rounds - 100 to 300 yards [this is really the easy distance, little gun handling under pressure is required and little adjustment for wind and gravity are needed.

Training/shooting at night, on moving targets (day and night) and using artificial illumination tools such as white light flashlights and/or IR scopes and IR non-visible lasers must be included. At least a rudimentary knowledge of reading winds and applying corrections should be considered.

The Survival Group should consider having at least some of their people equipped with a magnified scope, not only to scope for effectively at longer ranges, but to use the magnified scope as an observation tool.

As far as specifically answering my reader's question, which is a very good question, I prefer not to talk about amounts of ammunition needed to achieve a certain skill level, may take hundreds of rounds for someone and tens of thousands of rounds for some else. Resources, which mean time and money, will always restrict training. A smart trainer will find ways to mitigate these restrictions.

Anyone relying on a rifle to protect himself/herself and others should be able to accomplish the following tasks:

Disassemble, clean and re-assemble the rifle; load and fire the rifle applying the seven fundamentals of shooting (stance or position, grip, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger control, breathing and follow through);

Be able to zero the rifle at 25 yards placing three rounds at the point of aim in about a dime sized group;

Shoot accurately,..I think a fair measure of accuracy for a novice shooter would being able to shoot and hit a 8 x 11 inch target up to 200 yards using iron sights with a rifle; as the shooter starts drilling center mass of his target, start doing it faster. As the shooter starts shooting inaccurately, then slow down. Speed is built through a constant repetition of this cycle.

Note: I say a 8x11 target, since a piece of typing paper is 8.5 inches by 11 inches and this replicates the vital chest area of a human. Therefore, you always have access to low cost targets. Then your standard is keeping your shots on this paper at all distances.

The shooter should be able to reload the firearm (magazine exchange, aka tactical re-load, and emergency re-load, aka from a empty weapon) order words, reload and get back into the fight.

Correct stoppages and malfunctions and get back into the fight. Training using blank rounds or empty cases in a magazine will force a shooter to confront and remedy stoppages.

This above skill sets are pretty minimal and do not include applied tactics such as shooting utilizing cover and shooting from degraded positions. Not do they consider the high stress environment the Survival shooter will be in. Some physical stress can be replicated and incorporated with exercise such as running, pushups and other physically demanding exercise before and during firearms training. You can incorporate "dry fire" training as well to help build muscle memory and confidence in your fellow Survival Group members. If you consider the environment you live in and will be surviving in, and consider the possible threats you will face, then apply that to realistic training, I think you'll be successful. Hope I answered your question well enough.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Survival Site Security - Obstacles and Early Warning received the following question,....."I have a small cabin about 2 miles on a dirt road, over two small hills from a state highway. The State Highway is mainly used for traffic between two towns, of a population of 70,000 and the other of a population of 18,000 and more of a resort town. As you get off the highway onto the dirt road accessing my cabin, and there is no nothing else on this road, you head towards my cabin where you would have to crest a small hill about 300 yards from my cabin, which would then be into my site. The area is forested with pine and smaller deciduous trees. I am debating on blocking (barricading) the dirt road, like felling some trees, to create a barrier to people driving to my cabin, but know that it may draw attention to our location. There will be five of us here initially, me, my wife, my 12 year old son, and another couple. Any ideas or suggestions?"

UrbanMan replies: I think I know where you are at. Just kidding. Sounds like you are not going to be on a major refugee route, although you may think it if tens of thousands of people start heading towards the smaller resort town.

You are right to consider not drawing attention to yourself with a barricade on the dirt road near the State Highway. I would be very careful to sterilize signs of driving off the highway onto your dirt road. Erase or sweep away the tire signs. The leaves from the deciduous trees may help hide any sign as well.

Near the highway, you can position some deadfall to make it look like the road has not been used and is impassable or at least hard to get through without a flat tire. You will need to make it look as natural as possible. Still, you need to be ready for some people who may be taking this road to get off the highway for safety. Best case is if gas is at a premium or even if they are walking, they may not walk the two miles to your cabin. It is probably necessary to sterilize signs of travel all the way to the cabin as well.

Speaking of flat tires,... spike sets are good anti-vehicle obstacles. There are three types:

Man Made commercial - we use these to stop vehicles we are pursing and you have probably seen these on TV. I don't know if they are available for purchase to the public. These are made with hollow, large sharpened needles (like hypodermic needles) to allow the air to rapidly escape a punctured tire.

Man Made Field expedient - these wooden boards with nails pounded through and as someone drives over they get a flat. Large 16 penny nails work well. You can even build hinged spike board that as a tire drives over it the weight bears on the hinge and drives the sides of the board up and projects nails into the lesser protected sidewall of the tire.

Natural Spikes - fabricating from all natural material such as branches, cut and sharpened smaller branches. The sharpened "spikes" are then rubbed with dirt to reduce their signature and make them appear old. The idea is to make it seem like it was a natural obstacle that caused the flat, otherwise these people, who may intend you harm, will be suspicious, more careful and ready for any other obstacles or booby traps, as well as your other defensive capabilities.

You can position deadfall and logs, making it seem natural and channelizing vehicle traffic into your anti-vehicle traps. A 30 to 36 inch length of 8 inch diameter log, or larger, can be buried so that only 12 to 16 inches are sticking out of the ground to create a obstacle to high center or rip out crank cases or damage half shafts as vehicle drive over them. These can be made to look like just stumps of trees that were cut down.

You can dig a ditch in the road making is impassable for a vehicle and have a covered and camouflaged bypass. This ditch could be effective if it is hard to see, like around a corner or bend in the road, and looks natural like it was created from water run off.

I know a gent who buried a series of extension cords in PVC piping from his house to a curve in his entrance road that he couldn't see his from his house, and placed a simple IR beam light unit so that when the beam is broken a buzzer rings at his house alerting him to approaching traffic.

And I know another guy who did a little more of a professional job wiring a pressure plate over a cattle guard and that when a vehicle's weight pressing the plate down it makes a connect, it either turned on a light or activated a buzzer at his house (can't remember which). I believe both these guys use 110/115 v power and do not know if they have made allowances to use batteries if/when the power infrastructure shuts down during a collapse.

Obstacles on avenues of approach (roads, trails and natural lines of drift) are good ideas, but more professional or trained adversaries will approach your site from covered and concealed routes. Ensure you manage these and have a plan if attackers occupy positions of advantage around your cabin.

For legal reason, I am not going to get into field expedient explosive booby traps or pre-placed charges. But it is a common technique to emplace command detonated explosives, usually devices that produce anti-personal fragmentation, where people will seek cover once a vehicle is well as emplace in dead zones where you cannot observe nor provide direct fire onto any potential attackers.

Anyway, I hope this gives you some ideas. Sounds like you found yourself a good Survival location - just work on mitigating the risks. Some additional resources would be any of the series of excellent (and cheap) books by Ragnar Benson on a wide range of related Survival Topics. The one's I find most useful are below:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Urban Survival Firearms - How Much Ammunition Should You Stockpile? recently received a question from an Emergency Services Professional on why did I suggested stocking 4,000 rounds of ammunition for each primary battle rifle. We're counting M-4 and AR variants as battle rifles for the purpose of Survival, as if say an M-4 is your primary gun, and that's what you are going defend you and your families lives with,...then it's a Battle Rifle as far as I am concerned. This same Emergency Services Professional stated that his primary battle rifles are AR gas pistons platforms in 6.8 caliber and wanted to know why I recommend the .223 Remington, aka 5.56mm.

Okay, fair enough questions, here's what I think:

The gas pistons AR platforms are great guns. I have shot many of them, just don't have a privately owned one, yet. Even then, it'll probably be in 5.56 caliber. No doubt the 6.8mm SPC is a much better stopper, but 5.56 ammunition is cheaper, more available, and you have a wide choice of bullet configurations for diverse needs: Full Metal Jacket (Ball); Frangible; Jacketed Hollow Point; Reduced velocity Tactical loads, and, soft nose lead bullets up to heavy bullet in a 77 grain for those longer range or precision needs.

I've had a civilian version of the CAR-15 in 5.56mm for decades, and several years ago, upgraded to a couple Rock River gas tube M-4's that function well. So part of my decision to stick to the 5.56mm is financial - I already have several, and after 33 years of using, training on and teaching the AR variants, I guess I am just used to it.

I recommend the 4,000 rds per battle rifle as a Basic Load, as after a collapse, ammunition may just not be available. A serious firefight may take up several hundreds of rounds up to a thousand. Would not like to find myself low on ammunition after one or two serious dust ups. Avoiding fights when I can, but surviving the one's that are unavoidable. Would be great to have 10,000 rounds per main gun.....I am not get there I would surmise that most people simply are not that dedicated to Survival Preparation, nor financially able if they wanted to or have the financial will power to spend money on and stock these amounts.

Note: A Cursory search of 5.56x45mm ammunition prices show that 1,000 rounds of 55 grain FMJ (M193) to be around $460; while 1,000 rounds of 62 grain SS109 steel core penetrator (M855) to cost around $500.

Plus you should account for ammunition needed for training. If you bring in new people to your survival group, making them proficient or at least usable on your main rifles would be a good idea.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Urban Surival Planning - New Pandemic Threat: NDM-1

A new pandemic threat has cropped up with a SuperBug originating from India that could spread around the world -- in part because of medical tourism -- and scientists say there are almost no drugs to treat it.

Researchers said on Wednesday they had found a new gene called New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase, or NDM-1, in patients in South Asia and in Britain . U.S. health officials said on Wednesday there had been three cases so far in the United States -- all from patients who received recent medical care in India , a country where people often travel in search of affordable healthcare,….or Medical Tourism. By the way, we may see more of that as Health Care in America gets more expensive and scarcer.

NDM-1 makes bacteria highly resistant to almost all antibiotics, including the most powerful class called Carbapenems. Experts say there are no new drugs on the horizon to tackle it. "It's a specific mechanism. A gene that confers a type of resistance (to antibiotics)," Dr. Alexander Kallen of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said in a telephone interview.

With more people traveling to find less costly medical treatments, particularly for procedures such as cosmetic surgery, Timothy Walsh, who led the study, said he feared the new superbug could soon spread across the globe. "At a global level, this is a real concern," Walsh, from Britain 's Cardiff University , said in telephone interview. "Because of medical tourism and international travel in general, resistance to these types of bacteria has the potential to spread around the world very, very quickly. And there is nothing in the (drug development) pipeline to tackle it."

Almost as soon as the first antibiotic penicillin was introduced in the 1940s, bacteria began to develop resistance to its effects, prompting researchers to develop many new generations of antibiotics. But their overuse and misuse have helped fuel the rise of drug-resistant "superbug" infections like methicillin-resistant Staphyloccus aureus, or MRSA.

In a study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal on Wednesday, Walsh's team found NDM-1 was becoming more common in Bangladesh , India , and Pakistan and was also imported back to Britain in patients returning after treatment.

" India also provides cosmetic surgery for other Europeans and Americans, and it is likely NDM-1 will spread worldwide due to the Medical Tourism," the scientists wrote in the study.

Walsh and his international team collected bacteria samples from hospital patients in two places in India , Chennai and Haryana, and from patients referred to Britain 's national reference laboratory from 2007 to 2009. They found 44 NDM-1-positive bacteria in Chennai, 26 in Haryana, 37 in Britain , and 73 in other sites in Bangladesh , India and Pakistan . Several of the British NDM-1 positive patients had traveled recently to India or Pakistan for hospital treatment, including cosmetic surgery, they said.

NDM-1-producing bacteria are resistant to many antibiotics including carbapenems, the scientists said, a class of the drugs reserved for emergency use and to treat infections caused by other multi-resistant bugs like MRSA and C-Difficile. Kallen of the CDC said the United States considered the infection a "very high priority," but said carbapenem resistance was not new in the United States . "The thing that is new is this particular mechanism," he said.

Experts cited two drugs that can stand up to carbapenem-resistant infections -- Colistin, an older antibiotic that has some toxic side effects, and Pfizer's Tygacil. For many years, antibiotic research has been a "Cinderella" sector of the pharmaceuticals industry, reflecting a mismatch between the scientific difficulty of finding treatments and the modest sales such products are likely to generate, since new drugs are typically saved only for the sickest patients.

But the increasing threat from superbugs is encouraging a rethink at the few large drug makers still hunting for new antibiotics, including Pfizer, Merck, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis. Anders Ekblom, global head of medicines development at AstraZeneca, whose Merrem antibiotic was the leading carbapenem, said he saw "great value" in investing in new antibiotics. "We've long recognized the growing need for new antibiotics, he said. "Bacteria are continually developing resistance to our arsenal of antibiotics and NDM-1 is just the latest example."

What does this mean to the Urban Survivor faced with possible wide spread viral outbreaks? Minimize contact with personnel outside your Survival Group. Develop safe protocols for handling or communicating with refugees as well as standard operating procedures for disinfecting people and material or equipment. Plan on a quarantine area and measures to provide water, food, shelter and warmth to personnel who have to be placed there for the general safety of the Survival Group.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Urban Survival Planning - More Economic Indicators of a Coming Collapse

Two recent economic indicators reached out of the newspaper and banged me on the head this week, indicating not only are we not on an economic recovery as President Obama promised, but we are heading for rougher times and a lot of people know it,...maybe not intellectually, but at least they know something is wrong.

Not only from the newspaper, but from a friend of mine who went to the gun show this weekend. He said he has not seen as large as crowd in memory. He told me he saw a 60 year old woman buy a folding stock Mini-14, then bought eight 30 round magazines at another table. My friend said he later saw her empty handed except for a heavy sack which he thought she put the Mini-14 rifle in the car and was buying ammunition. He had many examples of this. Some of the vendors told him they could not keep ammunition on hand.

There is a just published financial report on Americans wanting to be closer to their cash. They are cashing out Certificates of Deposits (CDs) and putting the money in bank checking and savings accounts so they can have it closer and more ready at hand.

People have pulled a reported $145.3 Billion dollars out of mutual funds in the first 8 months this year. That jives with my first and second hand information on many government employees borrowing money from their Thrift Saving Plans (TSP). I know maybe a dozen people who did that just to purchase Survival items, power generators, canned dehydrated foods and Gold - Silver bullion.

A VP at a financial analysis company states "At times of uncertainty, there is a natural human tendency to stay liquid and have money easily accessible."

Certificates of Deposit have declined by $200 Billion in the first six months of this year. Savings accounts have increased by $171 Billion, but we have not seen the difference invested into consumer spending that is tracked by government and public organizations. My bet is that it is going into the untracked markets such as firearms, ammunition, survival and camping gear, and related Survival material such as power supplies, batteries, and solar panels....maybe even land purchases.

To make the economic indicators much worse is the record increase in the U.S. Poverty rate, expect to move to the 15% level when the final report is finished.

This is what the news states: "2009 figures are likely to show a significant rate increase to the range of 14.7 percent to 15 percent. Largest increase on record and highest it has been since pre-1973 levels which spawned massive Government welfare program development and spending."

"Should those estimates hold true, some 45 million people in this country, or more than 1 in 7, were poor last year. It would be the highest single-year increase since the government began calculating poverty figures in 1959. The previous high was in 1980 when the rate jumped 1.3 percentage points to 13 percent during the energy crisis."

This is in keeping with our assertion that a very probably spark of either a gradual collapse or a dynamic collapse will be when the gap between the "haves" and "have nots" (also know as the people below the poverty level) get so big as they government cannot tax us enough nor divert spending enough to provide the basics for the people below the poverty line. This is a recipe for full blown anarchy and violence.

Get ready for it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Urban Survival Planning - Can You Recomend the Two Best Survival Books? received the following question on a Private Message from Facebook: "Hey UrbanMan, I have been exposed to some type of Survival concepts or another for a few years now. I thought most of it was either people just wanting to live on their own or the gun nut type. Since looking at several Survival websites I have begin to think that there is something more mainstream about Survival than not. I have a family (wife, two daughters) and live in a townhouse. I'm in the insurance (underwriting) business, so I have a background in looking at and assessing risks. I'm looking at getting educated more on Survival and about all the possibilities you all are calling a potential collapse. Can you recommend one or two of the best books to read to get an idea of what Survival and Prepping are all about. I don't have much time to read, so maybe two books at the most? Oh, and thanks for your articles on Map Reading and Guns, as I find them very interesting. P.S. Actualy was drove me to start researching this was the movie, "The Road". Do you get many comments on this movie?"

Okay, fellow Urbanman. For the sake of giving some examples and entertaining you as you read through these survival books, I am going to assume that you would want to read some Survival stories based on potential scenarios as opposed to a "how to" type book.

I would have to recommend you read "Patriots", by James Wesley, Rawles,......comma before the last name? don't ask,.....and "One Second After" by William Forstchen.

Patriots is about a group of alike minded individuals and couples who envision a economic collapse and plan for it including a stocked and prepared retreat in Southern Idaho to rally at. Good lessons in this book,..good story,...and, well written.

One Second After is about a EMP attack on this country, which destroys the utilities infrastructure and plunges a small town in North Carolina into the dark ages. The benefit of this book is it is basically a "what not to do" story or otherwise a story about people who are totally unprepared. Good story though.

Read both and see which example best suits you. If you are in the insurance business, you can think of Survival Planning and Preparation, at whatever level, to be a family type insurance policy for uncertain times ahead, which we are surely looking at now.

I have short reviews on both books in my Book Review section of this page (see left hand side) as well as a book carousel at the bottom on this site with both these books as well as others.

Even small amount of Survival planning, Gear and Material acquisition and some knowledge and training would go along way in case something happened along the lines of a economic collapse, EMP attack, civil unrest leading to wide scale violence,...disease pandemic,....and other catastrophic events that would place you and your family in danger. Probably the four primary things you should think about are: Survival Firearms mainly for protection; stocking water; stocking food; and, a plan to go somewhere that is safe - perhaps you have family or friends in rural areas.

P.S. The movie, The Road, is fanciful and best serves to show people where you do not want to be, come the collapse. And don't get me wrong here. I hope that we never see a collapse, but I'm not willing to bet lives on it.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Urban Survival Preparation - Civil Unrest into a Collapse

Civil Unrest into a Collapse,...or perhaps civil unrest as a result of a collapse.........

With the recent civil unrest occurring in Los Angeles after Police shot and killed a Guatemalan immigrant who was threatening them with a knife, we starting thinking about the potential for civil unrest and anarchy resulting from large scale protests and civil unrest over social issues.......and not just from the protests over perceived injustice. We must face the fact that the policies of this Country has bred a dependancy upon Government.

When the Government is no longer able to provide for people,...this change will create large groups of angry people demanding their "share". There will come a point when the government just cannot provide anymore. With the growing gap between the "haves" and the "have nots" and the elimination, or at least great reduction of the Middle Class, we will hit a point where there are a great percent of the population who think they are not getting theirs.

Add possible, nay probable, unrest and anarchist activity from radical ethic groups, such as the stated on-going strategy of militant Hispanics to implement the “Reconquista Plan” where parts of the Southwestern United States revert back to Latino control, or God Forbid - Mexican Governmental control - and we have a caldron of problems brewing. Whether it will cause a collapse or be initiated from another form of collapse remains to be seen.

In fact there is a series of books of post collapse on the Reconquista Movement, called “Domestic Enemies” by Matthew Bracken that is actually pretty good reading and I’ll probably get around to doing a book review on it sometime.

Mob mentality and behavior, spawn more Mob mentality and behavior, not necessarily to the intent where it can threaten large areas of population especially for durations longer than a few days. However, the ability to hunker down, protect yourself and your family and live for a few days to a week or so if you found yourself in an area influenced or controlled by a Mob, could be life sustaining.

Imagine if these riots went on for longer than the 4 days that it did and you found yourself forced to leave a safe and defendable position in order to procure food items. That would be dangerous, especially looking like an Anglo in a Hispanic riot or vice versa.

The lesson learned from this is to add the indicators of a riot or civil unrest into your pending collapse indicator tracking system especially if you live in or near urban areas where the lower income level of the population live as this group of people are more pre-disposed to demonstrate and/or demonstrate violenetly against all levels of government as they actually are or just feel more slighted by authorities than other groups. Concentrations of ethnic minorities are also viable subject groups from which mob’s are raised due to the same reasons.

Now to be clear here, I am offering no judgment on the validity of complaints that generate first civil un-rest, then mobs and the resultant possibility of violence. Every group’s perception is their reality. I am more concerned about the resulting dangers from mob operations than the “why”. You should be too. And then plan the "what" you are doing to do.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Urban Survival Planning - More on the Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) Threat

If you are a Survivalist and/or a reader of this site and other Survivalist sites, you either have heard about, or have read the Survival novels “Lights Out” and “One Second After”. As I have said many times before, these well written novels, as well as the Survivor classic “Patriots” (and others) serve as a Wargaming and lessons learned experience for those of us planning and preparing for The End Of The World As We Know It (TEOTWAKI) or otherwise known as the Coming Collapse. Since we as Americans have not faced a catastrophic event plunging us into a collapse and therefore widespread Survivalist scenario, we draw possibilities, lessons, techniques and ultimately “wargame” what can happen from the stories of these novels.

As with the story lines in ”Lights Out” and “One Second After”, nuclear devices are detonated creating an Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) across wide portions of the United States, collapsing our delicate financial and communications infrastructure which lead to a collapse of utilities and emergency response infrastructure. I hope this article on EMP from STRATFOR enlightens and educates on the EMP threat. Be Prepared.

Gauging the Threat of an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack

Over the past decade there has been an ongoing debate over the threat posed by electromagnetic pulse (EMP) to modern civilization. This debate has been the most heated perhaps in the United States , where the commission appointed by Congress to assess the threat to the United States warned of the dangers posed by EMP in reports released in 2004 and 2008. The commission also called for a national commitment to address the EMP threat by hardening the national infrastructure.

There is little doubt that efforts by the United States to harden infrastructure against EMP — and its ability to manage critical infrastructure manually in the event of an EMP attack — have been eroded in recent decades as the Cold War ended and the threat of nuclear conflict with Russia lessened. This is also true of the U.S. military, which has spent little time contemplating such scenarios in the years since the fall of the Soviet Union . The cost of remedying the situation, especially retrofitting older systems rather than simply regulating that new systems be better hardened, is immense. And as with any issue involving massive amounts of money, the debate over guarding against EMP has become quite politicized in recent years.

We have long avoided writing on this topic for precisely that reason. However, as the debate over the EMP threat has continued, a great deal of discussion about the threat has appeared in the media. Many STRATFOR readers have asked for our take on the threat, and we thought it might be helpful to dispassionately discuss the tactical elements involved in such an attack and the various actors that could conduct one. The following is our assessment of the likelihood of an EMP attack against the United States .

Defining Electromagnetic Pulse

EMP can be generated from natural sources such as lightning or solar storms interacting with the earth’s atmosphere, ionosphere and magnetic field. It can also be artificially created using a nuclear weapon or a variety of non-nuclear devices. It has long been proven that EMP can disable electronics. Its ability to do so has been demonstrated by solar storms, lightning strikes and atmospheric nuclear explosions before the ban on such tests. The effect has also been recreated by EMP simulators designed to reproduce the electromagnetic pulse of a nuclear device and study how the phenomenon impacts various kinds of electrical and electronic devices such as power grids, telecommunications and computer systems, both civilian and military.

The effects of an EMP — both tactical and strategic — have the potential to be quite significant, but they are also quite uncertain. Such widespread effects can be created during a high-altitude nuclear detonation (generally above 30 kilometers, or about 18 miles). This widespread EMP effect is referred to as high-altitude EMP or HEMP. Test data from actual high-altitude nuclear explosions is extremely limited. Only the United States and the Soviet Union conducted atmospheric nuclear tests above 20 kilometers and, combined, they carried out fewer than 20 actual tests.

As late as 1962 — a year before the Partial Test Ban Treaty went into effect, prohibiting its signatories from conducting aboveground test detonations and ending atmospheric tests — scientists were surprised by the HEMP effect. During a July 1962 atmospheric nuclear test called “Starfish Prime,” which took place 400 kilometers above Johnston Island in the Pacific, electrical and electronic systems were damaged in Hawaii , some 1,400 kilometers away. The Starfish Prime test was not designed to study HEMP, and the effect on Hawaii , which was so far from ground zero, startled U.S. scientists.

High-altitude nuclear testing effectively ended before the parameters and effects of HEMP were well understood. The limited body of knowledge that was gained from these tests remains a highly classified matter in both the United States and Russia. Consequently, it is difficult to speak intelligently about EMP or publicly debate the precise nature of its effects in the open-source arena.

The importance of the EMP threat should not be understated. There is no doubt that the impact of a HEMP attack would be significant. But any actor plotting such an attack would be dealing with immense uncertainties — not only about the ideal altitude at which to detonate the device based on its design and yield in order to maximize its effect but also about the nature of those effects and just how devastating they could be.

Non-nuclear devices that create an EMP-like effect, such as high-power microwave (HPM) devices, have been developed by several countries, including the United States . The most capable of these devices are thought to have significant tactical utility and more powerful variants may be able to achieve effects more than a kilometer away. But at the present time, such weapons do not appear to be able to create an EMP effect large enough to affect a city, much less an entire country. Because of this, we will confine our discussion of the EMP threat to HEMP caused by a nuclear detonation, which also happens to be the most prevalent scenario appearing in the media.

Attack Scenarios

In order to have the best chance of causing the type of immediate and certain EMP damage to the United States on a continent-wide scale, as discussed in many media reports, a nuclear weapon (probably in the megaton range) would need to be detonated well above 30 kilometers somewhere over the American Midwest. Modern commercial aircraft cruise at a third of this altitude. Only the United States , United Kingdom , France , Russia and China possess both the mature warhead design and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capability to conduct such an attack from their own territory, and these same countries have possessed that capability for decades. (Shorter range missiles can achieve this altitude, but the center of the United States is still 1,000 kilometers from the Eastern Seaboard and more than 3,000 kilometers from the Western Seaboard — so just any old Scud missile won’t do.)

The HEMP threat is nothing new. It has existed since the early 1960s, when nuclear weapons were first mated with ballistic missiles, and grew to be an important component of nuclear strategy. Despite the necessarily limited understanding of its effects, both the United States and Soviet Union almost certainly included the use of weapons to create HEMPs in both defensive and especially offensive scenarios, and both post-Soviet Russia and China are still thought to include HEMP in some attack scenarios against the United States.

However, there are significant deterrents to the use of nuclear weapons in a HEMP attack against the United States , and nuclear weapons have not been used in an attack anywhere since 1945. Despite some theorizing that a HEMP attack might be somehow less destructive and therefore less likely to provoke a devastating retaliatory response, such an attack against the United States would inherently and necessarily represent a nuclear attack on the U.S. homeland and the idea that the United States would not respond in kind is absurd. The United States continues to maintain the most credible and survivable nuclear deterrent in the world, and any actor contemplating a HEMP attack would have to assume not that they might experience some limited reprisal but that the U.S. reprisal would be full, swift and devastating.

Countries that build nuclear weapons do so at great expense. This is not a minor point. Even today, a successful nuclear weapons program is the product of years — if not a decade or more — and the focused investment of a broad spectrum of national resources. Nuclear weapons also are developed as a deterrent to attack, not with the intention of immediately using them offensively. Once a design has achieved an initial capability, the focus shifts to establishing a survivable deterrent that can withstand first a conventional and then a nuclear first strike so that the nuclear arsenal can serve its primary purpose as a deterrent to attack. The coherency, skill and focus this requires are difficult to overstate and come at immense cost — including opportunity cost — to the developing country. The idea that Washington will interpret the use of a nuclear weapon to create a HEMP as somehow less hostile than the use of a nuclear weapon to physically destroy an American city is not something a country is likely to gamble on.

In other words, for the countries capable of carrying out a HEMP attack, the principles of nuclear deterrence and the threat of a full-scale retaliatory strike continue to hold and govern, just as they did during the most tension-filled days of the Cold War.

Rogue Actors

One scenario that has been widely put forth is that the EMP threat emanates not from a global or regional power like Russia or China but from a rogue state or a transnational terrorist group that does not possess ICBMs but will use subterfuge to accomplish its mission without leaving any fingerprints. In this scenario, the rogue state or terrorist group loads a nuclear warhead and missile launcher aboard a cargo ship or tanker and then launches the missile from just off the coast in order to get the warhead into position over the target for a HEMP strike. This scenario would involve either a short-range ballistic missile to achieve a localized metropolitan strike or a longer-range (but not intercontinental) ballistic missile to reach the necessary position over the Eastern or Western seaboard or the Midwest to achieve a key coastline or continental strike.

When we consider this scenario, we must first acknowledge that it faces the same obstacles as any other nuclear weapon employed in a terrorist attack. It is unlikely that a terrorist group like al Qaeda or Hezbollah can develop its own nuclear weapons program. It is also highly unlikely that a nation that has devoted significant effort and treasure to develop a nuclear weapon would entrust such a weapon to an outside organization. Any use of a nuclear weapon would be vigorously investigated and the nation that produced the weapon would be identified and would pay a heavy price for such an attack (there has been a large investment in the last decade in nuclear forensics). Lastly, as noted above, a nuclear weapon is seen as a deterrent by countries such as North Korea or Iran , which seek such weapons to protect themselves from invasion, not to use them offensively. While a group like al Qaeda would likely use a nuclear device if it could obtain one, we doubt that other groups such as Hezbollah would. Hezbollah has a known base of operations in Lebanon that could be hit in a counterstrike and would therefore be less willing to risk an attack that could be traced back to it.

Also, such a scenario would require not a crude nuclear device but a sophisticated nuclear warhead capable of being mated with a ballistic missile. There are considerable technical barriers that separate a crude nuclear device from a sophisticated nuclear warhead. The engineering expertise required to construct such a warhead is far greater than that required to construct a crude device. A warhead must be far more compact than a primitive device. It must also have a trigger mechanism and electronics and physics packages capable of withstanding the force of an ICBM launch, the journey into the cold vacuum of space and the heat and force of re-entering the atmosphere — and still function as designed. Designing a functional warhead takes considerable advances in several fields of science, including physics, electronics, engineering, metallurgy and explosives technology, and overseeing it all must be a high-end quality assurance capability. Because of this, it is our estimation that it would be far simpler for a terrorist group looking to conduct a nuclear attack to do so using a crude device than it would be using a sophisticated warhead — although we assess the risk of any non-state actor obtaining a nuclear capability of any kind, crude or sophisticated, as extraordinarily unlikely.

But even if a terrorist organization were somehow able to obtain a functional warhead and compatible fissile core, the challenges of mating the warhead to a missile it was not designed for and then getting it to launch and detonate properly would be far more daunting than it would appear at first glance. Additionally, the process of fueling a liquid-fueled ballistic missile at sea and then launching it from a ship using an improvised launcher would also be very challenging. (North Korea, Iran and Pakistan all rely heavily on Scud technology, which uses volatile, corrosive and toxic fuels.)

Such a scenario is challenging enough, even before the uncertainty of achieving the desired HEMP effect is taken into account. This is just the kind of complexity and uncertainty that well-trained terrorist operatives seek to avoid in an operation. Besides, a ground-level nuclear detonation in a city such as New York or Washington would be more likely to cause the type of terror, death and physical destruction that is sought in a terrorist attack than could be achieved by generally non-lethal EMP.

Make no mistake: EMP is real. Modern civilization depends heavily on electronics and the electrical grid for a wide range of vital functions, and this is truer in the United States than in most other countries. Because of this, a HEMP attack or a substantial geomagnetic storm could have a dramatic impact on modern life in the affected area. However, as we’ve discussed, the EMP threat has been around for more than half a century and there are a number of technical and practical variables that make a HEMP attack using a nuclear warhead highly unlikely.

When considering the EMP threat, it is important to recognize that it exists amid a myriad other threats, including related threats such as nuclear warfare and targeted, small-scale HPM attacks. They also include threats posed by conventional warfare and conventional weapons such as man-portable air-defense systems, terrorism, cyberwarfare attacks against critical infrastructure, chemical and biological attacks — even natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and tsunamis.

The world is a dangerous place, full of potential threats. Some things are more likely to occur than others, and there is only a limited amount of funding to monitor, harden against, and try to prevent, prepare for and manage them all. When one attempts to defend against everything, the practical result is that one defends against nothing. Clear-sighted, well-grounded and rational prioritization of threats is essential to the effective defense of the homeland.

Hardening national infrastructure against EMP and HPM is undoubtedly important, and there are very real weaknesses and critical vulnerabilities in America ’s critical infrastructure — not to mention civil society. But each dollar spent on these efforts must be balanced against a dollar not spent on, for example, port security, which we believe is a far more likely and far more consequential vector for nuclear attack by a rogue state or non-state actor.

This report is republished with permission of STRATFOR.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Urban Survival Firearms - Survival Firearms Battery Comments received a question on handguns and rifles to outfit a Urban Survival Group. “I have been preparing to survive a collapse for a few years now. Been buying dehydrated and other food, stocking rice, beans, pasta and such. I have a location that my family and I can bug out to with I am forced to leave my house. This location has year round water and a liveable house about 6 miles away from the nearest State or County road. My question is on guns suitable for Survival. I have several 12 gauge hunting shotguns, a .30-06 bolt action rifle, a .243 bolt action rifle, an M1 Garand, a .22 LR semi-automatic handgun and a .44 magnum revolver of all things. My son can handle all these guns, but everything except the .22 LR handgun are too much for my wife and two younger daughters. I am thinking about buying some additional .22 LR handguns so at least the girls can be armed. What do you think?”

UrbanMan replies: I think you got the right idea on being able to arm everyone. You never know when your family (Survival Group) can be separated. However, being armed with only a .22 LR handgun is just a step above a pitchfork, unless the user is very skilled and has plenty of ammunition, then a .22 LR pistol is just above a Samurai Sword. Okay, come on, a little humor appreciation is requested here.

Handguns are defensive weapons and marginal for protection,……being the choice when a rifle or shotgun is unavailable. You didn’t mention the ages of your daughters, but I’ll just bet if they are old enough to consider arming with a .22 LR handgun, then they are old enough to be trained to handle and shoot something in a better caliber. Handgun caliber carbines would be very easy to handle in 9x19mm or .40 S&W. Although I would have a hard time carrying a long gun in a pistol caliber when carbine and rifle calibers are available in the same size. I would consider a rifle/carbine in .223 Remington such as an AR platform (AR-15, M-4 variant or Ruger Mini-14),….even an M-1 carbine would be a step up.

I know a man in Northern Arizona , who Survival Firearms Battery consists of Mini-14’s for him and his son, and M-1 carbine for his wife and one teen-age daughter, plus 9x19mm handguns for all and a couple 12 gauge shotguns. This guy is well north of the Interstate Highway and very rarely sees undocumented (illegal) aliens.

If AR’s, Mini-14’s or M-1 carbines don’t work for you, because of cost or whatever, and you want to stick to the .22 LR caliber, then I consider arming my females with both handguns and rifles.

You may be able to borrow several different types of guns for your girls to shoot,..lever actions; magazine fed center fire pistol caliber carbines; .38 Special /.357 Magnum revolvers, and others. The females have go to be able to operate the gun and be comfortable with it, so this try before you buy concept have pay off for you.

Good luck to you. With your current Survival Firearms Battery you are off to a good start and better armed than a lot of people. I think you are on the right track wanting to arm everyone in your small family (Survival Group), just consider the reliability for the guns you choose both in function and capability to stop a bad guy; consider training a very necessary step for all your family members.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Urban Survival Firearms - Lever Guns better than AR's? received this comment from Outlander777....."I agree with most of all said here except I would point novice weapons owners to another system then an AR. It is not the end all system and does require more then a basis knowledge to opperate at max performance levels. Lever actions like the BLR 81 have magazines, Marlin lever actions carry 8 to 10 rounds. It is important not to go out as an aggressor force. Avoid all fights as much as possible, there wont be a lot of medical to be had in the TEOTWAWKI world."

UrbanMan replies: I agree with the concept of novices having simple firearms to operate. Any firearms needs, of course, to be reliable as well. However, I think I would train a novice to operate an M-4 variant as easily as I could a lever gun. I used both all my life and carried guns for a living the past 33 years. I would love to be able to carry a big bore lever gun - just like the style - but in a collapse the advantages of weapons that do not have to be re-loaded so often, and has less felt recoil is a good thing. Box magazines lever guns are an easier gun to reload than the traditional side loading, tubular magazine lever guns, and if I relied on a magazine fed, lever gun, I would have a dozen or more spare magazines for it.

The Mini-14 is a really good little .223, just with a bad rap due to it's mediocre sights. Replace the sights and you have a very reliable magazine fed gun, easily to learn and shoot. The M-1 carbine is the same albeit with a much more anemic round at a 110 grain round nose metal case bullet going a nominal 1,800 feet per second. Although I have one of those also. It's a back up gun and intended to be issued to any new people in my survival group that are firearms novices or otherwise incapable of handling larger firearms.

I agree with the concept of not being an aggressor until you have to be. Sometimes it would be necessary to take a fight to someone or some group as opposed to having the fight at your home or Survival site. In any event, have the fight on your terms and those terms should be favorable to you, whether you are fighting from prepared defensive positions at your home or Survival Site, or initiating an ambush on a mob obviously heading towards your home and therefore your family.

I also agree that the probability of no medical care in a TEOTWAWKI world, hence ever scrap, scratch and cut gets maximum treatment. I have seen small mesquite needle puncturesgo without treatment and create bad infections in hands and arms.

Outlander 777 thanks for the input and back and sound like you know your guns - the BLR 81 is an excellent rifle. Be safe.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Urban Survival Planning - Primer on Pandemics

Given the unpredictable behavior of influenza viruses and other diseases, neither the timing nor the severity of the next pandemic can be predicted with any certainty. In detecting a new pandemic virus, continuous global surveillance of influenza and diseases are key to the early detection of a virus with pandemic potential and the protection protocols Urban Survivalists will need to take.

There is a network of more than 120 National Influenza Centres in over 90 countries that monitor disease and influenza activity and isolate viruses in every region of the world. National Influenza and Communicable Disease Control Centers report the detection of an “unusual” viruses immediately to the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Influenza and Disease Control Programs and one of the five WHO Collaborating Centers. Rapid detection of unusual virus outbreaks, isolation of viruses with pandemic potential and immediate alert to WHO by national authorities is critical to a timely and efficient response.

After the scares of the H1NI and H5N1 virus this past year, which turned out to be much ado about nothing, many people think the threat is minimal. This does not mean we can dismiss this threat. We have just not seen the radically mutated viruses that we have seen in the past century. But we have also seen over and over the in-ability of the Government to respond quickly and effectively. And given the Government's vast resources and communications capability you would think it would be better. This just means that we have to responsible for our own protection. And that begins with information.

We need to be able to identify the threats and keep visibility on the spread of the viruses, symptoms and recommended Rx treatment plans, and to collate that information into your Survival Plan, be it a Bug Out Plan and/or protocols for contact with other people outside of our Survival Group. Remember, that operations planned in an information/intelligence vaccuum have a much lower chance of success.

Urban Survialists must also have the ability to protect themselves from potential pandemic threats, using sepearation from potential threats; disinfecting, sterilization, treatment and even quarantining protocols. With the community and national medical response capability tanking after a sudden collapse, disease will be rampant. Escalated by the probable mobility of large groups of people seeking safety, food and water,...the chances of an Urban Survival Group encountering infected people will be great.

As the Pandemic situation unfolds either as a catalyst for a collapse or certainly becoming a fact after a sudden economic collapse and resulting anarchy, the Suvivalist needs to understand the Medical and Health doctrine for Pandemics in order to parlay that information into the courses of action for otheir Survival Plans. When you are watching or listing to Public Service announcements via the TV or radio, or getting your information via the shortwave, be aware of the Pandemic Phases descriptions:

Phase 1 no viruses circulating among animals have been reported to cause infections in humans.

In Phase 2 an animal influenza virus circulating among domesticated or wild animals is known to have caused infection in humans, and is therefore considered a potential pandemic threat.

In Phase 3, an animal or human-animal influenza reassortant virus has caused sporadic cases or small clusters of disease in people, but has not resulted in human-to-human transmission sufficient to sustain community level outbreaks. Limited human-to-human transmission may occur under some circumstances, for example, when there is close contact between an infected person and an unprotected caregiver. However, limited transmission under such restricted circumstances does not indicate that
the virus has gained the level of transmissibility among humans necessary to cause a pandemic.

Phase 4 is characterized by verified human-to-human transmission of an animal or human-animal influenza reassortant virus able to cause “community-level outbreaks.” The ability to cause sustained disease outbreaks in a community marks a significant upwards shift in the risk for a pandemic. Any country that suspects or has verified such an event should urgently consult with WHO so that the situation can be jointly assessed and a decision made by the affected country if implementation of a rapid pandemic containment operation is warranted. Phase 4 indicates a significant increase in risk of a pandemic but does not necessarily mean that a pandemic is a forgone conclusion.

Phase 5 is characterized by human-to-human spread of the virus into at least two countries in one WHO region. While most countries will not be affected at this stage, the declaration of Phase 5 is a strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalize the organization,
communication, and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short.

Phase 6, the pandemic phase, is characterized by community level outbreaks in at least one other country in a different WHO region in addition to the criteria defined in Phase 5. Designation of this phase will indicate that a global pandemic is under way. During the post-peak period, pandemic disease levels in most countries with adequate surveillance will have dropped below peak observed levels. The post-peak period signifies that pandemic activity appears to be decreasing; however, it is uncertain if additional waves will occur and countries will need to be prepared for a second wave.

Previous pandemics have been characterized by waves of activity spread over months. Once the level of disease activity drops, a critical communications task will be to balance this information with the
possibility of another wave. Pandemic waves can be separated by months and an immediate “at-ease” signal may be premature.

In the post-pandemic period, influenza disease activity will have returned to levels normally seen for seasonal influenza. It is expected that the pandemic virus will behave as a seasonal influenza A virus. At this stage, it is important to maintain surveillance and update pandemic preparedness and response plans accordingly. An intensive phase of recovery and evaluation may be required.