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A Green Beret’s Guide To Low-Budget-Home-Defense Techniques 102: “Defensive Positions”

This is reprinted with permission.

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Jeremiah Johnson is a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces (Airborne) and a graduate of the U.S. Army’s SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape).

This article is a continuation of the home defense series from Jeremiah Johnson. You can read part 1 of this series here: A Green Beret’s Guide To Low-Budget Home-Defense Techniques 101: “Early-Warning Systems”

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We’re going to jump right into Part II of the “Low Budget Home Defense Techniques.”  You guys have submitted numerous comments regarding your individual needs for defensive positions that I intend to address in this article, as well as subsequent pieces.  Please be patient, as the requests were too numerous to address them all in this article, nor could an answer to every comment be provided.  I’ll do my best to cover as much ground as possible.

I’m going to start with a few things I did in a MOUT/urban setting, as it seems a great deal of you guys are still in cities or large suburban metropolitan areas.  FreeSlave, this part’s for you.  If the construction of your house is not very sturdy, you can still fortify it both inside and out.  The use of sandbags inside and outside of the walls to window height and about 1 foot higher than where you’re sleeping might be considered.  You can cover over the exterior bags with some type of tarp that matches your house color to conceal them.

In addition, I’m enclosing a diagram of steel racks with shelves that hold up to 350’ per shelf.  We picked up a boatload of them at Target; generally, the 18” x 48” x 72” will run about $40.  You can place 2 layers/rows of logs with a layer of sandbags/timber in between them.  You’ll have to gauge it by what you can get away with in your neighborhood.  If you can stack wood for a woodpile without hassles, it is a good way to go, as it is self-camouflaged with the true purpose hidden.

Click Here To View Full Size Diagram

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Here’s some info. from FM 5-34, Engineer Field Data (Army), under Table 4 -1 “Material Thickness (cm/in) required to protect against direct and indirect fire,” here:

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Talon 1776, this part is for you.  For those who didn’t read, Talon brought up some excellent points about static fighting positions being deathtraps.  I wholeheartedly concur.  Your fortified position (as I stated earlier) is not impregnable and can be defeated.  Look at the Maginot Line at the advent of WWII and Von Schlieffen merely bypassed it.  Your castle needs to have a way for the king and his family to escape.  These defensive measures have their limits.  Also, an urban environment is completely different.  Before we bought our cabin, my wife and I lived in one of the most densely populated areas on the East Coast, and we lived in an apartment building.

I gave the maintenance man $100 for him to dupe a utility room key for me and (with his permission) I turned it into a bomb shelter.  When we moved to Montana, I broke it down and returned the room to him exactly as I had found it.  File this one away: sometimes the best way to stay hidden is to hide in plain sight, right under their noses.  You’re going to have to feel your way around on this one: a little PR and a lot of OPSEC.  Where can you flee for an RP (rally point) if you have to leave the area?  Do you have a plan of action that takes into account numerous variables and scenarios (EMP, Bios, full-scale economic collapse, etc)?  Do you have gear pre-positioned to load up in the vehicles and rock and roll?

No matter where you live, urban or rural, invest in a good New York lock to brace your front door: it buys you time at the bare minimum.  What are the weapons laws in your state?  You’ll have to weigh the variables (risk vs. reward).  I mention this with John Allen in mind: whether it’s our totalitarian government, mad-max marauders, or neighborhood homey-the-clown gangster wanna-be’s, I intend to fight.  My objective is center mass to the head.  Also, not everyone is able to go running all over the place carrying a 100-lb ruck.  Tailor your equipment and pace yourself accordingly, taking your physical limitations into account.

Camouflage everything.  Sun-Tzu: “All warfare is based on deception.”  Don’t make it look as if you’re ready to roll out with a ton of supplies.  Make blackout curtains for your home; worst case scenario, use thick (6 mil or more) black plastic and affix it to the drywall with thumbtacks, keeping only candles lit in the house.

Whatever NVG’s or laser sights you have, you need to double them.  Stick one on your weapon/keep it handy, and throw the other into a Faraday cage.  If it’s a non-EMP event, you’re ready to rock.  If an EMP cooks it, you have a backup that you can pull out of the cage when the pulse is minimized and the danger has passed.  Low tech is high tech compared to no tech.  Stick with the self-winding watches, the Lensatic tritium compasses: they’ll pay off later.  Don’t be so high-tech that you’re dependent on it and that EMP event bites you on “your fourth point-of-contact.”

Strategically place all of your gear and practice finding it in the dark.  This is critical!  You want to be able to set in all of your defenses in the dark with no light!  Returning to our rural setting, it is important to have several hasty fighting positions where you can roam with a Motorola while your family is inside manning their assigned positions.  A one to two-person roving patrol is worth a lot to keep marauders from coming close to the house.

A word on woodpiles:  don’t let them rise to over 3 ½ feet in height, and always keep them perpendicular to you and back from the house, so even if they low crawl you’ll always have then in enfilade (a line of ducks for you to harvest).  Somebody mentioned caltrops in one of the comments.  Absolutely.  Nails, stakes, wire…whatever it takes.  Use your imagination.  Genius mentioned pepper spray grenades.  Another hors d’oeuvre to use with that and for pennies on the dollar is a can of 22’-range-Raid hornet and wasp spray.  Friends of mine here in Montana have used it on Grizzly and Black bears in place of bear spray, which is quite pricey.

Sector stakes: don’t leave home without ‘em…in place, that is.  Remember I mentioned how you need to walk your property and map out all of your crucial distances?  Now I exhort you to do two things:  1.  Create a sector sketch, and 2. Emplace sector stakes.  The sector sketch is merely a drawing that is composed of all your property’s terrain features and man-made structures with directions and distances noted down.  Roads and access points are taken into account.  Always have an arrow marking the direction of North on it.  Note key neighboring facilities and structures and potential problems/future structures you’ll need to clear (ex: Homey-the-clown’s crib/crack house on the corner of your block).  The sector stakes are vertical rods/sticks/whatever works that govern the left and right limits within a weapon’s assigned sector of fire.

Also complementing the sector stakes are aiming stakes; these line your weapon up with a predetermined target/known point during limited visibility.  Sector stakes should be sturdy, well affixed, and long enough to keep the weapon inside of the sector when you move it side to side (traverse your position).  You should have an overall sector sketch to detail the entire property, but each fighting position also needs its own sector sketch with another copy retained by you in a safe place. When TSHTF and Cousin Richard is visiting the house, he needs to know where to point the Flintlock rifle; the sector sketch will help ensure your instructions to him are clear.

Sector and aiming stakes take the guesswork out of where you’re traversing and searching with your weapon.  It’ll take some practice if you use a bipod on your rifle (which I recommend as a must-have), but with fog or nightfall, they’re lifesavers.  The sector sketch is equally important.  Cousin Richard just bought the farm, and here comes Cousin Ruth to take his place.  The sector sketch for the position needs to be clearly marked and decipherable at a glance.  A good idea would also be to laminate all of them; then you can use a grease pencil or a dry erase marker to add non-permanent notes when needed.  For further reading, refer to the 11-B/C/H/M Soldier’s Manual and Trainer’s Guide (the orange one with “Bulldozer” from Sgt. Rock’s Easy Company on the cover), STP 7-11BCHM14-SM-TG, Sept. 1988 Ed.

Sandbag each Hasty Fighting Position (HFP) and/or each permanent position.  Two rows, waist high (minimum) as long as the tallest member of your household + 1 sandbag length.  If you’re on the second floor or higher, don’t forget to sandbag two layers on the floor under you (for rounds coming through the floor).  Make sure you’re set back (muzzle not protruding) from your window/firing port positions.  Also, watch your silhouetting!  If you can do it, fire around the sides of walls, sandbagged positions, vehicles, etc., not over them!  Success depends in MOUT (Military Operations on Urban Terrain) on picking targets and accurately engaging them while not exposing yourself to prolonged return fire.  Remember: if you can see him, he could see you!

Another good reference for these defenses is STP 21-1-SMCT Soldier’s Manual of Common Tasks, sections on emplacing crew-served weapons and Individual Movement Techniques (IMT’s) in an urban environment.  We will cover them in greater detail in the offensive operations articles that are forthcoming.

Let’s discuss a few things regarding firearms.  You should form pairs to partner, and your main rifle and pistol should be the same: then magazines and ammo are interchangeable.  Also, rotate your mags and keep them in even numbers (half empty and half full); change the ammo out to mags that have “rested,” in order to keep the spring tension at its strongest.  Reset your magazines every month to month and a half to rest those springs.  You should also have a weapon in every room of the house.  Have specialty mags ready and loaded, either with AP or +P (I love Buffalo Bore) rounds.  Don’t forget your tracers, and they need to be accessible and readily identifiable as such.

Specialty weapons: have ‘em ready to use, accessible, clean, and serviceable.

You want to walk your property very carefully and plan how you will force choke points and exposure points on someone approaching.  Deadfalls and Malayan man-catchers are extremely effective for stopping forward movement and pinning Tiny Tim akin to an insect until you deliver the Raid.  You’ll have to plan according to the concealment and camouflage available to you to safeguard your devices, as well as “Meddling Madge,” the neighbor, and her husband, “Benedict Arnold.”

All of these potential informants, government lackeys, and establishment puppets such as “the Arnolds” need to be taken into consideration.  The best time to prep your defenses in an urban or suburban environment is nighttime or in the wee hours of the morning.  Don’t allow them to see anything for any reason.  Don’t let them see your supplies.  Don’t allow them to see even your garbage: practice opsec and shred and/or burn anything with your name or relevant information on it.

Practice and train with your family: talk-through, walk-through, and follow-through with all of your plans.  As I mentioned in the first article, repetition promotes good follow-through and will help you develop and bond as a team.  We’re going to be covering a lot of offensive procedures and operations in upcoming articles.  For now the best starting point for you is to accurately assess your strong and weak points (regarding your property, home, and family’s ability to defend it).

One final word: USE THIS SITE (www.SHTFplan.com)!  There is a ton of experience and knowledge waiting in the comments sections for you to tap into.  If you submit a question, someone is eventually going to see it and give you an answer.  I’m also going to try to carry that football; I plan on giving a full three to four hours, one day per week to respond to comments.  Good intel is where you find it, and what you make of it.  Additionally, we can mutually support one another in all of our endeavors and cut down on time spent for problem solving and research.  Hope you find some good uses for this information.  Have a great day.


Jeremiah Johnson is the Nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces (Airborne).  Mr. Johnson is also a Gunsmith, a Certified Master Herbalist, a Montana Master Food Preserver, and a graduate of the U.S. Army’s SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape).  He lives in a cabin in the mountains of Western Montana with his wife and three cats. You can follow Jeremiah’s regular writings at SHTFplan.com.

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