(Coninued from Part 1. This part concludes the article.)
Defensive Equipment – Each capable team member should have an AR, AK, or similar rifle — plus a handgun. It is useful to have at least one shotgun for close in firepower and an accurate, scoped bolt action rifle if you have longer range potential threats. While handguns and shotguns are useful in or immediately around the house, perimeter defense will depend on your rifle skills. Assuming you are capable of safe, accurate and reasonably fast target engagement with your rifles, then here are a few additional considerations:
- Sights – While it is essential to be proficient with iron sights, you should take advantage of better options for speed and accuracy at longer range. Inside of 50 yards, red dots are much quicker to acquire. Beyond 50 yards, scopes come into their own. If you have the potential for longer range defense, especially beyond 100 yards, the new breed of 1-4x, 1-6x, and 1-8x power scopes give you the option for fast engagement up close when set on 1x and the ability to find a small or hidden target at longer range when set to the higher power. At 1x they are relatively fast but not as fast as a red dot due to the need for proper head position behind the scope tube. Several of these scopes also provide a red dot as part of the reticle – giving you another way to quickly index on target. If you use a variable power scope, be sure to keep it on the lowest power setting. This gives you the widest field of view if needed up close. You should have time to dial up magnification if the threat is further away or partially hidden.
- Lasers – Another option is a visible laser on your firearm. These work well in low light conditions where it’s harder to see your sights and the laser isn’t washed out by bright sunlight. They work out to 25+ yards but are best within 10 yards – making them most effective on handguns. At longer ranges they are relatively dim and you spend too much time trying to find the beam and get it on target. Infrared (IR) lasers, on the other hand, are extremely effective when coupled with Night Vision Devices (NVD or NVG for Night Vision Goggles). Although invisible to the naked eye, they are highly visible with NVD and extremely effective to 100 yards – further depending on power level and the quality of your NVD.
- Lights – Flashlights are essential for home defense since you must be able to see and identify a potential target before engaging. Handheld flashlights are best for navigating and searching. Weapon mounted lights are best for targeting with the caveat that the muzzle is sweeping anything you light up. A weapon mounted light is useful on a perimeter defense rifle but will not be your primary observation tool since (1) regardless of how powerful the light, it will eventually lose effectiveness at longer range and (2) if you are counting on surprise while defending the perimeter, the white light will be a beacon for incoming fire. IR lights, on the other hand, are a great addition if you are using NVD. They extend the range at which NVD can find and identify threats.
Night Vision Gear
Much of the foregoing discussed how to augment your firearms at night. This is an essential topic since the majority of ‘normal’ criminal activity occurs at night and, after SHTF, it is likely that aggressors would use night to get closer to your home without being observed. In these circumstances, the ability to see and engage at night gives you a huge advantage. Both night vision and thermal systems provide this capability but with a high price tag. Most devices are priced above $1,000 with the best going for $3,000 and up. If this sounds painful, think about how much you have invested in weapons and ammo. It’s less glamorous but a lot more practical to add night capability than to buy more custom handguns, precision rifles, and other accessories.
Night Vision Devices (NVDs) provide amplification of existing light from the moon, stars or surrounding community. It has the advantage of being passive – you aren’t emitting visible light – and provides good resolution for moving around and identifying threats. It can be weapon mounted in front of a scope or behind a red dot but this makes it awkward to scan for threats unless you are in a stationary position. The best use is mounted on a helmet in front of your non-dominant eye. This allows you to scan and move while still having your dominant eye available if you need to use conventional sights in well-lit areas.
When helmet mounted, the NVD is coupled with a weapon mounted IR laser for targeting. This is where lasers provide their most dramatic advantage. You mount the rifle a bit lower than usual (chin versus cheek weld), put the laser on the target and shoot. The laser must be sighted in before use and will have an offset from your daylight sight depending on its location. You also need to remember that the laser will be visible to an adversary using NVD. This same caveat applies to the use of an IR illuminator with NVD. The illuminator allows you to see much further and more clearly through the NVD but is visible to other NVDs. NOTE: This is another reason for NVDs – you can detect an attacker using IR devices and it prevents you from being at a huge disadvantage if the attacker has NVD and you don’t.
A drawback to night vision is that it only allows you to see as well as you would without it in twilight conditions. If a threat hides behind vegetation for concealment and you would not see them in the daylight – then you won’t see them with a light amplification NVD. This is where thermal systems have a huge advantage. Thermal sights detect the heat coming from anything they look at. They can be used for navigating your property as long as there has been enough sunlight to warm the terrain and provide differences in temperature. They are least effective for navigation after a cold, cloudy, foggy day when everything is at nearly the same temperature. Living things and vehicles, on the other hand, are dramatically hotter than the surroundings and stand out like a neon sign, regardless of weather. You can literally see through light vegetation if there are any openings. This is also true during daylight hours. While light amplification NVDs cannot be used during the day, thermal devices can see a heat signature regardless of visible light levels. This allows you to scan your perimeter during the day to see hidden threats.
Thermal devices can be used as a handheld monocular for searching or [in some cases] weapon-mounted for targeting. They excel at finding targets and engaging them but do not offer as good resolution for identification as NVD. They are favored for hunting hogs and coyotes at night and there are a bunch of good videos on YouTube to compare their capabilities to NVDs. Thermals also have the advantage of being totally passive – there is no need for an IR laser or IR light. Their downsides are generally higher cost than NVD and they will not work when looking through glass.
Regardless of what you choose regarding electronic devices (lights, lasers, NVD, thermals) you need to practice with them to gain proficiency. You will also need a good supply of batteries. Ideally you will also have rechargeable batteries with a small solar panel. If possible, own spare devices in case of failure or to share with all those friends coming over to help. As the saying goes, “two is one and one is none”.
Another source of leverage is the use of suppressors on weapons. These not only reduce the sound signature but also effectively eliminate muzzle flash. These provide great leverage at night. There are documented cases of night engagements in the Middle East where a single friendly sniper positioned away from a group of US soldiers was able to stop and repel a much larger enemy force. Aggressors were hit without being able to see or hear where the shots were coming from. Although they could hear the sonic boom of a passing bullet, they could not identify the direction without hearing the muzzle blast or seeing the muzzle flash. Suppressors are restricted by Federal law and require an application with fingerprints, photo, and paying a $200 transfer tax. You can expect a 6 to 8 month wait, for approval. On the other hand, they have become very mainstream and there is an excellent selection of models at relatively reasonable prices (several hundred dollars).
Assuming that you’ve taken the precautions, you will have advance warning of approaching threats, devices to make you more effective at engaging those threats and friends to mount a defense. The problem is how to coordinate those resources. I highly recommend reading up on tactics. One excellent reference is the book Tactical Manual – Small Unit Tactics by Max Velocity (available at Amazon.com). Beyond this, you will need professional training to perfect your skills.
A few basic principles are:
- You want to surprise (ambush) and stop the threat away from your house while in a position of cover.
- Know your property – look for probable avenues of attack. Driveways, paths and other open areas are likely to be used by poorly trained groups. If an attacker is more careful, they will look for an approach which is out of site from the primary structure – in a gully, behind a wall or outbuildings, inside the tree line, etc.
- Identify defensive positions where you have the best line of sight to these approaches along with cover for your position.
- Once you engage, an attacker with any training will attempt to pin you down with suppressive fire and maneuver others in for the kill.
- Apply the infantry mantra of “shoot, move and communicate”. You must be able to maneuver if you encounter a group and your position is compromised. Have an escape route using terrain or structures to hide your movement. Have several fallback defensive positions depending on the direction of counter-attack.
- A buddy pair is far more powerful than a lone defender. This allows for coordinated movement where one provides covering fire while the other reloads or moves. This is a skill that needs to be learned from a professional since you will be shooting around and past each other while maneuvering.
- When you move, another mantra is “I’m up, he sees me, I’m down”. You have about 3 seconds to move before being targeted. You always look for your next position of cover before moving.
- You should know the ranges where you expect to engage and, with multiple shooting positions, the fields of fire for each shooter. This will include arcs that cannot be used due to friendly forces or structures.
- Be aware that an attack may be a feint to test your response or a diversion to have you commit resources in the wrong direction. This is another reason to have multiple resources outside if possible and have reinforcements available on short notice.
- Regardless of your situation – have a plan!
This discussion of perimeter defense can only provide a brief overview of important topics. Be sure to do your research on what trained professionals recommend. Think through how you would approach defending your property. If you consider nothing else – think about the limitations of defending from within the house and take stock of how you can extend your perimeter to stop attackers at a distance. Develop a plan that works for your circumstance to augment your physical barriers, surveillance, communications, defensive firearms and tactics. Get training and practice with critical devices. All these efforts take time and money to implement – get started now and build up capability based on the time and resources you can commit.