Yesterday, I began writing by telling the summary up front. I said we recommend against adopting the beautiful, survival standard of .308/7.62x51mm caliber semi-automatic rifles. Instead, I stated, “The least expensive and best upgrade to any existing AR-15 fire team for high altitude blended threats is to purchase standardized barrels and stock up on single-use, heavier bullets.” I also shared about our survival group’s location decisions. So, who am I to make these statements and recommendations?
Author’s Relevant Background
I climbed my first 14,000+ foot peak at the age of 12 in a summer camp located smack dab in the middle of the Colorado Rockies. I am a father who looks out (logistically, physically, and spiritually) for six children within a blended family. My age is between forty and fifty years old and I’m in moderately good shape. Twelve to sixteen mile hikes with lightweight packs are something I still do. Backpacking is something I’m introducing to the children gradually.
I have over 35 years of outdoor experience and between five and ten years of military service with multiple combat deployments. I’ve consulted with law enforcement at various levels for the past twenty years and grew up at high altitude as well as living at sea level. Formal training includes multiple military environmental survival schools and Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE) training as well as SERE staff time. I am not a Marine Corps or Army Infantry veteran, but I am a combat decorated armed forces non-commissioned officer (NCO) veteran with an additional five years of experience licensed in civilian law enforcement/investigations, performed within remote and urban regions of the Rocky Mountain Southwest.
Our group consists of aggressive hardcore military veterans living part time in a remote community with upwards of 35% households who are also veteran. We’ve been integrating for years. Due to key terrain, this is a hard place for someone to try and muscle into if we all pull together. Even if it were only up to an intelligence element, command element and two fire teams, our wee group could wreak a serious amount of damage and delay any marauding opposing force up to and including main battle tanks (using Concertina wire combined with secondary attacks, ask any Tread-head) and close off enough routes so that dismounted activity was all that was possible.
Physical Factors/Scenario Conditions
I do not recommend trying any of these without a doctor’s approval for your entire team. Don’t believe them; get a note from their doctor telling you it’s okay or bench them. Anyone could have a heart attack or altitude sickness at any time, and you do not want to be remote when this occurs. (Remote = where most of us will be doing our training.) We’ve had two fatalities from preventable issues. We take health very seriously.
Getting To The Neighborhood Fight
For a neighborhood protection team (NPT) scenario, you would have to get to the fight. How do you do train for this? Most folks would say you’d go in by car, but “just down the street” in a mountain community often means across hill and dale rather than arriving in a marauder’s kill zone on an open road.
Battle effectiveness means you must hustle to get there and start shooting, accurately, at various engagement distances, mostly point-blank (like within 300 yards). You’ll have to move to get there, then shoot, move and communicate as a Fire Team. This process is only as fast as its weakest link in the chain. If you have out of shape folks, they will bog down your maneuver and get people killed. That’s just a fact. Ask any jarhead 0311 or infantry 11B.
“But we’re all working day jobs and simply don’t have the time to acclimate and do physical training for extended periods at high altitude…” (I’ve heard it all before.)
Sources of Security-Related Physical Exertion Post-SHTF
Security-related physical exertion post-SHTF within a mountain retreat like ours will come from carrying a sustainment loadout on foot, cross-country skis, snowshoes, or mountain bikes, depending on the existential security threat (SHTF) and the opposing force (OPFOR) capabilities. Secondary transportation would be horseback or vehicle options. Terrain would be off-trail as well as Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT), which is virtually anywhere there are more than three or four houses within rifle shot of each other. Worst case is you hustle everywhere at high altitude in rain, sleet, snow, darkness of night, and mud, mud, mud with people trying to kill you, your friends, or your family.
Someone asked me recently which holster I used during my investigative time. I told them that it really didn’t matter because I had my gun out every single time I needed to before the bad actor could react. Choose your battles and survive. By far the best fight to pick is the one that has a longer-range engagement with your enemy. So the most probable course of action (COA) is one that has regular intelligence updates and one in which you pick the fight that comes to you.
Sometimes that doesn’t work out, so you train for plan B, or plan C or D. Things like breaking contact effectively under a full combat load happen, perhaps to rally at high ground where you’ve prepositioned an ammo and sustainment cache.
Here’s another scenario we thought of. Instead of responding as QRF to a firefight within a mile of your homestead by driving two to three miles of road to get there, a two-kilometer hustle on foot across a 800 foot elevation increase in armor and battle belt is probably going to be more practical, at least in our area of operations (AO). Think biathlon– ski and rifle Olympic sport, maybe on mountain bikes instead of cross-country skis, with a worst-case scramble up wet clay and rock slopes to get into fighting position. Besides, it’s from a direction that the OPFOR who engaged with your neighbor’s homestead will probably be watching a lot less than the roadway.
You just have to get there in time to make it count and with enough savagery to gut them like fish. Remember “Zombieland” Rule One: Cardio
Simulated Combat Training of MOUT At Altitude
One could simulate the combat effectiveness training of MOUT at altitude by building a three-gun range at 6,000 feet and another range at 8000 feet and then working through multiple trials after a mile and a half run/walk in full gear. MOUT effectiveness is limited to weapon employment in small or tight spaces. This mission is only for folks who like to patch holes in themselves or if you had to rescue your loved ones and had no other choices available.
Engagement Criteria For Civilians With A Day Job
Another engagement criteria would be set at something attainable for civilians or operators with a day job. This would typically be “break contact” drills done at altitude, built around a failed “hasty ambush” scenario or at the end of a ten to twelve-mile patrol at 8,000–9,000 feet. Imagine hustling away from an engagement but having some place you knew about and a resupply cache close at hand. That’s the “home field advantage”.
Therefore, our assumptions must add this caveat: Because of our philosophy and our integration into our chosen mountain community, we’re the sheepdogs who can detect, localize, identify, track, and attack outside marauders. In order to be effective, we must be light, fast, and unified in our elements. Otherwise, the wrong people will die. We are the citizens who must hold the line. We must not fail and let our community’s children be killed or enslaved.
Not Teenaged Marines But Retirees and Wives
This greatly concerns us because we are not teenaged Marines; we are military retirees or gimpy Veterans. We are wives, and we are retired or active law enforcement. Other teams may or may not decide to outfit appropriately given all the training and risks MOUT requires. We have Marines and other CQB upgraded government trained types across multiple services within our group. Our plan are also for more engagements within 400 yards, rather than distant engagements beyond 600 yards, which is how 6.8 SPC and upgraded 5.56mm came out on top rather than other cartridges we’d previously implemented, such as 300 Blackout.
Loadouts for Alpine, Sub-alpine & High Desert SHTF Operations
Here are my long-term study results. The optimum solutions I’ve found are in order of implementation ease/lowest cost of upgrade.
Upgrade and Standardize Existing 5.56mm Rifles With 75 Grain Ammo
It’s optimal to upgrade and standardize your existing 5.56mm rifles to support a common standard round adoption. Use the 75 grain Tula/Wolf 5.56mm ammo. It’s less expensive to upgrade your AR-16 barrel and use 75-grain ammo to upgrade your kill ratio past 300 yards doing this one, single thing. ARP (ar15performance.com) barrels work well across all lengths from 12.5″ to 20″, due to their twist rate. The price of the barrel from ar15performance.com was $185. A 75 gr. bullet will also perform better out of a short barreled rifle (well, SBR = AR-15 Pistol, right?) Get the 12.5″ barrel, making it optimum for vehicles and MOUT close quarters. Check out the ARP at ar15performance.com.
This should shoot well enough at short distances and, depending on the specific barrel, shoot better or equal to 55 grain. For the best bang for your buck, pick up a 16″ ARP barrel that has a 1 in 7.7 twist. The best weight to performance ratio is 12.5″ ARP 1 in 7.7 twist, for folks who want a ranch gun. Those two need to be tested next, but any toothpick 16″ barrel that shoots 75 grain ammunition has my vote for best combination.
For full patrol loadout for Tula 75 gr. have 12 mags with Tula and don’t worry about picking up your brass. This is because your brass is steel cased. You have only about 14 lbs. for 350 rounds of ammo to carry around. Plus, it’s inexpensive to stash in caches. If you’re into reloading, just look up the stats and test some loads that fall within 68 and 77 grain. Brass is cheap, so you should have no issue finding your squad’s sweet spot, particularly if you standardize your barrels!
Tomorrow, we’ll continue as I share more of my research findings.
- 1 – Sweet Spot For the 21st Century With Calibers Beating .308, by Alpine Evader 
- 3 – Sweet Spot For the 21st Century With Calibers Beating .308, by Alpine Evader 
- 4 – Sweet Spot For the 21st Century With Calibers Beating .308, by Alpine Evader 
SurvivalBlog Writing Contest
This has been part two of a four part entry for Round 73 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest . The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:
- A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator  from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
- A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
- A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses , excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
- DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper . These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
- An infrared sensor/imaging camouflage shelter from Snakebite Tactical in Eureka, Montana (A $350+ value),
- Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees  in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
- A $250 gift certificate good for any product  from Sunflower Ammo,
- Two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).
- A Model 175 Series Solar Generator  provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
- A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4  Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
- A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
- A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
- A Trekker IV™ Four-Person Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $250 value),
- A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
- A pre-selected assortment of military surplus gear from CJL Enterprize (a $300 value),
- RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site, and
- American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses .
- A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of  Directive 21 (a $275 value),
- A custom made Sage Grouse model utility/field knife from custom knife-maker Jon Kelly Designs, of Eureka, Montana,
- A large handmade clothes drying rack , a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
- Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners , donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
- Two Super Survival Pack seed collections , a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
- Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances ,
- Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord  (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value), and
Round 73 ends on November 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail  us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.