One common mistake among people that are into survival and disaster preparedness is associating military operation procedures, the mental attitude, the gear involved and the tactics applies to tasks in the civil world during hard times. In some cases due to military backgrounds, in others because of the similarities when it comes to weapons, its easy to find lots of examples, cases where people clearly don’t understand the difference as well as they should.
From a mindset point of view you could say they are opposites: The military asks of you to follow orders, in many cases against your own preservation instinct, putting you in harms way. The main objective is completing the mission while the main objective from a civilian survival standpoint is keeping you and yours alive, avoiding dangerous encounters as much as possible. There’s a world of a difference between serving in the armed forces along with your brothers in arms and facing problems with a wife and a few kids to take care. In this case I think its better to look into several of the most noticeable differences. I’m just going to mention a few common points of conflict I often find in various survival forum discussions. You’ll soon see what I mean and learn to tell if some piece of advice works well for you in the civilian world or is better applied to military and/or law enforcement.
This has been discussed to a degree in a previous post, when we talked about 7.62 battle rifles vs 5.56 rifles. From a military point of view, the ability to carry, and most important, manufacture and transport to the conflict zone two or three times as much 5.56 ammo for the price and volume of one 7.62, that’s a main strategic advantage. For the survivalist? If you are going to get one or two shots on target, you want them to be the best, most efficient shots you can put down range. Why does the military use 9mm FMJ? Because its again small and cheap to built, its easy to shoot, has little recoil, so it can be handled by the average enlisted person that has little or no firearm handling experience prior to his service. It penetrates barriers better, and has a greater chance of going through flak vests. One shot stops isn’t a main concern for the military. From their point of view, a wounded enemy is better than a dead one, since in average it will mean two other soldiers have to take care of him, and the one wounded soldier, screaming, bleeding, is more demoralizing than a solider that may drop dead and others may not even notice it until later on.
You, as an armed citizen, your main objective is to put the bad guy down, and you want that round to be the most efficient one you can put down range. You’re also less likely to have to face bad guys with flak vest. Military issued flak vests may or may not be penetrated by FMJ 9mm ammo. If they have body armor like the one used by civilians and police, average FMJ 9mm will not penetrate, so it wont make a difference either way, better to have hollow points that are much more effective against bad guys that aren’t using body armor. Also, the military simply cant issue JHP because of the Geneva convention.
While some military type blades are more than adequate, most of them are combat oriented with a bit of prybar thrown into it. That knife is mostly going to be used to open boxes, pry things, used for throwing around when the soldier is bored, maybe used in some very rare close combat fight as a last resort. You’re basically looking at a short bayonet of some sort. Military knife designs have improved and are more useful, with a more general purpose approach. The good old K-Bar is a good functional blade shape, the Cold Steel SRK is excellent, and both are used often for camping or survival purposes with good results. Now, are they the best? No. They are good but a survival purpose knife has to be able to chop wood, and build shelters too. You can do it with the previously mentioned knives, but there are others that are better at it. A larger bowie, or a short machete like the ones I often recommend here will serve better as all purpose survival knives, if one is all you can have.
The civilian survivor will want to avoid fighting as much as possible, and very rarely find himself in offensive roles. Military missions may require purposefully going into harms way to achieve a mission, while your mission is always keeping you and yours safe. This not only changes the type of weapons used, it also influences the strategies implemented and gear carried.
A soldier is part of a bigger machinery, his role is pretty specific, as a survivor you have to be a jack of all trades and you lack the backup and the logistics police officers or military personnel have available. You will most certainly find yourself outnumbered during violent encounters, with the surprise factor turned against you. That’s why you have to train more both in firearms use and hand to hand combat if you want to have a chance at surviving such incidents.
The good news is that you also have the option to avoid combat, something LEO and military may not have an alternative. This is why awareness is paramount for the survivalist.
Distance of Engagement
Since we’re talking self defense for the armed survivalist, this means that distances of engagement will be short. Think “sidewalk” range most of the time. When you do detect threats before they get too close, your best tactic will be simply running away and avoiding the confrontation. When it comes to offensive military maneuvers, ranges increase some, but they are still much shorter than what most people think, specially in modern urban warfare. Ranges rarely exceed 100 meters, most often well within 50 yards, usually 20-30 meters. What does this tell you? Even in war, ranges are close and for the great majority of cases semi auto is the only logical way to go, even for designated marksmen. What does this mean for the armed survivalist? That even talking about a bolt action “sniper” rifle for survival clearly shows you don’t understand the realistic scenarios you are likely to face.
When wearing uniform, its easier to identify who the good guys are. The guy shooting at you or not obeying your orders is the threat that needs to get shot. You don’t have that advantage as an armed citizen or police officer. For you as a survivalist, you never know who the bad guys are until its too late. The two armed guys robbing the bank you are in, those are bad guys right? Would you fight them even if you have a chance, when you don’t know if one of the other “customers” all around you and to your back may pull a gun themselves and shoot you in the back?
When someone dies during a war without being involved directly in the conflict, its called collateral damage. When it happens in the civilian world its called murder and you go to jail for it, for a long time. Even worse than that you might end up shooting a loved one. During military operations you don’t have your wife or kids running around as bullets fly. Target recognition will therefore be the most important part of your training as an armed survivalist.
How many times have you read that a person prefers to have a 223 caliber carbine instead of a 308 “because I can carry more ammo in my BOB (Bug out Bag)” If there’s a photo in the thread, you’ll usually see a bunch of other stuff, that closely resembles what a GI would carry. “Body Armor? Yeah right, I can’t carry that nonsense because I already have 100 lbs of gear on me” says the guy before pulling out 12 magazines, an entrenching tool, mess kit, NBC suit, axe… You even find people that put together a collection combining stuff carried by troops from WWII to Iraq and then another 20 lbs of every day carry ( which never gets carried, of course) and they’ve never even went backpacking with it. Rule of thumb, keep you bag at less than 10-15% of your body weight… IF you’re in good shape. If not, you probably can’t even carry that much. Try carrying it for some day trip and see for yourself.
A BOB meant to get form point A to B must be light. You’ll probably have friends or family to care for. Many of us have a freaking baby to carry on top of all that. A ton of guns and load bearing vest full of mags may be what you carry for warfare, but its not what you’ll carry when evacuating on foot, not unless you want to get shot or stopped by the police or national guard before you walk 100 yards. Lets not even get to the ton of stuff in these packs you just don’t need. If you are going from point A to point B during civil unrest, you better have a good reason to take such a risk. Staying put is the wiser choice. If there’s no option and you may end up doing the trip on food you’ll need some gear. Some food and water, spare change of clothes, a weapon and concealed armor. Maybe sleeping bags and a tent if you need a day or more to get where you’re going, other than that, leave infantry equipment for those that are in the military.
Since you have a family to take care of, your strategy will be pretty different. A wife and a few kids to protect will be your “team”, not many 18-40 able bodied guys trained to fight. Of course if you have an oldest son, wife, or other relatives that can handle weapons those are good assets, but most often its either kids that are too young or elder family members, or people that simply lack the skill and mindset to be of much use.
If you do have people, its wise to train together as a team. This involves more than plinking with them in the back yard and you should seek professional training to make the most of it. If you have neighbors, relatives or good friends near by, this could be a big asset for you, but in most cases the average survivalist family will be on its own and avoiding conflict as much as possible is recommended. As for the general strategy, you’re will be staying put. This typically means staying home until things calm down, not a shot fired. The military mindset type would be more inclined to get moving, patrol style. Big mistake, the most realistic thing to do is stay home unless you don’t have a choice.
Mindset… of the Third type
These are just a few examples of the difference between military mindset and civilian survival. There’s also a third kind, I’d call it the “Too much Call of Duty videogame” type, where as if from osmosis people think that what happen in combat videogames or action movies is the best course of action. This is not military thinking or wise civilian survival, its just stupid nonsense of course, but it never ceases to amaze me how often I come across it in the survival and disaster preparedness community.
Use your heads guys, and make both smart planning and decisions.