Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Active Shooter Scenario

Not all the survival scenarios I'm writing about in my new book are of the traditional man vs. the wilderness category.  Although there will be several chapters on those kinds of situations in different environments, there are also scenarios that are only possible because of the high-tech, civilized world most of us live in.  For example, what would you do if you are in a crowded shopping mall on a Saturday morning and you hear gunfire, followed by people screaming?  Supposed you are an experienced shooter yourself and you just so happen to have a concealed-carry permit and you are armed that day?  Do you run for the nearest exit or do you rush toward the sound of the shots to see if you can intervene?  With the frequency of random shootings that take place in a given year, I'd be willing to bet that if you carry a gun this has crossed your mind before. 

Every situation is different, of course, and in some cases you might be able to help and in others it may be too late.  But armed citizens have successfully intervened in such scenarios and stopped deranged shooters - often too late for some of the victims, but who knows how many more would have died if not for their brave actions?  One example of this happened right here in Mississippi in 1997, when Coach Joel Myrick went to his truck to get his .45 after Pearl High School student Luke Woodham started a rampage with a 30-30 lever action carbine.  After shooting of his fellow several students, Woodham was attempting to reach his car so he could go to the Jr. High School and shoot more.  The armed coach confronted him, and like most active shooters, Woodham put up no resistance and surrendered before Myrick had to fire a shot.

Something to think about if you ever find yourself in this situation is how the first responding police officers to arrive on the scene will perceive you, the armed citizen.  These officers are going to be pumped full of adrenalin and on the ready.  If they see you with a gun, it may not end well for you if you don't take the appropriate action and do exactly as they say.  So how do you avoid getting shot by the police?  For one thing, don't brandish your weapon and especially don't point it towards the officers.  Firearms instructor Gabe Suarez teaches an active shooter interdiction class and has posted several photos on Warrior Talk News explaining how to present yourself to officers if you ever find yourself in such a tense and dangerous situation. 

Suarez has written much about this type of scenario, as he feels that there is a very good likelihood that a CCW permit holder could end up in such a situation given the ever-changing threats that are out there.  Taking it a step farther, he also writes about responding to a terror attack, such as the one in Mumbai where armed gunmen were able to massacre so many people before they were challenged simply because of the unarmed populace of that crowded city.  Because of such threats, a series of "sneaky bags" have been developed to conceal the weapon of choice for Suarez and most of his instructors at Suarez International - the AK-47 with a folding stock.  Because a folding AK is only 26-30 inches long depending on the barrel and muzzle configuration, it is a very easy weapon to conceal while providing the potential for tremendous firepower with standard 30-round mags.  Suarez is now marketing a purpose-made concealment bag for this that he calls a Jihad Interdiction Bag.



The AK shown in the bag is a SBR (short-barreled rifle) that you can't own without a special NFA permit.  But any number of folding stock AK's will fit, like this Yugo M70AB2 underfolder:


 Such weapons also have their use in certain types of bug-out situations, particularly in an urban environment where the biggest threat may be armed rioters or looters and you may need more firepower than a handgun just to safely make  your exit.  New Orleans after Katrina comes to mind, of course.  Although I've written before about my preference for .22 rimfire rifles for a wilderness survival/foraging situation, there are times when you need a more serious weapon.  I like the 7.62 x 39 AK as it can do double-duty for close range hunting as the ballistics compare to the venerable 30-30, making it a good for anything up to deer-sized game. I would pick such an AK over an AR-15 (good way to start an argument, I know!) for a bug-out rifle because of the caliber, compact folding configuration, and unquestionable reliability in any environment.  I plan to post some more here soon on my personal favorite AK at the time - the Russian-manufactured Saiga Sporter rifle converted back to the standard AK-47 configuration. 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Watch Your Step!

In the course of working on my new book, I keep uncovering more and more incredible stories of survival against seemingly impossible odds.  Most of these survival ordeals began because those involved put themselves in a dangerous environment, either purposefully seeking adventure or in the course of their work which required it.  Although some of these people ended up in a life-or-death struggle because of plain foolhardiness, lack of experience or ignorance of the dangers they faced, just as many made a simple mistake or two that any of us could make that led to unpleasant results.  Not surprisingly, in many cases the difference between getting out alive and not making it was determined by whether the person involved was alone or with one or more companions who could either assist or go for help. Without a doubt, it is unquestionably more dangerous to travel alone in an unpopulated environment, no matter whether in forest, desert, mountains, river, swamp or sea. 

The simple truth is that the smallest accident or slightest misjudgment can do you in if you are alone.  As I type this I'm sitting at the computer with my left leg elevated to keep the weight off of a broken foot.  Several days ago while working in the tight confines of the shed where I'm building my 26-foot catamaran, I stumbled over a Shop Vac hose that I had carelessly left in the pathway between the starboard hull and the end of the building.  Attempting to compensate with my hands full of tools, I twisted the other foot severely and took a nasty fall that sprained my ankle and fractured a couple of metatarsals.  It took awhile before I could get to my feet, but when I eventually did, it didn't seem too big a deal and later that day I was walking on it without realizing how bad it was hurt.  After enough time, however, the swelling began and it became nearly impossible to walk, although it is gradually feeling better after a couple days of keeping completely off of it. 

I mention this to make the point that when traveling in the wilderness, it only takes a single misstep to become incapacitated and unable to continue - especially if you are alone. I could have just as easily suffered this kind of injury from stepping on a loose stone, into a hole or onto some algae-covered river rock while hiking days away from a road, which of course could become a serious predicament, depending on the particular environment. But despite thousands of miles traveled solo in remote places by canoe, sea kayak and hiking with a backpack, I have never had a debilitating accident.  Certainly a big part of the reason is that when alone in a wild place, it's natural to have a heightened sense of awareness and to avoid taking chances that can result in accidents.  Two simple rules that I have always lived by in the wild are to never jump and never run (unless being chased!)  Jumping across streams, ditches and other obstacles is a good way to end up breaking a leg or something, as is running.  Instead, when far out in the wilds, it's best to move deliberately and to stop and think about the best way to get over or around obstacles.  Taking unnecessary risks is for adrenalin junkies, not survivalists.

Of course many would say that it's simply not prudent to travel alone at all, and there's truth to that, but limiting yourself to only doing things when you can find companions to accompany you will greatly decrease the number of good experiences you will have as well.  None of my long kayak journeys or many of my shorter trips would have been possible if I had refused go on alone.  And, the truth is, I love solo travel for the experience it provides that you can't get with a companion and the distractions of conversation and someone else's input on pace, when and where to stop for the night, etc.  I think it is the lack of these distractions that contributes to situational awareness when alone; I've noticed over the years that I've made more mistakes in the wild and on board boats when I was with others than when I was alone.  This doesn't imply that I think solo travel is safer, as it certainly isn't.  If you do get into a jam while alone, getting out will be much harder.  I just want to point out that traveling alone can be a good experience, and though it may make you nervous at first, it becomes more comfortable over time as you put your fears to rest while still remaining cautious and careful. 

Putting all this in the context of the blog, it's important to consider that if you ever find yourself in a situation that requires bugging out, you may be on your own and if you've never hiked alone or spent a night in the woods alone prior to the experience, this will greatly add to your overall anxiety.  I suggest starting small and trying a bit of solo camping to see how you like it. Just keep your guard up at all times, avoid jumping and running - and most of all - watch your step!  If you do this, you'll probably be safer than you would be at home, where statistics say that most accidents happen, just like the one I had earlier this week.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Guest Post: Airsoft Training for Simulated Bug Out Scenarios

If you have a topic for a guest post related to the subject matter of this blog that you would like to submit, by all means send me a message.  I'm always open to guest posts, but especially so now, when I don't have a lot of time to write here due to the work I have to do to finish my latest book project.  

The following is a guest post by John Durfee, who wrote to ask if I thought my readers might be interested in an article about simulated training with Airsoft weapons.  After reading the article, I thought sure, why not?  If nothing else, this kind of training gets you out into the environment and can add fun and excitement to what would otherwise be just routine camping and wilderness skills training.  I think training for evasion and escape with other like-minded individuals could serve you well in preparing for a real-life bug out situation.  Using Airsoft weapons to raise the stakes will make the bug out training more realistic and intense.  So if you can find some friends that are up for it, give it a try.  Here's John's engaging description of what such a simulation could be like: 


Real Life Survival Training: The Airsoft Milsim Experience

You've been giving them the slip for the third day. You're the last of your group, and the hunting party has been after you relentlessly. It doesn't matter you're just one man, they're out for blood. Most of them are former military, sticking together when things went sour with civilization. You're jagged from the adrenaline and little sleep. The cold seeps into your bones at night. You've been living off the land sticking close to streams and leaving little to no trail of yourself behind.

Your bag - your bugout bag - has proved invaluable to you. Your machete has helped you strip the bark off trees to eat, cut brush to make a shelter. You've had some luck with your line and hook and caught a fish, which you cooked and dried quickly for storage (You're thankful the hunting party doesn't have dogs). The last part of your kit, the one that's always been ready at a moments notice, your carbine rifle, rests on a sling around your shoulder. Today you're walking making your way slowly across a field of high brush a mile across, it's the only way to the base of the canyons and to safety. You're almost to the edge of the canyon when you stumble across one of the hunting party. You surprise him as much as he surprises you. They must have sent him ahead to block the way. It's a hundred yards to the border when he lets off a volley of shots wildly from a pistol, the adrenaline getting the better of him. You drop to the ground and hear him curse, he must be reloading. You pop up your head and see him reaching around for his radio. The shots would have alerted the rest, but a radio call would pinpoint his location, and yours. It's now or never, you didn't want to do this but there's no choice. You drop to a knee, simultaneously swinging your carbine in front. You line up the shot and…CRACK, CRACK, CRACK. You get him before he can radio in. You run past him as you make it towards the end goal and safety. “That was some good shooting” he says, “I was so close to calling you in”. You shake his hand as you cross the line. As you cross the line he stands up and radios your victory “He's made it to a safe zone, game over.”All in a good day's fun.

What I've described isn't an end of a world scenario, though it may have well could have been. It's the sport of airsoft, and while fun, gives people realistic scenarios to train for escape and evasion.

Airsoft is different from air rifles and pellet guns in that they use standardized airsoft 6mm plastic bb's that weigh far less than metal pellets or sabots, and are perfectly safe in a controlled play environment.

There are an increasing number of airsoft clubs and organizations establishing multiple day airsoft events that can be attended for a set fee. They're run on weekends, usually centered around military scenarios, and the core skills practiced are valuable to real world preparedness. There are varying degrees of immersion, ranging from "play and go back to the car for a snack" to full airsoft milsim, where one acts, functions, and performs like a real military force for the entire duration. These latter are great for putting survival skills to the test. Players have to make camp and spend one or two nights in the wilderness. Sleeping areas are usually made using local materials and a tarp. You will also have to bring your own food and water and manage it. If possible, research on local flora to gather and prepare it while immersed in the event is an excellent way to supplement your supply. These games are full immersion, so even at night, you have to be alert for surprises coming at a moment's notice. If there's local sources of water, like a stream, water filtration devices can also be tested for their true reliability.

On a recent excursion, we arranged night watch shifts; it is quite exhilarating to be the only one awake scouting for moving shadows – potentially the enemy. During the day you'll work with your group or squad and practice maneuvers such as stalking, advancing, assault, and defense.

Another invaluable skill reinforced is familiarizing yourself with firearms and learning to use them for self-defense in a quick thinking situation. Airsoft teaches proper weapon usage, maintenance, and safety precautions. Most airsoft guns in the mid-range price look, feel, and function as close to the real steel guns as possible. Some gas airsoft pistols even disassemble the same way as the real thing! Real firearms training is a great means to become accustomed to the physical feel of shooting a gun, and airsoft simulation events teach valuable self-defense tactics in actual firefights against other people.

Another often overlooked benefit is the physical fitness component. Running around all day with limited resources, a full pack, and adrenaline is fantastic exercise. Just make sure to stay hydrated! You'll be sweating a lot more than you think. It also trains your body to react well under stress and fight or flight situations.

The most important skill learned at these events is mindset. You can put all your survival gear through real world paces and determine what works, and lose what doesn't. You learn to distinguish between friend and foe. You'll hone your aiming and marksmanship skills on real targets who will react and move. All uses of a firearm should be defensive, not predatory, so you'll train yourself how to respond - rather than react – to surprises and potential threats. And if you're "killed" you can learn from your mistakes, so you survive next time!

If you are ready to get out there and try it Airsplat has a comprehensive listing of US airsoft fields.


John Durfee is a Gulf War veteran and the marketing manager for Airsplat, the nation’s largest retailer of Airsoft Guns and Apparel.

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