If You Are Not Thinking Tactically You Are Not A Survivalist
I am taking a short break from my latest series on the real numbers behind our failing economy to address an issue within the Liberty Movement that I find a bit disturbing; namely the issue of inadequate strategic thinking and common sense amongst a certain new crop of survival writers, “gurus”, and their fans. I have only been a survival and prepping enthusiast for ten years, and I have been training in tactical methodologies for six years, but I think the near constant saturation of training I have received over that time makes me at least moderately qualified to discuss survival philosophies. During my work in the alternative media, I am also exposed to all of the undercurrents and trends within the movement, including many negative and destructive trends.
The following article is only a summation of my personal observations. I am sure some people will disagree with my conclusions and claim that the exact opposite reality is true for them, and that’s great. If they don’t see the same problems around them that I see, then they are lucky. I can only relate my experiences based on my dealings with hundreds of thousands of liberty proponents on a monthly basis.
Survivalism has become in some ways a mainstay of popular culture over the course of the past few years. The mainstream still calls us “paranoid kooks” and “doom and gloomers”, but they can’t seem to get rid of us. Survivalists are a fact of American life now. However, survivalism as a philosophy remains in the infant stages of its progression.
Most of us have never lived through a full spectrum crisis event. Most of us have not lived through the peak damage of an economic collapse. Most of us have not been trapped in a war zone (except by choice through enlistment). Most of us have NO real world experience whatsoever in terms of surviving a true catastrophe. Therefore, it behooves us to NOT make detrimental assumptions where such an event is concerned.
Every once in a while, a person who claims to have survived a collapse event in a foreign nation gives instruction to the movement. Sometimes this instruction is based on true insight, but sometimes the instruction is so amoral and dishonorable it becomes clear that the person only survived because they embraced their inner psychopath (see my article ‘A Moral Code For The Post-Collapse World’), destroying others in order to subsist rather than having any actual sustainable skills, and they lucked out in the fact that no one had the chance to visit revenge upon them. This is, of course, piracy, not legitimate survivalism; for without other people to plunder resources from, the pirate is useless and dies.
What the world needs are producers and intelligent innovators in order to function or rebuild. The problem is, the existence of “pirates”, looters, thugs, and in some cases corrupt government funded murderers, makes life for the average producer rather difficult. I would say that for some survivalists destiny will require them to risk their lives in order to protect and defend producers, not to mention the very values and morals they hold dear. Unfortunately, it is not enough to have “sheepdogs” around, and anyone who thinks the sheepdog is the end all be all of a thriving post-collapse society is living in a fantasy land.
The reality is, EVERY GOOD PERSON, young and old, man and woman, producer and protector, gardeners, engineers, doctors, etc., MUST become tactically proficient in order for free civilization to survive post crisis. Every good person must become as dangerous a human being as possible, and they must organize as dangerous human beings, if they hope to have any chance of facing the terrors ahead.
I’ll say it again; the post-collapse world will require honorable men who are also incredibly dangerous men. If you are not both of these things, then you are useless to the future.
To become incredibly dangerous, average Americans and liberty champions must train in tactical methods, and they must be willing to organize in a tactical manner. If you are not training tactically, if you are not thinking tactically, and if you are not organizing locally, then you will not survive a large scale calamity, and you are thus, not a survivalist. I really wouldn’t know what to call you. A “faux survivalist”, perhaps…
Here are just a few of the obstacles I see stopping good people from adopting a necessary tactical mindset:
Fear Of Public Perception
This is often the worst hindrance to training and organization within the Liberty Movement, and I blame it partly on the militia movements of the 80’s and 90’s. Open training was common during the golden era of the modern miltia movement, including rifle proficiency, team tactics, communications, and asymmetrics. This is not to say that their training was especially advanced, but at least they had the balls to do it within the public sphere despite the rabid propaganda attacks of the federal government.
The Oklahoma City bombing changed everything, and within months, the once vast and growing militia movement mostly vanished. Group tactical training immediately became taboo – a methodology survival adherents would not touch with the business end of their M1 Garand. For all intents and purposes, they ran and hid when they should have stood their ground, leaving future generations without a breathing example of tactical knowledge within the civilian world or an outlet for training aside from joining the military.
Even today, some people within the new survival movement cannot seem to shake the Oklahoma City induced fear of what others might think if they train in high grade tactical methods, or train as a neighborhood, church, veteran’s hall, town, or county. Surely, only insane bombers and right wing extremists have any interest in such activities, right?
Now, some folks might say that because I was not involved at that time, I would not understand what it was like, and I might have acted in a similar fashion. I say this is nonsense. In my work with groups like the Oath Keepers Community Preparedness Team, I will NEVER stop training others and helping to organize others. Another Oklahoma City-style event could happen tomorrow and it would have absolutely no bearing on what I know to be the right thing to do.
Public perception is as meaningless as it is changeable. Frankly, the kind of public that shrieks about honest citizens training for self defense is not the kind of public I take very seriously. The “public”, as it were, can kiss my ass.
Delusions Of OPSEC
A lot of faux survivalists throw the term “OPSEC” around without having any real understanding of what it means. They seem to think that it is a two syllable argument that invalidates any rational call for organization. This is simply naïve. In a true collapse, there is no such thing as a “lone wolf” or a “gray man”. These are fictional musings common only to the imaginations of cinema and the minds of inexperienced preppers.
If you look at the actual proactive survival responses to breakdowns in places like Argentina or Bosnia, or the survival response to the cartels of Michoacan, Mexico, or the survival response in Rhodesia, or even the Kurdish response to the horrors of ISIS, the same scenario always presents itself – common citizens banding together for mutual aid and self defense. There is no denying this tactical response, nor the fact that in most cases it increases the survivability of all those involved.
Yet, again and again the Liberty Movement is cursed with delusions of “Operation Security” in which no one talks to anyone. No one organizes their neighborhoods because their neighbors “might” turn on them. No one organizes past the two or three man “secret cell” because corrupt government might identify them and put them on a “red list”. I think OPSEC has become an all encompassing excuse for faux survivalists to remain lazy and afraid.
First, if you think you are going to go “gray man”, and remain stationary, think again. Hiding who you are from your neighbors will not stop your neighbors from looting your house anyway as soon as the inclination strikes them. And, it certainly will not stop more aggressive pirates from simply moving house to house at random through your neighborhood until they get to you. Gee, in that situation it sure would be nice if the neighborhood was working together rather than huddling like rats in the dark corners of their tract homes.
Second, if you really believe you have no neighbors with the moral fortitude to work with you rather than against you during a crisis, then you should be planning to leave the area anyway. Again, this is tactical common sense that is being suffocated by the idiocy of the OPSEC argument.
Third, if you have ever visited a liberty website on a regular basis, then you are probably already on a government list. Sorry, but that’s just the way it goes. I prefer to make that list so big it becomes useless to the establishment.
Finally, there are many levels of OPSEC. There are public institutions and there are private institutions within any activist movement; both serve vital purposes. You don’t have to tell the whole world who you are and where your supplies are stored, but you do have to work with other people if you want to live. Period. No one has the ability to do everything. No one has every skill set needed to ride out a violent social storm. No one. Either you work within a structure of people you have trained with and you trust, or you die.
Invalid Assumptions Against Military Equipment
There are as many opinions on survival gear as there are survivalists, but, some opinions are utterly wrong. These opinions are often based on assumptions of use, rather than experience. For example, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a faux survivalist think himself brilliant for admonishing the use of camouflage.
“Camo makes you a target!” they claim, without any context as to why. And yes, if you throw on your army digital while trotting down mainstreet during the initial stages of collapse, you’ll probably stand out like a sore thumb. But the issue here is one of context of use. Most environments you will encounter across this country are rural, not urban. If you have ever practiced camo tests as I have with multiple survival groups, even a half-assed keyboard survivalist would be able to see the difference between a person wearing normal clothing (even in muddled colors) verses camouflage. In fact, most of the time you will not see the person in proper camo until he is right on top of you.
The root of the anti-camo argument is rather hilarious. Essentially, this crowd is stating that one should not wear camo because camo is a red flag for training, and training makes you a target (if you are seen). So, their solution is for you to wear less effective clothing which makes you easier to see, leaving the potential bandit the option of deciding whether or not you look like a threat (in which case he might shoot you regardless). Why not have clothing for both urban and rural situations? People who do not think tactically often try to make discussions on gear an all-or-nothing proposal.
Another problem common to the new survivalism is that some survivalists simply do not have the money to purchase certain pieces of kit, and so they badmouth said kit so that they don’t have to admit to themselves that they want it but can’t have it. I can’t afford a Barrett semi auto 50 BMG rifle system, but I’m not going to pretend that it’s not a useful tool or that a survivalist might not find an occasion where he could apply it.
I see faux survivalists downplay all kinds of useful gear from night vision to ballistic armor, gear that is infinitely useful in all kinds of situations, based on the assumption that the average survivor “won’t ever find need for it”. This is like Dianne Feinstein’s claim that no one “needs” a mag capacity of over ten rounds because when will they ever run into a problem where eleven rounds are necessary?
For those who are tactically minded, ALL gear, especially gear in common military use, is also useful to the survivalist, and if they can afford it they will buy it. Why limit one’s own tactical potential because of a blind assumption?
This is the bottom line – tactical training matters, and strategic organization saves lives during terrible times. If these two things are not a priority for you, then do not call yourself a prepper, a survivalist, or any variation of the term. If you want a real chance at survival for yourself and your family, then you must:
1) Master the operation of your weapons system, whatever that system may be. This means daily dry fire practice, weekly live fire practice (even if your ammo is limited – training is more important than a large stockpile), shooting from multiple positions, reloading drills, transition drills, and speed drills. This isn’t advanced training, it is the very basic fundamentals you need. Going to the shooting range once every three months to sight in from a bench is simply not going to cut it.
2) Build a team. Organize starting with family, friends, church group, neighbors, and then outward. Without a team, there is little chance of survival.
3) Train in team tactics. This is where the majority of people freak out and scurry away to avoid being labeled “paramilitary” or “extremist”. It’s time for the movement to get over these meaningless labels and get some work done.
4) Learn to operate as much gear and kit as possible, regardless of who says it is “useful” or “not useful”.
5) Maintain a practical level of operational security, but do not let it prevent you from organization. Without organization, you will probably fail, and all your carefully planned “OPSEC” will have counted for nothing.
6) Push yourself to the best of your abilities. In the end, survival is about force of will; the will to endure, the will to fight back, the will to stand by one’s principles no matter the state of the world. Will and training trump all other deficiencies and enemies.
This article might seem critical, and it is, but there is a purpose here. I want people to live. I want good liberty minded activists to carry on. I want a future where the best people rise from the ashes, not the worst. In order for this better future to become a reality, a number of deluded conventions and poor judgments will have to be changed. Survival, at its very center, is about identifying one’s weaknesses and turning them into strengths. If the Liberty Movement is not willing to do this, then we do not deserve to survive.
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written by Magdiel , March 26, 2015
This is a really great and helpful article. I believe also in the need to strategically relocate; move from the cities to the country. The less people there is around us the better. God bless!
written by Jeff B , March 26, 2015
You have shown great leadership and thought with this article. Thank you for writing it. It will help more people than you know. I think in the event of a disaster, community and working together is your ONLY chance. In 1776, community is what protected the patriots of this fledgling country. I believe the people of America will rise to whatever occasion. Our history shows it. God bless and let’s pray that any economic calamity is far less painful than it is being predicted to be. The WILL to survive it is key. Regards Jeff B
written by WarriorClass III , March 26, 2015
Well thought out, well written, and spot on!
Practice and Prioritize
written by letranger , March 26, 2015
I am prioritizing the homestead over some kit that I want and could afford. That is the one thing that is missing from this piece: we all have to make choices and properly prioritizing those choices is key. I have food, water, first aid, defense and other preparations ready but I need the retreat before I need the 50 cal.
Second is practice. Brandon mentions training. What I see more than anything else on forums is that people are collectors of gear but they do not use it. People throw out these bug out scenarios where they cover 10-15 miles a day. If you have a bug out bag, take it out and go for a 5 mile hike with it and see how it works for you. Do you have enough water? Can you carry the weight? How fast can you go? If you haven’t done it lately, you will find that you will go slower, need more water and more food and more advil than you ever dreamed. You will also find that you are carrying way more than you should or that you have heavier stuff where lighter stuff will do. You will probably conclude that reduced weight would be more beneficial than the extra hardware. If you have a 50 pound pack, add 4 liters of water, an 8 pound battle rifle, 6 pounds of ammo, you will get tired, you will hurt, you will get injured, you will not have good situational awareness and that will get you killed if you ever have to bug out in a post collapse situation. If you go out with a similar kit as you would have in a bug out situation about once a month you will know what to expect and the good news is that you can probably adapt after about 3 or 4 days if you pace yourself and then your mileage and speed will ramp up. This is just one example among many others. If you can’t watch you tube will you know how to do anything?
written by Jaws , March 26, 2015
Nice article. Thanks, Brandon.
written by ThomasR , March 26, 2015
Good piece as usual Brandon,
But what do you do when EVERYONE around you suffers from normalcy bias and or are sheeple and say, oh your one of those crazy preppers,,,,,
Or are just plain oblivious?
And what would a good course of action be going forward?
Its quite the conundrum i find myself in,
written by D Bertrand , March 26, 2015
Demographics in America is the number one deterrent to organizing neighborhoods, churches and clubs. It all depends on where you are and in most places in this country, the mindset by just ONE neighbor is enough to bring your “club” down…along with the full attention of an ABC agency that will be more than happy to help your “club” acquire weapons and anything else that can bring the “club” down, and/or involve your “club” in a False Flag operation.
We are in a critical phase and requires extreme vigilance, but at the same time…common sense.
There is NO doubt, that if a locality becomes under fire of absolute tyranny, you can bet that everyone, including that neighbor (quick to being a “good citizen”) for the oppressors, will be at the organizing meeting for action or reaction…..and the organizer just might be your sheriff.
written by J Romars , March 26, 2015
A very important part of building a team or organizing a neighborhood is building trust. Any time a neighbor asks me for help or needs something I am always happy to give. That creates a bond between my neighbors and me. I also keep an eye on my neighbors stuff. Nothing builds more trust among neighbors than catching someone stealing from your neighbor. Which has happened here; and a person with multiple warrants was taken off the street. When a new person moves in; introduce yourself and offer them assistance if they ever need anything. I offered my new neighbors a couple dozen eggs and a half pint of jam just to be neighborly and they gave me a small chicken coop that they weren’t using anymore. Now their child waits for the bus with my child and they look out for one another. Small steps lead to bigger relationships and then to friendships and a stronger neighborhood.
Thank you Brandon! Job well done!
written by Christian Gains , March 26, 2015
That said, I’d like to say that it is important to know that the “Practice makes perfect” motto falls short of the mark.
“PERFECT PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT” is far more accurate, & a key factor.
I had Polio at age 5. The consequence was a partially paralyzed right arm. So, the FIRST thing I MUST DO, when approaching ANY type of challenge, is determine what I CAN & CANNOT do. Most of my 70 yrs. I’ve found that I could adapt sufficiently to perform fairly well.
Why am I telling you this?
Because, (as Brandon points out), EACH one of us MUST determine what we should, and should not attempt, and you can ONLY do THAT through practice. But, not “practice” that YOU develop, but PRACTICE that a proven PRO Warrior puts you through, as that warrior will know what to challenge you with.
The type of practice they’ll put you through, will be variant, and designed to give you EXPERIENCE:
#1] With your weapons system, (Rifle, Pistol, Bow, knife, hatchet, etc.). It will be designed to make you MUCH more rapidly proficient & accurate, under NUMEROUS conditions. (the MUST DO is the DIFFERENT conditions…weather, social, defensive, or offensive, etc.
#2] Also, with forming, developing, vetting, rejecting, or maintaining, a TEAM. Believe it or not, THIS aspect of training is as ESSENTIAL as your weapons, as it will serve to give YOU a more general purpose, (than just caring for YOUR OWN), and, will teach you the “How To’s” and “Not To’s” that you’ll DESPERATELY NEED to have perfected, when any variant of circumstances develop.
#3] “PERFECT PRACTICE” comes ONLY from those who’ve learned through ACTUAL EXPERIENCE, learned the very best “DO’s” & “DON’Ts”, [both EXTREMELY important], and now wish to teach others the BEST WAY to do whatever you’re challenged to do.
I have had the priceless privilege to have been given training exercises by SEALs, RANGERS, CIA Agents, & Policemen, (some ret., some active). ALL HIGHLY EXPERIENCED, and none trying to make $$ off us trainees. They all have thriving business ventures, and just want to help and prepare as many as possible, as well as possible.
These are the types of warriors you want training from.
btw, Air Soft is a VERY USEFUL, (and safer than “live fire — one training exercise, our trainer nearly got shot in the back by a “bungling beginner”, who’d forgotten to “safe” his weapon when he should have), method of training, in ALL aspects.
Again Brandon, thank you for your thought provoking and well presented counsel.
Militia???? Training???? Where????
written by Thomas Paine , March 26, 2015
The US Constitution, and the state constitutions recognize only one authority as “necessary to the security of a free state”, with the sole power to “execute the Laws of the Union”; Article 1, Section 8, Clause 15 & 16.
All the authority and training, and everything else needed is incorporated in the good People organized as a “well regulated” Militia. Regulated meaning that they are organized into a trained unit for which the government is obligated to construct a uniform set of rules under which the Militia operates. Government does not control the Militia. If the Militia deems the actions unconstitutional it not only has the duty to ignore, but also the responsibility to arrest under “probable cause” those who violate the oath of office.
The problem in all the verbiage of the so-called survivalists, patriots, and 2nd amendment groups is that they do not actually intend success, but a never ending fight for justice that cannot be won under their paradigm. They do not trust government, the big bogey man, when in this country it is we the People who are the government, and duty bound to “execute the Laws of the Union”.
You can train till you’re blue in the face, but unless you are an organized unit that enforces law and can identify the responsibility of all in the face of emergency, all you’re doing is creating suspicion, dissent, and a guarantee that the next bully will come to power.
written by Needbe , March 26, 2015
Use your common sense as I believe many people who troll may put out disinformation or may even work for the other side.
To me, anything you think will be useful will be. Don’t listen to others. Get it while you can if you can afford it.
And I don’t know why it is US against our Government. Do you not trust yourself? The government is YOU! Better start trusting yourself if you want a better government, if you catch what I mean.
What OPSEC Is and Isn’t
written by Culper , March 26, 2015
Smith: “Hiding who you are from your neighbors will not stop your neighbors from looting your house anyway as soon as the inclination strikes them.”
Re: OPSEC, security is often not about deterrence. It’s about identifying the threat in advance and preparing for it. And in plenty of real life scenarios, security is about buying time. So if going through the OPSEC Planning Process helps you to identify the threat and then deny critical information to them, then OPSEC is completely worth it, while those threats target the known high payoff homes first.
Are you familiar with the OPSEC Planning Process? I agree that to many “OPSEC” is an excuse to remain the lone wolf, and you’re dead on about lone wolves being at a severe disadvantage in survival.
You are a prominent voice in the Liberty Movement. I’d like to see you explain the merits of OPSEC and teach its benefits to others. (I’ve not seen a post explicitly on the value of OPSEC in the years that I’ve followed.)
written by haryw , March 26, 2015
The “Club” was not meant to offend patriots, but a “Church” is not the place in most cases to begin programs for necessary training, unless the pastors are Chuck Baldwin types….therefore, to be successful, the pastor has to agree and he/she might as well begin the process of throwing their 501 (C) 3 status out the door.
It’s a Catch 22 situation and vetting neighbors is often done by watching their actions and listening first to what they have to say….and surprisingly enough, most have had the necessary training in one form or another, but an organized training program will often enough, bring-in an unwelcomed participant. Phasing that individual out through a vetting procedure will ultimately create a situation that (in itself) needs to stay low key.
Nothing wrong with going miles to places where others are training, but organizing in certain demographics will certainly foil any (real) attempt to be (openly) prepared, legal or not.
The shooting “club” is about the best that one can do during this critical phase…unless you are in small rural areas where most everyone is already onboard.
City dwellers don’t have a chance and cannot feasibly defend their neighborhood more than 24 hours. It ain’t gonna happen !
written by Brenadeer , March 26, 2015
It is the duty of all able bodied freedom lovers to come to the aide of their communities and neighbors.
This means that you need to start training so that you can pass on what you learn to others. The unfortunate fact is that most of us not doing that will not take Brandon’s advice until there is a clear and present danger. Thus, for those of us that can see the writing on the wall, we must learn as much as we can so that we can hopefully pass it on later.
I’m finding that Normalcy bias is deep seated with most people. Even though they may agree with you that America’s problems are coming to a head, most just talk and not do.
This fact is sad but true
written by Brenadeer , March 26, 2015
My point is:
Do the research, contact your local militia, and start training and building relationships with them.
Help would be nice.
written by A-merican , March 28, 2015
Hey Guys/ Brandon,
I am one of the many cash strapped guys out there that would love to practice more. This article/ comment section seems like a good place ask the following question, so stay with me here.
I am just wondering what one can do to practice fundamentals w/o spending anything. I know there is an important cost component, and I know you have to get out and train in your area of operation, but what can one do on the cost free side to move through fundamental tactics… I live in semi-urban liberal area (God help me), so running around like Jackie Chan or Rambo wont end well for me:) Any websites/ books/ etc. that anyone knows would be helpful. I am also one of the many people that finally woke up in December 2012 (Sandyhook), so I have been politically alert to how quickly the republic and liberty can end. It has felt like we have been waiting for the next shoe to drop for far too long.
Great article by the way!