Brushbeater: Stalking Boots

NC Scout at Brushbeater spends some time talking about what is good in a boot that you can stalk well in versus a boot made for hiking/rucking with heavy gear in Stalking Boots.

Growing up, nearly everyone I knew hunted. Whether it was white tail, rabbits, dove, pheasant, and even hogs back when we had them in central NC. And in all those years, you had three general types of boots- Cowboy boots for dressing up, work boots in the field, and hunting boots in the Fall- and that was about it. It wasn’t until I went into the Army that I gave much thought at all to footwear or even knew the value of a good pair of boots, much less different boots for different tasks. Fort Benning fixed that.

Back when I was in High School I saw a movie called The Hunted with Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio Del Toro, about a ex-Special Forces or something-guy having some mental issues and looking for his old mentor from a SERE school, because…reasons. It hasn’t aged well, but, there was a few decent takeaways from it. Most notably was the fact that Jones’ character, LT, wore moccasins everywhere. It might have seemed like some hippy-back-to-the-land BS back then, but, its one of the few things about that movie actually rooted in reality. Light, soft soled shoes are critical for stalking in woodland environments. He used moccasins to effectively stalk, having little more than rawhide and a thin rubber bottom for basic tread.

A student learning to stalk in the Scout Course.

Years later, when I was learning to do the same, one of the issues all of us ran into was using boots that either had too hard a sole or limited our ability to feel the terrain under our feet. Literally all of the qualities you don’t want when you’re carrying a heavy ruck on your back are the ones you do want when stalking. Thick soles designed for load bearing and stability also limit what you feel under your feet. This in turn leads to guys making errors in their stalking lanes- crunching deadfall sticks and limbs, rustling leaves and knowing what type of terrain you’re leaving too much spoor or trailsign in. Thin and light works well.

These days I’m doing a lot less heavy rucking and a lot more stalking work in the woods. The reality is that I’m likely not going to carry a 100lb ruck like I did back in Afghanistan for a lot of reasons, but it boils down to: a) my fighting kit selection is lighter now that what I had no option to use back then; b) a lot of my support gear, ie commo equipment, is far smaller & lighter now than before and c) I know a heck of a lot more now than I knew back then. Above all, my mission is entirely different today. A lot of what people are showing off as their “bugout bag” or third line patrolling kits is flat out unrealistic. But on the other hand, learning to effectively stalk in your operating environment will carry you a heck of a lot further down the tactical path then having a bag full of crap to leave for the guy who actually knew how to hide.

You’re a hunter of men, start thinking like one.

What makes an animal as larger as the Black Bear in eastern NC such an effective stalker? You’d think that due to its size it would make tons of noise, and yet it doesn’t. As any bear hunter familiar with eastern NC can tell you, its not just thick underbrush, but that a bear will be on top of you in no time if you’re not completely aware of your surroundings. Bear, like all effective predators, understand how to move in their terrain. They use their senses first before committing to make the movement, smelling and watching while moving slowly and deliberately. For a human, once we’re re-awakened our senses in the wild, the next step is to understand how to actually move.

Do not rush to be over-encumbered. If you’re carrying more gear than you can effectively remain quiet while moving with, then you’re carrying too much gear. This was the same philosophy of two of the best special reconnaissance units in modern history- the Selous Scouts and the South African Recces– with first hand accounts from both units frequently favoring blacked-out Converse Chuck Taylors in the field. While that made plenty of sense for the time, our options have gotten better today.

Danner Elk Hunter, Danner Reckoning

There’s a lot of good brands for lightweight boots out there- Solomon makes a good one, as does Rocky (what I wore in the winter months in Afghanistan) and even Nike with the SFB. A couple of solid options that have served me well in recent years have both come from Danner. I’ve become a big fan of their boots over the years because of their consistently high quality as well as their overall designs. One of the big selling points for me has been the lace-to-toe layout that allows me to control exactly how much tension the boot has on the sides of my feet; road marches, let them out because your feet are going to swell, for field work, tighten them up for greater dexterity in lateral movement. I’ve worn other brands over the years for field use that have been decent, but I keep coming back to Danner for a reason.

The first pair are a newer design they call the Reckoning- a lightweight boot that I’m assuming is their modern take on the jungle boot by its drain holes and breathable design. Its been a great boot so far in the two years I’ve worn them and is completely flexible from heel to toe. I’ve beat the living snot out of this pair and aside from a small tear in the outer nylon from getting hung up in some heavy briars, they’ve held up well. They’ve been on my feet for every Scout Course and most other classes I’ve run for the past couple of years and while they’re definitely military-looking boots, they’ve done everything I’ve asked them to do and more.

Stalking Footwork 101: Step with the outer edge of the foot, dropping the heel first then rolling the foot to the toe. As your first foot rises, do the same with the opposite foot. Get into a rhythm of walking like this in the woods- it’ll greatly mitigate your noise signature.

The second pair is in many ways a polar opposite- the traditional looking, excellent Elk Hunter. Mine are uninsulated and are definitely old school in appearance. But that said they work, and work well. The soft suede is very much like a moccasin and molded to my feet nearly immediately. The soles on the other hand took some time. While they were soft on the outsole like many hunting boots I’ve worn in the past to mitigate noise, they were definitely on the rigid side and took about 25-30 miles of walking before they had enough flex to effectively roll the feet while moving. Since then though, they’ve been great in the woods. These are some of the grippiest boots I’ve ever worn as well, which also takes some getting used to- wherever you place your foot, its staying there. But they’re quiet and feel a heck of a lot lighter on the feet than the listed 59oz in the specs.

Both boots have two critical qualities in common- a lace-to-toe design and flexibility of the soles. The lace-down allows me to adjust the tension on different parts of my foot. Loosen them up for a longer movement (your feet will swell) or tighten them when you need more precision in stepping during a stalk. The second factor is the lack of a defined heel. No heel allows the foot to roll from your natural heel to the toe, greatly mitigating noise and making an overall better stalking technique.

They’re not quite as feral as wearing moccasins everywhere, but they’re comfortable, durable, and have served me well. As alumni from the Scout Course know, your proper selection of footwear are the tools that make or break your ability to successfully move undetected. Shooting is either a failure of bad tactics or the culmination of a really good one- remaining undetected and fighting on your terms will always win over an adversary dressed for door kicking in thick woodlands.

MVT: AR Equipment Issues

Max Velocity Tactical has been compiling for some time lists of equipment/gear issues (and other observations) which commonly come up during their training classes for tactical rifle. Examples/excerpts below.

  • This is the second class that someone has over inserted a magazine during a drill. What happens is the magazine is shoved so far into the mag well during a combat reload that the bolt hits the back of the magazine when the bolt released is pushed. This time it was a Magpul Gen 2. Pay attention during reloads, there is no reason to put that much force into seating a mag.
  • Charging Handles- Get rid of the stock charging handles on your AR’s. Some of the ones that are being put on rifles are to easy to bind and the standard latch is to small. My recommendation is a BCM medium sized latch. It will make weapons manipulation easier.
  • Ammo- A student had an issue during the malfunction drills. The bullet was getting pushed back into the case allowing the powder to dump into the chamber. When that happens the rifle will not go into battery. You then have to clean the chamber to get rid of the powder, a toothbrush works best. The reason this is happening is due to the type of ammo, .223 Rem in this case. Most .223 doesn’t have a good crimp on the bullet when it is manufactured. 5.56 ammo will have a crimp that should prevent this from happening. I have not seen this with any 5.56 marked ammo, only with .223 Rem. I have some Federal .223 and it does the same thing. I know everyone is trying to save money when they buy ammo for class. The problem is that going cheap can bite you in the ass. Just like with going the cheapest route with a rifle, cheap ammo can cause issues. Spend a little more and buy 5.56 marked ammo.
  • Ambi-Safeties -We see this over and over. Students use the thumb to rotate the safety off and their trigger finger to rotate the safety on. This is an accident waiting to happen. When you get in a hurry your trigger finger can slip into the trigger guard and fire a round. That is not good. If you insist on having one on your rifle you have to ensure that your thumb rotates the safety on and off. My recommendation is to get rid of them.
  • Blue Loctite is your friend. BUIS, sight mounts, flashlight mounts etc. need to have blue loctite on them. This will keep them from working loose and falling off when you need it the most.
  • 80% lowers. I understand the attraction of these, especially for someone who is behind enemy lines. I have yet to see one at class that doesn’t have some sort of issue. The biggest problem I see is mag wells that aren’t to spec. A lot of times the jigs that come with them aren’t perfect either. Be aware of this.
  • Lube your rifles. Almost at the end of class one of the students rifles just quit running. Added lube and the rifle started running again. He said he didn’t put any lube on it that morning.
  • Not all charging handles are created equal. Especially doing malfunction drills. The standard CH that comes on AR’s are OK but are not the best. My recommendation is to get a BCM medium latch. It gives you more to grab when charging the rifle.
    Get a quick adjustable sling. One that you can change the length on the fly with your support hand. If you choose to attach it where the extension tube meets the lower, make sure that it cannot rotate up and get in the way of running the charging handle.

There is quite a list of equipment issues, so if you haven’t spent much time with your gear, or even if you have, it’s worth a read to see what you might be missing.

Dialtone: Camp Comms

This is an older post from the Dialtone blog. Camp Comms talks about taking your radio gear outside to practice, the reasoning being that in a disaster/SHTF situation you may very well not be able to operate from your home/radio shack. This can be a tough one. You can spend a lot of time and effort training and/or exhorting your people (whether mutual assistance group, neighborhood protection team, assembly, committee of safety, militia, etc.) to acquire and use their radios. Assuming they do so, they become comfortable using them from home. You encourage them to upgrade to an external/mast antenna. Some of them may actually get excited about their radios and start doing upgrades on their own and getting into more advanced radio equipment and modes. So now maybe your problem changes to no one having communication equipment to they have it, but everything is perfect at home and they don’t want to take it to the field.

While there is a good argument for having some decentralized communication hubs in your area, there is always the possibility that your SHTF situation may not allow you to operate from your home/shack/otherwise stationary location. That may be because of opposition monitoring, because it is necessary to have mobile scouting or defense, because your home in uninhabitable, or numerous other reasons. If you have to go out, what equipment are you going to use and how will you use it? NC Scout’s RTO basic course takes this into account by getting you out of the classroom and outside, at least.  But you need to spend some time in your own area and weather to find what is going to work. Better to know now, then learn by trial and error and error when your life may be on the line.

In the arena of grid down communications, wilderness plays a big part. In a SHTF scenario you will most likely find yourself operating outdoors at some point. With this in mind, your training should focus on operating in a less than perfect environment.

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Many men lost there lives in this wilderness. …..

If you go outside and look around, you are sure to find somewhere you can practice your craft. It can be a park or maybe your friend’s woods? It may even be your backyard. Wherever you choose, get out of the house! Leave the comfort of your shack and go test your kit. You will not know what works for you until you find out what does not work for you! You need to work out the bugs now, not when the sky is falling. You can go camping and take your comms kit. Get your kids involved, set up a base station and give them frs radios to go “on patrol”.

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On patrol. ….

The more comfortable you are with your gear in a real life situations the better off you will be. You need to be able to hike in with your gear. If it’s too heavy, now is the time to work it out. Most of the equipment we use lends itself to field ops, it’s light weight and small. Even a small gel cell battery and a CB radio will do the job.  Recently, I went into the woods with a set up just like that. I took my uniden 510xl CB, MFJ tuner a small gel cell battery and some wire. I was able to get comms established in a wooded area under approaching darkness. This is just an example, I could have used my Yeasu 817 or any other portable rig.

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Field Kit: Meets mission requirements.

You should also be doing this with your monitoring gear. You can pack in a scanner/comms receiver and set up a covert LP (listening post). You perform the same information gathering, just in the wild.  Bugs, dirt and snakes brings out the best in people,  throw electronics in the mix and now you have a party…..

Read the entire article here at Dialtone.

Related:

Dialtone: Quick and Dirty – a very brief Dialtone entry on field operations

Suggested Radio Equipment for Community Safety

Several people have asked what our recommendations are for radios; not only amateur radio equipment, but also scanners and shortwave monitoring. Communications are a vital aspect of our every day lives. Communication will be just as important, or more so, in a disaster or emergent situation. Having reliable equipment relieves the end user of much frustration and could be a life saver.

First, a very brief discussion of radio frequency is in order for those readers who have not made any study of radio previously. Radio waves are a type of electromagnetic radiation which moves at the speed of light from the transmitting antenna. This radiation takes the form of electromagnetic waves. Higher energy waves have a higher frequency (number of waves per second) and a shorter wavelength (distance between each successive wave peak).  Lower energy waves have a lower frequency and longer wavelength. Frequency is measured in megahertz (MHz) or millions of waves per second. Different portions of the entire frequency range are grouped together and given shorthand names to aid in their discussion.

Electromagnetic wavelength

The portion of spectrum which interests us for purposes of this article runs from approximately 3 MHz up to 3,000 MHz. This range has been grouped into three sections.  High Frequency (HF) runs from 3 MHz to 30 MHz. Very High Frequency (VHF) goes from 30 MHz to 300 MHz, and Ultra High Frequency (UHF) runs from 300 MHz to 3,000 MHz.

HF is primarily used for long-range communication. HF signals are reflected from the ionosphere which allows them to propagate beyond the horizon. HF signals may take several reflections off the ionosphere and off the earth to travel great distances. This kind of atmospheric reflection is referred to as skywave propagation. VHF and UHF are considered line of sight frequencies. VHF and UHF are limited to distances not much greater than the distance to the horizons, assuming no obstructions to the line of sight. In certain atmospheric conditions, VHF signals may be reflected by the atmosphere, allowing for greater range, but this happening at UHF is exceeding rare and neither should be relied upon for communication. Most VHF/UHF signal propagation is direct wave or surface wave propagation, and reflection.

HF Skywave Propagation

 

VHF/UHF Propagation; Direct wave, Surface wave, and Ground reflected wave

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