Brushbeater: Directional Antennas for the Small Unit, Part II

NC Scout at Brushbeater has Part II of Directional Antennas for the Small Unit.

The use of Directional Antennas are the most basic way to improve communications security even if all you’ve got is a set of inexpensive radios. In Part 1 we talked about the theory of use and why they’re important to have for the dedicated RTO of a small unit. Sending your signal in one direction versus all directions does a couple of things for us- creates security through only sending a signal along the necessary path and second it greatly improves the range along that path. In this section we’re going to discuss the antennas themselves and how they work.

The Yagi

UHF Yagi in the field during the Advanced RTO Course.

Remember just a few years back when every house had those funny antennas on its roof? The ones you had a rotor (or if you were poor you had an set of big channel locks on the pole) to turn to get a better signal on the TV stations you wanted to watch? They’re mostly gone these days but that was a type of Yagi antenna.

Named after two electrical engineers in Imperial Japan during the interwar period, Yagi and Uda, the antenna was a solution to two problems. First, it sent a signal in one direction much further with a lot less power. Second, it listened much stronger in that same direction. It enabled directional communications links with even the very crude radio gear of the day, and found itself in service with the primitive radar systems just coming into use.

Yagis work through having a basic dipole (called the driven element) connected to the radio, with one dipole slightly longer just behind it (called a reflector) and one or more dipoles out front (called directors) that have no electrical connection to the driven element. They work on magnetic harmony- in other words, the reflector reflects the energy from the driven dipole forward, and the directors further pull that energy in the forward direction. The more directors you have, the tighter the beam. In addition, the more directors you have, the higher the decibels of gain you have in that direction- keep in mind that with each 3db of gain, you’ve effectively doubled your radiated power output in that direction. Since gain is in orders of magnitude, for each additional 3db you’re doubling your gain again.

Wait, what? Think about it like this. If you have a three element Yagi antenna, like the one picture above in from the Advanced RTO Course, which has 7.5 decibels of gain, you’ve taken the 4 or 5 watts from a handheld and increased its radiated power to over 20 watts just based on the gain of that antenna, in the direction that antenna is pointed. You’ve taken a very basic tool (the humble handheld) and made a potent communications device while using the same amount of battery power. Not bad. Not bad at all.

But the Yagi also has gain on reception, meaning it hears better in that given direction over a single omnidirectional antenna. That’s why going back to our old over the air TV antenna example above, you’d rotate the antenna towards the direction of the TV station, and why hams use the same antennas on towers to listen in a given direction. Its a heck of a lot of capability in a relatively small package for line of sight (VHF/UHF) use. And since they’re small, they should be part of every patrol loadout.


The Moxon is incredibly simple to build.

Similar to the Yagi, a Moxon is a directional antenna that’s wildly simple to build. The best way to describe it is a Yagi with the director removed- a driven element and a reflector. So rather than a tight beam LED flashlight radiation pattern, these are more like a broad maglite. The antenna direction itself is pretty broad compared to the Yagi, but where these really shine is through their simplicity. With just a few pieces of wire and some material for the frame, you can build one in less than an hour and have a directional antenna ready to roll for a team. Check Moxgen for a downloadable program that gives all of the measurements you’ll need for cutting the wires.

Longwire and Resistor

The last directional antenna is known as the Longwire. The Longwire antenna was best known to the Vietnam generation as LRP team members used them for directional communications back to their bases of operations while evading the Signals Intelligence assets of the NVA. As the name would imply, it’s one really long wire that runs to a resistor placed in series with the wire and then driven into the ground. The long wire itself radiates with the ground end running along the earth ground. The resistor works to pull all of the current in its direction and with it most of the radiated energy.

The Longwire antenna rigged up for use. It’s incredibly simple and goes up fast.

Of each of the antennas discussed, the long wire is by far the simplest and most clandestine when used. And it also presents a very low Standing Wave Ratio (SWR) due to the residual energy being pulled to the resistor at the end of the line. Very little gets reflected back to the radio itself, But most of all, it packs up the most compact and is the easiest to build or repair in the field. All you really need is a long run of wire and a high Ohm carbon resistor- just make sure you have a lot of them.

Summing It Up

These three antennas are each fairly easy to build on your own and present a huge advantage over omnidirectional antennas. The security offered through using directional communications is not to be overlooked. For a team of guerrillas communicating critical information, its the only option. But that said it takes a bit of work and training to get right. In part three we’ll be discussing exactly how to do that, covering the basic planning requirements and how to incorporate them into your patrolling equipment.

Here’s a link to Part I if you missed it.

Brushbeater: Directional Antennas for the Small Unit

NC Scout of Brushbeater has an article on Directional Antennas for the Small Unit. Using directional antennas for radio communication can increase the range of communication and decrease signal interception outside the beam path.

One of the biggest misconceptions behind communications security revolves around misunderstanding not just the role of the equipment but also how it functions. A big part of that is the basics of antenna theory. For most radio seems to be a plug and play kinda deal- it either works, or it doesn’t. Antennas are a type of voodoo magic and the solution to security is electronic encryption. Except it isn’t, and doesn’t do anything except mask what you’re saying, but not the fact you’re saying it. Guerrillas must rely on not being detected- and no matter how high tech you think you are, it’ll not solve a tradecraft issue.

The reality is that we’ll be working with equipment that is common and off the shelf- no matter how much we want those microwave NSA-encrypted troposcatter radios made of unobtanium, a big part of local networking is done via plain old VHF and UHF amateur and commercial gear that’s common. Guerrilla communications have to be harder to detect. And at the strategic level when building an underground network, you have to understand how to plan. Even with the cheap equipment most of you likely have, incorporating a level of planning into your local communications will yield a much higher level of security and success. Knowing and understanding directional antennas becomes a key part of that planning, and as we cover in the Advanced RTO Course, there’s several options that each get the job done.

Directional Antennas such as this Yagi seen here offer security by ‘beaming’ our transmission in the direction its pointed.

Directional antennas accomplish two goals for us. First, generally speaking, if you’re not in the direction of the transmission you’re not going to hear the traffic. Because of this it offers a big advantage in the security department. If two directional antennas are transmitting toward one another, they’ll be able to communicate with the only people hearing the full conversation being in the middle of the two people. The second advantage is that instead of all our energy going in all directional at once, as with an omnidirectional antenna, a directional antenna sends the same amount of radiated energy in one direction- greatly increasing our range and signal strength in that direction, so we won’t need nearly as much power to accomplish to reliably communicate over a distance you might not have thought otherwise possible.

Antenna Theory For Non-Technical People

Radio waves travel at the speed of light. So with that said think about your antenna as a type of lightbulb. The more efficient your antenna, the brighter the light (your signal). The more power plus efficiency, the brighter the light and the more range you get. While we measure light in terms of candle power, we’ll measure our signal strength in decibels (db) and our efficiency in terms of gain. Here’s where it gets tricky, but we’ll break it down simple.

A light in the darkness- it the same visual as you would see if an omnidirectional antenna emitted light. That light is a lot like your signal.

Picture yourself in a dark room with no windows. What most people consider antennas could be thought of like lightbulbs in the center of that room. They light it up, but there’s shadowy corners and nothing is as bright as it could be. Where that light goes is just like your signal. And everyone in that room with a set of eyes will immediately know where the lightbulb is. So maybe you don’t want a bright light in the middle of the room, maybe you just want a flashlight to see one corner- to “see” the person you’re trying to communicate with. You’d want a flashlight- and that light directed in one direction will go much further with the same amount of power (or much less) while not lighting up everyone else in the room. That flashlight is a directional antenna.

The antenna you see here is really only half of the picture- the body of the vehicle serves as its groundplane, otherwise known as a reflector. Being in the center of the roof it provides an equal reflection in all directions.

Now let’s explore antenna theory a bit more, now that we have a frame of reference. What most consider an antenna- that thing sticking out of the top of your HT or off the top of your truck, for example, is actually half of an antenna. It is the radiating element- where the signal energy from the radio actually comes out. You could also call this the “hot” side. That radiating element is exactly one half of your antenna. The other half is what’s called the ground plane, which reflects the radiated signal. This would be the “cold” side. So if you’re looking at a flashlight, you’d see the bulb and the mirror behind the bulb. Just as the mirror is a type of reflector, so is that cold side of your antenna. And now the trick is to get that reflector to reflect in the direction we want the signal to go.

Tying the Concepts Together

A directional antenna’s signal would look like this, versus the lightbulb example above.

So just as our flashlight takes a small amount of radiated light and sends it much further than a simple lightbulb in the center of a room would, so does our directional antenna. A lot of folks frequently ask “how much range will this thing get?” when asking about individual radios, and with line of sight gear such as the basic Baofeng, you’re going to get a heck of a lot more in one direction than you would with omni-directional antennas, while greatly improving your own communications security. If you can master the basics while thinking a little bit outside the box, you’ll be surprised at what can be done.


American Partisan: Surveillance Detection Routes

NC Scout at American Partisan has a post on Surveillance Detection Routes, with his comments on a video from The Kilo 23 Group. Kilo 23 interviews people from the intelligence community, the defense industry and also does gear reviews and some espionage related tradecraft. NC Scout is a former infantry scout in a US Army reconnaissance unit.

Surveillance Detection Routes (the OTHER SDR) is a critical personal protection skill and a good practice to make a habit of- whether you’re politically active, involved in a covert group or just an average joe looking to enhance your own security, its a good idea to take some notes. A few of my own rules:

  1. Never, ever be in a hurry. When we’re in a hurry, we turn the blinders on to the rest of the world and we make mistakes.
  2. Always be early and back into parking spots. Observation of an area is critical and often enough this begins in the parking lot of a place. Backing in allows us to do two things: observe and make a hasty exit.
  3. Make random stops in open, highly trafficked places while traveling and take mental notes of who’s around. Who belongs and who doesn’t?

Brushbeater: No Encryption, No Problem – Analog Radio Operations For Guerrilla Units

NC Scout at Brushbeater blog writes about communications security in No Encryption, No Problem: Analog Radio Operations For Guerrilla Units

Since I started the Brushbeater blog project back in late 2015, a constant question I’ve got in emails has been about communications security and very often how to use encryption over the radio. Back when I got into the civilian side of operational communications and I no longer had uncle sugar providing my equipment, I had all those same questions and none of the answers. Encryption and communications security is generally verboten among the old-time Ham crowd. Asking about it immediately can gain a novice the cold shoulder- it’s just one of those things that’s best left unasked, figured out on one’s own, or asked once you’ve got in the good graces of the locals (community building, anyone?). For me it was and is a creative outlet, allowing all the fun stuff I did in the Army to be a useful skill and one I teach others.

Since communications in general, like patrolling, like TC3, and like basic survival are all topics woefully misunderstood by civilians, an area as complicated as securing analog transmissions can go way over people’s heads in a hurry. It’s a different skillset than what you’re either used to seeing or doing. It requires a little understanding about radio theory, a little understanding about the planning process, along with some other skills like how to use a compass and basic awareness of your operating environment. Above all, it takes experience; you can’t just talk about it, you gotta do it. That said, we also have to recognize that the equipment we have is the equipment you’re going to be working with when things go sideways. No magic gear fairy is going to drop you a bundle of PRC-152s, much less the working knowledge to use them. So learning to use what you have in hand to its maximum capability is a heck of a lot more important than hanging out in fantasy land with stuff pushed by hobbyists.

Communications Security Begins With You, or, Encryption Won’t Save You

In a recent conversation with a friend and fellow well-seasoned vet, we brought up some of the obstacles facing would-be partisans that many preppers don’t take into account. Logistics being a HUGE one (if I burn through 500 rounds doing “supporting fire” aka just making noise, who resupplies my ammo?) but also the enablers a lot of the contemporary veteran crowd are used to having but cannot expect in the near future. NSA Type 3 AES encryption comes to mind here. We took a lot of resources for granted, especially in the commo department. We had/have an enemy who generally lacked any real electronic warfare (EW) capability, with the result being incredibly sloppy communications practices. The reliance on electronic security left a lot of the old common practices in the dust, many of which are once more very relevant today. Since about 80-90% of the prepping crowd’s electronic signal devices are limited to VHF/UHF dual band analog handhelds, you have to stop thinking in terms of simply press n’ talk if you want to even begin to be secure. The presence of a pattern of signals, even if encrypted, digital, analog or whatever, will give you away if you lack basic discipline. The saying everything that’s old is new again comes to mind, because a lot of the old hand practices developed in Vietnam for rural patrolling are the first place to begin. What was high tech for them is dirt cheap today. And the training value in their blood soaked lessons shouldn’t be lost on you.

But first, why do you need a radio? A lot of folks buy gear just for the sake of buying something. The first thing you should be asking yourself is exactly what your goal is and then work towards that instead of buying a whole bunch of something, because someone told you to, only for it not to be used. If that goal is talking with others in your group on the back forty, that’s one thing. If it’s rural patrolling, that’s another. Electronic communications, of any type, are the least secure method of communication. Messengers are the most secure. When getting started you’ve gotta figure out what it is you need to do. You might find you don’t need as much as you think; keeping it simple goes a long way. And for those of you only concerned with a homestead right now, COMSEC (communications security) is a very real issue for you whether you know it or not. A common surveillance mission for us was called “patterns of life”, where we watched a place for several days. Surveillance means everything, including the signals coming from the target, which in turn can provide a high amount of intelligence value due to shoddy practices. If you’re lazy, someone who learns a few signals intelligence techniques can not only find you very easily but listen to all your voices, get your names, know your timelines, and finally, disrupt you to the point of shutting you down, usually once they’re ready to attack. I know, I’ve done it in real life. So all of you only relying on those walmart FRS radios are very easy prey.

Contras on patrol hunting commies. Notice the handheld radio (HT) on the RPK gunner’s chest. Inter-team radios should be placed among the leaders of maneuver elements, including force multipliers such as your machine gunner / Automatic Rifleman / Support By Fire and Designated Marksman (DM).

It’s important to point out the difference between tactical communications and clandestine communications. Tactical communications require immediate action and either give short orders or brief reports and are local in nature. For preppers, these are for retreat security and short duration patrols; snoop n’ poop around the woodline to make sure nobody is waiting on us to go to sleep. The RTO Basic course focuses almost entirely on tactical communications. Clandestine communications are long term, far more in depth messages that usually use multiple layers of encoding- this is where the One Time Pads come in– and are sent to cells working over a region. These are referred to as cables in the intelligence field. Numbers stations come to mind, and that’s a whole other conversation entirely…(continues)

American Partisan: Three Avenues Of Approach – Baofeng’s BF-R3

NC Scout at American Partisan has a brief article on the inexpensive Chinese radio Baofeng BF-R3 and its increased utility over the UV5R model. Besides signal intelligence value, having a third band can make a difference operationally as well. In an RTO class that I attended, we found that one of the bands did not work reliability in the terrain and among the structures where we were operating, but switching to the alternate band worked fine.

As I tell students in the the RTO and Signals Intelligence Courses, its not necessarily what can be monitored (everything has the capacity to be monitored) but rather, how your adversary can exploit it. This in turn points to the criticality of the ability to plan and act based on that plan. And often enough, the difficulty lay not just in detecting an adversary to monitor, which can be hard enough, but taking that a step further into implementing tools that are outside his capabilities.

In the last RTO Course out West, a couple of the students had brought in a new model of Baofeng- a triband model called the BF-R3– a tri-band radio that matches all of the functions of the old UV-5R but with an additional spread of transmitting capability on 220-260mHz. This enables users a whole third option for receiving and transmitting in a vastly under-utilized frequency spread.

It is backwards compatible with all of the standard Baofeng UV-5R cables, batteries and accessories, including my favorite, the H-250 dogbone mic. On top of that, its fully Chirp supported for all of you that use that software. At about the same price as the standard two band Baofeng but with expanded capabilities, its hard to see why you wouldn’t want to have a few.

Get ’em while you can and while you’re at it, come get training on using it in a tactical environment. Might be important here soon.

American Partisan: Logistics – Ammo in Guerrilla Groups

NC Scout at American Partisan writes about the importance of logistics in guerrilla conflicts in A Challenge of Logistics: Ammo in Guerrilla Groups.

Almost as predictable as the rising of the sun is the issues of keeping a guerrilla group supplied. In every historical account I’ve read and personal encounters training and patrolling with the Kurdish Peshmerga and even the Afghan Border Police (which is little more than a government sanctioned militia) the number one issue boils down to logistics. In all cases, its not even having a combat load of ammunition for a patrol- they barely have ammo to even train, much less sustain a firefight for long. Such is life. Today many are finding themselves in a similar situation. Ammo, for the most part, is short and expensive where you can find it. The guns don’t seem to be the problem- 5.56 and 9mm are the new 22 Long from the era of Obama. Taking that into account, how many here in the States actually have a realistic picture of how much equipment it’ll take to remain supplied for any amount of time?

I’ve always had a fascination with Cold War era conflicts- partly because I’ve known many who were involved in them and still look to the ones alive for advice, but also because there’s so many lessons that inherently go overlooked in terms of the realities and challenges a guerrilla force will face. Reality, always, is far different from one’s expectations and a far cry from the fantasies many espouse.

The Cuban Revolution is a great example. Early on, the primary challenge that the various factions faced was not finding motivated people but establishing a standard for arms and ammunition, followed very closely by a coherent training plan to evolve the motivated would-be guerrillas from randomly successful fighters against a far superior military force to a force to be feared using the Escambray mountain range as a natural base of operations.

Such is the interesting story of Frank Sturgis in Cuba. It was Sturgis, a WWII Marine Raider, who was largely responsible for first recognizing these needs then starting his own airlift to supply them with surplus WWII arms and ammunition. The M1 Carbine became a very popular arm for the tight jungle terrain and became the weapon of choice among many. It was light and fast, had decent stopping power within the relatively close distances jungle fighting entails (an opinion shared by Philippine Guerrillas a decade earlier) Sturgis used his lessons learned fighting in the Pacific in WWII to make the guerrilla band a force to be reckoned with, later being instrumental in the training of Assault Brigade 2506 that landed at the Bay of Pigs and then continuing to train the survivors until just before he died in the 1990s. And somewhere in that timeline he found himself breaking into Watergate. But the larger point to be made is that without outside support, the Cuban Revolution would have been crushed- a reality that forced them to work with outside sources that were often cagey at best.

Taking that lesson into account, there’s a few lessons that bear noting, and have repeated themselves over time. The first is having a standard weapon that is both easily supplied, repaired, and simple to teach others to use. Many times, several of us have probably heard the questions “why do you have more than one of those? You can only shoot one…” and while that last bit might be true, it neglects the reality of the need to arm others. We don’t exist in free space, and the notion of ‘I’m just going to bug out to my retreat and they’ll leave me alone!’ is a pipe dream. Further, the ability to arm others infers control and inherent authority. I armed you, you work for me. If there is no authority, there is no cohesion.

You need one standard of ammunition and magazines. Having a multitude of random specialty calibers or proprietary magazines for those weapons means that you’ve added a layer of complications to your logistics plan that will at best cause that weapon to be an expensive club later on down the road. Further, a guerrilla’s personal choice of weapon is more often dictated by what ammo he can source rather than what he would like. Last, and this is one that my personal experience mirrors, is that the so-called ‘battlefield pickup’ is not a reliable plan to resupply your group. That doesn’t mean it won’t be viable in some instances, but the reality of combat is that in fluid and volatile conditions, you don’t always have time to pick up weapons and supplies off your adversaries alone. Despite the popular internet tropes in survival circles, there won’t just be guns laying around everywhere. I’ve operated in two different warzones, and aside from a few inert shells here and there, I didn’t see any weapons laying around and not in the hands of people ready to use them.

Finding yourself as the potential leader of a guerrilla band, one of your principle challenges then becomes keeping a healthy stockpile of munitions to both accomplish your needs in combat while recognizing your training goals. It would be remiss to point out that ammo is currently experiencing a major shortage in the US from the very real looming threat of domestic instability. The two most common calibers in the US, 9mm and 5.56, are nearly non-existent and expensive where found. On the other hand, 7.62×39 can still be found with minimal price gouging. And while AK prices are higher than in years past, the weapon is still not extremely expensive to get into. The learning curve on the AK, at least from my own perspective, is far shorter to build a competent shooter, especially within its intended range and role.

Whatever the future holds, the reality is that no matter how much ammunition you have today, you really don’t have enough for a potential future. The world is changing rapidly and with it, the United States. Look at where we are today compared to just six months ago…let alone four years…and gasp- two decades. Let it be a sober reminder of the urgency of the times.

Global Security: Logistics for Low Intensity Conflict

US Army: Logistical Considerations for Low Intensity Conflict (PDF 1.1MB)

US Army: Guerrilla Logistics research thesis (PDF)

American Partisan: Frequencies For Monitoring When The World Goes Dark

From NC Scout at American Partisan – Frequencies For Monitoring When The World Goes Dark some information and links on what radio frequencies to monitor when something really big happens and normal communications go down.

Frequencies For Monitoring When The World Goes Dark


What are the frequencies for FEMA to do informational broadcasts when the internet/cells go down?

Just a what if. – A Reader

That’s a good question. There’s a ton of crap floating around on the net right now, making it nearly impossible for the average person to sift through what’s real and what’s straight BS. But with that said, one of the main ones is the ‘looming‘ shutdown of the internet and cell phone service. I don’t know how much validity that actually has, but it underscores the ability to communicate and spread information through decentralized means- which is why I’ve taught communications skills in far greater depth and breadth than anyone else ever offered civilians, combining combat experience with practical end skills.

So with that said, go check out my first post on the topic, listing frequencies of interest and the second post, listing foreign military HF frequencies. And with that said, do not overlook the very vital role the American Red Cross will play, especially when it comes to HF message traffic.


VHF Low Band 

451.8000 / 456.8000
451.8125 / 456.8125
453.4250 / 458.4250
453.4750 / 458.4750
453.5250 / 458.5250
464.5000 / 469.5000
464.5500 / 469.5500
464.6000 / 469.6000
464.6250 / 469.6250
464.6500 / 469.6500
464.7000 / 469.7000
464.7250 / 469.7250
464.7500 / 469.7500

The VHF / UHF frequencies can be monitored with a Baofeng, but for the rest you’ll need HF gear. Check out this post if you need a primer to get that squared away.

American Partisan: Radio Quick Start Guide

NC Scout at American Partisan has written a short Radio Quick Start Guide, covering line of sight and over the horizon radio equipment to get you started if you’re asking “just tell me what to get, already.”

When people think of radio communications, they want a replacement for a cell phone. You’re not getting a replacement for a cell phone.

Alright, with that out of the way, I’ve been getting a ton of emails asking about jump-starting communications capabilities for an area. Since that’s something I’ve written a lot about over the years and teach two classes for building that capability, I’m going to cover the bare-bones basics to getting a local network squared up and running.

QYT KT-8900. Small, light, versatile and effective.

For local work, you’re going to want this:

It’s a 25 watt tiny little mobile radio that plugs into a 12v outlet. You can run it in your truck very easily. I have one mounted under my dash and another in my shop for making local contacts. Mine is programmed with all of the local repeaters and it’ll also do all of the license free bands (FRS/GMRS walkie-talkies, MURS and marine band).
To get it rigged up, you’ll need a run of 50 ohm coax that you can get in any truck stop. I just call it CB coax.  Next you’re going to need an antenna. I run an aluminum J Pole as my fixed base station antenna and I have it just drilled into the eve of the roof of the shop. On my truck I run a 2m firestick which is pretty much the same as my CB antenna and its mounted to my toolbox.
The nice thing about this setup is its portable to nearly anywhere and works really well. With a couple of deep cycle batteries you can run this little rig for a LONG time. I have.
On to HF.

Icom 7200 with LDG auto tuner. Rugged and simple.

This one is going to be a lot more expensive for a basic setup. Here’s a post from a couple of weeks ago on rigging your own simple antenna. The easiest HF radio to use out of the box is the Icom 718. It’s got a huge display, a really good receiver for listening to shortwave and HF transmissions and is very simple to use. I run the 7200, which isn’t too much different. But the other cool thing is that rigging it up for digital use is very simple. Here’s two links on the setup:

You’re also going to need a tuner for your HF radio. I use a short run of coax (8 inches) between the back of my radio to the tuner then run the antenna coax into the tuner. What this does it use two matching relays to create an electrical match for the antenna length to the frequency you’re using. Think of it as an insurance policy for your radio, since there’s too many variables with an HF antenna to make a perfect 1:1 SWR match every time. The tuner takes up the slack and protects your rig. It protects in other ways as well. I had mine take a lightning strike three years ago. Sent it into LDG and they sent me a new tuner, no questions asked. You’re also going to need a 120v power supply since all amateur radio gear runs off 12v. The one I use is an MFJ 28 amp switching power supply. Its got a 12v power plug to run that QYT mobile radio as well as your Icom.

This is an expensive list- but its one I’ve recommended to a lot of other people starting out and my own home station is not too much different. Everything I’ve got is kept pretty simple. But that said, having the gear is one thing, having the skill is a whole other animal.
Also see NC Scout’s dedicated web site at He’s got a ton of useful information there and teaches classes, too.
Also see our related article on Suggested Radio Equipment for Community Safety.

AmPart: Community Cooking – More Practical Approach to Prepping

NC Scout at American Partisan has an article up about the southern tradition of Community Cooking, how it aids a community, and how communal cooking may help in a disaster.

So we’re finding ourselves in a rush once more. The reality of a pandemic is setting in and people are buying up as much freeze-dried supplies as they can get their hands on. But while I don’t think the physical consequences for an overwhelmingly large percentage of healthy persons will be severe, I do think that the economic disruptions, and the trickle down interruptions in our food supplies, have the potential to be far-reaching. Then again its one of the very real reasons that a good number of people I’m friends and neighbors with have taken every opportunity to move towards a more sustainable lifestyle. Its not just about having solar power or ‘living off the grid’ for my own sake, but a creation of better resiliency against these sort of inevitable disasters. So you’ve got all those beans and rice put back, but how are you gonna cook them? And are you cooking off-grid? I draw on lessons I learned from my childhood growing up in the rural south and as an adult living in the third world, among Iraqis and Afghans, where a supply chain wasn’t taken for granted. Top among those lessons was the value of cooking for a whole community.

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Discada- a giant steel disk that people have been effectively cooking on for over a millennia.

In America we’re culturally predisposed to thinking individually, permeating all the way down to our eating habits. This has led to incredible amounts of wasteful practices, but its also led to us isolating ourselves to a large degree. In many respects this filters down to our own preparedness practices; the things we buy, the things we buy in bulk, and the justifications behind them. It is an attitude of “I GOT MINE!” negating the reality that hungry masses are motivated masses- and they’ll simply take what you have when they get desperate enough.

On the other hand, a community protects what a community values.

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The annual stew.

Every fall in the rural southeast communities have a stew. Every church, every volunteer fire department, and many civic clubs. Its a good fundraiser but its a hell of a lot more than that. Its a tradition and a symbol of our cultural connection with the land. Back in the less-modern era people ate a diet based on what they had at the time. Vegetables followed the harvest seasons, meats followed the livestock slaughter schedule, and at the end of the year and through the winter, stews were made from whatever was left over to prevent spoilage. Crops and livestock were hard earned like everything else. Waste not, want not.

<img class=”size-medium wp-image-9608 alignleft” src=”″ alt=”” width=”300″ height=”200″ srcset=” 300w, 1024w, 768w, 1536w, 2048w, 610w, 1080w, 1320w, 2160w” sizes=”(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />Its a tradition that my own family and friends still follow today, and one that I always look forward to. The Fall is my favorite time of the year for a lot of reasons, and making a hearty stew, chili, and chicken mull is a big part of that. But that annual stew wouldn’t be possible without a few critical tools. I have a large cast iron stew pot, its iron stand, a large steel disk wok, a large dutch oven and a medium dutch oven, all cured with lard and easy to cook on off-grid. With these tools I can make nearly any meal and feed large groups of people in the process.

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Corn tortillas and four cups of boiled white rice. Dirt cheap meal that can feed a lot of people.

There’s a strong parallel to this and those cultures overseas, especially in Afghanistan. In most rural cultures around the world you’ll find a community kitchen in the small villages or groups of mud huts. In the center you’ll typically find a firepit, a few pots, usually a pressure cooker, and in some places a large metal disk much like the discada that I use. Its cooking gear that they’ve been using for generations, much like we did not that long ago.

The community kitchen, so to speak, is built to feed everyone- not just individually. A group learns to live off what they have, source their food from their environment, and know what goes a long way to sustaining the most, quickly and efficiently. Rice and beans are a staple food in most parts of the world. Cooking them is fairly straightforward and its a cheap food to stock up on. You can pick up a 20lb of rice and another 4lb of red beans for just over $30 total- and that will feed a small group of people for a good while. All you need is clean water and wood for the fire, and you’re good to go. Add in some bullion cubes for flavor and have some canned meat for long term storage and you’ll be the rock star of your group when people get burned out

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Marinaded chicken, bell, poblano and serrano peppers and mushrooms. All locally sourced, cooked off grid, prepared for eight adults.

on freeze dried food or MREs.

Maybe its the attitude I hold towards greater sustainability, maybe its my ongoing love of re-wilding, or maybe its partly trying to squeeze everything I can out of my hard earned money, but my approach to prepping and survivalism is to know how to provide and prepare that next meal for my family- not just tomorrow, but forever. There’s a learning curve to it, but for me at least its worth it on many levels to have and practice the skills to survive rather than simply bank on prepared foods alone to carry us through. I have those too, but they’ll be the last in the rotation after I’ve exhausted every other option. No matter what the crisis, I’ve got the tools and skills to use it. And you should too.

Don’t panic. Just prepare.


American Partisan: Radio Contra Episode One

NC Scout of Brushbeater and American Partisan has started podcasting. Here is episode one of Radio Contra.

NC Scout discusses parallels between the Chechen resistance against the Russian Army to Appalachian folk and the potential future fight against a standing army in the Appalachian region.

Music: Clutch “Son of Virginia”

Aukai Collins “My Jihad”

H. John Poole “The Tiger’s Way”

Baofeng UV-5R

Primary Arms’ ACSS Scopes

Palmetto State Armory 10.5in Pistol

Palmetto State Armory 14.7in Carbine

And here is Episode 2:

NC Scout discusses recent events and covers the foundations of preparedness communications with the license free options, the basics of amateur radio, and the equipment needed to get going.

Music: Hank Williams III “I’m Drunk Again”


GunMag Warehouse

Ranger Up

Ready Made Resources

Palmetto State Armory


Baofeng UV-5R

QYT KT-8900

Cobra 29 LTD

Yaesu VX-6R

RG-8X Coax

Firestik Antennas

AmPart: Training – It Takes Work

This is a little reminder from NC Scout at American Partisan that you can’t just buy some stuff and say that you’ll be ready when disaster strikes and you need to use it. You need to train with your gear to find out what it and you can do together, and what may need to be tweaked or improved.

Training Notes: It Takes Work

Training Notes: It Takes Work!

We’ve all heard the people who say “I’ll be ready when the time comes!” or “They better not come to my front door!”

I got news for you, the time has come, and they are on your front door. Maybe not physically, yet, but that’s coming. If the lessons from Virginia are a bellwether for the near future, the communist machine at work will not allow American voices to win a so-called election again. And they don’t have to physically come to your door, because they can just legislate your rights away and you’ll do nothing. You’re a rule follower, and they make the rules.

So if there’s anything to objectively be gained from the legitimacy of government being ripped away in public fashion, its that the time has indeed come. We are living in an area absent the rule of law. The fantasy land nonsense of people running around in glorious combat and living in a Rothbardian voluntarist paradise is just that- an escapist fantasy that in no way mimics real societal breakdowns. But when you’ve got a very clear picture of a dual system of justice coupled with a common view that these people will never see punishment, you are indeed living without a rule of law. The only question then that should remain is what happens now that the velvet glove has exposed the iron fist? Neither legitimacy nor objectivity can be regained once lost. A failure of ruling hegemony thus requires force.

Do not forget that Brennan was a declared member of the communist party before joining the CIA. And of the feeder groups indoctrinating minds into the tenets of Marxism was the SDS, with their mantra of “Bring the War Home!”; code for invading the US with populations (in their logic) marginalized or exploited by US policy. Top among them, Central and South America. Ortega, Castro and Guevara are heroes. Groomed by the University system, Brennan finds himself atop the very bureaucracy created to entrench these communists for an eventual overthrow of the US government. These people are desperate to remain in control and they want you gone.

That’s outside our realistic area of influence, but does not ignore what we indeed can do.

What’s to be done on our end is preparing the mass base and guerrilla auxiliary for the next step; training and equipping the people in your area. The Left has indeed been doing that for some time now. Those networks need building, the information exchanged, and working hard to perfect the techniques now in order to save lives later.

In the last Advanced RTO it was commented to me by a longtime Extra-class ham, Engineer and Appleseed Instructor that the more covert ends of the communications training pipeline- data bursts, directional transmitting and physical encryption– takes a large amount of time just to comprehend let alone the training time to perfect. Far more than what can be done in just one weekend. And the same could be said of pretty much anything else I cover in my classes. I give you the basics, but it’s up to you to practice, perfect, and most critical, share it.

Making things work in the real world are the only way to continue to develop those skills. Two of the students from the last RTO and Advanced RTO Courses are doing exactly that, commenting,

Hey, I got the antenna up and working. DVM and I were able to make contact on 80M at around 1630. He has a different HF setup than I do – different antenna and less power, and I think the F layer was not helping at that time – it was a pretty weak signal. With the antenna I built (I built the same one you used in class) and pushing 100W, I was able to make a contact in GA on 40M very clearly. I also heard plenty of people from NY and CT to FL to OH and Chicago.

That’s regional capability that they’re actively creating, that they otherwise may not have been able to achieve. And most important, they’ve got the proper context to use those skills that they definitely won’t get anywhere else. For the people that we’ve all heard saying “I’ll be ready when the time comes”, if that’s your attitude, no, you won’t. All of this is hard enough when conditions are good. If you haven’t been actively training, been sitting on the couch living in a fantasy about fighting the good fight against the Reds while doing literally nothing but wasting time, you will reap exactly the results you’ve put into it. If it were easy, everyone would do it.

Take control of your own destiny. Get trained, get supplied, whether that’s arms, ammo, magazines, food or medical gear, and don’t let it be wasted on you alone.

Read the entire article by clicking here.

AmPart: An SHTF Perspective on Commo

NC Scout at American Partisan sends some communication insights from someone on the ground in the Ecuador civil unrest – A SHTF Perspective on Commo.

In a real deal SHTF situation, such as a nation in turmoil and civil chaos, how would you fare? When the infrastructure goes down and there’s dead in the streets, what will you do?

That’s a reality for one of AP’s readers living in Ecuador, who’s been giving me steady updates on the deteriorating situation there. He first contacted me over a year ago trying to get their communications up to speed at the local Red Cross chapter. Years of neglect and a focus on more convenient systems caused their antennas to deteriorate and a lack of any knowledgeable operators. If that was bad enough, Simply getting equipment into the country is a challenge…

Click here to read the entire article at American Partisan.

Protests, Strikes, Riots, Blockades and Violence in Ecuador

Since President Morena of Ecuador passed some measures last week to address the country’s fiscal deficit and debt burden, which included rescinding a significant gasoline/diesel fuel subsidy, the country has been rocked by protest. The protests are getting some mainstream press, but there isn’t much information on how the typical Ecuadoran is being affected by the unrest. NC Scout at American Partisan has been publishing updates from a local with whom he has been working on some Red Cross communications who has been keeping NC Scout apprised of the situation.  The updates give some insight on what civil unrest can do – downed communications infrastructure, how the government is trying to airlift needed supplies for citizens in towns which have been cutoff from truck resupply by the many protest blockades, and so on. Will this be a passing unrest? Or could Ecuador follow the path set by Venezuela for a longer-term shtf situation?

NC Scout’s updates are currently in twelve parts. Surviving Real SHTF: Chaos in Quito. Part 0. Part I. Part II. Part III. Part IV. Part V. Part VI. Part VII. Part VIII. Part IX. Part X. Part XI. Part XII.

…Stopṕed by the only gas station here. They are done as of today, tanks dry. No more gasoline even for the locals running around the immediate area.
Blockade continues…

Part of the public market is open as of a couple of hours ago but less than yesterday. Meat, fruit, vegetables in some of them but not much and half the stalls closed. No chicken anywhere. Still staples and from my conversations there a few more locals are thinking they might lay in a supply but NOT very many…

Ecuavisa signal in Ambato is out of the air because dozens of indigenous protesters mobilized to Pilisurco Hill to force the antennae of the channel’s repeater…

Red Cross ambulances were attacked by protesters yesterday in Quito, so not much respect for emergency services. As local food stuffs run out without re supply, then attacks on shop keepers are going to increase…

About 180 protesters on Monday forced the security of the warehouses of a dairy company in the town of Lasso, about 60 kilometers south of the capital, and stole products after assaulting employees…

Locally everything is closed. I have not been to centro today but talked to the woman who owns the apartment I rent who is also indig and a shop owner. No more milk, eggs, cheese or bread. When the shops that dare to, open, the police generally tell them to close. She hasnt been able to resupply, everyone else here is in the same condition. This morning I was surprised that there was garbage pickup…

planes of the Ecuadorian Air Force, make the air bridge from the city of Quito to Cuenca in order to supply the population of this sector of the country with essential products…

there have been problems with the reception of medicines for some of the hospitals and medical centers of the city and the province we will give priority.

…From internet sources, 2 deaths in the last 24 hours from injuries suffered in the Quito protests. No accurate info on the total number so far…

In the midst of the violent protests that have surrounded Ecuador , the Red Cross announced that it suspends its attention in the middle of the demonstrations for not being able to guarantee the safety of the volunteers…

Red Cross. No blood supply.   No emergency services anywhere.  Really important for people here to realize this…


Mainstream press coverage:

Wall Street Journal: General Strike Paralyzes Ecuador as Protests Continue

RT: Ecuador Protesters Storm Parliament Building Amid Chaotic Street Demonstrations

A substantial police presence was seen in the areas surrounding the national assembly, where security forces clashed with demonstrators wielding stones, sticks and other improvised weapons. The police – some on horseback, motorbike, or in armored vehicles – responded with tear gas and billy clubs.

A larger gathering of several thousand met near the parliament building, defying Moreno’s national emergency decree, which banned public assembly and put restrictions on press freedoms. Many of the demonstrators come from poor and indigenous communities across Ecuador, where the spending cuts have taken the highest toll, particularly the elimination of fuel subsidies.

Voice of America: Crisis in Ecuador over End to Fuel Subsidies

AmPart: Signals Intelligence – Electronic Isolation Of A Target

NC Scout at American Partisan has written an article on signals intelligence and how to exploit it to disrupt an enemy’s communications. Please note that disrupting someone’s radio communications during peacetime is usually illegal. The FCC can fine you thousands of dollars, revoke any radio licenses you have, and confiscate your radio equipment.

Signals Intelligence: Electronic Isolation Of A Target

Not too long ago I ran a short post over at Brushbeater noting a story from the Marine Corps, pairing signals collection guys with Scout Snipers in a somewhat new small unit strategy. Building on the successes SOF units have had for a long time now in recognizing the rapid value of SIGINT in the field, pairing the two elements only makes sense. The idea is to isolate a target where they’re most vulnerable- electronic communications- in order to end the fight quickly with as few casualties on our side as possible. And working from a prepared citizen’s point of view, those same capabilities can and should be reflected in your own training.

It’s not enough to simply have a scanner, however nice it might be, and call yourself good on signals intelligence. Situational awareness, maybe, maybe, but none of it will do you much good without a means to exploit what ever it is you’ve collected.

The purpose of intelligence is exploitation. 

Recording voice traffic with common items makes exploitation easy

What that means in practical terms is that unless I can do anything with what I’m hearing, its completely useless to me. So what if I hear some traffic on a random frequency. Did I take the time to record it? What did they actually say? What is their level of training or discipline? Who’s the person in charge on the mic?

We can listen to all the traffic we want, but if we have no way of exploiting that, then we’re wasting our time.

Some of the equipment you’ll need for a signals collection package at the small unit level includes a decent scanner capable of decoding P25, a communications receiver, an inexpensive analog radio,  a recording device, a Yagi, and a frequency counter. Most of the higher end scanners on the market have up-gradable firmware that is enabling the decoding of P25 modes in use with public service as well as DMR which is very common today in the US as well as being used in Ukraine and Syria among guerrillas. A communications receiver, while similar to a scanner, will tell us the exact frequency the traffic is on, unlike most digital scanners today. We need to know this in order to have the operating frequency- its not enough to know what they’re saying, but we need to know what frequency they’re on so that if we decide to shut down their communications, we can effectively attack.

Our inexpensive analog radio enables us to not just have additional redundancy in our kit, but it’s also a useful exploitation tool. Depending on what type of gear your opponent has, something like a UV-5R can become our weapon in shutting their communications down. Using a Yagi to first get a bearing on their direction and then focus our signal in their direction, overloading their radios. This is beginning what’s known as isolating the target…

Click here to finish reading the article at American Partisan.

AmPart: RTO’s Guide to Connectors

NC Scout at American Partisan has a nice, short article on radio cable/antenna connectors and what is useful for improvising antennas — RTO’s Guide to Connectors.

One of the common questions I get before, during and after the RTO Course is “how in the heck do you remember all those different connectors?” Well, the answer is nothing more than repetition- I know them because I’m built so many antennas over the years and needed the various connectors you come to know what they’re called.

Its a good idea to have a large number of spare connectors and adapters on hand. If you’re making external antennas for your equipment, they’re an absolute must have item. And unlike pretty much everything else we make our antennas from in the RTO Course, they’re the hardest to source in a working environment, so knowing what they are and having a bunch on hand now makes too much sense.

Cobra Heads make improvised antennas fast and simple.

The Cobra Head 

A story I tell in class is exactly how I discovered the real name for what I always knew as a Cobra Head. The Split Post BNC Adapter, or BNC Banana Jack Adapter, is widely known to Army guys as Cobra Heads- in fact, I never knew they were called anything else and couldn’t find them for a long time after I got out. I found them at a Hamfest in a big tray of connectors and felt like an idiot when I was told what they’re really called. It didn’t matter- I found them.

Why they’re important is that its the easiest connector to use when building improvised wire antennas. We were given them by the bagful in the Army to practice antenna building, and I came to really appreciate it. Simply cut your wire, match the radiating wire to the red end and ground side to the black, loop it around and you’re good to go. If you want to get the most secure with it be sure to use some ring terminals to connect the wire to the connector. Attaching BNC coax can’t be easier and more secure…

Click here to read the entire article at American Partisan.