If you’ve been reading my earlier articles you’ve seen references to; defensive perimeters, fighting positions, and similar concepts. I will do my best to explain what these things are and how they work together to form the defense of your retreat. I’ll incorporate some graphics as well.
First we need to understand what is meant by defense and why it’s a critical concern for any Prepper group. All the stored food and gear in the world won’t keep you alive if someone takes them away from you. Which means you must be able to defend your people, your preps, and your retreat.
But the real question is, what are you willing to do to defend your group? You could have 5 weapons for every member of your group and still have zero defensive capability unless most of those members are willing and able to make use of those weapons. You may have an entire group trained and ready to defend your retreat, but unless you also have a solid plan for conducting that defense you will probably just die in the attempt. Which brings us to the various considerations that will determine how you will conduct your defense.
We’ll start with your defensive perimeter.
For many Preppers the plan is to fortify the retreat itself in some way and defend from there. This is a really bad idea for many reasons. First, you want to engage and if possible defeat any threat before it gets within effective range of your retreat, otherwise the attackers can burn you out, take your livestock, or otherwise make a nuisance of themselves. Better to stop them before they even know where the retreat proper is located. Second, if you let attackers get within eyeball range of your retreat and you cannot defeat them you have probably ensured that you cannot get away from them. And third, if you let them get close you almost certainly will have given up advantageous terrain that could have dramatically improved your defensive stance.
For me the outermost component of your perimeter is actually a pair of concepts working hand in hand. These are your OP/LP (Out-Post/Listening-Post) positions, 24X7 locations for guards who (if nothing else) serve as trip-wires for anyone approaching your retreat area, and your active patrols. Sadly, most Prepper groups either don’t see the need for these concepts or they don’t have enough people to put them into practice. Patrolling is a topic that I’ll cover in a separate article.
Your next, and most important, layer is your primary fighting positions.
These should be set as a rough circle around your retreat, with distance and specific locations being dictated by the terrain in the area. Which means that if you have to set your Eastern positions 100 yards closer to the retreat to take advantage of high ground you do that, and if you have to set your Western positions 100 yards further out to take advantage of a river then you do that. You should have enough positions to give you 360 degree coverage around your retreat, limited only by the number of combat capable members in your group. If you have less numbers then you have fewer positions that are more spread out. With more numbers you can have more positions with less space between them. Each primary fighting position should be set up for 2 fighters, with interlocking fields of fire that are similar to the weave of a basket and vastly improve your ability to defend against attackers.
Using a map of your retreat area, draw a straight line from the center of the retreat through the center of the position. This is your zero point for that position. The fighter on the left side of the position will fire at targets from about 20 degrees left of the zero point to a point roughly 20 yards in front of the next nearest fighting position. The fighter on the right will fire at targets from roughly 20 degrees right of zero to about 20 yards in front of the fighting position on that side. Aiming stakes (wood or metal, placed vertically into the ground) will help the defender stay within their proper field of fire. Most attackers will want to fire along their direction of travel, so it’s better to not be firing in such a way that they could easily hit your people. By firing on these angles each position is depending on its neighbors to keep it from being overrun, while doing the same for them. Also, fire coming into an attacker from an oblique angle can break down the morale, as well as command and control, of the attacking group.
Each Primary position should have a secondary and tertiary position. These allow your people to give ground while maintaining a perimeter and giving them covered positions (potentially with some resupply in place) to fight from. You will want to establish a signal that your people will instantly understand as orders to vacate their current positions and fall back to the next. This is important to keep any of your members from being left on their own and it maintains your interlocking fields of fire as well since each position covers two others.
Each fighting position should have a range card in place. Range cards are sketches (can be fairly simple or very detailed) that provide direction for anyone attempting to fight from that position. A range card shows dead ground – areas that cannot be observed or directly fired on by the defender in that position, fields of fire, primary avenues of approach, any impediments (booby-traps) in the viewable area, etc. With a good range card in place anyone can move into that fighting position and with just a few minutes of concentration be able to effectively defend from that position. Copies of all the range cards should be in your Tactical Operations Center (TOC) or headquarters (HQ) if you prefer. Someone should be in charge of your overall defense and they can use the range cards to ensure that you have interlocking fields of fire around your entire retreat, as well as that all dead spots are covered by other positions if possible. Note: range cards are created using a compass in order to provide azimuths to the various items noted on them. So every person in your group should have a compass as part of their gear, which should be with them (no further than arms distance from them at any time) 24X7.
This link will walk you through filling out a range card: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/policy/army/fm/3-21-9/apph.htm
Guards and early warning capabilities are important to warn of approaching threats and give your group time to prepare for them. These can include OP/LP guards located away from the retreat proper along likely avenues of approach, dog runs, trail cameras, noise/light trip-wires, flocks of birds or herds of animals that will react to any strangers approaching, and any retreat guards that the group establishes. Each of these offers advantages and limitations, with most working better as integrated parts of your defense system than by themselves. The farther you can place these assets from your retreat the more warning they may provide for you. The hard part is ensuring that none of these are the only warning capability covering a given approach while maintaining 360 degree coverage. With that in mind most groups won’t be able to place these as far outside the retreat proper as they might like.
Your final defensive capabilities are your last line of firing positions, set up with interlocking fields of fire like the others, and your reaction force if you have the manpower to be able to sustain one. The final defensive positions are just that, your last ditch means of defending your retreat and your people. If you’re defending from these it means you have a very serious attack underway and you should be bugging out if at all possible. The reaction force, if you have enough fighters to establish one, is your reserves. They can plug holes in your line, counterattack a faltering attack, flank an attacking force, etc. which makes this a very valuable part of your defenses.
You must have someone in charge of your defenses, one who can evaluate them and improve them, one who understands the concepts. That person must be capable of evaluating the concealment of each fighting position while ensuring that it fits correctly in your interlocking field of fire grid.
So in conclusion, your defensive arrangements will resemble an onion, one that an attacker will have to pass through one layer at a time. With each layer you have a chance to discourage the attacker, or hurt them bad enough, so that they withdraw to lick their wounds and seek weaker prey. You must be ever vigilant as a threat could appear at any time and from any direction. You must be flexible in your defense as what works against one type of attack may not be your best bet for a different type. And you must realize that this type of defensive system will vastly increase your defensive capabilities, allowing you to survive against larger groups of attackers than you might believe possible.