Several months ago I wrote an article entitled “Priorities of Purchase: Progressively Building a Rifleman’s Kit on a Budget,” where I listed important items to buy for an individual rifleman in order of importance. Today I will do the same sort of list, but for team-based assets. Whether you’re defending your “retreat” or conducting operations as a guerrilla force, you should be training and planning to work with a team of shooters. After all, you can’t stay awake on watch 24/7. Once your individual kit is out of the way, you should consider investing in some additional items that can increase your team’s effectiveness. Today I will list some of these items, but unlike the last article, they’re not listed in any particular order.
The reason I’m not listing team gear in order of importance is because every team has a different set of mission-essential tasks, and therefore different requirements for their gear. Your mission-essential task list (METL) should determine what equipment you invest in, not the other way around. For example, a team defending a suburban neighborhood in a WROL/rioting scenario has far different needs than a dedicated guerrilla group operating in swamps and forests. Sit down with the other members of your team, determine what it is you are actually training to do, and then consider what tools will help you accomplish your mission.
That said, here is my summary of team-level equipment for your consideration. This article has a lot of links to more thorough articles and videos about these items, so you may want to save this article to use later as a resource.
A US Marine piloting a quadcopter drone
Drones are incredibly useful for low-risk reconnaissance, and come in two main configurations: fixed wing and quadcopters. Fixed wing drones generally have greater range and longer flight times, but they are bulky and not easy to carry on the move, as well as harder to pilot. Quadcopters tend to be compact and lightweight at the cost of a reduced operating range and flight times.
It should be noted that most commercial drones come with software that not only tracks the location of the drone, but the location of the pilot. It is allegedly possible to “jailbreak” these drones, but it is unclear exactly how effective this is. Another option is to build your own custom drone, but I am not knowledgeable enough to discuss this in detail.
I should also note that quadcopter drones are mostly useful for scouting specific areas at specific times, not general observation for security. They simply do not have enough battery life for this task, and while imagery from the air is helpful it is not nearly as complete as what a human recon team can gather on the ground.
In a defensive posture, drones can also be used to provide overwatch for troops in contact. If the defense is coordinated enough to have a TOC coordinating the defense, a drone operator at the TOC could provide on-demand drone support to security outposts or patrols when they take contact. If the TOC is in radio contact with the element they are supporting, the drone operator can report what they see to the men on the ground. This is preferable to having the drone in the patrol, as it is hard to fly a drone while you are being shot at. It also lowers the risk of losing such a valuable asset.
A YPG Kurd fighter with a homemade AMR
There are three basic types of special weapons that I will list here as they pertain to the armed citizen. They are the AMR, the Automatic Rifle, and a DMR.
AMR: The Anti-Materiel Rifle is optimized to counter a specific type of threat, namely armored vehicles. It won’t do you any service against a tank, but can be effective against lightly armored vehicles with the correct ammunition. I wrote a full article on what an AMR is here and a second on how to use it here.
Automatic Rifle: The automatic rifle is an incredible force-multiplier for any infantry-type force due to its ability to contribute towards suppressing a hostile force. I wrote an article on how to build and utilize a semi-auto version of an automatic rifle here. Johnny Paratrooper wrote a similar article on the same subject here, and Hawkeye has posted several videos on his “area denial weapon” build as well.
DMR: The Designated Marksman Rifle is a potent tool. It is not a “sniper rifle” so to speak, but rather a fighting carbine that has been optimized for more precise fire when the need arises. My good friend NC Scout wrote a very good article on what he dubbed the “Guerrilla Sniper Rifle,” which is essentially the same concept. When operating within a squad, the designated marksman should stay close to the squad leader so he can be quickly assigned priority targets (like enemy machine guns or radio operators) and neutralize them with precision fires.
The (now iconic) Baofeng UV-5R
Radio Communications Equipment
Radios are incredibly useful for coordinating multiple teams or reporting back to a TOC or Patrol Base. And when you can still get cheap Baofeng radios on Amazon for under $30 each, there’s no excuse not to have a couple on hand. Bear in mind, not everybody should have a radio on a team if they don’t have something important to say. Too many people with radios will clog up the airwaves, and too much traffic will get you found by someone with even a basic SIGINT capability. Give radios to team leaders and squad leaders to coordinate maneuvers and keep the radios on low power to minimize your electronic footprint. While you’re at it, go to a class where you can learn how to use those radios more effectively.
View through night vision (left) and night vision paired with a Clip-on Thermal Imager (COTI).
STANO stands for Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Night Observation. STANO assets enhance your ability to observe an area and detect people (friendly or otherwise) from an observation post or on the move in a patrol. This includes binoculars, night vision, thermals, and periscopes.
Binoculars: Field Marshall Rommel was once asked what his most powerful weapon was, to which he responded “binoculars.” A good set of field binoculars is very useful for getting a closer look at things, especially when operating in an AO with lots of open spaces. While you may have scopes on your rifles that also provide some zoom, it is a good idea to have an option for observation that doesn’t involve you aiming a weapon at people to get a closer look at them. While there are several cheap sets of pocket binoculars available, they far too often have a very small objective lens, which makes them significantly less effective in low light. However, their size and weight still makes them a good tool for a foot patrol. For an observation post, you’d want to get something bigger with more magnification and wider objective lenses.
Night Vision: As I mentioned in my article about individual equipment, having the ability to see and fight at night is such a massive force multiplier that I recommend selling your extra rifles to buy just one of them. I include it in this article about team equipment because, if you have the ability to do so, getting a few extra night vision devices to share should you need to use them is something that you should consider. It’s also helpful to have them available as backups if your main NVG gets broken, lost, or captured.
Thermals: While night vision devices are useful for getting around and aiming weapons at night, thermal optics are extremely potent for detecting and locating targets via their heat signature. Sure, the ability to see at night is a huge advantage, but it doesn’t change the fact that conventional camouflage techniques for daytime use still work at night against night vision. Thermal optics largely remove this shortfall by reading heat signatures of warm bodies, weapon barrels, and recently used vehicle engines, even through smoke, fog, and light foliage. Thermal optics can be weapon mounted, but for the same reasons as with binoculars, it is a good idea to have a handheld option as well.
Periscopes: The ability to observe something without exposing your head may or may not be important to you, but it is a good option to have if you need it. Handheld periscopes are especially useful in urban environments where it is very difficult to hide the distinct silhouette of a human head. These can be homemade using a tube and two mirrors, or you can try to find an old Soviet trench periscope. S2 underground made two very thorough videos about trench pericopes and their utility here and here.
To be continued…
Next week, Part 2 will focus on resources that will not just enable, but sustain your operations for however long you need. In the meantime, make sure that you have the requisite skills to use this equipment effectively. If you want to test your gear and your ability to use it, don’t miss the 2-day Force-on-Force Lab in March!
To learn how to make a training program for your teammates, come to a Team Leader Class where I teach how to be an effective small unit leader. I’m continually adding classes to my training schedule, so be sure to check it once in a while for more class offerings.