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“THIS…..IS….(definitely not)…..SPARTA!!!!!

More skull-stomping of sacred cows….


Don’t be this guy…..

The family and I were driving a couple weeks ago (I think it was en route to the Iowa Rifle Class, but it might have been on our way back west), across the vast emptiness that comprise large swaths of the American West, where the only reliable radio reception is intermittent opportunities to pick up AM talk radio in the middle of the night. As we were driving, and HH6 was scanning through the AM bands on the truck radio, she came across that bloated, blathering, idiotic paragon of the neo-con Right, Rush Limbaugh. Since it was the only station with any reception, we listened.

A caller came on the show, apparently a middle-aged woman, complaining of today’s youth. From bitching about how fat and inactive today’s young people are (the irony of someone complaining about fat people on the Rush Limbaugh show apparently lost on her), compared to her youth of running around outdoors and staying out until dark, rather than sitting around playing video games. She went on to complain about their “horrid” music and lack of fashion sense.

These, of course, are laments that I hear (and admittedly, sometimes voice myself….) all too often in comments across the blogosphere, in emails, and in conversations amongst the preparedness/III/Liberty movement segment of society. We (like I said, I’m guilty as well) bitch, moan, whine, and complain about the young people in our society today, from teenagers in school to young adults in their 20s. The funny thing to me, is the inherent dishonesty, stupidity, and sheer irony in it all.

We bitch and moan about young males with their “saggin’” britches (and let’s face it, it IS pretty fucking retarded), and baseball caps with flat bills cocked off at some stupid angle that does dick-all to protect their eyes from the sun…We whine and complain about how ignorant, pointless, and flat stupid their music is. We complain about their lack of physical activity, as they prefer to stay inside and play video games or watch television.

…just like my parents bitched and moaned about my multiple piercings in high school (three in my left ear, two in my right ear, and my nose for a brief period), my green-dyed mohawk (only for a couple of weeks. The rest of the time it was shaved, or hanging over my ears and collar in a disheveled mop), and a half-dozen or more other fashion travesties of my youth (and yes, looking back, I know they were travesties...)…just like my parents bitched about my musical tastes in high school (ranging from Nirvana and Metallica and Guns-N-Roses—still the best band of the 1980s!– to Public Enemy, NWA, and Too Short)……

…just like my grandparents bitched about my parents’ bell bottoms, paisley shirts, and long hair….just like my grandparents bitched about my parents’ listening to the Beatles (rightly so, let’s admit it….), Dylan, the Doors, and Pink Floyd…

The point? Bitching about the tastes of young people makes no more sense today than it did in 1940….when a huge proportion of those young people went off and fought World War Two.

You bitch about this:


and this…..


….and rightly so…..

….but then you overlook these guys as representations of American youth….


and these guys…..


and this guy…..


and this fella as well…..


We bitch that America’s youth lacks a work ethic….they’d rather get a hand-out from other people’s labor than go out and get a job (well, except the examples shown above, of course...). Ever wonder why that is?

Perhaps they’re just following the examples set for them by their parents and role models. People like this….which, considering that 65 percent of American adults are overweight, and over 35 percent are obese, are probably more representative of parents than most people I know…..




Probably the single most recurring theme over the life of this blog has been, “Do PT, get training, and live the life you claim you want to live.” Besides my own ranting, readers with combat experience have repeatedly shared the importance of PT, as have students who have taken different classes from various realistic trainers. Even readers with zero experience voice their recognition of the importance of tactical training.

In return, we hear constant, continuous sniveling and whining about how hard it is….how we’ll realize, as we get older and accrue injuries, that PT just isn’t realistic anymore….how “John is some kind of physical superman” (nothing could be further from the truth)….and–the one that completely pisses me off the most–”I’ve got too many old injuries to do PT!”

Are your injuries worse than this guy’s?


Because, he’s still doing PT and training….

So is this guy….


….oh….and this guy?


Not only is he still doing PT….he’s also run several marathons, and served as the platoon sergeant of a Ranger Platoon in combat…since his amputations….

So, you were whining about old injuries again?

You were whining about being old?




Look, it doesn’t matter if you can bench press or squat or overhead press or power clean what I can. All that matters is that today, you can lift more weight, run a little faster, or run a little further, than you could yesterday, and that tomorrow, you can do better than you did today.

This is not Sparta, because Spartan youth, in the Agoge, had leaders, fathers, uncles, and other people to look up to as examples of what they should be and strive for. Today’s youth, even within the preparedness and liberty movements, have a bunch of whining, sniveling bitches making excuses for shit they know they need to be doing, but is too “hard” (fucking waaaaahhhhh) to bother with.

PT is too hard. Shooting and moving is too hard. Getting out in the woods and getting cold and wet and muddy is too hard. Fucking cry babies.

You want to be a leader? You want to change the path of America? Get off the fucking couch and go run an obstacle course race like a Spartan Sprint or Tough Mudder; go join a Crossfit box or (better yet) build a home gym and start working out in your driveway, rain or shine. Join a judo or Brazilian Jujutsu or MMA school and start rolling. Better yet, do all of them, and bring some young people along with you. I guaran-fucking-tee you, they will love it.

Be this guy…


Harden the fuck up already.



John Mosby

Observations and Opinions from Mosby’s Combat Rife Course (Iowa, March 2014) by R.

(highlighted, italicized comments are–as always–mine. JM)
I attended John Mosby’s Combat Rifle Course held in Iowa, March 28-30 2014. In a nutshell: It exceeded my high expectations, and fulfilled on the promises made. I thought it might be useful to others to make a list of some of the things I learned and a few preparation tips for attending the class. In no particular order:
1. Before you come, put your gear on and do burpees, running, diving to prone, getting back up, running again, kneeling, squatting, running up hill, etc. You’ll probably find a few surprises. The first time I did a burpee test with my setup, the hydration carrier on my back came flying up over my head; I quickly devised a method to secure it to the bottom of my rig in the back.
2. Take notes during the day. Write down things you’ve learned, questions for later, equipment upgrade/change notes, drill details for later implementation at home, etc. Taking notes enhances the training experience and long-term utility. (It probably goes without saying that you’re gonna need a notebook size and storage location on your fighting gear that facilitates this in the field.) (Seriously people….I don’t do handouts anymore, until AFTER the class. I found that providing handouts led to people NOT taking notes…My handouts may overlook something that YOU key on as being useful….–JM)
3. During training, have an empty mag (or two) on you (some drills will require it). It sucks to have to unload a full mag in the field and figure out what to do with 30 loose rounds. Make sure it’s of the same quality as your regular mags. Using a crappy mag as your practice/empty mag is not a good idea since it can induce mechanical failures (ask me how I know). It may sound funny, but you should practice how you will manipulate your gear and rifle and hold magazines while you load/deload rounds. (At a bare minimum, I tell people to have at least one empty magazine on them at all times, for dry-fire iterations….–JM)
4. Bring several black sharpees and keep one easily accessible on your gear. The faster targets get marked, the faster training will go (and the more you get to learn). Heck, bring a whole box and gift it to John (hahaha…..If you fuckers would quit walking off with mine, I wouldn’t always be looking for one….On the other hand, this would be a good addition to the required items list for the class–JM)
5. Don’t be afraid to volunteer or go first in drills. Boldness has benefits and a quality all its own. Even though we had a pretty large class, most people volunteered to help and cooperated to speed up administrative tasks like replacing targets. You can be pretty confident that you won’t regret volunteering, except for maybe being the first one to volunteer on the first day. ;) (In my defense….as everyone there knows….he shouldn’t have gotten hurt. I lowered him slowly to the ground–both times–instead of slamming him…..–JM)
6. Practice and get good muscle memory (er… sorry John, “neuromuscular facilitation”) for safe gun handling during tactical moving. Control the direction of your muzzle, put your gun on safe before getting up, finger off the trigger while getting up and moving. It’s startlingly easy to smoke a round into the ground in front of you if you slip while getting up to run from the prone and you’re still manipulating the safety to on (ask me how I know) (and scaring the ever-loving shit out of the instructor by smoking a round into the ground behind him, and spraying him with mud is NOT cool…..–JM)
7. Practice and remember holdover/offset for close targets. I was new to using an optic and a lot of the drills are 25m or less early on. I never did remember to aim slightly high in those cases (since we were using a 50/200 zero) to hit the designated area (too many other new concepts to think about and practice)
8. Pay attention and rehearse/remember which target(s) are yours before the drill starts. Stop and ask/clarify if you’re not sure. It doesn’t reflect well if you shoot at the wrong target (ask me how I know) and can degrade the training value for the guy who’s target you did hit (yeah……just…..yeah……)
9. Be thinking about additional questions and things you’ve learned. You’ll have lots of planned times to share and ask your questions. It’s really not a great reflection on your seriousness as a participant if you can’t quickly and easily come up with a question or lesson learned when asked.
10. Have your act together from the time each training session starts until it ends. Valuable training time is lost when you have to wait for people to do things they could have already done if they’d been thinking and planning ahead. In the case of our particular class, I think we all did extremely well in this department.
11. If you’re not familiar with the concept of ranger buddy, learn it. Stick with your assigned/chosen ranger buddy during class. Let them know when you’re leaving or returning to the immediate training area. If they’re going to help replace targets; go with them and help, etc. If they’re less experienced than you, help them learn and assimilate. If they’re more experienced, see what you can learn from them.
12. Be considerate of others that you are sharing sleeping quarters with. If you are going to employ a high-volume trucker’s alarm clock that’s louder than a firehouse alarm in the bunkhouse, at least warn your bunkmates (thanks a lot W. That actually provided a good morning laugh for us.) (Speaking of which…W….I have your Streamlight. You left it on your bunk apparently……–JM) Don’t be the guy that wakes up and leaves the sleeping area before his alarm clock goes off and forgets to turn it off before he leaves (ask me how I know :).
13. Be prepared to loan/give/demonstrate gear items to John if it catches his eye (You don’t have to GIVE me gear…..I would have autographed the book even without the gift of the MUT…..)
14. Electronic hearing protection is an incredible asset in this kind of training environment. Buy some at all costs; you won’t be sorry. I ran the Howard Leight R-01526 Impact Sport Electronic Earmuff ($41.99 at Amazon) and was very pleased. They were low profile, didn’t interfere with running the gun, and the batteries lasted about 6 hours of continuous use (forgot to turn them off at all the first day and ran them dry by mid-afternoon). I learned to make them last the full training day by turning them off during obvious non-firing, classroom time.
15. If you wear glasses or need too, take the opportunity of this class to invest in some quality custom shooting glasses. It’s dead simple: Call and talk to Chris at He’ll walk you through what you need for your situation; trust his recommendations (including adding blue-blocking treatment). It’s not going to be cheap, and the process may take a couple of weeks, but you’ll be thankful you did.
16. Don’t forget to drink water and grab a nibble of something throughout the day. Weariness (and accompanying lack of focus) can sneak up on you when you’re not hydrated or not used to not eating.
17. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification/repeat of range instructions or commands during training if they’re not clear to you. Everyone would much rather be safe than sorry.
18. There are going to be situations where participants will make a mistake or do something awkward or wrong. Don’t laugh, embarrass them further, or make a big deal of it. Leave that to the John’s discretion. It could very well be you next time.
19. Enjoy the training experience and be prepared to learn things you never thought or heard of. I’m willing to bet you’ll experience some drills and training you’ve never had before unless you’re already at John’s level; in which case you won’t be needing this advice anyway.
20. In preparing for the class, figure out a way to wear your fighting load and rifle for 4-8+ hours straight. Get your body used to bearing the weight for longer periods of time without a break. If you’re not used to it, you can get pretty tired, sore and stiff just from carrying the gear for a long period of time; even if otherwise you’re in good shape.
21. Get the best quality, highest-power white-light you can afford for your rifle. High power illumination has a quality all of its own.
22. Add squats and burpees to your conditioning regimen. You’ll come to understand why.
23. If you can, bring enough loaded magazines every day to the training site (extras in your ruck or vehicle as applicable), to get you through a full training day without having to fully reload a bunch of mags. Better to reload mags at night/offline than in the field. I’d aim for 12 loaded mags on-site at the start of any given day. You can concentrate on, and participate in, the instruction better If you’re not worried about running dry or having to reload magazines. You’ve obviously brought the requisite amount of rounds with you, and magazines are relatively inexpensive; don’t skimp. (Plus, being able to pass out a little extra ammo already loaded up on the last day’s exercise is a great way to win friends and influence people)
24. For this level of course (Combat Rifle) I didn’t feel I missed out on anything by not having NODs (Night Observation Devices) and lasers as part of my gear. It was really useful to have a bunch of the guys actually have them so they could facilitate the learning during that particular training segment. If, like me however, you are trying to figure out if you should purchase them before the class, I’d wait until afterwards and you’ve seen them in action.
25. Don’t talk, interrupt, or inject your thoughts while John is talking. The rest of us paid to come hear him; not you. If you really have something valuable to add to John’s current subject matter, he’ll probably already know to query you.
26. Take the time to get to know the names of your fellow participants as early as possible. Introduce yourself and remember their first name; it’ll make the whole experience more pleasant. There was a wide variety of background and professional expertise represented in our class participants. Try to glean what you can from others after training time is over.
27. Figure out where you’re going to store your empty mags on your person (front of shirt, dump pouch, etc.) and practice doing it.
28. Have a little duct tape (combat rolled) with you on your fighting load. Equipment can tear/break (knee pads) and it’ll save you having to leave the training area.
29. Be respectful to the property owner/host and his property. Treat his property like it was your own.
30. Get in better shape. Do more PT. Enough said.
It really was a memorable and enjoyable experience to attend this course and meet and interact with John and his family. I appreciate their service and sacrifices in life in order to make training like this available. John is quite a character and somewhat unorthodox. He is, nonetheless, one of the most professional, earnest, and competent instructor/trainers I’ve ever had the privilege to attend a class from (in any area of expertise).
JM’s parenthetical addition: Make sure I have a valid contact phone number for you before the class…..that way you’re not driving around asking random strangers in the local area where the gun class is happening…and I don’t have to call the number I have for you two dozen times trying to make sure you know where to link up…..just sayin……

A Logistics Transportation Alternative?

(WRSA posted a link the other day, to an article giving a heads up to survivalists about needing to know how to deal with animals….It was so spot-the-fuck on, that as I was looking through my bookshelves tonight, and saw the SF Pack Animal FM, I decided to knock out this article….so, here I go again….crushing delusions.

My experiences with horses and packing began…briefly…in the military, but really picked up when I got out. Living in the rural West won’t make you an expert on pack horses or riding horses, but it will damned sure make certain that you have exposure to both….. –J.M.)

One of the great things about living in the American West, is the prevalence of a wide variety of interesting outdoor recreational activities. From horseback riding and white-water rafting, to big-game hunting, backpacking, and all the long-distance shooting you can hope for. As a life-long avid outdoorsman, living on the edge of the largest wilderness area in the lower 48, with elk, wolves (legal to hunt again!), mountain lions, black bears, mountain lions, world-class rock climbing, and some of the best whitewater rafting in the world within a couple hours driving time, I’ve got everything a red-blooded American man could ask for in recreational activities.

One of the great UW advantages to living in this area is the number of backcountry hunting and fishing outfitters in this area. I see a lot of people post comments on survival blogs and forums about the theoretical use of pack animals, ranging from llamas and goats to horses and mules. With the amount of naiveté often evident in those posts, I thought I’d offer a few first-hand observations on the subject for your consideration.

A quick note on my experiences with this…

1) I’m no expert. The first time I was ever actually exposed to horse packing was in the Stan…and I didn’t do it. I watched other, far more qualified guys, both American and Afghani do it. Having seen it, and recognizing the value in it, I decided, that when I returned CONUS, I was going to learn more about it. Living in the northern Rockies, as I mentioned above, has given me a pannier-load (packing reference) of opportunity to do so. I’ve taken a couple of packing classes in the last decade, and have helped friends and neighbors pack everything from elk to camps into—and out of—the mountains.

2) I’m not a horse expert either. I can—generally–stay on the horse, as long as he doesn’t buck much, and I’ve been taught the rudiments of horseshoeing, so I can keep him from going lame. I’m certainly not a horseshoer. I’ve spent a lot of time around horsemen (and by horsemen, I mean people that make their living, every single day, sitting on a horse, NOT your wife or mom who owns a horse she rides a couple hours a week), and listened to their conversations, and I’d like to think I’ve learned a few things.

One of the most important things I’ve learned? The world is full of would-be experts on horses, most of whom aren’t entirely sure of which end the hay goes into.

In addition to horses and mules, I’ve been around people who packed llamas and goats…and once met a guy who had an oxen he could pack loads on (which was cool…but also just kind of…weird…)

METT-TC Considerations of Using Pack Animals

So, let’s look at a relatively new Special Operations FM, and consider the UW planning implications of using pack animals to haul your shit around. FM 3-05.213 Special Forces Use of Pack Animals JUN 2004, starts out with the following caveats:

Field Manual (FM) 3-05.213 is a guide for Special Forces (SF) personnel to use when conducting training or combat situations using pack animals. It is not a substitute for training with pack animals in the field. This manual provides the techniques of animal pack transport and for organizing and operating pack animal units. It captures some of the expertise and techniques that have been lost in the United States (U.S.) Army over the last 50 years. Care, feeding, and veterinary medicine constitute a considerable portion of the manual; however, this material is not intended as a substitute for veterinary expertise nor will it make a veterinarian out of the reader. SF personnel must have a basic knowledge of anatomy and physiology, common injuries, diseases (particularly of the feet), feeding, watering, and packing loads to properly care for the animals and to avoid abusing them from overloading or overworking.

Though many types of beasts of burden may be used for pack transportation, this manual focuses on horses, mules, donkeys, and a few other animals. One cannot learn how to pack an animal by reading; there is no substitute for having a horse or mule while practicing how to load a packsaddle for military operations.”

(emphasis is mine—JM)

Now, like I said, I’m not a fucking horse expert. I do however, have a fellow SFfriend who IS a certifiable expert with horses. Dude has made his living horseback since he got out of the army. He absolutely loves it, and while he is consistently even more broke than I am, he cannot imagine doing anything else for a living anymore (which reminds me, I should probably call the fucker). I do however, know that—like my buddy—all of the professional horse guys I know do all of their own farrier work, do all of their own veterinary work (with the exception of major surgical stuff), and eat, drink, and breathe horses. This is NOT something you pick up on the fly in a couple of days, weeks, or even months.

The FM then goes on to discuss some of the characteristics of pack animal operations, and METT-TC factors that impact on pack animal operations…

Commanders use military pack animal operations when the AO restricts normal methods of transport and resupply. Animal transport systems can greatly increase mission success when hostile elements and conditions require the movement of combat troops and equipment by foot…the weight bearing capacity of pack animals allows ground elements to travel longer distances with less personnel fatigue. The pack train can move effectively and efficiently in the most difficult of environments with conditioned animals, proper/modern equipment, and personnel with a moderate amount of training in handling packs. The pack detachment, without trail preparation, can traverse steep grades and heavily wooded areas, and can maintain acceptable speeds over terrain that is not mountainous, carrying 35 percent of their body maximums (150-300 pounds). This amount should be decreased for loads that are prone to excessive rocking as the animal walks (for example, top-heavy loads and bulky loads). This capability continues indefinitely, as long as the animals receive proper care and feed. In mountainous terrain, with no reduction in payload, the mule or horse can travel from 20 to 30 miles per day….the success of pack operations, under extreme weather and terrain conditions, depends on the selection and training of personnel and animalsPersonnel involved in pack animal operations require extensive knowledge of pack animal organization and movement, animal management, animal health care, pack equipment, and load planning. Planning the use of pack animals is not a simple task, nor is it always a satisfactory solution to a transportation problem.” (again, emphasis is mine—JM)

So, let’s look at the highlighted points…

the weight bearing capacity of pack animals allows ground elements to travel longer distances with less personnel fatigue.” This, of course, is the allure of the pack animal in the prepper mythology. There’s a couple of catches to this though, too often overlooked by too many people…

1) Do you know how to ride a horse? I don’t mean sit on a horse in the lesson arena either. Have you ever ridden a horse across country, through the brush? Across steep terrain. Like I said, I’m not an expert, but I’ve done both of these enough to know…and witness…untrained people fall off horses all the fucking time in rough terrain, seldom with healthy results. Have you ever actually sat on a horse ALL day long? I helped some neighbors pack a camp into the Bob Marshall Wilderness area a couple of years ago. I’d always wanted to get into the backcountry of the “Bob,” and it seemed like a much easier alternative to walking in. What would have been a two-day round trip for them turned into a four-day trip because, after sitting on a horse for 16 hours straight on the ride in? I literally, could not walk the next two days, let alone get back on the horse to ride out. It was not pretty, at all…and I’m in pretty good condition.

2) If your thought process runs to packing the loads on animals and walking next to them….how far can you walk, keeping up with the pack animals. The fact is, horses walk relatively fast, compared to us. It’s not going to be a leisurely stroll in the woods. Do you know how to safely lead a horse? In rough terrain? The first time I tried to lead a pack horse, I was sitting on another horse, and he STILL ran over me, knocking me off my horse, when the pack horse decided to JUMP over a six inch stream of water that my horse had simply stepped over as if it weren’t even there. Had I been on foot, I’d have been trampled and probably seriously injured. As it was, I just ended up bruised.

“...with conditioned animals, proper/modern equipment, and personnel with a moderate amount of training in handling packs...”

Here’s the real problem that arises with the notion of “Oh, I’ll just use pack animals! I read an article about it/my sister’s best friend has horses/I’ve got a neighbor that has llamas.” One of the great lessons I learned from some of my professional horsemen friends? “Pet horses” are not conditioned for hard work. Now, that SHOULD have been readily apparent to me. After all, most humans are not conditioned for hard work in this country, why would I expect their horses to be? I’ve heard horror story after horror story about some middle-aged woman with her pet horse trying to keep up with professional horsemen, only to end up with a lame or crippled horse, or the horse ends up in physical distress with “colic” (while colic is a specific equine ailment, apparently, it is also used colloquially as a general catch-all term for any number of horse maladies).

Let’s move beyond whether your sister’s best friend’s horse is actually conditioned for work, or is actually an over-fed, under-exercised pet…do you even know what proper/modern equipment is required to pack an animal? Does anyone in your current network? Do you know the difference between a Decker and a Sawbuck pack saddle is? The difference between a saddle pad and a saddle blanket? Do you know what a pannier is? Can you basket-hitch a load to a pack saddle? Because the reality is…” a moderate amount of training in handling packs” is a necessity, and those questions are so basic to packing that even I know the answers to them…

“ …as long as the animals receive proper care and feed… 

Do you know how to care for a horse/mule/llama/goat? Under working conditions? Do you know how much grain it needs for sustainment? How many pounds of forage/grass? Do you know what local plants are toxic to the pack animal of your choice? Do you know how to shoe a horse, if your horse loses a shoe? Do you know what an E-Z boot is? Do you know how to put hobbles on your pack animals, so they don’t wander too far in the night? If you tie them up, are you going to use a “high-line” where you have to feed them hay and grain? How are you going to haul the hay and grain in? Or will you use a “picket rope?” If you use a picket rope, do you know how to keep the horse from breaking his legs tripping over it? Or strangling himself with it? (In my admittedly limited experience…while horses are completely fucking awesome animals…they’re not the brightest of creatures…)

…the success of pack operations, under extreme weather and terrain conditions, depends on the selection and training of personnel and animals…Personnel involved in pack animal operations require extensive knowledge of pack animal organization and movement, animal management, animal health care, pack equipment, and load planning. Planning the use of pack animals is not a simple task, nor is it always a satisfactory solution to a transportation problem…”

The reality is, too many people, with absolutely no frame-of-reference whatsoever (damn, I haven’t brought up frame-of-reference in an article in a long time, have I?) have Daniel Boone fantasies of pack animals as the go-to answer for moving logistics in a UW context. But…if you don’t know fuck all about the pack animal you want to try and use, and you don’t know anyone with actual backcountry packing experience with those animals….you’re NOT going to successfully use those animals in that context.

As with ALL operations, “successful pack animal operations depend on thorough mission planning, preparation, coordination, and rehearsals. Initial mission planning should include a mission, enemy, terrain and weather, troops and support available—time available and civil considerations (METT-TC) analysis to assist in determining whether or not to use pack animals in a mission.


What is the mission? Are you doing a raid? An ambush? A security patrol? A bug-out/E&E operation? A raid, you might be able to use pack animals to move equipment to the objective rally point/mission-support site…but will the horses, whinnying for company when they see other horses in the area, compromise your security? We’ve all read stories about indians and mountain men training their horses to NOT whinny at other horses, but do you know how to do that training?  I sure as fuck don’t.

On a bug-out/E&E mission, what are you going to do with the horses if your evasion route requires crossing large bodies of water, or large urban areas? My previously mentioned buddy has told me stories about riding horses to an through town…it’s not real subtle, according to him.

Enemy Situation

What is your specific enemy situation? Is the enemy a regime or invasion force with technological assets that will make your use of pack animals unfeasible? If you think you’re worried about hiding from IR and thermal imaging…think about trying to hide the thermal image of a fucking horse….let alone several horses…are you going to be able to hide the horses in your objective rally point patrol base/mission support site?

Terrain and Weather

Is the terrain conducive to pack animal operations? Granted, as a ranch owner friend once pointed out to me, when I asked why he didn’t just use ATVs to gather his herd in…”There’s an awful lot of places an ATV cannot go. There ain’t many a horse can’t go.”  Nevertheless, I’ve seen the scattered carcasses and bones of pack horses that fell off cliff side trails. What if you have to cross large bodies of water? What if you have to cross swampy terrain? Can your pack animals deal with that? Do you know how to deal with the animals in that terrain?

Is seasonal bad weather going to restrict the use of pack animals. I’ve seen lots of pictures of guys riding horseback in deep snow. We have some really cool calendars for sale at the local feed stores that feature that kind of shit. I’ve also met a lot of professional horsemen, sitting around the woodstove at the feed store in the winter, because they had broken legs from where their horse slipped and fell on the ice and snapped their fucking femur. How combat effective are you going to be in that case?

Do you know how to deal with, and navigate with pack animals in limited visibility conditions?

Troops and Support Available

Does your team/group have the training and experience to do all the shit we’ve mentioned so far? Do you have the pack animals you’re planning on using, so you can…I don’t know…TRAIN in these tasks? Or do you just figure that if your granddaddy could do it, you’re smarter than him, so you can probably do it too, and fuck that training shit, it’s like….work!!!?

What types of pack animals are available in your area? It’s easy to say, “Oh, we’re going to use llamas!” Or “We’ll use mules!” Do you KNOW anyone in your area that has those animals and packs them? While I know a few people that pack llamas, most of the llama people I know raise them for wool or meat. I know a lot of people in the West who pack their elk out on their pet saddle horse every fall, but I never met anyone who actually packed horses at all, until I moved to the West.

Do you have access to the necessary pack equipment? Does your route offer grazing for the animals? If not, are you going to pack feed for them, or count on the local civilian populace/auxiliary to provide food? Are enemy intelligence assets going to get suspicious when they notice Farmer X suddenly had a patrol’s worth of pack animals in his pasture the day before the raid on Target Y occurred? Do you think that maybe—just maybe—that might result in him getting a rather stern visit from them? Do you trust him to NOT talk under interrogation? (This is also a Civil Considerations issue, of course)

Are you planning using local civilian populace/auxiliary personnel to handle the packing tasks, including supplying the animals, equipment, and expertise? Have you DEVELOPED an auxiliary, or are you just talking about it? (I find the current emphasis on auxiliary fundamentally wonderful, while also more than a little disconcerting, since one of the primary reason I started this blog was to point out the fact that no one in the “prepper/militia/III%” community seemed to understand that the auxiliary was so fundamental. Look at the comments on some of my first blog articles on the subject….So…are you actually developing an auxiliary, or are you just talking about it?)

What are you going to do with the pack animals while you are conducing actions on the objective? Do you have enough people that you can afford to leave extra security personnel with the animals as “horse handlers?” Or are you going to trust that task to the auxiliary guy whose horses you pressed into service? Will he still be there when you get off the objective, or will he have decided you’re probably going to lose, and decide discretion is the better part of valor and go home?

Or, do you think you’re John-Fucking-Wayne and George Armstrong Custer rolled into one, and reincarnated, and so you plan on conducting a mounted cavalry assault?

Some Other Considerations

While not farriers, Soldiers must be able to replace at least, a loose or missing shoe when a farrier is not available. The usefulness of a pack animal depends on the health and condition of its feet. The use of a “hoof boot” (I’ve always heard them referred to as “E-Z Boots”–JM) should he the first course of action when an animal loses a shoe. This item is part of the pack animal first-aid kit (you DID realize you were going to need to build a veterinary blow-out kit too, right?)

Regular metal horseshoes throw off a lot of sparks as the animals walk over rocky ground. These can easily be seen from a distance at night and may compromise location and activity. Additionally, these sparks can start fires if the tinder is very dry. Nonsparking horseshoes made of softer metal or hard plastic avoid these problems, but do wear out faster.

This next part is critical, if you have access to horses, but no experienced pack horses…or packers…Like I said, I can sit on a horse, and I can sort of pack a horse (if I’ve got adult supervision), but I’m sure as fuck not a trainer…

The attitude of personnel training pack animals is extremely important. A person assigned to train animals must have a better than average knowledge of animals. He must also have patience, tact, firmness, and a liking and aptitude for animal management. Experienced and knowledgeable trainers seldom need much in the way of restraint. They work confidently, orderly, and efficiently around the animals. As a result, the animals are cooperative, more productive, and sustain fewer injuries. Inexperienced trainers tend to use more restrain than necessary; are less confident and orderly; and consequently less efficient. Likewise, the animals buck more, are less productive, and sustain more injuries. A person who is afraid of animals or who will become frustrated easily with them will not do well. Above all, the trainer must not take out his frustrations on the animal by beating, kicking, or using excessive restraint on the animal. A good animal trainer combines and intelligent respect for animals with a lack of fear. An ideal pack animal trainer should be…systematic…patient (and thus…I am not a horse trainer...)…tactful (ditto….)…. resourceful…. moderate…observant… exacting…. logical… tenacious…. consistent….

Animal Health Management

Then, we get into dealing with health issues. You’re going to feel really, really fucking retarded, if, halfway into your mission, you get stopped dead in the water, because your pack animals die of sickness, aren’t you?

Actually, this section of the FM was pretty enlightening. We have a couple horsepacking and horse care books on our bookshelves, but the FM listed horse ailments I’d never even considered…..granted, I’m not a veterinarian, but….I’m pretty sure some of these could be pretty fucking detrimental to mission success. Do you know how to recognize the difference between a healthy horse, and one that’s about to get sick as fuck and die?

Common Horse Ailments

Lacerations, incisions, and puncture wounds….(these I’ve witnessed and even helped care for). From horses getting cut after getting tangled in barbed wire fences, to cutting themselves on trailer gates and nails sticking out of fenceposts, to getting kicked by another horse. These are BASICALLY treated just like we’d treat the same type of wound on a human, only they tend to be not as serious on the horse, because there is so much more meat protecting the vital organs.

Closed wounds result from external mechanisms such as overuse, hyperextension or hyperflexion…injuries include bruising, stretching, or tearing of connective tissue; joint dislocation; bursal inflammation or rupture; cartilage damage; and various degrees of bone fracture. Symptoms of these injuries are swelling, stiffness, and a partial or complete loss of function….major partial- and full-thickness burns and displaced or open fractures require specialized, lengthy treatment and recuperation. Destroying the animal becomes a matter of operational necessity when conducting a mission. “ Here’s a couple of things to consider in this context. Do you know how to put the horse down, without shooting it and the resulting noise signature, and without causing it unnecessary pain? You might be a stone-cold killer and unfazed by the pain of the animal, but if it starts squalling in pain, is that going to compromise your presence and the mission? I’ve watched a few horses get put down. I’ve watched hard-as-woodpecker lips old men bawl their eyes out, as they had to shoot their favorite horse. On one occasion, I watched a young kid have to put his horse down. His pistol shot missed (he closed his eyes and looked away as he jerked the trigger). I can guarantee you…you DO NOT want to watch a horse, that’s been shot in the head, and not killed by the first round, go through it’s death throes. Fuck, I cried it was so sad! ( The kid was even more traumatized by that than by having to put the horse down in the first place. I thought he was going to turn the gun on himself).

What impact is that going to have on Civil Considerations, if the locals realize you’re so inept you can’t even put a damned horse down without fucking it up?

Allergic Reactions…..(seriously? WTF,O? I never even considered this as a risk…)…bites and stings, hives…Burns…Lameness…can result from things as simple as a “stone bruise” where the horse gets a small stone lodged in the crevices of the foot and bruises the sole of the hoof (happened to me once on the backside of a mountain. It was a long walk out wearing riding boots), but it can also result from a bacterial infection of the hoof called thrush, or from a cracked hoof (my former SF buddy-turned-cowboy told me about having to put one of his horses down. The horse didn’t have shoes on, and he was chasing a cow on frozen ground. Going through some rocky ground, the horse sheared half her hoof off. He tried just turning then horse out to let it heal, but he just laid down in the pasture, and was starving, so my buddy ended up putting her down. He told me the story a couple years after it happened and he still teared up over it. His view on it “I knew better than to run him across the rocks barefoot. My pride about not letting a goddamned $500 piece of shit cow get away resulted in having to put kill one of my favorite horses.”). Horses can also go lame from injuries to the tendons of the lower legs and joints from undue stress and strain…

Then there’s shit like parasitic infections: ectoparasites, like fleas, ticks, flies, and mosquitoes (West Nile Virus that we’ve all seen in the news? Flat fucking kills horses apparently). Endoparasites like tapeworms and shit will also fuck up your pack horse fantasies.

Then there are diseases like “strangles” (I don’t have a fucking clue, so don’t ask me! I’ve heard people talk about it, but have never seen it.), tetanus, equine infectious anemia (again…not a fucking clue), and the aforementioned “colic” (from the FM: “Colic is a term used to denote a pain in the abdomen from a variety of different causes, Colic is often caused by distention of the bowel resulting from excessive fas production…impaction of feces or bowel obstruction from colonies of intestinal parasites…twisted intestine…or goring or overfeeding. Colic may also result from circulatory problems due to the inactivity of bowel segments. Colic from intestinal impaction often occurs when horses do not drink sufficient water. This often occurs at the change of seasons when the temperature suddenly becomes cold or hot, or when horses are moved to an area with a different source of water unfamiliar to them.”)…encephalomyelitis (FYI, I probably misspelled that, even looking at it in the FM as I typed it)…Rhinopneumotitis (ditto)….Potomac Horse Virus (yeah…again…not a fucking clue…)….

Packing-Specific Equipment/Tack

I’m not even going to get into all the equipment needed to pack gear on horses….there’s two major types of pack saddles: Deckers and Sawbucks…but I’ve also watched really experienced packers sling loads onto their riding saddles just like it was a pack saddle. Then you’ve got shit like mantees, panniers, pack boxes, sling ropes, halters and lead ropes (pretty fucking self-explanatory), breast collars, breechng, and cruppers, cinches, and that’s before you even get into the shit you need to RIDE a horse!!!

Riding….for Real

One thing about tactical pack animal operations….especially if you think you’re suddenly just going to go jump on a horse and ride it….If you exposure to horses has been limited to trail rides at National Parks or the county fair….or even just lessons in the arena….riding in the brush….especially at night or in the rain or snow…is a whole other kettle of fish. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can just jerk the reins left or right to get the horse to go where you want it to go. I made that mistake the first time I rode a horse in the backcountry in Montana. Shit, I knew what I was doing! I’d done trail rides before! I decided I wanted the horse to go left, so I moved my hand to the left to “neck rein” him. He didn’t turn, so I pulled to the left harder. He started tossing his head around, so I jerked left with all my might. He promptly reared up, just enough to get me to QUIT pulling on him (actually, I dropped the reins and grabbed the saddle horn in a briefly successful attempt to stay on), before he proceeded to go running away through the timber. To this day, I’m not sure if it was the third or the fourth tree branch that smacked me in the teeth that knocked me off the horse….

Fortunately, after watching that incident, the guy who owned the horse proceeded to sternly lecture me, for the rest of the pack trip, on how to use my legs to steer the horse, so there were no repeats of that particular mishap.

How are you going to carry your weapon while you ride the horse? You can’t just slide it into the scabbard like elk hunters do. What if you get ambushed or make a chance contact? Are you going to sling it? What if you get bucked off and land on it? The weapon probably won’t break, but your face where the muzzle device smacks into it sure as shit will.

Other Pack Animals

Other potential pack animals (for us….some parts of the world use everything from camels to reindeer as pack animals), include llamas, goats, oxen, and even dogs. Just like with horses and mules though, you need to know the specifics of HOW to pack those animals, as well as how to take care of them, before you can actually consider them in your planning processes.


Thank you

HH6 was doing her usual stellar job of taking care of administrative nonsense today, when she noticed that we’d passed a pretty major (I think…but don’t KNOW…it’s major to us anyway) milestone.

Since switching over the WordPress, we’ve had over 1 million views of the blog (1,105,546 when I looked). With the numbers we had at the old site, that means we are past the 2 million mark. I don’t THINK those are unique visits (although I do know they don’t count the times we come on for admin purposes), but it still means a shit-ton of people are reading the drivel I put out.

On days we don’t post anything for a couple weeks, we’re still averaging 2000+ views a day, while posting days–and those immediately following–generally result in 4000+ hits (and when Matt Bracken posts links on Facebook, they suddenly jump past the 7000+ marker…).

Thank you all. 1) for realizing that things are ugly enough to realize that reading and heeding this type of information is important to the future survival of our society, and 2) for putting up with my blithering constantly about PT, PT, PT, fundamentals of marksmanship, fundamentals of marksmanship, fundamentals of marksmanship, and get off your ass and train, get off your ass and train, get off your ass and train.

Now…..get off you ass, train, and go do PT.

You Want Me To Carry What!!!??? Part Two

Growing up in the Ranger Regiment, it always seemed like Cherries carried everything. As a SAW gunner, between 1200 rounds for the gun, and the rest of my basic load, plus an M-3 Combat Lifesaver’s bag, plus all the munitions and shit we had to pack, it always seemed like we actually carried more shit than would fit on our LBE and in our ruck. The fact is, a lot of the time…that was true.

I have pictures stored away, of doing patrols, with so much shit hanging off me and my ruck that you’d be lucky to figure out where the Ranger stopped and the ruck ended. It got that special sort of retarded that is lovingly referred to as “Army Stupid.”

Then I got to SF. Now, instead of a platoon worth of guys humping a platoon worth of gear, we had a dozen guys carrying a company worth of gear. The 18D’s (SF Medics) would sub-load medical gear into packets that got cross-loaded between team members. The Charlies (Engineers) would do the same with demo gear. The Echoes (Commo) would pass out batteries for the different commo shit they carried. We Bravos, being the heart, soul, and backbone of the team, of course carried all the weight…(except mortar rounds. I always shared out mortar rounds when I had them…and belt-fed ammunition….but other than that heavy shit…being the heart, soul, and backbone of the ODA…everyone supports the Bravo….I carried all the heavy shit…). Before I even went to Selection, I’d read enough stories about SF, from SOG guys in Vietnam, all the way to Desert Storm, with epic tales of ridiculous loads being carried, and I had my experiences in the Ranger Regiment to give me an idea of what I was getting into. Stories of guys with 120 pound rucksacks, PLUS their fighting load, then carrying two five-gallon Jerry cans of water on top of it into the desert. Recon teams running with 20+ magazines, a couple claymores, and then smoke and frag grenades on top it…before they even loaded dry socks and rations into their rucks. The tales are epic, and to an outside sound either superhuman or simply fictional.

They’re not. Ultimately, that is the difference between the SF, LRS, and other UW worlds and anyone else doing a conventional mission (and make no mistake, the Ranger Regiment IS a conventional force unit…or was anyway, from the rebirth of 1/75 in 1974 until at least the late 1990s, with the change of mission-focus. Whether they are conventional light-infantry now or not is arguable, based on mission parameters). When you’re asshole deep in alligators, and your only hope of effective escape is self-extraction, you’d damned well better be able to carry everything your team needs, or you’re going to end up in a really bad spot.

Ultimately, THIS is the difference between the paradigm of conventional force traditional light-infantry and the SF/LRS/UW paradigm, and why the UW paradigm is so important from the prepper standpoint: whether you’re at the 82nd Airborne Division, the 101st Airborne (AASLT), the 25th Infantry Division, or the 1st MarDiv, while you might be on your own for a little while, you KNOW that at some point, SOMEONE is trying to come get your ass and bring you more shit…and they’re not so far away that it is ever going to seem impossible.

Drop an SF ODA 500 miles behind the Iron Curtain, or a SOG team on the wrong side of the Cambodian border, or dump a few ODAs into Afghanistan before any other US forces are even spooled up to go in-country…if shit gets hinky, they KNOW they are on their own, and for the foreseeable future, anything they need, they’d better be carrying with them, have in a pre-established cache location, or be able to beg, steal, or borrow from the local population.

We’re all light-infantry when we’re on the two-way range. Until we get to the range though, there are entirely different mindsets at work.

A lot of people have emailed me privately asking if Mr. FAG’s description of what he carries is legit or not. I can assure you, it is. In fact, as I was writing this article, he emailed me a series of photographs showing his load-out (not including his ruck), to illustrate how he carries it. You’ll find those appended to the end of the article.

In the meantime, to illustrate why I carry my gear the way I do, and to help illuminate why my shit looks so bulky, I’ve done an item-by-item photo inventory of what is on my person as 1st line gear, what’s on my 2nd line fighting load/RACK, and what is in my rucksack, as my BASIC packing list inventory. While this load may be added to, depending on operational parameters and environmental conditions, in my area, this is my MINIMAL packing list for foot-mobile, light-infantry type security patrolling operations.

1st Line Survival Gear

1st Tier Survival Load. This doesn't come off in the field. Period (Yes, I can sleep in my plate carrier...sort of...)

1st Tier Survival Load. This doesn’t come off in the field. Period (Yes, I can sleep in my plate carrier…sort of…)

1) Item number one is my Banshee Plate Carrier from Shellback Tactical. This is a relatively minimalist plate carrier design. It’s got Gamma III+ plates front and back. The only permanent attachment to it is the CAT-T tourniquet holder mounted high on the front, where it sits above my RACK, for easy access with either hand. No matter what else you do with your medical gear/BOK, a minimum of one tourniquet needs to be somewhere that you can get at it with either hand, in a hurry. It should also be readily visible, and the location should be known to everyone on the team, so they can put it on you if needed.


The paint pens and Sharpie marker are tucked into the PALS webbing solely for convenience when teaching. They make it easier to mark targets, and to illustrate concepts when I’m doodling something on the targets, to make a point.



2) Camillus Cutlery version of the Kabar. This is actually out of an Army supply room, the location of which shall remain nameless, lest they decide and try to hit me with a Statement-of-Charges for the cost of it, even at this late date. The kabar, as I’ve mentioned before, is big enough to get most of the shit I need a knife to do done, while also being small enough to not be a pain-in-my-ass. If it had to, I suppose I could stab a fucker in the throat with it. It’s certainly been used for that before (not MY kabar…the design in general). Most importantly, they’re cheap enough that I’m not freaked out by the possibility of breaking it (and yes, I’ve broken kabars before. Generally by greatly exceeding their intended purposes).


3) Safariland drop-leg with a Glock 17. Notice that I’ve greatly modified the drop leg strap, and removed the upper leg strap? If you show up to a class, with the fucking holster dangling around your knee, I’ll let you run it for a little while, to experience the misery, before I show you how to mod it, but I’ll also name you Angelina for the duration of the class.



My leg strap is snug enough to keep the fucking gun from flopping around like a fat chick’s lips at a hot dog stand, but not so tight that it interferes with the circulation in my leg, or my ability to tense the thigh muscles for sprinting and climbing or humping my ruck.



4) DIY leg panel. I’ll admit, I saw Chris Costa running his HSGI version of this and thought, “that’s fucking retarded.” Then, as I fought with the hip belt on my ruck getting in the way of my belt-mounted mag pouches, I started rethinking it. There comes a time, in every man’s life, I believe, when he has to admit, someone came up with something that he can only wish he’d come up with. This is the slickest set-up I’ve found. Mine required a lot of modification, since I used an old Blackhawk drop-leg subload panel. I cut it in half, taped up the bottom seam with 100MPH tape, and shortened the drop leg strap. It fits x3 HSGI kangaroo pouches perfectly. This gives me three rifle mags for speed reloads, during break contacts or the initial mag change of the fight, without having to fuck with flaps, or reach up on my chest. It’s retarded simple and superhero fast.



What’s critical to understand is…I don’t do tactical reloads or reloads with retention from here. These are just my “Oh shit!” emergency reload pouches, when speed of getting my gun back into the fight is the single most important attribute. Similarly, by reserving the use of these magazines, and by making them my first priority for refill during consolidation, if I have to dump my RACK, I’ve got rifle ammunition, even in worst-case scenarios.



Like the holster, the leg strap is set up to not interfere with movement and range-of-motion of the leg.



5) Zippo lighter. If you’re not familiar with Zippo, you need to crawl back into your cave and keep beating your obsidian chunks together. Zippos are the bee’s knees of lighters. Mine are all wrapped with a dozen or so ½ inch wide chunks of bicycle innertube, for use as tinder when starting fires. It burns hot and fierce, even when soaking wet (it’s rubber, after all), and lasts long enough to start even wet kindling more often than not.



6) A WindStorm signal whistle and USGI signal mirror.



7) Streamlight ProTac2L multi-function flashlight. This is my EDC light as well. For $60 at Cabela’s, and considering the abuse I’ve put mine through…you really can’t ask for more in a flashlight.



8) Benchmade folder. Benchmade is the only company whose folders I will carry. They’re expensive, but they’re worth it….and they have a no-shit, no-questions asked 100% lifetime guarantee. Literally.



9) Leatherman WAVE. While I despise the idea of the Leatherman (if I want pliers, I want fucking pliers. If I want a screwdriver, I want a fucking screwdriver. If I want a knife, I want a fucking knife…), I have to admit, it’s a nice change carrying one, versus always asking if someone has a multiplier on them….



10) Wiley X Safety Glasses. While there are definitely times to NOT wear safety glasses, for camouflage and concealment reasons, for the most part, I live in—and preach living in—my safety glasses. They don’t have to be Wiley X or Oakley. They can be the $5.00 ones from the Stop-and-Rob…just have safety glasses. And in bright, sunny weather, have shaded lenses. Although, I hasten to point out…if the cost difference between a $5.00 pair of safety glasses from the 7/11 and the $100 I pay for my Wiley X is more important to you than your eye safety….Well, you’re probably dumber than I think you are (although, if it’s a legit finances thing, I can understand that…)

2nd Line Fighting Load

Everything here is dedicated to killing bad guys, or keeping me from getting killed by bad guys.

Everything here is dedicated to killing bad guys, or keeping me from getting killed by bad guys.

1) Old-as-fuck three-color desert boonie hat (seriously, I think I kept if from my original CIF issue at the Ranger Regiment when I was 18…it’s been around for a really, really long time…), with a chunk of netting Shoe-Gooed to it, and some burlap garnish added. Notice that there’s very, VERY little garnish added. The problem with most people’s idea of Ghillie suits and garnish like this, is the tendency to add too much. It’s GARNISH!!! Most of your camouflage should be local vegetation.

Putting too much garnish on your shit is—to me—the camouflage equivalent of putting A-1 Steak Sauce on a perfectly seasoned and cooked, medium-rare steak (guess what I cooked for supper tonight?)…it’s as wrong as two boys fucking.

2) The Tactical Tailor MAV/RACK. This one has an extra medium-sized pouch on it that I picked up somewhere, that I put emergency food/snacks in. Otherwise, it came with all the pouches you see, as well as a couple of extra grenade pouches that I don’t use.

3) Ranger Handbook and x2 Rite-in-the-Rain memo book notebooks for planning/commo/note-taking. Wrapped in a Zip-Lock bag.

4) x8 PMAG rifle magazines loaded with 30 rounds each. I’ve got a couple of Lancers running around, at least one steel E-Lander Mag, and probably a half-dozen old aluminum GI mags still hanging around. For my money, PMAG just can’t be beat yet. With metal mags, even the steel feed lips can get deformed and you might not notice it until you’re dealing with malfunction after malfunction. With the PMAG, for the most part, a deformation of the feed lips is easy to notice—the fucking feed lip is broken.

5) AN/PVS-14 Night Observation Device (NOD). Mine is housed in the Blade-Tech hard case. In case any representatives of Blade-Tech happen to read this: I LOVE the level of protection this offers a $4000+ piece of relatively fragile electronic equipment. I HATE how much of a motherfucker it is to get the NOD out. I always feel like I’m going to break the damn NOD getting it out of the case.

On the plus side of the ledger though…hey, it carries two spare AA batteries! (The NOD runs on a single AA battery)

6) Fleece beanie cap for cold weather (not pictured is my polypro neck gaiter).

7) Petzl brand LED headlamp. I don’t remember who, but a student at a class loaned this one to me when we discovered my batteries were dead….and then just let me keep the headlamp. I’m glad to, because I LOVE this particular headlamp, with the flip up red filter.

There are times when you just need a headlamp. A handheld flashlight won’t cut it, and NODs are a pain-in-the-ass (like map reading at night….Yeah, I can do it too, it still sucks. I’d rather throw a poncho and woobie over my head and use a fucking white light. Same-same when doing the medic/TC3 thing…and then you can’t use a red lens flashlight–bonus points for anyone who figures out why medics don’t carry red lens flashlights…..not a lot of bonus points mind you, because it’s stupid simple to figure out….).

8) USGI tritium-illuminated lensatic compass. Best device I’ve yet found for night land-nav…and it can double as a close-range signaling device. Just recognize, to someone wearing NODs, that fucking tritium looks like a goddamned spotlight.

Ideally, this would be attached to my person, not my LBE. The fact is though, accessing it from a pocket, while geared up, is a pain in the ass, and I have other options (like another compass on my watch) for land nav emergencies in E&E situations…

9) Ten feet of flat-rolled 100MPH tape. Infantrymen are like the rednecks of the military. I use 100MPH tape like a redneck uses duct tape. Shit’ll fix anything (Not shown: the 25 feet of 550 cord that is stowed with the 100MPH tape).

10) Protein bars. The ones pictured provide like 350 calories per. I run protein bars instead of more balanced bars, because a) I’m into the whole high-protein Paleo diet thing, and b) the last thing I want to do if I’m down to eating bars out of my LBE is lose any more muscle tissue than I have to…

11) USGI signal mirror (ignore the apparently random order of the numbering. My beloved bride did the photoshop work. I’m too fucking stupid to figure it out).

12) Camouflage face paint.

13) Chicken salad on crackers snack pack. I’m actually going to add like six of the cans of chicken salad to my LBE loadout. They taste good, are relatively Paleo Diet friendly, and are light weight. They don’t pack the caloric punch that the protein bars do, but they’re fuck all easier to eat, and taste light-years better. Morale is important too.

14) Chemlights x3. Red, white, and blue. Why? ‘MURICA! That’s why. No, seriously? Red is for marking myself or another casualty, for evac purposes. It would suck to get back home and realize you left your buddy out on the objective, because he was wounded, unconscious, and somebody forgot about him. The other two are for signaling, and/or last-ditch illumination to see what the fuck you’re doing.

The reality is, these days, most of my chemlights end up getting used by TMO as night lights. The kid LOVES her some chemlights. I figure it means she’ll either grow up and be a bad-ass Viking shield-maiden type female….or spend her college years hanging out at raves….

15) Yaesu FT-60 two-way radio. One of the local HAM geeks did some sort of work on these. I can get FRS/GMRS freqs, MURS, and still pick up SW/HF. Additionally, it has the first 150 out of 1000 channels loaded with local and regional emergency services freqs, ranging from the Sheriff’s Office to DHS tactical channels…it’s handy. HH6 has it’s ugly twin sister on her RACK.

16) Bushnell 10X compact field glasses. I love me some Steiners, but the last pair of Steiners I owned got dropped off a 150 foot cliff in Utah. I didn’t even bother climbing down to look for them. So…If you happen to be wandering around northern Utah and find a pair of Steiner 10X compacts….you know where to send them to…In the meantime, I haven’t been able to convince HH6 that the Bushnells are inadequate for the purpose enough that I just HAVE to have a new pair of Steiners…

17) USGI roll of trip wire (Not shown: Assorted related goodies)

18) Water purification drops. These are the “stabilized oxygen” drops I’ve mentioned in previous articles in the past. There’s some argument over their effectiveness. All I know is this: I’ve used them for well over 15 years. I’ve used them on water with all kinds of creepy-crawlies in it. I’ve used it in water out of cow troughs. I’ve never gotten sick from drinking water I’ve used it on, while I’ve watched others drink the same water, using other methods of purification and filtration get kicked in the ass by the revenge of the Aztec king….They work for me.

19) stainless steel cable locking snares, x3. Honestly? These are mostly a feel-good item for me. I can’t imagine, if I’m down to living out of my RACK, that I’m going to have time to set a trap line. If I did, I know I’m a shitty enough trapper that three snares probably ain’t going to keep me alive. But honestly? I just feel better—more prepared—by having them. They don’t weigh shit, and they roll up nice and compact and out of the way. Fuck it.

20) It’s hard to tell in the photo, but that is a Zip-lock bag with a bunch of AA, CR123, and CR2 batteries stowed in it. My OTAL IR laser runs on AA. My PVS-14 runs on AA. My Streamlight TLR-1HL on my rifle runs on CR123s. My Streamlight TLR-3 on my G17 runs on CR2s. It’s a pain-in-the-ass, but it seems to be working okay for now…and we’ve got a metric shit-ton of each cached away at home and assorted other places. I don’t imagine I’ll run out of batteries for at least an hour after I can’t get them at the Stop-and-Rob anymore.

21) Work gloves. I’ve gotten tired of dropping $30 on Nomex aviator’s gloves every month, as they get torn to shit. Now, I’m running either Mechanix gloves, or whatever other, lightweight, leather-palmed, high-dexterity gloves I can find for less than $15 a pop.

22) BOK/IFAK. Wrapped in Zip-Lock bag. I’m still—after twenty-fucking-years—looking for the perfect BOK pouch. I was using a double-stack rifle magazine pouch for a really long time. Now, I just stuff the BOK in the top of one of my large GP pouches, until I find what I’m looking for. While I’m a pretty good Combat Life-Saver and medic, my BOK is for ME. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, it doesn’t get used on anyone else…even my wife or kids. They have BOKs. If I die, because I used my BOK gear on them, I can’t do much good taking care of them, now, can I?

3rd Line Sustainment Load

Sustainment Load. This is intended to keep you alive while you look for the enemy.

Sustainment Load. This is intended to keep you alive while you look for the enemy.


I get asked a lot, why I chose the biggest fucking rucksack I could find. “But John, doesn’t that lead to you over-packing? Don’t you carry more gear than you need?”

Honestly? It’s a legit question. I hear the same thing from backpacker friends when they see the big-ass packs I carry for that too. I’ve seen guys do that too, both in the military, and in the backpacking world (Hell, I’VE done it!). In the end though, it comes down to one of two things:

a) If you’re a section/team/squad leader, it comes down to making sure your guys aren’t doing that. That’s why we do pre-combat inspections, and have a mandated packing list.

b) If you don’t have a section/team/squad leader, or yours is too fucking lazy or stupid to give a shit, it comes down to self-discipline.

The fact is, when I pack all this shit in my ruck, including the items listed below that are not pictured here, I’ve got a metric shit ton of space left in my ruck. Further, if I dropped the sleep system (which I won’t, see the explanation below), all of this shit would fit in an assault pack half as large, and STILL have space left over. That leftover space is critical. You don’t know, until you’re into the planning process, what OTHER equipment you might need to pack. It could range from a medic’s bag, to subloads of demolitions material or radio batteries. The fact is, the items listed here are my MINIMUM packing list, for my general area. Some items could be replaced or removed entirely, if I lived elsewhere. Other items might need to be increased (like water, if I lived in a more arid desert). It’s all…ahem…shall we say….METT-TC dependent?

1) Nikon 45X spotting scope with tripod. This is really a sort of mission-specific item. In our specific area though, with the mountains and timber and desert so closely interspersed, this offers a lot of advantages for E&E patrolling, with my wife and daughter in tow. I can stop and glass an area for a long time before moving into and through that area. If I’m using a spotting scope to do so, I can see into shadows and other positions of cover/concealment a lot better than I can with 10X binoculars. That increases the safety margin for my wife and kid.

In the training context currently, I use it during classes to spot targets and make adjustments to expedite the zero-confirmation/adjustment process during classes. I’ve been doing this long enough, I can usually call out corrections based on what I see in the spotting scope, and get a guy’s POA/POI to coincide faster than walking downrange every time (which is NOT the same thing as saying we don’t ever walk downrange during that process. Seeing is believing is understanding).

2) USGI Poncho liner/”Woobie.” Also affectionately referred to as “The Infantryman’s Best Friend,” “GI Joe’s Security Blanket,” and “The Best Piece of Gear the US Army Ever Issued.” I don’t believe I know an experienced infantryman anywhere, who doesn’t still have at least one of his issue woobies hanging around. My kid LOVES hers, and sleeps with it every night. Hell, I sleep with one every night. My wife uses hers to wrap up in sitting on the couch. The woobie is—generally speaking—my bed and shelter in the field. While weather conditions may require me to use more than just my woobie, given my druthers, it’s my first choice for keeping warm enough to sleep. With dry socks and clothes, and a beanie on my head, wrapping up in just the woobie, or just a woobie and a poncho is more than adequate to keep me survival sleeping warm well into the mid-20s Farenheit (notably different from “comfortable sleeping warm.”)

Mine gets stuffed—inside of a USGI waterproof sack—in the top pocket of my ruck. It’s easy to get in and out, so even if I have to pack up and un-ass a patrol base in a hurry, I don’t have to leave it behind.

3) USGI Therma-Rest brand, self-inflating sleep pad. I’ve used Therma-Rest sleep pads for well over a decade. I’ve also used the old closed-cell foam “iso-mat” sleeping pads. The TR is hands-down better than the iso-mat, and rolls up much tighter, making it easier to pack.

One thing that a lot of people don’t understand about outdoor sleeping: The temperature rating on sleeping bags is determined based on the sleeping bag being on a sleeping pad, inside of a tent. So, consider that when you look longingly at the 20F sleeping bag you’re finger-fucking at Cabela’s next time you’re there. You won’t be conducting patrols and sleeping in a tent. That having been said, just the sleeping pad itself will go a long way towards, a) allowing you to actually get a little sleep, and b) not increasing the arthritis you will confront from humping heavy shit.

I spent my first three years in the Army sleeping on the bare ground. I can still do so if I have to, but I’ll never again do it by choice, Further, in my country, where we can get snow in July and August, it’s stupid to not carry the sleep pad.

4) Gransfor-Bruchs Scandinavian Forest Axe. This is a ridiculously expensive axe. Seriously…$165 for what is basically a high-end Boy Scout Axe. That having been said, it’s worth twice the money, at least. Gransfor-Bruchs axes are forged in Sweden, and the individual smith’s initials are stamped onto the head of the axe. Unless you go the route of a custom blacksmith, these are the best axes money can buy…period.

I was not an axe guy until about fifteen years ago. When I first started spending time in the Rockies, I was introduced to a book called “Bushcraft” by a guy named Mors Kochianksi. He’s a wilderness living instructor out of Canada, specializing in the boreal forest region. All my life, I’d read old time bushcraft books like Horace Kephart’s and Nessmuk’s (George Washington Sears), that extolled the virtues of the axe. It wasn’t until I read Kochianski’s though that the import of what I was reading really sank in. In the kind of country I live in, when it comes to pure survival, the axe is the ultimate survival tool. It’s more important than a knife. It’s damned sure more important than a rifle.

If I lived elsewhere, like the southeastern US, I’d not carry an axe, probably. I’d switch over to a machete, or kukri, or even a big-ass Bolo-type knife like Mr. FAG carries. The reality is though, in this particular environment, I don’t spend a lot of time cutting my way through berry and briar thickets. The most important application for a chopping tool up here is construction of shelters and getting firewood chopped up for staying alive. An axe does that better than any other chopping tool out there.

(I do have to admit though, I also have a really cool fransisca-style hand axe from Allen Foundry, purchased from Ragweed Forge…check out some of their cool Scandi knives too…that I sometimes carry instead of the GB. While I love that little axe, it’s far from ideal. While it will chop, it’s not as handy as the GB, and the head is cast stainless steel, which I hate on both counts. It sure looks bad-ass though!)

5) USGI Three-Bag Sleep System. I’ve heard a lot of guys bitch about these over the years. I don’t know why. I LOVE mine. I run it with just the black intermediate bag and the Gore-Tex bivy, unless I KNOW temperatures are going to drop retarded cold (by which I mean -30F or colder). Anything “warmer” than that, and I know—from experience—that dry clothes, dry socks, and some long johns, with the addition of the woobie and maybe a casualty blanket, will keep me adequately warm. Really, even if it’s retard cold, I can always burrow into a snow cave, or under a snow-covered spruce tree, start a very small fire, or even just light a candle, and stay warm to the point of sweating (the fire thing only works under the spruce tree….in a snow cave, you’ll regret it in a hurry…and I do mean a SMALL fire).

Most other places, especially south of the Mason-Dixon line, I could easily do without the sleeping bag. I’ve slept outside in just a woobie and poncho in December across the South, and been just fine. The fact is though, as I mentioned above…we can—and have—see snow in July and August, as well as the cold-weather conditions that go with it. Dying, because I didn’t want to carry a sleeping bag, just because it was “summer” would be a really stupid way to not survive… Cold weather conditions—with improper or inadequate equipment/preparation will kill you as quickly, or quicker, than enemy rifle fire.

6) Two one-quart Nalgene bottles of water. These are carried in MOLLE pouches on the padded portion of the hip belt of my ruck, tucked tight against the body of the ruck. They’re handy, although not as handy as the Camelback. These typically end up being my cooking water, if I’m afforded the opportunity to brew up some tea (I can’t stand coffee….I know…sacrilege, right?) or soup. Again, looking at environmental specifics, sometimes hot tea or soup….anything hot getting inside your guts…can be the difference between survival and dying in cold-weather environments.

7) Shemagh. Why? Because all the cool kids have shemaghs, right? Actually, you’d be hard-pressed to see me wearing one except in cold-weather, over—or in lieu of—my polypro neck gaiter. The great thing about the shemagh is….they literally have like 500 functional uses, and not all of them are retarded uses…and they keep your neck warm in cold weather….and they look all high-speed “operator,” which is why we really wear them, right? Right?……..right?

8) wool socks. MINIMUM of five pairs (which I think is how many are in my ruck right now). I taught a rifle course in knee deep snow last weekend. I think I changed my socks like four times a day. Fortunately we were inside a very nice house every night, so they had time to dry. Wet feet…especially in cold-weather conditions…will fuck up your internal thermostat AT LEAST as much as a lack of headgear will.

9) Polypro long underwear and clean, dry t-shirts. I keep a minimum of two clean, dry undershirts in my ruck (same thing…dirty, wet underclothes are killers in cold-weather country). I only keep one pair of lightweight polypro long underwear in my ruck. It’s really just for sleeping in. If I KNOW it’s going to be cold, like say, I’m in Montana in January, I’ll add another pair for wear during the day, but trying to hump a ruck, while wearing snivel gear…even in below zero temperatures…is a good way to end up as a heat casualty. You want to feel embarrassed? Be a fucking heat casualty when it’s -10F outside….

10) One pair of clean, dry, utilities. Pictured is a set of my multi-cams. In Arizona, I was rocking three-color deserts. In Mississippi, I’d be pimping some old-school woodland pattern BDUs. In our environment, plain earth tones, or the multi-cam are kind of the shit. Really though, these are for sleeping in. If I have to jump and run in the middle of the day though, interrupting my sleep, I don’t want to do it wearing day-glo fluorescent pink pajamas (before anyone asks…the cool-guy morale patches on the uniform sleeve are: 1) HMFIC—Head Mother Fucker In Charge, 2) “The Chair is Against The Wall,” and 3) “Embrace the Suck.” I can assure you though, I have much more tasteless ones in my collection…The one on the front of my plate carrier, in the first picture, reads “Meat Eating Viking Gun Fighter.” For the record, I don’t think I’ve ever bought a morale patch.)

11) Ranger Hooch Kit. Mine includes x4 12” bungee cords, x6 stainless steel tent pins, a USGI nylon poncho, and a mylar backed, “quilt” style casualty blanket. Normally, the casualty blanket goes down as a ground cloth, but it’s also been used, inside a sleeping bag and/or the woobie, for better body heat retention (someday I will actually get around to doing an article, with photos, on setting up the hooch).

12) 100 oz Camelback bladder. I’ve seen water bladders explode. I’ve seen them burst inside a ruck when somebody dropped a ruck off the back of a five-ton truck. I’ve seen them burst when somebody executed a combat roll over the top of it during IMT.

I’ve never personally had one burst. A big part of that, I attribute to good luck. The other part I attribute to using Camelback bladders, and not whatever knock-off imitation the DoD issues. I love the convenience of them and being able to stay hydrated while moving. I also keep a smaller 70 oz Camelback on my plate carrier normally, but pulled it off a couple weeks ago for something and haven’t put it back on yet. Now, I can’t find the fucking thing, in the 10 different piles of gear laying around our house. As Mr. FAG pointed out…drink the water off your ruck. Leave the water on your 2nd line gear alone. You might need it when your ruck isn’t around.

13) Mountain Safety Research (MSR) XGK multi-fuel stove. This stove is louder than a Thai hooker faking an orgasm. I mean, we’re talking fighter jet punching the after-burners loud. It’s not something you’re going to want to use in a patrol base in thick terrain where you don’t know who’s within ear shot….unless you’re LOOKING for a fight. Sitting on a high, barren ridge, where I can see anyone approaching from a couple hundred meters out though? Or in the snow-insulated confines of a snow-draped spruce tree, it’s handier than a glove for quickly and efficiently brewing hot drinks or soup. I carry one ½ quart bottle of white gas. I choose a multi-fuel stove though, because it will also run off unleaded gasoline, avgas, diesel, or even kerosene (I’ve run the MSR Whisperlight 600 Internationale off all of the above).

14) Cold Steel “Spetznaz” Shovel. I always thought these were pretty gay (I’m deeply prejudiced against pretty much anything labeled “Russian,” which come to think of it, may explain much of my antipathy for the Kalashnikov…Although I do dig the shit out of Sombo/Sambo combatives…and Vodka….I like Vodka too….and hot blondes named shit like Petra….See? I’m not COMPLETELY prejudiced against Mother Russia! I’m kind of prejudiced against Cold Steel products too. I’ve owned a few, and they treated me well, but something about the company just annoys the shit out of me.) A student in a class in Idaho gifted me one at the end of the class (He also gave my wife a RAT-7 knife….I love that guy….you know who you are. Now, email me you fucker). I’ve been in love with this shovel ever since. Sure, for digging catholes—which is really this particular shovel’s most common use—a little garden trowel would be just as effective, and much lighter and more compact. For digging shell scrapes or more advanced fighting positions (fuck that! I joined SF so I wouldn’t have to dig fighting positions like some leg infantry fucker…bwahahahahahahahahahahaha….and I promptly re-learned how to dig them. I KNOW I did more digging in SF than I did in the Ranger Regiment), the e-tool/spade is hell for handier than a garden trowel. It’s also about ten to the hundredth power more convenient than trying to dig with the abortion that is the US Army-issue tri-fold entrenching tool.

So yeah, I love me some Cold Steel “Spetznaz” shovel. Besides….according to Lynn Thompson, I can throw it at the bad guys, and be a real Spetznaz operator! (<–gay)

15) Not pictured: USGI Gen II ECWCS Gore-Tex Hardshell Parka. I’ve got two different soft shell parkas. One is a Coyote Tan one from Condor (which I am loathe to admit, kicks ass), and a Ranger Green one from Propper (it’s brand new. I’ve worn it twice, and neither time was in bad weather. It was chilly, but not cold, and decidedly not snowing or raining). I love the soft shells. I wear them on the range all the time.

The reality though? In extended wet weather, they suck big, fat, juicy, morsels of monkey balls. So, I reverted back to a hard shell, old-school Gore-Tex parka for those conditions. I’ve got both the three-color desert camouflage and the woodland pattern camouflage versions. Which one is in my ruck is entirely dependent on where I’m at, with a strong preference for the woodland pattern one (Seriously….who wants to trust a DESERT camouflage-patterned WET-WEATHER parka? That just doesn’t make sense, now does it?)

16) Not pictured: Food. I’ve got an article, from a reader request, on my thoughts on field rations. In a nutshell, I’m not sure I’d eat MREs anymore, even if it meant starving for two weeks. The last time I tried eating one, as soon as I smelled it, I started puking up breakfast. Besides, the nutritional composition of MREs is retarded. Sure, I’d feed them to my kid if it meant keeping her from starving, but that’d even be a stretch.

17) Not pictured: My MICH helmet, like my boonie hat, has netting tied and Shoe-Gooed to the multi-cam helmet cover, with some burlap garnish attached. It generally stays stowed in or on my ruck, until it’s time to a) put my NODs on, b) do any sort of CQB-type room clearing stuff. Outside of room-clearing, even my clumsy, retarded ass is athletic enough to generally avoid getting knocked the fuck out by running headfirst into shit, and it’s not like the fucking thing will actually stop a 5.56 round…usually. Besides, wearing helmets just sucks.

A Last Minute Appendix

As I was typing this, Mr. FAG (Dude, seriously? Can I PLEASE go back to calling you the Team Sergeant? Team Daddy? ANYTHING other than Mr. FAG? It seems so disrespectful…even though I call myself a FAG in the same vein all the time….pretty please? With sugar….err…honey…on top? Gotta stay Paleo!), emailed me a series of photos of his LBE set-up for your viewing pleasure. He also promised me some more written material in the coming days.

See the photos below. They should be pretty self-explanatory. Before you start looking at them though…a brief anecdote, specifically regarding Mr. FAG’s gear, from my personal experience:

Last summer, during the WV patrolling class, Mr. FAG showed up to volunteer to help out. I, of course, immediately drafted him into a teaching/cadre position (how fucking stupid would I have been not to do so?). During the night patrolling portion of the class, Mr. FAG managed to injure himself. When we got to his position, I volunteered to carry his gear out, because he wasn’t going to be able to (actually, IIRC, I think I volunteered to carry HIM out…he was THAT fucked up…but he wasn’t so fucked up he was going to let me carry him.

While I didn’t get to carry his survival vest, I DID carry his LBE and his ruck. As a point of reference, his LBE weighed more than my LBE, and plate carrier combined. His ruck weighed as much as my ruck, my LBE, and my plate carrier…and I’ve got a solid 60 pounds of size advantage on him…when I say this old fucker (with every ounce of due respect!) is harder than woodpecker lips, I’m not exaggerating, in the slightest. I wish I was 1/8th as hard as Mr. FAG is….

Photos follow:

Mr. FAG's Mohawk Aviator's Vest, pic #1

Mr. FAG’s Mohawk Aviator’s Vest, pic #1

Mr. FAG's Mohawk Aviator's Vest under his LBE.

Mr. FAG’s Mohawk Aviator’s Vest under his LBE.

Mr. FAG's Mohawk Aviator's Vest under his LBE, frontal view

Mr. FAG’s Mohawk Aviator’s Vest under his LBE, frontal view

Mr. FAG's Mohawk Aviator's Vest under his LBE, right side view

Mr. FAG’s Mohawk Aviator’s Vest under his LBE, right side view

Mr. FAG, drawing ONE of his TWO sidearms, from the Mohawk Vest, under his LBE. Note the other pistol ON the LBE....

Mr. FAG, drawing ONE of his TWO sidearms, from the Mohawk Vest, under his LBE. Note the other pistol ON the LBE….New Yawk reload is the fastest reload….











Load Bearing Commentary from “The Team Sergeant” who wishes to be referred to as Mr. FAG (Former Action Guy)

(I was overjoyed to discover the following in the comments for the last article. Dan Morgan and probably most of the guys who attended the WV class last year will attest to the regard to which we held Mr. FAG–yeah, I don’t know about that one boss…we’ll see. If you ignore everything I’ve ever written on planning and LBE, that’s fine. If you take any single piece of advice from reading this blog though, take this one: ANYTHING Mr. FAG has to say on the subject….listen and take heed. –JM)

My first post. I am the old guy that Mosby calls the Team Sergeant (I most humbly try to deflect any and all praise from him because I do not consider myself in any manner to be special or exalted, but I did stay in Holiday Inns for 20+ years and have remained fairly active in related fields over the the intervening 15 years since I unassed formal ruckhumping…getting paid for it). Mosby has mentioned my vest a couple of times and I promised to write something for him. Gear selection, design of carry and related operational mindset are a good place to start. BY the way, John, from here on out I wish to be referred to as Mr. FAG. Operative word here is ‘was’…once upon a time I WAS a Team Sergeant…now I am just a former action guy. (Yeah….we’ll see how that works out boss–JM)

The first time Mosby saw me in my UW gear he just eyeballed it for a few moments, leaning this way and that to get a better view and said something to the effect that he finally met someone who carried more shit than he did. It was not so much a compliment or even better yet, a snide comment as it was a statement concerning perceived individual readiness (OK-maybe a snide compliment.) (Oh, rest assured, there was nothing backhanded or snide about it. It was simply awe. Let’s face it. I’m walking around with what? An easy 30+ pounds of bodyweight on you, and your shit was still heavier than mine! –JM) Most ruck-team oriented SF guys do carry a lot of shit and for a good reason-no ready support when things go south and the first thing we learned was to never count on a resupply drop…ever.

Bear in mind that I was ‘raised’ for the unilateral/unassisted dismounted role. That means if we did not have it physically with us, we might not ever have it when we needed it and there might not be a cache or auxillary to assist.

I wore (and still occasionally wear) the old mohawk aviators vest under the LBE in case the ruck has been dumped/lost-particularly in the winter (shorter vest with bigger pockets that fit nicely between ALICE LBE or similar side openings). The vest is packed with redundant nav gear (compass/maps), meds, key clothing (wool hat, socks, gloves), all my survival tools/gear (multiple fire, a poncho, 550, multi-tool, some wire, etc), spare eyeglasses, a couple of different signaling means (mirror, light, cut-down VS-17), seven days of chow (broken down MRE mains, bullion cubes, hard candies), water storage with purification and yes…a second sidearm with four extra mags. In the old days I carried a survival radio on it, too. I can wear that vest under my fatigue shirt or parka and I never had problems with it getting in the way or snagging on shit. It NEVER came off except to change a t-shirt once every week or so. I can sleep comfortably on my side with it (I don’t snore in that position) unlike with any LBE with 15 mags and other assorted gear.

This keeps my LBE (now a TacTailor MAV with a couple of ALICE holdover touches) free for just mostly fighting gear-worn at the top of the hips for those so interested. Fighting gear is defined as rifle ammo and a couple of pistol mags with the sidearm mounted center belly (and covered by a now spring-loaded flap w/velcro closure cannibalized from that shitty M-9 holster -had fun screwing with that) and I can get it with either hand PDQ. The LBE is not loaded with extraneous shit (other than some camo paint, radio pouch, trauma/BOK and a couple of old school plastic canteens on each hip with yup—two cups (boil twice as much water at one fire). Water IS fighting gear when you can’t stop to find or get any-that water on my body was never meant to be used unless I had no other option-I drank off my ruck canteens (or now if I were new school and wasn’t worried about punctures, I might use that new fangled IV bag looking thing with the camo pillow cover). When I sleep I unhinge it and keep one arm though it…snatch and go if I have to unass a patrol base/RON. I have seen guys lose their shit this way, though (lots of my SFQC students had to buy their shit back from the guerrillas in the early mornings after stand-to).

One exception to the fighting gear rule—like Mosby, on my LBE I also carry a big ass knife that I nicknamed Mr. Hammer-Shovel and yes, it also cuts and best of all, chops. Beats using my rifle barrel for a prybar when I need one. It is primarily a tool that yes, in a really bad situation is better than nothing but I never had any knife fight fantasies…(though I will admit now that sneaking up and whacking someone from the rear between C1 and C4 in the neck with the flat side of that quarter inch thick chunk of steel did cross my mind a couple of times…but I was younger then). I have it on my LBE simply because I have never found a better place to carry it that was handy when I needed it. I tried toting on the outside of my ruck, but then it was never handy when I needed it…oh well, some things on your personal gear never do get fully resolved . There is only so much space.

I have too often seen guys in training become separated from their main gear (ruck), and sometimes even LBE and weapon. No…that is NOT supposed to happen, but I have seen it too many times to not be prepared to restock a team-mate to at least keep him in the game (partially clothed, fed, watered and armed with albeit basic gear). River crossings, mountain climbing (roping gear up at night and something fails), an avalanche once, a ruck lost on a night infil jump at the beginning of a 30 day mission in the snow with resupply not possible for at least two weeks, a ruck that fell out of a helicopter on the wrong side of a LZ (two days crawling in brambles to find that sucker with the only radio in it), a jumper in the water who had to let all his shit (including rifle) sink to save his life…tactical compromise early in a mission before a cache can be established (yes, you can run with a 100lb ruck, but not very far or fast-something has to give sooner or later-you, or your 100lb ruck). Murphy is out there and in the SF world of no ready resupply support, his name is His Excellency of Disaster Lord Sir Murphy.

Now if I were raised to just run ops out of a FOB riding to/from an objective with great ground/air overwatch I would most probably not wear that vest. If i had a great support network in my UW AO, I might not wear it conducting short ops close in. I would not wear it on an urban UW op…but it would be cached outside of town on the way out to the rally point/E&E corridor.

If I am going to be out in the woods with mostly just 1-3 other guys with no viable or known available support I am going to wear it. I would rather err on the side of caution by toting a few extra pounds to be able to 1) complete the mission with spares/backups if primary gear is lost or negated (busted), 2) resupply a teammate when the unthinkable happens and he loses his shit, 3) the unthinkable happens to me and all I have is what I am wearing (and that mohawk vest of goodies under my shirt) so I can at least get me and mine off the X, hopefully to that emergency cache to restock and continue the mission or worst case, into E&E and home.

The weight differential is not that much more…9 lbs to save my mission or my/others lives. It is on the vest, usually under my shirt, and not on my LBE (or worse/more potentially useless, my ruck). Weight that I would mostly be carrying elsewhere.

Trust is good, but control is better. Essentially this vest gear decision falls under the principle of control. I trust that I, my team and our mission prep is so squared away that I won’t need that vest, I control that attitude by being prepared for when things don’t go right and His Excellency is laughing at my suddenly sorry ass that I have key back ups handy when everything else fails.

Folks, John is a bit over enthusiastic about my background…nope…read carefully…no ruck ops in East Germany (though the cold war did offer some fun moments). But on the hot side of things we were as ready for unattributable, unassisted (read unreasonable and unrealistic by the more cynical) ops and we did not expect to have much if any friendly support of ANY kind during the conduct of our missions.(In my defense, Mr. FAG is not the first person I’ve met with his specific background. I won’t repeat stories that shan’t be repeated, but I was just putting 2 and 2 together to get 4….–JM)

I was not alone in this mentality of being a bit extra prepared. I damn sure did not learn these habits all by myself and the teachers I had were dead serious about getting the mission done and getting my at that time young ass back to do it again.

There are all kinds of ways to wear your shit. Think mission(s), your operational and contingency situations (yes, plural on that last one) and tailor to those. My gear setup is flexible so that I can wear more, or less…but that is just me. It is a personal thing, but I can guarantee that when you are sporting your gear, people WILL check you out. You might be wearing the oldest, rattiest. mismatched shit…but if you are wearing it in a tactically sound manner that suits your mission, weapons, environment and body, those with experience will not care that you look like you stole all of your gear off of Joe Shit the ragman…they will want to know more about what you can do with it rather than talking to the pretty boy with the latest unblemished (an unpersonalized) $1000 webgear.


You Want Me To Carry, What!!!???


Any chance you an do a junk on the bunk picture to see how your fighting gear and sustainment gear are set up? –From a reader.

Your author in fighting load, during the recent Arizona patrolling class.

Your author in fighting load, during the recent Arizona patrolling class.

I hate doing articles specifically on how I wear my gear. The fact is, how a certain load-out will work for one person is, in no way, the same as how it will work for someone else. We’ve seen this in two recent articles on LBE, one each from Max Velocity and from JC at Mason-Dixon Tactical. Both guys have a great deal of legitimate, light-infantry patrolling experience, and mounted patrolling experience, including in combat. Neither guy’s set-up is the same, and neither is the same as the way I run my gear.



The fact is, there’s a pretty slim chance that my gear set-up is going to run as well for you as it does for me, because I’ve got two decades of experience running my gear in the way I do (even accounting for changes in the type of gear I’ve run over the years, as well a changes in mission-focus). At the same time though, considering the ways I’ve seen guys show up at classes with gear set up over the last couple years….perhaps ANY guidance is better than no guidance.



All that having been said, I’m writing this article, but I strongly urge you to go read Max’s article and JC’s article as well, to get two different opinions—based on experience, rather than internet hyperbole—about what works for them. Some of what I say will sound—or even be—completely contradicted by their experiences and preferences. That doesn’t mean I’m saying they’re wrong. Their method is just wrong for ME, and vice versa.


The Foundation of Load-Bearing


The foundation of load-bearing is…bearing a load. (Damn, am I working PT into an article again? It’s like it’s important or something!) If you’re belt line is larger in circumference than your chest, there’s not a single type of load-bearing rig in existence that’s going to make humping that shit comfortable, or even bearable. If you can’t walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded, it doesn’t matter what type of LBE you use, you’re not going to be able to carry shit.



A SMOLES Refresher


As a reminder, when it comes to packing a load—of any sort—for tactical purposes, I use the old-school acronym SMOLES. This stands for Self-Defense, Medical Aid, Observation/Optics, Land Navigation, Extreme Weather Conditions, and Survival. Survival is further divided into the fundamentals of human survival: water, food, and shelter/clothing.



I don’t carry the same load in my ruck when I’m in the woods for recreation (like backpacking), as when I’m training for combat patrolling operations, because the missions are different. I still use the same acronym however. I also use the same SMOLES framework for packing my LBE.

A closer look at John's plate carrier with the Tactical Tailor MAV version of the RACK over the top.

A closer look at John’s plate carrier with the Tactical Tailor MAV version of the RACK over the top.




To me, for our purposes, self-defense involves 1) not getting killed, and 2) killing anyone who is trying to kill me (which greatly facilitates #1).



1) Not getting shot encompasses the obvious: if you’ve got body armor, and it’s not going to restrict your ability to complete whatever your mission is, wear the fucking armor. I use a Banshee Plate Carrier from Shellback Tactical, with TAP Gamma III+ stand-alone plates. The total weight of this package is a whopping 13 pounds (all weights were done today, as I was preparing this article). I see and read lots of stories on the internet about guys whining about the weight of their body armor. Granted, if you’re running AR500 steel plates, and soft-armor in a IOTV vest, that shit is probably retarded heavy. If you can’t move around with 13 extra pounds, in the interest of like, you know…staying alive…you need to add more strength training and stamina (strength-endurance) training to your PT program.



Are their times you might have to fight without body armor? Sure. It’s not like I drive around town or even the two-lane blacktops of Montana and Idaho with my fucking plate carrier on. It sits in the back, where I can get to it in a hurry, if I’m given the opportunity to get to it prior to the fight, or following the initial burst of the fight. I don’t wear it around the house and property every day. If I know I’m going to look for a fight though? I’m putting that shit on. If I’m going on a patrol, even if it’s a simple reconnaissance patrol with no intention of getting into a fight, I’m still expecting the possibility of a fight. Otherwise, why would I bother rehearsing my “Hasty Attack” and “Break Contact” battle drills?



Others will complain that by wearing their body armor, they cannot move as fast as they can without body armor on. This is patently obvious to anyone who is not completely fucking retarded. Here’s the catch though…it’s not just about how fast I can move. It’s also about how fast the slowest guy on my team can move. Whether we’re talking patrolling, or buddy-team bounds…if I’m vastly out-pacing my partner, I’m going to die just as dead as if I were moving slower, because he’s not going to be able to protect me with suppressive fire. As long as I can move faster than the slowest guy on my team, my body armor is not—for practical purposes—slowing me down (besides, that gives the slow dude motivation to do more PT…”Damn, he’s wearing body armor and can STILL outrun me! I MUST be a fat piece-of-shit!). The Truth is…the only reason to NOT wear body armor is because you’re a slow, fat fuck who needs to do PT. If that’s the case, not wearing body armor is NOT the answer. More PT is the answer. If 13 pounds is the defining factor in living or dying…do more fucking PT already.

My leg-mounted load-out and body armor. Notice how the plates ONLY cover the vital zone of my torso. Those are Extra Large sized plates in a Banshee plate carrier.

My leg-mounted load-out and body armor. Notice how the plates ONLY cover the vital zone of my torso. Those are Extra Large sized plates in a Banshee plate carrier.

Beyond Body Armor


Body armor, “chicken plates,” are—of course—a pretty lousy last-ditch choice in the “don’t get shot” equation. For me, the rest of the “don’t get shot” equation involves personal protection of another nature. Camouflage and concealment, and shit like gloves, and protective eye-wear (I damned near put my left eye out at a Colorado patrolling class last year, when I declined to put my clear safety lenses in, and led a night terrain run through some trees. When you FEEL the end of a two-inch thorn punch into the lens of your eyeball, you KNOW you fucked up!). Getting seen by the enemy, before you see him, is a good way to get shot, by being caught in a hasty ambush.


I don’t really wear camouflage clothing as a general practice (although I should admit, I do wear old BDUs or ACUs—in multicam—during classes, simply because I don’t actually give two shits if they get torn up). I’d rather stick with basic earth tones that—in my experience—work much better across different environments and sub-environments than even the best engineered camouflage clothing patterns. I do however, keep a bundled-up old boonie with some netting and a little bit of burlap garnish tucked into my ruck. I also have netting and garnish attached to my MICH helmet, although that is solely used as a mount for my NODs at night. There’s not a LOT of garnish on either one. It’s just enough to break up the silhouette a little bit, and act as depth for natural camouflage materials added during movements.


More importantly perhaps, I keep camouflage face-paint in my fighting load, and I use it. Judging by photographs from Iraq, a LOT of the US military has forgotten that camouflage facepaint even fucking exists. That’s too bad, because it’s actually one of the most important things you can do to strengthen the “don’t get shot” motif.

Doctrinally speaking, the Army says, “darker color goes on the high points, lighter color goes on the shadowed spots.” What they’re trying to do is create a sort of “photo-negative” of the pattern of your face, so it doesn’t look like a face at all. Here’s the thing…think about how many times you look at a human face in the course of a single day…not just how many times you look at different people, but how many times, even during one short conversation, you look at each individual’s face…unless you’re simpering, shy Nancy, or a hermit, living alone on the mountaintop, you look at a LOT of human faces over the course of a day…it’s the single most recognizable image in any human mind.


In my ever-present interest in intellectual honesty, I will admit, I still use the Ranger SOP when I paint my face. But, here’s a rub pointed out to me by a SF Warrant Officer once, as he bemusedly watched me “apply my make-up,” after just kind of smearing a bunch of green on his face. “Sergeant Mosby….if you think about it, the human face is such a small object, in the expanse of the woods, that it really doesn’t matter if you use a pattern…or what pattern you use. Just make it not look like a face.” I’ve seen vertical stripes, half-and-half on the face, like a character out of Braveheart, without the pretty blue, and lots of guys who just smeared their faces with paints. It all worked, just find. If you don’t have the camouflage facepaint though, you’re going to be scrambling for shit to use…maybe literally.


I’ve gone through a bevy of gloves over the years, running from the old standby of Nomex aviator’s gloves, to cool-guy Oakleys and Mechanix gloves, back to aviator’s gloves. Now? I just wear whatever brown leather work gloves I can pick up at the Stop-and-Rob when I realize I need new gloves.


For my boots, I’m pretty well stuck on my Keens now. I’ve worn jungle boots, desert boots, Vasques, Asolos, and pretty much every other type of combat or backpacking boot you can imagine. I’m stuck on Keens because, well, on the one hand, GI boots suck, and I’ve not found another pair of civilian backpacking boots that fit my wide-as-fuck feet quite as well (when I’m backpacking in spring, summer, or fall, I’m as likely to wear sandals—Chacos to be specific—as I am to wear boots, but I don’t think I have the balls to wear them on actual patrols. I’m not that bad ass, apparently.)


Of course, the original query that started this article probably wasn’t interested in what boots and clothes I wear. He wanted to know about LBE. Which goes back to #2 in the self-defense question: “try to kill anyone trying to kill me.”


My weapon of choice is a Stoner platform carbine. For general purposes, a 14.5” to 16” barrel is more than adequate—both for accuracy and for handiness—as most of us are ever going to need for a general purpose carbine. That having been said, I also need to feed the bitch, which means I need a way to carry ammunition.


In a nutshell, here’s Mosby’s philosophy on ammunition carriage: I may die in a gunfight. I might be outnumbered. I might be outclassed. I might just have a (really) shitty day that day. What I refuse to allow to have happen though, is dying in a gunfight because I ran out of fucking ammunition.


How much ammunition? As much as I can carry and still do my job (which means walking as far as I need to walk, and still being able to fight—including sprints and IMT movements for up to a couple hundred meters at a time—when I get where I’m going, while still being able to carry my shit when the fight is over as well). For me currently, that means I’m running 8 loaded mags on my LBE, 3 mags on my hip, and one in my rifle.


Undoubtedly, someone will point out—probably someone whose idea of PT is 12-ounce curls and getting off the couch to change the television channel—that guys like Kyle Lamb and Paul Howe have both publicly stated in classes and in writing that 3-4 mags is all you need on your LBE. I’m not about to argue with Lamb or Howe. Both of them have far better man-killing creds than I do. Here’s the thing though…neither of them, when at SFOD-D, were running the types of missions we’re discussing here, and neither of them had to worry about re-supply if they ran out during the fight. SF guys on most missions in a UW context—just like LRSU guys–don’t have the luxury of speed balls of ammo and water resupply getting dropped from rotary-wing assets on the objective. Hell, we don’t even have the conventional infantryman’s advantage of getting a wheeled-vehicle or rotary-wing re-supply every 48-72 hours, which is the doctrinal standard, even in Afghanistan today.


Further, as far as I know, neither Lamb nor Howe are in the stated business of teaching guys to fight like infantrymen. They’re focused on personal and home defense, and urban rifle fights for LEO (I could be wrong. I’ve actually not had a class from either of them in the civilian sector).


During a properly executed break-contact drill, you’re going to burn through magazines of ammunition like a bad ’80s action movie hero, in an effort to provide suppressive fire for your buddy. One single break-contact—in heavy brush where it might only involve 50-100 meters of fire-and-movement before you begin the actual “run like a raped ape” portion of the drill, can burn through 4, 5, or more magazines. What happens if your pursuers catch up to you before you get all the way back to a resupply point? Are you going to fucking throw rocks at them? Or maybe hurl insults? Oh, I know! You’re going to fight off a M240B crew with your ultra-cool tactical combat knife!

John stripping a spent magazine on the run, during a break-contact drill. Funny, that 36.9 pounds doesn't seem to be slowing me down much, does it?

John stripping a spent magazine on the run, during a break-contact drill. Funny, that 36.9 pounds doesn’t seem to be slowing me down much, does it?


How much ammunition should YOU carry? AS MUCH AS YOU CAN AND STILL DO YOUR FUCKING JOB. Of all the places to look at for reducing weight…ammunition load is NOT one of them.


So, how do I carry my ammunition? The eight magazines on my chest are carried in a Tactical Tailor MAV. JC Dodge mentioned the open-front, or “two-piece” MAV in his article I referenced above. I run a one-piece, like a traditional RACK (Ranger Assault Carrying Kit). It’s a big, bulky fucker, but I’ve never seemed to have the problem with it that a lot of guys (including Max and JC) seem to have.


The generally stated argument against the chest-rig for dismounted operations is that it keeps you from getting your dick in the dirt deep enough when you’re under fire. Perhaps it’s all differences in experience (probably), but I’ve never personally had that problem. For one thing, even at 6′ tall and 210lbs (weighed myself tonight, actually..209.8 pounds.), I’m lean enough that I can get down behind my rifle, in a magazine monopod, and engage targets.

Engaging targets during a break contact drill. Yeah, I'd love to be lower to the ground, but with brush, grass, and intervening terrain and vegetation, if I get lower, suddenly, I can't see the bad guys or their positions. That means,  I can't protect my Ranger buddy during his bound back.

Engaging targets during a break contact drill. Yeah, I’d love to be lower to the ground, but with brush, grass, and intervening terrain and vegetation, if I get lower, suddenly, I can’t see the bad guys or their positions. That means, I can’t protect my Ranger buddy during his bound back.


Granted, it's on our bedroom floor, but this photo demonstrates that, even with the chest rig on, I can still get low enough to fire my rifle, using the magazine monopod prone position. Do I WANT to get lower? Sure. CAN I get lower, and still do my fucking job? Not by much.

Granted, it’s on our bedroom floor, but this photo demonstrates that, even with the chest rig on, I can still get low enough to fire my rifle, using the magazine monopod prone position. Do I WANT to get lower? Sure. CAN I get lower, and still do my fucking job? Not by much.

Same position, trying to fuck the ground. Notice, my dick is firmly planted against the floor, and my back is still not any higher than my ass cheeks are (with the exception of the back plate on my armor). My ass sticks out a little bit. Squats during PT will do that to you.

Same position, trying to fuck the ground. Notice, my dick is firmly planted against the floor, and my back is still not any higher than my ass cheeks are (with the exception of the back plate on my armor). My ass sticks out a little bit. Squats during PT will do that to you.




Now, the chances I’m actually going to need to get that low in most fights is pretty slim. In the vast majority of fights we were in, we had plenty of available cover to get behind, from micro-terrain like small gullies just big enough to mask your body, to piled up stones and boulders. I don’t generally make it a habit of dropping and staying in positions in the wide open, flat areas, whether the middle of the street, or an open meadow. When I’ve been forced to, I’ve been more concerned with shooting at the bastards (from the magazine monopod prone, admittedly), than I was in laying there, waiting to get shot. That’s just my experiences though. I know a lot of guys with almost identical backgrounds to me who hate chest rigs.

While it doesn't do so perfectly, the chest rig actually reduces the stress on the lumbar spine, from carrying a rucksack. In this case, since the frontal load is NOT equal to the weight of the ruck, there's still some stress on the lower back and core from the ruck, but there's considerably less than there would be if I were wearing all of my fighting load on my side and back.

While it doesn’t do so perfectly, the chest rig actually reduces the stress on the lumbar spine, from carrying a rucksack. In this case, since the frontal load is NOT equal to the weight of the ruck, there’s still some stress on the lower back and core from the ruck, but there’s considerably less than there would be if I were wearing all of my fighting load on my side and back.


Frontal view, with ruck on. Ignore the Nordic/Viking sleeve tattoos. Everyone knows, I hate white people and culture....

Frontal view, with ruck on. Ignore the Nordic/Viking sleeve tattoos. Everyone knows, I hate white people and culture….


The other common complaint about chest rigs is the stress they place on your lower back from carrying all that weight on your chest. Again, unless you’re patrolling around without a ruck on, it’s actually not the case. There’s a DoD study floating around (I used to have a copy, but don’t know who I loaned it to) that talks about the medical and physiological impacts of military load-bearing equipment. Among the wealth of other interesting topics it discusses, it actually investigates the benefits of a load on the front of your body to counter the musculoskeletal impacts of humping a ruck around.



In a traditional, dismounted infantry patrolling environment, while carrying a ruck, a chest-rig is actually MORE beneficial to spine health and fatigue prevention than any other LBE system. The preference or impression otherwise is predicated solely on individual preference and comfort—generally based on personal experience. If you’re more used to wearing a battle belt or LC-2/ALICE system, it will FEEL better to you than a chest-rig system.



Of course, for the duration of a fight, when you’ve dropped your ruck (hopefully), there’s certainly going to be an impact on your lumbar spine supporting muscles trying to support that load. Considering however, that you’ll spend more of your time patrolling just walking than you will dumping your ruck and fighting (unless you really suck at patrolling), it’s really a non-issue, in my experience.



In addition to the eight magazines on my chest-rig, I carry three more on my belt. These are carried in HSGI Kangaroo-type “Taco Pouches,” with Glock 17 magazines piggybacked. For quite some time, I was running these on a war belt, but what I consistently found was that they interfered with my ability to use the hip-belt on my rucks. I could just lengthen the suspenders and let the war-belt drop lower, but I’ve never liked that method, for various reasons (mostly personal preference, based on my experiences), despite it being a classic favorite in both LRSU and SF.



As a young hooah, coming up in the Ranger Regiment, I watched (and emulated) my team leaders and squad leaders wearing their ALICE gear like chest-rigs. We wore them up really high, around our chests, over the top of our old RBA (Ranger Body Armor—the precursor to the IOTV…and a markedly better design, I’ve always felt). Whether patrolling under rucks, or kicking in doors; from fast-roping out of CH47s, to performing night mass-tac airborne operations, the system just worked really well for us. (Regular reader and commentator Attack Company 1/75 might have some feedback on this. Ranger K, do your memories mesh with this, or do you remember something different?) Then of course, in the later part of the mid-1990s, the Regiment started switching over the RACK, which was a Godsend, for the simplicity and comfort it provided versus the Erkel look with the ALICE system.



When I got to SF, I tried the low-slung thing on my LBE a few times and—frankly–hated it. It felt awkward to me, and I always felt like I had to fish for magazines during reloads. I went to carrying a RACK system, until we started mounting mag pouches directly on our body armor.



A second reason I don’t use the low-slung LBE method is because of my sidearm. As Max correctly points out, in numerous articles, the chances of needing to use your pistol in a light-infantry patrolling environment are pretty slim. The reality is, a sidearm, in this context, is largely a comfort item. Nevertheless, I don’t know very many guys, regardless of their experience level, who—when given the opportunity—don’t carry a sidearm. The Team Sergeant, who helped teach the WV class last summer, actually carried TWO sidearms (both CZ75s). One was on his LBE, and one was on the aviator’s vest he wore under his LBE (and before you start decrying THAT as ridiculous, keep in mind, this was a guy who was running real-world, no-shit operations in EAST Germany, through the 70s and 80s…unless you can cite better credentials than that, well….you’re full of shit.).



I carry a pistol, and will continue to. I’ve carried my pistols in drop-leg holsters as long as I’ve been allowed to carry a pistol with LBE (which is a relatively long time—over 15 years now), and have never experienced any of the problems with them that I read about guys having. I don’t notice it when I’m humping a ruck (and the pistol actually DOES get carried even when backpacking!). It doesn’t flop around on my leg, because I’m not trying to impersonate Angelina-fucking-Jolie in Tomb Raider. Here’s the deal with pistols as sidearms, in my book. Yes, the chances are, I’m never going to need it in the context of light-infantry patrolling operations. If I do need it though? I’m probably going to need it, RIGHT FUCKING NOW!!!! I don’t want to be trying to figure out where it’s at on my low-slung, flopping around war-belt, and I sure as fuck don’t want to dick around with a bunch of flaps and other retention devices to get the cocksucker out, when I need to shoot some fat fucker who’s huffing and puffing towards me with the bayonet on the end of his SKS.



I run a drop-leg Safariland, with all of the retention devices removed except the thumb break. I’ve never seen one fail, and I’ve had guys literally pick me up by the pistol, trying to get it out when I demonstrate how well the retention device actually works (Hell, during EPW search blocks during classes, I’ve had guys who couldn’t figure out how to work the fucking thumb lever until I showed them!).



All of this together adds up to meaning I needed a different way to carry the magazines on my belt….so I did the unthinkable. Having seen Costa’s drop-leg magazine panel posted on his FB page, I fabricated one for myself out of an old Blackhawk leg panel I had laying around in one of my boxes of discarded gear. Like my pistol, I don’t wear it hanging down around my knees. It’s up high, so the magazines just clear my rucksack hip belt, allowing me to perform speed reloads out of it, even if I haven’t been able to dump my ruck (such as the first reload of a fight, or during a break-contact drill).



Oh, I know….fucking heresy, right? Here’s the rub though…I’ve done a couple of lengthy ruck movements with this set-up now (because you know…we actually TEST our equipment…), and had exactly ZERO problems with it. It doesn’t cause any undue wear on my leg stamina, no raw spots, and it’s hell for convenient. Honestly, despite my own strongly-held reservations surrounding the idea, it’s actually turned out to be handier than a glove.



In addition to firearms, I keep a fixed-blade knife on my belt. While I have a really awesome, custom fixed-blade knife coming, I’m currently just running an old Camillus version of the Kabar that I don’t remember how long I’ve had. (The new knife should be here relatively soon, right? The maker is a reader…hopefully it’ll be here soon.) That Kabar has been used to cut aiming stakes, brush for fires, and parachute cord. While my Kabar never has, the Kabar design has also been used by an awful lot of awfully hard motherfuckers to defend their lives in some awful tight situations. I have every confidence it will do the same for me, should the need arise.



Because of my “point-centric” philosophy of knife combatives, a dagger would seem to make a lot of sense. After all, it’s DESIGNED for stabbing. Here’s the catch though. I don’t make a fetish out of my weapons. They’re tools. I’m far more likely to use my knife for cutting things than I am to use it for stabbing people, so the Kabar is a better choice (that’s actually why I moved away from using a push-dagger for me EDC knife. While I have a couple pocket knives and a–finally!–multiplier, on my EDC, I’m still more likely to need to use the larger fixed blade knife for cutting things than I am to stab someone with it).



Medical Aid


Medical aid, in the context of infantry patrolling, needs to focus on the Care-Under-Fire, and the Tactical Field Care phases of TC3. Doctrinally of course, TC3 calls for you to provide self-aid whenever possible and necessary. In our context of extremely small units, defending against probably larger elements, you’d better count on providing self-aid for 99% of your injuries (yet, another reason to WEAR YOUR FUCKING ARMOR!!!). For me, that means I’ve got a CAT-T tourniquet on my plate carrier, and another 100mph taped to the stock of my rifle. In addition, I carry two BOKs. One is on my RACK, in a double-stack magazine pouch. The other is wrapped in plastic, and tucked into a cargo pocket on my trousers. While there is a chance I could catch a round in the hips that a tourniquet isn’t going to help, or to the torso somewhere my plates don’t cover, the reality is, some days you get the bull, and some days, the bull gets you. I can only hope that, if I don’t take a hit to an extremity that a CAT-T will deal with for the immediate short-term, that the shot elsewhere either kills me quickly, or doesn’t kill me before I can pack the wound and get pressure on it, or before a buddy can help me out.



Of course, one of the biggest whining complaints we get (I’ve seen it on Max’s site as well) when we try and discuss TC3 is the lack of follow-on care. Here’s the catch, if you actually do your homework, like reading Keeley’s War Before Civilization, you’d realize that, even in primitive cultures—outside of 19th century battlefield medicine that wanted to bleed and amputate at any opportunity—if you didn’t die from a wound on the battlefield, there is a pretty good chance you’ll survive. (Actually, don’t worry about reading the book if you don’t want to. I’ve got a lengthy series coming up that will be a book report/study of the relevant parts to our concerns. Nevertheless, I DO recommend reading it. In it’s own right, it’s a pretty fascinating fucking book!)



In my ruck, I carry a complete third BOK, as well as a couple bags of IV fluids (currently normal saline. In actual patrolling, I’d switch to Lactated Ringer’s, since I can’t get Hextend).





Observation, in the context of light-infantry patrolling, covers two basic concepts, both of which involve seeing the enemy before he sees you. One is during daylight, the other in low-light.



Daylight Optics


To most people, the use of binoculars is self-evident, from childhood. They help you see shit that’s far away, right? Well, yes, but they do so much more. At closer distances (I’ve used binos inside of 50 meters actually), they help you see DETAILS much better. In brush, or even in the sagebrush we’ve got out here, they can actually help you see enough detail to tell the difference between the bush/tree foliage, and the camouflaged dude hiding in the middle of that foliage.



This doesn’t require some super-ultra-powered 45x Nautical Binoculars. Even an inexpensive pair of 7-8x birdwatching glasses will help (although, as in all things, you generally get what you pay for). I’ve used a pair of compact 10x Bushnells for years, and they’ve always done the work I needed them to do.



Spotting scopes work for the same thing, as well as being far more useful for studying people and targets at longer ranges. My spotting scope stays in my ruck, unless I need it. It’s a 42x Nikon that I bought used a couple years ago. Literally, nothing fancy about it. The tripod for it I bought used at a yard sale for $5.00.



Night Optics


A lot of people in the world are scared shitless of night-vision technology. Here’s the catch though…It’s easier to hide from passive night-vision like PVS7s and PVS14s than it is to hide from the naked eye during daylight. The trick is simply to remember that you ARE trying to hide, and the darkness does not hide you all by its lonesome. Nevertheless, simply because most people are so ignorant of NODs, I think they’re a pretty fucking useful tool, once you’ve learned to function at night without them. On the night terrain run that Tex wrote about the recent Arizona class, I actually loaned my PVS14s out to students, rather than wearing them myself. I still managed to outrun and elude the group during the run.



That having been said, NOT having and using NODs when appropriate, out of some ignorant idea that “I’m so fucking bad ass in the woods, I don’t need NODs!” is about as stupid as you can get. I use my NODs, when patrolling, when I’m not moving, because they do allow me to see BETTER. When I’m moving, I rely on my other senses, so I have some degree of peripheral vision that keeps me from running into shit like trees and catching branches in the throat (on the other hand, I will point out that, during the aforementioned terrain run, I did walk chest first into a four-strand barbed wire fence. I actually saw it, even in the dark, with no NODs, but misjudged how far away it was. Ain’t nobody perfect).



My -14s ride in a Blade-Tech hard case, nestled inside one of the large, general-purpose utility pouches that ride on my chest harness. Along with a head lamp (visible white light and red lens), and a handful of chemlights.



I don’t run handheld thermals, because—frankly–I can’t afford them. While they offer the same advantages (and a couple others, obviously) that NODs do (most people are either unaware of the threat, or don’t know how to hide from them), hand-held thermals are not particularly hard to hide from—in most contexts—either. As I’ve said repeatedly, I’m not discussing that on an internet blog, but it is something we discuss in classes, and when a student conveniently brings one to a class, we even demonstrate it. While I’d not be heartbroken to have a set of the FLIR handheld thermals, the biggest advantage they would offer me is the training value in teaching people to hide from during infiltrations.



Land Navigation


I’ve belabored my hatred of GPS previously on this blog, numerous times. So, I carry a compass and topo maps. I use a standard, tritium illuminated USGI compass, carried in a grenade pouch-turned-utility pouch, on my chest rig. While it seldom comes out (I’m not sure I’ve even worn it during the last several patrolling classes I’ve taught), I normally keep a slim, Silva-brand orienteering compass on a lanyard around my neck, under my shirt and plate carrier, in case I ever have to dump my chest rig in an E&E situation.



While a lot of guys really prefer civilian orienteering compasses, I still love the GI model, despite the additional weight.



Maps get acetated, folded, and either shoved in a cargo pocket, or tucked into the kangaroo pouch on my plate carrier, behind my chest-rig. I also have a set of Ranger beads for pace counts, attached to my plate carrier.



Extreme Weather Conditions


I don’t carry a lot of gear for this on my fighting load. Most of it is in my ruck. I do keep a couple of Zippo lighters in my pockets, and have hurricane lifeboat matches, in a match safe, in my fighting load.



In my environment, cold-weather and wet-cold weather is far more of a concern, even in summer, than extreme heat (although we did see a lot of triple digits last summer…). Nevertheless, the 100oz Camelback bladder on the back of my plate carrier gives me enough to survive hot weather in the short term.





For food, I keep a half dozen protein bars in one of the general purpose pouches, plus tea bags and a cone of pure cane sugar (in the case I have to live out of my RACK, I’m far more concerned about quick, pure energy than I am about staying true to a Paleo diet). I also keep a half-dozen wire snares, although to be honest, the chances of actually using them—let alone my ass actually catching anything—are pretty slim.



For water, as I mentioned above, I keep a 100oz Camelback on my plate carrier. I couldn’t do this when I ran an ALICE pack, because the pack wouldn’t sit well on the bulge formed by the bladder and its pouch. With the Eberlestock and other internal frame rucks though, since the hip belt carries the weight, and the pack frame actually sits a considerable distance from my body, there’s ample room. I also keep the Potable Aqua drops I’ve mentioned in previous articles on my RACK (and truthfully? Pre-sweetened Kool-Aid packets as well. I fucking hate drinking tepid water).



I don’t do any clothing or shelter on my fighting load. Yes, I could add a buttpack or something and carry a woobie and/or poncho, but honestly? That’s what my fucking rucksack is for. If I need to move so fast that I can’t carry a ruck, then I need to move too fast to be stopping and building hooches and sleeping. The other advantage of my system is that even in cold weather, I can get away with less snivel gear, because the load-bearing equipment and body armor do a pretty good job of trapping body heat. On the other hand, obviously, in hot environments, that can be a detriment. Fortunately, even when I wore this shit last summer in triple digits, by staying in the shade, and staying hydrated (and trying to restrict serious movement to hours of darkness), I managed to work it without getting too dangerously miserable. Even in WV during the patrolling class there, not only did I manage to function with this basic gear set-up (actually, I think I was wearing more and heavier gear), I still managed to function, and something that people don’t realize, as cadre, we weren’t just humping a ruck with the students, we were moving back-and-forth through the formation, offering advice and tips, and checking on students (although, I’m pretty sure I whined like a bitch more than a few times about how fucking hot it was there!).



How heavy is all that shit?


In the aforementioned DoD study on the medical and physiological implications of load-bearing, the conclusion is reached that a fighting load should be no more than 1/3 of your total body weight, and the sustainment load total (with fighting load and ruck), should be no more than 45% of your body weight. That’s the cut-off point at which the weight genuinely begins to impact on the individual’s ability to function in a tactical field environment. While every infantryman in history can attest to having carried loads—in training and/or combat—heavier than that (sometimes MUCH heavier than that—the heaviest ruck I ever carried was 125 lbs, at a bodyweight of 215 lbs, and that was just my ruck, not my fighting load), that 1/3 and 45% cut-offs are the ideal we should strive to beat.



So, let’s see where my “way too heavy,” and “way too big” load falls…



Today, while weighing all this gear, I weighed myself first. In my skivvies, I weigh just under 210 lbs. With my jeans, shirt, and Keens on, my total body weight was 212.9 lbs.


Glock 17, loaded: 31.93 oz


Glock 17 magazine, loaded: 9.89 oz (x3= 30 oz)


Streamlight TLR-3: 2.32 oz


Safariland Drop-Leg: < 1 pound (shipping weight is one pound, including packaging)


Drop Leg Panel with HSGI pouches: < 1 pound (my scale wouldn’t register the weight, but it weighs about the same as my holster)


PMAG loaded with 30 rounds: 18 oz (x3= 54 oz….so just under 3.5 lbs)


Sub-Total thus far: < 9.2 lbs (147.92 oz divided by 16 oz per pound)


Drop leg panel and Safarliland holster. Total weight: < 10 pounds

Drop leg panel and Safarliland holster. Total weight: < 10 pounds


My plate carrier, with TAP Gamma III+ plates, a CAT-T holder, and assorted markers and paint pens (used for target marking during classes), according to our bathroom scale, weighs exactly 13 pounds.



My RACK, loaded with 8 loaded PMAGs (total weight nine pounds), a PVS-14 (12.4 oz) in a Blade-Tech hard case (can’t find a weight for it, and I’m done looking), my BOK, and assorted other goodies in pockets, including Ranger Handbook, notepad and pens, spare batteries, and more, weighs in at 13.9 pounds.



My rifle, with a Burris MTAC 1.5-6x optic, OTAL IR laser, and Streamlight TLR-1, weighs 11 pounds loaded.


RACK, over the plate carrier.

RACK, over the plate carrier.


So, my total fighting load weight is 36.9 lbs…which is CONSIDERABLY less than 1/3 of my body weight (at 210lbs, 1/3 of my body weight would be 70 pounds, for the mathematicall challenged).



My rucksack, loaded with a bevy of SMOLES-compliant gear, a 100 oz Camelback (that can be attached to my plate carrier when needed), and two 1-liter Nalgene bottles (all water containers were full when I weighed the load), but missing the 12 loaded PMAGs I would normally carry (total weight 13.5 pounds) and food, which would vary according to duration of the planned operation, weighs in at 54lbs total, according to the scale. That, combined with the 36.9 pounds of my fighting load brings my load to a sustainment load total of 90.9 pounds, although if we add the weight of the missing 12 magazines, the TOTAL load just breaks the 100 pound mark at 104.4 pounds. That total is 49% of my total bodyweight, which just breaks the doctrinal ideal by a couple of percentage points. If I dropped the loaded magazines, the total weight would drop well below the 45% ideal sustainment load total, but the cost is worth the extra ammunition, to me.





The best method to set up a fighting load and sustainment load is an extremely personal matter, within the realm of what will work depending on your personal physiognomy and the particulars of how you handle your weapons and mission. For me, in a gunfight, a couple things are paramount:



1) The ability to effectively engage hostiles at distances from collision range to 500+ meters, with rifle fire.



2) The ability to conduct speed reloads, when necessary, to protect my Ranger Buddy (if I protect my Ranger Buddy, and he protects me, we both survive. That’s a win!)



3) The ability to use camouflage, concealment, and cover, to protect myself from getting killed. As a last resort, I want body armor on, to help increase my odds of surviving, if the other protection methods fail me.



For light-infantry type patrolling operations, surviving gunfights is my number one priority. After that, my priorities are being able to carry all my other survival gear, while still accomplishing the above three tasks.



The load-bearing equipment load-out I use allows me to do all of those things.



With that in mind, whatever you learn from reading one more take on the same thing, learn this…the only way to determine what method of load-bearing is going to work for you is by trying shit out and figuring it out.





John Mosby
















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