Learning from Insurgent Tactics: The Vehicle as a Weapon

From the Archives, 2015

Armored Van used in Attack on Dallas PD 6/13

Armored Van used in Attack on Dallas PD 6/13. Bought on Ebay for $8K

The attack on Dallas PD this past Saturday by a man in an armored van represents a variation on a tactic that has not been seen since the DC Sniper Murders in 2002, where a man and his young accomplice, using a Chevy Caprice sedan and turning the trunk into a “mobile” sniper hide, killed 10 people and critically wounded three others. The two concepts, an Armored Wagon or Van and the Mobile Sniper Hide, have at their core, basically the same concept: To Use a vehicle as a platform for a shooter or shooters to engage civilians and law enforcement, attempting to kill as many as possible. The differences lay in HOW these methods are applied.

The Mobile Sniper Hide (MSH) is a covert weapon, meaning it’s strength lies in NOT being detected, as the shooter engages targets both quietly and quickly as possible, keeping the location of the shooter (and shot) both hid (in the DC Sniper Case, by shooting from the car’s trunk through a small hole). The Armored Wagon on the other hand, OVERTLY engages targets (through gun ports), purposely drawing fire as it rolls on, ie like the Dallas PD attack recently.

The critical keys to remember if the AV concept is to work effectively, is that the engine block must be further bullet proofed (a .50 Caliber round took out the engine block) the tires must be run flats and reserve fuel bladders added.  If the engine or tires get disabled, or you run out of gas at a critical juncture, you are no longer mobile and have no egress options available; you are dead in the water, literally.

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As far as the two concepts go, the Mobile Sniper Hide is a much more effective tool for the lone or small unit of of Guerilla fighters who live in a civilian population that is not controlled by military forces. Less attention is drawn to the vehicle as a whole, making it easier to hit and run (in reference to the One Shot Sniper Method discussed in the book Fry the Brain by John West.)

If history is studied, armored vans (or improvised fighting vehicles) work well in WAR zones, where both the VOLUME of fire coming OUT of the vehicle and the expectation of SUPPORT (from other vehicles and infantry) can be expected to be large. The downside of course is ANTITank and Vehicle weapons such as Mines, IED’s, RPG’s, Javelins and Grenade Launchers. The evolution of the IFV is an interesting study for the CO. Although I typically steer away from Wiki-Pedia, their entry on this subject is quite extensive and for the most part, correct. Read it HERE.

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Another element of the insurgents use of vehicles to achieve a desired aim can be seen currently with the situation in Iraq where a large number of American Humvees that had been given to the Iraqi Security Forces were stolen by ISIS and turned into VBIED’s (Vehicle Born Improvised Explosive Devices). Read that story HERE

VBIED’s (or car bombs) have been a technique that has seen widespread use by insurgents and terrorist alike. Some of the worst attacks (as far a total number killed) have occurred on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. However, if you ask any American with a sense of history, they will tell you by far, the two attacks that are seared into their memory are The 1993 World Trade Center Bombing and the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing, both car bomb attacks.

In 2010, a car bomb was detected and diffused in New York’s Times Square, thanks to some street vendors who were paying attention. Just another example of why AWARENESS is our first and primary weapon in self-defense.

 

Bibliography and Suggested Reading

  • Fry the Brain by John West

  • Buda’s Wagon by Mike Davis

  • Bandit Country by Toby Harnden

  • Days of Rage by Bryan Burrough

 

Stay Alert, Stay Armed and Stay Dangerous!

Urban Guerilla Sniping v3.0

From the Archives, 2014.

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“History is nothing else than a long succession of useless cruelties.” (Voltaire)

 

When you look at the situation in Syria, you see the logic in Voltaire’s prose. I suppose it is the hopeless romantic in me that wishes for a world that is not filled with asshole tyrants and despots that take advantage of the less fortunate; cowards that give “kill” orders daily, slaughtering civilians in the street like cattle. But since “hoping” for something is akin to pissing in the wind and wondering why you are getting wet, I take comfort in the fact that history is also replete with examples of men and women who stand up to tyrants. People that take action and arms against their aggressors. People who are tired of words and useless diplomacy and choose to fight “fire with fire”. Who are these people? You might recognize them, they are just like you and me; “Average Joe” Civilian Operators. who want a better life for themselves and their families and are willing to fight and die for it if necessary. After all aren’t heroes just ordinary folks put in extraordinary situations?

Guerilla Warfare and it’s practical applications should be something the CO studies on a daily basis, and right now, halfway across the world in Aleppo, Syria, there is a virtual “Urban Guerilla” school going on, everyday, 24 hours, around the clock. Now this school has been held in different locales over the years: Northern Ireland, Chechnya, the Philipines; the situation always the same; A vastly under-manned, under-equipped civilian/para-military force, fighting a militarily superior army, hitting them on their own terms using IED’s, hit and run ambushes and (Urban) Guerilla Sniping, attempting to win by attrition, constantly harassing, constantly prodding the enemy, until the war is won.

Before we continue, we need to clarify something. Guerilla Sniping is one of those “tactical misnomers” in my opinion, only because anytime you say the word “Sniper” immediately people think of Marky-Mark Wahlberg in the opening scene of Shooter making these 800 to 1,000 yard shots with his trusty Barrett and his ghille-suit on, with his spotter at his side calling the shots… ..nothing could be further from the truth! (Although that was an entertaining movie taken from the novels of Stephen Hunter).

In John West’ superb book Fry the Brain: The Art of Urban Sniping and it’s role in Modern Guerilla Warfare, West states that “Urban Guerilla sniping is a drastic departure from the traditional concepts of sniping”. He goes on to lay out several reasons for this, the most prominent being the “Long Range Myth”. Where most would think the sniper’s role of taking extremely long shots, the Guerilla Sniper turns that paradigm on it’s head. Citing historical examples from Chechnya and Iraq, where ranges of 50 to 200 meters were the norm, 200 yards even being at the far end of the scale.

Another key element of Guerilla Sniping is the dependence on Guerilla Tactics NOT  Elite Hardware or training to get the job done. West states “To connect the dots of the urban sniper one must first realize it is the guerilla’s unconventional tactics that make them effective, not their exceptional shooting ability.”

Check out this superb little video of Urban-Guerilla Sniping in Aleppo, Syria.

There are several things of note we can take away from this video:

1. Note the spot welded scope rails onto the dust covers of the SKS’ and AK’s to hold zero; yeah not the greatest ideal in the world, but the Guerilla has to work with the materials he has available; the book Guerilla Gunsmithing  is a decent primer on the subject.

2. The weapons are a mixed bag, but all of them make superb guerilla sniper weapons. Remember, we are not talking 1,000 yd yard shots here. Example:  With a steady rest, could you shoot a cantaloupe at 100 yds with your AK with open sights or even a 3x red dot? Guerilla Sniping is “out of the box” that is why the word “Guerilla” is often associated with the terms “Un-Conventional” or “Irregular”.

3. The optics are a mixed bag, note that the higher magnification optics are saved for the larger caliber G3 clones and FAL’s, while the smaller 3x ACOG knockoffs remain on the AK and SKS’s.

4. The snipers employ traditional urban-guerilla tactics to avoid detection and confuse the enemy including:

  • “Position Overload”:  Firing from an area with many potential firing positions; a building for instance with 14 open windows or “loopholes”.

  • “Splitting the Seams” Using the urban terrain to your advantage and firing from a position where the enemy cannot backtrack your firing azimuth; an example would be firing from a building that is adjacent too, or next to another building.

  • Loophole or Keyhole ShotsLoophole shooting is firing from a very small hole in the wall, either cut by the sniper or a natural deformity, like a hole from an artillery blast. Keyhole shooting is where you fire through a loophole from deep in the room, hiding your muzzle flash and suppressing/masking your sound signature. Some snipers in Chechnya for example would fire from deep in the structure, down a long hallway and through an open door or window.

  •  Multiple Shooters: Self-Explanatory tactic where several snipers are operating in the same area sometimes targeting the same or multiple objectives. If communication can be synchronized, snipers in different locations can fire in unison at different targets, confusing the enemy even more.

So, when you lay your head down tonight, thank God for what you have and say a little prayer for the FSA and the Snipers in Aleppo, asking that their AIM be TRUE, and their enemies stay STILL!!!

Study up, Train Hard and Stay Dangerous!

Examining Guerilla Warfare Tactics: Three-Man Urban Hunter Teams

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Small Unit Tactics: Three-Man Urban Hunter Teams

Excellent primer with some historical background on some variations on what can be accomplished with a dedicated small team of guerilla fighters.

Stay Alert, Armed and Dangerous!

Modern Warfare: Booby-Trapped AK Mags

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Boobytrapped Mag in Bosnia

(click on above link to be re-directed)

Something to think about when battlefield pickups are your only option…these bastards are getting more and more crafty.

Stay Alert, Stay Armed and Stay Dangerous!

Learning from Insurgent Tactics: The “Hide n’ Glide”

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Since the War in Afghanistan and Iraq began, we have seen a multitude of different “insurgent” tactics come to light, the most notable (and deadly) ones being the use of the IED and VBIED (Vehicle Born IED’s) in ambushes, booby-traps and suicide attacks. But as far as actual ground tactics the enemy uses, there has been very little input from soldiers in the field. This is most likely because the typical insurgent has no “tactics” to speak of and if they do, they are typically sloppily executed. This does not always mean however that insurgents in both theaters of combat have not been successful in their attacks, as I am sure many veterans can attest.

One of the cornerstones of Insurgent or Guerilla Warfare is the ability of the fighter to not be easily identified and be able to “blend” in with the populace. This can be seen very clearly in the fight against the Taliban. A tactic the insurgents have developed to exploit this advantage is the “hide and glide” where weapons are cached in certain “convenient” areas and when coalition troops pass by, the insurgents then proceed to open fire on the troops (either by a one man sniper attack or a semi-coordinated ambush) the insurgents then re-hide the weapon and blend in with the locals. As a Counter-measure, very often U.S. Patrols will single out, search and if needed, detain “fighting age” males (typically ages 16-45) when entering populated  areas because of this. This may seem like a trivial way to fight a war and insignificant in the big scheme of things, but if the insurgents can inflict at least one casualty a day, that is one more soldier or “infidel” not fighting them.

We have to understand that Guerilla warfare depends mostly on the insurgents ability to be able to constantly “harass” the enemy and to wear them down mentally. Since its inception, this breed of war has always been about attrition rather than outright victories on the conventional battlefield. As in Vietnam, the enemy knows that the more soldiers who come home in coffins, the less popular the war will be at home, and in doing so, will create political pressure to end the war.

The CO therefore can learn two primary skill-set’s from this example:

Weapons Caching

Weapons Caching has 3 primary benefits:

  1. To keep weapons, ammo and supplies hidden and out of enemy hands
  2. To keep weapons from having to be carried on the person. Very often, CID (counter-insurgency doctrine) will dictate multiple security checkpoints that require full body searches. This is done to restrict freedom of movement and the transport of arms.
  3.  To offer a  tactical advantage in combat operations, specifically ambushes, as we have already shown.

There are  a variety of ways to “cache” weapons, the most fundamental of course is hiding several weapons intact in several different unorthodox locations. As mentioned above, this is the obvious solution to counter-insurgency doctrine that seeks to LIMIT the freedom of movement of insurgents, thereby limiting them from transporting arms on their person or in large shipments.The other method is to hide weapons is in pieces at several different locations. In other words, the barrel in one place, the receiver in another, etc. The IRA and the PLO operated in this fashion for many years. This may appear goofy at first glance and very impractical, but we have to remember that during these conflicts, the penalty  for just possessing a firearm was death, so great care had to be taken to ensure the weapon could be hid well.

Another layer of protection groups like the IRA practiced was “compartmentalizing” each task of an operation so only a unified team could complete the task assigned. A typical team consisted of the driver, shooter,  surveillance man and the quartermaster. The driver knew the destination, the shooter, the target, the surveillance man, all pertinent intel such as the layout of the ambush site, escape routes, police/military patrol schedules, The target’s habits and routines, etc. Finally, the “quartermaster” was in charge of dismantling, packing and hiding the firearm parts accordingly. He and he alone knew where the gun parts were hidden.

 

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Becoming The “Gray Man”

Not drawing attention to oneself through his actions or his clothing is often considered by many in the “survivalist” world to be one of the key skills to extending life in a hostile world. Besides giving the CO the edge in terms of tactical surprise, when we consider how this meshes with the “Hide and Glide” this is definitely a skill-set the CO needs to have in his tool box.

One of the key ways to “blend” with the crowd and not create any STIMULUS (ie to draw attention to oneself and your actions) is for the CO to SANITIZE their wardrobe.

  • Avoid “tacti-cool” clothing that screams GUN NUT!
  •  Avoiding any logo type clothing which may instigate a conversation (NRA, Sports Teams)
  • Avoid camouflage or military type clothing, including unit insignias
  • Avoid wearing combat boots
  • Avoid any jewelry that is distinctly military (dog tags, class rings)

I am not going to get mired down in what type of clothing the CO should wear, but suffice to say that everyday, age appropriate, conservative type clothing is best. To qualify this point, I can remember one time coming back home from a hunting trip and me and 3 other friends got stopped for speeding. I was driving, it was late and everybody including myself were still in our hunting camo. After taking my license and insurance, the officer immediately asked “Do you have any guns in the vehicle?” Now this is not to say after the typical “drug interdiction” questioning officers ask (we were on a major interstate late at night) such as “Where you coming from?” and “Where are you going?” the officer after deducing we were hunters, would not have asked about guns, but camouflage is a big red flag the CO can avoid if he wants to go “gray”.

Conducting some preliminary recon and scouting of the area to know what specific types of people and clothing will be around is a good ideal.  For example, is there any construction going on near the AO? If so, men with hard hats and safety vest may be a common sight in the area, and common is good. For you history and conspiracy buffs, you will remember the Kennedy Assassination, and how it was theorized that several teams of shooters were placed at key point along the parade route. One of these teams was placed directly behind the “grassy knoll” area where there was a rail yard. Eyewitnesses remember a group of “railroad workers” by the fence where the fatal head shot came from. Coincidence? The jury is still out on that one.

The other concern is not having any incriminating evidence on you (or your vehicle) in the event you are stopped and searched by authorities. Most people would think since you do not have the gun, you would be in the clear, but this is false. When one thinks of evidence of a crime, one automatically things of HARD, PHYSICAL evidence, such as a weapon, ammunition cartridge casings or any equipment that could have been used to commit the said crime (such as a burglary suspect having a lock-picking kit, gloves, etc.). It goes without saying that properly disposing of these things are necessary and have to be done properly, but in the era of forensics and DNA you have to be smarter and go deeper to cover your tracks.

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The IRA and the PIRA (Provisional IRA) prosecuted most of their attacks against British Military and Law Enforcement through Static and Mobile Sniper Hides. As the British got more aware to these tactics, the shooters had to get more and more creative in how they covered their tracks, in the book Fry the Brain (pp. 9-19) John West goes into great detail how a PIRA sniper detachment executed a “Hide and Glide” operation and the forensic precautions they took to avoid being caught. The following were the items listed in the “cleaner” bag the detachment had.

  1. Cheap plastic raincoat or nomex suit to provide outer barrier
  2. Leather gloves over Latex gloves
  3. Nylon Balaclava followed by a female nylon stocking on top to seal against gunpowder contamination
  4. Alcohol wipes to clean forehead, face, neck and hands of gunpowder residue
  5. Q-Tips moistened with alcohol to clean ears and nostrils of gunpowder residue

It should be mentioned that great care should be taken for these items to not be discovered prior to of after the event has taken place (burn them!). Just like a cop finding burglary tools during a traffic stop, it kind of shows your intent!

In next week’s installment we will discuss the actual planning and execution of the Insurgent Ambush and show some practical applications for the CO.

Until then, Stay Frosty, Stay Armed and Stay Dangerous!