Archive for December, 2014

Here is another gem, in my opinion the best, from AnalyticalSurvival’s YouTube site.

It is very easy for a member of the prepper/patriot community, especially us fellows, to get caught up in the “Go to guns first” mentality. You got to admit, there’s nothing sexier than that new DS Arms FAL SA58 mini OSW. Talk about a “woodie”!

That being said, UW is a thinking mans war and very often what you say, or don’t, and how you say it, or don’t, can impact the long-term outcome of a situation, to your groups benefit, far more effectively than what kind of long gun your carrying and how fast you can do a mag change.

Watching this video stirred up memories of long since forgotten deployments where negotiations by the Team Commander or a senior NCO accomplished more than all the firepower we could muster. Not that the firepower display didn’t tilt the discussion our way, which can be a part of the negotiation. For the old school SF team leadership, it was a point-of-pride to have developed the skill sets necessary to first convince the G-chief at Robin Sage, the Glavni outside of Tuzla or the Kala antar in Nuristan Province, to put aside old grudges, and to trust us, the new arrivals, to have their best interest at heart. Then to take that concept one step further, and use those same skills to convince groups of men, who have never trusted one another, to support one another in order to defeat a common enemy. First consider fairly current history as in the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan.  Then think of the possibilities during your part in WROL.

After the video you can act on one of Mosby’s commandments suggestions and read the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. It’s a great read. This gentlemen, is where the true rubber meets the road.  And it might save you a lot of ammo.


The Final Word on UTM

Posted: 12/26/2014 in Land Navigation

As stated in an earlier post, UTM is the most efficient system you can use to transpose a location from the earth, onto a map. Then you can pass that information on to friendly forces anywhere. Think about the possibilities.

This three video set is without a doubt the best explanation of UTM that I have ever seen. (Hat Tip to Lost Dog).  No wonder, it was done by a former member of my alma mater, the 7th Special Forces Group. If you have the time and want to really understand UTM, pop a cold one, turn off the football game, and spend a few minutes learning something of value. He has a few other videos that you might find interesting.








Solid advice from DTG. Everything I and others have written about land nav are tips and techniques to assist you when you attend an actual land nav course. You’ve spent the big bucks on your weapon systems, and to learn how to use them effectively. You paid the big bucks for that high-speed, low-drag kit and the same to learn small unit tactics. You’ve got your PT, intel and med training squared away. But if you can’t get your team to the objective and back….what’s the use of it all? Go get some professional training.

I recently updated the post “Choosing a Compass” with a video that I found on YouTube. Some folks seem to grasp material better when they can see it and handle it. Here is the link:

When moving from A to B, what land nav. movement method should you use and why?

Dead reckoning (actually Deductive reckoning) is the method normally used when moving in very low light conditions such as heavy rain, fog, snow or at night. Also when moving through very thick vegetation, such as thick forest or dense jungle, or an area with very few recognizable terrain features, such as prairie or very flat desert. It would also be used if moving from an attack point very near an objective to ensure you don’t miss it.

Dead reckoning involves first determining, on your map, your current location, then the distance and azimuth (bearing) to your objective. The azimuth is dialed into your compass, rotate your body until your north seeking arrow is aligned (RED IN THE SHED) and start walking, keeping your pace count and red in the shed, until you reach your objective. Dead reckoning is usually not as accurate as terrain association and you must constantly update your location on your map, while keeping separate track of distance and azimuth changes, if any, about once every 30 minutes. You might also have to cross terrain that you would avoid during a daytime movement. The longer the movement the larger error involved so, if possible, break the overall movement into several short legs with multiple en route check or way points. During night navigation, you must illuminate your compass dial without ruining your night vision and/or compromising yourself in the process. Hold your compass and flashlight under your poncho or shirt for a minute or so. During a night movement, your rate of travel will be much slower than during a day movement, and your stride will be shorter, affecting your pace count.

Keeping your pace count is important when using dead reckoning. One device used to record your pace are Ranger Beads. Here is a link to a photo and explanation of how to make your own. You can also find them, ready-made, online. . I keep a set in my map case and use them when navigating using dead reckoning. They’re basically beads, strung on a piece of gutted 550 cord, nine beads below a knot, four above it. Each bead on the bottom represents 100 meters. Each bead at the top represents 1,000 meters or 1 kilometer (1 click). For every 100 meters you count using your pace count, pull a 100 meter bead up, after you have traveled 1 click, pull the nine beads back down to reset and pull one 1 kilometer bead up. After 5 clicks, start them over. Not rocket science but they work.

When planning a movement using this method, it’s best to plan for several check points along the way. Good check points include linear man-made and natural terrain features that you will intersect on your azimuth such as, roads or trail crossings, streams, and ridgelines or valleys that you would not miss in the dark. They can also be used as a backstop to warn you have passed your objective. When planning your route using your map, measure off the distance to each en route checkpoint, note them and check each off as you reach them, noting them on your map as your current location.

Map features pitfalls. You can usually rely on natural terrain features being exactly where they are shown on the map. I say usually, with the exception of Ft. Drum, NY. When stationed there as a new infantry private, land nav. could be pretty frustrating. More often than not, when conducting a movement, we would walk directly into a new beaver pond or marsh that, of course, was not on the map. They seemed to number in the hundreds and they constantly popped up in new locations. It could be frustrating but we got pretty good at navigating around them while not getting off azimuth and losing our pace counts. Man made features, however, can get you in a boat-load of trouble. Structures are torn down and new ones are built. New roads are paved, and anybody with a four-wheel drive truck can rough-in a new dirt road. Old logging or forest service roads are neglected and can grow over. Depending on the age of the map, areas that are shown as forested have been logged and areas that are shown as a clearing are overgrown. My best advice is to look for man-made features such as paved roads, dirt roads and clearings on your map anyway, measure the distance to them and, as you get closer to the checkpoint, slow down and start looking closely for that road bed or newly planted area. If you find it great, note it on your map. If you don’t find it, go on to the next checkpoint. If you happen upon a dirt road or other feature that’s not on the map, you can make a notation for future use. Our maps, of the AO we operate in, have been updated in this manner. Again, always keep track of your current location as you move. If you find you are lost, dial a 180 degree reversal into your compass, and return on the back azimuth, using your current pace count, back to your previously known checkpoint.

Offsets:  When dead reckoning to your objective, try to intentionally offset to one side or the other of the objective along a linear feature, such as a stream or road, so that you will know to move left or right to the final objective, or checkpoint, once you reach the feature.

Attack points:  Use easy to find terrain features, that are in close proximity of your final objective, to get you close to your objective. Examples include road/stream intersections.

Handrails:  Rather than walking on roads, ridgelines, next to streams, in valleys or any other linear feature, move parallel to it, just within eyesight, dependant on cover and concealment. This technique is not only tactically significant to a small unit, but sometimes movement is easier, faster, and quieter while hand railing along a stream rather than through thick vegetation, loose slippery rocks and water in the stream bed not to mention the risk of skylighting when walking a ridgeline, or compromise if walking a road, which is a linear danger area and high-speed avenue-of-approach combined.

Terrain association is the always the preferred method of movement, when environmental conditions permit. Again, determine your present location on your map by triangulation, orient the map to the terrain around you, then determine an azimuth to your objective. Using terrain analysis with your map, you might determine that a direct azimuth route-of-march is not the best course while taking advantage of the terrain to make your movement easier or to mask your movement. You may plan a circuitous route, using several different terrain features along the way to guide you and to use as en route checkpoints/waypoints. I would recommend that you determine a general azimuth for each leg but it’s not necessary, since you can always triangulate to visible terrain features along the way. Again, keep your map location updated as you move. Once you are close to your objective, you can switch to dead reckoning from a nearby attack point to guide you precisely to the target.

I found a video on YouTube that you might find interesting. The author covers many areas listed above and is professionally done.



Compass Tips

Posted: 12/23/2014 in Land Navigation

Some compass use tips and techniques:

Hold the compass level when taking readings. If you tilt the compass, you risk burying the needle and getting a false reading. I teach new students two methods to hold the compass. At , he points to this site: . Select “compass”, to see both methods.

Method 1:  My method is a modified version of the method in the picture. Hold the compass in both hands, palms up, one palm resting over the other, with both thumbs pointing forward along each respective side of the compass. Hold it at waist level locking your elbows into your sides. Face your objective square-on, then look straight down at the level compass to get your azimuth (heading) to the objective. Do not only turn your hands to face your objective but instead turn your entire body to face it. When you feel comfortable with this method, raise the compass to chest level, still holding the compass the same with elbows locked in to your sides and then glance down to get your azimuth. After some practice, you should be able take periodic compass reading while holding the compass in one hand while walking. It is a good idea to periodically switch hands when using the dead-reckoning method of navigation. This will help correct drifting to one side or the other.

Method 2:  To get a more precise reading you can fold the hinged, mirrored top of the compass over the base at approximately 45 degrees, hold the compass to your cheek and use the sighting aperture and sighting wire to line up your objective while reading the azimuth in the mirror. If you’re wondering why you would want a precise measurement, remember, most good compasses are graduated every 2 degrees on the bezel. Keeping this in mind, scroll down to DTGs great article on magnetic declination (below) and look at the error-rate-per-meter. While land nav. is not surveying, it might be a good thing to be able to correctly triangulate your current location using several distant mountain peaks.

Some general use tips:

Keep your compass away from all ferrous metals when taking a reading. Items include:  metal framed glasses, rings, watches, bracelets, belt buckles and gear with metal buckles/snaps, sidearms and long guns, old style steel-pot helmets etc. Concrete structures that are filled with re-bar/wire mesh to include slabs, over septic tanks etc. Metal buildings, buried electric power and telephone cable, buried or above ground concrete and metal pipes, wooden picnic tables that are nailed together and last but not least – in/around vehicles to include vehicle hoods that your new 2nd Lieutenant just spread the map out on (Come on L.T., WTF over?). You get the picture.

Again, protect your compass. Attach it to your person, close it up and put it in your pocket/pouch when not using it.

Ensure you are pointing the compass at your objective with the direction of travel arrow away from you (Come on L.T., WTF over?).

Trust your equipment. Before you start to second guess your compass, take out your backup compass (two is one and one is none) and compare readings. Don’t hold the compasses against each other, they will give false readings. The more you train with it, the more you will trust it.

Up next:  Dead Reckoning vs. Terrain Association













Instead of writing a book on how to use your compass and map, I’ll direct you to a link that I give to all the students in my basic land nav. class. I use some of his material as a handout in those classes.  Any future posts regarding land nav. will assume you understand this material.

The link is:

On his site you’ll find every topic covered that you need to get started using your compass and map. The site is well laid out and simple to use. For folks new to land nav., take your time and go through each topic and then get outside and practice until your comfortable with each. If you have questions along the way, send them my way and I’ll do my best to help. Again, you’ve got to get outside and practice, the same way you would when you go to the range and practice with that new AR-15.

A few topics he covers that you need to spend extra attention to are:  the sub topic “Basic compass reading” under “Compass Reading” (RED IN THE SHED, RED IN THE SHED, RED IN THE SHED), Declination, Headings, Orienting a Map, and Triangulation. At the bottom of the topic “Declination” you will find a radio button marked “declination”. Selecting this will give you an updated declination angle for any area of the earth. This is important due to the out-of-date declination given on most topo maps.

He gives some good general info. on pacing (pace count). Keep in mind his point-of-reference is as a civilian daytime hiker. If you are moving at night during low natural illumination, through a thickly wooded area or over flat terrain with very few natural or man-made features, your pace count will become important. Not so much when using terrain association which we will discuss later. Practice your pace count as he recommends, then also learn your pace count with your ruck on, and over varying terrain. My pace count is 67 on flat terrain. 63 with a ruck on over flat terrain. I learned it in 1986 and haven’t forgotten it since. I still find myself counting every other left step in my head when out walking.

Now get out and practice. (RED IN THE SHED)



Great write-up regarding the importance of Magnetic Declination when navigating. Update 12/24/14: Added a couple of you tube videos you might want to peruse at your leisure.

An important aspect of using a topo map is the fact that you can pin-point a location on the earth, transpose that location onto the corresponding map with fair precision and then communicate that location to others. This allows you to locate and share items such as link-up points, caches, targets, en route rally points, etc. The most efficient method is the grid reference system.

I won’t go into a detailed topo map discussion here, Max Velocity’s already done that on his site with an excellent primer. He explains how to locate a point on any 1/25,000 OR 1/50,000 topo map using the Military Grid Reference System (GMRS). If you are attending his course he has written that this is the map system he will use. He goes on to write that you can buy any USGS topo map with the GMRS grids pre-printed on your personalized map at I have ordered maps from them and I highly recommend them.

For those folks who already have a stock of USGS maps that are 1/24,000 maps, have the ability to print their own maps or have compasses in 1/24,000, I will explain how simple it is to draw a grid system on your map. The following is taken directly from

All USGS topographic maps printed in the last 30 years or so include UTM grid tick marks, in blue, on the margin of the map. For a short time period after 1978 the USGS was printing a fine lined UTM grid on their topographic maps. They have since discontinued this practice.

Since most USGS 1:24,000 scale topographic maps do not have grid lines printed on them, you will need to draw them in by hand.

Start by finding a flat surface to work on. Use a straightedge that is long enough to draw a line across your map. Two to three feet long is a good length.

Line the straightedge up between two corresponding UTM tick marks along the neat line (the edge) of the map. Remember that UTM grid lines are not exactly North-South or East-West anywhere but in the center of a zone. This means that the grid lines will not be parallel to the neat lines.

Using a mechanical pencil or a fine pointed pen draw a line between the two tic marks. If you are using a pen, select one that has waterproof ink. In addition, you will want to use a straightedge that has the edges lifted off of the paper. This will help keep from leaving an ink smudge when you move the straightedge. High quality straight edges will often have a thin piece of cork stuck to the bottom. This helps keep the rule from slipping, and keeps the edge off of the paper. A piece of masking tape centered on the bottom of your straightedge will work also. Occasionally wipe of the edge of the straightedge to avoid any ink build up.

Gridding maps is tedious work. We all wish the USGS would go back to printing the grid on the map. But even then, we would still need to grid our existing maps. As you can see this is not the kind of thing you want to do on the hood of a truck or using a flat rock. Grid your maps before you need them in the field! In a pinch you can fold the map over on itself and use the edge of the paper as a straightedge.

A couple of items that bear repeating; the outside map margin or border is known as the “neat line” and the UTM grid tics are tiny, blue lines that extend out from the border (or neat line) on each side, top and bottom. Insure that when you draw in your lines that the UTM grid tic mark numbers match top to bottom or side to side and they are all parallel to each other. When you are finished you will have a matrix of squares filling in your map. Some of the grids along the margin might not be complete squares, until you join up adjoining map sheets with grid squares drawn on them also.

The squares you have drawn are one thousand meters across or in other words, one kilometer. Or as we said in the Army, one “click”.

Now you can use the scales on your 1/24,000 compass base to locate items up to 100 meters.

Another nifty tool I always carry in my map case is the Brooks-Range All-in-one Map Tool Pro. Google it and blow up the picture on your computer. It has every scale I’ve ever used and some I haven’t. It also has your grid reference tool for 1/24,000 maps that you just lay over your map. It also contains slope indexes along the bottom that you can lay over the contour lines on any map and it will give you the corresponding incline. It also has a compass rose in the middle surrounding the grid index. If you gut a piece of 550 cord, pierce the very center of the compass rose intersection with a needle creating a tiny hole just large enough to feed one of the 550 strands through, tie a knot on the strand on the front side of the tool, then pull the strand through the hole in the tool until the knot tightens against the front of the tool. When you are finished you can lay the tool on the map, north pointing to the top of the map, with the center knot over your present location, turn the tool to align the map tool edges or grid lines with the grid lines you have drawn on your map, then pull the strand around until it intersects your target on the map. You can then read the direction or azimuth in degrees to your target off the compass rose on your tool.  No need to draw lines on your map or to even lay your compass on the map. Now set your azimuth into your compass, keeping in mind the declination offset (unless it is built into your compass) then move out and draw fire.






Choosing a compass

Posted: 12/16/2014 in Land Navigation

I’ve been asked by several readers which compass I use and why I chose it. My primary compass is the Suunto MC-2, my alternate compass is a Suunto A-10 and the compass in my survival kit is a little Brunton Globe. While in the Army we were trained to use the standard military lensatic compass but, during the deployments during GWOT, some SF teams were issued a version of the Suunto MC-2 with special tritium illuminated parts that most of us found to be superior to the lensatic.

Like weapons, not all compasses are of the same caliber and no one compass excels for all uses. Some are toys, some are junk and some are overkill, so depending on the terrain you are operating in and what you are doing at the time, they can get you lost and embarrassed or worse, lost and dead. If I had to bet my life on a compass, it would be either a Suunto,  Cammenga or a Brunton.  My primary, the MC-2 is considered an advanced nav. compass and it is pretty rugged. My secondary (backup) is an orienteering compass that is quite a bit lighter, and while it won’t take the licks the MC-2 will, it will allow me to continue the mission. The little Brunton Globe is my go-to-hell compass, it will get me home and that’s about all I can ask of it. Avoid very expensive professional compasses designed for surveyors, loggers and geologists. They are usually a little bulky, heavy and you’ll cry like a baby when you lose it or break it. Also avoid the Chi-com made Silva compasses like the plague. Yes, Silvas sold in North America are made in China. The true Silva compasses are still made in Sweden but are not imported here.  I still have a Chi-com Silva Ranger someone gave to me that has the direction-of-travel arrow pointing in the wrong direction. The Suunto is made in Finland, the patron nation of orienteering, the Cammenga in Michigan and the Brunton in Wyoming. My only hands-on experience with the Bruntons, beside the little Globe, is the Army M-2 that was used by Army mortar and artillery crews and I remember it being a well-built compass. If you’ve used the virtually indestructible M-1950 military lensatic compass, you’ve probably used a Commenga. The civilian version of the M-1950 is the Commenga 3H. As far as I know, it is the only civilian compass with a tritium illumination. The use of tritium allows the compass to self-illuminate without the aid of a light that is required to charge the phosphorous in other compasses. The life of the tritium is about 10 years (true half-life of 12 years). If you feel that the lensatic compass is for you, a word of warning; there are tons of cheap Chinese knock-offs floating around. I see one or two at each land-nav class I teach. Usually, they are made of plastic, don’t have a dampened floating needle, (the needle never seems to settle down) and the parts that are supposed to be phosphorus are just green paint. Also of note; if you find a military surplus lensatic, it’s probably past the half-life of the tritium and will not illuminate properly. Check for the manufacture date on the back of the compass.

What to look for in a good compass:

The compass should have a liquid filled housing with no bubbles under the lens and a jeweled needle bearing.

The base plate should be transparent in order to view a map through, and have embossed scales relevant to the maps you will use.

The needle, orienting arrow, rotating bezel ring and orienting marks should be luminous for night use.

The bezel should have detents (or “clicks”) to hold it in place when set.

Declination scale.

There should be an attaching point for a lanyard. This is pretty important. I usually keep my compass lanyard (a piece of gutted 550 cord) tied through the button-hole in either my top left shirt pocket or lapel, or if no button-hole when wearing a combat shirt, attach it to the suspenders on the battle belt or a plate carrier attachment point.  My point is attach it to your person.  Do not tie it around your neck, that’s a no-no that might come back to haunt you during a ground combatives engagement.  Do not make the lanyard so long that it can reach the ground when you go down on one knee. Old war story; I had a buddy going through SF Selection with me, taking the land nav. exam when he fell onto a knee at night while moving through the woods. His lanyard was so long that when he fell, his knee fell onto his open compass, breaking out the lens and crushing the needle. He had no backup compass and failed the exam. Close your compass cover and stow it away when you’re not looking at it.

Additional items I look for:

A hinged cover with integral mirror.  The cover protects the compass face, base plate and mirror from damage and, of course, keeps the mirror from flashing inadvertently. The mirror is used for the more precise land nav. functions such as section/re-section. It can also be used for applying camo, signalling, shaving, and checking for ticks in those places you can’t normally check by yourself and your Ranger Buddy probably won’t help you with. When the mirror is folded out flat, it gives the user a longer straight edge for drawing lines on the map.

Multiple map scales and rules. Something  very important to consider before purchasing a compass.

Determine the scale(s) of the maps you intend to use since the scales on the compass need to match them. With the Suunto, the embossed compass scales will either be in inches (standard) with map scales of 1:24,000 and 1:62,500 for use with USGS maps printed for the United States, or for maps of virtually all other areas of the world, the compass scales required will be in centimeters and the map scales of 1:25,000 and 1:50,000. Military Grid Reference System (MGRS) maps, including those of the USA, use metric scales. I keep compasses for both type of maps.

Magnifying glass. Comes in handy for reading the fine map print, especially when you are long-in-the-tooth, like me, and the eyes start to go bad. It can also be used to start a survival fire, providing the big heat-tab-in-the-sky is shining.

An adjustable declination setting. Determine the declination for your AO, set it into the compass once, and forget it. Big time saver and one less mistake to make.

Sighting apertures and wires between the base and hinged lid.

Most compasses are hemisphere specific. A compass made for the northern hemisphere will not work in the southern hemisphere and vice-versa. You can, however, buy a special compass that will work in both.

For example: The Suunto MC-2 360/D/L/CM/IN/NH  has/built-n Declination adjustment/Luminous dial/inClinometer/INch scale/works in the Northern Hemisphere. The Suunto version for both north and south hemisphere will have the letters NH/SH or G for Global. Each uses a different method of needle stabilization.

If you have any interest in land navigation and are planning a compass purchase, visit your local sporting goods/backpacking store and puts your hands on one first. Usually someone behind the counter will have some experience with one. Another good source of information is a local orienteering/hiking club.

I have updated this post to include this Youtube video that I think will help. It is very well done.