Urban tactics: survival

Like many guys, I found myself wondering what I would have done if I was so unfortunate as to find myself in the wrong place at the wrong time if people who belong to no particular religion and totally aren’t refugees or immigrants happen to decide to express their grievances in one lethal manner or another.

Now, it should be understood that sometimes there is simply nothing you can do. It doesn’t matter if you are a physical specimen with black belts in five different disciplines, including Ninja and Navy SEAL, who can shoot the testicles off a fly at 100 meters, if a 15-year-old Muslim wearing a vest made of plastic explosive happens to be standing next to you in the elevator when he decides to collect his 72 virgins.

But setting aside pure bad luck, there has to be SOMETHING you can do to improve your odds and avoid being the subject of a pavement garden or candlelight vigil after yet another epic magic dirt fail.

A few basic thoughts:

  • Carry a gun if you can. Carry a knife and some legal projectiles if you can’t.
  • Always wear a belt that you can slip through your keychain. It can serve as an effective submission noose or a fairly nasty ad hoc flail.
  • After you shoot, don’t forget to scoot. Unless you’re Nate, you’re probably going to be outgunned. If you saw the clip of the French police exchanging fire with the Batalan attackers, you can see why it’s a bad idea to go pistol against combat rifle directly.
  • Face to the door. Always sit facing the door and maintain situational awareness.
  • Don’t just hit the deck. Hit the deck and move immediately to the side.
  • There are weapons everywhere. Be aware of where they are in case you need them. Someone once asked me what I would do if attacked RIGHT NOW. I picked up a stone and threw it at him, then scooped up another handful. He was already cringing and loudly expressing his opinion that he understood my point by the time I raised my hand again.
  • The police are not going to come in fast and hard. Their first concern is protecting themselves. Their second concern is preventing the bad guys from getting away. Don’t think about waiting for the police, think about how you’re going to win. Focus on attack and neutralization, not on simply running away, assuming you can’t simply walk out another door and be safe.
  • Movement and distraction are key. Think triangles. Flank and then hit from both sides, ideally with someone serving as a distraction in the middle.
  • Think predator, not helpless prey.

The essential problem is one of game theory. The safest thing for the group to do is mass rush the gunman/gunmen. But the immediately safest thing for each individual to do is to remain motionless and hope someone else gets shot.

Reading the account of the concert hall shooting, the striking thing was the way in which everyone just lay there doing nothing while the gunmen were reloading. Now, it sounds like they were trained well enough to have one cover while the other was reloading, but there were well over 300 people in there; an AK-47 magazine holds 30 rounds. It reminded me a little of the scene in Band of Brothers when Easy Company is attacking Foy and Lt. Dike loses his nerve.

Despite the major and the other officers repeatedly bellowing “keep moving, keep moving”, he can’t find the courage to do it with the Germans shooting at them, and the rest of the troops are pinned down as well. Not until Lt. Speirs relieved Dike and took command of Easy Company were they able to get moving again.

So, the assumption has to be that most people won’t do anything unless they think it is reasonably safe for them to act.

I did wonder about the balcony, though. Had the men on the balcony started hurling chairs down at the gunmen below, that would have presumably served as a sufficient distraction for the people pinned down on the floor to act. Of course, they had no reason to be thinking in such terms at the time, but now that we know what can reasonably be expected, we should think about how one might be able to do better and save some lives in the event we find ourselves put to the test.

I’m very interested in publishing an article in Riding the Red Horse V2 on this subject, so if you’ve got SWAT or urban combat experience in Iraq and you’re interested in putting together a piece on the subject, let me know. If you’re just an interested civilian, however, please do NOT contact me. I’m looking for someone with actual experience of these things.