Drilling Down on the Concept of Group Defense in a Threat Environment

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March 8, 2019
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March 14, 2019

The purpose of this post is to look deeper into the concept of group defense in a high threat or collapse environment, by beginning the discussion and then throwing it open to cooperation. Many minds are greater than one. I will post here on the blog and copy over the the forum, and the intent is that the greater discussion will take place on the forum, even though comments will be open here on the blog.

This is a hard one, for a number of reasons. Those reasons are the aspects which tend to be behind people’s assumptions for what they are planning for. I have said before that you cannot truly anticipate what is coming down the pike, but you can prepare for it by training the mind and body in the way of the warrior mindset, added to which you can purchase weapons, equipment and supplies and make preparations in a common sense manner, in order to anticipate likely preparation scenarios. But such is the complexity of this subject that I don’t even know where I am going with this post even as I sit here tapping away at the keyboard. What I am going to do is raise some points for discussion.

The “collapse” – we literally don’t even know. At various points in time we ‘feel’, or assess (guess), that some things are more likely than others. For example, right now I would tell you that the most likely threat to civil society and the rule of law is the 2020 election, whichever way it goes, and the increasingly revolutionary intent and actions of groups such as the Justice Democrats, and the follow on effects of whichever way the election goes. But none of that may come to pass. It may all be fine just as other potential flash-points have been fine in the past, the country being fairly resilient to civil disorder. Maybe something else will come up. Maybe actual war or cyber attack, or maybe social unrest will lead to one or the other anyway? The point being we just don’t know.

And this is really the point – that being that we do not know what the collapse will taste like. That leads to my main point – that of defense of group in a collapse situation. Many take the ‘prepper’ route of self-sufficiency and creating a static defensive location, preferably as hidden or remote as possible. That has many merits, but I can tell you that from a tactical standpoint, going static, if your position is identified by an enemy of sufficient threat and determination, will result in your annihilation. Add to that the fact that many people will talk all day about trenches and bunkers and all that, but probably lack the sufficient numbers to mount a defensive operation including the necessary surveillance and observation posts in outlying positions, plus effective security patrolling etc. Just being at a farmhouse with trenches is not going to cut it. Don’t get me wrong – we all have to live somewhere and making defensive preparations and fighting positions at your farmhouse, should the threat reach those sort of levels, is clearly a great idea. But have a plan B.

Add to that the fact that most people are not in the situation where they can live remotely and have such preparations in place. We have to live our lives in the now, and most people live in closer proximity to others, including suburbia etc. Given that civil unrest can lead to a cascade of increasing threats and more severe circumstances, such as the grid failing, there is nothing necessarily wrong with having the defended farmhouse as an option, but things have to go through a lot of grades of severity before you are going to be hunkered down with a group in such a location. Also recall what I wrote above – if your position is identified, despite hiding in the boonies and using anonymity as much as you can (and I hope it works for you), once your position is discovered and they come for you with sufficient force and determination, you will die there in place.

If we face a collapse that goes through various graduations of severity, it is not likely to immediately go from the one extreme of where we sit today, to the next where you are hunkered in a bunker. So we have to deal in the meantime with those shades of grey where life gets more risky but we are still trying to pay the bills. Add to that the clear fact that it is the absolute challenge of every warrior citizen to find others who follow the warrior mindset, have effective training and tactical capabilities (real, not imagined) and who can be trusted to form a group with. Most people out there simply do not make the grade of being under consideration for going into a group with. So even where people have the farmhouse, they mostly do not have a realistic defensive force. Yes, people may have ‘tribe’ but the worth of many of these either as a fighter, or even as a productive member of a self-sufficient community, is questionable in this day and age.

Let us extrapolate my 2020 theory, not because I think it is correct, but as an example of a situation creating many grey areas. What if America still looks like it does today, but political violence is increased dramatically. Perhaps accompanied by all the attendant stupidity such as division by identity politics. You are, until another marker is reached, still going to work. Your wife is going to work in another car having dropped off the kids at school. You are going to the store. This is clearly concealed handgun and situational awareness time. Avoidance of places where the riots and gatherings happen. Will home invasions increase, attacks against identified ‘MAGA’ supporters? This is a very much a ‘South Africa’ situation with high levels of crime and increased home defense and travel security measures. You can add any number or graduations or 1001 scenarios here – the point being not to get bogged down in tactical arguments based off of specific assumptions, which may turn out to be false.

If that lawlessness extrapolates and becomes more serious (it is of course all ‘serious’ if you are facing an attack in any circumstances) then we may be moving from ‘South Africa’ to ‘Rhodesia.’ Rhodesia is a great example of hardened farmhouses and vehicles, with horrific farm attacks, but still in a situation where you are not hunkered down, but still trying to go about your business in a high threat situation. At this point you are not hunkered in a bunker, but you have to be ready for extreme survival fighting if it comes to you. I use the Rhodesia example in terms of ‘farm net’ where radio communication may be used to call either security forces or neighboring farms to your aid in an attack, but this may also play out in your suburban neighborhood, if targeted for an attack. Maybe we could see ‘flash mobs’ but much more serious where raids are conducted on neighborhoods? Perhaps something along the lines of the troubles in Northern Ireland with sectarian attacks, or even as far as the Balkans?

All these are situations where you are trying to go about your business and pay the bills. Yes, strategic relocation is going to happen, perhaps another factor that will exaggerate sectarian / political divides, I don’t really know, I’m just throwing it out there, surmising. But what it would mean is that you would need to ensure that you and your people are trained and taking self-defense very seriously. This is where you need to be routinely armed and able to fight your way to your battle gear in order to deal with serious aggression. Most people, suburbanites, those who work, unless retired and wealthy, are not hunkered in a bunker at this point.

What adds to potential complications is the potential for those who are hell-bent on ‘fundamentally transforming’ America into something other than the Constitutional Republic. This is where we see (more) unconstitutional laws and taxation coming down the pike, this is where the 2A is fatally attacked. This would be the time when Patriots and those who have sworn (and will uphold) their Oaths to the Constitution are pitted against those in Law Enforcement who would follow unlawful orders to attack citizens for such purposes as confiscating weapons, taking unreasonable taxes, etc. This is also a situation where we are not in a ‘lights out’ collapse but the country would be teetering on the edge of total lawlessness. Notice that I don’t say ‘Civil War’ because I have no idea what this even means in modern America. I can see political and social upheavals and an orgy of violence, but I don’t yet see organized / geographical sides fighting each other. A note on this: I constantly get perplexed when I see people talking about shooting people in a civil war, and I wonder: Who? Who are you going to shoot? Obvious aggressors who are attacking your and yours is one thing, but other than that? What are your rules of engagement? Democrats? Crazy Aunt Suzy who voted for Hillary and likes the idea of medicare for all? It’s all a little nuts. (That’s when I want to have that farm to go to and sit in my bunker while the stupidity rages around me).

What I have essentially said above is that there is a world of grey between right now, and hunkered in a bunker. Those grey situations could throw a serious amount of threat in your direction, not only yours, but other members of your family (wife / kids) who may not be as well trained or ready as you. You are also likely to be, in most cases, an individual with a family, with other trained fighters that you know at varying distances from you. You are not likely to be a formed group at this point, assuming you can even find suitable people. I always tell people that the two hardest things to do in combat are 1) evacuate a casualty under fire, and 2) locate the enemy. Perhaps the biggest challenge for a trained and prepared warrior citizen is finding quality people to team up with? Not far from likely, I think?

As a prepared individual, you are likely to have some amount of supplies for an emergency situation. We haven’t said yet that the trucks are no longer running to the distribution hubs, but if a chaos situation develops it is likely that at least short term shortages / brown / blackouts are going to occur. Those supplies are a lifeline but also a death sentence of they create too much of a static mentality. They may also be stored in a suburban home or slightly-rural property with a few acres. The ‘so what?’ of this is that you must be capable and prepared to move them. Not to be a refugee in the so often touted ‘bugging out’ scenario, but when you decide to move 20 miles out of suburbia to shack up with your tactical buddy who lives in an area less inclined to anti-MAGA rioting….etc. The implied task of that is being able to move a decent amount of gear and conduct convoy operations to get from A to B. Perhaps you are going to gather a group and fortify a suburban or sub-division neighborhood?

The next point of this is that you may end up somewhere where you least expected, as the shit-storm blows up and violence rages, and you end up convoying out and shacking up in temporary (vacant) places, setting up temporary rest and defensive positions. This mobile approach, via necessity, means you lose the idea of having that perfect prepper bug-out location, but it also gives you flexibility and you are less likely to be fixed in place and reduced by a determined enemy. For those reading with nothing but assumptions hindering reading comprehension, I am not trying to say that this is a better idea – but it may be reality. I think the idea of a rural retreat has many advantages, one of them being a place to store a lot of supplies and also to perhaps be somewhat self-sufficient if a grey collapse turns into a full grid-down and there is no more food being supplied by truck.

But the flip side of that same advantage provides a static mentality where you would never want to leave what you have built. American has not suffered domestic war since the 1860’s and thus I think there is a tendency to be a little spoiled in assumptions over what you have and what you think you can keep should the country go up in flames. Property rights will go by-the-by with gangs roaming the place – you can have property rights if you can physically defeat those trying to take it from you. If your rural retreat just happens to be in the path of (insert scenario here) who wants to take it from you, then run or die. Now, you are mobile. The tides of war are remorseless. It’s yours, if you can keep it.

I have talked before about some of the crutches that people use when trying to justify poor tactical performance / ability. On of those is confusing ability in the performance of target shooting as a sport into a tactical capability. This appears closely tied in with the ‘porch sniper’ approach to home defense. Thus, so long as you have a capable precision shooter covering 360 degrees and all approaches, including dead ground / defilade, day and night, then you will be fine (sarc). Let me flip that: what if the enemy puts one, maybe two, capable sniper teams out in the woods at 1000 yards and starts picking you off, including the shooter you have stationed at the observation point? You have an identifiable position, but the enemy has 360 degrees to plan an approach and assault. Unless you are observing closely all the time, will you pick up that sniper as he stalks in at 1000? As mentioned above, do you have enough of a tactical force to man the required defensive rotation, including observation posts and security patrols? The purpose of those activities is to deter / detect such threats coming in at stand-off distances.

In a situation where rule of law is degrading at various rates of speed, and you have various dispersed groups of trained friends or group members, there has to be a different approach to group security than simply planning to hunker at a bunker. That may be part of the plan, or an option, with members planning to conduct limited bug-outs when the situation gets serious enough and they decide to not go to work anymore. You may even have a plan where members plan to flexibly go to one or the others houses depending on where threats manifest themselves. In this discussion we have focused purely on defense of family in 1001 potential grey collapse situations. We have not discussed what it would entail should there be an identifiable enemy of the Constitution who we had to go and fight. That is a different story but would probably require removal of families to safe locations. How the fighters organized and functioned would depend purely on the style and type of enemy threat in whatever situation came to pass.

Thus we have to move the conversation on from one dominated for the longest time by the ‘prepper gold standard bug-out location’ – not because it is wrong, or necessarily a bad idea, but it is likely impractical for many. It is also impractical in anything other than a full grid-down scenario, and does not take account of the necessity of many to be near places of work. A more dispersed standard with options for concentrating force / families at certain locations should it be needed, or alternatively calling for reinforcements / quick reaction force should one of the group be besieged at their home, is probably both more likely and more useful. This does not solve the problem of meeting and forming alliances with suitably trained and capable people, unless you select and go to training with specifically warrior-minded folks from established family / friend groups.

Such grey scenarios will also mean you will have to be on your tactical game in terms of being able to operate across the tactical spectrum, such as tactical mobility, and various environments such as rural and urban including CQB – you have to get beyond the idea that you can squat in a trench or on your porch to defend to your property line with pure sharpshooting skill. You must be able to operate and fight in complex environments. You may end up fighting in and around homes and structures, conducting tactical movement between locations, conducting patrolling, operating in the woods and deserts, and going so far as to conduct raid and ambush against identified hostile elements threatening your safe areas. In order to pull this off you need trained teams, from buddy pair up to squad plus, you need tactical knowledge, leadership, communication and teamwork skills, and the ability to coordinate and gather information to process intelligence. If you are not prior military combat arms with some real, current training, you have to get that training from somewhere that offers a genuine small unit tactics curriculum. You are going to be both your family’s Personal Protection Detail (PSD) and your own tactical protection force.

It is time to move the tactical conversation on from the tired cold war prepper / survivalist assumptions of a grid-down collapse and a remote rural self-sufficient retreat, to a more dynamic discussion of how to deal with threats in a grey collapse taking place around where we actually live and work today.


  1. Tom says:

    IMHO a lot of dominant prepper ideas come from Hollywood, and a type of apocalyptic Christianity, not historical reality. The USA Becoming a dysfunctional Latin American country is entirely possible. California is already there, Texas and Florida, soon. The one positive thing is that above 40 degrees latitude America is too cold for people to live in Latin American style shantytowns.

  2. Bob W says:

    Excellent summary Max! The “South Africa” and “Rhodesia” parallels are spot on. All you need to do is read about the Civil War as it was fought in Missouri (primarily a guerrilla war) where isolated farms/individuals were preyed on by both sides. It never went well for the porch sniper of the 19th century any more than it will in the 21st century based on historical precedent. Having the ability to call in a family QRF and adjust to the reality of the moment will be vital in any domestic collapse scenario. Flexibility will be key to success. Maintaining different response packages will facilitate a flexible response. The ability to function under a variety of rapidly changing environments will help insure family survival. Patton made a comment that fixed fortifications were a folly of man’s thinking. Obviously, not an exact quote but the sentiment is there. Those fixed fortifications can exist in the physical world or in the mind of the individual. I like the quote from Pat McNamara that “Mobility equals Survivability”. That is applicable on many fronts.

  3. Richard Steven Hack says:

    Max does a great job of listing the problems. And it may well be that there are no adequate solutions to any of them.

    The problem I have with a group defense vs lone bug-out approach is as follows:

    1) How many of your existing neighbors are in a position to assist you from a standpoint of not just willingness, but capability? As Max says, not likely.

    2) How many people with tactical training and/or experience that you do know live anywhere near you? Even as close as the other side of town? Are they going to move near you? Are you going to move near them? For the (probably unlikely) probability of mass social chaos? Also not very likely. So what does that say about the probability of “quick reaction forces” being able to help you?

    Let’s look at what Selco says about Bosnia. Going it alone was risky. The people who survived were large families who relied on being family and who had weapons (even if not great training). His plan for future such events is bugging out to a rural location where he has family he can rely on. At least in a rural location, the probability of large enough roaming gangs is less likely to be an issue than in the city. But again, most people aren’t necessarily going to have such family groups available to them.

    Looking at historical events as Max did in this post is useful. Even in the most dire situations, like Bosnia, or Somalia, etc., the bulk of the population survives, albeit in severely depressed personal circumstances, even to the point of near starvation. So the TEOFTWAWKI is an unlikely event, historically speaking – at least short of chaos nuclear war in this country.

    Most likely there are no good solutions to these issues. Sometimes “bugging out” – or more precisely, being mobile – is the way to go, and in other scenarios “bugging in” or sheltering in place, may be an appropriate response.

    The problem is that unless you have really large resources of money and networks you can trust, you’re unlikely to be able to handle both types of scenarios well. So most people will have to start with the least expensive option and hope they can work their way up to more comprehensive preparations over time.

    The problem with most “prepping” advice is that it is designed to make you either a refugee or a fugitive. And you don’t want to be either one of those. You need to be either a “survivor” – defined as someone who either isn’t there when the SHTF (First Rule of Winning a Fight: Don’t Show Up For It) or has a plan to deal with it, or an “operator”, defined as someone who has a plan and a mission to accomplish during a specific security threat.

    One thing I’ve learned in computer security is my meme: “You can haz better security. You can haz worse security. But you cannot haz ‘security’. There is no such thing as ‘security.’ Deal.” There are things and situations that, no matter how much you prepare, you simply will not be able to deal with. WWIII is likely one of those things – and we’re very possibly on the cusp of that one if the US keeps pressuring Russia. There was recently a RAND study suggesting the possibility of a military confrontation with either Russia or China – or both – by the mid-2020’s; this doesn’t give us a lot of time to “prep” for something that potentially disastrous.

    So we may have to prepare for relocation, shelter in place and individual and group mobility (which is not the same as relocation) to the degree we are able. And it’s not going to be the same plan for everyone, or possibly even most people. It’s going to be an intensely individual plan for every individual and family. So we should concentrate on principles, rather than specifics.

  4. Mark Stanton says:

    Max, this is very well written. Your best work yet! So much was covered this article it difficult to know where to begin. The bottom line is that it seems that short of a widespread EMP type shutdown, the ability to be flexible and aware is going to count for a lot more than simply having preps and guns. The ability to know when to abandon your position to fight another day would be essential.

  5. Brian M. says:

    Excellent evaluation of potential scenarios MAX, as usual. Noone can possibly prepare for or be able to handle every possible threat for sure. So we need to continue to train , prepare and develop the warrior mindset as much as our personal situation allows. Honestly I think a good family group or even a rural neighborhood group will have the best chances of survival. Even if you are the best trained individual present, at least you can attempt to “train up’ group members into a functioning defense. Hopefully you will be able to control enough real estate, wherever that may be, to give you and your loved ones some security and better odds of long term survival for however the shit storm turns out.