15 Military Survival Tactics You Should Borrow

The prepping community is full of advice, some good and some bad. Sadly, most advice from “experts” out there, is nothing but poorly-researched garbage. There’s a lot of blog writers in the prepping community, making money off innocent people just wanting to learn to survive should a disaster strike.

soldier in mud

I take this personally, and it infuriates me. How many times have you seen an article with this title? The answer is most likely a lot, but can you trust the writer to input legitimate military views every time?

There are so many “military experts” claiming to know the ins and outs of the military world, and how they can help you survive. I would dare say about 80% of the time, they’re either people who served in a non-combat job in their respective branch. Either that, or they never served and did “extensive research”.

The biggest problem with this, is how can we know if their research wasn’t from another writer who falls into the two categories I just listed?

Before we get carried away, just know that I’ll never disclose sensitive information regarding the military, and our tactics. First off, that puts our military at risk. Secondly, you can learn plenty off of information that is available to the general public.

You may be thinking, “why can’t I just research the public information myself, then?”. The answer is simple: nobody has the time to look around for genuine accurate information. That’s why I’m here, to help my fellow Americans survive if their life depends on it.

The U.S. Military is the best military in the world, and we’ve only been around for less than 300 years. We’ve revolutionized tactics that have proven to be battlefield effective, so you can see why the public information can be very useful.

Before you get defensive, trying to justify other country’s militaries, know that the facts don’t lie. Enough of my biased view, lets get into some legitimate information that you as a prepper can use to help you survive should SHTF.

#1. Camouflage is Key

Why risk getting into a firefight if you don’t have to? Having the skill to conceal yourself, your vehicle, and your equipment is a major asset for preppers who need to get from one place to another should SHTF.

This necessary skill greatly reduces the chances of being detected by people who might have a violent agenda if they’re desperate for supplies after SHTF.

Think about it, if you are by yourself when you bug out, do you think you’ll really stand a chance against three or four looters looking for anyone who they can exploit? If you answered yes, you need to reconsider your thought process, because that will get you killed.

Never engage in a fight that doesn’t have 3:1 odds in your favor, unless you absolutely must. What this means, is you should consider having at least three people in your group for every enemy engagement.

This greatly reduces the chance of somebody in your group being injured or killed, and it also puts more firepower in the fight against the enemy.

Concealment is more than just camouflaging yourself. It includes noise discipline, light reflection reduction, vehicle concealment, and blending into a local population.

Learning how to conceal yourself is only half the battle. You need to be able to practice the skills you learn, multiple times a year. Concealment is a perishable skill, so make sure you incorporate it into every practice “bug out” you perform.

You should focus on learning to camouflage every piece of equipment you will be bringing along when you bug out, as well as your bug out location. If you have a ghillie suit on, but your bug out bag is neon orange, you’re still going to stick out like a sore thumb.

Your bug out location should definitely be camouflaged if it’s in the wilderness. This greatly reduces the chance that somebody will stumble upon it if SHTF, and claim it as their own. Then, you have to worry about fighting them to gain it back along with the supplies you’ve stockpiled.

#2. Two is One, and One is None

It’s kind of an ironic statement, right? Well, it’s very true when it comes to any time spent in the wilderness (or bugging out in general). “Murphy’s Law” (anything that can go wrong, will go wrong), is a real factor when it comes to equipment.

You should always have spares of every piece of essential equipment you incorporated in your bug out plan. Equipment breaks, that’s a humbling fact that you don’t want to learn if you only have one of whatever breaks if it’s essential.

No matter how much money you spend on a piece of equipment, know that there is always a way that it could be broken, lost, or stolen.

Personally, I keep at least one or two spares of any item in my medical bag, as well as fire starting material, knives, and water sources. This way, if I slip and fall and lose one thing, I will more than likely still have access to the spares I stored away.

Always keep your spares separate from each other. It’s not a bad idea to have a sustainment pouch on your kit full of spares, this way if you lose your bug out bag, you still have the essentials needed to survive.

In your bug out location, have plenty of spares on standby. While this could get expensive, it’s well worth it in case you need to restock from a rough bug out expedition.

Another reason to have spares, is the compassion factor. If you have a bug out crew, odds are somebody will lose something that they need for basic survival. Like I said, Murphy’s Law is a real thing.

If this happens, you can lend them an item that you have multiple spares of, so they’re better prepared to help defend you and the group against the elements (or an enemy). I don’t need to tell you why you need to have spare self-defense means, but I’ll say that you definitely need at least three.

#3. Cover and Concealment Aren’t the Same

Just because you can’t be seen in a bush, doesn’t mean you can’t be shot in a bush. A lot of people fail to realize this, and it tends to be their downfall in combat. Concealment should only be used while you’re not in a firefight to remain undetected by enemies, unless absolutely necessary.

If you’re in an area where there’s no viable cover in a firefight, you need to hightail it out of there until you find an area where there’s sufficient cover. Only then, should you engage them in return.

The only exception to this rule, is if they ambush you and they’re less than 35 yards away. If this happens, you don’t have a choice but to return fire and hope your accuracy training pays off. This is because when the enemy is within 35 yards, they can more accurately engage you should you try to run away.

Another reason is grenades, the average man can throw a grenade up to 35 yards. Never count out the fact that your enemy may have access to these.

Another critical factor with cover, is finding sufficient cover. In the movies, you’ll see “soldiers” taking cover behind a small tree that just happens to catch all the rounds flying their way.

In real life, you’ll never see a smart military member taking cover behind such a tree. Instead, find cover that protects your entire body from incoming rounds.

Granted, you may have to adjust your body in order to be protected, but it’s better than finding a tree that wouldn’t even cover the video game character “Paper Mario”.

Whenever you’re in a firefight, you should be looking for the next two cover and concealed positions that you could move to next. You should always have a backup plan, mostly due to the fact that the enemy may be flanking near the side you would be exposed for one covered area.

Concealment doesn’t stop bullets, so don’t dive in a bush when you’re engaged in an ambush hoping you won’t be shot. Cover is your only viable option, always look for the next cover wherever you are. This way, you can run to it quickly if you are ambushed.

#4. Win the 15-Second Fight

The first 15 seconds in a firefight are the most crucial moments that you’ll be faced with throughout the entire fight. The reason why is simple, fire superiority. This factor is important because whoever has fire superiority will more than likely win the fight.

Not only does gaining fire superiority over the enemy have a psychological factor, but it also gives you the opportunity to advance on them or flank them (whichever is more opportune for the fight).

As soon as the firefight begins, your main focus is to place as many rounds in their direction as possible.

This doesn’t mean go full-auto (or cyclic) for the entire firefight, if you do you’ll run out of ammunition very quickly.

Instead, it simply means for the first few seconds, you need to show the enemy that you mean business.

As soon as you gain fire superiority, you’ll notice that they’re much more easily suppressed. Basically, if you have fire superiority, you control the tempo of the fight itself.

This is crucial to survive any firefight, because whoever controls the tempo, controls the opponent. This factor comes into play with not only firefights, but with hand to hand combat also.

Never give the enemy the chance to gain fire superiority over you, because the moment you do, is the moment you’ve already lost. Don’t let the tempo die down after 15 seconds, however. Instead, use this superiority factor to gain the advantageous position over the enemy.

#5. Flanking

Sun Tzu, a very successful Chinese general, military strategist, and author of the book “The Art of War” once stated “fight the enemy where they are not”.

When you break it down, it simply means attack your enemy where they aren’t prepared. Basically, he’s saying “flank your enemy”. Militaries around the world have used the flanking tactic for centuries, but why is it so effective?

When you flank your enemy, you’re making them fight in two directions. Thus, you’re taking their firepower that was once concentrated in one area, and dividing it.

This tactic is very effective if you’re fighting a larger force than your own. Even if the odds are in your favor, you can ensure that your firefight will be quick, and efficient if you flank your enemy (if you do it right).

While you’re flanking, make sure you don’t create parallel lines with allies shooting inward toward the enemy. If you do this, you risk shooting your allies in the crossfire.

The only exception to this rule is if you’re shooting downward from atop the high-ground. Even if you’re shooting downward into a valley, it’s still risky. Make sure you use caution if you decide to use this flanking method.

Never take the obvious route if you want to flank your enemy, as this will almost ensure that your flanking element will be bogged down under suppressive fire by an experienced enemy.

Instead, take the route that you wouldn’t want to walk through comfortably.

With that being said, you need to make sure you can still flank quickly. The element that’s taking the brunt of the fire is counting on you to divide the enemy’s firepower, so you need to get in position quickly.

If anything, always choose the route that offers the most cover and concealment. This way, if the enemy does detect you when you’re on the move to the flanking position, you have the proper cover to protect your flanking element.

When you are in position after you flank, the initial gunfire put downrange by the flanking element needs to follow the 15-second firefight rule above.

#6. Use Surrounding Terrain to Your Advantage

You should never be guessing when it comes to what terrain you’ll be encountering when you’re moving. Use the topographical map that’s included in your bug out bag to your advantage.

Stick to highly-vegetated areas, as they offer the most concealment while you’re moving. Unless absolutely necessary, stay away from any open area.

Otherwise, you risk being spotted from a distance by people who may wish to cause you harm to gain your supplies.

While you should never silhouette yourself by walking on top of the highest ground for the entirety of your expedition, you should plan your route so you have easy access to the high ground.

Firefights are won by people who find the high ground (or most advantageous area) first, that’s no secret. If at all possible, stick within 100 yards of the high ground at all times in your route plan in case you get in a firefight.

Never take the obvious route, meaning whatever route is more comfortable is the most dangerous one. Looters will usually set up along these “easy routes”, waiting for the unsuspecting prepper to take the route in order to ambush them.

Instead, take the most grueling, unpleasant route possible. This will almost guarantee that you won’t run into anyone else, as they don’t want to walk through it either.

Keep an eye out for avenues of approach, meaning keep an eye on any area that the enemy could approach you from.

Make a mental note of each area that an enemy could gain an advantage over you with, and make a plan for each area on how you would react to it. If your route has more than two avenues of approach that the enemy could use against you, stay away from it.

#7. Speed and Violence

These two factors are critical in any firefight, as they give you a massive advantage over the enemy. Whichever side is willing to commit to violence more, has the greater chance of winning.

On top of that, you need to have the speed that’s essential to deliver the violence to the enemy. You can be as violent as a barbarian, but if you lack speed, you’ll simply be bogged down taking casualties while the enemy advances on your position.

In my articles “How to Clear a Room Tactically”, and “Following a Military Mindset for Preppers”, I mention speed and violence and how they offer an extreme advantage over any enemy.

While sometimes a situation calls for patience, firefights require violence. Don’t be scared and freeze up in combat. Remember, the enemy is just as scared as you (more so if you’ve gained fire superiority).

In order to have speed on your side, you need to stay in shape. I preach physical fitness in a lot of my articles, and for a good reason.

There’s simply no way you can keep up in an intense firefight, and still be ready for a follow-on mission (if necessary) if you’re out of shape. Speed requires cardio, and lots of it. Don’t worry, I’ll go over some techniques that us Infantrymen use to stay in shape.

#8. Physical Fitness

This is an absolutely essential factor when it comes to being tactically proficient, especially if you want to use similar tactics that we use in the military.

All of our tactics revolve around our physical fitness, so you need to make it a major priority in your prepping drills.

Getting fit and strong is definitely essential, but cardio is just as important. One major factor that most people neglect with physical fitness, is nutrition.

Nutrition

You’ve probably heard a lot of “military diets” that guarantee major weight loss in just weeks, but I’m here to tell you it’s all bullshit.

Military members are just like anyone else when it comes to food, there is no “secret pill” that the government issues us to make us superhuman. Just like there are fat civilians, there are also fat military members.

With that being said, a majority of combat-oriented military members spend a lot of time and money into nutrition balance, because our survival depends on our physical fitness (just like yours might).

Carbs are a very important part of your daily meals, as they offer long-term energy that is essential to having enough gas in the tank to perform physically. You could get into “dirty and clean” carbs, but I’ll put it simply, stay away from junk foods.

This includes fast food, if at all possible. Most of these foods are processed with a lot of fatty-acids that offer almost no beneficial nutrition. The ones that do offer other nutritious content, usually are outweighed by all of the bad in them as well.

Sweet potatoes are a great source of carbs, and they’re delicious (if they’re prepared correctly). Another great source of carbs are noodles.

Don’t worry about going crazy with “whole grain” bread and noodles, unless weight loss is critical to get in shape. If you’re preparing over 80% of your food yourself (the healthy way), and staying away from junk/fast foods, you’ve already won the battle.

Protein is the ultimate power nutrient, as it is essential for muscle growth and recovery. I am a firm believer in protein shakes, but never replace full meals with these shakes unless weight loss is your ultimate goal.

While there are many different classifications of protein (casein, isolate, etc.), keep it simple and just get whey protein. It mixes well with milk and tastes great, so keep things simple with supplements.

There are thousands of recipes on the internet that require five ingredients or less with beef that taste amazing. There’s really no excuses when it comes to eating healthy on your own, so stop making excuses and start making results.

Cardio

You don’t necessarily have to run five miles a day in order to build cardio endurance. You can get great results by doing what we in the military call 60×120’s (pronounced 60, 120’s).

This workout is definitely not for the faint-hearted, it’s extremely grueling. All you need to do is set a goal (three sets for example), and sprint for one minute straight, followed by jogging for two minutes. Repeat this process until you reach your goal.

If you’re not quite there yet with cardio, too easy. Simplify the workout by jogging or sprinting for one minute, then walking briskly for two minutes. In almost no time at all, you’ll be surpassing your goals. Thus, you’ll build your cardio endurance to levels you never thought were possible.

Strength

I’m not going to get into an entire workout regimen, as that would take way too long to cater to your individual needs.

Instead, I’ll go over the five basic workouts (look them up for directions) that us Infantrymen love to do in order to build bodily strength and muscular endurance. These five powerful workouts that we love are:

  • Push-Ups
  • Sit-Ups (or any ab exercise)
  • Air-Squats
  • Pull-Ups/Chin-Ups
  • Buddy-Carries

With these five basic exercises, you’ll build all the strength and endurance you’ll need to be able to perform optimally should SHTF. Don’t wait until a disaster happens to regret not maintaining your physical fitness, get on it now.

9. Mental Fitness Is Essential

When things are going bad, it’s important to have a strong mental game. You need to be able to stay calm under pressure and make good decisions when the stakes are high.

One of the best ways to build up your mental toughness is through training. Train hard and train often. Push yourself to your limits and beyond. And don’t forget to practice your basic military survival skills in a stressful environment.

When you’re comfortable with using your skills in high-stress domains, you’ll be less likely to panic when things go wrong.

Another thing that can help is positive visualization. Picture yourself successfully completing the task at hand and overcoming any obstacles that stand in your way.

See yourself surviving and thriving in difficult circumstances. Visualization can be a powerful tool for boosting your mental toughness and helping you stay focused under pressure.

No matter what, never, ever give up. Keep your head down and forge ahead. The only way to survive is to keep moving forward no matter what has happened and no matter how bad it hurts.

Remind yourself that countless other humans have suffered just as bad as you have, right now, and way worse. And they still prevailed!

Mental fitness is an important part of any prepper’s toolkit. By learning these techniques, you’ll be better prepared to face the challenges that come with a TEOTWAWKI scenario.

#10. Utilize Battlefield Multipliers

Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. Instead of concentrating on someone’s weakness, you should first observe their strengths.

This rule specifically applies to prepping groups, because you can use everyone’s strength to the group’s advantage. Just like how the military is like one big clock, each job is a cog wheel that helps the clock operate.

Every group should have a person that specializes in an essential field: tech, medical, strength (for carrying heavy weight), compassion, and leadership.

You may be wondering why I included compassion into the mix, but it’s for a very good reason. Having someone who can help ease the stress of the group and build morale, can be a major asset in even the worst times.

While everyone should have a minor specialty in each of these areas, you can’t have a group that’s good at everything. It’s simply not possible. Instead, focus on what each is good at, and build your group off of those principles.

That doesn’t mean you can’t learn different techniques from each other, as you can never stop learning. This way, if one person goes down, somebody else can pick up the slack that was laid down.

#11. Get Organized

This applies to both prepping groups, and lone-wolf preppers. Organization is key to every aspect of prepping, as it maintains accountability of both people (groups), and equipment.

You don’t want to be scrambling around trying to find a piece of equipment when time is a necessity.

Make sure you organize each and every piece of equipment, as well as items in your bug out bag. This way, you can access everything easily, and in low-light areas.

For prepping groups, organization is critical. Respectfully, you can’t have a group with too many leaders and not enough followers.

Somebody needs to be the ultimate deciding factor when it comes to split-decisions, otherwise there will be mass hesitation when time is of the essence. This does not mean that your prepping group needs to be a dictatorship, because dictatorships are prone to anarchy.

A majority of the decision making needs to be democratic, in order to include each team member’s input. When the time comes down to it, however, you need to have someone who’s willing to make the split-second tough call.

#12. Escape and Evade

When it comes to military-style survival tactics, civilians can benefit from learning some of the same skills. Particularly, military “E&E” or escape and evasion skills can definitely apply to preppers who are just trying to avoid notice in the aftermath of a major SHTF event.

Whether the wild wasteland is crawling with cannibal raiders or the urban ruins are swarming with a petty warlord’s goons, you have good cause to avoid notice at all costs if you want to stay alive and keep your gear!

Move stealthily. Crouch or crawl instead of walking, and try to keep your movements as slow and deliberate as possible. If you need to cross an open area, do so quickly and without making too much noise.

Stay out of sight. If you can’t avoid being seen, try to hide yourself in the shadows or in a place where you won’t be easily visible. Camouflage yourself if necessary as described above.

Move away quickly and quietly if discovery is likely. If you’re discovered or your location is suspected, try to move away from the danger as quickly and quietly as possible. If that’s not possible or if you’re in danger, take action and fight back!

Make use of your surroundings. Look for hiding places, obstacles to hide behind, and natural coverings that will help conceal you from view, particularly while moving.

Tunnels and routes through buildings can help hide you, as culverts and ditches. Remember, the harder the terrain is the less likely it is that anyone will look there as they won’t expect anyone to go that way.

Be prepared to evade. In addition to being hidden and silent, you also need to be prepared to run if necessary. Make sure you have a good escape route planned out and know where you’re going.

Have a plan B in case things go wrong or a path is blocked. Understand that you might need to ditch your gear to move faster. It isn’t out of the question that a bit of loot could get pursuers to stop in order to collect it.

If you are being chased, surge faster when you break line of sight with your pursuers. They will notice you increasing the distance regularly and might grow discouraged. If you can put enough space between you and them you might be able to hide or setup an ambush.

#13. Misdirection is a Powerful Tool

One way to get past or through an enemy checkpoint is to use misdirection. Have someone dress up as a civilian and lead the enemy away while your team slips by.

You can also use decoys, like dummy vehicles, campsites or mannequins made out of man-made or natural materials, to distract the enemy.

Another way to use misdirection is to make it look like you’re going one way when you’re actually going another.

This can be done by using different routes, by deliberately leaving tracks that mislead the enemy, or even by making noises and creating a disturbance in order to lure the opposition away from your true location.

Particularly when it comes to your shelter , try to use natural features to disguise it.

Build in natural camouflage, like using trees and underbrush for cover, or building in a way that blends in with the surroundings. Create a fake “abandoned” shelter nearby to throw raiders off the scent.

Remember, if all else fails, you can always fight. If you’re outnumbered or outgunned, try to take the enemy by surprise.

Attack from unexpected directions, use improvised weapons, appear to be surrendering and then counterstrike. Fight dirty. Do whatever it takes to survive!

Booby traps are a great way to take out enemies or discourage them from entering an area. They can be as simple as a tripwire connected to a noisemaker or as complex as an elaborate system of triggers and improvised explosives.

Be sure to carefully plan your traps and take into account the enemy’s likely movements and patterns of behavior.

In order to avoid getting hurt by your own traps, always rig them with a delay timer or remote trigger. That way, you can set them off from a safe distance.

#14. Logistics is Always the Key to Success

No matter what you’re doing, whether it’s trying to bug-out or mount an attack, good logistics are key. One old military saying is that amateurs talk tactics, but pros talk logistics!

Make sure you have plenty of food, water, fuel and ammunition. Have a safe place to store your main supplies and make sure everyone knows where they are. Keep your gear well-maintained and organized.

Plan out your movements ahead of time and make sure everyone knows the plan so that they may better react to contingencies.

When planning your movements, be sure to leave behind supply caches. These are pre-positioned supplies that you can use later on when you’re in a bind.

They can be as simple as a container of food and water, or as complex as a full-blown arms cache. The key is to make sure they’re well-hidden and difficult to find.

To plant a supply cache, first decide on a location. It needs to be an easily accessible spot, but also well hidden.

Once you’ve chosen a spot, bury or stash your supplies and mark the location with a GPS tag or some other distinctive marker.

Make sure to pass on the instructions on how to find it to your teammates, as well as any info on security measures needed to access it.

#15. Consult Field Manuals and Other Military Resources

Military survival tactics are constantly evolving, and the best way to stay ahead of the curve is to consult field manuals and other resources.

The United States Army’s official field manual for survival, FM 21-76, is a great place to start. It covers everything from basic survival skills to evading capture and making improvised weapons.

There are all kinds of other cheap or free manuals covering everything from first-aid and escape skills to identifying and eating edible plants and wildlife.

Another valuable resource is the internet. There are tons of websites and forums devoted to military survival tactics, and they can be a great source of information on everything from setting up semi-permanent field campsites to building improvised shelters and small unit tactics.

And don’t forget to take the time to train. It’s so important to take the time to train in these techniques. Nothing beats hands-on experience when it comes to learning how to survive in difficult circumstances. You don’t necessarily have to join the military, but you do need to put in the work!

Try Our Tactics Out!

Military survival tactics can help civilians survive in a crisis. But it’s important to remember that they are just tools.

The key is to adapt them to your situation and use them in conjunction with your own lived experience and intuition. The key is to keep your head and think ahead.

Plan your movements, make sure you have the necessary supplies and know how to use them. And above all, remember that teamwork is essential in any military operation.

No one can do it all by themselves and success depends on everyone working together towards a common goal. So stay positive, keep your head down and do your job!

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updated 03/10/2022

1 thought on “15 Military Survival Tactics You Should Borrow”

  1. I agree with everything you said. I am prior service, trying to remember the way I was trained. In a few months there will be those joining me to train with. As remembering and being retrained is half the battle as you said it takes practice, practice, practice. knowledge, and how to use that information is the most important weapon we will have, then equipment. All the best equipment in the world will do you no good unless you know how to use it. Thank you for your comments. We can never stop learning, and training. Never end the fight. Thank you for your service.

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