Camouflage: Light, Dark, Neutral and Natural

Camouflage is about “not being seen”, which is one of the most fundamental of survival strategies. If you cannot become “invisible”, you may be able to appear insignificant, uninteresting or become easily “lost in a crowd”.
Good use of monotone neutrals. In some shots the actresses blend into the terrain.
You may have spent good money on the latest designer camouflage, but it is of no use to you hanging up at home. The most likely source of threat is other human-beings, and you are most at risk when other people are around.
Miyamoto Musashi tells us in the “Book of Five Rings”:
“In all forms of strategy, it is necessary to maintain the combat stance in everyday life and to make your everyday stance your combat stance. You must research this well.”
In clothing terms, what Musashi tells us means your everyday wear should be selected with a mind to decreasing your “visibility”.
Camouflage-patterned clothing does have a place in a prepper's wardrobe. There are, however, times when using camouflage-patterned clothing may be counter-productive. In cosmopolitan cities, clothing in camouflage or camouflage-like patterns may attract little attention. In other parts of the world, its use may attract unwelcome attention, or get you wrongly identified as military, paramilitary or a poacher.
Even if restricted to unpatterned clothing, there are strategies that we can adopt that will still decrease our visibility.
In previous blogs, I have touched upon a concept that might be called “camouflage without camouflage”. One can make oneself less observable by using a mix of non-camo-pattern clothing.
By using a variety of shades and hues, the basic identifiable human-shape can be broken up and become harder to distinguish. I have advised that you select clothing items in neutral and natural shades and colours.
While this remains good advice, a little more thought needs to be given to the system and some additional explanation may be warranted.

What is a Neutral Colour?

“Neutral colors are muted shades that appear to lack color but often have underlying hues that change with different lighting. Examples of neutral colors include beige, taupe, gray, cream, brown, black, and white. While neutral colors are not on the color wheel, they complement primary and secondary colors.”
On this blog I have stressed “neutral and natural”. Not all colours classed as neutrals are suitable for concealment.


Regular readers should already know that “black is NOT a camouflage colour”.
In the movies, the bad guys, and often the hero will be dressed in black. It looks great on screen, and makes the actors stand out. This is exactly the opposite of the effect we want our clothes to have!
Even at night, black is to be avoided. In many partially lit conditions, black can be too dark, and stand out. Seldom is it dark enough for black clothing.
The special forces in Vietnam who dyed their gear black knew the colour would soon fade to a more useful dark grey.
Pure black clothing also tends to show the dirt, so you might like to rethink its usefulness as general wear.
If you want a dark suit for weddings and funeral, buy charcoal-grey rather than true black.


White is another colour that stands out and should be avoided. Like black, white really shows up any dirt.
The only time to wear white is when there is snow on the ground.
White garments used as snow camouflage should be uninsulated. If they are warm, you will be tempted to wear them all the time, they will quickly become dirty and will no longer be effective as snow camouflage.
Improvised Snow Camo
Obviously snow-camo should be unlined and of a material that is easily laundered.
Avoid white underwear if you can. Outer clothing can get damaged, and being exposed may expose you. Select underwear in neutral and natural tones.
If you have to wear a white shirt at a formal occasion, you may need a white undershirt to avoid the colour of the undergarment showing through.
If you have to wear a white shirt for work, carry a neutral colour scarf  or keffiyah you can cover it with when outdoors.


Not all shades of blue are neutral. Some that are neutral are not that natural. Neutral shades of blue or blue-grey can work in a winter or urban environment.
Light blue is generally a “cold” colour and can be used in the snow. Some snow-camouflage patterns use light blue and white to break up the shape.
Watch some nature footage of polar bears in the snow and ice and note how much the terrain appears blue, grey or blue-grey. Interestingly, the bears often appear yellow-white.
In an urban environment, light blue is often encountered as faded or mid-blue denim. Light blue is a good colour for a button-up shirt.
Darker blues are probably less useful for concealment. A blue blazer is supposedly an essential in a gentleman's wardrobe (I don't have one!). If you want one, select a neutral shade of navy. If nothing else, it will at least go better with whatever other colours you may wear with it.


Many animals have lighter colouration on their undersides. This makes the shadow that their bodies cast less distinctive and is an example of counter-shading. The animal appears less three-dimensional and blends in better with the surface that it is upon. Behaviours such as crouching low further reduce the shadow, and the animal will often remain immobile while it thinks it is observed.
Interestingly, many aquatic or amphibious animals show an abrupt change from light underside to darker upper. When swimming near the surface the dark upper makes the animal very difficult to spot. A predator looking up from beneath will find the light underside difficult to see against the sky seen through the water surface.
A light underbelly, or clothing to simulate it, is of little use to a human, since we spend a significant portion of our time upright and bipedal.
Keeping close to the ground and remaining still is good tactics, however. If you are concerned with being observed you should never be reluctant to crawl if necessary.
An interesting example of trying to apply counter-shading can be found in the book “Second World War British Military Camouflage”, p.27-8 by Isla Forsyth.
Solomon J. Solomon was one of the early pioneers of modern camouflage. During the First World War he proposed “alterations to [British] soldiers’ uniforms to reduce their visibility, such as the darkening of the soldier’s cap and the lightening of his trousers.”
Upper surfaces catch more light, and correspondingly, need to be darker. Body areas that are commonly thrown into shadow need to be lighter.
Watch some videos of soldiers in action, and you will see they often appear as man-shaped blobs, darker than their surroundings. Modern combat gear often uses exactly the same pattern for headgear, torso and legs. The chest area is often shaded by the position of the arms, yet often the equipment worn here is actually darker! Even in desert environments, soldiers wearing black or woodland-pattern body armour or load-bearing gear are still seen.


When considering camouflage, a lot of attention is paid to colours and patterns. More attention should be paid to shade, light and contrast.
I have advised you to select items in natural and neutral shades, but how dark should they be?
If you have to hide in a dense wood, particularly at night, a mix of clothing items in medium or dark shades of natural and neutral colours may serve you. There will be lots of shadows, so use them. Camouflage is about behaviour as well as colouration.
Suppose you leave the wood to move across a neighbouring field. How well will your dark and medium-coloured clothes serve you then?
Even at night, the surfaces you move over may be relatively light. Grass and hay may reflect any available light, even that from the moon and stars. If you go prone, you may appear as a dark blob that attracts investigation. During the day you may be even more conspicuous.
Most of us spend a significant proportion of our time in urban areas. Even at night, this is an environment with many light or medium-shaded surfaces, and many areas are illuminated by artificial lighting. Dark outfits may make you stand out.
Discussions of camouflage often mention shade and shadow. Level of illumination in the surroundings is often not given that much attention. Clearly, if you are in a shadow, you are illuminated less, but it should be clear by now that light level has a much wider significance to camouflage and concealment.
In really deep shadow, what you wear probably matters little. There is no light, or more correctly, there is none escaping. Not all shadows or unlit areas will be this dark, however.
Stronger light can have interesting effects on concealment. Suppose someone is wearing a sand-colour outfit and lays down in a grass field on a sunny day.
You might think that someone in yellow would be easy to spot in a green field. One thing that would prevent this is that shade is more significant than hue. If the sand-coloured clothing appears a similar shade to the grass at the viewing distance, the figure can be over-looked. Another factor is that light materials reflect. Sunlight hitting the grass causes them to reflect green light. This green light may in turn be reflected from the light-coloured cloth, causing it to appear to have a green tint.
Effectively, your world should be viewed one of light and shadows.
Some areas are “shadow-dominant”. These include deep forests and jungles, and poorly-lit building interiors.
“Illuminated” areas include desert, open fields and many urban exterior areas.
This status may be changed by time of day, weather or season. At night, a wood may become even more shadow-dominant, yet in winter it may become better illuminated.
In shadow-dominant areas, clothing of medium-shade, with some dark items may be most effective. In better lit areas, lighter clothing may be less conspicuous.
Your movements may take you from light to dark areas or the reverse, so what should you wear? Having to deal with both light-dominant and shadow-dominant areas may explain why most attempts at a universal camouflage pattern have only ever proved partially effective.
In the early days of camouflage experimentation, a number of double-sided items were fielded or tested. Some had a spring-summer pattern on one side and a autumn/snow pattern on the other. Jungle/desert and green-dominant/brown-dominant were also tried.
The needs for the different patterns were thus either separated by season or by geography. As far as I know, no double-sided garments based on patterns for differing illumination levels have been tried, which is a shame.

Camouflage Patterns

For camouflage patterns for illuminated areas there are a number of options. Some of the patterns designed for desert use may prove useful in a wider range of environments. Make sure the pattern has sufficient element-size and contrast to disrupt shape and outline. Off the shelf, “tropentarn” seems to work well, although I would wish for a grey rather than green in the pattern.
Tropentarn Camouflage
Some urban patterns are good, although some use too much white or are too greyscale and could use some browns and tans.
Some newer patterns such as multicam use lots of colours and small elements, resulting in garments that appear a single colour beyond a few metres. This very much depends on the material and print. I have seen some camouflaged gaiters in these patterns that look like they might work. Polycotton trousers and shirts in the same pattern tend to blob-out at a relatively short distance. Generally I would avoid these patterns. They may be no more effective than cheaper single-colour items. Many of these patterns are also too green-dominant for a multi-terrain pattern.
For shadow-dominant terrain, you should probably consider “older” patterns such as US m81 woodland, flecktarn and British DPM. Canadian Cadpat is presumably intended for deep woods, although the green looks a little bright in some examples I have seen. Unfortunately, these patterns vary considerably. Browns can range from natural-looking shades to chocolate. Greens also vary and the lightest shade may be either light-green or a more useful tan. Contrast between elements and overall darkness may also vary.
Many of these patterns have too much green. While green is good for summer woodland and lush jungle, a pattern with more browns and greys would be better for other dark environments and seasons.
You may also encounter fashion/police patterns consisting of blacks and dark greys. These are too dark and lack sufficient contrast between the shades to disrupt the shape.
Ways to improve camouflage
Personal Camo-min

Camouflage without Camouflage

As was stated earlier, you cannot always wear a camouflage pattern. You may not have a garment such as camouflage parka (see below) with you.
How can you become less distinct wearing monotone clothing or “civvies gear”?
The first step is to mix it up! Different items should be different colours or shades. Obviously, what you select should be in neutral and natural colours suitable for your surroundings. Select medium and light shades unless the illumination level requires different.
Whilst you may not be able to wear a camouflage pattern, other patterns may have a disruptive effect, providing they do not use bright or primary colours. Some garments have pockets, collars or panels in contrasting colours, which may break up the shape.
Below is an example of the Russian Gorka wind-proof outfit. Some of these use camouflage, but they are also used in unpatterned cloth. Note how the two different shades and hues of neutral coloured panels break up the basic human shape.
Gorka two-tone suit
You probably know that several thin layers of clothing will keep you warmer than a single thick garment. You can also regulate your insulation more easily by removing layers. What many people do not appreciate is that a layered clothing system can be used to change your appearance and for camouflage.
For example, on the street you may be wearing a light-tan hoodie over a dark-grey bomber jacket. If you move into a darker area, you may move the bomber jacket to being your outer layer.
More layers often means more pockets. Thus you can carry a spare scarf or more than one hat, letting you further change your appearance.
Some hoodies or jackets are reversible. Generally I think you are better off with several thin non-reversible garments. They will cost you less and offer you more options.
If your garment is lined, ensure the lining is a neutral and natural colour too.
There is another advantage of having a wardrobe that is mainly neutral colours. Neutral colours go with just about anything. Most suggestions for a capsule wardrobe are based on having a versatile selection of garments in neutral colours.

Face and Hands

When James Bond wants to skulk around at night, he wears a black polo-neck. He never bothers to cover his face nor hands. He must leave a lot of fingerprints!
There is little point using camouflage if you do not cover your face and hands. Irrespective of your skin-shade, human skin can reflect. Hidden troops are often detected from the air since someone always has to look up at the spotter aircraft. Even at several thousand feet, an uncovered human face pops out and cries “Here we are!”.
Skin can be darkened and matted down by various means. Do not overlook local resources such as dirt, soot and soil. These do nothing to conceal your hair. Face-paint or dirt are also difficult to remove easily if you want to later appear innocuous.
You should carry suitable head and face coverings. A full-face balaclava/ski mask in a medium to dark shade of grey or brown would seem a good choice. However, some cops have been know to label these “ninja masks” and treat their possession as intent if they feel inclined.
Various face and head coverings can be constructed by combinations of suitably coloured and patterned bandannas, neck gaiters, scarves and knit-caps.
Gloves will be needed, and of a suitable shade and colour. Olive meraklon glove liners are a good start. Fingerless leather gloves (aka “recondo gloves”) are worth considering in milder climates. They provide some protection to the hands when climbing or crawling, so you may be more inclined to “go low” when needed. They can be found in tan-brown, or you can cut down old gloves that are surplus to requirements.

The Lower Body

There is no reason why your lower body has to wear a camouflage pattern that matches that of the upper body. The legs are a different shape to the torso and larger than the arms, so may need a different pattern to disrupt their identifiable shape. Using a different pattern for the legs may help break-up your overall recognisable human shape.
How well the concept of countershading can be applied to the human form probably warrants further investigation. Having your trousers lighter than your upper body is worth considering.
Desert patterns are suitable for trousers. UCP/ACU might also be worth trying for leg camouflage.
If we are considering monotone garments, our choices are probably various neutral tones of light-blues, greens, tans and greys.
Many style guides for capsule wardrobes recommend trousers that are lighter than the jacket.
Personally, I am wary of light-blue outside urban or winter environments. I actually don't own any jeans, wearing cargo trousers instead. Much of my EDC is in the pockets,
Greens are good for many rural settings, but may stand-out a little more than some other colours in urban areas. Some shades of green will stand-out in rural areas. Even neutral shades of green are less common in certain rural areas or seasons that one might expect.
Tans and greys are your most versatile choices for monotones. Tans and browns have the advantage that mud does not show up so much on them. On the other hand, the contrast of mud on grey trousers probably has a disruptive effect that breaks up the leg's shape.
Gaiters should be of a suitable camouflage pattern or neutral and natural colour. Since these are seldom worn in town, bows of textilage can be added to break up the shape. Ensure any materials used for textilage will not soak-up water.
Langdon-Davis had a lot to say about the distinctive appearance of black army boots. Footwear should be natural and neutral colours and matt finish when possible.
Black socks are supposed to make your legs look longer. I am not sure that works without black shoes and dark trousers. I generally wear boots so the socks are not visible.
Update: Recently I attended a funeral and noticed my boot tops were visible when seated, at least when wearing my suit trousers. Own at least one long pair of black socks for formal occasions. 
In town I often wear white cotton sport socks since they are cheaply available in quantity. In the field, spare socks may be used as extra carrying pouches tied to the outside of a pack. These should be neutral and natural colours.

Camouflaging Gear

The institutional military mind likes uniform, regular and symmetrical.
This may be part of the reason why personal camouflage has waxed and waned as a priority for soldiers.
Improving the camouflage of an item becomes unpopular when the additions must be stripped off for every parade or inspection. If you are outside of the military, then such restrictions will not limit you.
Previous blogs have discussed methods to improve the camouflage of your backpack. Similar methods can be applied to a chest-rig, contributing to the camouflage of your torso. Base colour for a chest-rig should be light or a desert pattern, since this area will often be shaded.

Camouflage Smock

A useful technique is to have a “camo-smock”. You put it on when you need a camouflage pattern. Roll it up and carry it when you want to appear non-military. You can carry more than one, and wear the most appropriate for the conditions.
Your bug-out outfit should include an item that can be used as a camo-smock.
My main camouflage item is a German Tropentarn desert-parka. Get this as big as possible so that it can form a camouflaged outermost layer over anything you may be wearing. There is a nice liner for it that makes it into a nice cold weather coat.
Without the liner, it is unlined so can be worn for camouflage in relatively hot weather. There are vent zips under the arms.
Being a parka, it comes down to mid-thigh so will fit over anything I might wear under it and partially conceals my legs and body shape.
Sleeves are long enough to conceal my hands and keep the wind and rain off them.
If this is a “field only” item, add some bows of textilage to the sleeves and shoulders.
How to add camoflage bows of textilage
The pockets of the smock/parka include items that can be used camouflage my hands, neck, face and head. Little point in camouflaging yourself without covering your extremities!
For darker conditions, I have a several metres of camouflaged scrimm that can be worn over the parka like a poncho. Bows of suitably covered material or scraps of camouflage cloth have been tied to the scrimm.

Save Time and Money Washing-Up

Watching the TV the other night, and an advert for washing-up liquid urges me to wash-up with cold water! Really? That's a new one, I thought.
On the other hand [pun intended!], I have been washing my hands in cold water for more than a decade. I got into the habit in Brazil, where it is common for sinks to have only a cold-water tap.
Money is tight and fuel prices have jumped. Anything that saves the use of hot-water is attractive both ecologically and economically.
I try to approach decisions scientifically, so I did a little research. I found this interesting article on the BBC website:
Washing-up detergent and scrubbing is more important than water temperature! As a microbiologist, among other things, I was already aware that washing-up water is generally not hot enough to kill many bacteria.
It just happens that currently I am reading Alexander Kira's fascinating study “The Bathroom”. This is recommended reading and some aspects from this book will doubtless feature in future posts in this blog.
Saeko washing the dishes
Kira notes that washing under running water generally uses less water than filling a hand-basin. He also points out that showering is more efficient at getting you clean than having a bath. Baths are primarily for relaxation, and you are actually soaking in any dirt that was removed. If you want to be clean after a bath, finish your routine with a shower.
There is an obvious parallel here: I expect we all know someone who continues to wash dishes in water that resembles weak chicken soup!
Another gem from Kira is that effective washing is in four stages: wetting/pre-rinse, soaping, scrubbing, and rinsing. Note that only the first and last of these needs running water. You can turn the tap off when soaping and scrubbing, so the tap is only running a few seconds for each item you wash.
Armed with new knowledge, I began washing the dishes.
Here, I must confess! I often eat alone, so cooking and eating often generates just four or five items to wash. Not enough to fill up a sink for, so I will often leave the job until there is more.
Very quickly, dishwashing becomes a big job, and one that it is temping to put off. Yes, I can be a bit of a slob when my lady is absent!
There were thus no shortage of items on which to try running cold-water washing! There was a baking tray, some plates, bowls, a cup and cutlery.
The first surprise was how much less time washing-up seemed to take. I seemed to have done it all in less time than it would have taken for the water to run hot and fill the sink.
All items were clean, some possibly cleaner than if they had been washed in a sink that had already cleaned other items. As a bonus, the sink was not coated in grease!
Effectively, you are giving your dishes a cold Navy shower!
Quicker, cheaper, easier and probably cleaner. What is not to like?
Even if you tend to put-off washing-up, you will know that you will save yourself effort in the future if you rinse the food off the plates before it dries. What “Rick and Morty” calls “schmutz”.
Consider this: By the time you have rinsed a plate and scraped the food off, you are already halfway through a running cold-water wash-up! Add a little washing-up liquid, another scrub and rinse and the job has been done. No more washing-up to do later for that item!
The speed of this method lets you prevent washing-up from piling up. You can wash-up a couple of items while waiting for the kettle to boil, or during the advert break of a movie.
An added bonus of this technique is that I find I tend to pay more attention to each item. Not only do they get cleaner, but the chance of breakages and chips seems less.
Another labour-saving tactics is to let the wet stuff drain and air-dry. Only use a tea-towel when an item is still wet when you put it away or need it.


Running cold-water washing may result in you using more washing-up liquid than you used with traditional washing. You will need to experiment to optimize your use of detergent.
Placing the detergent on the sponge or brush may make it go further. Some items, such as a oily grill pan, seem to clean better if a pea-sized amount of detergent is placed on them directly and then worked around.
A running cold-water wash may not be ideal for all items, but works well for most of the items that you commonly wash.

Hot and Cold Soaking

Some items may need a hot-water soak. The heat can be beneficial in softening food deposits and melting fats. If you boil a kettle for tea or coffee there is usually some hot water left unused. Put this to good use on your washing-up.
Rather than fill a whole sink with hot-water and detergent, try filling a smaller bowl or pan and soaking the items in there. My only caution is not to place metal objects in a pot with a non-stick finish.
Do not hot-soak any vessel that has been used to make dough or batter. Flour and hot-water is effectively glue!
Soak the interior of such vessels in cold-water and you will find them much easier to clean when you wash them.

Greasy Frying Pans

In “Camping and Woodcraft”, Kephart gives us some valuable advice on how he cleaned his utensils deep in the woods. Game is generally deficient in fats, so cooking in the frying pan with bacon or bacon-fat was the norm:
“First, as to the frying-pan, which generally is greasiest of all: pour it nearly full of water, place it level over the coals, and let it boil over. Then pick it up, give a quick flirt to empty it, and hang it up. Virtually it has cleaned itself, and will dry itself if let alone. Greasy dishes are scraped as clean as may be, washed with scalding water, and then wiped. An obdurate pot is cleaned by first boiling in it (if you have no soap powder) some wood ashes, the lye of which makes a sort of soap of the grease; or it may be scoured out with sand and hot water. Greasy dishes can even be cleaned without hot water, if first wiped with a handful or two of moss, which takes up the grease; use first the dirt side of the moss as a scourer, then the top.”
You probably don't have a lit camp-fire at home, and we are trying to save fuel. A similar trick can be used at home, however.
Once you are done cooking, turn off the heat, and add a few mils of water to the frying pan. Adding a large volume may drop the temperature too quickly and may damage the pan. It is very likely to crack glass and ceramic vessels, so I will stress using a very small volume of water for this method, and usually for metal pans only.
A small amount of water, added in this manner, will “deglaze” a pan. This is a quick way to make sauces or gravies, but can also pre-clean a pan.
The water takes the heat of the pan, loosening food particles and floating fats. Give the pan a quick scrub with a soft-brush and discard the water, fats and debris. Let the pan cool down while you eat your meal.
Deglazing makes washing the pan later considerably easier.

And Finally

Some items are best cleaned with a brush, others with a sponge or fibre-pad. Have a selection of scrubbing tools available.
Once you have finished dish-washing, do not forget to wash the sponges, fibre-pads and brushes that you used for scrubbing. Work some detergent into them and rinse and squeeze-out as much grease as you can. Place them were they can dry.

Crash Course in Rifle

A friend of mine was reading about the training of conscripts in Taiwan. He referenced some of the articles I have written about making training more relevant. These include my blog on the “Murray System” and the book that derived from it, my book “Crash Combat”.
Crash Combat is about unarmed and non-firearm combat. For a more generic training program, where would I start?
Probably, near the start, would be an introduction to practical use of the rifle, taught in several phases:

Introduction Phase

• Basic safety and orientation.
• Perceive, Recognize, Engage.
• Load, unload and clearing.
• Anatomy for shooters: The Lethal T, the belt-buckle aim and the armpit line.
No one goes past the introduction phase until the instructor is convinced all students are competent and mature in their handling of firearms and their behaviour on the range.

Phase One

This phase teaches shooting from behind cover, from various positions. It ingrains the habit of always using available cover, while teaching shooting posture fundamentals.
Firing from a squat position
Start with prone position and move on to other positions such as kneeling, sitting and squatting.
Key points:
• Fire around rather than over cover when possible.
• Keep low. Never be reluctant to get close to the dirt.
• Always use cover when possible.
• Use cover when reloading and clearing stoppages.
• What parts of a gun not to rest in contact with hard cover when firing.
• Includes section on correct techniques to use when firing from windows.
Phase one is conducted with half-silhouette targets of various sizes, engaged at relatively short ranges, such as 20 to 50 metres. Sights zeroed to 200 metres are used for all shooting.
Emphasis in this phase is on building the student’s confidence in their shooting while teaching good shooting postures and tactical positions.
There are no scores, shots being judged as either hits or misses. Reactive targets that make a noise, fall or flash a light when hit will prove useful.

Phase Two

Phases two is dry firing. It is effectively kata for guns, or tai chi with triggers.
As recommended by Elliot, students practice mounting their rifle to bring it smoothly up to firing position. This is practised in the various postures learnt in phase one.
Mounting is combined with tracking, breathing and trigger exercises:
• Tracking involves keeping a mounted weapon moving to pursue, swing through and lead a moving target.
• Breathing involves synchronizing the respiratory cycle with the moment of firing to minimize unintended movement of the weapon.
• Trigger exercise is developing a trigger “press” that causes minimum displacement of the barrel.

Phase Three

Phase three is Quick Kill training.
Airguns/airsoft guns with the sights removed are used to engage small thrown targets. This builds on the instinctive pointing and tracking skills developed in phase two. Phase three teaches effective engagement skills for situations when there is insufficient time to align sights or when sights are not visible.

Phase Four

Introduction to room-clearing techniques. The likelihood of operations in urban terrain means a familiarity with room clearing must become a fundamental skill-set of any firearm user.
• Shooting on the move and while sidestepping.
For safety, phase four may be practised with airsoft weapons.

Phase Five

Phase five is a repeat of phase one, but the engagement range is increased up to 250m.
Students may be required to crawl to a firing position, or use other appropriate modes of tactical movement.
Target shooting, long-range shooting, volley fire and other fields can be taught later. Soldiers with an aptitude for these disciplines can be encouraged accordingly.
The five phases are designed to quickly produce riflemen that can respond quickly and accurately against threats that occur within likely engagement ranges and terrain.

Tools for Wafer Locks

Decades ago, someone got locked out of their desk. My name was volunteered as “someone who knows about that sort of thing”. Not sure what that actually says about how my colleagues thought of me!
I had never actually picked a lock at the time, but I had read about how it was done so was game to give it a go. I gathered a selection of screwdrivers, paperclips and small allen keys and set off to see what I could do.
My first experimental jiggle of the lock caused the entire plug to separate from the lock. I used a long screwdriver to turn the catch at the back of the lock and the desk was opened.
This doesn't really count as my first lock picking, but it was a useful experience. A couple of years ago the plug of the front door did the same thing. I didn't have a long screwdriver, but the metal/nail file of my Swiss Army Knife was long enough to reach the back of the lock and open the door.
The reason this story has come to mind is that recently I was once again asked to use my knowledge in an official capacity. An important item was locked in a drawer and the key-holder was home sick. I was asked to get the item, no matter what damage was incurred by the cabinet.
Naturally, I reached for my EDC picks, not having any other tools available. Much to my annoyance, my bogotas and snake-rake had no effect. No feedback from the lock, and I could not feel any pins moving. I managed to open the cabinet by levering the top with a screwdriver. It got the job done with surprisingly little damage.
Personally, I was a little miffed thatI had been unable to pick the lock. On the other hand, I had gained considerable kudos from my colleague and manager that I had managed to retrieve the vital item. A nice example of the positive uses of entry techniques?
The challenge and mystery of this lock remained. Was I simply having an “off-day”? I have done little picking recently, and what little I have done is with familiar locks. The next day I tried by skeleton keys on the lock, suspecting it might be a warded design.

Know Your Enemy

With my colleague recovered, I asked to see the actual key. The lock is a wafer lock, the key with teeth on either side.
I have never knowingly picked a wafer lock. I suspect a couple of locks I have successfully raked have been wafers. General opinion seems to be wafers can be picked the same way as pin-tumbler locks. They supposedly have lower manufacturing tolerances, so should be easier. I have even seen them dismissed as “pickable by paperclips” or as obsolete (although still commonly used).
None of this made me feel any better about being beaten by this lock. When I had the chance, I would try and pick this lock again, and try some of the other tools I have acquired.
As chance would have it, the video channel of ukbumpkeys ran an item on the KLOM Wafer Rake kit, which is available at a very reasonable price. This has just arrived today and is very nice. This has a turning tool, 14 double-sided rakes and a fifteenth tool that looks like a half-diamond. The turning tool has a coated handle and the other tools each have a plastic grip. The tools can be used with the turning tool or on their own like jiggler keys.
KLOM Wafer Rakes
I will let you know how they work on the wafer lock.

Gathering My Forces

While I was enjoying my morning coffee I was looking at other potential solutions to this lock. Several years back I purchased a set of jiggler keys that I had found virtually no use for. What is not made clear on many sites is that jiggler keys are mainly intended for use on wafer locks. Other keyway types tend to include wards that prevent them entering, or worse still, prevent them being removed after.
The cabinet wafer lock is double-sided, which suggested that a full snowman pick might be useful. I had forgotten about it, but my first cheap Chinese lock pick set included a full snowman. (My Serentiy Plus kit included a half-snowman that I had ground down from a full double-ball rake)
Some lock pickers list snake-rakes as their go-to tool for wafer locks. I was tempted by this Rytan Rp-14 tool, but alas, horrendous overcharging  for international postage!
Rytan RP-14

Buyer Beware!

While looking for other ideas, my search engine threw up some surprising results.
One item, described as a “40-piece lock picking set” has the following illustration:
Mystery lock pick sets
Absolutely no attempt to show or describe what is inside the cases! The closest you get is this photo:
Not a useful photo of a lock pick set
This shows the ends of the picks, but not the ends most lock pickers would be interested in!
Even more worrying was that searching for lock picking kits threw up these as options:
Not lock picks
Lock picks barely included
Most of the tools shown in these photos are for key-removal. Admittedly, the description does mention that the set has key-removal tools, but it also mentions lock picks, of which their appear to be none. Just to add to confusion, the set of key-removal tools includes a training padlock and set of turning tools.
The kit in the second photo does include some lock picks, although they are hidden inside the credit-card shaped container. I have several of these credit card kits, and they tend to be variable. The first set that I brought from a UK supplier is actually very nice. Other sets I have since acquired are of lower quality, being poorly finished or made from thick (yet surprisingly tough!) steel. They can be nice picks if you are prepared to put in the time to grind and polish them, but a newcomer to lock picking may not know this.
I have to wonder how many would-be lock pickers buy the above kits and waste hours of their time trying to pick with key-removal tools!

Golden Ratio and Guns?

I was beginning to watch a movie the other night, when the image of a snub-nosed revolver appeared on screen.
I was reminded of a recent comment from a friend of mine, about some things just looking “right”. In fact I think he said the F-35 looks like a donkey, so who can be surprised it has some many problems?
Why does the snub-nose look so right to me? I grabbed some Golden Ratio callipers that I had and an ancient copy of Gun Digest, and I examined a few photos of stubbies.
Golden Ratio Callipers
If you divided the length by the Golden Ratio, the transition is just behind the trigger. This worked for Colts, Smith and Wesson and Charter Arms Pugs. A photo of a Colt King Cobra also looked nicely proportioned, but clearly had a longer barrel. The callipers revealed the proportions were the same and the barrel was balanced out by the bulkier grip.
Detective Special
I knew from some previous experiments that certain proportions of the Kalashnikov were in the Golden Ratio.
AKM Golden Ratio
Using the Golden Sections guides option of GIMP, I looked at some other iconic guns:
The long Colt M1911A1 auto also shows the Golden Ratio from the back of the trigger guard.Colt M1911A1
So too does a .44 Mountain Magnum with a three inch barrel.
Mountain Backpacker 44 Magnum
The Smith and Wesson Governor is closer to Golden Ratio proportions than I expected.
S&W Governor
A lever-action Winchester shows the ratio from the pivot point of the action.
Winchester Lever
Peacemake-type Revolver
A Colt Peacemaker with a 458 inch barrel shows Golden Ratio proportions more than once. See the ratio of barrel to the rest of the weapon, and the ratio from the trigger or rear of the cylinder forward.
Glock 36
Much to my surprise, a Glock 36 also shows the Golden Ratio.
I couldn't leave this one out!
Also of interest is how often vertical proportions seem to agree with the Golden Ratio.

Morse Code Memory Card

A short blog today, reminiscent of the “free gift”-editions of the comics of my youth.
How likely are you to need Morse code in the modern world? Probably not very much! But as preppers we like to prepare, just in case.
As I have aged, my memory has got demonstrably worse. Also, stress can do odd things to your recall. Therefore it is not a bad thing to have a printed copy of the Morse code, no matter how well you can remember it on a good day.
Morse Code Tree
Morse Code list and Sun Navigation
The Morse code “tree” was taken from here. I like this particular version better than some of the alternates. The tree is useful when translating from Morse code.
The alphabetical list is more useful when converting a message into code. The large and bold print of this version makes it easy to use.
Also included is an aide memoir for navigating by the sun with a watch. While I have figured direction by the sun and time on several occasions, I can seldom remember the modifications for the hemispheres.
I suggest you print both images out, paste them back to back and laminate them.
They can be sized with art programs such as GIMP. I made mine 7 cm high so the laminated card could fit inside the red pouch that is part of my EDC.
EDC Pouch Contents
The card could also be used as a fan to nurture the beginnings of a camp fire.
As a bonus, a Morse code table using peaks rather than dots and dashes.Mountain Morse Code


Lock Picks: Snakes and Sparrows

It has been some time since I wrote about lock picking. Today I will share some thoughts on some lock picks that have appeared in previous posts but have not been discussed in depth.

Snake Rake

The snake rake is also sometimes called an “S-rake”.
While the snake is dismissed by some lock pickers, I am rather fond of it. Often the snake has managed to open locks that resisted other rakes.
Most of my lock pick sets contain a snake. Those that did not originally contain one have had one added. My first addition to the Polaris rake set was a Dangerfield Praxis 0.015 snake. My EDC kit has a pair of Bogotas and a short-handled snake from a “James Bond Card”.
The snake is a good tool for working on keyways that are not easily accessed by tools such as the Bogotas.
In longer locks, the snake is often used for a technique I call “selective raking”: working on just one or two pins at a time. Sometimes a rake will set some pins but not others. Working on these pins individually may pick the lock. Selective raking should probably be thought of as intermediate between raking and single pin picking (SPP).
I find a levering motion often works with a snake.
If a lock will not respond to your usual rakes, gently probing the pins with a snake will often yield results.
Perhaps, like a half-diamond, the snake should be classed as a hybrid pick.
Snake and Sparrow lock picks
In the photo above, the snakes are in the middle, with the unadorned, unperforated handles. From top to bottom, a large snake, an angled snake and a standard/small snake. These particular examples all from SouthOrd. The items above are rakes from my Serenity kit.
I have not often used the large or angled variants. I can open locks with them, but the standard snake generally seems to perform better.


The next four lockpicks are all exclusive to Sparrows. They are available from retailers such as UKBumpkeys.


The Sandman was the first of the Sparrows lock picks that I purchased. It is the one with the dragon decoration on the handle in the photo above.
I have seen the Sandman described as a “big, fat snake”. According to some websites, the Sandman is designed to work on locks that have both tricky high/low pinning without losing the ability to deal with close pinning.
On the plus side, the Sandman often pops open my practice padlock on the initial insertion. On the down side, I have not personally found that many other locks I can use it on.
This may possibly be due to its American heritage. UK/European locks tend to be narrower and longer than US, and this can be a problem when using picks intended for the US market. The Sandman is a big pick and seems to be too large for many UK/European locks or the small padlocks I often encounter. It may be too tall to enter keyways with kinks, curves or obstructions. Of course, you may encounter padlocks and other locks where this size is not a problem. It fitted easily into my filing cabinet lock, but did not do much. If I want to open that lock, the Bogota remains the pick of choice.
In locks that will take it, the Sandman seems to work well.
Although the Sandman is relatively thick (0.025", I think) a number of reviewers mention snapping it. Notably these seem to be from people relatively new to lock raking.
The golden rule of lock picking is “less is more” and the Sandman is a good case in point. If scrubbing or rocking with the Sandman a slow movement seems to work best. For raking in general, if you are scrubbing like you are brushing your teeth, you may be too fast. Slow down and use less force. Pins will sometimes set as you remove pressure, such as beginning to remove a pick from the keyway.
I have heard the Sandman works well in wafer locks. I have not been able to verify this personally.


The Octo-Rake may look like a snake but it is more of a rocker and scrubber than a ripper-zipper. As one reviewer puts it, “only take it out the lock if you are flipping it over”. In the photo, the pick with an octopus decoration.
Personally, I find the Octo-rake more useful than the Sandman, since this can be persuaded to enter relatively small locks. You may have to insert the rake before positioning the turning tool.
I have a tenacious little padlock that previously only raked open with a Bogota, Princess or Prince. Not only does the Octo-rake open this lock, it does so faster than the Bogota! I doubt I could open it quicker if I had the key!


When it works, the Warlock is very fast.
A video online comments that it is easy to overset some locks with the Warlock, and this seems fair comment.
If a lock is going to succumb to the Warlock’s spell it may need just a light tickle.
Practising on a see-through lock I discovered that attempting to apply a bit of torque as the Warlock inserts was worth trying.
The Warlock seems to prefer to be used with the decal on the port side, a contrast to the Octo-rake which favours one side for some locks and the other for others.
Despite its size, the Warlock handled some of my narrower lock ways surprisingly well.
The Warlock is a nice compliment to the Octo-rake. It opens some of my locks much more easily than the Octo. On the other hand, the Octo is the quickest rake I have for a lock that ignores the Warlock.


The Sparrows Worm rake is also known as the Serpentine Worm. It is bottom-most in the photo.
The Worm is a much more gracile beast than the Sparrows picks already mentioned. The Worm is similar (but not identical to) the smaller, five-hump sinusoid rake (no.7) in the Polaris set. Some of my locks open more readily with the Polaris no.7, others are more vulnerable to the Worm. Like the small sinusoid, the Worm is useful for keyways that are too small for easy use of the Bogotas or other larger rakes.
In other words, the Worm is a very useful partner to the Octo-rake or other large rakes.
My only criticism of the Worm is at the blade of mine seemed to pick up brass marks and has discoloured.


If I was asked to prioritize which of these picks someone should acquire, the standard snake would be at the top of my list. I would not bother with the large snake or the angled variant.
The Worm would be a close second. It is very useful to have a rake that can be used keyways that are a problem for the more commonly used rakes. If the Worm does not work, the snake may still save the day!
Third place goes to the Octo-rake. Despite its apparent size, I have found this useful for a wide range of locks.
The Warlock takes fourth place. While this is a useful rake, I do not feel it is quite as versatile or useful as the Octo-rake. Others may feel differently.
I have placed the Sandman last. While it can be effective, its application is mainly for larger or straighter keyways. If you encounter a lot of such locks, then I would not discourage you from buying a Sandman. There are no bad picks in this review. All of them are worth considering as an addition to your collection.

Kidney Warmers and Bellybands

Decades ago, when I first saw “Fists of Fury”, the scene above puzzled me. How did Bruce Lee’s character conclude the chef was Japanese just from seeing his undergarment?
The answer is that the Japanese are known for being fond of haramaki or “bellybands”.
Kidney Warmer/ Bellyband
The Germans are also fond of a similar garment. I have read of the Afrika Korps being issued “kidney-warmers”. The “Armed Forces of World War Two” by Andrew Molo clarifies:
“With the rapid drop in temperature at night, personnel wore a knitted woollen waist protector next to their skin, and a woollen greatcoat over their other clothing.”
I used to work with a colleague who had a German wife. I was apparently “mother’s wisdom” that you should wear a kidney warmer to keep your feet warm. Similarly, running around without socks could cause kidney and bladder problems.
Kidney warmer
It is interesting that diverse cultures in different parts of the world maintain that there is a link between kidneys and feet!
In a previous blog I mentioned that some American Civil War soldiers wore a flannel belt next to the skin.
Bellyband side view
“So what?” you may be asking. Many readers will own at least one set of long underwear. And sometimes the undershirt rides up and exposes the small of your back. A kidney warmer would have prevented this and also proved extra insulation.
Or perhaps, you are wearing a loose tee-shirt and find things can get a little drafty when the wind picks up.
Suppose you have to improvise cold weather clothing due to an unexpected change in the weather. Wrapping a spare scarf, keffiyeh or strip of material around your midriff could make all the difference.
Button around bellyband
There are a variety of styles of bellyband available. Some are elasticated tubes you either step into or pull over. Others are wrap-around and utilize velcro or other means.
If you have a snug-fitting tee-shirt or jumper that has seen better days, it should be easy to make your own kidney warmer to try the idea out.

Leading Targets for Lead

If some field manuals are to be believed, determining the lead for a moving target involves:
• Correctly determining the range to the target.
• Remembering the time a bullet will take to reach that distance.
• Estimating the speed of movement of the target. For added complexity estimate this in miles per hour and convert.
• Calculate how far the target will move in the time the bullet gets to reach it, and aim that distance ahead.
• Don't forget to halve the value if the target is moving obliquely.
You will probably have under a second to do this as the target dashes between cover.
Andrew G. Elliot, “Shooting to Kill”:
“The impossibility of judging this consciously will be realized when it is explained that a target moving at this range and speed scarcely allows time to place the rifle to the shoulder without making complicated mathematical calculations.
“In war, as distinct from print, there is hardly time to aim at all, and that is why the whole technique must become so natural that it is carried out without thought.
“…The secret of hitting a moving target is simple. Follow the target with your aim for a few seconds to judge its speed, then just before firing, quite instinctively and without any conscious allowance, you will find that you swing a little in front of the enemy.
Always keep your eye on the target, and for a moving one, on the front of it, so that- if you are shooting a running Nazi, focus the front buttons of his tunic.
“…In shooting moving targets, one need not worry about the sights. The Nazis will rarely give you any time for that!
“To prove that instinctive allowance is easier than conscious effort, it has been found that many men can shoot better in the semi-darkness than in daylight. I myself have often shot running rabbits with a rifle when the light was such that I could only just see the animal’s outline.”
Elliot was a big advocate of soldiers spending time practising raising, swinging through and dry-firing their rifles. This was time much better spent than squarebashing.
Note that swinging through is not the same as the tracking of a target that some manuals describe. Swing through overtakes the target.
The swing-through method of leading a target cannot always be used. From certain postures or firing positions it is difficult to use. In such an instance one must use the ambush method. Aim at a point in space and fire when the moving target is the correct lead distance from your aim point.
For simplicity, the following will assume targets are dismounted personnel. Shooting at drones, aircraft and vehicles will not be covered today.
Note that if you need to quantify a target's velocity, it is more useful to judge it in metres per second than units such as miles per hour or km/h. This is something that you can observe and make use of in the field.

Depths of Lead

Possibly the easiest technique to learn is found in field manuals for the M14. The M14 was zeroed to 250 metres so the nearer aim point is also lower to allow for hold-under.
Depth of Lead for Moving Target
The method is based around a measure I call a “depth of lead”. This is approximately the depth of a human torso, from sternum to spine. It is also roughly a foot if you are viewing your target side on. If the target is moving at an angle to you, the depth will appear smaller and the amount of lead you apply will be automatically reduced.
Bear in mind that lead is often overestimated. At less than 50 metres most moving targets will not need leading. Those that will will only need aim shifted towards the leading edge.
For targets that are more distant, or moving fast:
• If the target is moving slowly (less than 2 metres per second), and within 200m, aim at the leading edge or the button-line/belt-buckle.
• If speed is slow but range greater than 200m, add one depth of lead.
• If moving fast, but within 200m, add one depth of lead.
• If moving fast AND beyond 200m, add two depths of lead.
The amount of lead this gives may differ somewhat from a calculated value. Given all the other factors in play during combat, it is generally “close enough for government work”.
Two complimentary systems will be mentioned:

USMC Points of Aim

This first is that given in USMC MCRP 3.01A Rifle Marksmanship. This is an excellent work for fundamentals and how to utilize iron sights. The “point of aim” system appears to resemble the “point of depth” method, but has differences.
Marine Point of Aim for Lead
“One point of Aim” in the marine manual is actually aiming directly at the target's leading edge. (The above illustration could be clearer on this.)
“Two points of Aim” is placing the top corner of the trailing edge of the front post on the target's leading edge. Two points of aim is used for a fast-walking (2 m/s) target at 300 metres or a running (3+ m/s) target at 200m. These leads are reduced for targets not moving perpendicularly. The actual offset this will produce will depend on the apparent width of the front post.

US Army Single Lead Rule

Single Lead Rule
The technique given for leading a target in US Army FM 3-22.9 (August 2008) at first glance seems the same as MCRP 3.01A. The army “Single Lead Rule” actually uses the trailing edge corner of the post to sight with. Unlike the marine method, the corner of the post is targeted on the centre rather than the leading edge. This technique automatically increases the amount of lead as distance increases. Lead is approximately 5 moa. If you miss, increase lead.
7 mph is about 3 m/sec.
The manual notes: “At 100 meters, the rule begins to break down for targets moving at slight and large angles.” Despite this, it seems a useful technique to get in the ballpark.
AT4 Slow TargetAT4 Fast Target
This aiming technique is very similar to that used for the AT4/M136 anti-tank weapon. For a slow target the post is placed on the leading edge. For faster targets one of the “horns” is placed on the centre of the target. Aiming at faster targets such as jeeps and technicals does not yet seem to have made it into the copies of the manuals I have. Placing the horn on the leading edge seems like a logical place to start.
Amusingly, the copy of FM3-22.9 I have insists that iron sights on the M16/M4 are now only for backup. The entire section on leading a target only refers to the use of iron sights!
Below is an example of using the ACOG sight with a depth of lead-type method. Using frontal silhouettes is misleading.
Depth of lead with ACOG reticle

Aim Low! Avoid Disappointment!

Because it is what was taught in basic, many shooters assume that “center of mass” is the optimum approach to bullet placement. It isn't.
Firstly, “center of mass” is something of a misnomer. What we are actually attempting is placing the bullet in the centre of visible shape. While the term “center of mass” is freely used, it is seldom defined. I think of it as the centre of an X drawn from shoulders to hips, but I suspect others may use different visualizations.
If you have learnt a little anatomy, such as reading “Attack, Avoid, Survive”, you will understand that putting a bullet into the centre of shape will often avoid hitting the central nervous system unless the enemy is running straight at you.
Often you will not have a shot at the torso. When a head appears around cover, firing at its centre will often result in a miss. A better point of aim is about an inch below the visible area.
Center of mass does have its uses. It is taught since it is felt to be easy to learn, and it is because it is what we have always done. Against a vehicular target, center of mass (or leading edge) is a good aimpoint. If you are springing an ambush, chaos and disruption are primary objectives. Multiple wounding shots or near misses may be more effective in that context than a lesser number of clean kills.
In “Attack, Avoid, Survive” and “Survival Weapons”. I explained shot placement in the context of anatomy. If you have a relatively good view of your target, or sufficient time, this is your best approach.
The following two illustrations are of interest:
Shot Placement for Snipers
The first is taken from a WW2 manual for American snipers (FM21-75 Feb, 1944 p.172). The rifle was zeroed to 400 yards and the shooter encouraged to use offset aiming rather than adjusting their sights. Note that at 400 yards the intended target appears to be the armpit-level line, as advocated in my own books. At less than 400 yards, the sniper is recommended to aim twelve inches below the intended point of impact.
M14 Aim Points
The second illustration is from a manual for the M14, which was zeroed to 250 metres. At ranges of less than 200 metres the round would hit high so soldiers were taught to aim at the bottom edge of the “center mass”.
Most military rifles are zeroed to 300 yards or metres. Some older models have battle sights set for 400 yards. Yet most combat shots are made at less than 200 metres, where the bullet is expected to hit several inches above the point of aim! Any wonder that shooting directly at a face will so often miss?
In combat, it is common for troops to shoot high anyway. This is partially stress, but also poor visibility makes targets appear more distant. Fog, smoke or darkness, or a low shooting posture, will cause a shooter to tend to fire high, Differences in elevation will also have an effect.
Firing through a sloped windscreen will tend to deflect a bullet upwards. This occurs if outside firing in or inside firing out. The solution is to aim low.
Often a target will be at a higher or lower elevation. You may be firing down from a hill, or being fired upon from an upper window or roof.
The actual range to the target is not a straight line between the shooter and target. Imagine a right-angled triangle, with the shooter at one corner and the target at the other. It doesn't matter which is higher, since the effect is exactly the same both “uphill” and “downhill”. The direct distance between shooter and target would be the hypotenuse of the triangle. As far as the bullet and gravity are concerned, the relevant distance is horizontal, the length of the triangle base. The true or horizontal range will always be shorter than the slant range.
Using a 5:4:3 triangle for illustration, the horizontal distance will be 20-40% less than the direct line between target and shooter. Shots up or from elevations tend to hit high.
There are two solutions to these effects. If you have any choice in the matter, zero your combat rifle to 200 metres so that it tends to hit what you point at. This gives a mid-range trajectory of only two or three inches.
For longer ranged shots, learn the correct holdover and offset aim-point. Tactically, you are often better off waiting for an enemy to get close or pass by.
Long-range engagements are better left to machine-gunners, mortars, snipers and riflemen with aptitude.
The second solution is to make the belt-buckle your default point of aim. I believe there is an episode of the Simpsons where Homer claims the family moto is “Aim Low! Avoid Disappointment!”.
• If you are at a higher or lower elevation, aim at the target's belt-buckle.
• If you are uncertain of the range, aim at the belt-buckle. A short shot may still glance off the ground and hit the target.
• If the target is moving, visualize the belt-buckle and aim for it. This method automatically tends to adjust for relative angle of motion. If the target is moving obliquely aiming for the buckle will put less lead on the shot.
• If a target is moving towards you, aim for the belt buckle or lower. The use of shots at the pelvis against charging enemies is explained in Attack, Avoid, Survive.
• Unless range is very short, snap shots should be aimed at the belt-buckle.
• A target may be prone, or looking around cover. Aim your shot about an inch below the visible target area. A low shot may still endanger the target.