Keep Your Knives Close!

Probably high time that I told this story!
Many years ago, I went to buy a coffee at the café at work. The usual staff were not there.
Another young lady had been sent there instead. She was struggling with trying to open up in an unfamiliar environment. She had brought her boyfriend with her, but he was not much use and had decided his best approach was to stand by looking gormless.
I waited patiently.
The lady got to the stage of installing the milk boxes in the dispenser. I was familiar with these from my own experience in temp jobs. They have a blind-ended plastic tube. The end of the tube must be cut off before the box can be used.
The poor girl was unable to locate where the usual staff had placed the scissors, or whatever else they used. Futility, she gamely hacked away at the tube with a blunt butter knife.
I took pity on her.
I produced my trusty Swiss Army Knife, unfolded a blade and offered it to her.Swiss Army Ranger
I will admit, at that point I was seduced by the chocolate bar display. I only caught what occurred out of the edge of my vision. It was over before I could intervene.
What happened was this:
The young lady had taken my knife and hooked the blade behind the tube. She had then pulled it towards her. She had assumed my knife was the same as the usual semi-blunt objects she had encountered in cafés. It wasn't.
The edge went through the plastic like it was not there. The girl recoiled a foot or so. Luckily the blade missed her.
“That is a sharp knife!” she exclaimed. She seemed oblivious to the fact that she had nearly just cut off one of her breasts.
I accepted back my knife. Silently, I vowed that in future I would not to lend my blades to other people.
I have been duly wary since that incident. When my girlfriend reaches for certain tools, I cannot help but warn: “Careful! That is sharp!”
She returns this with an eloquent look. Part of it says: “I know! I am not and idiot!” but I think there is also a smidgen of pride that says: “Of course it is, it was you who sharpened it!”.
Morals of this story: Do not assume a tool is blunt. Do not assume someone else knows how to use a tool safely. Never cut towards yourself.

Crash Combat Third Edition Out Now!

I am pleased to announce that the Third Edition of Crash Combat has now become available.
This version has been extensively expanded, being about 30% longer. More content, extra illustrations, more techniques, new techniques and generally much more book for your money. In addition, much of the book has been rewritten and restructured so information is more easily assimilated and learnt.
While Crash Combat was originally written for a military context, it remains relevant to any individual wishing to learn to protect themselves in this dangerous and uncertain world.
Visit the Author Spotlight for my other books.
May be purchased direct from in either print or epub format. It will take a few more days or more for this version to appear with other retailers. Buying from Lulu costs you less and more of the money goes to the author.


I have just received and approved the proof copy of the print version. Very pleased with how it looks and reads. Treat yourself!

Adding a Pin to a Swiss Army Knife

The tools on a Swiss Army Knife sometimes end up performing tasks you never imagined! A few months back I went to unlock my front door, only to have the entire barrel of the lock detach and come away with the key! The metal file/saw proved to be ideal for reaching to the back of the lock and turning the bolt.
My girlfriend’s son had asked me why I always carry my SAK. Exactly for times like the above!

The Early Years

For the first few years of my early adulthood I carried a Chinese-made version of a Swiss Army Knife. I vaguely recall there were actually two, although I do not recall why I had to replace the first. To be fair, these were quite nice knives, with a good assortment of tools. The only problem I actually recall is a time when the corkscrew straightened out as I attempted to open a bottle of wine.
Back in those days, they were all I could afford, and they served well.
Once I had some money, I invested in a genuine Victorinox Swiss Army Knife (aka SAK).

Victorinox Champion

The model I selected was called the “Champion”, not to be confused with the “SwissChamp” that had become available a few years previously. The longer named Champion was less bulky than the Champ, lacking the pliers.
Swiss Army Champion
The seven-layer Champion was about the ideal maximum size for a SAK, and had a really useful selection of tools.
Sadly, my Champion was lost in an unfortunate chain of events that do not need to be told here. Even worse, the Champion had been discontinued, so I could not buy a replacement.
There was no ebay back then, so little chance of locating a second-hand one.
All the features of a Champion

Rise of the Ranger

As a replacement of the Champion, I selected a Ranger model. The most obvious difference between the two was the Ranger lacked a magnifying glass, fish scaler and Phillips screwdriver:
Swiss Army Ranger
• The Phillips screwdriver had proved useful at times.
• I don’t recall ever using the fish scaler/ hook disgorger, at least not for its intended purpose.
• I didn’t make much used of the magnifier either, although now that I am older and more decrepit, I suspect it might prove more useful. As an aside, the magnifying glass on the Champion was very cleverly thought out. Its focal length was the same as the magnifying glasses’ height. In other word, if you placed your knife on a map, the detail under the magnifying glass would be in focus. This may have been the case for other models that had the magnifying glass. I wonder if the same applies to the newer pattern of magnifier?
Since I wear glasses, an early addition I made to both the Champion and the later Ranger was to add the mini-screwdriver that fits into the corkscrew. Originally this tool was only included with the SwissChamp. They were sold as spares, however, so I acquired one. This has proved very useful over the years, often coming to the rescue of companions rather than myself. Half a lifetime ago I repaired the glasses of a grateful Swedish beauty in old Jerusalem.
Corkscrew Mini-tools
Victorinox now offer three alternate tools, each with a different coloured end.
I have carried the Ranger for many decades now. The lack of Phillips screwdriver is compensated for by the Leatherman Squirt mini-tool I also carry. If you are in the market for a medium-size (91mm) model SAK, the Ranger must be one of the best options. The Huntsman model is a good choice, but I have often found uses for the file/metal saw of the Ranger.

Swiss Army Knife Wiki

Recently I came across the Swiss Army Knife Wiki. This site is worth a look around.
Some interesting information on how to use the various tools, and some applications for them you may not have known. My Ranger had a Phillips screwdriver all along and I never knew! I discovered that the tip of the can-opener is actually intended for use with Phillips screws as well as slot.

Adding a Pin to a SAK

The original reason I have been thinking about Swiss Army Knives recently is that I came across a blog post discussing the pin carried in the handle scales.
Below is a video on possible uses for “needles” [sic pins]. The channel has many other videos on various features of Swiss Army Knives.

Even before I watched the above video, I was thinking about adding a pin to my Ranger. I own a number of very fine drill bits, so creating a channel for a pin would not be too difficult. I could probably add a pair.
I have lots of cheap pins. I decided to try and find the pins actually used, since they were probably better quality and the head looked a little wider.
A number of ebay vendors offered replacement pins for Swiss Army Knives. The one I chose got my money since they offered another idea. Included with the five pins was a small magnet. This magnet was sized to fit in the can-opener. With such a magnet, a pin could be magnetized as a compass needle.
The bits arrived this morning.

Fitting the Magnet and Pin

The 5.8mm magnet was a perfect fit for the can-opener. The vendor included the advice that the tool next to the can-opener usually needs to be opened before closing the can-opener with the magnet stored in it. If this is not so, the magnet tends to pull out of position, attracted by the neighbouring steel. Although stainless steel, the blades of a Swiss Army Knife are magnetic.
Magnet in Can-Opener
Finding a drill bit small enough for the pin was not a problem. Problem was most were too short to drill a channel as long as the pin. The other problem was my Ranger has solid scales. It lacks the airspaces found on some newer and alternate scales.
Drilling a channel deep enough and straight enough proved problematic, and inevitably the very fine drill curved and the channel exited on the inner side of scale. This actually proved to be fortuitous, allowing me to file a notch on the inner side for end of the pin to rest in.
I settled for adding just one pin for now. Most of the alternate positions for a pin are obstructed by the rivets the scales snap on to.
Ranger Knife Modified
My Ranger with pin added (blue arrow) and notches on scale (green arrows). If the balloon goes up, I am ready!

Other Modifications

Incidentally, the back scale of my Ranger has two additional non-standard features.
One is a chip, where an idiot friend used my knife as a bottle-opener without using the bottle-opener! I could fix this damage, but it is a useful reminder to be more cautious of whom I trust.
More useful are a series of three notches. The second is five millimetres from the first, the third 57mm for the first.
The first and third notch are used to draw a circle of 57mm radius. The first and second are used to mark the circumference in five millimetre increments. Each millimetre of the circumference closely approximates one degree. Such a compass face can be used with various improvised modes of navigation.

Hip-Shooting a Rifle or Shotgun

Yesterday I described a “sightless” shooting technique that can be combined with quick-draw.
Today I will briefly look at hip-shooting with a rifle or shotgun.
Truth told, I dislike both the terms “hip-shooting” and “snap-shooting”. Many of the shooting techniques that do not require seeing the sights are not from hip-level. The term snap-shot conjures images of a rapid shot from the shoulder. Snap-shots, to me at least, seem more akin to the firing techniques of Quick-Kill or the shotgun-inspired methods in “Shooting to Kill”. Such techniques are described on other pages I have written, and are also described in “Survival Weapons”. Also, I have become aware that in some previous eras the term “snap” was used for dry-firing an arm.


For the modern user of shotguns or rifles the low-ready position is often used. It has a number of virtues:
• If you are going through a door, it does not leave a weapon sticking out that can be grabbed and pointed heavenward. If someone does grab you or your weapon putting a round in his legs is still possible. Not something you can do from high-ready!
• The low-ready allows an arm to be rapidly shouldered, allowing a fast sightless or sight-aimed shot, as appropriate.

Low-Port Carry

Low-port carry in WW2

The widespread use of the low-ready is apparently a relatively new innovation.
I came across this interesting article, discussing how soldiers in the Second World War actually carried their rifles. If you have a Mauser, Garand or Lee Enfield, a low-ready carry will place the muzzle quite close to the ground. Add a 10 to 17 inch sword bayonet and you can see the low-ready is less useful than with a modern weapon.
The carrying methods most often seen in photos are the high-port, trail-arms and a position modern reenactors call “low-port”. Low-port had the rifle held approximately horizontal and often part of it was at hip-level.

Hip-Shooting from Low-Port


With this information in mind, it is clear that the “snap-shooting” method the marine advocates in this 1944 article is literally hip-shooting with a rifle.

Modern Quick-Draw for Self-Defence

Recently I have been thinking a little on the subjects of quick-draw and hip-shooting.
One reason for this is that I treated myself to the Kindle Edition of “Shooting” by J. Henry FitzGerald. A very entertaining read and lots of information that is still useful, even if the book was written in 1930. Expect me to refer back to this work in future posts. I highly recommend it.
At around the same time, I came across an article on quick-draw by Elmer Keith. Unfortunately the print quality is too poor for me to reproduce it here. Much of the article is padding and anecdotes, but there were a couple of useful ideas within. Article was originally in “American Rifleman” Sep 1938. Reproduced in Poor Man’s James Bond, Vol.5, Kurt Saxon. “No Second Place Winner” by Bill Jordan is also worth a read on this topic.
I also reread Fairbairn and Sykes’ (F&S) “Shooting to Live”. This is another “must read”, although it doesn’t have a lot on quick-draw. While most of the F&S technique is not hip-shooting, it did provide some insight.
The main reason I decided to discuss this topic was due to some of the videos I viewed. The cowboy action shooters I will discuss in a moment. Most of the “non-cowboys” would quick draw their weapons, then slow down as they locked their arms straight, lined up their sights, held their breath and did all the other things their shooting guru of preference recommends. Most took more than a second to draw and fire. Some individuals were faster, but still we were looking at around three-quarters of a second. In the early part of Shooting to Live the authors state that the considerable experience of the Shanghai Police had found making a hit within a third of a second was desirable to officer survival. Admittedly, this was not necessarily quick-draw from a holster.
Gun Magazines love to fill their column inches with “either/or” binary propositions. One example of these is “Frontier style” vs “Aimed Technique”. For the duration of this article I would like you to forget all you have read along these lines and temporarily accept two other propositions:
• There is a time for aimed pistol fire, and there are times when there is no time for aimed fire.
• If you have to quick-draw, you need to put lead in the target in the shortest time possible.
“Shoot double action if it is at short range and quick draw is not necessary at long range.”
Shooting. FitzGerald, J. Henry. Sportsman's Vintage Press. Kindle Edition.
Doc Holiday and Wynonna

The Cowboys

Cowboy action shooting actually proved less useful than I expected. Certainly the fast-draw experts are very fast. However, this is achieved by firing as soon as the muzzle is out of the holster. The muzzle may be right above the holster.
To speed this up, most cowboy action shooters would lean backwards. This technique is not really applicable to self-defensive shooting. If someone is likely to be shooting back you will probably be crouched forward. You also may have to quick-draw from a seated position where you cannot lean back.
My other reservation is that I have no idea how important accuracy is to cowboy quick-draw shooting competitions. One shooter did say something about accuracy coming with a few thousand practice rounds. Perfecting literal hip-shooting may be beyond the means of many of us.
Some aspects of cowboy fast-draw are specific to single-action only weapons such as the Colt Peacemaker. Practical defensive handguns should have a double-action mode.
The best advice I got from my brief dip into cowboy quick-drawer was “Don’t hold your breath!” As we know for other fields of combat training, relaxed bodies and untensed muscles move faster.

When Not to Draw

In a past blog I referenced a video of some young guys practising fast-draws against charging training partners and imaginary enemies. As I commented then, “speed and skills were impressive, their tactics deplorable”.
No matter how fast you are, if an enemy is rushing in from close range, your first move should be to get out of the way. A well placed palm-strike or trip may drop them more effectively than any bullet. Once the immediate threat has past, then is the time to draw your weapon.
See “Attack, Avoid, Survive” and “Survival Weapons” for more on this topic.
If a target is within a few metres, thrusting your gun nearer towards them may not be prudent. There a numerous ways to dodge out of the line of fire at such ranges. You may have brought your hand(s) into range of unarmed, blade or baton attacks.

Quarter-Hip Position

Quarter-Hip Firing Position

I am showing the F&S “quarter-hip” position here since it has some parallels to cowboy hip shooting. Fairbairn and Sykes suggest this only be used at ranges of a yard or less. The gun is held back so an attacker cannot reach it. The free-hand can be used to fend off the attacker.
F&S note that this is the only one of their firing techniques where the gun is not fired from the centre-line. It can be fired parallel to the centre-line, although there is an obvious difference of half a body-width. It can be fired to intersect the centre-line. although this will require more skill at greater ranges.
I show a similar postion in “Survival Weapons” and “Attack. Avoid, Survive”. Keep the free-hand well out of the possible line of fire.


As should be done before any firearm training, or handling, verify the loaded status of your firearm.
For dry-firing, chamber or chambers should be emptied. With some weapons a loaded magazine can be left in place to keep the mass realistic. A revolver will need dummy cartridges instead. Some semi-automatics need the backward movement of the slide to recock their strikers. Magazines of live rounds should not be fitted for dry-firing practice with these models.
The trigger finger should not touch the trigger during the drawing phase. The trigger only comes into contact with the trigger when the muzzle is pointed at the target.


The principle of consistency applies to many phases of training.
Train with the weapon, holster and holster position that you are most likely to be in when a potential need occurs.
A holster that always stays in the same relative position is obviously an advantage.
Accuracy comes from the weapon always firing from the same relative position.


Speed comes from efficiency. A quick-draw has three stages: the draw, the point and firing. Work to make each of these phases with the minimum of wasted motion. Make the transitions between them as as efficient and smooth as possible. The movement of the hand from the start of the draw until firing should be a single continuous motion.


To learn quick-draw safely, you should accept that you will have to practice at least several months without firing a round. You will be tempted to try it with live rounds, “just to see how it is going”. Do not! You will only be ready for live practice once you can honesty say that you have the phases of the draw and its whole working as efficiently as you can.
Start off at a slow speed. Trying to be fast is counter-productive. Speed will increase as you get smoother with practice.

The Quick-Draw

How you draw will depend on where you carry your holster, your weapon, your physique, manner of dress and many other factors.
Your free-hand may need to be involved to pull your jacket open or lift your shirt while the other hand draws.
For a strong-side holster, the most efficient draw may be simply to lift the pistol upwards out of the holster. As soon as the muzzle is clear of the holster the action of pointing it towards the target begins.
Shorter weapons are theoretically quicker to draw than longer ones. In practice an excess of force is used on the draw and, within limits, length has little significant effect. Shorter weapons are more practical to wear if you have to spend anytime seated. Compact/subcompact automatics of 7"/180mm loa. or less are recommended. If you have to use a revolver, have a snub with a barrel of less than 3"/76mm. Big bore options for revolver shooters include .45 Long Colt, .45 ACP, .44 Spl and .45LC/.410.

The Point

If we are quick-drawing, it is because we need to put lead in a bad guy ASAP! Logically, this means we fire as soon as the muzzle is pointing at the target. For the cowboy shooters this is a fraction after the muzzle is clear of the holster. With a typical low-slung cowboy rig, this is literally shooting from the hip.
For a shoulder carry, your weapon may be as high as chest-level when it points at the target. For most modern belt holsters, the gun will first point at the target at between groin and chest-level. “Hip-shooting” should not be taken too literally.
If your gun reaches eye-level before you fire, you have waited too long!
To continue my example of a quick-draw from a strong-side holster: Once the muzzle is out of the holster, straighten your wrist while at the same time pushing your gun-hand forward onto your centre-line. This is a very simple action that can be made very smoothly, particularly if your body is relaxed. Draw and point are thus a simple lift and then push sequence.
Raising the gun out of the holster probably raised your shoulder. The action of dropping the shoulder helps push the gun towards the target.
Keep your trigger finger clear of the trigger until your gun points toward the target. If your weapon uses a safety, do not release your safety until beginning to point towards the target. If it is single-action, cock as the target comes before your muzzle.
The weapon is aimed by turning the hips to place the target on your centre-line.
A sighting laser can prove useful when dry-firing. Plastic or wax ammunition can also prove useful.
Half-Hip Firing Position
For purposes of illustration, the F&S “half-hip” firing position. F&S suggest this for ranges of three yards. Actual angle of the elbow will depend on factors such as physique and holster position. The elbow angle will probably be more obtuse, although a high draw may make it acute. The point to observe here is the weapon is on the centre-line and pointed at the target.
In fact, the actual firing position may look closer to the F&S “three-quarter” position. This was for a crouched position and used for targets at three or four yards. Like the half-hip position, the gun was fired while still below the eye-line.
Three-Quarter Firing Position

The Free Hand

As already mentioned, your free-hand might have an important role in making your fast-draw.
Whether you need your free-hand or not, you should practice drawing so that your free-arm does not in anyway hinder or obstruct the draw. Shooting your own fingers off is not good form!
The technique described here may be made as either a one-handed or two-handed technique. As the gun-hand is pushed towards the centre-line, the other hand comes inward and upward to intercept it and come into a two-handed grip. Assuming a two-handed grip should disengage the safety with the free-hand (“fumble insurance!”).


As soon as the weapon points at the target, fire.
Your handgun should have a double-action mode. A weapon without a manual safety, or that can safely be carried without this engaged should be selected. I have plenty of reverence for weapons like the Colt Government Model and Peacemaker, but when it comes to personal defence, and particularly quick-draw, your handgun should be as simple, straight-forward and least fiddly to operate as possible.
Through the entire drawing process your eyes should have been locked on your target, not your weapon. You should have adjusted your body to place the target on your centre-line. If your weapon has reached the centre-line and is pointing at the target, there is no reason to delay firing.
A standing human is taller than they are wide. If you have the aggressor on your centre-line, there is some margin for the elevation of your weapon. A first-round hit is very likely at the sort of ranges fast-draw would be used at. The pointing technique suggested tends to put the plane of the barrel parallel to the ground.
Accuracy and precision can be improved with practice, of course. A pair of silhouette targets, set up about six feet apart and eight feet away, is a good start. The Elmer Keith article had the useful suggestion that something like a tomato can laid on the earth was a good target for improvement. Missed shots were easily seen as impacts with the earth. Objects floating in bodies of water were also good targets.
As your accuracy increases, so too will the effective range of this technique.


Something I like about this particular system of quick-draw is that it nicely integrates with other fast-shooting techniques. Once the first shot is fired at half-hip or three-quarter position, the arm can continue to straighten and rise up to eye-level. If you are shooting using the basic F&S technique you fire as soon as the weapon reaches eye-level. If you have a shade more time you use your foresight like a shotgun bead and place it on the target. This is how you would use a reflex sight. If your fast first shot has brought you more time you can line up and use the iron sights.
Bringing the gun on to the centre-line may be fractionally slower than firing from over the hip. I think this is compensated for by the benefits this has to making accurate shot placement easier.

Soft-Core Pack: Military Version

The battle order suggested in the previous blog raises an interesting question: How does the soldier carry his poncho? Items such as bayonets and ammunition have obvious places on the webbing. Not only must a poncho be carried when not worn, but it must be protected from unnecessary damage.
The official solution was most probably to carry the poncho in the butt-pack. As I have discussed in previous posts, there are objections to using a butt-pack or similar. Its capacity is a temptation to carry extra gear. Its position makes it hard to easily access and it is inconvenient if sitting in a vehicle for any time.

Military Soft-Core Bag

In a previous post I described my “soft-core bag”. This idea can easily be adapted to military applications. The military version of the soft-core bag would actually be lighter than my version. Items such as the fire-kit, first aid kit and sweets can be omitted, since these roles will already be met by items carried on the soldier’s webbing or person. For the same reason, the water-bottle can be omitted unless operating in particularly arid conditions.


What should the military soft-core bag contain?
• A poncho. This should ride at the top of the bag for easy access.
• Accessory clothing items such as warm hats, gloves, spare socks, bananas, shemagh. Many outdoor coats lack sufficient pocket space to carry such items, and you may need your pockets for more tactical items. The soft-core bag is a practical solution. Wrap in plastic bags to waterproof them.
• A spare shirt, jumper, jacket or liner. Useful if the temperature drops or you reduce your actively level. Wrap in plastic bags to waterproof them.
• Toilet roll in waterproof bag. As well as the intended use, good for fire starting.
• Items such as cordage and space blankets are optional for the military soft-core pack. You may decide these are better carried in your trouser or shirt/jacket pockets.
• A “non-soft” item of equipment that might be carried in your soft-pack are your goggles. These can get in the way if you are not wearing them. When not in use they need to be covered for camouflage purposes. Stowing them in your soft-core bag is a very practical solution. Place them in the middle of clothing to provide padding and protection.

Carrying Bag

Like the other version, the military soft-core bag fits in a simple draw-cord bag. This is stowed in the top of your rucksack so the poncho or other contents can easily be accessed if needed. When you stow your rucksack you pull out the soft-core pack and wear it as part of your battle-order. When seated in a vehicle the soft-core pack should act as additional padding for your back.


Ideally, your draw-cord bag should be of an effective camouflage pattern. A grey-beige-brown scheme may be more versatile than the green-dominant examples shown in the photos. Sewing some textilage to the outer side is a good idea too. If you cannot get a camouflaged example, a suitably neutral-coloured bag can be camouflaged with a few passes of spray paint. Making a camouflage draw-cord bag will be within most reader’s capabilities. Note that the bags shown have carrying cords created by taking the cord down to eyelets at the bottom corners. If your bag lacks these, they can easily be added. Dark or unsuitably coloured cords are easily replaced with something such as “desert-camo” paracord.

Tactical Bed Rolls

I came across an interesting article called “Pedomic Mobility” in the October-November 1960 issue of “Infantry” magazine.
In the narrative, an officer watches his company conducting a “ruck attack” on a position. A ruck attack is an assault where the troops wear their rucksacs. This slows the soldiers down, makes them larger and more obvious targets and tires them out more quickly. Shooting from a prone position may be problematic if the pack prevents the soldier raising his head. Despite the obvious disadvantages, the ruck attack remains common in certain armies, both in training and actual combat operations.
The officer watches his near exhausted men and ponders if there is a better alternative.
The proposed solution has two parts. The first is the attacking force should be equipped thus:
• Clothing appropriate for the climate, season and weather
• Load-bearing equipment
• Helmet
• Weapon and ammunition
• Bayonet
• Water bottle, cover and canteen cup
• First aid packet
• Gas mask
• Poncho.
Personally, I consider a canteen cup a backpack item. The dynamics of operating in a platoon or company may change this, however.
If the unit was to stay in one place for any time, a bed roll for each soldier would be brought forth. A bed roll, as described in the article, consists of:
• Shelter-half with poles and pegs (“pins”)
• Air mattress
• Sleeping bag
• One or two changes of socks and underwear
• Towel
• Toiletries
• Field jacket liner and trouser liner*
*The jacket and trouser liners were included if it was a “seasonally transitional period”. The mention of the blanket and insulated boots suggest the cold of Korea was still fresh in many soldiers’ minds.
If you have read Kephart, you will know that an outdoorsman’s pack was once exactly that: a package of items wrapped in canvas (above).
Soldiers carrying tactical bed rolls
Bed Rolls in Action. Note the man at the rear has transferred his entrenching tool to his bed roll for more comfortable carrying.
The bed roll was primarily intended to be moved by truck or jeep. When necessary it could be carried by the infantryman. The author suggest re-rolling the item into a horseshoe roll, or fitting the bed roll with a rope or carrying strap.
The use of a shelter-half for the outer layer is particularly clever. Being made of canvas, it is robust and relatively damage tolerant. It is better suited for this roll than a poncho or more modern nylon tent might be. Shelter-halves were widely available from military supplies and easily replaced. A shelter-half could be put to a number of other uses other than as a pup-tent. See this video for a “pegs before poles” method of setting up a shelter-half tent. The only objection to using a shelter-half is that most are green, rather than more versatile dull brown or camouflage finishes.
Also notable was this officer understood that toiletries were not something a soldier needed to carry on his person.
Can we adapt this concept to more modern equipment? An all-weather blanket that can serve as a ground cloth and for other uses would be a good addition. Air mattresses are not common with modern users. I do know some soldiers who use self-inflating sleeping mats. Most, however, use foam kip-mats. Even when trimmed down, these tend to be bulky. Similarly, a poncho liner is rather bulky when rolled. I am not sure you could roll these up in a shelter half with a sleeping bag and still have a roll only a foot in diameter.
In the article, mention is made of stowing bed rolls in waterproof bags. An obvious extrapolation of this is to carry a bagged bed roll within a medium-sized rucksac. Packs would be clearly marked with name, squad, platoon and company, for example: Grant N. 471, 3-2-B. The pockets of a rucksack are a more convenient place to carry a wash-kit, canteen cup and some other items. A foam kip mat can be rolled separately from the bed roll and carried along side it within or outside the pack. Kip mats have uses in addition to sleeping on, so having them separate is more convenient.
When bed rolls are brought forward, rations and ammunition will probably be brought with them. If a unit has to fall back the rucksacks used to move the bed rolls can also carry some of the rations and ammunition too.
The specific contents of a bed roll with vary with climate and other factors.
When in transit, experianced soldiers will keep their bed roll close to hand. If baggage gets misdirected or delayed, the soldier still has the essentials necessary for a good night’s rest.
The article Pedomic Mobility was written for infantry companies conducting operations within range of support units. It may, however, provide some inspiration for independent outdoorsman both as to how and what they may carry.

Bandoliers for Budget Burdens

This interesting photo is from the Osprey publication, “Armies of the Vietnam War 1962-1975”.
Caption for the photo reads:US soldiers with Bandoliers

Soldiers of the 196th Light Inf.Bde., Americal Div., examine a VC cache near Chu Lai in December 1970. The abbreviated rifleman's equipment is typical of short-range operations at this period. Bandoliers are used to carry both magazines and grenades, and spare M-60 belt is looped around the riflemen's waists. The two XM203 grenadiers at the right wear the special grenadier's ammo vest; the man at far right also carries his rifle magazines in a spare canteen carrier, and ration toilet paper packs in his helmet band. Third from right has a Kabar knife sheathed in his trouser cargo pocket, and fourth from right has a civilian hunting knife on his belt.

A lot going on in that photo. The bandoliers used to replace, rather than supplement, the issue “ammo case” [pouch] are of particular note.
A previous blogpost discussed stripper clips or chargers. In this photo the bandoliers are being used to carry grenades and 20-round magazines.
More recent examples of bandolier can also accommodate 30-round magazines. In the photo below, a light-coloured thread is visible. Removing the thread makes each pouch deep enough to carry a 30-round magazine rather than a pair of stripper clips.
Bandolier with pull threadM16 Bandiolier
If you shoot 7.62 x 51mm (or 6.5mm Creedmore) you needn’t feel left out. Below is an Australian bandolier intended for use with the SLR/FAL.

Aussie Bandolier for SLR


Less Plate, Less Pot, Eat Less

One of the interesting things I have learnt during lock-down was that I could be happy with much smaller portions of food than I was accustomed to.
Before lock-down, I had already stopped including pasta, potatoes or rice in my meals. Meals at home would be just meat and vegetables. During lock-down many meals became just a portion of meat or fish (battered fish bakes very nicely in a halogen oven!). Other nights dinner might just be a bowl of sweetcorn with a dash of Tabasco. The roast potatoes I had left after Christmas dinner formed a couple of nights' dinners on their own.
While individually, many of these meals were not balanced, things seemed to even out nutritionally over a week or more. Generally, these relatively modest portions satisfied me. If I felt peckish later on, I would eat some fruit. If a fancied some desert, this would often be fruit. Some nights, when I did not feel hungry, dinner might just be fruit. Typically I only ate twice a day. Breakfast/ brunch was usually a serving of porridge with a few sultanas.

Less Plate, More Satisfaction?

I am reminded of this since recently I heard someone comment “People eat too much because plates are too big! Use smaller plates and they will eat less.” Often when eating my modestly sized meals I have used the small 21cm diameter side plates rather than the full-sized dinner plates. When food does not need cutting up I usually use a 16cm/ 500ml bowl. My small meals had satisfied me both physically and psychologically. Enough really is as good as a feast!
I did a little research, and the idea of using smaller plates has some support. I also came across the suggestion that plate colour may also have an effect on satisfaction. My small plates and bowls are black, which is a good colour for contrast. Red is apparently even better.
There seems to be something to all this. The “first bite is always with the eye”, so there seems to be some logic that the presentation of a meal has some effect on psychological satisfaction with portion size. If you want to drop a little weight, a few red bowls and small plates may be a useful investment. I would advise getting those that can be used within a microwave oven.
After you eat, it is a good idea to drink a glass of tap-water and clean your teeth.

Smaller Pots

To the above, I have an additional suggestion. If you cook your own meals, try using smaller cooking vessels. It is all too easy to increase the quantity you are cooking if you use large capacity pots. And once the food is cooked, it would be sinful to let it go to waste! Instead it goes to waist.
I have put my large pans back in the cupboard and dug out a couple of small saucepans, each about one-litre capacity and around 17cm diameter. For meals for a single person these should be quite adequate for anything you need a saucepan for. I have an even smaller “milk pan”, but this is in daily use cooking my porridge. Also milk pans generally do not come with lids, and a lid is often needed for more efficient cooking.
A smaller pan may mean you have to cook on a smaller hob than you usually used. I have also noticed I need a slightly lower flame setting to prevent flames wastefully lapping up the sides of the pot. Thus using a smaller pot is saving me some fuel and money. Smaller capacity saves both time and water.
And if further incentive were needed, mastering cooking with small pots is good training for when you may have to cook in just a canteen cup.

The Brooksbank Carrying System

I have talked about using Claymore mine bags to carry ammunition on a number of instances. I was therefore intrigued by this idea from 1943, called the “Brooksbank” method. All credit to Karkee Web for the images and information:

(a) The gas cape folded flat, about 10 in by 12 in, is put on first in the normal manner.

(b) The small pack is slung over the right shoulder and the two valise straps fastened (firmly but not tightly) over the stomach with the bayonet and frog on the right hand side, slung on the valise strap.

(c) The respirator is put on in the reverse alert position, i.e., the haversack goes on the back resting on the gas cape with the sling (shortened as far as possible) on the chest, with a piece of tape on each lower " D " on the haversack coming round to the front and with the left tape underneath the brace, through the sling, fastening on the right with a slip knot. (The right tape therefore will be only approximately 4 in to 6 in in length).


Some clarification is in order. The “gas cape” or “anti-gas cape” was a protective garment against chemical warfare agents such as mustard gas. It actually resembled a long, sleeved coat rather than a cape. The model in use in 1943 was provided with long tapes so that the rolled garment could be carried across the back of the shoulders. No webbing was needed to carry the cape in this fashion. In the figure on the reader’s right in figure 1 the tapes of the cape can be made up coming up from under the soldier’s armpits and disappearing behind his neck. The cape could be quickly unrolled down the back and put on without unfastening the tapes. An excellent source of information on these items can be found on this video.
What is possibly not made clear is that the small pack would spend most of its time across the small of the back, and would only be pulled around the side when ammunition or other items were wanted. A photo of how just the pack would be worn is shown on this page.
The Brooksbank method was supposed to save weight. While it does away with the ammo pouches, belt and water-bottle carrier, the soldier still carries his standard haversack contents, plus finding some room inside for carrying individual and squad ammunition. Although called a haversack, not many of the recommended contents of the 37 pattern small pack were actual clothing. The interior was divided into two compartments, the forward one bisected by an additional divider. One forward pocket held the soldier’s pair of mess-tins, the other a water-bottle. Carried in the main compartment was a groundsheet, towel, soap, pair of spare spare socks, cutlery and possibly an emergency ration and cardigan. Below is a photo of a typical British infantryman’s small pack contents, taken from “British Army Handbook 1939-45” by George Forty.
Many of these items should probably have been left with the truck rather than being carried into combat. I recently read a 1940s manual on street-fighting and soldiers were told not to bring their haversacks into action. Urban environments had plenty of shelter so groundsheets and gas capes were not needed. Haversack items that might prove useful could probably be carried by other means.
The groundsheet carried at this time is of interest, since this would probably be of some variety of MkVII, and was designed to also act as the soldier’s rain protection. The gas cape was supposed to be reserved for the event of chemical warfare, but in practice might be used as a raincoat.
Many years ago, I travelled down Italy, my belongings packed in a sports bag. At one town I had to walk longer and further than usual to located accommodation. Even though I could swap over the shoulder I carried the bag on the uneven weight caused me to sprain one ankle, resulting in a rather painful couple of days. Since then I have always used rucksacs. I don’t know if that would have been a problem with the Brooksbank method, but do feel more though should have been given to what was carried, as well as how.