Graduating Levels of Force

By Clint McNabb

When SHTF happens are you prepared to deal with a variety of threats? Will you be able dissuade a hungry stranger as well as engage a hoard of looters? The ability to escalate appropriate force is a common tactic in law enforcement. Most law enforcement officers (LEOs) on the street carry a baton, taser gun, and a pistol on their belt as well as a shotgun and/or an assault rifle in their patrol car. For civil unrest or riots, they can employ tear gas, rubber bullets, as well as lethal weapons. As preppers, this tactical concept might be useful for us to consider. What I’m looking for are appropriate choices of how I can deal with a variety of threats in an escalating situation. We would like to deter the threats at the lowest level of force possible. An assault rifle or shotgun can’t always be our best reaction to every situation.

Perimeter Warning

A warning line may be a good initial engagement tool. You’ve seen LEOs string up a yellow tape at crime scenes. Some prepared signs composed of a sheet of paper with an appropriate warning not to come closer inside a document protector for weather proofing may be useful at the lowest force level. These signs should be spaced appropriately on a nylon string on my perimeter.

Low Threat Interface

Next, consideration may be given to a low threat, one-on-one, close proximity contact. As mentioned in other articles, tactical support by other team members in concealment will dictate the flexibility at this low threat level in case the situation escalates. My first choice is to deter the stranger from a position of security and concealment using a bullhorn. I don’t recommend it, but if you insist on confronting the individual closer in and the potential intruder isn’t dissuaded pepper spray may be effective. If that doesn’t thwart the challenger, then maybe a “plink” from a pellet gun  might get the intruders attention. That plink would come from a well-coordinated support team. A LEOs baton could be an alternative close in engagement.

Upping the Force Level

If the situation escalates with the single intruder or more treats show up, upping the force will be appropriate. Still, answering the threat on a timely basis short of lethal force may be beneficial. Consider a shotgun loaded with #8 bird shot. From a good distance, say 100 meters, the bird shot would certainly get the intruders attention yet probably wouldn’t be lethal. Maybe they would then consider your location not to be worth the risk and turn back. If not, then you can rely on your most convincing lethal force. At least you had escalating tactical choices up until then, and that’s my point.

Geographic Force Escalation

A well thought out security plan usually includes rings of engagement and predetermined force to be employed. For example, an outer ring of warning signs, followed closer in by nonlethal force, followed by a lethal force perimeter. The criteria for each of these intrusion rings should be tempered by the number of the threat, type of threat, their armament, and degree and manner of advancement. This concept requires preplanning, consideration, understanding by the team. The threat may be a half mile away or at your front door. Are you ready with appropriate force?

Choices and Flexibility in Force

More importantly for preppers to consider about graduating levels of force is to know that we need to have choices of force as events escalate. These conditions should be thought out and planned as much as possible. And, as with any tactical response, your support team gives you the best opportunity and flexibility to appropriately respond.

Clint McNabb is a Retired federal deputy with US Homeland Security, and a retired Colonel and Commander of an Air National Guard Fighter Wing.


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