Defense: Homestead Case Study – Back to Terrain Pt.1

I know a lot of you have been waiting for this and I’ve gotten a lot of emails asking when I was going to get into the nuts and bolts of building a homestead defense plan.  This is going to be the first entry in the series and for this one we’re going to go back to terrain for a while so we can get an appreciation of exactly what we’re defending.  I’m not going to go into mitigating measures in this entry.  We’ll talk about things like homemade Hescos,  rocket screens, etc later on.

Ladies and gents I present the notional “Rancho Lizard”.  Not a huge homestead by any means but still big enough to be pretty much self sustaining.  It is located almost smack dab in the middle of our tribal AO and below I have depicted the property boundaries as shown by the lines and currently occupied homesteads are depicted by a star.  Ours is the one inside of the property lines of course.

I’m not going down in the weeds yet – we’ll cover more about the actual composition of the immediate homestead over the next few entries.  What I want you to gain an appreciation for is the makeup of the land.  Our little slice of heaven is pretty much surrounded on three sides by dense pine forests and thickets which can be difficult to navigate even on foot.  And although there are some open area on the east aside for the most part it’s pretty tough crap to walk through.  The proximity of those other homesteads in this case is an asset as long as they stay occupied by friendlies or tribe members.  Simply put they are sort of a “speedbump” to get to you.  They also may require you to respond to attacks on their locations.  This is why ya gotta know the ground.

The first thing we have to do is get out and walk and gain a real appreciation for our location.  Yeah this means getting the boots on and getting off of your rump and grabbing some form of map and putting some miles on the LPCs.  What I’ve done is basically walk all the way around the property until I couldn’t see the immediate homestead (the house proper).  Then I noted that location on the map.    When I hit the treeline I walk into the woods and look back frequently until I find the furthest location that I absolutely cannot see the homestead.  Then I note that location on the map.  Continue doing so until you have gone all the way around your homestead.  And while you’re doing this it’s also a good idea to look for locations that could be used for cover including downed trees, culverts, small hills, and others.  We’re going to note this so we can do some terrain modification later.

What you are doing is trying to gain an appreciation for the threat’s perspective in relation to your defensive position (in this case our homestead).    So I went all the way around and marked my visual perimeter and this time I got lucky (or unlucky as I’ll address later in the blog) and didn’t find anything more than a culvert besides trees that would make for hasty cover.   My visual perimeter from a threat perspective now looks like this:

The red area contains every possible position that the threat could possibly observe (and subsequently place fire on) the homestead from.  I can’t stress enough the aspect of getting out and looking at your position from the threat perspective.  While doing so think about things like “how accurate would rifle fire be from here?” and “If someone was going to move closer to the house/barn/whatever where would they have to rush to?”  Those questions along with the answers you come up with for them will help you later on gain not only an appreciation for where the threat could be but where it may move next – allowing you to exploit his OODA loop (remember that?).  And sure we’ve got some challenges ahead of us later on – a LOT of challenges.  But for now let’s continue focusing on the threat.

One critical thing to look for during this process is any high ground that can place observation on your homestead even if it would be out of rifle range.  If there’s a hilltop five hundred yards away that can cover your front door you need to know about it.  Five hundred yards isn’t an unlikely shot for a good marksman.  I like to use the old saying here – “If you can see it, you can hit it.  If the threat can see it so can he“.  And if a command and control element needs a vantage point to control a fight they very well may choose one of those locations.

The next thing I’m going to look at it what I currently have in the way of established defenses.  As it stands it’s currently nothing more than five strand barbwire fence on 6 foot steel posts sunk into the ground 2 feet.  In reality it’s not going to stop a whole lot except cows but it gives us a place to start.  So I diagram my existing fences (the lines) along with existing gates (green rectangles).   Man we really have got some work to do.

Reaction times are always going to be a challenge when defending the homestead.  Maybe you might get lucky with a radio call letting you know something’s coming but you always want to assume the worst case scenario.  In this instance it would be a high speed insertion of threat forces via vehicle.  That kind of attack literally would only give us seconds to react.  So what I want to do is take a look at where the threat could enter my defensive area by vehicle.  In this case I’m going to ignore fences because any four wheel drive pickup is going to crash through our existing fences like they’re not there.  Sure the truck may take some damage but it’s not going to stop it cold and it’d be foolish to think so.  What I did this time is mark all the areas off that a high speed insertion would least likely come from.  In other words SlowGo/NoGo terrain for wheeled vehicles.  In this case the red areas represent where you’re not going to drive a vehicle due to impassibility either because of trees, water, or other natural obstacles.  Clear areas are navigable by at least a two wheel drive truck.

By doing this we have identified the most likely or only possible routes of high speed ingress to our immediate defensive position.  This helps in two way.  First it allows to use realistically allocate resources capable of stopping vehicles later on.  Secondly it also allows us to cue in on the possible avenues of approach if we get word that a possible threat is moving into our AO at high speed.

What about dismounted ingress?  Frankly in this case there is NO direction or route which is impassible to someone on foot (well except maybe the pond).  Especially if that someone is determined.  ATVs?  For that you really need to examine your terrain and think about how fast and what routes someone could take to get to any given position along your visual perimeter.  I lump them into the dismounted category in my case but due to the composition of the woods in my AO an ATV isn’t going to go blasting off of a trail.  The tress are too dense (less than 3 feet apart in most instances) and the thickets are too tall and too dense.

Moving on the next step in the process I’m going to take is to diagram my area into zones.  Why?  I use these zones for two purposes.  The first is to determine what kind of weapons would be effective at what ranges (and thereby locations) in the AO.  I also use the zones to gauge the immediacy of the threat.  Why?   Simply because unless you plan to die in place defending the house there’s a point you have to make a decision to shag the hell outta there.  That’s a subject that’s comprehensive in itself and will be covered later.  But for now I want you to keep one plain basic truth in mind and don’t forget it at any time when planning your defense:


Establishing defensive positions is like a double edged sword.  The more effective your obstacles against the enemy the more effective they’ll be on you as well.  Keep that in mind.  Anyhow back to the theme here – I have established Zones A through F around the house (which is my intended defensive position).  I also have it overlaid onto the visual perimeter.  That’ll come in handy as I’ll explain later on.

ZONE A is roughly a 50 meter perimeter around the house.  The significance of fifty meters is that any firearm will be effective within that range, hand thrown explosives (i.e. Molotovs) can be thrown within that range and strike the house, and if the fight gets into that area it’s decision time.  Haul ass or stand?

ZONE B is roughly out to 100 meters from Zone A.  At 150 meters pistols and shotguns are less effective and it’ll take either a pro quarterback or a projecting device to get thrown explosive on target.

ZONE C is out to another 200 meters out from B.  That’s 400 meters from the house.  At that range unless the shooter is a trained marksman most carbine fire isn’t going to be highly effective.  Sure it’ll still hit and be lethal but at that range our primary concerns are going to be scoped rifles and trained shooters.  If for some ungodly reason the threat has Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs) they become a threat in this range band.

Zones A through C later on are going to get a lot of focus but for now just relate them to weapons effectiveness.

ZONE D is another 150 meters out.  550 meters from the house – that’s half a kilometer. Rifle fire accuracy in most instances (and don’t give me the shit about someone armed with “X” rifle I know all about that crap) is going to drop significantly.  It still poses a threat but without some serious training and experience most shooters aren’t going to get many hits.

ZONE E is all the way out to one Kilometer.  Heavier weapons (.50s and such) can deliver fairly accurate fire but with very few exceptions rifle fire is going to be inaccurate as hell and mostly harassing.  Still possibly lethal if out of some unlucky chance you get hit but not the immediate threat.  This is the range that the threat is primarily going to start trying to maneuver tactically preparing for engagement.

ZONE F is out past 1 kilometer.  The threats here are primarily going to be conducting observation, marshaling, conducting initial maneuver, or if equipped possibly starting to place harassing fire on the target.  There are other threat weapons that work at longer ranges – mortars being an example.  But frankly if you’re getting hit with mortar fire it might be a good time to either shag or take the fight to the threat.

So what we basically have here is a type of Range Card only threat oriented.  However the same laws of physics apply to us so we know what weapons we have will be effective against a given threat at what range.  Another benefit of going through this “reverse range card” is that you’ll be able to determine if you’re taking accurate fire from a certain type of weapon where it could possibly come from.  As an example: If I’m returning fire from the house and I’m catching accurate rifle fire chances are the threat is inside of Zone C or closer.  Looking at the visual perimeter that narrows down the possible threat locations quite a bit.

In the next entry we’re going to zoom in a bit and look a little closer at the immediate homestead and start thinking about some mitigating measures we can take to counter certain types of threats.

For those that are not so metrically inclined:

About Treaded

Semi-retired career and contract troop. I own and maintain my own small ranch out here in beautiful rural America.
This entry was posted in Defensive Measures, Hardening the Homestead, Security Planning, Terrain and AO Development, Threat Analysis. Bookmark the permalink.

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