Friday, March 19, 2010

Taking Over A Town: I Call Bull Spit

This recent article on survivalblog reminded me of something I have been meaning to write. There are always bunches of ideas floating around in my head and often it takes a post somewhere that touches on the topic to remind me that I had a strong opinion/ article idea.

I grew up on Westerns. When I was in my mid teens and we got non antenna TV Dad and I would often pass windy and rainy winter days by watching the Western Channel. With rare exceptions there were only a few different plots. One of those plots was taking over a town.

It basically goes like this a fairly large group of say 12-40 bad guys show up in a town and ride roughshod over the sheriff and push people around generally doing whatever they want, until the hero comes......The thing is that in real life a loner who has a questionable past but is pure of heart with a white hat who is lightning fast with a Colt .45 doesn't show up. Also more importantly towns wouldn't need one anyway. They can take care of themselves pretty well.

If you think of the bank robbers of that era they did not stick around in an isolated town with their speed of drawing and shooting a 6 gun securing their safety. They grabbed as much cash as they could quickly and rode out of town (hopefully for them) before getting shot to ribbons by farmers and store keepers with rifles and shotguns. Most of the reason people did this is that in the pre FDIC days, if a bank got robbed the money people kept in it was gone. Nowadays average people have little to no incentive to get involved in this sort of crime but if the money in the bank/ grain in the silo/ whatever was essential to the towns very survival people would not just stand by.

I remember in one book Louis Lamour gave his opinion on that plot. Basically he talked about how it would never work and was totally rediculous. There were just too many veterans of the Civil War and the Indian Wars and too many guns in the hands of the townspeople. Some things have not changed. It is often difficult to wrap ones head around how many guns are privately owned by every day, law abiding average Americans. Not everyone is a gun enthusiast with a Glock/Sig sticker on their car but Americans own a ridiculously awesome amount of guns.

This reminds me of my late Grandfather. He was a normal professional guy, pillar of the community, member of the Kiowas and all that stuff.  In their nice normal home in a mid sized town he had a snubby .38, a full sized .357mag, a couple shotguns, a couple .22's and a bolt action rifle. Also one of my old Scout Masters comes to mind. Somehow when I was a bit older we got to talking about worst case scenarios. This Vietnam vet and normal retired guy casually mentioned that he had 4 AK-47's and 10 cases of ammo for them stashed away, as well as enough rimfire for a lifetime of small game. Few veterans I know are without a firearm and most have some sort of a defensive pistol as well as a defensive rifle (mostly AR's in this generation), not to mention whatever sporting arms they own.

Once you start looking at how many people are veterans, cops, hunters or just plain angry rednecks there are a lot. Thanks to the almost 10 year long GWOT we have a lot of young veterans and those Nam era guys are still around, heck a few Korea and WWII vets are still alive and kicking.  There were simply way too many armed, trained and experienced individuals in even the smallest town of say 750 people a lethal proposition.

I can only speak with some measure of experience about the Pacific Northwest and the Deep South as I have lived there. In either of those places there is probably more firepower in 3 or 4 city blocks than any group of bikers/ raiders would want to deal with.  A couple of smart local cops or city officials who are either veterans themselves, which is pretty common or have the basic sense to listen to those with applicable military experience could easily make the juice not worth the squeeze.

People talk about how the gloves would be off when it comes to dangerous, violent criminals (alone or in groups) doing whatever they want. That is true but those folks pretty much do what they want now, if they followed the rules they would not be dangerous violent criminals. The real game changer in the criminal to citizen relationship would be that the gloves would be off for the citizens. The idea of a group of bikers storming into town on screaming Harleys and taking over is the stuff of bad 60's era movies. Citizens and cops have a pretty good idea who the scumbags are, they are just currently bound by rule of law. I can see law and order societies, sheriffs posses, healthy reserve police forces and maybe just strait up vigilantes becoming the norm if things get bad. If you add up the police force, the local gun club, the Elks lodge, angry rednecks and all the veterans in a town of 750-2,000 there are ample numbers to make some thugs seek a weaker target.

If things were bad enough that nationwide law and order were gone and biker gangs could act without any fear of legal consequences they would likely meet a volley of rifle fire about a quarter mile from town. A biker on the move with a rifle or submachine gun (being a crook means you can ignore firearms laws which is a plus) would be no match for a deer hunter in a fighting position with a scoped flat shooting rifle, especially at a couple hundred yards.

Personally I see this sort of roving biker gang being a real issue for travelers, isolated farms, ranches and retreats. Without a serious plan to get outside reinforcements a group of 6-15 adults would have a very hard time dealing with a group of 1-2 dozen armed hard core criminals, especially if a couple of them had even minimal military training. I would be a lot more worried about relatively small groups doing what amounted to home invasions on steroids than some mobile mega gang a la Mad Max.


I am Stan said...

The real game changer in the criminal to citizen relationship would be that the gloves would be off for the citizens.

Hi,over here in the Uk the game changer would mean all the crims having the weapons and the citizens being at their mercy....just like now in fact just much much worse.

Anonymous said...

I think your article is right on the money. Looking back on history, ask the James or Dalton gangs how it worked out for them in Northfield or Coffeeville. What this leads to is the conclusion that Ferfal's suggestions about urban survival may be closer to the mark than Rawles' approach of fleeing into the boonies. In a small town you have the opportunity to form an organized community security while the poor isolated farmer or rancher is going to have a difficult time fending off the wolves.


Mayberry said...

The story of the Dalton gang illustrates this. Town folk cut them to ribbons.... It is also an interesting study on ballistics. One of the Daltons was shot over 30 times, with all sorts of calibers, none of them very small back then, and he lived.

Yes, I think small bands of raiders are all we'll have to worry about post-collapse, unless the government does something really stupid. Stupid even for them...

Anonymous said...

I agree. I live pretty rural, go to church, and pretty much stay to myself.

A little white haired old lady in our church, who's had a bypass surgery and wears pink and is just the sweetest thing ever...casually mentioned she'd shot a raccoon on her porch the day before. When my husband questioned her, she mentioned her and her husband routinely went shooting at targets on a range, for fun, since they no longer have the stamina to hunt.

Everyone around here hunts to put groceries in the freezer. They grow their own stuff and can it, too.

At church food drives, you are as likely to get home canned stuff as bought. When gardens are overflowing, a box at the front door of the church holds tomatoes, squash, watermelon and the like being given away.

These people guard their own, and take care of their own.

Jason Cato said...

My neighbor and a bunch of his buddies are Vietnam vets who hang out at the VFW. While they have lots of guns and camo clothing, they are also fat as hell. One of them has diabetes and almost keeled over from even light exertion.
Physical fitness would be a big limitation.

theotherryan said...

SED, I do not know if I would jump to that conclusion. Both living rurally and living in a small (say pop 750-2k ish) town both have benefits and drawbacks. Without crafting a very narrowly defined situation it is hard to say that one is better or worse than the other.

It is just a question of which set of benefits is more appealing to you and which set of drawbacks you can better mitigate.

Mayberry, I though of that while writing this. Couldn't remember which gang it was and didn't feel like googling it. Ballistics as they apply to human beings are a very strange thing. Not much of anything short of a .50BMG is really guaranteed to stop someone cold. It is also worth noting that back then almost all bullets were very slow and universally they were not expansive.

Jason Cato, I do not think those sort of folks would make an effective Infantry squad. However I would wager if you put them in fox holes to stop any aggressors from coming up the road into town they could likely be reasonably effective. Someone who has already seen the elephant is unlikely to get excessively stressed or panic and it doesn't take a lot of physical conditioning to shoot a rifle.

Northwoods said...

There are any number of scenarios we can come up with when TSHTF.
Although I agree with you in theory there must be some logistics "pre arranged" by the town folk.
They must have some form of communication and rank and file.
To simply "go to the sound of the guns" would be a cluster at best and taking "friendly fire" in all the confusion ain't a happy thought!
My point being, these smaller community's (once they wake the Hell up) should meet and plan some strategies for various scenarios before reality hits em in the face.

Neighbor helping neighbor...what a concept?

theotherryan said...

Northwoods, I agree entirely. Admittedly this is a rather narrow one, however it is one that comes up now and then which I felt like talking about.

Certainly I do not think a plan of everyone running toward the sound of gunfire would be a sound one. I have a pretty good idea how I would organize a town defense as well as the QRF. Then again that is what I do for a living so it is pretty easy.

Lamb said...

I agree that in most communities, an outlaw biker gang would have their numbers substantially decreased if they tried to *take over a town*. Guns are highly accessible in the USA (lets hope it stays that way!) for home defense, hunting, etc.
Take the opinions you read on SurvivalBlog with a very LARGE chunk of salt! I know the rabid *Rawlesian* faction would disagree with me, but I think most of what is there are the fantasy musings of people that are HOPING for anarchy, chaos and a total breakdown of society. I prefer to focus on the very real SHTF situations we are all facing right now...unemployment, natural disasters, higher prices for everything, inflation, recession, financial depression, etc...All that is more than enough to be concerned with--you don't have to create leather clad motorcycle riding boogiemen to sell more supplies, adspace on a blog or whatever.

Crucis said...

I don't doubt that citizens would band together, but I'm not so sure you'd get the outcome you expect. I'd suggest you read "Bloody Williamson" by Paul M. Angle. It's a history of a southern Illinois county once known as the most lawless county in the country.

Groups of people aren't unified and most often at cross-purposes. In Williamson County, people took sides and chaos was the result. Union Mine workers against the mine owners. Gangs/bootleggers against other gangs. The KKK against the bootleggers (oddly, the KKK in Williamson county was NOT racist. In fact a number of blacks joined and were proud members. Read the book why that happened.) The Illinois National Guard had a continuous presence in the county for several years. It's an interesting read.

I grew up in a neighboring county (Franklin) and my father, mother and grandparents personally witnessed some of the events in the book.

The Urban Survivalist said...

I've been saying this for years. I agree completely.

Jack said...

TOR, Good write-up.

QRF = Quick Reaction Force

You put all the fat and crippled ones (that's me) on the perimeter in foxholes and sniper positions, and put the young quick ones on the QRF to respond to any crisis. Create obstacles to channel traffic into the town and cover the obstacles and entrances with fire and shazzam the Zombie Bikers go hassle someone else.

Anonymous said...

Motorcycles are very fast, but are very vulnerable to outside influences like road blocks / caltrops and other types of vehicle obstacles. I think they will quickly realize this as well and attempt to sneak in under cover of darkness.

I do agree that the hardened criminal has one on the people who are not used to having to deal with violence in their lives. But I imagine a few loved ones ones dying will quickly cure them of that - I foresee a lot of string them up now, rather than fair trails cluttering up people's time.

Anonymous said...

I grew up on WW2 movies.

Taking over a neighborhood in America? Possible.

Taking over an ENTIRE town (especially one that has a few thousand people and is spread out over several miles)? Highly improbable. It would most likely require air support and/or a sophisticated communications system with a centralized command and control center.

Sam, in the trailer park.....and no, I'm not worried about it being taken over

Maggy said...

When I was younger, my family lived in a smaller town basically in the middle of no-where. Word came to town that the Hell's Angels were planning to come through and create some trouble (this was late 80's).

Sure even they came through, and stopped at the only bar in town. Where they were met by a very large group of armed, defensive Loggers.

Moral of the story is that the Angel's left without a peep, and within 24 hours life our small town life was back to normal.

Brad K. said...

Did you really mean, "member of the Kiowas" (Native American tribe), or maybe the Kiwanis International community service club?

theotherryan said...

Maggy, A group of loggers with ax handles is something to avoid for sure.

Brad K, The club. I am going to blame spell check for that one.

tjbbpgobIII said...

One more thing going for the old combat infantryman. He is not about to be afraid of what is coming and will more than likely have fire disipline, something not a lot of people know about. Good post TOR keep 'em coming.

Anonymous said...

As a motorcyclist, not a gang members, but hey people i know are... i am tired of the opposition always being "biker gangs". Lots of club members are regular folks with jobs, families and many are vets. For survival issues meth heads and crack fiends scare me a hell of a lots more.
The idea every organized group of marauders would be "bikers" isn't logical -- carrying away the "loot" of bikes isn't either. You would need 4-wheelers to transport any real quantity of supplies. Hey maybe roving gangs of RVers... lol.

theotherryan said...

TJ etc, That is sort of what i was getting at.

9:14, Mostly I talked about this because it is a topic that keeps popping up. I try not to paint people with too broad of a brush. The group in question was specifically outlaw bikers, not normalish citizens with jobs and families who happen to like bikes. You probably know the kind of folks who I am talking about, organized crime hiding behind being a bunch of friends who ride motorcycles.

The thing is that meth and crack heads are not so capable of working in large organized groups with cohesive planning.

theotherryan said...

Sam, Air support and such would not necessarily be needed. It is however a question of sheer numbers. 20-50 dudes are just not going to be able to take over a town of 700, let alone 2k.

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