J D Lester
Suarez International Staff Instructor
An ambush is a surprise attack from a concealed position on a moving or temporarily halted target.
Could four or five people lay down by a trail or road and fire a bunch of bullets simultaneously at a group of bad guys walking or driving along? You might very well pull it off…..then again it might not go so well for you. What could you do to enhance your survivability?
Branching off into some tactics, techniques, and procedures study is needed here. Two handy references for operations of this nature are SH-21-76 and FM-7-8. When used as designed, they provide an excellent guideline and a look at the Ambush from a military perspective.
Previously I talked about the tradeoffs associated with the configuration of our Fighting Shotguns. Now we must discuss the tradeoffs we will face tactically. After a quick read of the above listed references you will see that setting up and conducting a successful ambush can be more complex than one might think; it can also be as simple as you want to make it. A good starting point for a practical study of Small Unit Tactics would be the HRO Patrolling classes offered by SI.
Patrolling, as read about or seen in the movies is very much a different animal in real life. You really can’t appreciate it without some practical application.
Whether conducting reconnaissance or combat patrols the principles are the same. (Ref: SH-21-76 Chapter 5)
If charged with the planning and execution of this type of operation and integrating the shotgun one would need to consider the capabilities not only of the platform, but those of the operator and give respect to the terrain as well.
Fire Control and Rates of Fire:
The timing of the fires is critical at the initiation of the ambush. This ensures that the patrol delivers fire with the heaviest, most accurate volume possible on the enemy in the kill zone. A lull in the fire can be a decisive point for those in the kill zone to break out of the ambush.
Conducting rehearsals of this would be critical to not only verify the reliability of the shotgun but also to validate techniques to be used for the following: controlling the initiation, rates of fire, shifting and lifting of fire and when/ if the shotgunner should transition to the primary weapon.
Planning considerations would also include the most likely course of action and most dangerous course of action of your enemy. How will you get this information? ( A few sources for gathering current intel can be found in the questions below.)
Your mission will dictate your tactics for the conduct of the ambush. Some consideration should be given to the following questions.
Will it be primarily to harass the bad guys or kill / capture?
Will you initiate and fire until all movement and noise has ceased then break contact and disappear?
Will a search of the kill zone be conducted? If so, how will you conduct it?
What are your abort criteria?
What is your risk acceptance?
Will you use speed as your security, as opposed to traveling as stealthily as possible?
When does the shotgunner transition to primary carbine or sidearm (RMR’d G17 with a happy stick or glad stick would be the best if no carbine)?
If the shotgun is carried as a secondary to a carbine how will it be secured on the ambush line after use?
What should be the Ammunition Basic Load (ABL)?
Should additional ammo be cross loaded among the patrol?
Will assaults packs be worn to the ambush position?
Shotgun Employment - Tube Fed Semi-auto or Pump:
From the Line of Departure (LD) to the Objective Rally Point (ORP) operator uses primary weapon or if it is his/ her only long gun a few options are:
Shotgunner placed in the Order of Movement (OOM) where it would be most effective due to terrain if that allows, rotate shotgun to point element. (More tradeoffs kicking in, does everyone know how to use everyone else’s weapon? Or do you have the shotgunner on point the entire mission?)
In the ORP ensure shotgun has the right ammo correctly loaded for the ambush, if that was not what was loaded for use during movement. Any additional ammo should be prepared at this time also.
Once in ambush the reload ammo should be prepped for use. In the past I have found that claymore bags work well for carry of loose shells and can keep buck and slugs separated. Moving forward to 2011 the Terrorist Interdiction Bag comes to mind as a handy bit of kit for this purpose. It can also remain attached to the body while in the prone. Reload from the bag or pre-positioned ammo first. Use your well camouflaged assault pack as a shooting rest to help stabilize the shotgun.
Position everything so you can use it with either hand and also be able to grab and go for an emergency egress should you have to withdraw under pressure.
On initiation shotgunner fires at pre-selected targets and at rate of fire covered during the planning process. Once all rounds are expended, top off the gun down in your piece of micro terrain and repeat as needed or transition to the carbine dependant on how you are armed.
Loading from the prone in this situation is probably best done with your most dexterous hand to combat the lack of fine motor skill capabilities the shotgunner might experience. Resting on the assault pack allows you to cant the gun toward the working hand for the reload.
Having a side saddle on the gun might facilitate a faster reload or be kept on the gun for an emergency reload. (Same thinking as drinking from the water on your ruck first, so if you need to ditch it you still have water on you.) Return fire from the kill zone should provide you with guidance to load from the saddle or your bag.
Be prepared to reengage the kill zone should a lull in fire occur due to weapons malfunction or everyone doing a mag change at once…..it happens.
Prepare to transition to carbine or pistol as briefed during planning.
Whatever the plan, the shotgunner must conduct rehearsals of loading from the prone and what his actions are based on the plan prior to execution to ensure success.
Shotgun Employment - Magazine Fed:
In the ORP if drums are used know the ammo selection desired and ensure it is on the gun. Secure all reload mags / drums for movement to ambush line.
Once in position, scoop out a place for the drum or mag to ensure the lowest possible position and allow the ability to cover your sector of fire.
Prep layout of reloads as planned and rehearsed. When you reload …mag , mag, bolt just like the rifle folks in the patrol. Empty mags go down the shirt or to a dumper when time allows.
Lastly remember you are not Big Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marines. You are a few folks with guns doing what you need to do.
Planning, Rehearsals, and Violence of Action during Execution!
End Part II