August 26, 2016

Don't attend the Koran protest in Gillette, Wyoming this weekend. Do something productive instead.

Some group has planned an anti-Koran protest in Gillette, Wyoming this weekend.  Don't waste your time. In fact, don't waste your time with any type of protest.  You can be doing far more productive things with your time.  Like training, or improving your kit, or buying ammo or other fiddly bits you're going to need when the time comes.

For starters, the protest will accomplish nothing productive.  Most protester-types on our side of the fence totally lack the necessary training in psychological operations, propaganda, and what the military calls "civil affairs" to do it right.  With that said, if any of you protest organizers went through AIT for MOS 37F, 38B, or something similar send me a copy of your DD214 and I will publicly apologize for calling you a fucking idiot.  And don't tell me you were an 88M attached to SOCOM under the XVIII Corps., or some nonsense like that.

Second, protests telegraph intent and out you to the OPFOR at the same time. These are things that no professional or competent individual does. Both are a bad thing, and should be avoided.

What makes this protest especially egregious is that there are three events this weekend that actually have the potential to be productive.  They are:

So instead of wasting your time on the gayfishery of some ineffectual symbolic protest that'll piss of the locals (violating one of the basic tenets of guerrilla warfare) and out you to OPFOR (violating another of the basic tenets of guerrilla warfare), instead do something productive and go to one (or more) of the events I listed above.  Because you'll be better off if you do.

Or don't, and do the rest of us a favor by being a coal mine canary.  Because we need those too.

Seriously, we don't do pansy symbolic protests in this state.  This is Wyoming, by God. When shit goes down we grab our guns, saddle up, and fix it.

August 21, 2016

Coming in Signal-3: Considerations Revisited

In the beginning of Down-Grid Communications, I presented a list of considerations for those who wanted to gain effective communications capability.  They were as follows:

  • The lack of viable broadcast news media even at the present situation mandates that you conduct communications monitoring activities in order to get an accurate picture of activities in your area of operations (AO). During certain scenarios, this capability will become even more important. If you do nothing else in the way of radio communications, you must at least have a good communications monitoring setup.
  • Your communications equipment will need to be capable of operating independent of the power grid.
  • The lack of consistent reliable electric utility service in many scenarios means that you will have to produce your own power for communications.
  • The limited quantity of electricity from self-generation means that you should use the lowest amount of RF power needed to establish reliable communications.
  • Many scenarios will have you operating in field locations. Your equipment should be portable or at least easily transportable.
  • Commercial electronic repair facilities will not be available in a long-term grid-down scenario. At best you may have access to a retired electronic repair technician or advanced hobbyist with a small collection of parts and basic test equipment. Some of your equipment should be capable of being repaired under these conditions.
  • Socio-political effects of certain scenarios may make it necessary for you to implement some form of communications security (COMSEC). Depending on the specific type and severity of the scenario, you may be facing threats ranging from bandits with a police scanner to a professional signals intelligence (SIGINT) asset.
Since they were first published, these considerations have been revisited, revised, updated, and expanded to reflect current events and technology.  The new information will appear starting in November when we relaunch Signal-3 in its new electronic format.

Signal-3 is an electronic technical newsletter focusing on resilient
"down-grid" communications and other technological aspects of self-reliance and preparedness.  It is delivered via an email link in PDF format. All future technical content will appear in the newsletter.  So if you want to receive the latest technical information from the original 3% down-grid prepper communications guru, this is your only opportunity.

Click here to subscribe.

Mission Requirements: Understand your mission, and understand what you'll need.

If you want to have the right commo gear for the job, you need to define what your job is, and what it entails.  In most, if not all, cases, a 5-watt VHF/UHF handheld made in China will not cut it.  Especially if you presume to be serious about such matters.

Let's talk about the 3per or 3%er movement scene first.  Adopting that term means that the person identifying as a 3per or 3%er intends to engage in warfare against a government gone tyrannical.  Should it come down to that, that person and his/her organization can expect expect the full range of .gov intelligence resources, including SIGINT assets, to be used against them. They can also expect to operate in a harsh field environment.  Now, does that cheaply made radio that can be discovered in three seconds with common off the shelf equipment sound like a good idea?

Preppers Survivalists on the other hand, have different requirements.  They will want radios that operate on more common frequencies for intelligence gathering via the modern jungle telegraph, and for summoning assistance from their like-minded neighbors in the event of an emergency.  They'll want something with a little more distance than a couple of miles, and that operates with minimal hassle.

In a similar vein, a working agricultural operation may want easy to use radios for day to day operations on the farm/homestead.

If you're just starting out with the communications part of the kit, you don't even know what you don't know, and are confronted with a bunch of contradictory and often incorrect information presented by people of uncertain knowledge level.  Just because some blogger has had their ham license for a couple years, does not mean that they are knowledgeable enough in communications to give out sound advice.  Sparks31 has worked with electronic communications systems for Thirty years, has studied self-reliance and preparedness for just as long, and maintains a professional grade electronics lab usable into the microwave region. He is the creator of the original Grid-Down Communications Course, the one that the other two grid-down commo course instructors took before offering courses of their own.

Many people seem to think that Wyoming is too far to travel to benefit from that level of experience they'd get with the original grid-down communications instructor, but they can also benefit from the same experience by reading Sparks31's Signal-3 Newsletter.

Signal-3 is an electronic (PDF) newsletter focusing on resilient
"down-grid" communications and other technological aspects of self-reliance and preparedness.  It has replaced the Down-Grid Communications book, which is now out of print. All future technical information will appear in the Newsletter, and by subscribing you can learn from 30 years of communications electronics experience without having to travel to Wyoming.

Click here to subscribe.

August 14, 2016

You get what you pay for.

I was talking with a friend of mine about the cognitive dissonance many 3pers and preppers seem to have when it comes to communications equipment versus other gear.

Let's say someone purchases an M4orgery variant of the AR-15 carbine/MSR.  How much have they spent after everything is said and done.

  • AR-15 rifle - The local pawn shop has some good flat-top AR-style carbines for $1000.
  • A good set of optics to go with it will set you back at least $300. 
  • You'll need at least 10 magazines to start with, at $15 each. 10x$15=$150
  • One thousand rounds of .223 62gr FMJ is about $400
  • A decent set of LBE to carry your loadout is about $60

Rifle:       $1000
Optics:        300
Magazines:  150
Ammo:        400
LBE:             60
Total:       $1910

Getting yourself kitted out with a decent AR-15 setup is going to cost you almost $2000.

Comparatively speaking, a pair of Motorola DTR650s (one for you and a partner) with earpiece microphones and good quality holsters will cost you:

DTR650, 2@$215ea.:       $430
Earpiece mic, 2@$12ea.:   $24
Radio Holster, 2@$20ea.:   $40
Total:                              $494

The best squad radios you can buy will cost you about a quarter of what you spent on your rifle setup.

However, despite spending thousands on high-quality weaponry and field gear, some people still see fit to buy the cheapest, worst quality communications gear they can get, made in a hostile country.

Don't be that person.

August 10, 2016

Ignorance is dangerous.

Although I know the Internet has a short memory and attention span, anyone remember these?

It was touted about a year ago as being the ultimate IIIper radio, and wound up disappointing a lot of folks. It was supposed to be a combination dual-band ham/shortwave receiver/land mobile/GMRS/MURS radio with frequency hopping spread spectrum.  As a ham HT they were a decent radio, despite being made in a country that is not only hostile to the United States, but well on its way to owning the country.  In the end, they were no different than any other ChiCom radio, albeit built better than those Baofengs everyone keeps buying despite being probably the worst radio out there.  The radio's two most-hyped features, MURS Part 95 type-acceptance and frequency hopping spread spectrum, turned out to be total vaporware.  If the engineer who designed the radio took the time to actually read Part 95, he/she would have known that Part 95 acceptance on a ham or LMR radio is impossible.  Likewise, the failed attempt at FHSS would have put users at severe risk if they depended on the feature for COMSEC.

How can you figure all this out, save yourself some money and maybe your life if the shit hits the fan? Signal-3 provides factual, objective, and technical discussion on the topic of electronic communications and support for interesting times.  The creator of Signal-3 has 30 years (and counting) experience in electronic communications and security, and is the creator of the original survivalist/3% grid-down communications course that the others are based on.  This experience, combined with current research operations in a fully-equipped laboratory:
is distilled into electronic newsletter format for your education and benefit.

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August 9, 2016

Low-Tech Reasonably Secure Communications

Does such a thing exist?

Find out in the next issue of Signal-3, this November.

Probably the Best Prepper, I Mean Survivalist, Radio.

Preppers, actually I prefer the term survivalists, have different requirements for communications than say the 3%/"unorganized militia" types.  What to get, then?
If you want something even more basic, this would work too:
Both of these are pretty good radios.  The difference is that the Uniden 980 (the first one) has single-sideband capability which gives you about 8 times more efficiency in your power output as opposed to AM.  The Uniden 510 (the second one) is AM-only, but is in a nice small form factor that's a favorite among Jeep owners.

Figuring out your communications requirements among all the material (some incorrect) on the Internet is tricky.  Fortunately, Sparks31 has distilled 30 years of practical experience into a newsletter, and workshops for you to take advantage of. 

See this little tool? It owns most squad radios.

It costs less than $100 on Amazon.  If you are transmitting on your dual-band ham HT, MURS, GMRS, FRS or VHF/UHF land mobile band frequency, it will detect your signal within 3 seconds.

This one does the same thing, and enables you to demodulate P25 and DMR (MotoTRBO) signals, and follow communciations on trunked radio systems.

Here is the professional-grade setup.  This:

Combined with this:

That's what people use when they are serious about this sort of thing.

Photo via Optoelectronics.

Any one of these tools will detect a transmitting dual-band ham HT, MURS, GMRS, FRS or VHF/UHF handheld within a thousand feet (that's over 3 football fields away) and a mobile or base station over a greater distance (up to 1 mile).  They start at under $100, so everybody who is serious about this sort of thing should have the best one they can afford.

The flip side is that the Baofeng or whatever brand/model of ham or Part 90/95 HT is tagged by any one of these within three seconds, compromising you.  The solution was talked about in an earlier blog post, but this is just one example of something in the realm of down-grid communications you may not have known about, and could get you killed (or worse) if things start getting sporty.
The Signal-3 Newsletter and Down-Grid Communications Workshop provide the distilled essence of 30 years experience in electronic communications under interesting circumstances. We are the best, and other classes are taught by graduates of the original (but now updated) Grid-Down/3% Communications Class.

You want the best squad radios? Here they are.

These are the best squad radios you can buy:

They are Motorola DTR-650s.  They operate on the 902-928 MHz. band with frequency hopping spread spectrum and Iden modulation.  That means no (ham) license is needed to use them, and police scanners won't be able to receive them.  They are the most secure commercial off-the-shelf radio a civilian can own.  I have personally tested them, and reviewed them in a 2007 issue of the now-defunct Popular Communications magazine.  You can read the review here.

Need a headset for the radio?  Here they are:

The DTR is a commercial-grade, Mil-Spec piece of equipment.  That means it can take abuse and still work.  You can buy cheap junk that you can't figure out how to program, or you can do it right the first time and buy these.  Anyone with a Signal Sweeper/Close Call Scanner can have the transmit frequency on your Baofeng or other ham HT within 3 seconds.  I showed that exact technique at my last Down-Grid Workshop.

If you cannot make it to Wyoming for a workshop, or are too far away, you can still take advantage of the continually-updating knowledge base built on 30 years of experience in electronic communications, including professional work  with electronic systems ranging from land mobile radio to electronic security/surveillance, and hobby research with one of the premiere hacker think tanks, by subscribing to the Signal-3 Newsletter.  We will be resuming publication on November 5th. in electronic format, based on the overwhelming feedback we received from subscribers.