Tactics, Fighting a Superior Force from a structure


People seem to like the idea of fighting like you’re in the Alamo, until they are actually surrounded.

Let us first approach this situation from the other direction.

There is a small element of well trained, motivated, extremely violent hostiles in a building. What do you do?

First answer is usually level the building. Most groups out there won’t hesitate to do this. Look at Waco. Most superior forces would not hesitate to watch you burn to death in a building.

Second answer is respond with overwhelming firepower. Look at Hadatha, Iraq. During that string of events, Marines took fire from a building. They responded with fire and grenades. When it was over, it was found that they had killed a number of bystanders.

If, for some unknown reason, they decide to use proportional force, and attempt to flush you out, they will do two things. First they will cordon off the building with a security force. That means if you attempt to escape, they have you. Then they will systematically sweep though the building looking to find and secure you. That is not an easy to win fight.

An even smarter, professional force, would have their cordoning force stay a little farther back and out of sight. They would assault the structure from the top down. This would let the defending force think they could escape. Instead of fiercely fighting to the death in a hallway or corner, these enemies might try to fight and evade away. Then as they attempt to escape, they will get caught or killed by the cordoning forces.

By the book, what sort of process would you follow to get ready to fight a superior enemy from a structure?

You would probably use a process like the acronym “SAFESOCR”.

You need to start observing the area around your structure. If the enemy gets up to you with out you knowing you might have already lost.

At the end of my deployment in Iraq, our platoon was using a house as a patrol base. We would keep 4 to 5 Marines on the roof providing watch and security. The unit that relieved us cut that number to 2. I’d be that is the reason the baddies were able to drive a truck VBIED right up to the building and detonate it.

There is a reason militaries use machine guns. They are a massive force multiplier. They can be harder to employ in urban environments. Even if you don’t have automatic weapon, deciding on how you will employ the weapons you have to achieve the greatest effect and making kill zones to funnel the enemy is critical to your success.

The Chechens found that if you employed a machine gun for a low position like a ground level window or sewer opening you could firing upon military vehicles that were close to you and those vehicles were unable to depress their guns enough to hit you. Also, since they now had the advantage, they could shoot anyone who attempted to dismount the vehicle.

While I put these two parts of the acronym together, you don’t need to. If an enemy needs to close distance with you, they will have to move. That gives you the opportunity to funnel them into an area where you can better engage them.

This seems to get associated with digging fighting positions, but it should apply to ever aspect of a fortification. Constant improvements need to be made while you have the chance.

Ugh, this is a long acronym. I’m going to rush though the rest, then going into more details.

This becomes even more critical in urban warfare. Staying stationary allows the enemy to destroy you. They will either bring in heavier firepower, precision, or flank you in order to beat you.

The harder it is for the enemy to get to you, the harder it is for them to kill you. I hope that is simple enough.

It is not just face paint and fake plants. Simply firing from far back in a room out small holes in the walls can make it very hard to spot where you are firing from.

Officers like to pretend that this doesn’t exist. We are human, we need rest. Exhausted individuals do not fight well.

If you and/or a few other fighters were to have to fight a super force from a building. First you have to be so lucky as to be fighting a group that won’t just level the building you are in.

One option you have is to attempt to engage an enemy force from longer distances. An individual firing from a window could fire several shots and then escape and evade. I seem to recall a story of someone doing that. They weren’t so good at the evade part.

Doesn’t mean you can’t be effective up close. There is a story I’ve heard a few times of an insurgent taking out a USMC squad. Story goes that they started moving down an alley way that had no cover or concealment. Once the entire squad was in the alley way, the insurgent engaged the radio operator, then proceeded to shoot the Marines one after another.

Keeping the enemy from knowing your firing position is a major increase in survivability. If they know you are firing from a particular window, they will shoot there. You might get suppressed, or even worse, taken out with precision enemy fire.

If there are several windows, it can make a major difference in the enemies ability to identify where you are firing from if you move from room to room and fire from different windows.

That kinda touches on fields of fire and secondary and alternate positions.

Obstacles are limited to your imagination. Buildings in use tend to be full of them. Shoot houses tend to be barren wastelands because the trainers don’t want you tripping over a couch as your moving and shooting.

Classic military example is that a coil of concertina wire can easily be sprung open in a room or hallway to make a rather nasty obstacle.

On the other hand, you can make new passageways in building by putting holes in the walls and floors/roofs. I never felt comfortable jumping down a floor, but most of the guys I served with didn’t seem to have any issues.

Use the structure it self as a way to funnel and engage the enemy while minimizing the risk to your self.

Let us take a moment to talk about shooting. We have traditional marksmanship. Then there are alternative aiming and firing techniques.

While we, Riflemen, tend to frown upon techniques like the “Vietnam Rice Paddy Prone” they do have a legitimate place.

I find my self struggling to put a couple of these concepts in words. In combat, there is momentum. Like that tyrant Newton with this unjust rules of, “An object in motion will stay at rest, an object in motion will stay in motion, unless acted upon by a third party.” In this case you are the third party.

The vast majority of people will tend to stop moving when fired upon. It takes a fair amount of discipline/confidence/hubris/or ignorance to do otherwise. This means that the shots you (and your team) fire at the enemy will almost always slow or stop their forward advance unless they are very good or very stupid.

Ideally, an engagement with the enemy would decisively destroy them. Unfortunately a superior force will be harder to destroy in a single engagement so you may need to make several. Sometimes, firing a quick few shots at an enemy by sticking your gun through a doorway or firing around a corner might stop or slow that enemies advance. Even better, you might reduce the enemies force in the process.

Let’s talk examples. On second thought I think this post has gotten unwieldly long. I’ll give examples in part 2.


  1. Let us be clear on something: If a part of your post-apocalyptic plans include defending a structure, you’ve already lost the battle. Mainly because you’re an idiot. Unless there is some sort of outside assistance coming, if you stand and fight against superior forces, you’ve already lost.

    There’s a reason we remember the Alamo, and the 300 at Thermopylae–They were both cases where the strategic situation required that the guys on the scene died in place to delay and distract the enemy.

    Unless you are a part of a larger organization that’s got a working strategy in place, the only thing your death is going to accomplish is granting you a feeling of moral superiority. If the only result of your defense is a few dead enemy troops, and your utter destruction, what the hell have you managed to accomplish?

    And, that’s precisely what’s going to occur, should you decide to defend any sort of structure. If there ain’t no cavalry to come over the hill at the last minute, and drive off them Injuns, you’re doomed. Far better to put your effort into an escape/evasion plan that might work, and put off dying in place until you have no other choice.

    There really isn’t any way of telling what sort of post-apocalyptic world we’re all going to be shit into, should things go really southwards in direction, but I seriously question the idea that the average person is going to be called upon to reenact Camerone in suburbia. You want to prepare for the apocalypse, the time to do it is well beforehand, and the thing to do is to prevent it from happening. Failing that, organize your locale and identify like-minded (or, at least, fellow-traveling…) sorts, and get ready to deal with what comes as it comes. There may be forces of order to call upon, there may not. Hell, if things go really south, you may be the “forces of order”.

    It’s merely my opinion, here, but I think these articles are essentially worthless as bits of practical advice for “what to do”. What we should be writing about are things like “How do I organize an effective, lawful, and not-likely-to-go-out-of-control neighborhood watch/militia…?”.

    Americans used to be really good at spontaneous self-organization. It’s what we were noted for, once upon a time–The Brits even used to comment on it, during little issues like the Boxer Rebellion. We need to get back to that, and quit dissolving into little clots of independent idiots waiting for “…someone to do something…”.


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