The unfortunate reality of a large-scale collapse is that our greatest threat is usually not the environment, but rather the people living around you. Whether it’s an armed and prepared band of hardcore looters or just a random group of starving and frantic refugees, the sight of a group of people will not be a happy occasion during an extended emergency. It will be up to you and whatever able-bodied defense force you can rally to protect your home, family, livestock, and any other valuable possessions such as food and water supplies from falling into the hands of others.
Improving defense with force multipliers
Depending on where you live, the means available to protect yourself will be different. Someone in the country may only have to fight off smaller groups with larger bands fanning out after the initial catastrophe has died down, while someone in a suburb or city might be faced with an initial force of millions that rapidly dwindles as supplies dry up and looting and disease take their toll on the population. Regardless, you will probably be outnumbered unless you have the good fortune of being near well-prepared friends, family, and neighbors. In this case, the concept of a force multiplier, a device, tactic, or terrain advantage that improves the effectiveness of your group without adding more people, could be the difference between life and death.
What are spider and fox holes?
Both spider holes and foxholes are common military defenses that can serve the embattled survivor well, whether he is alone or has multiple people at his back to protect him. They can be built with nothing more than a shovel, a strong back, time, and an area of dirt to tunnel into, which makes them very simple to construct.
A spider hole is exceedingly small, but easy to build and camouflage.
A spider hole is a tiny hole, just big enough to completely conceal a sitting observer, that is used primarily for scouting and observation rather than extended combat. These little pockets can be rather uncomfortable if you have to sit in one all day, but their small size makes them easy to build and camouflage quickly. Typically covered in a network of leaves and other native vegetation, spider holes were used to great effect against American forces in the Pacific Theater of World War II and in Vietnam, when the North Vietnamese would use them to observe networks of traps and give warning to their patrols of incoming American troops.
A foxhole requires more effort to setup, but offers actual protection and some freedom of movement as a payoff.
A foxhole is one of the most common defensive structures in most modern battlefields. A good deal larger than your typical spider hole, foxholes are usually between 5 and 6.5 feet in length, about 3 feet wide and deep enough to provide cover without making it difficult to look or shoot over the top. The loose earth from the digging can be used to build up an earthen wall at the front of the hole or for whatever other use you have for loose earth.
Although they are essentially glorified holes in the ground, foxholes can even be customized depending on your particular needs. For example, a common military defense will include multiple grenade sumps, small tunnels cut into the backside of your foxhole to throw grenades into and protect you from the blast somewhat. However, unless you run into a gang of crazies that stole from a National Guard Armory or the like, you may be better served in not spending the extra energy digging such things to use against hostile refugees and looters. A more practical option might be the addition of water drainage sumps, that keep the fighting area dry by providing a place for rainwater to go instead of turning your defensive position into a muddy frog pond.
How to build a spider hole
Spider holes are very easy to build, designed to require minimal effort so that you can have several of them if need be. Here’s a basic guide for building one for yourself.
- Find a suitable spot. Look for areas away from trees and bushes unless the cover they offer is worth hacking through thick roots. Your main focus is not building these in positions good for defending your retreat: spider holes are for observation and rarely a small scale ambush not a full-on firefight. Obviously a key ingredient here is dirt, preferably stuff that’s easy to dig through quickly. Also be aware of potential hazards like nearby waterways and street drainage systems, as you don’t want your hole filled with water during a heavy rain.
- Dig a circular hole a little larger than the largest expected occupant.You do want to have room to shift about if you need to, and scraping the edges because it’s too tight when you climb in is a dead giveaway. Remember that the depth is designed for a sitting observer, so don’t worry about digging a really deep hole here.
- Design the “Lid”. Use native plants, twigs, grass etc to make it look like a part of the scenery. Include some manner of observation port in the lid so that your scout can see what’s going on in several directions.
- If needed, dig small sumps for water drainage. You want this hole as small and unobtrusive as possible, but sometimes the observation point is in an area that frequently gets water in the hole, so a sump or two might be needed.
And it’s really that simple. So long as you keep an eye out for any snakes that might like to visit your cool, dry, cubbyhole, you should be nice and snug watching the goings-on about you.
How to build a foxhole
This is a little more involved, and you’ll be doing some hard labor for a bit to get one of these setup.
- Pick a proper site. Aside from watching out for particularly wet or otherwise dangerous areas, you’ll want to position your foxhole(s) for best use in defending your retreat. This might be right in front of your home, at the entrance to your neighborhood, or at the entrance to a long, winding driveway. The chief thing is to make sure that your holes have clear fields of fire, command nearby high ground so that you aren’t shot by a well-placed sniper while you’re in your hole, and support each other if you have multiple holes in close proximity.
- Dig your rectangular hole, 5-6.5 feet by 3 feet, and dig down until the top of the wall comes up to your armpits. This provides your basic cover, gives you some room to sit, stand, and shoot in relative comfort with freedom of movement, and still allows for good cover.
- Add your slightly deeper water sump/vehicle diving hole in the center of the foxhole. I call this little feature a vehicle diving hole because you can use it to give you some headroom if someone should attempt to run over your foxhole in a vehicle of some kind. This design is usually used for heavy tanks, so your standard civilian vehicle shouldn’t pose a problem if you have a chance to get under cover. If you plan on making grenade sumps, angle this water sump towards them in order to help the round grenade bodies roll away from you.
- If you wish, add several grenade sumps to your hole. Again, it isn’t very likely that you’ll need one, but if you do see a reason for them then it’s a fairly simple digging. Just dig about two feet deeper than your water sump, and add several 4-5 inch wide grenade holes to protect yourself. For maximum protection, add several grenade sumps to both sides of your foxhole.
- About 2 feet in the front and sides of the hole, add logs, sandbags, or other bullet resistant materials to form a short protective wall around your foxhole. Dirt can also be used, if you have the luxury of time to let it set or lack other materials suitable for the job. You will want to leave or cut holes in this wall for you to see and shoot through, as the next step will include a roof to protect you from overhead debris.
- Place a short (roughly 2 feet long) line of wall materials about 2 feet behind your hole. This will support the roof and protect from shrapnel from behind.
- Place logs or other thick supporting beams across the top of your foxhole, setting them on the wall material in the back and front walls. This will act as the first and best layer against overhead bombardments and provides you with shelter against rain and weather.
- Cover the logs with a waterproof covering like a tarp or poncho, then cover the entire structure in dirt, grass, leaves etc as camouflage. Aside from the few holes you leave for seeing and shooting, you want your foxholes to be difficult to pick out after the grass has had a chance to cover up the evidence of digging. Plus, dirt can be helpful in stopping dangerous shrapnel from penetrating above you through the roof.
It’s not easy work, but a fully functional foxhole is a formidable defense if the man inside of it is competent.
Once you’re finished, you can feel somewhat safer with a good defensive position available to you. Now, unless you own enough land that you won’t have neighbors calling the cops when they see you setting up a small bunker in the front yard, this isn’t practical to setup before disaster strikes for most people. Spider holes can be built as they’re designed to be hidden and aren’t very obtrusive, but a manmade hill with firing slits in it might look somewhat out of place on a suburban lawn. Use good judgement before you build these, as you don’t want to be labeled a kook or anarchist before things start to go down. However, you do want to be ready and knowledgeable if a time should come when you need a solid defensive structure to protect yourself and your family, so if you do find the opportunity to practice building one take the chance!