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CHAPTER 12 - FIELD-EXPEDIENT WEAPONS, TOOLS,
As a soldier you know the importance of proper
care and use of your weapons, tools, and equipment. This is especially true of
your knife. You must always keep it sharp and ready to use. A knife is your
most valuable tool in a survival situation. Imagine being in a survival
situation without any weapons, tools, or equipment except your knife. It could
happen! You might even be without a knife. You would probably feel helpless,
but with the proper knowledge and skills, you can easily improvise needed
In survival situations, you may have to fashion
any number and type of field-expedient tools and equipment to survive.
Examples of tools and equipment that could make your life much easier are
ropes, rucksacks, clothes, nets, and so on.
Weapons serve a dual purpose. You use them to
obtain and prepare food and to provide self-defense. A weapon can also give
you a feeling of security and provide you with the ability to hunt on the
You hold clubs, you do not throw them. As a
field-expedient weapon, the club does not protect you from enemy soldiers. It
can, however, extend your area of defense beyond your fingertips. It also serves
to increase the force of a blow without injuring yourself. There are three basic
types of clubs. They are the simple, weighted, and sling club.
A simple club is a staff or branch. It must be
short enough for you to swing easily, but long enough and strong enough for you
to damage whatever you hit. Its diameter should fit comfortably in your palm,
but it should not be so thin as to allow the club to break easily upon impact. A
straight-grained hardwood is best if you can find it.
A weighted club is any simple club with a weight
on one end. The weight may be a natural weight, such as a knot on the wood, or
something added, such as a stone lashed to the club.
To make a weighted club, first find a stone that
has a shape that will allow you to lash it securely to the club. A stone with a
slight hourglass shape works well. If you cannot find a suitably shaped stone,
you must fashion a groove or channel into the stone by a technique known as
pecking. By repeatedly rapping the club stone with a smaller hard stone, you can
get the desired shape.
Next, find a piece of wood that is the right
length for you. A straight-grained hardwood is best. The length of the wood
should feel comfortable in relation to the weight of the stone. Finally, lash
the stone to the handle.
There are three techniques for lashing the stone
to the handle: split handle, forked branch, and wrapped handle. The technique
you use will depend on the type of handle you choose. See Figure
A sling club is another type of weighted club. A
weight hangs 8 to 10 centimeters from the handle by a strong, flexible lashing (Figure
12-2). This type of club both extends the user's reach and multiplies the
force of the blow.
Knives, spear blades, and arrow points fall under
the category of edged weapons. The following paragraphs will
discuss the making of such weapons.
A knife has three basic functions. It can
puncture, slash or chop, and cut. A knife is also an invaluable tool used to
construct other survival items. You may find yourself without a knife or you may
need another type knife or a spear. To improvise you can use stone, bone, wood,
or metal to make a knife or spear blade.
To make a stone knife, you will need a
sharp-edged piece of stone, a chipping tool, and a flaking tool. A chipping tool
is a light, blunt-edged tool used to break off small pieces of stone. A flaking
tool is a pointed tool used to break off thin, flattened pieces of stone. You
can make a chipping tool from wood, bone, or metal, and a flaking tool from
bone, antler tines, or soft iron (Figure 12-3).
Start making the knife by roughing out the
desired shape on your sharp piece of stone, using the chipping tool. Try to make
the knife fairly thin. Then, using the flaking tool, press it against the edges.
This action will cause flakes to come off the opposite side of the edge, leaving
a razor sharp edge. Use the flaking tool along the entire length of the edge you
need to sharpen. Eventually, you will have a very sharp cutting edge that you
can use as a knife.
Lash the blade to some type of hilt (Figure
Note: Stone will make an excellent puncturing tool
and a good chopping tool but will not hold a fine edge. Some stones such as
chert or flint can have very fine edges.
You can also use bone as an effective
field-expedient edged weapon. First, you will need to select a suitable bone.
The larger bones, such as the leg bone of a deer or another medium-sized animal,
are best. Lay the bone upon another hard object. Shatter the bone by hitting it
with a heavy object, such as a rock. From the pieces, select a suitable pointed
splinter. You can further shape and sharpen this splinter by rubbing it on a
rough-surfaced rock. If the piece is too small to handle, you can still use it
by adding a handle to it. Select a suitable piece of hardwood for a handle and
lash the bone splinter securely to it.
Note: Use the bone knife only to puncture. It will
not hold an edge and it may flake or break if used differently.
You can make field-expedient edged weapons from
wood. Use these only to puncture. Bamboo is the only wood that will hold a
suitable edge. To make a knife using wood, first select a straight-grained piece
of hardwood that is about 30 centimeters long and 2.5 centimeters in diameter.
Fashion the blade about 15 centimeters long. Shave it down to a point. Use only
the straight-grained portions of the wood. Do not use the core or pith, as it
would make a weak point.
Harden the point by a process known as fire
hardening. If a fire is possible, dry the blade portion over the fire slowly
until lightly charred. The drier the wood, the harder the point. After lightly
charring the blade portion, sharpen it on a coarse stone. If using bamboo and
after fashioning the blade, remove any other wood to make the blade thinner from
the inside portion of the bamboo. Removal is done this way because bamboo's
hardest part is its outer layer. Keep as much of this layer as possible to
ensure the hardest blade possible. When charring bamboo over a fire, char only
the inside wood; do not char the outside.
Metal is the best material to make
field-expedient edged weapons. Metal, when properly designed, can fulfill a
knife's three uses--puncture, slice or chop, and cut. First, select a suitable
piece of metal, one that most resembles the desired end product. Depending on
the size and original shape, you can obtain a point and cutting edge by rubbing
the metal on a rough-surfaced stone. If the metal is soft enough, you can hammer
out one edge while the metal is cold. Use a suitable flat, hard surface as an
anvil and a smaller, harder object of stone or metal as a hammer to hammer out
the edge. Make a knife handle from wood, bone, or other material that will
protect your hand.
You can use other materials to produce edged
weapons. Glass is a good alternative to an edged weapon or tool, if no other
material is available. Obtain a suitable piece in the same manner as described
for bone. Glass has a natural edge but is less durable for heavy work. You can
also sharpen plastic--if it is thick enough or hard enough--into a durable point
To make spears, use the same procedures to make
the blade that you used to make a knife blade. Then select a shaft (a straight
sapling) 1.2 to 1.5 meters long. The length should allow you to handle the spear
easily and effectively. Attach the spear blade to the shaft using lashing. The
preferred method is to split the handle, insert the blade, then wrap or lash it
tightly. You can use other materials without adding a blade. Select a 1.2-to
1.5-meter long straight hardwood shaft and shave one end to a point. If
possible, fire harden the point. Bamboo also makes an excellent spear. Select a
piece 1.2 to 1.5 meters long. Starting 8 to 10 centimeters back from the end
used as the point, shave down the end at a 45-degree angle (Figure
12-4). Remember, to sharpen the edges, shave only the inner portion.
To make an arrow point, use the same procedures
for making a stone knife blade. Chert, flint, and shell-type stones are best for
arrow points. You can fashion bone like stone--by flaking. You can make an
efficient arrow point using broken glass.
You can make other field-expedient weapons such
as the throwing stick, archery equipment, and the bola.
The throwing stick, commonly known as the rabbit
stick, is very effective against small game (squirrels, chipmunks, and rabbits).
The rabbit stick itself is a blunt stick, naturally curved at about a 45-degree
angle. Select a stick with the desired angle from heavy hardwood such as oak.
Shave off two opposite sides so that the stick is flat like a boomerang (Figure
12-5). You must practice the throwing technique for accuracy and speed.
First, align the target by extending the nonthrowing arm in line with the mid to
lower section of the target. Slowly and repeatedly raise the throwing arm up and
back until the throwing stick crosses the back at about a 45-degree angle or is
in line with the nonthrowing hip. Bring the throwing arm forward until it is
just slightly above and parallel to the nonthrowing arm. This will be the
throwing stick's release point. Practice slowly and repeatedly to attain
You can make a bow and arrow (Figure
12-6) from materials available in your survival area. To make a bow, use the
procedure described under Killing Devices in Chapter 8.
While it may be relatively simple to make a bow
and arrow, it is not easy to use one. You must practice using it a long time to
be reasonably sure that you will hit your target. Also, a field-expedient bow
will not last very long before you have to make a new one. For the time and
effort involved, you may well decide to use another type of field-expedient
The bola is another field-expedient weapon that
is easy to make (Figure 12-7). It is especially effective
for capturing running game or low-flying fowl in a flock. To use the bola, hold
it by the center knot and twirl it above your head. Release the knot so that the
bola flies toward your target. When you release the bola, the weighted cords
will separate. These cords will wrap around and immobilize the fowl or animal
that you hit.
Many materials are strong enough for use as
lashing and cordage. A number of natural and man-made materials are available in
a survival situation. For example, you can make a cotton web belt much more
useful by unraveling it. You can then use the string for other purposes (fishing
line, thread for sewing, and lashing).
Natural Cordage Selection
Before making cordage, there are a few simple
tests you can do to determine you material's suitability. First, pull on a
length of the material to test for strength. Next, twist it between your fingers
and roll the fibers together. If it withstands this handling and does not snap
apart, tie an overhand knot with the fibers and gently tighten. If the knot does
not break, the material is usable. Figure 12-8 shows
various methods of making cordage.
The best natural material for lashing small
objects is sinew. You can make sinew from the tendons of large game, such as
deer. Remove the tendons from the game and dry them completely. Smash the dried
tendons so that they separate into fibers. Moisten the fibers and twist them
into a continuous strand. If you need stronger lashing material, you can braid
the strands. When you use sinew for small lashings, you do not need knots as the
moistened sinew is sticky and it hardens when dry.
You can shred and braid plant fibers from the
inner bark of some trees to make cord. You can use the linden, elm, hickory,
white oak, mulberry, chestnut, and red and white cedar trees. After you make the
cord, test it to be sure it is strong enough for your purpose. You can make
these materials stronger by braiding several strands together.
You can use rawhide for larger lashing jobs. Make
rawhide from the skins of medium or large game. After skinning the animal,
remove any excess fat and any pieces of meat from the skin. Dry the skin
completely. You do not need to stretch it as long as there are no folds to trap
moisture. You do not have to remove the hair from the skin. Cut the skin while
it is dry. Make cuts about 6 millimeters wide. Start from the center of the hide
and make one continuous circular cut, working clockwise to the hide's outer
edge. Soak the rawhide for 2 to 4 hours or until it is soft. Use it wet,
stretching it as much as possible while applying it. It will be strong and
durable when it dries.
The materials for constructing a rucksack or pack
are almost limitless. You can use wood, bamboo, rope, plant fiber, clothing,
animal skins, canvas, and many other materials to make a pack.
There are several construction techniques for
rucksacks. Many are very elaborate, but those that are simple and easy are often
the most readily made in a survival situation.
This pack is simple to make and use and
relatively comfortable to carry over one shoulder. Lay available square-shaped
material, such as poncho, blanket, or canvas, flat on the ground. Lay items on
one edge of the material. Pad the hard items. Roll the material (with the items)
toward the opposite edge and tie both ends securely. Add extra ties along the
length of the bundle. You can drape the pack over one shoulder with a line
connecting the two ends (Figure 12-9).
This pack is easy to construct if rope or cordage
is available. Otherwise, you must first make cordage. To make this pack,
construct a square frame from bamboo, limbs, or sticks. Size will vary for each
person and the amount of equipment carried (Figure 12-10).
You can use many materials for clothing and
insulation. Both man-made materials, such as parachutes, and natural materials,
such as skins and plant materials, are available and offer significant
Consider the entire parachute assembly as a
resource. Use every piece of material and hardware, to include the canopy,
suspension lines, connector snaps, and parachute harness. Before disassembling
the parachute, consider all of your survival requirements and plan to use
different portions of the parachute accordingly. For example, consider shelter
requirements, need for a rucksack, and so on, in addition to clothing or
The selection of animal skins in a survival
situation will most often be limited to what you manage to trap or hunt.
However, if there is an abundance of wildlife, select the hides of larger
animals with heavier coats and large fat content. Do not use the skins of
infected or diseased animals if at all possible. Since they live in the wild,
animals are carriers of pests such as ticks, lice, and fleas. Because of these
pests, use water to thoroughly clean any skin obtained from any animal. If water
is not available, at least shake out the skin thoroughly. As with rawhide, lay
out the skin, and remove all fat and meat. Dry the skin completely. Use the hind
quarter joint areas to make shoes and mittens or socks. Wear the hide with the
fur to the inside for its insulating factor.
Several plants are sources of insulation from
cold. Cattail is a marshland plant found along lakes, ponds, and the backwaters
of rivers. The fuzz on the tops of the stalks forms dead air spaces and makes a
good down-like insulation when placed between two pieces of material. Milkweed
has pollenlike seeds that act as good insulation. The husk fibers from coconuts
are very good for weaving ropes and, when dried, make excellent tinder and
Many materials may be used to make equipment for
the cooking, eating, and storing of food.
Use wood, bone, horn, bark, or other similar
material to make bowls. To make wooden bowls, use a hollowed out piece of wood
that will hold your food and enough water to cook it in. Hang the wooden
container over the fire and add hot rocks to the water and food. Remove the
rocks as they cool and add more hot rocks until your food is cooked.
Do not use rocks with air pockets, such
as limestone and sandstone. They may explode while heating in the fire.
You can also use this method with containers made
of bark or leaves. However, these containers will burn above the waterline
unless you keep them moist or keep the fire low.
A section of bamboo works very well, if you cut
out a section between two sealed joints (Figure 12-11).
A sealed section of bamboo will explode
if heated because of trapped air and water in the section.
Forks, Knives, and Spoons
Carve forks, knives, and spoons from nonresinous
woods so that you do not get a wood resin aftertaste or do not taint the food.
Nonresinous woods include oak, birch, and other hardwood trees.
Note: Do not use those trees that secrete a syrup
or resinlike liquid on the bark or when cut.
You can make pots from turtle shells or wood. As
described with bowls, using hot rocks in a hollowed out piece of wood is very
effective. Bamboo is the best wood for making cooking containers.
To use turtle shells, first thoroughly boil the
upper portion of the shell. Then use it to heat food and water over a flame (Figure
Make water bottles from the stomachs of larger
animals. Thoroughly flush the stomach out with water, then tie off the bottom.
Leave the top open, with some means of fastening it closed.