Home > Praxes > Well, I shoveled $#!7 into sandbags

Well, I shoveled $#!7 into sandbags

Last week Mike V. posted a gentle reminder that your Load Bearing Equipment is too heavy, and that you needed to re-weigh it and cut the fat. One point he made while captioning a picture of the M1956 web gear was this:

Lose the E-Tool, it only slows a maneuver warfare militiaman down. If you REALLY think you’ll need to dig in, permit no more than one E-Tool per two-man buddy team.

I agree in part, and disagree in part. The principle is correct, but the utility of a shovel when constructing fighting positions should not be disregarded.

Consider this little lesson from a group unaffiliated with the 2-5 Marines (lots of interesting reading material, bookmark that one if you haven’t run across it before). The basic idea: carry 7 sandbags and a shovel. Fill the bags when you need to construct your defensive position. Arrange 3 bags in a triangle pointed towards you, then stack 2 bags on each side at an angle so that the sides of the bags are on a line that delineates your sector of fire.

Seven sandbags should not weigh down your gear, unless you forgot to empty them (in which case I can’t help you). But what about that shovel? Every folding shovel I’ve seen weighs several pounds, and no one wants to carry around one that heavy. The solution can be found in your neighborhood backpacking store – a simple, small plastic shovel that weighs (usually) less than 8 ounces and doesn’t even need its own carrying case. Yes, it is usually made of plastic, and yes, it is not usable as a club or as durable as the standard folding shovel, but it will get the job of filling sandbags done. There’s one available on Amazon as I write this for $2.98, plus shipping.

But why carry shovel and sandbags in the first place? They are flat-out perfect for setting up a defensive position, but useless for offensive operations (unless you have a heavy machine gunner somewhere that you’ve decided to make stationary). Anyone who has been under hostile fire knows they’re worth their weight in gold when the lead starts flying. Fortunately you don’t need to have that experience to learn their use. Next time you go to the range, fill and shoot some bags with various calibers and at various ranges. This will give you an idea of what they can and cannot do to protect you, and what it takes to defeat them.

That’s just my $1.98, for those tracking recent developments and propagating likely enemy vectors.

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  1. J
    7 June 2011 at 23:12

    Good point – and in certain mission specific exercises, even that heftier folding e-tool may be a godsend. When certain people were being taught the basics of sniper craft by an ex-Soviet, the uses of the shovel were made clear. Not just for digging in but crafting a hide, enlarging natural crevices into a spider hole, and a dozen other things. so – for an infantry group, patrol, etc., I would leave the shovel; but if I thought I was possibly going to make a few long distance calls to selected personnel, my old e-tool or similar would be in my kit.

  2. Anonymous
    26 June 2011 at 18:43

    A bit pricey perhaps, but if you’re going to carry a folding shovel, you might as well get your weight’s worth:

    http://cgi.ebay.com/Chinese-Military-Shovel-Emergency-Tools-WJQ-308-Bags-/260708068196

    (I’m not too excited about the fact that it’s Chinese in manufacture. I wish someone in the US would copy the design. I’d happily buy one for twice the price.)

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