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Area Denial

by Survival Dispatch Staff

First, what is “area denial”? It really depends on the person using the term. For the US military, area denial is a pretty broad term that may include an entire province or region where any activity by the enemy is eradicated entirely and prevented from reoccurring. Most likely, your definition will be denying other people access to your property. There are multiple tools, ideas, and approaches that can be used, but again, the methods used are typically going to be dictated by your assets and resources.

We’ll focus our attention on an established location like a house, cabin, etc. for area denial. However, these same principles and ideas can be employed in the field. The tools you use may differ, but the considerations stay the same.

If your intent is to have a secured area or perimeter, you’ll need to have things or systems in place that prevent or delay entry. These types of things can vary from super expensive barriers to very simple and cheap tools that are very effective in deterring entry to your area.


Fences and gates are probably the first things that come to people’s minds for effective area denial implements. Fences and gates are great barriers but can be defeated with a little time and creativity. Of course, a high voltage electrified fence changes the game a bit, but again, we aren’t a government agency with unlimited budgets for such extravagant things. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the saying “fences and locks only keep honest people out,” but I do agree with it for the most part. That’s not to say a fence or a locked gate isn’t a good idea, it’s to say that you shouldn’t develop a false sense of security thinking it’s the end all be all answer to a secured location.

In planning, start by keeping it simple. For example, controlling vehicle access points to the property. How many vehicle access points are there? Do you live down a long dirt road with dense forest on both sides that create a funnel to control traffic? Does the main road pass right in front of your yard without any barriers to prevent entry? We all have different living situations, and the simple truth is that not all are ideal for area denial. Sometimes you just have to be creative and think outside the box. Do you want to completely block vehicle traffic or just control it? Barriers staggered to the left and right at distanced intervals (look up serpentine barriers for a visual example) can control the speed of vehicle entry to an area and prevent a vehicle from gaining enough speed to just barrel through the control point.

The vehicle has to move slow to navigate the serpentine barriers, giving you time to evaluate the potential threat or block the access point and take defensive measures. In terms of keeping vehicles out, there are simple ways to do it. You just need to identify a choke point where there is no way to drive around the barrier. Fallen trees are a time-tested method for blocking access, and only an ax or a saw are required to get the job done. No, a downed tree is not an impassable barrier if they have the right tools to remove the tree, such as a chainsaw and a chain but, that’s not really the point. The point is that it takes time for them to remove the barrier and allows you to react in whatever way you might have to in order to deal with the problem.

A sacrificial vehicle that can be driven or towed into place can also act as a good roadblock. If there happens to be heavy equipment nearby, it will certainly do the job as well. On the note of heavy equipment, they don’t design their ignition systems like most cars and trucks. A Cat (Caterpillar brand equipment) key will work in the ignition of most Cat brand equipment. The same goes for John Deer, Bobcat, etc. You can pick up “spare keys” at local equipment dealerships or rental companies and throw them on your keyring or in your glove compartment for that special grid-down occasion. Just think of what a force multiplier a big bulldozer would be.

Lastly, caltrops (triangular spikes, think the Jacks toys) can be placed in large numbers on the road to prevent vehicle penetration into an area. There are tons of examples on the internet of these being made at home. They are easy and cheap to make.

Once your main vehicle access points are controlled, you need to give some consideration to foot access. Especially if you don’t have a large fence surrounding the area you are securing. This can be done a few ways, one of which is manpower in entrenched emplacements (fox holes and gun nests), which covers likely avenues of approach. Of course, that’s assuming that you have the manpower and assets for such positions. If you don’t, you may have to use other means.

Many examples from history were used as area denial methods such as trenches dug around a perimeter filled with bad things for anyone who might fall into them. However, since most of us don’t own backhoes or track-hoes, it’s probably not the best option for us…unless you just really like working a shovel.

The Canine Option

How about keeping it simple again? Dogs are great for area denial! They can smell bad guys coming, will alert you with barking, and of course, can potentially attack an incoming threat. People use guard dogs all over the world because they are effective. Don’t discount them as a great resource detecting, delaying, and denying access to your perimeter.

As we move on to the next topic for area denial, let me be VERY clear from the beginning, boobytraps are illegal and can be extremely dangerous. They are known to maim and kill indiscriminately. The only time I would personally employ them is if things went so bad that we were all living in Mad Max type situations where there was no law, and we were all on our own, so to speak. The topic of boobytraps is sketchy at best and kind of gives me the creeps even writing about it so, things I’ll mention here are meant as non-lethal means of area denial.

When I worked for the Military Dept., one of my fellow Instructors was a former Army Air Assault Instructor. He spent a lot of time in that role working with the DEA doing raids on drug fields. Here are a few types of perimeter denial items he mentioned encountering while on those missions.

The first is a pretty nasty trick that would definitely make someone think about turning around and going back the way they came from. He told me that on one raid, they fast roped from a Black Hawk into an area where they would move to the target on foot. En route to the target, he thought he was “stung” by something while he was creeping through the dense woods. As he tried to move away from the source of the sting, it stung worse. It turns out he had been snagged by a treble fishing hook (a hook typically used for catfishing or snagging fish with three hooks facing in different directions). He obviously stopped in his tracks to get the hook out, but once it was removed, he started looking more closely at his surroundings and noticed treble hooks hanging everywhere.

Treble hooks were hanging from clear fishing line at different heights ranging from knee level to eye level. There was such a dense concentration of them, they simply couldn’t continue to move forward, they had to find another avenue of approach. Imagine trying to move through an area like that at night and getting a hook in your eye…game over. Setting up an area like that would definitely take some time, but it would serve as a pretty effective deterrent. Remember, though, even non-lethal things are indiscriminate in nature. That could mean animals getting snagged, unintended people, etc.

He also mentioned that on the other avenue of approach, just as they were about to enter the field of marijuana plants, he noticed something out of the corner of his eye that caught his attention. What he saw increased the pucker factor by 100. It was an emplaced bunker that had been well camouflaged in the side of a hill overlooking the piece of ground he was standing on. He never saw it until it was too late, and he was well within its field of fire.

Luckily for him, nobody was manning that position that day. He told me that without a doubt, he’d have been dead before he even knew what had hit him had the position been manned by someone with bad intentions that day.

The owner of that drug field had used very simple implements to effectively funnel experienced soldiers and federal agents into a kill zone without them even realizing it until it was too late. Very simple…deadly effective.

The Caltrops I mentioned above for stopping vehicle traffic from entering an area? I don’t imagine they could be comfortable walking on either, and in large numbers, they could be used to prevent access to a perimeter on foot.

Remember, non-lethal does NOT mean non-dangerous. Again, I would never employ some of the methods discussed here and would never recommend you do this unless we were living in a land of lawlessness and roving bandits where we are on our own.

At the end of the day, there are a ton of options for area denial, but for me, nothing beats boots on the ground with people who can react, make decisions and adapt to situations as they unfold.

If you have concerns about area denial for your property or area of operation, now is the time to start evaluating topography, choke points, problem areas, and developing a plan based on your resources and assets. You don’t want to figure out this type of thing on the fly when it matters most.

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