Target Indicators

In the previous article I mentioned “target indicators” and now that we have laid the foundations for some tactical principles which will help you out in your ongoing quest to refine your tactics and techniques, let’s start with a deeper discussion about target indicators and how the above principles can be affected by the situation, as well as the type of information we are talking about gathering.

Target indicators are anything your adversary does to give you any actionable information of their whereabouts, intentions, and/or actions. In short, target indicators give you the ability to begin your decision making process by observing.

At the same time, keeping the principle of duality in mind, target indicators would be anything you do that can give your adversary information that you would rather deny him.

Generally speaking, it is best that you remain unobserved until you choose to reveal yourself and when you do reveal yourself, it should be for the shortest time possible and only to the extent required to affect the change you are attempting to cause.

We observe target indicators via our five senses, and while sometimes you may get all the information you need from one piece of information or one of your senses, many times especially when dealing with close and personal protection it may take several pieces of information fed through multiple senses which will give you a fuller picture of what you are dealing with.

Below, I am ordering the senses according to the amount of process capability of each has compared to the others, or how much information we can gather from each sense in the same amount of time relative to one another (assuming that all senses are working well with no impairments).

Using the measuring stick of process capability it should come as no surprise that our first dominant sense is the sense of sight (visual). This is reasonable because while we can only taste things that touch our tongue (combined with smell), we can touch things that are within reach of our body parts (a yard or so) we can smell things (depending on the strength of their odor and direction and strength of the wind) out to about 20 yards or so, we may be able to hear loud noises out to a few miles, yet we can see (sphere of observation) to the horizon and beyond.

1. Visual (sight) – Sight is usually our dominant sense, with the greatest overall range. This is true even in low light with the aid of electronics and optics. Because of this great range and the amount of information that can be taken in, vision is the sense which we most often rely upon.

Because of the complexity of the human eye and the vast sums of information taken in through our visual system, it behooves us to discuss this topic in greater detail.

Generally speaking, there are eight visual target indicators, which can be lumped into the general category of “contrast to background” and “setting” (out of place with its surroundings).

Alphabetically, visual target indicators are:

  • Color (closely related to setting)
  • Movement
  • Setting (a straight line/circle in the wilderness)
  • Shadow
  • Shape
  • Silhouette (heavily dependent on shape and shadow)
  • Spacing
  • Texture

It will often be a series of visual observations that give the information we need rather than just one single item.

Beginning first with the indicator of the setting, you may first notice that something is out of place or just doesn’t look right to you for some reason. You may not even be able to pinpoint the thing that bothers you, but it will bother you enough that it could cause you to investigate further.

For instance, if you were looking for a human in an open area or field, you may first notice that there may be a differently colored patch of ground or foliage that seems out of place. Upon further investigation, you might see that the foliage is wilted, or the wrong type of vegetation for the environment, or perhaps the contrast to background you are seeing is something as obscure as the bottom of the leaves facing the wrong direction.

Setting could be something as simple as seeing your front door ajar, or something as subtle like noticing human sign – like footprints in dirt or snow outside of a window or door, or the flashes of lights emanating from your kitchen in the previous scenario.

It’s from the initial target indicator that we may start to bore further down into what else may be wrong or suspicious with the observed area.

For instance, if you hear that proverbial bump in the night and wake up, you may notice a slight draft that is unusual for your bedroom, and this draft may carry olfactory target indicators, such as an unusual cologne.Investigating the source of the unfamiliar draft may lead you to notice a window or door ajar. Perhaps as you move to investigate you notice what appears to be a human silhouette a darker shadow in the shape of a human which contrasts to the lighter background or, perhaps you don’t see the adversaries human silhouette at all, and instead you see a lighter silhouette of the muzzle of a firearm contrasting against the darker background.

Investigating the source of the unfamiliar draft may lead you to notice a window or door ajar. Perhaps as you move to investigate you notice what appears to be a human silhouette a darker shadow in the shape of a human which contrasts to the lighter background or, perhaps you don’t see the adversaries human silhouette at all, and instead you see a lighter silhouette of the muzzle of a firearm contrasting against the darker background.

If the scenario happens at night, you will either need to supplement your night vision with electronics (night vision goggles, forward looking infrared, tactical lights, flashlights, etc.) and use the darkness as concealment, using stealth to your advantage, while turning up your other senses.

2. Auditory (hearing) – like in our example under the principle of scrutiny, you could hear something that causes you to pay closer attention. This may be a “bump in the night” shattering glass, someone screaming, an alarm going off, or a dog barking.

Doing so will refine your search as you start to turn your attention to the activity in order to investigate further. You may move closer to the area and start to hear things that cause you to move slower or faster, or make you retreat to a safe area in order to call 911. You may simply hear rustling, floor boards creaking, clothing or other equipment being banged against or scraping along a wall, doors being opened, clanging silverware, voices whispering, or talking. All this information feeds into your information gathering loop.

3. Olfactory (smell) – In the previous example we used the smell of cigarette smoke to identify information. This could be important information especially if no one in your home smokes or the odor is unusual. You could smell body odor, colognes, perfumes, lingering food aroma, alcohol, etc.

You may find that the strength of the odor increases or decreases with proximity, or is so overwhelming that by simply being in the same general vicinity is sufficient to render your sense of smell generally useless.

Because each sense can sharpen the other observations and bring you more relevant data it is important to remember to utilize all of your senses. In our above example, we used the smell of cigarette smoke as a target indicator. Smelling the smoke could lead you to seeing either a glowing ember or smoke rising or drifting, which in turn can lead you to the source.

4. Tactile (touch) – This could be as simple and direct as in the above example where your feet touched a wet surface and you took notice of this target indicator, this, in turn, may lead you to study what the liquid may be. upon closer inspection, you may find that the liquid comes from footprints caused by melting snow or rain that came in from outside with your visitor.

In one case it may be a dog’s prints, in another, it may be sets of human prints. In the case of the human prints we would call this human sign. You may touch (tactile) the dampness with your hand to test for the temperature (is it melted snow which is now warm, or is it fresh and just begun to melt? This, in turn, will give you a clue as to how old/fresh the sign is) and viscosity of the liquid. You may bring your hand up to your face in order to use your sense of smell (olfactory) to identify the substance. So one sense (sight) has opened the to other forms of observation (tactile and olafactorY), which in turn feed you more information.

5. Gustation (taste) – It is estimated that only about 1% of our sensory information comes from our sense of taste, and admittedly, this sense has low priority on the list. As a matter of fact, I can’t think of any situations where the sense of taste may be the key to unlock that important piece of the tactical puzzle form me in a life or death struggle. If you can think of one that isn’t impossibly complex or improbable, please shoot us an email and we will be happy to include it in the next update.

While one target indicator alone may not be the key to unlocking the puzzle you are trying to put together; it could be the single bit of data that coalesces the information you are piecing together which solves the puzzle for you.

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