During a prolonged emergency or SHTF situation, you may need to increase your level of defense. Booby traps don't have to cause harm to be useful. A booby trap can alert you to incoming threats so you can be ready.
A booby trap is a device that is placed to deter or detect people or animals. It can trigger an alarm or cause injury. The level of injury depends on the type of booby trap and other factors such as the position of the person or animal triggering it. Most booby traps are intended to deter without the use of deadly force.
Again, that does not mean those resulting injuries could result in death later on. The type of booby trap you choose to use should be based on the real threat level you are under. It is easy to take things too far when stressed or in fear.
When we discuss survival and preparedness, it is sometimes necessary to talk about unpleasant aspectsof defense.
Disclaimer: You need to be aware that you could be held liable for harm to innocents caused by booby traps you place. Although noise-making booby traps are okay, anything that can cause harm should only be used if you or your family are truly in danger. Being paranoid and setting up traps when you don’t really need to can get you in a lot of trouble.
Booby traps have a significant potential to harm those you do not intend to hurt or deter. A forgotten trap or simple mistake could have tragic consequences that are impossible to correct. You also need to consider how booby traps could prevent others, including law enforcement and medical personnel, from being able to reach you easily and provide help.
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It’s good to have some knowledge of booby traps because others are likely to use them during uncertain times. Even if you never use a trap or just use noise alarm booby traps, you need to be aware of what others are capable of during an SHTF situation. People can be very creative when they have to be. During hard times, you might find that you come up with new ideas to defend yourhome and family.
When my Dad was in Vietnam, he had to look out for pits full of sharpened sticks. It is no wonder that this is one of the first weapons I learned how to make when I was a little girl.
Anyone who has ever bought a pair of Vietnam-era combat boots from a military surplus store has seen a tag that says “spike proof.” Jungle boots were designed to help prevent puncture wounds from punji sticks.
The punji stick pit is a very effective homemade booby trap that practically anyone can make with materials they scavenge.
What you need:
To make a punji stick, you just have to sharpen the end. You might be able to simply saw or cut the end at an angle and then sharpen it a little bit. Your method will depend on what tools you have and how many you want to make.
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The sharpened ends can be placed in several ways. Some punji stick pits have spikes on the bottom, some have them on the sides, and others feature punji sticks arranged in a box formation designed to impale at many points, making it hard to remove the foot.
A pit covered to make it look like regular ground can be very dangerous. Digging is a lot of work, but it can be done with few tools. Even a small pit can cause injury and slow someone down. Consider how much trouble stepping in a hole a dog has dug can cause!
Bridges and ramps have weight limits. Consider what happens when something a lot heavier than the limit goes over. Digging a hole in a road and covering it with something that will support some weight but not the weight of a vehicle is one way to help secure a property or perimeter. This can work well for locations with multiple access roads.
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One of the most basic alarms uses a keychain alarm that costs only a few dollars and some fishing line or string that won’t stand out. Simply tie the line to either end of the alarm, and when someone crosses it, a 120-decibel alarm will be triggered, startling them and alerting you. This is an excellent way to make sure you’re aware of trouble before it gets to you. Seconds count. Any extra time gives you more time to reach your weapon, take cover, or avoid the danger altogether. The beauty of this system is that you can carry the supplies and set one up no matter where you are. If you really plan on bugging out or setting out on foot if things get bad, then some portable perimeter security is worth the small investment.
A caltrop is basically two pieces of hard metal twisted together so that no matter how it is tossed on the ground, a spike will be sticking up. You can buy these ready-made or make them yourself. During an SHTF situation, you can scavenge items to make them.
A nail sticking out of a board can be really nasty. These work best if they are placed so they won’t fall over and be harmless. These can be very hazardous to pets, so don’t just throw these down anywhere. A rusty nail can also trigger tetanus, something that is rare now that most people are vaccinated against it, but it could be a problem if people can’t keep up with vaccines during an SHTF situation. The chances of infection from a puncture wound are also high.
You can create a strip of spikes using boards and nails or screws. These strips can be covered with leaves and other debris so they’ll blend in with their surroundings. Spike strips are useful at entry points where motorized transportation can be used.
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These are explosive booby traps are usually bought online. They are made to be used with a blank shell, and they just make a loud noise. But in a major situation, you could choose a shell with more power or devise something yourself. Rock salt or peppercorns in a shotgun shell makes for a painful experience but it’s not deadly. It can still cause a lot of permanent damage.
These usually involve setting up a tripwire that will set off the charge. There are some of these traps that require purchasing primers. Check the description of whichever one you choose to make sure you order what you need.
A snare usually catches someone by cinching down on their leg or ankle. They can trip people up, but unless they are fairly elaborate or made of outstanding materials, most people can get out of them fairly quickly.
These can break bones. Some of the old fashioned ones are more deadly than others. You absolutely should not use these unless your life is seriously at risk. These traps are made to harvest animals. It is very easy to forget that one of these is hidden, resulting in unintended harm.
One of the big projects on our property over the years has been getting rid of a lot of older barbed wire that was rolled up and thrown to the side when a new fence was built. It is nasty stuff that lasts for years, even sitting on the ground. We are still finding pieces because they get caught in the wool of our sheep.
A roll of barbed wire is inexpensive and can be stored in a fairly small space. It also offers a lot of security. Many rolls are more than ¼-mile long. Although barbed wire can be cut, it takes a lot of time, and if you have ever used it, you know how it gets stuck on your clothes and what a hassle it is to work with.
Concertina wire has points like a razor blade. It is very dangerous and illegal in some areas. It costs substantially more than barbed wire and is difficult to put in place. It should not be used around children or pets. It is often placed on the top of very high walls and fences to prevent them from being surmounted.
This is a pretty complicated and dangerous trap, but it could work. However, you won’t see me gathering snakes regardless of how harmless some of them are. Even non-venomous snakes can bite, and there is also the fear factor that many people have regarding snakes. Keep in mind that there is the added hassle of keeping the snakes fed.
While booby traps can work well, it is important to understand that preventing the need to use them is even better. There are some things you can do to prevent intruders without resorting to something that could cause a lot of harm.
This company offers door armor for apartments, homes, and mobile homes. It is easy to install and safe for renters to add to structures. It is doubtful that a landlord would even be able to tell that you have added anything.
This is a thin sheet of plastic that goes over glass to make it shatterproof. The thickness can vary. It reliably prevents objects from shattering a window. For more information, check out my article on window security film.
As long as you have a source of electricity, security cameras can alert you when they record something. They are a fantastic way to keep track of what is going on outside your home, even if you have to be away. Take it from someone who stays home for weeks or months at a time, you have to leave sometime, and unless you have enough people to always have someone standing guard, you need other ways to keep an eye on things.
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You need to know how to spot booby traps to avoid becoming a victim. You may not realize you are in a dangerous area, or you may just be going about your business and find yourself in a trap.
Many people who talk about bugging out on foot seem to think they will just hit the woods and hang out for a while or rendezvous to a campsite they have been to before or scouted out. During a long emergency, all types of people could be out and about and think that they need to set traps to protect themselves or their claimed location.
You do not want to stumble into a trap when you are going about your business and not trying to bother anyone.
Here are some things to look out for:
Something to consider when thinking about bait is that it can be positive or negative. Bait could be food, alcohol, or some other choice item, or it could be something that someone wants to destroy. Flags and pictures of communist leaders were often booby-trapped during the Vietnam war. In modern times, anything with the likeness of someone that is generally detested is something to be suspicious of.
You don’t need to put booby traps everywhere to have an effective defense plan. Traps can be part of your strategy, but they should not play too large a role. It’s best to have a comprehensive plan to survive a long emergency. It is easy to lose track of where booby traps are placed. You should have a map that indicates the locations and types of traps deployed. Do not assume you will remember! You don’t want to create a situation that is even more dangerous for you and your family.
Here is a list of the locations where deterrents and traps can be the most effective.
Remember, there is a time and place for things. You may not want to have traps in place at certain times, or you may want to change the type or number of traps, depending on the situation.
Booby Traps are effective but should be used with a great deal of caution. Never leave booby traps in place for longer than needed, and always ensure that you and your family know where they are. Remember that you are liable for more than you might realize. Recent events have shown that even if you are defending your own property and family, you could still get into trouble for using anything that is particularly lethal. Anything that is premeditated or planned can get you in a lot of trouble too.
For most people, the best booby traps are those that sound alarms or make a loud noise. Other traps should only be used when all bets are off and you are fighting for your life. Remember to watch out for booby traps if things take a turn for the worse and staying safe becomes a struggle or more people bug out to remote areas. Make booby trap awareness part of your situational awareness.
Yes! Booby traps that are designed to inflict serious injury can mean that you are held liable. Setting a trap implies that you planned to harm others in advance. During a major SHTF or life threatening situation, this might not be a concern but during regular times, you need to strongly consider if a booby trap is necessary.
Booby traps that just set off alarms and make noise will not get you into trouble. These are perfectly ok to use at all times if you want.
Setting booby traps on other people’s property is an act of trespassing and vandalism and should not be done under most circumstances.
There is no easy answer for that. It is important that you don’t just forget where traps are or leave them set and never go back. Some aspects of traps can deteriorate or fail entirely after a time period. You need to occasionally check booby traps if you intend on them staying up for long term security during a SHTF moment.
Of course you could but you need to ask yourself if that is a good idea. Designing a trap that uses noise is not really that dangerous, especially if you use some ear protection. Designing a trap with more dangerous elements is another story. Accidents happen. There are plenty of good designs that have been tested out a long time ago.
Samantha is Ready To Go Survival's lead editor, a life-long outdoorswoman with a Bachelors in Environmental Studies. She learned the foundation of preparedness from her father who saw heavy combat in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive. An avid outdoors woman and survivalist, her articles have appeared in various homesteading magazines such as GRIT, Back Home, Backwoods Home, and Countryside.