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Re­view of 100 Deadly Skills by Clint Emerson (Navy SEAL, Ret.)

RECOIL OFFGRID - - Contents - By Tom Mar­shall

Re­view of 1,000 Deadly Skills

The Premise: As the name im­plies, 100 Deadly Skills is a primer writ­ten by for­mer Navy SEAL Clint Emerson. There are, in fact, 100 sep­a­rate tips, tricks, and sur­vival hacks to help the reader pre­pare for any num­ber of pos­si­ble worst-case sce­nar­ios from nat­u­ral dis­as­ter to criminal abduction. Each of these skills is based on the train­ing or op­er­a­tional ex­pe­ri­ence of a for­mer Spe­cial War­fare Op­er­a­tor who also spent time work­ing, in some ca­pac­ity, with the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency.

The 411: The skills in the book are bro­ken down into twopage pan­els. One side is a sto­ry­board-like il­lus­tra­tion, often with step-by-step comic book pan­els show­ing how the skill is to be ex­e­cuted. The op­po­site page gives writ­ten in­struc­tions, some­times with back­ground or op­er­a­tional con­text that gives rel­e­vance to the skill be­ing taught. The skills are bro­ken down into larger parts loosely based on a mil­i­tary Op­er­a­tions Or­der — Part I be­ing Mis­sion Prep and Part IX be­ing Ex­fil­tra­tion and Es­cape. There’s also a fore­word and fi­nal con­clu­sion by the au­thor, as well as the oblig­a­tory “don’t try this at home” warn­ing, em­pha­siz­ing the po­ten­tial risks in­volved in at­tempt­ing any of these tricks in real life.

The Verdict: The for­mat of this book is an ex­cel­lent way to present sur­vival-style skills. Graphic il­lus­tra­tions are al­ways help­ful since many of us are pri­mar­ily vis­ual learn­ers to be­gin with. Hav­ing both il­lus­tra­tions with cap­tions and writ­ten in­struc­tions paired to­gether aims to re­duce the trial-and-error curve, and cut back the ever-frus­trat­ing “am I do­ing this right?” re­sults that land some­where be­tween flaw­less suc­cess and to­tal failure. For some­body new to these kinds of skills or un­sure how much time and ef­fort they’re ready to com­mit, 100 Deadly Skills gives a lot of just-enough over­views that’ll quickly prompt the more avid prep­pers and in­de­pen­dence-minded among us to do fur­ther in-depth re­search. Both the larger parts and in­di­vid­ual skill pages keep the in­for­ma­tion well or­ga­nized and highly man­age­able for read­ing in bits and pieces over weeks or even months. This book is a great way to get your brain per­co­lat­ing about things that could save your life with about the same level of ef­fort that you’d spend on any­thing else while sit­ting in the bath­room or on an air­plane.

Hav­ing said that, the ac­tual prac­ti­cal­ity of 100 Deadly Skills is some­what sus­pect. Some of the skill pan­els make brief yet mean­ing­ful in­tro-level pre­sen­ta­tions for the com­pletely unini­ti­ated, like skills 002 and 003, Cre­ate an EDC Kit and Cre­ate a Ve­hi­cle Bolt Bag, re­spec­tively. But many of the skills are grossly over­sim­pli­fied and, in some cases, bor­der on an in­jus­tice to the amount of ef­fort and train­ing re­quired to be­come pro­fi­cient — as in skill 044, Pick a Lock, or skill 063, Win a Knife Fight. Oth­ers still are rather sen­sa­tional in na­ture and will likely prove ab­so­lutely use­less, even in a to­tal-grid col­lapse. Our fa­vorite ex­am­ples of this par­tic­u­lar folly are skill 026, Steal a Plane, and the aptly placed skill 007, Con­struct a Rec­tal Con­ceal­ment.

Speak­ing of sen­sa­tional in na­ture, 100 Deadly Skills feels heav­ily seeded with buzz­words and shock-value lan­guage. While it may be en­ter­tain­ing taken at face value, any­body se­ri­ous about prep­ping, per­sonal se­cu­rity, or sim­ply train­ing to be more self-suf­fi­cient might be as turned off by it as we were. The in­tro­duc­tion refers to Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions vet­er­ans as “ac­tion he­roes for modern times, one-part James Bond, the other Rambo.” The alumni of those units who we know, have worked with, and who con­trib­ute to our mag­a­zines would likely shy away from such a cav­a­lier and self-ap­prov­ing de­scrip­tion. But to give cre­dence where it’s due, this is a stereo­type that’s well-in­grained into main­stream me­dia and pop-cul­ture por­tray­als. So maybe it’s an ef­fec­tive at­ten­tion-grab­ber to get this book into peo­ple’s hands and get them think­ing. Emerson goes on fur­ther to re­fer to these same op­er­a­tors as Vi­o­lent No­mads — “a nod,” he says, “to their dis­re­gard for in­ter­na­tional bor­ders and their bias for swift, bru­tal ac­tion.” The Vi­o­lent No­mad ref­er­ence in par­tic­u­lar is car­ried on and off through­out the book.

At the end of the day, 100 Deadly Skills is a mixed bag. There’s no deny­ing that there are use­ful tid­bits pre­sented in a very ac­ces­si­ble way that may in­spire read­ers to dig deeper into an ed­u­ca­tion on po­ten­tially life-sav­ing skills, like

018, Ho­tel Safety And Se­cu­rity

Aware­ness. But the in­clu­sion of skills like 032, Make a News­pa­per

Nail Bat, and 085, Dis­pose of a

Body, en­sure that this book keeps one foot firmly planted in the sur­vival­ist nov­elty aisle.

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