The Minuteman’s Guide to Countering Armored Vehicles

Since the first tanks and armored cars appeared on the battlefields of WWI Europe, infantrymen have been forced to find ways to deal with them. The modern minuteman is no different, and any prolonged civil conflict in the United States is bound to see armored vehicles used in one form or another. I’m not even talking about fighting a professional military, partisan groups and gangs/cartels have ways of getting or making armored vehicles for use in a prolonged period of conflict/disorder. Some examples are below;

  • In 2020 alone, there were at least two police MRAPs and one National Guard humvee stolen in California during the rioting. The humvee and one MRAP have since been recovered.
  • Mexican Cartels such as the CJNG frequently weld makeshift armored plating onto trucks and install turrets onto them. They call these vehicles “monstruos”, meaning “monsters.”
  • Private ownership of military surplus armored vehicles is perfectly legal as long as the weapons are disabled or removed. For about the same price as a new car you can own an OT-64 SKOT (Polish wheeled amphibious APC). For much less you can buy a surplus humvee. There are many such vehicles in the hands of private citizens for collecting, war re-enacting, etc.

I predict that in a prolonged civil conflict, WROL scenario, etc, it will only take a few weeks before people with access to these vehicles start to roll them out for whatever purpose. For this reason and the hypothetical Chinese invasion, any serious minuteman should be thinking about how to deal with armored vehicles. In this article I will cover the types of armored vehicles, the threat they pose, and how you can fight them or mitigate their effectiveness.

Analyzing the Threat

A “monstruo” improvised armored car owned by the CJNG cartel.

Physical Characteristics and Types of Armored Vehicles

There are two physical capabilities of armored vehicles: protecting and transporting personnel, and housing weapons as a mobile firing platform. Every type of armored vehicle does one or both of these tasks. Below is a list of the general types of armored vehicles along with key charactistics;

Russian T-80 Main Battle Tank
  • Tanks: The most formidable armored vehicles with the heaviest weapons, thickest armor, and most sophisticated sensors and optics. Their weakness is limited situational awareness and field of view when the crew is inside, making them vulnerable to enemy infantry that can get close. For this reason, tanks are most effective when used with dismounted infantry to protect them.
An American M113 Armored Personnel Carrier during the Vietnam War
  • Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs): As their name implies, APCs are designed to transport squads of infantry quickly across the battlefield, protected by their armored hulls. Their armor is designed to withstand small arms fire, but not much more than that. APCs often have a turret of some kind mounted on them, but not always. They can be tracked or wheeled.
Russian BMD-2 Infantry Fighting Vehicle
  • Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs): Similar to APCs, but with the purpose of providing fire support to infantry as opposed to simply transporting them. Officially, the distinction is the size of the weapons mounted, and an IFV is technically classified as an APC that has a weapon larger than 20mm. Again, their armor is designed to withstand small arms fire, but not much more.
An up-armored M1114 HMMWV “humvee” armored car
  • Armored Cars: These are smaller armored vehicles that can serve the purpose of an APC or IFV. They are protected against small arms fire and may or may not have a turret. A sub-category of armored cars is Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPS), which have a v-shaped hull to protect personnel inside from mines or improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Psychological Effect of Armored Vehicles

Armored vehicles are as much psychological weapons as they are practical weapons. The presence of an armored vehicle on the battlefield has both a positive effect on the morale of the troops it is supporting, and a powerful negative effect on the troops it is opposing.

Troops with armored vehicles in support benefit from a heightened sense of confidence and invincibility. Even if the vehicle’s presence provides little actual support in the battle, the mere fact that it is there is sometimes enough to galvanize troops into more aggressive action, especially if they see it advancing. It’s that instinctive predatory feeling of “we have something you can’t kill, and we’re coming for you.”

The psychological effect of opposing armored vehicles is even greater on the other side of the battle. Combat is stressful enough when you are fighting mere men that you can kill with the rifle in your hand. However, once troops see a great armored beast appear that their rifles cannot kill, they tend to experience a sudden rush of fear and dread. This effect alone has often been enough to make poorly trained troops turn and flee, whether or not the vehicle is actually a threat to them.

However, this negative psychological effect can be mitigated if those troops are trained and equipped to deal with armored vehicles. You are much less likely to turn and run if you know that someone on your team has an anti-armor weapon that can deal with the threat. A lot can be accomplished by simple mental preparation, ensuring that troops know the capabilities, limitations, and weaknesses of what they may be called upon to face. Once you have learned that armored vehicles are not invincible wonder weapons, you are better able to maintain your discipline when they appear.

Countering Armored Vehicles

Note that this article is about countering armored vehicles, not destroying them. You do not have the ability to outright destroy most types of armored vehicles until you grab some AT-4 rockets from the National Guard Armory. That said, there are ways to render them useless or less useable to the enemy by using either terrain or weapons to your advantage.

Terrain can be used to your advantage if you remember that armored vehicles cannot drive everywhere. The added weight of the armor makes them prone to getting stuck in mud and deep snow, especially wheeled vehicles like MRAPS. Excluding tanks, trees more than a foot wide will stop armored vehicles from driving through them. This means that, in many areas, most armored vehicles are confined to roads.

A tank towing two stuck MRAPS out of a farmer’s field. Note that tracked vehicles can go places where wheeled vehicles cannot.

You can use this to your advantage by identifying vehicle “choke points” and blocking them off with sizeable obstacles like fallen trees. The Finns did this during the Winter War when the Soviet tanks could not leave the roads, isolating the Soviets into small pockets (called “motti”) of troops that the Finns could destroy one at a time.

You can also dig anti-tank ditches to keep all but the biggest armored vehicles from maneuvering on you. Joe Dolio’s book Tactical Wisdom Volume 3 (TW-03) describes several methods of emplacing anti-vehicle obstacles in a defensive position. Use these to funnel armored vehicles into where you want them to go.

Other obstacles can be used to slow down light armored vehicles. Three strands of concertina wire across a road can make tracked vehicles throw a track, immobilizing them. Most of the time they won’t drive through, they’ll just halt and attempt to clear the obstacle first. You can use this to ambush them when they dismount, or you can just use this to simply delay the vehicles for a little while (for example, delaying an enemy QRF while your buddies finish up a raid).

Bottom line, a light infantry force can have the upper hand against a mechanized force if they can funnel the armored vehicles into a single point where they can be blocked, attacked, or delayed. Use terrain to isolate small groups of enemy and fight them one group at a time, not all at once in the open.

Fighting Armored Vehicles with Weapons

First and foremost, the most effective anti-armor weapon available legally to the minuteman is an Anti-Materiel Rifle (AMR). AMRs are as old as tanks themselves, with the Germans employing them during WWI. More recently, the YPG Kurds have been making their own AMRs to counter ISIS’s use of armored SVBIEDs. And closer to home, cartels in Mexico have been using Barrett .50 BMG rifles to fight police and military MRAPs.

The best choice for the American minuteman is .50 BMG. It’s commonly available, and the biggest caliber you can get without paying extortion money to the ATF for having a “destructive device.” One huge advantage of .50 BMG is that it’s a machine gun caliber, which means that surplus armor-piercing ammunition is cheap and available. It’s not quite as good as a rocket, but it is effective if you know where to aim. I teach how to use AMRs in my Support Weapons Class.

The Serbu BFG-50. At $2500, it’s the best affordable option for the American minuteman as an anti-armor weapon.

Serbu has done a lot to make .50 BMG rifles that are affordable. For $1600 you can get the RN-50, a single-shot rifle that takes 14 seconds to reload. For $2500 you can get the BFG-50, a single-shot bolt action (the best choice in my opinion). And with armor-piercing incendiary (API) ammo cheaper than regular ball ammo, there’s no reason for every serious minuteman group not to have this capability.

In the absence of specialized weapons like AMRs, normal rifles can still be used to counter armored vehicles by targeting specific components of the vehicle. Points on the vehicle that are vulnerable to small-arms fire are listed below:

  • Bulletproof glass windows. Even if you can’t penetrate it, enough hits will make it impossible to see through. Do this to the driver’s side windshield and you’ve essentially stopped the vehicle from moving without dismounting a ground guide.
  • Turrets. If the vehicle has a manned turret, shooting the gunner will neutralize the threat from what is likely the heaviest weapon that you are facing. If the turret is remotely operated from inside the vehicle, you can still shoot the cameras and wires used to aim it.
  • Tires. Hitting these may or may not affect the mobility of the vehicle. Military vehicles often have run-flats, meaning that popping the tires won’t do much for you. Improvised vehicles like the cartel “monstruos,” however, do not normally have run-flats.
  • Engine compartment. This part of the vehicle is not always protected by armor. Hits here with small-arms fire can cause enough damage to cause the vehicle to be sent away for repairs. However, it won’t do much for you in the moment. Even .50 BMG hits to the engine block don’t always stop the engine from running.
  • Gaps in the armor. Sometimes it gets hot in those vehicles and someone will want to let in some air. You can exploit this by shooting through the crack in an opened bulletproof window or through an open door.
  • Communications equipment. Exposed antennas are not at all resistant to bullets, and can be destroyed easily if you can manage to hit them.

There are two ways to get these effects on the target with normal weapons; precision rifle fire and concentrated fire from several shooters.

  • Precision rifle fire can hit all of these components reliably, and can slowly pick apart the vehicle from a distance. Precision rifle fire from 2 or more shooters can do this very quickly. However, this can be very difficult to do if the vehicle is moving.
  • Concentrated massed fires from a team of shooters can be used to target specific components of armored vehicles through specialized fire commands from the team leader. Individually each rifleman might not be able to hit the small target from distance, but 4-6 shooters firing quickly all at once will send such a hail of bullets at a small target that one or more of them will hit the target.

    A sample ADDRAC (fire command) for this technique is shown below;
    • In this example, the squad leader identified the target to his squad with the direction and distance. He then assigned one team to pepper the windshield, blinding the driver, and another team to focus on the turret to take its gun out of action.

Finally, as a last ditch option, we have throwable items. I say that this is a last resort because I prefer not to get within throwing range of a manned, hostile armored vehicle, especially since they will normally be protected by dismounted infantry. That said, sometimes you have no choice or the enemy makes a mistake and you find yourself in that position.

Molotov cocktails are a simple, improvised anti-armor weapon that has been used ever since they were invented by the Finns in the Winter War. They are most effective when the burning fluid can get inside the vehicle through vents and air intake pipes, so where you hit the vehicle is important. Aiming for the turret, manned or unmanned, is also a good idea.

Many modern armored vehicles are mostly closed on top, so throwing a molotov cocktail on the roof may simply burn harmlessly. In this case, it may be better to throw it underneath a static vehicle so that the rising heat can 1) destroy as many undercarriage components as possible, and 2) heat the crew compartment to the point where they must bail or cook. Forbes put out a piece on molotov cocktails for the Ukrainian people, which goes more in-depth about their use.

A Ukrainian guide on how to use molotov cocktails against a Russian BTR-82


Hopefully by the end of this article you have a better understanding of what armored vehicles can do and what you can do to counter them. This has been a very basic overview of what can be done, and I hope that it piques your curiosity enough to prompt further study in each subtopic I presented.

Again, if you want to learn how to use .50 BMG rifles to fight armored vehicles, I have a class for that. I teach the next Support Weapons Class in NC on November 19-20. Weapons and ammunition are provided for the course, all you need to do is register and show up. I look forward to training with you!

Published by vonsteubentraining

Mike is the owner and chief instructor of Von Steuben Training & Consulting (VSTAC). A self-described “Tactical Scholar,” he spent 6 years in the Marine Corps as a radio operator and small-unit tactics instructor. He has dedicated his life to honing the tactical prowess of himself and his fellow patriots, guided by the wisdom of his commanding officer, Jesus Christ. He can be contacted via email at

26 thoughts on “The Minuteman’s Guide to Countering Armored Vehicles

    1. With a drone dropping flammables on air intakes for engines or crew, can tracers ignite them or would you need flares or something similar


      1. What is wrong with black type on a green background?!Easy enough on the eyes seems to me.

        Nice article,that said,really rather I don’t find meself fighting armored vehicles!


  1. Good read. I spent a few years assigned to an AT plt during the cold war in Germany. I remember being taught a 2-1 gas diesel mix for molotovs. And to try and attack the engine deck, the T 55 and 64 usually had the fuel drums on the back deck, they were to be jettisoned before combat theoretically. With AFVs equipped for cbr warfare that seemed a better target. We had 106s and later TOW but the plt Sgt liked being thorough. Thanks


    1. I was 106rr mule driver in the early 70’s (we still had the 3.5″ bazooka and flamethrowers), then a M-60A1 tank crewman/armorer in the early 80’s, saw it from both sides.

      I’d love me some RPG’s but the supply chain is awful thin.


  2. I have heard that aqua ammonia (37%) is also an effective anti armor weapon, as the ammonia molecules are smaller than the usual NBC filter pores, and could serve to eject the crew.


  3. The ultimate weakness of any armored vehicle or column is its supply chain. Most of these vehicles get under 3-4 mpg and are tied to support vehicles and fueling points. For larger, heavier vehicles the mpg can be under 2.

    Just something to think about.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. If you can hold a squad at strength, designate a team to deal with armored vehicles, when they show up. That helps to expedite action. The other team can fire support to keep it buttoned up, and deal with infantry. Training for anti-armor warfare is very important for success. Thanks for this post, needs emphasis all the time.


    1. Spot on. If there’s a known armored vehicle threat, patrols should have a dedicated anti-armor team attached with at least an AMR. But, as you said, you need a squad to do this. That’s why it’s so important to start building your team now.


  5. A small length of cannon fuse attached to your glass container of flammable liquid is a safer way to store and use anti-vehicle devices. You can cut different lengths based on burn time. You can grab the wine bottle by the neck and throw it like a potato-masher grenade. Acetone mixed with Styrofoam creates a sticky slurry which you can add to your mix. Be careful of Styrofoam peanuts, as they have been made bio-degradable, and do not dissolve in solvents.
    These “flamethrowers” which are being advertised on survival/firearm websites and blogs are out of my budget. They also appear rather cumbersome. My and my tribe’s tactics include the use of Dragon’s Breath shotgun rounds after the application of defensive flammables. As with any sporty situation, one must rely on people in overwatch positions on likely avenues of approach with reliable commo to signal when you have the above-described vehicles on the move in your A/O.
    For those of you who would poo-poo these kind of threats as Rawlesian survival porn, I can only relate back to 2015, when the collectivist, lickspittle “Sheriff Ozzie” of Spokane County, WA held an exhibition of his MRAPS he received from Mr. Obama. Together with his “Thin Blue Line” decked out in full battle-rattle, his Orc spokesman stated they needed this equipment to combat: “Tea Party Terrorists.” True story. Plan accordingly. Bleib ubrig.


  6. Molotov Cocktails are good, if dangerous to use. Much better, IMO, is the Flammenwerfer, from the Backpack Bugsprayer like the M-2 and Improvised variants, to using an 80-Gallon Air Compressor Tank for a Vehicle-Mounted unit. Don’t forget the fixed version, the Flame Fougasse, a partially-buried Container of Flammables with an Explosive Charge behind it.

    Regarding the Anti-Vehicular use of Flame Weapons, one should Always Aim for the Engine Air Intake- almost all Military Vehicles are powered by Diesel Engines, and the M1 Tanks have a Gas-Turbine Engine.
    Both types have an Extreme Vulnerability to Flammable Liquids introduced to the Intakes- both the Diesel and Turbine Engines, once running, have no “Ignition” to turn off. If excess Fuel of any type is provided to the Intake, the Engine will Overspeed and Self-Destruct in a matter of seconds, regardless if the driver turns off the Fuel with the “Ignition Switch”. Then you have a Mobility Kill, at least, and the Vehicle on Fire, leading to the Crew having to Exit.


    1. Solid option. Best suited for urban or built-up environments because you have to get close. Make sure you have enough suppressing fire to keep the crew buttoned up and dismounted infantry suppressed to protect your flammenwerfer. WWII Marines called this tactic “corkscrew and blowtorch.”


  7. Nothing about homemade mines (IEDs) against armor? Isn’t that the standard tactic in the Middle East? I know MRAPs protect the occupants against mines, but normally they still score mobility kills, don’t they?


  8. Pretty much anything using air brakes has brake chambers, which I have seen are exposed on some models of wheeled fighting vehicles. On heavy commercial vehicles, if even one of these chambers is damaged/inoperable (or the air lines leading to it), the brakes will lock up and the nobody’s goin’ anywhere in that rig until the chamber is replaced or “caged.” I’m only assuming the same would apply to a wheeled fighting vehicle, and I’d hate to be the poor bastard trying to cage a brake chamber during an ambush.

    This is what a typical air brake chamber looks like:


    1. Outstanding! From what I was able to look up, these are on the underside of vehicles next to the axel. Hitting one would require shots from the prone or a dug-in fighting hole directly in front of or behind the vehicle. A strategically placed automatic rifleman could pull this off.


      1. Yes.

        BTW…these chambers contain a huge spring under immense tension, and the chambers themselves are made out of thin stampings and/or brittle castings. I had a rusty chamber blow apart on me whilst tooling down the interstate at 65+mph. Sounded like my trailer was hit with an RPG, and the spring flew across the road never to be seen again. I came to a complete stop in well less than 100 yards. It was the most exciting of many brake chamber failures I’ve had in 30 years of driving big rigs. When it happens, your day just got real long, real fast.


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