Barbed wire has been used for several centuries in war, agriculture, and as a simple border marker. For someone interested in preparedness defense, it is simple to use and can be rapidly deployed as a standalone barrier or to bolster other, sturdier defenses. It works effectively to slow down determined foes and can intimidate those with less fortitude. Most importantly, it acts as a force multiplier that effectively gives more power to your small group of defenders even against a larger group of enemies.
Disclaimer: Be very aware that any kind of wire can cause harm, and that some local laws will restrict the use of both razor and barbed wire. Our friends in England and France, for example, have more stringent regulations that many of us in the States do. Always check laws from the Federal to the lowest local level so that you don’t run afoul of the law. Always use caution when installing wire, and call for expert help if you are unsure.
Different types of wire
Technically barbed wire is only one kind of defensive wire, with other varieties such as razor wire which is typically seen on the top of prison fences. There are some distinct differences between the two, which merit examination:
- Both are equally durable, but generally speaking barbed wire will be easier to cut without injury. Since razor wire is usually strung tightly when it’s not placed in concertina rolls, it can lash out at someone cutting the strands when the tension is released. Barbed wire is more flexible which makes it easier to use as fencing in many respects but makes it less effective as a deterrent to cutting.
- Razor wire is lighter and can be stored more compactly than barbed wire. If you have some spare room in your garage anyway this may not mean much, but it can make a difference when you need to rapidly spread some wire out in the face of an oncoming enemy force.
- Barbed wire punctures, razor wire slices. The design of the dangerous edges for each kind of fence dictate the level of damage you’re likely to cause. Barbed wire is favored for minor impediment where you might need to slow an enemy without harming him as much, while high quality razor wire is used when you want to cause as much damage as possible. As an example of the difference, most people would willingly handle barbed wire with a good pair of jeans, a thick coat, some thick boots and maybe two pairs of leather gloves. High quality razor wire will slice right through many, many layers of gloves and coats, and the best stuff with high quality sharpening done can even defeat common fence-breaking tactics like throwing rugs on the wire.
- Barbed wire is easier to put up, and is better camouflaged. The lack of supersharp barbs makes it easier to handle barbed wire, and the more flexible metal makes it easier to attach to poles and stakes than the stiffer razor wire. Furthermore, barbed wire usually just says “rural area” to most people. It’s incredibly cheap and incredibly common, so most people don’t tend to consider it a way to protect extreme valuables. A few strands of barbed wire can still impede entry without telling well-equipped looters that a prepared homestead is nearby. Razor wire usually means military facility or high-value target, which is fine if you are using it exclusively for its intimidation and damage factor.
- Barbed wire is often superior for traps or tripwires. That flexibility comes in handy when stringing wires in opportune spaces, yet falling on it will still cause some major pain for any unlucky fool. Razor wire doesn’t trip nearly so well as it just slices and dices, and the stiff metal is hard to string properly.
- Razor wire is expensive, while barbed wire is extremely cheap by comparison. Although low-quality razor wire may be closer to the barbed price, you really only get your money’s worth from high-quality razor sharpening. If you need a lot of wire to build barricades with, your pocketbook might able to handle barbed wire better than expensive razor varieties.
Concertina Wire Designs
Concertina is simply a way of rolling either barbed or razor wire so that it forms large double-helix style rolls. These are typically better barriers than flat strands, since they don’t offer flat surfaces on top of a wall or on the ground for enemies to leap over or place rugs on. Not only that, but multiple rolls can be intertwined, which makes them very difficult to separate and makes them too heavy to be easily moved by a few sneaky types. Barbed wire can be manually rolled into a concertina shape, but razor wire should be purchased that way if you desire the shape since the sharp edges make rolling by hand a risky business.
How wire of either type can be used
Barbed or razor wire can be used to improve almost any fortification when not simply deployed by itself around a perimeter, but here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
- Strung just below the water in streams. Rust is actually an ally here, at least until the strands give way, since the lack of shiny metal will make it difficult to see. Many rivers can be hard to cross and miserably cold in themselves, but a few pieces of sharp wire properly placed can make them extremely treacherous. Furthermore, trapping enemies in streams where cover is less abundant can also make a perfect killzone for a sharpshooter or two.
- Attached to the sides of buildings or hills where enemies might try to climb up. I would favor razor wire here for maximum discouragement. This can be useful if your retreat has certain valuable high ground areas that could be scaled if enemies aren’t prevented from doing so.
- Lining the walls of pit traps. In the absence of stakes, you could use barbed or razor wire to cause grievous harm to someone unfortunate enough to stumble into your trap.
- To slow or guide enemy movement. Everything from standard barbed wire fences to a wall 3 yards thick of concertina razor wire rolls can be used to direct enemies away from your retreat or into a convenient killzone as needed. Just remember that vehicles don’t feel pain, so don’t count on your barrier working by itself against someone with a commandeered snowplow or even a random SUV.
- To form final lines of defense to give you time to prepare your group. Even if they’re not intended to hold for more than the 10 minutes it takes to cut through them, that 10 minutes could be enough to get everyone in their positions and ready to fight. Even the best razor wire merely slows someone with enough time and patience, but if time is what you really need some wire can give it to you.
How would you use barbed/razor wire to defend your retreat? Let us know in the comments below!
This article first appeared at Prepared For That: Survival Defenses: Using Barbed or Razor Wire to Defend Your Homestead