Patrol Skills: Using Tactical Hand Signals to Communicate in Silence

Law enforcement, corrections, probation, and military Special Operations teams worldwide use hand signals to communicate in the field to lessen their risk and to avoid compromising their position. Good security requires efficient forms of communication and when audible communication like speech and radio comms cannot be used, hand signals are a good alternative.

So, why signals?

  1. Helps teams communicate over near and far distances when they have to observe noise discipline.
  2. Helps small or large teams travel over terrain or through structures in a more organized manner.
  3. Helps to keep track of team members.
  4. Helps teams to move stealthily when noise discipline must be maintained.
  5. Helps teams move as a group even when noise discipline is no longer an issue, such as moving units over the sound of battle or when machinery noise is deafening.

As with any communication form, there are pros and cons. While natural elements like weather and terrain restrict your ability to effectively use this form of communication, the best time to use hand signals is if your group is nearby and in need of masking their presence from an enemy.  Keep in mind that hand signals can be misunderstood because you or group members may be at a distance or maybe in a confusing situation with lots of noise, therefore use clear, concise and exaggerated movements to help people understand what the next move is. Moreover, when you are making these signals, face your body directly at the person you are giving signals to so they can see them clearly. When you receive the signals always acknowledge with either “Yes” “No,” or “I don’t understand”

Learning hand signals is simpler than one would think, and at times, common sense. Keep in mind that hand signals can be misunderstood because you or group members may be at a distance or maybe in a confusing situation with lots of noise, therefore use clear, concise and exaggerated movements to help people understand what the next move is. Moreover, when you are making these signals, face your body directly at the person you are giving signals to so they can see them clearly. When you receive the signals always acknowledge with either “Yes” “No,” or “I don’t understand”

Some of the most common signals you will use in the field are:

    • Yes
    • No
    • I understand
    • Stop
    • Freeze
    • Get down
    • Stand up and move out
    • Enemy
    • I see the enemy
    • I hear the enemy
    • Cover me
    • Move to another observation point

*Click on image for larger version. Then click on full-size option

What you will find in the following videos are the basic tactical hand signals used by law enforcement and military personnel.  For more information, this Army Field Guide provides a more in-depth look at visual signals.

Tactical Hand Signals, Part 1

Tactical Hand Signals, Part 2

Practice Makes Perfect

As with everything, the more you practice this essential skill, the better and more effective you will be at communicating in silence. To move effectively, a group should consistently practice tactical hand signals. In fact, the more you use hand signals with a group, chances are you will come up with your own signaling moves.

Printing out the hand signals and keeping it stashed in your pack is another way to review the signals and correctly use them.

The Prepper's Blueprint

Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

Visit her web site at ReadyNutrition.com for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published September 25th, 2017
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  • klaus Barbie

    The video did not show the hand sign where the cop points his finger like a gun and takes his other hand and holds it above his head like he is pulling on a hang-mans noose for SHOOT THE BLACK KID.

    • A Arizonian

      There many ways for me to respond to your stupidity however, my favorite would be ambush . . . . . your move

  • Bob BTW

    For those interested: many of the tactical hand signals can be used in Hand Signals training for dogs. Dogs are pattern recognizing like humans are, and more so when a hand signal represents an action for the dog to do. When combined with Clicker Training for Dogs you can “talk” to your dog silently and at a distance. This is good for family dogs or working dogs.

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