12 Tactical Hand Signals You Should Know

Feature | Tactical Hand Signals You Should Know

There are situations when not speaking a word means survival and success. Tactical hand signals can do just that. Learn what these are below!

Tactical Hand Signals for Your Survival

You’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase, “Silence is golden.”

It’s true of a quiet house after the kids go to bed, and when your spouse is smart enough and considerate enough to not nitpick your quirks. But never is it truer than in a survival situation.

If you ever find yourself in the position to protect your land or to make a military-style advance, you will be more appreciative of silence than ever before in your life.

Going undetected can earn you precious seconds that save lives and apprehend intruders.

Even whispers and radios are too loud in some instances, and silent communication is an essential tool used by successful operations.

There are several common hand signals that you’ll want to learn and practice with your family for effective silent communication.

Remember that to use hand signs, you’ll need to always be within sight of each other, even at night. Separating the canvas will eliminate your ability to communicate silently.

While there are hundreds of hand-and-arm signals in use by military operations, you’ll want to keep your selection simple and limited to avoid confusion and the need for constant review.

1. Both Arms Out to Your Sides

Holding both arms out to your sides indicates to your group to create a wide line (shoulder-to-shoulder) perfect for searching wide-open spaces.

This approach does require everyone to keep their heads on a swivel as they both search and look out for new hand signals.

2. Both Arms Straight Above Your Head

When you hold both arms straight above your head, you’re indicating to your group to create a double-file line.

This approach works well on roads or tracks and allows each person to be responsible for only one side of searching.

3. One Arm Straight Above Your Head

As you may have guessed, one arm straight above your head indicates a single-file line. This will be necessary on narrow trails.

4. Arm Out, Fist Clenched, Thumb Pointed Down

By stretching your arm out to the side, clenching your fist, and pointing your thumb down, this indicates you have found an intruder or unidentified person.

5. Arm Out, Fist Clenched, Thumb Pointed Up

If you stretch your arm out with your fist clenched and your thumb pointed up, you are indicating to your group that you have not spotted anyone yet.

6. Arm Out and Angled Down, Palm Flat, Wave Up and Down

To let your group know to slow down, stretch your arm out on a downward angle, face your flat palm down, and wave your arm up and down. Indicating a slowdown also alerts your group that trouble may be nearby.

7. Arm Up, Flat Palm Facing Group

Arm Up, Flat Palm Facing Group | Tactical Hand Signals You Should Know

Holding a flat palm towards your group, straight up in the air, tells your group to stop. When instructed to stop, everyone should know to raise his or her weapons and be prepared to fire.

8. Arm at Shoulder Height, Palm Forward, Sweeping Motion

To get moving again after stopping, hold your arm outstretched at shoulder height, palm forward, and sweep your hand forward.

Be absolutely sure that everyone gets the message so that no one gets left behind.

9. Arm Up, Fist Pumping Up and Down

Pick up the pace by holding your arm straight up and pumping your fist up and down.

10. Palm on Your Head

Palm On Your Head | Tactical Hand Signals You Should Know

When you place your palm on your head, you’re letting the group know to move in close so you can talk to them.

If you point at one person and then put your palm on your head, you’re indicating you want to speak to them privately.

11. Arms Crossed in an X Above Your Head

If you encounter an obstacle of any kind, turn around to face your group and cross your arms into an X over your head.

12. Point at the Ground, Spin Hand in Circle

By pointing at the ground and spinning your hand in a circle, you’re indicating a stopping point. This can be used when checking your map or a specific area.

When you stop, your group should fan out around you and raise their weapons.

Hand signals pose the unique threat of being frequently missed, especially at night. Unlike radio communication, there is no checking back to confirm receipt of the message – you really have to observe if everyone is following orders. But with a lot of practice, hand signals are a valuable tool.

Have you been in a situation where tactical hand signals were used to save lives? We'd love to hear your experience in the comments section below!

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