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Book Review: MVT Tactical Manual for Small Unit Tactics

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This is a review of  Tactical Manual for Small Unit Tactics written by Max Velocity Tactical (MVT). The bottom line up front (BLUF) is that the book is something that should be on the shelf of anyone even mildly interested in small unit tactics. It’s a fantastic distillation of small unit tactics stemming from a career as an infantry soldier and instructor.

The MVT Tactical Manual

There aren’t many instructors out there willing to teach you small unit tactics unless you are in the military or in law enforcement. There are a lot of reasons for that, and I don’t really agree with any of them. But of the instructors who do stick their necks out, one stands out above the others: Max Velocity Tactical

MVT Tactical Manual Small Unit Tactics

Max Alexander is a lifelong soldier. He came up through the British Parachute regiment with a significant amount of time spent on the selection and training side of the house. The Paras and the Special Forces Support Group are roughly equivalent of US Army Rangers. He has six deployments as both an enlisted man and officer and five of years experience as a contractor for both the US and UK.

Prior Works

This isn’t Max’s first tactical manual. In 2012, he published Contact! A Tactical Manual for Post Collapse Survival. I’ve read through that one as well, trying to absorb as much as I could before attending the class. Contact! Reads like a collection of blog posts and brain dumps– but in a good way. It was as if Max was trying to get all of his thoughts on paper to help a prepper audience prepare and understand what things could look like.

In full disclosure, I also attended one of his HEAT 1 courses in 2017. I found the course very well orchestrated, and the training value was amazing.

It’s notable that the new Tactical Manual doesn’t really discuss gear at all. Contact! is loaded with gear discussion, from weapons to load bearing equipment. Not talking about gear stems from Max’s focus on mindset and the whole warrior concept. Focusing on gear, to him, is a distraction that many of us fall into rather than working on our skills.

In contrast, the new Tactical Manual reads like a purpose-driven explanation of small unit doctrine distilled through years of experience training military and civilians alike. It is not merely another rehash the Ranger Handbook. This manual is written for the real world.


MVT tactical manual close quarter battle page
A photo from the chapter on close quarter battle. The manual is full of diagrams and thorough explanations to provide better context.

The book is 428 pages. The contents break down like this:

  • Fieldcraft & Basics
  • Battle Drills & Movement
  • Live Fire Maneuver Safety
  • Offensive Tactics & Techniques
  • Fighting in Structures – Close Quarter Battle
  • Patrols
  • Tactical Vehicle Movement
  • Defensive Operations
  • Combat Doctrine
  • Planning & Decision Making
  • Tactical Map Exercises
  • Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TC3)
  • Training Classes & Progression
  • The Warrior Mindset
  • Glossary of Abbreviations

Clash of the Generals

I’ll compare this book to Clausewitz and Moltke, two of the most famous 19th-century Prussian generals.

Carl von Clausewitz wrote about war in an abstract sense, a pure conflict unencumbered by shifting political priorities and other messy bits. Helmuth von Moltke, a student of Clausewitz, focused on the practical application of warfare principals. He knew full well that there was no such thing as an ideal war.

Helmuth von Moltke is the originator of the epithet, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” He viewed strategy as a “system of expedients,” meaning that the plan could fall apart at any time but good leadership and decision making towards the end goal would still result in victory.

If the Ranger Handbook is Clausewitz, Max’s Tactical Manual is Moltke.

As an example, the Ranger Handbook spends two pages on reacting to contact. While the information is good, it is presented in a matter of fact way.

1. Soldiers immediately assume the nearest covered positions.

2. Soldiers return fire immediately on reaching the covered positions.

3. Squad/team leaders locate and engage known or suspected enemy positions with well-aimed fire, and they pass information to the platoon/squad leader.

This continues on for a sequence of 16 “easy” steps to total victory.

Sort of.

The steps you see above are targeted at an audience that already knows what to do. I’ve been through enough military training to know that these steps are really going to be used as grading points to evaluate whether or not a soldier knows what they are doing. If they fail to do a step, then the evaluator points to the list and says, “See…it was in the book.”

It’s devoid of context.

The Moltke Approach

MVT tactical manual peel discussion
A page discussing peel drills during react to contact

On the other hand, Max spends 12 pages walking you through the correct sequence of events. It all starts with “RTR,” which means:

  1. Return Fire
  2. Take Cover
  3. Return Appropriate Fire

He walks you through how to shoot, move, communicate, take cover, and advance on the position. Max provides context, examples, and diagrams. It is not a checklist, though. It’s an “ideal” sequence that may or may not happen based on the circumstances. 

Max, from personal experience, is very hard on people who do things mindlessly out of rote memorization. A great example is the cursory left-right glance people do after a drill and call it, “scanning.” That is a learned behavior devoid of any value. Max would say that it’s important to know why you’re doing whatever you’re doing because it enables you to make better decisions on when and how to do it.

Other Elements

I don’t want to give too much away, but some of the annexes and exercises are great. The Tactical Map Exercises, for instance, provide you with a scenario that you need to think through. Because you’ve probably never been in a firefight, you wouldn’t naturally think about some of the items the exercise presents. It’s a great learning tool.

I also found his discussion of The Warrior Mindset particularly interesting.

Warrior Mindset concerns more than aggressiveness and determination, it is about overcoming challenge and adversity. It’s about possessing, understanding, and being able to utilize a set of psychological and physical skills that allow someone to be effective, adaptive, and persistent. It also allows someone to use optimal decision-making, psychological techniques, physical and tactical skills learned in training and by experience.

That sounds like a winning philosophy to me.

Wrapping Up: Is this for You?

Now, you may be thinking that this all sounds great and you should pick up the book and become an expert. Slow down.

Yes, you should pick up this book because there isn’t anything else like it. That said, you shouldn’t think of the tactical manual as a standalone item. It’s more like the textbook for a class. Reading it is one thing, actually showing up and doing it in the woods with a squad and live fire is a very different experience.

You will not understand what it is like to shout commands over live fire until you do it. Furthermore, it’s very difficult to visualize a short bound to cover over uneven wooded terrain until you try it.

You need to consider the book as part of an overall growth plan that also includes real training.

Now, I can’t control whether or not you choose to attend training for real. Whether you do or not, I still think this book is worth having on your shelf. You can purchase it today on Amazon.

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Matt is the primary author and owner of The Everyday Marksman. He's a former military officer turned professional tech sector trainer. He's a lifelong learner, passionate outdoorsman, and steadfast supporter of firearms culture.

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