Stumble wire is exactly what it sounds like. Its wire that is strung from six inches to about four feet off the ground, designed to plant somebody on their butt, or at least slow them down as they deal with it. You could have an area where the stumble wire is just horizontal, straight, parallel lines that residents know they need to skirt around. More effectively, though, stumble wire is a zig-zagged mess veering in different directions at different angles and heights. Remember those loops of cord that kids used to play with, creating little finger traps and geometric shapes by weaving it in and out of various fingers? Picture that, only in 3-D and six to twenty-four inches, to maybe even thirty-two or forty inches high, five to ten feet across, and six or ten feet deep, or maybe as a three-by-three foot “fence” around a property.
Ideally, the stumble wire would be a surprise to the person who hits it, so some tall grass is going to help. You can also make it more difficult to navigate by scattering some of those glass bottles, golf balls, and baseballs through it after the grass grows, so that there’s an even better chance somebody slips and falls.
If the stumble wire is filling the gap between your brambles or any hedge you choose, and spreading out in a rainbow around it, you’re going to improve the chances that the intruder hits it. Varying the height of the stumble wire will also increase the odds of it going unnoticed and snagging an intruder. Dry leaves spread underneath that stumble wire will block the grass, but if it’s put in an area where grass isn’t going to grow high enough, they can help add “crunch” to every step. So can thin, dry twigs. Piling up supple pine boughs under the stumble wire and around it will also block grass, and also make an intruder watch their feet. It will make them slow down – which buys you time to react – or it will make noise – which can serve as an alert for you and Fido.
Even without a hedge, if you can lay on wire or cord, you can surround your property. Spools of brand-new 550 or day cord can be had for $100-150 dollars for 3,000 feet. If you know of a better price, dude, that should hit the forum with a big exclamation point. It can be stored compactly, stuck in a garbage bag and a bucket and buried in the woods, since it doesn’t require climate controls and thus won’t take storage space inside. The stumble wire for renters put up or something that a few condo owners band together to put up and defend – although neither situation is ideal for an emergency scenario. Still, even if you don’t have the perfect location, you can better your defenses. For $100-300 bucks, I can put up stumble wire a lot more readily than I can a fence. It’s going to require some upright stakes, so scoping out the woods, laying on trimmer snips, or going the expensive and less “green” but more permanent route of dowels, or metal or plastic posts should be considered ahead of time.
Types of wire
We talked about using sailing/day cord or 550 cord to secure an area. Possibly people who have experienced military stumble wire are still twitching in shock and pain and are already typing rebuttals. Let’s just give them a minute…
Stumble wire is traditionally barbed wire or razor wire. That stuff is expensive and it’s bulky to store until you need it. It can’t be stuck in a plastic bag and a PVC pipe or bucket and left out behind the shed or buried. It also raises serious eyebrows in cities and the ‘burbs.
Both will do more damage to an intruder, but an intruder can still cut through them. They will also do serious damage to family, friends, livestock, and wildlife. As was pointed out in Perimeter Security; Berry Brambles (Part I), the neighbor’s kids may also be a consideration. While ankles can be broken, people can clothesline themselves, and people can fall through stumble wire, and while balls and bottles will increase those likelihoods as well as the chance of cuts as they land, those are rarely maiming injuries and there is less surface area that may be open to infection from them compared to running headlong into stumble wire.
If you decide you need to exit at high speed, because you know where the stumble wire and gaps are, you can plan ahead to have a machete ready and waiting in at least two household locations so that you can hit and chop on the run. You can’t do that with barbed wire or razor wire. You need snips or wire cutters for those two, and very deliberate cuts. Whereas cordage will mostly fall away at that point, razor wire and barbed wire have to be moved – heartbeats count sometimes.
Not being terribly graceful or coordinated, I would not run near razor wire. Razor wire would also make me limit just how much access the dogs had to that area, because their eyes routinely see only as far as their noses. I love them, they love me, and I do not want eyes put out or to be stitching their heads and legs together because they chased a rabbit or squirrel and ran into something that didn’t give the same way the vines in the woods do.
Other options are high-test fishing wire or artificial sinew. There is certainly other cordage out there and if baling twine is what you have, baling twine is what you’re going to use. Sewing thread and yarn are going to be a waste of resources – they don’t have the strength to consistently trip or halt somebody in their tracks, especially if you leave them out in the weather. Fishing wire, if it has a fifty- or hundred-pound pull weight, has the advantages of being pretty compact to store, relatively inexpensive, resilient to repeated wet-dry cycles, and it’s thin, so it’s hard to see. Artificial sinew can be pretty pricey, but it can also be tough to see. Paracord or the similar-diameter sailing cord offer the most tensile-strength of the listed group, but it can dry rot like any other cordage. It is also likely to be the most visible. You could cut it and remove the strands inside, but individually they’re not as strong. The goal is to trip and stop in his tracks a 200-pound man stealthily, but quickly approaching your home. I wouldn’t take out a loan for it, but it’s not the time to be cheap, either.
Cordage is always handy to have, so go ahead and start laying on some wherever you are in your preps. Even if you don’t find a use for it in your security perimeter, there’s clothes lines, animal leads, belts, slings, shoelaces, patching fencing, drying racks, and other things that may need to be built or repairs. The military has influenced me enough to think that most of the world could be conquered with some 550 cord and duct tape.
About the Author: R.S.N. is a former Marine Corps combat correspondent with overseas experience. After the service, her interests turned to sustainability in growing and in maximizing the produce from small spaces.