Tactical Hand Signals

Tactical hand signals are simple hand movement gestures, designed to convey simple orders and concepts in a battle environment.

  1. All clear, or no enemy in sight (Fist clenched, thumb extended upwards).
  2. Enemy in sight, or near. (Fist clenched, thumb extended downwards. Follow this by indicating in what direction the bad guys are, and then splaying your palm to the rest of your team, fingers spread out, the number of fingers equalling the distance, in tens of metres, that the enemy is from you. For instance, four fingers would equal forty metres or so).
  3. Form on me or come here.
  4. Form a hasty ambush NOW. (It's a little obscure in the illustration, but covering your eyes, and then pointing where you want the ambush is the accepted usage.)
  5. Recon team (Fist clenched, one finger extended).
  6. Rifle team (Fist clenched, two fingers extended).
  7. Gun team (or suppression fire team).
  8. STOP AND LISTEN (Cover an ear with the cup of your hand. If conducting a patrol, if this signal is given, the rest of the patrol should automatically get down, or kneel, so as to present less of a target to potential snipers of ambushers, and to reduce their own sounds of movement).
  9. Halt (If conducting a patrol, if a halt is given, the rest of the patrol should automatically get down, or kneel, so as to present less of a target to potential snipers of ambushers).
  10. Obstacle (Cross your chest with both arms. Indicate the direction, distance (as above), and, if a water obstacle, make a waves sign, like the cricket symbol for a '4'). If it's a wire or log obstacle, hold one arm across your body).
  11. Get down, lie flat, or crawl.
  12. Corporal (Section leader) to me (Fingers should tap the mid-upper-right arm, signifying a Coporal's rank tapes. If you want the sergeant, use three fingers!. In an Airsoft skirmish game, I'd make this mean something like Fire Team leader).
  13. Lieutenant (Platoon leader) to me (Fingers should tap the right shoulder, the two fingers symbolising a Lieutenants rank pips. In an Airsoft skirmish game, I'd make this mean something like Team Leader).
  14. 'O' (Orders) group, every one gather round, or come here, I want to talk to you.
  15. Double, in other words RUN FASTER! (This is a pumping movement with a cleched fist, moving up and down from the ELBOW, not the wrist, which is a rude gesture :-) !)
  16. Recon (This is meant to show a pair of binoculars being held to the eyes, but you try drawing that, without making the stick man look boggled!)
  17. ATTACK NOW! (cutting motion with a flat hand, the direction of the cut showing the direction of the attack)
  18. Deploy (There's a sweeping motion involved in this signal. I'd suggest you then point in the direction you want the team to deploy in, to save confusion).

Now, it's obvious that you can string several of these signal together, to form a visual set of orders; I would, however, suggest care and caution. Ensure that every member of your team is fluent with these signals before using them. Also, since it's now been posted here, I would suggest modifying, or even adding to, these signals, which are intended as a basic set. There are, I assure you, over ten or twenty other symbols in common usage in the British Army, and the combinations can easily multiply the possible messages given by well over the hundred-fold!