Using A Vehicle for Cover in a Gunfight

By Hunt Fish Shoot
Posted in #Skills
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Using A Vehicle for Cover in a Gunfight

May 7th, 2022

7:33 runtime

We spend a large part of our lives in and around vehicles. Statistically, you are more likely to encounter a self-defense situation in or around your car than inside your home. This poses a litany of challenges, namely, how to effectively use your vehicle for cover. Proper use of cover can mean the difference in surviving a potential deadly threat or not.

Man shooting a target from behind a truck
Using cover in a self-defense shooting can save your life. A vehicle, if used correctly, can make an outstanding source of it.

We want to thank TrueShot for sending us ammo to use in this article. They shipped us a few hundred rounds of Blazer Brass to run through our Hellcat RDP for this training video.

True Shot Gun Club pamphlet next to pistol and ammo
True Shot Gun Club offers ammo and other shooting gear to shooters throughout the U.S. The company helped the authors with 9mm ammunition for the piece for use in their Hellcat RDP pistol.

Cover vs. Concealment

Before we dive into this, we must differentiate between cover and concealment. In layman’s terms, concealment merely hides your profile and will not protect you from gunfire. Cover has the ability to stop bullets and protect you from gunfire.

Man reloading pistol behind cover
Cover and concealment are not the same thing. Understand the differences and what benefits each offer.

So, concealment will hide you and cover will protect you. Motor vehicles can be broken down into multiple different areas of cover, some of which are more effective than others.

First things first, if you find yourself in a gunfight and you are in the car, GET OUT! Make it fast. Law enforcement shooting statistics show us survivability goes up drastically once the officer is out of the vehicle.

Subdividing

If you exit the vehicle and you are at the side of it, remember you want as much metal or material between you and the threat as possible. The engine block area or the first 1/3rd of the vehicle will be the most effective. This area has more material in it than the others and will provide the greatest volume of cover.

Man using a pickup truck for cover in a mock gunfight
When using a vehicle for cover in a gunfight, you want as much metal or material between you and the threat as possible.

Moving on to the mid-section of the car, you have your doors. Doors, if you exit the vehicle, are nothing but concealment. Doors alone in most cases do not stop bullets, especially not a 9mm. I know we see it in movies and shows, where the good guys hide behind the doors from gunfire, but this is incredibly unrealistic and a potentially deadly move.

Looking at the side of the car, you have pillars. There are three pillars in a car body — the A, B and C pillars. The “A” is the diagonal one that supports the windshield and mirror. With all the pillars, you want to stack them. This means to horizontally place the opposing pillar in front of the one you are behind.

Man demonstrating which parts of a car are best for stopping bullets
In this position, the author has partial cover provided by the A pillar, engine and front wheels. Sheet metal and glass offer limited protection.

The “B” pillar is in the middle, which connects the front and rear doors of a four-door vehicle. The “B” pillar will contain the most amount of metal and material in nearly any four-door vehicle. You have the high-strength steel or aluminum body which is supported in the middle by the “B” pillar. The “B” pillar turns into a makeshift roll-bar in a roll-over type crash. It’s designed by automakers to be the strongest part of the passenger compartment for this reason.

This is a good thing for defense situations because in testing, the “B” pillar, when stacked, has been shown to stop multiple specialized armor-piercing rounds from .308 caliber rifles. The “B” pillar is not wide, but it will likely be just wide enough for you to exchange gunfire while maintaining cover.

Using the full length of a vehicle for cover
Utilizing the entire length of the vehicle will provide you with a substantial amount of cover. Here, the author engages a target from the rear of the truck.

The “C” pillar will be the rearmost passenger compartment strut, which runs diagonally on passenger cars and vertically on trucks. Oftentimes it will lead to the rear wheel on most vehicles.

The final pillar position brings us to the rearmost portion on the side profile of the vehicle, being the rear wheel and wheelwell area. In this area, you will seek to use the wheel area for cover. Wheels, when combined with the opposite side, can provide excellent cover. They are usually made of thick metal, and the area above them on the car body/frame itself is reinforced with more material for strength. This means a greater chance to stop bullets.

Looking Forward and Back

Now that we have covered how to use the side profile of a vehicle for cover, how do you use the front or back? Really, there is no bad position from the front or back of the car. The entire length of the car and all of its components are placed between you and the gunfire. There are certainly more advantageous spots from the rear or front, being the right or left side.

Man standing back from cover to work the angles
When using cover, remember to stand back from it and work the angles to engage a threat appropriately.

To effectively use cover, remember you have to stand back from it. This can usually be 4-6 feet depending on the position of the threat. Standing in the middle and exchanging rounds through the rear window, seats and windshield is not ideal and incredibly hard to connect with effective shots — especially if you are trying to be accountable for all shots fired.

Conclusion

With all of these positions of cover around a vehicle, you will have a multitude of areas to use if you must engage in a gunfight with an attacker. As a defender, you have to remain mobile. If one piece of cover is unusable, you will need another to use. Shooting in or around vehicles poses a unique set of challenges all in itself, but if you fail to utilize cover it could cost you everything.

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Hunt Fish Shoot

Hunt Fish Shoot

Hunt Fish Shoot provides you with honest, objective and professional firearms-related content. Hunt Fish Shoot also provides a multitude of outdoors-related content. Hunt Fish Shoot’s Mike Chiarappa is currently employed as a law enforcement officer in a large metro area with 10 years of experience. He has experience in tactical operations, firearms training and drug interdiction. Most importantly, Mike is a staunch 2nd Amendment advocate who loves to help educate people about their inalienable rights.

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