We break vehicle skill sets into two types, high threat driving, and vehicle tactics. High threat driving is everything you do with the vehicle while it is in motion. Vehicle tactics, the focus of this article is everything you do around a stationary vehicle.
The majority of us spend a great amount of time in and around vehicles, but for some reason don’t train enough around them. In the last year between military contracts, and during my own courses I have seen around 500-700 people do the same number of wrong things over, and over again. Let’s take a look at them.
First of all, vehicles, even when up armored, are poor fighting platforms. They are intended to be able to soak up rounds as you drive away from the threat. Which brings us to the first point: Your best option when it comes to vehicle is to use them for their intended purpose and put distance between you and the threat.
At all times, when you are by yourself, or with friends loved ones, you need to be aware of your surroundings, and always looks for holes to drive through if the need arises. Identify drivable terrain, which we define as anything you drive through or over without disabling your vehicle.
The next thing is to keep windows up and doors locked, during force on force scenarios we have to instruct the students to not do one or the other. Because with the windows up, and the doors locked, the chances of an occupant being attacked are slim. Couple this with movement and the chances of something happening in transit are very low.
A word on seat belts, they are restraints. They can save you when you are moving, just as fast as they can kill you if you are stationary. Make a habit of never keeping your seat belt on in a stationary position. Find the most efficient way to get out of your seat belt and then out of the vehicle.
Be sure that when you are in an unfamiliar vehicle in any seating position to familiarize yourself with how the seat belts and locking mechanism works. You can practice this vital skill by having someone raise their hand and lower it as a sign for you to exit the vehicle.
Let’s say for some godforsaken reason you are attacked in a stationary vehicle which becomes disabled, again remember the first option is drive not gun. However if your vehicle does become disabled you’re going to have no other but to fight your way out. Most holsters are designed carry, and deploy a pistol from the standing position.
The most popular carry position is behind the hip, which is the worst in a vehicle, especially with bucket seats that curve around you. I personally prefer to carry an IWB appendix carry for this reason. Not just because it’s faster method to deploy, but way more comfortable, for me. It is preferable to exit the vehicle and deploy your pistol as you are doing so, instead of deploying the pistol before getting out.
Movement is always the key to survival, if you cannot move your car…MOVE YOUR ASS. When you are behind the wheel your vision and fields of fire are very limited, this is the moment when the opposition can aggressively angle on you.
Now that we have negotiated the seat belt and exited the vehicle with gun in hand, what do we do? First are you alone, or with a loved one you are responsible for? As a rule of thumb I move to the back of the vehicle after exiting. Logically threats that prevent you from moving forward will be from your 9-3 o’clock area.
Moving to the rear puts the mass of my vehicle, including the engine, between me and the threat. It also provides me better protection from rounds skipping underneath the vehicle. Consideration should be taken as to whether you have people with you. They will most likely panic and not respond as you would have hoped.
In that case you will need to put yourself in the best position to balance both yours and their exposure, while focusing on your ability to put rounds on target.
People have a very bad habit of hugging cover, even more so with vehicles. Do your best to be an arms length away from your vehicle. Again, do your best to use 45 degree angles, work quarter panel to quarter panel. If your threat is at your 11 o’clock, try to engage it from the rear passenger side quarter panel.
This is also the principle for moving to stronger/better cover. It does a good job of concealing your movement. People generally don’t shoot what they cannot see. When stopped, make a habit of identifying your nearest cover in case you need to bail. Unfortunately, in the case of having someone who is not ambulatory, or kids in car seats, you may have no choice but to fight in place.
It is also very likely that an altercation will take place while you are getting in or out of your vehicle. Never hold your door all the way open, instead have it pulled against you. If someone charges you just use the door as an impact weapon. They will likely be struck around knee level, which will cause their face to slam into the top of the door.
As with training for most real world scenarios, vehicle tactics cannot begin and end with live fire. Get yourself a Blue Gun, and an airsoft to fit your holster. Be sure to start your drills on visual cues. Dedicate yourself to training for what is most probable, not always what is possible.
~George “mercop” Matheis
George is a retired municipal police officer with a background in SWAT, patrol, and training. He currently runs Modern Combative Systems LLC which provide training in open hand combatives, impact weapons, and edged weapons, and firearms to citizens, military and law enforcement.