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TACTICAL TRAINING: Everyday Urban Vehicle Tactics

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.

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~George “mercop” Matheis
Contributing Correspondent

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.

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18 thoughts on “TACTICAL TRAINING: Everyday Urban Vehicle Tactics”

  1. Killer article, this suits the operator as much as the civillian in the states and overseas.

    Trying to clear up time to get to some more of your “everything but the bang” and vehicle training.

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  2. Try to remember that vehicles make very poor cover. A good demonstration of this can be found in the “buick of truth”
    (www.theboxotruth.com/docs/thebuickotruth.htm)

    A guide to warzone journalism I’ve skimmed over lists the engine block as the only part that can be considered “bullet stopping”.

    (double post? if so, sorry)

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  3. I was photographer at a VTAC carbine class where they practiced shooting from and at (through) cars. As a photoshop ninja rather than a tactical ninja, I had never seen anything like that…targets behind the cars didn’t fare much better than targets in the open once the shooters got dialed in. I’ve now added ‘hiding behind car doors’ to my list of action movie fails.

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  4. Good solid info and just great reminders for us George. Thanks. For me I spend a lot of time in a car in and out carrying and working EP. And you are correct that the seatbelt can be life or death when the shit hits the fan. For me as soon as I get in a car no matter familiar or not I do two things. One I carry rigid seat belt extender with me(the ones in a lot of police cars), this for me serves two purposes, predominately to put a device there that I am familiar with. So there is little need to familiarize myself with the female end of the seatbelt. Secondly, it is to free up space to draw my gun. However, I also tend to use a desantis kingston holster in my primary vehicle. And transfer between my holster and that so that I have an easy grab.

    The number two thing I do is duct tape a seat belt cutter with a window punch to the seat belt. Because sometimes if you get in a wreck the seat belt with be stuck. And the door could be as well, which is also a remind to practice jumping out the window. Seatbelt cutter/punches are getting pretty popular and are a solid tool to carry in your vehicle no matter what your vocation. They are also pretty inexpensive, I am in the middle of testing the exitool from CRKT it for me is pretty reliable and doesn’t require duct tape. However I am not sure I like the grip I tend prefer the benchmade ERT-1. It has a good grip on it, which lends to large muscle movements.

    Thanks again for the great info George. Excellent article.

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  5. Glad you guys are finding it useful.

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  6. I like the article too. I’ve been in a shootout and used my vehicle as cover for the unarmed people I was protecting as well as cover for myself. I remember thinking that he was going to jump in the road ditch and use it as cover to flank me but he just ran in a zig zag manner towards my position. I got lucky and got a clean shot off. At 21 yards I stopped him in his tracks. He went down in some high weeds and I couldn’t see him, so I moved to the front of the vehicle, in case he popped up again, I’d need that split second to get the first shot off. As it turned out, he was DRT. It’s interesting how many LE, let alone SWAT and firearms instructors have never killed anyone in a gunfight.

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  7. Very well covered….

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  8. Great article. One thing you may have to remember (check YOUR vehicle)is that ‘most’ vehicles automatically ‘pop’ open all doors locks when the transmission is put into ‘Park’. One PSD unit in Baghdad was ‘tactically messaged’ by the IA/IP after they chose to NOT respond to directions at an Iraqi checkpoint. They stopped the car, placed the vehicle in ‘park’ and as soon as the Iraqis heard the ‘clunk’ of the doors unlocking, they ‘invited’ the occupants to ‘unass the vehicle’. (NOT the Principal’s vehicle). No serious injuries, but I HEARD that the team had some choice words for the driver. “I didn’t KNOW it would do that!” Just a thought IF you have to get ‘stationary’ in the vehicle. Use the Emergency brake, until you need to move again.
    Rich J.
    Baghdad, Iraq

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  9. remember if u have to shoot from inside the vehicle throu the windshield the first few rounds will go very high because the leading top edge of the bullet is the first to hit the windshield (ie) if u aim for his knees u will probly get his chest. and vise versa, when shooting into a car the rounds will impact low

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  10. I think another thing that few people think about is the child lock door options. Make sure they’re either engaged or not depending on who/what you’re carrying in the back.

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  11. George have always liked your articles and this is no exception. Esp keep the “bag of evil” reviews going

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    1. Blimey, that was a long reply :)I’ll try to get along to see the path soon, though I think Richard and Tim have alaredy been to have a look at it. We’ll see if we can get some photos and a responce from the council.If you have anymore questions, please comment again. Also, if you’re not alaredy a DCC member, please get in touch and we’ll add you to the membership list. It’s free!

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  12. Interesting article. Here’s some more good ideas: Drive fast. Make sure you have plenty of gas.

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  13. Good article George, as usual.

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  14. Great article- door locks are a particular problem. Get familiar and stay active in training on your particular vehicle. I particulaly hate GM built cars, thier door locks suck. Practice!!!!

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  15. Excellent info, one thing I would add is this:
    If you\’re getting shot at, a great way to get your head and body out of the line of fire while driving away is to pull the lever on your seat that reclines it all the way.

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  16. Great article! I hope there\’s a followup on vehicle driving tactics.

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  17. As I never try to be critical because I don\’t claim to be an “expert\’ (though many have called me driving Ninja) I would not lay my seat back while driving. It is much to easy to lose control of the vehicle. Better to build a tactical seat (ballistic seats-had some in Astan)-even hillbilly amour if you must. But you cannot properly brace yourself for steering and head swiveling to find that drivable terrain if you are laid back “gangsta style” Remember the first rule of tactical driving is “drivers drive” they shoot only when they are forced to, Yeah its not glamorous, but I have had more than one operator look me in the eye and say “that was outstanding driving”-not “outstanding shooting”(decent shot, better driver). I do create a “driver down” rig to lay seats down when drivers are incapacitated- but that\’s another article.

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