Shooting effectively and safely from behind cover takes some skill and you shouldn’t assume that you’ll be able to pull it off if the situation ever comes up. How hard can it be, right?
Luckily, statistics show that the average gun owner will never have to actually utilize a defensive weapon for personal protection (that’s a good thing) – and they would certainly not have to engage in an extended ‘gunfight’ using cover. This isn’t the military or law enforcement after all. Having said that, these techniques are a useful thing to have as part of your skill-set. It’s not the type of thing that comes up a lot, but I know for myself, I would want to have a grasp on the fundamentals and have practiced at least a little.
As far as home or personal defense goes, the well being of yourself and those around you is always paramount. Retreating to safety and calling 911 would be the preferred route to take wherever possible. Although you may own a weapon and be proficient in its use, getting out of Dodge when the bullets fly is the way to go.
Let’s talk for a moment about Cover vs. Concealment. While cover can offer concealment, concealment does not always provide cover. Just because a barrier looks solid enough, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will stop a bullet. Interior building walls and doors, furniture and even vehicles (unless you get behind the engine block) may hide you well enough, but they likely won’t keep you safe. Getting out of sight is a good first step, and you may not have a lot of time to react, but if you can get yourself behind a brick wall or a thick tree etc. then you’ll be a lot better off.
Cutting Your Angles
You’ll often hear the term ‘slicing the pie’ when it comes to shooting around cover, with the understanding that shooting around cover is preferable to positioning yourself on top since you have to expose more of yourself to do so. The ‘pie’ concept in positioning allows you to get the greatest degree of vision on your opponent, while minimizing the exposure of your body at the same time. You are essentially leaning out (whether standing or kneeling) just enough to be able to see what you’re shooting at. If you have no sight line from that angle or ‘slice’, then a small shift in position may be necessary. Remember that protecting your head, foot, knee and femoral artery (on the inside of your thigh) on your lead leg is just as important as your ability to shoot accurately in these cases.
Distance from Cover
The general rule of thinking for distance to maintain from your cover is approximately one to two arms lengths away. While under fire, your sense of self-preservation will likely have you wanting to hug the wall for security, but this can be problematic for a number of reasons. Unless your opponent has an elevated position that could put you at more risk, keeping some space allows you to more effectively engage.
It provides you the real estate to create and change shooting angles per the pie slicing technique noted above. This is much harder to do if you’re crowding your cover.
It allows you to extend your arms and establish the stance and stability that you’ll need to effectively shoot.
You’ll be able to present less of yourself while shooting.
You can move and change your cover positions more easily.
You’re less likely to be hit by a ricochet or debris kicked-up from an assailant’s shot.
See What You’re Shooting At
Since every second counts in a gunfight, you’ll want to establish a sight picture BEFORE you break cover. Again, having some space between yourself and your cover will help and will let you point and align your weapon prior to leaning out. You won’t have the luxury of time when trying to locate your target. Establish your position, set up, roll out, fire twice and return to cover.
Change It Up
To keep your opponent from anticipating where you are exactly, it’s a good idea to change positions and/or elevations between shots. This creates a tactical advantage whereby they won’t know where to shoot at and also where you’ll be shooting from. Being unpredictable can be an advantage in these situations.
Practice & Instruction
Not a surprise, but like anything, practice is always important if you want to get really good at this. Not every range is set up for tactical shooting, but there are plenty of places that can accommodate you. Working with a seasoned instructor is also a great way to learn the techniques that will be critical for your success.
A lot of personal defense shooters may not be quite so keen as to invest much time in tactical shooting, but it has its benefits and can actually be quite fun. Knowing as much as possible about the use of your weapon and how to protect yourself can never be a bad thing.
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