The first thing to understand about cover is that the ability to stop bullets is greatly dependent on caliber. A sheet of plywood may act as cover for a .22 LR, but it certainly won’t for a 5.56 round. The concept applies for most objects other than things that are very solid or dense, such as vehicle engines.
Travel to cover may not be direct. Rather than take the direct route to get close to cover that may be at an angle, move sideways directly behind cover, then move in closer if needed. The object is to get cover between you and the bad guy as quickly as possible.
Use cover to get to cover. The path to usable cover may put you in the targets of the bad guy. Use points of cover and concealment to get to your final cover position even if the path is not the fastest. The point is to minimize the amount of time you are unprotected.
Don’t crowd your cover. This limits your movement and vision. Keep far enough away so you can turn and move without banging into the cover.
Conform to cover. Make sure all of your body is behind the cover, and take the shape of your cover to ensure that your elbows, feet, and hands are covered. Stand if your cover is tall; kneel if it’s short.
Get on your sights before you break cover. When it’s time to shoot, don’t leave cover before getting into a shooting position with your gun up and sights lined up so you can shoot as soon as you are exposed. Once you are done shooting, get back behind cover as soon as possible.
Know how to look and shoot around cover. Rather than leaving your cover position entirely, look and shoot around it so as much of your body remains covered as possible. Practice your movement on the range in all positions (standing, kneeling, and crouching) so you know the best way to move while keeping as much of your body protected as possible.
Never break cover from the same place. Keep the bad guy guessing where you will break next. If you can break both right and left, mix it up as well as mixing up your breaking height. Come out high one time, low the next. Don’t allow the bad guy to have a bead on you waiting for you to expose yourself.
Understand sight over bore. Handgun sights, especially long gun sights, are above the barrel, and it’s easy to see your target even if your barrel is blocked by cover. This happens a lot when shooting from behind a car. Just look at all the bullet holes on the hoods of cars used on the practice range. Make sure your barrel is above the cover, not just your sights.
Reload behind cover. When available, behind cover is the only place you should reload and fix jams, if necessary. Otherwise, you are just a sitting duck.
Keep these tips and techniques in mind if you find yourself looking for cover.
Do you have a tip for using cover? Share your answer in the comment section.
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Excellent and comprehensive article. I would add that these skills require practice. In order to truely know if you are behnd cover, try paintball or at least have a friend play bad guy and video your cover/concealment. You may be surprised how much of you is exposed without feedback. Also, be realistic about your physical capabilities. Holding a crouch behind a vehicle may require long use of your quad muscles. If not in shape, you could slowly rise up over time and expose yourself. The more physically fit, the longer you can fight, sustain an awkward position and keep a clear head and vision.