Drive Or Shoot? A Study Of Vehicle Defense.

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by Gabe Suarez


One area that receives very little attention in training, yet is an area where we not only spend a great deal of our time, but also where we are the most vulnerable. That is when we are sitting in our cars, either driving or stopped in traffic or parked.
Many guys that carry guns, either professionally or by choice, seem to think that as long as they have their gun with them, they can solve any problem that may come up, even if they are behind the wheel.

Let’s try an exercise: Picture in your mind…

the tables that are often used to estimate the terminal ballistics of a particular cartridge. Factors like velocity, mass, bullet design all are compiled into some program and a suitability factor is then issued to the cartridge.

Now take all of those values and alter them for a different kind of result. Instead of data for a cartridge, input data for a Ford (or a Chevy, Volvo, or whatever). Talk about a Stopping Power Index!! A vast percentage of those shot with handgun cartridges survive. Almost everyone who is hit dead-center by a car (and run over) does not.

So how does that relate to defense in your car?? If your car is still moving, or can get going quickly, don’t worry about guns. Use the car. Another point that the reader must understand is that before anyone will ever get a weapon out and shooting from within the car, the driver would have usually have already performed some evasive driving maneuver and escaped the area.

Additionally, I’ve never met anyone who could drive and shoot at the same time without doing both things poorly. Whether you are alone, or working with a group, the firearm picks up when the wheels stop.

There may be situations where, as a passenger, you need to respond to a threat while the car is moving. I’m not going to try to come up with scenarios for you. There are plenty of situations both here in the USA and overseas where road-block situations intended to force the god guys to stop and get out are implemented. Suffice to say that it could happen and therefore it fits within the parameters of discussion. These include:

Shooting Car to Car – Moving Shooter to Moving Target
Shooting Car to Side Walk – Moving Shooter to Stationary Target

Firing from a moving car into another moving car seems like some sort of Super-Ninja HRT stuff, but it is actually very simple. You are moving and the target is moving, so don’t worry about it. Use the same methods you’d use at any other time. Center your sights and get busy!

Firing from a moving car toward a stationary target (perhaps a terrorist roadblock attendee) is a bit more complicated. Think about the dynamics. It’s the same as for shooting moving targets while you are stationary. You normally lead ahead of a moving target slightly. In the case of firing from a moving platform at a stationary target, you use reverse lead. That is you trail the target instead of leading it.

Another situation that you may face is coming under fire as you exit, or as you are preparing to board your vehicle. You can get a good discussion of the issues of Cover and Concealment in Tactical Advantage and Tactical Pistol so I won’t spend too much time on it, except as it pertains to motor vehicles.

When using a car as cover, do not get too close to it as ricochets may still hit you. Stay at least arm’s length away from the cover. Six feet away will be best. Don’t stick your hands beyond the cover, and don’t rest the firearm on the cover itself. Some police groups advocate staying in the car and using it as cover. This is fine, but at the cost of mobility. Far better to keep your mobility.

So what exactly do rounds do to a car and its occupants? Well, there are no guarantees on anything relating to ballistics, but I’ll say that most pistol rounds are wasted against automobiles. Much the same goes for the .223/5.56 family. We demonstrate this very easily by firing at actual car doors in our training courses.

When you get into the .308 family of cartridges things change dramatically. Buckshot is fairly worthless against cars. I personally shot a carjacker with a load of 12 pellet magnum buckshot at 7 yards as he hunkered down and fired at me over the door. The majority of the shot pattern was stopped by the thin door of a Fiat Spyder!

Shotgun slugs are a different deal altogether! One special group that I have known uses slugs over any and all other weapons when they anticipate contacts in and around cars.

So the bottom line as to whether you should drive or shoot is that it depends on the situation. If tactically possible, drive over, around, through or away from the attack. If you cannot do that, I suggest leaving the vehicle and using it as cover iif possible. Rather than be trapped within, its better to fight from outside. If you have to shoot from inside the car in an emergency situation, there is a way to do that as well. But that is for the next post.

Gabe Suarez
Suarez International USA, Inc.
303 East Gurley Street #461
Prescott, Az 86301


Drive Or Shoot? A Study Of Vehicle Defense. by

About David Crane

David Crane started publishing online in 2001. Since that time, governments, military organizations, Special Operators (i.e. professional trigger pullers), agencies, and civilian tactical shooters the world over have come to depend on Defense Review as the authoritative source of news and information on "the latest and greatest" in the field of military defense and tactical technology and hardware, including tactical firearms, ammunition, equipment, gear, and training.

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