Finding cover ........

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Moderator Emeritus
Jan 3, 2003
South PA, and a bit West of center!
Lets face it ... whilst for most of us, a real SD situation is hopefully unlikely ........

There is that thought I have regarding cover ..... finding it and making use of same to gain an edge of protection. But ....

Look at most potential scenario situations ..... what cover is there likely to be?? More often than not, it might be an aisle loaded with food items in a store ..... a wall made of 2 x 4's .. and drywall ...... maybe at best your vehicle.

It is pretty obvious that many examples of ''cover'' are in fact little more than something to hide behind ....... not in fact an effective bullet stop!!

In an emergency situation time is of the essence ... decision time is short ...... thinking time is even shorter ...... so, is cover of any practical value in the end?? I wonder on this .... because by instinct we mostly seek cover ..... we seek protection and also a buffer within which to think and plan strategy but ..... so much ''cover'' we may find is all but uselss when it comes to stopping a bullet ......

What are your thoughts?? How would you rate your chances?? Probably best of course to neutralize the threat but ...... we are also likely to want to gain thinking time ... avoid the ultimate requirement of shooting back if only because these days .... we may not want the sequele.
I dunno about cover. It seems that while most :)p ) gunfights happen within 7yds the largest percentage of these happen within just a coupla/few feet.

Typically when you get suckered by the guy asking for directions or ambushed from behind while scoping out exemplary examples of the opposite sex (or the same if thats how you play) there won't be a convenient brick wall to duck behind. I think that shooters are slowly starting to wise up to the fact that odds are you'll have to go hands on to make time and space to even get to your gun.

If you do manage to find cover, odds are good that it's better than cover, it's an escape route. Unless you make a tactical error and duck into a blind alley or a one door room, maybe it's best to just keep going instead of peeking back out and jerking the trigger.

I think that working on shooting from retention, shooting while moving fast and beating the tuckus outta someone are more valuble than practicing shooting from under a car in the rollover prone.

The one thing that seems to be certain tho, is that there isn't anything certain in the way violence unfolds. You could spend all your time working HTH, CQB and disarms and when it's your time to nut up it's gonna be a freakin' HR shot at 10yds that saves the day.
I guess the key to this is maintaining flexibility. If there's no ready cover, then you best start shooting and use your outgoing fire as "cover." If there is cover but you have to move significantly to it, you might want to use some of that outgoing fire before you get there. That sort of methodology depends on if you are alone in a parking lot or in a crowded area. Cover fire isn't a good idea around innocents.
It is pretty obvious that many examples of ''cover'' are in fact little more than something to hide behind ....... not in fact an effective bullet stop!!
Don't underrate concealment. Maybe the BG won't shoot you if he can't see you. Or maybe he'll miss, because he couldn't see you.

At the same time, don't overrate concealment. As you said, it's not as if it would make you bulletproof.

Sanchezero makes a good point too. Maybe that 'cover' you're hiding behind is actually an escape route.

Fun game to play with your brain: quick, right now, name three places of cover you could get to if someone came in the primary door of the room you're sitting in. Where's cover? Where's concealment? Where's an exit? When you spot an exit, reverse your thinking and figure out how you'd escape if someone came in that way. Whenever you enter a room, make a habit of spotting those places. Pretty soon you'll have built a habit of doing it every time you enter a room, and you'll be ahead of the curve if something does happen -- diving for cover instead of looking for it.


In life, as in chess, forethought wins. -- Charles Buxton
My totally uneducated and inexperienced option

You make a good point. There isn't a lot that is readily available that provides true cover and the bad guy isn't going to wait until you get behind cover. I think the most important thing is to keep moving. By increasing the distance and by moving, you are making yourself much more difficult to hit. Most shooters practice standing flat footed, shooting at a stationary target. I am no exception. And, as the saying goes, we fight as we train. It seems to me that we all have to make an effort to start thinking about moving and shooting while we are moving.
From everything we read and hear, a gunfight is over in seconds. Certainly not enough time to run and hide. But plenty of time to move.
When the fecal matter hits the Westinghouse I guarantee that all of us will fit into one of two categories.

One, run like hell crowd or two, the throw rounds everywhere then call for a chopper crowd.

Last thing on your mind will be cover or lack there of.
I guarantee that all of us will fit into one of two categories

That's a pretty tall statement.
Peripherally related...I just finished a class with Andy Stanford of OPS and part of the lecture period was devoted to our goals as shooters. It broke down something like this:

Military - kill people and break stuff.

Police - stop and contain threatening individuals.

Civvie - make sure we (and those we're responsible for) remain alive and ideally unharmed.

Andy pointed out that the 1st two categories of shooters have their adversary as part of their goal while the civilian shooter does not. Civilian shooters can achieve their goals most readily by breaking contact as the earliest safe moment, hopefully before violence begins.

If you do need to shoot and the threat isn't immediately stopped, say you both duck behind your respective cars to piss your pants in private (;) ), there's nothing to keep you there other than those tactical considerations that keep you from getting shot. Beat feet as soon as it's a viable option. Cover and concealment are both excellent tools to assist you in this endeavor.
To state it explicitly, there is "cover" and "concealment."

Concealment hides you; cover protects you.

In an "on-the-street" defensive situation, movement may be your best or only replacement for cover.

as John Farnam says repeatedly, move laterally off of the line of force.

Cover and movement. This from a friend who is a training officer in a large PD. This department had just completed exhaustive Simunitions/Force-on-Force drills.

"When a threat presents itself suddenly, such as when a suspect unexpectedly produces a weapon from concealment, turning and running to cover usually produces poor results.... The officer is customarily shot as he runs and is unable to effectively return fire, even when he finally gets his sidearm drawn.

A far more effective strategy, but one that requires a great deal of training and personal courage, is aggressive, lateral movement combined with a simultaneous draw of the sidearm. The officer lurches laterally, getting off the line of force, as his sidearm is being drawn. As soon as the pistol is at eye level, the officer stops suddenly and immediately fires a number of rounds in rapid succession from a stationary position. He then immediately moves laterally again and repeats the maneuver.

This aggressive, lateral movement, combined with an aggressive burst of fire from a stationary position is the one tactic that the guys playing the role of felons found most difficult to deal with. They indicated that they would stalk the officer and make a plan to shoot him, usually waiting until he was in the open and far from cover.

Other writings of his referring to moving off of the line of force:"line+of+force"

Excellent point Mpayne .......... and on reflection a most logical one. We could say that in a sense ... speed and confusion are all conducive to survival ... get the BG away from the easy shots .. and then get yours in.

I am interested to know what Paul Gomez thinks on this aspect ... assuming he has seen this thread yet.
Here is what happens to me in paintball when me and my opponent suddenly stumble onto each other on an "urban" field within 5-10':

You thrust your gun with one hand towards your opponent and start firing as you simultaneously move to cover as fast as you can. You are still looking at your opponent as you are moving to safety. This has happened several times with the same response.

BTW - I have been to the silly shooting schools that have you standing up shooting the paper targets and doing ridiculous tac reloads out in the open. Yada, yada, yada...

lessons: You will move in the opposite direction of the threat. You will start firing to suppress the bad guy. You will be focused completely on the threat not your sights. Anything else will get you killed.
No cover? If possible, MOVE OFF THE LINE OF ATTACK!!!


Don't waste time attempting to draw or engage an attacker. JUST MOVE WITH A PURPOSE!!!

It's more important to keep from being hit than to return fire.

SUDDEN MOVEMENT buys you time and distance, which can create an opportunity for you to consider other options.

Move to create distance.
Move to put an obstacle between you and your attacker.
Move to concealment.
Move to cover.
Even if your choice of cover won't completly stop the bullet, it can significantly deflect or decrease velocity/penetration. Better to get hit by something going 300fps than 1000 fps... Car doors, wood fences, wood/tile counters, cans in a grocery store all may help. At home, loved ones will by lying in iron bathtub inside barricaded bedroom.

Movement is critical, keep moving until you find cover. Most people have never practiced shooting moving targets, this includes BGs. A retreating figure is a decreasingly smaller target.

In addition, tunnelvision may completely exclude you from being the target of multiple BGs, if you move outside of the front sight cone of the average non-combat-veteran shooter, very good chance that he/she won't even see you.
Some great input here .... appreciate that.

But ya know .... following what many have said .. makes me realize that perhaps the MOST important thing is still what we often discuss .......


I was approached yesterday by a guy whilst in my truck parked up ..... he looked kinda mean .... in fact he was only - and genuinely - wanting directions. I was nonetheless, without paranoia ... hovering a hand close to the piece .... just precautionary, no more.

If we are alert at all times and not lulled into senses of false security because of what we deem to be ''safe'' surroundings, then i think we can keep an edge .. cover or no cover.

As I and others have said ... the best adage is perhaps . ''expect the unexpected''! Or - ''don't assume'' :)
Cover: Anything that will stop a bullet. Cover does not have to completely hide you from view to be effective, it merely needs to protect the vital areas of the body. If it's between you and a bullet, a lightpole, fencepost, or a cinderblock is a lot of cover.

Concealment: Anything that hides you from view - it may or may not stop a bullet. But I have become convinced that "most" people will not attempt to shoot what they cannot see, unless they're just in the "spray bullets" mode.
James Yeager discussed this during our tactical pistol class. I've read other anecdotal evidence of this, but don't have a link I can point to.

Concealment also distorts the "body" perspective and makes aiming more difficult. I've also seen this demonstrated in our IDPA shoots. I know that is not a "real" situation, but it helps to illustrate the mindset.

Occasionally, we set up a stage where a target is "peeking" out from around a sheet of orange plastic fencing with only the head fully exposed. We specifically tell the shooters that the target is behind a curtain (or door) - i.e. it is concealment, not cover. Yet, unless we specifically tell them to shoot THROUGH the fencing, most will attempt the more difficult head shoot. I think that this is due in part to the fact the view of body is distorted by the concealment. It is also possible that many people simply assume that concealment IS cover.

So I could conclude that getting behind ANYTHING is better than standing in the open.
How about taking a flying jump? Assuming your more than a few strides from cover/concealment; how about diving and firing, rolling and firing, and pitching behind cover while firing?

Always worked well in airsoft wars :D

You would be suprised how fast you can dive, roll and be on your feet running when somebody is shooting at you! (even airsoft!)
You will be focused completely on the threat not your sights. Anything else will get you killed.

IMO there is no place for aimed fire in 90+% of self defense situations. You don't have to be accurate, you have to be fast. Almost anyone can hit what they're looking at from close range. That last thing you need to be looking at is you gun.

I also play paintball.

Paintball is a very useful thing.

An important thing to remember about paintball is that most things you use for cover in paintball are concealment from firearms. A sturdy cardboard box will stop a paintball.
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