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Use of Cover

Maintaining a mindset of identifying and using cover is critical to our survival. When the shooting starts, it is best to be behind something that stops bullets. We should either move towards cover or look for cover.

Barricaded shooting is using field expedient cover to provide an advantageous shooting position. Although I am discussing firing a handgun from a barricade, the principles can be applied to all shooting. Shooting from a barricade position should rank high on the list of tasks to master in firearms training, as well as close-quarters shooting, use of cover, and fighting on the ground.

Consider your position while shooting from a barricade. I like and advocate using the same shooting stance you normally use for any shooting, if possible. I like consistency and simplicity, which also makes kneeling and going prone easier. Lean in and out, bending at the knees. This practice reduces the amount we bend at the waist and results in a stable platform with less binding at the gun belt. Certainly you have to consider exposure when shooting.

I also suggest, for consistency, shoot with your dominant-hand on the support side.  Consider shooting with both eyes open under stress. I’m not a big fan of switching hands if you can avoid it. Most of us are not proficient at firing with our support hand and won’t spend the time to get proficient at it.

While there may be several methods for barricaded shooting, here are some specific operational rules for shooting from a barricade.

Rule 1: Train as you fight; Fight how you train

This is appropriate for any type of perishable skills training. It comes from the common knowledge that any person under the extreme stress of combat will revert to their training. One of the most regrettable incident in the history of the badge is the Newhall Incident, where four California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers were massacred by a couple of well-armed felons.

The largest percentage of officer involved shootings occurs after the sun goes down. Quit practicing only under ideal conditions, and always practice malfunction drills. This is fighting with a gun, not competing for a trophy.

Rule 2: Slice in, Slice out

Usually it is better to back up a bit to see more of the target, rather than bend around the barricade. If you have a lot of room behind you, use it. Slowly stepping back may give a better perspective. Most importantly, lead with the gun, not the forehead.

Slicing means using angles to see and engage more target while exposing less. The decision-making process should drive slicing.

Rule 3: Patrol work is moving from cover to cover

Keep good cover between you and the greatest perceived threat. This practice will augment the secondary cover an officer should always have with him: The vest. Avoid predictable behavior, like walking down the sidewalk every time. Rather you should subtly shift your attention from object to object, prepared to put something solid in front of you.

Do not expose a body part twice in succession and keep exposure time to a minimum.

Rule 4: Simple is better

It is better to master a handful of techniques then to be mediocre at dozens of techniques. This training philosophy advocates using the same shooting technique for barricade shooting as static range training or standing unsupported practice.

Rule 5: The greatest priority is to create threat-stopping hits.

Bear in mind that the environment will dictate the shooting condition and officers must prepare for a broad range of contingencies. Shoot center mass.

Rule 6: Do not produce targets of opportunity.

Do not give the suspect something to shoot.  Don’t expose anything you don’t want shot.

Rule 7: Do not let cover interfere with gear operation.

Touching the barricade can be appropriate at times. The officer may need to put his fist against the cover for a steady shot, or even extend the support hand thumb to touch the barricade. But it is inappropriate to rest the heel or slide of the gun on anything.

Rule 8: Looking around is better than looking over.

Generally, firing from the top of a barricade is less safe than firing around it. This will expose more of the face, depending on the barricade. Another common mistake is being too close to the barricade. Placing the body shoulder-width or more from the barricade, one can slice into position better.

Rule 9: Sometimes a retreat to cover is bad.

We are paid decision makers. Certain shooting situations cannot be governed by rules. For example, there are some emergency situations where it is expedient to attack the draw than try to outdraw the assailant. In a situation where retreat to cover will not work, you may have to close the distance on the armed suspect.

It is impossible to say when it is appropriate to close in on an armed suspect. It is, however, advantageous to create a hiccup in your adversary’s OODA (Observe Orient Decide Act) loop. If moving to cover causes the officer to turn his back on a suspect, it may not be tactically sound.

Let’s never stop thinking about making ourselves safer, faster.  Please contact me if I can help you in your training efforts.  Say alert at all times while we are on the job.  That will be our best defense.