Vehicle Defense Basics By Abner Miranda
The first time I fired a weapon inside of a vehicle I got a major eye opener. I thought I knew how my rounds would behave when passing through a windshield, for example. I also thought I knew how to handle firearms in tight confines and found otherwise. As is the case with most things that fascinate you, once you get a taste for learning something new you know you’re going in with both feet.
Things You Don’t Know About Cars
From that event I sought out vehicle training and found it with Talon Defense in Gadsden, AL. Talon Defense teaches you not only how to run your weapons in the tight confines of a vehicle, but also about the ballistics of how bullets behave when passing through vehicles. Because of these experiences I now have a basis of knowledge in regards to vehicles that I never would’ve had had I not stepped out of my comfort zone and attended a vehicle class.
I can now say that I know what I know, and I also know a little bit of what I don't know. I’ve witnessed everything from subcompact cars to SUV’s suck up everything (pistol, rifle, shotgun) we could throw at them.
For the remainder of this article let's focus on the most formidable barrier on a car, the glass. Simply put, the spall shielding on your windshield is designed to keep it from coming in on you during the most severe of impacts. Ironically, this coating makes it very efficient at destroying bullets. Due to this fact your primary response to an attack while in your vehicle is to get on the throttle and exit the area as quickly as possible. My only caveat to this is to keep in mind that the rest of the windows on your vehicle are designed to immediately fracture into a thousand tiny pieces upon taking a sharp hit. They’ve been engineered in this manner so you can escape easily from a vehicle without getting cut to ribbons. So be mindful that if you drive past your attacker they can easily murder you through your side windows as you pass them. However, in the case of a frontal attack, fortune is on your side. That windshield is designed to absorb massive amounts of abuse before it fails you.
The best way to deal with an attack while in your vehicle is to get on the throttle and leave the area. This is why it's key to be sure you can always see the tires of the vehicle in front of you touching the pavement. If you can see their tires on the ground it means you have enough clearance to steer around them. If you can't drive out of the area then the next action is to go to guns. If I had to put it in a nutshell I’d say that if you find yourself in a position where you have to fire at a threat through the windshield you need to fire a lot of rounds in the same area as quickly as possible. The reason for this is that your first couple of rounds are going to fracture and separate so quickly that you’ll be lucky to have any amount of mass and energy left when they reach the threat. Not to mention that when the rounds strike the windshield from the inside they’re going to vector upwards dramatically. This goes contrary to what most people believe will be the fact. As I mentioned earlier, the first time I attended vehicle training was with Talon Defense in Gadsden, AL. Lead instructor, Chase Jenkins, asks the above “ballistics on glass” question of all of us. Almost everyone assumes that if you're firing from inside the vehicle, the downward rake of the windshield is going to cause your rounds to vector downwards, and vice versa, from the outside. This couldn't be further from the truth.
What is found is that when firing from the inside, the round strikes the windshield and the downward slope of the angle meets the top of the round and causes the bullet to slow down. This causes the rear and bottom rotating portion of the round to try to come forward and upwards to overtake the nose. The round then fractures and tumbles upwards as it flies apart into a dozen useless pieces. Now, understand I use the word “useless” in the context of "terminal ballistics,” however, all of those flying pieces do serve a purpose. Any one of those chunks flying at the threat has the ability to cut him. Also, the very fact of the noise, flash, and flying glass has a psychological effect on the threat. But, the reality of it is that ballistics are just not on your side. You're making a good accounting of yourself but it's crucial that it be understood that you’re not going to kill that person unless you manage to zip a round through the windshield in an area that you've already punched out with the first two or three rounds, and that's unlikely because people don't stand still when they're being shot at. Even after half a dozen guys have been run through a car you’ll still see dramatic misses when rifle and or pistol rounds make contact with any portion of the fractured windshield.
The take away from the half dozen vehicle specific training classes I’ve attended has been that having ready access to your weapons is crucial. The brutal fact about vehicle defense is that your vehicle is a rolling coffin. The second you realize you can't exit the area on wheels you need to quickly transition to guns. Soon after that you must get out of that vehicle, and fast! I know this goes contrary to what I said to you earlier about the fact that vehicles have the ability to suck up a lot more weapons fire than you think they do. But please temper that with the fact that what I'm talking about is the ability to break up those rounds and keep them from having enough energy to kill you. However, those rounds do have enough energy to cut you up badly, and steal your eyesight from you. If you can't see you can't fight, and if you can't fight, eventually, the bad guy is going to get you. That is why getting on your feet and clearing the area is the best course of action. Standing and fighting only ensures your demise.
One of my biggest aggravations in life is having to carry a firearm everywhere I go. Those who think it's cool to carry a gun clearly haven’t done so for a living. I did so for many years and did not care for It. But what it comes down to is I refuse to get caught without one when things get ugly.
Right now I’m vacillating between carrying inside the waistband or outside the waistband. As much as I like inside the waistband for deep concealment, I'm finding that outside the waistband in my Bravo Concealment, Light Bearing, RTT holster is the most efficient way to carry my Glock 17 with INFORCE APL. What I’ve also found after almost 40 training classes is that I must stop lying to myself about how I train versus how I carry concealed. I speak this as absolute fact, so listen to me clearly. If you spend two or three days at a pistol class drawing and running drills with your, ultra comfortable, battle belt, you are building false muscle memory. Why? Who actually wears a battle belt as their daily carry method? If you carry in an appendix holster, when evil comes for you, you will reach for your side for a weapon that isn’t there. I've seen it, and I've done it myself.
Fighting from a vehicle is fast and furious. You don’t have time to think “where am I carrying my blaster today?” From beginning to end, a fight can usually be counted on one hand. If you ever have a chance to do Simunitions training you’ll find this to be a hard cold fact. I know that I’m bursting a lot of bubbles with this article but I’m doing it out of love for my fellow man. Folks,
hear me clearly, fighting from vehicles has way more variables to it than you think, and you must control as many of them as possible.
In closing I leave you with this sobering thought. Fighting from a vehicle requires, speed, accuracy, and lots of rounds on your person. Having your weapon and extra mags physically on you is key. If you’re not doing this, then you’re a statistic waiting to happen. Seek out good training that is specific to vehicle defense. Please check out my videos on this subject matter and feel free to ask all the questions you wish. Lastly, you must have a comfortable holster that retains your weapon when your world turns upside down. Bravo Concealment can help you with that. Choose wisely because if that weapon is not on you it might as well be locked up in your safe.
As always, God bless you all, get those guns out and practice. Have a good one!
~Abner Miranda is a former Police Officer, an FBI trained Hostage Negotiator, a First Responder, and Spanish Interpreter. He is currently a Firearms Instructor, an Armorer, and a regular contributor to our industry of both written and digital media. You can see more of Abner’s work on his YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/daddycop3