Where’s Your Hero Hiding?

Where's your hero hiding

We see it on TV, in the movies, and in your books. In fact, we see real-life officers doing it in on the street. Yes, all the heroes use their vehicles for cover when they’re involved in a shootout. But is a car or truck really an effective means of providing safe cover from incoming gunfire?

Well, using a car for cover has been tested by experts and the results were a little stunning. You may want to rethink your options when Billy Badass decides to plink off a few rounds in your direction.

1. When fired at the engine block from a distance of 25 yards, many .223 cal. (rifle) rounds totally disintegrated, turning into a mass of individual pieces of shrapnel. However, there were rounds that didn’t hit dead center and actually ricocheted and exited the engine compartment by way of fenders, etc. Therefore, an officer using the front fender as cover could be killed by indirect gunfire.

2. Next are the car doors. We’ve all seen the hero cop crouching behind his steel car door, popping up every few seconds to return fire. At 25 yards, the same .223 cal. rifle rounds passed through the car doors as if they were melted butter. Actually, at that distance, the rounds passed through the driver’s door, through two mannequins seated as if they were a driver and passenger, and then through the passenger’s side door. At 100 yards, the round again passed entirely through the vehicle, exiting the passenger’s door. This time, however, the bullet had slowed a bit, causing it tumble end over end instead of spinning. And a tumbling bullet leaves a keyhole-shaped exit when passing through metal. Imagine what effect that would have on human flesh.

3. I remember my firearms instructor telling us (a class of moon-faced, buzz cut, recruits) that we could use our patrol car wheels as cover . He said they’d provide enough protection for us during a gun battle. Well, at a distance of 100 yards, .223 rounds traveled through the steel wheels as if they weren’t there at all. Not a bit of cover there.

How about handgun rounds? What sort of protection is a vehicle against, say, a .45 caliber pistol? Again, the expert fired the .45 at the driver’s door from a distance of 15 yards. Guess what? Yep, the rounds pierced the doors, striking the mannequins inside. This time, however, the rounds stopped at the dummies. They’d lost enough velocity that they could travel no further. BUT…that’s all the power and distance needed to kill the occupants inside the car.

So, what do we take away from this information? Easy answer…vehicles are NOT a safe haven from gunfire. Rounds can pierce the metal, ricochet, and still hit the officer. And, they can pass directly through the metal doors. Either way, a vehicle is not the best option for cover.

But, as we taught in the academy… YOU WILL SURVIVE!

Always think that you’ll survive, no matter what, and you’ve won half the battle. Simply because you’ve been hit by a round, or two, or even pieces of shrapnel, doesn’t mean you, or your protagonist, has to fall down and die. Don’t believe me? Well, ask Jack Reacher…

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6 replies
  1. Bob Mueller
    Bob Mueller says:

    There are some great videos available on YouTube showing some military testing, and how easily 5.56 and 7.62 rounds will pass all the way through some structures. It was enlightening.

  2. Pat Marinelli
    Pat Marinelli says:

    Great post, Lee. You won’t find my guy hiding behind the car door for cover, but if I have no other cover, I’ll be sure to have him seeing the rounds go by.

    Love your descrition of a tree going to a stalk of celery during a gunfight.

    How about a post on what our LEOs could us for cover?

  3. GunDiva
    GunDiva says:

    Maybe you should do a post on the differences between cover and concealment. I would consider a car concealment, not cover. But, then, there are very few things I would consider “cover” – there’s just too many things that fast, flying projectiles can penetrate.

  4. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    You’re right, Rick. Any cover is better than no cover. I remember the day I was in a shootout and used a small tree about the size of a fourth of a telephone pole as cover. It was the only thing available. Even that seemed too small. And when the bullets started flying it seemed as tiny as a single stalk of celery.

  5. Rick Bylina
    Rick Bylina says:

    Well, some cover is perhaps better than no cover. At least it might appear like cover to a bad guy, providing they think about it. But what cracks me up in the movies are people hiding behind sheetrock in houses. Yeah, that might work. Over here in Apex, I hide behind herds of squirrels…they might save my life and become dinner all at once. Yummy.

    Write on!

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