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Personal Defense: Car Attack | Car Defense

by Brent T. Wheat, Tue, July 30, 2013

One of the most likely places to become involved in a dangerous confrontation is inside your motor vehicle. Car defense is important as cars and trucks are the primary modes of personal transportation in our highly mobile society it is quite likely that when danger comes around, it will find you sitting at a stoplight picking your teeth in the rearview mirror.

The author defends himself against a car attack during training.

The author defends himself against a car attack during training inside a vehicle simulator using plastic weapons.


The primary problem while inside a vehicle is the fact that you are severely limited in movement. Since the passenger compartment of most vehicles doesn’t really offer good protection against bullets, there are already two strikes against those sitting in the driver’s seat during a serious conflict.


Personal defense training for these types of confrontations is a huge problem. Since realistic training tends to damage our rich Corinthian leather seats, there is a natural reluctance to engage in any serious hullabaloo inside your own car. Shooting is out of the question and most jury-rigged simulators I have encountered are a poor facsimile of the real thing.


Preparing for a Car Defense


However, there is something you can do: arrange for a junk vehicle to be brought to the shooting range for a day of specialized training. Many towing companies will be happy to do this as a few bullet holes and broken windows have no effect on the value of a vehicle bound for the shredder.


A good way to do this is by organizing a group of like-minded shooters for a personal defense training session. By splitting the charges from the towing company, a junk vehicle can be brought to the range fairly inexpensively.


One suggestion: place a large plastic tarp under the vehicle. This will catch the inevitable broken glass and fluid leaks, keeping your rangemaster happy. This is important if you plan to continue using that facility!


Once a vehicle is sitting forlornly on the firing line, start with a good old-fashioned fight in the front seat. If you have never tried to stave off an attacker while behind the wheel, you’re in for a real treat. Protective headgear, padded clothing, eyewear and a mouth guard are mandatory.


A good exercise is to have someone sit in the passenger seat and attempt to take a plastic toy or training gun from your holster. While there are a wide variety of weapon retention techniques, the important point is to gain experience using your regular equipment while seated in a vehicle. If you find that your own methods results in a grinning partner gleefully holding up your Superblaster 5000, it’s time to consider a new approach.


Having someone attempt to enter your vehicle from the passenger or driver’s side door is also an interesting drill. Using an inert practice weapon, see how you would either engage the target with your gun or go ‘hand’s on.’ Sometimes when an assailant is in close proximity, you’ll find it more efficient to attack with your hands rather than go for a weapon after the bad guy is already pointing a gun at you.


As an aside, I think having a backup weapon within reach of the driver isn’t a bad idea. Unfortunately, I know too many cops who have knives and guns that are also within reach of the passenger seat. As someone bent on assault will usually look around for a moment to size up the situation beforehand, they would likely see that big knife stuck in the center console. If you plan on keeping weapons nearby, make sure they are only within YOUR reach. I keep mine near the driver’s door.


Presentation of your firearm is tough within the cramped confines of a vehicle. Though we are not a big fan of cross-draw or shoulder holsters, they come into their own as a car defense mechanism if you spend a considerable amount of time behind the wheel. Regardless of how you carry, realistic practice is a must.


Shooting from inside a car is difficult to practice but it is skill that you should try at least once. However, after writing and erasing several more specific paragraphs on techniques, I ultimately nod to the evil Gods of Liability and simply state that you if you choose to practice shooting from inside a vehicle, there are many, many things that can go wrong. Good personal protection equipment and fanatical attention to safety must be given. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.


Other Considerations


I will mention from personal experience that firing from inside a vehicle is an interesting proposition. Aside from the presentation and firing stance issues, there is the joy of setting off multiple minor explosions within the sparse volume of an automobile interior. When you consider the incredible noise, flash, dust, fumes and high-speed splinters of glass that begin flying within a split-second of the hammer fall, it becomes apparent that firing a handgun from within a vehicle will jangle even the steadiest nerves.


You will find that automotive glass does a fair job of stripping the casing from most bullets, resulting in a radically-flying chunk of lead that may or may not hit the intended target regardless of distance. Knowing how your favorite personal defense load reacts to automotive glass is a handy thing to file away.


Actually, shooting from outside the car is a far better idea if the tactical situation will allow. Outside the vehicle you can use far better body mechanics, which should result in higher hit probabilities. You might also benefit from the meager bit of protection offered by the entire vehicle itself.


To get outside that shiny Detroit kill box in an efficient fashion you should also use the range time to practice hasty tactical retreat from behind the wheel (prior to shattering any glass!)


One of the best ways we have learned to utilize car defense, is by opening the door then placing your left hand onto the ground and use it as a pivot point to swivel out of the seat and crouch-run to the rear of the car. Properly done, a bad guy will only see your hand and a little bit of your feet sticking beyond the door and by the time he realizes where you’ve gone, there are considerably more tactical options available to you.


Never forget that options, in both car defense and gunfights, are a nice thing to have.


About the author: Lt. Brent T. Wheat is a full-time law enforcement officer with over 25 years of experience on the street. As a former SWAT Sniper, Detective, canine handler, rescue diver and shooting instructor, his widely-read personal defense writings have appeared in a variety of national publications.


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