All conflicts in and around vehicles are fluid, dynamic evolving situations. And each circumstance must be assessed quickly but carefully so that your responses are congruent with the threat.
From experience and from having instructed many courses in immediate vehicle-oriented combat, I can tell you that everything that happens in a vehicle is considered confined-space combat.
And there are many associated challenges that accompany this type of combat, including sharp edges, obstructions, restricted movement, limited range of motion, how you can generate enough power to overcome an attacker, how you can deploy your weapon with your seat belt on, and how you can shoot effectively while within the vehicle at a threat either inside or outside.
Because of these numerous difficulties surrounding the confined-space environment, we must address each of these facets individually. That said, for this article I have selected the one area that seems to ignite quite a bit of controversy among professionals and gun enthusiasts alike: How to use your firearm inside a vehicle in regard to the challenges of seat belts.
|You’re a sitting duck if you can’t draw your gun before a bad guy gets the drop on you while you’re in your car.|
Assuming you were employing good situational awareness – which I cover extensively in my new 360 Degree Situational Awareness program, which will be released in February 2017 – firearms are a last-resort tool that you would draw only after you have used active avoidance or only after you are unable to use the vehicle to get away from the threat.
There are a great many ways and positions that you may find yourself in during this type of confined-space attack. However, let us assume for the purposes of discussion that you are seated in your vehicle with the seat belt on when the attack occurs.
Keep in mind that aside from the seat belt, you must contend with the steering wheel, foot pedals and perhaps a console that further restrict your movements.
Now couple this with the type of vehicle you are in. For example, a smaller vehicle usually translates to less room inside the cabin, meaning less mobility and range of motion to execute tactics to stop the attacker.
With all of these concerns that encompass vehicle-oriented combat, I think you will agree that there is no one-solution-fits-all type of answer. Because of the ever-changing environment combined with the confined space, there are a great many variables that will require rapid critical thinking and there is no one tactic or technique that will work in every circumstance.
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In the real-world, everything is dynamic and things can go south pretty quickly whether you are a civilian victim of a carjacking or a superspy or a spec-ops guy infiltrating a terrorist network.
Being that you will not know what is going to happen at any given time, let’s continue on our assumption that you are seated in your vehicle with your seat belt on.
The first challenge you will have to overcome is the seat belt.
The challenges of employing and deploying your firearm inside a vehicle must be segmented into the various challenges posed by the seat belt. The main challenge is the chest/shoulder strap, which crosses your body diagonally from one shoulder to the opposite hip – disrupting your ability to “grip” your weapon rapidly.
For Abdominal or Appendix Carry, there are two basic solutions to the seat-belt challenge.
- Use your firing-side hand to depress the seat-belt release, clearing the seatbelt in one movement and then get a “key grip” on your weapon. “Key grip” is a term I coined many years ago to denote that one should get a firm high-tang grip on the handgun when presenting their weapon to a threat. This “key grip” allows greater retention of the weapon, and can assist the shooter in counterbalancing energy displacement as much as possible when firing the weapon.
- Adjust the diagonal part of the seat belt behind the gun once you are comfortably seated. One of the crucial issues surrounding this solution is that the belt may reposition itself back in front of the gun during normal body movement. So if you choose this system, you must keep checking the belt and keep readjusting it.
But, of course, nothing is ever as simple as that. And based on my experience…
Here is the full, correct procedure for deploying your handgun in Abdominal Carry Position within the vehicle:
- As soon as you are seated in the vehicle, adjust your seat belt so that it won’t be a hindrance.
- Get a key grip on your weapon.
- Push your hips forward to relieve the pressure that is produced between your body and the weapon.
- Draw your weapon.
- When your weapon clears your pants or holster, you must immediately direct the muzzle of the weapon at the threat outside the vehicle. At the same time, you must turn your body so that your firearm clears all your own body parts, which gives you a biomechanical advantage. Do not attempt to shove the gun out into some extended position in the confined space. Also, do not sweep your arm around to bear on the threat because you will lose time and will likely need to overcorrect your aim.
- Make sure that your support arm and legs are out of the way of the muzzle. Try this first while dry firing, so that you develop the motor memory of having a good anatomical reference point for your support arm. Use the chest or upper abdomen as your reference. Grab onto your shirt or blouse and keep your arm very tight to your body. Be cognizant of the muzzle and your legs at all times.
- Always minimize your target profile. This means that you should always be thinking of ways to make yourself “smaller” as you deploy your handgun and move into a biomechanically advantageous platform to bring the muzzle into the threat. What I mean by this is that you want to do anything you can to shrink your profile to the attacker so there is less of your vital anatomy facing the threat.
- Be prepared to track the attacker with the muzzle of your firearm. The attacker will likely not be stationary, even if you hit him, you must be prepared to counter. There also may be more than one attacker, so you must be prepared to track and fire on multiple 360-degree threats.
- Be prepared to clear and or cover anyone in the passenger seat. If you are with your spouse or other family or friend, and you have to address a passenger-side threat from the driver’s seat, you must clear your passenger before you fire on the threat.
- Be prepared to shoot through the glass. Bullets will go through glass. If you are attacked when your windows are up, you will need to shoot through the glass and that includes all side windows as well as the windshield.
- Understand the integrity of the vehicle, which means you should strive NOT to mask or cover parts of the vehicle with your muzzle.
- Recognize that in most cases you will be shooting with one hand.
- Safety first! Think of the firearms safety rules and how they apply in this confined space. Consider what you are pointing at and what is behind it. And remember, you may not be aligned vertically with the threat. In other words, you may have to shoot from an odd position from which the trajectory of the round could go high or low. This is where congruent-type training is vital.
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The Hip-Carry Debate: Unlock the seat belt or just draw and fire?
Hip-carry is the predominant way for most folks to carry their firearms.
So let’s discuss the mechanics of the seat belt and whether it will aid or detract from your ability to draw your gun in a critical incident. Again, there is the great ongoing debate about whether you should release your safety belt before you draw or simply draw your gun with the safety belt on.
I have taught and practiced both ways for many years. And in the end, it will be a personal preference for each individual. I do think you need to practice both ways and get proficient with each. I believe you will be a little bit more efficient drawing with the seat belt on but it truly depends upon the circumstances.
In the anatomical sense, your seatbelt has two belts, one diagonal across your body and one horizontal across your hips. Both belts are joined at the waist by a connector, which then fits into a “receiver” to secure it.
Consider that when you’re belted in, your gun will be positioned slightly behind the connector. And thus, technically you could get a good key grip on your weapon, lean forward, clear both your holster and your seat belt, and then present your weapon to the threat. All without disconnecting the safety belt and clearing it out of the way.
For many people. this method is easier and more efficient simply because they want to deal with as few steps as possible while under the extreme stress of being attacked. Depending upon the type and level of your training, you may find it too difficult or too slow to release the belt, move it out of the way, and then pull your gun in time to draw down on your attacker.
|All clear? In a vehicle, always use all the mirrors to spot potential threats from all directions.|
To add to this, keep in mind that during all the chaos, if you choose to release the seat belt first and then draw your weapon, you could easily sweep your hand or arm with the muzzle.
Over many years, I have personally absorbed the action of running my firing-side hand down the diagonal aspect of my seat belt and releasing it. As a matter of fact, I do this naturally every time I get out of a vehicle. And so when things go south quickly, I will undoubtedly employ this method of clearing the seat belt to draw my gun and address whatever threats I face.
I would suggest that you practice both and get proficient with both. But once you find the method you are “sweet” on, stick with it so that you will build that motor response over time and have it when you need it most!
That said, let’s review what I consider the correct procedure for drawing your gun from a hip holster with your seat belt on:
- Identify the threat and get a key grip on your weapon.
- Lean forward.
- Clear your holster and belt.
- Get your support hand very tight on an anatomical reference, such as your chest.
- Present the weapon in a compressed position (not fully extended) to the threat. Turn to give yourself a biomechanical advantage but remember to lower your profile as much as possible in the process.
- You will have to rely on your own body for stability, and you will most likely employ a one-handed grip on the weapon. In the majority of situations, you won’t have the time to use a two-handed platform and any classical type platforms you may practice at the range such as Weaver, Modified Weaver or Isosceles, which will not work in real life let alone a confined space.
What if the threat is in front of the vehicle?
In the case of an immediate threat in front of your vehicle, remember you will need to shoot through the windshield first.
Follow the same procedures we’ve already gone over. Get a key grip on your gun, lean forward a little, draw your weapon and direct it forward at the threat in a somewhat compressed posture. And make sure you are clear of the steering wheel and dashboard when you fire.
There are some people who will want to use the steering wheel for support. But realistically, you won’t have time. Stay with the basics for efficiency so that you can respond swiftly to the threat.
As I said earlier, there are other factors such as when there is another person in the passenger seat or when the attacker is on the move or when there are multiple attackers or if the attacker is in the vehicle with you. You must take all of this and more into consideration as you analyze the situation and take action.
The key is to stay focused on the objective, which is getting through the conflict alive and as unscathed as possible. And to that end, you must train for this type of vehicle combat.
Until next time, stay alert, check your six, put your back against the wall and stay safe!
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