For the best handgun tactics in a gunfight, use cover – just don’t hug it too close.
I’m from a generation that didn’t hug much. Between guys an iron handshake, an upper-arm grasp and a shoulder bump was about as far as it went. Now, hugs supposedly lower your blood pressure, increase your sense of well-being and foster good relationships. But there is one thing you don’t want to hug and that is your cover in a gunfight.
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Keep in mind that the most likely armed encounter you’ll face is three shots against a single adversary at close range. Even so, it is important to understand the tactical use of cover if you have to deal with an active shooter, a bump-in-the-night or multiple armed adversaries.
Cover is something that will stop a bullet. Concealment is something that hides you from observation. All cover is concealment but not much concealment is cover.
If you have time to take cover when you present your weapon and issue your verbal commands it can provide an increased sense of control and get your head back into the fundamentals of grip, sight picture and trigger press.
One of the mistakes rookies often make in tactical live-fire exercises is that they “crowd their cover,” which means they get too close to it for maximum tactical advantage. Think about being close to cover, but not glued to it. Here are the reasons:
1. You will have better view of the total surroundings if you are back from your cover.
2. Tactical movement is easier if you are on your feet and able to scoot.
3. Being right next to your cover exposes you to ricocheting bullets.
In a gunfight, you want to be able to peek around the edge of your cover and deliver aimed fire with most of your body protected by the cover. Being too close can hinder that and make you vulnerable. For example, if you lead with the gun as you peek around a corner the handgun is easy for your adversary to grab.
Better to be back about ten feet from the corner and move laterally in short side-steps with your gun in high-ready to expand your view a little bit at a time. At the PD we call this “slicing the pie.”
The point is to clear progressive segments of the threat zone with as little personal exposure as possible.
Remember that when the lethal threat stops, so must your lethal response. Getting close to cover, but not crowding it could give you the tactical advantage you need to avoid shooting at all.
But the most important thing is that if you have to shoot, doing so from cover can help you prevail — so you can return home safely to your family … and give them a great big hug.