Ambushing / Counter Ambushing, Pt 1

It has been only during the last ten years, and more recently, the last several shootings that have captured our attention. Ambushing is up to 23% annually and climbing since 1996.

Editor's Note: This is a two part article discussing types and proliferation of ambushing and then how to avoid them or react to them. The second part will be published on the 2nd Monday in September. Until then I highly encourage you to email Bank with any questions or discussions you might have in addition to commenting below. -Ed.

- - -

In a discussion about ambushing, we could go back over a hundred years and more to examine the bushwhackers and ambushers that have taken the lives of many of our fellow law enforcement officers. However, it has been only during the last ten years, and more recently, the last several shootings that have captured our attention. From Birmingham, Alabama, to Oakland, California to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to the RCMP in Alberta, Canada, ambushing is up to 23% annually and climbing since 1996.

In the past twenty years law enforcement has made great progress in tactics and techniques, however, the one tactic we have not developed or trained for is ambushing, or in this case, counter-ambushing. To truly understand counter-ambushing, one needs to understand ambushing.

An ambush is a surprise attack from a concealed position on a moving or temporarily halted target.

Ambushes are classified by category as either (1) hasty or (2) deliberate, (3) point or (4) area, and the more common ones (5) formation, (6) linear or (7) L shaped.

A Hasty Ambush is put in place when you make visual contact with an enemy force and have time to establish an ambush without being detected by the enemy.

A Deliberate Ambush is conducted at a predetermined location and requires detailed information such as size, weapons, and equipment available to the enemy force.

In a Point Ambush, soldiers deploy to attack an enemy in a single kill zone.

In an Area Ambush, soldiers deploy in two or more related point ambushes.

Formation Ambushes seem to be the more common in Law Enforcement.

In the L-shaped Ambush, the assaulters form the long leg parallel to the enemy's direction of movement along the kill zone. The support element forms the short leg at one end of the kill zone and at a right angle to the assault element. This provides both flanking (long leg) and enfilading fire (short leg) against the enemy. The L-shaped ambush can be used at a sharp turn in a road, trail, or stream. It should not be used where the short leg would have to cross a straight road or trail.

Another formation known as a linear formation allows the ambushers to deploy parallel to the enemy's route. This formation can be used in close terrain that restricts the target's ability to maneuver against the ambushers, or in open terrain, provides a means of keeping the target in the kill zone.

Other ambushing terminology to be concerned about are (8) far and (9) near.

In a Far Ambush the ambusher's position is greater than 50-yards from the target. So far, we haven't seen many of this type of ambush used against law enforcement, but in our world, 25-yard ambushes are not uncommon or unheard of.

In a Near Ambush the ambusher's position is within 50-yards for the military. In law enforcement, it can be as close as arm;s length or the distance from a closet to a front door (confined space). Under these conditions, accuracy is not as critical for the ambusher; volume of fire will have the desired effect.

Hopefully, by now you have a good understanding of what an ambush is. Now, let's relate this to law enforcement. I personally don't see us being caught in L-shape or linear type of ambushes as described above. I could be wrong, but I believe we can expect to be ambushed, but in a different manner.

In the past we have been ambushed while seated in the vehicle, in a restaurant while seated, walking a foot beat, or in a mall while shopping. We have had officers ambushed while walking to their house. So far the number of ambushers has been one or two people.

This content continues onto the next page...
  • Enhance your experience.

    Thank you for your regular readership of and visits to To continue viewing content on this site, please take a few moments to fill out the form below and register on this website.

    Registration is required to help ensure your access to featured content, and to maintain control of access to content that may be sensitive in nature to law enforcement.