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.

A new type of ambush occurred early this year in a gentlemen's club on the border with Mexico. Unknown to many in law enforcement, a number of officers were attending a bachelor's party when a live grenade was rolled into the club. Fortunately, the grenade did not detonate, or multiple casualties would have occurred. Throwing grenades into police stations and then following up with high volume automatic weapons fire to finish off the survivors is SOP for the drug cartels in Mexico.

We have not experienced what a trained squad or platoon sized unit could do against us, and I hope we do not. However, that is what it would take to conduct most of the ambushes we have described. Yes, clearly understand the different types of ambushes, but recognize what we will get caught up in will be one or two persons using some modified form of the ambushes we have been talking about.

I believe we will see our vehicles attacked at close quarters using a point attack at a time and location where we cannot drive away or escape. This would be a combination of point and near ambush. Another type of ambush might occur while the officer is walking, a near ambush with a rifle or handgun and the element of surprise on the ambusher's side for a very short time. But if executed with violence and speed of action, all the attacker(s) need is less than a second to affect a successful near ambush.

My other concern is an area ambush where we walk or run into a predetermined kill zone while responding to another situation (like an active shooter) and we are flanked by one or two people who know we are coming and the terrain we must cross.

So what is our concern? In my opinion, the ambushes we can expect to see are point, or single line coming directly at us, like being seated in a car in traffic. (Remember what happened outside the CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia on January 25, 1993?) An area ambush will hit us from our flanks while responding to another situation like an active shooter. A deliberate ambush may be waiting in a closet covering an area where we will be coming through (like and apartment doorway, as in Oakland) and firing upon us as we enter the kill zone or laying in wait from a concealed position waiting for us to close and open fire.

So, as we get into vehicles, specifically our patrol vehicles, what can we expect? First, remember our patrol vehicles are not armored, if anything they are bullet magnets! Whether moving or in a static position, if your vehicle is hit with small arms fire from any direction you are already lucky that you haven't been hit. If you are moving, try to drive through or in some cases push through the kill zone. Most likely you will be caught in a position where you cannot move, like heavy traffic, parked or just getting in, or stopped at a red light. Always leave at least one vehicle's length between you and the car in front of you. It may give you enough space to drive around or push through an ambush.

Consider what is on the inside of the average patrol unit: a cage, large computer and communications console, possibly a gun rack center aisle or overhead. Also, go bags, extra lights, baton stuffed in the seat and the list goes on. Here is the question, if you are ambushed and the attack is coming from the driver's side and you cannot drive through, how are you going to react and get out of the vehicle? The answer most would agree on is to bail out the passenger side, but how can we? We must get out of our seat belt, and if we try to go out the passenger side we will get hung up on the computer and other equipment, etc. Time is not on our side and we need to get out fast, and we may have to get out in the line of fire.

Understanding vehicle dynamics and shooting from inside and around a vehicle, getting out , using the vehicle for limited cover while getting away from the vehicle sounds complicated, but it is not. Yes, I do recommend this training which is often referred to as Armed Vehicle Operations (AVOPS). I know, we are lucky if we get to shoot qualification once or twice a year, but it doesn't change the fact you need to research and understand vehicle dynamics, shooting through the windshield inside the vehicle, how to release the seat belt rapidly without getting tangled in it, bailing out rapidly and creating distance and cover, and so on.

  • 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.