Firing from cover

Tactical shooting is like musical chairs; where one is when the music stops is important. For the officer on patrol, maintaining a mindset of identifying and using cover is prudent conduct. When the music stops, it is best to be behind something...


If the officer is firing from prone from the support side using the dominant hand, he will have to cant the firearm. Otherwise, the entire body will be exposed when using a proper firing technique.

If the potential target is close and the likelihood of hits using the support hand is high, switching hands will work. Use the dominant hand to move to the next cover.

This can be quickly applied to shooting while kneeling. If the shooter is in a modified Weaver stance, he can quickly kneel with the support knee forward. One can now use the legs to lean forward or back.

Rule 5: The greatest priority is to create threat stopping hits.

If one needs to use the barricade to steady the shot, use it. Bear in mind that the environment will dictate the shooting condition and officers must prepare for a broad range of contingencies. For example, there may be a shooting situation where it is impossible to shoot with the dominant hand. Another example might be when the officer behind cover is holding a flashlight. This will preclude switching hands.

Rule 6: Do not produce targets of opportunity.

If the shooter places the outside foot forward behind the barricade, it is tactically sound until this practice exposes the kneecap or part of the leg. Do not give the suspect something to shoot.

The barricade also obscures an officer's vision. An officer may have a good view of the area to the left and right of the barricade but may not be able to see what is directly in front. The best way to overcome this shortcoming is good communication with other officers.

Rule 7: Do not let cover interfere with gear operation.

Touching the barricade can be appropriate at times. The officer may need to put his fist against the cover for a steady shot. An alternate technique is to extend the support hand thumb to touch the barricade. It is inappropriate to rest the heel or slide of the gun on anything. Officers who practice resting their fist will quickly be reminded why patrol gloves should be worn at all times.

Flesh (covered by good patrol gloves), not firearm, should contact the barricade. This will prevent some bouncing while firing. Additionally, a common error is to attempt to bring the face to the sights. It should be the other way around.

Hundreds of police ranges have permanent barricades erected for practice. A percentage of these barricades have bullet holes or streaks from bullets that skimmed their outline. This is from improper application of technique or training deficiency. Proper training will ensure that bullets hit their intended target.

Rule 8: Looking around is better than looking over.

Generally, firing from the top of a barricade is less safe than firing around it. This will expose more of the face, depending on the barricade. Another common mistake is being too close to the barricade. Placing the body shoulder-width or more from the barricade, one can slice into position better.

Rule 9: Sometimes a retreat to cover is bad.

Officers are paid decision makers. Certain shooting situations cannot be governed by rules. In these situations, one must use guidelines. For example, there are some emergency situations where it is expedient to jam the draw then try to outdraw the assailant. In a situation where retreat to cover will not work, the officer may have to close the armed suspect using fire and maneuver.

It is impossible to say when it is appropriate to close in on an armed suspect. It is, however, advantageous to create a hiccup in your adversary's OODA (Observe Orient Decide Act) loop. If moving to cover causes the officer to turn his back on a suspect, it may not be tactically sound.

Practicing from a barricaded position will improve an agency's training and add another tool to the tactical toolbox. It should be a high training priority and part of routine perishable skills.

Editor's Note: More on the OODA loop can be found at www.d-n-i.net.

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