TV cops often hide behind car doors during gunfights. That’s about as effective as hiding behind a quarter pound of thinly-sliced Havarti. Out in the real world, YouTube is lousy with convenience store gunfighters who engage from behind racks of potato chips. Inspector — I mean Instructor Zero and Dirty Harry get it right: don’t forget you can fire through objects to stop a threat. (Quite why Zero would use a SMART car to make the point is anyone’s guess.) Remembering to know your target and what’s beyond it. And the fact that your adversary can do the same thing, too.

71 Responses to Self-Defense Tip: Shoot Through Concealment

  1. Smart Car? Good use of this particular waste of space! I get the same reaction every time I see a Smart Car as when I see a cockroach scurrying for cover when the light comes on. And I want to step on it, with the same feeling of disgust. (I used to live in the ghetto, way back when).

    • Good comment. Might as well get all this out of the way so the others can make technical comments to follow – what else are “Smart” cars good for?

      • If you have a full size pickup with a 6ft bed, you can put one in the bed like “spare car.”

        Two man lift to get it out, of course.

        • My brother and I were riding around one day and he asked a question that’d obviously been bugging him quite a while.

          “Why do you always have your Four Wheeler (in the box of my truck)?”

          I looked at him and smiled.

          “Spare tire,” I told him.

          Reading about these “smart cars”, I’d say the Four Wheeler makes more sense.

      • While the older 450 and 451 models have horrible transmissions, the 2016 453 models are available with a true 3-pedal five-speed manual. Mine is a friggin’ go-cart and an absolute blast to drive. The tiny little turbo motor has enough pep for squirting though tiny gaps in traffic and it has no problem getting to, and rolling along at 70, 80, even 90 miles per hour. It is limited to a claimed 96 miles per hour but I’ve seen 99 in mine… um, on a race track of course! But, haters gonna hate so I’m not going to flame y’all for your ignorance.

        • Like falling from any great height, the trip is exhilarating with the right attitude. It’s the sudden stop that’s the problem. As a professional truck driver I have seen many Smart cars zipping through traffic like Peter Pan swooping around Captain Hook and the only thought I have is how oblivious they are to what would happen to them if they miscalculated and tangled with my truck or any solid, stationary object.

          Zipping around on Harleys or crotch-rockets is exhilarating fun too, but the penalty for screwing up can be heavy. Seems like a steep price to pay for saving a few bucks on gas and being able to park in tiny spaces. JMHO.

        • Hey Timmy. You have my sympathy; a dream car I’m rebuilding is a 64 1/2 Mustang 289 cu/in; (I drove a ’65 Mustang 6 cylinder when I was young), the only foreign small car I find kind of cool is the Mini-Cooper. Smart Cars? Not so much.

        • Hey Timmy. You have my sympathy. I am kind of strange; while I’m rebuilding a 64 1/2 Mustang 289 cu/in; (I drove a ’65 Mustang 6 cylinder when I was young), the only foreign small car I find kind of cool is the Mini-Cooper. Smart Cars? Not so much.

        • I pulled into a space next to one when the driver was there so I decided to ask her what was the mileage. She proudly said 40mpg. My response: “that’s what my [05] TDI gets in the city, and I get a back seat and a trunk too!”. My wife kicked me in the shin.

        • Cliff H, “Zipping around on Harleys…” that’s some funny stuff there! But I suppose I should be tolerant of
          “those people” if I want tolerance of my smart. As for the safety concern, a “miscalculation” like you describe in/on any vehicle is going to be ugly. Everything in life is a gamble to some extent.

          ThomasR, in my opinion, the new “upper case” Minis, are just bloated caricatures of the real, “lower case” minis of the past… but I’m weird and like small cars.

          tdiinva etc… yeah, I can’t make an argument for the mileage. I do make a lot of excuses though! First off, when anyone asks me that question I say, “The way I drive, I am getting about 37mpg, but cruise control on long jaunts, gets me up to 45mpg or so.” I also emphasize the personal pronouns but couldn’t get the italics to work. Then there’s my theory about small engines being used out of their “comfort zone” (hauling ass down the freeway for example) as to why they don’t get the mileage everyone hopes for.

          Speaking of VW diesels, I had a friend in HS who had a Rabbit diesel. He claimed that if he drove very conservatively, he’d get 75 miles per gallon. If he drove it foot to the floor al the time, everywhere… he’d get 74.

  2. As long as shooting through concealment doesn’t break any of the Four Rules…

    Specific, knowing your target and what is beyond it and around it.

    I wouldn’t general advocate blasting through things, unless you know what’s on the otherside and the only other option is dying.

  3. It worked for Oscar Pistorias, it can work for you!
    The police hide behind their car doors because they are reinforced with ballistics armor.

    • “The police hide behind their car doors because they are reinforced with ballistics armor.”

      Really? Are you sure about that? I’ve never worked for a department that had a single patrol car that had ballistic armor anywhere on it.

    • Police cars are NOT anymore reinforced than your standard sedan. This is Hollywood myth. That includes the glass. That glass is standard tempered glass. As Jonny said above, I know of no department that has any kind of armor on the standard squad car.

        • The article says they’re working on the upgrade. I would be interested in seeing how this turns out… That sort of extra reinforcement is going to add a lot of weight to key points on the car….leading to a lot more reinforcement and upgrades to the to the engine and power train…which is why armored cars are so expensive to buy.

          Once you buy the vehicle, the operations and maintenance cost go thru the roof. This will cost some serious money to keep up.

        • ultra high molecular weight (UHMW) polyethylene would be a lightweight, cheap alternative to fill car door panels with

        • The plates are ceramic, the door glass is normal. Not an armored car, just protection behind the front door skins. Think of the plates for vests – they had to test the hinges to make sure they could handle the extra weight. They are an option, not standard from the factory.

    • It’s amazing how sure people will be while they disseminate false information as if they actually know what they’re talking about.

      No, police do not hide behind car doors “because they have ballistic panels (the vast majority don’t). They do it because a bit of steel plus their ballistic vest is better than just the vest and, even better, it allows a more stable shooting platform.

    • The “out in the real world” comment was to make a distinction between television shows and real life. I can’t see how you missed that.

    • Adequate, even excellent, scholarship can be gained, logically considered, and disseminated by interacting with and/or interviewing people who have been “out in the real world”. It is not always necessary for the author him/herself to be the participant and I have seen a lot of writing from those types of people that is highly subjective, opinionated, or just plain unreadable.

    • Are you just dumb or intentionally missing the point that the phrase was a segue?

      How about you? How many gunfights have YOU been in? How many times have YOU pointed your gun at a “bad guy”?

      • Shot at once, vehicle hit. Had my gun out of the holster and on bad guys many times. The last time was at prowler/burglary in process that I happened on. This crew was posing as lost food delivery guys and deliberately targeted homes that looked unoccupied. They food bags and uniform were the cover to justify why they were banging on the doors of dark homes. After confirming that no one was home, they would make entry through garage doors or rear sliding glass doors.

  4. It’s not a sure thing. I know from personal experience that a hollow point 9mm defensive round will not reliably penetrate a Subaru door. The Smart Car is most likely made of thinner metal.

      • Gotta +1 that statement above mine. Hornady Critical Duty will go through a car door like a hot knife through butter. They also work nice on interior walls of houses. For that matter the way many homes are built now they would probably penetrate many exterior walls.

        I have not had any gun fights as a civilian but I have had several as a soldier. You would be amazed at what you can shoot through and still be effective. That of course also works against you if you are trying to use cover. This is the very reason I cringe when people start talking about using a rifle as a home defense weapon.

        • There are frangible 223 rounds like PDX1 and Hornady Critical Defense that are designed for home defense. Problem is people read how good 223 is without reading the fine print that say frangible and assume it applies to all 223 rounds.

        • The 5.56 is an ideal home defense round. Some rounds, depending on their construction, will penetrate less wallboard or ballistic gel than a typical police grade handgun JHP. The humble M193 will zip through a 1/4″ steel boiler plates or a IIIA vest but still only penetrates 11-13″ in calibrated gel due to high velocity fragmentation. Compare that with many 9mm JHP rounds that won’t penetrate a vest or a 1/4″ plate, but will penetrate 13-16″ in gel.

          Anything that will penetrate light intermediate barriers or 12″-18″ in ballistic gel will also be dangerous to occupants in adjacent residential rooms. 12 gauge birdshot is the only thing that will penetrate well at extremely short range and not blow through multiple interior walls roughly 10-15 yards down range , when shot through a cylinder bore barrel. I don’t use birdshot because the range is severely limited. Neither do most police departments. Most police agencies do use .223 or 5.56 rounds out of ARs specifically because those rounds are ideally tuned to penetrate soft body armor while not having too much overpenetration.

        • Why would the military use a cartridge with such poor penetration cability? I keep hearing how .223/5.56 fragments but I never hear how similar rounds like 220 Swift or 22-250 fragment. If the 223 family has such low capability why are we using it? Perhaps the military ought to move up to .243.

        • The 220 Swift and 22-250 fragment like crazy. The M855 fragments at high velocity / close range as well. At lower speeds the M855 is supposed to tumble, but often makes pinholes depending upon a number of impact considerations.

          Go to a range and blast 1 gallon water jugs with a 5.56 and 55 grain M193. The energy transfer is incredible. Mk 318 blows them up pretty well, too. So also does Winchester PDX .223.

          The military uses 5.56 because it is light, cheap, and they have tons of money invested in 5.56 rifles. Civilians enjoy many of the same benefits. Much has been said about .223 / 5.56 inaqedquacies, particularly against hard targets or when M855 punches little holes in folks who keep fighting back. Some of those concerns have been addressed by switching to Mk 318 and Mk 262 ammo.

          Regardless, the .223 / 5.56 in an AR, with good ammo, has explosive energy transfer close in. So do 220 Swift and 22-250 rounds, but they don’t fit in a standard AR 30 round mag. If you don’t have an AR, I’d highly recommend getting one.

        • I’m a Garand kind of guy. I have an M-1A. And a Mini-14 both recently purchase.

  5. So Zero is taking tips from Biden or is Biden taking tips from Zero?

    I’d buy a Smart car tomorrow if there was a 4 wheel drive model. That’d be tits.

  6. I’d be interested to see this done with gelatin blocks on the other side of the door, or a chronograph, or something to indicate how much energy the bullets have when they reach the threat on the other side. I would guess they still have plenty of juice to incapacitate a bad guy, but I would not care to bet my life on my best guess, if I didn’t have to. Clearly they have enough energy to perforate a paper target, but so does a well-slung rock…

    • There are many Mythbusters episodes on what bullets can and cannot do in the real world, as well as several episodes of what is and is not bulletproof. I believe six or seven pizza carry hot packs (with pizzas inside) is actually bulletproof while generally a Zippo or a small Bible is not reliable.

      Adam and Jamie and the crew spent a lot of time and ammunition shooting at and through cars. I believe the science is pretty sound that you do NOT want to be on the other side of a car, or inside a car, and expect that you will be safe from penetrating fire. If you are inside the car and firing out you are in significant danger of hearing damage. The guy you are shooting at outside of the car has more to worry about.

      • I wouldn’t be interested to know about whether I’d want to be on the other side of the car, (OF COURSE I don’t want to be on the wrong end of anything more powerful than an airsoft gun), and I frankly don’t care what the teevee guys say about pizza boxes. You may be confused about what “real life” entails; there’s a reason the FBI doesn’t hire Adam and Jamie to do their ballistic testing. I would like to see data. Tests. Done by real testers with real techniques that produce real quantifiable results. And I’m not trying to say that I don’t think the technique would be effective. I would simply be interested to know HOW effective, and what the trade offs are. If you think Mythbusters is a suitable answer, you are probably on the wrong forum. I’m sure you can find a Punisher board to post on somewhere…

        • While some of their tests are a bit ridiculous (it is a TV show after all), most experiments were well thought out and planned. I believe the results from a couple were actually published (meaning they also faced peer review).

          And don’t knock it because it isn’t some guys in white coats in a lab. As I said, not all experiments were up to scientific muster, but many were, and yielded useful information. Also, they don’t show all the collected data on the show to keep it from being boring.

          The one from Burn Notice was interested and yielded useful information regarding ricochets, namely that they don’t ricochet like light off a mirror. Different angles usually result in starkly different changes in trajectory, and this is greatly affected by the material.

        • Ummm…If you line up fifteen pizzas in 5 delivery boxes on a bench and fire at them (in this case a 12 gauge), then count how many boxes were penetrated, I don’t think you need the FBI to verify your findings.

        • You do if you want to see their budget increase by $50,000 for ‘testing materials and study.”

    • Yep. To many people here are convinced that fmj is worthless. Seemed to kill a couple of people in the great wars. Getting a hot lead injection usually causes all kinds of problems, no matter the form.

    • If you follow the reasoning that penetration not only trumps but bashes wound channel then yes. It appears that TTAG has:

      http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2016/02/robert-farago/the-truth-about-big-bore-bullets/

      I tend to agree. For many cartridges, I think (more than most would) FMJ is the way to go. Enhanced penetration gives better obstacle defeating ability, and (slightly) better in flight ballistics. However, if the nose angle is too steep and the velocity too high then the chance of deflection is high as well. Here a semi hard cast bullet in bowling ball .45 would excel as a good compromise if the kinetic energy is high enough.

    • Actually its shooting people where it really comes into its own. Anything worth shooting in the human body is deep and behind bones. I consider hollowpoints less than lethal ammunition.

  7. Shooting through anything is actually pretty risky. Beyond the obvious risk of a ricochet, you also don’t know how said object will affect trajectory. Unless your target is pretty close to the concealment, it would seem a risk not worth taking.

    • Unless you consider the risk of not shooting at all. Even if you don’t hit what you can’t see (assuming you know your target and actually WANT to hit it) you have a high likelihood that the BGs will un-ass the area quickly, unless you are the target of professionals intent on your death at any cost, an unlikely scenario.

    • In this situation bullet resistant doors seem like a negative. There would be no practical way to return fire against an attacker without revealing your head and strong-side arm with pistol. Smaller target, yes, but still revealed from behind the ballistic protection.

      We do seem to be getting too focused on the vehicular aspect, however. The point of the post was that you should consider the fact that you can fire through ANY concealment, not just vehicles. The point of concealment (as mentioned in the article) is that you cannot be seen. This gives you an advantage if you know the approximate trajectory towards your assailants while they cannot see you and at least in theory do not know where you are. You can fire on them (immediately canceling the value of being concealed) before they expect to take fire.

      Conversely, as in the Clint Eastwood example, if the BG thinks he is concealed but you know where he is then you have the advantage in firing through the concealment. This was also used on one occasion in a Bones episode where Agent Booth used his last shot from Bone’s S&W 500 to kill the clown BG who was hiding behind a steel plate.

    • Your statement is, at best, misleading.

      Ballistic panels are an OPTION available in one particular model of a car. How many of those cars that are in-use have the panels which add expense and decrease performance (by adding weight)? What about all the departments that have transitioned to police vehicles other than that particular model?

      Go find a ‘modern’ police car being used in-service and check it’s door. Odds are that it won’t be ballistic.

  8. Actually this has nothing to do with being tactical, he just figured out his Smart Car was a POS and wanted to put it out of its misery.

  9. If you ever need to, you can shoot straight through you car window, even your front windshield. Now, with the caveat that anything is possible any time and your bullet could theoretically get deflected some way, it won’t. A 9mm will easily go straight through like there’s nothing there. So if you ever need, NEED, to fire while seated in the driver’s, for example, you can, and you will hit what you aim at.

  10. After watching a video of someone demonstrating a standard 9mm pistol going straight through a minivan like it was nothing, I’ll pass on the idea of thinking of one as cover.

  11. Crouched behind the driver’s side car door with your head sticking up a little to see and shoot is a bad place to be if the shooter is moving towards the right side of the vehicle. Incoming rounds deflecting off the car’s hood or windshield put the round coming right at your head, like a funnel.

    You may be better off moving away from the vehicle, or around it, so any incoming rounds have to be well aimed. Versus getting deflected off the large surface areas of the windshield and/or vehicle hood – where the trajectory of the deflection traverses the region just above an open driver’s side car door.

  12. There are a LOT of unlearned gun owners who insist that they need some kind of low penetration ammo for Home Defense to reduce their liability. They are more worried about shooting the kids or neighbors than stopping the crim’s shooting them.

    First – PERPS DON’T PACK LOW PENETRATION AMMO. You will be having problems with them shooting thru your walls, doors, and furniture at you, much less your family hiding just behind you as you heroically and foolishly try to shield them with your body. This is why you need to plan to fall back and just get out. Don’t forget, just like sports, the ball comes to you when your back is turned. Ball ammo is harder.

    Second, we love to make fun of ol’ Joe Biden, but yes, YOU CAN SHOOT THRU THE DOOR. And the walls, windows, even the shower. If they are trying to slice the corner – SHOOT THE CORNER. Literally. It’s only a few pieces of sheetrock thick 6″ back from the doubled 2X4’s.

    Build your own “box of truth” and you quickly see that hiding inside a modern stick build home is a recipe for your own demise.

    Same for your car or bro truck. They’re both useless. Don’t even. At best it’s just concealment, at worst it’s false promise and a major mistake.

    The reality is that you build with adobe or concrete to reduce gunfire, which is why it’s so popular in third world countries where wars and revolutions occur every 25 years. In America? It’s been since, when?, 1865. More people have experience with hurricanes and tornados. And a lot ignore those risks.

    Don’t ignore the risk of thinking your home is somehow decent cover for gunfire. It’s not. If anything let the other fool think that. It’s concealment at best, shoot thru it. Once you do that the clock is ticking because crim’s learn fast.

  13. “don’t forget you can fire through objects to stop a threat.”

    Let’s not forget this great scene from the original Robocop…

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