Pro-Tip: How to Stop a Vehicle Borne Terrorist Attack [GRAPHIC VIDEO]

With the onset of the recent terrorist vehicle assaults, RF asked me what was the best way for an armed person to stop a vehicle? I thought this one was kind of a no-brainer, but in talking to him as well as several other people, including soldiers (POGs), I realized that it’s not a scenario most people have considered, and a lot of armed citizens have some bad insticts when it comes to stopping a two-ton or greater death machine.

As a soldier and as a police mentor to the Afghan National Police, I’ve pulled hundreds of mounted combat patrols, as well as hasty traffic control points. I’ve been trained to stop vehicles and I’ve killed men attempting to use a vehicle as a weapon. A lot of soldiers have. There are a few things I’ve learned, and how to stop a vehicle is one of them.

Shoot the driver. Keep shooting the driver. When the vehicle is at rest, keep on shooting the driver until the driver is also at rest.

The question reminded me of a discussion I had with a few of the old mujahideen that we were working with in Afghanistan. In talking about the air superiority of the Soviets, someone asked where was the best place to shoot a helicopter to bring it down. They all laughed. Apparently it was an old joke.

So where is the best place to shoot a helicopter? In the pilot. The same goes for any vehicle. That soft squishy human is far easier to stop than any of the mechanical or electronic components on the vehicle.

Sure, if you happen to have a 50 BMG handy, throw some rounds into that engine block and that will stop it. But even that won’t stop the vehicle nearly as fast as rounds into the driver. Not the tires, not the radiator, nowhere but the driver will stop the vehicle immediately.

As far as where to shoot the driver, just aim center mass. Yes, the round will be deflected by the angle of the window. Shoot many times. As always keep shooting until the threat is stopped.

Understand that will take many more rounds since you are firing through a barrier. I’ve always been surprised at the radical amount of deflection from shooting inside the vehicle to out, but outside to in will have fairly minimal effect. So if you are shooting center mass you’re likely to hit somewhere inside that body. Repeat as necessary.

If you are to the side of the vehicle, which is where you would much rather be, drive your rounds through the door, through the window, whatever you have to do to just keep shooting center mass. Yes, the door will slow your round down. Yes the door will deflect your rounds. Keep pouring rounds through and you’re much more likely to hit something vital.

Now, the likelihood of you ever needing this particular skillset is extremely small, so I wouldn’t even spend range time training for it. Just keep in your head that, just as the gun isn’t your target during a gunfight, the vehicle isn’t your target in a vehicular assault.

Shoot the driver.

comments

  1. avatar PROUD chicano says:

    Terrible. The first country to show a zero tolerance on any form of terrorism both foreign and domestic wins.

    1. avatar Curtis in IL says:

      Israel has had a zero tolerance policy for 68 years. Have they won yet?

      1. avatar mk10108 says:

        The inverse would be Arabs and Palestinian bombing both things and themselves without moving the needle is a direct reflection of stupidity…for 68 years.

      2. avatar Tim says:

        I know, right? Houses still catch on fire after all these years, and some women still get raped. Yet we still think we need fire departments and police. Go figure.

      3. avatar Rifleman762 says:

        They haven’t lost yet.

      4. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

        The fact that places like Tehran do not glow in the dark demonstrates that Israel has a nonzero tolerance policy. I’m not saying they aren’t hardcore, just that there’s still plenty of wiggle room there before they get to zero tolerance.

    2. avatar Teenage mutant tactical mall Ninja says:

      Uhh…that would be Israel.

    3. avatar Bollocks Troy says:

      Legalize 40mm, that’s how you stop it. LAW? Carl Gustav!

  2. avatar Hannibal says:

    “…nowhere but the driver will stop the vehicle immediately.”

    If you’re trying to stop a moving vehicle ‘immediately’ by shooting its driver my friend Newton wants to have a word with you.

    1. avatar Ken says:

      This. Nothing short of a six-foot thick reinforced concrete wall will stop a large truck immediately. I say this after having investigated numerous CMV crashes over 32 years as a CMV inspector in which the driver died behind the wheel and momentum carried the vehicle on to do enormous amounts of damage.

      1. avatar jwtaylor says:

        Were they going 20mph or less in an urban environment like the scenarios we are talking about?

        1. avatar Ken says:

          Mostly no. But then again, neither were the attacks in Nice or Berlin. While urban in nature, the Nice attack took place on a “promenade” and traveled for more than a mile at nearly 60 mph. And while it doesn’t appear to be as speedy, the Berlin attack venue was an open-air type of market with very little to slow the vehicle’s progress besides makeshift huts and warm bodies. Not trying to argue. My only quibble in the wording of the article has to do with the word “immediately”. And while I agree that shooting the driver under attack circumstances is going to get the job done eventually, I question the ability of a CCW holder, or police or anyone else for that matter to be able to recognize, assess, and react to such a threat in a timely manner. Look at the video. Even if the person holding the camera had been holding an M60 or RPG instead, would they have been able to react in time to make a difference in the outcome of the attack?

        2. avatar jwtaylor says:

          Holy crap. I thought the Nice driver was doing half that.

        3. avatar Hannibal says:

          A vehicle of sufficient mass (like a truck) going ‘only’ 20mph is still not going to stop unless:
          1) It has a very long stretch of pavement (assuming the accelerator isn’t pushed down by the dead driver’s foot)
          2) It hits something sufficient to arrest its movement.

          Given the sort of circumstances we’re talking about #2 is much more likely. Although it may be that it hits a bunch of little things or people that add up to enough mass to arrest its movement.

          The basic point of the article still holds true if you’re using anything most of us would have at our disposal (shotgun loaded with slugs? Might have more options) but one should not expect that the vehicle will stop upon shooting the driver.

  3. avatar Joe R. says:

    Mass in motion obeys laws that also govern what that mass may encounter. I would still attempt to (STDBTT) shoot the dirver, burn the truck. Tires, grill, hood, windshield if you think it’s just a poor sap whose lost control. The inverse if you think it’s on-purpose. The rest is all “alligator wrestling”. If you watch alligator handlers they will always keep something solid (like a tree, rock, boat, ) between the alligator and themselves, until the alligator has over-committed, then they get on it’s back and hold it’s jaws shut.

    Other than that, Christians need to play the same game until we can do Armageddon. It’ll suck only as long, and half as bad as this cr_p already does.

  4. Hello.This article was really fascinating, particularly since I was looking for thoughts on this issue last
    Sunday.

  5. avatar Geoff PR: says:

    “So where is the best place to shoot a helicopter? In the pilot.”

    That may be number one, but a very close second is the hot section of the turbine…

    1. avatar Teenage mutant tactical mall Ninja says:

      Actually the rotormast area near where the rotormast meets the rotors at the top is a good place with the right calibers. Lots of little pieces that can easily break leading to loss of control and ending with a really bad day.

      Former military current commercial helicopter pilot and instructor.

      1. avatar Joe R. says:

        Best place to shoot a terrorist is in his great grandmother, but it takes considerable forethought and planning. Who’s going after the Tunisian’s next of kin? Or Tunisia?

        You people sound like the people who wanted to free Hinkley.

      2. avatar Geoff PR: says:

        “Actually the rotormast area near where the rotormast meets the rotors at the top is a good place with the right calibers.”

        Upon reflection, I think I’ll agree with you on that.

        The rotor coming apart in flight will drop you like a stone whereas shutting down the turbine leaves you with at least a chance to auto-rotate…

        1. avatar ACP_arms says:

          I was thinking what Teenage mutant tactical mall Ninja posted. Get a good hit on one of the rods that controls the pitch of a main-rotor or tail-rotor blade, and that bird is going to shake and/or chop it self apart.

        2. avatar Hannibal says:

          Honestly choppers aren’t all that hard to mess up. I guess if you have a direct line on the pilot that might be the best option but really there are plenty of Hinds that went down over Afghanistan due to small arms fire to the aircraft itself.

        3. avatar Ragnar says:

          As someone that currently serves as a pilot in a combat environment, I don’t want to add much to this discussion. My survival depends on other’s ignorance.

          However, good luck hitting a flight control, mast or tail rotor on a maneuvering helicopter. Outside of Hollywood, it doesn’t happen unless there is a whole lot of rounds fired accurately and equal amounts of luck.

          Also, the hot section of a turbine is a better target, but 99% of the people out there have no idea where that is on a helicopter.

          Most of my fellow aviator warriors that died in combat were from shots accurately placed into the cockpit.

  6. avatar JDC says:

    I did not know shooting inside to out deflects more. Good to know.

    JWT,
    What weapons and ammo have you used for such vehicle stops, and can you comment on what is better?

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Inside to out there’s just more distance for the round to deflect.
      M4, M240B, M2. M2 works best. M2 always works best.

      1. avatar Kilo says:

        120MM works pretty good too.

      2. avatar Joe R. says:

        4 ga. shotguns. 2 ga. Can stop a steam train.

    2. avatar Derek says:

      Rounds fired in will deflect dowm, best practice would be aiming for the cranial vault and if there is glass in the way high thoracic hits will do nicely. Once the glass is defeated even better hits will be made without shifting point of aim. It also serves to remember our friend newton and that while stopping the driver is most likely to stop the vehicular assault, there is no sure thing.

  7. avatar JDC says:

    Do the 5.56 rounds work decently, though?
    BTW, just to show you how old I am, I qualified on the M60, M14, M1911, M79, the Remington 870, and the M2 .

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      I was never impressed with our standard NATO round for anything.

    2. avatar Aerindel says:

      Yep. They go through 1/4 mild steel like butter. Nothing the cab of a car is doing to effect them much.

      1. avatar Joe R. says:

        .50 cal Sabot Light Armor Piercing (SLAP) rounds go through the steel like butter, then go through the concrete block wall behind it like “I can’t believe it’s not butter”; and the tree behind that like apple-butter; and the house behind that like Nutella.

        The DoD likes to issue these out in 30 round links to add to your regular accoutrement of Armor Piercing Incendiary / Armor Piercing Tracer (API / APT). If they just handed them out like candy you’d leave a wake like Sherman.

  8. avatar Dave Lewis says:

    Anybody remember the old Ithaca 10 gauge Roadblockers? Even big guys had trouble shooting one, but that much lead – around 750 grains if I remember correctly – would tear a vehicle and driver up pretty well. However nothing you can shoot out of a small arm is going to stop the ballistic mass of a heavy truck. The US Navy learned the same thing in the Pacific in WW2. If you kill the pilot of a kamikaze aircraft you just change it from a smart bomb into an unguided dumb bomb. If the trajectory is already set its still going to hit the target.

    1. avatar Geoff PR: says:

      “However nothing you can shoot out of a small arm is going to stop the ballistic mass of a heavy truck.”

      Blowing out the front tires will stop it quicker and maybe lessen the carnage somewhat…

      1. avatar Aerindel says:

        How is that supposed to work? Cars seem to drive pretty well with no tires.

        1. avatar Geoff PR: says:

          It’s the sheer weight over the front ‘steering’ wheels on a semi…

      2. avatar Dave Lewis says:

        I remember seeing a law enforcement training film about 20 years ago that talked about trying to stop big rigs by shooting the tires. The scenario was of a police car pulling alongside the truck and an officer firing his service pistol – and I think they did the tests with a 9mm, .357 and .45 – into the tires. In every instance the pistol rounds did not penetrate the tires due to the thickness of the rubber and the high speed of the tire rotation. The only thing that worked was a 12 gauge shotgun slug which did deflate the tire. I don’t know how that would equate to a vehicle that’s approaching you but my feeling is that trying to shoot out the tires of a tractor trailer rig is going to be an exercise in futility.

  9. avatar JDC says:

    Just to show you boys what an M2 can do, here’s the Medal of Honor citation for SFC Paul Ray Smith,

    Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with an armed enemy near Baghdad International Airport, Baghdad, Iraq on April 4, 2003. On that day, Sergeant First Class Smith was engaged in the construction of a prisoner of war holding area when his Task Force was violently attacked by a company-sized enemy force. Realizing the vulnerability of over 100 soldiers, Sergeant First Class Smith quickly organized a hasty defense consisting of two platoons of soldiers, one Bradley Fighting Vehicle and three armored personnel carriers. As the fight developed, Sergeant First Class Smith braved hostile enemy fire to personally engage the enemy with hand grenades and anti-tank weapons, and organized the evacuation of three wounded soldiers from an armored personnel carrier struck by a rocket propelled grenade and a 60 mm mortar round. Fearing the enemy would overrun their defenses, Sergeant First Class Smith moved under withering enemy fire to man a .50 caliber machine gun mounted on a damaged armored personnel carrier. In total disregard for his own life, he maintained his exposed position in order to engage the attacking enemy force. During this action, he was mortally wounded. His courageous actions helped defeat the enemy attack, and resulted in as many as 50 enemy soldiers killed, while allowing the safe withdrawal of numerous wounded soldiers. Sergeant First Class Smith’s extraordinary heroism and uncommon valor are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the Third Infantry Division ‘Rock of the Marne,’ and the United States Army.

  10. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    “As far as where to shoot the driver, just aim center mass. Yes, the round will be deflected by the angle of the window. … Understand that will take many more rounds since you are firing through a barrier.”

    And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I carry a full size handgun in .40 S&W with LOTS of 180 grain bullets: so that I have enough MASS to get through windshield glass and sheet metal doors to stop an attacker. And, according to the ultra-high speed video that I watched, 180 grain bullets do not deflect through a windshield even at pretty oblique angles. (Lighter bullets such as the popular 115 grain bullets for 9x19mm, .357 Magnum, and .38 Special, tend to deflect a lot more.)

    Of course the odds of needing to stop a vehicle attack are pretty low. At any rate, I have decided that I want to be prepared for that particular threat profile and choose a firearm platform accordingly. Your mileage may vary.

  11. avatar Ben says:

    Best way to stop an attack like this? Stop importing murderous zealots into your country. Here’s hoping our new leader and our old Congress critters will actually do it.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      Bingo. The winning answer.

      1. Was someone yelling “That’s awesome!” over and over at the end of that video? If it was something else in French, could someone translate it please.

    2. avatar Rusty Chains says:

      This was the best answer. It is clear that the old president was focused on bringing in new probable Democrat votes and gave no sh!ts about the terrorists that we got with them; after all the terrorists are just interested in blowing up, running down, or shooting Christians and he couldn’t care less about them. Yeah they also shoot gays, but that just helps push his gun control ideology.

  12. avatar Madcapp says:

    You hold your phone sideways when taking a video. Why is that so hard to figure out?

  13. avatar Detroiter says:

    Timely post. I’ve Been contemplating this since turkey day. Biggest fear- dead guy with his foot on the pedal.

    Still trying to find a way to conceal a 50bmg

  14. avatar Ralph says:

    So, to clarify, should I shoot the driver?

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Where would you get that idea?

      1. avatar jwm says:

        Internet rumor?

  15. avatar JDC says:

    Another thing to think about is being where there are a lot of people together, densely compacted.

  16. avatar Kendahl says:

    Two problems with shooting the driver:

    Cruise control which may be as simple as a brick holding down the accelerator pedal.

    If faced with a vehicle attack, private individuals will be carrying handguns rather than rifles, shotguns or heavy automatic weapons. 9 mm and .38, which most of us shoot better, don’t penetrate as well as .40 or .45. I doubt that a .380 pocket pistol would be worth trying.

  17. avatar JDC says:

    Which is why I carry the FNH FNS.40 Longslide in my bag on campus in downtown Denver. There are all kinds of things that could happen. Maybe I need to upgrade that Sub 2000 to a .40.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Yes, upgrade to the SUB-2000 in .40 S&W. The 16 inch long barrel will launch 180 grain bullets at close to 1,100 fps at the muzzle. And if you want something strictly for stopping 2-legged attackers (without having to shoot through a windshield), it launches hot 135 grain loads at 1,650 fps! That is actually hotter and slightly more energy than the infamous .357 Magnum revolver shooting full power 125 grain bullets out of a 5-inch barrel!

  18. avatar JDC says:

    Underwood 180’s will launch out of my FN at 1100. if you guys haven’t tried Underwood, you ought to. Smokin’ hot, really accurate, and 2/3 the cost of Buffalo Bore. They pretty much match thier advertised velocity on anything I’ve tried. They send out free shipping e-mails every couple of months.

  19. avatar J says:

    This is one of the worst articles I’ve seen written on this site. A lot “hopefuls” and answers for which no one would be able to effectively utilize.
    Shoot the driver. No kidding. But when you’re only armed with a pistol and this is happening and the bodies at sticking to the front of the vehicle, not especially effective. If that vehicle is coming at you that fast and with such a changing trajectory, you could probably put 3-4 shots on target. And only a pistol round. Not too effective on glass like that.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Hundreds of police encounters where officers effectively fire through windows and doors with pistols are a pretty strong counterpoint to your argument. Do you have any data at all to back up your claims?

      1. avatar J says:

        I’m pointing out that in this case, multiple people/bodies were being struck and sticking to the front of the truck. Firing your weapon at the truck at that point…the odds of hitting the driver without a larger caliber bullet is unlikely. If it were just driving around not striking people, I’d agree it would work decently just as the police make do.

    2. avatar Detroiter says:

      I’ve never been in combat or a dgu. However- I’m pretty sure there is no such thing as a certainty in either scenario.

      If you want ” definately’ s” and “for sures” I’m sure jwt could lie to you. But I for one appreciate the candid conversation about his experiences in this area

      Not sure what a better idea would be…. “Shoot through the bumper and take out the upper ball joint. That would work every time, even under stress, in a crowd and especially with a subcompact .22”

      1. avatar jwm says:

        You can do everything right and still get f*cked. Murphy is always waiting.

        But you do the best you can. Sometimes Murphy is messing with the other guy.

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          Wisdom right there.

  20. avatar Frank in VA says:

    I’m pretty sure I’m not going to stop any vehicle borne terrorist with my LCP, unless he is on a moped.

  21. avatar Mad Marsupial says:

    If you’ve seen the new ISIS ‘snuff’ film of suicide car bomb explosions, you know that most of these vehicles have been armoured up to protect the driver from small arms.

    What is the best way to stop that? Javelin, Milan, LAW, auto 40mm grenade launcher?

  22. My first reaction as a conceal carrier to a vehicle bearing down on me and other people is to get the fuck out of the way. If I can jerk the person next to me out of the way too then my reaction would be to help them too. The last thing on my mind is to draw a gun against a truck. I’d draw against a drawn gun in a split second but not so much with the truck. A bullet travels 900fps. Got to shoot the pilot in that case. A truck is a little slower so getting out of the way is priority one.

  23. avatar Ozzallos says:

    Predictably, the physics geniuses come out of the woodwork for this article.

    Okay, Newton– Yes, you’re right. An object in motion tends to stay in motion until acted upon by an outside force. Good job. Boy, you sure showed that guy with first hand overseas experience. And meanwhile, killing the driver is still the fastest way to stop it or even- wait for it –divert it from it intended target as the operator slumps over, bleeding from multiple wounds. People react to pain. They flinch at gunfire. They panic as their vehicle compartment is torn apart.

    No, there’s never any 100% guarantees in this business. You can cite Newton all day long and be correct. And while you’re doing that, please remember the moral of this story: Nothing else has the possibility of stopping the vehicle faster short of the LAW/RPG you forgot to CCW.

  24. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    The best way to stop these sorts of incidents is to stop importing the people doing them.

    Absent that, the next best course of action for everyone will be to notice what large vehicles are doing much sooner than most people do.

    Most people’s situational awareness is zip and nil. That needs to change.

    Having worked around large trucks and equipment for most of my life, I’m more aware than most of “what is that XYZ-large-diesel-powered-tons-of-steel doing?” than most. I’ve successfully avoided at least three serious accidents in my life with big rigs or near big rigs, two of which I’m sure would have killed my ass dead.

    These vehicles don’t turn on a dime, and even if the driver makes instant decisions, the size and mass of the vehicle means that there’s time for people to react. Too many people are far too complacent around big rigs, and you can see it in the stupid, stupid things they do on the highways around Class-8 trucks. My favorites here in Wyoming are the people who pass a big rig on the way down an exit ramp from the interstate, where there’s a stop sign at the bottom. Sure, he might be able to haul that rig to a stop in dry, warm weather. In the winter, you might have just signed your own death certificate with that move, with no malice at all on the part of the truck driver.

    Shooting at a truck seems a tad outside what a normal CCW carrier ought be doing. Do you know the full situation inside that cab? Do you know if there are hostages? Do you know if there are explosives involved? Nope, probably not. Are you going to be able to draw a bead on the driver who is coming at you at a rate of 40 to 90 feet per second, especially if you’re on a crowded street? Don’t make me laugh.

    Am I going to be hailed as a hero for shooting a driver of a big rig? I’m going to guess “no.” If something goes wrong, will I be able to explain my actions in court in such a way that a jury is going to agree that what I was doing were the actions of a “reasonable man?” Maybe if the jury box has at least a few Afghanistan or Iraq vets on it, but if it’s filled with women from Oprah’s audience, probably not.

    So I’m just going to use my superior awareness and my superior physical condition to get out of the way and not be counted as one of the greasy red stains on the pavement.

  25. avatar ChiGurh18 says:

    Situational awareness…you will not be able to do anything to stop something like this. The best you can do is pay attention and move away from the vehicle, trying to go toward any direction that has large obstacles that might slow/stop the vehicle if it does end up coming your way. These truck attack are not only an effective means of mass murder within seconds, but the simplicity of committing the act along with non-redflagging material is it’s greatest selling point for terrorist. Why rely on weapons that takes a longer amount of time to commit terrorism, when you can get a guarantee 10 -15 if you plow through a crowded area. Even if you are incapacitated, the attack will continue for a short while. There not a lot of preparation needed, nor illegal material that might get you caught. I can only imagine the horror if they trained themselves to drive a full-on 18 wheeler; the damage that could be caused especially if you loaded it up with a crapload of heavy material to increase the kinetic energy is very alarming…

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      Imagine the chaos they could cause if they hijack a truck carrying a trailer and a pup of rack-grade gasoline?

      Attacks with trucks loaded with hazmat materials (eg, anhydrous ammonia) could also have terrible consequences.

      How can you prevent this stuff? Post armed guards at truck stops, or wherever trucks park so a trucker can crawl in the back to sleep or wait for a few hours to pass, so his logbook looks even marginally plausible?

      That’s why the single best way to combat these attacks is to never allow these clowns into the country.

      1. avatar Dave Lewis says:

        I taught Hazmat and the DOT emergency response guidebook for a lot of years. If you want to lose sleep, drive around a major industrial area (any big city) with a spotter and a copy of the book and see what’s driving down the road. I think security is a little better than it used to be but I’m still surprised that all of these chemical engineering majors from third, fourth and fifth world countries with unpronounceable names haven’t done some serious damage. I remember an instructor calling hazmat a poor man’s nuke.

        1. avatar OODAloop says:

          Yeah, we do this when traveling. I’ve got a copy of the Emergency Response Guide in the car and hand it to the kids so they can look up the 4 digit numbers on tankers or trailers when we pass them. It’s awfully scary to see what’s on the road with you some times….

        2. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

          In our VFD, we have a “rule of thumb” when dealing with hazmat incidents:

          “Hold your thumb at arm’s length. Put thumb over hazmat scene. If hazmat scene doesn’t get covered completely by your thumb, you’re too close.”

  26. avatar Elliott G says:

    My game plan would be to shoot dirt, screaming trying to get people off the road. Last thing I want is grazing shots on the cab passing into the crowd behind.

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