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How many police or military shows / movies have you seen where the good guys move into cover by hugging tight to the bumper of a patrol car, wall, or other barrier? Chances are, the answer is lots of ’em. Today at Gunsite, we reviewed the effective use of barriers, obstacles, and cover when engaging a target. The lesson learned – the way they do it in the movies gets you dead.

Instead of rushing up to cover, stay the maximum safe distance away while still being able to employ it to cover (i.e. hide) your position.

In this case, we were to assume that a second story balcony represented a secondary threat to the targets we were engaging down range. Maximum safe (defilade) distance was only five feet in order to stay out of line of sight of the balcony. Still, five feet was plenty of room to engage the paper-enemy without restricting myself to a position of potential vulnerability.

By tucking up into cover, you restrict your own mobility, and give the bad guy an almost spot-on idea of exactly where you are. The further back from your cover you remain, the more options you have.

It’s all about options. The more movement area you have, the greater your chances of coming out of a self defense situation alive.

Notice at the second obstacle I was “too close” and the instructor had me change position. D’oh!

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Ben is an aspiring gun-writer caught up in the pursuit of playing with firearms for a living. He spends his days grinding his way up the corporate ladder and wishing for 5pm. His nights.. well the details of how he spends those are private.. His childhood dreams of chasing "bad guys" for a living met the unfortunate reality of student loans, bills, and promotion potential. Ben resides in the Northern Virginia area and enjoys long walks.. to the range. Ben is always on the lookout for new article ideas. Have a firearm you want reviewed? A product tested? Your suggestions are welcome!


  1. Reminds me of the scene in Black Hawk Down when the Delta guy advises the typist not to stick to the walls b/c bullets tend to skip down them.

  2. The U. S. Army taught me that behind a masking object is concelment and behind a bullet-proof object is cover. If your assailant can’t see you, you are concealed but, if he can’t shoot through your concealment, you are covered. The points about staying some distance away from your concealment/cover are well taken. Thank you for sharing these valuable tips.


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