Use of Cover and Concealment

Jun 18th, 2007 | By | Category: Articles
This entry is part 5 of 7 in the series Practical Defensive Handgun

When we start talking about the tactical application of firearms we must discuss cover and concealment. They are tied together and are easier to understand when presented at the same time. The simplest definition of cover is; something that prevents bullets from entering you. That’s it. Cover can be anything that is “bullet proof” or “bullet resistant.” Concrete walls, hunks of steel, body armor, tree trunks, whatever. If it stops the bullet, it is “cover.” Concealment is something that prevents your opposition from seeing or identifying you. It does not stop bullets. Grass, interior walls, car bodies, bushes, etc. You get the idea. Cover may be concealment such as a brick wall that you duck behind. Cover in the form of ballistic windows might not be concealment. Think about what is around you in terms of cover or concealment. Right back to that situational awareness thing huh?
Along with cover and concealment we must consider obstacles and barricades because they are usually our best source for cover or concealment. An obstacle is anything that is in your way. A gate, a wall, a car, hedgerow, dead donkey/ camel/ goat (3rd World application) or even some idiot standing in the parking lot. If it hinders or impedes your movement to or from the objective or threat, it is an obstacle. A barricade is and obstacle that you use to your advantage. Pretty simple concept huh? It the dead donkey/ car is between you and the bad guy and you use it as cover or concealment from him; it is a barricade. If the crowd of people prevents the threat from seeing where you are going; it is a barricade. I’m sure that you get the picture by now.
Some basic rules to follow when shooting around or making use of barricades are a good idea. Do not get locked into the mindset of I MUST ALWAYS/NEVER DO THIS. Remember, these are general rules. Nothing in a gunfight is hard and fast except; WIN THE FIGHT!

  1. Do not crowd your barricade. Try to stay at least an arms length off of the barricade. This gives you a movement option if surprised. The old urban legend about bullets traveling parallel to walls if they hit them is TRUE. Usually about 5-14 inches off of the surface of the wall and parallel. That would sting I’d bet.
  2. Do not extend more of yourself beyond the edge of the barricade than necessary to make a shot. This is called “telegraphing” and it lets the bad guy know where you are. It also makes more of you a target.
  3. Do not extend your weapon beyond the plane of the barricade. You do not know what is on the other side of the wall. If the bad guy is there and grabs your weapon things will get very ugly very quickly.
  4. Shoot around barricades not over them.
  5. Be mindful of the barrel sight relationship. The bore and sights are on slightly different planes. It is possible that your sights are clear of the barricade but your muzzle is not. Shooting the barricade in front of you is not only unproductive, but can be quite painful.
    These general concepts should hold you in good stead. Remember to be flexible. If you have to break some of the aforementioned rules to win then do so. I just would not make a habit of it.
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Article by Ric.


Ric has seen 18 years of decorated military service in the United States Marine Corps including earning the Combat Action Ribbon for Action during Operation Desert Storm He has over 20 years of varied civilian law enforcement in a variety of assignments including: Uniformed Patrol where he served as a field Training Officer, Mobile Tactics Team member, Resort Area Operations, Firearms Instructor, and is currently serving as a Major Crimes Investigator.

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