Lessons from the Range | Vehicles

Shooting in, around, and through vehicles. 

Many myths have been passed down from shooter to shooter when it comes to bullets on vehicles. The only way to understand what a round is likely to do when striking a vehicle is to do just that. While you may have to travel to attend a course like this I highly recommend it. There are usually more epiphanies, and dogmas smashed in this course than any other.

Windshields – Shooting from inside a vehicle, through the windshield is not only an experience, but provides vital information. The windshield differs from the other windows in that it is has three layers: glass, laminate, glass. With targets placed against the front bumper, shooting from the drivers seat, rounds typically strike the target a couple inches higher than point of aim, initially. Push the target back a just a few feet and the rounds typically impact above the human-size target. Of course, after the first few rounds penetrate and weaken the windshield, rounds begin to strike at point of aim. The key is to take multiple shots, but also be responsible for your backstop.

For this reason, when I see footage of police chases with officers shooting through their windshield, at a vehicle that’s car lengths ahead of them. I know they have never experimented with this technique. If they did, they would know that they have no accountability for the first couple of rounds.

Side Windows – When shooting through side windows, both front and back, they typically shatter and don’t have much influence on the round. The majority of rounds fired through side windows without any other interference strike the target at the intended point of aim. I say typically because it is difficult to predict with 100% certainty what a round will do when striking an intermediate barrier.

In our classes, we like to break a vehicle’s side windows with tools to demonstrate different techniques for rescue purposes. One thing I have learned is, side windows, if struck in the center tend to bend quite a bit without breaking. Time and again students will attempt a joust technique, with a police baton at the center of a window, with great vigor to only have the window bounce them back. The technique that I find works best is to strike the window at the bottom corner. The corner has the least flexibility and when struck, shatters relatively easy. Also, a glass breaker on a small pocket knife works much better than most blunt object.

Ballistic Cover – Many times, in the past I have been told by shooters, instructors, and people that play cards at gun clubs, that the only point of cover on a vehicle is the engine block. This is not true. In my quest to locate additional cover, and to not be influenced by opinion, I have fired countless rounds, of the following calibers: 9, 40, 45, 357Sig, 556, 762×39, 762×51, at vehicles at close distance. I have found areas other than the engine block, that pretty reliably stop rounds. A vehicle’s door pillars for instance, are made of steel and folded many times making them very dense. That dense steel, while thin, provides pretty reliable cover. Being outside the vehicle and stacking the pillars provides even more cover, and is better in many circumstances, than the option of running to cover at some distant place. But as always, the situation dictates.

In many of these classes, I have also implemented ballistic gel testing. This allows the students the opportunity to fire their chosen defensive carry ammo and watch it perform in a safe environment on gel, and through intermediate barriers. I can’t tell you how many shooters have changed their duty ammo after these classes. Reading and watching videos is an okay way to learn, but it does not replace first person instruction and actual experience. Get to a class, shoot a vehicle and put some evidence and validation behind your beliefs.