Colion, Amy and I poked a lot of fun at my longtime penchant for shooting “tactically” instead of “athletically” in Season 1 of “NOIR”—especially Episode 9—but this is a serious issue for anyone who carries a defensive handgun on a regular basis. I really do want everyone to have a blast while shooting. It should be fun, and athletic shooting is the most pure fun I’ve ever had at the range with a gun in my hands. However, it’s also important to be serious during at least a meaningful percentage of your range sessions.
One of the serious components to incorporate, if you are able (almost every range has its constraints), is shooting from cover and concealment (C&C). The first actually provides protection from incoming fire, while the latter can only be expected to hide your body from the view of threats. While both can be important, cover trumps concealment because it stops the things that can really hurt us, namely bullets.
If you never think about using C&C during a mock fight on the range, you will more than likely never think about it during the real thing. This is why it is important to spend a portion of your range practice shooting from behind it, whether it’s a competition cut barricade, a plastic barrel or the motor-carrying end of a vehicle. Get behind something and shoot.
Even if you are restricted to the cramped space of an indoor range booth, you can still think about shooting from good ground. Simply thinking about it might be the single most important factor in all of this. Make it part of your core mindset. In the indoor booth space, you can shoot from a standing body position that mimics how you would have to be positioned to shoot from behind cover. It is rarely a comfortable thing if you do it properly.
Whenever you are doing something administrative such as a reload, scan of your surroundings or malfunction clearance, you should think C&C. It might be a little step in one direction or another in the shooting booth, or it might be a full kneel and duck behind a barrel on your local outdoor range, but make it something.
Think about how you look from the other side of the C&C—how you would appear visually to someone on the other side at various angles. Are you exposing more than what is needed to put accurate fire on your adversary? Are you changing positions as you fully move behind and then reappear? If you crowd it, know that you might be effectively handing your gun to whatever is on the other side.
Think strategically. Know that you can use a tree as cover, for instance, even if it’s 20 yards away from you. The fastest way to that cover might be two steps to your left, not 30 steps forward. The idea is simply to get it between you and the source of any incoming rounds. You want it, not your body, to catch those rounds.
Try to ensure that you are not unnecessarily exposing the most vulnerable parts of your body to harm. A common mistake is made when shooting from the kneeling position. It is natural for many folks to want to have their outside knee up when shooting with one knee on the ground from behind C&C. This position can offer additional stability. However, doing this almost always exposes that leg and the enormous femoral artery that it houses to real trauma. It’s best to have the outside knee down in nearly every case. Keeping it simple, you can shoot with both knees on the ground when working from behind C&C.
The fact that this is not the easiest subject to figure out on your own is more reason to seek formal defensive shooting instruction, if you haven’t already. One of the critical components of any good class should be teaching students how to properly and consistently use C&C. Before you know it, you will have accessible C&C in the subconscious mind even before the fight starts.
Have fun shooting, but remember that shooting really is the exception to most other fun sports—it can and does save lives every single day. All of us can make a portion of the time we spend at the range about the business of surviving, and people who use cover tend to be survivors. Regularly think about cover and concealment. The effort will make seeking it in a time of need second nature.