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Shooting from Cover

Posted by Rob Longenecker on July 27th, 2006

I thought I knew how, but I didn’t.  I used to think I knew how to use cover while shooting. I did it badly for a while, partly because I had competition in mind, not my survival.  I finally learned the lethal consequences of what I was doing and discovered a better way.

Here’s what I learned.

You can use a few props to test this out or use naturally occurring objects you might use for cover like walls, corners of buildings and automobiles.  In matches and for training at the range we used structures built with 2 X 4″s.  You don’t even need a gun to begin to test out a few concepts for yourself; you can simply extend your hands in a simulated firing grip.

It’s best to imagine you’re up against a smart, capable adversary who will show you no mercy.

“Pop out and Back”

This was the first bad method I used when shooting around a high wall or corner of a building.  I would step out sideways, seek out the target, take a shot and pop quickly back behind cover.  The problem with it was I was blind before and after shooting, and more concerned with moving and shooting than with protecting myself.  If I missed the bad guy, I lost sight of him, and he knew exactly where I was.

Not good.

I quickly figured out that that wouldn’t work, so I tried the “Quick Peek” method, exposing only my head, not my whole body.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a good look at the bad guy and lost sight of him when I brought my head back behind cover. Now the bad guy was ready for my next peek and could shoot me in the face. 

Scratch that method.

So what works?  First thing is stand back from your cover.

I used to get way too close to the structure I was using for cover.  Right up against it.  Though it felt safer, just the opposite was true.  I was often off balance and I was really restricted in my movements. Also, an unseen bad guy could grab my shooting arm as it extended past the cover.  Stay at least an arm’s reach away from cover.

Have your gun up at eye level with sights aligned before you expose yourself from cover. Align the sights behind cover. When you roll out, find the bad guy and place that sight picture on the bad guy. Don’t try to move out from cover, then align the sights find the suspect, and make the shot. This takes too much time and exposes you while you’re doing it. Streamline the process.

Align your sights and be ready to shoot before moving.

Roll out. John Farnam recommends this technique. Get a solid base behind cover with one or the other foot forward. Roll your upper body out from behind cover from you waist instead of stepping out. You can do it from a many different foot positions.
Shoot around, not over, cover. The exception is long low cover, like a wall where you cannot shoot around. Our eyes are positioned one third of the way down from the top of our heads. When we shoot over cover, we expose a lot of target before we are able to see and return fire. So, shoot around cover by rolling out from the side.

If you’re hidden behind a vehicle, be more than an arms length back, bring up the gun and align the sights before raising up and finding your target. This move is a little riskier than moving sideways from cover because the top of your head is exposed first as you rise.

And of course, reload from behind cover and clear any malfunctions from behind cover.

IDPA competitions often do a good job of demanding proper use of cover. Many early styles of competition did not. IDPA may be a little “gamy” still because participants want to win, but it will increase your awareness of using cover properly.  Shooting instructors or shooting academies are another good resource to learn how to use cover to survive a gunfight.

Note: these are my opinions and should not be considered the last word in how to survive an armed confrontation.  You are responsible for your own safety and that of others.

That’s what I’ve learned. Let’s hear from all of subscribers here. What are the best ways you’ve learned how to shoot from cover. Send them to me and I’ll post up here in the comments.



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