Shooting from cover

Last weekend our gun club hosted its monthly defensive pistol match. I desperately needed some time away from the kids after a few hot (100+ degree), activity-filled weeks, and was craving a bit of grown-up competition, so the Hubby agreed to take over the parenting duties for the morning so I could trek up to the range.

The weather was glorious, as the typically windy range offered only a light breeze, which was sufficient to take the edge off the 90 degree heat, but not enough to make shooting a hassle. Fewer than the usual number of participants took part, but the ones who came were energized by a state IDPA match that many of them had attended the weekend before.

As we walked the course, it became apparent that the majority of the stages were to be shot from behind cover. Since it's pretty hard to haul up barriers and walls to shoot behind when you're on your own, I relish the opportunity the DP gives me to practice what I can't easily practice solo.

The five stages were fast, fun and varied. The first was drawing from a seated position behind a table to eliminate three threats in a "doorway", Clint Eastwood style. The second was performed from a surrender position behind barrels, with a wall dividing threats to the left and right. I botched this one as I got excited and thrust my leg out from behind cover, drawing a procedural penalty.

The third one was my favorite. Rather than describe it, I had my run filmed so I could show you. Here it is.
You'll hear me reminding myself to "stop at the edge", rather than repeat the procedural error I made in the prior stage.

The other two stages involved a combination of steel targets and silhouettes, that needed to be engaged from both sides of barriers, or between two walls.

I had the distinct opportunity of shooting with some really expert pistol shooters. In fact, the two top shooters from the match were in my group. It was great watching these guys quickly, accurately navigate the courses of fire, but it also made me aware that there's a big difference between shooting from cover for a speed match, and shooting from cover in a tactically sound, real-life simulation.

For instance, I've always been taught that shooting from cover is a little like a game of cat and mouse. Unlike the defensive pistol course, in real life, you wouldn't exactly have a predetermined number of bad guys standing quietly behind a corner waiting to be shot. Your job, therefore, is to find any sneaky bad guys, while simultaneously avoiding exposing any part of yourself to their line of fire. To achieve this objective safely you must slowly, methodically work your way around cover, being ever vigilant not to expose any part of yourself, while simultaneously identifying and eliminating the threats. Running through the course quickly, like the sharp shooting fellas in my group so effectively did, would more than likely cause you to miss someone, or to poke out some body part too much and make yourself a target.

The basics of shooting behind cover are what's known as "slicing the pie". This technique entails working your way around your piece of cover in a small, incremental, systematic way, so as to never expose any part of you to something you don't already have your gun sites on.

For a little visual assistance on "slicing the pie", I borrowed this handy graphic from a fellow female firearm blogger named A Police Wife.

In the image, you are the blue guy, safely located behind cover (top of dotted arrow). As the graphic illustrates by the straight arrows, which represent your line of sight, you can not see the red guy from the first location, behind the wall. To find your target, you slowly work your way down, one "pie slice" at a time (follow the dotted arrow) until you have a direct line of site to the red guy, then shoot.

Most people start very close to the corner of the barrier. I did, in the match because, let's face it, I feel safer when I'm snuggling up next to the piece of cover that stands between me and an armed bad guy. But if Mr. Bad Guy is right next to the wall on the other side, and sees my gun muzzle poking out from behind cover as I methodically slice the pie, he could easily grab it and disarm me right then and there. This graphic actually illustrates that better use of cover comes when you work from farther back away from the wall itself.

The only other critique I had for my run on course 3 was that I missed the tactical reload between barrier 1 and barrier 2. If I'd been thinking tactically, rather than worrying about that infernal shot clock, I would have stripped the magazine from the gun while I ran from cover 1 to cover 2, retained the not-quite-empty one, replaced it with a full one, and been ready to engage with a fresh load of 20 rounds when I got to cover 2. Instead, I ran dry 2 shots in at cover 2, and had to hide behind cover to reload. This would have likely been the end of me in a real-life scenario, as the bad guys would have known where I was, and that I was out of ammo. That is NOT a situation I ever want to be in!

Hopefully this enlightens some about the use of cover for defensive pistol shooting. As always, I'd love your comments!

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