View Full Version : Drive Or Shoot??

Gabriel Suarez
04-15-2004, 12:58 PM

One area that receives very little attention in training, yet is an area where we not only spend a great deal of our time, but also where we are the most vulnerable. That is when we are sitting in our cars, either driving or stopped in traffic or parked.

Many guys that carry guns either professionally or by choice seem to think that as long as they have their gun with them, they can solve any problem that may come up…even if they are behind the wheel.

Let's try an exercise. Picture in your mind the tables that are often used to estimate the terminal ballistics of a particular cartridge. Factors like velocity, mass, bullet design all are compiled into some program and a suitability factor is then issued to the cartridge.

Now take all of those values and alter them for a different kind of result. Instead of data for a cartridge, input data for a Ford (or a Chevy, Volvo, or whatever). Talk about a Stopping Power Index!! A vast percentage of those shot with handgun cartridges survive. Almost everyone who is hit dead-center by a car (and run over) does not.

So how does that relate to defense in your car?? If your car is still moving, or can get going quickly, don't worry about guns. Use the car. Another point that the reader must understand is that before anyone will ever get a weapon out and shooting from within the car, the driver would have usually have already performed some evasive driving maneuver and escaped the area.

Additionally, I've never met anyone who could drive and shoot at the same time without doing both things poorly. Whether you are alone, or working with a group, the firearm picks up when the wheels stop.

There may be situations where, as a passenger, you need to respond to a threat while the car is moving. I'm not going to try to come up with scenarios for you. There are plenty of situations both here in the USA and overseas where road-block situations intended to force the god guys to stop and get out are implemented. Suffice to say that it could happen and therefore it fits within the parameters of discussion. These include:

Shooting Car to Car - Moving Shooter to Moving Target
Shooting Car to Side Walk - Moving Shooter to Stationary Target

Firing from a moving car into another moving car seems like some sort of Super-Ninja HRT stuff, but it is actually very simple. You are moving and the target is moving, so don't worry about it. Use the same methods you'd use at any other time. Center your sights and get busy!

Firing from a moving car toward a stationary target (perhaps a terrorist roadblock attendee) is a bit more complicated. Think about the dynamics. It’s the same as for shooting moving targets while you are stationary. You normally lead ahead of a moving target slightly. In the case of firing from a moving platform at a stationary target, you use reverse lead. That is you trail the target instead of leading it.

Another situation that you may face is coming under fire as you exit, or as you are preparing to board your vehicle. You can get a good discussion of the issues of Cover and Concealment in Tactical Advantage and Tactical Pistol so I won't spend too much time on it, except as it pertains to motor vehicles.

When using a car as cover, do not get too close to it as ricochets may still hit you. Stay at least arm's length away from the cover. Six feet away will be best. Don't stick your hands beyond the cover, and don't rest the firearm on the cover itself. Some police groups advocate staying in the car and using it as cover. This is fine, but at the cost of mobility. Far better to keep your mobility.

So what exactly do rounds do to a car and its occupants? Well, there are no guarantees on anything relating to ballistics, but I'll say that most pistol rounds are wasted against automobiles. Much the same goes for the .223/5.56 family. We demonstrate this very easily by firing at actual car doors in our training courses.

When you get into the .308 family of cartridges things change dramatically. Buckshot is fairly worthless against cars. I personally shot a carjacker with a load of 12 pellet magnum buckshot at 7 yards as he hunkered down and fired at me over the door. The majority of the shot pattern was stopped by the thin door of a Fiat Spyder!

Shotgun slugs are a different deal altogether! One special group that I have known uses slugs over any and all other weapons when they anticipate contacts in and around cars.

So the bottom line as to whether you should drive or shoot is that it depends on the situation. If tactically possible, drive over, around, through or away from the attack. If you cannot do that, I suggest leaving the vehicle and using it as cover iif possible. Rather than be trapped within, its better to fight from outside. If you have to shoot from inside the car in an emergency situation, there is a way to do that as well. But that is for the next post.

Gabe Suarez
Suarez International USA, Inc.
303 East Gurley Street #461
Prescott, Az 86301


04-15-2004, 02:27 PM
Good stuff!! When I was on SWAT, we used to get a wrecker company to bring salvage vehicles to our range and we would spend the day shooting them up with different ammo. Cars are remarkably resistant to most handgun rounds, which was quite a surprise to me. Windshields are also pretty stout, depending upon the angle that the bullet impacts from. One round we used that shredded the car to pieces was the good old AK round--7.62 x 39. It would cut through a vehicle like melted butter. Of course, the .308 and other high-power rounds will do likewise. If I was facing a threat while in a vehicle, my first choice would be to drive around, over or through my adversary. Hunker low in the seat and gun it, which would make you fairly safe from incoming rounds. Cars make wonderful weapons and should be thought of as such, including ramming other vehicles, flattening attackers, making fast getaways by pushing other vehicles out of the way, jumping over curbs, climbing over medians, etc. I can't wait for the vehicle gunfighting class!

Steve Camp
04-15-2004, 08:19 PM
I can't wait for the vehicle gunfighting class!

Vehicle Gunfighting.... hmmm... Gabe, will you let us do moving vs moving FOF Airsoft? :p

04-15-2004, 08:50 PM
Thanks Gabe,this came at a great time, have down loaded and gone to work with it.

Hmmmmmm!! an airsoft Chevy :D

04-16-2004, 05:50 AM
At typical ranges, a good man can react, ccw belt draw and hit chest in the time period it takes for the car to respond to the foot hitting the accelerator, and the car just starting to move. That is, 1-1.2 seconds. Time it yourself. A heavy truck takes several seconds to get moving faster than a man can WALK. So, if the carjacker is right beside you, his gun is already out and "on" you, you'd need a racing "rail" car in order to not get several shots fired at you as you try to flee in the car, thru the windows.

I've shot up quite a few cars in my day. .22lr, from a rifle, goes thru practically any car door. So does any decent 9mm load. That is, at 90 degree angles. The problem is that such angles of fire are rarely offered. As the angle of impact gets to 45 degrees or more, effective penetration is pretty much lost.

62 gr, Steel tipped 223 goes thru one side of cars just fine, even at some pretty poor angles. Engine blocks stop 308's, too, and you can fire many, many shots at a car, without ever touching a guy who's hiding behind it, with any sort of rifle.

A lot of the armed guards that I teach work on armored cars, and they are taught the best weapon is the truck itself.
They also are taught never to get out of the truck if one of their own is being held hostage, but to drive off.
Personally I would always try to avoid danger or to move around it whenever possible, either in or out of a car.

Gabriel Suarez
04-16-2004, 06:49 PM
My Comments -

1). "...A heavy truck takes several seconds to get moving faster than a man can WALK. So, if the carjacker is right beside you, his gun is already out and "on" you, you'd need a racing "rail" car in order to not get several shots fired at you as you try to flee in the car, thru the windows."

And the point is???? As we mentioned in the article. If you can drive away, you do. If you can't drive away but can get out, you do. If you can neither drive away nor get out, you fight from the car. Those are the only choices. Doing anything is better than sitting there.

2). "...I've shot up quite a few cars in my day. .22lr, from a rifle, goes thru practically any car door. So does any decent 9mm load. That is, at 90 degree angles. The problem is that such angles of fire are rarely offered. As the angle of impact gets to 45 degrees or more, effective penetration is pretty much lost."

Ahhhh. No. Any decent 9mm load will NOT. I have been in on several car shootings (the real thing on real streets) and 90 degree angles were offered and the shots from fairly decent rounds did not make it through. One was a Fiat Spyder with the window rolled down, another was a Ford station wagon with windows up. There were also a Mustang, and a couple of others that I don't remember the make. Cars are very resilient.

As far as .22 LR, given that few operators use that caliber, I've never tested it against cars. Perhaps we'll see every man woman and child going out an buying Tactical Ruger 10-22 Anti-Vehicle Rifles :rolleyes:

04-16-2004, 08:13 PM
If I recall correctly, the old school of thought was that the first to exit their vehicles won the fight. Based on current data, this is no longer the case.
Recently, my belief has been, if the vehicle still viable as a vehicle (it can move) then it is your best primary defense/weapon/escape. Bail only if the the vehicle is no longer able to move. Doesn't this get back to the basics of getting off the line of attack? Exit the kill zone.

Sixteen's comments, while superficially correct, do not take into account reaction time and the difficulty of hitting a moving target. Not that these are any kind of guarantee, but it's something. Try to reset the bad guy's OODA loop. Maybe move toward him, put him on the defensive. Also, as Gabe mentions, what are the options? Based on the same time constraints, you're not going to be able to draw on him. (Which, BTW is why I many times I have gun in hand.) Maybe a deep voice and a subtle wave of the hand, "This is not the victim you are looking for. Move on."

As far as penetration goes, the feedback I've had from various sources is that a car can be suprisingly resistant, though not always consistant. Plenty of failures to penetrate on the books.
A personal friend once emptied a .38 sevice revolver into the windshield of a vehicle attempting to run him over. He remembered seeing rounds roll back down onto the hood. Fortunately, the shattering glass caused the driver to veer off. (An intresting tactic, by the way.) One commenter went as far to say that according to their testing a moving vehicle was hardly ever adequately penetrated.

My thoughts, for what it's worth.

04-17-2004, 07:21 PM
One round we used that shredded the car to pieces was the good old AK
round--7.62 x 39. It would cut through a vehicle like melted butter.

Were these currently available rounds, or the now un-importable steel tipped AP rounds?

Of course, IIRC Ruger Mini-30s sometimes have western spec .308 barrels


Its good to be in the habit of coming to a stop far enough behind the next vehicle to be able to drive out of your lane.

04-17-2004, 07:53 PM
You know, I really don't remember. That's been many years ago and my memory is not what it once was. It very well may have been AP rounds, but I'm not sure. We also shot up some old body armor with them, which I believe was level IIIA. These same rounds would penetrate both panels on three vests and keep on going. That's not really that unusual with rifle ammo I don't guess, but it wasn't real comforting when all the local gangbangers were using AK's.

04-19-2004, 02:29 PM
I like this thread. It's something I've trained in quite extensively. A few general points to add.

CHOOSE your personal car as you would your personal weapon. What do I mean by that ?
Something big, heavy, & powerfull. Think pick-up, 4x4 etc. They are far superior for driving up curbs to avoid the obstacle, or smashing through it.
A freind of mine ( an ex-Army Captain ) from the Rio Jeep club did just that. Driving home late one night, a car stopped in front. He spoted the crew holding pistols, getting out the car. He swerved, mounted a very high curb/sidewalk that would definatly have stopped a normal car. He escaped. The BGs fired, his jeep was holed. The only wound, - he caught a spent bullet in the back. - Pierced the skin & stopped !

Seat belts, - Wear them !
On a course in the UK many moons ago, practising car exit drills, a soldier asks if it wouldn't be better to not wear them. NO ! was the quick reply. It's law. You don't want to draw attention to yourself, even with the police. ( Training for covert work in NI.) But more importantly, - you have a greater chance of being in an accident than in a gunfight. Seat belts save lives, & hold you in place if you choose to ram the obsticle !
Airbags on the other hand we can do without. You don't want an airbag 'blowing up' in your face after raming an obsticle, & you're racing ( or trying to ) away from the threat.

Here in Rio I've helped persuade some folks to not buy what was a lifelong dream ! - That Mercedes or BMW, & to spend the same value on a decent 4x4 & spend the change on armour. Level IIIA normally. This advice may not be so revelent to most of you, but many lives here have been saved by this armouring.
Unfortunatly a year & half ago, another freind from the jeep club tried to accelerate away from a car jacking, in his new Toyota Hi-lux ( unarmoured.) He took a 9mm in the spine. Wheelchair for life gents.
I would suggest that before buying that little european sports car you've always wanted, - think of armouring the family car first !

Last but not least, - don't be afraid to SMASH into car/obsticle blocks. I've been amazed over the years here, of how many people, driving heavy powerfull cars have been kidnapped when a car with BGs in, pulls over in front, & the victim STOPS !
If possible aim for the rear of the blocking car. The weight of the motor in front helps to secure the car front during it's rotation from you smashing into it. ( Have I been clear here ? )
My military jeep has a Warn 9000 winch up front plus the protection bars etc. This will help protect the front of my jeep in the event of a colision.

I've gone on alittle. Sorry folks. - Just wanted to add my 0.02 cents. I've ALWAYS considered ( if driving ) my jeep to be my PRINCIPAL weapon. ( After the mind of course. ;) )


04-19-2004, 04:17 PM
Good points, Anthony. I agree with what you've said. I've always thought that people should be required to take a high-performance driving course as part of the licensing process. I learned a lot about driving when I went through the academy many years ago. Cars make excellent weapons and will easily move other vehicles out of the way if the driver does his part.

04-19-2004, 04:59 PM

As usual your $0.02 worth is priceless.:)

04-19-2004, 09:21 PM
Anthony's point about air bags is a good one. Does anyone know _exactly_ the sensor parameters for air bag deployment? IIRC they react differently depending on the direction of the impact. One should know how fast you can be driving in order to avoid making it deploy; and maybe there is an angle of impact that allows a higher speed.

Seems to me that a button which would disable the airbag for 30 seconds might be a useful thing to have.

04-19-2004, 09:25 PM
Gabe, Good thread! Back when I was still in high school my father was attacked on his way to work. Now my dad is not the most tactical guy in the world. A couple of guys in a Mistubishi B2000(small truck) waved him over while driving down the road. My father, thinking something is wrong with his truck pulls off the road. The two guys(meth heads) swing a steel pipe at his head as he leans out the window. Dad, bless him left his truck in gear and the engine running. He popped the clutch and nailed other truck that they pulled in front of him. His highway dept. surplus Ford F150 knocked the truck into the road way. Sadly, my father in trying to find help, went to the nearest truck stop, and was hit in the head with a pipe and stabbed 10 times by the same two guys as he exited his truck. They had followed and were throwing debris from their truck all the way. We later found an adjustable wrench behind his windshield wipers. After the cowards left(they didn't rob him) he got up and entered the truck stop. He told the clerk to call the police and then collapsed. He survived a lacerated liver and collapsed lung. He still has health problems from the incident. He was one of the first 100 people in Texas to get his CHL. It is important to note that he was not hurt until he exited his vehicle. Had he stayed in his truck and continued to drive offensively, I believe he would not have been hurt at all.

04-20-2004, 09:24 AM
I've seen the video. I think we watched it at a training session once. It's amazing how much abuse it took and still ran.

I don't know exactly the details, but all of the sensors act differently. I do many accident investigations for auto manufacturers, and it is always an issue in lawsuits. It depends upon which specific vehicle, angles of impact, speed of vehicle, force of collison and other factors. It takes an engineer to get into the specifics, and that I am not.

Glad to hear your Dad survived. Hopefully he learned something and is much more cautious now. I'm assuming he is since he got his CCW.

Al Lipscomb
04-20-2004, 10:07 AM
When talking to a pilot about crashes he told me that the biggest cause of crashes is the pilot not flying the plane. Something happens and they get distracted. The result is a crash.

With cars the same thing would seem to apply. If there is trouble, drive. Yes you may get shot at. But your chances are much better as your distance grows. Even if someone can keep up on foot for a few seconds its not like they are going to be able to grab the car's bumper and make it stop.

Keeping your mind on the primary task will result in a better chance of getting out of the kill zone alive and able to report the incident.

04-20-2004, 02:03 PM
I'm going to add alittle to my previous post. - It seemed to be well received. - Please; - my example is EXTREME ! I live in ( probably ) the most dangerous city of any country NOT at war.
Your needs may well be less. Plus, your circumstances may well differ ( family, weather, income etc.)

In 1997 I bought my first ever brand new car ( jeep/4x4.) It is a nationally made copy of the French Auverland A80. ( I couldn't afford a Land Rover, but have not been in the slightest dissapointed. - Quite the contrary !)

I bought the military version, - matt green, soft top, soft doors etc. Fitted it out with winch, snorkel etc as stated above. I bought it because of our terrible roads, but soon found other advantages. ( As well as making great freinds at the local jeep club.)

1) Being ex-military, I still have the short hair, bearing, normally clean shaven etc. I get completely left alone at traffic stops, by the dozens of youngsters trying to sell things. - Some of these youths are looking for possible robbery targets. They look into a car, notice something of value & stick 'chewing gum' on the door of targets to be robbed at the next stop light or two !

2) We have a serious flood risk here in the summer. The roads flood, & traffic stops. BGs then rob the stranded motorists. - I've passed through water over a metre deep, passing dozens of stranded motorists, & I've arrived home safely, reading of many robberies that occured - ( the next day in the press.)

3) Police at check points, glancing quickly at my jeep, wave me through. - I've no-problem being stopped ( my documents are all fine,) but if it can be avoided here it's better. Many police at check points just want money ( bribes ) if you have a slight problem with your car/documentation. I've been called to pass a check point with 20 or so cars stopped waiting their turn, getting a freindly wave from the cop. I've even been saluted by our 'highway patrol'. - I returned the salute with a salute & smile. :p

4) BGs are as deceived as our police about my jeep. No BG in his right mind will rob a military vehicle. Even if they notice it's not really 'Army', it sticks out like a pink Rolls Royce, & would be seen/stopped very quickly after being stolen.

5) Don't forget the points I made in my first post. - It's a better vehicle to smash through blockades, drive up high curbs/sidewalks etc.

What I'm trying to say is this:
Just as you evaluate your firearm needs, evaluate your vehicle needs. - What better suits you !

I'll close with a final point. - A good set of powerfull spot lights ! Think of them as your car's 'surefire/maglight' - whatever.
Independent from the other lights, with a switch/button close at hand. Any problem at dusk/night, you illuminate everything in front, perhaps 'blinding' any BG, & for sure clearly identifying possible obsticles in front as you race through.

Just another couple of cents my friends. Think about this.


04-20-2004, 02:41 PM
1. I have the DEA video (don't ask how I got it). Points made are that after 300+ rounds of 9mm, .45, 12 ga, etc., the car could still be driven. Also, two cardboard targets down just under the dash were never hit, despite being fired on from the front and the side. This was, IIRC, a plain K=car size, not with any armor or additions. Yes, the tires were flat, the windows gone, but the instructor brushed the glass off the seat, hopped in, started it up, and drove over to the camera.

2. I have used a car (well, a Dodge RAM truck - the name was brought up in the civil suit) to defend myself from a deadly force attack while "on the job". I had, though pure good luck, been through most of the DSS roadblock busting course, and had learned the PIT manuver. We arrested 3 of the bad guys, one died. Too bad, they should have stopped anyplace during the 90 mile high speed chase. The Judge dismissed the family's suit against me.

Which has more stopping power? A .500 S&W revolver or a FORD?

All of which reminds us that the mind is the ultimate weapon.

04-20-2004, 05:21 PM
The Ford does, especially the Crown Vic. A buddy of mine was checking one of the local projects for a gunman when he appeared in front of his cruiser and pointed his handgun at the officer. The officer ducked down in the seat, gunned it and flattened the puke. Looked great on the evening news. :D

Steve Camp
04-20-2004, 05:58 PM
The Ford does, especially the Crown Vic.

Sorry, I am unable to follow this response...

"The Ford does" what? What does it do or have?

04-20-2004, 11:01 PM
The Ford has more "stopping power" than an S&W .500.

Michael- where can one find details on the new black boxes that record all the acceleration etc parameters? I know you can get "decoder" boxes. Do the "nanny boxes" being sold to parents to monitor teen drivers just download the datastream from these black boxes?

Have you had a case where both vehicles had the boxes, and you could synchronize the time backwards from the collision, and make a movie showing their movements?

04-21-2004, 06:25 AM
Michael- where can one find details on the new black boxes that record all the acceleration etc parameters? I know you can get "decoder" boxes. Do the "nanny boxes" being sold to parents to monitor teen drivers just download the datastream from these black boxes?

Have you had a case where both vehicles had the boxes, and you could synchronize the time backwards from the collision, and make a movie showing their movements?

The best info I have seen to date was from PI magazine. I have a friend who works for a division of GM and investigates lawsuits and even potential lawsuits on behalf of GM that is involved in this. There is also a group of individuals that are called "downloaders" who do nothing but travel around and download the info from the SDMs (sensory data module) into their laptop and then print out a report. They must attend a training class to learn to do this. They differ from the "black box" found in aircraft in that black boxes records everything in the cockpit for 30 minutes including audio. An SDM records info only after the event starts. When the initial crush starts, it awakens the algorithm in the sensor module. It's purpose is to fire the air bags, seatbelt slack removers and make other decisions about safety equipment the particular vehicle may have. These SDM's vary greatly based on vehicle manufacturer. Currently, data can be downloaded from GM vehicles from 1994 and newer, Ford's from 2001 and newer, Isuzu's 2000 and newer. I believe these are the only manufacturers who use this system, but I could be wrong. The more basic version of the SDM records air bag issues and deployment and seat belt info. The more advanced GM version also records vehicle speed, engine speed, throttle position, brake status, seat belt usage, passenger air bag enabled or disabled, Delta V change and some other stuff that I can't recall, but these are the major things. The info is continuously re-recorded in 5 second time slots until an incident is recorded. Which means, for instance, last week you were driving at 90 mph on the interstate and had to slam on your brakes. A week later, you were involved in a crash. Only the last 5 seconds of time has been recorded PRIOR to the crash. The amount of data stored is only limited by the amount of memory in the module itself. Many large trucks have very advanced SDM's that can record up to 300 different functions. GM info is permanent and cannot be erased, but Ford data can be scrambled if the download is not done properly.

Most vehicles also record data in their air bag modules, which the NTSB and NHTSA have recommended to auto manufacturers that they make this data available to investigators.

Many plaintiff's law firms are downloading the data before they decide to take the case. There is a mixed bag as far as who has the rights to the download if there is an accident. For police, it is up to the state or District Attorney. Some require a search warrant. Time and the courts will ultimately decide who has the rights to the download. As far as the data obtained, currently the owner of the vehicle has the rights to it.

I think the "nanny boxes" are a totally seperate deal, and I'm not sure how they work. I imagine it is a self-contained unit such as the one's that race drivers use to record acceleration, decelaration, etc. I have not worked on any case such as you describe. I hope this info helps--probably more than you ever wanted to know.;)

Rusty Phillips
06-15-2005, 08:11 PM
Im very high drag / low speed compared to the rest of you gents

but Im less concerned about the airbags than I am an inertia fuel pump cutoff switch (thankfully I dont have one)

assuming you dont have an inertia switch you can still drive your car after an airbag deployment (with the smoldering empty bag sitting in your lap)

but if you have an inertia cutoff your car stops dead in it's tracks until the switch is reset - some inertia switches are more sensitive than others!

PS - another great WT thread!!

Rusty Phillips
06-15-2005, 08:29 PM
but Im less concerned about the airbags than I am an inertia fuel pump cutoff switch (thankfully I dont have one)

well...... more correctly, I dont know for sure if I have one or not, but I dont think I do.

PS - heres a couple of articles by Anthony Ricci that I keep going back to and rereading every six months or so