AAR: Guerrilla Approach High Threat Environment Vehicle Tactics
Fifty Shades of FDE
[Photos By: Muzzle Flash Media]
Recently, I reviewed Aaron Barruga’s vehicle tactics video from Pantaeo Productions. In February I experienced the course in person with live rounds, fired in and around vehicles that were down on their luck.
We gathered at elevation in the Santa Barbara mountains at Winchester Canyon Gun Club. It was cold—you know, for Southern Californians like myself. The class totaled twenty students with a mix of LEOs and civilians. Aaron ensures that only experienced tactical shooters are allowed in his course so that material can progressive at an aggressive rate.
Aaron explained how the course applies differently to law enforcement and civilians. The purpose of the tactics he taught addressed terrorist attacks and active shooter ambushes on LEOs. He explained the difference between preparing for median threats (eg. carjacking, traffic stops) versus preparing for more complex, but probably attacks (eg coordinated active shooters). By preparing for more dangerous encounters, Aaron explained that it would be easier to scale back our responses, rather then trying to address spectacular attacks with lukewarm approaches.
Before we started the labs in the course, Aaron demonstrated with an AR-15 how little training is required to cause massive amounts of damage on a vehicle. The purpose of this demonstration was to show how much damage an individual can cause with no real special training or skill sets. This prepared the basis of further labs in which Aaron declared the importance of not cherrypicking information to support weak tactics.
Next Aaron conducted a cover lab and explained the pros and cons of offsetting cover. Aaron is an advocate of getting tight against terrain as possible (with arms length separation). As a class we discussed why certain arguments about offsetting cover might be weak, because they rely on variables such as the enemy being a bad marksman, or the assumption that you will know where the threats are. Aaron explained that one of the most prominent shortcomings of range training that endangers shooters is training that assumes you will always know where the threat is located. Our preference for collapsing in tight on our cover would become apparent later on in the force on force section of the course.
Aaron fired multiple rounds at certain points of the vehicle during a ballistic lab to demonstrate the proper characteristics of cover. He stated that vehicles should be treated as terrain, and we should use the greater parts of density for cover. He then echoed back to an earlier statement about cherry picking data, and demonstrated how certain parts of a vehicle might stop one or two rounds, but failed as sufficient cover because of small size, lack of density, or the need for the enemy to be a poor marksmen. We all got to see the results of bullet impact on the vehicle up close, which really drove home the point that if part of a car might stop a bullet but is ultimately too small, it doesn’t necessarily make it a source for cover.
Next, we proceeded into exterior fighting positions under vehicles. Aaron conducted another lab in which he explained the consequences of using shooting positions under vehicles at the wrong time. In the lab he showed how quickly an individual can be out maneuvered by a threat, and how quickly you lose situational awareness against a real threat (not a cardboard target). Since getting into a prone position will make you less mobile, decrease your situational awareness and make you vulnerable to flanking maneuvers; it is something that should only be used if it offers you an advantage. A great example would be from twenty years ago with the conclusion of the North Hollywood Shootout, where LAPD SWAT officers fired rounds from underneath vehicles to hit Matasareanu’s legs as he was dumping rounds at them through the windows. In situations where you are met with superior firepower and attempting to take a shot from above the hood will get you killed, knowing how to shoot from underneath a vehicle might be your only option.
There were three stations with three very different profile vehicles: a Toyota 4 Runner lifted SUV, a Cadillac Sedan, and a Ford Commercial Van. We all rotated through each vehicle. I started with the most difficult of the three, the Cadillac, since it has the lowest clearance and most closely resembles my personal vehicle and the Crown Vics I drive at work. A lot of it was awkward but once you start to get a hang of it, it becomes a fun challenge. After shooting underneath all three vehicles and practicing shooting positions, I know how to shoot from each and which ones worked better for me. More tools for my toolbox.
With the ground work taken care of, we got to see the effectiveness (or lack of) engaging a moving target through the cabin of a vehicle. The lab demonstrated why failing to clear over the top or around the sides of a vehicle ends up being waste of ammunition with very few hits on target. Aaron stated that if you need to engage a threat through side windows (which aren’t reinforced), then you might be able to get away with shooting through the cabin; but the moment the threat starts to move, and you need to track your sights through pillars or windshields, it becomes better to clear above or around the cabin to shoot.
We transitioned into a lab in which I got to demonstrate the effects of shooting bullets through a windshield. In the driver’s seat of a Cadillac with the target on the front bumper, I fired a single shot at center mass. The round deviated upward and Aaron introduced the argument that states you should offset your sights low when shooting through a windshield. However, we again discussed the shortcomings of the argument as Aaron had me cycle five rounds as quickly as I could through the windshield. Although the first round angled high, the successive rounds hit at my point of aim. Aaron explained that the argument for offsetting your sights makes sense on the flat range against paper targets, but that in the real world it becomes one more thing you need to add to your decision making process under anxious conditions.
We proceeded into a series of bailout exercises and live fire drills. We learned the difficulties of getting out of vehicles with gear, and Aaron reiterated the importance of maintaining movement. The different exercises exposed us to different use of the vehicles as terrain and use of angles with cover. Although we knew exactly what we were doing in each exercise, it was easy for hiccups to occur in a drill. For example, I struggled with getting my seatbelt cleared from my holster, but needed to remember the importance of moving to the clean side of the vehicle for safety. Several times Aaron stated, “if you’re going to mess up, mess up aggressively.”
Once we were done with the most complex live fire drills, we were told to prepare to do Force on Force scenarios. With all firearms, ammunition and knives removed, we were geared up in SB Tactical gear. I’ve practiced with simunitions, airsoft and paintball, but SBT is by far superior. The equipment is essentially a laser tag system that actually shocks you when you’re hit. Although the equipment was similar to a laser tag setup, Aaron explained the importance of not letting force of force training “run amok” in which no learning actually occurs. We paired up in teams and conducted multiple scenarios that reinforced the learning points from earlier in the day.
At the closing of the course, we were all debriefed. Every student left with a better understanding on how to work their gun in and around vehicles with tactics that will come to their advantage if they are ever find themselves in an ambush situation. Everything I learned was very useful to my career as a LEO. Aaron did a great job disseminating his experience and expertise into ways that are relevant to Law Enforcement and the Armed Citizen.
-Fifty Shades of FDE
Mad Duo, Breach-Bang& CLEAR!
Emergency: Activate firefly, deploy green (or brown) star cluster, get your wank sock out of your ruck and stand by ’til we come get you.