Get the Hell Out: Lessons Learned from a Vehicle Ambush Class

counter ambush tactics
| August 26, 2015
Categories: Op-Eds
Tags: Winegar

Talon Defense - Counter Ambush / Vehicle Defense "Gunfighter"

Fighting in a vic sucks. Most people spend an enormous amount of time in and around your vehicle. Some people work in a vehicle. But sadly only a few of those people realize just how much it sucks to get caught in a fight in a vic — any vic mind you, not just a Shriner Clown Car or 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona. It’s true whether you’re on patrol, pumping gas or slow-rolling the gravel road while Princess Buttercup plays the slobber blues on your meat horn. We’ve talked about VCQB classes before. This one is a little different. In this one Skippy talks about a few things he learned training with Talon Defense.  Mad Duo



Get the Hell Out:

Lessons learned from a Talon Defense Counter Ambush/Vehicle Defense Course

Anthony Winegar

Imagery courtesy of Jason Fobart and Sight Picture Media

Who can hope to be safe? Who sufficiently cautious? Guard himself as he may, every moment’s an ambush. – Horace

Fighting in and around vehicles holds a very special place in my heart. One of my scheduled instructors in my first academy was murdered standing next to his cruiser in 1998. Later, in 2012, one of my colleagues was murdered while trying to intercept a pursuit on a road with twelve-foot snowbanks on either side. Both were cut down in the prime of their lives by long guns wielded by criminals in broad daylight. If you drive a vehicle and carry a gun for a living, you owe it to your mates and family to learn how to integrate the two.

The three day Talon Defense Counter Ambush/Vehicle Defense course I attended was both intense and exceptionally relevant. From inside to outside and above and below the vehicles, using proper technique and form are learned behaviors. Like everything else, the skills will not magically appear. In order to execute them, you have to train them first. This course is an excellent place to start.

Talon Defense - Counter Ambush / Vehicle Defense "Gunfighter"

We started with a skills refresher with both the pistol and rifle. The course instructor and Talon Defense owner, Chase Jenkins, wanted to gauge how the class would perform once the curriculum became more complex so it was definitely time well spent. I learned quickly that Chase has a unique skill: he knows how to push you to the edge of stressors and carefully bring you back under a controlled environment. Even more impressive was his ability to do that all day, despite the sweltering heat and constant focus that it required. That feat alone was impressive to say the least.

To that point, Chase does not try and make a “safe environment” for you because that is not realistic. Instead, he monitors your performance during the individual exercises, teaches you how to think (not what) and allows your brain to take over and fill in the gaps. Throughout the three day class, despite the mixture of professional gun-toters and enthusiastic civilians, I did not see anything that I thought was unsafe or risky.

Talon Defense - Counter Ambush / Vehicle Defense "Gunfighter"

After shooting into, out of, around, and under cars, I have a few take-aways that I think are universally relevant.

  1. The car will give you a second or two of protection. It is up to you to use it.

43 or so times (by my rough count) we intentionally shot one car in order to see what the bullets would do.  We wound up shooting them more than that later on, but under the controlled atmosphere we shot and examined the round’s performance. We used different calibers, loads, etc.; we shot through glass, metal, plastic, and every other material that went into the production of the car. People get wrapped around the axle about caliber and bullet choice, but what I saw was the fact that bullet behavior was unpredictable at best. The take-away was that you should expect nothing and react quickly. There is only so much cover in the world, and all of it is temporary.

Talon Defense - Counter Ambush / Vehicle Defense "Gunfighter"

  1. The ambush is occurring against you because of the vehicle.

Let that sink in for a second. What I mean here is that you are being targeted because of the vehicle and the location of the ambush was chosen based upon the vehicle’s ability to operate there. That fact tells me that for every foot/meter I get away from the car, my life expectancy goes up accordingly.

Ambushes are always characterized by extreme, unexpected violence against the opponent. The ambusher’s intent is to stun the opponent and remove the will to fight, making mop-up easy and clean. The lesson here is that if you survive the initial onslaught of violence after being ambushed in the car, your only options are to run, fight, or die.  Have a plan for each. For me, my first option is to starburst away from the car to the next piece of hard cover. For cops, this is exactly why your academy instructors and Field Trainers pushed you to park down the street, away from the X.

Talon Defense - Counter Ambush / Vehicle Defense "Gunfighter"

  1. Roads are Linear Danger Areas (LDA’s), and LDA’s generally suck to negotiate.

Cars need roads. Joe was killed standing in the road. Margaret was killed driving down a road with 12 foot snowbanks, which was essentially a hallway.

Looking at these lessons, the easiest way to fix the problem is to understand our battlespace early on and the features within it. If we recognize the LDA’s before we are committed to them, we can better coordinate our tactics that we use to negotiate them. Surprise, speed, and violence of action are still the three ingredients to success provided that we understand them and apply them at the correct time and order.

  1. Using a car for cover is risky business.

What I mean here is that using a car for concealment/cover means that you have to get into some awkward positions. Those positions, like rollover prone and broke-back prone are not positions that you can acquire easily and get out of quickly. Again, the car will buy you seconds, and the alternate positions around a car have their place. But if you have to remember the fundamentals of the position and struggle to find your red dot while you get into position, you are likely going to get hurt or die there. Think of it this way; if you have $10 worth of skills and you are using $8 trying to remember the fundamentals of a good alternate position, you will only have $2 left to acquire the dot and make your hits. In the end, there is something to be said for using a more conventional position to acquire the dot, make your shots, and move to the next piece of cover/go about your life.

Jason Fobart photo - Winegar - Talon Defense Cover

  1.  Malfunction Clearances:

Chase and company are good at inducing malfunctions. Too good in fact. Using these sticks that they call “paws”, they can induce rifle and handgun malfunctions ad nauseum and require you to use your primary and secondary malfunction clearing skills.

The lesson that I learned here is that Americans who buy nice kit are spoiled.  Spoiled is generally not a good thing. Many shooters are not completely honest with themselves in terms of their abilities to consistently diagnose and clear malfunctions. The thing to always remember is that somewhere in a third world shithole is a believer who knows his gun is going to malfunction and his survival depends on his ability to fix the problem. Who do you think will be faster?

SOC-F_logo-02Talon Defense - Counter Ambush / Vehicle Defense "Gunfighter"

  1. It is easy to shoot your barricade:

I like to hug my barricades when possible (what can I say….I’m a hugger?). With the angular curvature of hoods, trunks, and quarter panels though, I learned that things can look good from the shooter’s perspective and yet still cause your rounds to strike the barricade en route to the target. If in doubt, lean out a little more than normal, settle the dot, and make your hits. It doesn’t take much to throw off your rounds, so be cognizant of what is occurring and adjust quickly.


Bottom line: vehicles are a part of our everyday life, no matter the continent or the job. If you carry a gun for a living, you need to know how to incorporate the two.  A good place to start is the Talon Defense Counter Ambush/Vehicle Defense Course. During the three day course students will learn to shoot under, over, and around vehicles. Most importantly, students will learn how to incorporate the precious seconds of feeble cover that a vehicle can provide and when appropriate, get the hell out.


Talon Defense - Counter Ambush / Vehicle Defense "Gunfighter"

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About the Author

winegar 2Although he looks like he’s about twelve years old (even with the beard), Anthony Winegar is actually a seasoned, long-time law enforcement officer with a federal land management agency. Despite working in a major metropolitan area for the past fifteen years, his major areas of study have always focused on rural operations (with a special love for tactical tracking and fieldcraft). He is a firearms and use of force instructor whose major criminal apprehensions have included armed robbers, rapists, suicidal subjects, poachers and artifact looters. The study of tactics, techniques, and procedures for criminal apprehension in rural environments has been (and remains) his true professional passion – to that end he has trained with and sought instruction from a veritable wish list of military and civilian specialty and SOF units and teachers. The unique demands of law enforcement activity in his jurisdiction have given him the opportunity to work alongside personnel from unusual agencies in the conduct of a few singularly interesting operations. Those experiences have given him some rare insight, though sadly they’ve yet to help him start shaving any more often. Winegar is one of those primitive weapons nerd who enjoys knapping, fletching and assorted similar tool building activities. This obsession hobby allows him to bloviate at length about such things as the relative merits of oak foreshafts, pine pitch glue, river cane arrow shafts as well as the varied properties of turkey feather fletchings and whiteail sinew. Unfortunately it also has the tendency to set him at odds with many of the Mad Duo’s other minions, who’d just as soon go hunting with an SBR and a spotlight from inside the warmth of a pickup cab.

WInegar 1


  1. Roger Cope

    In my travels it seems the strongest cover element of a car is actually the window winder mechanism in the door. If that’s the best source of cover, then yes, get out and high-tail to larger cover.

  2. 2hotel9

    As much as it pains me I must go against Chef’s admonition and say get out of the boat! Vehicle doors, hoods and body panels don’t stop anything but rain(And that poorly, at times) so when people are shooting at your ride get the hell out!


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