Vehicle CQB Disputations: Gunfights By Your Car

March 21, 2016  
Categories: Musings


Much debate has been sparked about VCQB matters of late (that’s Vehicle CQB or Vehicle Close Quarters Battle). Virtually all of it has centered around the VCQB theory espoused by Will Petty. There are those who ascribe to his teaching and those who don’t, specifically his teaching about the use of various parts of the vehicle as cover. Happily, such debate draws attention to something that could save the life of a good guy in a fight or make that good guy more lethal. Unhappily (but perhaps not surprisingly), what one would hope to be a professional and academic discourse among honorable professionals has largely turned into a shitshow. Not so much on the parts of the various instructors involved (that I’ve seen anyway), though there’s clearly at least some rancor there, but definitely on the part of these instructors’ adherents.

On the good side, instructors or proponents of their methodology post articles or YouTube videos taking the other to task, which is to the benefit of everyone who wants to hear both sides and thus make an informed decision. On the bad side, social media pundits from both camps, who may or may not also actually be SMEs in the real world, make smarmy comments about the other or engage in self-congratulatory insult-masturbation. Then all their cohorts join in with a hearty chorus of Haha you got that right, that other guy just doesn’t get it, oh and by the way look how cool we are!

The Modern Samurai from Anachrobellum

It’s stupid, really. I’ll confess, I don’t actually understand what the fuss is about. Everyone involved is factually correct about the physics of things. If you get in a fight or you’re ambushed in a vehicle and you can get the hell away from it, you should. That’s conventional wisdom we know to be true. But if you can’t get away from it for whatever reason (for instance a sudden, violent confrontation between an LEO and someone during a car stop — something that lasts just a handful of seconds) then it’s good to know what parts of the vehicle other than the engine block or the axles can stop or deflect incoming rounds. This is contrary to conventional wisdom, but it is also indisputably true.

Typical handgun and rifle rounds will not accurately penetrate two layers of front/back vehicle glass (for instance, if fired down the longitudinal axis of a car). That could be good to know. Neither will they immediately penetrate the window pillars of a car — there is no disputing that. Are the pillars of a car very wide? Nope. I’d much rather hide behind a Hesco barrier, preferably three deep stacked six high. But if that’s all I have and if I can’t get the hell out of Dodge, I’ll be damned if I’m not going to try to maneuver so that one or more of those pillars, or both sets of windshield glass, are between me and the threat. If I can, and if I can’t just end the fight by immediately killing the asshole, both of which are big ifs I’ll grant you, I’d still rather know I have the option.

You can’t always count on getting away from the vehicle. You shouldn’t plan on staying close to one unless there’s no alternative. But unless you can just dodge bullets, you should be prepared for both eventualities — the bad guys always get a vote.

Vehicle CQB

Matrix – Dodging Bullets

Of course, if they can bend bullets you’re fucked either way.

Vehicle CQB

Wanted – Bending bullets

I do not understand how those two options are mutually exclusive. It seems pretty clear to me that most everyone involved (I say most because some people just enjoy being a dick and making fun of the other guy) in the fray has the right motivation: they want citizens/soldiers/LEOs better able to survive a fight that begins, occurs in the vicinity of, or displaces to a vehicle, while simultaneously being better prepared to kill an opponent. That’s a laudable end goal, sought by men who are, as best I can tell, American Jedi of principle and good character. Sure, they have widely different resumes and experience levels, but last I checked a Curriculum Vitae doesn’t obviate the laws of physics, the dictates of common sense or the advantage of mutual, even tacit, understanding.

So why the fuckery? I don’t know. Maybe it’s semantics. Maybe it’s ego. Maybe there’s a legitimate misunderstanding going on. Maybe those taking issue with Petty’s instruction aren’t clear on what he’s actually telling students in the class. Perhaps all of this could be dispelled with a cordial conversation on the phone, a Google Chat/Podcast type deal (which maybe we could all then watch) or even a joint range day where everyone involved shows up and says, “Look – this is what I’m saying.” Assuming none of it gets personal, that would be brilliant and my guess is there’d be at least a little bit of “Wait a minute…are we saying the same thing here?”

Vehicle CQB

Vehicle Close Quarters Battle – no cover

Sure, they have widely different resumes and experience levels, but last time I checked a Curriculum Vitae doesn’t obviate the laws of physics, the dictates of common sense or the advantage of mutual, even tacit, understanding.

Here’s what I do know — the lack of civil discourse on the matter, coupled with the ongoing, condescending, I’m-fellating-my-favorite-instructor, “those guys are stupid” back-and-forth on Facebook and elsewhere does exactly fuck and all to improve the survivability and lethality of the very people it’s intended to reach. It’s certainly not going to do anything to change anyone’s mind. All of these armed citizens, military veterans and LEOs are adults talking about serious matters — they should comport themselves that way. Adherents of one side or the other acting like the tactical analogs of Trump vs. Bernie supporters isn’t just counterproductive, it reflects poorly on the SMEs and it’s embarrassing.

If an SME himself should act that way it’s even worse.

Here are snippets taken from some of the arguments in the debate. I won’t dignify some of the patronizing or insulting commentary with screenshots, though if you sift through it there are some great points of discussion. You can read our assorted posts on VCQB here — it’s no secret several of us were present for the filming of Petty’s video, though there are some related articles in there from other training organizations, including Talon Defense and Graham Combat.

If you’re going to weigh in on a civil discussion, I encourage you to read each piece all the way through. If you’re going to make a smartass remark about any of the guys involved, revile their background or question their motives don’t bother. We’re not interested.

Vehicle CQB

Aaron Cowan Sage Dynamics

Most recently came A Requiem for Common Sense, by Aaron Cowan of Sage Dynamics (who contributes occasionally to Breach-Bang-Clear). Here’s an excerpt.

So now that we are on the same page about what cover is, we can talk about what it isn’t. Cover isn’t conveniently sized, conveniently placed, at a convenient distance, or always readily apparent. Sometimes cover is a fire hydrant, or a concrete parking stop. Sometimes cover is a pressure treated wire pole or maybe even a dumpster (which are usually good for handgun calibers, at least). The situation in which you need cover, is going to dictate exactly what cover is present.

You may be asking yourself why this is even being discussed, and frankly I’d be right there with you if it was not for a recent uptick in conversations about vehicle courses and the use of cars as cover; see the car is a pretty common object to encounter, and certain parts of the car offer excellent cover, but that cover doesn’t meet some people’s definitions of cover, so they are dismissing the prudent practice of teaching those points of cover all together. Let me be clear; nothing an average car offers is conveniently sized cover; but then, what is?

You can read this in its entirety here on Monderno.

Vehicle CQB

Aaron Barruga – Guerilla Approch

The next back chronologically (I believe) came from Guerrilla Approach via OAF Nation. As far as I know, the author is Aaron Barruga, HMFIC of that training organization. I don’t know him, have never met or learned from him, but he appears to have an excellent background, and is extremely articulate in his articles. Here’s an excerpt.

Rather than attempting to rethink new points of cover on a vehicle, a shooter’s objective should be to get out of the kill zone by firing and maneuvering on the enemy (not accomplished by moving from pillar to pillar). “But I’m in law enforcement, I’m not planning to fight the battle of Fallujah.” These types of comments are the epitome of complacency. Yes, there are untrained amateurs; however, the most dangerous domestic threats can be well-coordinated criminals (e.g. North Hollywood bank robbers of 1997) or the self-radicalizing lone-wolves of recent (e.g. San Bernardino ISIL sympathizers, Boston Bombers).

Tactics and methodology should always adapt, but robust standards of critique and analysis should guide this process. Techniques should not be endorsed because they are new, but because they are valid.

You can read that online here (it’s a link to a Facebook video).

Vehicle CQB

Mike Pannone – CTT Solutions

The furthest back was a great article by Mike Pannone on Soldier Systems Daily. Pannone should need no introduction to B-B-C readers, but if you’re not familiar with him you can read his bio here. I haven’t met Pannone in person either but I have corresponded with him and sought his input on previous articles. He’s on my short list of guys to go learn from (and should be on yours too).

The experienced combatant i.e. military member, LEO or trained citizen for that matter must understand that a vehicle, except in the narrowest of circumstances does not afford cover as defined. There is no such thing as “pretty good cover” or “partial cover” there is “cover” or what I will call enhanced concealment which means you can hide behind it but it may or may not stop incoming fire reliably. If it cannot definitively stop bullets, then by definition it is not cover… that’s just a fact. With that established, anything between you and the threat is better than nothing, so I am not saying a vehicle can’t protect you in some ways. What I am saying is that a vehicle should not be viewed overwhelmingly as cover nor as some special item in the scope of tactical considerations.

•Anything is better than nothing but very little on a soft vehicle is cover.

•Use every bit of ballistic protection that the vehicle may offer but don’t assume it is cover.

•Keep the biggest chunk of metal you can between you and the threat as long as you can and be looking for the next best piece of terrain. As the threat moves you move keeping the vehicle as close to directly between you as makes tactical sense.

•Move as soon as you can, move before you get pinned in a spot from which you can’t move.

A vehicle that is not in motion is terrain and should be treated as an obstacle with enhanced concealment that provides an unpredictable level of ballistic protection. The best course of action is to immediately return the best suppressive fire you can to blunt the attack and then move as soon as is tactically prudent to regroup and counter-attack or withdraw. Changing the angles changes their plan and changes the fight.

You can read that one in its entirety right here.

If you’re clueless as to what the hell started all this, watch this video.

I’ll say it again — it seems like everyone is saying the same thing. The only difference that I can tell is that Petty is presenting an in extremis option (which he describes thusly in his class and then demonstrates objectively) for those occasions when you can’t just get the fuck away. Maybe I’m wrong about them all actually agreeing; it certainly wouldn’t be the first time, but I don’t think so.


You can learn more about Pannone’s CTT Solutions online here (class description/schedule here – he also teaches via Alias). Guerrilla Approach is online here; the schedule is here. Sage Dynamics is online here. Find their schedule here. I believe Petty teaches all of his classes now through 88 Tactical (schedule here) but if he does something else it will be discussed here.

If you can, go train with every one of them.

That’s it for now, go forth and conquer.

Vehicle CQB


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David Reeder

David Reeder

About the Author


  1. OneARonekittenoneweedog

    Provided driving off at the first trouble sign is allowed, I’ll agree to the rest of the tips here, too.

  2. B.T. Wang

    There is Cover

    and their is Concealment.

    They are two very different things and those who would venture into harms way should learn the difference.

    In my experience, the best thing is to keep all weapons in handy reach – not in the trunk.

    Return fire immediately. And in great volume.

    Stay with – but not neccessarily in the vehicle. If it is your only cover. Engine blcks and tires will provide cover from most firearms – but not from RPGs.

    Also, be aware of “skipping fire” coming from under the vehicle. It will take out your legs.

    Train for attacks from above, i.e., roof-tops etc.

    Be aware of “kill zones. Avoid if possible. Also, never ever use the same route 2xs.


    If an attack is probable – use a minimum of 3 vehicles. Designate a blocking vehicle.

    Keep shooting and Stay Safe.

  3. Ricky

    Wilson, I could not agree with you more. Less trash talking, more training for everyone.Watch the link below, you’ll see an outfit that is looking to fill that very need.

  4. Wilson

    Fantastic article.

    Keep in mind, in most cases, the people doing the trash talking have never practiced the things they’re discussing. They have an “instructor” of choice. Watch his (or her) videos on the internet, or the DVDs and that’s about it. A few may have taken a class from the instructor in question, but not many that I’ve seen have taken THE class in question for most discussions/internet screaming session.

    [Full disclosure here: I never thought about what I’m about to say here until I got married and started thinking about how to get the wife the training she has expressed an interest in. While I can teach her a bunch of the basics, I’m not qualified the way many instructors are nor do I have a place where she can do it with anything more than snap-caps, and in some cases even that might have the cops showing up.]

    Just MHO here, but lot of this could be helped by making instruction in these things more available to the public. I tried to get my wife enrolled locally in a “tactical” medical course this summer (Basically it was battlefield care but it didn’t involve weapons handling, hence the quotation marks). What they didn’t tell you on the website was it was for active duty law enforcement ONLY. The same is true of the classes on VCQB. The one that BB&C highlighted a few weeks back is similarly only for active duty LE folks.

    Now what the fuck is up with that? Why is it that only active duty folks can learn to put on a tourniquet or insert a oropharyngeal airway under stress (or depending on the course, while handling a weapon)? What about that retired Corpsman who wants to brush up or learn new things that may of changed since he was trained? Why is he SOL?

    Seriously, is there some sort or legal or insurance reason for this? It seems to me these sorts of classes would be very popular with the CCW community, yet the vast majority of those people are not allowed to take the courses. Why!?

    This problem extends to any sort of training that goes beyond standing still and punching paper.

    For all the talk about “the armed citizen” that goes on it’s still incredibly hard for the guy or gal out there that just has a CCW permit and a First Aid course under their belt to go farther in their training without traveling extensively and/or going broke.

    If you want to cut down on the trash talk by “tacticool mall ninjas” these classes need to be more available.

    • Matt

      Keep checking with 88 tactical. I attended a VehCQB course open to non LE/Mil last year. They are rare but they exist.

      • Wilson

        Will do. Thanks for the info!

    • tthrasher

      We have open enrollment tacmed and vehicle CQB for civilians. For example TacMed Civilian on 5/7/2016 and Open Enrollment VCQB on August 27th. Some courses are tailored for law enforcement and military based on their context and missions. Some courses are open to all.

  5. Matt

    Great article, I’ve noticed some information presented from the side of the coin against Vechicle CQB that is a clear misunderstanding of what Petty teaches. I think if everyone sat down they would see they are all saying the same thing. Petty is presenting an option for people who are usually by themselves and all they have is the vehicle. Gunfights around vehicles are short distance, short duration, and high intensity (Petty’s words and the truth). Sometimes the car is all you have. I also agree that getting to better cover if you can is also ideal. Tools for the box is all they are. I don’t see why anyone would be against more options and better ballistic understanding of something you spend so much of your life in.

  6. Dingo836

    Hey, very good article. Reminds me of a short 8 min vid by John Chapman on how to train yourself. From an LEO trainer perspective, “…build skills to techniques, techniques to procedures, apply procedures to certain circumstances to create a tactic [or complete the task]. ” I’ll listen to as many techniques as I can, the more the better, then I’ll choose what I like, what applies, what may apply in my greatest imagination, what may be complete BS and can learn from that too if your mindset is right…then narrow it down to what we can teach in extremely limited time and budget. Fill your box with as many tools as you can. I have a spanner wrench taking up room in my tool box for ten years, why I didn’t throw it out? Sink broke and needed it last month and there it was. So do the dude thing and don’t whine and bitch about what’s good and what’s not, this guy, that guy blah blah bs, get you some tools, learn how to use them and focus on those hard skills. Then go find good training. If your job, or lifestyle, requires you to be responsible for more than just yourself (hint-good citizen), and the situation arises, apply your soft skills, read, recognize and react and apply what you have trained. Thanks for the read!!

  7. Eric Wilber

    I attended VCQB last October, and I agree with MIO, it gives you more tools. After 21 years in LE and five years in the Corps, I can tell you that the vehicle may be the only form of cover you have depending on your setting.

  8. MIO

    I’ve listened and watched and trained to the changes over the last 30 years and like most of my training a lot of it depends on the moment. Nothing works 100% of the time. Put the tools in the tool box and use the one needed.

  9. John B

    Thank you for a great article. It is good to know there are still some adult gentlemen out there. A mature and respectful conversation about differing tactics, what a concept!

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