Vehicle Fighting is often described as how to properly shoot from the vehicle or in some cases exit the vehicle and shoot from around the vehicle, using it as cover. Or in the Combatives world, they will call fighting someone inside a vehicle Vehicle Fighting. What I want to discuss is how to use your vehicle as a primary weapon to attack with when force is necessary. To me, that is true Vehicle Fighting. The others are Shooting FROM a vehicle or fighting INSIDE a vehicle. But in Tactical Driving we fight WITH the vehicle.
There are several types of scenarios where this is not only possible but is actually an optimal solution to protect your self. Whether you are Law Enforcement, Military, or a private citizen the techniques and principles work across the spectrum of possible situations. One problem, however, with seeing the true value of this type of tactic is our programming from Hollywood. Much of what you see there is designed to draw out a scene and create more action for the film, not end the encounter as quickly and efficiently as possible. So, we’ll have to reprogram our thinking on this to line up with what will actually be most tactically beneficial to us in an attack scenario. Let’s look at some possibilities and discuss both preventative tactics as well as those techniques that can be learned in a proper training environment with instructor oversight.
There are several possible ways that a Vehicular Ambush could play out but let’s look at some common possibilities that could occur in stationary positions such as parking lots or garages, driveways, parking spaces along the street, etc.
First, begin with preventative concepts. Wherever possible try to position your vehicle when parking so you can simply drive forward to leave (whether by pulling through to begin with or by backing in). This is a very good habit to develop (though, granted, difficult to realistically do all the time for most people). But give it a shot. It simplifies the options you have to deal with in a surprise encounter. At the least, try to never pull in facing another vehicle or a wall. Most medians in parking lots can be driven over in a pinch if necessary, unless your car is very low to the ground. Next, when you get in your vehicle immediately start it, put it in gear (drive or reverse, as appropriate) with your foot on the brake and then lock the door. After that is done you can do whatever you need to do to get ready to leave the area.
Even as a police officer for several years, any time I parked somewhere to observe foot traffic or to work on paperwork I always left it in drive with my foot on the brake. By doing this, if someone approaches, you do not have to try and get it in gear while under the stress of an ambush. You can simply punch the gas and you’re off and running.
Some people say lock the doors first when you get in, but, in reality, an attacker can point a gun at you through the window of a locked door and you can’t immediately leave. But if I already have the key prepared in my hand and start the car immediately upon sitting down then put it in gear and someone tries to open my door or approaches with a gun I can punch the gas and take off, leaving them behind.
Once you’re in the vehicle and have it started and in gear, if you spot a guy as he’s approaching your vehicle you have two basic options: punch the gas and take off, if he is positioned on a flank, or, IF he’s presenting an active deadly threat, and is in your forward arc of travel, Run Him Over! Most people are going to get out of the way when two tons of metal start heading their way fast and at the least it’s going to affect their trigger pull, but if they continue to present a deadly threat and don’t move, run them over. Also, remember, a vehicle is a deadly weapon and should only be used when you are in fear of an imminent deadly force threat that could kill you or cause serious bodily harm. Use it at the wrong time and it could land you in jail.
One other consideration to note is that running over people does take some mental reprograming for many. Ask a class full of students “What do you do if you see a gunman in front of your vehicle?” and you will get a unanimous declaration of some form of “run that $%#$@ over” or “make him a hood ornament” but when they actually have a real human being with a gun pop out in front of them unexpectedly in training a large percentage will slam on the brakes the first time, not punch the gas. Most people will not reflexively run over another human being unless they have really prepared the mind ahead of time and even then it helps to be exposed to it in training to make sure you will do it when it’s a surprise.
As to the actual running over process versus a deadly threat, if he’s in front of you it’s a real no-brainer. Point the vehicle at him and skinny pedal on the right! Can we also run over a guy behind us? Sure, but backing out at speed is a skill in itself. Steering inputs have to be very minimal and smooth or the vehicle will get away from your control. What if the bad guy is approaching from the side? If they are close enough and you give the correct steering input and gas, yes, you can hit them, possibly run them over or at least make them jump back and now they are most likely in front of you. Someone might also wonder, can we do this with a J-Turn if the gunman steps offline while we are backing at them? You betcha, and it can be taught once you get the backing at speed skillset down.
See the effectiveness of the tactic here when used by police:
Or here in Cairo by a Diplomatic vehicle trying to escape the rioters:
In a mob situation the obstacle may simply be someone impeding your egress from a growing danger of violence and there are no other available avenues of escape. What to do? Well, it’s a decision you’ll have to make based on the level of threat, and how imminent it is, but you can start moving slowly, simply nudging and pushing the person(s) and then create some angles with a little steering input and blade them away from your vehicle before taking off.
See video below for an example. (Granted, though, this guy makes two big mistakes before doing it right. One, he never should have entered the crowd when he could have voluntarily backed up and gone around. Two, when he first enters he moves too fast when the threat isn’t high enough to warrant doing serious harm, causing him to run over someone needlessly and escalate the situation. But, once they are attacking his vehicle, busting the windshield, he does it right: pushes forward till they are forced out of the way and then takes off.)
If there is any avenue of escape that doesn’t involve hitting a person, take it, even if it means ramming through a vehicle to do so or driving over medians, etc. Hitting property has a lot less chance of getting you in trouble than hitting people. Always pay attention to where your available space is, where you can fit the vehicle and whether or not the terrain on the other side is drivable or not.
Driver here is the bad guy but you’ll get the idea of finding a way out.
Just remember, getting caught in the midst of a mob that is irate or hostile is NEVER a good idea, immediate E&E is the BEST response. If a group of people even looks like they are starting to get out of control, LEAVE the area ASAP.
Don’t let curiosity get the best of you and watch something bad unfold. Be proactive. Also, be damned One Way street signs, No U-Turn signs or anything like that when necessity calls for action. Find an out ASAP.
Don’t return to attack site after you exit it. You may not be so lucky to escape the second time, like this guy:
If bad guys damage your vehicle don’t let ego get the best of you. Don’t get out of your vehicle to contend with the crowd or even one person in the crowd. It’s a good way to get hurt or killed (see news story of Bosnian guy who gets out to contend with 3 guys beating on his car with hammers…and gets killed).
Unless you ABSOLUTELY can’t drive anywhere at ALL, stay in the car and keep it moving toward an exit. If you have no way to exit the area in your vehicle (broken down, blocked by other vehicles that you can’t ram through, etc) then bailing out is appropriate. But if you do bail out, it should be to run the hell away from the area as quick as possible if a mob is involved, not get out and confront people. If you have to shoot, shoot and move and get out of there.
A mob situation can overwhelm you very quickly if they are committed, even if you are highly skilled and armed.
Whether threatened by one bad guy or many, Movement is Life and the sooner you get your vehicle in action the better your chances of survival will generally be. Don’t stop and engage when you can keep moving and evade and escape.
I encourage people to get behind the wheel with the right instructors (I recommend my co-workers and myself at ACADEMI) and learn how to use your vehicle to its full capacity. It can definitely save your life or the lives of your family.
About the Author
After almost 12 years as a Police Officer and Patrol Sergeant, including 3.5 years on a SWAT team, Mike went to work at ACADEMI (formerly known as Blackwater) full time in 2006 teaching High Speed, Tactical and Off Road Driving as well as Hand to Hand Combatives. He has experience in Unarmed Close Protection security work, CONUS and OCONUS. He has been in martial arts for 25 years and currently trains Sayoc Kali and teaches Sayoc classes in Portsmouth, VA. He also teaches Avoiding Violence / Attack Recognition and Use of Force Legal classes. He recently became a contributing writer for Harris Publications and has written articles for Personal and Home Defense, Guns and Weapons for LE and Survivor's Edge. You can contact Mike through his Facebook page: Hard Target Sayoc Kali Training Group where he routinely dissects attack videos for pre-assault indicators amongst other content.