No matter if you are civilian, military or law enforcement. Chances are good that the firefight you have trained for will include vehicles. We are not talking armored personnel carriers or IFVs here, we are talking unarmored civilian vehicles.
No matter which environment, vehicles are usually present either as your own asset, the enemies asset, as a terrain feature or as a bit of everything. Modern urban environments are packed with vehicles, even rural areas include them. Try to remember the last day you havent seen a vehicle. I bet its been a while. In contrast, when did you see the last 9-hole-barrier while walking the streets?
You may see that not covering vehicles in your training routine is a big mistake. In my time in the military I did a plethora of shooting from different kinds of cover and concealment. Shooting from inside or from behind vehicles wasnt a big thing, despite them being so common in all kinds of environment. “Why are we losing?” is a question that is often answered with equipment or training. Take Afghanistan as a example, we obviously had superior equipment, superior personnel assets but still lost it because we hadnt been able to manage utilizing those aforementioned asset the right way.
A part to the key of utilizing equipment and personnel strength is proper training, proper training that is still maintainable as a part your personal or your units economy of training and therefore should show some anologies to a shooters training routine. A shooting concept that doesnt shows anologies and links to the shooters routine, but overcomplicates stuff isnt an asset, it is an organizational weak point. Dont do weird shit for weird shits sake. Every kind of possible engagement should be emulated into contextual and isolated training exercises. Things a easy as using a car as a rifle rest from time to time during basic rifle marksmanship training are still far away from specilized training but do a lot for the shooter. Its a no-brainer, but still isnt performed that often.
THREE STATES & TWO DIMENSIONS OF VEHICLE SHOOTING
Now that we have covered the WHY lets talk about the HOW. To understand the how we have to stop looking at vehicle shooting as an isolated event but as a part of a firefight. We are talking about three states and three dimensions that can change pretty quickly.
The states of unarmored vehicle shooting are pretty easy to describe. There is mounted, dismounted and transitional. All of them most often occur at a specific point of the firefight.
-Mounted: Often initial part of the firefight, you have to react here by opening fire and either breaking contact or dismounting. Its the most dangerous situation. This state is the one that focuses on shooting and decision making.
-Transitional: In defensive scenarios this is the second stage, transitioning to dismounted is your first step after reacting to mounted contact. Its also the very first step in most offensive scenarios, as dismounting is the only way to unfold up the maximum firepower of your team. The parts of your team with the best arc of fire lay down fire mounted while the rest is dismounting. No movement without fire, no fire without movement, now we are talking analogies. The transitional stage covers every move from the inside to the outside of the vehicle and all organizational movement in close proximity around the vehicle.
-Dismounted: The firefight is won in dismounted contact. This covers everything around the vehicle. To counterattack we need to get distance from the vehicle, this can only be achieved by utilizing fire and movvement again. I also count every use of random vehicles as cover and concealment as a dismounted state of work.
Now this sounds like an easy template to set up SOPs, doesnt it? The truth is that there are two dimensions that change the way you emphasize the different states. Close Range (0-100m) and every distance from 100m upwards. Why does this matter?
Close Range examples
At close range enemy fire will kill you when inside vehicles, its crucial to immediately transition to take back the initiative, this can be done by a diving type motion, its mission critical to immediately get out of the enemies line of fire here. So when it comes to mounted defensive scenarios at close rang skipping the mounted state will do a lot for you. Mounted offensive scenarios are the complete opposite. You need to start firing from the vehicle while others disembark. So the turning point shifts. Same goes for the transitional and dismounted state, getting away from the vehicle and performing a counterattack is crucial at close proxmity. There is little time to take back the initiative.
Long Range examples.
At longer ranges chances are good to break contact by just pushing through an assault. Transition can be performed less hasty and emphasizes disembarking to the safe side of the vehicle. While in the transitional phase shooters will utilize the vehicles as cover and concealment and/or rifle rest to maximize long range firepower and survivability.
Those have been just a few examples on how to react ot contact on different distances in different stages of vehicle shooting. Its crucial for the shooter to know the differences and to train fixed SOPs for such scenarios. Create bail out and contact drills for each mounted variable. Most importantly, train all those aspects.
COVER OR CONCEALMENT?!
The debate if vehicles count as cover or concealment is tiresome. This isnt Dungeons & Dragons, this also isnt a science show. Vehicles are composed out of cover and concealment. The parts that can cover you are either to small to really fire from them without forcing you into some weird shooting stance or just prevent any kid of movement. Therefore we shouldnt talk about what vehicles “count as”. We should talk about the fact that concealment is better than nothing and that fire and maneuver always wins. Use the vehicle as concealment and shoot from it in either standing, kneeling or prone, get your head down while manipulating your rifle or communicating, move from one side of the vehicle to the other so you are a small target popping up at long distances just to fire at the enemy and dissapearing after that. Of course the vehicle will get pounded with bullets, but thats why you always employ fire and movement.
Also dont underestimate the protection of a vehicle, those that preach that a vehicle does NOTHING for you should read and understand reports on VBIEDs from Iraq and Afghanistan that didnt got stopped by combined GPMG and assault rifle fire.
Several car specific shooting stances exist, but remember training them will force the shooter to practice an ever growing plethora of shooting stances. Better be proefficient in three than being mediocre at 20 shooting stances. From my own observations transitional and car specific shooting stances are often less stable and offer a smaller arc of fire compared to the holy triangle of shooting executed in perfection. Be aware that vehicles will always attract large volleys of fire and that some distance while shooting is a good thing to prevent spall. If you have another cover or concealment available than the vehicle, use it.
Shooting out of a vehicle
When mounted you will have to fire out of the vehicle in most stages except defensive close range situations. Those that are able to fire will fire. Those that arent will disembark. Now there is a lot of talk on bullet deflection shifting your hits. Yes there is bullet deflection, but what is your first reaction when getting ambushed from the front? Opening the door, leaning out of the car and getting the perfect shooting position? I dont think so. You will either return a volley of fire through the window or just dive and disembark. Also a good volley of bullets, fired right after contact at longer ranges will propably suppress your enemy and absolutely punch a hole into the window that allows for precise shots. So your mounted shooting shouldnt be focused on range ballistics, you are simply losing time bylistening to some semi-autistic breakdown. “Your first shots will propably not hit, so suppress and shoot through the hole you just created” will do more for you than an one hour refferate on ballistics. Opening the door and firing through the gap? May work in some situations, I rather move or even drop out fast and move behind the vehicle, even shooting from prone supported is at the side of the vehicle is an better option as the enemy will propably concentrate fire on the car.
Focus your mounted shooting on building reliable and safe firing positions inside the car instead. Always build a three point position, with your back and legs creating pressure and therefore support. Also dont just move your arms to aim. You should move your whole body inside the vehicle, just like you would do it on the outside. Contact left is contact left, not front left.
Moving inside vehicles emphasizes safety, do dry runs a lot. Force your shooters to practice muzzle discipline. High ready/temple index works in vehicles, also use it outside of vehicles, we are talking analogies again.
I already told you about building SOPs. Your SOPs shouldnt be complex and shouldnt differ to much from what you are doing outside of vehicles. Mounted (driving tactics) and transitional are the only stages where such a thing as vehicle tactics exists. You are disembarking in a preset pattern that depends on the direction and proximity of the attack. A contact left on long range will favor those that get out of the vehicles right side, so train disembarking on one side on this occasion. A contact left from close proximity will propably force you to get out of the vehicle using all doors as you want to spread the enemies attention as fast as possible.
Split your teams into left and right. Those teams will propably stay together. They are your maneuver elements now. When your contact is on front, keep up fire and move to the rear of the vehicle while transitioning.
Everything else is plenty much infantry school style fire and maneuver tactics. Yes, you have been sitting in a vehicle 2 seconds ago, but now that you are disembarked and organized into teams the contact peel you are performing isnt a special vehicle peel, its a contact peel like every other contact peel. Dont do weird shit.
Working in vehicles favors slick kit. Your assault backpanel and your brick style side mounted IFAK wont do anything for you. The majority of your fighting load belongs to the chest, your belt isnt a good place to reach while you are sitting beside the fact that a gun belt covered in pouches will get uncomofrtable, drive a few hours with your kit. Cummerbund mounted pouches will get caught in seatbelts and doorframes, reduce them to a minimum. Store your rifle sling until you need it. A bail out bag is a great thing to have. Pack one or two of them sustaining you and your team with ammo and water. Your holster shouldnt be hanging on your knees anyways, but in vehicles it is even more important to dont do so. Avoid protruding holster platforms, shift your holster a bit more to the front of your thigh than you would usually do. Avoid all kinds of shock cord, retention lanyards and other “catchy” stuff that isnt necessary. It is almost self explaining that armor should always be opted for. Also wear eyepro and gloves.
So what can we do to suck less when fighting in and around vehicles?
-Include vehicles as obstacles and barriers into all kinds of livefire on a regular basis.
-Understand the different stages and dimensions of vehicle shooting.
-Build bailout procedures based on contact direction and proximity.
-Train muzzle discipline
-Build analogies, the more your vehicle training resembles your regular dismounted training the more people will actually practice it. You only have 365 days to train stuff, you actual training time is propably way less -mine is.
-Shooters have to understand that specialist shooting stances steal training time for shooting stances that are applicable on a wider plethora of scenarios.
-Know the turning points of each situation. Perform those quick and effective.
-Remember your basic training. If it covered fire and maneuver you are already on a good way.
-Focus on returning fire, not on ballistics, engineering and maths.
-Get out of the X but prepare to win the X.
-Your kit should be tailored for mounted use.
-Learn building small teams based on the direction of fire and the resulting bailout direction.
-You actually have to train with vehicles to understand it.
-Perform and train movement inside vehicles.
-Dont train weird stances.