Concealed Carry & Home Defense

Cover as a tactical advantage in a gunfight

Guns and Gear Contributor
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By Ed Santos, The Shooting Channel

An often overlooked area of combative handgun skills that deserves more attention is the selection and use of cover.  Regardless if you are an armed professional or a CCW holder, you should devote more time training in the use of cover.

I often observe my students thinking about, demonstrating a use of or need for cover when the fight starts.  When the fight or confrontation begins is not the time to be considering cover.

Consideration of cover should be an element of your normal practice of awareness.  Knowledge of what is cover and what is concealment as you practice awareness will provide you with options if trouble starts.

The simple act of walking down the street can be made safer if you first assess the elements that provide cover and choose a path that affords you the most cover along the way.


Don’t depend on sheet rock walls for protective cover. Bullets penetrate easily. Image: Simunition

Cover can be used for ballistic protection while fighting, searching, and in some cases support. In some cases using cover as a shooting support may work quite well, but, there are some compelling reasons why you may want to create distance from and not touch cover.

Crowding cover can expose you to over penetrating bullets, ricochets, and spalling.  The cover may move or even collapse, thus exposing you to the aggressor. Leaning into cover limits your field of view and arc of motion, degrading the ability to pivot and move quickly to respond in multiple directions.

As the situation evolves, you may have to quickly change locations or adjust your position as well.  Leaning against cover causes your balance to shift and even make you more stationary.  If anything, you may be slower getting back behind cover when leaning behind something.

Do not extend your muzzle beyond the cover to eliminate the possibility of the weapon being grabbed or deflected.  Even with shoulder weapons, beware of the fact that the perpetrator may be behind the door or in a corner adjacent to where you would extend your muzzle.


Cover can serve you well in a low light combative situation. Image: Simunition

Barriers may also cause issues with ejected cartridges which can bounce back into the shooter and or the action of the firearm.    Muzzle orientation must be considered in many other aspects as well.  Imagine an unintended muzzle blast into the cover in close proximity to your body.

Such an impact to cover could result in damage to the firearm and or injury to yourself and those to your front could cause injury or at least delay. Consider this with dry wall, concrete, or anything else that could quickly blind us. Muzzle blast can also feel more violent when the firearm is leaning on a flat surface or shooting in the prone position.


Bullets can ricochet or even penetrate metal such as car fenders.

Incorporate the use of cover in your training regimen.  Work on cover standoff and your overall body exposure.  Learn to shoot from unique positions when using cover.  Remember to keep mobility in mind when you select your shooting positions.   Getting behind cover to reload and deal with malfunctions etc…is also critical.

Try to find a competent facility to train in and work on your defensive skills.

Forces on Force exercises are a great way to perfect your fighting skills.  However, these types of scenario based training sessions require a competent instructor to ensure the exercise doesn’t turn into a backyard war game.   When I conduct these types of exercises the area students seem to struggle with the most is leaving cover for no good reason.

There are many reasons why someone would need to change locations but all too often the student moves because they feel like they should.  My concern here is their cover was not breaking down, there aggressor has not changed positions, they are not moving to better cover etc…  What they are doing is exposing themselves for no good reason when they change locations.

The old saying that “We will fight as we train” is real.  Vince Lombardi said, “It is not your desire to train that counts, It is your desire to train to win that matters.”

Ed Santos is author of the books “Rule the Night Win the Fight” published 2008 and his latest “Low-Light Combatives”  published 2013.  He is the Owner/Founder of Center Target Sports, Inc. and Tactical Services Group. He teaches advanced firearm skills and Low-light training around the world and can be reached at Take a moment to visit The Shooting Channel – click here to check them out.