Suarez International Staff Instructor
"NEVER CROWD YOUR COVER." The popular thinking is that one should never get too close, or crowd, their cover. In my experience, which may vary from yours, the person saying this is most often parroting what they have heard in the past from a different, one-dimensional instructor. One who also thinks that there will always be room to maneuver and back away from cover. Their perspective on gun fighting is often limited to a folding barricade in the highly controlled, safe environment of a shooting booth, where stand and deliver shooting is the only possibility.
By contrast, in the dynamic and fluid world of the reactive gunfight "crowding your cover," or not, is but one of many decisions that we will make based on the situation at hand. Back away from your cover to open your field of view when possible. My issue is with "Never," and its partner, "always."
First, it may be best to modify how we look at "Cover" or what we think of as cover. In many cases, cover often isn't. A cover can just be defined as a physical barrier that will stop bullets from hitting their intended mark. As advancements in ammunition continue, and the things in our daily lives get lighter and cheaper, less and fewer things will stop bullets. As an example, we can look at the topic of fighting around vehicles. The heavy construction of an old model Chevy Caprice or Ford Crown Vic was likely at some point to stop a lead nosed .38 Special fired into the body than a jacket one. The information that I received in the police academy 25 plus years ago about using cover was limited to these vehicles and the folding barricade in a booth on the range. Cops were in the process of selecting new calibers and bullet designs, although the tactics had not evolved to keep up with these changes. In many ways, they still haven't. Contrast that to firing a modern jacketed handgun round into our contemporary, lighter weight vehicle. An adversary can crowd it, or back away from it a suitable (?) distance, and in many cases, our bullets will punch through the vehicle and fly straight and true thru the other side. That works both ways. With rifle calibers the issue is either better or worse, depending on who gets more violent the fastest.
On a side note, our academy taught us how to conceal ourselves behind a telephone pole or similarly sized object. It worked as long as both parties were stationary and you had enough room to back away from the pole. I recall deciding at the time that the other guy would never hold still if I started shooting at him. This is similar logic to using a "B" pillar of a car for cover. It will stop many types of bullets. It will work as the cover for you as long as the person shooting at you is an excellent shot and only hits the "B" pillar. If they miss to either side, you may be in trouble.
I am all for putting something between you and the hurt. I don't want you to think otherwise. However, the mere presence of something in front of us or our field of fire does not mean its cover that will stop a bullet. Often these items are simply obstructions that may provide some concealment. Legalities and procedure aside, I don't have to see the adversary to potentially hit them. In many cases, if you are static behind cover or potential cover, you are defensive. Get fixed in that position, and it's only a matter of time until a committed foe gets you. Use it for what its worth and move on to the next tactical problem or opportunity.
Here are some situations where you may be forced to get closer to cover. It is not all-inclusive, and it will likely change as my experience and understanding of tactics evolves. View this through your lens.
First, if your opponent has the high ground. Not necessarily the top of a mountain but simply a balcony or the like. It’s all about angles. Back away enough to gather information or fire up at them. Exposing yourself further to appease non-existent range safety concerns may get you killed. Conversely, if you have the high ground, you may be forced to crowd your cover to see and or shoot your adversary. Imagine shooting down from a second-floor window at someone beneath you.
In a reactive situation against more than one attacker, you may be forced initially to get closer to your cover than you would like for it to do you any good.
Self-application of a tourniquet; to keep the TQ from spinning as you attempt to tighten it, it is often beneficial to splint or pins the limb in question against the floor, a wall, side of a vehicle, etc. Your potential cover may assist you in this life-saving measure. If you genuinely have an arterial bleed your life is spinning down the drain and only have a small window of opportunity to work within. Be quick about it, and remember to be a gunfighter first. Just because you got close enough to the cover to apply your TQ does not mean that you are now stuck there.
Corralling or otherwise shielding loved ones. They cannot be expected to move in concert with you while you vie for position against your attacker. In a reactive context, it may be prudent to get them to something while you decide on a course of action.
Getting in our out of your vehicle in a parking lot is when people are off balance, have things in their hands, and they are preoccupied. Their mobility is confined. Again, in a reactive situation in a crowded parking lot, your ability to back away from cover will be limited.
When it makes more sense to use the cover to support an accurate shot than backing away from it. My goal is to stop them from shooting me, not to hide behind something so they can’t reach me. To my thinking, this thought process is similar to the decision to fix a stoppage of your primary or transition to a second weapon; it is distance and threat dependent.
Learn to function in confined spaces in case you have to later. Or, repeat suspect phrases like "never crowd cover" and suffer the consequences when circumstances conspire to restrict your movement. In closing, vary your sources, test your theories and understand that things are more complicated than the never and always crowd can handle. Thoughts?