BY KEVIN ESTELA
I live only a few hours from the SIG Sauer Academy in Epping, NH so I end up traveling there for training events on a regular basis. In late August, I attended a wildly popular course called “Bullets on Vehicles”. This course is designed to teach students how bullets react when fired at glass and different parts of vehicles as well as how defensive shooting changes shooting from inside a vehicle and around it. Considering the recent terrorist vehicle assaults and regular crimes committed with cars and trucks, learning how to deploy a firearm effectively is extremely important in the changing landscape we live in. I wanted to find out what all the hype was about and I decided to take a couple Mission Knives with me to see how they would work on vehicles as well.
After a thorough safety brief and medical plan in case of a “training accident”, all 10 students in the course were given instruction on how to safely draw firearms from the seated position without muzzling body parts in the process. We were taught the nuances of shooting from the driver’s side of a vehicle to the right, left, in front of us and behind us while seated in metal chairs. We transitioned to working inside a junkyard vehicle and repeated the process and course of fire. Before we were able to fire from the driver’s side to the passenger side, all students helped out pushing the non-operational vehicle with at least one flat tire around the range into position. Throughout the morning, the instructors stressed the information presented followed a “crawl, walk, run” formula as moving too fast in an environment most students rarely get to work can induce unsafe gun handling. The morning session also included seeing the effects of bullets on glass. We learned how glass has a tendency to “suck in” projectiles and redirect them. Bullets shot from outside the car into the windshield deflect downward and from inside the vehicle shot outward deflect upward.
Smooth presentation of the firearm was the biggest takeaway for me from the morning session. Running a V Development Group Seraph holster in the appendix carry position, I learned to lean back slightly as I drew, and to come up to a high-compressed position before swinging out to the side to prevent lasering my legs. I also learned the importance of keeping sights on target as I use my other hand to get the seat belt off and open the door. Accessing the seat belt, opening the door and holding it open with your leg as you exit are all skills we ran live. The drills we did could easily be replicated with blue guns or with cleared firearms in a private garage. As was pointed out and as common sense dictates, you don’t want to be seen drawing a firearm from your vehicle out in public. Not enough people practice drawing and obtaining sight pictures and they don’t realize the skill needed to do so smoothly and quickly.
After lunch, the students worked in pairs shooting from the driver side and passenger side to address threats on both sides of the vehicle. Students were encouraged to use strong communication verbal commands prior to movement and when indicating status. The concept of shooting from one position, hiding behind “cover” and coming up from a new position was stressed as threats will ambush a person reappearing in the same spot. The afternoon session also included seeing the effects of bullets on the body of the vehicle. We shot pistols, rifles, shotguns and even a 50 BMG into the vehicle. Most people know the engine block offers some protection but so does the B pillar, marginally. As students found out, the idea of vehicle cover is largely a myth perpetuated by Hollywood and it’s best to find real cover or simply accelerate and get the hell away if you can. Door panels offered no ballistic protection even from pistol rounds. The trunk was shot clean through with a 12 gauge slug and students could literally see daylight through the entrance and exit holes. One instructor demonstrated the effects of skipping bullets under the car, over the hood, and how effectively and predictably the rounds travel into targets on the other side.
Of course, I wasn’t going to let the opportunity to test a couple Mission Knives against a vehicle escape me. Earlier in the day we tested different dedicated tools to cut belts and break windows. We also saw how old radio antennas can be used to whip and break windows easily. At the end of the day equipped with a MDK-Ti and CSP-A2, I wanted to see how well the blades held up to puncturing the metal body. In fact, once other students and a couple instructors saw me literally thrusting and rip-cutting out of the hood, body panels, windshield, and trunk, a few tried it as well. Since the vehicle was thoroughly perforated and there was glass everywhere, I used a good set of gloves and covered my eyes by not taking off my eye protection. During the course, one or two people ended up with small cuts from the broken glass that ends up everywhere. Make no mistake about it, cuts are very likely and anyone using bare hands working around a car is eventually going to see blood. A paracord lanyard kept the MDK-Ti securely in my hand and even after burying the blade multiple times in the car body, I could still cut fabric and seat belt straps found in the car. Both blades showed scuff marks from the paint and scratches but they were largely not deformed from cutting the car body. I routinely test knives in the great outdoors but it isn’t everyday I get to use my blades like this. For me, having this opportunity was worth the cost of admission.
Absorbing the information and data from Bullets on Vehicles is much like drinking from a fire hose. One could take this course over and over and learn each time. This wasn’t my first time shooting in, around, and out of vehicles but it was one of the best times in terms of good repetitions and material taught. I hope I never have to use these skills in real life but hope is not a plan. Multiple law enforcement officers in my class remarked how they don’t get this training but they should. The instructors said to “steal this material” and share it with others who could benefit from it. Not enough students will graduate from the flat range and test themselves and their skills working in positions like those explored in this class. Training should reflect reality and simply strapping on a pistol does not make someone immune from danger and it certainly does not transform someone into a fighter. If you’re interested in leveling up in your training, the SIG Sauer Academy is a great place to help you accomplish that.
SIG Sauer Academy
233 Exeter Road
Epping, NH 03042