The purpose of this post is not necessarily to discuss vehicle gunfighting tactics, as I’m not really qualified to talk about that at length. With that said, I can and will discuss some basics that I’ve learned in training, but what I really want to focus on first is the best way to carry a gun while driving.
I have heard any number of people purport to carry a weapon in their car while driving, although not necessarily on their person. This may be a gun that is kept in a glove box, in a center console, under the seat, or even stuffed between seats within easy reach and concealed with a ball cap or underneath another item.
As with many pieces of conventional wisdom involving concealed carry, I think this practice is a horrible idea. Now, I don’t much care how exactly you choose to carry on your body, but I do think it’s important to strongly consider on body carry when driving for a number of reasons.
I also want to note that this is a separate discussion from that of a truck or car gun. I am focusing here on the pistol that you carry for self-defense every day in terms of your typical commute and running errands in the car.
First, let’s talk about exactly why the pistol should actually be on your body in a holster. To do this, I want to examine a few different scenarios. For instance, what about when you stop for gas or groceries at the convenience store and briefly exit your vehicle? To those that say they would holster their gun at those times, what about the effects of vehicle collisions while driving? I’m sure we’ve all slammed on the brakes at some point in our driving experience and have had everything on the seats go flying onto the floorboard and out of reach. Imagine what can happen when that sudden stop is also associated with an impact and then compound that with the possibility of vehicle rollover. You may be seriously injured or just simply shaken up, but either way, is that really the time that you want to be searching for a pistol that went flying? (For a real world example of this, consider that FBI Special Agents Manauzzi and Hanlon both lost their service weapons that were NOT in their holsters during the vehicle collisions that immediately preceded the 1986 FBI Miami shootout.) Whether you’re just going around the block, or driving across the country, they’re called accidents for a reason… If you knew you were going to be in an accident on a certain day then you probably wouldn’t drive that day, especially not with an unsecured pistol loose in your car! Further, if you assume that your pistol would be secure in a locked glove box or other compartment, simply realize that the structural integrity of such compartments is often compromised in collisions. I’ve seen glove boxes sheared open and pieces of dashboards and other car parts otherwise displaced too many times to count in vehicle crashes.
Now let’s briefly bring tactics into the discussion. If you take a vehicle class from any reputable instructor, you will probably be taught to stay with the vehicle only so long as it benefits you, i.e. – as long as you can still evade and escape with the vehicle in motion. Once your vehicle – for whatever reason – becomes immobile, it is a bullet magnet. Get out! Mobility equals survival. If you have dependents in your vehicle that you are responsible for, that’s a bit more complicated and beyond the scope of this article. Rather, focus on the fact that ideally you will want to exit the vehicle and either use it for cover or abandon it in favor of mobility and better cover. In such a high stress situation, do you want to be fumbling with making sure you grab your gun when you bail out, especially if a loose gun has been dislodged in an impact that necessitates you bailing out of the vehicle? The best place for that pistol, where it will remain immediately accessible at all times, is in a holster on the belt.
I personally struggled with this concept for a couple of years due to my own unique situation. I wear a uniform to work every day that is not really conducive to concealed carry and I am also prohibited by state law and employer policy from carrying at work. Certainly it would be far easier for me to simply put my holstered gun in a bag or pack or some sort of holster attached within my car, but as I outlined above, that would largely defeat the purpose of even having it with me. Instead, I go to the trouble of removing my holstered gun and locking it up every time I park my car at work, and doing the reverse when I get ready to drive home. It’s a pain in the ass, but it’s the only logical approach I’ve been able to come up with to be armed during my commute.
Remember, if you ever need your gun, it will probably be at a time when you REALLY need it NOW. The quicker you can access it, the quicker you can bring it into play. This concept extends far beyond vehicles into the home and even the workplace if you can legally carry while at work. Inside of a bag, briefcase, or desk drawer is not necessarily the place to keep a gun for defensive purposes. Especially if you have small children in your home, in a holster on your belt is the safest place for your gun to be kept during waking hours. I first heard the phrase “pants on, gun on, or ‘POGO,’” on The Polite Society Podcast. I agree with the sentiment wholeheartedly. I sometime fall short of that ideal, but that is my own failing and an occasional decision predicated on risk analysis and the realities of my life.
While I don’t want to go into significant detail or stray too far outside of my lane of experience, I do want to share a few good practices regarding fighting in and around a vehicle with a gun, specifically a pistol. (Note that the following commentary is written from the perspective of being right handed and sitting in the driver’s seat.) First, I strongly favor inside-the-waistband appendix carry. I can access my gun easily while seated in my car, it doesn’t interfere with any driving activities, and I personally find it more comfortable than a holstered gun on my hip. I simply pull my untucked shirt or jacket out from under the seat belt to allow me to access the gun quickly if needed. If you do carry on your hip, then you should be able to reach your gun relatively easily by leaning forward slightly. The tricky part is bringing the gun to bear on a threat from the holster while seated. It’s difficult if not impossible to avoid flagging yourself at some point in the draw and presentation, which simply reinforces the need for strict trigger finger discipline. You may also have to shoot one handed, which is but one example of a skill that you should be familiar with BEFORE you need it!
If you have to fire from within your vehicle, there are a few things to consider. It should go without saying that you should probably either be driving or be shooting. Don’t try to do both at once! If you can preemptively lower a window, this will somewhat mitigate the concussive blast of a gunshot inside such close quarters. Second, if you have to shoot through glass, don’t worry about bullet deflection. Instead, just aim as you normally would and fire for effect. In other words, punch a hole in the glass with your bullets and don’t over complicate the subject. It’s going to be loud and shooting through glass can create microscopic glass particles that you don’t want to breathe!
If you do have to bail out of your vehicle in a hurry, it is probably best to do so without changing the location of your gun. In other words, if it’s holstered, leave it there. If it’s out, keep it in hand. (On that note, I highly suggest reading Mike Pannone’s discussion of the temple index vs. high port as it relates to movement in confined spaces with a handgun.) Reaching underneath the shoulder strap with your support hand to access the seat belt buckle allows you to clear the belt from your body quickly as you exit the vehicle.
Keep in mind that fighting with a handgun in and around your vehicle is an advanced skill set with a lot of variables involved. I highly recommend taking a vehicle specific class to learn the techniques and tactics involved. Having said that, the fundamentals of marksmanship don’t change just because you’re behind the wheel. Don’t ever forget that the terminal ballistics of your vehicle are significantly better than those of a handgun bullet! If you need to use your vehicle as cover, realize that it represents imperfect cover that is nonetheless better than no cover. Bullets impacting vehicles are unpredictable at best. Try not to get pinned into an unfavorable position behind your car by falling victim to poor tactics.
Finally, I’ve spent a lot of words talking about how to be armed while driving. Let me spare a few for how to drive while armed! In short, drive defensively (check out this recent article from Dr. Sherman A. House), be aware of your surroundings and not tuned out or distracted, and don’t let road rage envelop you into a situation with far reaching implications and unintended consequences. Let the asshole driver pass you or have that coveted parking spot, and don’t return the middle finger salute. The one time I ever reached for my gun while driving, it was because my passenger flipped off a guy that pulled out in front of us. Stuck in traffic, and with no apparent escape avenue for my vehicle, when the large gentleman angrily exited his truck and started toward my door, I preemptively reached back to grip my holstered gun. I am convinced that the obvious motion that telegraphed my action is what caused him to do an abrupt about face and return to his vehicle. I don’t share this experience as a model of what to do, but rather what NOT to do! It was no big deal in the end, but I had a strong discussion with my passenger about the realities of the fact that I carried a gun daily. I’ve had a lot more training since then, and I don’t carry on the hip anymore, but it was a useful learning experience from my youth. Just as with any other activity, when carrying, you are held to higher standard of conduct that does not tolerate impertinent lapses of judgement.
I hope the above is helpful for those of us that carry a gun while driving. As always, we welcome your comments and questions below. Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to check out our Recommended Gear and Recommended Books links in the menu above, and please consider using our Amazon Affiliate link to support our efforts here at the blog if you are planning to shop online!