Fighters in combat, law enforcement officers on patrol, and people defending their homes have all been injured or killed because they either didn’t understand the basic concepts of “cover” and “concealment,” didn’t apply them correctly, or didn’t understand the difference between the two.
Whether or not they were taught about these tactics, they simply did not incorporate them into their regular training and daily activities. Cover and concealment are both distinct and complementary concepts. They can be used independently or in conjunction with one another.
The goal of this article is to help you understand the distinctions between them and how to use them effectively, both separately and together.
Cover versus concealment
Cover is defined as anything that can shield you from an incoming projectile, either by stopping it or deflecting it. Most types of cover will also offer concealment.
The solid-glass construction blocks used in some houses and commercial buildings are notable exceptions to this rule. They do not conceal you or your movements, but they do shield you from the majority of gunfire.
“Concealment” refers to anything that keeps you from being seen or detected by someone.
The concept of cover is the more important of the two. After all, it is what keeps you from being hurt or killed. It also depends on what the bad guy shoots.
Materials that stop a 9mm or other pistol rounds will almost certainly not stop a shotgun slug or buckshot because they have more energy behind them. The same is true for stopping a rifle bullet, which contains even more gunpowder.
Homes were built in the first quarter of the twentieth century with multiple layers of plaster combined with wooden slats and other denser materials. Those walls had a better chance of stopping bullets back then, but modern walls are only 1/2-inch drywall held in place by 2×4-inch studs and drywall screws.
Similarly, the furniture in our grandparents’ homes was mostly made of solid wood, as opposed to the particle board or laminates used today. As a result, stone or concrete countertops in the kitchen and bathroom can provide better coverage. Furthermore, metal bathtubs are typically made of thick cast iron and can provide cover from small-arms fire.
Unlike in the movies, most modern furniture and interior wall construction will not deflect any projectiles fired at you. If you’re in a gunfight at home, the office, or a public building, don’t take cover behind the bar or an upended table like John Wayne and Roy Rogers. Even pistol rounds have the ability to penetrate common office furniture and cabinets.
Today’s furniture is mostly air beneath the upholstery, and any padding that is present is useless. Metal cabinets and conference room tables will not deter modern ammunition. The large pillars that appear to be made of stone or concrete on the interior and exterior of public buildings are actually hollow, with a laminate on the surface that surrounds what is often a relatively small steel or concrete core.
So, in today’s world, what are we supposed to use for cover?
Our best bet is to supplement existing items. An empty file cabinet or bookcase, for example, will not provide much protection, but when filled with files or books, which are essentially 6 to 11 inches of wood fiber, it will provide adequate protection against small-arms fire.
The same is true for office equipment such as copiers, which contain a large number of metal moving parts. They don’t provide as much protection as solid objects, but they’re better than desks and tables.
Automobiles are used as another source of cover in movies, TV shows, and books, but in reality, most vehicles won’t provide much actual cover from bullets without some sort of augmentation.
Windshield glass may deflect bullets depending on the angle, but you can’t count on it. Single or multiple rounds, particularly from a rifle or shotgun, will penetrate and be lethal.
On a car, the best place to look for cover is where there is the most solid metal. Put the wheels, transaxle, transmission, differential, or engine block between you and the bad guys.
Of course, if you’re outside, mature trees, concrete walls, and dirt berms provide excellent protection from offensive fire.
Even though most modern building and furniture materials do not provide much protection, there are ways to improve them without turning your home or office into a bunker. You can increase the protection value of interior walls by inserting gravel or sand between the drywall sheets in each wall.
To prevent the drywall from breaking and allowing the filler to spill out, either enclose the filler in bags or staple material such as burlap to the studs.
Another option is to install metal plates at least 1/2 inches thick behind one of the drywall sheets. To achieve that 1/2-inch thickness, multiple thinner layers of metal will be more effective than a single 1/2-inch layer.
These fortifications can add significant weight to your walls; therefore, if you make these changes above the ground floor or basement levels, consider the impact on the structure of your home. Similarly, when adding metal reinforcements, be cautious around power lines.
Furniture, such as couches, cabinets, and servers, can be “up-armored” with steel panels or ballistic blankets in places that are not normally visible when in use.
In the same way, if your home-defense plan includes using your bedroom as a safe room, keeping a metal sheet or ballistic blanket under the bed is a good idea.
Obviously, the headboard and footboard, mattress, and box spring will not prevent anything from happening. Finally, you can improve the security of your personal or business vehicle by replacing the existing glass with bulletproof glass and installing ballistic blankets or steel panels in the doors and trunk area.
What makes effective concealment?
While most types of actual cover offer concealment, the opposite is not always true:
The majority of concealment methods will not provide you with any meaningful cover.
Their value is that they can keep you from being shot by preventing the bad guy from seeing where you are, what you’re carrying, or where you’re going.
Because effective cover is often difficult to come by, your best bet for avoiding being shot is to avoid being seen before you are ready to take offensive action.
Concealment can be an obstacle that your opponent cannot see through, but it can also prevent your opponent from seeing you.
Physical barriers are examples of effective concealment that can hide you while you move from one position to another (gullies or ridges, bushes, trees, high grass, and walls or buildings).
Less substantial visual barriers, such as smoke, fog, and dark shadows, make it more difficult for your adversary to see you, but they are less likely than physical barriers to mute or mask any sounds you may make.
Basic camouflage principles can also assist you in concealing yourself.
It is best if you can remain completely hidden, but this is not always possible, especially when you are moving.
When moving from one position to another or when you need to stop and don’t have any cover to hide behind, use the shadows.
Wear something that matches the color or shade of where you are or are going. Anything that doesn’t fit should be hidden or discarded.
Placing a bright light source between you and whoever is trying to see you will help because they will be unable to see behind the bright light. However, moving behind a flashlight that you’re holding is a bad idea.
Things to remember
Cover and concealment work best when used together. Cover can also provide concealment, so position yourself accordingly.
If you are not in a good position to defend yourself or fight, move to a covered position that will allow you to do so.
Concealment will assist you in avoiding detection as you move from one covered position to the next.
Choose your path carefully to take advantage of every piece of concealment and cover available to you—even if it means taking a detour instead of a direct route.
When concealment is all you have, make the most of it by hiding behind furniture, draping a blanket over yourself, or simply blending in with your surroundings.
Sometimes the best form of concealment is simply not moving because motion is more noticeable than anything else.
So, choose cover over concealment; take advantage of both; and if you must move, do so with as much concealment and cover as possible.
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