I Survived a Carjacking, 8 Takeaways

how to survive a carjacking

Sitting in a vehicle places you at a tactical disadvantage against an attacker.

As concealed carriers, we have our firearm on us; knowing the odds are good, we will never have to use it. We practice and train for an incident we pray never happens. However, because of obvious logistical issues, most concealed carriers have a huge void in their skillset. That being techniques and skills to better your chances of surviving a carjacking.

I thought I would share a story that only a handful of people know. It's my personal experienced of being carjacked. Through that, I learned some things from that incident and through my experiences since.


We must be especially vigilant while in our vehicle.

Carjacking, Cleveland, Ohio 1997:

I grew up in Cleveland, and in 1996 I was a rebellious 20-year-old. Back then, my friends and I frequented a bar whose regulars were bikers, vets, punks, and greasers, reflecting my social circle at the time. I wasn't even old enough to drink alcohol legally at the time. However, for a variety of reasons, I was able to drink alcohol without issue.

After a few beers, I agreed to give a female friend a ride home, and we left the bar at around 2:00 AM. We walked to the F-150, parked on the street about 100 yards from the bar. We both climbed into the truck and closed the doors. Setting the keys on the center armrest, I began to take off the leather jacket I had on. That is when I heard the passenger-side door open and noticed the interior light flip on.

When I looked, I saw two young men outside the open passenger door, one of which was extending a gun toward my friend and me.

carjackings crime scene

While one of them held us at gunpoint, the other started groping my friend aggressively. He first told her not to make a sound, or they would shoot her in the face. The language quickly escalated into telling her the vulgar things they would do to her once they kidnapped her.

After she rebuffed the invitation by spitting on one of them, the guy holding the pistol struck her in the face with it.

Another bad guy enters the scene:

Almost at the same time, I heard a metallic rapping on the driver's side window. When I turned to look, I saw a third male holding a gun in his outstretched hand and opening the driver's door.

carjacking in detroit

We have a false sense of security and protection when we are in our vehicles.

While pointing the gun at my face, the third male told me to give him my money and car keys. I told him that I had no money and spent it all in the bar (which happened to be the truth).

Moving slowly, I hoped to buy some time to think and come up with a plan.  People were leaving the bar, and we could see them. Screaming for them would not have gone well, I remember thinking. Indeed, they would see us and scare these guys away. It never happened because we parked on a dark part of the street.

Now I could hear the other two males tussling with my friend halfway inside the vehicle.

I felt trapped because I knew if I tried to start the truck and drive away, they would immediately shoot her.

My friend said, “don't take those.” I looked over and saw my truck keys, which had been on the center armrest, now in one of the male's hands. He said, “I got the keys, man, ” as he backed away from the truck. I saw him walk around the back of my vehicle toward my side.

The other male, who had been assaulting my friend, took a few steps away from the truck. I believe now that he was distracted and less confident once his accomplice left to head over to my side of the truck.

vehicle firearm tactics

I believed this to be a critical point in the carjacking:

This was the point where I felt compliance would no longer work. I felt I had to act because the situation was getting more dangerous with every second that passed. Waiting and delaying were not going to save us now.

At the time, I didn't carry a gun. However, I did have a spare ignition key on a chain attached to my wallet. The guy at my door stepped back as his buddy broth the stolen keys.

I took the opportunity to put my spare key in the ignition.

My truck had a manual transmission, and I pressed in the clutch, then put the car into first gear.

In a low voice, I told my friend to close the door, and she was able to slam it shut and hold it closed. With that, one of the two males who were on my side and still keeping the door open stepped in toward me. I punched him as hard as I could in the face. He stumbled back, long enough for me to crank over the engine and release the clutch.

The truck lurched forward, and I sped toward the front of the bar where my friends were congregating. We got some ice for my friend's face from inside the bar, and I took her home.

The most recent statistics related to carjackings show that most attackers used a weapon during the crime.

Mistakes were made:

I mostly discounted the incident and moved on. I chalked it up as yet another crazy night. After all, I accepted the risks that came with frequenting shady areas and tussling in the rough parts of town.

Years later, I became a police officer. Yeah, it was a surprise to me and those who knew me too.

As an officer, I responded to and investigated several carjackings. And, I watched hours of surveillance videos of carjackings. Every night on patrol, I was aware of the tactical disadvantages that sitting in a vehicle creates. All of this got me thinking about my incident.

police car

Several nights I reflected on my carjacking incident. And while I didn't handle things the same way I would have now, I made some good decisions. And, of course, some real bad ones.

After reflecting, I noticed some common factors between my incident and those I investigated as an officer.

I hope that through this article, you can better your chances of not becoming a victim of a carjacking in the first place. Also, that pick up on some strategies that overcome the tactical disadvantage being inside the vehicle.

8 Takeaways:

  1. Avoidance- This is a no-brainer and most apparent. Avoid areas that are more prone to criminal activity.
  2. Vehicle positioning (parking)- When parking, park in populated and well-lit areas
  3. Vehicle positioning (driving)- When stopped in traffic, always leave space between your vehicle and the one in front of you. While it may not always be possible, it should be enough room to drive around the car in front of you.
  4. Walking to your vehicle- Observe the area when walking to your car. Pay attention to gut instincts and anything that seems out of place.
  5. Stopped at a light/sign- Scan the area around your vehicle. A vulnerable time for a carjacking is when the car comes to a stop. Pay attention to pedestrians near your vehicle. As well as someone exiting a vehicle stopped on the street.
  6. Entering your vehicle- Immediately lock the doors. Carjackers will try and get the advantage of surprise by pulling the door open. Locking it will buy you time to formulate an appropriate response.
  7. Suppose you carry a firearm. Practice drawing the gun while seated in the car and consider things such as seat belts and the gun's location on your body. Because these all significantly affect your ability to respond.
  8. Fight/Flight- Remember, you have a vehicle that may be able to remove you from danger. When given the choice of a gunfight or driving away, the latter is always the wiser choice.

Some simple tips can give you a better chance of coming out on top during a carjacking.

In Closing:

The Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that 74% of the bad guys used a weapon while committing the crime. We should also note that there were 38,000 reported in one year.

We all can implement some of these strategies into our daily routine. However, what about training with the firearm inside the vehicle?

Live-fire training specific to carjackings is specialized and expensive. Furthermore, not many instructors offer vehicle classes.

Vehicle Firearms Tactics Training Course:


Learn more about shooting from within, around, and into a vehicle!

We saw a need for a robust, online class on the topic. So we created Vehicle Firearms Tactics. The course covers a wide variety of considerations on using your firearm in and around a vehicle. Paired up with some of the basic strategies mentioned above, you will give yourself a much better chance of avoiding and surviving a violent incident around your car.

If you like studying these carjacking incidents, consider reading this article.

Even if you can't get to a live-fire class on the topic, you should at least work the above considerations into your dry fire routine.

As always, stay safe, and God bless.

*This has been republished from a 2018 article.

About Matthew Maruster

I follow my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who is the eternal co-equal Son of God. I currently live in Columbus, Ohio with my wife and daughter. I served in the Marine Corps Infantry. I was a Staff Sergeant and served as a Platoon Sergeant during combat in Iraq. After I was a police officer at a municipal agency in San Diego County. I have a Bachelors's Degree in Criminal Justice from National University. MJ Maruster Defense.


  1. Hanz on February 17, 2018 at 8:43 am

    great food for thought thanks for sharing the experience.

  2. Jarrod on February 19, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    Just have a quick “what if” question for you based on your experience Matthew, if I may. I am very new to concealed carry laws, so this is regarding use of appropriate force in your situation. Given that the BG’s had superior numbers and weapons (suggesting opportunity and ability) and had also sexually assaulted your friend (and threatened further assault/kidnapping), would you have been justified in use of lethal force if you had a firearm, particularly in a state such as mine (Nebraska) with Duty to Retreat?

    • Jacob Paulsen on February 19, 2018 at 2:19 pm

      Jarrod, I’ll let Matthew chime in as well, but the answer is probably. We never know if something would or wouldn’t be legal until after the incident takes place and is judges by a DA and potentially a jury. That said in most states if there is a reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury then one would be justified in using deadly force.

      • Jarrod on February 19, 2018 at 3:41 pm

        That was more or less where my mind went as well, but being quite new, I chose to defer to guys like yourselves who have been around the scene for considerably longer. That being said, thank you to all of you guys (you Jacob, Riley and Matthew) for doing what you do! The podcast is phenomenal, filled with great stuff every time out and I am always either recommending or at very least referencing your work to fellow concealed carriers. Keep doing what you’re doing, and know that you are REALLY appreciated!

        • Matthew Maruster on February 19, 2018 at 4:55 pm

          Jarrod, first, thank you for all the kind words. Everyone who is part of Concealed Carry is truly someone who’s heart is into helping as many people be more prepared and responsible gun owners and carriers. I am so grateful for people like yourself who give us a purpose to do this. I can’t say thank you enough.

          As far as the question about the carjacking incident, Jacob was on point. When it comes to pulling the trigger, it boils down to your individual assessment of the facts at that precise moment.Those factors are ALL excellent reasons that bolster the reasonableness of you believing you were in fear of death or serious bodily injury. In fact, the exact reasons I felt like I had to do something besides just hope someone would come out and scare them away. There is also a reasonableness standard with the duty to retreat. There is no black and white criteria that spells out when you must and when you cant. So run the same test that you did when you articulated the facts that lead you to justify the use of force. In my case, I felt that if I tried starting the truck, they would shoot us, or pull my friend from the car and continue the assault. I also feard that if I started the truck they might shoot me, jump in the truck and take the truck and my friend. Would people find this reasonable? I don’t know but it is my honest perception of the event at that time. Nothing when it comes to a jury is 100% but I think that it would be hard-pressed to say it is not reasonable. Additionally, I think it would be hard-pressed to show that I absolutely had the ability to retreat, yet I chose not to.

          While I can’t answer your question 100% I can tell you that your reasoning is sound and reasonable. Stay safe and God bless.

  3. Richard on February 25, 2018 at 12:43 pm

    I live I. A high crime city when that happened to me when I got out I pulled the keys and dropped to the floor board and got out as he bent over the console I pulled my MP SHIELD AND STrUCK HIM IN THE HEAD WITH IT AND TOOK HIS 9 mm Taurus and pulled his wallet no ID so he had a wad of money in there so I took it and threw his bleeding all over my car,ass out on the side walk .. the stupid also had the safety in InThe weapon . I’m a welder so I destroyed the weapon .. I know your going to say I did wrong .. but I’m not law enforcement and they are the Calvary too late ..

  4. Bozo on February 25, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    Three things.
    1. Lock your doors when you get in your car. And know what is going on around you.
    2. Have a S & W 9mm with you at all times.
    3. Do not count on 5-0. They come a day late & a buck short. They can’t be every place.
    If you must use your gun. NEVER. NEVER talk to the police until you have a lawyer with you.
    Just give your name. And ask for a lawyer. Then shut up. Until you have one with you.
    Know your rights & use them. Also. Know when you can defend yourself. And use force in your state.

  5. James on February 25, 2018 at 1:31 pm

    In that situation I wouldn’t hesitate to use my vehicle and/or gun in self defense. Even in California, there would be no question of appropriateness in doing so. Except maybe in LA which I don’t frequent, or SF which I avoid.

    • Mark on February 25, 2018 at 3:33 pm

      I think lethal force threat or use would be reasonable. More and more states are applying castle laws to vehicles. Wisconsin did so right after getting carry. States need to define vehicle defense rules.

  6. Ed Kirkley on February 25, 2018 at 1:38 pm

    It was a very good article, thank you for sharing! I’m a retired former Police Officer. I carry 100% of the time. Your article was spot on and the replies were very well thought out. I have a bit of advice to share that my Best Friend, a Harris County Texas Sheriff’s Detective Friend shared that worked for him. He is right handed and carried his 45 in a normal concealed holster “when he was out of the car.” He also had a very good, very small cross draw holster that he switched to prior to entering his vehicle. I have used his method for years and have had to use it once. I didn’t have to fire, my draw alone stopped them cold thank God! It may not work for everyone. It does take a bit of getting used to swapping from strong to weak side but it is well worth the time! Thank all of you Instructors, Law Enforcement Professionals, Security Officer’s and CCW permit holders. All of you are doing what’s needed to turn the tide of the huge crime wave that’s threatening our country. Again thank you all!!

  7. Susie on February 25, 2018 at 2:56 pm

    I carry two things one is my Bersa 380 and the other is 150 pound south African mastiff and they are bread for protection and he’s black and he is very very scary looking and has been highly trained and he would think nothing of shredding someone who want to hurt me ,
    they’d have to kill him first and then I would unleash the fury of a magazine or two or three until I was put into the ground

  8. Mikial on February 25, 2018 at 4:21 pm

    Before you walk out to your vehicle, look around and see what is going on.

    As you walk to your vehicle, look around and be alert, and have your key in your hand.

    Once you are in your vehicle, lock your doors and then immediately drive away. Don’t sit there while to take your jacket off, look at your phone, choose a song to play, or anything else. Move.

    Finally, don;t put yourself in stupid places where you will be at risk.

    Any questions?

  9. Aint So on February 25, 2018 at 6:31 pm

    No question it is better to run if possible and live to fight another day but even when I am armed it gives me pause that a good friend of mine was killed resisting a carjacker many years ago. He was shot through the drivers side window after locking the thug out. Unfortunately the murderer was never caught. There was certainly a risk of this in the story presented above but keeping a cool head certainly made the odds a lot more favorable.

    • JG Mitch on May 2, 2021 at 8:29 pm

      38000 carjackings and 15 deaths from them. So sorry about your friend but obviously even though 45% are armed they obviously don’t actually want to kill the vics. Just a good thing to know armed or not.

  10. Mark Sorrels on May 1, 2021 at 2:18 pm

    I’m constantly talking to my wife and daughter about being aware of their surroundings, which really fits in with your story. I tell them to walk past their vehicles so they can look in the backseat, look underneath it as they are walking towards it and always have their hand on the panic button on the remote.
    I was walking the hospital employee parking lot a couple of weeks ago waiting for my wife and the number of people that get out of their cars and automatically look down to their phones when walking just amazes me. If I was a bad person looking to do people harm, it would have been easy to do that day for the simple fact of them not paying attention.

  11. Steve S on February 20, 2023 at 2:49 am

    I normally carry concealed 100% of the time. I use an IWB holster behind my right hip with a Sig P365 9mm. Obviously this is a terrible placement for sitting in the car. I’ve been considering a magnetic mount on the lower dash by my shin, but I am worried that, since it would be visible from outside, I might forget and leave it there once too many times and get both my pistol and my F150 stolen. A cross draw holster might work, but then I’d be wearing 2 holsters for one gun. That would be okay if I were wearing a jacket, but in South Texas it is usually too hot for a jacket. My normal attire is tee shirt, shorts, and sandals. I have not found any holster that is comfortable for me to wear IWB in front. Any suggestions?

  12. Alan on February 24, 2023 at 9:15 am

    Best advice: Don’t go dumb places at dumb times with dumb people.

  13. Dani on March 11, 2023 at 7:42 am

    After you get in your vehicle and lock the doors, immediately start the car and put it in drive (or reverse.) If someone comes up on you in a parking lot where your visibility is diminished, they’re going to want to see your hands on the wheel or opening your door.

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