The concealed carry and defensive handgun community use many vocabulary terms that may be new to outsiders or those joining our ranks. Two of those terms are cover and concealment.
We believe that to use these things properly in a gunfight, we first have to understand what is cover vs. concealment in a gunfight.
What Is Concealment In A Gun Fight
Concealment is the term used to refer to anything that hides you from view but doesn't necessarily stop bullets from reaching you.
The majority of objects in our environment are generally the only concealment. Most furniture, the body of a car, the walls in your home, and windows are usually going to be classified as concealment only.
Concealment is an integral part of defensive tactics in most encounters. If your attacker(s) cannot see you, they don't know exactly where you are or how prepared you may be to defend yourself.
Concealment can also be effective because your attacker(s) may not know the difference between cover and concealment and may feel that you are more protected than you are.
Using concealment to hide may be a good idea, but using concealment because you think it might stop bullets can be unsafe. Always know the difference.
What Is Cover in a Gun Fight
Cover, on the other hand, refers to anything that effectively protects you from the threat. If your attacker(s) has a firearm, then cover would be anything you can put between you and the oncoming bullets that would protect you from the bullets.
Whereas above, we listed the body of a car as concealment, the engine could be cover if it's big enough for you to get behind. A big tree can also be considered cover if it's hardwood and not falling apart.
However, the truth is that cover is far rarer than most of us realize, especially in the environments where we would expect to have to defend ourselves (like a home).
Any Given Object May Be Cover or Concealment Depending On Several Factors
Attempts to classify objects as cover or concealment can be difficult. After all, an empty refrigerator is not likely to stop a .223 round from passing clear through it. However, fill that refrigerator with food and gallons of milk. And depending on the angle of fire, it might very well stop that same .223 round from penetrating.
So What Do You Need To Know About Cover and Concealment?
In a life-threatening encounter, I think it is reasonable to assume the following:
First, you are going to be limited to the objects available to you for cover and concealment. It seems unlikely in an average gunfight that you would have a plethora of things to choose from.
Second, putting anything between you and the attacker is better than nothing between you and the attacker.
Gaining knowledge is always valuable, and a study of ballistics and an understanding of what objects are most or least likely to stop bullets is a good idea. However, a focused determination on QUICKLY identifying the best cover or concealment available to you at the time and then just putting SOMETHING between you and the threat is going to be your best course of action.
Do Not Discount The Value Of Concealment
My most significant concern with this topic is the possibility that one might have taught so strongly that concealment is terrible that one may discount the value of it in a defensive engagement. I address this concept more in this article.
While not as good as the cover, concealment still plays a positive and effective role in defending oneself from a lethal attack.
Ultimately we need to worry less about what stops bullets and work more on understanding how we will use the cover (or concealment) to our advantage to protect ourselves while we return fire.
I strongly encourage you to take advantage of our FREE video training program called “Principles of Cover,” which focuses on using various types of cover and getting into key shooting positions to return fire when taking cover.