Lessons from a Carjacking Caught on Video

Here are some sobering statistics about carjackings in the United States. Each year there are:

  • approximately 38,000 reported carjackings
  • 75% of the time criminals use a firearm

These numbers, coupled with the fact that sitting in a vehicle places you at a tactical disadvantage, mean we are particularly vulnerable while in our vehicles. And in recent years we have seen a significant increase in the frequency of carjackings.


We must be especially vigilant while in our vehicle.

We also must be extra vigilant and look for indicators that a criminal may have us in their sights. Additionally, as concealed carriers and the protectors of our family, we ought to understand the dynamics of gunfighting from inside a vehicle.

My personal story of being carjacked:

Recently, I wrote an article describing my personal story of being carjacked as a youth. In it, I explained not only what happened, but lessons I learned. Lessons that I applied while working as a patrol cop and in my everyday life.

These crimes happen quickly and are violent. I learned a lot from my first-hand experience, but thank God there are other ways to prepare ourselves better to avoid or fight against carjackers without being involved in one. I have included a carjacking incident that was caught on video. We can learn much by watching this short video clip.

Let's Debrief this Carjacking Incident:


This incident takes place at noon in a Detroit gas station. These two carjacking suspects work in tandem to ‘ambush' the driver stopped at the gas station. One of the suspects approached the driver's side while the other rushes the vehicle's passenger side. Even though most criminals do not possess tactical skills, notice that these two show a coordinated attack.

Pay attention to how the two rush the vehicle quickly while hiding in the vehicle's blind spot. This tactic allows them to get very close before being detected. They catch the driver entirely off guard. Once the driver's door has opened, the carjacker is in a distinct position of advantage.

Ultimately the driver flees, and the two suspects leave the scene in their newly acquired vehicle. It is important to note that these two committed a series of these carjackings before being caught. Knowing this reveals how the two perfected their tactics.


First, this underscores the importance of being alert at all times and in all places. This incident happened in a well-populated area during the middle of the day. We also see how the car puts us at a tactical disadvantage by obstructing our field of view.

Keep your doors locked until you have to exit the vehicle and lock them immediately when you re-enter. Doing this places a physical barrier between you and a would-be carjacker. Bullets go through glass and sheet metal, but knives, fists, and other blunt objects usually don't. You have just bought some time against carjackers armed with these types of weapons. Now the problem of someone opening your door and getting the drop on you is reduced.

Bullets, vehicles and carjackings:

And yes, carjackers could very well shoot through the door. However, this is not typically the outcome. In general, carjackers and criminals use the gun first to intimidate. That is not to say they will not shoot, but shooting through a car door to steal a car, is more work and a higher risk to the carjacker. The locked door is more likely to give you enough time to drive away from the scene and make the suspect move to a softer target.

vehicle firearms tactics defend against carjacking

Have you practiced your draw while seated in a vehicle? You absolutely should.

Seatbelts are essential but a tactical nightmare. I remove my seatbelt as soon as I am stopped and only put it on when my vehicle has started and I am ready to leave. Now, if carjacked, I have the freedom to bail from the car and get to my gun easier. Carjackings are one thing, but in an ambush where the attackers are shooting into the vehicle, you have a couple of options. Drive from the scene, if you can, or fight. Fighting from inside a vehicle, especially while being seatbelted in, is not wise.

How do you carry your everyday carry (EDC) gun?

Think about how you carry your firearm while in your car. Is it accessible? Is it in a visible area that the carjacker could see, taking away your element of surprise and your ability to chose the best moment to respond? Think about if your firearm was in a car-mounted holster, how you would get it if that carjacker were pulling you out of the vehicle? In this specific scenario, the attackers had a drop on the driver. The reality of defensive shooting is often this way. When we respond to threats, we try and give ourselves distance. Doing this gives us more time to plan and respond. Unfortunately, that is not always possible.

If we conduct continuing training with multiple targets, they are often in the same general area or direction. Look at how this played out. Coordinated efforts by thugs may not be the norm, but it happens. This attack from different directions diverts our focus and makes it a much more complex problem to address. Let's say the victim was armed. Could he have drawn his firearm and engaged both suspects before being shot by one of them? Probably not. Drawing your firearm on a weapon that is out already is usually a losing proposition unless the concealed carrier can wait for the right opportunity. Carrying your gun concealed on your body at least gives you the element of surprise and the chance to pick your time to engage.

vehicle handgun tactics

Gunfights in and around vehicles require special considerations.

Vehicle positioning considerations:

Even though it did not factor into this incident, vehicle positioning is essential. Whenever stopped in traffic, you should try and leave yourself an avenue of escape should someone approach your vehicle. Gunfighting is okay if needed, but avoiding a gunfight is better. If you can escape the carjacking or ambush, you should. Along the same lines as avoidance, awareness of your surroundings is paramount. If you are stopped in traffic, paying attention to people around your vehicle will provide you the ability to identify an attack before it happens. And, if you have an avenue of escape, you can hit the gas and go. Whenever stopped, continually scan your mirrors and blind spots for people who are near.

Lastly, do some vehicle-specific training. I know not all of us can get to a tactical class dedicated to vehicle tactics. But try and find a range where you can do a little more than stand at a bench and shoot a stationary target. Then try and work some retention shooting to your training. Shooting from unorthodox positions is much more complicated than most would have you believe.

shooting a gun inside a car

Do what you can to mitigate the disadvantages that come from being seated in your vehicle. Train your mind and build the skills to give you a better chance at surviving a carjacking.

Live-fire and dry fire carjacking practice strategies:

Shooting from a seated position is something that most don't get to practice.

No vehicle to shoot through? No worries. Just placing a chair on the line is the next best thing. Drawing and presenting from different angles will give you an understanding of the unique challenges of shooting from a compressed position. As always, whenever learning a new technique, learn the technique with an unloaded firearm. Practice the drill until you can perform it safely before going live.

And lastly, while we are talking about dry-firing, practice drawing while seated in your vehicle. Just like you practice drawing from a standing position, train that draw stroke to be smooth even while in your vehicle. You can never have too many reps of a good draw stroke.

Suppose you want to know more about gunfighting in and around vehicles. In that case, you may want to check out our newly released Vehicle Firearms Tactics course to learn firsthand how you can be better prepared to defend yourself in such a situation as the one presented here. Here is a short teaser video on the class:

To learn more, check it out here.

As always, stay alert, be safe, and God bless.

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. R2Hell on February 24, 2018 at 2:15 pm

    I tried some of this a couple weeks ago. Anyone know how to get powder burns off car paint?

  2. Doug on February 25, 2018 at 3:10 pm

    Great couple of articles Matt. I live in St. Louis, MO and next to home invasions, being assaulted in my vehicle is my next highest concern. Ever since 2014, and the Michael Brown incident, the thought of turning a corner and being in the middle of an angry mob is an ever-present danger and why, after 4 years, I decided to actually use my CC permit which led me to IDPA competitions. The IDPA or International Defensive Pistol Assn. has scenario based courses of fire that are geared to the concealed carrier and home defense. The rules are the same worldwide as are the range commands in english. All you need to start is your gun, OWB holster, 3 mags and safety gear. Many ranges, indoors and out, host club matches every month. If you are interested in getting started go to IDPA.com.

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