Cover VS Concealment: 30,000 Incidents Expose The Myth

is cover the same as concealment

I will share something that I am sure will get me some hate mail. I'm breaking a firmly held myth in the gun industry. So much so that, frankly, almost every firearm instructor I know of is guilty of saying it at least once.

The myth is one surrounding cover vs. concealment. Forever we've been telling people to look at any given object in their environment and put it in one of 2 categories.


The rough idea is that cover will stop bullets and make for an ideal object to put between oneself and one's attacker in a gunfight.

On the other hand, most think of concealment as something that may hide you from your attacker. However, it is unlikely to stop bullets and thus still leaves you vulnerable to getting shot THROUGH the object.

In the photo are everyday objects that traditionally I would label as concealment ONLY.
these are typical examples of concealment

Why The Cover vs Concealment Paradigm Is Flawed

So here is the deal. I don't disagree with those definitions on the surface. However, the problem is in the real world, in real gunfights, it isn't the best way to think about our environment.

Also, placing objects in categories is sometimes tricky because the object may or may not meet the definition of cover depending on the circumstances and bullet caliber.

As I was pondering this, I had a sneaky suspicion. To verify, I reached out to none other than John Correia. John, a firearm instructor, created a brand and a business from analyzing surveillance videos of real-life gunfights. You probably know his YouTube Channel, Active Self Protection.

Anyway, John has now watched and analyzed over 30,000 videos of real gunfights. I asked him the question burning in my mind.

How many times have you seen a bad guy or gal fire through concealment to hit the good guy or gal?

Think about it. It makes sense to categorize objects as cover or concealment independently only if they perform differently in a gunfight.

So what was John's answer to my question?


Not one single instance ever where John could say that concealment wasn't 100% just as effective in a gunfight as cover. So is there a big practical difference between cover vs concealment?

A New Way to Think About Cover and Concealment

Now there is always a first time for everything. And I won't say you shouldn't understand ballistics or know what objects in your environment provide protection.

My point is that we should stop talking about Cover vs Concealment. Instead, let's consider everything as beneficial to some degree.

In a gunfight, we should consider that some objects provide better cover than others. And indeed, YES, where possible, we should use the BEST cover we can find.

riley using concealment

I acknowledge that a less good piece of cover isn't ideal. Even though an attacker may not purposefully have the foresight to shoot at your cover to penetrate through to you, the simple act of blindly firing in your direction could end poorly if you only have an inadequate piece of cover.

HOWEVER, all forms of cover (or concealment if you still insist on the distinction) have their place in a gunfight because bad guys don't shoot what they can't see.

The Cover Mental Shift

When thinking of cover vs. concealment, I propose that we prepare and train to recognize all objects in our environment as potential cover we can use to our advantage in a gunfight.

We understand and study ballistics sufficiently to understand which objects are better or best for the use of cover. Then, as circumstances allow, we use the best cover. Not just in terms of its ability to stop bullets but also the strategic advantage it provides.

Generally speaking, I think the proper use of cover is one of the most important and yet poorly studied and trained defensive shooting tactics. Studies have shown that the appropriate use of cover can increase your odds of winning a gunfight by over 60% compared to using cover without proper cover tactics.

So now you know how cover and concealment work in most real-life incidents. If you are interested in improving your game in the use of cover, check out this “Principles of Cover” free video training course: Principles of Cover

About Jacob Paulsen

Jacob S. Paulsen is the President of provides in-person and online firearm training for American gun owners. The Company is currently teaching in-person classes in 25+ states with a team of more than 55 instructors. Jacob is a NRA certified instructor & Range Safety Officer, USCCA certified instructor and training counselor, Utah BCI instructor, Affiliate instructor for Next Level Training, Graduate and certified instructor for The Law of Self Defense, and a Glock and Sig Sauer Certified Armorer. He resides in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado with his wife and children.


  1. Skip Kirkwood on May 2, 2021 at 9:13 am

    The distinction comes more from military doctrine. If a bad guy knows a person is behind “concealment” they can just shoot through the object until they hit the person hiding. If a bad guy knows that a person is behind cover, the best that they can do is wait.

    IIMHO it is NOT a distinction without a difference. If you have a choice between cover and concealment, go for cover. It does matter.

  2. Lon James Loren on May 2, 2021 at 9:20 am

    I think in a home invitation if you have the chance good cover is a good tactic making the bad guy come to you where you have the advantage. Always make them fight your fight.
    That isn’t always possible. Bad things never happen at a good time. Hopefully you had time to prepare.

    • Mark on May 8, 2021 at 1:22 pm

      I agree but I can see his point… I wonder how many people have had at least concealment but thought they needed to move to cover… and got shot while trying to get to that better cover. I hope I never have to find out first hand…

  3. Randall on May 2, 2021 at 10:32 am

    I believe the presentation is right on target ( please forgive the pun). There is generally not enough time to make an in depth assessment of the level of cover that an object/barrier may provide in a gun fight. In fact it could be lethal to the good guy to even try to make that assessment in the heat of a gun fight. Just get behind any barrier that you may have immediate access to ASAP!

  4. Jeff on May 4, 2021 at 11:07 am

    Great article ! Another advantage of moving to cover or concealment is….moving. Any time you’re moving, you’re a much harder target.

  5. Phaedrus on May 7, 2021 at 5:36 pm

    I’ve seen less than 1% as many videos as the guy from Active Self Pretension yet I’ve seen one case of a gunfight conducted through interior walls.

  6. Larry on July 20, 2021 at 7:15 am

    I think there is an important distinction between cover and concealment. Thinking just because JC watched 30k videos and hasnt seen anyone attempt to shoot through concealment doesnt mean the differentiation isnt important. If anything I would say it shows just how few people have any significant training. In so many of JC’s videos people give up tactical advantages(ie leaning over counters etc) to get clear shots when its not needed but such is the nature of training today, archaic at best.

    Most critical incidence happen up close and personal. There isnt much time to evaluate and move to cover or concealment, you take what you can get but in doing so I think its important to know the difference.

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