[ I am pleased to present this guest post written by Jonathan Sun. ]
A couple weekends ago, I participated in the Bullets and Vehicles course at Sig Sauer Academy in Epping, NH. I wanted to share my experiences during this course for those who might be interested in training there, or firearms training in general.
I’ve had an interest in firearms since my teenage years, thanks to my father. Only more recently, I would say the last 4-5 years did my interest in training or competing grow. Training began with Sig Sauer Academy (formerly SigArms Academy). The impetus was that my first handgun was a Sig P229R and the facility was close enough where I thought trying out some of their training wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg. I’m not LE/MIL or a HSLD type, so this type of training is more academic in the sense that it would be something nice to know in case stuff hits the proverbial fan. Previous classes I had taken were:
- Basic Practical Handgun Skills
- Intermediate Handgun Skills
- Intermediate Concealed Carry
- Low Light Pistol Operator
- Close Quarters Pistol Operator
- Advanced Concealed Carry
- Basic Law and Threat Management
This path was recommended to me, while not being a new shooter, it definitely did help fine tune existing fundamentals and reinforce training techniques that they use at Sig. The Bullets and Vehicles course was designed to help expose myths surrounding how bullets behave around vehicles and to help give you a better chance at surviving a confrontation at or around a vehicle.
This was an 8 hour 1 day course that started at 8:30A. It began with an in classroom meeting to go over the safety guidelines and introduce ourselves to the instructors. There were approximately 8 of us plus 3 visitors from South Korea. Two of the visitors worked for a South Korean gun magazine and the third was a South Korean SWAT member. From there we moved to the indoor range staging area and prepared to gear up. Those who did not have equipment were issued equipment from the armory. After equipping we proceeded to the outdoor range.
The drills began dry and as always the emphasis was on safety. The main thing we had to consider while doing these drills was drawing and not lasering ourselves and our neighbor ahead/behind/or to either side of us. The instructors had us run it dry from seated positions while simulating being seated in a vehicle. After they were confident that we moved on to live shooting drills.
When we returned to class, the instructor, I’ll as SK, showed us a diagram explaining the tendency a bullet will have when shot into or out of a windshield. I say tendency because they emphasized that bullets around vehicles are extremely unpredictable and that the best chance you have is to understand how they tend to behave around them. Essentially when the bullet impacts the windshield, the portion of the bullet that impacts the windshield first, that is the direction the bullet will tend to travel. In the case of shooting outwards the bullet will tend to deflect upward and shooting into a vehicle it will tend to deflect downward. After class we moved to the donor Taurus sitting on the far right of the range. SK demonstrated a way to use the car antenna, assuming the older style wire antenna, as an improvised glass breaker and several dedicated pocket knife like breakers/seatbelt cutters.
Fighting from the Vehicle
We took turns taking shots through the windshield from the front passenger seat into a target downrange. The goal of this exercise was to show the angle and degree of deflection once the bullet impacts the windshield. Basically, the amount of deflection in this case, with 9mm and the Taurus windshield, was approximately 7-8 inches. The target we were shooting at was about 5 feet away from the front of the vehicle. About 50-60% of the 9mm rounds exited and struck the target, the other 40-50% of the time, the bullet fragmented before exiting, with small pieces striking the target unpredictably.
The second drill during this phase, they had is sit in the driver’s seat, drawing without lasering ourselves and engage targets from the driver’s side window. Simulating or enhancing stress they had an instructor jumping up and down in the door jamb of the rear passenger side to make aiming more difficult. The big thing they wanted us to take away from shooting within the vehicle was that it was not a great place to be if you needed to engage a threat, and you should make your way out of the vehicle to better cover.
Vehicle as Cover
When using the vehicle for cover, they wanted to emphasize not crowding the vehicle. Crowding the vehicle can make you more likely to get hit from ricochets over the top of the hood or trunk. They had us attempt it, and quite to my surprise it was not difficult to get skipped bullets on target within 1-2 shots. The amount of deflection from the skipped bullets was such that, if you were using a hood/trunk for cover and were sucked up against it, you would very likely get hit if you took a peek. If you were farther away from the vehicle the chance the bullets would deflect over your head increases. The other suggestion besides the obvious engine block was to use the wheels/wheel wells. The thought process behind this being that you had a steel or aluminum wheel and behind that the disc brakes as some intermediate cover. To simulate this, they had us take turns engaging a steel target, while laying prone from underneath the vehicle.
From a Moving Vehicle
We then proceeded to engage multiple targets while in a moving vehicle. SK drove his Tundra diagonally across the outdoor range and had students take turns sitting in the passenger seat engaging multiple stationary targets while the vehicle was in motion. The point of these exercises was that it is not a great situation to be in and that the best case scenario is that any amount of ammo you’re sending downrange will at least keep heads down if you’re unable to neutralize the threat.
For the last part of the range exercise, they had us engage the vehicle with various calibers to see how effective/ineffective each round was. We tried .22, 9mm, .40S&W, .45ACP,.357Mag,.44Mag,.223,.308,.338Lapua and finally .50cal. The results were such that someone reasonably armed for CCW, 9mm appeared to be the most well rounded for usage around a vehicle. The interesting to note, the .40S&W (what I shoot) and .45ACP were poor at traveling through the windshield, they tended to fragment catastrophically. They also tended not to travel through the vehicle, when shot door to door. The lack of over travel may or may not be something you may want depending on whether the threat is inside/outside of the vehicle.
This class was as engaging as any other of their classes, possibly more so due to the amount of myths and conjecture about how bullets will behave around vehicles. The instructors are extremely attentive and knowledgeable. While being experienced, they have a demeanor that makes it easy to ask questions and they invite it. The facilities have reactive plates so you’ll get immediate feedback when you’re on target or not, which is great for tuning or fine tuning your training. The round count for the class was just under 300, which is about average for a one day class. I highly recommend professional firearms training for anyone, regardless of where it may be, as there are a lot of things to consider that you might not realize if you plan on CCW.
If you have any questions for me or about any of the courses above, please feel free to email me, or ask in the comments below.
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