Cover and Concealment
copyright ccijax 2006
The purpose of using cover and concealment is to come out of a condtion with the same amount of body orifices the Good Lord initially supplied you with at birth. Cover is a material object that will stop most small-arms projectile penetration. Concealment will not stop projectiles, but an unseen enemy is difficult to engage. Concealment can, therefore, be as protective as cover under certain conditions.
The British attack at Magersfontein in 1899 didn't exactly resound with brilliant military tactics. Attired partially in red uniforms with shiny brass buttons, the British marched headlong into the rising sun-and a hail of bullets from Boer marksmen hidden in trenches. Dropping like flies, the British troops never broke ranks and paid the inevitable price. Obeying military commands is one thing, but saluting Lord knows what while the Titanic is sinking doesn't top the survival list. I'll bet the ship's officers started swimming like crazy when the water reached nostril level, irrespective of captain's orders. Too little too late. As Kenny Rogers sang, "You've got to know when to hold' em, know when to fold 'em ... " While this "for king and country" conduct is truly admirable, it is also often foolhardy. Nobody is suggesting that you disobey your leader's commands, but nobody can suggest that Magersfontein, Little Big Horn, or Gettysburg was conducive to a senior citizen's program either. The old adage of "stand up and fight like a man" is applicable in a boxing ring, not when three loonies have invaded your home and are hell-bent on unraveling your mortal coil.
Cover and concealment are as essential to one's tactical operation as are any of the other facets, maybe even more so. Let's face it: if you take a hit in act one, the rest of the concert becomes that much more difficult to conclude.
Unfortunately, the necessity for concealment or cover often doesn't manifest itself until the fight has already commenced, so if possible plan and their potential availability should the operation collapse in midfight (which it invariably does). In other words: be aware of your surroundings at all times so you have an "escape hatch" if the need arises. And this brings up what is probably the most common urbanite's failing-not seeing what we observe optically.
Most people who are raised in the woods, or, for that matter, the Bushmen in South Africa and Namibia, invariably bag more "game" than the average Joe Citizen because they haven't lost the art of identifying what they see immediately and subconsciously. Pit an average urbanite against one of the aforementioned after sundown, and he probably couldn't find the woodsman or Bushman without hundreds of dollars worth of night-vision equipment.
If you're "hunting" for the bad guys you are still, in effect, in a defensive mode from a tactical standpoint, because if you're within the enemy's optical or physical range you've lost the advantage. To survive the Bushman/woodsman's attack, you have to identify your surroundings-be it hard cover, concealment, or light conditions-and see the situation from your enemy's perspective. That's how the expert sniper gets in, does the job, and gets out. The same game applies whether you're defending your home, participating on a law enforcement operation, or dodging bullets in a supermarket robbery.
If you're on terrain or in a building that you know like the back of your hand, make sure you've identified the difference between cover and concealment. Cranking a couple of rounds through your kid's bedroom wall makes our IQ appear to be that of a mud flap. If it's not a thick brick wall, the bullets are going through. The corollary, of course, is that if Mr. Baddie knows your location, he can do you through the wall. Just because he can't see you doesn't mean he can't hit you through concealment.
Darkness can be a good concealment ally if needed, so use existing light conditions-be they ambient or induced-to your advantage. Never sillhouette yourself against back lighting.
If you have the luxury of hard cover, bear in mind that projectiles ricochet off a hard surface within a 12-degree angle after impacting that surface. Ergo, you can be hit by a primary, secondary, or tertiary ricochet simply because you are within a 12-degree arc of the last hard object impacted by the bullet in question. This will include you in the "killed by skip fire" tombstone department which has the same end result as the "killed by any other way" category. You're still dead.
Cover need not necessarily obliterate your entire body from enemy view and fire-though it's obviously preferable. If you're two feet wide and a telephone pole is all you have, use it. Hopefully, it will stop incoming rounds from penetrating, but the big trick is that most people will try to shoot "around" the pole, missing you by more than they normally would have.
A classic example of this was a rider accosted on a New York suburban train by a gun-wielding robber. The more the good guy waved his hands and arms the more the robber mirrored his movements, trying to line up the pistol around the side of his hands.

Back to the "aware of surroundings" subject. If you're approaching an area and something does break loose, it's always nice to have a plan just in this case, a place of relative safety to which you can advance or withdraw. Why would you need it in midfight? Because something always goes bad.