Thursday, July 26, 2012

Just the Basics – Cover vs. Concealment


Cover: To protect or shield from harm, loss, or danger.

Concealment: To keep from being seen, found, observed, or discovered; hide

Even in tragedy, there are lessons to be learned, thoughts to be chewed on, adjustments in the gear you carry and some just plain realities to be acknowledged.

The reality was that, as far as we know today, virtually everyone chose to either flee or hide in the hope that that was their best chance at survival. On the surface, that appears to be true for the majority of folks in the theater at that time. The seating capacity for Theater 9 of the Century Aurora 16 complex was around 300. There were 12 killed and 70 wounded. Your odds? You had a 4% chance of dying. You had a 23% chance of being wounded. Combined you had over a 1 in 4 chance of death or injury. Worse odds than I’d prefer. So what can we do to tilt those odd in your favor.

Let’s assume you have decided escape or avoidance is your best chance for survival. You’re unarmed – no gun, knife, tactical flashlight – zero, zip, nada. You’re with your family, kids (older kids I hope), loved ones and you’re unwilling to take this guy on without getting them to safety first. They are your priority. How do we increase your odds, and the odds of the folks you have chosen to protect, of walking away from the theater?

There are three primary tools you can make use of: Most important – your head. Next, the use of your surroundings for concealment and finally finding cover that can protect you. Let’s spend some time on these three items.

Keep your head in the game: You have entered condition RED – your very existence – and that of your family and friends – is at risk. People ARE dying around you. There is no way to honestly prepare for this. There are some very sophisticated simulators and shoot houses that can come close to this experience if you are willing to invest the time and money that would expose you to the sounds, smells, chaos, adrenaline, and sensory overload that is a fire fight at close quarters in an enclosed area. The vast majority of folks that carry for personal defense, and define themselves as shooters, are not going to take training at any of these facilities. Are you?

And yet, if you are at least willing to acknowledge the possibility of such an event; if you are willing to “game” such a scenario the next time you are in a theater, a restaurant, mall, big box store, school, church; if you are willing to invest time and energy on the range and play such an event through in your head as you move, draw and engage your target – you can increase your ability to avoid surprise and begin to implement an exit strategy far quicker than that person sitting in front of you blissfully living in Condition White that is now terrified into sitting in their chair offering themselves as the perfect target.

Game these things, stress yourself, work hard enough on the range to wind yourself, push to failure in your drills. Prepare for the worst – the rest is simply a blessing.

Wear you damn gun!!!! From the time you leave your bedroom for the day until the time you undress for bed. Carry a solid defensive knife. Every day. Without exception. Carry a good tactical flashlight. Every day. Without exception. Carry your cellphone. Every day. Without exception. The geeks call this equipment your EDC and here are my thoughts on it from awhile back.


Over half of all training is to build habit and muscle memory. Once you are in the habit of carrying your EDC gear, you are a big step closer to being able to defend yourself, your family and your friends.

Concealment: To keep from being seen, found, observed, or discovered; hide

Each environment is different. Keeping your head will allow you to evaluate what concealment is available and to take the most advantage of it that you can. In the theater shooting there is much that is simply unknown, so I am relying on my experience of theaters I go to. The most obvious element available is darkness. I am assuming the shooter dressed in black to take advantage of the darkness, you can too. Keep to the shadows. Stay below the seat back. Honestly, there’s not much else available in the theaters I go to. In fact, most exits would force you to move towards the shooter and then exit down a cattle chute to the door. Not good.

I am not sure I have read with certainty that the shooter had his gas mask on. If he did, there is a large blind spot available if you can get to it. If the shooter is focused ahead, there’s lots of his six o’clock that is not being covered. That can give you an advantage as well.

He apparently used a gas or smoke grenade of some type. I suspect smoke or there would have been more reports of folks being overcome by the CS gas or other typical gas canisters. Smoke would provide some concealment depending on its density and how it was dispersed.

However, concealment simply hides you from view, and in that is your protection. A shadow, chair back, potted plant, dinner table, smoke . . . . . will not stop a bullet.

Obviously, again, without your head in the game, you would notice few of these things. It is your responsibility to not become a sheep wildly responding to a wolf and running into their jaws. Work on it.

Cover: To protect or shield from harm, loss, or danger.

When you use cover, you are protected. The weapon that is being used against you cannot penetrate your cover so as long as you remain behind cover, you are safe. Obviously, what is cover to an airsoft pistol would provide not a whisper of protection against an AK. So, as in most things, cover is dependent on the situation, the shooter and their weapons at hand.

Sticking with the Aurora shooter, he was armed with three different weapons. A .40 cal Glock, an 870 shotgun and a M&P 5.56 AR. Each of these weapons demands a different level of cover.

Recently, the folks at our range were looking at alternative steel plate to make additional steel targets. For test purposes, they set up a scrap sheet of AR 400 soft steel, .25 inches thick. Here are the results:


You can see a number of impacts by different weapons and a number of holes. Taking a much closer look, you might find this interesting.


A .45 ACP FMJ made an impact mark but had little effect on the steel sheet.


A .44 Mag, FMJ produced a small dimple, but little other affect. Other calibers such as a .22, .380 or 9MM were not tested. But none of them would produce a higher energy impact than either the .44 mag or the .45 ACP

No testing was done with a shotgun either. The news reports seemed to indicate the shooter in Aurora used bird shot to herd the victims, if true bird shot would have no effect on the AR 400 sheet steel other than displaying a broad area of impact. Even 00 Buck would have had little affect. Honestly, I suspect there are some slugs that would have penetrated, but no testing was done.

Rifle rounds – that was a different matter.



A standard 30-06 FMJ round at both 100 and 250 yards punched a nice, clean hole through the steel. An AR 400 .25 inch piece of steel plate offered no protection at all. It was like a sheet of news print.



A .223 FMJ round at 25 and 250 yards also punch a neat little hole through the steel sheet. Again, think news print.


Finally, a .17 cal, FMJ, 4,000 FPS round also punched a clean hole through the steel sheet. News print.

What does this mean exactly? Again, head in the game. In the theater scenario, thin walled steel chair backs offered only minimal cover from the shotgun and would have offered absolutely no cover from either the .40 cal rounds or the AR shooting the 5.56 rounds. If folks depended on the chair backs to protect them, they may as well have held up a newspaper, they would have had the same protection.

Obviously this would not account for a fortunate deflection of a round, but over all, there was no cover available in the theater. None. Zero. Zip.

So, as you are playing out “what if’ possibilities in your head, take concealment and cover into account. Clothing rack, theater seat, dining table, plaster board wall, most cement walls, car doors . . . . . to name just a few . . . . are concealment, NOT cover.

Engine blocks, large mall cement planters, cement walls backed by dirt . . . to name a few . . . . would be cover in most cases, but again, not in all of them.

Which brings us full-circle once again to “head in the game”. In a situation where your life, and the lives of your family and friends are in danger, your best weapon is between your ears. A high capacity weapon in your hands is certainly a great thing to have, but even with such a weapon if you lose your head, you stand a good chance of going home in a bag.

Keep your head in the game. Use concealment for stealth to help in either your escape or your attack. Find cover for protection. Live to fight another day . . .

Or take the bastard out today . . . .


  1. Great post. Thanks for the info. It IS handy to know this. Again, thanks.

  2. A great revisit of the basics. Thanks for the informative and enjoyable post!

  3. Flier - thanks, glad it was helpful. Most folks I teach have never heard of cover or concealment when it comes to personal defense. Glad I'm "hitting the mark".

    Keads - thanks, always looking for feedback from other instructors - keep me on track!

  4. Enjoyed reading this. I understand the "why" for carrying the items, but having trouble with the EDC acronym...what does it stand for?

  5. Hi Joey,

    Sorry - geek speak. EDC stands for Every Day Carry - items that you carry with you each and every day. :)

    Have a great weekend!


    1. Thank you! So obvious I missed it! I was trying to have E be for Emergency (lol). I have no problem asking questions when I don't understand. If I'm going to travel in this circle I need to learn the language :)

  6. These tips would definitely help those who enjoy simulators from websites such as