The Difference Between Cover and Concealment
We live in an age where the chances of getting caught up in the middle of indiscriminate gunfire is becoming more and more of a reality that people are having to come to grips with. Even with statistics showing that crime rates have been steadily plummeting for the last couple of decades, the crimes that seem to be the most sensationalized by the mainstream media, mass shootings and terrorism seem to be on the rise worldwide. Perhaps they are or maybe they are just getting more coverage since they seem to drive clicks on the internet.
Whether or not that is the case, we have been introduced to a whole slew of new phrases that have recently made it into the lexicon and the American consciousness. Phrases brought to us by Uncle Sam and repeated ad nauseum by the media such as, “see something, say something” and “run, hide, fight.” The constant drumbeat of scary news has conditioned a new generation to react a specific way to danger, much the same way that “duck and cover” was taught to children from the late 1950s to the mid-1980s as a conditioned response to a nuclear attack during the Cold War years.
Some of the terms that we see thrown around these days need little to no definition as they are pretty self-explanatory, others however need some defining as they are misconstrued and often used interchangeably. Two of these are cover and concealment. These two words, while often used together do not necessarily mean the same thing.
In the context of concealed carry, if presented with an attack where you must defend yourself, your chances of survival go up dramatically if you can use cover and concealment correctly. Let’s take a look at each --
The term concealment refers to something that acts as a hiding place, when the term “run, hide, fight” is said, the hiding portion is referring to finding concealment. When in a dangerous situation concealing oneself to attempt to evade a hostile attacker who is intent on doing you harm is a good idea, but it is something that should be done prior to the hostile individual identifying you as a target. The intent of finding concealment is for your attacker to be unaware of your location, since if the attacker is aware of your location, they can simply shoot through whatever you are using to conceal yourself.
Concealment protects you from being identified, it does not protect you from being shot. The movies where the victim is being chased through a house by an attacker and the attacker watches the victim running into a bedroom closet, and then acts confused when they can’t seem to find the victim in the closet because they are hiding behind clothes is just that, a movie. It requires the willing suspension of disbelief to think that the bad guy who is intent on mass murder, who has already shot numerous people, wouldn’t just indiscriminately fire a weapon into the closet.
Things that you can use for concealment that do not provide any ballistic protection from incoming fire would be interior doors that you can hide behind, curtains, and blind corners. If you are armed and capable of fighting back then taking temporary concealment can give you an element of surprise if you choose to launch a counterattack on an assailant. Sometimes the split second of shock in your attacker will be just enough for you to turn the tables and get the upper hand, but concealment should never be considered a substitute for cover when it comes to ballistic protection.
The term cover is something that provides physical shelter or protection that is sought by people in danger. Hiding under a bed may very well provide you with concealment but the mattress can easily be penetrated by rifle fire. Cover provides some extent of ballistic protection when you are on the receiving end of hostile fire. Items and places that provide cover can also provide you with concealment, a locked safe room with built in ballistic protection would provide the user both cover and concealment, since the hostile individual would not be able to pinpoint your actual location and shooting through the walls to get you would be futile.
In a situation where you must take cover you should never assume that you are concealed, chances are very good that the perpetrator has identified your position, especially if the item you are using for cover is doing its job of stopping bullets. If the attacker has identified you and targeted you then your first priority should be to break contact with your attacker, since they have the advantage of being able to maneuver while firing and will most likely be moving with the intent of mitigating whatever you are using for cover.
Your movement should be with the intent of finding cover and concealment where the attacker does not know your location. It also should go without saying that you should use cover and concealment in your attempt to break contact with the attacker. The idea being that you want to utilize short rushes from cover to cover; less than 2 seconds of movement without cover, the old “I’m up, he sees me, I’m down” from basic training works here if there is enough cover around. The last thing you would want to do is to present an extended target for the assailant to shoot, so panicked running with the crowd should be out of the question as a running herd will only attract the predator’s attention. It may however provide you with a distraction to evade or counterattack.
Up to now we have been going on the assumption that you were caught in the worst possible condition, unarmed. If you are armed however that changes the equation slightly, because now you can be in a position to return fire if you can get a safe, clear shot. It should be noted that the above information still rings true. If you can shoot, shoot from behind cover because, just because you are capable of returning fire on your attacker doesn’t mean that his bullets will suddenly become ineffective.
If you find yourself on a 2-way firing range and you need to move to get a clear shot at your attacker, move from cover to cover, heavy solid wood or steel furniture, solid concrete or other masonry walls, and vehicles can provide good cover. However, if you use a vehicle for cover, use an unoccupied vehicle since the idea is not to turn vehicle occupants into human shields. Also, make sure you use the engine compartment for cover as rifle rounds can punch completely through both doors of a passenger car, and make sure that you stay behind the tire/rim assembly because a round that is fired at the ground will not ricochet up into the car but will instead fly parallel to the ground until it buries itself in you.
To conclude, cover and concealment are two different things and while items used for cover can provide concealment, things that provide concealment do not necessarily provide good cover. The two when used together with movement, surprise, and unexpected resistance can sometimes be enough to save lives and end the threat. It is well documented that you stand a better chance at survival when used properly.