Your Character is Ambushed While in a Vehicle: Now What?

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It’s one thing to write about the crazy things that happen in fiction. It’s another to find a junked up car to test them out in real life. Michael Connick falls into the latter. Enjoy!


Automobile Ambush

by Michael Connick

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Michael Connick is the author of “Trapped in a House of Mirrors” and “Funhouse Mirrors.” Both are available at all fine book retailers. (Image courtesy of the author)

Your protagonist is driving in a car. Suddenly, after turning a corner, they find themselves in the middle of an ambush by armed men. What should they do? How can they effectively fight back?

The first thing they should remember is that the deadliest weapon they have at their disposal is the automobile itself. Weighing around two tons, the destructive foot-pounds of force the vehicle can project is far greater than any pistol or rifle bullet. So, they should keep moving and simply run over their opponents.

If the road is blocked, they should drive around it on the sidewalk. If their way forward is completely blocked, they should reverse as quickly as they can to back out of the ambush. They should also not be concerned if their tires are flattened during the attack. Most automobiles can be driven even with four flat tires, although with some definite limits to speed and overall control.

Firing from Vehicles

What if they are completely hemmed in and have no way to drive away? If they have a handgun, can they stay inside the car and fight from that position? Can bullets be fired through the windshield, side windows, or back window accurately from inside a car? Will the car itself stop bullets fired at them, i.e., can the car provide the protagonist with effective cover during a gunfight?

These are some very intriguing questions that many firearms experts won’t be able to answer with any real confidence, simply because they haven’t been able to run live-fire tests using real automobiles. I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to do just that.

Can you fight from inside a car using a handgun? The answer is a definite “yes.” It takes some training to be able to safely and accurately shoot from inside such a confined space, but it certainly can be done. I’ve had such training, as shown in the picture below, and so can fully attest to that fact.

Fiction writing tips shooting from cars

Here I am shooting at an awkward angle and holding the pistol in something of an odd manner, but I’m getting accurate hits on the target at the side and towards the rear of this car. (Photo via Michael Connick)

Bullets through Windshields and Car Windows: Good Idea or Not?

Can you fire bullets through a car’s windshield without them being damaged, excessively slowed down, or deflected wildly off target? Again, the answer is a “yes.”

shooting through windshield

This picture shows a shooter firing at steel targets on the other side of a car windshield. The bullets he fires are striking the targets with full force and only a very slight deflection upwards caused by the angle of the glass. I also fired my pistol through this glass with the same results. (Photo via Michael Connick)

When shooting through a car windshield, your protagonist can compensate for the tendency for bullets to be deflected slightly upward in one of two ways:

  1. They can just aim a little low on all their targets.
  2. They can fire through the same hole in the windshield. The first shot making the hole maybe slightly high, but subsequent rounds will be completely unaffected. I’ve used this technique, and it really works.

You can also shoot through the rear window of a car in a similar manner. The biggest challenge in this particular scenario is getting the seatbelt off and safely drawing the handgun without it ever pointing at any part of your own body. It would be a very bad outcome of a gunfight for it to end up with your protagonist accidentally shooting themselves!

Ambushed in car writing fiction gun tips

Here I am firing at a target behind the car in which I’m sitting. Again, I’m firing from an awkward position, and my shots are deflected slightly upward by the angled glass, but nevertheless I’m getting good accurate hits on the target. (Photo via Michael Connick)

Side windows of a car are a different matter. The first bullet through them will tend to completely shatter the glass with entire entire window falling away in pieces. After that, your protagonist is just shooting through an open window like I’m going in the first picture above.

Stay or Leave?

Should your protagonist stay inside the car, fully expecting it to protect them from incoming rounds? Alas, the answer to this question is a very definite “no.”

The picture below shows me and a group of others testing out the ability of handgun bullets to penetrate various parts of a car and then inspecting the results. We pretty much shot this poor car, and another one, to pieces that day with some amazing results.

All of the handguns we used, from a puny .25 ACP pistol all the way up to a .45 ACP handgun penetrated the metalwork of these autos without any problem at all. We found only two parts of a car that would stop handgun rounds: the engine block and the steel wheels of the car.

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The car offered virtually no protection to its occupants from handgun bullets. (Photo via Michael Connick)

The best strategy for your protagonist is to first deal with any immediate threats from inside the car, and then as quickly as possible to bail out of it and take up a position where either the engine block or a steel wheel stands between them and their attackers.

hide behind car door movie trope

Since car doors offer virtually no protection from bullets, this picture of a shooter using the classic position shown in countless movies and TV shows of crouching behind an open car door is an extremely bad strategy, and one that would soon result in tragedy in a real gunfight. (Photo via Michael Connick)

Alternatively, the below picture shows a much better use of a car’s covering capabilities.

Using cars as cover gunfight myths busted

Here, the shooter gains some protection from the car’s steel wheels and lots of concealment from the car itself. (Photo via Michael Connick)

Hopefully your protagonist will never find themselves in such a ticklish situation, but if they do at least they will now have the necessary knowledge to survive it!

About Michael Connick

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Connick’s books are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all other fine book retailers. (Image provided by the author)

Michael Connick has had a long career with the intelligence community, the Department of Defense, and the technology industry. He has also carried a concealed handgun for over 35 years, and participated in extensive firearms and self-defense training from governmental, law enforcement, and private organizations.

He now resides in the little college town of Huntington, West Virginia, where he writes, competes in Practical Pistol and Rifle competitions, and is very happily married to a truly wonderful wife. He is the author of two Cold War spy novels, Trapped in a Hall of Mirrors: How The Luckiest Man in the World Became a Spy and Funhouse Mirrors. More information can be found about Connick at

12 thoughts on “Your Character is Ambushed While in a Vehicle: Now What?

  1. Pingback: Your Character is Ambushed While in a Vehicle: Now What? – Michael Connick

  2. Here’s a video showing how an ambush should be handled. Trainer Rob Tackett takes care of the immediate threat, then bails out of car, and puts the parts of the car that provide adequate cover between him and the threats that are further away, and then takes care of them.


  3. Very good information here, based on facts and real knowledge! I had always surmised that an engine block would be good cover, but I’d never realized that the sheet metal of doors and other like parts would provide so little protection. Thanks for this one!


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