So you think that because you have a gun in your vehicle you’re immune from being carjacked? Well, I have news for you. Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s also dangerous. Whether protecting yourself in your home, on the street or in your vehicle, merely possessing a gun doesn’t protect you from anything. In fact, a gun without a plan and training could make an already bad situation even worse.
As Kenny Rogers crooned in “The Gambler,” “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.” In other words, even if you have an ace up your sleeve (in this case, a concealed handgun within reach), knowing if, when and how to bring it into play could be the difference between winning and losing. These seven tips will help stack the deck in your favor.
1. Pay attention. Defensive driving requires you to pay attention to the road and anticipate that other drivers will make mistakes that could jeopardize your safety, possibly resulting in a collision. Driving defensively means not assuming an approaching vehicle will stop for a red light. It means planning ahead and always having an escape route in anticipation of a roadway hazard.
Most people have a propensity to let down their guard as soon as their vehicle comes to a stop. As a police officer, I see it all the time. At stop signs and red lights drivers immediately start checking email, texting, checking their maps—whether such activities are legal or not. This is when you are vulnerable to being carjacked.
Whether it’s a thug who wants to steal your vehicle to make a buck or a desperate criminal trying to get the heck out of Dodge, this presents a complex problem with deadly serious ramifications. Worse, this is not something most drivers ever consider until it happens to them.
Just as you should be prepared to evade a vehicle that crosses into your lane, you must be wary of those who would take your vehicle by force, possibly injuring or killing you in the process.
2. Be a hard target. Criminals aren’t looking for a challenge. They want an easy mark that doesn’t place them at undue risk of harm or apprehension. For starters, keep your windows up and your doors locked. Again, the carjacker is looking for easy access to your vehicle. While a criminal could try to break your window, he’s much more likely to jack the convertible with the top down in the next lane.
You’d also be smart to project an aura of awareness by not being on your phone, rocking out to the radio, eating, applying makeup or the myriad other things drivers do. If you’re aware of your surroundings, you appear to be a harder target and therefore less likely to be chosen as a potential victim. But even if you are chosen, by being aware you’re more prepared to thwart a carjacking.
Leaving a gap between you and the vehicle in front of you when you stop is also a good deterrent. A cagey crook will know this gives you room to maneuver your vehicle if he were to approach in a threatening manner. A vehicle pinned in by traffic is a sitting duck, and criminals know this.
3. Drive away. If you are paying attention and leave a gap between you and the car in front of you, driving away when approached by a suspicious character is probably your best bet. Why wait around to see whether the wingnut who approached your vehicle intends to carjack you? If you sense something isn’t right and you can safely put some distance between you and the potential carjacker, do it. If it was someone needing directions or begging for change, oh well. If it was someone intent on victimizing you, you just made him eat your dust.
4. Cooperate. In any type of holdup, there is always a decision to make. In the case of a carjacking, do you cooperate with the criminal and hope he only wants your
vehicle, or do you fight back? In many cases, cooperating is the best alternative. After all, no vehicle is worth being shot or stabbed. The problem with cooperating is there’s no guarantee doing so will ensure your safety.
While deciding whether to cooperate with an armed criminal is a judgment call only you can make, here’s something to consider. If an armed assailant approaches your vehicle and sticks a gun in your face, he would probably have pulled the trigger if shooting you was his immediate priority.
Therefore, in this scenario, it’s probably safe to assume the gunman wants something from you, like your vehicle. If you think based on the circumstances that exiting your vehicle will enable you to escape, unharmed, by all means cooperate.
You’ll no doubt be inconvenienced, probably traumatized to a degree. You will have to file a police report and make an insurance claim, but life will go on. Make no mistake; if you decide to try to disarm the assailant or draw your own gun, you are upping the ante considerably, and there will almost certainly be bloodshed. If you’re untrained or unprepared, that blood will likely be your own.
5. Wear your gun (when it’s legal). If your gun is in the glove box, under the seat or in any other “convenient” location, getting to it when you need it probably won’t be a viable option. Without question, the best way to ensure your gun is accessible is to wear it.
Just remember all carry locations aren’t equal, especially when seated behind the wheel. Many right-handed shooters wear their holsters on their dominant side hip in what is often referred to as the three o’clock or four o’clock position. While this is generally conducive to a rapid draw stroke, that is not necessarily the case when drawing from the driver’s seat—where the seat back, center console or seatbelt junction could impede access.
Add a concealing garment to the mix and there’s a lot that can go wrong with drawing from this carry location. It’s certainly feasible, but you need to devote considerable practice to it—with an inert training gun or confirmed unloaded gun.
Ankle carry is popular with many who carry concealed and do a lot of driving. While drawing from an ankle holster is slow and awkward if you’re standing up, it’s pretty darn easy for most people to draw from an ankle holster while seated. Cross-draw (the front left side of centerline for a right-handed shooter) is another less common carry method that works quite well when seated in a vehicle because there are fewer vehicle components to foul your draw.
The appendix position (just right of center line) tends to work well for the same reasons. If you employ waistline carry, tucking your cover garment behind the grip of your gun when you’re inside the vehicle means you don’t have to hurriedly clear the garment in an emergency.
6. Shoot. If you recognize that you are in a vulnerable position, be on high alert. Check your mirrors and keep your head on a swivel. If someone approaches you and you see a weapon or sense he may have one based on his body language, bulges in clothing, threats or any number of other combined factors, drawing your gun may be your safest bet.
Do you know what to expect if you shoot through your one of your vehicle’s windows? How about the windshield? A number of factors can affect the path of a bullet fired through vehicle glass, which makes shooting through glass very unpredictable. For starters, bullet caliber and construction as well as how close the gun is to the glass when fired and how far the target is from the glass can have dramatic impact on shot placement.
As a rule, when a side window is shot, it tends to shatter, blowing out a portion of the glass and causing the rest to crack severely, possibly obstructing your view. Also, bullets fired through vehicle side windows tend to impact more much predictably than those fired through a windshield.
The slope of a windshield typically causes rounds fired from the inside to impact higher than the point of aim, sometimes dramatically. That’s because, due to the angle of the windshield, the top of the bullet strikes the glass first, which pulls the bullet upward.
I’ve had rounds miss a man-size target completely at less than 10 yards thanks to this phenomenon. Unlike windows, windshields are designed to hold together rather than shatter when impacted. Even after being shot, visibility shouldn’t be a factor.
7. Fight. Here’s a worst-case scenario. Your kids are strapped in their car seats, and a gunman has the drop on you and demands your vehicle. Cooperating isn’t going to cut it: It’s not about your car at this point; it’s about your kids, and there’s no way this guy leaves with them. It’s time to fight.
Obviously, drawing your handgun would have been Plan A, but you’re caught completely off-guard. Regardless of your skill, trying to outdraw the carjacker’s drawn weapon is a losing proposition. You’ll need to address his gun to create an opportunity to get to your gun.
Some may dismiss the notion of disarming someone as a parlor trick, but it’s quite possible—if you get training. Practice with an inert gun and a willing training partner (a qualified instructor is also beneficial). Start slowly at first and concentrate on getting off line and controlling the direction of the muzzle.
If you’re able to accomplish that, you may opt to draw one-handed and shoot him while maintaining control of the direction of his muzzle. Or it might be possible to strip the gun from him. Either way, this is a fight, and you need to be mentally and physically ready to finish it.
Driving is a fact of life for almost all of us, and when we’re on the road, we tend to tune out the outside world. This can lead to a false sense of security that compromises our safety. Combine this with the multitude of distractions today’s drivers contend with and you have a highway full of potential carjack victims.
While it’s an unfortunate truth that you can do everything right and still be targeted, your odds of thwarting or at least surviving a carjacking are significantly enhanced once you realize it could happen to you. However, with this realization comes the responsibility to prepare. These seven tips should bolster your hand and prevent you from folding under pressure when the stakes are high.