Patrol Vehicle CQB Instructor Course Review


First lesson of the Patrol Vehicle CQB Instructor course?

My entire life has been a lie.


I’ve been a cop for two decades. I spent most of my time on patrol, working nights in rough areas. Like every other patrol officer, I was always around cars; my car, traffic violator cars, suspect cars, wrecked cars, parked cars, and so on. I attended two police academies which indoctrinated rookies with conventional wisdom about cars and bullets: the only cover a car provides is from the wheels and engine block, slugs will blow straight through a passenger compartment, shooting through a windshield might affect bullets a little but not much. As far as I knew, there was really no reason to be concerned. Even though I had never fired into or out of a car in training, or watched a demonstration, or even saw an instructional video, I always thought I was ready for a shooting around a car.

When did I figure out I was wrong? Right around the time instructor Steve Fisher sat in a driver’s seat and put the first round through the windshield at a target right in front of the car. It should suffice to say, pretty much everything I thought I knew about shooting around vehicles was wrong.

The Patrol Vehicle CQB Instructor course was put on by the Texas Tactical Police Officers’ Association and taught by William Petty and Steve Fisher. They’re both dicks who hate everyone. I say that because they should have taught me this stuff about twenty years ago, when Petty was two and Fisher was sixty. But they didn’t, because they’re dicks.

Prior to this class, if I had been in a shooting and a suspect took cover behind an empty trunk, I would have thought “I got this. My rounds will go straight through.” Then I watched Steve fire 9mm rounds, a blast of 00 buck and a slug into one side of an empty trunk. And almost nothing came out the other side.

Now I know, sure, engine blocks are cover. Wheels aren’t bad either. But other spots on a car can be pretty damn good too.


Check that crap out. Out of eighteen 9mm and 12-guage projectiles fired into the trunk from only a few feet away, only seven 9mm rounds penetrated the far side. And they were so deformed they did almost no damage to a target set up beside the car. A suspect taking cover behind the trunk might have received a few superficial wounds, probably nothing serious. And don’t even get me started on shooting through a windshield. A windshield’s effect on a pistol round can be nothing short of catastrophic.

This is the kind of information rookie cops should know, instead of waiting until they’re decades in. I had plenty of close calls on the street, and had my trigger halfway pulled on suspects near my car many times. What if I had fired through my windshield at a suspect standing right at my bumper? My first round would likely have deflected so badly I would have missed. And even if it did hit it would be so deformed, and would have lost so much mass as it traveled through the windshield, it would probably have been completely ineffective. No shit.

Whatever you think you know about how bullets interact with cars, you’re probably wrong. And if you’re an armed good guy, you owe it to yourself to get some training and find out. Don’t just do research on the internet, or ask guys who you think should know. Get some actual training. Shoot into a car. Shoot out of a car. You’ll probably be as amazed as I was.


Second lesson of the course? Learning new positions is fun and exciting.

Back in 1989, the Marine Corps taught me the basic shooting positions: standing, kneeling, sitting and prone. And gosh darn it, there was no reason to learn more than that. In the police academies, I learned to fire a pistol standing, and…well…just standing. When I was taught the rollover prone position eight years ago, I was almost blown away; “You mean, there are other ways to shoot in combat, other than the boot-camp-level crap we’ve been spoon fed for years?” But I hadn’t learned anything new since then.

In this course, I was shown several new ways to shoot using cover. Petty and Fisher showed us new positions, explained the reasoning behind them, demonstrated them and made us practice them, over and over. They made us practice over and over because they’re dicks who hate everyone.

All the positions made sense. Only one of them gave me a momentary “That’s dumb, I’d never do that crap” reaction. I was wrong.

The “urban prone” position was totally new to me. It’s a little awkward initially, not because it’s hard to get into, but because it just feels weird. Almost everyone made the same mistakes when they dropped into it the first few times. But it’s a position you can assume within seconds, making almost maximum utilization of available cover, and fire accurately from. Learning to do it right is worth the effort.


One really cool thing about this position is that if you drop onto your weak side with a carbine, you can simply “shoulder bump” your weapon onto your weak side shoulder without changing hand positions. It’s quick, easy and it works. The only caveats here are that it’s not easy to line up iron sights from this position (red dots weren’t an issue), and that some students had trouble working the selector when they shoulder bumped.

The “Shrimp” position was the position I initially balked at. Why, I wondered, would anyone choose to lay on their back behind cover instead of staying on their feet? But then Petty and Fisher explained it; you may not have decided to lay on your back, you may have been kind of urged to get there (like maybe by, oh, getting shot in the face or something). If you wind up on your back, you can fight from that position. And you can engage quickly and easily to either side, or reload, or clear a malfunction. It was a good position to learn.


We also learned a new way to hold a pistol during movement. This method will induce an automatic heart stoppage in just about every police firearms instructor. It’s called the “temple index”. Petty and Fisher demonstrated that if you’re seated in a car and engaging, there really isn’t a good way to exit the vehicle with a weapon in your hand without muzzling the crap out of yourself, innocent bystanders, the neighbor’s dog, random hippies, everyone. That is, unless you exit the car with your weapon pointed straight upward and pressed against your temple. The instructors themselves were leery when they first saw the technique, until they decided it works. And they’re right, it does work. It looks funny, it feels funny, but it makes sense.


We practiced the temple index during a really chaotic drill where we had to engage through a windshield, bail out, take cover, then engage multiple targets around a vehicle using our pistols and carbines. Part of the drill consisted of clearing constant carbine malfunctions. The malfunctions were caused by William Petty using a stick to block our ejection ports. He did that because he’s a dick and hates everyone.


Third lesson of the course: under stress, even trained and experienced guys fuck up.

No, that’s not a surprise. We’ve all been there. But we always expect ourselves to not do it. I knew I was rusty, but during this course I discovered my pistol skills had deteriorated. Badly. I also made a rookie mistake and failed to get my pistol out of the holster while falling into urban prone, which meant I had to struggle to draw while lying on my gun side, which led to me muzzling my own arm. Fortunately for my ego, I wasn’t the only student to mess up.

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16 Responses to “Patrol Vehicle CQB Instructor Course Review”

  1. 1 Aesop

    Now go forth and convert the heathen, Brother Chris.
    Good stuff.

  2. 3 RandyGC

    Thanks for sharing. Considering how much of my CCW time is in a vehicle, great food for thought.

    • Randy,

      EVERYONE who carries carries in and around vehicles all the time. The entire subject should get a whole lot more attention than it does. I feel like a dumbass for not training on this sooner.

  3. 5 SPEMack

    That is a bunch of good information, Brother Chris.

    I had seen guys do the temple index (didn’t know it had a name) before, but always sort of thought it was some asshole look at me operator type non sense.

    And now I know. And knowing is half the battle.

    • Mack,

      The Temple Index looked really goofy, and feels pretty goofy when you first practice it. But as the saying goes, “If it’s stupid but it works, it isn’t stupid.”

  4. I got to ask, Chris, What were you shooting? My past experience with 9mm FMJ is they fly through a window-up car door, across the back seat, through the other door and still punch through a cardboard IDPA target. Same for the trunk area. I punched through front windshield with 9mm FMJ and holed the cardboard target behind the wheel. I realize that a hole in cardboard is not a measure of performance.

    A recent match (2 years ago) showed that at 100 yds .223 Rem in 55gr FMJ and SS109 worked well on front windshield, but not any of the soft tip or HP in .223 Rem. Of course .308 always worked.

    I have a little information on that at my blog (shameless self-promotion)

    • Frank,

      The instructors fired a variety of duty and practice ammo into the vehicle. Some worked better than others. I was carrying 9mm Hornady Critical Duty in my carry pistol, and the instructors told me they were disgusted at Hornady for marketing it as carry ammo. It lost a lot of mass and did almost no damage to the target.

      And they told one story you might find interesting. A student at another course brought an AK with some type of high-speed Hornady round. He fired into the windshield from in front of the car. When they checked for damage, they discovered the round had penetrated the windshield and then fallen onto the dash. No penetration further than the glass.

  5. 9 russell1200

    Which goes a long way toward explain the law enforcement barrier penetrating rounds that Hornady et al make. I guess my question would be how in all the excitement you would know to load the correct type of ammo.

    • One of my AR instructors tells everyone to carry a 15 round magazine loaded with SS109. The smaller size makes it easy to distinguish from the larger 29 round mags. And then again he may be worried about a Mad Max world.

      • Not a bad idea, but I wonder how many officers would think to switch mags in the heat of battle. Maybe for SWAT officers responding to a contained incident it would make sense, but I don’t see it being very practical for the street guys. In Afghanistan I carried a mag full of tracers in a separate pouch, just to use for marking targets, and I used it once when I wasn’t directly under fire. So I can see it coming into play in a more or less stable situation, but not so much in a raging fight.

        • I agree. I think he envisioned looking out over a dusty, wind blown plain and seeing Mad Max driving towards him. Perhaps he’s creeping around the house and detects a car full of the undodly and has plenty of time to swap out before the first shot is fired.

          I enjoy your blog and it makes me think.

          stay safe……..

  6. 13 Scott Timmons

    About a hundred years ago I attended an Arkansas Narcotics Investigator’s course where we fired our duty weapons (for me a 2″ revolver in .38SPL loaded with 125 gr jacketed hollow points) through the windshield at targets in the drivers and front passenger positions of a car from the front bumper. (We called it the cluster take-down.) Surprisingly, those rounds penetrated and were pretty accurate.
    I’ve seen the “temple index” once before and the instructor said the purpose was to make sure you didn’t accidently blow your own brains out.
    Keep up the good work. And when do we see the promised sequels?

    • Scott,

      That’s surprising to hear that .38s did that well. I’d like to try some of the older duty weapons against glass. Very few officers carry .38 or .357 now, everyone has 9, 40 and 45.

      Also, the next book has a little obstacle in the way. My department has to approve it, since it’s in the book. I don’t think I’ll get an answer from the department before it’s time for me to retire (5 more years). So I’m not sure when that one’s coming out.

      • 15 Scott Timmons

        As far as weapons, at that time my Department did not allow a choice, it was .38 wheel guns for all. We’ve actually moved into the 20th century, if not the 21st and we now carry Glock 40’s. Much better and more efficient!
        I know I’m not the only one waiting on sequels. I’m still hoping for the cop book you mentioned where Jerry was back between deployments. Although I’d like to read the next installment on the “Cartels invade Texas” series. Decisions, decisions…
        Keep up the good work and stay safe.

  7. Guys,

    Sorry I haven’t commented on this, been real limited on time and access to the blog the last week (can’t log on from work). Will answer comments later today.

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