Q.I’ve been shooting tactical matches lately, for which the rules require that 50 percent of my body be behind cover. Most of the time, we shoot through windows, using the window frame for cover. Is a wooden window frame adequate cover, or does it simply provide concealment?
A. The difference between cover and concealment is very important. Cover is any object that will stop a bullet from striking a person who is standing behind it. Concealment is any object that hides part or all of the body but will not stop a bullet. Confusing concealment for cover can have serious consequences. In one of the /Dirty Harry/ films, a would-be hijacker hides behind an airline galley partition. Inspector Callahan simply fires several shots through the partition and stops the threat.
The degree of cover offered by a barrier is determined by the threat. Very few objects provide cover against a .50 BMG. On the other hand, the heavy wood framing and wall around a window may stop a .22 L.R. The same window framing would probably not stop a 9mm, but it might deflect the bullet to some degree.
Many tactical matches don’t distinguish between cover and concealment. Most of the barriers at matches are rather light and should really be thought of as concealment. When shooting a match, I carefully work barriers so that I expose only 10 percent or less of my body to the target. If the barrier is light, it might not stop a bullet, but exposing less of my body might make it more difficult for a would-be assailant to aim at my center of mass.
Finally, I don’t rush the barrier and stick my gun beyond it. In real life, there could be a second assailant concealed on the other side of the same barrier who might grab my gun!
—Dr. Martin D. Topper