Tactical Tailor

Gunfighter Moment – Aaron Barruga


Aaron Barruga
August 18th, 2017


Since Thursday, 13 people have been killed and 100 more injured as vehicles were driven into crowds in Eastern Spain as part of terror attacks executed by the Islamic State. In March, a car plowed through pedestrians on the Westminster Bridge in London, killing 5 and injuring 49. Last December, a truck driven through a crowd in Berlin killed 11 people and injured 56.

For terrorists, vehicles pose numerous tactical advantages over traditional small arms or explosive attacks. For these reasons, law enforcement officers should consider the following five concepts.

Whether in the trunk, the center console, or the back of a motorcycle, officers must be familiar with the rapid employment of carbines or any weapon capable of defeating windshields and door panels. Simple dry-fire exercises such as releasing the carbine from its mount and dismounting the vehicle can help with minimizing officer response times during crises.

If responding to crises, officers should consider releasing the carbine and staging it for quick access on the passenger seat of their patrol car. The ability to arrive on scene and immediately step out of his vehicle with a patrol rifle allows an officer to be an immediate force multiplier when responding to crises.

Stow your sling with rubber bands or similar retainers. Slings that hang loosely inside of vehicle mounts can create unnecessary headache should an officer need to rapidly dismount his vehicle. To ensure a patrol rifle’s sling doesn’t catch on dashboard equipment or the steering wheel, slings should be stowed against the patrol rifle with rubber bands. When stowing a sling with rubber bands, remember to build in a quick release by “s” folding the sling. This allows it to move freely of the carbine when an officer decides to sling his patrol rifle.

Vehicle attacks are most likely to occur in urban environments because of the target density available to terrorists. Responding officers will need to navigate through crowds, possibly with weapons at the ready. Officers must feel confident running with both carbines and pistols in these confined areas. The ability to move aggressively in and around terrain without flagging bystanders or fellow officers is critical for a safe response.

When teaching ready positions, competency should not be sacrificed in favor of misinterpreted simplicity. Despite sayings such as “more tools for your toolbox,” during a stressful situation individuals fall back on the technique that they have the most repetitions performing. Furthermore, utilize common sense when validating ready positions. If a technique contradicts the tenets of developing competent shooters (such as placing a pistol against the shooter’s forehead for “safety”) avoid these methods so that you can instead develop more well-rounded tactical responders.

Our senses are overwhelmed by stimulus in urban environments. In close quarter engagements, over saturation may cause an individual to pull a trigger as part of a sympathetic reaction to another officer shooting. It is paramount that officers always understand what lay in front and behind the threats they are engaging.

The exigent circumstances of terror or active shooter attacks might demand that an officer individually clear vehicles containing suspects. Although certain protocol might advise officers to wait for backup or even SWAT, in his dying breaths a terrorist’s resolve might be to continue killing bystanders. For this reason, an officer must feel confident in his ability to clear a vehicle by himself. This does not suggest that officers unnecessarily put themselves at risk, but it also does not excuse them from performing the task should it be necessary.

In preparing for urban terror attacks, perform scenario training that encourages adaptability and abandons rigid training approaches, or “if this, then that” mentalities. Despite being labeled as “stress induced” or “unscripted,” a lot of scenario based training fails officers because the techniques taught only work under the very narrow guidelines of the specific training scenario. This produces officers that are great at navigating artificial training environments, but these individuals are more likely to freeze when responding to the spontaneous nature of a real fight.

It is impossible to predict exactly how an attack will be executed, or what exactly will transpire on the ground during the attack. For these reasons, it is critical that officers participate in training that encourages both flexibility and decisiveness.


Aaron Barruga is Special Forces veteran with deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Pacific Theater of Operations. He has trained foreign commandos, police officers, and militia fighters. He is the founder at Guerrilla Approach LLC, where he consults law enforcement officers on counter-terrorism and vehicle tactics.


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34 Responses to “Gunfighter Moment – Aaron Barruga”

  1. DangerMouse says:

    As a civilian, I’d like to hear more about item #1. Thinking back, one of the FBI agents involved in the 1986 Miami-Dade County Florida shootout (McNeil I think) had a shotgun in the passenger seat, but I believe it slid down to the floorboard when the car came to a stop or something and he couldn’t access it when the shooting started.

    • Jack says:

      I forget the name of the agent, it very well could have been McNeil, but it wasn’t a shotgun, it was his full size revolver (Model 19 .357 if I recall correctly) which he had drawn and laid on the front seat. During the collision with Platt and Matix, his revolver slid off the seat and he went into the fight with his snub nosed .38SPL backup gun. I think there might have been another agent who also “lost” his revolver because it was laying on the seat before the fight started.

      The Miami FBI shootout was truly a watershed moment in American law enforcement. It’s a pretty interesting gunfight and here’s a lot to learn from that incident.

    • JKifer says:

      The TTP is to keep the stock of the M4 fully collapsed, the sling S folded and secured to the stock via a rubber/riggers band, and the weapon tucked in between the center console and the seat. The weapon with a 30 round mag is actually very secure in this position and not in the way at all. This position allows one to very quickly get the weapon into the fight, but keep it in a secure manner.

  2. Can Burke says:

    All excellent points. As an active duty LEO for almost 2 decades I would also point out some of the major issues within LE training that has not been discussed yet and will likely come into play if these attacks continue. For the last 10 years or so there has been an concerted effort to alter LE training in regards to deadly force situations involving a suspect behind the wheel of a vehicle/vehicle as a weapon. Officers are now trained not to fire on vehicles (and disciplined for doing so) and that the circumstances where it is permissible are extremely limited.

    Secondly a vehicle plowing through a crowd pretty much eliminates a safe backstop. Another training paramount.

    Actually recognizing the intent during An attack like this in time to take action is another challenge. If you’ve been on the job any amount of time you have seen medical events behind the wheel cause similar situations.

    I hate to say it, I really do, but I wouldn’t expect to see LE attempt to interdict by fire on these attacks. American LE is simply not currently structured or trained to effectively handle these by force.

  3. Ian cornell says:

    i was shocked at the lack of armor plating and long guns in the police response to the Barcelona attack

  4. Marcus says:

    Thanks for taking the time to write and post this.

    Another $50.00 just went to SOC-F in appreciation of your efforts.

  5. Kirk says:

    There isn’t a small arm in the inventory of most police departments that is capable of dealing with a vehicle-based attack. Period.

    You can aim for the driver, but the problem there is that the target is small, is potentially armored, and it’s akin to trying a brain shot on a rampaging elephant–The aiming point for a stopping shot is relatively tiny, and difficult to hit on a moving target.

    This leaves you with two, maybe three options. One, you need to proliferate weapons capable of stopping a vehicle, which is problematic because you’re now putting Light Anti-tank Weapon equivalents into the trunks of police cars, with all the associated risks of them being stolen, involved in vehicular accidents, etc..

    Not to mention, the odds of someone a.) being on the scene in a position to stop the vehicle rampage, b.) possessing the presence of mind to deploy an AT-4 or equivalent, and c.) not immolating a bunch of innocent bystanders…? They’re rather high. So, AT weapons in the hands of the police and public…? A non-starter.

    Second option would be widespread deployment of remote vehicle killswitches, which is problematic because a.) the existing fleet of vehicles don’t come with these, b.) they could probably be easily disabled, and c.) they’re going to be by definition vulnerable to hacking by people who would think it amusing to go out on the interstate and create huge accidents through the judicial use of them. Probably would open up as many potential opportunities for the terrorists as the existing situation, to be honest.

    Third option? Ban vehicles. Non-starter, for so many reasons.

    So, we’re left with the only real, viable solution: Make doing these attacks so painful to the perpetrators that they absolutely won’t do them. Since we lack the balls to do that with other forms of terrorist attack, wellllll… Guess what? We ain’t gonna do shit, until the majority of the population is so fed up with this crap that they become willing to hack off on anything and everything up to a near-total genocide on the perpetrator’s rootstock population groups.

    The thing that these idiot terrorists ought to consider, carefully, is precisely what actually fed into and led to the destruction of the American Indian across most of the Western US: It wasn’t the fact that the settlers just hated them for being Indians, it was because the stone-age sensibilities of the various tribes young men led them to be very unpredictable and violent when interacting with the settlers. Couple of burned-out farms and so forth, and the rest of the settler population became positively enthusiastic about all the measures necessary to stop that little inter-cultural interaction. Absent the endemic violence on both sides, you’d have probably seen a similar situation come out of the Old West to what happened up in Canada, where the tribes did not take to raiding and violence against the settlers anywhere near as much as the groups on the southern side of the border.

    From this historical precedent, I would point out to the various terrorist groups that until they consist of the majority of the population, such activities are fraught with potential blowback. You can conduct pogroms against the infidel in safety only so long as the infidel is a minority–This is the lesson of the Jewish experience in Russia and Eastern Europe. Try that crap on a majority element of the population, as the Muslims are trying in Europe? The end game ain’t going to be pretty. What is going to be interesting to watch (from a distance) is just how far and hard they’re going to have to push before the inevitable push-back comes.

    But, back to the issue at hand…? Stopping a vehicle-based attack? Your only real option is an AT weapon, wielded by someone with some serious ‘nads and a general disregard for backblast areas and collateral damage. Anything else is problematic in that it won’t likely stop the damn vehicles as quickly as you need to.

    • AbnMedOps says:

      “the perpetrator’s rootstock population groups.” I love this excellent piece of phraseology, and quite concur with how you have deployed it. I think there is a good chance that we will be back in Europe by mid-century helping stabilize the side effects and toppled governments produced by the inevitable excesses of a massive ethno-religious countermovement and “cleansing”.

    • Sonny says:

      Thanks for the mental masturbation Kirk.

      So your answer is for police to use rockets? LMAO.

      Vehicles, of course, have been stopped with rifle and pistol rounds, even in recent attacks.

      And the whole point of Islamic State is to create a state where they are the majority, and dominate other states where they are in the minority.

      Belgium, Paris, and London may have been lost already.

  6. Erick says:

    Staging guns on seats didn’t work out terribly well at Miami in the 1986 event.

    • Kirk says:

      As well as the minor, niggling fact that the guys the FBI in Miami were dealing with were not using their vehicle as a weapon, in the first place.

      You can maybe slow them down with small arms by shooting out the tires; you want to stop them, you need to think in terms of how you stop something like an elephant that’s on a tear: You can target the driver/operator (brain shot equivalent), the engine (heart/lung shot), or you can go after the running gear/suspension (equivalent to shooting at a hip/shoulder joint or other limb). Given the capability of most police weapons, you’re not going to do much by shooting at the axles or wheels, nor are you going to stop things quickly enough by shooting the engine–Even if you manage to take out something vital like the coolant or lubrication system, it’s still going to take time to have effect, and the operator is going to continue to do damage with the vehicle while you wait for your shot to effectuate a stop.

      Basically, you want to stop a vehicular assault, your options start looking really bad, especially if they uparmor things the way Marvin Heemeyer infamously did in Granby, CO. The lesson which ought to have been taken from that incident is that stopping a vehicle-based attack requires weapons and techniques that we simply haven’t bothered to issue or implement. Heemeyer was ultimately stopped not by law enforcement, but by mechanical breakdown and getting his vehicle stuck in a basement. During the incident, the owner of one of the targeted structures attempted to use a scoop loader to stop Heemeyer and his so-called “killdozer”, but that effort failed due to a mismatch between the vehicles. Similar tactics, using police cruisers to try to stop large trucks will likely fail for similar reasons–Mass and engine power mis-match.

      This might be a good time to reflect on what we’ve found in Mosul, in terms of ISIS-fabricated vehicle-born IED production, and from that try to extrapolate the next level of attack. My gut feeling is we’re going to see more of this, and that it won’t be restricted to idiots developing “sudden Jihadi syndrome” and taking their mom’s SUV out on a spree. The next level probably includes stolen heavy vehicles, improvised explosives, and improvised armor on the driver’s compartment, engines, and running gear. Prepare accordingly.

      Might not be a bad idea for some major metro departments to consider seeing if they can get their hands on a HETT or two, and some uparmor D9’s. Short of deploying AT weapons, that’s about the only way you’re gonna be able to stop someone pulling a Heemeyer-inspired killdozer attack, because the only answer to an uparmor D7 is an uparmor D8 or D9…

      Now, if someone were to get their hands on an uparmor D9, and commit to doing some major damage in an urban area…? You might need to think about fielding Hellfires on police helicopters, or something.

      The ratcheting effect between attack and defense is a wonderful thing to observe, isn’t it? (He said, sarcastically…)

      • Erick says:

        I wasn’t talking about the effective of common L/E small arms against vehicles, I was talking about pulling a shoulder fired weapon (carbine, shotgun) out of its rack and laying it on the passenger seat. All the more so its problematic if the threat is using its vehicle as a weapon.

        Either leave the thing in the rack until you stop & can deploy, remove it & sling up (though from experience, driving can be a PITA at that point), or remove it & wedge between your leg & the center console. The S/As I was referencing had staged their guns on car front seats and when the stop / collisons happened, guns skidded onto floorboards and out of reach.

        Kind of curious about who is teaching a ready position with the gun on the user’s forehead. Haven’t seen that specific mwthod taught. Or, and I’m spit balling here, is this an example similar to the author’s negative depiction getting off of cover in his video. The video shows a 10 yd example rather than the two, three yards that actually gets recommended.

        With training & experience many of us have found what works in our environments. “You” have something different, based on actually experience in that environment? Rock on. But continually setting up over exagaerated straw men doesn’t contribute to the conversation.

    • Maskirovka says:

      We had a case about 2 months ago where it worked out pretty well. It was a classic takeover bank robbery by a single player with a long gun that ended up in a brief pursuit. Suspect picked a place to stop and exited his vehicle with a HK91 clone, and got off the first shots, hitting the first officer’s vehicle 3 times with .308 (windshield and light bar). The fight was quickly ended with a combination of pistol and a rifle that was unracked and charged before the vehicle stop. Only the suspect’s ski mask kept his noggin contents from spilling onto the ground.

      • Kirk says:

        I’m glad to hear the suspect got what he deserved, but… That case doesn’t sound at all like what we’re talking about, here.

        Vehicle-based terror attacks, including the Vehicle Born IED, are a different kettle of fish than the classic “suspect escaping in vehicle” sort of thing you’re describing. Granted, there are elements there that are similar, in that the suspect often tries to use their vehicle as a weapon, but the major difference between your case and the ones in Europe has been that the European “Let’s go down to the pedestrian mall and run people down…” thing has been more of a situation where it is prepared and planned perpetrators, unprepared victims and minimal police presence to react to the attacks.

        Whereas, in similar situations to the case you’re describing, the attempt to use the vehicle as a weapon comes at the end of a pursuit as an improvisation, against (hopefully…) prepared cops, and basically as a side-effect of whatever criminal activity the suspects were engaging in. Apples and oranges, there.

        What we basically need is an easily carried, safe-to-deploy vehicle killer that can stop everything from a re-purposed station wagon to a ten-ton armored dump truck. The physics aren’t in our favor, at all–Stopping a large vehicle in its tracks is something you need major energy for, and there’s no elegant way to finesse things.

        Oh, and by the way–Should you start issuing something like an AT-4 to the average police patrol car, you’re going to have to worry about minor little things like causing a sympathetic detonation in anything those VBIEDs have aboard.

        Again, with heavy sarcasm, don’t you just love the brave new 21st Century? It’s not shaping up to be at all what I was promised as a young lad. Instead of flying cars above our city streets, we’re faced with the prospect of flying debris like truck axles and other fun things.

  7. Linz says:

    Is counter vehicle work justification for including 7.62x51mm firearms into the mix?

  8. Dellis says:

    This type of threat will be stopped by placing vehicle barricades in areas of pedestrian traffic and/higher curbs. This will be very costly. The other deterrent will be technology within vebicles themselves that brake the vehicle when it detects an obstacle, such as a human. The downside is it would be costly and super difficult to retro fit all vehicles with this technology.

    The least expensive answer is to kill these asswarts before they do this. This is complicated when certain countries won’t even state the bad guys are muslim but rather “of foreign nationality” Or, “they are not Finnish”. They are pig fearing sadistic cowardly child molesters.

    Seriously though, there will be some innovative technology coming forth that will hamper or stop this one aspect of evil. These cockroaches though will find another source of mass death and carnage.

  9. Uncle Dan says:

    My department now has 3 SWAT guys carrying Benelli M4s w Micos on them. I got permission to plop a personal Micro T1 on issued 12.5-in. 870P.

    Problem is we still use low recoil Foster slugs and buck.

    Gonna try to get a tech & fighter friendly Deputy Chief let me demonstrate efficacy on Brenneke SF Magnums on auto & truck bodies. Aside from 7.62, .338L and .50 BMG AP or DU rounds, it should be best munition for venting evil doers in big trucks or regular size vehicles.

  10. Richard White says:

    None of you uniform wearing individuals have enough courage to mention or assess the “response” to the recent vehicle -> crowd terror attack in VA?

    Does anyone have the balls to say anything about the tactical implications of shitheads like that continuing to demonstrate en masse?

    About protecting the public from crowds of emboldened, incompetent, heavily armed white extremists attempting to show force..?

    Aaron Barruga fix yourself. Don’t be a pussy.

    • SSD says:

      For a professional, the problem set doesn’t have a political motivation. It just has TTPs. You counter those.

      If you’re fixated on the race or creed of the enemy, you’re part of the problem.

    • Stone11C says:

      Really guy? You want to interject your special little recipe for lunacy into a post about stopping the mass murder of innocents? How about you go tell your little antifa buddies to stop lighting things on fire and assaulting people before you talk shit. Or would that be too much effort…kinda like putting on a uniform and arresting the fucktards from their side AND YOURS( when local officials man-up and allow it of course). But soldiers and cops don’t have balls according to you… Take your deuchebag politics and cry somewhere else little Dick.

    • argo says:

      First, IMO the article has a noble intent focused on objectively applied (no overt or subliminal agenda i could find) training, preparation and safety/security.
      Second, are we going to judge an entire race/culture/religion based on the criminal actions of one or a few individuals? That gets interesting really quickly in an insane sort of way.
      Finally, in your world, who decides who gets to march/protest/speak in public, you and the NAACP/SPLC/NYT/Huffington Post cabal or maybe the flipside on the far Right?
      I value honor, experience and talent and no, I haven’t been “woke”. Colors/religion/culture/politics don’t count for much of anything beyond a distraction when folks are working together toward a noble goal. Further, the name calling is childish and has no place here or anywhere else. I’m gonna go out on a limb (based on military experience) and guess most folks here probably are multiracial/cultural to varying degrees and count a number of religions in their ancestry, comprende?

  11. Erik says:

    What about a directed EMP at the vehicle? It will disable the electronics and at least kill the engine.

    • Buckaroomedic says:

      This. I recall that someone was actually developing this idea about 10 years ago. I wonder what happened to that?

  12. JKifer says:

    Aaron, thanks as always for the TTP’S. Stay safe brother.

  13. pbr549 says:

    Not to sound foolish, but function sometimes follows fiction. If anyone remembers the device used by the Winter Soldier to disable Nick Fury’s SUV in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”. Something like that with smart technology so it wouldnt end up magnetized to the wrong vic. I don’t know, it seems plausible. The only catch I can see is being in the right place to react to a vehicle born attack.

  14. Patrick Aherne says:

    Wow. Another extra-special forces guy telling cops about cop work when he really should stick to army stuff. This shit is as dumb as when LAV was teaching home defense in plate carriers, helmets and with carbines.

    • Sonmy says:

      Ha, smart guy. He’s actually been in a gunfight and has trained around vehicles.

      Besides that William Petty course where you learned Temple Indes, have you?

    • Stone11C says:

      Patricia, if you didn’t have your head up a certain oriface you might be able to comprehend that we, lowly soldiers according to you, have had to deal with passenger and cargo vehicles used as weapons…for about the last SIXTEEN YEARS. There’s also the little tidbit involving “Foreign Internal Defense”( you know, teaching another country how to fight an insurgency) being one of the original mandates of Special Forces. That’s called per-spec-tive. Say it slow. Per-spec-tive. Both Mr. Barruga and Mr. Vickers miiiiiggt just have a little bit of it…

  15. Desert Lizard says:

    Is there a 40mm projectile that could stop a civilian vehicle? If so, the thin blue line should start acquiring and training with them.

    • Erick says:

      When large vehicle attacks begin happening here with greater frequency, then “we” might see the development of munitions capable of doing that in the L/E realm. Currently, with the overly emotive whining about militarization, I wouldn’t hold my breath on L/E getting that type of tool anytime soon.
      As a patrol supervisor, none of the 40mm munitions immediately available to me would do this.

  16. bloke_from_ohio says:

    Terrorism is cheap and easy, you just get some disaffected individuals to go cause havoc. The logistical train is nearly nonexistant. C2 is not all that sophisiticated. And the actual cost to “field” such “forces” is incredibly low compared to a security force capable of countering them.

    I am sure there are cadre and command types in the jihad movement that have a grand strategic vision, but creating chaos does not take a lot of skill at planning or operational art compared to stopping it. The trade offs and costs required to protect a site or event from this type of attack simply are not borne in a similar maner by the attackers. The political cost of putting up barriers and arming cops with heavy weapons means nothing to the attackers. It might even help them.

    As long as it remains cheaper to use terror tactics than it is to counter them, we will keep dealing with this nonsense. If it is not trucks, then it will be something else.

  17. bloke_from_ohio says:

    If I owned the right tools, I would investigate manufacturing hedgehogs. I wonder if there is a market for those. I remember a whole mess of them materialized at base check points in the first couple years after 9/11. In ground bollards, cable obstacles, power actuated AT barriers, and jersey barriers eventually replaced them but the bright orange steel hedgehogs seemed like they were more portable. Fewer people seemed to hit them to boot.