Essential Skills: Rounding Corners and Using Obstacles

Knowing how to properly round corners and use environmental obstacles in a dangerous situation are important skills for those interested in self-defense.

Essential Skills: Rounding Corners and Using Obstacles

There are principles of using cover and moving “tactically” around environmental objects that are an important part of the skill set for armed citizens. Much of it may be integral actually to fight with a gun, but these skills also tend to be simple safety measures that can you can incorporate into daily life.

We live in a world derived from natural and human-made structures, and we move among them on a daily basis. Knowing how to do so defensively is warranted. There are few times in civilian life when you may approach a situation with a gun in your hand. There may be many times, however, that you may approach an unknown environment cautiously. Let’s analyze how to address some of these most common environmental structures:

Properly Moving Around Corners

When dealing with corners we can treat them in the tactical sense of “slicing the pie” with gun drawn as we clear a room, which is not at all recommended for a lone armed citizen as it is very hazardous to do this if an adversary lies in wait, but it is a skill set worth knowing. However, there are some more routine things to consider regarding moving around corners in general.

Around this time last year, an unfortunate phenomenon, the “knock-out game,” was taking place around the country. The “knock-out game” is the practice of some sick and twisted individuals of taking a complete stranger walking the street by surprise and knocking them out with a single sucker punch. The favorite tactic for this is to launch from a hidden corner or ally and attack the unsuspecting victim from the side. Even if you are armed with your handgun it does you no good if you get knocked unconscious before you can bring it into action. The only defense against such malicious and sickening behavior is good situational awareness and sound tactics.

Part of sound tactics is giving corners a wide birth. When walking the street, it is best practice to maintain distance from corners that could hide an unknown entity from your view. This gives you reaction time if indeed there is a hostile presence. Giving corners room also provides the benefit of minimizing our profile as discussed in the previous segment. If we suspect that there is a hostile present we should methodically “slice the pie” of the corner as we move around it, minimizing our exposure and maximizing our reaction time if space allows us to maintain a significant distance from the potentially hazardous corner.

Even in a situation where we are not holding a drawn gun, which is only permissible if we know we are dealing with a threat, moving correctly around a corner is warranted. Perhaps we are walking back to our car in a public lot, and upon approaching a corner into the said lot, we hear a ruckus or merely sense something is not right. It makes sense to keep a distance from the corner and to methodically slice the pie to gain a visual from a more secure position than to just walk around the corner straight into an undefended position if something hostile is indeed taking place. By treating the corner accordingly, we have the cover of the barrier itself, and we give ourselves the reaction time to defend ourselves if necessary.

Using Obstacles to Your Advantage

Doing angular searching of any kind in which we must deal with corners with a drawn gun plays a limited role in civilian self-defense, but like all things, it is a skill that is better to have and not need than to need and not have. Using obstacles, however, is a defensive tactic that very well may be employed in more routine defensive scenarios that a civilian is likely to encounter. What I refer to here as using obstacles is the practice of positioning yourself so that there is an obstruction between you and a hostile individual.

Let’s say you encounter some idiot while walking through a parking lot to a store who starts ranting and raving that you cut him off or stole the spot he was about to park in (if you really did this then shame on you, armed citizens should not insight confrontations). If the individual seems irate and unpredictable, the first thing you should try to do is get something between you and him. Maybe you should walk to the side of a parked vehicle so that now he is yelling at you from across the hood of a parked car. This strategic placement of the object buys you reaction time and provides some cover should the hostile entity suddenly charge you, or suddenly draw a weapon.

Once in that enhanced position behind the obstacle, you should do your best to de-escalate the situation. De-escalation skills are an entirely different but equally important topic, but the focus here is the use of the obstacle. If the individual is just irate, he will probably yell and eventually walk off. However, if he becomes hostile, you now have an obstacle that will obstruct his charge at you to give you further time to prepare.

The appropriate response would depend on many different factors.

  • Is he armed?
  • Is he a big powerful guy and you are a woman or an older person?
  • Is he truly threatening you or is he just being a jackass?

The bottom line is, with the obstacle between you, be it a parked car, a picnic table, a desk, etc…, you have more time to plan your reaction, and if you get charged, you have an obstruction blocking the way. The obstacle gives you at least slightly more time to decide on your action, whether that be de-escalation, a less lethal response, or a lethal force response if facing a true deadly threat.

By immediately placing an environmental obstacle between you and the hostile entity you also now set yourself up with cover, or at least potential concealment. If the adversary produces an edged or blunt object weapon and tries to close on you the obstacle offers a buffer to the charge giving you more time, and if the adversary produces a gun then then obstacle will offer at least some cover so that you are not completely exposed to gun fire as you respond with force. Spend some time considering the different environmental objects that you spend time among in your daily life and visualize how you could use such objects in defensive scenarios. Cars, trees, light posts, mail boxes, desks, pillars. There are a lot of available obstacles.

So, there you have it, some principles for working the environment around you to your advantage, or at least to mitigate danger, should things go bad. Knowing the features of the environment around you and knowing what creates an advantage for you in a bad situation should be part of your defensive tactics and having a command of these principles is another tool in your self-defense skill set.

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Salvatore is a firearms instructor, competitive shooter, and life-long practitioner of the concealed carry lifestyle. He strives to serve as a conduit of reliable information for the ever-growing community of armed citizens and concealed carriers. You can contact him at his website Reflex Handgun.
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