MARCH 24, 2016

Skill Set: Contact and Cover

There are a lot of different ways for a two-man team to operate. First, both can address the problem, physically and/or mentally confronting the suspect. Another technique, often used in law enforcement, is "Contact" and "Cover." The first person to engage the "suspect" in any manner is the Contact. Contact focuses on the suspect. "Cover" does just that, the officer covers their partner, monitoring the rest of the environment, radio traffic and standing ready in case things go violent. These techniques also apply to self-defense when you have a partner. Lots of couples I know both carry. You may be with a good friend that you train and practice with. Your partner may not even be armed, but they can still participate in solving the problem. Two heads are better than one, as long as both are on the same sheet of music. "Stranger" approaches, with no hint of aggressive behavior. One of you, Contact, deals with "Stranger." "Stop, don't come any closer!" Cover, the other partner, scans to see if "Stranger" is the decoy while "Danger" comes from the rear to attack. Instead of both of you becoming involved, locked onto a possible problem, you split your attention. The same technique is used for clearing a building. The two of you are working towards an exit, but it must be done carefully because the murderers are still active. Contact leads the way, clearing corners while moving. Cover follows, maintaining the rear and covering the doorways and hallways you pass. Contact and Cover roles make this movement safer. In order for the cover/contact roles to work there has to be communication. With someone you spend a lot of time around some of this can be accomplished without talking. Other situations will require verbal communication, especially when you can't see your partner due to obstructions or in low-light environments. Who plays Contact and who is Cover? Sometimes this will be established for you by the sequence of events. Other situations will require someone to call it. The partner rolls with their assignment unless something serious calls for a role switch. Who plays contact and cover can change, flow from one to another and back again. You start out as Cover, but then things get ugly and both partners become Contacts. As soon as possible reestablish someone as Cover. Splitting your attention, even if it's just an extra set of eyes, provides an exponential advantage. But, this only works if practiced in advance and applied/adhered to under stress. One of the main problems with the Contact/Cover technique is everyone wants to be Contact, playing an active role. As mentioned, there are times for this, but it's normally a short amount of time compared to the total time you're "involved." Today, when the threat may have unidentified partners or a bystander that launches an attack the Cover partner is an extremely important role. Things are getting worse and worse out there. It's not a bad idea to always have a partner with you. Partner means just that, someone who helps you or that you assist to solve the problem as efficiently and safely as possible. A lot of this is just common sense. The key is discuss it in advance and then start putting it into action with practice. Every time you're with a partner there's an opportunity to practice. As you enter the parking lot you establish roles. "You're cover. I'm Contact." There's no threat; you're just practicing. While walking into the market you're playing these roles and communicating. "All clear on the right." "Watch out for this car coming, it's going fast." With repetition it becomes habit. Plus, you never know when a practice session turns into a conflict, which puts you way ahead of everyone else, including potential threat(s). Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama. He is the author of "The Book of Two Guns" - writes for several firearms/tactical publications, and is featured on GunTalk's DVD, "Fighting With The 1911 - Website: