Street Combat – This Ain’t No Game! – Part 8 of 9, by Pat Cascio

Chapter Six


Carjacking has become such a serious and violent crime that I decided to include an entire chapter on this all-important topic. In the past if someone wanted to steal your car for a joy ride or to use it in the commission of a crime, they did so at night while you slept. Or for that matter, they would steal your unattended car from a mall parking lot, while you shopped inside. Things have changed! People are now being seriously injured and sometimes killed by carjackers.

In the blink of an eye, it could happen in your own driveway! Most carjackings happen in as little as 15 seconds. That 15 second timeframe is from start to finish!

While carjackings represent only two percent of the vehicles stolen, about 35,000 carjackings occur annually. FBI records show that in 52% of the carjackings, the offender succeeded in stealing the victim’s motor vehicle. Carjacking is now a federal crime– a felony.

FBI Reports

The FBI has recently released some interesting facts about carjackers. First of all, the carjacker is usually armed (77% percent of the time). Fifteen large metropolitan areas account for 90% of all carjackings. Most carjackings occur between 8:00pm and 11:00pm, and nearly half of all carjackings happen on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. More carjackings occur in December (27%) than any other month. Parking lots are the favorite areas for carjackers, followed by city streets, residential driveways, car dealerships, and gas stations.

Another interesting statistic that the FBI reports is that the primary motive for carjacking is to secure transportation after robbing the driver or to obtain transportation to commit a crime. Carjackers are real scum-of-the-earth, to be sure.

Carjacking Methods

There are several different carjacking scenarios. Carjackers can attack a motorist at a traffic light, gas station, parking lot, or any other area where a driver stops or exits their vehicle, even fast food drive-thrus. Carjacking gangs often employ the old “bump and run” techniques in which the thieves in one car pull up behind an unsuspecting driver and bumps their car. When the driver gets out to inspect the damage, the thieves forcibly take control of the situation and the car.

DOJ Report

The U.S. Dept. of Justice released a survey in March 1994, NCJ-147002, that gives us further information on this fast-growing type of crime. Each year on average between 1987 and 1992, .2 per 1,000 Americans age 12 or older (or 2 per 10,000) were victims of a completed or attempted carjacking.

Here’s some information that I found of interest. Men were more likely than women (.3 per 1,000 compared to .1 per 1,000) and blacks were more likely than whites (.4 and .2 respectively) to be victimized by carjacking. Persons age 35 or older were less likely than younger people to become carjacking victims. I would have bet good money that women would have placed higher in the “victim” category. I wonder if the U.S. Department of Justice is being honest with us on this one.

Of the 77% of carjackers who were armed, handguns were the most commonly used weapon in the completed offenses but not in the attempts. It sure sounds like the serious carjackers favor firearms in the commission of their crime. The DOJ breaks this down as follows: offenders were armed with handguns in 59% of the completed carjackings and 17% of the attempted carjackings.

Carjacker Profile

Another statistic worth noting is that the typical carjacking offender’s age was between 21 and 29. About half of the completed carjackings were committed by offenders in this age group. An additional 12% were committed by offenders 18-20 years of age.

About half (54%) of all completed or attempted carjackings were committed by groups of two or more offenders, so you have a pretty good chance of facing more than one offender should an attempt be made to carjack your vehicle! A prepared and aware motorist might be able to defend himself from a lone unarmed carjacker, but the odds are against you if there are multiple carjackers who are armed.

The DOJ report states, “Carjacking, a type of robbery, is theft or attempted theft of a motor vehicle by force or threat of force.” This sounds pretty serious to me, and it is! In 24% of the completed and attempted carjackings, the victims were injured. Four percent of all victims of attempted or completed carjackings suffered a serious injury, such as gunshot or knife wounds, broken bones, loss of teeth, internal injuries, loss of consciousness, or “undetermined” injuries requiring two or more days of hospitalization. On top of the loss of your car, you can expect a day in the hospital to run you approximately $1,000. Unfortunately, the DOJ report doesn’t give any statistics regarding actual deaths of motorists at the hands of carjackers. I find this omission strange, to say the least. Why did the DOJ leave this statistic out of their report?

Okay, now that I’ve made you aware of the seriousness of carjackings and probably scared the bejabbers out of you, what can you do to defend yourself against a carjacking?

Carjacking Defense

First of all, keep all your doors locked in your vehicle, even if you’re only driving down the street to the local 7-Eleven. Secondly, when you’re at the gas station, turn off your car, no matter what, whether you pay at the pump or pay inside. Third, always be aware of your surroundings. (Remember to exercise mental awareness.) As you approach your vehicle, glance underneath it to check for danger. Also, before you open your car door check the back seat for anyone who might have gotten in and be “hiding.” Fourth, install an anti-theft device that has a “panic” button that you can activate if you sense trouble. Fifth, drive in the center lane (if possible) when on highways; this reduces your chances of becoming a “bump and run” theft victim. Sixth, seek out a good, unarmed self-defense instructor, and take your training seriously. Lastly, if confronted with a carjacker(s) who is armed and intent on using deadly force against you, use your legally-concealed handgun to fend off the attack.

Firearms Training

All this brings us to the use of point shooting to defend yourself if attacked while in or near your vehicle. I know this will sure raise a “red flag” of the aimed shooting proponents, but please hear me out on this subject before you criticize my logic.

First of all, I want to stress the importance of being a well-rounded combat shooter. You MUST be trained in both aimed and point firing techniques. I believe it’s important to ALWAYS use aimed fire when you have the time, distance, light, and so forth. Unfortunately, you probably won’t have these luxuries at the hands of carjackers. As reported by the DOJ, most carjackings are over in less than 15 seconds. This hardly gives you time to react, draw your weapon, aim, and fire, and do all of this from the driver’s seat of your vehicle.

My friend and associate, John McSweeney, teaches a point shooting technique I have dubbed the “Swing”. John and I have honest differing opinions on some subjects, and our teaching techniques are somewhat different. However, when it comes to employing the “Swing” in carjacking defense, we are in 100% agreement!

I’m a “disciple” of the legendary Col. Rex Applegate. Much (not all) of what I teach in my point shooting classes is based upon the real-life combat, proven, methods of point shooting developed by Captains Sykes and Fairbairn. However, Applegate further refined Fairbairn’s and Sykes’ techniques over the years, so much so that in my humble opinion Applegate is the true father of real-life combat (handgun) techniques.

John McSweeney also teaches some of Applegate’s point shooting techniques in his handgun classes. Where McSweeney’s system differs from Applegate’s is with McSweeney’s use of the “Swing.” McSweeney has studied distances involved in law enforcement officers being killed/assaulted. The FBI report on this subject (1992) concludes that five feet (and less) were the distances involved in 367 officers being killed/assaulted. Another 127 law enforcement officers were involved in deadly confrontations from 6-10 feet, 77 officers were involved in a deadly confrontation of 11-20 feet, and only 79 officers had a deadly confrontation at 20 plus feet.

Therefore, McSweeney concludes that the greatest number of shootings (367) of police officers took place at five feet or LESS! The circumstances of a typical gunfight (if there is such a thing) involves three things:

  1. close range,
  2. low light, and
  3. extreme stress.

As we have seen by the DOJ report, carjackings pretty much fit the above three conditions.

No matter what I may write, there simply will be those opponents of point shooting who refuse to be swayed by the facts involved in real-life handgun combat. McSweeney relayed a real-life story to me about one of his point shooting students. A security officer in Chicago, IL was working as a bouncer in a bar on the near north side. Earlier that evening this bouncer had bounced four Mexicans out of the bar. (The bouncer was of Mexican descent as well.)

The bouncer was followed home by the above four individuals. As he (the bouncer) got out of his car, they surrounded him. The bouncer was legally armed. All four attackers had knives, which they thrust at the bouncer. He drew his 9mm Glock and fired three rounds in point shooting fashion– McSweeney’s “Swing”. He swung from one to the other. He hit three of the assailants in the gut; the range was two yards (6 feet)! The fourth assailant knifed the bouncer in the back, just missing his heart. The bouncer told McSweeney that he had no time to aim; he simply drew his 9mm and fired, hitting three assailants before being knifed in the back. Fortunately, the bouncer’s wife heard the commotion and called the police. The fourth assailant fled the scene but was captured later. All four assailants were arrested and sent to jail.

McSweeney does comment about Applegate’s method of point shooting in Applegate’s book Kill Or Get Killed. McSweeney claims that Applegate says if you “swing” this causes you to shoot before or after the target. McSweeney’s method calls for you to “swing” on to the target, then stop, then fire. The process is:

  • swing,
  • stop, and then
  • fire”.

This is a mite slower than firing while you swing, but it’s 100% more accurate, according to McSweeney. I’ve tried swinging and then firing; it doesn’t work, just like Applegate said. I’ve also tried swinging, stopping, and then firing. McSweeney’s method works!

At first, it would appear that Applegate and McSweeney are at odds, when it comes to “swinging” in their point shooting methods. Such is not the case! Applegate states in Kill Or Get Killed that “you can’t swing and shoot.” He’s right! McSweeney states that you can swing, stop, and then shoot. He’s right!

Testing the Facts

Now, I have a little test for all you proponents of aimed shooting (only). Get into the driver’s side seat of your vehicle, and let’s assume you’re sitting at a stoplight. A carjacker approaches with a weapon in hand; he’s intent on using deadly force to relieve you of your vehicle. Now, draw your handgun and attempt to aim it and fire. It’s pretty difficult, isn’t it? The range is probably no more than two or three feet. Any attempt to stick your handgun out the window to aim and it will more than likely be met with the carjacker taking control of your handgun.

Now, let’s suppose that you are faced with two carjackers (read the statistics). Both are armed; one approaches from the driver’s side window, and the other approaches from the passenger side window. Draw your handgun, aim, and fire first at one carjacker and then the other. It’s probably impossible or at the very least extremely difficult, isn’t it? Again, the range will probably be just two or three feet on the driver’s side and no more than four or five feet on the passenger’s side.

McSweeney also related a story to me about two shoplifters in Plantation, FL. A parking lot security patrol officer, with his gun in hand, attempted to grab one of the suspects, who was armed. The bad guy falls on his back, draws, and fires four shots at the security officer and hits him with all four shots. The bad guy was only doing what came naturally– pointing and firing. What was the range involved? It was probably no more than three or four feet!

I don’t know how many times I’ve read the proponents of aimed fire-only claim that point shooting takes many hours to learn and is difficult to retain. To them, I say “nonsense!” McSweeney, Applegate, Brad Steiner, myself, and other point shooting instructors have found that you can train a person on a one-to-one basis in point shooting in a mere hour or two. A class of 10-12 students can be trained in point shooting in four to six hours. Plus, contrary to what many aimed shooting-only proponents claim, point shooting doesn’t require a great deal of practice on the range in order to retain the skills you learned. When faced with multiple attackers at very close range– 10 feet or less– it’s tough to beat McSweeney’s method of “swinging” from one assailant to the next.

When faced with up-in-your-face ranges of two or three feet at a stoplight in heavy traffic, the McSweeney “Swing” is the best method to use.

It would be nice if we could have our gun in-hand and have plenty of time, light, and distance to enable us to aim shoot. Unfortunately, real-life scenarios don’t provide for this.

Having deployed point shooting techniques myself, I can attest to the close range(s) involved, the low light, and the extreme stress. Under extreme stress, your fine motor skills (like aiming) a gun go out the window.

I’m sure the proponents of aimed fire-only will disagree with the Applegate method of point shooting or McSweeney’s “Swing.” I’ll not attempt to confuse them with the facts, as reported by the DOJ and the FBI. However, for me, I’ll be sure to be “Swinging” if I’m unlucky enough to be a victim of a carjacker who is intent on using deadly force against me.

I must stress that the information related to you in this article that was gleaned from the DOJ is a bit dated; it is from March 1994. If what I’m seeing on tv and reading in the newspapers is any indication of the current trend, carjackings are on the increase.

Your Best Defense

Your best defense is a good offense. Be alert and aware of your surroundings at all times. Make every effort to stay out of the “bad” part of town, especially at night. Use your “sixth” sense; if something doesn’t feel or look “right”, it probably isn’t, so get out of the area as quickly as possible. Keep your car doors locked at ALL times. If you have air conditioning, use it in the summertime, and keep your windows rolled up.

Remember, this is Street Combat – This Ain’t No Game!