Extreme Preparation for Your Vehicle - Watch Your Back: How to Avoid the Most Dangerous Moments in Daily Life (2016)

Watch Your Back: How to Avoid the Most Dangerous Moments in Daily Life (2016)

Chapter 11 Extreme Preparation for Your Vehicle

One could argue that our actions more than anything else have the power to either invite or deter a criminal attack. But that doesn’t mean fortifying or “hardening” your vehicle is unnecessary. Just like no one can fully predict the actions of another person, no single protocol or layers of defense can guarantee you will avoid being the victim of violent crime. But there are certain products that can offer greater opportunities for evasion and survival while in your vehicle.

Today, we take for granted many features of the modern automobile and trucks that add security as well as comfort. Air conditioning and heat allow you to keep the windows up in any weather with control of all windows from the the driver’s seat. (Bear in mind that early automobiles did not have side windows, just wind deflectors in front of the driver to protect the eyes.) And electronic door locks make it possible to secure all the doors instantly. But when we refer to enhancing the defensive capabilities of a vehicle, there are three primary goals. First, to keep the car rolling so escape and/or evasion is possible, second, making the windows and bodywork impenetrable, and third, increasing the likelihood of recovering the car itself and assisting in locating the passengers.


Armored cars like this Camaro from D&L Sports, Inc. of Arizona are not only tuned for high performance and able to stop a wide range of incoming fire but also feature strengthening to the bodywork. This enables the car to sustain collision or push another car out of the way without sheet metal collapsing onto the tires. A full armor modification can cost anywhere from $50,000-$100,000 or more. But sensible upgrades such run-flat tires and bulletproof door panels and glass can be added separately for considerably less money. Photo courtesy of DLSports.com.

Many consider the tires to be the weakest component of automotive design. But run-flat tires are readily available from a number of makers including Continental, Bridgestone, Michelin, Pirelli, and Goodyear. There are currently two different designs, self-supporting and auxiliary supported. Self-supporting run-flat tires offer a heavier carcass (sidewall and tread) capable of supporting the weight of the vehicle without being inflated. Not indefinitely, mind you, but for a much longer period of time or distance than conventional tires. Auxiliary support tires are able to keep the vehicle rolling not by way of a stiffer tire but by coming to rest on an inner support ring acting as a wheel within the tire.

Self-supporting run-flat tires are available and many new carmakers offer them as optional equipment. Run-flat tires typically offer a harsher ride to one degree or another, weigh more, and negatively affect fuel mileage, but reportedly only by about two percent. But the cost for run-flat tires can be as much as 30 percent higher than conventional tires. They are also not easily repaired.

Auxiliary support tires are more effective in fending off deflation because they do not rely upon the tire itself. Pricing varies but top-of-the-line auxiliary support tires like those from Texas Armoring Company (TAC) located in San Antonio, Texas, are formulated from a high-strength compound designed to resist crack propagation from ballistic attack and severe road hazards.


Texas Armoring Corporation, located in San Antonio, Texas, is one of the premier providers of armored protection for vehicles used by diplomats and VIP security firms the world over. A visit to their 50,000 square foot facility revealed the intensive modification of a variety of vehicles in different stages of construction. Photo by the author, courtesy of Texas Armoring Corporation.


Commercially available run-flat tires typically rely upon a rigid carcass to support the vehicle in the event of deflation. Texas Armoring Corporation offers what is in effect a wheel within a wheel that meets U.S. Army, NATO/FINABEL standards for military vehicles. In the event of the tire being completely shredded, this insert should be able to support the vehicle for 50 km at 50 km/hr (or about 30 miles at 30 mph) Photo by the author, courtesy of Texas Armoring Corporation.

More than just a solid wheel within the tire, the TAC RCR Runflats are comprised of two components, a roller and a runner designed to “rotate” about the wheel at the same speed as the tire.

This design reduces friction and heat buildup. They are the run-flat choice on all U.S. Government Armored Vehicles. How far can the typical passenger vehicle travel on TAC RCR tires? If an armored vehicle weighing much more than a standard passenger vehicle can meet the U.S. Army, NATO/FINABEL speed and distance standards of 50 km at 50 km/hr (or about 30 miles at 30 mph), the typical passenger car should be that much more secure.

When it comes to the bullet-resistant properties of civilian truck and automobile bodies, there are soft spots and hard spots. While the gears used in crank windows provided some incidental armor, the presence of a motor plus gearing in today’s car doors adds even more. To lend a more homogeneous margin of safety, Kevlar panels can be used to line the doors. They range from soft armor that hangs on the interior side of the doors and can be easily removed, to those that are custom-cut to maintain original appearance. Soft armor including a bomb blanket on the flooring may only add as little as 500 to 600 pounds to the overall weight of the vehicle. But a complete armoring can add two thousand pounds or more, necessitating a complete rework of the suspension.

If strengthening the suspension to support the weight of the armoring and retain controllability when cornering are obvious issues, most people forget that bulletproof glass, especially panels able to deflect rifle ordnance, weighs much more than standard side glass.

This means the actuators, or the mechanism that raises and lowers the windows, must be replaced. This includes the support arm and the motor that drives it.


Soft armoring is not meant to withstand armor piercing rounds or heavy rifle fire, but it does add much less weight to the vehicle (only about 500 pounds including a bomb blanket on the flooring). This should be adequate unless you’ll be going up against terrorists or professional kidnappers. One reason why soft armor is less expensive when compared to hard armor is because the lighter weight means that suspension components may need only a minor upgrade. Photo by the author, courtesy of Texas Armoring Corporation.


Window glass up to 40mm thick is much heavier than standard window glass. Capable of protecting vehicle occupants from rifle as well as handgun fire, these windows are as hard as granite to the touch. Photo by the author, courtesy of Texas Armoring Corporation.


The weight of the extra thick glass (actually a laminate of glass and polycarbonate) requires the installation of an extra heavy-duty actuator to raise and lower the windows. Note the tight, form-fit application of the heavy armor plating that not only can deflect heavy ordnance but is also called upon to support the actuator. Photo by the author, courtesy of Texas Armoring Corporation.


Preparation for armoring begins with stripping out all of the wiring, the door panels, trim, and hardware. Photo by the author, courtesy of Texas Armoring Corporation.


If you’ve ever wondered why armoring is so expensive, it’s because the work is highly labor intensive. Here the support structure for all the trim and panels has been cut away and set aside. Once the armor plating has been form-fit to the inside of the body shell, the structure to support decorative trim and door panels will be welded back into place. Only a trained eye will be able to distinguish the finished product from the original vehicle. Photo by the author, courtesy of Texas Armoring Corporation.

A true armoring build includes not only the most likely surfaces such as doors and windows, but protecting operation components such as the battery box, radiator, fuse boxes, ram bumpers, heavy side panels, and self-sealing fuel tank among other points.

Full armor builds like those offered by TAC treat the passenger compartment as a single unit including the firewall between the engine compartment and the dashboard and the pillars that support the roof. This can cost as much as $185,000 on an existing vehicle. But partial builds that replace the glass, armor the four doors plus the hatch (if applicable) to withstand handgun rounds up to and including .44 Magnum and 12-gauge buckshot will cost about $45,000.

The concept of preparing an automobile for handgun and shotgun fire (referred to as a T4 partial build) fits right in with a scenario wherein a fender bender turns into an argument and one party retrieves a gun and starts firing.

But given that the AR-15 rifle is widely owned, a higher level of protection such as T6 may be necessary even if you are able to drive off. Higher levels of protection are available for heavier weapons but this would also include AR-15 rounds if the ammunition being fired is capable of piercing armor.

For more answers about hardening our vehicles we turned to Dave Lauck, proprietor of D&L Sports in Arizona, who was voted the 2012 Pistolsmith of the Year by the American Pistolsmiths Guild. D&L Sports produces a series of custom defense vehicles. Two- or four-wheel drive high performance and luxury models are available. Lauck is a straight-shooting, no-nonsense type of guy, so we asked him what steps if any could be taken to improve the defensive capabilities of an everyday driver.


Radiators are a key point of vulnerability and so are electronics. Texas Armoring applies heavy casings that can deflect just about any level of ordnance. Photo by the author, courtesy of Texas Armoring Corporation.


Bulletproof glass consists of alternating layers of polycarbonate and glass with the polycarb on the outer skin and the surface facing the interior. Able to deflect the most powerful handgun rounds such as .357 Magnum, this windshield is more than five times as thick as the glass used for standard passenger cars. Photo by the author, courtesy of Texas Armoring Corporation.


Glass capable of stopping heavy rifle fire requires additional layers compressed to about 40mm thick, nearly twice the thickness of glass capable of withstanding a .357 Magnum. Here we see the depth of impact illustrated by fracturing of the surface layers, yet the windshield was able to stop the bullets and stay in one piece. Photo by the author, courtesy of Texas Armoring Corporation.

According to Lauck, every vehicle should have a “Go Bag.” The Go Bag is an emergency kit in the form of a soft-sided bag with shoulder strap so it can be carried hands free.

Inside the go bag should be a knife for cutting a seat belt, stripping clothing in the event wounds must be treated, and obviously for defense. The knife should have a reinforced butt (the tip at the handle end of the knife) for the purpose of breaking glass. It should also include a basic medical kit consisting of tape, wound packing material such as a roll of gauze, and a tourniquet. Celox, a widely available granulated compound that helps blood coagulate quickly, comes in small packages. The primary goal of the medical kit is to stop bleeding. A small squeeze bottle of distilled water for irrigating a wound is a good idea. This will help wash away blood that prevents you from seeing the actual source of the bleeding. Some people like to carry a candy bar simply because blood loss or heightened stress can bring on a diabetic-like crash, leaving the person weak or confused.


The V-Slinger from Vanquest makes an ideal Go Bag. Besides a special compartment for handgun and spare ammunition, it can be loaded with survival tools and medical equipment. This includes a reusable SAM splint, heat-saving blanket, HALO seal for chest-cavity wounds, multiple tools for extrication such as a seat belt cutter, glass breaker, and all manner of wound and bite care. Not to mention MREs (meals ready to eat) or a candy bar that can help stem diabetic crash. The exterior of the bag is covered with MOLLE loops and rigging so additional gear can be easily attached. Note the CPR mask in its blue pouch mounted on the outside of the bag for quick access. I always turn on the little flashlight before putting the bag down so I can relocate it quickly in reduced light.


When putting together a “Go Bag” complete with firearms and extra ammunition, don’t forget about medical supplies and tools. The tools should be primarily for extrication. Shown here are a multi-tool with seat belt cutter and an impact tool for window breaking. A locking blade can also be swung out from the handle. The medical equipment focuses primarily on stopping blood loss including tourniquet, a supply of gauze for packing wounds, a Celox coagulant powder (hemostatic granules), and wound closure strips. A ten-foot roll of Celox impregnated gauze is also recommended as is a squeeze bottle of wound flushing agent plus a supply of nitrile gloves. It’s a good idea to pack the bandage materials torn slightly open. You never know how difficult it may be to open the packaging and you don’t want to be struggling when you may not have the strength. Distilled water in a squeeze bottle can serve as a flushing agent, as will contact lens fluid in a pinch. Granulated aspirin is handy for countering the onset of a heart attack. A pocket mask can be used safely on just about any size person, from baby to elderly, and will do the least damage and probably cause less pain to anyone with a facial injury. For liability reasons you may not want to treat a complete stranger but if you get some training beyond first aid, you may be able to maintain a life until the professionals arrive.


Modern Go Bags like the VanQuest VSlinger are an efficient way to conceal guns and ammunition as well as transport medical and survival supplies. The VSlinger’s single shoulder strap design allows for the bag to be moved in front of the operator very quickly for complete access without having to remove it. Not only does this provide for a quick draw, no matter how you move, all of the bag’s contents stay with you.

You can improvise a Go Bag very easily but there are a number of go bags commercially available that also include a holster and built-in pouches for extra pistol magazines. A secure compartment built into the vehicle for weapons storage can be as elaborate as hidden compartments inside the interior or trunk.

The best access to a firearm while seated in a vehicle is on your person. This means wherever you go, the gun goes with you. Keeping the gun in a go bag next to you on the seat can be hazardous because even a sharp turn in the course of normal driving can move the bag out of reach. There are numerous ways to secure a handgun within reach using a proper holster or simply placing it inside a glove box or console so long as it is protected from loose items that can interfere with attaining a grip or working its way into the trigger guard or other parts of the action.

One of the primary concerns for the average citizen is shots fired into the car during a road-rage incident. Armoring the door panels and adding bullet-resistant glass are probably the most highly-recommended upgrades but adding hard armor to the seats is also a very good idea. Run-flat tires can be a lifesaver on the highway even if your car is never attacked by anything but a road hazard.


TruckVault leads the way in custom-made lockable compartments for the secure storage of firearms inside of vehicles. Popular with law enforcement personnel, many concerned civilians (as well as hunters) have installed them in sedans as well as pickup trucks and SUVs. Photo courtesy of TruckVault.

A fear second only to shots being fired into the car is it becoming disabled as the result of being run off the road. This is actually a more likely scenario than being shot at during a road rage incident. As pointed out in Chapter 9, the number one goal is to separate from the attacker. You can’t do this if your car is disabled. The perpetrator of a road rage incident is most likely to implement an impact weapon or firearm when you are trapped in your car, so you want it to be strong enough to absorb some punishment and keep rolling. That’s why it’s important to install a ram bumper system that reinforces the vehicle from beneath a minor cosmetic change that is in fact designed to enhance the appearance of the vehicle. Not only does this make the vehicle less likely to be disabled as the result of impact, it also increases the vehicle’s offensive capability so that precision immobilization techniques (PIT maneuvers) can be performed without damage. A common PIT maneuver is to use the nose of the car to push on the rear quarter panel of another car to spin it out and create an opportunity to escape. Without reinforcement, the likelihood of collapsing the sheet metal into the wheel well of your car and cutting down a tire is increased.


One of the ways in which a vehicle can be rendered immobile is by impact collapsing the wheel well and puncturing the tires. Should the tires lose inflation or be completely shredded from the rims, an inner wheel of nearly indestructible composite material will allow the vehicle to continue. Photo by the author, courtesy of Texas Armoring Corporation.

Priorities for Increasing the Defensive Capabilities of Your Vehicle

Run-flat tires

Ensures vehicle control despite tire damage due to road hazard or criminal attack.

Bullet-resistant glass

Stops or significantly slows incoming projectiles in cases of flying debris caused by other vehicles, storm winds, or bullets from small arms fire.

Hard armor door panels

Stops or significantly slows bullets from small arms fire.

Hard armor seats

Stops or significantly slows bullets from small arms fire. Protects against being fired upon from inside the vehicle as in a carjacking or abduction. Provides cover for counterattack.

Hard armor for operational components such as the radiator, battery, and fuses.

Strengthen bumpers and panes surrounding wheels and tires to keep the vehicle from being disabled and unable to escape.

Go Bag

Supplies medical aid, escape tools, and weaponry.

Weapons locker

A small locker in console or otherwise in reach of driver or larger compartment in trunk area to secure weapons when not in the vehicle.