When you want to kill the enemy without getting killed yourself avoid getting shot by the enemy covering fire is the key to survival. Covering fire is used to decrease the accuracy of the enemy. If the enemy can’t shoot accurately it dramatically decreases the chance he will hit you when he shoots at you.
The phrase “Cover me!” is often used improperly in the movies. The hero says “Cover me,” everyone counts to three and the hero goes for it while everyone else throws lead at the bad guys.
In a way this is covering fire. In a way it really isn’t. More bullets thrown at the enemy doesn’t mean he is going to cower. However, he is more likely to. If the enemy is cowering then he isn’t shooting. This is where coolness under fire comes into play.
Nobody wants to get hit and bullets coming your way tends to encourage most people to take cover first and see how accurate the enemy is later. For instance, when the lead man in a patrol comes under fire, the entire patrol may take cover until they figure out they are not the ones being shot at. Once they know they are not a target even then they may still be reluctant to move out of cover unless ordered to do so.
Covering fire is the secret to winning a firefight because it can deny the enemy any or all of three firing requirements.
In order to hit you the enemy must be able to meet three simple requirements. Simple in theory, not in practice.
First the enemy must be able to find and know where you are. A bullet is a very small projectile that occupies a very small amount of space. Spraying the countryside indiscriminately is the best method of wasting ammo and hitting nothing. When you see a person at a distance they are smaller than if they were closer. Bullets don’t get bigger as they are fired and if you aren’t aiming then chances of your bullet hitting are pretty much nil at over twenty feet. Of course you may get lucky but odds are against it.
Second the enemy must have a target area to shoot at. If he can’t see an head, arm, or leg he can’t shoot you. He might know you are hiding in a ditch but until you stick your head up he would just be wasting ammo. When he runs out of ammo and has to reload then it is your turn to pop up and take advantage of the situation. Of course his buddies may not have run out of ammo. . .
Third the enemy must be able to aim. This means acquiring sight alignment and sight picture. If he can’t aim he is likely wasting ammo.
The closer bullets hit near a person the more likely that person is going to feel the need for self preservation. If the person can see bullets slamming into a tree near his head then only a fool would remain in position.
Covering fire has four uses.
1. Suppress the enemy. This means discourage the enemy from firing accurately. It takes time to acquire a target and aim and if bullets are hitting near him, he might not be willing to take that time. Accurate fire is what wins a fight, that is why Marines, Rangers, and other elite units consider marksmanship so important.
2. Prevent the enemy from firing. This is the ultimate goal of covering fire. If the enemy is so intimidated by your fire then you can move about with relative safety. You an stroll up and toss a grenade in his hole if he is so intimidated.
3. Force the enemy to move in a certain way. Shooting under a car is going to encourage the enemy to move to better cover where his feet won’t get shot off. By forcing your enemy to move to a different piece of cover you might get in a lucky shot and down your foe or you might force him to retreat to a position that is more exposed.
4. Confuse or distract the enemy from your activities and movement. If the enemy is too busy cowering from your volley of fire he is not likely to notice your friend(s) moving off to the side where he can get a better shot. Distracting the enemy with covering fire may give you more time to aim or get closer.
There are several keys to effective covering fire. Each one is important.
Accuracy. Shooting in the wrong direction isn’t going to scare the enemy (much), or kill him. Accurate, aimed fire is going to kill or intimidate the enemy. The enemy doesn’t want to die any more than you do and the more accurate you are the more intimidated he will become (or the more dead he will become).
Rate Of Fire. This is more important than it might sound. Obviously more bullets fired is more intimidating. However, most magazines have a thirty round clip. Machine guns have one or two hundred rounds belts depending. If you run out of ammo you aren’t going to scare the enemy for much longer. Reloading takes time and can cost someone their life if you aren’t prepared for it. By controlling the rate of fire, and firing as little as you can, you can keep from running out of ammo at the wrong time.
Movement Draws Counterfire. This means that if the enemy sticks his head up he gets shot at. If he tries to fire at you, he gets shot at. If he does anything but cower, he gets shot at.
Teamwork. This is essential because it gives them someone else to shoot at. If the enemy is shooting at one of your team mates then they aren’t shooting at you! Teamwork also means that you have to cooperate with your team mates to locate and suppress the enemy, make sure everyone doesn’t run out of ammo at the same time and you don’t get flanked. Everyone should have an area of responsibility.
Communication. This is critical. A team should be constantly talking back and forth, telling each other where the enemy is, who’s doing what, who’s reloading or is going to need to, who is firing at who, ect. Firefights are chaotic at best and good communications can be the key to survival.