The following information on shooting a handgun from a car comes from Section 57 of Shooting by J. Henry FitzGerald. Shooting is also available to purchase in print.
It may happen at any time in the course of duty that an officer is obliged to jump on the running-board of a passing car and pursue another car containing a criminal. It may be the object to puncture the gas tank. If this is so, the bullet must enter the tank near the bottom, otherwise a long chase may be expected. Hit the tank not over three inches from the bottom and if the distance is not too great between the cars the downward angle of the bullet shot from a greater height will nearly reach the bottom of front of tank. Shooting the tires is also a very effective way to stop a car. With the present balloon tires the target is large enough for the average police shot. It must be remembered that the bottom part of the tire below the center, if behind, is the proper place to hit. That part is rolling toward the officer, while the top half is rolling away, and a high shot may glance off the tire without penetrating.
If more strenuous methods are required, it is easy to determine the position of the driver. The best method to use to instruct in this work is to cut out black pasteboard silhouettes of two tires, about 32×6 inches, as seen from rear of car; gas tank, about 12×18 inches, with white line 3 inches from bottom. Tack on a wooden frame in position of average car. Over this at height of driver place Langrish or Colt Silhouette target. Draw an automobile up to within fifteen yards of target. Place the officer on the running board of the car near front door. Place one man behind him on the running board and one on the opposite side of car. The object is to shoot one bullet through left tire below center, one through gas tank below three-inch white line, one through right tire below center, and three through center of Langrish or Colt Silhouette target. This seems like a big order but the two extra men on the running boards, as the order is given to fire, sway the car sideways and up and down to resemble the motion of a fast-moving car over very rough ground. The target, of course, is stationary, but the car is swaying far in excess of a moving car.
If the man who is shooting from the running-board has had no experience in this kind of shooting, while he may be an excellent shot from the ground, he will find trouble in hitting the targets. The secret is to bend the legs at the knees and take the sway of the car below the knees. A few shots in this manner, and very good shooting can be done by a fair revolver shot. Care must be taken in shooting at tires and gas tank that the officer’s car does not strike an obstruction in the road at the instant the shot is fired. A high shot would be the result and, as has many times happened, some one in the pursued car may be killed, where the object was only to stop the car. A glance at the road ahead before the shot is fired, and taking road shock below the knees, will eliminate any chance of shooting through the car when aiming at tires or tank.
Stopping a moving car on a highway is a part of the officer’s duty, which in nearly all cases may be accomplished with no personal danger to the officer, but at some time it might mean the loss of his life if the occupants of the car were criminals escaping from justice. The only safe method is to use care at all times. Instead of stopping motorcycle ahead of the car under suspicion, stop behind the car and approach from the rear, looking in rear seat to be sure that trouble will not start from there. If satisfied as to this part of car, advance to rear of front seat and ask for license; in this way the officer is not in danger as he would be if he approached car from the front. Many officers have lost their lives by approaching a car in this manner. A usual proceeding is for the officer to stop his motorcycle ahead of stopped car, walk back to the car and demand the license, then with one foot on the running-board write the summons. How easy it would be to hit him over the head, drive against the standing motorcycle, wreck it and get away.
Another danger is in following a car too close. In this day of four-wheel brakes a reasonable distance must be allowed for safety. Sometimes the bandit’s car is equipped to throw a smoke screen and if the officer is close there is no way to avoid an accident. Another reason for keeping at a safe distance, twenty to twenty-five yards, is the possibility of being fired at by some one in the car. Officers on foot should use the same care in approaching a car, as all officers look alike to the man who is trying to escape. Appearance and fine clothes are not a badge of honesty at the present time; even credentials and identification cards sometimes fail, as they may be stolen ones.
To the Citizens: Never take a man, woman, or child into a car unless they are known to you. You may lose your money, your car, and your life if you do. And the woman is the most dangerous of the three. She can tear her dress, scream, and land you in the middle of an assault case that will be hard to explain to the judge, especially if she has no criminal record. The kind-hearted motorist is traveling on the edge of a volcano, if he persists in helping out every human he encounters. Far better is it for him to distribute said kindness among the traffic officers, as a kind word here and there and the willingness to obey the officer will help to make the disagreeable task of the traffic officer a pleasure instead of the most disagreeable part of police work. The officer is there to assist you in every way, to insure your safety. He is your friend; obey him; do not meet him with a chip on your shoulder but with a smile, and your pleasure trip will have a pleasant ending.