A good friend of mine forwarded a Facebook post to me today, and I read it with interest. It’s a well-written account of an OIS in which “center mass” hits failed to stop an armed and aggressive felon. If you want to read the account, please open this link: http://www.lawofficer.com/articles/print/volume-4/issue-12/features/officer-down-peter-soulis-inci.html
The first thing I must say is that in my opinion Officer Soulis did an outstanding job in this gunfight. Did he make some mistakes? A lot of people on Facebook seem to think so, and they’re not shy about pointing Soulis’s “errors” out. But I wasn’t there, and I refuse to second-guess a copper’s actions in a deadly force incident without a FULL set of facts.
Second thing: Soulis did several vital things that ended this encounter in a positive manner. That is to say, he lived, and he stopped the perpetrator’s attack. He was surprised by the felon’s aggressive resonse to his questioning, but he recognized the presence of danger and responded appropriately before the perpetrator could opportunistically murder him. He put bullets into the bad guy, and even though he was hit multiple times by bullets, he did not stop fighting. In fact, he actually escalated his level of counter-aggression.
So on the face of it, I think this officer did a pretty damn good job.
But here’s a hint as to the root of a correctable problem: the author of this article states that “Palmer had taken 22 hits from Soulis’ .40-caliber Glock, 17 of which had hit center mass“.
The author’s implication is that a “center mass” hit is a good hit. And that, my friends, is where we descend from good tactical analysis into the Land of Bullshit.
If you’ve attended my Shooting With Xray Vision class (SXRV), or you’ve read my book, you have heard me say this before: there is no such thing as Center Mass. In 6 years of undergraduate and graduate level science, I never once read or heard of an anatomic structure called “center mass”. In all my years of medical school and postgraduate residency, I never read or heard of a medical term called “center mass”. And in 40 years of hunting animals for food with rifles, handguns, bows, blowguns, atlatl’s, and other weapons, I never once heard another hunter tell me to aim for “center mass”.
The reason for that is that outside of police circles, the term does not exist. And for good reason. It’s a bullshit term that has no relevance to reality. People use the term “center mass” because they’re lazy and ignorant. Sorry if that offends you, but that’s the bottom line. People who use the term “center mass” are admitting for all intents and purposes that they have no idea that critical structures of the human body exist in the human body that need to be interdicted by a police bullet to stop a felon’s violent actions. They are admitting that they have no idea where those vital structures are, and they have no idea how to visualize those anatomic structures in a real live human body.
If you don’t know a fact, you are ignorant of that fact. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But if that fact is highly relevant to your job, continuing to not know that fact is willful ignorance. And if your job involves training cops how to win and survive deadly force situations, not knowing that fact is in my opinion gross negligence. And if you fail to learn the fact you are ignorant of and you fail to incorporate it into your training, you’re not only negligent, you’re lazy.
In other words, police firearms instructors who continue to use the term “center mass” in training their officers are, to borrow a phrase from Chief Jeff Chudwin, “occupying a uniform that rightfully belongs to someone else.”
Defining Center Mass
In 2003, I stood up in front of 18 police LE instructors in a classroom and asked them to take out a sheet of paper and write down the definition of “center mass”, and pass them forward. During the break I read through them and was only slightly amazed to read 18 different definitions. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, because there is no credible publication anywhere that adequatly defines this bullshit term.
I then proceeded with the full SXRV curriculum, and all 18 officers passed the final evaluation with flying colors. In the end-of-day debrief, I asked each the class to raise their hands if they thought that “center mass” was useful term in training police officers in the use of dealdy force. Not one hand was raised. And one veteran officer said, “Training cops to shoot ‘center mass’ is getting good cops killed.” As each of those officers discovered, just because you think you know what center mass means doesn’t mean that the green recruit you’re training knows what you mean. And it for damn sure doesn’t mean that the armed and aggressive felon shooting at you gives a tinker’s goddam that you think you know what center mass might be!
Training cops in something that is going to get them killed is gross negligence, pure and simple.
A Better Alternative: Mediastinum, or High Chest
In Tacical Anatomy’s SXRV training, we teach relevant human target anatomy, not meaningless bullshit like “center mass”. We demonstrate to students in easily-grasped demonstrations exactlywhere the relevant target anatomy is located, and we teach our students how to visualize that anatomy in three dimensions. Which means a cop who is trained in SXRV is able to place his or her bullets where they will do the most good in the shortest time frame. The primary target area we teach is the mediastinum, or the high chest. This is both easier and harder than it sounds… trust me, you need to take the class to get the full understanding of what I’m saying. But that’s not all (cripes, I’m starting to sound like a late-night commercial for a Salad Shooter!): we also teach alternate target zones if the high chest isn’t available, or if bullets going into the primary target area are ineffective.
Better Hits = Better Outcomes
When cops learn precisely where to place their shots in an OIS, they make better hits and they miss less often. Don’t take my word for it, look at the data from agencies that have adopted SXRV for their firearms training programs. Oh, wait, you can’t look; police agencies still consider that info highly proprietary and highly classified. So you’ll have to take my word for it, after all. Sorry about that.
Example One: large midwestern metro department, 2000+ officers. In the 3 years after they eliminated “center mass” targeting and completed SXRV training for all officers, their OIS hit ratio rose from ~20% to 94%. Of 34 felons shot in 36 OIS’s, 27 were permanently removed from the criminal population. And in those 36 OIS’s not one officer was shot.
Example Two: a smallish West Coast sheriff’s office, ~50 deputies. In the two years after they eliminated “center mass” targeting and completed their SXRV training, they had a dozen OIS’s, 98% hit ratio, and 100% permanent removal of relevant felons from rescidivism. Again, zero officer casualties.
I could go on, but you get the idea. Providing better training to police officers on where to shoot the bad guys rather than flipping them off with a bullshit term like “center mass” is a training concept that our LEO’s deserve to get from us, their trainers. Shooting with xray vision stops felonious behavior before cops or innocent bystanders can be injured by violent felons.
Better hits result in better outcomes.
It’s time to purge the bullshit terms and techniques from police training so that we can guarantee the best possible outcomes from our OIS’s. “Center mass” is a term that was always bullshit. It’s time we turn it into antique bullshit.