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The Soulis Incident, and the Myth of Center Mass

This article from LawOfficer.com popped up on my Facebook feed this morning, and it struck me as important in more ways than one:

To summarize: bad guy in a car, cop decided he was a suspicious person and went to investigate; stuff went sideways, lots of shots were fired, cop was hit 3-4 times, bad guy was hit 22 (Twenty-Two) times with 40 caliber bullets and eventually succumbed.

For you coppers who follow my stuff, this may have some lessons for you in your continuing upgrade of your felony carstop/vehicle approach tactics, so look it over carefully. For everybody else, there are some terminal ballistics/effects lessons here that need to be understood.

First thing: the author of this piece, Brian McKenna, is a guy I’ve read before and I think he does a pretty good job. He’s a good writer and a former street cop with some real experience behind him.

Second thing, and to my mind, the most important thing: Brian uses terms like center chest and Center Mass like they are actually meaningful. Saying “Center Mass” sounds cool… it has the sound of the expert about it, I guess. But these terms are ANYthing but meaningful. They are not clearly defined, not clearly understood, and the result of this is that good people are getting injured and killed.

That’s right, I said it: if you persist in teaching your people to shoot “center mass”, YOU are contributing to a training scar that is going to get good cops/armed citizens KILLED.

I have multiple cases in my files that illlustrate this problem. Every one of my SXRV students for the past 10 years has seen my breakdown of the Pennsylvania OIS where the scumbag cop-ambusher absorbed nearly 22 police bullets (17 rounds of .223 and 5 rounds of 40 S&W) before he finally went down. So every one of my SXRV students knows that by shooting for Center Mass the coppers in that incident experienced a failure that resulted in the wounding and permanent disability of one of them, and could have led to their deaths. The FBI broke down the gunfight at the request of the Agency in question, and to no one’s surprise, they blamed the ammunition for the bad outcome of that fight. (The actual blame should have been placed squarely on the Agency’s firearms training program for failing to train their officers appropriately, but that would have been embarassing. It’s easier to blame ammo, since ammo doesn’t have feelings to get hurt or a career to get sidetracked.)

But it wasn’t bad ammo. The ammunition performed as it was designed to do, and the FBI proved this. It was bad shooting, which wasn’t the cops’ fault, because they had received faulty training. Despite the fact that Tactical Anatomy Systems and other trainers have been training cops on anatomically effective target acquisition for more than 20 years, the majority of cops and LE firearms instructors are still propagating the same old Center Mass bullshit.

And bullshit it is. Don’t believe me? Get you copy of Gray’s Anatomy out and look up Center Mass in the index. (What? It’s not there?!? How could that be?) Center Mass isn’t a place, or an anatomic structure, or a physiological zone of incapacitation. Center Mass is a bullshit police trainer term that means nothing more than “shoot them somewhere in the middle”. People use it to sound cool, like they know what they’re talking about, like they’re experts. It’s not just a bullshit term, folks: it’s a term better suited to use by posers than by actual trainers.

Here’s an interesting story: in my early years of teaching Tactical Anatomy, I would ask class members to write down their definition of Center Mass on a piece of paper and hand it in. I stopped doing it after a couple classes, because the results were predictable. No one could define Center Mass with any precision, and the average answer basically came down to “in the middle”.

Twenty years into this training business I am still amazed that people think it’s OK to just teach their students to shoot an armed opponent in this manner. “Oh, don’t worry about it, just shoot somewhere in the middle. You’ll be fine.” (Poser.)

If you were to walk into the bar in any hunting town in Zimbabwe or Mozambique, order up a Pimm’s with ginger, and then tell the assemblage of African dangerous game hunters that it’s OK to just shoot a Cape Buffalo “somewhere in the middle”, you’d be laughed out of the saloon, chum. DG hunters know that when you’re trying to kill something that could very easily kill you, it is essential that you put your bullets where that dangerous creature’s life depends: the heart/great vessels, the spine, or the brain. Failure to do so will not only fail to incapacitate the beast, it just might enrage him and cause an attack on your person that you very likely won’t survive.

Yet law enforcement trainers persist in telling cops that they can shoot an armed and dangerous felon–arguably the most dangerous of dangerous game on Earth–“anywhere in the middle” and expect a good outcome!!

How has this become acceptable practice? In fact, how does this not constitute malpractice? We are arming our police with deadly implements, teaching them the law of the application of those implements, then failing to teach them where their bullets need to be placed, with precision, in order to carry out their lawful duty in the most effective and efficient manner possible!

If YOU are a deadly force firearms instructor and you are doing this, I submit that you are committing malpractice. You are creating a training scar in your students that might get them killed.

I’ve had police firearms instructors tell me that teaching their people where to shoot the bad guy is ridiculous. “They’ll be so fired up in a gunfight, they’ll be lucky to hit the bad guy at all, so we teach them just to shoot Center Mass.”

Did it ever occur to one of these Neanderthal (no offense to Neanderthals, mind you) that this failure to teach precise target acquisition is precisely why their officers can’t hit the bad guy in an officer-involved shooting? Did they never hear the marksman’s axiom, “Aim small, miss small”?

Here’s what I think when I hear a firearms instructor use the term Center Mass: I think they are ignorant, and probably lazy.

Are you insulted by that? Too bad. Prove to yourself and to me that your umbrage is justified. Look at the OIS data, as I have; read the after action reviews, as I have. The evidence shows that officers who know where to shoot the bad guy are able to end the encounter faster and more effectively than those who simply try to hit the bad guy “in the middle”. Well-trained officers have a higher hit ratio, they stop the offender more effectively, and they are less likely to be shot or killed in the encounter than officers who are not so trained. The data don’t lie.

The first major metropolitan police department that adopted the SXRV program for their entire force did so nearly 20 years ago. They dropped the Center Mass nonsense and adopted 3D anatomic targeting as their standard. Their OIS hit ratio went from 20% to 94% in the first 2 years after the program was implemented, and remains above 90% to this day. More importantly to my mind, in that same 2 year period not one cop was hit by a felon’s bullet. And these numbers have been repeated in other police departments across America since then numerous times.

Here’s the deal, kids: Center Mass is a term that has been in the vocabulary of deadly force trainers waaaaaay too long. There is no excuse for continuing to use this term. “Center Mass” should never be uttered by a firearms instructor anywhere, any time, except to correct their students who come to class believing in the myth. There is far too much information out there proving that teaching our students to shoot this way is leading to bad outcomes in OIS’s and it’s getting good cops injured and killed. It should be as hated as the dreaded C-word or the N-word is in public conversations. It’s a useless concept, and the persistence by our instructors in using it needs to go away.

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Handguns for Bear Defense? Yep!

Well, the verdict is apparently in, and I for one am pleased to hear it. 

I have enjoyed a lifelong and mostly happy relationship with wild bears. I have watched them, studied them, and (occasionally) hunted them. For many years I held the belief that handguns were poorly suited tools for defense against bear attacks, based on the experience and advice of woodsmen and bear biologists who I considered more authoritative sources than I was myself. However, as early as the late 1970’s I began collecting anecdotes of hunters, campers, and other outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen who had successfully defended against bear attacks with handguns. By the time Stephen Herrero et al. came out with their report in 2012 supporting bear spray over firearms, however, my compilation of bear attack stories stood in stark opposition to Herrero’s findings. My studies and critical experience told me while Herrero’s findings confirmed that bear spray was and is effective in stopping some bear attacks, firearms were and are more effective than his study showed. 

I was still leaning toward preference for long guns as opposed to handguns for such purposes, but the lean had become a lot less acute over the years. Over the years, I had become enough of a convert that I had begun carrying a handgun while hunting in all places and at all times where legal to do so. I had in fact tested my own handguns on wild game, including small game as well as deer and hogs, and was satisfied that handguns are effective hunting tools.

In this article by journalist Dean Weingarten (https://www.ammoland.com/2019/08/handgun-or-pistol-defense-against-bear-attack-73-cases-96-effective/#axzz5wdJB1jXk ) he and his colleagues have compiled a list of 73 bear attacks defended against by handguns. They found that 96% of these attacks were successfully defended, and in many cases the handguns/calibers were what I and many others would consider suboptimal. So at this point I must concede that I am convinced of the soundness of carrying a handgun for defense against attacks by bears and other North American predator species including wolves, coyotes, and mountain lions.

So, the question of if it is practical  to carry a handgun for bear defense has been answered, but this leaves other questions wide open. These questions should include: 1) what type and caliber of handgun is truly appropriate for such purposes, 2) what type of ammunition is best suited for this purpose, 3) how should the handgun be optimally carried, and 4) how should it actually be used if and when the bear scat hits the fan?

The following answers are only my opinion, and your views may vary. But keep in mind that my answers are based on a lifetime’s experience in hunting and shooting wild animals (including bears and other Dangerous Game), on almost 30 years of critical care medicine (which involves a lot of scientific study of anatomy and physiology), on nearly 30 years of study of the effectiveness of handguns in stopping violent human offenders by police, and on a strong basic education in mammalian anatomy and physiology.

1. Caliber Choice for Bear Defense

Bears are big animals. Using a little gun (or a small caliber) just doesn’t make sense. Your bullet(s) have to reach vital anatomic structures: the same principles that we espouse in Shooting With Xray Vision for human-on-human defensive situations. Which you will recall mean either the cardiovascular bundle (CVB) in the chest, or the central nervous system (CNS).

The CVB in quadrupeds, including bears, is a lot farther inside the body than it is in humans, who walk upright with our CVB’s front and center. Unlike humans, your bear bullet(s) have to get through a thick fur coat, through much thicker and tougher skin than human skin, and tunnel through the muscle, bone and connective tissues of the chest to get to the bear’s considerably bigger- and tougher-than-human heart and great vessels. Yes, you can kill a bear with a .22 bullet to the heart… but it might take several hours, and an aggressive bear can kill you in an attack lasting seconds to minutes. So if you do that math, you might want to select a firearm of sufficient caliber to get to the CVB with a tad more energy and destructive capability than a .22

Likewise, the brain of a bear is encased in a thicker bony cranium than the human brain is… and while a light handgun caliber might get in there with enough power to end the attack, it might not.

As such, I lean strongly toward a caliber heavy enough to be used for hunting of big game. These calibers start with the 357 Magnum and larger. To be specific, this would include the 40 S&W, 41 Magnum, 44 Special, 44 Magnum, 45 ACP, 45 Colt, and any of the big magnums from 454 Casull up to 500 Linebaugh. I do not endorse the 9mm cartridge for bear defense, even though the estimable Phil Shoemaker killed a brown bear with one a few years ago. You and I ain’t Phil, with his intimate knowledge of grizzly/brown bear anatomy, and his extensive experience stopping charges by wounded bears, and we shouldn’t pretend to be. Oh, and btw, Phil habitually carries a 458 Winchester Magnum rifle and a 44 Magnum revolver when guiding bear hunters, not a 9mm.

  

1A. Handgun Type

As you can see, I’m not one of those guys who thinks you need a huge thumper of a caliber to defend against bears/predators. I am a bit more picky on handgun type, however. 

Anyone who knows me from IDPA and USPSA competition knows that I am a revolver guy. No surprise, this holds true for my hunting and predator-defense choices, as well.  Specifically, a double-action (DA) revolver is in my considered opinion the best handgun platform for bear defense. 

Semiauto pistols are not a good option, for a couple of reasons. First, they tend to be designed to shoot light-for-caliber bullets. Second, semiauto pistols have a glaring deficiency in CQB situations (and if being mauled by a bear isn’t a CQB situation, I don’t know what is!): if the muzzle is pressed against the body of the intended target, the slide and barrel may be pushed out of battery, and the weapon will not fire. Folks often discount this issue, but I have numerous reports of exactly this happening in cop-on-felon CQB gunfights.

Single Action (SA) revolvers are often cited as a good choice for bear defense, and while I own and enjoy shooting and hunting with my SA revolvers, I disagree with this option. The SA handgun can only be fired if the hammer is manually cocked. Normally this is done with the thumb of the support hand, but it can also be done with the thumb of the dominant hand. Again, if you’re in a CQB situation with an angry bruin, your support hand is very likely going to be engaged in other activities (like keeping the bear’s jaws off your skull), so you can’t count on using it to cock the hammer. And if you use your firing hand thumb to cock the hammer, you’re relinquishing more than 50% of your grip strength to do so… which doesn’t sound to me like a good firearm-retention technique in the midst of a ground fight. 

Soooo… it comes down to the double-action (DA) revolver. The DA revolver does not have the shortfalls of the semiauto pistol or the SA revolver. You can press the muzzle against your adversary and fire without fear of coming out of battery and you can fire it one-handed with your fully functional grip strength. More than one successful bear-attack survivor has noted that it took several rounds to end the attack, and a DA revolver will reliably give you 6 rounds (or more, in the case of large capacity revolvers like the S&W 696). And DA revolvers are readily found chambered for big calibers such as the 44 Magnum and 45 Colt. If you step into the custom revolver venue, Ruger Redhawks have been chambered in powerhouse rounds like the 50 AE, 460 Rowland, and even the big 475 and 500 Linebaugh. Bowen Custom Handguns in particular makes beautiful and very functional big-bore DA revolvers using the Ruger Redhawk and Super Redhawk as the base gun, and I really need one… But Ruger’s Redhawk Alaskan model is a fine factory revolver in its own right, so you don’t need to fork out the big bucks for a custom revolver unless you really want to. 

Regardless of your choice of DA revolver, make sure you can use it effectively. Take into consideration the size, grip frame, and weight of your bear-defense wheelgun, because the variations possible are enormous. A Ruger Alaskan weighs 45 ounces empty, which means you’re toting nearly 4 pounds of metal once it’s loaded. That can weigh heavy on a small-framed person. Conversely, I’ve seen folks tout the ultralight S&W M329, a Scandium frame revolver chambered in 44 Magnum; while it’s a breeze to carry at 2 pounds fully loaded, I have found it painful to shoot due to the stout recoil impulse. If it’s too painful to shoot and practice with at the range, you’re not really going to be properly prepared to use it in a life-or-death situation.

Personally, I routinely carry a S&W M625 Mountain Gun chambered in 45 Colt or a M29 chambered in 44 Magnum when I’m hunting or backpacking in bear country. These are steel guns, with 4″ barrels, and even with heavy-recoiling loads they are very manageable in my hands. I am very confident that anyone who chooses something along these lines for bear defense is about as well-armed as can be.

2. Ammunition

The bullets you load in your handgun are also important.  You want deep penetration, which is best accomplished with a flat meplat FMJ bullet or a moderately hard cast bullet of heavy weight for caliber. In a 357 Magnum, this would anything from 148 to 180 grains. In a 44 Magnum, 240 gr or up. And so on. Bullet type? A Keith-style SWC bullet or a LBT profile bullet will suit: anything with a wide, flat meplat, to cause maximum tissue destruction. Roundnose bullets may penetrate well, but are less likely to do the necessary tissue damage to stop an actively attacking predator. 

Factory ammo versus handloads? Not much to argue about there, I’m afraid. They can all work. Buffalo Bore makes some great loads for virtually all major handgun calibers. I like my own handloads in my revolvers. I use LBT-type bullets for the most part, cast to a hardness of BHN 11-14, which is plenty hard enough for bear medicine, and loaded hot. My favorite 45 Colt loads for DA revolvers employ 265 gr LBT WFN bullets, with muzzle velocities in the 1000-1100 fps range. These loads will shoot crosswise through a deer’s chest or pelvis, will penetrate 14+ inches of ballistic gelatin, and will smash through 10+ 1″ pine boards. They are plenty for bear, but not so stout that they can’t be fired fast and accurately with one hand. In the 44 Magnum, a 240 gr bullet loaded to 1100-1200 fps serves the same purpose. In my 357 Magnums, a 158 gr WFN bullet at 1300 fps or 180 gr WFN at 1100 fps will get the job done. You get the idea.  Don’t discount good JHP bullets, either. A friend of mine who was responsible for “bear control” on paper company land for a number of years culled a large number of black bears with his 44 Magnum revolver and 240 gr Hornady XTP bullets. This bullet, among others, has a great reputation for deep penetration and reliable expansion.

 

As a final observation on caliber, let me be clear: you are not doing yourself any favors by carrying a handgun that is too powerful for you to shoot effectively. Your choice of caliber and handgun needs to be based on your ability to use it. If you can’t hit the vital organs of the CVB or CNS, your handgun is pretty much a useless noisemaker. Practice with your chosen gun and ammunition. You should be able to hit a 4-6″ circle 6 times out of 6 with one hand at a range of 4 yards, and an 8″ circle with a 2-hand hold 6/6 times at 10 yards, rapid fire. If you can’t do that reliably, you need to practice more.

 3. Optimal Carry Methods

Here’s the deal, kids: a gun in your backpack or at home is not going to help you in a bear attack. In my life’s experience backpacking and camping in the mountain west, I’ve learned that close bear encounters can usually be avoided. But when they do happen, they are almost always a surprise. In most cases you won’t have time to go back to your car to fetch your rifle, or shrug off your pack and dig into it to find your handgun. You’ll either have it right there, or you won’t have it at all. Carrying your handgun in an accessible location is of paramount importance.

I tend to carry my handguns most of the time on my belt, strongside hip. This works fine if all I’m toting is a rifle or a day pack. But if I’ve got a full pack on, or I’m weaing a longer coat in cold weather,  this doesn’t work very well. Under those conditions, I prefer a holster across my chest, such as the El Paso Saddlery Tanker holster. A chest rig allows rapid one-handed access almost as quickly as a belt holster. But keep in mind that your draw and even your firing cycle will be different if you’re wearing gloves. Some DA revolvers will bind up when the trigger comes forward, trapping glove material in the action. You don’t want that to happen in a bear attack. If you must wear gloves, wear tight gloves that will not bind, and for goodness sake practice with them at the range to be sure they don’t interfere with your gun’s functionality.

When you bed down at night, you might want to consider having a lanyard loop installed on the butt of your revolver, with a lanyard around your neck and shoulder so you can pull the gun to you in a hurry if it’s needed in the middle of the night. Same thing with your flashlight. If you can’t see it, it’s real hard to shoot it. 

4. Deploying the Defensive Handgun

So when it all comes down to it, how should you use your handgun in defense against a bear attack? Well, I can’t speak from experience: even though I’ve had a lot of encounters with bears in the mountain parks of Alberta and British Columbia, none have turned violent. However, I spent a lot of time learning about bears and bear behavior in my undergraduate years, and continued in those studies so that I could avoid the circumstances that would lead to a violent bear encounter… and I’m pretty sure that a number of my bear encounters could have been nasty if I had not used my knowledge of bear behavior to reduce the risks.

So my first advice to bear-naive persons is this: learn about bears and how to avoid pissing them off. There are a number of very good books in print that you can learn from, including Stephen Herrero’s Bear Attacks, and the very good bear attack series of books by Canadian bear expert Gary Shelton. 

My second set of recommendations is based on training I received as a young biology student, and on advice from Professional Hunters of dangerous game in Africa with whom I’ve hunted dangerous game.  Basically, it comes down to this: don’t shoot until you have to. Most bear charges are “bluff” charges, and if you stand your ground the animal will break off well before contact. By waiting to fire, you will reduce the odds that you will badly injure or kill an animal that is only trying to scare you off. By waiting, you also increase your odds of hitting the animal in its CVB or CNS (depending on your point of aim). If you wait until the charging animal is very close, your odds of making a lethal/stopping hit increase immensely. Once you’ve fired, follow it up: fire as rapidly as you can hit, aiming into the vitals, and keep firing until the bear is down for good. 

Is there a place or time for a warning shot? Well, according to some experts, there is. Firing a round into the dirt at the bear’s feet while he is still posturing or even walking toward you (but not yet charging) may discourage a curious or mildly pissed-off bear enough to end the encounter.  But once the bear has started to run at you, wasting a potentially life-saving bullet makes no sense. Put your sights on the bear’s heart or brain and track him in until you know you can hit his vitals, then hit him hard and repeatedly.

Bottom Line

 In the course of my 65 years on this rock called Earth, I have spent hundrds and hundreds of days and nights in wild country occupied by bears, including many nights under canvas or sleeping under the stars. I have cooked thousands of meals, gutted game and fish, and otherwise done things that most city folks have no knoledge of, and which put me and my companions at some degree of risk of bear attack. But I have never been actually attacked by a bear in all those years. I think this is important to consider when one considers the risks any outdoorsman faces in spending time in similar country. In reality, the risk is very, very small.

I have personally killed only 3 bears in my life, and in all 3 cases, I hunted those bears with the intention of killing them. All 3 were killed with a rifle. I don’t know that I will ever care to hunt a bear again, but if I do, it will likely be with a handgun. I have that degree of confidence in my ability with my revolvers, and in their effectiveness as bear-killing machines.

And in the meantime, I will continue to carry a handgun in bear country whenever I go there, confident that such tools–along with bear spray, and my knowledge of bear behavior–will keep me and mine from serious injury. Dean Weingarten’s study underlines the sensibility of this approach.

Thanks a bunch, Dean.  

and

 

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“Just Shoot ‘Em In The Face” … Let’s talk about this!!

A Facebook page I follow, Active Self Protection, recently reprinted an article about the very real need for American cops and armed citizens to get training for the evenuality of facing a homicide bomber (the media’s term, “suicide bomber” is erroneous… these people are first and foremost murderers, so let’s call a spade a spade!). 

This article quoted the estimable Gabe Suarez as saying, “Just shoot them in the face”. Oh, boy…

First thing: I don’t know for sure if Suarez actually said that. And on the face of it (pun intended), this isn’t necessarily bad advice. But if you dig deeper, you’ll come to the Second thing.

Second thing:  such advice, if taken literally at face value–which I am sure was not Gabe’s intention–could get good people killed. In all fairness to Suarez, utterances get taken out of context. I overheard a cop at a major metro PD ‘quoting’ me to another cop, “Ah, Doc says just shoot ’em in the back of the head.” Which I did actually say, but the all-important context was not communicated!

So let’s talk about the context in which “just shooting him in the face” makes some sense. 

Here’s the problem: the trigger for a homicide bomb is most often a very simple switch that can be actuated with very little effort. So if you do not knock out  the homicide bomber’s CNS completely and immediately, he can still detonate the bomb with his last dying breath, if need be. Which, if you’re within a reasonable pistol shot’s distance from him, means you’ll draw your last dying breath at about the same time as his. The lethal radius of a typical vest bomb is 30-50 meters. 

Here’s the solution: take out the homicide bomber’s brainstem. It’s that simple. 

The brainstem is a structure at the bottom of the brain and the top of the spinal cord that has many functions, one of which is regulating your level of consciousness and attention, and another of which is relaying the “orders” from the conscious brain to the muscles that carry those orders out.  The brainstem is literally where you live and breathe… the neurological elements of heart rate and breathing control originate here.

So if you take out homicide bomber’s brainstem with a well-placed bullet, you shut down all voluntary muscle control and all somatic reflexes. He (or she, let’s not forget that women do this stuff, too) will go limp. No twitching, no movement, no nothing. 

The problem is that the brainstem is really small, and it’s in the most protected location in the human head, which makes sense from an evolutionary/survival perspective. But it’s not easy to visualize its location if you haven’t gone to medical school to learn neuroanatomy. (Unless you’ve taken our Shooting With Xray Vision class, of course!)  And if you shoot the homicide bomber anywhere else in his/her head with your service caliber pistol, you will NOT neutralize the spinal reflexes and you may leave his/her voluntary actions intact as well… which means that bomb is going to explode. 

Keep in mind I’m talking about pistol bullets here. The relative low power/velocity of pistol bullets requires extreme targeting precision to take out the brainstem. A high-power/high-velocity rifle bullet such as a .308 or even a .223 causes such severe damage with virtually any shot into the cranium that the brainstem will probably be destroyed even if the bullet doesn’t hit it precisely. But note that I emphasize the word “probably”. This is not a situation where you want to be relying on “probably”. 

Also, keep in mind that there is a good reason that in our SXRV class we emphasize making the brainstem shot with pistols. If you are so unlucky as to stumble into the vicinity of a just-gone-active homicide bomber, you won’t have time to go fetch your fancy tactical carbine out of the safe box in your car’s trunk. You’ll have to use what you have on your person at the time. 

So, back to the statement in the title to this blog entry. Can we just casually shoot the homicide bomber in the face and call it good? By now, I expect you know the answer to that. 

To illustrate my point, I’ll give you a real life example: I once had a guy come into my ER who had been shot by police. Four times. All four police bullets (40 S&W caliber) hit this guy in the head, so that means he had taken four “head shots”, but was still actively fighting police and had actually returned fire after receiving these wounds. Two of those shots were in the so-called “T-zone”, as it is called by some internet gunfighting “experts”.  

This case illustrates the folly of thinking that any/all “head shots” are equal… there is a huge potential for variance in outcomes!  Again: if your pistol bullets do not transect the brainstem, your homicide bomber may still be able to kill you. 

Part of the problem with taking “head shots” is that the shape and structure of the bones of the human skull are designed (or have evolved, if you prefer) to very efficiently protect the brain. The density of the bones and the curvature of the surface work very well to deflect any missile that comes at the skull unless the angle of incidence is very close to perpendicular to the skull’s surface. Pistol bullets striking the human head at angles less than 65-75 degrees will penetrate the skin/scalp, but will often just glance off the hard, smooth bone of the skull, tunneling under the skin to exit several inches from the entry wound without penetrating the skull. This is well-documented in the trauma literature, and it’s exactly what happened with the guy I saw in my ER with 4 bullet holes in his noggin. 

The other part of the problem is that if you don’t know where the brainstem is, your chances of hitting it are really, really poor. Think about it: in frontal anatomic presentation, the human head has a target area of about 325-400 cm2. The brainstem has a target area of about 25 cm2. If you think you can hit the brainstem by randomly shooting the head, your chance of hitting it is about 6-7%. 

Even if we round up to be generous and say your odds are 10%, that means that your chances of being blown to smithereens by a homicide bomber in that scenario are 90%. 

Now, I don’t know about you, but I think those odds suck. I’d much rather KNOW where my bullet needs to go, and be close enough to the bomber to put my pistol bullet exactly there. And by the way, the “head box” of an IPSC target, or the “T-zone” on one of those photo targets that purport to portray human anatomy, will NOT help you place your bullets in the brainstem. The T-zone is a real thing when you’re talking about acne, but in terms of ballistics and neuroanatomy, not so much. 

If you want to know specifically how to target the brainstem, you can take a SXRV class from us (or one of our SXRV-trained firearms instuctors around the nation), or you can order the Tactical Anatomy Instructor Manual and figure it out from the exercises in the book. It’s not rocket science. You don’t have to be good at math to understand and use this knowledge. But you do need to get the best source information on the subject you can find, and the place to find it is here.

And by the way, you need to able to operate your pistol with a high degree of precision. I’ve written this before, and I’ll say it again:  to effectively utilize the Tactical Anatomy Systems targeting method, you must be an Expert Class shooter. As in able to put your bullets into a target 2.5 cm X 4 cm 100% of the time from whatever range you select (typically this range needs to be well inside 5 yards, and I’m being very serious here).

One. Hundred. Percent. Of. The. Time. Or in a real homicide bomber situation, you’ll get real dead real quick. 

Retired Evanston, IL, police chief Richard Eddington wrote this to me in an email a number of years ago: “The probability that American law enforcement personnel will encounter a homicide bomber is growing. The techniques taught in Tactical Anatomy become more urgent. This may be the only option to stop a bomber and minimize casualties. This includes law enforcement personnel who, in my estimation, will invariably be too close to a homicide bomber, especially in the initial contacts law enforcement has with this type of offender. Tactical Anatomy shooting techniques will be the only possibility for law enforcement officers to extricate themselves from this situation while minimizing casualties.”

Chief Eddington is a smart guy, and this prediction is close to coming true in the near future, in my opinion. Prepare yourself accordingly. 

 

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Fight Like A Girl? Please. Don’t.

Browsing through my Facebook feed this morning, I saw a video titled “Pay Attention To The Girl”. I’ll try to past the link here:

 https://www.facebook.com/394399738035335/videos/2258746081075180/?t=0

I like this video for a couple of reasons, not the least being the apparent meting out of justice by one person on behalf of another person who appears to be the victim of a violent attack. I made a few observations as I watched it: the Bad Guy who gets knocked down shows signs of being intoxicated; the female cashier strikes the Bad Guy 3 times, and she clearly knows how to throw a good punch; the Bad Guy falls backward after the 3rd punch and appears to strike the back of his head on the tile floor, which in my experience was likely the injury that “knocked him out”. 

In a similar vein, I saw a video a while back in which a slender female does a hoppity-hop and then lays a roundhouse kick to the side of a much taller man’s head, knocking him to the ground.  Here’s the link to that video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3WsumbigBc

Again, a small female appears to deliver retribution to a larger and aggressive male with supreme authority.  Experts analyzing the footage point to a number of features that suggest this video was staged, however, and I tend to agree with them. But the video went viral nonetheless, and I have heard several younger women crowing about how this video proves a woman who knows what she is doing can take a big man down. The fact that the guy was knocked out by his head striking the floor isn’t mentioned. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for women knowing how to fight. I taught my daughters the rudiments of self-defense tactics and techniques (as much as they were willing to learn, anyway) when they were teens. In firearms training past and present I routinely work with females who demonstrate real proficiency in their combative skillsets. 

But I worry that such demonstrations may make some women dangerously over-confident, and may lead to them making decisions in encounters with aggressors that could get them seriously hurt. 

If the aggressor in the first video hadn’t been drunk, or had been inclined to put up even a token defense, or hadn’t struck his head on the floor, the outcome may have been a whole lot different. The cashier may have ended up dead. If you have to stomach for it, do a Youtube search on men kicking women in the head to see the more common result. The plain fact is that women who engage with men in fights on even terms do not do well, even when they are in the same weight class. (For the sake of brevity, I won’t get into the reasons behind fighters being grouped according to their weight, but if you have any questions about how important that is, do some google-fu and get educated.)

Along those lines, I saw a clip on the Joe Rogan Youtube podcast discussing the very real differences between men an women when it comes to martial arts. Joe is a former MMA fighter, and whether you like him or not, he knows quite a bit about fighting with feet and fists. He points out the cold, hard reality that men aren’t just bigger than women, but their muscle and bone structures are markedly different from women. By way of illustration, he holds up his fists for the camera, and I have to say, those are some impressive-looking meathooks!  He goes on to say that his fists look like that because he was training his hands for striking from childhood onward, striking hard objects to toughen them up, working on the strength in his hands, and so forth. MMA fighters tend to do that sort of thing, but they’re not the only ones. Look at the hands–more important, feel the hands–of young men who grew up on farms and ranches, working with their hands. Hard labor makes tougher hands, and tougher muscles than any amount of time in a gym can do. 

Check out Joe’s Youtube clip here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MugDgv3Nl4c

The plain fact, and I mean scientific fact, proven over and over again millions of times, is that on average men are bigger and stronger than women, they have more dense bones and muscle, they can exert more force per kilogram of body weight, they have a higher pain tolerance (yes, that’s been studied many times over, and childbirth notwithstanding, women aren’t able to absorb pain and keep going the way men can). Oh, and women have a higher susceptibilty to concussions than men, something I suspected for a long time in my sports medicine practice as a Concussion specialist, and which much research has now come out to prove.  (Here’s  link to start you off if you want to look into that whole thing:  https://healthcare.utah.edu/the-scope/shows.php?shows=0_qk20dbwr .)

Listen guys, I ain’t no misogynist. I’m a medical doctor with advanced degrees in biochemistry and endocrinology. I was steeped in the literature of the hormonal world for years, and I continue to follow this literature. I follow the science. Unfortunately, a whole lot of the Politically Correct world doesn’t. (Although they like to pound on the junk science of anthropogenic global warming as if that proves the opposite, but I digress here…)

Testosterone makes a huge difference between men and women. And it doesn’t start making that difference at puberty: it starts in utero, as the male fetus is being formed. The way boys and men make bones and muscles is literally different than the way girls and women do, and it’s becaue of testosterone. The way our brains develop is different because of testosterone. And so on, and so on.  Men behave differently than women because of testosterone. It’s the way we are made, and no amount of social science flabberjab is gonna change that. 

This makes men more resilient as fighters. It made our ancestors capable of fighting, hunting, and killing bigger, badder animals than ourselves.  Mastadons, cave bears, lions and tigers, all succumbed to our tools and our aggressive nature. I don’t call it good, but I don’t call it bad, either. It’s what happened. If it hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be here to write this, and you wouldn’t be here to read this. 

So taking the attitude that women can negate all of that biological difference by their attitude and skill set is quite simply insane. It defies logic, and it defies science. Yet people are doing it with increasing credulity, and I am stunned by this. 

Jennifer Garner made a movie recently about a bad-ass woman who takes on the entire LAPD and the Mexican Cartel called Peppermint. If you haven’t seen it, don’t bother. The fight scenes are awful, the plot ain’t much better, and every character is flawed, jaded, abused, and downright nasty from start to finish. The fight scenes will make anyone who’s done even an intro to Defensive Tactics cringe, they’re so bad, and the gunfights are beyond stupid. 

Nonetheless. I was in the ER one night a few weeks ago and overheard a few of the nurses discussing the movie, and how much they enjoyed it. They all actually believed that a woman could train to the point of being able to pull of the laughably improbable combatives Jennifer Garner displayed in this movie. I tried to gently persuade them that it wasn’t even remotely possible, but they remain convinced that women are becoming men’s equals in the warrior’s arts. 

I suppose this was inevitable. I suppose we will have to see some catastrophic defeats of American armed forces units, with large numbers of women killed and wounded, before this folly will finally be knocked off its Snowflake perch. I already see too many women with broken faces, heads, and limbs in my ER, but I am resigned to seeing more of them as “tough” women get their heads knocked in when they take on male aggressors using the skills they learned in the gym or dojo. 

I wish America would stop trying to make women into men with boobs. The narrative is a lie. The narrative is going to get some good women hurt, and hurt badly. 

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2018 Training AAR, and new Force Science Institute Paper

Greetings, war brothers and sisters, and Merry Christmas!

2018 was a busier-than-usual-lately training year for Tactical Anatomy Systems. In addition to having the honor of being asked to return to teach at the IALEFI-ATC (International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors – Annual Training Conference), I was brought in to conduct training with several LEA’s. On top of that, I was brought in to provide expert testimony in two separate (but similar) lawsuits brought by condemned men to have their executions conducted by Firing Squad. An interesting side note, this last bit… and one I’m sure will garner a lot of negative publicity for me if the mainstream media decides to act like the pack of jackals they are on this issue. 

On the training side, it was a really good year. By this I don’t mean financially, as Tactical Anatomy Systems barely breaks even at best. No, I mean it was a good year because the agencies I was brought in to train for the most part performed superbly. I would like to single out Captain Michael Maynard and his Nevada Department of Wildlife LE Division officers, who brought me out to their training facility in Winnemucca, NV, in March. This group of men and women performed at a level of firearms proficiency that met or exceeded that of any SWAT team I’ve ever trained with, and that says a lot. I’d like to point out that every group of wildlife enforcement officers I’ve ever trained was well above the average in firearms proficiency, by the way,  but this Nevada bunch was truly exceptional. 

There’s good reason for that. First, wildlife LEO’s tend to be pretty damn self-reliant types to start with. The nature of the job means they work alone 99% of the time, with no backup whatsoever, so they know they have to perform at a high enough standard to stay alive in any SHTF scenario. In other words, they are motivated to be highly proficient with their firearms. But in the Nevada DOW group, I believe they have a second advantage: a command staff that takes firearms training very, very seriously, and puts their money where their mouth is. I wish every LEA administrator in America could be more like Captain Maynard. 

However, I also trained one agency that was a grave disappointment to me. Despite their training sergeant’s claim that they were “highly trained”, this group of cops performed so poorly with their firearms I had to spend more than half the allotted range time teaching basic firearms skills. These cops never train strong-hand-only, and less than half of them had ever fired their duty handgun with their nondominant hand. They never conducted low-light shooting. They never conducted force-on-force training. Not surprisingly, they had a hard time managing even the most basic SXRV training exercises.  At the end of that training day, I had to say a prayer for the good citizens of that city, because in an armed encounter with Bad Guys, the cops there are not going to be able to help them. 

(As I’ve said before, do NOT take SXRV unless you and/or your officers have a degree of firearms proficiency equivalent to a USPSA C-class level. This is not a beginners class, nor a remedial class. It is high-performance combatives training. Come prepared. You won’t be shooting a lot of rounds, but the rounds you do shoot will have a high level of expectation attached to them. You will learn stuff at SXRV that you can use to hone your personal training and/or develop training for your department, but this is not a class designed to make you a better shooter. It’s a class that will make you a better fighter. Learning to shoot better is on YOU.)

Which brings me to the sad case of the recent Force Science Institute study analyzing the firearms performance figures for the CIty of Dallas, TX, Police Department. (I have not trained with Dallas PD, in case you wondered.) If you have not read this report, you can read a summary of it on my Facebook page or go directly to Force Science Institute’s website for the full paper. 

What it breaks down to is this: Dallas PD officers were involved in one-on-one OIS’s 149 times from 2003 to 2017 (14 years, or 10.6 OIS’s per annum). They had a hit ratio of only 35% in these OIS’s, and in more than half of those OIS’s the cops missed the target with every round.  Now, folks who’ve taken my class will already know the sad fact that this is actually better than average performance for America’s law enforcement officers, who typically hit their target only 20% of the time. But 35% is still pretty dismal, and far, far below the 80+% hit ratios being achieved by SXRV-trained agencies. 

How does this happen? 

Simple: don’t train enough, and don’t train well. Design a simple qualification CoF that any idiot can pass so as to keep them all on the streets, and call it good. That’s what Dallas PD has been doing. And it’s what many, if not most, of America’s law enforcement agencies are doing. 

Contrast that with the sort of training conducted by Sgt. Joe Szaz and the FTU of City of Milwaukee PD, with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working for many years. MPD conducts firearms inservice training quarterly, and this is in addition to shooting qualifications twice annually. Each inservice is a 4-hour session, and Milwaukee coppers typically blow off well above 100 rounds in closely regulated exercises at each training session. It’s no wonder that MPD’s hit ratio is the highest I’ve ever seen or heard of among metro police departments in America. 

Again: the difference isn’t just in the quantity and quality of the firearms training given to these deparments. It’s a top-down deal. Good command staff want their cops to have the tools they need to succeed on the streets, and they make sure they get it.  

So hats off to those great police administrators and firearms training units across America who are doing what’s needed to get this job done. Now if someone can just get the word over to Dallas PD…

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Are You Wearing Someone Else’s Uniform?

A police training advocate and former police chief, former federal prosecutor, and continuing very smart man, Chief Jeff Chudwin is a man I am honored to call my colleague and friend. I first heard him speak at the ILEETA convention in Wheeling, IL, a number of years ago. He said something then that stuck with me, and should stick with you:

“If you don’t get up and go to work every day expecting to get into a fight, then you are wearing a uniform that rightfully belongs to someone else.”

I took Jeff’s words as a personal challenge. At the time, I was the Medical Officer for the Waupaca County Sheriff’s Office and SWAT Medic. I had a uniform, a sidearm, a rifle, and I responded to SWAT callouts routinely. Now, I was never supposed to be the guy at the top of the stack of the entry team, and I was never the designated marksman with the 308 doing overwatch; I was supposed to be the guy inside the perimeter who was designated to provide second-tier emergency medical care in the hot zone.

But I was there in uniform and armor with a loaded gun, just like every other team member in that hot zone. And just because I was a doc didn’t mean I wasn’t there to get into a fight if a fight came to me. I was trained to fight and prepared to fight because every member of the team depends on every other member of the team. I would not have taken the job if I wasn’t prepared to fight. I would have stayed in my nice, safe, Emergency Department every day otherwise. 

And this is where the problem arises. In every job there are people who are good at it, dedicated to it, and who embrace the full spectrum of duties and responsibilites. But there are also people who aren’t very good at it, who may even avoid doing parts of the job that they aren’t good at or comfortable with; and this is OK, as long as they move into a position within that job that doesn’t require them to do those “undesirable” parts of the job. 

For instance, a USPS employee who has bad feet. This guy may be a great postal employee, but he’s not cut out to be a letter carrier making home deliveries. He needs a job in the post office where he can sit to do his job, or at least not have to walk as much. No problem, those jobs need people to do them too. 

Or, in the case of my Emergency Department, there are docs who are great at doing all the aspects of the job, which covers the whole spectrum of skills and talents from taking care of a toddler’s boo-boo and comforting the kid’s anxious mom (who is the real patient, most of the time, btw!) to being able to run a trauma code, intubate the critical patient, bang in the central venous lines and chest tubes, and manage the cardiac drugs that will keep him alive long enough for the surgeons to fix the internal leak. This part of the job, the critical care part of the job, is the talent/responsibility that makes the difference between and urgent care doc and a true Emergency Physician. And if a doc doesn’t have those talents, skills, and willingness to jump in to use them, he or she has no place in my Emergency Department. Funny thing: in today’s ED’s, something like 60% or more of our work is basic Family Medicine, 30% or more is complex internal medicine, and less than 10% of our work is critical care medicine. Yet the skillset and mindset that defines us as Emergency Physicians is the ability and willingness to tackle that 10%. 

It’s the same thing with cops. Yes, cops are trained to fight, shoot, tase, pepper-spray, and even shoot bad guys; but new boots quickly learn that almost all of their work is a combination of social work and traffic bylaw enforcement. Most of them grudgingly accept this, because if they wanted to be social workers, they’d have gone to school to become social workers. But a smaller minority of cops actually like the social work, and get into policing as a way of doing it. Some of them start off that way, and some of them drift that way. 

These cops may find that they like to wear the badge and the uniform, but they’re scared of the fights… and this can be good, or bad. It’s good if they recognize it and move themselves out of active patrol duty into an administrative job. Just like the postman with bad feet. But if they don’t make that change, they are putting themselves and their fellow officers at risk should the shit hit the fan.

More important, like the SRO at Parkland, FL, last week, they could put the lives of the citizens they are sworn to protect at risk. I won’t name the deputy who failed in his duty so tragically. But let his shameful lack of action serve as a beacon, like a lighthouse warning ships of a rocky shoreline, to the officers who still serve. 

The role of School Resource Officer looks awfully good to the wrong kind of cop. The chance of a fight is very low. So a cop who’s afraid to fight, or too old and close to retirement to fight, may look at the SRO job as an easy way to finish out his service and slide into his pension. But this is NOT the sort of cop we need in our schools. We need the cop who can and does get along with kids and teenagers, who can be Officer Friendly 99% of the time, but who is not afraid to get into a dust-up or a shoot-out every day.

Every. Single Day. 

As Chief Chudwin said, if you’re not the guy or gal who’s prepared to do that, you have no business wearing the badge and carrying the gun. That badge and gun belong to somebody else, and you’re just an imposter. Get out of there before you screw up, before a bunch of kids get killed due to your inability to do your job, and before your cowardice is put on display for the entire nation to see. 

Let that job go to someone who can do it. Let that job go to someone to whom it rightfully belongs. 

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Ankle Guns

M640 M65 M4442

Ankle guns.

Everybody knows about ’em, everybody talks about ’em, but hardly nobody carries ’em. Those who do are mostly old guys. Old guys like Clint Smith, whose YouTube video on ankle revolvers is short and sweet and straight to the point:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=Ym7DpuFmLy4 . Or old guys like Massad Ayoob, who I noticed was carrying a J-frame revolver on his ankle at the very first class I took from him in Indiana in 1998. Or old guys like me, who have found that ankle carry is a good option for a variety of carry conditions.

The advantages of an ankle gun are significant, as the video points out. The cop literature is full of anecdotes of coppers who have used an ankle gun when they got into a ground grapple, and in other awkward circumstances.  I’ve carried my BUG (backup gun) in a variety of locations over the years: front pocket, cargo pocket, bellyband, and other locations, but the carry location I keep coming back to is the ankle. For comfortable long-term wear and for deep concealment purposes, an ankle rig is about as good as you can get. And for some folks, ankle carry is about the only way they can carry a firearm on a regular basis due to workplace considerations. For instance, an electrician or carpenter who wears a bulky tool belt will not be able to carry his daily CCW piece on his pants belt; ankle carry can be ideal for this person. 

First thing you need to do after watching Clint’s video referenced above, is select an appropriate firearm for ankle carry. People who have never tried ankle carry sometimes have the most bizarre ideas of what will work. This issue was recently brought to my attention by a re-post of the Clint Smith ankle gun video on a Firearms page I follow in Facebook.

As is usually the case on social media, the first couple-three replies were on point, then people started posting pics of their personal favorite handguns with no regard as the practicality of the matter–one guy posted a pic of a 4″ Model 29, for cripes snakes… seriously, dude?–and in no time the discussion devolved into a Glocks vs Revolvers debate, of course. Hay-ZEUS!!!

Anyways. Firearm selection. First, it has to be reliable, like any carry firearm. Second, it has to be light, because it’s gonna be riding on your ankle, and no matter how much you work out you’re gonna notice the imbalance induced by a heavy gun carried on one ankle only. Third, it has to be small or it will not be concealable. Fourth, and I admit this is not really a firearm issue, it has to be carried in a quality ankle holster that actually works. We’ll get to this fourth item later. 

So, what about reliability? This is extra-important for ankle guns, because they tend to get really dirty, and they do it fast. After all, your feet are in the dirt, mud, cowshit, and other nastiness every day. So a gun that is finicky about being clean is not a great choice here. Tightly-fitted autos would fall into this category. Some autoloaders seem to be more impervious to muck, but in general I think revolvers are a bit better in this respect. YMMV, but if you do carry a semi-auto on your ankle, you’ll want to clean it and lubricate it frequently. How frequently? I dunno. I can only tell you that I field-strip and lube my Kahr PM9 ankle gun every couple of weeks when I’m working indoors, and if I’m going outdoors with it, I inspect it daily and clean it every 2-3 days or more, depending on how messy it’s got. And of course it gets cleaned and lubed after every range session. Revolvers seem to need less maintenance… a good wipe-down with an oiled cloth cleans them up.

In the main, revolvers tend to be solid performers even when a bit grungy, so I tend to lean in that direction. This may be a serious consideration in the event you have to shoot someone at contact or near-contact distance. Blowback of blood and tissue fragments from a GSW of this type can be significant, and all of that debris can jam your autoloader’s slide in the frame rails, rendering your autoloader useless. Revolvers work very well even with muzzle contact, as there is no reciprocating slide to get gummed up. Just keep pulling the trigger, and more bullets will happily show up at the usual muzzle velocity. (Clint’s comment about the amplification of effect of contact GSW’s is spot-on, BTW… basically, you inject the high-pressure gases from your muzzle into the wound, which can greatly amplify the amount of permanent tissue damage of the GSW.) The limited capacity of a J-frame revolver may give you pause, in which case it may make sense to you to carry an autoloader with 6 or 7 rounds in it. The choice is yours, but be aware of the pros and cons of both options.

Second factor: weight. You want your ankle gun to be light, because an ankle gun puts your body mechanics out of balance. You will find you have to change the way you stand, the way you walk, the way you cross your legs when you sit, the way you run. Now, those changes will become almost unnoticeable if the gun is light, but as you add weight this can become a serious problem. Example: a S&W Model 442 Centennial aluminum revolver (loaded) in my ankle holster  weighs 25 ounces, but a similarly sized Model 640 revolver in the same holster weighs 35 ounces. Do you think that extra 2/3 of a pound makes a difference? Well, I didn’t think it would until I carried the heavier M640 around for a few weeks and developed Achilles tendonitis in that ankle! Not good! After my doc treated me for the tendonitis, I went back to carrying the lighter M442 and its equally light autoloading compadred, the Kahr PM(, and have had no Achilles problems since. 

I know a couple of cops who have chosen a “baby” Glock for their ankle gun, reasoning that having a 9mm or 40 S&W gun that they can use their primary pistols’ magazines in makes a lot of sense. I agree with them. However, at least two of the guys I know who have made this decision found they needed to put a magazine holder on the opposite ankle to balance things out for patrol duty. They particularly noted they were clumsier when running with the gun on one ankle alone, but this seemed to improve with a couple of magazines on the other ankle to even things out. I haven’t tried it, so I can’t comment one way or another, but balancing your ankle weights makes intuitive sense to me. 

Third factor: size. Small is good for ankle carry, and smaller is better. The primary reason is that you have to pull up your pants cuff to access the gun, and you want this operation to be as smooth as possible. So a small gun with smooth grips worn under loose trousers make the most sense here. Skinny jeans have no place, obviously (not that they ever do, IMHO!). Now, for T&E purposes I have tried carrying a larger gun on my ankle… as it happens a S&W Model 65 3″ K-frame. I found I had problems with the extra weight (42 ounces, loaded), but the real problem was pulling my pants leg up to access the gun due to the larger size of the K-frame compared with the J-frame. Likewise, I tried a friend’s Glock 26 in his ankle holster for a few days, but found the weight of the rig (37 ounces) and its bulk was significantly more bothersome than my Kahr PM9 (22 ounces). 

 

 

 

Size comparison: Smith & Wesson Model 640 (top), 65 (middle), and 442 (bottom). The M442 with CTC Lasergrips weighs 25 ounces in an Alessi ankle holster fully loaded, compared to 35 ounces for the M640, and 42 ounces for the M65. 

 

As Clint Smith commented in his video clip, once you get used to the weight and bulk of your ankle gun, you won’t even notice it’s there. This may take a few hours to a few days, in my experience, but the lighter the gun, the sooner you will become comfortable with it. 

The fourth factor to consider is the holster itself. I’ve personally tried half a dozen different ankle holsters, and have only been satisfied with two: the Alessi model, long considered the industry standard, and ComforTac. I’ve had my Alessi holster for almost 20 years; it was made for me personally by the late Lou Alessi, with whom I had become good friends on the internet and over the phone. Lou developed his holster for the most demanding customers there are, American cops. Mine has logged thousands of hours over the years, both in civilian use and on-duty use. The molded leather holster grips your gun very tightly without needing a hammer strap, something that I was initially leery of, but which I found was never a problem. You can run, jump, ride horses and bicycles, or any other activity you care to name, and your gun will stay put.  I carry a S&W M442 Centennial Airweight in mine most often, which in my experience is the ideal ankle revolver. You can buy one or more of these excellent holsters from Alessi Holsters online. The ComforTac holster is the only non-leather ankle holster I’ve tried that works as advertised: the gun is held in an elastic pocket by the power of the elastic band and the security of a thumb-snap safety. Unlike most elastic holsters, this one actually keeps my gun firmly on my ankle quite comfortably, almost as comfortably as the Alessi model. I have carried a Kahr PM9 in this holster nearly every day for about 2 years, and I’m pleased to report that it works. 

Ankle holsters work best when worn over top of a long sock. The sock helps pad the holster and keep it in place. But keep in mind that the rig will slide downward due to the tapered anatomy of the lower leg, until it hits something that will keep it from sliding further, which is typically the top of your boot or shoe. For this reason, I find wearing an ankle-high lace-up boot to be the best footwear choice. This not only puts the gun up a little higher inside your pants cuff, it keeps the holster off your ankle bones, which is a lot more comfortable. If you prefer to wear a low-cut shoe, you can improve your holster’s concealment and your wear comfort by putllng a second sock over top of the holster. A friend of mine who works as a paramedic does this, but he cuts the front of the foot portion off his oversock, so that it doesn’t make his shoe too tight. I’ve tried it, and it works, but I still prefer to wear an ankle-high boot most of the time with my ankle holsters. Also, if you wear cowboy boots or motorcycle boots, you can wear your ankle holster higher up on the calf inside the top of your boot. 

 

Ankle Rigs Two ankle holsters that work.

 

Drawing your firearm from an ankle holster isn’t slick or pretty. I’ve tried a variety of methods, but they all come down to either a) bending over to get to the gun, or b) bringing the leg up to where you can get the gun. The bendover method works best for me: step back and out with the right (non-gun) leg, grab the trousers below the knee and rip upward, then draw the exposed handgun. Dropping onto the right knee as I bring the gun up allows rapid presentation of the gun to the threat, but taking the time to rise to a standard stance enhances your mobility options. Situational variables will dictate which presentation is best. 

Since small guns tend to be harder to shoot well, I tend to practice with mine at every range session. I carry a spare magazine for the Kahr in a pocket on my left side, and a Speed Strip for my revolver in a right-side pocket. Practicing your reloads from these non-traditional spare ammo locations is a good idea. Also, spending the cash to get a Crimson Trace Laser grip for your hideout gun is a wise investment. I am comfortable with hitting the -0 zone of an IDPA target with my ankle guns’ open sights quite quickly out to 12 yards, but with a CTC laser I can extend that effective range well past 25 yards. 

So, should you try ankle carry? I think it’s an option that every serious CCW person needs to consider. However, the costs involved in buying a dedicated ankle gun and holster might be daunting if not prohibitive for some folks. If that’s the case for you, it might be best to borrow an ankle rig from a friend, or perhaps two or three people can share the expense of a try-out rig that they can all test. But my guess is that every serious defensive firearms person should have this option for carry to fall back on when/if it is expedient or even mandatory for your personal safety. 

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Wound Ballistics — Practical Issues

I came across a great, great little article on the interwebs the other day on Active Response Training’s Facebook Page ( http://www.activeresponsetraining.net/stop-worrying-about-overpenetration ) that you NEED to read. And if you’ve never shot a living animal or person before, you really, really, REALLY need to read it. 

BTW, the article is written by a guy whose writings have been impressing me for a couple of years: Greg Ellifritz. I don’t know this man, we’ve never met. But we have apparently taken training from a lot of the same people, who also happen to be pretty switched-on thinking-about-shooting kinds of people, because so far I’ve found almost nothing in Greg’s writings that I disagree with. Now, that is what we in Pulp Fiction movie-quoting circles call, “a bold statement”.  I typically disagree with parts of just about everybody’s writing, for what I think are good reasons. But two internet writers seem to keep coming back to haunt me with their consistent right-on-ness, and one of them’s Greg Ellifritz. The other, if you must know, is Kathy Jackson. But this is by the by… what’s important here is the content, and the implications of that content. 

You need to read Greg’s article because, as he points out, most defensive-minded gun folks have never shot a real living person or animal, and that is setting them up for Big Time Failure. 

This is important, people. One of the big problems with so-called “tactical training” in America as practiced by 90% of the “tactical trainers” out there is that their classes do not effectively reproduce the major factors at play in a real Deadly Force Situation (DFS).  If you’ve taken one of my Shooting With Xray Vision classes, or Ken Murray’s SIMUNITION school, you will have heard the term Simulator Fidelity.  Literally, this refers to the training being faithful to the actual facts of a DFS. The more closely a training situation reproduces the features of a reall DFS, the greater the degree of Simulator Fidelity that training has. Full-on SIMUNITION force-on-force training has very high Simulator Fidelity, and about as high a degree of Simulator Fidelity as is possible without actually shooting real people. Good Airsoft FoF training can be just as good.

But most “tactical training” is dumbed down to the point that it fails to even remotely simulate the realities of a DFS. As trainers eliminate the critical salient features of real DFS’s–things like 360 degree fields of fire, low light conditions, incoming rounds, getting shot your ownself, etc–the degree of Simulation Fidelity of your “tactical” training is degraded further and further. 

Eventually, when you get to the point where the shooters are on a straight firing line on a square range shooting stationary, flat, paper targets that bear no resemblance to an actual person, your Simulator Fidelity has dropped to about as low as it can go… but this is the commonplace “standard” for 90% or more of the “tactical” training civilians have access to in America. 

And this is creating a huge training scar. 

If you’ve followed my blog or taken my class, you’ve heard about training scars. Training scars are unintended consequences of training that set the shooter up for failure when they get into a real LFS. And I think that the fact that 90% or more of defensive-minded armed citizens have never shot anything remotely resembling living flesh is setting them up for a bad, possibly fatal, training scar. Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t be training people on square ranges on paper targets, not at all. Such training is essential for learning the basic and even intermediate level of skill needed to operate a defensive firearm. But at some point you’ve got to get past the square range and into the life laboratory. 

So: the critical point of today’s blog, the very point that Mr. Ellifritz addressed in his article, is that too many folks are hung up on narrow ideas that have become commonly accepted, even dogmatic, but that have very low Simulator Fidelity. This has happened with gelatin testing. Somehow, people have got the crazy notion that the performance of bullets in ballistic gelatin is equivalent to their bullets’ performance in the Real World. So, the noob’s thinking goes, since their bullets will always penetrate 12+ inches of gelatin, they have to worry about what’s going to happen after their bullets shoot right through their 10″ thick opponent and sail on through to strike something or someone else on the other side. 

As the article states, however, the reality of bullets’ terminal performance in flesh is very, very different from the terminal performance of those same bullets in gelatin.  The varying densities of different tissues in the body have profound effects on the penetration a bullet attains. For instance, a bullet fired into the right side of the chest of an attacker that strikes the subject when he’s straight-up facing you is going to follow a very different path than a bullet that strikes him in the midline. Let’s examine those two examples. 

In the first case, the bullet will perforate the chest wall (~1.5″ thick) and then have very low density tissue (lung) to traverse for the next 6-7 inches, then it will penetrate and possibly perforate the posterior chest wall (2.5″). Total measured depth is something like 10-11″, so based on gelatin testing of your bullet/load which shows it penetrating 14+ inches of gelatin, that bullet should exit the body with lots of energy to spare, right?  Well, not so fast, junior. First thing you have to consider is whether the bullet strikes bone (rib, scapula) in the anterior or posterior chest wall. Bone really, really slows bullets down. So if your bullet hits rib on entry, then hits rib on the posterior wall, then hits the scapula after that, it may not have enough energy left over to exit the skin. And even if it doesn’t hit any bone, the skin of the back is the thickest and toughest skin on the human body… and it stretches like Billy-o, so bullets with less than optimal velocity will simply tent the skin outward, then the skin snaps back and the bullet is trapped under the skin. 

So we really don’t know if that bullet of yours will go all the way through, or if it will stop in the body. But to this point, we have only discussed the terminal ballistics of that GSW. We haven’t even begun to talk about the terminal effects of that GSW! But before we get to terminal effects, let’s look at Example #2. 

In this second case, the bullet is striking the chest in the midline, perpendicular to the surface. Let’s say this bullet strike is one inch up from the xyphisternum. This means that the bullet will strike bone (sternum) as soon as it enters the anterior chest wall, and after perforating the chest wall, it passes through a small space (1-2 cm) and then strikes the heart. The heart is a tough, resilient, organ comprised of dense tissues. The bullet chews its way through that, then after perforating the rear wall of the heart, it has to break through the posteriorly located aorta and/or vena cave, then after that the tough and stretchy connective tissue membrane surrounding this bundle of heart and blood vessels. This connective tissue isn’t as tough as skin, but it’s tough enough we have to consider it. Then, the bullet strikes the complex of muscle, bone, and connective tissue comprising the thoracic spinal column. This is where most handgun bullets give up the ghost. By this time the bullet has traversed a good 4-5″ of tough tissue and bone, which has slowed it considerably. One can only assume that the theoretical 1000 fps of velocity the bullet had on leaving your gun’s muzzle has been diminished significantly, perhaps by as much as two-thirds. Its residual momentum or energy will be similarly diminished. If the bullet strikes the vertebral column i the midline, it will have about 1″ of muscle and connective tissue to go through, then it will hit the very hard, very dense bone of the body of a thoracic vertebra, which is about 2″ thick. Few handgun bullets will make it all the way through, and I would venture to say that no service/defensive caliber bullet would do so. The total thickness of tissue penetrated by your bullet in this case is probably something along the order of 8 or 9 inches. And there’s still another 3-4″ of tissues to traverse on the other side of its stopping point!

Now, what does these two examples tell you about the physical performance of your 14+ inch gelatin-penetrating bullet in real flesh? 

If your answer was, “It don’t tell me shit!”, you would be correct. 

Gelatin testing is not a measure of what a bullet will do in flesh. It is an artificial standard that helps us compare one bullet to another. It tells us nothing about actual wound ballistics, but it’s a pretty good predictor of general bullet performance in a real body, as long as you consider the enormous number of variables in tissue and wound track in a body. 

But let’s get back to terminal effects in our example. We’ll look at them in reverse order. Bullet #2 perforated the Bad Guy’s heart, after fracturing his sternum; it lacerated the Great Vessels behind his heart, causing instant massive bleeding, and then as if that wasn’t enough damage, it caused a massive fracture of a vertebra which in all likelihood stunned the thoracic spinal cord, paralyzing him from the chest down. He falls to the ground, losing consciousness in seconds, and in all likelihood dies within 2-3 minutes. Needless to say, his attack on you was aborted milliseconds after the bullet struck his body. This is a Good Thing in the world of self-defense. 

Now, let’s go back to the first bullet, which we’ll assume punched all the way through our attacker’s chest, exited the body with a couple hundred of fps of velocity still dripping off it. It could, theoretically, hit an innocent bystander on the other side, and injure him. In the real world, though, this is pretty unlikely. The bullet will have shed at least 2/3 of its velocity in traversing the chest, so it will be moving slower than a pellet out of a BB gun. It may strike a second person, but it won’t have the energy to penetrate much, if at all. So that is a non-issue. Let’s look at what the bullet has done to our attacker’s anatomy, physiology, and his ability to carry on his attack. Well, on that score anyone who’s taken my Shooting With Xray Vision class knows we’re in trouble. We’ve put a hole in him, sure, but we haven’t  hit–let alone destroyed–anything he is going to need for fighting purposes in the next 10 or 15 minutes. In other words, he will be capable of continuing his attack. This is a Bad Thing. 

And herein lies the trap, the Training Scar. If all your training has been on flat paper targets with no real Simulator Fidelity, you’re going to expect that bullet to stop the attack. After all, you shot him in the chest, didn’t you? Every time you’ve scored a hit inside the 10-ring on your B27 target, or the A-zone of your IPSC target, your instructor has patted you on the back and said, “Attaboy, you killed him good”, didn’t he? But that shit ain’t reality; in point of fact you have not come even close to stopping this bad guy! 

How is that going to affect your performance in this DFS, this fight for your life? You expected him to fall down, to stop fighitng, but he’s still coming on! Your thoughts are racing: “What’s wrong? Is there something wrong with my gun? Is there something wrong with my ammunition? What’s wrong? What’s wrong? What’s wrong? What do I do now?

You get stuck in a paralyzing cycle of disbelief, confusion, and doubt. Your mind and body freeze up. And as you stand there trying to figure out why this situation that you trained so hard for hasn’t gone the way you expected it to, and your attacker murders you with the contact weapon in his hand. 

This, my friends, is what can happen when you have a Training Scar in your mindset. I have read and heard of numerous examples of this very thing happening in real fights, in real DFS’s. It happens to cops, it happens to non-LE civilians. And I hate to say it, but most of you probably have those Training Scars in your heads, and you don’t even know it, and you are ripe for it happening to you. Worst thing, you can’t possibly know it until/unless you get into a DFS and the Training Scars result in you being injured or killed. 

So how can you fix this?

If I could tell you one thing that might jolt that Training Scar out of your head, I would tell you this: break out of your tired old training mindset. It will take some work, some time, and a little money, but it is do-able. 

First step: take at least one good force-on-force training school. These aren’t easy to find, but they are valuable beyond belief. My training company partner, David Maglio, and I used to offer such a school which we called Deadly Force Decisions.  It was a helluva good class. People who took it were amazed, and profoundly grateful to have that training. But we stopped offering it because nobody would sign up for it. People like Henk Iversen (Strike Force Tactical) offer something like it, as do other high-end trainers in America, and even they have trouble getting people to sign up. I wish I could tell you why. 

Second step: kill something. I’m not kidding. Go to an organic farm and buy a slaughter hog and kill it. If you don’t know how, get the farmer to show you, or get a friend who’s a deer hunter to take you. Get up close to the animal, look it in the eyes, and kill it with your carry pistol. Shoot it in the head, between the eyes. Learn what it means to take a life. This isn’t easy for most city folks to do, but consider this: if you can’t kill a farm animal that’s going to die soon anyway, how on earth are you going to shoot a human being at close, deadly-force, distance? I only know of one firearms instructor who does this in his class, and it’s in his most advanced class. People in that class have taken over 100 hours of firearms and Use of Force training by the time they face their pig, and some folks find that they just can’t do it. Better to learn you can’t kill another living being in a class than when you’re faced with an armed and dangerous adversary who wants to kill you.

Third step:  after your freshly killed hog is dead, shoot it a few more times to learn a bit about what your gun and bullets will do in flesh (don’t waste the good meat by shooting the hindquarters, but shoot the chest. Then shoot it in the chest with your AR-15, or your home defense shotgun. See for yourself what your weapons can and will actually do. If you’re already a hunter, next time you kill a deer or a feral hog, take some test shots into the animal’s chest and/or neck and/or shoulders with your defensive firearms. 

If you can do these 3 things, you will have eliminated at least 2 or 3 of the biggest Training Scars that defensive minded armed citizens have picked up in their training over the years. And that could well save your life, or that of your loved ones. 

Failure is not an option. Do the work, take the training, and get rid of those goddam deadly Traning Scars. 

 

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Wound Ballistics — Practical Issues

I came across a great, great little article on the interwebs the other day on Active Response Training’s Facebook Page ( http://www.activeresponsetraining.net/stop-worrying-about-overpenetration ) that you NEED to read. And if you’ve never shot a living animal or person before, you really, really, REALLY need to read it. 

BTW, the article is written by a guy whose writings have been impressing me for a couple of years: Greg Ellifritz. I don’t know this man, we’ve never met. But we have apparently taken training from a lot of the same people, who also happen to be pretty switched-on thinking-about-shooting kinds of people, because so far I’ve found almost nothing in Greg’s writings that I disagree with. Now, that is what we in Pulp Fiction movie-quoting circles call, “a bold statement”.  I typically disagree with parts of just about everybody’s writing, for what I think are good reasons. But two internet writers seem to keep coming back to haunt me with their consistent right-on-ness, and one of them’s Greg Ellifritz. The other, if you must know, is Kathy Jackson. But this is by the by… what’s important here is the content, and the implications of that content. 

You need to read Greg’s article because, as he points out, most defensive-minded gun folks have never shot a real living person or animal, and that is setting them up for Big Time Failure. 

This is important, people. One of the big problems with so-called “tactical training” in America as practiced by 90% of the “tactical trainers” out there is that their classes do not effectively reproduce the major factors at play in a real Deadly Force Situation (DFS).  If you’ve taken one of my Shooting With Xray Vision classes, or Ken Murray’s SIMUNITION school, you will have heard the term Simulator Fidelity.  Literally, this refers to the training being faithful to the actual facts of a DFS. The more closely a training situation reproduces the features of a reall DFS, the greater the degree of Simulator Fidelity that training has. Full-on SIMUNITION force-on-force training has very high Simulator Fidelity, and about as high a degree of Simulator Fidelity as is possible without actually shooting real people. Good Airsoft FoF training can be just as good.

But most “tactical training” is dumbed down to the point that it fails to even remotely simulate the realities of a DFS. As trainers eliminate the critical salient features of real DFS’s–things like 360 degree fields of fire, low light conditions, incoming rounds, getting shot your ownself, etc–the degree of Simulation Fidelity of your “tactical” training is degraded further and further. 

Eventually, when you get to the point where the shooters are on a straight firing line on a square range shooting stationary, flat, paper targets that bear no resemblance to an actual person, your Simulator Fidelity has dropped to about as low as it can go… but this is the commonplace “standard” for 90% or more of the “tactical” training civilians have access to in America. 

And this is creating a huge training scar. 

If you’ve followed my blog or taken my class, you’ve heard about training scars. Training scars are unintended consequences of training that set the shooter up for failure when they get into a real LFS. And I think that the fact that 90% or more of defensive-minded armed citizens have never shot anything remotely resembling living flesh is setting them up for a bad, possibly fatal, training scar. Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t be training people on square ranges on paper targets, not at all. Such training is essential for learning the basic and even intermediate level of skill needed to operate a defensive firearm. But at some point you’ve got to get past the square range and into the life laboratory. 

So: the critical point of today’s blog, the very point that Mr. Ellifritz addressed in his article, is that too many folks are hung up on narrow ideas that have become commonly accepted, even dogmatic, but that have very low Simulator Fidelity. This has happened with gelatin testing. Somehow, people have got the crazy notion that the performance of bullets in ballistic gelatin is equivalent to their bullets’ performance in the Real World. So, the noob’s thinking goes, since their bullets will always penetrate 12+ inches of gelatin, they have to worry about what’s going to happen after their bullets shoot right through their 10″ thick opponent and sail on through to strike something or someone else on the other side. 

As the article states, however, the reality of bullets’ terminal performance in flesh is very, very different from the terminal performance of those same bullets in gelatin.  The varying densities of different tissues in the body have profound effects on the penetration a bullet attains. For instance, a bullet fired into the right side of the chest of an attacker that strikes the subject when he’s straight-up facing you is going to follow a very different path than a bullet that strikes him in the midline. Let’s examine those two examples. 

In the first case, the bullet will perforate the chest wall (~1.5″ thick) and then have very low density tissue (lung) to traverse for the next 6-7 inches, then it will penetrate and possibly perforate the posterior chest wall (2.5″). Total measured depth is something like 10-11″, so based on gelatin testing of your bullet/load which shows it penetrating 14+ inches of gelatin, that bullet should exit the body with lots of energy to spare, right?  Well, not so fast, junior. First thing you have to consider is whether the bullet strikes bone (rib, scapula) in the anterior or posterior chest wall. Bone really, really slows bullets down. So if your bullet hits rib on entry, then hits rib on the posterior wall, then hits the scapula after that, it may not have enough energy left over to exit the skin. And even if it doesn’t hit any bone, the skin of the back is the thickest and toughest skin on the human body… and it stretches like Billy-o, so bullets with less than optimal velocity will simply tent the skin outward, then the skin snaps back and the bullet is trapped under the skin. 

So we really don’t know if that bullet of yours will go all the way through, or if it will stop in the body. But to this point, we have only discussed the terminal ballistics of that GSW. We haven’t even begun to talk about the terminal effects of that GSW! But before we get to terminal effects, let’s look at Example #2. 

In this second case, the bullet is striking the chest in the midline, perpendicular to the surface. Let’s say this bullet strike is one inch up from the xyphisternum. This means that the bullet will strike bone (sternum) as soon as it enters the anterior chest wall, and after perforating the chest wall, it passes through a small space (1-2 cm) and then strikes the heart. The heart is a tough, resilient, organ comprised of dense tissues. The bullet chews its way through that, then after perforating the rear wall of the heart, it has to break through the posteriorly located aorta and/or vena cave, then after that the tough and stretchy connective tissue membrane surrounding this bundle of heart and blood vessels. This connective tissue isn’t as tough as skin, but it’s tough enough we have to consider it. Then, the bullet strikes the complex of muscle, bone, and connective tissue comprising the thoracic spinal column. This is where most handgun bullets give up the ghost. By this time the bullet has traversed a good 4-5″ of tough tissue and bone, which has slowed it considerably. One can only assume that the theoretical 1000 fps of velocity the bullet had on leaving your gun’s muzzle has been diminished significantly, perhaps by as much as two-thirds. Its residual momentum or energy will be similarly diminished. If the bullet strikes the vertebral column i the midline, it will have about 1″ of muscle and connective tissue to go through, then it will hit the very hard, very dense bone of the body of a thoracic vertebra, which is about 2″ thick. Few handgun bullets will make it all the way through, and I would venture to say that no service/defensive caliber bullet would do so. The total thickness of tissue penetrated by your bullet in this case is probably something along the order of 8 or 9 inches. And there’s still another 3-4″ of tissues to traverse on the other side of its stopping point!

Now, what does these two examples tell you about the physical performance of your 14+ inch gelatin-penetrating bullet in real flesh? 

If your answer was, “It don’t tell me shit!”, you would be correct. 

Gelatin testing is not a measure of what a bullet will do in flesh. It is an artificial standard that helps us compare one bullet to another. It tells us nothing about actual wound ballistics, but it’s a pretty good predictor of general bullet performance in a real body, as long as you consider the enormous number of variables in tissue and wound track in a body. 

But let’s get back to terminal effects in our example. We’ll look at them in reverse order. Bullet #2 perforated the Bad Guy’s heart, after fracturing his sternum; it lacerated the Great Vessels behind his heart, causing instant massive bleeding, and then as if that wasn’t enough damage, it caused a massive fracture of a vertebra which in all likelihood stunned the thoracic spinal cord, paralyzing him from the chest down. He falls to the ground, losing consciousness in seconds, and in all likelihood dies within 2-3 minutes. Needless to say, his attack on you was aborted milliseconds after the bullet struck his body. This is a Good Thing in the world of self-defense. 

Now, let’s go back to the first bullet, which we’ll assume punched all the way through our attacker’s chest, exited the body with a couple hundred of fps of velocity still dripping off it. It could, theoretically, hit an innocent bystander on the other side, and injure him. In the real world, though, this is pretty unlikely. The bullet will have shed at least 2/3 of its velocity in traversing the chest, so it will be moving slower than a pellet out of a BB gun. It may strike a second person, but it won’t have the energy to penetrate much, if at all. So that is a non-issue. Let’s look at what the bullet has done to our attacker’s anatomy, physiology, and his ability to carry on his attack. Well, on that score anyone who’s taken my Shooting With Xray Vision class knows we’re in trouble. We’ve put a hole in him, sure, but we haven’t  hit–let alone destroyed–anything he is going to need for fighting purposes in the next 10 or 15 minutes. In other words, he will be capable of continuing his attack. This is a Bad Thing. 

And herein lies the trap, the Training Scar. If all your training has been on flat paper targets with no real Simulator Fidelity, you’re going to expect that bullet to stop the attack. After all, you shot him in the chest, didn’t you? Every time you’ve scored a hit inside the 10-ring on your B27 target, or the A-zone of your IPSC target, your instructor has patted you on the back and said, “Attaboy, you killed him good”, didn’t he? But that shit ain’t reality; in point of fact you have not come even close to stopping this bad guy! 

How is that going to affect your performance in this DFS, this fight for your life? You expected him to fall down, to stop fighitng, but he’s still coming on! Your thoughts are racing: “What’s wrong? Is there something wrong with my gun? Is there something wrong with my ammunition? What’s wrong? What’s wrong? What’s wrong? What do I do now?

You get stuck in a paralyzing cycle of disbelief, confusion, and doubt. Your mind and body freeze up. And as you stand there trying to figure out why this situation that you trained so hard for hasn’t gone the way you expected it to, and your attacker murders you with the contact weapon in his hand. 

This, my friends, is what can happen when you have a Training Scar in your mindset. I have read and heard of numerous examples of this very thing happening in real fights, in real DFS’s. It happens to cops, it happens to non-LE civilians. And I hate to say it, but most of you probably have those Training Scars in your heads, and you don’t even know it, and you are ripe for it happening to you. Worst thing, you can’t possibly know it until/unless you get into a DFS and the Training Scars result in you being injured or killed. 

So how can you fix this?

If I could tell you one thing that might jolt that Training Scar out of your head, I would tell you this: break out of your tired old training mindset. It will take some work, some time, and a little money, but it is do-able. 

First step: take at least one good force-on-force training school. These aren’t easy to find, but they are valuable beyond belief. My training company partner, David Maglio, and I used to offer such a school which we called Deadly Force Decisions.  It was a helluva good class. People who took it were amazed, and profoundly grateful to have that training. But we stopped offering it because nobody would sign up for it. People like Henk Iversen (Strike Force Tactical) offer something like it, as do other high-end trainers in America, and even they have trouble getting people to sign up. I wish I could tell you why. 

Second step: kill something. I’m not kidding. Go to an organic farm and buy a slaughter hog and kill it. If you don’t know how, get the farmer to show you, or get a friend who’s a deer hunter to take you. Get up close to the animal, look it in the eyes, and kill it with your carry pistol. Shoot it in the head, between the eyes. Learn what it means to take a life. This isn’t easy for most city folks to do, but consider this: if you can’t kill a farm animal that’s going to die soon anyway, how on earth are you going to shoot a human being at close, deadly-force, distance? I only know of one firearms instructor who does this in his class, and it’s in his most advanced class. People in that class have taken over 100 hours of firearms and Use of Force training by the time they face their pig, and some folks find that they just can’t do it. Better to learn you can’t kill another living being in a class than when you’re faced with an armed and dangerous adversary who wants to kill you.

Third step:  after your freshly killed hog is dead, shoot it a few more times to learn a bit about what your gun and bullets will do in flesh (don’t waste the good meat by shooting the hindquarters, but shoot the chest. Then shoot it in the chest with your AR-15, or your home defense shotgun. See for yourself what your weapons can and will actually do. If you’re already a hunter, next time you kill a deer or a feral hog, take some test shots into the animal’s chest and/or neck and/or shoulders with your defensive firearms. 

If you can do these 3 things, you will have eliminated at least 2 or 3 of the biggest Training Scars that defensive minded armed citizens have picked up in their training over the years. And that could well save your life, or that of your loved ones. 

Failure is not an option. Do the work, take the training, and get rid of those goddam deadly Traning Scars. 

 

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“Limb Shots”…. Really? REALLY?!?

Soooo… today I stumbled across a blog article on Breach-Bang-Clear about “limb shots”.  This is a cop-oriented site, as far as I can tell. I’ve read several articles on it that have made some good sense. But this one…. no. 

At first, my eye was tagged by the graphic in the article lead on Facebook… targets on the extremities, and one on the lateral gluteal formation that made me think, “Aha! Maybe someone has twigged onto the idea of shooting the lateral pelvis!” But sadly, no. Just… no 

The article’s author raised several really good points against taking shots at bad guys’ arms and legs:

  1. Cops and law enforcement agencies will be highly resistant to the idea, so the battle is gonna be steeply uphill; 
  2. Training cops in a “limb shot protocol” will open up LEOs and LEAs to lawsuits any time they shoot a bad guy anywhere EXCEPT a limb;
  3. Shooting bad guys with knives (and presumably other contact weapons) is the best use of limb shots, but guys with knives are a lot more deadly than the public at large realizes, so shooting them in the leg because “he’s only armed with a knife” is asking to get sliced and diced;
  4. Shooting someone in the leg or arm might still kill them (duh… it’s use of DEADLY force, guys);
  5. Shooting someone in the arm or leg intentionally requires a high degree of proficiency in a high-stress situation, which doesn’t happen very damn often.

But then the author says we should still talk about limb shots, because we need to show the public that we care. Seriously. 

Sigh. Listen up, kids: as anyone who’s trained people to shoot pistols knows that most people suck at shooting handguns. Cops are no exception. In fact, cops are, on average, worse than recreational pistol competitors. We have cops train on human-size targets, and then we give them a generous hit zone to perforate to qualify with their sidearm, and then we let them loose on the street with periodic re-quals, but we know damn well that in between quals they won’t shoot their pistol at all, at all. 

 

Hitting a target the size of an arm or a leg with your service sidearm, even if it’s holding still and you’re inside 7 yards of it, is not something most people can do at all, let alone in the heat of action. Think about it. The actual target is a joint the size of a Post-It note, or a bone less than an inch wide. How many cops do you know who can hit a playing card, first shot out of a cold barrel, at 7 yards? Maybe one in a hundred? One in five hundred? Now, let’s have that Post-It note start swinging around and see how many can hit it.  When I was competing actively in IDPA and IPSC competition I regularly shot 250 rounds 2-3 times per week for 25-30 weeks of the year, and even when I was at my peak and winning State and Regional matches, I would have had a hard time shooting that Post-It Note. 

That’s the reality of it, folks. It’s gonna be the size of a Post-It note, it’s gonna be swinging and bouncing around, and it’s coming AT YOU at 21 feet per second with a razor-sharp knife attached to it. 

Forget it. Just… no. 

Listen, it doesn’t matter if some members of the public think we don’t care. They’re going to think we don’t care even if we shoot a hundred young men in the legs, trust me on this. So let’s get past that nonsense right off the bat. 

But there is an alternative here.  If you want to make a difference in your shooting options, and in your FTU inservice program, you can start teaching your cops to shoot the lateral pelvis as an alternate targeting zone, and that is a helluva lot more do-able than any “limb shot protocol” I’ve ever heard of, and it MIGHT make people think that you care more about the welfare of your local felons than they do now. So that’s a win-win, right?

Think about it: the lateral pelvis is actually a larger area in frontal presentation than the High Chest. (The High Chest is our primary target zone in Tactical Anatomy’s Shooting With Xray Vision). So it’s actually a moderately feasible shot to make on a perpetrator armed with a contact weapon who is facing you at a distance of 7-10 yards. Even if he starts to charge at you it’s feasible, because as anyone who’s played football or hockey knows, no matter how much the arms and legs and head flail and bob and juke, the pelvis stays stable and moves in a more or less linear fashion. Which is why your coach taught you to tackle your opponent around the hips. 

And you get more bang for your buck when you shoot the lateral pelvis. A pelvic fracture is possible or even probable, and once the perp’s hip/pelvis is broken, he’s going to ground, and he ain’t gonna get up and run any more. If you don’t believe me, ask your local orthopedic surgeon about the “weight-bearing triangle” of the pelvis and have him explain it to you. 

Best of all, if you target the perpetrator’s lateral pelvis, you might not have to kill him. That GSW is survivable, if he’s lucky. (When it comes to GSW’s, luck is ALWAYS a factor.) This has actually been proven by a number of my SXRV graduates who went on to use their training in a street shooting. One of my more “famous” SXRV graduates, a police firearms instructor, actually had an OIS where he was really, really reluctant to shoot the offender who was charging him with a large edged weapon. The offender happened to be the teenage son of his neighbor… and he told me that he heard a voice in his head say, “Dude! Remember what Doc said! You don’t have to kill this kid!”, at which point he shot the offender in the lateral pelvis. The offender hit the ground instantly, unable to get up, and ultimately survived the incident. 

So here’s the real dope: don’t even THINK about any kind of “limb shot protocol”. The arguments against it, as enumerated at the start of this piece, should be enough to dissuade you from that lunacy.

Instead, learn how to target the lateral pelvis. Take a SXRV class and teach your agency how to shoot the lateral pelvis. Buy the Instructor Manual and learn how to shoot the lateral pelvis. Any and all of the above.