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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. 

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