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View Full Version : Your shot vs. the BG's trigger finger


Ruark
May 3, 2012, 08:38 AM
We've all seen the scenario on TV where the BG is holding a gun to a hostage's head and everybody puts down their guns. Or he's standing in a bank or convenience store pointing a gun across the counter at an employee.

I've heard numerous times that if such a BG is shot through the head, that he will NOT pull the trigger, that his fingers will reflexively extend, not contract. But I've heard just the opposite, too. This is one of those questions where "everybody is an expert."

One variable might be the type of gun. It may be that if he's holding a DA revolver or a semiauto with a long DA trigger pull, and you put a round through his head, he probably won't make the shot. But what if he's got the hammer back and his finger is resting on a light SA trigger pull?

Does anybody have any reliable information on this topic? I think it would be interesting to discuss, since some self defense situations will include a BG who already has a gun out and is pointing it at somebody.

TheNocturnus
May 3, 2012, 08:55 AM
I aim for center mass. :rolleyes:

In truth it would depend on what section(s) of the brain was(were) destroyed by the projectile. Assuming the bullet went through the spinal cord at the base of the brain then it would sever it entirely and disrupt any possible motor function.

If the round only went through the auditory or visual cortex's of the brain then it is possible that a signal to the trigger finger could go off uninterrupted.

I would imagine that any blow to the brain would render the person unconscious so the trigger pull would just be an involuntary muscle movement or the BG's brain sent the signal to pull the trigger right as you fired.

Dave P
May 3, 2012, 09:14 AM
"where the BG is holding a gun to a hostage's head "


Uh, I hope I am not that hostage, if you going to try and stop him with a pistol.

I would hope the good Samaritan in that case has a 308 rifle aimed at BG's head - I would trust that for a one-shot stopper.

Skans
May 3, 2012, 09:18 AM
I'm with Dave. If a BG is holding me hostage, please don't shoot. Protect yourself. Let me worry about protecting myself. Most likely, I will use one of several physical techniques I've learned to try to get away - lots of movement and I don't want to be dodging friendly fire too.

Brian Pfleuger
May 3, 2012, 09:51 AM
It's not enough to get a head shot.

You have to destroy the hypothalamus (IF, BIG IF, I remember my anatomy correctly). Which is a region of the brain almost dead center, directly behind the bridge of the nose. This is why getting shot "between the eyes" is instantly incapacitating. It completely cuts off all nerve signals to the entire body.

Could be the hippocampus too... Can't remember. Is there a biologist around here?:D

Mike38
May 3, 2012, 09:53 AM
The way I understand it, the only shot that will render instant incapacitation is a shot that severs the brain stem, completely (called internal decapitation)
. The body will crumble straight down, with no other movements. Any shot that does not completely sever the brain stem, and there could be movement, voluntarily or involuntarily, and that movement could be the bad guy pulling the trigger.

I’m not willing to take that chance, with a pistol or with a rifle.

g.willikers
May 3, 2012, 10:26 AM
Pretty sure it was the well known trainer, John Farnam, who said that if you shoot someone in the head, they might not get your jokes, but they might still be able to shoot back.

Vanya
May 3, 2012, 11:47 AM
A shot to the brainstem, or the top of the spinal cord, will instantly incapacitate someone, but if I were the hostage, I'd really rather you didn't take the shot. That's a very small target (an inch or so), and even if you hit it, that's still a finger on the trigger. Even without reflexive movement, who's to say what the gun might catch on as the hostage-taker is falling?

And, Brian, if you shoot him in the hippocampus, that won't prevent reflexive movements -- he just won't remember what happened. ;)

I just read a crime novel in which one of the cops at a hostage-taking scene got the BG to take his finger off the trigger by telling him there was a bee in his hair... then she shot him. (Fiction is a wonderful thing...)

Ruark
May 3, 2012, 12:47 PM
I find it difficult to believe that the location of the shot (i.e. brain stem shot) would make that much difference, unless you're tapping him with a .22 short. But the hydrostatic shock, of, say, a .45 ACP hollow point blasting through the brain cavity isn't going to allow any BG time to send a signal saying "pull the trigger."

I'd appreciate if we could stay on topic. The topic is whether or not a head shot will prevent a trigger pull, not "hostage rescue strategies."

spclPatrolGroup
May 3, 2012, 01:41 PM
Ever put a bullet through a deers head for a kill shot, then see it kick its legs a couple of times, maybe we didnt shoot the right part of the brain or something, but I wouldnt want to be the guy at the end of the bad guys barrell in this situation.

Vanya
May 3, 2012, 02:12 PM
I find it difficult to believe that the location of the shot (i.e. brain stem shot) would make that much difference, unless you're tapping him with a .22 short. But the hydrostatic shock, of, say, a .45 ACP hollow point blasting through the brain cavity isn't going to allow any BG time to send a signal saying "pull the trigger."
It's not a matter of whether the BG has time to "send a signal." We're talking about a reflexive, involuntary response to being shot.

It does happen. See the book, Tactical Anatomy, by James S. Williams, MD, for a discussion of why the location of the head shot matters. Here's a summary from a review (http://warriorspiritbooks.com/pdf/Tactical_Anatomy_Review.pdf) of that book by Massad Ayoob:

The commonly described “head shot” is not guaranteed to work: the face, the jaw, and the notoriously bullet-ricocheting internal helmet of skull bone that physicians call the cranial vault, are not the optimum targets. Deep brain, the area that controls autonomic response, is the target of choice when a sniper must neutralize a hostage taker without a reflexive pull of his trigger, or when a street cop must shut down a gunman who has been shot to pieces but is still firing at police. Dr. Williams teaches this as the “brainstem zone of incapacitation.”
[My emphasis]

Brian Pfleuger
May 3, 2012, 02:22 PM
I'm sure kraigwy can speak to the sniping aspect of it but I recall one situation that illustrates the point.

There was a hostage situation, I THINK, maybe in Alaska but I don't remember. A man had grabbed a little girl and was blocking traffic on a bridge and holding her over the edge threatening to drop her.
A police sniper ran something like a mile and a half through backed up traffic to get where he could make a shot.
He waited until the guy brought the girl back over the railing (which the guy was doing repeatedly) and shot him right at the bridge of his nose, specifically because he knew it would instantly cease all motor function.

Capt Charlie
May 3, 2012, 02:30 PM
A shot to the brainstem, or the top of the spinal cord, will instantly incapacitate someone, but if I were the hostage, I'd really rather you didn't take the shot. That's a very small target (an inch or so),...

Exactly. To borrow an old movie quote, "Do you feel lucky?", because unless you're a skilled sniper with a big bore rifle, that's exactly what you're going to need.

Not only is the brainstem a small target, it's also a 3 dimensional target. If the bad guy is looking directly at you, the preferred shot is through the center of the nose. However, if said BG turns his head to the right, the shot has to be placed to the left of the nose.

Think of a ball spinning on its axis. If the (perceived) front of the ball is spinning to your right, the back of the ball is moving left. How much so is nothing more than a guesstimate, even for an expert.

If you can successfully make that shot, I'd say it's time to play the Lotto. ;)

TailGator
May 3, 2012, 02:35 PM
If I may be so bold as to rephrase the question, we are really asking, "Is there a place in the brain that I can shoot that can guarantee no further movement?" And the answer is no in my estimation. As was aptly brought up before, we see twitches in animals that are shot in the head. Many people are surprised to know that reflexes in the hind legs, like the familiar knee reflex, are actually exaggerated rather than absent after the spinal cord is severed. The reason is that there are circuits for reflexive motor activity that do not involve the brain. The brain actually modulates that activity, and severing the communication from the brain allows them to run unchecked.

Also, injury to nerve tissue can produce nerve impulses because the injury causes a loss of the sequestration of certain ions and chemicals that are important to the conduction of nerve impulses. Rigor mortis occurs because the body ceases to separate the ions across cell membranes (the separation being an active and ongoing process) and the loss of that sequestration mimics the process that occurs during nerve impulses and muscle contraction.

None of this is going to be predictable in the randomness of a brain and its attached nerve fibers suffering from a gunshot wound. It is unlikely but far from impossible for a few muscle fibers in the forearm to contract enough to fire a round without a conscious decision being made. Finger extension was mentioned - possible, too, but not guaranteed. Flaccid paralysis? Could happen, not guaranteed. It is just too complicated of a situation to predict with any certainty.

I'm not sure how that affects our decision on attempting a head shot. A "good" head shot will cease conscious coordinated activity, but not all movement. Obviously snipers in military and police forces reach points where they feel the survival probability for a hostage is greater if they take the shot. But we should never think that if we or they make even a perfect shot that the outcome is guaranteed to be positive.

I am a veterinarian, so I know a bit about anatomy and physiology. If a human neurologist or neurosurgeon is on here, I would welcome any corrections or additions to my thoughts on the matter.

Capt Charlie
May 3, 2012, 02:42 PM
Obviously snipers in military and police forces reach points where they feel the survival probability for a hostage is greater if they take the shot. But we should never think that if we or they make even a perfect shot that the outcome is guaranteed to be positive.

TailGator nailed it. In a hostage situation, taking the shot is absolutely, positively, the final option.

Vanya
May 3, 2012, 03:51 PM
In a hostage situation, taking the shot is absolutely, positively, the final option.
Just so.

And those who haven't seriously trained to take it perhaps shouldn't consider it an option at all. For those who are interested, here (http://www.policeone.com/police-products/firearm-accessories/firearms-storage/articles/121793-High-performance-shooting-The-head-shot/) is a pretty good discussion of all the reasons why it's difficult to make such shots, and the kind of training that's required to have even a reasonable chance of success.

CountryUgly
May 4, 2012, 05:22 PM
I guess if I had to take that shot I'd want a 12ga with a slug. His melon can't move anything if it isn't attached....just sayin:eek:

Nnobby45
May 4, 2012, 05:37 PM
One variable might be the type of gun. It may be that if he's holding a DA revolver or a semiauto with a long DA trigger pull, and you put a round through his head, he probably won't make the shot. But what if he's got the hammer back and his finger is resting on a light SA trigger pull?


To make your point you've included a lot of "what if's.

Speculation isn't necessary, since many characteristics of the brain are well known and established as fact.

Destruction of part of the lower portion of the brain causes immediate, light switch type incapacitation--no reflex.

Destruction of the rest of the brain does not, and though it may be instantly fatal, reflexive action in places like the trigger finger are possible, if not likely.

Catfishman
May 4, 2012, 11:29 PM
I think we're all guessing here...So I'll throw in mine also.
I think that most people shot through the brain will not fire the shot, even if the brain stem is missed.

Have you ever been hit in the head really really hard? I stuns you. You don't do or think anything for a moment. I would imagine that a bullet passing through you brain would have at least that much effect.

BTW - If I'm the hostage... shoot!

JohnKSa
May 4, 2012, 11:39 PM
There's really not much guesswork involved here, there are some facts.

1. Significant damage to the brainstem (as in putting a bullet through it) will result in a "no-reflex kill". The problem is that the brainstem is a small part of the brain and the brain fills only about half of what we think of as the head.

2. Injuries to other parts of the brain that don't involve the brainstem may actually CAUSE reflexive movement. It's been my experience (small game hunting) that you can often tell that you've made a brain shot by looking for the characteristic reflexive thrashing. I recall reading that Hathcock made a similar observation at one of his kills. Something to the effect that he knew he had hit the man in the brain by the thrashing after the hit.

3. Injuries to the head that don't involve the brain can leave the target essentially unimpaired.

MarkDozier
May 5, 2012, 02:36 AM
Injuries to the head that don't involve the brain can leave the target essentially unimpaired.
Remember we are talking about head shots here so there is no way the brain will not be damaged.
And your were doing so well.

JohnKSa
May 5, 2012, 02:43 AM
Remember we are talking about head shots here so there is no way the brain will not be damaged.
http://www.dreamstime.com/human-head-anatomy-thumb15062121.jpg
Pretty much everything in the head below the ears is not brain.

Sport45
May 5, 2012, 02:58 AM
If I was the hostage I'd prefer you don't take the shot as well.

Pond, James Pond
May 5, 2012, 06:32 AM
You could aim well below the ears and do a "Robocop" on him...


In that particularly case, I would really prefer you not to take the shot...

KC Rob
May 5, 2012, 08:40 AM
I don't know the definitive answer, not sure that anybody does, but I think a head shot, in the right place, would prevent the BG from shooting the hostage.

First, a lot of people have been citing the reflexive movement of animals after being shot, something I have seen a lot of too, but one thing that they are failing to mention is the fact that the animal falls down before starting to reflexively kick its limbs. They don't remain upright and still which is the assumption being made, ie the BG will stay upright, not move his gun away from the hostages head, and reflexively pull the trigger. Getting shot in the face is a pretty traumatic event and will almost certainly cause the recipient to thrash backward and fall.

Secondly, I was taught, if shooting at the head of a BG, to aim for the "ocular cavity" which is basically from the top of the eyes to the bottom of the nose with the outside edges of the eyes being the outside border. This forms a fairly large rectangle that is mostly cartilage and mostly devoid of major bone structures that could deflect the bullet. It also leads straight back into the brain and brain stem. With the destructive path of a defensive bullet the chances are major damage is going to be done to the brain.

Lastly, speaking to the OP's hypothetical scenario, I firmly believe in never giving up your gun. The minute you surrender your gun you cede 100% control of the situation to the BG. So, if there is a hostage situation and the BG says "put down your gun or I will shoot" that would leave me no option than to try and take out the BG.

If I am the one with the gun to my head, feel free to take the shot.

jhenry
May 5, 2012, 08:59 AM
Quote:
Remember we are talking about head shots here so there is no way the brain will not be damaged.
And your were doing so well.

Utter nonsense. I have no time to write a 50 paragraph post on why this is ridiculous, but many many folks have been sot in the noodle without brain damage. Head damage, sure, but the brain was left intact. In addition, many folks have been shot in the head and suffered brain trauma but lived, and in many cases did not even loose conciousness. Our recent wars in Iraq, and Afghanistan leave us with documented instances of human beings suffering head injuries from flying debris, shrapnel, bullets etc. and staying in the fight. Do not be foolish enough to assume some criminal will not stay in the fight as well. He may also be wired for sound on some central nervous system stimulant which could keep him going with massive damage.

A small point, but whoever posted about the Hypothalamus, that part controls the four F's. The four F's are Fight, Flight, Food and Sex.

I have no idea why they call it the four F's, as you can see, one of the instinctual functions does not even start with an F. One of those weird scince things.

Double Naught Spy
May 5, 2012, 09:32 AM
There was a hostage situation, I THINK, maybe in Alaska but I don't remember. A man had grabbed a little girl and was blocking traffic on a bridge and holding her over the edge threatening to drop her.
A police sniper ran something like a mile and a half through backed up traffic to get where he could make a shot.
He waited until the guy brought the girl back over the railing (which the guy was doing repeatedly) and shot him right at the bridge of his nose, specifically because he knew it would instantly cease all motor function.

That was Steve Rodriguez. The incident took place over the Rio Grande. He ended up in court over the shooting, as I recall, or some extensive dead-guy's family complaint-started internal investigation, as he killed the father of the child literally within seconds of setting up his rifle when came after running with it for a considerable distance because the road was choked with all the stopped traffic from the closed bridge. He set up, got his breathing under control, had the scope on the man holding the child out over the edge (which was a moved already repeated by the guy several times), and when the man brought the child back over the bridge , Rodrigquez made his shot. The child and man dropped in place and the child was basically unharmed. The suit or complaint stemmed, in part, from the child NOT being in mortal danger when he wasn't being held out over the gorge.

Remember we are talking about head shots here so there is no way the brain will not be damaged.

This is a perfect example of what I am talking about when I talk about folks who do not understand anatomy. Usually my comments are in regard to consider 2D anatomy and almost always frontal perspectives and Capt. Charlie touched on this briefly with ...
Not only is the brainstem a small target, it's also a 3 dimensional target. If the bad guy is looking directly at you, the preferred shot is through the center of the nose. However, if said BG turns his head to the right, the shot has to be placed to the left of the nose.

The problem with hitting the brain stem and severing it is that you have to aim at an external spot on the person, behind which will be the brain stem assuming the bullet is able to maintain the original intended trajectory and penetrates sufficiently to do the job. That is why shot placement is nothing without trajectory and penetration. Bullets hitting the head often do no go where anticipate due to bone deflection and to a lessor extent, soft tissue deflection.

Capt. Charlie's aimpoint of the nose works best when the nose and brain stem form two points of an imaginary line and that line being part of the trajectory taken by the bullet. A raised chin (and hence, nose) would alter the angle of the line between the nose and brain stem relative to a more normal level position. If the nose was using as the aimpoint with the head turned up, the round can based bisect the brain's halves and pass up and in front of the brain stem.

Depending on whose biometrics you use, the averag weight of the human head is 4-5kg which corresponds fairly with with water displacement information indication about 4500cc. That average human brain is about 1150 cc in size, though modern human variation will find smaller people with brains way down around 950 cc (and a corrspondingly smaller head) and up to 1600 cc and sometimes more (and a much larger head). So in this reguard, the brain itself is only about 1/4 of the volume of the entire head.

With that said and changing animal types, I posted in the hunting section on headshooting 2 hogs with a .45-70 at 30 yards, hitting just below and forward of the ear and in one case, the bullet did ZERO bone damage. Shot placement was outstanding. Penentration was outstanding and the round exited the opposite side of the neck. Trajectory apparently was a problem, possibly suffering from deflection. Not only can you shoot the head and not do brain damage, you can shoot a large caliber medium velocity projectile at the head and have it not even damage the bone around the brain.

Every year, there are a goodly number of folks who are shot in the head and who do not have brain injuries. Most of these folks will suffer facial shots. Some well actually have the brain case struck by the bullet but not penetrate. If you google, you can find several nasty descriptions of botched suicides where people do things like put the muzzle of the gun in their mouth, pull the trigger, and the bullet passes beneath the brain case, off center, and exits the back of the neck. Guns placed under the chin and the trigger pulled and the round travels up through the mouth, nose, and sometimes and eye and exits forward of the brain. The you have temple shot attempted suicide where basically the shooter blows off the lateral orbit of the eye and takes out one or both eyes, but fails to hit the brain. In short, there are a goodly number of ways for a person to be shot in the head and not have bran involvement.

Mello2u
May 5, 2012, 11:54 PM
http://health.yahoo.net/human-body-maps/hippocampus#4/15

The above link can take you to site where you can look at representations of various parts of the brain, and rotate them in 360 degrees. Choose the "inner brain 3" image, it can give you a very good idea of how small the parts are that we are considering as the target.

themalicious0ne
May 6, 2012, 07:56 AM
If this were the case i would prefer a taser to the back. A study I saw showed a BG with a button simulating a trigger for an explosive device. When shot in the back he could not press the button. if shot from the front he could see the projectice coming and press the button. That is why they need to finalize their production of their shotgun taser rounds.

Sorry not in the buisness of brains, I dont know how it works and doesnt work to a science.

Sarge
May 6, 2012, 08:57 AM
Pretty much everything in the head below the ears is not brain.

...and in some examples, pretty much everything above them doesn't count for much either.

Glenn E. Meyer
May 6, 2012, 12:10 PM
I deleted those funny neuroanatomy jokes that I heard in grad school about a 1000 years ago.

:rolleyes:

Blue Duck
May 9, 2012, 07:44 PM
Well, one thing is for sure, I am not going to lay my gun down, and surender, even if it's a loved one, under the perps gun, once you do that, you have nothing left to bargan with.

Maximus856
May 10, 2012, 10:19 AM
Remember we are talking about head shots here so there is no way the brain will not be damaged.

I know this has been posted about 5 different times in this post, but certainly not the case. A new 'kid' in our platoon for whatever reason (won't speculate, it was considered 'accidental') took a round from under the chin straight through his brain and out the top, and lived. We had to have a representative be at the hospital, and my teamleader along with myself had the first shift. Though he was not responsive like a full capable human, he still had many drastic responses and movements. I bring this up because this in fact was a shot to the brain. There are many instances where a headshot is not to the brain. Theres the story of a Marine in one of the two current theatres, who took a round straight through his forehead and didn't even know he was hit until someone pointed out that he was bleeding both in the front and back. Apparently, it went right in between.

This is pure guessing on my part, but sometimes I think a shot looking for a response may be better. For example, if I am the BG and am squared up against someone with a gun pointed at me, I'm pretty sure if I was shot straight in the throat my 'flight' instinct would kick in and I would possibly drop my gun. I don't know anyone who doesn't like to breath. Theres two spots of the body that a kick or a punch *usually* causes a man to reach for. His 'goods' and his throat. I dont know if anyone has seen someone get punched in the throat or being put in an air choke, but it usually causes panic. IMO, a shot to the throat which is very visible, a decent size target, and an area amongst other vital parts such as the spinal cord or carotid artery *could* be very effective. Any opinions on this? Or better yet, any facts on this?

Just want to throw another tidbit out. We would always practice failure to stop drills on a silhouette target. There was a circle for the chest (10" I think?), the pelvic girdle, and the 'Tbox' which is the approximate location of the brain stem. The failure to stop was two center mass, and one to the tbox or pelvis. Most everyone would go for the pelvis, as guaranteeing a shot in the tbox was not an easy feat. I'm sure I am not the only one who has missed more than once while trying to be fast with the follow-up shot to the Tbox. This was with an M4 and an ACOG usually 50 yards or less on a static target. It sounds easy, but when you have to come to the ready, aim, do two shots center mass, reaquire site picture/sight alignment to a smaller part of the body, and try to do it in a very quick fashion, misses are not uncommon.

44 AMP
May 13, 2012, 03:34 PM
Remember we are talking about head shots here so there is no way the brain will not be damaged.

There are two assumptions made here, or perhaps just implied, but neither is a guaranteed certainty.

First is that a bullet to the head will enter the brain. While this usually happens, there is enough documented evidence that, due to many variables, it does not always happen.

Second, that the damage to the brain will be enough to achieve the desired effect, namely instant incapacitation. Again, no guarantee.

Several have mentioned the "off switch" (hypo-whatever...) and how, if a bullet gets there, the BG shuts down right now, usually DRT. No pull of a trigger possible. Ok, fine. Now, with the movement of the head, power of the round, shape of the bullet, angle of impact, ability of the shooter, construction of tissues, and some other factors I'm sure exist, how can you be certain that your bullet will get where you need it to go?

Bullets do funny things sometimes. 99 shots may go perfect, and shot 100 hits the right spot on the outside, and takes a left turn at Albquerque inside, before getting to that magic "off switch".

Police snipers, with their training and equipment still only take the shot as a last resort. And they have a legal department to back them up if it doesn't go perfectly. We don't.

With a handgun, all the negative possiblities are increased. Tough call, because if things don't go perfectly, then YOU are going to be blamed. And even if they do go perfectly, you can still be blamed.