View Full Version : shoot placement, heart, head, lungs???

August 12, 2006, 09:04 PM
New to "thefiringline" and see all kinds of posts about different rounds and what is the best choice. Shot placement appears to be the key. I see bowling pin targets, are these intended for head, neck and chest cavity? Do you aim for middle of mass? Recognize the heart, aorta and head are likely good targets. Is that the best choice?

August 12, 2006, 09:09 PM
Most that train on a semi-regular basis recommend going for the shots that are most likely to play out. Trying for the aorta or any other "small" target is lunacy. Most recommend going for COM (center of mass).

When you are in a situation where you need to shoot, you will likely be under a great deal of stress. Stress tends to attack one's ability to control fine motor skills. Make your shots count. Shoot for targets you can likely hit on a moving target.

August 12, 2006, 09:30 PM
The middle of the torso, or center of mass, is the logical target. It contains vital stuff, is larger, and moves less. The head and other appendages are going to be bobbling all over the place and are hard to hit. You will also be fighting a full adreneline dump and more than likely be in poor light. Your fight or flight response will increase blood flow to the larger muscle groups and you fine motor skills will go to hell.

My advice is to get the best training you can afford, practice INTELLIGENTLY instead of just burning ammo, and avoid gunfights like the bubonic plague.

August 12, 2006, 10:10 PM
Google the B27 Target and that should be what you base your COM shots on.

Shot placement is indeed the key. However, as Mark pointed out above, the debate over precision shots vs. COM shots is rediculous. You're going to have enough to worry about in a real gunfight - whether or not to aim for the aortic artery is NOT going to be one of them.
I heard someone say once that if you have time to debate what kind of shot you're going to take then you have time to get the hell out of that situation in the first place.

August 12, 2006, 10:20 PM
Torso, head--very damaging shots. Another option--aim for the hip. If you go through something "sensitive", they'll notice--and if you have the right ammo, break their hip bone, and they won't be able to stand. Or so I've been told, never had a broken hip bone (never been shot, either).

The best shot is when you don't take any, and live out a long, peaceful life.

August 12, 2006, 11:33 PM
There is no emprical evidence to support the "break-the-hip" theory. At best it is the exact same precision shooting under stress debate as Head vs. COM, and at worst we are convincing people that it is a viable and tested technique.

The pelvic bone is quite thick, after all that area is designed to carry the weight of the entire body; and I would be very surprised if a single pistol round would do enough damage to produce consistent results.

Train with COM hits - there are several threads here that delve into the why's and wherefore's - but it all comes down to the fact that there IS empirical evidence that shows people are quite unlikely to be able to make precision shots under life-threatening stress.
And since COM should be right around the xiphoid process, that means it's about in the exact middle of the torso. You can miss a COM shot and hit an extremity, the head, the hip, etc... but if you miss a head shot / hip shot / arm shot then you're very likely to miss the target completely.

August 13, 2006, 07:43 PM
Sgjr, . . . there are a lot of factors which will determine your shot placement. One of which is the weapon you carry. If it is a .357, 9mm, .44, or .45, . . . or similar (or greater)power, . . . then COM shots are where you should start.

There are many definitions of COM, . . . but basically it is intended to be a heart/lung shot right through the middle of the chest cavity, . . . from what ever angle you shoot it.

OTOH, . . . if you carry a mouse gun (.380 or lower) you may want to hone up on your shooting and plan for a face/head shot.

Plenty of folks met their demise from a mouse gun to the face, . . . and I really haven't met one yet that I would be willing to put even money on his/her surviving 8 or 10 LRHP .22's from less than 20 feet, . . . focused on the center of their head, . . . regardless of the angle.

Remember, . . . shooting another human in a civilian situation is limited to self defense, . . . so you don't shoot to kill, . . . you shoot to stop the activity the bg is involved in that causes you to fear for your life.

Hope this helps.

May God bless,

August 13, 2006, 07:53 PM
What about going for the center of whatever they give you? The chest, if they give you a full frontal; something else if that's all the Bad Guy gives you.

Just a thought.

I would assume that's a given. After all, if the only shot you have is the center of his bicep I don't imagine that you would still try to get a torso shot. It just doesn't make sense.

When people discuss COM vs. precision shots, the assumption is that you have the entire target available...which is why they don't make targets with only a forearm on them.

For the sake of discussion, let's assume that their left pinky isn't the only thing exposed.

August 13, 2006, 07:58 PM
For all the armchair experts, I think Erick answered the question in two sentences perfectly, end of story. The mental gymnastics of all the Deputy Dawgg's on here is for their ego, Erick merely gave you the TRUTH.

August 13, 2006, 08:35 PM
If that's the case, can you explain to me why so many LE agencies have recently changed the targets that they use for firearms training? The benefits of training to hit COM have been well documented.

Also, walking into a room and calling everyone armchair experts without looking around isn't the most tactically sound approach.

Erick was trying to make a point, that's all.

August 13, 2006, 08:48 PM
Yeah, but you can only shoot what you can see and what you have available. The fallacy with target shooting is that it is static, it doesn't move, it doesn't react, it lets you be in control. You think in a real life shooting situation that's the way it goes down? People run and move in unpredictible ways, twisting and turning. Books don't win gunfights, but they make good fodder for forums. One other point, most guys on here bash LEO's as being poor, not well trained shot's, now you are using their training as an example for what is right, which is it? Can't have it both ways boys.....

August 13, 2006, 09:18 PM
You're holding me responsible for defending arguments that LE training is poor or not. Actually, I don't have to defend either of those positions.

LE has the benefit of being able to review dashcam videos to see what officers did and did not do during a gunfight. Regardless of whether their training is sufficient or not, the fact cannot be denied that LE has - at the very least - the ability to review statistical data and make decisions based on that data.

If we can agree that the degree of proficiency of a student has as much or more to do with the student's ability and desire to absorb the course material as it does with the quality of the course material itself, then you can see where I'm coming from.

Erick's point was well taken - you aim for the target that is available. However, the mistake he made was assuming that everyone trains the way he does, that everyone is approaching this issue with his level of experience and training - however we all know this isn't the case. The fact that people should aim for whatever target that presents itself is an extremely valid point. However, most people do not train to aim for elbows - and more importantly, SD situations are more likely to lend themselves to full frontal target than aiming for whatever "is available".. if an encounter is statistically going to happen within 7 yards, then I would imagine that a significant amount of one's training should be focused on engaging targets within that 7-10 yards. COM hits seem to make the most sense at that distance.

I do not find fault with Erick's statement other than that it seems to point out the obvious. I don't believe anyone here is advocating anything other than aiming at the target that presents itself - however, for that majority of people who are not as proficient as some of the rest of us, my advice is still to practice COM hits because that's where you are most likely to find yourself in an SD situation. Police dashcam videos of police shootings support this.

August 13, 2006, 10:37 PM
Actually, I'm not holding you responsible for anything! My first post was a general statement, the second one was when I responded to you after you addressed me. We all just offer our opinion on here, some just have more experience and so the value of their response is higher, which was my point with Erick. Happily, this is America so we can all have our opinions, and you know what opinions are like? :D We all have one. Oh, and statistics may be great for accountants, but when is the last time you heard of an accountant winning a gunfight? And the point I made with my statement about Erick's comment was precisely what you mentioned in your last paragraph, it is that simple, why complicate it? Proficient or not, if you can't see it, if a part of the body isn't available to target, you can't shoot it anyway. COM, head, neck, chest, whatever everyone is saying to shoot, if its not available it's not an option. You can't neatly compartmentalize a shooting scenario in real life, you NEVER know what's going to happen, unless you are really Chris Angel........

August 13, 2006, 10:57 PM
I'm going to end the night thinking that we're saying the same thing, just in different ways. I'm not disagreeing that people should aim at whatever target presents itself - I am taking issue with the fact that the notion that one should simply "aim at whatever is there" neatly sidesteps the question of how to practice, which is the question posed by the original poster.

If Erick wants to throw his two cents into the fray with a simple "aim at what's there" then that's fine. But what's missing are some suggestions on how to practice that. Otherwise, like I said - he's simply pointing out the obvious.

You can practice all day long to hit a person's pinky finger, but the likelihood that you're going to be able to do it under extreme stress is highly unlikely. It's not something you train incessantly for - it's something that you do if you have to.

Armchair quarterbacking is not my game - my opinions are based on personal experience.

It seems as if we're splitting hairs over unimportant things, so I'm going to bow out at this point and call it a night.

Stay safe -

August 14, 2006, 12:30 AM
COM if available, center of what you can hit otherwise. Practicing hitting center of what you can see shouldn't be that tough - partially conceal silouette targets behind something.

I think sometimes instincts will take over, as situations present themselves, so pratice hitting what you are aiming at.

August 14, 2006, 12:31 AM
Hello to all.
Saw this and just thought I'd add a new note.
When we went through CQM refresher training in Kuwait (for the umpteenth time) we were briefed NOT TO SHOOT CENTER MASS.
We were told instead to shoot at the chest/low shoulders area of the torso, reason cited as too many people shooting low and missing.
The ribcage area/upper chest offers a greater chance of damaging vital organs, and a miss low can still be hit. Also, rounds high can be a hit if you shoot center well enough.

Just thought the new stuff would help. But in the end, shoot well wherever you aim and train,train,train.

August 14, 2006, 12:40 AM
I agree with Erick.

Being under stress and possibly in a poorly lit enviroment, I'd say go for whatever is the largest part of the target. If they're standing and facing you, then of course that's going to be the chest region. Then again, they may be behind a barrier or turned slightly sideways, in which case I'd shoot at whatever was the largest portion and offered the best opportunity for a hit. If someone's trying to harm you, a hit in the foot is better than nothing at all, at least it may cause them to rethink whether or not they want to continue their attack.

August 14, 2006, 01:05 AM
I would take any hit I can get in the self defense shooting, or life threating shoot out with a bad guy. I will try to hit the middle of the target, or human Torso if possible. However, I would take a leg shot, or shoulder shot if it was available to me. My main goal is to the hit the spine, heart, lungs, Head, or rib cage if I needed to fire upon someone threating my life. However, I'll take what I can get if those shots weren't available to me in a shoot out. Stomach, liver, and kidney shots would work in an effort to create intense pain, or death in a the Bad guy as well. Sometimes you might have to take what shot is available. I would agree to try to hit the biggest target available to you, COM is what everyone is trained to hit, but sometimes it might not be available to you.


August 14, 2006, 01:31 AM
Recognize the heart, aorta and head are likely good targets. Is that the best choice?

I'd say you are thinking like a target shooter. COM is the way to go. Put it this way, if a guy is behind a baracade he is not a threat unless he's pointing a gun at you. In that case you need to use his baracade to your advantage by moving fast and drawing at the same time. His ability to move and track you is diminished. Lets say he's over the hood of a car, then he can't sweep down. Or behind a wall, move into the obsticle. (Besides the fact that any rounds you put into a hard wall near him will pepper him with bullet spawl and pieces of that wall) Being able to shoot is not the end all in a SD situation, preventing getting shot is.

August 14, 2006, 07:50 AM
Actually, for us non-LEO types who will 99.9% never have to use our gun's in self-defense, try going to a paintball shooting place and see just how "easy" it is to hit a live target. Its fun, good exercise, and a very humbling experience, especially for the older guys, 35 plus, going against 18 to 25 year olds. I am sure that will be an eye opening experience for many of us. Sure it's not real life shootout's, but its closer then you think, and puts thing's in a whole new perspective. See what the target is actually offering you to shoot at, I know I tend to aim for the middle of the biggest area I can see. If you wait for the perfect shot, you get shot.

And pickpocket, I think we are saying the same things, it was just late at night and we both were tired. Stay safe and have fun shooting, that's what its all about....

August 14, 2006, 10:22 AM
Gotta agree with Python on this one. Paintball puts you in that adrenaline dump mode when you hear that whistle and you have EVERYONE scrambling for cover. Then when you are behind a barrier and hear paint hitting the barrier in rapid bursts...

Shooting at a moving target is not easy... But on the flipside, the distances involved in paintball normally means that your moving target is far enough away that if you were in an actual gun fight, you should be getting farther away from the BG.

Double Naught Spy
August 14, 2006, 01:06 PM
I heard someone say once that if you have time to debate what kind of shot you're going to take then you have time to get the hell out of that situation in the first place.

...in a body bag. If your brain functions so slowly that in the time it takes you to make up your mind about where to place a shot that your body could physically remove you from that situation, then you have some significant mental issues. I believe the condition, as comically called in the tv show "Night Court" referred to it was Tortoise nervosis (slow nerves).

Another way of considering the point is that if your shoot training is such that you can only shoot at a singular location while under stress, then your training has failed you, especially if in a crisis that location isn't available for you to shoot. Why? Because according to the theory quoted above, in the time it takes you to debate where you shot will be placed after you have slowly realized the place you trained for is no longer available, then you would have had time to remove yourself from the situation, right? ...or the bad guy killed you because of your inability to perform.

Para Bellum
August 15, 2006, 05:37 AM
Hitting the pelvis is hard and takes time. Try it. Sill the fastest:

Mozambique Drill
( see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mozambique_Drill )

The Mozambique Drill was added to the modern technique of gunfighting by Jeff Cooper based on the experience of one of his students, Mike Rouseau, while on duty in Mozambique. Rouseau was later killed in action in the Rhodesian War.

The Mozambique Drill considers the deficiency of the pistol round in stopping an adversary. Statistics show that reactions in gunfights are extremely irregular -- one must be prepared for the worst. Many times it is the case that after absorbing the trauma of the first shots, the enemy will disregard further ballistic insult. It has been pointed out that simply "more shots" are not the answer. The Mozambique Drill instructs the shooter to place a double-tap in the center of mass, followed by a carefully aimed headshot.

Contrary to popular belief, the immediate aim of defensive shooting is to incapacitate a target so as to render that person unable to attack. Unlike what is commonly seen on television and in movies, gunshot wounds rarely kill instantly. The incapacitation caused by gunshots is the result of neurocirculatory shock. The trauma resulting from impact and wound channel after two shots to a target's center of mass will produce a reflexive nervous system collapse in about 96% of cases. In the other 4%, either an adrenaline rush or the effect of stimulant drugs will override this reflex, and further shots will not produce this instantly-incapacitating shock. Because of this, the third shot should be aimed to destroy the brain, ensuring that the target's nervous system will shut down and leave the target unable to attack. This third shot is most effective when placed between a target's eyes as a higher shot is more likely to deflect off of hard bone and a lower shot is unlikely to produce the nervous system damage required to instantly stop an attacker.

Also known as the 'failure to stop drill' or '2+1 drill'. As part of the U.S. National Guard Combat Pistol and other military combat pistol competitions, the Mozambique Drill is called Body Armor Defeat, and is frequently a discriminator between the average shooter and the gifted shooter, especially when it is timed.

August 15, 2006, 10:49 AM
While center of mass provides the "largest" target and is scored the highest in the B27 targets, think about what actually lies beneath the 10 ring.

My best guess would place the 10 ring just below the sternum. That means that there is a good chance of hitting the diaphragm, the stomach, and the liver. While I'm sure it would still hurt like hell and cause potentially fatal wounds, none of those shots would be an instant stop unless the bullet also went through the spinal chord.

There have been multiple threads that call for shooting the upper part of the torso, meaning from the chest up. This gives you a much better chance of hitting the heart, lungs, and major arteries and veins going to the heart. There is always the chance of hitting the spinal chord as well. An upper chest wound has a much greater chance of stopping a fight since the circulatory and repiratory organs are there.

Of course you take the shot you are presented with, but if I had to trade shots with someone, I would sure as heck want mine to count more than theirs.

August 15, 2006, 11:34 AM
Double Naught:
You and I are basically on the same page. What I meant was that if you have to sit there and wonder which shot to take because the guy is hiding (i.e. NOT advancing or threatening) then your situation may have changed slightly with respect to protection under your State use-of-force statutes.
I did not mean to imply that your body can move faster than your brain, and the "getting out of there" part meant that if you have time to debate shot placement with yourself in a situation then there's a high probability that you also had an opportunity to avoid the situation in the first place - BEFORE the fight started. Sorry for the confusion.

There is only one way to guarantee an "instant stop" - so for the majority of people it's going to be an unattainable (at least by intention) shot under stress with a defensive weapon. Rather than try to explain why the B27 works fairly well for target training, I'll ask you to try an exercise:

Engage a B27 target from 7 yards under physical stress, rapid fire. Get your heart rate up, sweat, try to recreate the adrenaline dump if you can. I say rapid fire because that's how you're going to pull the trigger when your life is in danger....no slow, easy shots. Aim for the X - when you're done, I highly doubt you will have placed many shots in the 10-ring...but you'll cover enough of the rest of the silhouette to stop/neutralize the threat.

I can't sit here and debate the merits of placing COM at the center of the chest or at the sternum - to me that's a pointless debate. However, I've learned from experience that I'm less likely to nail a target dead on under stress and that I'm more likely to plant rounds within 6-10 inches all around where I thought I was aiming.
That's the reason I say the B27 has its advantages.

I'm not LE, but I do speak from years of personal experience. Others with just as much experience will have different thoughts/ideas/opinions - so in the end all opinions are worth exactly what you paid for them. ;)

August 15, 2006, 12:30 PM
Actually, unless you are in a "live fire" situation for real, you will never know how you will react, and how your accuracy will be. There are some cool hands out there to be sure, and a lot more that are not. Its like getting surgery, it may cure you or it may kill you, but its the choice of last resort, as gunplay should be. :cool:

August 15, 2006, 12:44 PM
You are correct - but what many of us who have been there are trying to teach is that there ARE certain things that you can be sure of in a "live-fire" situation.

Your fine motor skills are severely impacted
Your ability to make precision shots is adversely affected
You are going to look at the threat, not your gun
You may/may not see your sights
Visually, your world will reduce to a tiny point
Your body will want to protect itself
If you are not well-trained, your survival instinct is going to take over
You're not going to remember a LOT of things right away.

These hard-earned lessons form the foundation of my training philosophy, as they do for anyone who's "been there, done that". If it works for you, cool.. If not, then that's the beauty of America...we can ignore things we don't like.

August 15, 2006, 02:37 PM

Fortunately, I have never been in a shoot out situation so the following is based on my opinion and conversations with avid shooters.

While I agree that shootout is a very stressful situation, you will be shocked how much proper and frequent training will affect your ability when the poop hits the fan. When you develop muscle memory from repetitive actions, those become the default when your instincts take over. While your marksmanship may not be as good as your controlled environment, calm, slow fire you should still be able to hit your target.

With frequent practice, your brain should say, "hey, I know this scenario" and you will act accordingly. Now people who don't practice very often will usually go into panic mode and their shooting abilities will out the window.

I had one situation where I had to draw my weapon. I used to keep my Glock 26 in the center console of my car and I practiced drawing it on a somewhat regular basis. I had just pulled out of a drive thru and I stopped to let a couple of guys walk past to get into the restaurant. One of these guys ran up to my window which still happened to be down. Instinctively, my right hand reached down and flipped the center console open. I drew my gun and had it at the low ready position (down by the steering wheel to prevent a gun grab) in less than 2 seconds. The guy mumbled something about being drunk and not trying to cause any problems and walked off. There were 3 other people in the car with me and they were completely freaked out about how I drew the gun so quickly (they estimate it took no more than a second and a half so it isn't the whole time slowing down phenomenon.) Basically, I had practiced the drill and when the poop hit the fan, my training took over.

Is there a point to my long winded post? Yes. If I practice shooting for the upper chest as my default, that is where I will shoot when the poop hits the fan. I can almost guarantee that those shots will be much more effective than gut shots. Good practice makes perfect. Lousy practice makes lousy shots.

August 15, 2006, 02:45 PM

One other thing to consider is IPSC or PPC shooting. I am planning to get into it after a friend of mine introduced me to it. While I was not in danger of getting shot, I was forced to shoot and move and shoot on the move under time pressure. My pulse rate was up and I was not shooting from a stationary position. I actually did fairly well and even did better than a few guys who had been out there before. That is because I have been shooting for a long time and have a reasonable amount of practice and muscle memory to improve my marksmanship. With sufficient practice, the gun becomes an extension of your hand and you can actually call your shots. When the poop hits the fan, it becomes... Hey, this is like that IPSC scenario I shot the other day. I'll draw and move to cover and engage the target while I am moving. I can guarantee your average bad guy will be no match for a regular competition shooter.

August 15, 2006, 03:18 PM
If it works for you and you trust it, then run with it.

Like I said, my opinion is only worth what you paid for it :cool:

August 15, 2006, 04:25 PM
I have done both paint ball and competition and I get the urge to take a crap from both. Nerves to say the least. The edge does go to paint ball because of the pain factor I guess.

As for training aids for hitting different areas try colored, numbered, or shaped multi targets. These are targets that have multiple square, circle, triangle, rectangle etc. they are colored and/or numbered. The goal is to have a friend call red triangle and you engage the red triangle etc. This will force you to choose a particular target at random among multiple choices.

Also try shooting balloons filled with helium outdoors. The trick is to move sideways while engaging. If the wind is up a bit they offer erratic movement that is not predictable.

August 15, 2006, 04:37 PM
three gun,

The problem with trying to hit helium baloons is that they all go upwards. Unless you hit them right when they are released, you will be sending hot lead skywards. Who knows where these rounds are going to land and who could they potentially kill? If you ask me, I would say that is a clear violation of knowing your target and what lies beyond. Besides, if you miss your target, you are endangering wildlife such as sea turtles that may have the balloons lodge intheir throats (I've been told they look like jelly fish when they float on top of the water). One solution is to tie a helium filled balloon to a remote control car and have someone drive it down range. Just be sure not to hit the car or else your kid will be really pissed off at you! :D

Capt. Charlie
August 15, 2006, 04:49 PM
One solution is to tie a helium filled balloon to a remote control car and have someone drive it down range. Just be sure not to hit the car or else your kid will be really pissed off at your!
This works really well and it's loads of fun. I bought a cheapie RC car, drilled a hole down through it and placed an old car antenna in the hole. An alligator clip is attached to the top of the antenna to hold the balloon. Just make sure to buy a car with wide track wheels as they have a tendency to tip over on turns.

August 15, 2006, 05:21 PM
Stephen, The balloons are held by string tie to your backstop. Sorry for not being more thorough the first time.

Capt. I always said I'm gonna use one of the kids (old unwanted) RC cars but to this date have never tried it. Thanks for the reminder.

August 16, 2006, 01:34 PM
2 in each organ.

August 17, 2006, 03:47 AM
Our firearms instructor taught us to shoot for the center of the largest target presented to us. I teach my guys the same.

August 21, 2006, 05:33 PM
just remember COM... thats all you need....
the rest will take care of itself