I remember the first deer that I shot.
I was about 80 yards away, waited until I had my angle, and hit it with a heart-double-lung shot with my .308. It bucked and then sprinted off as if it hadn’t watched enough TV to know how it was supposed to react when shot.
I was impatient, so we only waited 10-15 minutes and went to where it had been when I took the shot.
Relieved to see bright red blood, we started tracking it and found it DRT 150-200 yards later after it had jumped 2 fences. I butchered it and proudly shared the meat with anyone who’d eat it with me.
It was a clean shot—textbook, in fact. It was a South Texas deer, so I had way MORE than enough gun.
But it didn’t stop the deer instantly.
And if she would have been an attacker, we would have been hands-on before she dropped.
For years, this kind of confused me. Heart-lung shots would get me good kills, but rarely instant stops. It really made me question self-defense teaching, because, at the same time, almost all of the self-defense literature said that you need to aim center-mass in a lethal force encounter–even with severely inadequate defensive pistol rounds.
This, even though there are cases every year of bad guys absorbing 5, 10, 15, or more rounds and still staying in the fight.
The fact is, “clean kills” and “lethal hits” have a time component. It’s OK if you shoot a grass eater that’s 100 yards away and it runs away from you for 10-15 seconds before expiring.
It’s NOT OK to make a lethal hit on a meat eater (2 legged or 4 legged) who’s charging you to have 10-15 seconds to put the hurt on you before expiring.
I get WHY center-mass is taught…most schools teach that 8” groups are combat accurate and “good enough.” Stress spreads those groups out, but aiming center-mass insures that a minimum number of rounds miss their intended target. Several rounds hitting the torso and stopping the threat slowly is still better than several rounds missing the attacker’s head and not stopping him at all.
But center-mass shots don’t always stop attackers…and there’s a very straight forward reason why.
When you break it down, stopping an attacker or stopping the threat is a function of eliminating the attacker’s intent, ability, and/or opportunity to keep hurting you.
You can take away opportunity by removing their mobility and taking away projectile weapons, moving behind cover, or other strategies.
You can take away their intent by convincing them that they should stop fighting and give up or run away (which is what happens the majority of time when non-conditioned people are shot at, regardless of whether or not they’re actually hit). This “convincing” can be verbal, non-verbal, or kinetic, but once an attack has started, kinetic solutions have a much better track record.
And the most effective way to take away their ability is to interrupt their central nervous system either mechanically (trauma to the mid-brain, spinal cord, or the limb they’re using to attack you), hydraulically (blood flow delivering oxygen to the brain), or electrically (interrupt the signal between the brain and the muscles wielding the weapon(s)).
Center-mass shots depend on the attacker giving up, a drop in blood pressure, or a bullet hitting the spinal cord. And, as we’ve seen in hunting and numerous after-action reports, a drop in blood pressure isn’t a quick solution.
When you’re talking about a situation where you need to use a firearm to defend yourself, you’re not talking about shooting a well-adjusted person. You’re talking about someone who, at that moment, is trying to cause you or another innocent person great bodily harm and who’s acting like a wild animal.
Because of that, I think it’s worthwhile to take a look at how African Cape buffalo and African lions are hunted and, in particular, what hunters do when a shoot goes bad.
The majority of the time, when a hunter shoots a lion or Cape buffalo, the hunter is not being attacked.
As a result, they take traditional hunting shots and try to hit one or both lungs and the heart.
The majority of the time, when one of these animals gets shot, they turn and run. (Sound familiar?)
This is where they get dangerous…and where the tactics and techniques change.
Up to this point, many hunters use a .375 or bigger. When they shoot an animal cleanly with this monster round, they expect it to fall within 100-150 yards. Most shots are taken 60-80 yards out, so the animals have plenty of time to do damage, if they choose to.
In addition, if the shot wasn’t clean, wounded lion/buffalo are some of the meanest/deadliest/aggressive animals on Earth.
So how do the tactics/techniques change?
They track the wounded animal with bigger rounds loaded for deeper penetration in double rifles (which puts a 2nd round right on top of the first round faster than what’s possible with semi-autos)
They pray for a brain/spine hit instead of heart-lung/center-mass.
This is one of those topics where I don’t have a huge dataset of personal experiences to use, so I’ve had to rely on the personal experiences of several friends in law enforcement and military special operations and after-action reports.
One thing was that I did as a result was to train myself to see targets 3 dimensionally and started aiming for the T3-T4 vertebrae instead of aiming at center-mass. The concept of “Aim small, miss small” comes into play here and if I miss my 1-2” target by 400%, I’m still making “combat accurate” hits on center-mass.
Second, I learned to shoot extremely accurately, reliably, and consistently–even under stress–with the Deadly Accuracy program.
Third, I went through the Insight Speed Shooting program, where I learned to take the 1-2 shot per second precision shooting that I learned in the Deadly Accuracy program, sped it up to 2-3 precision shots per second, and completely eliminate the first shot delay waiting for my focus to settle.
Here’s an example:
On this note, if you decide to be stoic about your hits and only focus on your misses, you’ll retard the speed at which you improve. It really DOES pay to be your biggest cheerleader.
The idea behind it is that if you can pick a small enough target on an attacker’s chest (or the spine if you’re “seeing” 3 dimensionally), you will recruit more parts of the brain into the shooting process than if you simply focus center-mass. Then, if you can pile round after round into that hole, you have a very good chance of stopping the threat psychologically, hydraulically, or electrically by drilling through to the spinal cord.
Worst case, you end up with the same number of rounds on target as if you would have aimed center-mass.
Best case, you stop the threat sooner.
Does it work?
There are no silver bullets, but what I can tell you is that law enforcement hit ratios generally range from 12-25% with the average being 15%. Departments/units using this training methodology regularly report 80-90% hit ratios.
So, with that, do you think that my comparison of how animals and attackers respond to gun trauma is fair, accurate or applicable? Have you ever had the disconnect in your mind of knowing how animals respond when hunting compared to how self-defense shooting is taught? Please share your thoughts by commenting below.