Tuesday, October 04, 2005

"Close" Only Counts In...

All of the firepower in the world will not do you any good if you don’t hit your target. However, hitting your target isn’t the ONLY goal; it’s the incapacitation of your adversary that we are shooting for (pardon the pun). What causes this?...you might ask…well read on. There’s more to it than just “Bullet Placement.”

There are few controversies in the law enforcement / self-defense community that have stimulated as much controversy [and argument] as “bullet potential.” For the most part, opinions, ballistics, personal preferences and "war stories" have made it impossible to differentiate between the fact and fiction of a bullets wounding potential.

However, in 1969, the NYPD began an in-depth documentation and study of police combat situations and the results were published in what would become the seminal treatise “Department Order SOP 9 (s. 69)” or SOP #9. The Firearms and Tactics Section of the NYPD began gathering data in January 1970, with the study results published in 1981. By analyzing the facts available from autopsies, pathologists, medical examiners and ER surgeons the study found that the one factor that stood out as a proper measure of bullet efficiency was not the size, shape, configuration, composition, caliber, or velocity of the bullet but Bullet Placement was the “cause of death or an injury that was serious enough to end the confrontation.”

Then in 1989, the FBI published the Handgun Wounding Factors and Effectiveness study that furthered the study of Bullet Effectiveness on human targets. In this study, Special Agent UREY W. PATRICK published that “projectiles incapacitate by damaging or destroying the central nervous system, or by causing lethal blood loss.” And as the bullets’ effects to either of these systems increase so does the “likelihood of incapacitation increase.”

Also noted was that the critical wounding components for handgun ammunition, in order of importance, were bullet penetration and the permanent wound cavity that the bullet created. The bullet had to penetrate the body deep enough to reach and pass through vital organs, and the permanent wound cavity had to be large enough to maximize tissue destruction and cause the consequent hemorrhaging.

As far as the “immediate incapacitation theory” goes, with the exceptions of hits to the brain or upper spinal cord, the concept of immediate incapacitation of the human target by a gunshot wound just isn’t reasonable.

An examination of most gunfights concludes that they are sudden and unexpected. Rapid and unpredictable movement occurs in any physical fight and gunfights especially offer limited and only partial target opportunities. Also, they usually take place in poor light and near or around unforeseen obstacles; and by the life or death stress of sudden, close, intra-personal violence.

This is why we train to fire at the center of whatever is presented for a target. Therefore the proper shot placement is a hit in the center of that part of the adversary which is presented, regardless of anatomy or angle.

In conclusion, many of the tactics techniques and procedures we use today were developed by the Firearms Training Units of these to great institutions and any study of human incapacitation from handgun wounds or the potential effectiveness of bullets would not be complete without a review of these two great works.

For more information, view my website: Defensive Training Group

Semper Fidelis.
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