When presented with a deadly force situation, we have been trained to aim and fire our duty weapon at the chest, or "center mass." Why? This area presents the largest portion of the body. Typically speaking, we also know that once shot in this area, most people will stop their aggressive actions against us.
So imagine your disbelief when a threat continues to progress-even after you've delivered what would normally be considered "incapacitating" rounds. You think to yourself, Is it the gun? The ammo? Did I hit or miss? I had to have hit, but he keeps coming. Imagine the thud of realization when you determine your adversary is wearing body armor.
Good guys are not the only ones wearing armor these days. Some high-profile incidents have made this painfully clear.
In 1997, we watched in awe as two California bank robbers absorbed numerous rounds of fire and were able to continue their assault on officers in the North Hollywood bank robbery shootout. In 2000, escaped convicts dubbed the "Texas Seven" stole a vest from the lifeless body of Officer Aubrey Hawkins after he was murdered while responding to a robbery call. The Midland County SWAT team recently encountered a suspect wearing armor and brandishing an AK-47 while serving a narcotics warrant. An investigation revealed he had purchased the vest from a local gun store. These days, a suspect can sit back on his newly stolen computer, tap into the Internet, and order a vest for a couple of hundred bucks or less.
A technique known as the Mozambique, or "failure drill," helps address this growing problem. To follow this technique, if an oncoming threat appears unaffected after a couple of rounds to the chest, you are to raise your weapon and secure a single shot to the head. That will work. However, it doesn't hurt to have more than one alternate plan up your proverbial sleeve. Why not submit a third option?
Center Mass is Center Mass
The "A, B, C" or "1, 2, 3" method of training presents three options for taking down a deadly threat. Instead of aiming for the torso, usually considered center mass, and then not knowing what to do if it doesn't work, change the way you think of "center mass." When viewed as a target, a person can be divided into three zones:
A=torso (Center mass)
B= head and neck
C= pelvic/femur joint area
For the traditionalists who teach "center mass" target acquisition, you can continue to teach the center mass concept. Just further break down the area into center mass of chest, center mass of head, and center mass of the pelvic joint area.[PAGEBREAK]
Why fire a "B" Zone Round?
Obviously, you cannot always incapacitate an aggressive threat with rounds to the "A" Zone, or torso, as in our first scenario. Whether it's body armor or drugs, if a person continues to attack you after "Plan A," you need to come up with something else. If you can't stop the machine, attempt to shut down the computer. Exercise caution, however, when sending more than one round toward the head; you may miss your intended target, sending the projectile into an unintended bystander.
Before you decide to engage in a head shot in the field, you need to consider several factors on the range. Remember, you'll react in a stressful situation the way you have trained. The time to think of the "what ifs" is in training, not when hot lead projectiles are spinning your way.
One of the most important factors to consider when contemplating aiming for the head is what lies beyond your threat. A school yard full of children? A 10-foot brick wall? This is important in the event a shot is missed, or exits the "B" zone.
All officers should also practice kneeling engagements, so as to direct the round upward, away from possible innocent bystanders. Of course, what goes up must come down. Keep in mind liability follows every round that leaves your weapon.
"C" Zone Placement
In most cases, a threat will be standing on two legs joined at the "C" Zone, or pelvic region. This is another key area that is usually not be protected by a ballistic vest. Well-placed rounds into the area above the top of the front pants pockets can cause disruption of mobility, thus possibly stopping a lethal advancement by the threat. Some argue that a round fired into the pelvis will enter and exit without ceasing a suspect's advance. I disagree.
I have been involved in death investigations for more than 15 years. I have been to countless autopsies and witnessed the inhumanity that men and women can unleash upon each other during fits of rage, fear, or murderous intent. I have seen what a bullet will do to skeletal mechanics, including the hip joint. Bullet vs. bone equals damage. Enough said.
Cheat to Win
No one can predict what type of circumstances you will encounter when presented with a deadly threat. If you rely too heavily on the statistics, there is a good chance you will become one. While training for the unexpected, include training for the inconceivable.
A combination of A, C, and B shots may be in order to defend an innocent life. A volley of C, A, and C again may be more appropriate. Use all of the options available to you.
With the ever-growing threat of terrorism, both from domestic and international sources, you must learn to play by a different set of rules. When it comes to armed encounters, cheat to win. Be selfish with your life. Train as though your life depended on it. If you and I should ever find ourselves partnered up together, I would hope that you would have trained as though my life depended on it, as well.
Greg Parrott is a CID sergeant with the Lubbock County Sheriff's Office in Lubbock, Texas. He is the Commander of the Lubbock County Tactical Operations Unit and a firearms instructor for his agency.