Spreading Lies

23-Sep-13 – 11:39 by ToddG

lotsofmissesAn interesting conversation on pistol-forum.com over the past few days raised the specter of “too accurate” as it is being taught at some fairly high places including some programs at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

The theory, in a nutshell, is as follows: Rather than put multiple rounds into a small concentrated area, it’s better to shoot wide open and hit someone in lots of different places all over his body because he’ll bleed from more places and become incapacitated faster.

Presumably, this is taught in the same class explaining that the Moon is made of green cheese, socialism is sustainable, and similar ridiculous myths. Now admittedly, I am not a doctor, don’t play one on television, and didn’t sleep at Holiday Inn Express last night. But when the guys who study this stuff professionally — like Dr. Gary “DocGKR” Roberts and retired FBI Ballistics Research chief Buford Boone — all scoff at this death by a thousand cuts approach, well, it’s hard to argue with stuff like “science” and “fact.”

When it comes to lethal confrontations and typical handgun caliber rounds, I like to group anatomical target areas as follows:

Group A: places where bullets are likely to cause substantial immediate trauma to critical life-sustaining organs

Group B: places where bullets aren’t doing a damn thing

So why does this lots of fast hits anywhere on the target theory keep coming back into vogue? Lazy instructors. It’s easy to teach people to launch unaimed bullets out of a pistol really, really fast and still hit a 30″ high, 18″ wide target at 3yd. It’s particularly fascinating to a certain subset of law enforcement instructors who’ve been told their entire career that firing six shots in 30 seconds at 25yd was fast enough and taught officers everything they needed to know about combat.

I still remember attending a ridiculously bad class put on for some military & law enforcement folks about a decade ago. The instructor literally had us stand less than a yard from a giant B27 target and the “challenge” was to hit the target five times in one second (measured from first shot to last, so 0.25 splits). The SWAT cops from one local department were so impressed and inspired that they were almost brought to tears… because he taught them to shoot blind quarter-second splits while keeping everything within — literally — 2,200 MOA.

When a few of us offered that we could probably do the same thing from ten times farther away while keeping our hits in a much, much smaller area we, too, got the old “make ’em bleed from as many places as you can!” story. It was wrong then, and it’s wrong now.

Speed is good. Speed is important. But speed only matters if the thing you’re doing speedily is hitting vital structures in a way that will promote rapid incapacitation. Slicing up a bunch of distal arteries and capillaries might make for a gruesome appearance and could eventually cause someone to bleed to death, but not before he’s had enough time to kill you, bury your corpse, and drive himself to the local hospital.

Hit what matters.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

  1. 21 Responses to “Spreading Lies”

  2. Todd, on some level I agree with you, however what I see every day during quals and classes are officers taking too much time trying to make cloverleafs at 7 yards. Is that really necessary for combat shooting? Wouldn’t it be better to have the rounds shot faster and land in the 9 and 10 rings of that target posted above? Still great hits in terms of vital organs AND shot at a speed closer to what they will do under the stress of a gunfight. Also, along those lines, if a stray round misses the 10 ring but hits the shoulder on a bad guy, wouldn’t that also affect what they are doing?

    I do have a problem with the whole target as the standard scoring area. We teach to be accurate and good manipulation so we can strive to hit where we want.

    By Erik on Sep 23, 2013

  3. Next they are going to advocate walking the rounds in with the first shot into the ground in front of the bad person… sigh

    By Wesley Belland on Sep 23, 2013

  4. Erik — No question, shooting at a ridiculously slow pace is no better than shooting at a pace that gives you ridiculously poor accuracy. See my comment about “six shots in 30 seconds at 25yd.”

    By ToddG on Sep 23, 2013

  5. Erik-In my last shooting I went from a full frontal shot on the bad guy to a full side shot in the time of a two yard trigger press. Fortunately I had been training to a closed fist size accuracy standard, so the same shot that would have cleaned the guy from the front also was a dead center high thoracic hit from the side as well. Single round hit with incapacitation so fast I couldn’t get off a second shot, and done from Harries in low light. Here is reality-you are not shooting one dimensional paper targets under ideal conditions in the field. L/E are held to a much higher standard than crooks. The priority is to make solid, surgical hits on dynamic targets in a less than optimal conditions with a high level of evaluation standards ahead of the shooting, and a high expectation on when to stop. So, how much accuracy are you willing to sacrifice for speed? I have seen better success with very high accuracy demands at realistic speeds than either way too slow, or allowing poor accuracy on very easy targets done at a speed that is well above many officers abilities to hit surgically….and telling them that its okay.

    By nyeti on Sep 23, 2013

  6. It seems to me that somebody is taking way too much liberty defining what is being taught, especially when they are not there to hear the entire context of what is being taught.

    For years LE has tried to find that fine line between speed and getting multiple fast hits on the vitals of a target. Some guys like to go very slow and make dime size hits, when in fact going twice as fast and having fist size hits is going to be better in a real shooting.

    I have seen the effects of both, and the results were the same. Vital hits bled and the subject dies quickly.

    Unless you hit the exact same place and disrupt the exact same tissue with each round, the rounds that are 1/2 or even 1/4 inch apart do the same extra damage that rounds 2-3 inches part do.

    So, the trade off for speed or accuracy debate continues on.

    The best way to win a gunfight is to get the first, and multiple accurate hits you can on the opponent. Those who have been in real gunfights can attest that movement, cover and lighting can make it hard to hit the target, without practicing hitting small groups, but learning how to shoot fast small groups is better than slow small groups.

    With that said, Shoot fast enough to get decent hits on the vitals of the target, and quit worrying about the 10, 9, or 8 ring.

    Our scoring targets were either a hit on the vital area, or a miss it didn’t matter how big the group was.

    By Kenny T on Sep 23, 2013

  7. The targets used in training matter an awful lot.

    When we train shooters that they always need to hit a quarter size x-ring, we are doing a disservice. One of the things I REALLY like about incorporating a variety of PT.com targets (and others) into shooting is that it becomes about “seeing what you need to see” to make the shot, not about making a specific, low percentage shot over and over. Many of the various LE training targets account for this as well, with virtually no really low percentage shots included by target size, only by string of fire. That has value too.

    I think that target selection is a great training tool that allows us to pick a target appropriate to the skill we try to develop. It also helps keep shooting interesting too.


    By dan-o on Sep 23, 2013

  8. Todd:

    Perhaps one way to advance this discussion is to talk about it statistically. It is undoubtedly true that firing a bunch of random shots into someone very fast will result in rapid incapacitation occasionally. Thus, it indeed “works”–in a way–and anecdotal evidence will support it. The trouble is that it is highly unlikely to work often enough–the times it works are going to be tail events on a bell shape curve.

    It makes far more sense to train to take advantage of the broad middle of that bell shape curve because probabilities are going to favor you much more. Aim at the incapacitation zones and based upon all the data (and not just anecdotes)your probabilities are going to go dramatically up.

    Anyway, you know and nicely summarize the arguments. Calling this piece of foolishness “statistically invalid” (which it plainly is) might cause those who decide whether it is taught or not to take a closer look at the theory.

    By SteveJ on Sep 23, 2013

  9. As a healthcare professional I have to comment.

    I have to agree with Todd.

    Peripheral injuries (wounds to arms and legs aside from amputation) are not priority in trauma.

    The ABCs are Airway Breathing and Circulation and are prioritized in that order. It is much more important to destroy the CNS and major vessels, bags and valves (lungs and heart). Major damage to these cause a failure in one, both, or all of the ABCs. Fast shots to those structures accurately and effectively will cause a greater chance of fatality.

    The only benefit to possibly spreading out the shots would be to hit the abdomen as well. Should your attacker survive the shots to center mass, penetrating wounds to the abdomen also destroy the sterile field created by the peritoneium surriunding the bowels. Destruction of this sterile field can VERY easily cause sepsis and possibly septic shock which can easily be fatal. This will only compound the trauma cause by more effective shots to center mass and cause more life threatening complications for the patient in the days following the initial trauma.

    By Greg P on Sep 23, 2013

  10. I agree and strongly disagree.

    Yes, you need to hit vital areas that will quickly incapacitate the threat. Waiting for him to ‘bleed out’ is not an option.

    No, you do not need an extremely tight grouping to do that. Hitting the heart three times will not make him any deader any faster, than hitting it only once. You also need to get your shots quickly, because you want to stop the threat as quickly as possible. Hitting the heart, a lung, and the spine in 2/3rds the time will make the threat deader, faster.

    Just remember that a miss is just a waste of valuable time, so shoot with “combat accuracy”. If you do five shots and they are all within a 2 inch circle, then you spent too much time aiming. If some shots are outside an 8 inch circle, then you need to slow down and aim a little more carefully. As the distance to the target increases, you will need to slow down in order to still put all shots within the 8 inch circle.

    Combat Accuracy is something that most “operator-style” experts can’t bring themselves to accept. Are you one of them, ToddG?

    By Bob on Sep 23, 2013

  11. Bob, I’ve never been in a gun fight and operate a bicycle way more often than a gun.

    Having said that I’ll take the advice of dudes like Nyeti and Todd who’ve either been-there-done-that or trained with, under and over lots of serious shooters.

    I’d be willing to bet Todd (and some “operators” who frequent this site) can do quite a bit better than an 8″ group at a very impressive speed.

    When I hear combat accuracy it’s usually used as an excuse for less than stellar performance. A head shot (low percentage target) is smaller than 8″ and might need to be taken quickly.

    Larry Vickers says you can expect your accuracy to drop by 50% in a fight (he might know) so I’ll keep striving for more accuracy, at speed, to help improve my chances of hitting something important fast.

    By Lomshek on Sep 24, 2013

  12. Bob — I’m not opposed to using an 8″ circle as a target zone and completely agree that speed has to be part of the equation. In fact, given the dynamic nature of a real shooting, you’d be hard pressed to cloverleaf shots into someone (who is moving thus making it that much harder to put your hits on top of one another).

    One small correction, though: especially depending on exact placement, multiple hits to the heart can, in fact, cause faster failure of its ability to pump blood than a single hit.

    By ToddG on Sep 24, 2013

  13. The theory as it is being presented in this article is not the way I have heard it presented in classes.

    By jlw on Sep 24, 2013

  14. “If you do five shots and they are all within a 2 inch circle, then you spent too much time aiming.”

    Bob, there are plenty of people who can put 5 shots in a 2 inch circle at .20-.25 seconds per shot. It just takes decent training. I think that is Todd’s point.

    By Claude on Sep 24, 2013

  15. It’s not laziness – it’s lack of expertise. Someone that’s put in the time to be good at getting multiple hits in a 6″ or 8″ circle quickly is going have a better concept of what a “good enough” standard of speed and accuracy is, and how to teach others to achieve it.

    By KR on Sep 24, 2013

  16. KR — You say tomato, I say lazy. If a full time professional firearms instructor hasn’t “put in the time to be good,” and instead creates & echoes idiotic, scientifically unsupportable drivel to justify their own poor shot placement and/or that of their students, I call it LAZY.

    By ToddG on Sep 24, 2013

  17. In the real world it’s not just about the target. Remember the police shooting where the suspect was shot 8 times, but unfortunately the hostage was also killed?

    Not trying to place blame on the officer involved, but maybe he was trained by the spray it fast crowd? Maybe if he had taken Todd’s Aim Fast, Hit Fast class instead the bad guy would still be dead and the hostage alive? Accuracy matters.

    By JAC on Sep 24, 2013

  18. I’ve been told this very thing, that I was shooting too accurately, at a major shooting school owned by a Tier 1 instructor who is often referenced on this very pages.

    It was disheartening, as I was shooting good groups in anatomically correct areas of the target. I would call it a scar, as he was completely serious and I didn’t return to the school, though I consider the instructor a friend.

    By jbourneidentity on Sep 24, 2013

  19. I think to much is being made over the purported statement in the article and it was taken out of context.

    Any good LE instructor will agree that a multifaceted training program is necessary to achieve the best possible outcome in a variety of real life shootings. You can’t focus on the pinpoint accuracy, taking the extra time to shoot on all drills all the time. You have to train to do that, and you have to train to be able to shoot fast and accurate when the shooting happens.

    Spray it fast is not a term that I, nor any of the professional instructors I know of, have ever taught.

    And using the hostage situation to try and prove a point on this topic is not appropriate. Too many variables and unknowns to that shooting to even start using it for a comparison of techniques and training methods.

    By Kenny T on Sep 25, 2013

  20. I have to wonder if recent news reports are an indication of the blazing speed/ lack of accuracy training. Remember the tale of the NY officers who fired a large number of shots and hit a significant number of bystanders? 1 bad guy. 9 bystanders hit by police gunfire.


    Perhaps if there was an organizational penalty for such conduct, the organization would correct its training and protocols.

    By J on Sep 28, 2013

  21. The NYC shootout referenced above is indicative of how difficult police officers have it when responding to deadly force.

    Questions I had on the 9 bystanders who were hit. How many were hit by bullets that also hit the suspect? How many were hit by ricochets off of items or the ground that the officer had no control over. (ricochets don’t go in a straight line.) Even with a perfect center mass hit, bullets can exit and hit things behind them.

    Having studied many shootings where the suspect was moving and understanding how hard it is under fire to focus on your sights, the target and the backdrop to your shooting at the same time, and also looking for cover or trying to move off the line of the suspect’s fire creates misses, not bad shooters.

    The decision by those officers to shoot despite the crowded area, goes to the need to stop a suspect who is shooting other people. Unfortunate that some innocents got hit by police bullets, but by not stopping the suspect more innocents would have been hit by the suspects bullets.. So the decision to shoot had to be tempered by the situation.

    Milliseconds and movement causes misses, that even the most practiced target shooters can’t avoid. Reaction time, trigger press and the conscious decision to fire all get affected by movement.

    By KENNY T on Sep 30, 2013

  22. Having seen enough shootings on the street where people are hit all around the edges to little or no effect (and I am talking hundreds of such events) often walking or driving themselves to the ER, I am firmly of the opinion that hits don’t count, only really good hits count.

    Go find the Trooper Coates video for a tragic example of this.

    Spray and pray is what gang bangers use, don’t be like those guys.

    By Chuck Haggard on Oct 1, 2013

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