Unless you’re in law enforcement or the military, it’s unlikely that you’ll be in a life or death situation with your firearm, but there’s always a possibility. When or if the time ever comes that you must defend yourself with your handgun, where should you aim? On the surface, the question seems simple enough, but there is a lot more to it. Shooting center mass, or aiming at the center of the target, is the most common training method taught, and there’s a good reason for that.
Data from officer-involved shootings shows that only 30% of shots fired hit the target in the best-case scenarios. Just as officers train to shoot center mass, civilian gun owners must also continue to train.
Why Should We Aim to Shoot Center Mass?
Why should we not aim for the arm or the leg?
Imagine you’re in the scenario in which you must use your handgun. The arm and the leg are very small targets. You will likely be nervous, and the assailant will likely be moving. The chance of you being able to hit the target in the arm or leg accurately is slim. Supposing the assailant has a gun, even if you are successful in hitting the leg, the assailant can still use both hands to shoot at you. Likewise, if you can successfully shoot them in their dominant arm, they could still switch hands and shoot at you.
Why should we not aim for the head?
The head is still significantly smaller than an enemy’s torso. A person’s trunk is nearly 55% of their body, whereas the head is only 8%. If you are in a life or death situation, you should aim for the area where you’re most likely to hit and the place that will make the most significant impact to save your life. With most defensive shootings taking place within a few feet, there is little to no time for precise aiming.
Preparing to Shoot Center Mass
Not every person who is hit in their center mass or torso dies. That is a significant thing to remember. It might make you nervous about shooting a person, knowing that you may kill them, but it doesn’t mean that it’s guaranteed. However, the simple truth is that to stop a relentless assailant, you may need to incapacitate them, and aiming for the center mass is one of the best ways to accomplish this.
If you need to incapacitate an assailant, the round would need to penetrate deep enough to reach the vital organs to be the most effective. Of course, a bullet’s intensity would depend on several factors, including caliber size, caliber type, firearm type, etc.
Caliber Size and Ammunition Type Matters
Caliber size and ammo type and are vital in maximizing immediate incapacitation. Though there is truth in the adage that “a small gun is better than no gun,” you need to consider whether or not it is even worth considering small-caliber defense weapons with relatively low incapacitation qualities. In layman’s terms, different bullets and calibers react in different ways.
The general rule of thumb is that deep penetration is necessary. When smaller-sized calibers, like a .22, are used, it is less likely that an aggressive assailant will stop. It is also less likely that the bullet will be able to penetrate deep enough to incapacitate the assailant. This is why law enforcement typically uses at least 9mm caliber ammo.
Though caliber and penetration are important, ammunition type is also important. Most gun advocates would agree that the best ammo type for self-defense is a hollow point. Hollow point ammo, unlike full metal jacket ammo, expands when hitting a target. This expansion creates a cavity that will likely incapacitate a target. Hollow points are also great for stopping at the target and not unintentionally passing through. The ammo stoppage, due to its expansion, helps stop any accidental injury to bystanders.
Firearms for Center Mass Shooting
The FBI has stated, which we all could largely agree with, is that the pistol is not the preferred weapon in a shootout. However, it often is the only firearm immediately at our disposal. It is the primary defense weapon against an unexpected attack. It is highly important to use a gun with a good caliber size and ammo type in this case.
Shooting Center Mass - Training
We all wish it were not the case that we even have to train in this manner, but the stark truth is that we live in a dangerous world where we must prepare to defend ourselves and those we love. Men and women who continuously train for hazardous situations typically do not achieve greater than a 30% successful shot placement under duress. Needless to say, the average untrained person will be successful in less than 30% of their shots. This means that training to shoot center mass is a must.
How to Train to Shoot Center Mass
Despite your reasoning for owning a gun, proper training is always advised. The best way to achieve this is to train regularly. Here are some training drills that will help you shoot center mass:
- Simple Draw and Fire
- The Wall Drill - also known as the trigger control drill
- The Double Tap
- Target Practice
It’s important to understand that all drills will help you with balance and trigger control while maintaining alertness. This works for hunting and self-defense. Train as often as you can. If you only have time on the weekends, then train on the weekends. If you have time during lunch, do it during lunch. The Wall Drill can be done indoors with an unloaded weapon. If you’re practicing outdoors, invest in some center mass targets.
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