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Thread: Human Targets

  1. #1
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    Human Targets

    I was at a Tom Givens class last weekend. He stated that shots through the lungs are not much good
    at stopping violent encounters. The ER will only put a band-aid on such wounds and send the perp
    home. So in fact the real target is the heart (and in particular arteries / veins above) and one should
    be aiming at a 2inch wide strip in the center of the chest. Much of the IDPA 8 inch circle is not going
    to cause a stop.

    I have not heard this before. Anyone with medical experience care to comment. Are there enough
    arteries / veins in the traditional IDPA 0-down zone to make this a moot point?

    If it is true what is the real A-zone? 2inch wide by how tall? Where would you place it?
    (My guess is that the target high in the USPSA A zone and about 4 inches long).

  2. #2
    Site Supporter psalms144.1's Avatar
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    I'm sure someone truly qualified will weigh in, but for the longest time I've been training my folks that the only really good handgun hit is one that hits in the tactical T in the head, or the CNS running down the center of the body. I'd be happy if my folks and I could hit a 2" vertical strip on demand every time from the holster at reasonable range in 1.5 seconds or so.

    I'm not sure that I'd go so far as to say that any other hit in what would be the A Zone was pointless, but the heart/major arteries/CNS is definitely what I'm aiming for when I shoot center mass...

  3. #3
    Leopard Printer Mr_White's Avatar
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    I think this gets right to the heart (hurr hurr) of respecting the time pressure adversaries create - if we got really really strict on vital anatomical correctness in the zones represented on targets, they'd be small enough that a whole lot of people would be taking so long to shoot them that they'd run out of time when they aren't going to just stand there and let you shoot them. Hence the balance inherent to something like an 8" circle, lower A-zone, etc.
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  4. #4
    Seen a few people get shot in various organs, including the lungs. Granted they were always shot in more than one place so they always stayed at the hospital.
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  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by nycnoob View Post
    He stated that shots through the lungs are not much good
    at stopping violent encounters. The ER will only put a band-aid on such wounds and send the perp
    home. So in fact the real target is the heart (and in particular arteries / veins above) and one should
    be aiming at a 2inch wide strip in the center of the chest. .
    Relative to shooting someone in the head, heart, or upper spinal cord, yes - a bullet through the lung(s) will not be as quickly incapacitating.

    Generally it works like this: if you can destroy enough of the brain or upper spinal cord (above the shoulders), you will immediately incapacitate their ability to move and death will almost certainly follow in short order, assuming they are not killed immediately. Brain and central nervous system tissue needs oxygen and is very delicate, and, ultimately, controls nearly every aspect of human life as we know it. Incapacitation from a successful hit as described above should be on the order of seconds.

    If you destroy enough of the heart and/or vasculature, you will cause death or incapacitation either by a) destroying the heart's ability to pump correctly (cardiac tamponade, traumatic cardiac arrest) or b) exsanguination. This can cause death and incapacitation on the order of minutes. Other serious vascular injuries or shots to major blood bearing organs can cause the injured to exsanguinate, which will take on the order of several minutes to hours, depending on the site and nature of the wound.

    Destruction of the lungs and/or airway can cause incapacitation by airway obstruction or hemo/pneumothorax, as well as direct damage to the lungs themselves. This can eventually cause the wounded to asphyxiate or lose consciousness from lack of oxygen, but its highly context dependent and not guaranteed to occur. More of a consideration for the treatment of penetrating trauma rather than something to think about in the context of self defense. Also worth noting there are large vessels that perfuse the lungs; serious damage to those can also cause death by exsanguination or cardiac tamponade.

    Hope that makes sense. I can link some related anatomical photos to illustrate if you like.

    edit: if you get shot in the lungs, we will NOT just put a bandaid on it... google "hemothorax chest tube" if you have a strong stomach.
    Last edited by Nephrology; 09-02-2016 at 07:12 PM.

  6. #6
    Mr. Shovel Lover Hambo's Avatar
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    I think most targets are too generous. The heart is about the size of your fist and frontal brain shots are eyes/nose. That said, we're mostly programmed to the idea that the BG will stand squared up to us, which may not happen. For that reason I like to throw in photo targets with no A zone and BGs in other stances.
    John Wick didn't kill all those people because they broke his toaster.-MickAK

  7. #7
    I hope nyeti will contribute on "The Habits of Successful Gunfighters."

  8. #8
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    Gabe,

    Thanks for your post and bringing in other issues: time to make the shot may trump anatomical accuracy
    (in comparing 8" and 2" target sizes) As with every subject I have looked deeply at, there is more to
    think about than the obvious criterion.

    I do know that Nyeti does prefer smaller more accurate targets but I am not sure what size/placement he thinks
    is apriopriate. It is not clear that he thinks of this anatomically or just that he wants "really centered" hits.
    Last edited by nycnoob; 09-02-2016 at 07:58 PM.

  9. #9
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    Sigh…. As often happens, a complex subject that was discussed at length, in several segments over the course of a three day class has been distilled to one sentence.

    A single pistol hit, to just one lung, often does not bring about any noticeable impairment to the shootee in a time frame that would be of any benefit to the shooter. Platt, in the FBI shootout in Miami in 1986, is a perfect example. He took a hit to one lung, which also knicked an artery and filled that one lung with blood. However, he still had a perfectly good lung and a functional heart and fought for an additional three and a half minutes AFTER taking that hit.

    Nephrology wrote, “Destruction of the lungs and/or airway can cause incapacitation by airway obstruction or hemo/pneumothorax, as well as direct damage to the lungs themselves. This can eventually cause the wounded to asphyxiate or lose consciousness from lack of oxygen, but its highly context dependent and not guaranteed to occur. More of a consideration for the treatment of penetrating trauma rather than something to think about in the context of self defense. Also worth noting there are large vessels that perfuse the lungs; serious damage to those can also cause death by exsanguination or cardiac tamponade.”

    Note the word “destruction”. Unlike rifle bullets with velocities above 2,100 feet per second, pistol bullets don’t destroy lungs. They poke holes in them. You can poke a hole in a lung without striking bone (between two ribs) and without hitting an artery. If this occurs, you have not accomplished much IN THE SHORT TERM, which is what we are concerned with.

    This is why multiple hits to a fairly small area in the upper torso are often required to force someone to stop. We try to get across to students that only quality hits count when faced with a determined aggressor, and multiple hits are vastly better than single hits. The human body has a lot of redundancy (two lungs, two kidneys, etc) and a lot of resiliency. If faced with a determined attacker, it may take a lot of accumulated damage to force incapacitation in a survivable time frame.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Givens View Post
    Sigh…. As often happens, a complex subject that was discussed at length, in several segments over the course of a three day class has been distilled to one sentence.

    A single pistol hit, to just one lung, often does not bring about any noticeable impairment to the shootee in a time frame that would be of any benefit to the shooter. Platt, in the FBI shootout in Miami in 1986, is a perfect example. He took a hit to one lung, which also knicked an artery and filled that one lung with blood. However, he still had a perfectly good lung and a functional heart and fought for an additional three and a half minutes AFTER taking that hit.

    Nephrology wrote, “Destruction of the lungs and/or airway can cause incapacitation by airway obstruction or hemo/pneumothorax, as well as direct damage to the lungs themselves. This can eventually cause the wounded to asphyxiate or lose consciousness from lack of oxygen, but its highly context dependent and not guaranteed to occur. More of a consideration for the treatment of penetrating trauma rather than something to think about in the context of self defense. Also worth noting there are large vessels that perfuse the lungs; serious damage to those can also cause death by exsanguination or cardiac tamponade.”

    Note the word “destruction”. Unlike rifle bullets with velocities above 2,100 feet per second, pistol bullets don’t destroy lungs. They poke holes in them. You can poke a hole in a lung without striking bone (between two ribs) and without hitting an artery. If this occurs, you have not accomplished much IN THE SHORT TERM, which is what we are concerned with.

    This is why multiple hits to a fairly small area in the upper torso are often required to force someone to stop. We try to get across to students that only quality hits count when faced with a determined aggressor, and multiple hits are vastly better than single hits. The human body has a lot of redundancy (two lungs, two kidneys, etc) and a lot of resiliency. If faced with a determined attacker, it may take a lot of accumulated damage to force incapacitation in a survivable time frame.
    It's a perfectly reasonable approach to take, too. Your emphasis on the heart and brain are 100% on point and the most important thing to take away when it comes to shot selection.

    It's also true that the difference between a GSW to a truly vital area (heart and great vessels, CNS) and a peripheral GSW are night and day. I've seen pts with abdominal GSWs and stab wounds that were relaxing in bed, relatively comfortable thanks to morphine. Someone shot through the heart is coming in in traumatic arrest with skin the color of a bedsheet. I don't think I've ever seen a facial GSW make it to the ED at all, in my relatively brief experience so far.

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