This is part of a multi-part series on tactical pistol shooting. To read part 1 on the fundamentals of good handgun ownership, click here. For insights on practical EDC gear, click here. For advice on self-defense shooting, click here.

It should go without saying that if you ever find yourself in a situation where you think you might need to use your pistol, you have to be 100% sure before you pull that trigger. Use of force is something they take very seriously at the Strategic Weapons Academy of Texas. Sergeant Tim Bulot, who heads the academy, has been in law enforcement for more than 30 years, and makes it a point to remind his students of the stipulations of Texas Penal Code 9.32, “deadly force in defense of person” which states in no uncertain terms that deadly force may only be used if one’s life is in imminent danger, while section 9.33 goes on to say that deadly force may be used when a third person’s life is in immediate danger.

It is safe to say then, that anyone who draw a weapon with the intent to kill either you or a random bystander is fair game. That said, when your weapon is drawn, do not automatically assume that a single round delivered center mass is a magical off switch.

In 2006, a certain Joseph Guzman was shot 19 times by police, with several of the rounds hitting him in the torso. He survived because none of the rounds hit true center mass.

Joseph Guzman gunshot diagram
Diagram of Joseph Guzman’s gunshot wounds. Credit: NY Times

Corpsman Terry Green (USN Ret.), an instructor at the Strategic Weapons Academy of Texas, has 27 years of medical practice in the United States Navy under his belt, with 20 of those years spent with the Marines. He knows just as much about patching people up as he does about putting holes in them.

During his class at the academy, we learned that there are other reasons why a center mass shot might fail. The first of which would be because a threat could be wearing body armor. The Tops supermarket shooter, for example, was shot center mass but survived because he wore armor. Another reason why someone could survive a shot to center mass is if he were directly facing you.

Man in hoodie points a gun at the viewer.

If you were to shoot at this upstanding member of society, it would be very likely for your round to hit him in the arm rather than the chest. Depending on what you’re shooting, the round could either bury itself in his forearm, ricochet off the bone, or have reduced velocity upon impact.

Instead, a viable tactic is to shoot for the pelvis or thigh. Many seem to think that “going for the leg” is a nonlethal shot, but there’s something called the femoral triangle located in the pelvis near the groin. If this cluster of veins is hit, the victim will be dead within 2-5 minutes.

Another reason to aim for the pelvis is if the threat is making wild gestures for you to “give him your money,” his upper extremities will be moving around a lot, but his pelvis will stay in place.

Those who want to be absolutely sure the threat is out of action may practice the Mozambique drill. More commonly known as the “two to the chest one to the head” drill, this technique was named after an incident during the Mozambican War of Independence when Rhodesian Mercenary Mike Rousseau fired two 9mm rounds into the chest of an advancing insurgent at 7 yards, which failed to stop him. Seeing that his initial two shots failed to stop the threat, Rousseau fired one more round into the insurgent’s neck, severing the spinal cord and killing him.

When shooting for the head, Corpsman Green teaches tells us the entire head is not necessarily a giant kill zone. There exists a “magic window” between the nose and the forehead that, when shot, will destroy the brain. Shooting a person from the nose down might kill, but only if the hit severs the spinal cord. There are several examples of people, particularly the soldiers of WW1, who were shot in non-lethal places on the head like the cheek, jaw, or nose who managed to survive.

This World War I veteran survived being shot through the nose. A plaster nose hides his deformity. Credit: The Sun.

It should go without saying that the emphasis should be placed on killing the threat. If a man is pointing a gun at you and doesn’t go down when you pull the trigger, the next shot could come from his weapon, and you could be the one bleeding out on the floor. “Two to the heart one to the head” is a great way to make sure any threat stays down.

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