Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Pelvic Shot: Ultimate stopper or over rated?


Over the years, I have heard many stories as it relates to shooting someone in the pelvis. Some claim it is the "ultimate" location to shoot a person in an effort to create incapacitation, to others it is a serious mistake. Of course, these opinions are based on information these same people have received from other sources. Some come from eye witnesses, others from medical professionals that see wounds after the fact.

The most "famous" pelvic shot/wound ever recorded probably belongs to western lawman, buffalo hunter, gunfighter and legend Bat Masterson.  In 1875 in Sweetwater, Texas Masterson was involved in a shootout with Corporal Melvin King (U.S.Army) involving either hard feelings over a card game or the affections of a woman, historians go both ways on the issue. I know, I know...the shooting involved liquor, gambling and a women...hard to believe those three would result in a fight, right?

Near midnight, Masterson left the Lady Gay Saloon accompanied by Mollie Brennan and walked to a near by dance hall.  Masterson and Brennan sat down near the front door and began talking. Corporal King, intoxicated and angry over the night’s events (either loosing at cards or Brennan's attention to Masterson), saw the two go into the dance hall and watched them through the window before he approached the locked door. King knocked and Masterson got up to answer it. As he did, King burst into the room with a drawn revolver and a string of profanity. While stories as to exactly what happened vary, somehow Brennan found herself between the two men when King fired (whether she was trying to protect Masterson or simply trying to get out of the way is unknown), the first shot narrowly missed her and struck Masterson in the abdomen and shattered his pelvis taking him to the floor. King’s second shot hit Brennan in the chest and she crumpled to the floor. At this point, Masterson raised himself up and fired the shot that killed King. Some say Bat Masterson walked with a cane the remainder of his life due to the severity of the pelvic wound while others say he merely used it as an excuse to keep an impact weapon with him at all times...a weapon he was known to use with great effectiveness!

Its the bold sentence that is of great concern to those who question the pelvic shot.  I have talked to several people over the years who have either been involved or have been witness to armed conflict in which a pelvis shot was delivered and all describe the victim of said wound go down while at the same time, this person was capable of remaining in the fight. This being the case, one must ask themselves if incapacitation is the same as lack of mobilization? Incapacitation means being unable to take action while immobilization means not being able to move...are they the same thing?

I have been looking at the issue of handgun "stopping power" for decades now and have come to the conclusion that handguns are not impressive man stoppers regardless of caliber or bullet design. While we currently have THE BEST combative handgun ammo ever designed, all the logical person must do is hold a cartridge in their hand, consider its weight and size and compare it to the mass that is the human body and it is not hard to see why such a small, light projectile will likely have limited impact on the human organism quickly. Just hold a .45 caliber projectile in front of the human chest cavity and you will see it is pretty small. In order to get any type of rapid result, it will have to hit a pretty important part of the body. The question is, is the pelvis "important"? Should it be a primary target?

In my classes, I use a simple target that highlights the upper chest cavity and head, a 6 x 14 inch rectangle that includes the center of the skull and the vital organs of the heart, aorta, major vessels and spinal column. Few dispute this area as "vital". The head can be considered controversial since handgun rounds have been known to not penetrate the skull but I, personally, discount this. I have been on the scene twice when humans have been hit in the skull by a handgun round that did not penetrate and on both occasions, the person was knocked off their feet much like a batter that is hit in the head with a baseball.  I have received this same feedback from others. My concern with head shots is the lack of "back stop" to catch a round that is not well placed.  The center chest has the remainder of the torso to help slow/catch a round that does not hit the center chest while a round that misses the head goes over the shoulder. I counsel my students to use the head shot for close distances where they know they can hit or for times they can take a low posture and shoot upwards. 25 to 50 yard head shots? Up to you, I guess. You might be able to do it on the square range, but the pandemonium of a real gunfight, where non-hostiles might be in your battle space, is an entirely different thing. Consider carefully...

I believe the high chest and head is a much better "strike zone" for combative pistolcraft than I do the pelvic girdle. I do not emphasize it in my classes, but I also do not take to task those instructors that do. In the end, the region of the body you will shoot for is that which is available to you when you fire your shots! We will all take what is offered to us, but if there is a hierarchy of shot placement, the pelvic girdle would be ranked below the chest and head...and least in my mind.

Thanks for checking in!

12 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Very well said. May be we just can consider the pelvic zone to stop the threat, even if not incapacitate in a situation like eg. someone is closing at us with a knife or machete and our upper chest and head shots didn't bring the incapacitation fast enough, than it can be viable option before continuing with upper chest and head if appropriate. I think Bob Stash or Jim Cirillo talked about it somewhere. Thank you for a great post.

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    1. A pelvic girdle shot should never be considered a STOP ! It is a mobility killing shot or shots, because you should be shooting it more than once especially with a pistol caliber, but the same is true with a carbine as well. From that mobility kill you still need to STOP the THREAT. I have seen grounded threats continue to put accurate hits on their intended targets, just because they are down does not mean that they are out, at least not immediately. Take this info to heart. Because it is true.

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  3. One thing to consider in a moving gunfight: the hips are easier to hit. Try it in force on force; much like a defensive back watches hips to make his tackle, POA here in a dynamic situation can be advantageous.
    Just a thought.
    -JT

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    1. Dude, thank you, I love a person that knows exactly what they are talking about in a post when responding in a thread like this, on a topic like this. You are a shooters, shooter indeed.

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  4. Good article, man. I LOVE articles about Bat Masterson, as he was a seasoned gunman. Keep it up!

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  5. If a man thinks for half a second that he might have taken a hit to the junk he may pause long enough for me to get a better shot.

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    1. If a man thinks for a half a second in a gunfight he has eaten 2 to 2.5 bullets. TO LATE to pause to get a better shot.

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  6. Interesting article. I disagree with you however about the best recorded pelvic shot ever. SF teams in the Box have used breaking the pelvic girdle with carbines to drop determined rags at ecqb distances and out, as they crumple they are still sustaining their fire onto them. Surely a man of your lore has access to speak to Americas shooters on this topic. You can say that I am wrong regarding this, but I know for sure. Thus, I wouldn't do that. My point is, speaking to active SF Forces or the guys that train them, will yield much more current results in fact finding than quoting the 1800's old west tales. Food for thought. Look forward to the follow up article.

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    1. If you will re-read the blog, you will note I did not say "the best" I said "most famous". It is an incident that has been well documented/debated over the years by historians and anyone can research them for themselves. It is also a pistol fight.

      I do have friends and acquaintances, either currently serving or retired, from the Special Operations Forces and they do share their TTP's with me, including their use of pelvic shots. They do so with the understanding I will keep them a secret and not blurt them out over the internet. I choose to honor this request.

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  7. Some time ago in Ramadi jihadis were getting doped up heavy before a scrape we noticed some of these guys taking a ridiculous number of high thoracic hits and staying upright word came down from a couple cag fellas that they had the same problem in gothic serpent told us the pelvic girdle would bring them down but not take them out of the fight within a week we had a run in with some boys who didnt wanna go down we sent some into the pelvis (probably more accident than well aimed) and they hit the deck right away but they werent out of the fight but they were damn sure easier to hit crawling on the deck. Great article huge fan of Bat Masterson stories and I agree the pelvic girdle is a great way to shut down a badguys mobility but it certainly isnt shutting the lights out completely. I dont know that id encourage shooting there first but if badguys moving and shaking and wont shut down it may be easier than shooting them in the grape and make sure you stay on them once they hit the deck.

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    1. That's exactly where I aimed with my comment.

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