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!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Your opinion does not trump my personal experience.

                         

                                         "Your opinion does not trump my personal experience".
                                                                                                      - Jon Willis

Hard to believe, but Jon and I were sitting in a bar. I had not seen him in a few weeks and we were catching up after the holidays. The last time we had been together it was a group of guys sitting around a campfire enjoying fine whiskey and cigars after a grilled steak dinner. Again, hard to believe...

During this outing, I had over heard Jon get into a rather "lively" discussion on tourniquets and which one was best. Jon is a Firefighter/Paramedic and I know he has used these devices on the street numerous times, so I defer to him on the topic and his choice is what I carry in my IFAK and vehicle Trauma Kit.  What many people might not know is the tourniquet is debated in the TCCC crowd and its graduates like 9mm vs. .45 is in the handgun crowd.

Truth be told, I don't pay attention to this or many other debates as I have some personal experience, extensive training and I have a real good idea of what actually works. For situations that I don't, I have real world practitioners like Jon to advise me. In regards to tourniquets, I'm just glad to see the quality of tourniquet we now have! You should have seen the tourniquet I was taught to use back in the mid 80's when my SWAT team first created their own IFAK. Done at the direction of Emergency Room Physician and SWAT Doc Dr. Nicholas Pancol, my first tourniquet was merely a nylon strap with a slider buckle and locking device. It worked but it was BRUTAL to apply, hurt like a stick in the eye and probably did result in limb loss in a few hours due to it's thinness.  Listening the the debate of which tourniquet is better makes me smile...hell, I would have taken ANY of them over what we had back then!

The person Jon was talking with was not a street practitioner, merely a student, though his opinion on the topic was strong. Jon tried to explain to him why he liked his tourniquet based in using it in actual blood loss emergencies on the street, but this fellow was having none of it! I'm guessing whoever taught him was an instructor he held in high regard and such a person could not be in error due to iconic status. I was amused at how easy Jon sluffed it off. When I asked him about it, he just laughed and said "I tried to talk to him but he would not listen. I don't care...anyone can do what they like...but your opinion does not trump my personal experience."

BAM! There it is...I have never heard it said better. In a time when so many people are GREATLY affected by what they see and read in the movies, video games, blogs, You Tube, Facebook, Instagram , etc. etc. we need to stop, take a deep breath and see what has actually works in crisis...you know, those stress filled events in which you are under great PRESSURE to perform...when lives are on the line...maybe YOURS...and not just what is currently popular or looks cool.

OPINION IS NOT FACT! Just because a noteworthy person says this is the way to do something does not mean we follow blindly without critical thought. I wish I had a nickel for every time I have asked a student why they are doing what they are doing or using the technique they are and I get a blank stare. "Huh? What do you mean?" they ask. "Why are you holding the gun like that?" or "Why are you doing this?" or  "What are you trying to accomplish by using this technique?" I will say in response. What do I get back? "I went to a class taught by XXX and he said do this." "OK", I will say, "WHY are you using it? How does it benefit you? How does it enhance your performance?" It is distressing to see how many students do not know beyond they were told to do it by a famous person.

Look, that instructor may be right on, but the student/shooter using it should know why! It's called Critical Thought and we are all capable of it, its just that many have decided to blindly follow and not ask why something will benefit them. If you are building skills to be used to save your life or the lives of those you love and care about you should know WHY THEY WORK! You should also want to have learned them from people who have used them in crisis mode! Why? Because they can tell you what it was like to do it, where it was strong, weak and what they did to improve it for next time.

Charisma is not fact, scientific sounding, non-sensical jargon is not fact, having a great time on the range is not fact, feeling cool and looking good is not fact. The fact is if you get it wrong you could die...

Your instructor has told you that actual conflict experience is not necessary? Gee...I wonder why? What I can say is their opinion does not trump my personal experience...

Thanks for checking in...
                     

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

“Load when you want to, not when you have to!”…Probably not…



The above statement has made a lot of sense to me over the years. I first heard it while taking the Heckler & Koch MP-5 Instructor Course in the late 1990’s.  Those who have used the weapon system know it does not lock open on the last round. The non-reciprocating cocking handle is located above the hand guard and protrudes from a tube at approximately a 45° angle. It is not connected to the bolt carrier and therefore cannot be used as a forward assist to fully seat the bolt group or lock open. The lever is locked back by pulling it fully to the rear and rotating it slightly clockwise where it can be hooked into an indent in the cocking lever tube. The FBI requested a “bolt open” feature on their 10mm version the MP-10. Thus, when the MP-5 ran dry, not only did you have to “push through” the hesitation caused by no round fired, you then had to eject the spent magazine, insert a new one and work the bolt handle to chamber a new round.  If you had the presence of mind to merely swap magazines before you drained the 30 round box magazine, life was a whole lot easier!

I have long felt the same concept should be applied to semi-automatic pistols.  The idea of shooting your pistol empty while a bad guy is shooting at you is almost mind numbing! Think about bullets impacting around you when suddenly the slide locks open and you have a dead trigger.  There is that moment it takes to recognize what has transpired followed by grabbing a new magazine, ejecting the spent one, inserting the new one, dropping the slide and reacquiring both the threat through the sights. If you “suffered” the misfortune of not having your slide lock open on the last round maybe you went through a “tap-rack” manipulation before you discovered your gun was empty? Never happened to you, you say? Murphy has this weird sense of humor…

A lot if time has passed here…combine it with someone trying to kill you while you were possibly on the move and it makes one start to think about “load when you want to, not when you have to” as being a good idea!

One problem…it doesn’t happen! I have tried VERY hard to keep the traditional speed load alive. First, it is like the “training wheels” for the slide lock or emergency reload, a way to teach the magazine exchange alone. Second, if you have the presence of mind to swap out magazines before the gun runs dry, life is so much easier! It has and can be done. My friend and Special Forces veteran Bob Keller told me recently he never runs his M-4 or Glock dry and used this methodology in hundreds of direct action missions during the GWOT. “ If I had a chance I reloaded…I may have only fired ten rounds but I kept my gun topped off at every opportunity.” The difference, of course, is Bob had a load out that included a high number of magazines (I don’t know how many, but he did tell me he sometimes did not carry a pistol so he could add more M-4 mags) so running low on ammo while following this methodology was slim.  He did tell me if he could retrieve the partially spent magazine he did.

When fighting with a semi-automatic pistol the argument against topping off like Bob describes is the VAST majority of folks (I’m sure there are some hard core, John Wick types out there who have magazines all around their belt) do not carry a sizable number of pistol magazines daily. Hell, some carry NO SPARE AT ALL, which makes this article a mute point for you.  Conversely, the argument can be made that pistol fights, historically, do not require a high number of rounds to “solve”. Most are over quickly with few rounds fired. Yes, yes, I know…do you want to bet your life on this? Well, many do as they choose to carry a low capacity handgun with no or just one reload. How many rounds does it take to win a gunfight? Yeah…I don’t know either…

Ok, at this point you might be thinking loading when you want to and not when you have to sounds like a good idea, provided you carry a spare magazine, that is.  This is where the problem lies…most do not have the presence of mind to do it!  Yes, there are a few gunslingers out there that do (before you post below how awesome YOU are I acknowledge this!) but they are the minority.  The fact of the matter is, students of combative pistolcraft shoot their pistols dry, period! I have been fighting it for decades now and I have decided to give up. As Dirty Harry once said…”a man has got to know his limitations” and I have reached it. While I still think it is a sound tactic to “load when you want to” (and I will still personally use it) I have given up on trying to introduce the classic speed load to my students.  Starting this year (2017) I will only address the slide lock/emergency reload in my courses.

Please do not take this as sour grapes as it is not. It is merely recognizing the tide and accepting it. I realize the time spent trying to introduce the speed load is time wasted that I could be using for other skill introduction and development.  Students pay good money for my courses and I owe them as much as I can offer. Why waste time on something students just will not do? Forget high stress, students continually shoot their pistols dry even during low stress drills such as “draw and shoot” ,“shoot from ready” or other simple exercises.  Students from my classes will tell you I continually walk the firing line offering the admonition, “there is no requirement to run your gun dry” or “ it is perfectly acceptable to top off your gun as you see fit’” but students just do not do it no matter how often I remind them.

What really surprises me is the number of folks who step up to the firing line to complete a known round count drill (for example, “draw and fire tree rounds in three seconds”) and do not have enough rounds in their gun to complete it!  Of course they always say, “I meant to do that…I wanted to push myself through an emergency reload under stress” (the look on their face when their gun runs dry unexpectedly tells another story!) which sounds one hell of a lot better than saying “I was not sharp enough to keep track of how many rounds were in my gun” and we all know one of the hallmarks of a true armed professional is always knowing the status of you gear.

While I do not think this is the best move, I think it is the correct one.  Hell, many students question why you would want to load before the gun is empty!  “These are perfectly good rounds, why waste them?”  The only thing I can think is they do not really understand the confusion and delay of action they will suffer when their gun runs dry in a REAL fight … “It only takes an additional half second to drop the slide…big deal!”  How many rounds can you fire in a half second, especially if the gun is already being fired? Also keep in mind the delay of action you will suffer when you expect a round to fire and it does not…something that does not happen when you expect the run to run dry, like in a range drill.  Additionally, will you notice the slide locked open or will you automatically “tap-rack” in a fight? So many questions…

Training, like any things in combative pistolcraft, is the answer but I can’t help but think we are making a mistake when it comes to when to reload. That said, from here on, its emergency reloads only in my classes but we will work hard to execute them well!

Thanks for checking in…