Shoot to stop the threat. But how many shots does that take? 1, 2, 3? The answer is going to be different for every threat. There are numerous variables which dictate that answer. Let us examine the below video which sources indicate occurred in November 2019 in East Cleveland, Ohio.
In this video we see an officer shooting an armed attacker in what appears to be a domestic violence incident. The officer(s) shoots 11 times, 5 seconds later the officer shoots another shot as the armed aggressor is still advancing on his intended victim. 5 seconds later the aggressor collapses. This incident lasted 14 seconds from the first shot until the aggressor collapsed. How could this be?
Again, several variables determine how many shots are necessary to stop the threat.
- Barriers and clothing.
- Soft tissue (fat) stops bullets.
- Bullet type, caliber, and velocity.
- Impairment of the threat.
- Ammunition malfunctions.
- Shot Placement matters.
Barriers and clothing can restrict bullets.
Obviously, in this particular video, the aggressor is not wearing a shirt so there are no barriers nor clothing to restrict the bullets. However, there was an incident in New York in 2016 the police shot an attacker armed with a knife and his heavy winter jacket was enough to stop the bullet. 4 of the 9 rounds fired did not penetrate the winter coat. It is also not impossible that the attacker could be wearing bullet-resistant armor. These two scenarios are uncommon situations, but uncommon situations aren’t impossible and do happen.
Soft tissue stops bullets.
There have been real-world examples of human body fat acting as a sort of “meat shield” and preventing the bullet from penetrating any vital organs (2010 Atlantic city; 1980 Massachusetts). While a person would need to be morbidly obese to stop a bullet from entering vital organs, having extra body fat may hinder the bullet enough from having enough effect to stop the threat.
Bullet type, caliber, and velocity can determine the amount of damage.
Not to start a debate about what is the best caliber for a defensive handgun, but there are factors which make some rounds better than others. A brief discussion would be full metal jacket (FMJ) vs jacketed hollow point (JHP). JHP’s are designed to expand in soft tissue this releasing maximum energy into the target, whereas FMJ are known to over penetrating taking much of their energy with them as they exit through the target. However not all JHP are created equal, some bullets simply work better than others, and some are designed for full-size handguns, while other JHP’s are designed specifically for short barrels on sub-compact pistols.
Please note that JHP bullets are designed to expand under specific velocities, keep that in mind while reading the upcoming section regarding ammunition malfunctions.
The impairment of the aggressor can determine how quickly the threat stops.
If the aggressor is high on drugs or alcohol he or she may be too inhibited to feel the pain. Even natural human hormones such as adrenaline and endorphins will play a critical role in stopping the threat.
Squibs are real! Though squibs are very rare they do happen. A squib is a round with less pressure and velocity than intended. In other words, the gun goes “pop” instead of a bang. This reduced pressure and velocity will have a reduced effect in the soft tissue of the threat.
Ammunition can go bad. Ammunition is subject to deterioration and malfunction from moisture, humidity and exposure solvents. If enough humidity penetrates your ammunition it could also have a reduction in velocity.
Shot placement matters in stopping the threat.
Last, but certainly not least, and probably the most important factor in how quickly you stop the threat is a matter of shot placement. All of the above variables are rare occurrences. In regards to shot placement let’s acknowledge that you can’t miss fast enough to win, you’ve actually (usually) must hit the aggressor to stop the threat.
That’s not to say misses can’t have enough psychological effect to cause the threat to rethink their course of action, and stop doing whatever it was which caused you to shoot in the first place. However, if you hit the aggressor in non-vital areas of the body, such as the arm or leg, the effect of that hit will be minimal. In our Defensive Pistol training classes, we train to place 3-5 rounds within the thoracic cavity. The thoracic cavity is an area approximately 5” square which contains the heart and lungs. If that doesn’t work, we aim for the cranial cavity or pelvic girdle.
But, let us say you get a perfect shot straight through the heart of the aggressor. Is that enough to stop the threat? Not always. Hunters will tell you, you can shoot a deer straight through the heart of lungs and it will run off 200 or 300 yards before collapsing. The human body is no different in this regard. The human body has approximately 5 liters. A threat shot straight through the heart will literally be walking dead, but it will be seconds before the blood in their brain is exhausted and the aggressor collapses.
The only true “off switch” is the cranial cavity. That is approximately a 3” triangle between the eyes and nose. If that is the fastest way to stop the threat, why do we not aim for it that area first? The answer is simple, it is an incredibly hard target for someone to hit in a high-stress situation, especially if the target is moving.
This video is proof sometimes a volume of rounds may need to be fired, which on the surface may seem to be excessive, but it takes what it takes to stop the threat.