Shoot them in the leg

I’m sure that most of you have heard about this story out of Cleveland in which a CCW holder named Damon Wells was accosted on his porch at gunpoint, and proceeded to drill his assailant, one Arthur Buford, “several” times in the chest. This has generated a small amount of controversy, primarily because the deceased would-be robber was 15, and now that a “young life” has been snuffed out everyone is supposed to be sad. I’m not going to address that particular issue directly, instead I’ll include a quote from my younger brother on the topic.

I don’t see what’s so tragic here. A 15 year old attempted armed robbery, and received the just compensation for his transgression. Saying that he had value because he was young is theoretical bullshit. He’s dead, and died from just retribution. His death is no more “sad” than the death of any other human being.

If anything here can be considered sad, it’s that the man who defended himself will have to live the rest of his life with people trying to guilt-trip him with nonsense.

My younger brother is pretty smart sometimes. Now that the whole “he was 15 it’s so sad” portion has been dealt with, I’m going to address a couple of different issues that came up as a result of this shooting. I post on a couple of internet forums in addition to writing this blog; in the last couple of days some things have been said that I find pretty strange. I hope that there will be solid information in here for both non-gunnies and gunnies alike.

First off, I want to look at a few of the statements that have been made by non-gunnies regarding the shooting. These statements are based on misconceptions about marksmanship and stopping power, among other things. Here’s the first one:

I’m also a little concerned about the fact the number in “multiple shots to the chest” was not defined.

Anything above two starts being questionable if the intention was only self defense and not to outright kill the attacker.

I see a couple of problems with the above statement, the first being that it displays a lack of knowledge about the actual stopping power of a handgun bullet, coupled with a lack of knowledge about how people operate in stressful circumstances.

Stopping Power & Threat response
I don’t really like talking about stopping power; however it bears a wee bit of discussion here in light of the “more than two is excessive” line of thought. For a handgun bullet to produce a reliable stop on an attacker, it has to induce a shutdown of the Central Nervous System, which can be produced one of two ways. Either A) Direct trauma such as a brain or spinal cord hit, or B) shutdown due to rapid blood loss because a major artery or the heart is hit. To achieve either option, the bullet has to perform three actions: 1) Strike the target somewhere important, 2) Penetrate deep enough to hit important stuff, and 3) Destroy a wide enough diameter of tissue to wreck the important stuff. So, as I’ve said before “shot placement and penetration are key, but bigger bullets are nice too”.

There are plenty of documented cases of people receiving multiple gunshot wounds and continuing to function for quite some time. This is why police and soldiers are trained to shoot an attacker until it is no longer a threat. That segues nicely into the “actions under stress” component of the discussion as well.

If you’re being attacked, and your “fight or flight” response is on the “fight” setting, odds are that you’re not going to come out of “fight mode” until the threat to you isn’t a threat anymore. This is the sort of action that causes cops in stressful situations to run their pistols to slide lock in a hurry – your hindbrain screams “THREAT” and your body acts on instinct and training.

Here is the second statement that I’d like to examine.

I’m good enough with a firearm that I think I could hit a leg on an approaching assailant.

This is a particularly frustrating statement for me, I get asked this (or similar) questions a lot, usually in the context of “couldn’t he have just shot him in the leg” or “I’d hope that you shoot him in the leg or something”. There is so much that is extremely frustrating about that line of thought that it is hard for me to address it in a rational fashion.

Shoot to “kill”?
There is a misconception that when CCW holders or the police shoot at someone, they’re “shooting to kill”. That’s not the case, rather they are shooting to stop the attacker/bad guy from continuing his/her violent action and to end the threat that person presents. The most efficient way to do this is the “Center-of-Mass” shot, which is standard training doctrine for law enforcement and armed citizens. The COM shot is the most reliable way to shut someone down for the reasons discussed above, it’s sort of an unfortunate side effect that the things that stop a person from continuing as a threat generally kill that person.

High Percentage vs. Low Percentage
If you’re shooting on the premise that you want to stop a threat, you obviously aren’t going to stop anything if you can’t hit what you’re aiming at. Assuming for the moment that a leg shot is a valid stop technique, let me provide an example of why it wouldn’t be preferable.

I’m in relatively good shape – my left thigh is about 4-5 inches wide at its widest point. My chest is about a foot and a half wide (18 inches) from the edge of my right pectoral to my left – and although my “measurements” are based on my scientific method of “that looks about right” and the distance between my hands, you can see that my chest (COM) is 3 times as wide as my leg. It’s an easier shot, because the target is bigger, nevermind that a COM shot is more likely to shut your attacker down than a leg shot.

On top of that, shooting at small moving targets like a leg requires a lot more fine motor control (trigger control and sight alignment) than shooting a moving target that is three times as large. Since your fine motor control degrades under stress, you’re even more likely to hit if you’re aiming for COM than you are if you’re aiming at the leg.

For the gunnies
I carry a gun. I would guess that a pretty big chunk of my readers also have carry permits in the states of their residence. What I find extremely disturbing about the story itself is the media’s reaction. Despite the fact that the DA and the police have decided that the CCW holder was within his legal rights, there is all sorts of outcry from the dead criminal’s family. The news story linked tries to portray the dead criminal as some sort of choirboy, gunned down in the prime of life or some nonsense.

When did we start having sympathy for perpetrators of violent crime? Why is it okay to demonize someone who acted in defense of his own life in the face of violent aggression? To me, this story and the way it’s playing in the media serves as a warning to those that choose to go about armed: even if the law says that you did no wrong
yo
u can expect to be crucified in the press. Doubly so if your attacker was a youth, or if he’s a minority and you’re not, or if you shoot your attacker “several” times.

It is unfortunate to me that in this day and age, we would rather have sympathy for a young man that died reaping precisely what he had sown than express our concern for the man who has to bear that death on hisconscience for the rest of his life.

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