“Shoot him in the meaty parts”

A few years back, I attended a defensive shooting class where one of the students asked an instructor where they should aim if the badguy was only presenting a partial target. The instructor had this to say, and it has stuck with me ever since:

If you can hit him in the meat, take the shot. You might get a more important piece of meat to shoot at next.

We all tend to think that if we need to use our gun in self-defense, we’re going to get a “classic” bad guy presentation, where we get a full presentation of the upper thoracic area to do a bill drill at five yards into, and then cooly re-holster our gun while checking to make sure that everyone around is 1) okay, and 2) saw how badass we looked smoking that mugger.

caleb cover

The reality of self-defense is often a lot uglier than that, which is where the real concept of center mass comes from. We think “center mass” means “center mass of the person”, aka the upper thoracic cavity. The reality of “center mass” as it was taught to me means “center mass of the available target” – or more simply “the biggest part you can hit.” Of course, the odds of any one of us getting into a two way gunfight as a civilian are pretty low, but it’s still a good thought exercise. People have been successfully conditioned by TV and movies to not shoot through concealment at people to the point where there are documented incidents of people taking cover behind stuff that shouldn’t stop bullets…and the badguys don’t shoot through it.

So how does this come back to armed self-defense? If someone’s trying to kill you and you can put a bullet in their meaty bits, you should probably do that. If the important bits are available, shoot him there. If not, shoot what you can get, and hope something more important comes up next. After all, if someone’s trying to kill you, you should try and kill them right back.


  1. And if shooting J. Random Mugger in his unimportant meaty bits causes him to rethink the choices he’s made and give up his current course of action without further bullets from me, then it’s all good in the hood.

  2. …and when she yells, “I’m going to shoot you in the NUTS you bastard! twice if need be!” it may stun him for that half second that she needs to shoot first.

  3. People don’t know that “center of mass” means “center of visible mass”?

    It just seems so obvious, but yeah, I guess they might assume otherwise.

    Also, good point on cover /= concealment. I probably spend as much time deprogramming “facts” learned via TV as I do teaching actual shooting. :/

  4. You should never shoot to kill. A prosecutor will charge you with manslaughter. You shoot to stop the threat. Now, if your shots happen to cause the death of the person that poses an imminent threat to do bodily harm or death to you, that’s OK.

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