Why not shoot them in the leg?

Amid all the recent police shootings, I’ve heard people ask why officers don’t just shoot to wound?  (Actually, I’ve heard this question asked not only of officers but of all self defense shooters over the years.) Why not, these guys posit, shoot the assailant in an extremity, like an arm, a shoulder, a hand, a leg or a foot?

Police are not trained to shoot to kill, nor do any of the cops I know want to kill people.  Police are trained to shoot to stop imminent threats. Tactically speaking, this is the best option when applying justifiable deadly force in self defense or defense of a third party and why just about every law enforcement department I’ve come in contact with teaches their officers to shoot center mass.

To understand why this tactic is necessary, lets take a look at some of the important factors police departments have long demanded their officers consider before pulling the trigger:

Shooting someone in the chest doesn’t mean they’ll die.

Shooting someone in the thoracic cavity or the abdomen may not even stop someone intent on killing you or another person.  First responders and ER docs see plenty of horrific GSWs (that’s gunshot wounds to the rest of us) where the person lives.  I have personally seen handfuls of people who’ve been shot and lived to tell about it.

Shooting someone in a limb doesn’t mean they’ll stop shooting at you.

Getting shot in the leg may stop someone from moving around a lot, but it doesn’t mean his or her trigger finger’s broken.  The same goes for shooting them in the arm.  Just because the threat has been shot once or twice, doesn’t mean they’re incapacitated. Remember, shoot to stop the threat.

If someone’s shooting at you, there’s already a good chance you’ll shoot the hands or forearms.

Often under stress, shooters experience a phenomenal fixation on the gun being aimed directly at them. This doesn’t mean you’ll be able to tell the make or caliber, or even differentiate between a realistic looking Airsoft gun and a real gun if you ever have a gun fired at you.  Nevertheless, where you look, you tend to shoot.

Because of that, and perhaps more because the arms and hands aiming the gun tend to be in front of the chest, shooters commonly get shot in their hands and/or arms before they get shot center mass.  And, getting shot in the arm or hand doesn’t mean they’re out of the fight.

It’s extremely difficult to shoot accurately under stress; you may not hit your target at all.

Shooting when you’re getting shot at is difficult for anybody, even the best shooter in the world on a static firearm range.  There exists a huge difference between shooting paper and shooting people that cannot be overstated.

Besides ultra reactionary stress and diminishing cognitive functioning, firefights are dynamic.  People move.  You move, they move.  It could be dark.  There may be more than one offender.  The list could go on and on and usually does.  All of this effects a shooters ability to shoot accurately.

Unfortunately, statistics have shown that in many instances police miss their intended targets altogether when reacting to the illegal and lethal actions of others (e.g. when a suspect pulls a gun).  The same can be said for the citizen responding to a defensive crisis.

As I mentioned at the top, cops these days are never trained to shoot to kill, but they aren’t trained to shoot to wound either.  And for good reason.  It could get innocent people killed.

The views and opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.

Safety warning: Jeffrey Denning is a long time professional in the art of self-defense and any training methods or information he describes in his articles are intended to be put into practice only by serious shooters with proper training.  Please read, but do not attempt anything posted here without first seeking out proper training.