As much as the word “tactical” is overused in Gun Nation, it definitely fits here. Dr. (yes, he has a DEA number, sorry all you PhD doctor-impersonators) James Williams has a very interesting background that provides a scientific basis for his Tactical Anatomy concept and training.
He offers training classes in gunfight anatomy, yclept Shooting with X-Ray Vision, in versions for both sworn law officers and for “civilians” (wait, cops are civilians, as are we retired soldiers, NTTAWWT), and in treatment of gunshot wounds, and occasional posts to a blog that are entertaining as hell. He also publishes an instructor manual. We’ve ordered it based on his description of its content, which is highly congruent with the practical instruction one gets in anatomy at a place like SOT, SFARTAETC, or SFAUC, but we doubt it’s as useful or as much fun as attending one of his classes.
James S. Williams, M.D. … used his experience as a hunter and a competitive shooter in conjunction with his extensive trauma medicine experience to develop the Tactical Anatomy model, targets, and instructional systems. He has a wealth of firearms training experience and is an NRA-certified instructor.
He served as the MO on a SWAT team for many years, and has practiced, taught, and shot in Canada and several American States (he’s now in Texas). We found his blog whilst contemplating a post on the limitations of “center of mass,” the hoary old military standby, as an aiming point in the sort of close-in social work that police and defensive shooters in general usually face.
You see, the military chose “center of mass” for very deliberate reasons, which are not applicable in a non-military-combat, often one-on-one, self-defensive shoot. We’ll probably go into that in depth in that contemplated post, if and when we get to it. We assume that military training, given the presence of vets in just about every police force and the military experience that many (not all!) of the best firearms trainers share, was the vector by which this idea infused itself in the defensive handgun world.
What Doc here says about it is pithy and, well, correct, apart from the fact that the term does exist outside of police work, in the military, and is useful there precisely because a soldier’s objective in shooting an enemy is often not the same as a policeman’s or defender’s. Here’s the meat, occasioned by a hairy firefight at short range with limited cover between a cop (Officer Peter Soulis) and a felon (“Tim Palmer,” pseudonym, who unbeknownst to Soulis was wanted for murder):
But here’s a hint as to the root of a correctable problem: the author of this article states that “Palmer had taken 22 hits from Soulis’ .40-caliber Glock, 17 of which had hit center mass“.
The author’s implication is that a “center mass” hit is a good hit. And that, my friends, is where we descend from good tactical analysis into the Land of Bullshit.
If you’ve attended my Shooting With Xray Vision class (SXRV), or you’ve read my book, you have heard me say this before: there is no such thing as Center Mass. In 6 years of undergraduate and graduate level science, I never once read or heard of an anatomic structure called “center mass”. In all my years of medical school and postgraduate residency, I never read or heard of a medical term called “center mass”. And in 40 years of hunting animals for food with rifles, handguns, bows, blowguns, atlatl’s, and other weapons, I never once heard another hunter tell me to aim for “center mass”.
The reason for that is that outside of police circles, the term does not exist. And for good reason. It’s a bullshit term that has no relevance to reality. People use the term “center mass” because they’re lazy and ignorant. Sorry if that offends you, but that’s the bottom line. People who use the term “center mass” are admitting for all intents and purposes that they have no idea that critical structures of the human body exist in the human body that need to be interdicted by a police bullet to stop a felon’s violent actions. They are admitting that they have no idea where those vital structures are, and they have no idea how to visualize those anatomic structures in a real live human body.
The link in Doc’s article does not work, but the story is still there at LawOfficer.com — here’s a corrected link; if that one too goes bad, just do a search at LawOfficer — it was a hell of a fight and it’s a hell of a read, despite Doc’s quibble about the “center mass” term. Here is a period news story about the shooting — one of at least five Soulis was involved in during his time as a cop — and reading it probably explains why LawOfficer.com thought it worthwhile to change the name of the criminal. We know you guys have too much class to hassle a criminal’s innocent mother, unlike newspaper reporters. And the shootout became a made-for-TV episode calling Soulis an “action hero” last year, the season finale of ABC’s “In an Instant,” available online for viewing. But we digress; back to Doc’s site.
If you think his view of Center Mass as a concept is entertaining, you should read his post occasioned by some Wile E. Coyote Super Genius asking him why it was a good idea to — we are not making this up! — shoot an assailant or hostage taker in the kidneys. One more taste, but you then have to go Read The Whole Thing™.
Military snipers train to incapacitate their targets with a single shot. Incapacitation on the battlefield is highly congruent with rapid death of the target. Centerfire rifle bullets are designed to produce incapacitating injury as quickly as possible. Incapacitation by GSW entails putting the bullet into the primary or secondary target anatomy. The primary target is the CNS, and the secondary target is the cardiovascular system that supports the CNS. The kidneys are part of neither. The kidneys are small, deep in the body, and in anatomic locations that medically-untrained snipers would have significant difficulty visualizing in the 3D human body. As such, deliberately targeting the kidneys is so far from practicable I actually laughed out loud in disbelief when I first read your email.
Let me be perfectly clear: shooting an enemy combatant anywhere other than the CNS/CV bundle target zones would be, first, a failure to fulfill the tactical mission (incapacitate your target asap), and second, wanton cruelty. This is at best comic-book mall-ninja material, and should be rejected out of hand.
Exercise for the reader — point to your kidneys, from the front, back and side.
Q1: Are you sure?
Q2: For extra credit: Describe that target in terms of size, criticality, recognizability, vulnerability, effect — hell, do a full CARVER on it — vis-a-vis the brain stem and cerebellum.