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Old 04-25-2013, 10:09 PM   #1
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Default The "Center Mass" Myth

I have noticed a lot of people using the term "center mass" as a desirable aim point in self-defense situations. Heck, I'm guilty of it myself, and nothing could be more wrong. You do not want to aim center mass if you want the fight to end any time soon. You want to aim center chest.

Everybody stand up. Starting at your ribcage on either side of your body run you fingers along your ribs toward the middle of your chest. When you get to the middle do you feel that point at the end of your sternum AKA breastbone? If you took CPR back before it was dumbed down you probably know it as the xyphoid tip or xyphoid process. That is the lowest point you should be aiming if you want to be fairly sure the fight will end within the next hour or two. The neck is the other end of the chest. Somewhere in between is best. There are no major organs below the xyphoid tip that will end the fight right now. None.

Yes, there are some major vessels down there that can end things in something resembling a hurry, but they are not usually instantly disabling. Considering the scarcity of sensory nerves in the intestinal cavity you can't even be sure pain will take your assailant out.

Now go stand in front of the mirror. Where is center mass? Center mass is a lot lower than center chest. Center mass may get the liver, stomach, pancreas, or gall bladder. It will probably also get some intestines. Personally, I would rather not wait for peritonitis to set in to call the fight over.

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Old 04-25-2013, 10:51 PM   #2
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Good point, and I completely agree, but want to add one thing.

If you can't put somebody down while aiming where you suggested, and they are still coming at you, an instructor told me to shoot for the groin/hip area.

Why? Well its simple. Most people would think "Oh well I can get a head shot if the chest doesn't work." That could not be more true. A head shot would be near impossible when someone is bobbing, weaving, moving around. Plus you can easily miss and then the bullets trajectory is up into the air, and towards innocent bystanders.

Instead aim for the groin and hip. Put a bullet in someones hip, and it will likely break. It might not kill someone, but remember that in most cases your goal is not to kill someone in a self defense situation but rather to stop the attacker. People can't run at you so well if you break their hip. Plus there is several arteries in the area.

The other thing is if you hit their bladder, being that water does not compress, it will create a hydrostatic shock, causing major problems.

If you aim at the groin and miss, then the bullets trajectory is down and into the ground. Much safer.

Also, as the instructor said, nobody likes getting shot in the groin.

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Old 04-25-2013, 11:08 PM   #3
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Good point, and I completely agree, but want to add one thing.

If you can't put somebody down while aiming where you suggested, and they are still coming at you, an instructor told me to shoot for the groin/hip area.

Why? Well its simple. Most people would think "Oh well I can get a head shot if the chest doesn't work." That could not be more true. A head shot would be near impossible when someone is bobbing, weaving, moving around. Plus you can easily miss and then the bullets trajectory is up into the air, and towards innocent bystanders.

Instead aim for the groin and hip. Put a bullet in someones hip, and it will likely break. It might not kill someone, but remember that in most cases your goal is not to kill someone in a self defense situation but rather to stop the attacker. People can't run at you so well if you break their hip. Plus there is several arteries in the area.

The other thing is if you hit their bladder, being that water does not compress, it will create a hydrostatic shock, causing major problems.

If you aim at the groin and miss, then the bullets trajectory is down and into the ground. Much safer.

Also, as the instructor said, nobody likes getting shot in the groin.
I would strongly agree, but there is something to consider. I can't run at 1200 feet per second, and a groin or hip injury does nothing to take away the use of the arms. True, he can't chase you if you get a good hit, but his ammo can. If you have cover (preferably) or concealment (better than nothing) go for the hip shot. If you don't... well, I think I would continue trying for a debilitating shot.

It's very hard to say what you would or should do without being there at the time. Your suggestion is a very viable option, especially if escape to cover is possible. Let's both hope we never have to choose.
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Old 04-26-2013, 12:21 AM   #4
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Agreed.

But "center mass" could also be described as the center of the exposed area.

If all that one sees is a portion of the aggressor's body, the center of the exposed portion (or center mass) is the best to try for.
This may not guarantee a stop, but it will be more effective than missing.

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Old 04-26-2013, 12:44 AM   #5
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Agreed.

But "center mass" could also be described as the center of the exposed area.

If all that one sees is a portion of the aggressor's body, the center of the exposed portion (or center mass) is the best to try for.
This may not guarantee a stop, but it will be more effective than missing.
I have to disagree on this one. The distribution of the body does not change with positioning. Center mass is center mass whether it is visible to you or not. To me largest available target would fit what I think you are saying. Think iceberg. The largest mass of the iceberg is out of your sight line, but it's still the largest mass.
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Old 04-26-2013, 01:04 AM   #6
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Great Post Doc!

My Drill Sergeants always preached "center mass" but they were more concerned with rifle qualification scores than with stopping a fight. Then there's also the BS notion that killing an EC only takes 1 BG out of the fight but wounding him will take 2 or 3 as his comrades stop to evacuate him.

The notion never made any sence to me so as with everything else I decide is BS... I ignored it.

But Doc is right... The term is still used a lot and misused when applied to the much lower level of terminal ballistics we are all packing with our EDC's.

Great thing to point out, good job Doc.

Tack

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Old 04-26-2013, 09:03 AM   #7
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Thanks Tack. One of the things I remember from my academy days was the phrase dead center chest. Aim for dead center chest. Dead center chest shots have the best chance of a hit. Dead center chest hits will end the fight right now. In this day of litigation and political correctness do you think dead center chest was replaced by center mass to appease the public? I can't think of any other reason to do it.

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Old 04-26-2013, 09:45 AM   #8
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Doc, your point is well taken, and I have no argument. However, I wonder how many people could continue fighting after taking a .45 acp from the navel to the chest. I would think that when the bowels were perforated in several places, the pain its self would stop the fight. If a kidney was perforated, I believe that it would certainly stop the fight.

I think that the "center mass" theory is an effort to make sure that marginal shooters (most shooters) would have a better chance of hitting any part of the target, while under stress, by aiming "center mass."

Any hit is better than any miss.

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Old 04-26-2013, 10:08 AM   #9
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Doc, your point is well taken, and I have no argument. However, I wonder how many people could continue fighting after taking a .45 acp from the navel to the chest. I would think that when the bowels were perforated in several places, the pain its self would stop the fight. If a kidney was perforated, I believe that it would certainly stop the fight.

I think that the "center mass" theory is an effort to make sure that marginal shooters (most shooters) would have a better chance of hitting any part of the target, while under stress, by aiming "center mass."

Any hit is better than any miss.
If my memory of past anatomy classes is to be trusted, there are no sensory nerves in the intestines. The omentum and mesentery both have sensory nerves, and these are supporting structures in the abdomen, but I don't know to what extent they would cause pain as a whole. If the pain caused is similar to the standard issue rip your guts out gas pain, it probably won't be enough to take the fight out of the person. Remember, you are shooting at him. That's a marvelous incentive to return fire.

A perforated kidney would probably not stop the fight when you need it to stop. It's a very vascular organ, but it's not going to contribute to shock right this minute, which is when you need things to happen.

Chainfire. I don't mean any offense to you personally with this next part. This is something we all need to keep in mind. In a self defense situation the immediate goal is to end the fight immediately.

Left untreated a big toe shot will eventually take out your assailant, but it won't do it in the time frame needed to allow your escape. Death is not the goal. Making your opponent unable or unwilling to continue the fight is the goal. A gut shot may do the job, and it may not. A head shot may or may not do the job. Don't forget that woman in Georgia. She had both and the guy walked out to his car and drove away.

The chest shot is the largest available target that gives you the best chance of achieving your goal. Even if you don't hit major organs the mechanical damage to the bones and muscles of the area could be enough to take your opponent out of the fight. Is it a sure thing? Not from what I've seen over the years, but it is the best option.
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Old 04-26-2013, 01:11 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Doc3402 View Post
I have noticed a lot of people using the term "center mass" as a desirable aim point in self-defense situations. Heck, I'm guilty of it myself, and nothing could be more wrong. You do not want to aim center mass if you want the fight to end any time soon. You want to aim center chest.

Everybody stand up. Starting at your ribcage on either side of your body run you fingers along your ribs toward the middle of your chest. When you get to the middle do you feel that point at the end of your sternum AKA breastbone? If you took CPR back before it was dumbed down you probably know it as the xyphoid tip or xyphoid process. That is the lowest point you should be aiming if you want to be fairly sure the fight will end within the next hour or two. The neck is the other end of the chest. Somewhere in between is best. There are no major organs below the xyphoid tip that will end the fight right now. None.

Yes, there are some major vessels down there that can end things in something resembling a hurry, but they are not usually instantly disabling. Considering the scarcity of sensory nerves in the intestinal cavity you can't even be sure pain will take your assailant out.

Now go stand in front of the mirror. Where is center mass? Center mass is a lot lower than center chest. Center mass may get the liver, stomach, pancreas, or gall bladder. It will probably also get some intestines. Personally, I would rather not wait for peritonitis to set in to call the fight over.
Good points Doc-
I've always concidered center mass to BE center chest but i bet you have just helped many to know the difference
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