The "Center Mass" Myth

Discussion in 'Concealed Carrying & Personal Protection' started by Doc3402, Apr 25, 2013.

  1. Doc3402

    Doc3402 New Member

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    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.
     
  2. fa35jsf

    fa35jsf New Member

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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.
     

  3. Doc3402

    Doc3402 New Member

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    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.
     
  4. danf_fl

    danf_fl Retired Supporter

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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.
     
  5. Doc3402

    Doc3402 New Member

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    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.
     
  6. Tackleberry1

    Tackleberry1 New Member

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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
     
  7. Doc3402

    Doc3402 New Member

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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.
     
  8. Chainfire

    Chainfire Well-Known Member Supporter

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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.
     
  9. Doc3402

    Doc3402 New Member

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    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.
     
  10. HOSSFLY

    HOSSFLY New Member

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    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 :cool:
     
  11. Doc3402

    Doc3402 New Member

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    I hope you're right. I just can't remember it ever being called center mass back then. During the all male classes they were even more explicit. Put 6 between the nipples. That doesn't work out to center mass, either. I hope I gave some people some food for thought.
     
  12. USMC-Hat

    USMC-Hat New Member

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    When we train we call it the "chest box" now and it's right where it needs to be. Question is how much aiming down your sights do you think you'll actually be doing in an oh s#+t situation? The answer is very little if any at all. Center mass is taught because it gives you the greatest chance to hit your enemy. Isn't the spine located center mass?
     
  13. trip286

    trip286 New Member

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    Was kinda watching this thread for a real combatant to step in a point some things out.

    Not discounting the other posters here in this thread, but when I saw the first few posts, I couldn't help but wonder just how many had actually seen combat, or been trained by those that have?

    I've been in combat. I fired for hits, plain and simple. If the chest was available, splendid. If a big toe was available (yes, I've shot a man in his damn toe. I was aiming for the visible foot in general.), that was just as well.
     
  14. FrontierTCB

    FrontierTCB Active Member

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    Good points here. A lot of knowledgeable instructors do not use the old B27 silhouette targets because the X ring is located too low and instills a tendency of shooting "gut shots".
    There are many variables. No two situations are ever the same. Distance, size, type of weapon you carry, bystanders, etc. all come into play in a SD situation.
    Also remember that your an aggressor will likely never be standing perfectly still facing toward you like your target at the range. Most hunters understand "quartering toward or away" and know the importance of placing shots in the right location to impact vital organs. The same goes for SD and HD situations.
     
  15. txpossum

    txpossum New Member

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    Back when I was a lot younger and paid more attention to such things, there was a school of thought that went along with what was known at the time as the FBI draw: the gun was worn behind the strong-side hip, the person drawing the gun would go into a forward-leaning crouch as the gun was drawn, and start firing when the gun was pointed at the lower chest, with the expectation that the recoil would "walk" subsequent shots up the chest. You sorta started at gut level and worked your way up.
     
  16. Doc3402

    Doc3402 New Member

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    Yes, the spine follows a somewhat vertical line down center mass. I say somewhat because it's not that unusual to see some degree of lateral curvature.

    Anyway, if you're lucky enough to get penetration to the spine and actually cause some damage you may or may not end the fight. Remember, we're talking self defense situations, probably with a concealable handgun.

    Besides the fact that the spinal cord is usually no larger than 15mm in diameter, there is another problem with this. The spine doesn't spread nerves out toward the head. The nerves branch out in a downward direction. To cause enough spinal damage to put the arms completely out of commission you need a head or neck shot, which is not the primary point of aim. If the arms still work, as they probably will with a chest or abdominal spinal cord injury, your assailant can still theoretically fight. True, he's probably not going to want to when his legs quit working, but you just never know what drives a person.

    It's easy to do the what if thing, but the fact is that unless you get the golden BB, most hits outside the chest or head are kind of iffy. The highest percentage shots are the ones you need to try first. If you practice enough you should be able to come close to dead center chest without sights. Repeat as necessary.
     
  17. Cattledog

    Cattledog New Member

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    Great points concerning lethality and anatomy. However, I believe the context in which "center of mass" is normally used has less to do with a lethal hit than it does with reactionary targeting. IE: When the the adrenaline is pumping, don't think about aiming for specifics. Get a hit. The best way to do that is to aim for the largest target, center of mass.

    Also, as txpossum mentioned, training involves multiple shots, not one and recoil would tend to walk the target box up the body to said lethal areas.
     
  18. Doc3402

    Doc3402 New Member

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    A real combatant, trained by those that had seen combat, started the thread. I also have a pretty strong background in anatomy and physiology, and way too much experience treating shooting victims.

    Now, I have a question for you. Was that guy you shot in the foot still physically able to return fire?

    Would I have taken the same shot? If it was during wartime and that was the only shot I had, hell yes. In the civilian world, hell no... unless I could show self defense. You need to realize that going with the mindset that taking shots at hidden people in civilian life is okay is a pretty good way to wind up playing rock hockey for 20 to life.
     
  19. trip286

    trip286 New Member

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    And that's why I was trying to be careful not to be insulting. I don't know everyone's history.

    Physically able, yes. But it caused him to stop momentarily in excruciating pain, and he was killed when he tried to rush me with a limp.

    It was downtown Fallujah. And yeah, if I have someone intermittently firing at me over the hood of a car, I'll shoot them in the foot if it's the only thing I can hit, civilian world or no. But if you want to talk about playing rock hockey, then do you think it would be a good thing for your future prosecuting attorney to find you've been so thoroughly dissecting the human anatomy online and discussing exactly where would be the best place for your rounds to hit, that would cause immediate debilitation and quick death?

    Not I. I'll stick with my old standby, hits count, misses don't. Have enough resources to stop the threat. When the threat is ended, so is your fight. That was a rule I maintained in actual acts of war.
     
  20. Cattledog

    Cattledog New Member

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    OK now that is a disturbing thought. I hadnt thought about that. I wasnt thinking about it. I was never here!