By Roger Phillips, Owner of Fight Focused Concepts
There are many varying opinions on what accuracy is needed inside of combat. Who is correct all comes down to who you believe. The definition that I use when it comes to combat accuracy is as follows, “any hit on the adversary that effects change in the adversary in regards to the OODA loop.” In reality, any hit on the adversary is good for you and bad for them.
The generally accepted nation wide hit ratio for law enforcement officers is 15-25%. This is with guys that have to qualify often using fundamentals of marksmanship skill sets. The question is why is this hit ratio so low while the qualification standards are so much higher?
When we look at combat accuracy we need to factor in the balance “to hit and to not be hit.” The reality of not wanting to be hit simply has to be factored into the equation. This is why we see such a low hit ratio. Fundamentals of marksmanship skill sets are not the mythical “end all, be all” inside of combat situations. The situation is the dictating factor…..not the technique focused fundamentals of marksmanship. When we understand the physiological desire to “not get hit” it becomes evident that inside of combat, misses happen. They happen even more readily if you do not train within reality…… the “to hit and not be hit” reality. Once we accept this reality and begin looking at skill sets beyond the fundamentals of marksmanship the hit ratio improves dramatically. There are many police departments across the Nation that have proved this to be fact with their increased hit ratio.
Let’s look at some of the things that have been taught as acceptable combat accuracy in the recent past.
The Pump House
The pump house is that fist size group into the heart. By all means, this is a great area to target. It is my default, but it is not the “end all, be all” fight stopper that many would have you believe. There are numerous stories of dedicated opponents that fought well and continued to kill even after taking hits to the pump house, just because the adversary may very well die, does not mean he is dead yet. Many times people will refer to these guys as “he did not know he was dead yet” guys. I see them more as “I am going to take as many of you with me as I can” guys. There is a huge difference in the mindset and danger level between the two. Shots to the pump house are not a guaranteed immediate fight stopper. In fact there is no guarantee that the adversary is going to eventually die due to the shot to the heart.
On the square range, there are those that teach the following. “You will be half as good in a life threatening encounter as you are on your best day at the range.” They teach a fist size group, in the pump house, on the range telling you that it will turn into a hand span group in a life threatening encounter. While this all sounds great, the generally accepted hit ratio numbers simply do not back up this claim. In my humble opinion, this would be due to not training within reality
The Thoracic Cavity
This is the hand span group that covers the heart and the upper lungs. There is a lot of good stuff in here to cause substantial bleeding and breathing problems. While my default may be the pump house, I would be more than happy with any hits in the upper thoracic cavity. A very good representation of the upper thoracic cavity is a nine-inch paper plate. Good stuff? You bet! Although, the thoracic cavity is not the guaranteed fight stopper that some would have you believe. Not only is it not an immediate fight stopper many people survive chest wounds.
Cranial Ocular Band
This is the credit card width band that wraps around the whole head. This targeted area is delineated by the soft tissue around the nose and the eyes. It is also delineated by the thin skull around the temple, the ears, and the base of the skull. Some portray this as a “turning them off like a light switch.” This is simply not so. There are cases of people fighting through hits to the cranial ocular band. The only way to “flip the switch” to turn a person off is with a direct hit to the medulla oblongata or the “apricot” as the snipers call it. The medulla oblongata is part of the “Reticular Activating System”. The RAS is the portion of the brain stem that keeps someone awake. That is one of the reasons that a shot in the medulla literally “flips off the switch”.
Training With in Reality
These first three are very much what is taught in the recent past inside of the Modern Techniques based schools. While these targeted areas do offer excellent hits inside of combat, they are not the only alternatives to excellent hits. There are other areas that offer excellent combat hits and many of them are combat proven and come to us from the “old timers.” They come from gunfighters who were in a very substantial number of gun fights or from guys that documented a substantial number of gunfights. We need to face the facts that the Modern Techniques is a competition based system that put a high priority on a successful marketing strategy and an ability to “score” to help perpetuate that successful marketing strategy. The fact is that forcing the students to only target two distinct areas made targets much easier to score. It is the improvement of the “score” that led people to take the exact same course over and over and over again.
The introduction of Air soft guns to the general public changed all of this. All of a sudden the general public could test everything themselves. This power of testing was no longer solely in the hands of people with an agenda. The information on the realities of a fight that had been held back could no longer be protected. The flood gates were now open and nobody could stop the changing tide. For the critical thinkers out there dumping the status quo was simple. Heck, they were already half way gone just out of common sense. For those people looking to be the best that they could be this often led them back to studying the history of gun fighting and the vast amount of knowledge and combat proven skill sets.
Let’s take a look at some of the things that the “old timers” considered “combat accurate.”
Center of Mass
The definition of center of mass is as follows, “targeting the center of whatever mass that is available.” That means if only a foot is available, target the center of the foot. If only the elbow is available target the center of that exposed elbow. This is all about making a hit. If you target the center and you are slightly off, you will still get a hit. This also means that if you are in low light and both you and the adversary are moving (as a high percentage of gunfights actually come down) you should target the center of mass so that if you are not perfect inside of this difficult situation you will still land a hit. When some of the old timers talked about center of mass, you would often hear them discussing targeting the belt buckle. We need to realize the difference in where they wore their belt buckles. They were not at waist level they were at abdomen level, very close to center of mass. These guys knew the realities of the fight and they had no competition based dogma ingrained in them. Focusing in on the belt buckle gave them a very nice “focal point” at center of mass to lock in on. They understood the seamless integration of sighted fire and instinctive fire and the correct context inside of the fight.
In “Shooting to Live” Fairbairn and Sykes documented six hundred and sixty-six gunfights inside of a twelve-year period. They saw this one phenomenon so often that they put it in writing “If you shoot a man in the gut, he will most likely drop what is in his hand.”
In a reactionary gun fight, with decent distances, and dynamic movement, I teach targeting center of mass. We need to take back the lost initiative with our speed, movement, and ballistic effect. We need to put a hit on board! The best way to insure this is targeting the center of mass. As we settle into the fight, our movement, and our increasingly accurate marksmanship, we can begin bringing the shots up into the thoracic cavity.
The Central Nervous System (CNS)
In my Modern Techniques training of the past they always scoffed at the CNS stoppage for anything short of the cranial ocular band. They use to hold their pinkie up and bob it back and forth while saying “go ahead try to shoot it” all while laughing. While entertaining, it was not the truth of the matter. For a CNS stoppage you do not have to disrupt the pinkie size spinal cord, you can often disrupt the CNS by making a hit to the spinal column. A good representation to the size of the spinal column is a 1 1/2 inch side of a typical two by four. When you look at this way, the CNS stoppage is not near as difficult as the Modern Techniques portrayed it to be. But once again we get into the whole “scoring” philosophy and it’s misrepresentation of the facts.
When we train the CNS should always be taken into consideration, just as center of mass needs to be taken into consideration. The CNS stoppage is a prized and worthy goal. For a squared up adversary, by all means target his center line and his CNS. If the adversary is bladed we need to balance our targeting of the CNS with our targeting of center of mass.
The old timers recognized this and even developed tactics and techniques to target the CNS. The zipper is all about targeting the CNS. We are looking for a five to six shots, vertically stringing right up and on the CNS from pelvis to cranial ocular band. The level of “stoppage” is dependent on the height of the hit to the CNS. Hit them low and you take their mobility. Hit them higher and take away their mobility and their arms. Hit them even higher and you take oh so much more. There is very few shots better than a CNS stoppage. Only the “apricot” could be better.
I am not even going to get into this old tired debate. I will just repeat the advice of Jelly Bryce given to Dave James. “Son, if you shoot a man in the nuts…..he will leave you alone.”
I have not had one male student question the validity of that statement.
There is so much time spent on debating “the pelvic girdle.” What is usually missing from the debate is the huge number of blood vessels in that area. This brings up another old-timer philosophy, “more holes in, more blood out, lower the blood pressure and win the fight.” You may not break the pelvic girdle and take away mobility, but you are putting holes in and lowering the blood pressure.
If we look at pure speed of the draw and the irrefutable law of physics and economy of motion, the very fastest that you can be is a draw stroke right out of the top of the holster straight to the adversary’s pelvis (Elbow up/ elbow down.) Combat proven!
More Reality to Think About
Resetting the OODA Loop
The OODA loop is the decision-making process that all human being make. It stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. It takes the average person .2 -.25 of a second to cycle through this decision-making process. The old timers used this phenomenon for everything that it is worth. The old timers proclaim that any hit on an adversary will buy you .2-.25 of a second. Each hit resets the adversary’s OODA loop. This goes right in line with Fight Focused Concepts philosophy of “Any hits on them is good for you and bad for them.” This also goes hand in hand with shots to “less then optimal” regions of the body, such as the pelvis. We are not worried about the effects of one hit we are looking at the cumulative effect of five to seven shots, within the first two seconds of the fight, dispersed out all over the body. We are using the phenomenon of the resetting of the OODA loop to get as many hits on board as possible until the threat has been stopped.
Multiple Traumas to Multiple Systems
The “old timers” were big on staying away from tight groups. They believe in multiple traumas to multiple systems. When the reality of the fight becomes clear this philosophy happens naturally. The biggest thing about them is that they did not worry about a perfect group. They were fight focused not competition focused. This is why this article is a lecture in every one of my Point Shooting Progression courses. So many times I see that concern about the loss of a tight group when we begin pushing the limitations, so many “shaking of the heads” and “looks of disgust.” That is until things are put into perspective. Once the “Combat Accuracy” lecture has been given all of the marksmanship based egotistical nonsense just melts away. Only then can we get down to the serious business at hand.
“Face” the Facts
While targeting the cranial ocular band has some benefits, the major down fall is that this requires more precision than most situations will allow. We need to accept the reality that any hit on the adversary’s head it a darn good hit! Sure, make your focal point the bridge of the adversary’s nose, but realize that a slight miss is still a great hit. When we talk about resetting an adversary’s OODA loop any shot to the face has to be a major reset. While I have no proof of this, common sense tells me you just bought yourself more time than just .2 – .25 of a second.
In my Modern Techniques school I was shooting a drill at twenty-five yards. When we walked up to the target I had one perfect shot dead center into the throat. As they marked it a “three points down” I could not help to think how absolutely stupid that was. Here was a perfect fight ending shot and it was scored as a “peripheral.” Where is the reality in that? I blew out the esophagus and the spinal column.
I do not know about you all, but the last place in the world I want to get hit is square in the neck. Common sense tells me that a neck shot is a winning shot in most fights.
It’s simple, any shot on them is good for you and bad for them. It may not be a fight winning shot, but there is a whole lot more coming and it is coming fast and accurately. Stay fight focused, not score focused, spread the love, and shoot them to the ground.
Combat shooting is nasty business. You are not going to be perfect, you are going to fight within what ever the situations allows you. You will need every edge that you can get to be the very best that you can be. You need to be able to fight inside of the realities of the fight, not inside of the made up realities of the recent past. Learn from the very best that had no agenda…..look to the history of the gunfight and seamlessly integrate the best of the old with the best of the new.