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The last headshot I made took almost six full seconds, but the rabbit at 25 yards was decapitated by the 44 magnum load without any meat lost. ::)
 

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Chris,

Parson is correct in that headshots are hard and usually take too long.

When training you have a static target- it's not moving.

In practice the assailant is dodging, weaving, and shooting back. That will flat rattle most folks.

We'll get into the fight or flight and the effects of adrenaline on the parasympathetic nervous system at a later date.

Suffice to say that it's both a simple and complex issue at the same time.

Josh <><
 

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Yeah,you always hear someone saying they would make a headshot,but under stress and the fact that someone is shooting at you...a headshot would be damned hard.
 

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a decade or so ago, we used to practice 2 to COM and one to the head (Mozambique drills) on movers. My observation was that it was relatively easy when the target gets within 7 m/yds. Admittedly, this was with guys who put a 200+ rounds down range daily and were used to shooting on the move at moving targets, so performance may not have been typical.
 
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I wouldn't rely on a head shot while in motion (you or the attacker) but I've been practicing what's being called the "zipper" by starting at the hips and shooting up the torso of the target (and BG in FoF) and getting a good vertical string of 3-4 body shots with the another round in the head usually. It's not a conscious precision shot, just letting the muzzle climb in recoil with timing seems to bring consistent results. shooting at the hips first is very good at getting the hits on target as they tend to move less than the rest of the guy while he is ducking and diving.
 
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Headshots are something I practice, I teach, and have used to good effect. They are harder to pull off than Hollywood suggests, but they are not impossible.

Most people base their opinion on how badly barely trained people shoot when they are scared. Hardly trained people can't hit the whole human in any part of his anatomy more than about 15-25% of the time. This doesn't mean we should write it off as impossible.

I would think that if you are looking at this board and carry a handgun, that you would also take the time to train to an acceptable standard. The cranial vault is about the size of a 3X5 index card and most of us would probably not consider an area that large to be an unreasonable target at ranges under 10 yards.

Now, the head does move more than the torso. A trip to Thunder Ranch and some experience with the wobbler target will teach you that for sure. You can also blow a balloon up to about the right size and put it on a string and tie that to you target on a windy day. While difficult, I bet that most of us could practice enough to track the movement and get hits.

The real reason behind most of the arguments I have heard from people is that they think that shooting them (insert number of rounds here) times in the chest will work. Those people will be right most of the time, let's say 90%. My way of looking at this though is that 1 time in every 10 gunfights x number of rounds to the chest does not work in a timely manner. Nor does x to the 4th power. If one in ten were the odds for winning the lottery we would all be happy, but they aren't. They are more like 1 in 1 million or something, and yet a lot of people buy tickets.

The problem is some people won't stop unless their central nervous system is interrupted or their blood pressure drops too low. If you are within the effective range of someone who is shooting at you, I don't care how fast you move or how much cover you have his blood pressure won't drop fast enough to make you happy unless your CCW is made by Dillon Aero (minigun). You must hit the spine or the cranial vault to interrupt the CNS. The spine is an even harder target than the CNS, especially from the side.

Another new and developing problem is bad guys wearing body armor. Tyler, TX just had a shooting with an armor clad suspect. If you don't have your rifle then I would plan on making headshots.

It's nice to come up with scenarios that you can win easily, but you might consider this one. Bad guy shows up at the courthouse with his body armor, AK, and in a bad mood because his ex-wife wants lots of child support money. You are getting out of your vehicle 3 parking spaces away from him when he drives in and starts shooting. You were just there for jury duty. You can't see anything but head and shoulders. He's going to be moving around, possibly even driving.

Most people wisely say they would avoid the situation. Unfortunately some police officers say the same thing, so you may have to fight your way out or lay there and die if you can't avoid it. The head may be all the target you have. Check out that Tyler gunfight sometime.

I would practice your headshots. You should be sure that you are shooting into the cranial vault. Even a skinny little crazy woman can take a .223 in the teeth and keep fighting so make them shots good. Oh and yes I would practice them while I was moving to cover and while they were moving, and when my strong arm didn't work and I had to shoot with my weak hand only with somebody else's gun I picked up off the street when mine broke.

In essence, yes it's hard. If it was easy they would make a game out of it and put it on TV.

Good luck ladies and gentlemen. :)

Allen
 

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I would practice your headshots. You should be sure that you are shooting into the cranial vault. Even a skinny little crazy woman can take a .223 in the teeth and keep fighting so make them shots good
I've seen this on occasion as well.....hits to the jaw do little to improve someones disposition, esp. if they are bent on killing you in the first place. I've also seen bullets fail to penetrate the skull and follow the contour of the bone (usually a .22, .25, .32, ect).....angles have a lot to do with it.
Still, I practice head shots as well, but I think I would use one only if hits to the torso failed to produce the desired effect.
 
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agzant: Excellent post. I agree with your approach.

In terms of targeting, though, you can't consider the whole cranial vault as your target if you want instant incapacitation. You can put a bullet through the frontal lobes and the subject may remain conscious and fully functional. This is not to say you don't shoot at the head, just that you may want to refine your target area somewhat. Like Mel Gibson said in The Patriot, "Aim small, miss small".

If you want to incapacitate him outright, you must put your bullet through the low brain, or brainstem. This structure is about the size and dimensions of a 6 oz. tomato paste can located in the anatomic center of the head. Think of two horizontal lines, one running between the ear-holes, and the other running front-to-back from the tip of the nose to the back of the head. The intersection of those two lines is the location of the brainstem.

If you miss the brainstem by an inch in any direction, you'll still probably put the guy down because of the other important structures that are there.
 
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Prior to making a headshot, administer a headlock. Makes the shot much easier, try not to shoot yourself or get gore on your clothes.
 
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Very good replies to which I can only add one thing.
Find a local match and shoot, shoot, shoot! I try to get to as many IPSC, IDPA, and Steel matches as time, money, and the wife will let me.
Go with a buddy and depending on the stage, decide which targets to engage only with head shots. Friendly competition can go a long way. You may not win the match but you will get some very good trigger time under the stress of competition.

On the subject of how hard a head shot is:
I feel that if you are actively shooting and the other guy is shooting and moving, then it is difficult but not impossible.
A hostage situation with the BG less than 10yds and at least half his head showing? Done deal. But it still takes lots of practice. Focus on the front sight, trigger sqeeze, follow through, and the shot will go where intended. There is no substuitue for good trigger time. I would never look for a head shot but feel confident that I can do it providing the right siutation for it.
Dave.
 

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A more appropriate question might be....

How hard is it to make a head shot with a handgun under stress?

If you are shooting in a self-defense situation at a human target, there will be a ton of stress on you. You need to factor that in when trying to understand the topic.
 

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While I am certainly not opposed to headshots (as a failue to stop rememdy), it should be noted that there is a lot more of the head which ineffective as a handgun target than there is that is effective.

It is the occular window we must hit for sure results (in Miami, Matix was hit in the temple from 90 degreess without serious effect and we had a deputy who failed to stop a woman with a hit from a 4" .357 magnum to the face).

Hard to hit under stress - sure is.

But I know of even more failures with the pelvic shot - in fact so far I have never encountered a person who has had it work (do not deny that such cases exist by any means - I only know of few cases total).

How do we practice it? Glad you asked! After the obvious fundamentals of doing it on a static target we must graduate to an "animated" target. Suspend a ball (say a tennis ball or rubber ball the size of a soft ball) from a rubber tether. Start it bouncing and practice until you can hit it with some reliability (I don't know of anyone who can approach 90% - 50 is proably more like it).

Good luck!!!
Jim
 
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Just as an aside. I have a friend ( I know not another "friend quote), that spent time in South Africa in their police department. He was involved in a number of shoot outs there - some of which lasted for sometime. He has told me on a number of occassions he can not remember seeing his sights in any of the shootouts he was involved in. Something to consider, I think.
 

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It is the occular window we must hit for sure results
This business of headshots really bothers me. So much bone (and so little brain in a BG ::)). I think Jim has stated the obvious, you've got to be better than Annie Oakley to hit that "occular window" for results.

Here's a picture that I found suggesting where to aim.


Comments please!!

og
 
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Another idea for practice is to tie a balloon to a remote control car with someone else controling the car. See if you can break the balloon in less than three shots. Hard, but can be done with practice. Start close, seven to ten yards and then move out. Another trick, is to have someone throw, at random times, a string of firecrackers at your feet. This will break your concentration. Once you can hit the target in less than three rounds while the firecrackers are going off you will know your limits. It is an old, but true, saying, the more you sweat in training, the less you will bleed in combat. So, train hard!
 
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I practice headshots every time I practice. I have mentioned on other threads of shootings where even though good shots were made on the central nervous system, the bad guys managed to keep going for another 10 seconds or so which is plenty of time to kill you. A brain or spine shot is the only thing that will drop them on the spot. I would definitely take the first two shots to the biggest target area which is usually the chest but I would have it in my mind to take one to the head if the bad guy was close and still a threat. Most of us will never be involved in a shooting much less one where the bad guy has body armor but the chance is always there. (The L.A. bank robbers, remember all the hits center mass that had no affect?) I have seen guys that were doped up on PCP that kept a chuggin even after their hearts were blown apart but I never saw one take another step after a noggin knocker. For me, part of my training will always include some headshots.
 
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What it all comes down to, in the end, is trigger time, and variety thereof.

Just figure out different stuff to do with your defensive handgun.

Personally, half of my practice is bullseye shooting, the other half of it is shots on the move, shots from cover, off-hand, and a devious version of El Presidente using a quintet of soup cans -- hard, but darn good practice.

The important thing to remember about head shots is that the importance of getting one, especially against a crackhead, or some such, increases with proximity to the target. Fortunately, the difficulty of making the actual shot decreases with the same. Practice, keep your cool, and you'll be fine.
 
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Doc Rocket,

Sorry, I haven't looked at this thread in a while. You are of course correct on needing to hit the stem for instant incapacitation with a handgun. I have been lucky in my experiences in that a vault hit has generally worked to satisfaction. They fall down and stop trying to kill me. They may well have fired rounds after taking the hit, but they were ineffective and quickly ceased. As a matter of course I would generally rather take a shot that would get the vault immediately than making sure on the stem. The problem is, as others have said, the armored structure of the skull will easily deflect rounds on the periphery. That means you have to get a shot in the center and on frontal shots will most often get close to the stem. On shots to the side of the head, center mass is generally a bit far forward. I have seen no problems with this placement. You may know some reasoning for this such as the passing within an inch of the stem or maybe because it is passing through both lobes? As far as the frontal lobes go, we have a wrecker driver in our town that has a self inflicted frontal lobe shot through the roof of the mouth. He was incapacitated, but he now drags the left side while he runs his towing service. Had he been on drugs or mad at someone, that shot very well may not have worked. He never has been very smart.

Old Granpa,

From the front the spine is indeed a good target area. The only problems lie in that it is in some ways smaller than the cranial vault, though it doesn't move as much, and it is very hard to hit from the side. Most of our training deals with the frontal target, but in many gunfights by the time your turn to shoot has come, he may have changed position. When making body shots, I do my best to put them in the direction of the spine, but would rather shoot the head than the spine as a fail to stop.

Chubbypigeon,

Good post. It sounds like you have a good practice regimen going there.

The head shot works if you shoot them good. It is not for every scenario and it is always best to do as Clint Smith suggests, 'Shoot them in what is available, as long as it is available, until something better comes available.' If they are too far away or moving too much for you to hit the head, then shoot the body until the head is feasible. If you like the pelvic shots then you might try those too. As Jiim Higginbotham indicated there have been failures there. I have never used one and have no experience, but I practice them some in case that is what is available, like if he is wearing body armor and I can't make the head shot. Find cover when you can, shoot good, shoot what you can see and hit, repeat as necessary.

Good Shooting
 
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