Wednesday, October 15, 2008
The Fallacy of "One shot, one kill"
If you've read any gun forums, or read a gun magazine in the last 50 years, you've heard the arguments that will go on into eternity: .45ACP vs 9mm, 7.62x39mm vs. 5.56x45mm, Full Metal Jacket vs. Hollow Point, etc. While there is some validity to arguing the point of "which is more powerful" or "which delivers more energy to the target", most of the arguments are based on the "one shot, one kill" fallacy.
In a perfect world, warfighters, cops, and law abiding citizens would be able to shoot a bad guy one time and have him stop, literally dead in his tracks. In reality, unless the bad guy is shot squarely in the brain, he is not automatically out of the fight. Another problem with "one shot, one kill" is that most people, when threatened with death or grievous bodily injury, will panic to some extent and keep pulling the trigger until the target stops (which is the right thing to do, in my opinion). In fact, I have read some doctrine (with which I agree) says to fire controlled pairs until the target stops. That means pop-pop, assess situation, repeat as necessary. I haven't seen first hand, nor heard about a gunfight that was ended by a single shot.
Now this is not to ignore differences in kinetic energy delivered by different rounds. Obviously, a .22LR will not be as likely to end a fight as, say a 10mm. Nor is this to negate the differences in wound channels caused by hollow points, versus the wound channels of full metal jacket rounds. Yes, accuracy is key. However, you should not go into harm's way with the mentality that a single bullet is going to end any given fight. That doesn't mean "spray and pray", it means you should be prepared to hit a target multiple times, regardless of the caliber of your weapon. Just because you put a hole in a bad guy with your STG-58 chambered for 7.62x51mm, doesn't mean he is automatically down for the count. Just because you put a BIG hole in a bad guy with your 1911A1 chambered in .45ACP doesn't mean he is going to stop.
The point of all this rambling is that the caliber of your weapon, and the type of bullet fired is not as important as the mentality (and level of training) of the firer. Don't let someone talk you out of carrying a pistol chambered in 9mm, or buying an AR-15 in .223REM because there is some magic gun out there with a bigger bore, or more kinetic energy. Keep in mind that for a lot of years, people defended their lives quite successfully with .36 caliber black powder revolvers with roughly the same muzzle energy as a .380ACP. Even a dinky little .22LR can kill a human. It is not terribly productive to pick a firearm just because it is supposed to kill with a single round.
So, when you're on the range, don't just practice firing one single round that is carefully aimed. Instead, practice drawing, acquiring the target, putting the sights on center of mass, and firing two or three rounds in a controlled fashion. Get a good sight picture, but don't wait for a perfect one. Remember, that target can close 21 feet in a little over one second. The closer you are to the target, the faster those rounds need to get into the target. Aim, but don't treat it like a bulls-eye match.
One shot, one kill is a great idea, but ultimately an unlikely scenario. Sure, work on your accuracy. When training for self defense or tactical situations, change it up and fire odd numbers of rounds into the target. Don't get your muscle memory used to firing only one round to stop a threat. Be ready to do what you have to do to stay alive. Even if that means not being like Mark Wahlberg.