How Not to Respond on the Street

Would that it could, that one shot from an officer’s sidearm could effectively stop a deadly suspect in his tracks. Oh, it can and has happened but the “Myth of the One Shot Stop” has been disproven many years ago.

“Physiologically, a determined adversary can be stopped reliably and immediately only by a shot that disrupts the brain or upper spinal cord. Failing to hit the center nervous system, massive bleeding from holes in the heart, or major blood vessels of the torso causing circulatory collapse is the only way to force incapacitation upon an adversary, and this takes time.  For example, there is sufficient oxygen within the brain to support full, voluntary action for 10 to 15 seconds after the heart has been destroyed.”

“A review of law enforcement shootings clearly suggests that regardless of the number of rounds fired in a shooting, most of the time only one or two solid torso hits on the adversary can be expected.”


Since the head is a small and illusive target for most officers armed with a handgun, center mass specifically the Mediastinum as Dr. James Williams M.D. from Tactical Anatomy has indicated is the target of choice.  The Mediastinum is the area of the chest from sternum to base of the throat where the heart and major blood vessels reside.  This is the primary target area but as indicated by Special Agent Patrick in his report 24 years ago, even when the heart is destroyed the suspect may stay in the fight for 15 seconds.

15 seconds in a gunfight can be an entire lifetime – and that life just might be yours...

Political Correctness in a Gunfight? 

Science through the hard work of Dr. Bill Lewinski and his associates at Force Science has proven that officers respond to a perceived deadly stimulus and begin firing, and then must react and respond to the threat no longer existing.  In other words an officer is confronted with a man armed with a handgun threatening his life.  He reacts (a strictly mental process) to the threat, draws his duty pistol and begins shooting (response time).  He shoots at his assailant until he perceives the suspect is down or no longer a threat.  In that time period an officer can possibly fire a large number of shots.  Further in that life threatening confrontation can we reasonably expect our officer to stop and assess?  If he or she did and the suspect was still a threat, are we not setting the officer up for possibly getting killed, all in the name of political correctness?

Respond – Fire – Win 

Instead of Assess – Fire – Assess which is actually being forced upon members of at least one agency in this country should be not train our officers to continually assess the confrontation but win it?  To respond to the threat, fire effectively, and win the encounter.  Is that not the reasonable goal of an officer confronted with a deadly threat?  Round count as an indicator of excessive force comes from the land of the mythical one shot stop.  It has not and is not that easy to stop a suspect with murderous intent.  Let’s be real, lives hang in the balance.

One Shot Drops Surviving the Myth; FBI Bulletin October 2004

Handgun Wounding Factors and Effectiveness; FBI Academy Firearms and Tactics Unit Report

Dr. James Williams Tactical Anatomy Website

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