Shooting the leg

The dreaded Hollywood "shoot them in the leg" to stop someone without killing them.

 Ma'khia Bryant was a young Black woman who was shot and killed by a police officer when he was dispatched to this scene. The officer shot her because Ms. Bryant was about to stab someone she didn't like with a knife. During the police press conference about the shooting of Ma'khia Bryant, one of the reporters asked THE stupidest Hollywood-fueled question.

“Why didn’t the officer just shoot her in the leg to stop her?”

After a minute-long facepalm, I thought I should address this in clear, understandable concepts why you shouldn't shoot someone in the leg/arm/hand or even "shoot the weapon out of their hand."

I came up with FIVE different “why not” reasons, and I will explain them all to you, in great detail, so when the next gun-control idiot asks you (or voices that question in your vicinity) that question, you can clearly articulate all of them.

So, specifically, we are talking about shooting someone in the leg, arm, hand or just shooting the weapon out of the bad person’s hand.

1. Shooting the leg will not stop them.

First of all, there is no “shoot to wound/shoot to kill” criteria in a civilian setting. Police and armed citizens are taught to “Shoot to STOP.” This means if you start shooting, you continue to shoot until the target is down and the threat has ended. Even with a fatal leg shot (which I explain in #4) a person will remain active and a threat for 10-30 seconds after being hit. More than enough time to complete the act. In situations like this, your adrenal gland is dumping adrenalin like crazy into your system to assist in the “fight or flight” you’re going through right then. Adrenalin blocks pain perception also, so a person can receive a fatal wound and still keep operating for several seconds until to the loss of blood causes the body to stop functioning.

A shot to the center of mass (as every properly educated shooter is taught) has a higher chance of shocking the nervous system, which will stop the target and the threat. Think when you hit your “funny bone” (your Ulnar nerve) in your arm and you couldn’t control your hand or fingers for 5-10 seconds afterward.

2. You are responsible for every bullet you fire.

Let me start off by telling you, you are morally and legally responsible for every round you fire. If you have to shoot person A, and you hit them and they die, but one of your bullets miss and you kill person B, you may not go to prison for killing A, however you will go to prison for killing B. Not to mention the wrongful death lawsuit from their family.

The fourth rule of gun safety is “make sure of your target and what is beyond it.” A bullet will not sense “ooh, I missed what the person who shot me was aiming to hit” and simply dissipate into thin air. A handgun round can easily go for a couple hundred yards past the intended target and still be deadly. So if you miss what you were aiming at (I discuss that in #5) you still have a good chance of hitting and killing someone else.

3. High vs. low percentage shot.

Imagine looking at a person from the side, with their arm/arms stretched out in front of them. Imagine that’s a person with a gun and they’re going to pull the trigger on a handgun and kill someone. Now, look at all of that empty space above and below their arms. A lot of area to miss and fall under #2 above. Second, it takes about 0.25 seconds for a person to raise their arm from their side to outstretched and pull the trigger. It takes 0.3 to 0.4 seconds just for you to make the decision to fire and actually pull the trigger. It takes upward of a second if your weapon is at “low ready” (your weapon is in your hand, pointed downward and not at anybody). In other words, not only is there a lot of room to miss, also you can’t react fast enough to point at a moving arm/hand/weapon and have your bullet arrive in the same space and the same time as the arm/hand/weapon. Same thing with the legs. They are constantly moving and almost impossible to hit.

This is why shooters are taught to shoot for the “center of mass” because it’s the biggest part of the body and moves the slowest. You have a way better chance of not missing your target when you shoot at the largest part vs. the smaller limbs.

4. Blood, blood everywhere

The physics of a bullet penetrating flesh are well documented. A large momentary air pocket is formed, which obviously disrupts whatever flesh is there before the impact. If the bullet hits a bone, that will shatter the bone and send shards everywhere, kind of like a mini Claymore mine. Inside the leg there is what is called the femoral artery. That is the artery that feeds the blood down into each leg. This artery is quite large, at a 1/3rd of an inch. If this artery were to be cut or severed by a bullet passing through it, or being skewered multiple times from bone fragments, well then, you have about 90 seconds to live. Because that’s how long it will take for gravity to pull half of your entire blood volume out of your circulatory system where it belongs and into your leg or on the ground. You don’t survive that.

5. Accuracy, accuracy, accuracy.

A fired bullet will go straight forward out of the weapon in whatever direction the barrel is pointed. Another fact is, when your body realizes it’s in a life-or-death situation, it dumps a lot of adrenalin into your system so you can do the whole “fight-or-flight” thing. The bad news is, this destroys all of your fine motor control, which is exactly what you need to accurately aim your weapon.

If you look at how Ferguson’s Michael Brown was shot, the first four rounds were along the edge of his right arm, going from the wrist to the shoulder. With these two men being about 20 feet apart, and the distance from the center of Brown’s chest to the outer edge of his arm being about 12”, math tells me that the officer had his front sight about 0.35” or 3/8ths of an inch to the left of where he was taught to aim. Go and extend your arm, finger pointing. Now, have someone hold a ruler to the tip of your finger so you can see exactly how much a difference that really is.


So there you go. Five very clear reasons why you can’t “do a Hollywood” and shoot the person in the leg, the arm, the hand, or their weapon to stop them from harming others.

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