Aim for the upper chest? 5 reasons why not to.

The standard advice that you get in any “tactical” (and to be fair, tactical) shooting school is to aim for the upper chest of your assailant. I’ve heard this area described well as “the triangle formed by the Adam’s apple and the two nipples”.

No doubt this is the most effective area to hit in order to quickly stop the BG; no argument there. But still I think this advice is ill-advised, needlessly complicated, and possibly counter-productive. I believe that the old-school advice to aim for center of (available) mass is far better.  Here’s why:

  1. The high chest  might not be available if the BG is behind cover or concealment, moving, or turned to you.  If all your mental programming is to aim there, the frustrating habit of reality to not conform to your static range training (with–let’s be honest–stationary, face-on targets) may cause a mental stutter, costing you time or a missed shot.  After all, if the only target you have is part of the BG’s foot, then you don’t want to hesitate to shoot it (this example is from a real-world LAPD SWAT shooting).
  2. The high chest, even if it’s available, is closer to the perimeter of the body than center-of-mass, thus reducing your margin for error (AKA, misses).  You inevitably shoot worse for real than on the range due to the stress and, again, because the situation is so much more difficult and complicated (see above).
  3. The high chest isn’t that much more a of a good area than center-of-mass, stopping effect-wise, even on a face-on full body target.
  4. The high chest is not intuitive to train.  Given a target to shoot at, whether a geometric or organic shape, we all instinctively aim for the center of it.  Why fight Mother Nature for so little gain when there are other, higher return, things we could spend our time on?
  5. It doesn’t take a Hollywood screen writer to imagine a realistic scenario in which your documented training to “shoot for the vital organs in the high upper chest” can come back to haunt you during the aftermath.  Again, for so little gain, why do it?

There’s enough things that we should be training, that are not easy to do, and that we are much better off spending our time, ammunition, and energy on.


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