The recent mass killer in Dayton was wearing a bullet resistant vest. While he was quickly neutralized by the police (disappointingly, there appears to have been no armed citizens nearby) this raises the question of how an armed citizen (or an on- or off-duty officer) can best deal with this situation. The issue is that if their rounds are stopped by the BG’s armor then he can continue to kill until 1) the good guy figures this out and 2) goes to plan B. So we have two issues.
How do we figure out that the BG is wearing armor? I’ve harped a lot in these pages about the fact that we shouldn’t shoot any faster than we can assess what’s going on in front of our muzzle. (This tactic has been picked up and come to be called “not out-running your headlights” lately in the shooting community.) If a good guy is adhering to this tactic then they should notice if, after a round or two to COM, the BG hasn’t dropped his gun or gone to the ground — this is a pretty good clue that body armor may be stopping the rounds. So the answer here is to only shoot as fast as you can assess, and to make sure you assess after each shot, both of which we should be training to do all the time anyway. What’s new here is to recognize the signs of body armor.
What is plan B? The traditional answer is the Mozambique tactic (two to the body/one to the head), or transition to head shots if COM shots aren’t working. I’ve never been a fan of this tactic. While the Mozambique drill has value on the range as a target and target-size transition drill, I’ve always thought it had little application in the real world for the vast majority of defensive shooters.* The head is too small a target and in the real world it’s moving around. It’s an even smaller target at angles, smaller still at distance (and in an active killer situation you probably will be shooting at distance), and the skull often does a pretty good job of deflecting bullets. Because these things by definition happen in crowded spaces, if you miss the head you are likely to strike an innocent because the head shot will be aimed at head level…where a lot of other people’s bodies will be, right behind the BG. That bullet’s gonna stop somewhere after all.
The second answer that I hear is to simply shoot whatever piece of the BG you can get to, thus diminishing him, and use that opportunity to get closer or to take the time for a neutralizing shot. This is a great strategy, but recognize that it requires running towards the shooter. You have to make that mental commitment before you consider anything else.
Now, hits anywhere can diminish the shooter, and all hits are good. Hit him anywhere you can given his exposure, the distance, your weapon, your skill, and your composure. Even hits on the vest will have some effect (taking a round on a vest feels like a hard punch). But to the extent that you can manage to have some sort of aiming focus, I suggest that the pelvis is the place to aim. It’s likely to be the largest exposed, un-armored piece of real estate; in other words the pelvis likely becomes COM once you discount the armored chest.
Yes, many people dismiss pelvic shots as ineffective, but they also have a record as being effective. Especially in pairs or threes. Going to be hard for someone to take two or three pelvic shots and remaining standing. (Heck, LAPD aimed at the exposed foot of one of the behind-cover bad guys in the infamous LAPD bank robbery shoot out…and it was successful in diminishing the him to the point where they could close and neutralize him.) Compared to the head the pelvis is much easier to hit at distance: it’s bigger, and doesn’t move around as much. Also, if you miss a pelvis shot it’s probably less likely to kill an innocent because of the more-likely downward angle (misses still represent a very real danger, of course). If you are aggressively closing with the BG as you shoot, you may be able to make more precise shots if you wish, including the head.
The way to train for this might be a reverse Mozambique — let’s call it the Dayton Drill. Two to the body / assess / two to the pelvis / assess**.
None of this (distance) shooting will be practical with a small gun — you’ll need a full-size, or at least a G19-size, pistol to accomplish it. So when you gear up you need to know if you’re equipped for personal defense (the most likely case) or you want to be prepared for the really bad case (extremely, extremely unlikely — but it happens). Also, a spare magazine will be handy here since there will probably be beaucoup rounds exchanged.
Finally, I’d recommend that we train to do two things after the BG is down and not shooting. 1) stay or move away from him, and 2) yell at everyone else to get out of there. Why? Sooner or later we’re going to see an active killer wired with an IED to go off after he’s down (if it goes off sooner, that’s a different problem).
* Of course I do believe that it has real application for highly trained shooters who have also had a lot of experience in realistic simulations. We’re talking in the realm of 50,000+ rounds per year coupled with serious force-on-force simulations. We’re also probably talking rifles with optics. None of this describes 99.99% of armed citizens or cops on the scene.
** I’m suggesting that a controlled pair instead of a single shot before assessing, in this kind of extreme situation, would be perfectly justifiable.