Many Preppers Will Die


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Sterile Vs. Clean In Survival Situations

July 15, 2012 10 Comments

Hey Prepper Nation,

A significant factor in the quality of medical care given in a survival situation is the level of cleanliness of the equipment used.  In primitive conditions, it will be a challenge to make an environment that guarantees the best chance of avoiding infection in a wound.  It will be harder still to sterilize all of your equipment. Now, you may have heard of the terms “sterile” and “clean”, but do you have more than a vague idea of what they mean?

When it comes to medical protection, “sterility” means the complete absence of microbes.  To guarantee the elimination of all organisms, a type of pressure cooker called an “autoclave” is used for instruments, towels, and other items that could come in contact with the patient.  Interestingly, some things can be “dirty” and “sterile” at the same time.  If I put a handful of dirt in a container in a pressure cooker, I would render the dirt sterile by killing all the microbes in it.  It would still be dirt, however.

There is considerable debate, even now, as to what truly constitutes “sterile technique” and what is to be considered “clean technique”.  There is even some disagreement with regard to which technique is best in which scenario.  Although this is a discussion for a much longer article, suffice it to say that initial wound care, especially with deep wounds in the first 48 hours, should be sterile if possible.  As it becomes clear that the wound is not infected, clean technique may be acceptable (indeed, it may be all you have).  An infected wound will appear red, swollen, and feel hot to the touch (see image below).

Here are common characteristics of clean vs. sterile methods:

Sterile technique involves hand washing with special solutions and the use of sterile instruments, gloves, towels, and dressings.  When used on a patient, the area immediately around them is referred to as a “sterile field”.  In order to say that sterile technique was used, you would have to assure that only sterile items were used, and were only touched by other sterile items.  This is not impossible, but requires extra diligence (and expense) to achieve.  For example:  Clean, non-sterile gloves come 100 to a carton, while each pair of sterile gloves must be individually packaged.

Clean technique concentrates on reducing the number of microorganisms that could be transferred from one person to another by medical instruments, or other medical supplies. Meticulous washing of hands and instruments with soap and hot water is important, as is the wearing of clean gloves.  Attention is given to making sure that dressings are made of clean cloth or gauze.  In most survival settings, this may be as good as it gets, but is that so bad?

There is very little research that compares clean vs. sterile technique for wound care.   In one study, an experiment was conducted in which one group of patients with traumatic wounds were cleaned with sterile saline solution, the other group with tap water.  Amazingly, the infection rate was 5.4% in the tap water group as opposed to 10.3% in the sterile saline group.  Another study revealed no difference in infection rates in wounds treated in a sterile fashion as opposed to clean technique.

Therefore, I usually recommend clean water to irrigate wounds (see image below), although sterile saline is also fine.  If you use Betadine, make sure it is very dilute.  Betadine is cytotoxic (harmful to new cells) in deep wounds, so is best in the initial cleansing or in situations where infection is suspected. The same goes for Hydrogen Peroxide.

Let’s talk for a second about sterile vs. non-sterile dressings.  I usually recommend a moist sterile gauze in deep wounds covered by a less moist or dry dressing on top (“wet-to-dry dressing”).  However, consider this: A 2006 study in the Canadian Journal of Plastic Surgery took 2 x 2 inch squares of the following items and submitted them for tests to see if there were bacterial organisms on them:

  • 20 Sterile Gauze
  • 20 Panty Liners
  • 20 Sanitary Feminine Napkins
  • 20 Diapers

The results:

  • None of the 20 sanitary napkins grew out bacteria
  • 1 of the 20 panty liners grew out bacteria (Staphylococcus)
  • 2 of the 20 sterile dressings grew out bacteria (1 Staph. And 1 Streptococcus)
  • 15 of the 20 diapers grew out bacteria (all bacillus)

Surprised that the sterile dressings came in third?  I was.  In any case, this doesn’t prove that you shouldn’t use sterile dressings where possible; it just means that, for survival purposes, we might want to conduct further research (which is what the Canadian study recommended).

                                            The Winner!

Remember that your entire sick room should be kept disinfected, so as not to spread infection. Disinfectants are substances that are applied to non-living surfaces to destroy microbes. This would include areas where you would treat patients or prepare food.  Disinfection does not necessarily kill all germs and, as such, is not as effective as sterilization.

A disinfectant is different from an antiseptic, which removes micro-organisms from the surfaces of LIVING tissue.  An antiseptic differs from an antibiotic in that an antibiotic can kill harmful bugs INSIDE a living organism.

Examples of Disinfectants include:

  • Bleach
  • Alcohol
  • Vinegar

Examples of Antiseptics include:

  • Chlorhexidine (Hibiclens)
  • Betadine
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • BZK (Benzalkonium Chloride)

Examples of Antibiotics include:

  • Amoxicillin
  • Tetracycline
  • Ciprofloxacin

Some mistakenly consider disinfection to be the same as “decontamination”. The latter, however, may include the elimination of toxic chemicals or radiation.  The removal of radioactive dust from a surface would, therefore, not be called disinfection, but decontamination.

Dr. Bones

Reference:  Can J Plast Surg. 2006 Spring; 14(1): 25–27.

Reference:  Journal of Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nursing- March/April 2012

Are you prepared to deal with medical issues in disaster situations?  If you have the #1 Amazon Survival Skills Bestseller “The Doom and Bloom Survival Medicine Handbook”, you will be!   Here’s the trailer:

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America May Never Recover From and EMP Attack

Dr. Peter Vincent Pry: America May Never Recover From EMP Attack

Mon, June 4, 2012


Ryan Mauro

Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is the Executive Director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security for the Congressional Caucus on EMP (Electro-Magnetic Pulse) that endeavors to carry on the work of the EMP Commission. He is also the Director of the United States Nuclear Strategy Forum, an advisory body to Congress on policies to counter weapons of mass destruction.

Dr. Pry has served on the staffs of the EMP Commission, the Strategic Posture Commission, the Commission on the New Strategic Posture of the U.S., the House Armed Services Committee and the Central Intelligence Agency.

For those unfamiliar with what an EMP (Electro-Magnetic Pulse) attack is, please view the segment on the topic from the Clarion Fund’s Iranium by clicking here.

The following is’s national security analyst Ryan Mauro’s interview with Dr. Pry:

Ryan Mauro: How long will it take to get critical infrastructure back up and running after an EMP attack?

Dr. Peter Vincent Pry:  Given the current state of U.S. unpreparedness, after a nuclear EMP attack that collapses the electric grid and other critical infrastructures, the U.S. might never recover.  The Congressional EMP Commission–that investigated the EMP threat for nearly a decade and produced the most definitive analysis of the threat–estimated that within one year of a nuclear EMP attack, about two-thirds of the U.S. population, about 200 million Americans, would likely perish from starvation, disease and societal collapse.  Iranian military writings openly describe making an EMP attack to eliminate the United States as an actor on the world stage.

Mauro: Have past nuclear tests in the air produced an EMP?

Pry: Past exoatmospheric nuclear tests have produced an EMP, such as the 1962 STARFISH PRIME nuclear test.  The nuclear burst must occur at high altitude, above 30-40 kilometers, to produce the EMP effect.  During the Cold War, the Soviet Union conducted high-altitude EMP tests over part of their own territory that collapsed electric grids.  Fifty years of empirical data from nuclear tests and EMP simulators proves that an EMP attack would have catastrophic consequences.

Mauro: How could the U.S. government protect us from this threat? How much would it cost?

Pry:  The Congressional EMP Commission produced a plan for protecting all U.S. critical infrastructures from nuclear and natural EMP (such as would be generated by a great geomagnetic storm, like the 1859 Carrington event) that could be implemented in 3-5 years at a cost of $10-20 billion.  This would provide robust protection.  At minimum, the 300 EHV transformers that service the biggest U.S. cities, where most of the population lives, could and should be protected, at a cost of $100-200 million, or about one dollar for every life that could be saved.  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission estimates that the national electric grid could be protected from EMP at a cost to the average rate payer of 20 cents annually.

Mauro: How much dispute is there over the science behind the horrific scenario you depict? A skeptic once sent me a report by Oak Ridge National Laboratories/Metatech about “myths” regarding the EMP threat.

 Pry: Among the numerous official Congressional and USG studies on nuclear EMP attack–that includes reports by the Congressional EMP Commission, the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the Department of Energy and National Electric Reliability Corporation and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (which includes the Metatech report), there is an official scientific and technical consensus that an EMP attack would have catastrophic consequences.  Even the most optimistic “best case” scenario involving a nuclear EMP attack by a primitive low-yield nuclear weapon would be an unprecedented catastrophe and could collapse the national electric grid and other critical infrastructures that sustain modern society and the lives of millions.

Indeed, the entire purpose of Congressional Commissions is to, if possible, resolve controversy and achieve consensus on matters of national security concern.  Two Congressional Commissions staffed by our nation’s best experts and supported by the vast resources of the defense department, the intelligence community and the national nuclear weapons laboratories have independently arrived at the same consensus that a nuclear EMP attack would be catastrophic–so as a matter of public policy, the existential character of the nuclear EMP threat is not controversial, but an established fact.

There are some individuals, usually in academia, who claim the EMP threat is exaggerated.  But these people are not EMP experts and are simply ignorant or politically motivated, as when the New York Times ganged up on Newt Gingrich for trying to warn about the EMP threat during his presidential bid.  Nonetheless the press, uneducated about EMP itself, keeps quoting these non-experts.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  I know well Dr. William Radasky, the team leader of the Oak Ridge/Metatech report, and he would certainly agree that a nuclear EMP attack on the U.S. would be an unprecedented catastrophe–and this is the conclusion of his report.  If you read the report, it warns that an EMP event could collapse the electric grid and other critical infrastructures and require 4-10 years to recover.  Can you imagine trying to survive for years in the aftermath of a nuclear EMP attack that deprives you and millions of your fellow citizens of food, water, transportation and other necessities for life?  Sounds pretty catastrophic to me.

But it should not take a genius to realize that when a falling tree branch can cause the great northeast blackout of 2003, any nuclear EMP attack would certainly have catastrophic consequences.  Iran, North Korea, China and Russia all certainly understand this, as reflected in their military writings.

Ryan Mauro: How far away is Iran and other enemies of the U.S. from having the capability to carry out this kind of attack? Some experts say that Iran would still need a year to construct an actual nuclear bomb after acquiring the necessary highly enriched uranium and would need years after that to develop a nuclear warhead that can fit onto a ballistic missile.

Dr. Peter Vincent Pry:  Any state or group possessing any nuclear weapon and any missile capable of reaching an altitude over 30-40 kilometers can make an EMP attack.  An ICBM is not necessary.  An EMP attack can be delivered by a short-range missile launched from a ship, such as a commercial freighter, operating near U.S. shores.  Iran has practiced such a delivery mode.  Iran already has missiles, such as Scuds and its Shahab-III, capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.

Officially, the Obama Administration claims that Iran does not yet have nuclear weapons.  Personally, I have written several articles warning that Iran might already have the bomb.  Our intelligence on Iran’s nuclear weapons program is not good.  Historically, our intelligence community has a bad record on predicting the advent of new nuclear weapon states and was taken by surprise by the development of nuclear weapons by Russia, India, Pakistan and North Korea.

Supposedly, Iran has been trying to develop nuclear weapons for 20 years, yet during World War II, the U.S. Manhattan Project developed the world’s first nuclear weapons using 1940’s era technology in just three years.  Why should Iran, with access to the now declassified Manhattan Project papers and copious other U.S. documents on nuclear weapons design and helped by North Korea and others and equipped with modern technology, not be able to accomplish in 20 years what the U.S. accomplished during the 1940’s in just three?

The difficulty of miniaturizing a nuclear warhead for missile delivery is often exaggerated.  Pakistan deployed nuclear warheads on its Ghauri missile just one year after its first nuclear test.  Israel, according to the respected Wisconsin Project, has developed a sophisticated array of nuclear weapons, including thermonuclear warheads and weapons miniaturized for delivery by missiles and artillery–all without nuclear testing.

Ryan Mauro is’s National Security Analyst and a fellow with the Clarion Fund. He is the founder of and is frequently interviewed on Fox News.

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Fire Without Matches!

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Russia, U.S. to Hold Anti-terror Drills in May – In Colorado!

    2012-04-20 01:10:58     Xinhua       Web Editor: Jiang

Airborne troops from Russia and the Untied States would hold joint anti-terror drills in the U.S. state of Colorado between May 24 and 31, spokesman of the Russian Defense Ministry Col. Alexander Kucherenko said on Thursday.

According to the spokesman, it will be the first time that the Russian airborne forces have held exercises with the U.S. airborne forces on the U.S. territory.

“According to the exercise scenario, soldiers of the two countries will hold a tactical airborne operation, including the reconnaissance of imaginary terrorists’ camp and a raid,” Kucherenko said.

“After the operation, a helicopter will evacuate the soldiers,” Kucherenko said, adding that the Russian soldiers will also exercise with the U.S. special service weapons in the drills in Fort Carson, Colorado.

Besides, the spokesman said, the Russian group will arrive a week ahead of the drills and attend a baseball game in the city of Colorado Springs.

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When the power lines go down, radio stations stop transmitting and the internet stops working; there is one line of emergency communication that will still be alive and well.

HAM Radio

Ham Radio is something that’s not often discussed on survival websites, but in my opinion it plays a key role in your efforts to be prepared.

In a survival situation knowledge is a very valuable asset. The ability to know what’s going on around you will be extremely important in just about any survival situation you might find yourself in. Having this knowledge will  defiantly give you a leg up in a survival situation.

Communications Equipment

A good survival plan must include some type of emergency communications equipment. The ability to send and receive information in a disaster is vital to being able to survive that situation.

In my opinion there really is only one way to go, and that is to invest in some top quality HAM Radio equipment. Forget about those crappy emergency walkie-talkies or anything that’s marketed as a “Survival Radio”. In my opinion 99% of these things are completely garbage and are almost completely useless in a real word survival scenario.

The ability to send and receive information, from just about anywhere in the world, is far more valuable than anything you will be able to get out of a so called “Survival Radio”.

Why choose HAM Radio for your Survival Communications?

I’ve been a HAM since I was about 10 years old. I’ve talked to people from around the globe with radios that I could literally operate with a couple small batteries and a wire antenna. In a SHTF situation, the ability to communicate with such a small amount of power is going to be extremely important.

When the power grids go down during a natural disaster, it’s often HAM Radio operators who become the only line of communication available. In fact, during Katrina the early responders all relied on HAM Radio Operators to relay information out of the city. It played a vital roll in search and rescue efforts and without it we likely would have seen many more deaths.

Why you need to be Licensed:

ham radio with a bug out bagI often have people ask me if they really need to go through the hassle of becoming a licensed Amateur Radio Operator (HAM). Some people argue that during a SHTF situation having a License is meaningless. While this may be true, the knowledge that you’ll obtain while studying to get your license is well worth the time and the effort.

You will learn the basics of how to operate your radio, which bands are open during different atmospheric conditions, how to reliably use your radio during an emergency and how to build a variety of basic antennas. In my opinion, studying for the test and going through the process is the only way to ensure you’ll when it counts.  You will be far better off learning these skills now instead of haphazardly trying to figure how to use your radio during an emergency situation.

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Stealth Antennas

ARRL Rocky Mountain Division update — March 2012
This month we look at an interesting bit of fun Mark Brueggemann K5LXP of Albuquerque, New Mexico had, in his own words:

Encouraged by excellent operating conditions on 10-meters during the CQWW contest in November 2011 where I operated using a less than unity gain antenna (a Yaesu ATAS antenna on the car driving back from Texas), I thought I would try something a little different for the ARRL 10-meter contest the following month — compromise antennas.

I frequent a number of ham radio forums on the internet and a recurring theme is the ability, or rather inability to put up antennas whether it be an HOA restriction or an unsympathetic landlord or XYL (wife). I’m lucky enough to have a nice tower with a tribander on top but working the contest with that wouldn’t be much of a challenge with band conditions
as good as they are. So I figured I’d make a point out of not only using a less than optimally-installed antenna, but specifically non-antennas. What objects do many people already have, and could be pressed into service as an antenna?

Looking around in my back yard there were three objects that seemed worthy. The barbecue grill, patio furniture, and the grandkids’ swing set. I could’ve characterized each of these and come up with an optimum feed and matching setup but instead I chose what most hams would typically do: hook a piece of coax to it, and tune it in the shack with an antenna tuner.

First up was the steel patio furniture. I made a groundplane vertical of sorts by putting a chair on top of the table with wood between the feet and tabletop as an insulator. I prepared a 75 foot piece of RG-8x with some alligator clips on one end, then connected the center conductor to the chair and the shield to the table. Back in the shack the tuner was able to find a match, and I was on the air.

Now, before you think this is the answer to anyone’s antenna troubles, I’m here to tell you this is not an ideal compromise antenna. Comparing the patio chair to my tri-bander showed a good 30-dB of difference. Compared to a dipole, this antenna turns 100 watts into 2 watts ERP. But, with a hot band, QRP (low power) can and does work. In the span of an hour, I made 36 contacts, mostly SSB, working 11 states and 5 DX locations (Brazil, Japan, Ukraine, Guam and Russia).

On Sunday, I clipped the coax to the swing set. Interestingly, this didn’t seem to work as well as the patio furniture. Over 3 hours I managed to work 10 states (including Hawaii three times) and two DX (CO2 (Cuba) and KP2 (Virgin Islands)).

Discouraged by the performance of the swing set I switched to the barbeque grill. This was even worse than the swing set but due to shifting propagation late in the day I managed to snag a few JA’s (Japan), Cayman Islands, Alaska and Hawaii both.

I don’t recommend any of these as a permanent antenna. But I saw it as a challenge and wanted to prove a point that no matter what your limitations are, worldwide contacts with terrible antennas is not easy, but very possible. For about four total hours of operating I managed 63 contacts — 19 states, 9 DX countries. Even a basic dipole or groundplane
vertical would’ve been a terrific performer compared to what I was using, so no matter how limited one thinks they are, I’m here to tell you working the world is possible with just about anything for an antenna when the bands are hot.

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Plans for a 20M Vertical Ham Antenna

My good friend Gene (an Extra Class Ham) up in the Mountains of Wyoming designed and wrote  these plans for a good 20M Ham antenna.

He writes:

Just for grins, let me tell about my own homebrew design, intended for simple field use. I put together a cheapie portable 20-meter vertical antenna a couple of years ago, that must have set me back all of $10 to $20 or so, and it was pretty effective. First time I set it up was on a camping trip up in the Uintas, and as soon as connected, I raised Italy! It is basically a quarter-wave vertical with 1/8 wave radials angling down from a feedpoint up 4′ or more off the ground. The whole thing is around 22′ high or so. The quarter-wave radiating section can be metal tubing or copper wire, either is effective for low-wattage (100 watts or less) usage. Materials can be gleaned from what is available, or inexpensively bought from Home Depot or Lowes or the like.

I’ll describe the construction, so it could readily be duplicated by a reasonably handy person:

Cut two 12′ lengths of PVC pipe, one of 2″ and the other of 1 1/2″, so they could slide together. Get four 4″ long 1/4″ brass screws/washers/nuts, and a little more than 80′ of ordinary single conductor stranded/insulated 14ga housewire. (I had bought a 500′ roll of it from HomeDepot and it’s lasted me a while!) A 5′ steel pipe I had lying around and a few screws and automotive wire connectors, 11 plastic or wooden tent stakes, plus a few feet of RG-8X coax with a PL-259 connector on one end, essentially filled out the bill of materials. Tools were the usual, a drill, screwdriver, etc.

I slid the two PVC pipes together so they overlapped about 1 1/2′ in the middle – they needed to be at least 21′ long after overlap. Drilled two 1/4″ holes in the middle, through where they overlapped, so they could be fastened together, and another pair of holes 4″ apart, the upper one 16 1/2′ down from the top of the overlapped sections. Cut a piece of the housewire about 16 1/2′ long, crimp/soldered a smaller connector on that end and a larger one on the other end (to fit the 1/4″ bolt). Then I cut 8 chunks of the 14ga wire about 8 1/2 ft long, stripped a couple of inches of insulation off one end of each, and connected and soldered all of them together on that end, with a few inches of one wire left long for a connection to the coax. Stripped the insulation off the end of the coax for 3″ or so, and crimp/soldered 1/4″ connectors on each of the two leads. That was the basic fabrication before setup.

In the field, I rapped the 5′ steel pipe into the ground a foot or so. (Should have gone deeper with a longer pipe, but that was what I had, and I wanted at least 4′ sticking out of the ground. That deep wasn’t far enough to stabilize the vertical upright, so I did end up needing to use some 1/8″ poly rope for 3 guys, with their tops secured to where the PVC sections came together – probably a good idea in any case! I screwed the two lengths of PVC together in the middle. The 1 1/2″ PVC was the top section, so I secured one end of the 16 1/2′ chunk of the housewire to the top of it with a self-threading screw, and ran it along the side of the pipe as far as it would go, down to the upper hole of the two I had drilled there.

Ran the screws and washers thru the coax leads. Then ran the screw with the center coax connector through the upper hole, and the one with the coax shield connector through the lower hole (that is critical). I tightened the nuts temporarily. Time to raise the vertical!

With some help, I held the PVC pipe up vertically, and slid it over the top of the steel pipe. I found I needed to run the three guy ropes out equidistant about 15′ from the base and stake them down well. Time to emplace the 8 insulated radial wires. I secured the connection of where all 8 came together to the lower screw connected to the coax shield. Then I ran out the wires equidistant from each other around the base and wrapped the ends around the non-conductive stakes and taped over the copper sticking out of the wire. Note that there is high voltage on the ends of those wires, so bare wire is a no-no — they need to be protected from human/animal contact! The simple taping job was likely not enough — it would be best to put a 3″ insulator on the end of each and tape the connection, before securing to the stakes, but this was a quick-and-dirty installation. And it worked like a champ!

I hope you can get a decent mental image of this antenna as erected. Perhaps when Springtime comes to the Rockies, and we can see the ground again, I will put it back up and take some pix for posting!

Notes –
- For the 20-meter vertical, we need an overall length of at least 21′ of PVC. To make the antenna more portable, it would probably be better to use 3 sections of PVC, with the top section being 1″ pipe. Then each section could be about 8′ long, more manageable. I suppose one could even use 4 sections, so long as the pipes were of graded sizes to nest into each other.
- I got the idea for the 8 radial wires only 1/8 wavelength long, descending on an angle to near the physical ground, out of a QST Magazine article of a few years ago, which reported on tests done with different radial configurations. The eight 1/8 wavelength radials on about a 45 degree slope from the coax feedpoint connection seemed to give very good results, even better than longer radials.


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The Unknown Rescue of 911

In my not so humble opinion, this video shows the true “spirit of the American People”.  But, in order for these folks to help, they had to be ready.  They had to be fueled, manned and have the knowledge and skills to accomplish their task:  And they had to be ready at a moment’s notice.  This is the way all of us need to be, especially those comitted to the RMSSAR goals.

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The “Center Mass” Myth and Ending a Gunfight

The “Center Mass” Myth and Ending a Gunfight

By Jim Higginbotham

Surviving a gunfight isn’t what you think it is. Don’t let conventional wisdom get you killed. A well place round to “center mass” in your attacker may not take him out of the fight. Lots of people stay in the fight after “center mass” hits, and some even win it. If you expect to win your gunfight, you have to make sure that you have effectively ended the threat of your attacker. One, two or even several well placed “center mass” shots may not do what you think it will, and learning to recognize this before you gunfight may save your life.

There is a self styled self defense “expert” under every rock, and perhaps two behind every bush, these days. If you have a pet theory on what might work on the street then you can probably find a champion for that idea who actually charges people to teach them that skill. But few of the experts out there have ever been in gunfights, and even fewer have studied real gunfights to see how things really work out when the bullets really fly for blood.

There are more misconceptions out there than I can cover in one article but the one that probably gets to me the most, even over all the caliber wars that rage interminably in the print and cyber media, is the nearly universal acceptance that shooting a miscreant “center mass” with ________(fill in your favorite make, model and caliber) shooting _________ (fill in your favorite ammunition) hyper speed truck killer is practically guaranteed to get the job done.

Having studied in this field from a number of decades, I have run into plenty of cases where bullets did not do what folks would have assumed. And I have now collected enough of these that I think that rather than being anomalies, they are actually closer to the norm. Center mass hits in a gunfight do not in most cases end the fight. Erroneous assumptions can get you killed!

There is a well known video in training circles in which a Highway Patrol officer shoots an armed subject 5 times “center mass” (this is not my assessment but the statement of his immediate supervisors which are interviewed on the full version of the hour long tape) with his 4” .357 Magnum revolver firing hollow point ammunition. All 5 hits failed to do the job and the subject was able to fire one round which struck the officer in the armpit. That round wondered around in the chest cavity and found his heart. The officer unfortunately died at the scene and his attacker is alive today.

In a class I conduct under the title “Fire For Effect” I start out by showing a video of standoff in which a hostage taker is fired on by police with .223 rifles and .40 caliber handguns. Throughout the whole disturbing sequence, which lasts about 10 seconds, the bad guy is hit multiple times in the torso with both rifle and pistol rounds. You can see him place his non-firing hand to his chest, clearly a lung is hit. However he is able to shoot his hostage 3 times, not rapidly. The hostage, a trim female, is active throughout the scene but later died from her wounds. In this case both the attacker and the victim had “center mass” hits that had no immediate effect.

I have accumulated confirmed incidents in which people have been shot “center mass” up to 55 times with 9mm JHP ammunition (the subject was hit 106 times, but 55 of those hits were ruled by the coroner to be each lethal in and of themselves) before he went down. During training at the FBI Academy we were told of a case in which agents shot a bank robber 65 times with 9mm, .223 and 00 buckshot – he survived! These are not rare cases. The happen quite often.

If a gunfight ever comes your way, your attacker may fall to a hit to the liver and he may not. He may fall to two or three hits to the kidneys, intestines or spleen, but he may not. He will certainly be in bad health. He likely will not survive, but what he does for the next several seconds to a few minutes is not guaranteed because you hit him “center mass.”

Heart and lung hits don’t statistically fare much better. I have three students and three other acquaintances who were all shot in a lung at the outset of gunfights. The students came to me after their fights to learn how to keep from getting shot again. Last time I checked all of those people were still alive and the people who shot them are still dead. Every one of them was able to respond effectively after being shot “center mass”, one might even say they were shot in the “A-zone”. And they were shot with .38 Special (three of them), 9mm, .357 Magnum and 8mm Mauser, so it’s not all about caliber. One of those was a Chicom 12.7 mm round! He lived next door to me for many years.

So, what’s a person to do? First off, realize that one shot, even a fairly well placed shot may not do the job so don’t set there and admire your handiwork or wait for it to take effect. But even two hits may not get the job done!

After years of trying to get a grasp on this I have come to look at the results of shooting a living breathing target – be it a human attacker or a game animal – as falling into 3 or 4 categories. They are :

  1. Instant Collapse – this takes place 1 to 2 seconds from the shot being fired
  2. Rapid Collapse – this can take from 3 to 15 seconds and is quite common.
  3. Marginal Effect – this can even be a lethal hit but it takes from 15 to 300 (yes 300!) or even more seconds.
  4. The 4th is simply unacceptable and is a total failure.

The last category we don’t like to discuss but happens too often . We saw it recently in Washington with a Center Mass hit from an officer’s pistol and the subject was still walking around the next day.

What is “effective” shooting? Sad to say, it is demanding. It is also, I think, variable depending on the conditions. For example, the robber armed with a scattergun who is standing 10 feet away must be stopped “right now!” If you do not bring about Instant Collapse someone may very well die…that someone may be you!

On the other hand, if there is a gang banger launching bullets in your general direction using un-aimed fire about 20 yards away then a hit that brings about Rapid Collapse might do the job.

I cannot imagine a Marginally Effective result being very desirable in any case, but it does buy you some time in some cases.

How does this relate to hits? In order to achieve Instant Collapse you must scramble the “circuitry” that keeps the bad guy on the attack. That means the brain or spinal cord.

The head is not only a fairly difficult target to hit in the real world – because it moves a lot – but it is also difficult to penetrate and get a pistol bullet into the place it must be to be effective. For normal purposes we might write off the head, keeping it in reserve for very special circumstances.

The spine is not that easy to hit either. It isn’t large, and to be effective the hit needs to be in the upper 1/3 of the spine or at a point about level with the tip of the sternum. I think that is around T11. But of course the huge problem is that it is hidden by the rest of the body. We are the good guys, we don’t go around shooting people in the back. So the exact location is something that can only be learned through lots of practice on 3D targets. Your point of aim on the surface changes with the angle at which the target is facing.

The bottom of the spine isn’t much use. I know of several people shot in the pelvis. It did not break them down as many theorize. I am not saying it doesn’t happen but in the only case I know of in which it did the person who was “anchored” with a .357 magnum to the pelvis killed the person that shot him – you can shoot just fine from prone.

A shot, or preferably multiple shots to the heart and major arteries above the heart (not below!) may achieve Rapid Collapse, but not always. Officer Stacy Lim was shot in the heart at contact distance with a .357 Magnum and is still alive and her attacker is still dead! Score one for the good guys…or in this case gals!

So now what constitutes Marginal Effectiveness? A hit to the lungs! Even multiple hits to the lungs. Unfortunately though, most often lung hits are effective in ending the fight because the subject decides to quit the fight, not because he MUST. A famous Colonel Louis LeGarde once wrote what is considered “the” book on gunshot wounds. 65% of his patients shot through the lungs – with rifles! – survived with the predominant treatment being only bed rest!

Effective Practice and “Dynamic Response”

The goal of practice, one would think, is to make correct, effective shooting techniques a matter of reflex, so that you don’t have to think about what you are doing in a gunfight.

Most people will perform under stress at about 50 to 60% as well as they do on the range…and that is if they practice a lot! If they only go to the range once every other month that performance level decreases dramatically. Shooting and weapons handling are very perishable skills. Also folks tend to practice the wrong stuff inadvertently. I put this in the classification of “practicing getting killed” but that too is a topic for another day.

Let’s talk about a basic response, what I call “Dynamic Response.” Situations vary and this is not meant to be a universal answer, just one that will work for about 80% of scenarios.

It is pointless to stand still on the range and shoot a stationary target, unless you simply want to polish up some marksmanship fundamentals. That is a necessary part of learning to shoot. But if you are practicing for a fight, then fight!

Some rules:

  1. Don’t go to the range without a covering garment – unless of course you always carry your gun exposed (no comment).
  2. Don’t practice drawing your gun fast – ever! – while standing still.

Part of the Dynamic Response is to step off the line of attack (or on rare occasions that are dependent on circumstances backwards or forwards) and present the weapon with as much alacrity as you can muster and engage the target with overwhelming and accurate fire! By the way, never assume a fight is completely over just because you canceled one threat. Don’t practice “standing down” too quickly. We have a video attached [above] which will hopefully give you the right idea.

I wish there was a formula of how to stand and how to hold you gun but there really isn’t. We don’t do “Weaver vs. Isosceles vs. Modern Iso vs. whatever”. We don’t do “Thumbs Crossed vs. Thumbs Forward vs. Thumb Up…never mind.” Those are things for you to work out on your own. You use what makes YOU effective not what works for a guy who practices 50,000 rounds the week before a big match (that is not an exaggeration). Competitive shooters will throw out advice on what works for them. It may not work for you.

There is also not “one true gun”. Your skill is far more important that what you carry, within reason. We are not really talking about “stopping power”, whatever that is, here but rather effectiveness.

I can find no real measure – referred to by some as a mathematical model – of stopping power or effectiveness. And I have looked for 44 years now! Generally speaking I do see that bigger holes (in the right place) are more effective than smaller holes but the easy answer to that is just to shoot your smaller gun more – “a big shot is just a little shot that kept shooting”. True, I carry a .45 but that is because I am lazy and want to shoot less. A good bullet in 9mm in the right place (the spine!) will get the job done. If you hit the heart, 3 or 4 expanded 9mms will do about what a .45 expanding bullet will do or one might equal .45 ball….IF (note the big if) it penetrates. That is not based on any formula, it is based on what I have found to happen – sometimes real life does not make sense.

Practicing Dynamic Response means practicing with an open mind. Circumstances in a real gunfight are unpredictable and the more unpredictability you mix up into your practice the more your brain will be preparing itself for a possible real gunfight.

In real life, your gunfight may be dark, cold, rainy, etc. The subject may be anorexic (a lot of bad guys are not very healthy) or he may be obese (effective penetration and stopping power of your weapon). There are dozens of modifiers which change the circumstance, most not under your control. My only advice on this is what I learned from an old tanker: “Shoot until the target changes shape or catches fire!” Vertical to horizontal is a shape change, and putting that one more round into his chest at point blank range may catch his clothes on fire, even without using black powder.

We tell our military folks to be prepared to hit an enemy fighter from 3-7 times with 5.56 ball, traveling at over 3,000 feet per second. This approach sometimes worked, but I know of several cases where it has not, even “center mass.”

With handguns, and with expanding bullets, it is even more unpredictable, but through years of study I have developed a general formula, subject to the above mentioned unpredictable circumstances.

  • 2-3 hits with a .45
  • 4-6 with a .40
  • 5-8 with a 9mm

With a revolver, the rounds are not necessarily more effective but I would practice shooting 3 in a .38 or .357 merely because I want 3 left for other threats. Not that those next three won’t follow quickly if the target hasn’t changed shape around my front sight blade. A .41, .44 or .45 Colt I would probably drop to two. Once again, they are not that much more effective than a .45 Auto but I don’t have the bullets to waste.

In any case, I want to stress the part that it is more about how you shoot than what you shoot, within reason. It is also more about the mindset and condition of the subject you are shooting which is not under your control. Take control – buy good bullets and put them where they count the most! And remember “anyone worth shooting once is worth shooting a whole lot!” (but please stop when the threat is cancelled, we don’t advocate “finishing shots”).

Gunfights are ugly things. I don’t like to talk about the blood and guts aspects of defending life any more than the next guy. But it is our lives we are talking about here. By researching how gunfights are fought, and more importantly, how gunfights are won, it may give both of us the edge if a gunfight ever comes our way. I hope to cover many of the points I have learned and learned to train others in over the coming months. It isn’t as easy to write about it as it is to teach it in person, but you can only succeed if you are willing to try.

I hope you enjoy the ride.

Press on!


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