Recently I coached a student whose shots were were hitting low on the target. This was much more than the result of a mechanical offset issue, so it got my attention fast. The reason he was shooting low may surprise you and it really ticks me off.
The student was taught to shoot that low by another instructor to hit below body armor. No, that’s not a joke. These weren’t even pelvic girdle shots; these were just shots to the abdomen intended to get the rounds under the armor.
The only good news here: the instructor gave a reason for teaching the students this technique. I can see how it may seem plausible to a novice student or new shooter. Again, let me be clear; it is not their fault. And it’s not a good idea.
Like a hot knife through butter
The shooting drills we were running that day involved M4/AR-15 type rifles firing within 25 yards. At that range your rounds are going to fly through soft body armor almost as if it isn’t there. There’s a chance, though, that they won’t penetrate plate armor.
While I acknowledge this fact, you then have to look at your anticipated adversary. The only demographic who consistently employs rifle-rated hard armor plates are good guys: the folks who wear armor for a living because it is their job. So why would an instructor teach low shooting to a student?
Is a “mobility kill” good enough?
Maybe bad guys would employ rifle-rated hard armor. And maybe a shot intentionally aimed low may miss the armor. The very best you could hope for is a mobility kill (disabling the bad guy).
But here’s a secret: that’s a pipe dream.
Aiming low for a mobility kill still requires you to aim. If you’re staring down an armed attacker employing hard armor and that’s the best you’ve got, you’re in a world of hurt.
I have to assume that’s the reason the instructor justified his tactics. They wanted their students to imagine facing down a domestic terrorist hell-bent on a mass killing spree. I get that, but you better bring more to the fight than a low aimed shot.
Rapid and repeated
Given that scenario, I still have problems with the shoot-low strategy. It doesn’t stop the fight. It merely limits the attacker’s movement. Even then, there are no guarantees.
Instead, the student should have been taught reduced targets; aiming for the brain and/or brain stem to produce an immediate incapacitation.
These new students or novice shooters aren’t good enough to make those hits under stress. Why would you waste their time, their resources and create a false sense of security?
Time should have been spent teaching students to deliver rapid, repeated rounds to the largest target zone available — until a better target zone becomes available.
The operative words there are rapid and repeated. Pushing to deliver effective fire as quickly as possible to neutralize the threat should always be the prime directive.
The responsibility for my student’s low shooting lies squarely on the instructor’s shoulders. The student trusted him to deliver realistic and effective instruction. Bottom line here as elsewhere in life: be careful who you trust.