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The Force Science Institute writes:

Officers have long been advised to “expect the unexpected” in armed confrontations. That admonition certainly holds true when it comes to “deanimation,” a threatening subject’s cessation of movement after he or she has been shot.

The venerable firearms trainer John Farnam addressed the issue of “rapid and permanent deanimation” in a recent issue of his popular newsletter Dtiquips.

Even with shots to the heart, Farnam wrote, “most cardiologists agree with the ‘five-second rule.’ When blood pressure drops [suddenly] to near zero, most people will still remain animated for at least five more seconds before becoming comatose. And ‘five seconds’ is the minimum. Some cardiologists insist the real figure is closer to 10 seconds or more”—an eternity in a gunfight.

Individual physiological and psychological factors enter the equation, Farnam noted. Some people fall down when shot (even in non-vital places) for no reason other than that they want to. They literally ‘act out’ what they think they’re supposed to do, absent any external physical compulsion.”

Then, too, there’s “the nebulous issue of ‘neural-shock paralysis.’ Sometimes it’s there,” Farnam said, “and sometimes it’s not, all for reasons no one really understands. [It] cannot be predicted nor produced on demand.”

Readers responded with dramatic anecdotes attesting to the erratic nature of “shootee reactions.”

A private investigator and firearms consultant recalled a case he’d handled that involved a 6-ft. 4-in., 220-pounder who, thanks to his constant workouts in state prison, “was built like an action-figure doll.” He was shot in the upper shoulder with one .25-cal. semi-auto round. “Witnesses reported that upon the single shot being fired this giant fell as if he had been pole-axed!”

In contrast came this, from an attorney and frequent expert witness in shooting cases:

In one of his cases, police fired over 60 rounds at a PCP suspect, “and the autopsy detailed 45 separate wound paths through [his] body. The suspect, with pistol in hand, took 11 steps toward police, while being simultaneously struck by a hail of police handgun bullets, until a shotgun slug that struck his spine between T6/T7 dropped him to the pavement.

“Even then, his upper body remained functional, as he tried to point his handgun at police with his right hand, while he held a cigarette [in his left]. It took a 40 S&W round to the brain stem to finally stop this threat.

“In another recent case, the [suspect], shot through his heart with a 9mm and also hit in the thigh and arm, subsequently walked down a hall, down a flight of stairs, across the stair landing, and halfway down another flight of stairs before he collapsed, and thereafter died.

“The medical examiner and I, without speaking with one another, both noted in our reports that a man shot through the heart can subsequently remain upright, mobile, and aggressive for 30 seconds or more!

“While stopping effects [of ammunition] seem to be better now than a few decades ago, there is still no certainty, and two suspects of the same size and physical condition, hit in the same part of the body with the same rounds, may well behave dramatically differently.

“We must train to keep firing accurately, creating distance, using cover and obstacles, reloading, and getting out of the kill zone when possible, until the threat is stopped.”

Farnam added: “We must be mentally prepared to confront nearly any eventuality, from the felon turning and running away, to the felon falling down immediately (albeit sometimes reanimating seconds later), to the felon continuing his attack while displaying scant discomfort.”

And “we need to be cautious about believing glowing reports about ‘wonder bullets.’


John Farnam, president of Defense Training International, can be reached at: [email protected].

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  1. Soooo…carry lots of boo-lits. Got it!? Anyone out there who’s been in a gunfight(not a war) and the perp didn’t suddenly fall dead from multiple shots?

    • I wasn’t personally there, but I actually met a guy once who survived getting shot right in the middle of the head with a .22. He was in a drug deal gone wrong, and even after sustaining the wound, he was able to fight his way out. He collapsed later on and then spent 8 years in a coma, followed by an even longer time in prison. But the point is, he was NOT high on anything, he took a wound that absolutely should have killed him, and not only did it NOT kill him, but he was still able to stay in the fight. Like they said in the article, there are no guarantees.

    • All my gunfights have been in military combat or supporting military police in civilian actions, but I have been the first responder to gunfights here in the US. Very few of them were to dead people. I’ve had numerous people shot, some with center mass placement, walk up to me when I showed up with police.

  2. Hard to say what I’d actually do in a fight for my life without having ever done it, but the plan is:
    If no bullets or personnel incoming, shoot, observe the effect, shoot again as needed. If bullets/attackers incoming, shoot until bullets/attackers stop heading my way.

  3. A friend of mine who works in security says people can have surprising reactions to being shot (or even being shot at). Some, being conditioned from movies and TV will think “I’ve been shot therefore I must fall down” to those who will take hit after hit and keep going (the latter often either drunk or on stimulants such as crack or meth). Sometimes adrenaline is enough for the perp to keep going.

    I would think it best to call the police and paramedics first and at least try first-aid if safe to do so. This could help in any further investigation or trial.

    • It’s up to you but I think it’s unwise to try and render first aid in most circumstances. This article itself makes the point that shooting someone might or might not drop them, and might or might not incapacitate them. What happens if the guy falls and then realizes that he’s still able to fight when you kneel down toward him- presumably with your firearm now within reach?

      There’s a reason that cops, as a matter of course, handcuff suspects (hopefully while being covered by a partner) before attempting to render aid after shooting them. If they were dangerous enough to shoot, and they’re not dead, they’re still dangerous. If they are dead that quickly there ain’t any type of aid you can provide that is gonna help.

      Plus, what about his buddy that was waiting outside? You really want to stick around for him to come in? If it was me and I just needed to shoot someone to defend myself I’d be getting the hell out of there and calling the cavalry from a safe place.

  4. “You Shoot the Bad Guy. What Happens Next?”

    Were I you, you had better call Saul ‘It’s all good, man’, Goodman, AKA James Morgan “Jimmy” McGill.

    (Season 3 debuts tomorrow night! I bet his law partner Kim Wexler gets killed this season by the guy she and Jimmy scammed out of 10 grand early in the show…)

  5. Baloney !

    One shot anywhere on the body with a .45 subsonic round nose bullet will not only blow out the heart, but turn the brain matter to mush. DRT. Instantly.

    Really. One shot, one hit anywhere. Saw it on the internet.

    • One shot anywhere with a .45 subsonic round nose bullet will tear the fabric of space-time and quite likely create a black hole!

      • Now just contrast that with a .223/5.56. When you empty a mag of .223 into a terrorist, they’re like, “Hey! Guys! I think we’re taking fire from over there!” It’s documented. The FBI says so.

    • There are absolutely one-shot stops. They have been documented and you can find plenty of videos of them.

      But can you trust that it will happen if you have to shoot someone(especially in the body)? Nah.

  6. We all know you just have to shoot your shotgun in the air and all the bad guys will be defeated.

    • “We all know you just have to shoot your shotgun in the air and all the bad guys will be defeated.”

      And then you get former US Vice President Joe Biden to defend you in court, pro bono.

  7. “You Shoot the Bad Guy. What Happens Next?”

    Well, if the bandit stops moving then nothing. If he/she/xir keeps moving then the trigger gets pulled until he/she/xir stops.

  8. I remember some years ago near Pueblo, CO, there was a dashcam vid and interview with a highway patrol officer who shot a weightlifter raged-out from a thyroid storm, and made worse by supplements.

    Stopped for driving erratically, he promptly lost his shit, got out empty handed w/ no shirt, and kept advancing on one cop who first tried to smash his knees with baton strikes. He landed a few good hits but those didn’t do much to slow the driver down, and the taser did even less. Finally the patrolman fell while backpedalling, and his partner was forced to shoot. That seemed to snap him out of it, and he calmly sat down.

    The weightlifter took three JHP 9mm to the upper chest, yet he was released from the hospital 24hrs later. The doc who was interviewed said the guy’s muscles were so thick & tensed up, they caused the rounds to act like they’d hit kevlar. He wasn’t charged, because his actions were caused by a medical emergency; ironically if he hadn’t been shot and received prompt medical attention, the condition likely would’ve been fatal.

    • “The doc who was interviewed said the guy’s muscles were so thick & tensed up, they caused the rounds to act like they’d hit kevlar. ”

      That… doesn’t sound like how muscle tissue acts. Source, anyone?

      • Defective 9mm loads (not enough powder or wrong powder) perhaps???

        Although if the cop’s 9mm loads were awfully weak, I don’t think his handgun would have cycled properly.

      • I saw it on a Highway Patrol Shootouts-type show, I think it was on ID.

        The shooting officer was back by his car, so distance might be a factor? Otherwise, I can’t think of a way that someone could take 3 (or even 1) to the chest and walk away 24hrs later.

        On the other side of things, in ’05 I saw a haji pop around a corner and have his lower half get seperated near point-blank by a Bradley’s 25mm. He managed to hold onto his AK and kept trying to raise up to shoot, until someone put a 5.56 through his braincase. Guy didn’t have a pelvis anymore, but he was still in the fight (figuratively) for at least another 20-30 seconds.

      • I recall former Mr. Olympia Sergio Oliva, a Chicago cop, being shot squarely in the chest by his wife (also a Chi-town cop) during a domestic dispute at their home in the late 1980’s and surviving. If I remember correctly he took at least one .357 caliber slug to his massive chest and the dense muscle from decades of bodybuilding was credited with saving his life.

  9. I know of a case wherein a lady’s angry ex broke into her apartment and emptied a .45 into her, presuming seven rounds at least, and she lived.

  10. “You Shoot the Bad Guy. What Happens Next?”

    You stand over him/her and urinate on them of course I mean what else is there to do, it’s not like we’re required to call 911 so the offender can receive treatment, recover, then return seeking payback..

  11. 1) You can’t say what you’re going to do until the fight / flight reaction kicks hard and adrenaline screams through your being. I can’t either. Haven’t been in a gunfight fortunately, but have been in a handful of other fights and imagine it is those x10 as it is a life-and-death fight rather than just schoolyard / barroom stuff. At best, you could say you want to survive.

    2) You damn sure can’t say what you’re going to do before a fight because the lawyer for the poor suffering “victim” of your horrible aggression is going to go through every element of your personal email, posts, social media, everything trying to show you were like the sniper in Jack Reacher, just looking for someone to kill. So… don’t say anything even if you know. It will not end well. Silence is golden.

    3) Under no circumstances say anything after a fight other than you were afraid and you want a lawyer. This has been said over and over again and still bears repeating. I don’t care how big and strong, well-trained or practiced you are. An adrenaline dump can make people do outrageous things but they seem perfectly normal at the time. You cannot wing it after a fight. You cannot give in to the chemicals raging through your mind. Look at the folks who chased fleeing aggressors in the videos. Why would they have done that? They say one word out of line and they’d be prosecuted for attempted murder or murder in some jurisdictions because the perp had thrown away their gun and was fleeing. You got nothing to say to anyone. Because you were afraid. And want a lawyer. Then, you’re going to follow the lawyer’s advice to the letter and let the lawyer talk. Why? Because what the lawyer says isn’t an admission by the future defendant: you.

    • Point #2 is extremely true. It’s amazing how private people think public posts on social media are.

  12. “what happens after you shoot the bad guy?” Well you lawyer up, go to jail, lose your firearms, lose your job & reputation, and if very lucky you don’t go to prison.

    “What should happen after you shoot the bad guy?” The police Sargent on duty shakes your hand, thanks you for performing your Civic duty, and you go back to your normal routine, if very unlucky you get therapy.

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