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Bullet placement is the single most important factor contributing to both killing, and stopping power. This is pretty much undisputed, and may be the only factor about which there is no controversy. This is clearly demonstrated as the number one assassin tool and technique is the classic .22 to the back of the head. This is virtually a guaranteed kill, and has been the preferred "execution style" method for generations. This despite the .22's low power and pip-squeak reputation. Brain/spine shots will instantly stop, and generally kill, a subject no matter the physical or psychological condition. This is always the ideal, but not always the most practical method. Most police and military courses do not teach head shots, partially because this seems a little bit like murder to most people. There is still an unfortunate attitude, even among some pros, that a firearm is something other than a killing tool. An individual with this attitude may be a fine marksman and a competitive shooter, but should not go armed for self defense. The method most taught is the center mass method, where the student is directed to aim for the center of the body. One advantage of this method is that it makes hits more certain, as the head is very difficult to hit even at close range. A center mass hit will wound and may kill, though it may not cause an instant stop. Even a heart shot will not guarantee an instant stop, although death is nearly certain. Lung shots do little damage, as lung tissue is very porous, and does not transmit energy well. Most of these shots will kill eventually, but they will not cause an instant stop which, in a defensive situation, is the ultimate goal. Often a shooting victim will die much later from bleeding or infection, but will still be dangerous enough to plant his adversary. The center mass aim, as taught by the military and most police, is not a bad way to go. Besides the heart, the aorta, the liver, the spine (if you have the good luck to hit it) and the stomach are here. The liver, being solid, and rather inelastic, is particularly suseptical to damage from a bullet. The lungs, intestines, and limbs will not cause instant stops, though gutshots (intestinal wounds) are notoriously painful. What I am hoping to get across here is that bullet placement is very much a matter of luck, though there are things that can even up the odds a bit. The center mass hold gives the greatest chance of inflicting a lethal wound. Even if the subject moves or your aim is off a bit, the likely result will still be a gut, or chest shot. Different parts of the body sustain damage differently, As was mentioned, lung tissue does not transmit energy well, so added velocity will have little additional effect. Liver tissue, on the other hand is greatly affected by added velocity. There is little the shooter can do against a moving, barricaded, or distant target, in regards to bullet placement, but a couple of things about the way different parts of the body are damaged by bullets should be kept in mind. Number one is that a hole is a hole, and a big hole is more traumatic to the body, and has a better chance of nicking something vital, than a little hole. Number two is that all of the vital organs are protected by overlying tissues, and must be reached before they can be damaged. A knife is considered to be a lethal weapon, in most jurisdictions, when the blade is at or over 3 inches. This is considered to be the depth that must be penetrated before vital organs are reached. Of course people vary, and this is a rule of thumb, but it is a start. There is some argument over how far a bullet must penetrate in order to reach vital organs with enough energy to do lethal damage. A nice round, even twelve inches is considered to be the minimum. This is considered to give enough penetration to go through clothes, skin, muscle, and still have enough left over to do damage to vital tissues. There are two schools of thought regarding this. One says that in order to be effective, a bullet needs much more penetration than this, the other argues that too much penetration just wastes energy and endangers innocent people who may be hit by the bullet after it exits the target. Both arguments have a point, particularly with pistol rounds. Penetration is measured in many ways. Some shoot at telephone books, others see how many pine boards a bullet can go through, but the best tool for this measurement is ballistic gelatin. In the lab, this can be precisely formulated and kept at a consistent density and temperature. It is supposed to mimic the density and reaction of human flesh, but it is, at best, only a rough indicator. Not all tissues are of the same density, or resistance, also the effects of bones, air pockets, etc. can not really be duplicated. What ballistic gelatin will do, when properly prepared, is give a consistent medium for comparison. It will also show both types of injury which a bullet can cause, the permanent wound cavity, and the temporary wound cavity. The permanent wound cavity is simply the hole that the bullet leaves behind as it plows through tissue. this hole is generally about the size of the projectile itself, or maybe a bit bigger. The temporary wound cavity is caused by the shock wave of the bullet passing through tissues, and in ballistic gelatin it shows up as a cloudy or cracked look in the gel surrounding the permanent wound channel. This temporary channel has a great effect on the brain, heart liver kidneys, and bladder, but very little effect on muscle, skin, blood vessels (other then the major ones), and most other tissues.
Use a bullet which will reliably penetrate to at least 12". Some experts say that 18 to 36 inches is better because of cover, clothing, energy loss at distance, and the variability of the human body. Aim for the center of the body. this gives the greatest possibility for hitting the largest number of vital areas; head shots, though very lethal, are difficult with a rifle and an unaware subject, but with a hand gun against a forewarned opponent are nearly impossible.A large caliber will be more likely to hit something vital as it passes through the body, then a small one, simply because it is bigger.