Cutting Edge Training

America’s Combatives and Liability Trainer Training With Real-World Impact

Shooting Suicide Bombers?

by George on April 25, 2011 07:56

Many intelligent and well-informed individuals have been warning for years that the world-wide trend of Person-Borne Improvised Explosive Devices, or "PBIEDs" (whatever you call them, whether suicide bombers, homicide bombers, or “insane-dude-or-dudette-with-explosives-strapped-to-his/her-body-to-kill-others-and-self”) will come to our shores and be directed against our people.  It really is a matter of time.

So the question in some circles is raging:  Head shots vs. pelvis shots?  While head shots are seen as a sure means of stopping a subject and putting him down, how difficult is it to hit him in the head while he is moving, and you are feeling the life-threatening pressure knowing that if the vest detonates you and others will die?  And there is the added pressure that if you miss the shot completely, he/she will likely detonate, taking you and everyone else with him/her.  Pelvis shots with rifles and shotgun slugs are generally a body dropper because of the bone breaking capability of those rounds, but that does not stop the terrorist from self-detonating.  And pistol shots to the pelvis often cause the individual to bleed out, but rarely force a subject down due to mechanical disruption.

Another reality:  neither a successful head-shot, pelvis shot, or additional confirming shots to the head will stop a second individual from detonating that PBIED from a distance by a remote firing trigger.

Given that the first indication of the presence of a PBIED is generally an explosion with casualties, there have been instances where these individuals were discovered prior to their detonating their device.  These discoveries have generally been through good fortune, sloppiness on the part of the suicide-bomber, or a change of heart where a second individual remotely detonates the PBIED.  Some have actually been interdicted prior to detonation by alert security forces and, at least in one instance, an alert armed citizen.

If there is a possibility of shooting to interdict the detonation of a PBIED, is there a real-world danger of shooting this terrorist in the body?  What is the real-world implications of shooting to the torso and possibly hitting the vest components?  Before we begin developing doctrine, it is very important to determine our limitations and the context we must apply them in.  Supposition and dangerous assumptions has a long history of killing officers, warfighters, and others who are responding to threatening circumstances.

I had the privilege to speak at length to an...um...individual who is assigned to a US. Govt. facility where they test out cool and interesting things about this and other…um…topics.  They asked that very same question (shooting and hitting the PBIED).  They set about creating explosive vests using the most common components and designs from around the world.  Those devices were subjected to extensive “testing” to see what would happen.

The results of their shooting the heck out of those bombs?  Only one round in all of the testing set off a vest.  It was later determined that the bullet happened to hit the blasting cap, resulting in a partial detonation of the vest.  A few blocks of explosive did not detonate due to a sympathetic explosion.  Bottom line:  Even though there is a possibility of a partial detonation, the entire vest did not explode, and casualties would have been limited as a result.

His recommendation:  shoot the terrorist in the area you are most likely hit, and put him on the ground.  If the vest detonates due to a remote activation, a ground detonation will decrease the number and severity of collateral injuries—almost half of the shrapnel goes into the ground, and a good deal is directed vertically.

As a result this information, Cutting Edge Training's suggested doctrine is:

  • If you are close enough, make a proximity-shot to the head, followed by a second round to the head.  Justification for the second round to the head:  the imminent danger of the bomber and his/her intent to commit mass, indiscriminant murder;  The presence of an explosive designed and intended to murder and maim others;  the triggering device is likely easily reached and activated, and the need for self-defense—you are in proximity—and defense of others justifies this action to stop any possible detonation by the suspect.  Immediately evacuate the area, including yourself to prevent injuries should the PBIED be remotely detonated.
  • If you are close enough, or have the equipment (red-dot and/or magnification), and the situation is static—you are braced enough and the bomber is still enough, take a head shot, followed by a second shot to the head (the same justification as above).  Immediately evacuate the area (including self).
  • Take the shot at any target that you can hit, including any part of the torso.  Do not permit the bomber to deploy or transition to a position where he/she is able to maximize the casualties.  It will NEVER be better than NOW--shoot the torso.  Understand that bullets rarely work at stopping anyone from anything unless the brain, spine, or major load-bearing bone is disrupted.  Bullets stop people because they believe they need to fall down because they are hit, or they don't want to be shot anymore, or they leak enough blood to stop them from being able to stand.  So shoot that person a lot, then shoot him/her in the head at least twice.  Same justification, same immediate evacuation plan.

Let's keep everything in context:

  • If a shot is taken, the bullet hits the detonator, and the vest explodes, it is no different than if the terrorist executed his mission, except the officer disrupted his timing and likely minimized casualties.
  • If the shot at the head is taken and missed, the terrorist may decide to detonate then and there, or run to an area where maximum casualties will occur.  Now a shot to the torso (including the pelvis) is the only option left, and a running, dodging target presents all sorts of background problems, as well as increasing the difficulty of making the shot.
  • If the shot to the head or torso (including the pelvis) is only partially successful, a detonation will probably be the result.
  • A successful head shot and instant death of the bomber may still result in a remote det of the system.
  • A shot to the torso that actually hits the detonator is unlikely, though possible, to create a detonation.  But that shot is more likely to hit the threat than a small target such as the head of a moving, breathing animated human.
  • Due to the imminent threat of this individual, regardless of his medical status, a second (or many) shot(s) to the head to ensure his inability to detonate the vest is justified.

Head shot, pelvis shot, or torso shot?  Here’s a thought about will like be the foremost reality:  Identifying the individual carrying a PBIED with the certainty that most cops are going to need before taking a shot at anyone will likely be the main obstacle at anyone taking a shot before the PBIED is detonated.  No cop wants to shoot an innocent person.  How will there be enough certainty (probable cause) to press a trigger unless the PBIED is visible.  If the individual reveals the bomb-vest, it’s likely just to gain enough attention of his/her victims in the moments before detonation that a first responder will likely not be able to respond.

If able to respond in time?  Shoot him/her to the ground.  Quickly shoot him/her in the head enough times to visually confirm that the first stage of imminent threat is over.  And then get out everyone out—including you—as quickly as possible to avoid the effects of a remote detonation—leave the body and evidence for someone else.  Besides, that’s what the EOD tech’s signed up for (what were they thinking?).

Be safe.  Decide fast.  Shoot straight.