Medical. : Tactical Anatomy

Diamondback 2/2

Verified Military
Jan 24, 2008
Military Mentor
I would like to know from qualified medical professionals, their thoughts on tactical anatomy and targeting areas of the human body. The effectiveness and differences of effect from gun shot wounds to the following areas:


I am not looking for theory on what’s possible in targeting, but what has the best effects of shutting down the human body and/or incapacitation.
I will give it a shot (get it, LOL):

Head: = Dead most times if high powered weapon.
Cardio: G.S.W.'s kill / direct shot to the heart is generally a dead heart.
Nervous: G.S.W.'s to the cord cause spinal shock = dead soon.
Lymphatic: Not quite sure if that matters much in the field, could be wrong?
Muscular: I feel it depends on the ballistics?
Skeletal: Take the skeletal system out and they can't stand not to mention hemmorage associated with that.

I am sure MORE qual'd medics (18D's / P.J.'s / M.D.'s / hint) can give good info.

well, here's my take -

Head - "T" zone, motor band, and medulla oblongata.... if you need more explanation, ask, and I shall.

Cardio - GSWs to the heart will drop someone PDQ. it depends on the round, and exact placement, but it's safe to assume that 5.56 direct hit is going to drop the target. 7.62 would be better though.

Lymphatic - in the words of someone wiser than me: "...preferably through a large, blood-bearing organ, like the liver". it won't kill him instantly, but by the time you get to him (cuz he'll drop right to the ground) he *should* be DRT. I believe this to be true for the kidneys, but there's two of them, so it would take longer if you hit one. ask a sniper, they should be able to answer this better.
Muscular - other than the heart, there really arent an muscles that will cause swift and instantaneous death, unless you couple the hit with arterial damage, like say, a femoral GSW.

Digestive - a sloooooooooooow painful way to die. but if untreated (and sometimes even if treated) it will kill you.

skeletal - see head, and also, break the spine, you cause paralysis, shock, and eventually, death. small target, though. if you hit someone with a well-placed shot to say, on of the Cervical vertebrae, you could kill them, especially at C2 to C4. that would allow the injury of the brain stem, which controls heart and lung function.

Nervous -see above. this also relates to the head and skeletal entries.

best of luck, Mr. Oswald.
LOL ;) I am not going to be doing much shooting with the enemy anymore if ever. I am looking at adding some in-depth tactical anatomy into some of my training I teach. I am well aware of but the Doc who runs that company agrees to often with another person that I personally feel is a retard. I figured I would get some ideas from you guys and then drive on with some follow up training “possibly” from

On a side note, I may be looking for a Medic/ EMT to bring in for this add on training. Could be an opportunity for some extra cash/ range time/ sit in on some training… If you might be interested in doing this in the future, shoot me a PM.
Looks like da boyz got this one handled well. Kill shots, yeah head and cardio shots. But, even those are not 100% guaranteed. We've all heard of those rare and freeky injuries that shoulda but didn't kill.

The only shot I personally would count on for the drop like a sack o spuds shot would be a head shot. But let's be honest, other than a cool handed sniper style shot, a combat shot reliably to the head what are really the chances?

Best bet is to go for center of mass, hemorrhage, soft tissue damage, cavitation. Yeah your guy might take a few essentially post mortum steps but he's going down and is gonna stay down if you've given enough high velocity lead implantage. OK I'll say it, size matters here ;) Caliber is key.
Man, I can not BELIEVE I came into this game so late and still get to put this one out there- pelvis, my friend, pelvis. Seldom covered by body armor (hence its inclusion in the "failure drill", two to the body, one to the head or pelvis for an enemy with armor or extra motivation), VERY vascular and vulnerable to the weaknesses of both vasculature AND skeletal (the pelvis region will bleed out freaking FAST with no real way to fix it, unless you identify quick and move well), and the added target area. If you miss high? Maybe you hit below the chest plate in the LRQ/LLQ. You miss left or right? You still hit pelvis. You miss low? You STILL get lucky to the left or right and drill the femoral head and femoral artery at its biggest.

I am a HUGE proponent of the pelvis shot- shooters tend to try to "lock in" that head shot- but i can come from the low ready with ANY weapon and hit that pelvic region on the way to center mass. Just my couple of pennies.
man has a point. :) I'll have to remember that during reflexive fire drills. we always think head shot cuz it's a lights out, but a pelvis shot will most certainly take someone out of the fight immediately, and out of life shortly after. good call, bro.
How many of you have taken a life? Animal or in defense a human?

Biggest part of "tactical anatomy" is how fast do you need to shut them down?

In a HRT situation, the head shot with a high powered rifle (I favor 7.62x51) at the T-Zone is useful, just remember, the PONS is the target, and dependant on the attitude of hte head, that "t" moves, and is NOT always the eye socket or ear canal

Now with 7.62x51 at all by extreme (100o yard) distance, the "shock wave" of the supersonic projectile will scramble anything it penetrates, so death will occur, but maybe not so fast the target can't squeeze off a shot or draw the blade across the hostage.

Part 2

Smaller caliber, slower velocity projectiles (like handgun, or 5.56x45 at 600+yards) MAY fail to penetrate the calvarium (skull) and thus target can survive (I rescuscitated one with the .22 round "in" the eye socket that went over the forehead and never entered the vault, and there is a stroy of a troop who's teeth stopped a 7.62x39 round without entry into the calvarium.
Screwed up face, but no death.)

Now I hunt deer (intro on main page, DQ'd from mil. Worked Knife and Gun central of a major metro area) a lot.

A 243 gr lead slug with an expansion tip took a 130 pound animal last year, and the animal ran 100 yd before wavering and falling over "dead"drunk.

At necropsy (field care) the ventricles were not connected to the atria.

Most chest injuries that don't hit the aorta, Vena cavae, cord, or heart will not require surgery, and can be treated by you with a needle or seal, and me with a chest tube.
Part 3

So a chest wound is good for limiting a response, but is not an immediate incapacitation unless your aim (shot placement) is perfect, and even then, there can be a three minute delay.

Abdomen wounds are even more low percentage. Gut shot to liver and spleen will kill you, in a couple of hours, and sepsis a bit later. IVC is good, but a really small target at defense distances.

Current debate is on the pelvic girdle. I can terminiate you if I hit the right vessels, eventually. But from a defensive posture, the most important aspect of breaking the pelvis or destroying the femoral head is that you can't chase me as I E&E to over and beyond.

My 0.02 cents based on years of GSW treatments, and study with high level tactical authorities in defensive shooting.

Shame SWATDOC from the Quiet Professionals is not here. A trauma doc from the International Shool of Tactical Medicine, and a personal friend from training.
Doc Pacer