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“Shoot ’em in the leg instead of the heart!”

Don’t take your tactical firearms training advice from a politician

Joe Biden said on Monday that police, if facing a threat from a person with, “a knife or something” should be taught to “Shoot ’em in the leg instead of the heart.” The other gaff came with the statement, “Instead of standing there and teaching a cop when there’s an UNARMED person coming at ’em WITH A KNIFE or something….” When did having a knife and coming at a cop or other person for that matter become an unarmed person scenario?

All politics aside, this rhetoric (like so much rhetoric lately) is dangerous and faulty.

Shooting someone in the leg is deadly force, just like shooting them in the chest or, “the heart.”

In most states, such as Washington State, Deadly force is defined as “the intentional application of force through the use of firearms or any other means reasonably likely to cause death or serious physical injury (RCW 9A.16.010.) I’m fairly confident that intentionally shooting someone in the leg meets those standards.

High Thoracic Cavity

If the leg is the only available target zone and the threat is indeed a threat that is justified in using deadly force against, then sure, shoot ’em in the leg. Otherwise, aim for the slowest moving portion of the body that is also the most likely to make them quit trying to kill you – the high thoracic cavity.

I think we all need to remind ourselves of a simple truth. When we apply firearms or any other use of force that is reasonably likely to result in death or great bodily harm, we are trying to stop someone from killing us or someone else – In defense of life, yours or others.

The most effective way to stop someone from trying to kill you or someone else is for them to lose consciousness from the loss of blood. We need those intent on killing us or others to lose blood and to lose it quickly so they quit trying to kill us. The high thoracic cavity has some good bleeders.

Have a plan for when it’s over

Check yourself and innocent people for injuries and then start trying to save the life of the human that was trying to kill you. Be prepared to do that and know that it is the right thing to do.

To those of you holding the line, stay safe and be your brother’s keeper. We’ll get through this and find a way to be better because of all of this.

Here am I, Send me.

About the Author /

Heath has been a law enforcement officer in the Great Pacific Northwest since 1993 and trains as a pistol and rifle instructor for both law enforcement and civilians. He also serves as an advanced armorer on pistols and rifles. If you're looking for training or would like to contact him, he can be reached at


  • Gene S Rudy

    June 2, 2020

    Thank you Mr. Layman, informative for those who need to read it. Most people do not understand the basics of what is happening when you have to draw your firearm, nor what needs to take place to stop the threat.
    Stay safe,
    Gene R

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