Shooting a Suicide Bomber -The One Way Trip

With all the news that has been coming out of Europe over the past few weeks, I have received some inquires about the current thinking on head shots?

Bottom line: Since the war on terror went full swing, just about every working group that could conceivably cross paths with a suicide bomber incorporated head shots into their standard assaulter-shooter courses.

16y/o in Palestine. Suicide bombs and bombers come in all sizes.

16y/o in Palestine. Suicide bombs and bombers come in all sizes.

The logic is simple. While the old school thinking of making head shots under stress is much more difficult, the reality of putting rounds through some kind of explosive vest are less than ideal. So everyone is training with both handgun and carbine for head shots.

Female bomber captured in Africa. Notice how low the bomb sits on her body?

Female bomber captured in Africa. Notice how low the bomb sits on her body?

Right now, it NEEDS to be stated that making a head shot on a suicide bomber with a handgun is functional suicide. It is. In the video below, the target array is around 28 yards. From a suicide vest kill radius perspective, I might as well be bear hugging the guy. Not survivable.

Blast scene in Astan. See the man with hands on hips? Could you make that headshot? About the two guys over HIS left shoulder? Make that headshot?

Blast scene in Astan. See the man with hands on hips? Could you make that headshot? How about the two guys over HIS left shoulder? Make that headshot with a handgun?

But…from a pistol capability perspective, it behooves the home gamer to start walking back the pistol distances. Head shots at 15, 20, 25, 30, 50 yards are a good idea to practice. While the attack in Belgium was over quickly, chances for an armed citizen to take a shot at an active-shooter-killer, such as in Mumbai, are conceivable. Note: Authorities in Belgium did recover a unused AK on scene. That didn’t get much notice by the press. Why does a suicide bomber need an AK? You get one guess.

Suicide bomber in Afghanistan. Notice the DET cord and AK rifle.

Suicide bomber in Afghanistan. Notice the DET cord and AK rifle.

Final disclaimer. The targets in the video aren’t even walking slow. And in the Western world, shooting an innocent bystander is even worse than eating the bomb yourself. Which means closing the distance for a 100% hit. On a guy wearing an explosive vest. Possibly with a dead man switch. Who might have a buddy covering him, you don’t see yet. Holding that AK we mentioned.

Everyone on the internet talks about, “living one day as a lion”. Well, this is your chance. Make those hits count because this is a one way trip. Authorities will score your hits off the security cameras.

Suicide bomber at police HQ in Kabul. This attacker cleared multiple checkpoints before detonation. What does a suicide bomber look like?

Suicide bomber at police HQ in Kabul. This attacker cleared multiple checkpoints before detonation. What does a suicide bomber look like?

 

Marky
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“Shooting Guns & Having Fun”

Marky Mark

Marky Mark

Writer at John1911.com
Writer for john1911.com. Co-Host of the John1911 Podcast. Video content provider for John1911-TV.

Areas of focus: Defense and National Security, Modern Light Weapons, Analysis of the Geo-political / Military Relationship in the Context of Strategic Goals.
Marky Mark

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  • Gary Tompkins

    My thought is you don’t really know what the blast radius is until after the fact. If you’re still there it was shorter than the distance you were standing at. If you’re not still there, we’ll it doesn’t really matter anymore. Keep your eyes open.

    • Valid point and I feel I might need to respond to this for the average reader. Typically the uneducated don’t understand the blast radius / power of a grenade. Even a small suicide bomb is many, many, many, many times bigger. And when you factor in the typical engagement distances of a handgun, the math flat out sucks.

      And to be clear, I WILL be the guy taking the shot at the terrorist. But if given the chance, I will make an educated decision.

      –Marky

      • Mikial

        Well, if I’m around then you won’t be the only one. After reading this article, I went out and practiced head shots from 15 to 25 meters on an FBI standard reduced silhouette. Since the reduced silhouette is smaller than actual human it at least makes head shots harder to achieve. My wife did well too, both with her Beretta 92 and her 1911. Good woman!

        My Jericho and 1911 were dead on; the Glock 21 was good too, but not quite as tight as the other two. I’ve never seen a more accurate gun than that Jericho, but then, it was built in Israel and they definitely don’t screw around.

        • I haven’t shot a Jericho since the mid 90’s. I gave one as a gift to a young Marine Officer who’s first duty station was on the West Coast. 40 since that is what he liked at the time. Solid gun. I recall it being a bit heavy. –Marky

          • Mikial

            Mine is the polymer frame 9 mm model. It was an Israeli police trade-in. I would imagine the steel frame would be a lot heavier.

          • The steel guns are a heavy bitch. –Marky

          • Mikial

            No surprise, that’s the way IWI builds them. Mine’s old enough that it’s actually marked with the old IMI logo.

  • Brennen Munro

    When I worked in Israel in the mid to late ’80’s, this was a topic that we talked about at some length. If you could not take the shot, but still needed to put your target down before haji-go-boom… would you be willing to tackle the SOB before he had the chance to take out the pizza restaurant? I was comfortable with the decision that I felt was worth while. Now my son is working there but in a much different capacity, and I still have to think about these types of things. Politics through the bomb have always sucked.

    I am older and patched together after being broken one time to many, but just so you know Marky… the bald guy shooting at haji-go-boom along with you, WILL be me.

    Munro

    • Your reference to the Sbarro Pizzeria bombing brings back bad, bad memories.

      –Marky

  • Mikial

    Just to provide an anecdote to illustrate shooting suicide bombers, I will relate this incident.

    My organization has a compound for several years in Lashkar Gah, Helmand Province, in beautiful Afghanistan. One Friday (after prayers) a local appeared at the gate and was stopped by two of our Afghan guards (we always put locals in the outer security line to put an “Afghan face” on things. He claimed he had a meeting with one of the expats, but one the guards pointed out that it was Friday and no one was working. The visitor then came clean and said he didn’t want to harm the guards, but only wanted to kill Americans.

    The guard promptly shot the guy in the face with his AK (good thinking) from a few feet away. As the bomber fell onto his back he detonated his vest. Apparently it must not have been a very high yield because most of the blast and shrapnel went straight up. The guard who shot him was knocked down and bruised, and the other guard was hit in the jaw with a piece of metal tearing his face up pretty bad. We paid for reconstructive surgery for him and offered him training and compensation for a new line of work. Believe or not, he said he wanted to be a poultry farmer, so we set him up to raise chickens.

    This was back in 2009, and it seems like the bad guys are better at making bombs now, but my point in telling this ‘war story’ is that explosions can be very unpredictable but the guard had no way of knowing he would survive. He just did his job and probably saved a lot of lives that day.

    • Surviving a suicide vest at that range is like surviving a plane crash. Statistical anomaly. But even so, I still wear a seat belt when I fly. And look for nearest exist. And wear good shoes.

      Always fight.

      Marky

      • Mikial

        Agree completely.

        And, you know, you just have to admire that man who did what a man has to do. I’ve worked with a lot of Afghans, Iraqis (especially Kurds), Palestinians, and Kenyans who were like that, I think that too many Westerners just don’t understand that we only hear about the ones that go bad, but there are a lot of dedicated people out there who will do what it takes to face down evil wherever it is.

      • raz-0

        Plane crashes with fatalities have a pretty solid survival rate. It’s better than car crashes with fatalities. Survival in that instance is not a statistical anomaly, it’s pretty common.

        • On balance, I am willing to bet that plane crashes have higher fatality rates than car crashes, percentage wise. But I don’t know for sure as I am not an expert in aviation accidents. I’ll leave that for Mary Schiavo.

          The point I am making is, engaging a suicide bomber at handgun ranges has about the same survival rate as Kamikaze pilots engaging their targets. It’s a one way trip and you’re going to eat it.

          Marky