You probably hear the statement all the time in caliber debates as an excuse to win or come to a draw in the debate. "It all comes down to shot placement" is an old and tired statement when we think about how it is used and the implied meaning of the statement. I would submit to you, the reader, that people misunderstand and are grossly negligent in regards to how they are using it.
First thing to cover is the origin of the subject of shot placement. This comes down to where the bullet impacts versus the intended impact. Where are you able to land and place your shots? Shooting at a human target is not going to give you immediate feedback, if any at all. I can tell you from my experience that most people can take a center of mass shot from a 5.56 and still fight on without a flinch. Does it mean that my shot did not land in the intended zones, no. The simple fact is that we are typically aiming for a certain cluster of organs inside the body, and where our shots are placed is going to determine the outcome, as well as caliber and time.
Now, when I say shot placement, we might wanna put our thinking caps on and think about what we are implying when we say that. Under pressure, you are not typically afforded the luxury of time as you are on a static range. Speed and movement are key factors that we naturally understand will give us the best chance of survival. Think about that for a moment and consider the fact that under pressure, you typically will push to exceed your speed and mobility potential to give you the best chance. That means that you will omit certain things like holding off on staging a trigger or finding the front sight. Typically we want to focus on the threat, which goes against the training most people do where they stare at the gun while reloading. Simple and natural omissions such as these are the reason that accuracy suffers.
So with all these kinds of considerations laid out, how can we best prepare and train ourselves to get good shots on a threat under pressure? Well, that is a tough thing to answer, but I think the answer lies in the lessons of war and military training. Marine Corps training is notorious for putting you under pressure at all times, which basically keeps your stress and adrenaline at a high level for so long that you become desensitized to stressful situations. This makes a Marine capable of thinking more clear and on their feet. It is one of those things that makes Marine grunts so formidable. They are able to concentrate and stay calm, even when all hell is unleashed on them. They are calculating and organizing, and they seem to bask in chaos. If your firearms training was more like this, added with proper lessons in law and situational awareness, you could become a very well trained gunfighter. Unfortunately, there are so many excuses on why this type of training isn't common, from hurt feelings to brittle bones and disabilities.
Added to the stress of training, I think people need to realize that it is pretty hard to expect people in immediate danger to do ridiculous things like concentrate on their sights instead on other priorities like cover and their threat. When it comes to placing shots, it comes down to the basics of pointing your firearm at the target and pulling the trigger as fast as you can without moving the gun. No magic, just those two things. Reference your sights with brief accountability or a soft focus, but complete these two processes together in a short time and you should be golden.
One thing that can help you narrow the time it takes to account for your sights is practicing and conditioning your body to acquire a natural point of aim from all kinds of positions from the draw. For those who carry appendix, I would urge you to think about the draw in stressful employment. Try bending forward and side to side with a one handed draw before you claim it is the best carry method. I can tell you that I have found it in experience and observation to be pretty limited in it's practicality. Again, if you train under realistic conditions, these myths and trends will become incredibly pitiful in your eyes. Not to mention if you have to use your firearm.
Last thing I wanna talk about is the caliber debate, where the shot placement excuse comes up most of all. If you are using that excuse to try and justify a shitty caliber, I would urge you to think about what you are suggesting. You are basically saying that you are convinced that you will always have the time to draw slowly, get a grip on the gun, stick out your tongue, close one eye, and bullseye shoot a static threat that is square with you. If you can't see the insane and unrealistic nature of this, I can't help you, and no amount of training will help you. Personally, I will take a caliber that will work in the shittiest of situations, such as the 40 S&W and will penetrate well and cause much damage, despite the challenges presented to it.
Do It Rite
Alaska-Based Youtube Vlogger, Retired Marine, gun enthusiast, and his wife