More than 3.5 million pistols, revolvers, shotguns and rifles were manufactured in the United States in 2005 [source: U.S. Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives]. The next year, firearms were used in 10,177 homicides [source: FBI]. And a Swiss survey found that in 2007, the United States had 90 guns for every hundred people, a total of 270 million guns. India, the second-most-armed nation in the world, had 45 million. If you don't count the United States, there is one gun for every ten people worldwide. With the United States included, the ratio rises to seven to 10 [source: Reuters].
With all of these guns, it may seem like the chances of being shot are pretty good. In 1997, Americans had a 1 in 2,317 chance of being shot, based on the population and number of gunshot wounds [source: Centers for Disease Control]. So if someone near you pulls out a gun, what should you do?
Ed Sizemore, a firearms specialist at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, says that for the average bystander, retreat is the best idea. If that isn't possible, Sizemore says, take cover. Hiding behind an object that can absorb the force of the rounds is a good idea. So, too, is getting down on the floor, which presents a smaller target for a shooter.
Sizemore tells his law-enforcement students to orient their bodies toward the threat. Most people doing the shooting tend to aim for the easiest target -- the torso. Since police officers wear body armor, they have the most coverage in front and back. He would not, Sizemore makes a point to add, recommend the same thing to any civilians.
In Sizemore's opinion, there's no single best place to be shot. Ballistics -- the study of the projectiles, like bullets -- is too much of a gamble. "People get shot in fatal areas and live, and others get shot in non-lethal areas and die," he says. But he believes the most painful place to be shot would be in your pelvis. The nerve bundle located there would quickly and efficiently distribute pain throughout your body. He can also think of a worst place, medically speaking: "The brain," he says. "Hearts can be repaired. There is such a thing as an artificial heart. But as far as I know there are no artificial brains."
But the brain isn't necessarily the most lethal place to be shot. From 1982 to 1993, 66 percent of patients treated at Cook County Hospital in Chicago for gunshot wounds to the head survived [source: Stone, et al.].
But if you are ever faced with a choice of where to take a bullet -- say, a choice given to you by an angry loan shark -- where should you take it? Read the next page to find out.