Handgun Ammo Ephipany

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Handgun Ammo Ephipany

Post by Stiff »

I have watched this video before, but somehow I didn’t quite understand it, or maybe I refused to understand. I came across it again today, and a lightbulb went off in my head.



These guys are not only professionals, they have access to a tremendous amount of data. Due to their company’s close relationship with the FBI and police departments, they can (and do) correlate handgun bullet performance in ballistic gelatin with real world incidents. This information is usually hard to find on the internet.

The fact that blows my mind is human tissue elasticity. Under 2200 fps, temporary cavity created by a bullet has little destructive effect, and virtually all handgun bullets fall under that threshold. They say that they can make bullets go really fast, but they choose not to do it because the 100-200 fps difference would just be soaked by the tissue with little ill effect. One of the guys said that a 44 Magnum has considerably more energy than a regular .40 S&W, but the terminal ballistic effect is not as different as you think.

Paraphrasing their description, the important factors are shot placement, penetration, then expansion in the distant third. The FBI decided to adopt the 9mm again because of milder recoil (compared to .40 S&W) that makes the gun easier to control, thus increasing the probability of effective shot placement. Their choice is the 147 grain G2 Speer Gold Dot, which has excellent penetration at the expense of occasional failure to expand. This makes sense to me, because I read elsewhere that lighter 9mm bullets have a higher probability of getting deflected by bone (thus missing the targeted vital organs). Heavier bullets usually plow through and break through bones.

We know that controllability doesn’t depend on the bullet alone, the gun can make a lot of difference. A gun with a powerful cartridge that you can’t shoot accurately under stress is worse than one with an adequate cartridge that you can shoot well. The Glock 42 and the S&W Shield EZ make sense now. I think there’s too much emphasis placed on the cartridge’s “stopping power” and not enough on controllability and accuracy in real world conditions. The FBI knows that roughly half the shots missed their targets, and their effectiveness at stopping a perp would increase if they can improve that statistics.

The 9mm allows their handguns to have higher capacity, which means more statistical chances to hit where it matters.

TL;DR
Pick a handgun that you shoot best under stress, as long as the cartridge has adequate penetration. Consider higher capacity to compensate for lower accuracy.
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Re: Handgun Ammo Ephipany

Post by wings »

I spent a lot of time with Lucky Gunner before I ever bought a gun. They've done some great work on terminal ballistics, and trying to get past 'common wisdom' with some actual data.

Related, tangentially - I came across an article a long time back that tried to document the efficacy of various calibers used in bear defense. Despite what you might expect, 9mm and .45 ACP both did very well. The one caliber that dramatically underperformed was .357 - probably because of issues shooting it accurately under stress, combined with the low shot count in a revolver. Rifle is still ideal.

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Re: Handgun Ammo Ephipany

Post by Stiff »

wings wrote:
Sun Aug 09, 2020 7:22 pm
I spent a lot of time with Lucky Gunner before I ever bought a gun. They've done some great work on terminal ballistics, and trying to get past 'common wisdom' with some actual data.

Related, tangentially - I came across an article a long time back that tried to document the efficacy of various calibers used in bear defense. Despite what you might expect, 9mm and .45 ACP both did very well. The one caliber that dramatically underperformed was .357 - probably because of issues shooting it accurately under stress, combined with the low shot count in a revolver. Rifle is still ideal.
The .357 magnum has about 40% more muzzle energy than the .45 and 9mm +P out of a 4” barrel, but in handguns it’s used almost exclusively in revolvers. In single action a good revolver would be easier to shoot accurately, but when a bear charges ain’t nobody has time for that. You double action it, and you need to be an expert to shoot DA accurately and quickly.

It’s worth noting that the main complaint about 9mm is that in FMJ it tends to overpenetrate, thus wasting the energy. It might be true for human targets, but not for bears. There’s no overpenetrating a bear with pistol cartridges.
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Re: Handgun Ammo Ephipany

Post by rolandson »

Stiff wrote:
Sun Aug 09, 2020 6:35 pm
... as long as the cartridge has adequate penetration. Consider higher capacity to compensate for lower accuracy.
Excellent advice...

...for every leo in the room.

For those without sovereign or qualified immunity however, thinking of the consequences of that "lower accuracy" or errant over penetration might give one pause to remember that the FBI, and much of the current crop of cop in our country, doesn't necessarily give a shit about what is on the other side of their target. They don't have to.

But a civilian on the other hand, is responsible for where each of their rounds goes and what it does. Both civilly and criminally.
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Re: Handgun Ammo Ephipany

Post by Marlene »

So, the FBI load 38 Special +P 158 grain lead semi wadcutter hollow point is still the same optimal ballistics and expansion mechanics balancing human anatomy and usability by humans that it was back in the 1960s? No surprise there.
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Re: Handgun Ammo Ephipany

Post by Stiff »

rolandson wrote:
Mon Aug 10, 2020 12:29 am
Stiff wrote:
Sun Aug 09, 2020 6:35 pm
... as long as the cartridge has adequate penetration. Consider higher capacity to compensate for lower accuracy.
Excellent advice...

...for every leo in the room.

For those without sovereign or qualified immunity however, thinking of the consequences of that "lower accuracy" or errant over penetration might give one pause to remember that the FBI, and much of the current crop of cop in our country, doesn't necessarily give a shit about what is on the other side of their target. They don't have to.

But a civilian on the other hand, is responsible for where each of their rounds goes and what it does. Both civilly and criminally.
My chance of using a pistol to defend my life is very slim. There is a very high probability that I will never need to do it. The statistics say 94% of law enforcement officers retire without ever firing their gun in the line of duty, and they deal with offenders and criminals on a daily basis.

If it gets to the point where I have to shoot, I want my rounds to be as effective as possible, because my very life depends on it. I fully believe in the run-fu defense, so if I have to shoot it means I’m cornered and only seconds away from death. The adage “better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6” still holds true for civilians.
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Re: Handgun Ammo Ephipany

Post by Stiff »

Marlene wrote:
Mon Aug 10, 2020 12:34 am
So, the FBI load 38 Special +P 158 grain lead semi wadcutter hollow point is still the same optimal ballistics and expansion mechanics balancing human anatomy and usability by humans that it was back in the 1960s? No surprise there.
Ballistically the 147 grain Gold Dot G2 is similar, but the platform is very different (Glock 19M). The 6-7 lb gen 5 trigger is fairly smooth for a Glock, the 15+1 capacity meets today’s standard, and the interchangeable backstraps make it fit more people.
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Re: Handgun Ammo Ephipany

Post by wings »

Stiff wrote:
Sun Aug 09, 2020 11:59 pm
wings wrote:
Sun Aug 09, 2020 7:22 pm
I spent a lot of time with Lucky Gunner before I ever bought a gun. They've done some great work on terminal ballistics, and trying to get past 'common wisdom' with some actual data.

Related, tangentially - I came across an article a long time back that tried to document the efficacy of various calibers used in bear defense. Despite what you might expect, 9mm and .45 ACP both did very well. The one caliber that dramatically underperformed was .357 - probably because of issues shooting it accurately under stress, combined with the low shot count in a revolver. Rifle is still ideal.
The .357 magnum has about 40% more muzzle energy than the .45 and 9mm +P out of a 4” barrel, but in handguns it’s used almost exclusively in revolvers. In single action a good revolver would be easier to shoot accurately, but when a bear charges ain’t nobody has time for that. You double action it, and you need to be an expert to shoot DA accurately and quickly.

It’s worth noting that the main complaint about 9mm is that in FMJ it tends to overpenetrate, thus wasting the energy. It might be true for human targets, but not for bears. There’s no overpenetrating a bear with pistol cartridges.
Yeah, hollowpoints are not recommended with bears. Preferred loads are hardcast lead, but I'd guess FMJ is equivalent. Once you rule out significant expansion, .357 still leaves a smaller hole in a bigger animal, and fewer of them than 9mm. I knew .45 was designed to penetrate large mammals at range, so no surprise there. Nice to know that standard CCWs came out so well, though. 9 did fine compared to .44 or .454 Casull.

The article used pretty broad rules for "successful" defense - the shooter lived without serious injury, the gun did not turn up in scat miles away, no limit to rounds fired. The only failure they found was an encounter between an Alaskan grizzly and a geologist packing a .357 revolver. He lived, but got mauled, and it's not clear that he ever hit the bear.

I was skeptical of technique for weak-thumb cocking a single action revolver when I first heard about it, but i've added it to my practice routine. It is not intuitive - at first. But it is surprisingly fast once you get it, and accuracy doesn't seem to suffer.

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Re: Handgun Ammo Ephipany

Post by Stiff »

wings wrote:
Mon Aug 10, 2020 7:49 am

Yeah, hollowpoints are not recommended with bears. Preferred loads are hardcast lead, but I'd guess FMJ is equivalent. Once you rule out significant expansion, .357 still leaves a smaller hole in a bigger animal, and fewer of them than 9mm. I knew .45 was designed to penetrate large mammals at range, so no surprise there. Nice to know that standard CCWs came out so well, though. 9 did fine compared to .44 or .454 Casull.

The article used pretty broad rules for "successful" defense - the shooter lived without serious injury, the gun did not turn up in scat miles away, no limit to rounds fired. The only failure they found was an encounter between an Alaskan grizzly and a geologist packing a .357 revolver. He lived, but got mauled, and it's not clear that he ever hit the bear.

I was skeptical of technique for weak-thumb cocking a single action revolver when I first heard about it, but i've added it to my practice routine. It is not intuitive - at first. But it is surprisingly fast once you get it, and accuracy doesn't seem to suffer.
I found the article.

https://www.ammoland.com/2018/02/defens ... z6Ujft6Ajo

They have 37 incidents, so the data are more anecdotal than empirical. At least they show that carrying a small caliber pistol (9mm) doesn’t automatically turn you into bear dinner. A 9mm FMJ bullet routinely penetrates more than 24” of ballistic gelatin, which is like 4 human torsos. It is adequate to reach the vital organs of a bear at close range. The thing is, even if you shoot a person or a large mammal through the heart, it takes 15-30 seconds before it drops dead. That half minute is probably enough for the bear to cut you into ribbons. Still, 30 seconds of being chewed on is better than minutes.

A Glock 19 that connects with the target is better than a Colt Anaconda that you miss with.

As for .45 ACP, it was designed to replicate the performance of the .45 Schofield, which is slightly weaker than .45 long Colt. The .45 Colt was designed to mimic the performance of Colt 1860 cap & ball revolver. The revolver designed to shoot a horse is the Colt Walker that uses 60 grains of black powder behind a .44 ball, compare that with the 1860 that uses 30 grains.

In short, the .45 ACP was meant for human consumption from the start.
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Re: Handgun Ammo Ephipany

Post by wings »

Lucky Gunner has just one defensive round in 9mm Luger go over 24" in gel (Magtech 124 grain bonded JHP), vs. four in both .357 and .45 ACP, with one each over 30". They haven't gotten to .45 Colt, and doubt they will, but ballistics should be similar for factory loads. That's not to denigrate 9mm at all. Just noting the long-running folk wisdom that these rounds are highly capable defensive options, with the inevitable tradeoff of diameter vs. capacity.
https://www.luckygunner.com/labs/self-d ... tests/#9mm
https://www.luckygunner.com/labs/revolv ... st/#357mag
https://www.luckygunner.com/labs/self-d ... sts/#45ACP

Yeah, the article was very upfront about the challenges of data vs. anecdata given the limitations of what's available. SImilar issues with medical research on rare diseases. You work with what you got. Tends to be the common response to bear attacks, now that you mention it. The order of preference seems to be 1.) spray, with the wind behind you, 2.) large caliber rifle, from a distance, 3.) large bore shotgun, 4.) flamethrower, 5.) someone you don't like, as bait, 6.) handgun, if you must.

I've not delved too deeply into the history of the rounds, so apologies for perpetuating mythconceptions.

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Re: Handgun Ammo Ephipany

Post by CDFingers »

Good thread.

Moral of the story: own many calibers and hit the target.

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Re: Handgun Ammo Ephipany

Post by Stiff »

I’m not surprised that few 9mm JHP bullets go beyond 24”, because the FBI protocol calls for 12” to 18” penetration. If it goes beyond 18”, then technically it fails to meet the standard. Ammo manufacturers spend a lot of research money to create a round that stops within that range.

Of course, the standard is meant for two legged predators. When it comes to 600 lb four legged ones, you want as much penetration as possible.

FMJ is the cheapest factory ammo, typically used at the range. Kinda ironic that it works better for bigger animals.
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Re: Handgun Ammo Ephipany

Post by Stiff »

CDFingers wrote:
Mon Aug 10, 2020 7:18 pm
Good thread.

Moral of the story: own many calibers and hit the target.

CDFingers
My formula:
1. Have a gun. A .380 mouse gun in your hand is better than a 10mm pistol in the safe when things go sideways.
2. Have a gun that you shoot best with, as long as the ammo has enough penetration. People overestimate their ability to hit the target under stress, like when the target is shooting back or it’s a charging 600 lb bear.
3. Have as much capacity as you can tolerate. More bullets = more chances to hit. Nobody wishes to have less ammo when they need to shoot.
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Re: Handgun Ammo Ephipany

Post by wings »

The old story of Bella Twin taking down a grizzly with a .22 - not .22LR, even! - is worth the read. She was by all accounts a bloody excellent shot, and stone cold calm about it. It wasn't charging, but it was stalking her.
Also Ammoland: https://www.ammoland.com/2017/06/bella- ... z6UlsLxTm3

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Re: Handgun Ammo Ephipany

Post by Stiff »

wings wrote:
Mon Aug 10, 2020 10:01 pm
The old story of Bella Twin taking down a grizzly with a .22 - not .22LR, even! - is worth the read. She was by all accounts a bloody excellent shot, and stone cold calm about it. It wasn't charging, but it was stalking her.
Also Ammoland: https://www.ammoland.com/2017/06/bella- ... z6UlsLxTm3
I read about her a while back, it’s a great story. Another example of what a person extremely familiar with her gun can do. She had a rusty single shot .22 rifle with a missing barrel screw and a cracked stock, put together by hockey tape.
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Re: Handgun Ammo Ephipany

Post by Hasaf »

I typically carry a 380, but usually not a micro-sized one. Articles like this, featuring professionals, carry more weight in my decision than the internet pontificators.

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Re: Handgun Ammo Ephipany

Post by sig230 »

Ammo is just like Real Estate.

It all comes down to location, Location, LOCATION.

The most effective caliber and bullet type is the one that you can rapidly and consistently place in the proper location.
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Re: Handgun Ammo Ephipany

Post by Stiff »

Hasaf wrote:
Tue Aug 11, 2020 11:29 am
I typically carry a 380, but usually not a micro-sized one. Articles like this, featuring professionals, carry more weight in my decision than the internet pontificators.
JHP .380 is borderline adequate due to its lower velocity, but the FMJ has no problem reaching 23”-25” penetration in ballistic gel. My choice is Lehigh Xtreme Penetrator, which despite the name actually penetrates less than FMJ. At $1.50 a pop the Lehigh is pricy, so FMJ is the most cost effective solution.

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Re: Handgun Ammo Ephipany

Post by Stiff »

I almost forgot. This thread is incomplete without the data compiled by Greg Ellifritz.

https://www.buckeyefirearms.org/alterna ... ping-power

He reached the same conclusion that shot placement is far more important than caliber. The one-shot-stop rate is similar for all handgun rounds, which means a single shot to a vital organ is equally effective using any caliber. However, calibers below .380 have twice the failure-to-stop rate than the rest.

I’m liking .380 more and more. If you put it in a subcompact pistol that can handle 9mm, it would have mild recoil. Shooting it quickly and accurately would be significantly easier than 9mm. The problem is that almost nobody makes a subcompact double stack .380 pistol. The only widely available product is the SCCY CPX-3 with a sucky DAO trigger. If SIG P365 comes with a .380 model, I would buy it in a heartbeat.
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Re: Handgun Ammo Ephipany

Post by wings »

If you go digging waaaay back in the archives, you'll find an interesting discussion on that article. :) Some people weren't happy with the statistics.

More precisely, they weren't happy about vagueness and potential inconsistency in the way terms were named, calculated and applied. It was less about the numbers and more about the words used to describe those numbers. Which is valid!

Sample size issues certainly made a difference at the margins. Nobody is seriously arguing that .44 Magnum is a terrible choice for a defensive round, but it's used so rarely in that context - well, against humans - that variance becomes a problem for comparison vs. well-represented rounds like .22LR and 9mm Luger. You can see the same qualitatively in YouTube comment sections, where the guys who chime in about the time they got shot with a .22 testify that one was enough to stop 'em, while someone else has to chime in "but you're here!"

I don't know why I read comments.

.380 certainly seems adequate. I didn't really feel much difference between it and 9mm Luger, but that's also gun dependent.

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Re: Handgun Ammo Ephipany

Post by Elmo »

Great video.

Interesting that they (FBI, I think) consider 2200 fps as a kind of key threshold for wounding effectiveness. They extrapolate from that that all handgun rounds will be below the threshold (so quibbling about +P etc. is not a big deal), and that all rifle rounds will be above it.

That is true for the common AR15 and battle rifle loads, which will tend to be 2500 fps and above. But it might not be true for all long guns.

For example, it looks like the standard M1 Carbine ammo falls below that threshold. This might be OK if you are thinking of it as "like a handgun but easier to shoot accurately", as the military did. But it would account for its reputation as a poor stopper when compared to battle rifles.
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Re: Handgun Ammo Ephipany

Post by Stiff »

Elmo wrote:
Wed Aug 12, 2020 4:40 pm
Great video.

Interesting that they (FBI, I think) consider 2200 fps as a kind of key threshold for wounding effectiveness. They extrapolate from that that all handgun rounds will be below the threshold (so quibbling about +P etc. is not a big deal), and that all rifle rounds will be above it.

That is true for the common AR15 and battle rifle loads, which will tend to be 2500 fps and above. But it might not be true for all long guns.

For example, it looks like the standard M1 Carbine ammo falls below that threshold. This might be OK if you are thinking of it as "like a handgun but easier to shoot accurately", as the military did. But it would account for its reputation as a poor stopper when compared to battle rifles.
Excellent find.

If you carry an M1 carbine and expect your enemy to always drop with one shot like an M1 Garand, then you’ll be disappointed. But if you treat it like a Thompson and shoot until he drops, then it works. SMGs were killing people quite effectively in WW2, despite using pistol cartridges.

The M2 carbine with its 30-round mag and full auto capability suddenly makes sense!

Now we understand why the current doctrine for pistol use is to repeatedly shoot center mass until the target is down, it’s basically mimicking the effect of an SMG.
Last edited by Stiff on Thu Aug 13, 2020 12:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Handgun Ammo Ephipany

Post by damnitman »

I found the post quite interesting, and the logic compelling, but I will still be carrying 9 FMJ rounds in a 1911. The same old rounds I shoot at the range once or twice a week, in a gun that is very dependable, and that I shoot better than any of my 9mms. I admit, I am old fashioned and hard headed, but so far, in the past 68 years, I have suffered no ill effects from the choice. With a little luck, I will go to my grave without having to point a pistol at anyone, but God forbid, if I do, I will not go into the situation feeling under-armed.

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Re: Handgun Ammo Ephipany

Post by wings »

damnitman wrote:
Wed Aug 12, 2020 8:44 pm
I found the post quite interesting, and the logic compelling, but I will still be carrying 9 FMJ rounds in a 1911. The same old rounds I shoot at the range once or twice a week, in a gun that is very dependable, and that I shoot better than any of my 9mms. I admit, I am old fashioned and hard headed, but so far, in the past 68 years, I have suffered no ill effects from the choice. With a little luck, I will go to my grave without having to point a pistol at anyone, but God forbid, if I do, I will not go into the situation feeling under-armed.
As you should. Point in the OP: carry what you like, trust, and can shoot effectively. It's really hard to go wrong with that combo if you do.

.30 carbine is a weird round to categorize. It does fall just shy of 2000 fps at 18", but it's still worth 967 ft-lbs. Comparable to .357 or .44 Magnum out of a levergun, but well beyond what most pistols can do. Not that far off of .223 at 18" when it comes to muzzle energy, but nowhere near as fast. In theory, 2000fps is reportedly where hydrostatic shock starts to become a factor in tissue damage - you can get impressive temporary cavities, but tissues are often elastic enough to bounce back.

BrassFetcher also does ballistics testing, although 20% gelatin - hard to directly compare to LuckyGunner. The videos of .30 carbine are impressive enough though. Penetration is, shall we say, adequate.

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Re: Handgun Ammo Ephipany

Post by VodoundaVinci »

I got the opportunity to talk to a bunch of my FIL's Law Enforcement Buddies from the Old Days...guys who had actually been shot and had shot other people some back in the 20's and 30's and I learned a lot about defensive shooting with a hand gun. From guys who had actually been there and done that.

Placement and penetration in that order. With hand guns there is no "knock down power" and the only way to get a one shot stop is precision placement - the perp might die tomorrow from a shot thru the lungs but in the next 90 seconds he's going to kill you or someone you love. Doesn't matter what the caliber is. It needs to hit something vital and it needs to penetrate deep enough to damage that critical component. Great big ass powerful bullets are the rage for SD in Handguns but in virtually every study out there and in the empirical data I have it matters not. Placement and penetration. Many Agencies have dumped the .40 S&W because it has no better gunfight outcome than 9mm +P *and* few people, even professionals, do well with a .40 when multiple rounds placed precisely and quickly are needed.

I have killed a lot of cows with a .22 with my FIL. Well, sure, a shot to the back of the skull and they just drop and are DRT - Dead Right There - but you can't do that in a gun fight. But it *proves* that placement is absolutely everything and penetration is the only other factor. All other factors - bullet weight and diameter, muzzle velocity, everything besides placement and penetration is worth almost nothing in a handgun self defense scenario.

As already said, pick a caliber that you can deliver precisely ( probably not that .44 Magnum) more than one round. More capacity is better than less. I talked to a guy who worked Chicago during prohibition and he had the scars of bullet wounds to augment his awesome stories and information. He was in one gunfight and a hood put a .32 acp right in his belly and the effect was not what you'd expect. He dropped the gun in his hand like an electric shock and doubled over and grabbed his stomach involuntarily. Like being punched in the gut when you were a kid, the reaction is involuntary. The hoods used to gut shoot you and then shoot you in the head when you were down. Luckily that did not happen to this Dude. He lived to employ the same technique and his MO in a Gun Fight became to shot to the stomach. People who are gut shot/shot to the stomach for a few seconds are helpless. They drop what's in their hand, double over, and clutch their middle. They are helpless like a child punched in the gut on the playground yet how many trainers teach/train people to not shoot center mass but to shoot to the midsection?

The other thing these guys were adamant on was if you were going to shoot to center mass (biggest target) shoot high and go above the sternum...shots to the upper chest with sufficient penetration hit the thoracic spine easily because the body, front to back, is very thin at this point and 10" of penetration will literally destroy the spine. One shot stop. Always target the CNS as that is a show stopper. They also were big believers in wadcutters and even when offered hollow points did not load them.

I was told that hollow points are standard issue because they reduce penetration and limit bullets passing thru a perp and ricocheting and hitting innocents. I was told that 70%+ of shooting victims survive and that this is because hollow points simply are not lethal immediately. A wad cutter with full diameter meplat makes a very faster cookie cutter and will pass thru bone and lots of stuff without expansion...it may over penetrate but it will destroy anything it touches.

Modern ammunition is fabulous but I doubt it beats 4 or 5 flat nose .32 acp thru the upper chest. I have weird idea about ammunition. That said I am perfectly happy carrying stuff I can deliver precision placement with even if that's a .32 or .380. I mostly carry 9mm high cap pistols but I do not feel under gunned or vulnerable with a 90 YO Colt Pocket Hammerless with hard cast flat nose hot ammunition. I know (knew) A guy who survived multiple gunfights using .32 acp with hardball.

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No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms."
- Thomas Jefferson, Virginia Constitution, Draft 1, 1776

I am sworn to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

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