28 Feb 99
Copy of a letter to my colleague, Dave Spaulding:
Thanks for your letter. I’ve just returned form Africa, and I apologize for this response taking so long.
With regard to your upcoming article and questionnaire, let me below lay out my thoughts in text. I hope the following adequately answers your questions:
As far as brands are concerned, I like Cor-Bon. Pete Pi is not afraid to put some powder in his ammunition, and his quality control is as good as anyone’s. Neither he nor I believe in wimpy ammunition. He is, of course, a good friend, and there are a number of other very good and reputable ammunition manufacturers (Federal, Winchester, etc), but Pete’s dedication to the defensive shooting market is unrivaled, and I thus can usually be found with Cor-Bon ammunition in the pistol I’m carrying.
With nearly all defensive pistol ammunition, the impact velocity is never going to be high enough to produce significant neural shock, pulping of tissue, or pulverization of bone, as would be the case with rifle bullets. Thus, with pistol bullets, traumatically-induced loss of blood pressure is the only reliable mechanism for stopping the individual. This requires a competent shooter who can produce rapid, multiple, and consistent, A-zone hits. It is helpful for him to have ammunition which briskly expands upon impact to produce jagged, asymmetrical projectiles that consistently penetrate adequately (regardless of the angle of impact) to reach and robustly and completely penetrate the heart and major blood vessels in the center of the chest. I thus consider ideal bullet performance to be complete, transverse penetration of the chest, with the expanded bullet coming to rest just under the skin on the opposite side.
I don’t like pistol bullets that break up after impact. Bullets which stay together as they are propagated through tissue will nearly always render superior performance to those which break up upon or shortly after impact. I therefore don’t like or use any of the pre-fragmented loadings, nor do I like any of the bullets which are supposed to break up into big pieces. I like my bullets to expand quickly and then hold together until they come to rest.
Finally, I don’t like situation-specific ammunition, which performs impressively, but only in a narrow spectrum of circumstances. An example would be hyper-velocity bullets (often made of plastic) which may be very effective, so long as the target is close (they deenergize with extreme rapidity), and only shallow penetration is required. No thanks! I prefer pistol ammunition which may not render spectacular performance in any particular circumstance but will perform reasonably well in nearly all circumstances.
The only 38 Spl I carry these days is a S&W Centennial, in an ankle holster, and then, only once in a while. I use the 125+P round made by Cor-Bon. I don’t think any 38 Spr round out of a short barrel is going to render stellar performance, but the gun itself is small, and it makes a reasonable backup. With sunbbies, any bullet weight above 125 is going to produce recoil that makes shooting unpleasant and, at the same time, greatly increases the time between accurate shots. On the other hand, very light bullets (eg: 90gr) may render respectable performance, as long as the person you’re shooting is facing you. However, when you’re faced with a side shot, or the person you’re trying to shoot is bent over and facing away, light, expanding bullets may well stop long before they reach anything vital.
The most popular nine millimeter round manufactured today for defensive purposes is the 115gr HP. All the manufacturers will tell you that. It is a good choice. I don’t recommend any of the 147gr, 9mm loadings, as they have all consistently rendered dismal performance, expanding inconsistently and over-penetrating regularly. I personally carry the 124gr HP, as I believe it to be the best compromise between expansion and penetration and thus produce reasonable performance over the widest possible spectrum of circumstances. My SIG 239 is usually loaded with Cor-Bon 124gr+P.
In 40S&W, I like bullet weights between 150 and 155grs. Again, I don’t like any of the 180gr loading, and 135gr loading, while specular, may not generate required penetration in some circumstances. When carrying my Kahr-40, I usually have Cor-Bon 150gr in the magazine.
I carry a Glock-30 often times these days. In it I usually have Cor-Bon 185gr HP. These isn’t a great deal of empirical data on any 45ACP round, as it isn’t involved in a great many shootings these days, but Federal’s 230gr Hydra-Shok has been used by a number of departments with few complaints, and I can surely recommend it also. Several manufacturers are now making a 165gr 45ACP round, but it probably suffers from the same single-purpose dilemma as does the 90gr 9mm.
Recently (in an effort to be modern and trendy) I’ve been carrying a S&W 4556, converted to 400 Cor-Bon caliber, via a Bar-Sto barrel from my good friend, Irv Stone. Like the equally impressive 357SIG caliber, the 400 Cor-Bon shows great promise. I’ve shot deer and antelope with it, and, so far, I’m greatly impressed by its performance. It’s muzzle blast is grand to be sure, but the recoil is no more that any 45ACP, and one can shoot it very rapidly.
Anyway, I hope the foregoing is helpful. As we try to come up with logical-sounding rationalizations for the things we do, we often find ourselves groping for logical-sounding argumentation. Quite frankly, I really don’t know why I don’t double down when the dealer is showing a face card. It’s just a habit I’ve gotten into (because I got screwed the last time I tried it!).”