11 Mar 17

Handgun Bullet Performance:

The problem in “researching” pistol ballistic performance is that the only “data base” we have to consult has too few samples, and samples we have are mostly second-hand narratives, which are invariably influenced by any number of agendas, political, personal, and commercial.

Sanow and Marshall readily acknowledged the foregoing as they did their research, which still enjoys considerable credibility, even today.

Rapid and permanent deanimation has always been our goal when confronting a close-range threat, and attacking the supply-side of the felon’s circulatory system has always been the most reliable, and achievable, vehicle for doing so. Even so, most cardiologists agree with the “five-second rule.”

When blood pressure drops to near zero, even within a very few seconds, most people will still remain animated, for at least five more seconds, before becoming comatose. And, “five seconds” is the minimum. Some cardiologists insist the real figure is closer to ten seconds, or more!

Rapid deanimation, however, is the result of more than just falling blood-pressure levels.

Individual physiological factors enter the equation. Some people fall down when shot (even in non-vital places) for no reason other than that they want to. They literally “act out” what they think they’re supposed to do, absent any external physical compulsion. A consequence of a squandered youth spent watching TV!

There is also the nebulous issue of “neural-shock paralysis,” upon which even eminent neurologists don’t agree. In any event, neural shock, if any, cannot be predicted, nor produced on demand. Sometimes it’s there, and sometimes it’s not, all for reasons no one really understands.

Neural shock was present, in spades, in the below-described incident!

As operators, we must do our part with regard to speed, accuracy, volume, and movement, but we must also be mentally prepared to confront nearly any eventuality, from the felon turning and running away, to the felon falling down immediately (albeit sometimes reanimating seconds later), to the felon continuing his attack while displaying scant discomfort!

In a near-fatal incident several years ago, one of my students (a police officer) came upon the scene of a bar-room shooting seconds after it happened:

The shootee had been hit at close range with a single 180gr 40S&W bullet (high-performance hollowpoint from a major manufacturer), launched from a G23.

Two antagonists were in near physical contact, and the bullet in question was launched from chest-height, at a downward angle. It entered the shootee, penetrating medium clothing (including a leather vest), passed through his body, and exited the shootee’s buttocks. It subsequently stuck the bar-room floor, skidded into a corner, and came to rest next to the baseboard.

Upon discovery and examination, the bullet in question showed some external striations (probably from the bar-room floor), but was otherwise unexpanded. Its hollow cavity was stuffed with batting (from when it passed-through the shootee’s clothing). The bullet probably could have been reloaded!

So, the bullet itself “failed completely,” at least by modern standards of ballistic performance. It passed through the body like hardball, without even the slightest expansion.

However, witnesses confirmed that the shootee, immediately upon being struck, deanimated and collapsed completely, as if he had been electrocuted! He was instantly comatose, and altogether unresponsive for several minutes, recovering a degree of consciousness only later.

The shootee ultimately survived the incident, albeit with some permanent disablement and disfigurement. But, in the short term, he was taken out of the fight instantaneously, rendered totally impotent the moment the bullet struck him. That is exactly the result we what we want from pistol bullets, eh?

So, here is an example of a “ballistic failure,” combined with a “terminal-effect success.” Yet, the two are not supposed to go together, are they?

And, you need not look very far to find examples of the opposite: “Perfect ballistic performance,” combined with “terminal-effect disappointment!”

The foregoing is what makes this subject so difficult to study, and why we need to be cautious when coming to sweeping conclusions, and making recommendations, based on a single incident, nor believing glowing reports about “wonder-bullets.”

Consistent expansion of pistol bullets in human tissue is still desirable, for any number of reasons, and any ammunition we carry and use needs to be selected with that in mind. But, we still need to do our part, including the avoidance of “unrealistic expectations!”