11 Mar 17

“When you just ain’t got nobody
Since you’ve gone and lost your head
Rigor mortis has set in, Daddy
Jack, you’re dead!”

From “Jack, You’re Dead,” Written by Walter Bishop. and Dick Miles. Most famous rendition was sung by Louis Jordan in 1946

Authoritative follow-up comments on ballistic performance, from colleagues who know what they’re talking about:

“I’m not worried about having a ‘less-than-perfect’ round in my social guns, because I think the same criteria is most important for selecting the brand/type of JHP, as for selecting caliber:

Shot placement!”


“As you note, ‘deanimation,’ as a result of direct injury to the supply agent to the circulatory system, can certainly take many seconds. Forensic pathologists further opine that as long as the brain remains oxygenated, the actor is still capable of cognition, decision making, and action. Assuming zero blood pressure, one must expect that the brain will remain sufficiently oxygenated to allow calculated voluntary action for a minimum of fifteen seconds, an eon in the course of a critical incident!

Similarly, as you note, deanimation in an antagonist as a result of a gunshot is usually voluntary.

In one case I handled, a 6’4″ 220lb who, thanks to his constant workout routine at the local state-provided gym (State Prison) was built like an action-figure doll. He was shot in the upper, lateral shoulder with a single .25 auto round. Witnesses reported that, upon the single shot being fired, this giant fell as if he had been pole-axed!

The one wound that does reliably cause deanimation is a blow to the CNS. Shock/trans-section of the spinal column regularly deanimates from the point of injury downward. The only injury that almost always causes total deanimation is one that effects the 1st/2nd vertebrae.”


“Last year, I inspected handgun bullets, and one shotgun slug, from a shooting in ______ City in which police fired over sixty rounds (at a single suspect, during a single incident), and the autopsy detailed forty-five separate wound paths through the suspect’s body. Suspect was on PCP!

Suspect, with pistol in hand, took eleven steps toward police, while being simultaneously struck by a hail of police handgun bullets, until a shotgun slug, that struck his spine between T6/T7, dropped him to the pavement. Even then, his upper body remained functional, as he retained and tried to point his handgun at police with his right hand, while he held a cigarette between his left index and second finger, with his forearm held vertical from the pavement. It took a 40S&W round to the brain stem to finally stop this threat.

In another recent case, the shootee, shot through his heart with a 9mm, and also hit in the thigh and arm, subsequently walked down a hall, down a flight of stairs, across the stair landing, and halfway down another flight of stairs before he collapsed, and thereafter died. The medical examiner and I, without speaking with one another, both noted in our reports that a man shot through the heart can subsequently remain upright, mobile, and aggressive for thirty seconds, or more!

When I started work in this field nearly forty years ago, hollowpoint handgun bullets only expanded fifty percent of the time. Today, handgun rounds from the major manufacturers expand most of the time, even when they only hit an arm, and the expanded rounds often look like the advertising photos in the gun magazines. We have the FBI to thank for this, as major ammunition manufacturers are all designing their ammo to perform well on current FBI testing protocols.”

Even so, while stopping effects seem to be better now than what occurred a few decades ago, there is still no certainty, and two suspects of the same size and physical condition, hit in the same part of the body, with the same rounds, may well behave dramatically differently.

We must train our students to expect this, and to keep firing accurately, creating distance, using cover and obstacles, reloading, and getting out of the kill-zone when possible, until the threat is stopped, or he chooses to stop!”


“This raises a not-so-subtle psychological and legal question:

When you’ve hit and downed an assailant, regardless of what your bullet(s) did mechanically, but he then partially reanimates, does he still represent the threat of continued lethal assault?

A private citizen’s job is usually limited to protecting himself, while subsequently moving to a safe place, and then notifying authorities to come take definitive charge of things. But, what about this case:

You’ve been aroused by a threatening figure in the doorway of your second-floor bedroom. You’ve been able to confirm that this person has neither reason nor leave to be there and constitutes a threat that demands a lethal response. So, you fire your weapon at him. He is down, but not unconscious. His weapon is on the floor and within his reach.

You’re in a cul-de-sac. The only way out, and to safety, is past this injured suspect. Your current cover is minimal.

It can be argued that you’ve ‘neutralized’ the threat, at least in the short term, but clearly you haven’t. You’re trapped, with no safe way to exit. Even when his flopping around on the floor seems non-purposive, how can you know? And, how can you be sure that in your present position you can make the appropriate response fast enough to save yourself, when it’s suddenly called for?

Should you:

(1) Resume shooting, even with no particular threat that you can specifically describe? Or, should you

(2) Attempt to exit past him, exposing yourself to the risk of getting close to him while he is still at least partially animated?

Or, should you:

(3) Do nothing, continually exposing yourself to the risk of him suddenly resuming his attack?

There is no ‘risk-free’ option! There is no even ‘good’ option.”

Comment: All else being equal, I’d probably execute option one, but afterward a local prosecutor may well take issue!

No guarantees!

“What’s the use of having muscles
When your life hangs by a thread
When you ain’t got no red corpuscles
Jack, you’re dead!”

Again, From “Jack, You’re Dead,”