Archive for August, 2012

The on-going caliber war in almost every gun forum on the internet will never end.  Many times the same cliched points are repeated over and over.

Handguns, even the holy 10mm , are puny compared to ANY centerfire long gun round.   Velocity or weight matter, and a .223 (fast) or 12 gauge slug (heavy) will ruin your day without fail.  Yet, despite all the hype, zombie bullets, and laser targeting systems around these days,  most people shot with handguns DO NOT die. 

Stopping an attack does not automatically require a fatal shot, which is very often overlooked when arguing ballistic gelatin tests.

Having seen more than a few gunshot wounds in my life, I must point out that it is nearly impossible to differentiate a .22, .380, 9mm, .40 or .45 wound without examining the projectile.   (Conversely, it is very easy to tell a rifle or shotgun wound from a handgun wound.)

Skin is elastic and has compensatory mechanisms to limit bleeding.  While paper targets and gelatin “stay” wounded,  actual skin does not, and this makes the size of the hole irrelevant.  Handgun velocities do not create significant wound cavities outside the path of the projectile.

Exsanguination, so called “bleeding out”, is much more rapid if something that lacks effective compensatory methods is hit. (E.G.: A hole in the heart, or a major (torso) blood vessel will probably be fatal, though not instantly.   A hole in an extremity may eventually lead to shock, but this is an easy 10 minute or more process on most cases.)

Few new issues to consider in the caliber wars:

Hollow points are much improved in recent years from those available in the past  Very often hollow points get clogged (by thick clothing for example.)  This makes them into hardball, and hence less effective than designed.  (A clogged .45 still makes a .45 hole.  While a well-designed 9mm can achieve up to .60 expansion — once clogged, it is just a .355 FMJ round that weighs about half as much as the .45 bullet)

“Hard” areas of the body (pelvis, arms bones in defensive position, sternum, skull) will resist penetration by light bullets. Even if you don’t hit a vital area that causes a bleed-out (slow process) the PAIN (or structural incapacity) of a shattered bone can cause an attacker to discontinue an attack (fast) or allow your escape, even if not fatally wounded.

(I feel this alone is the most significant element of the .45 ACP’s reputation as a “manstopper”.)

Capacity:  Not all .45s carry just 8 rounds.  For example, an XD45 carries 13+1, with a grip length less than an inch longer than the Glock 19 (which carries 15+1.) I don’t find the recoil on this particular .45 objectionable at all, being more of a “push” than a “snap” when fired (unlike a .40S&W).  The .45 is a real hoot to shoot, and is a whole different animal than .40 or recoil.

I have both of the above mentioned guns, and carry them easily in appendix position. The ammo for .45 is more expensive to buy, but reloads are not much more than 9mm reloads, so practice time doesn’t really break the bank. (Commercial JHP carry rounds are essentially the same price.)

I think “caliber wars” that ignore physiological effects of pain and structural damage, versus just the size of the hole (or wound tract), overlook an VERY important component of overall effectiveness.   For example:  .357sig has a reported “lightning bolt” effect on people, just by driving a 9mm bullet at very high velocities and having very high penetration capabilities (– this comes at the cost of added recoil and muzzle blast.)  If your plans include penetrating cover (windshield, car door, plasterboard) a higher velocity round is more desirable than a slower one.  This is not a likely requirement in civilian defense use, though police and military do have such a need. 

It seems to me that rounds that are either very fast (.357 magnum/sig) or very heavy (.45acp) do their job the best.  (Put your hands down 10mm guys — I know what you want to say.)

A 9mm (blue) versus .45 (red) round.
Who wants to get hit by an itty-bitty .223 (teal) bullet?

In summary:  The “size” of the bullet hole really doesn’t matter as much as we think it does, and expansion while helpful (more is naturally better), is not the most important factor in stopping power effectiveness, especially since it is unpredictable in anything but gelatin.  Just damaging an opponent enough to allow your escape counts as “a win” in my civilian playbook.  Their death isn’t mandatory, despite the mythological “one shot stop” hype manufacturers spew.

Everything is a compromise, and I alternate between the two rounds depending on where I am going, and what dress it requires. In the end, the gun in your pocket (when you need it) is a much more effective round than the most “awesome flying round of instant death” gun that isn’t carried.

Tell me why I’m wrong, and how my family is descended from brain-damaged monkeys below: