"Handgun Wounding Factors and Effectiveness" - FBI


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Mr_Moore
October 16, 2005, 07:16 PM
I found several powerful statements in the following document:

http://www.firearmstactical.com/pdf/fbi-hwfe.pdf

This document is labeled:
FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT DISSEMINATION ONLY
but is available on the aforementioned website.

I think this document is a MUST READ. It is 19 pages long and is dated 1989.

The concept of immediate incapacitation is the only goal of any law enforcement shooting and is the underlying rationale for decisions regarding weapons, ammunition, calibers and training. While this concept is subject to conflicting theories, widely held misconceptions, and varied opinions generally distorted by personal experiences, it is critical to the analysis and selection of weapons, ammunition and calibers for use by law enforcement officers.

Physiologically, a determined adversary can be stopped reliably and immediately only by a shot that disrupts the brain or upper spinal cord. Failing a hit to the central nervous system, massive bleeding from holes in the heart or major blood vessels of the torso causing circulatory collapse is the only other way to force incapacitation upon an adversary, and this takes time. For example, there is sufficient oxygen within the brain to support full, voluntary action for 10-15 seconds after the heart has been destroyed

Yep, it said destroyed.


An issue that must be addressed is the fear of over penetration widely expressed on the part of law enforcement. The concern that a bullet would pass through the body of a subject and injure an innocent bystander is clearly exaggerated.

Choosing a bullet because of relatively shallow penetration will seriously compromise weapon effectiveness, and needlessly endanger the lives of the law enforcement officers using it.

No law enforcement officer has lost his life because a bullet over penetrated his adversary, and virtually none have ever been sued for hitting an innocent bystander through an adversary. On the other hand, tragically large numbers of officers have been killed because their bullets did not penetrate deeply enough.

"knock down" power is a myth. The critical element is penetration. The bullet must pass through the large, blood bearing organs and be of sufficient diameter to promote rapid bleeding. Penetration less than 12 inches is too little

Unless the tissue destroyed is located within the critical areas of the central nervous system, it is physiologically insufficient to force incapacitation upon the unwilling target.

Few, if any, shooting incidents will present the officer with an opportunity to take a careful, precisely aimed shot at the subject’s head ... Training is quite properly oriented towards "center of mass" shooting. That is to say, the officer is trained to shoot at the center of whatever is presented for a target. Proper shotplacement is a hit in the center of that part of the adversary which is presented, regardless of anatomy or angle.

This is probably "Old Hat" for a lot of you, but I found it interesting. It reaffirmed my decision to use a .357 as my carry piece. It reinforces my decision to practice frequently; And it backs up my decision to shoot for the center of the body rather than a head shot - just like the old gunny taught me. I was Navy but we had a lot of Marine DI's.

There are many other significant statements in this document, but I will stop wasting space and let you mine the little gems yourself.

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Old Fuff
October 16, 2005, 07:55 PM
First they say ....

Physiologically, a determined adversary can be stopped reliably and immediately only by a shot that disrupts the brain or upper spinal cord. Failing a hit to the central nervous system, massive bleeding from holes in the heart or major blood vessels of the torso causing circulatory collapse is the only other way to force incapacitation upon an adversary, and this takes time. For example, there is sufficient oxygen within the brain to support full, voluntary action for 10-15 seconds after the heart has been destroyed

And they back that up with this ...

Unless the tissue destroyed is located within the critical areas of the central nervous system, it is physiologically insufficient to force incapacitation upon the unwilling target.

But conclude that ....

Few, if any, shooting incidents will present the officer with an opportunity to take a careful, precisely aimed shot at the subject’s head ... Training is quite properly oriented towards "center of mass" shooting. That is to say, the officer is trained to shoot at the center of whatever is presented for a target.

Seems like we're getting mixed message ... :confused:

But I'm sure the FBI knows what they're doing, and that it is what's best ... right ..... Right!!!!?? :rolleyes:

Azrael256
October 16, 2005, 08:00 PM
Seems like we're getting mixed message It sounds like a thesis statement to me. You need a devastating CNS hit, but it's real hard to do. So, we go for COM because it will produce at least some effect, whereas ten misses whizzing past an aggressive perp's ear will pretty much guarantee a dead cop.

Mr_Moore
October 16, 2005, 08:03 PM
I have to agree with Azael. You take the best chance of survival that you have.

Also, even if you find the message mixed, the document provides a lot of good basic information. For example, I would have never imagined that someone shot in the heart could still function for that long. 15 seconds did not sound long until I sat down and did a 1 mississippi, 2 mississippi,...

bamawrx
October 16, 2005, 08:19 PM
Sounds like FMJ's are a valid option.

Mr_Moore
October 16, 2005, 08:35 PM
FMJ's do indeed sound like a valid option.

Old Fuff
October 16, 2005, 08:37 PM
You need a devastating CNS hit, but it's real hard to do. So, we go for COM because it will produce at least some effect, whereas ten misses whizzing past an aggressive perp's ear will pretty much guarantee a dead cop.

Yup, but the typical COM hit will often leave the attacker in good enough shape to continue shooting - at least for awhile. Maybe marksmanship and bullet placement might be more important then the latest fad in hollow-points ... :scrutiny:

vol_907
October 16, 2005, 10:18 PM
I downloaded the article and read it a couple of weeks ago. It sounded like it was a reaction to Marshall-Sanow, but this one seems to want to go to the other extreme. The truth is probably somewhere in between.

jth

Kurush
October 16, 2005, 10:49 PM
Look at the date. it has nothing to do with Marshall/Sanow. After the FBI Miami shootout (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FBI_Miami_shootout%2C_1986) in '86 the FBI realized their service revolvers weren't very good, and decided to do some research into ballistics to figure out what they should replace them with. So they got together a bunch of scientists, most notably Martin Fackler, and this is what they came up with.

Pretty much every important trend in handguns over the last 20 years, e.g. PDs moving to autos in .40 s&w, the improved JHPs like Ranger and Gold Dot, directly traces to the recommendations in that publication.

Here's another good publication on the subject: One-Shot Drops Surviving the Myth (http://www.fbi.gov/publications/leb/2004/oct2004/oct04leb.htm#page_15)

By the way, if you look around on that website (firearmstactical) you'll find a scientific paper showing statistical proof that Marshall&Sanow fabricated their one shot stop "data".

Mr_Moore
October 16, 2005, 10:59 PM
They list the relative weapons of the Miami shootout at
http://www.firearmstactical.com/briefs7.htm

Suspects:

Matix: S&W M3000 12 gauge shotgun (1 round #6 shot fired).
Platt: Ruger Mini-14 .223 Remington carbine (at least 42 rounds fired),
S&W M586 .357 Magnum revolver (3 rounds fired),
Dan Wesson .357 Magnum revolver (3 rounds fired).


FBI:

McNeill: S&W M19-3 .357 Magnum revolver, 2-inch barrel (6 rounds .38 Special +P fired).
Mireles: Remington M870 12 gauge shotgun (5 rounds 2 3/4 inch 00 buckshot fired),
.357 Magnum revolver (make & model unknown), (6 rounds .38 Special +P fired).

Grogan: S&W M459 9mm automatic pistol (9 rounds fired).
Dove: S&W M459 9mm automatic pistol (20 rounds fired).
Risner: S&W M459 9mm automatic pistol (13-14 rounds fired?),
S&W (model unknown) .38 Special revolver (1 round .38 Special +P fired).

Orrantia: S&W (model unknown) .357 Magnum revolver, 4 inch barrel (12 rounds .38 Special +P fired).
Hanlon: S&W (model unknown) .38 Special revolver, 2-inch barrel (5 rounds .38 Special +P fired).
Manauzzi: Apparently lost possession of his handgun during the vehicle collision and was unable to locate and recover it during the gunfight (0 rounds fired)

_______________________

Looks like the good guys were seriously outgunned.

Kurush
October 17, 2005, 03:20 AM
Sure, they were outgunned, but interesting thing was Platt continued fighting even after being shot repeatedly. He was shot, IIRC, 12 times, including a mortal wound early in the fight. Platt killed several agents even as he was dying (he didn't watch enough movies to know he was supposed to get the vapors and collapse dramatically :p ). The FBI determined that if the bullets they used had penetrated deeper the situation would have turned out differently.

Here's a more detailed account of it: http://www.thegunzone.com/11april86.html

NineseveN
October 17, 2005, 03:42 AM
Yup, but the typical COM hit will often leave the attacker in good enough shape to continue shooting - at least for awhile. Maybe marksmanship and bullet placement might be more important then the latest fad in hollow-points ...

Try this once...

Put a cantalope on a coiled spring, and attach it to a log stading up to about 5.5 feet in the air. Now bend that spring with the melon on top about 50 degrees and let it go.

Now take about 25 steps back.

Have a partner start a stopwatch as soon as you draw.

Draw your gun and go to town.

Now count how long it took you to put even one round into the melon.

For every second, that's at least one COM hit the BG had the chance to make on you.

No repeat the test, only ignore the melon, shoot the log. Compare results.

Placement is important, but COM is the best solution when both parties know the intent for the other to do them harm. It's hard to swivel your entire mid section, but the head is simply a melon on a spring, and offers at best, half of the prime real estate that the chest/midsection does.

Bullet selection is VERY key, caliber is not as much of a player in handguns...but the right bullet and load is nearly as crucial as shot placement.

goalie
October 17, 2005, 04:04 AM
For some reason I can't help wondering how many people that advocate head-shots with a handgun have ever had to shoot at someone that was shooting back???

I also can't help thinking that the answer to the above question is a really, really low number.

Onmilo
October 17, 2005, 08:50 AM
Those that advocate head shots are those that realize many, many gunfights take place at very close ranges and head shots are possible and probable.
No one advocates attempting a head shot at twenty five meters, however, many of the gunshot wounds being inflicted on American, Coalition, and enemy forces are head shots.
Reason being is that everyone is well aware that everyone else is wearing body armor and a connected head shot will inflict far more damage than a bullet to the vest.
News flash, most all Military rifle rounds WILL penetrate the standard Kevlar helmet and inflict a lethal if not fatal wound.
Most Military rifle rounds will NOT penetrate current body armor if the ceramic plates are actually inserted into the vest pocket.
This type of shooting is mainly with full power Military long guns at ranges of a few feet to several dozens of yards/meters.
Again most handgun encounters are measured in feet, not meters or yards.
When armed with a handgun and facing an opponent who is armed with a long gun, the prudent action is to withdraw, no one will expect you to attempt a headshot in this circumstance.

Old Fuff
October 17, 2005, 09:20 AM
NineseveN:

Better yet, rig a B-27 silhouette target so that it can be edged, faced toward the shooter, and then edged away. Then conduct your tests from 3 to 25 yards - or longer if you want.

Making head shots, especially at longer ranges takes some marksmanship skills, but I have that ability. Five-yard headshots are not all that difficult, even on a moving target. A friend of mine, a former police officer, made a deliberate head shot at a subject who was holding a female hostage in front of him, and hit him without touching the hostage. Range is unknown, but I think it was probably around 25 feet. The officer had a S&W model 19/4" revolver.

Obviously headshots are not always practical. But they may be the only way to turn off the lights INSTANTLY when someone is attacking you, and that person will have an advantage because under the rules of engagement you can't use deadly force until you are attacked. If shooting is involved the other party will usually get to make the first one, if not more.

I had a customer in a gunshop once that had a new handgun. He said to me, ... with my new pistol I can hit someone standing in that door." The distance wasn’t very great, and I replied, "yes, but at this distance I can hit the doorknob."

antsi
October 17, 2005, 10:29 AM
Seems like we're getting mixed message ... :confused:

But I'm sure the FBI knows what they're doing, and that it is what's best ... right ..... Right!!!!?? :rolleyes:

You're right in that they are pointing out a kind of paradox: realistic shooting tactics call for center of mass shots, but physiologically, instant incapacitation reqires a central nervous system shot. It's not that they are crazy, it's that there are conflicting realities here.

It's like saying, "the easiest pistols to CCW are those that are very small and thin," but also admitting that "ideally one would want to CCW a large caliber, high-capacity pistol." By saying both these things, you are acknowledging that reality sometimes presents conflicting factors. It doesn't mean you're crazy, though.

NineseveN
October 17, 2005, 11:33 AM
Old Fluff and Onmilo:

Apples to oranges.


1. The headshots being executed in the military examples are being done with rifles. Not terribly difficult when you are in a combat situation and you know you'll have to shoot someone. Part of riflemanship in the field is using terrain and distance to your advantage. You get to set up your shot. I seriously doubt that these headshots are being made during reactions to Coalition ambushes or assault. That is a whole different ball game.

2. Police situation with a hostage: News flash, most of us are not cops. We are statistically less likely to be a third party witness to a hostage situation than we are to be the victim of an assault requiring defensive use of our firearms. Again, taking a headshot on a hostage taker is a little different. I don't know the details about your particular incident. But most hostage situations last MUCH longer than a typical assault like the kind us civilians would need to defend ourselves in. That time is usually spent with the Officer covering the HT with their sights, so yes, an aimed headshot is possible. Hostage takers and unsuspecting soldiers are not often moving very fast, if at all. If you can draw your weapon and make a headshot on someone while they are bearing down on you from 10 yards with a gun of their own firing on you...well, my hat is off to you I guess.

Aside form that, the only SURE way to get a "lights out" effect is to directly hit the CNS at the base of the spinal column area, usually low on the neck, the shot is taken from the rear. Head shots from a frontal position don't guarantee much. The skull is round, it can force a bullet to glance off to the side and hit a less vital area of the brain. people can live a VERY long time with damage to their brain tissue. So unless you get lucky and your bullet enters the head and takes a straight-horizontal descent towards the base of the spine at the neck or other area of the spine and severs the cord, well, you're not guaranteed anything.


Doing this at the range, when you are not being shot at, and you know what you are there for (to shoot) are completely different than being put into a position where out of the blue, you are forced to use your handgun for defensive purposes while out in the non-range world.

Zak Smith
October 17, 2005, 11:44 AM
I quote the HWFE paper in just about every terminal-ballistics threads I post to here, and on TFL. It provides a great background to modern terminal ballistics, and the basis for a lot of tactics.

antsi is right that it's not a "paradox", just two facts which contribute to a more complicated answer than we'd like.

Many tactical schools are teaching for "upper COM" shots, which is defined roughly by a triangle from the nipple/breastbone area up to a point at the base of the neck. This increases the probability of destroying the heart and/or the largest blood vessels, and hitting some CNS component (spine).

Also note that a larger diameter hole will increase the probability of hitting a CNS component or large blood vessel and will cause more bleeding in any case, provided enough penetration occurs. The conclusion I drew was that I want a consistently-expanding bullet which will penetrate "enough" (12-16").

Here is a table I put together which analyzes all the rounds I could find FBI-protocol data for, in order of average penetration*diameter for clothed and bare gel

http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/firearms/fbi-pistol.php?sort=grade1

saltydog452
October 17, 2005, 11:54 AM
didn't George 'Baby Face' Nelson escape a gun battle with Federal agents after being hit over a dozen times with 45ACP ball ammo? He later died of his wounds, but survived long enough to not only return fire, but to escape.

My memory is a bit fuzzy on the actual details and I can't find my source. Maybe memory loss is directly proportinal to hair loss.

salty.

one-shot-one
October 17, 2005, 11:57 AM
on the "zipper" method?
basicly pointing your 1st shot at the BG's lower chest (diaphram) and triple taping up to upper chest or head.[lower chest/center chest/upper chest-neck-head].
popular training from an internet gun guru.

Old Fuff
October 17, 2005, 01:06 PM
Apples to oranges.

Doesn't change reality. Too many folks think that a hit anywhere in the COM will do the job so long as they are using a Magnum with a trick-bullet (we know it's good because it performs well on jelly). But as the FBI report says, those with any experience know that the only probable way to make an instant stop is to hit somewhere in the central nervous system.

But defensive training seldom takes this into consideration, and rather then change the emphasis, the common response is to explain why such shots shouldn’t or can’t be made. If anyone wants to accept the proposition that “any hit is a good one,” or “COM hits will do,” that’s their business.

But I know of cases where COM shots failed to stop an attack, and sometimes the attacker survived multiple hits and killed his opponent.

I believe that many, if not most, so-called “one shot stops” are caused by where the bullet hit, and not necessarily its construction or caliber (within reason), which is why some have taken hits from 12 gage slugs and/or buckshot, let alone any handgun, and still been functional enough to continue doing what ever they were doing.

Yes, head shots require more then usual marksmanship skills, and I suspect that in many cases both individuals and organizations are not willing to make the effort to develop those skills.

Of course head shots are optional, depending on the circumstances.

But a person that doesn't have the ability also doesn't have an option - even though it might save his or her life.

ghost squire
October 17, 2005, 01:09 PM
I swear if someone says newsflash one more time there head becomes a melon on a spring to me!

NineseveN
October 17, 2005, 01:34 PM
News Flash. :neener:

NineseveN
October 17, 2005, 01:40 PM
Old Fluff, I agree with a lot of what you are saying, but I simply see your position as the opposite end of an extreme, and thus another extreme.

Too many folks think that a hit anywhere in the COM will do the job so long as they are using a Magnum with a trick-bullet (we know it's good because it performs well on jelly)

True. But bullet construction is a very important factor that you cannot simply brush aside. In handguns, it has been shown that no service caliber is a great choice for total incapacitation, but it's what we have, so we use the best examples we can find.

But as the FBI report says, those with any experience know that the only probable way to make an instant stop is to hit somewhere in the central nervous system.

Which anyone with experience will likely tell you, rarely presents itself as an opportunity in the field, under real world conditions.

But I know of cases where COM shots failed to stop an attack, and sometimes the attacker survived multiple hits and killed his opponent.

There are also cases where headshots failed to totally or immediately incapacitate an individual when fired from a handgun. Rifles are a different story.

I believe that many, if not most, so-called “one shot stops” are caused by where the bullet hit, and not necessarily its construction or caliber (within reason), which is why some have taken hits from 12 gage slugs and/or buckshot, let alone any handgun, and still been functional enough to continue doing what ever they were doing.

The "one-stop-shot" thing is completely misleading and proven to be a farce time and time again. In the field, you shoot until the threat is gone, in the heat of combat, there is no immediate and accurate measure that can stop one from tossing out another round just in case. In many cases, an attacker could have been incapacitated on the first shot to COM, but because the recognition of thier death by the shooter is not instant, another round or even several are fired. This is not duck hunt, we're talking an often panciked situation happening in mere seconds. I don't know about you, but if I were to have to fire a round at someone, I am firing all I can get off until I am VERY sure the threat ceases to exist. I don't care if it's the first or the last shot that killed the attacker, as long as one of them does it, I won't be counting. Anyone worth shooting once is worth shooting twice.

I agree that bullet type, construction or caliber is not the sole factor in terminal ballistics, but it is a very important one. A bullet that does not penetrate 12 inches in gelatin is unlikely to penetrate the skull of an attacker and incapacitate for a head shot. And even so, again, damage to the brain tissue is not a wonder-trick one-stop-shot. Brain tissue is not the CNS you are looking for. It does not give you instant "lights out".


Yes, head shots require more then usual marksmanship skills, and I suspect that in many cases both individuals and organizations are not willing to make the effort to develop those skills.

Of course head shots are optional, depending on the circumstances.

But a person that doesn't have the ability also doesn't have an option - even though it might save his or her life.

All of this is true, but the opportunity for an instant lights out headshot is rare. Shooting someone in the face or forehead does not guarantee that. You should train your ability to be able to make a headshot when needed, I agree, but it is generally not the best option in a civilian scenario when one is put on the defensive without much warning, no matter how much skill you have. Poeple can survive head shots and damage to brain tissue just as easily as they can a hit to a vital organ. If you can guarantee a hit on the spinal cord, and also guarantee the severing of that cord, from a shot to the head, more power to you.

Two to the COM, one to the head, rinse and repeat if necessary.

Old Fuff
October 17, 2005, 04:23 PM
Old Fluff, I agree with a lot of what you are saying, but I simply see your position as the opposite end of an extreme, and thus another extreme.

Perhaps that's because you see me as proposing head shots under any and all circumstances, which I'm not. What I am saying is that when there is an opportunity it's an option that shouldn't be passed over.

In a usual (if there is such a thing) police/civilian gunfight the rules of engagement gives the advantage to the other party(s) in that the good guys have to react to an attack, rather then start one. Once one is under a potentially lethal attack, survival may depend on how quickly the attacker can be disabled to the point where they can't continue doing what they are. Often the distance is very short, and sometimes can be measured in feet rather then yards. In such a situation a head shot may be viable - if, and only if - the person under attack has the skill to make such a shot. When they do they should, rather then risk letting the fight go on with a likelyhood that they might get seriously wounded or killed.

Dependence on a particular bullet's construction and/or design may make some feel warm and fuzzy. But as I pointed out, such bullets don't always perform the same in real life as they do in labratory tests. The critical measure is that it penetrate as far as necessary, regardless of what may be between the shooter and the intended target. This may result in over-penetration in some instances, but I'm not going to lose any sleep over it. Too much is better then too little (again within reason.). In situations where over-penetration poses serious risks a low-velocity/large-bore may be the best choice.

Much of what I've pointed out has too do with training and practice. Here again everyone has to decide what they want, and what the object is. But I don't reject any option simply because learning too do it is difficult. Hopefully others won't either.

Bobo
October 17, 2005, 04:33 PM
Shoot to COM,

if and when the head becomes an easy target

shoot to head.

NineseveN
October 17, 2005, 04:44 PM
Fluff, I don't see anyone discounting your opinion. I am sure we would all take a head shot if it were a viable situation at the time. I don't think anyone said that head shots are taboo, just that the situational reality is likely to be that such a shot is not practical, possible or any better than COM for a variety of reasons (such as those I already pointed out). The point is, in a defensive situation, you fire at the real estate that your target gives. You don't have time to wait for that perfect shot. Sometimes you're going to have a viable head shot, and only that shot. Sometimes it might be a viable shot to take one at the pelvis or lower extremities. Sometimes the only or most viable option is COM.


Regardless of what you shoot at, bullet quality and construction simply cannot be discounted except by the inept. There is no magic bullet, and no one in this thread is saying so, at least that I can see.

What has been said is that the right bullet is a very important factor in terminal ballistics.

I wouldn't want a mag full of S&B FMJ or WWB FMJ for defensive purposes unless that was my only option.

I carry 230gr .45+p Winchester Ranger Talons in my carry gun and all 7 of my spare mags.

I do practice head shots, double taps, mag dumps, fail and clear exercises, mag switches, shooting from behind cover, moving and shooting, drawing and firing, firing with my weak hand etc...just in case the only opportunity I have is one of those listed above.

I carry those 230 grainers in an HK USP .45 Compact. Why? because it is one of the most durable, reliable and accurate .45's on the market and I shoot it better than anything else I have ever shot. Why a .45? Because sometimes JHP's don't expand, but they never shrink. All things equal, 9mm expands to near the same size as .45 does, but unexpanded, the .45 wins hands down for size with similar penetration. I get 9 rounds in my compact HK, that’s enough for me.

However, some folks cannot shoot a .45 very well or perhaps their build does not allow them conceal evena comapct .45. For them, a 9mm or something else is a better bet because a miss with anything is bad, a hit with anything is better than nothing.

There are 4 variables one needs to consider for defensive shooting.


Caliber - Find the most reliable, powerful, laboratory and street (anecdotal, but coloaboratory and good if available) tested round you can handle comfortably.
Platform - Find a reliable firearm from a reputable manufacturer to chamber that round.
Marksmanship - Develop your skills in handling, drawing, firing, movement while firing, firing behind concealment, firing from off angles and at different target areas etc...
Mindset - Develop the right mindset to act fast, stay alert, be prepared to take a life, take note of your surroundings, always have at least 2 exit strategies, make a note of cover and those around you everywhere you go etc...

Any one or two of those without the rest are functionally useless and are more situational and prone to blind luck rather than training or skill.

You cannot discount any of those aspects, nor can one outweigh the other.


As for discounting the overpenetration issue, you are legally responsible for each and every bullet that leaves your firearm. Serving prison time and being in finacial, emotional and family ruin is not much of a step up from being dead or wounded and robbed. Sad thing is, the onus is on the good guys to do things right, not simply to do them 'good enough'.

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