Penetrating a skull (head) ?


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Bullet
November 2, 2007, 11:06 PM
Iíve seen lots of cartridges tested in ballistic gelatin but nothing about how different cartridges would do at penetrating a skull (head) at close range 4 feet or less. Would a 38 Special be reliable for this? Would lead or jacketed bullets be better? What do you think the smallest cartridge that you could count on to penetrate a skull be (at close range)?

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rockstar.esq
November 2, 2007, 11:11 PM
I'm going to guess (and hope) that you're a livestock farmer looking for a humane option rather than something less friendly.

To answer your question, the old fashioned pine board tests were something of an indicator for strict penetration through stiff material. Even the humble .22 short has been shown to work pretty well.

North of 49th
November 2, 2007, 11:12 PM
At a 4 foot range a 38 special would destroy a skull. Either lead or Jacketed would work well although i would probably go for jacketet for better penetraton. As for smallest caliber... at that range i would say anything that is bigger than a .22 will do just fine.

AntiqueCollector
November 2, 2007, 11:16 PM
Wouldn't take a terribly powerful round on a human. Look what a soft lead roundball powered by blackpowder did to Lincoln's head...I would think 38 special would do just fine.

plexreticle
November 2, 2007, 11:16 PM
Hit the surface straight as possible. I've seen some pretty heavy duty handgun rounds graze off a pig's skull.

esheato
November 2, 2007, 11:17 PM
I've got a friend who is a ranch butcher. He puts down about four animals a day, every day, with a .22LR out of a Marlin rifle. Of course, he's been at this for a looong time so he knows where to shoot but still....22 is an awfully small bullet for cattle and such.

On the other hand, I put down a buffalo with a .405 Win between the eyes. Overkill, oh yeah....but it worked. :o

Ed

C-grunt
November 2, 2007, 11:18 PM
Posted last week about a guy getting shot with a .22lr and it penetrating through through the bridge of the nose and exiting in front of the ear.

RyanM
November 2, 2007, 11:19 PM
Given anecdotal reports, I wouldn't have much confidence in any firearm definitely penetrating a skull, especially not a pistol.

Your best bet is either hard cast lead (with the hardest alloy possible) or jacketed (not plated!), flatnose bullet, with as sharp a shoulder on the flatnose as possible. Either that, or a jacketed (not plated!) hollowpoint with a wide hollowpoint nose, and a sharp hollowpoint opening. For the skull only, bullet weight doesn't matter a whole lot, but you want decent velocity, preferrably over 1,000 fps.

Bullets which are rounded and/or soft have a much higher chance of glancing off the skull, if the angle isn't ideal. .22 short or something will penetrate a skull just fine if it's at point blank range, perfectly perpendicular to the bone, but if you have to be further away, you want every advantage you can get.

I've heard of .22 LR penetrating skulls from a mile away, but also of a .30-30 right between the eyes failing to penetrate a deer's skull. All in all, you're best off using a round that will be as effective as possible for its intended use and shot placement.

eliphalet
November 2, 2007, 11:27 PM
I guess it would depend on the skull and the degree of angle the projectile was shot from. Most things shot hit at a 90 degree angle would be DRT, a large angry bovine bull hit at a 45 degree angle just might proceed to kill you afterward.
I have killed and seen killed plenty of critters large and small with a 22 at close range through the skull, but I wouldn't recommend shooting a buffalo's forehead at close range with a 38 unprotected in a open field.

crebralfix
November 2, 2007, 11:32 PM
Jim Cirillo talked about this in his book _Guns, Bullets, and Gunfights_. Basically, in his experience in shooting people in the head, the 38 Special round he was using was inadequate.

He used "Pin Grabber" bullets or fully flat ended bullets with a slot. The "Pin Grabber" bullet is a hollow point round with serrated edges. The points on the serrations tended to grab into round surfaces, including metal and bone. He tried many different bullets and shot them at rounded objects in his research.

James T Thomas
November 2, 2007, 11:37 PM
There was a very sucessfull British spy who killed quite a few high ranking German officers during WWII. Not fiction, but the real thing.

Somewhere I read his recommendation for nothing less than the ubitiquous 380 ACP. He had shot several officers prior to using the 380, and his experience said the lesser rounds had been inadequate for the purpose.
Whether he had to shoot repeatedly, or that incapacitation was not instant; I don't recall.

Perhaps a reader knows of this and can contribute.

standerson
November 3, 2007, 01:00 AM
About 30 years ago, an elderly lady was sitting in her home in WV. 2 bad guys kicked in her door in a robbery attempt. She pulled out her .22 wheel gun and gut shot the first one.

The second one got a 22 long right between the running lights.

DRT.

The piece of the guys skull with the hole in it was in the Criminal Justice Department at WVU at Parkersburg.

Soybomb
November 3, 2007, 01:14 AM
Your best bet is either hard cast lead (with the hardest alloy possible) or jacketed (not plated!), flatnose bullet, with as sharp a shoulder on the flatnose as possible.
A wad cutter would definately be my choice.

There's alot of stories about people being shot with .22's here. I've seen a disturbing number of news stories of people living through shots to the head with .32's though also. Should we rely on either as evidence of failure or not here?

bdjansen
November 3, 2007, 03:12 AM
This has been talked about plenty. Any ammo will do it. It doesn't take very much energy to break through a skull bone.

There are always stories of people living after getting shot in the head. All that means is it was their lucky day.

But the scientific fact is that there is enough energy to penetrate a skull from any ammo. Be safe with your 22. It is a very deadly weapon.

brickeyee
November 3, 2007, 01:30 PM
A lot of hogs go down to a .22RF every year.
One squeal and a few shakes.
Cut the legs, pick them up with the tongs on the back of the tractor.

ernunnos
November 3, 2007, 03:27 PM
With all armor, be it steel or bone, it's important to hit it squarely. Only applied energy counts. I've heard several anecdotal stories of bullets sliding around the skull, underneath the skin. Sometimes even exiting again on the other side. I believe Jim Cirillo invented his pin grabber round to keep bullets from sliding off of auto glass, but the principle is the same. A bullet with a sharp shoulder or edge (like a pin grabber, a wadcutter or even a hollowpoint) will bite into the surface and turn the bullet.

Harry Paget Flashman
November 3, 2007, 05:36 PM
I have seen a .357 hollow point glance off the skull of a cow and a .357 black talon not put down an aggressive Barbados ram with a head shot. It was messy. If I wanted to humanely put down a cow I'd use a 12ga slug. On the other hand I have dispatched sickly goats with a .22LR.

.44walkersabot
November 3, 2007, 05:57 PM
Need proper terminology here. Are we speaking of penetrating the skull, smashing in the side of the skull, or blowing the skull clean off? Anybody out there ever stop to think for a moment about how many people in this world have gotten their brains blown out by a handgun? Quite a lot of them I can assure you. Now as 2 follows 1, and b follows a, how did these people get their brains blown out if the round didn't penetrate the skull, hmmmnnnn??

Harley Quinn
November 3, 2007, 06:04 PM
Here we are again, it has to do with "placement" into the area of the "Brainstem" to do the best job.

http://www.primatesociety.com/Into/survival/timeline/textEvol.html

:)

defjon
November 3, 2007, 07:06 PM
...

This is about zombies, isn't it? :D

rcmodel
November 3, 2007, 07:12 PM
but also of a .30-30 right between the eyes failing to penetrate a deer's skull.I call Shenanigan's on that one right there!
A deers skull is so thin you could poke a screwdriver through it without any problem, or working up a sweat.

http://i81.photobucket.com/albums/j219/rcmodel/KTOG/1224.gif
rcmodel

revjen45
November 3, 2007, 08:22 PM
"I've heard several anecdotal stories of bullets sliding around the skull, underneath the skin."
Here's another. A person I knew in the V-Twin oriented social millieu claimed to have shot someone who welched on a bet in the forehead at close range with a .25ACP RNFMJ. The welcher fell down bleeding. The shooter left and contemplated the consequences of a murder beef. Having already spent a major portion of his life in prison, he knew the drill. The next day much to the shooter's relief the welcher dropped by with a big bandange on his head to pay the debt. The bullet had failed to penetrate and gone around the top of the shootee's head under the scalp. The moral of the story is: don't shoot people over minor debts, and if you're gonna shoot somebody use a real gun.

Snarlingiron
November 3, 2007, 08:30 PM
In two pistol classes by two different instructors, I have been taught that the only really reliable head shot is in the occular / nasal area. Anywhere else is likley to glance off, regardless of caliber. There are many many indicidents of people being shot in the head with no other particular effect than a headache and some bleeding. Of course there are lots of examples where the shot had the desired effect too. Point being you can't rely on it having the desired effect unless you put it in the right spot.

.cheese.
November 4, 2007, 01:50 AM
This is about zombies, isn't it?

No. He would have specified the frontal lobe if it was.

Owen Sparks
November 4, 2007, 01:47 AM
This thread really sounds like someone is looking for advice on how to off themselves.

When I was in highschool I saw the aftermath of an attempted suicide with a small .25 to the temple. This guy was a problem alcoholic and shot himself in his front yard. I was visiting someone several houses away and we all went to see what the comotion was about. The bullet actually bounced off his skull. It looked like someone stubbed out a cigar on his head but he survived. He was sitting up and talking when the paramedics arrived.

Bullet
November 4, 2007, 02:32 AM
Owen Sparks
This thread really sounds like someone is looking for advice on how to off themselves.

I started this thread because I know a girl that wants a handgun for home defense. Iím not sure if she had a gun she would practice enough to be a very good shot and she doesnít handle recoil very well. So I wondered about a 38 Special for her (or even something smaller) with instructions that if she ever used it and her attacker kept coming as a last resort put it to the attackers head and pull the trigger. But I wondered if a 38 Special would get the job done. I hear so much about shot placement in regards to the body but nothing about head shots, so my question.

MachIVshooter
November 4, 2007, 03:07 AM
Virtually any cartridge from the .22 short on up can penetrate a human skull. However, as others have touched on, the angle of impact (and area) matter very much. There are a lot of dead folks from rimfire rounds to the peanut, and plenty of individuals still walking around after 9mm, .40 and .45 caliber slugs failed to enter. If you watch the trauma shows on Discovery health or read reports of GSW victims, you'll see that rounds glancing off of skulls (particularly the top and forehead) is not all that uncommon. Also, GSW's to the face tend to have very erratic bullet paths, often doing such things as entering the chin and exiting around the ear after traveling along the lower jaw bone.

Of course, as a defensive situation is concerned, killing the attacker is not the object; stopping them is. Whether they survive is really a secondary concern. A wound that incapacitates them immediately but does not kill them is fine. OTOH, a shot that they die from hours later isn't any comfort to the victim if the BG was able to follow through with their attack, despite the injury.

On that note, being shot does tend to decisively end conflicts most of the time.

hemiram
November 4, 2007, 03:37 AM
Well, getting back to the glance off skull thing..

When I worked security in a hotel, we had a family staying with us. There were the two elderly parents, and their two thirty something children. The daughter was fine, but the son was a mental patient, who decided to stop taking his pills a few days before they left on their trip. :eek:

About 8PM on the third night they were there, the son produced a very nasty looking old Model 28 that had seen better days, and held his parents and sister at gunpoint, screaming he was going to kill them for being "Satan's minions", and "attacking my mind". We found out about it when the front desk called to ask if they were going to be checking out. He got a tirade from the son instead, we called the police. When the first two cops arrived, they called him and he fired off a round. It went out the window, and took a chunk off the building next door, causing pedestrians to run for cover. :what:

A negotiator and the SWAT team showed up, along with a lot more police. They tried to talk to him, but he got more and more agitated. One of the SWAT team members went up to the room to see if there was any way to do anything, and surprisingly, the door was wide open. After he was shot at, the command officers talked a while and one of the strange looking police dogs they had then was brought in. He was getting old, and was a very nasty piece of work in general. Looked like a big headed black Lab with a smaller than normal body. Since he was going to be "retired" soon, they decided to let him go in, and when the son was being occupied, rush in and take him down. I was on the street keeping people from walking around the corner and possibly getting hit. They called the son and told him if he didn't come down, the dog was coming up. I thought to myself "And what if he closes the door?"
But they didn't think of that. :confused:

Four policemen in full body armor went up the stairs, got set and they let the dog loose. He ran into the room, and we hear the gun go off, BOOM, and then someone started screaming. A lot. Suddenly the parents and the sister appear, shaken up but unhurt. An ambulance pulls up, and the son is brought down, totally covered in blood. He's strapped down and fighting pretty good, but they just ignored his ravings, and loaded him up and they took him away.

A few minutes later, the dog appears, quite pleased with himself. He has a hole right between his eyes, and lots of powder burns on his eyes. The bullet went right up the crevice most dogs have between their eyes and under the skin and out the back of his head and into the wall. Needless to say, the dog got very angry because of being shot, and proceeded to munch the son pretty badly before the SWAT guys came in and rescued him. Since they were less than 10 feet away, I guess they wanted to make sure he was busy before they went in. :rolleyes:

When he got to the hospital, the doctors took xrays after knocking him out and almost all his injuries were to his hands and groin. They took X-rays and were looking at them puzzled. The cop there watching the son asked them why were they so confused. The one doctor says, "We can't see any pellets!"
The cop laughs and says, "He wasn't shotgunned, a dog did that to him after he shot it!" The doctors shook their heads in amazement. :D

A couple of days later, I look and see the family, son included, getting into a cab to go the airport. The son was moving very carefully, but not bad considering the damage the dog did to him. They ended up paying us for damge to the window and door, and the DA eventually dropped the charges.
The dog died of cancer about a year later. They said he was a much nicer dog after the shooting than he was previously. ;)

Rustynuts
November 4, 2007, 07:48 AM
Isn't the 22 the caliber of choice for assassins/hit men? Bullet goes in at the right spot, but doesn't have the energy for thru-and-thru. Bullet then bounces around inside the noggin making mincemeat of the brain.

The Annoyed Man
November 4, 2007, 08:21 AM
Bullet, I gotta say man, that is a freaky question.

I actually had an answer all typed up, but I'm not gonna post it.

Slugless
November 4, 2007, 09:02 AM
+1 Annoyed Man.

Yet another thread with bad karma.

(Hey, the link to the annoyed man website doesn't load)

Double Naught Spy
November 4, 2007, 09:37 AM
This thread really sounds like someone is looking for advice on how to off themselves.

Given that the request was one for the smallest caliber, I didn't think this was suicide related at all. Then Bullet made his second post and things got weirder.

I started this thread because I know a girl that wants a handgun for home defense. I’m not sure if she had a gun she would practice enough to be a very good shot and she doesn’t handle recoil very well. So I wondered about a 38 Special for her (or even something smaller) with instructions that if she ever used it and her attacker kept coming as a last resort put it to the attackers head and pull the trigger. But I wondered if a 38 Special would get the job done. I hear so much about shot placement in regards to the body but nothing about head shots, so my question.

Bullet, tell your female friend to get real profession gun help. Your advice is a bit hokey in that it is very hard for an unskilled shooter to hit a moving head-sized target, especially with a revolver. She is going to have enough problems hitting a human-torso sized target. As for not hearing much about head shots, have you used the search function? This isn't an unusual topic at all. I am surprised the usual ubiquitous Mossad example response hasn't been posted...on how they use .22 lr. for head shots and have done quite with with a .22 lr. Of course, the problem there is that they aren't doing self defense, but assassination. It is much easier to hit a slow moving or stationary small target than one that is attached to a body trying to kill you.

Black Knight
November 4, 2007, 12:43 PM
There seems to be two thoughts here. First is the .38 Special good enough for home defense and the second will the .38 Special penetrate the human skull. I am a little leary of this but I'll bite. First the .38 Special is fine for home defense. I carried a .357 Magnum loaded with 125 Gr. SJHP .38 Special +P as a private security officer for many years and never felt under gunned. It is a very fine round with light recoil. In the 1990's it was the load that the Federal Protective Service (General Services Administration Police) required us to carry when working. Second, one of my uncles killed himself with his son's former off duty gun (a snub nosed .38 Special). This happened years after my cousin left the Police Department he worked for. So can the .38 Special penetrate the human skull? In a word, yes. Be smart and get training first.

This type of question gives the impression that you or someone else want to kill yourself or someone else (execution style). For home defense you shoot for the center mass of the target offered and only with the intent to stop your attacker from harming you or a loved one.

Silvanus
November 4, 2007, 01:41 PM
A few month ago a man got shot in the head by a police officer. They carry S&W 686s with some sort of plastic tipped, hollow point .38specials here. (I think they are the same rounds the German police carries. http://www.ruag-ammotec.ch/ammotec/en/products_pistol_ammunition/9mm_action.htm?navid=42) It was a very strange story...I think it was an accident or something, I can't remember the facts right now. But the man who got shot still lives.

geekWithA.45
November 4, 2007, 01:50 PM
I am hard pressed to see how this thread furthers THR's mission.

I can easily imagine how it would work against it though, and therefore, we're done.

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