Trustworth Statistics on Handgun Stopping Power


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Timthinker
January 19, 2008, 06:03 PM
The topic of handgun stopping power always draws an audience. And why not? The issue of handgun stopping power is more than a theoretically interesting topic, but one that is critically practical for LEOs and others dependent upon handguns for self-protection. But what trustworthy studies exist on this important subject? That is the topic I wish to discuss here.

Obviously, many anecdotal discussions address this topic. Also, many "I say/you say" conservations exist on this matter as well. But I would like to read about studies that our contributors consider reliable evidence regarding handgun stopping power. Please note that others will question any evidence presented, so be prepared to defend your position. Thanks.


Timthinker

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heritageguy
January 20, 2008, 12:59 AM
Use the Search button. This topic has been discussed to death. You'll get more discussion than you ever wanted.

Timthinker
January 20, 2008, 05:44 AM
While the topic of handgun stopping power has been "discussed to death", I am seeking something beyond the average discussions that characterize this subject. Indeed, a recent thread I started on this topic consisted mainly of personal opinion and anecdotal evidence. That is fine. People should be allowed to express their viewpoints on such an important self-defense issue. But I am seeking to go beyond our personal opinions and look at statistical studies on this matter. Those studies and their conclusions are what I hope to unite, as much as that is possible, into a single thread. This is the reason I have introduced this separate thread. I hope this clearification helps.


Timthinker

bannockburn
January 20, 2008, 01:19 PM
Timthinker

You might want to try looking at Dr. M. Fackler's study of terminal ballistics and incapacitation. I found one study, though it was somewhat dated, at rkba.org.

spwenger
January 20, 2008, 01:59 PM
No one who understands terminal balistics would knowingly choose a handgun if there were enough advance warning, coupled with the inability to avoid the situation and access to a long gun.

There are so many variables, including the mind of the assailant who demonstrates the need to be shot, that it is not possible, in our society today, to conduct a scientifically rigorous study that compares the effectiveness of handgun ammunition.

I had a friend who spent many years as a sergeant on the California Highway Patrol, during which time he earned a Doctor of Science degree in engineering, studying skid-mark investigation. His primary conclusion was that the only thing that can be predicted from the use of a drag sled (a device formerly used to evaluate skid marks duirng accident reconstruction) is how a similar drag sled will perform under similar circumstances.

Unfortunately, while Martin Fackler and his colleagues have been able to impose scientifically rigorous standards in their studies involving calibrated ballistic gelatin, the only truly reliable predictions that can be made from such studies are how similar bullets will perform in calibrated ballistic gelatin under similar circumstances.

Calibrated ballistic gelatin is certainly the best medium that has come down the pike to aid in the design of bullets but it's crucial to realize that it is a simulant of pig muscle, which is an extremely close analog of human muscle. The problem is that the gelatin, unlike a living body, human or otherwise, is homogeneous. If we are forced to shoot an assailant, the bullet may penetrate some muscle, some lung (mostly air space), some blood vessels, the largely muscular heart and may even impact or penetrate some bone.

Long story short, it appears that the best we can do is try to balance the predictions from gelatin with the anecdotal reports from the street and the field. While we tend to label the latter "scores" as statististics, neither side provides us statistically valid conclusions about real-life effectiveness.

Shawnee
January 20, 2008, 02:31 PM
Sort of an "aside"...

Spwenger's comment... "No one who understands terminal balistics would knowingly choose a handgun if there were enough advance warning, coupled with the inability to avoid the situation and access to a long gun." illustrates some very key elements.

And the veracity of those elements is part of what increasingly convinces me that we could easily, and should (imho), disarm our police officers - at least until their possession of a lethal weapon is authorized by a duly iswsued warrant. It supports the idea that we could easily, and should (imho) require our police forces to rethink their tactics and strategies and, just as importantly, their attitude toward the Public.
It's common for LEOs and their organizations to preach the good sense (for the Public) to "avoid the situation" and, since Good Sense is Good Sense, it is reasonable to expect police to also "avoid the situation" just as they demand of others rather than tolerating the S.W.A.T.zie-ism currently extant.

Just my NSHO.

But I do not mean to hijack Tim's thread so please, if anyone wants to pursue a discussion of my comments - critical or supportive - please do so via private message. :cool:

hotpig
January 20, 2008, 03:47 PM
:eek::confused:

tipoc
January 20, 2008, 04:15 PM
... But I am seeking to go beyond our personal opinions and look at statistical studies on this matter. Those studies and their conclusions are what I hope to unite, as much as that is possible, into a single thread.

There have been several threads that, in the past, have had links to the available studies on terminal ballistics posted as part of them. If you'd like folks to repost those, the links that is, just ask for that.

Seems though that you are asking for another discussion of those and the search function will turn up a good many.

tipoc

Timthinker
January 20, 2008, 04:56 PM
I am hoping that some of our contributors will add new information to those existing studies in this thread, although overlap is inevitable when discussing something this popular. Research and new findings always continues. Thanks for the reference to the search feature. I have used it in the past and it is extremely useful. Thanks again.


Timthinker

Steve C
January 20, 2008, 05:35 PM
Statistical and laboratory studies on bullet performance offer us a comparison to base a choice on which ammo we decide to carry. One conclusion that's reached by both methods is that JHP's or expanding bullets work better than solid or jacketed bullets of the same caliber and larger calibers are marginally better than smaller calibers. There is some marginally significant differences between various hollow points of different velocities, weights and manufacture.

Remember that statistics only provide probability and not any certainty regarding the outcome of a particular event. For every type of ammo that provides a 96% one shot stop also provides a 4% failure to stop with one shot under the same circumstances.

Gun enthusiasts often tend to dismiss the smaller calibers and full metal jacketed bullets as somehow being so ineffective as to being harmless. The lowliest .22 may only have a stopping power rating of 30% and a ballistic gelatin penetration of 9" but it does work about 1/3 of the time with one shot to the center mass and will kill you just as dead as the baddest 12 ga or .44 mag.

In most instances where a handgun is used for self defense the gun isn't even fired as the assailant withdraws upon seeing a threat to their health . In these cases gun and ammo choice is of no importance.

tipoc
January 20, 2008, 07:03 PM
http://www.firearmstactical.com/wound.htm

http://www.firearmstactical.com/hwfe.htm

http://www.hipowersandhandguns.com/

http://www.stoppingpower.net/

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2194/is_10_73/ai_n7577583

http://www.angelfire.com/art/enchanter/terminal.html

http://library.med.utah.edu/WebPath/TUTORIAL/GUNS/GUNBLST.html

http://rkba.org/research/fackler/wrong.html

http://www.defencejournal.com/april98/bulletwound.htm

http://www.chucktaylorasaa.com/stoppingpower.html

http://www.handloads.com/misc/stoppingpower.asp?Caliber=18&Weight=230

A few places to start. Use the bookmark feature of your machine and read.

tipoc

sturmgewehr
January 20, 2008, 07:30 PM
While the topic of handgun stopping power has been "discussed to death", I am seeking something beyond the average discussions that characterize this subject. Indeed, a recent thread I started on this topic consisted mainly of personal opinion and anecdotal evidence. That is fine. People should be allowed to express their viewpoints on such an important self-defense issue. But I am seeking to go beyond our personal opinions and look at statistical studies on this matter. Those studies and their conclusions are what I hope to unite, as much as that is possible, into a single thread. This is the reason I have introduced this separate thread. I hope this clearification helps.
People keep looking for that sacred cow of a load/cartridge that will put their carry weapon light years ahead of the other offerings.

The problem is, all commonly carried calibers for handguns are woefully under powered. All "tests" are anecdotal that show wound cavities. Even the best hollow point only expands as advertised a fraction of the time. The human body isn't made up of ballistic gelatin, it's comprised a several different tissue types depending on the region of the body and the make up of the individual being shot.

Some people want a bullet that expands a few thousands of an inch more. Others want penetration. Some want both and carry things like .44 Mags. Who is right? There hasn't been a test devised I would say is completely accurate or worthy of making a cartridge decision based upon.

I'm in the penetration camp. I don't care about the size of the hole, I just want one deep enough that it hits a major organ if I do my part. I want a bullet that will dig past the thickest winter clothing, layers of fat, muscle and bone to reach those organs. I don't care if the hole is .38 caliber or .45 caliber as long as it does just that, penetrate.

I know all handgun offerings in calibers I deem proper for my own personal protection are weak at best. 9mm, .45 ACP, 10mm, .40 Smith, etc. None of them are vastly superior to the other regardless of the load. You can read hundreds of tests and their data and measure wound cavities with a micrometer yet you'll never prove one is vastly superior to the other.

So in my estimation obsessing over which cartridge might have the upper hand is a waste of time and effort. I would be worried more about things like cost issues (how much can you practice), what platform to choose (which handgun works best for you), concealment, etc. Then from there pick the best cartridge offered in the platform that best suits you.

For me it boils down to 9mm and .45. I won't bore you with what loads I use in them as such opinions are just that - opinions... regardless of test data.

jmr40
January 20, 2008, 09:24 PM
If you are looking for concrete evidence that will prove that a particular cartridge is more effective than another you will not find it. Best advice is to look at everything you can find and couple that with your own shooting experiences to reach your own conclusions. For every test or survey that proves that one particular round is better there is another that will prove something else is better. Even highly trained experts cannot come to a consensus.

Shawnee
January 20, 2008, 09:39 PM
Good thoughts, JMR, and to twist this pretzel a little further....

...a cop friend of mine who worked quite a while along the Tex/Mex border once told me he would rather face a bad guy who was armed with a .44 mag than face a bad guy who was armed with a .22.
His reasoning was that there was a pretty fair chance the guy with the .44 wasn't up to the task of being effective with it but there was a real good chance the guy with the .22 would be able to hit whatever he shot at! :eek:

:cool:

KenW.
January 21, 2008, 02:43 AM
Multiple rounds, center of mass. .22 rimfire - .45 ACP; just as dedly.

RichardB
January 21, 2008, 11:23 AM
Why would any individual want to collect and publish information on the effectiveness of of handgun rounds? :confused:

They need only remember the abuse that Marshall & Sanow were given by those who felt the need to question their integrity (while not necessarily having better data themselves). Too many "scientists" have vested interests in some philosophies or theories to intelligently or peacefully allow challenges to their own "babies". :mad:

If the FBI wants to collect and publish nationwide data using a defined criteria, they are welcome to do it.

Another possibility is that due to the failures of handgun rounds in the past, the ammunition industry's R&D since the Super-Vel years has created ammunition that is as good as the technology currently allows; and the manufacturers will continue to update rounds as the powders and bullets get better.

All the above is speculation, I am not a scientist nor do I work in the munitions industry.

Richard

hotpig
January 21, 2008, 11:33 AM
RichardB does have a point. Mfg change specs without notice. The results are based on ammo that may or may not even be made in that spec anymore.
I would just consider most of this stuff as as coffee table reading.

jad0110
January 21, 2008, 11:41 AM
I'm in the penetration camp. I don't care about the size of the hole, I just want one deep enough that it hits a major organ if I do my part. I want a bullet that will dig past the thickest winter clothing, layers of fat, muscle and bone to reach those organs. I don't care if the hole is .38 caliber or .45 caliber as long as it does just that, penetrate.

I know all handgun offerings in calibers I deem proper for my own personal protection are weak at best. 9mm, .45 ACP, 10mm, .40 Smith, etc. None of them are vastly superior to the other regardless of the load. You can read hundreds of tests and their data and measure wound cavities with a micrometer yet you'll never prove one is vastly superior to the other.

So in my estimation obsessing over which cartridge might have the upper hand is a waste of time and effort. I would be worried more about things like cost issues (how much can you practice), what platform to choose (which handgun works best for you), concealment, etc. Then from there pick the best cartridge offered in the platform that best suits you.

Bingo, I couldn't have said it any better myself. Pick something that you shoot well, achieves the minimum penetration depth of your choosing (I just go by the FBI 12" minimum myself), and that you can afford to practice with. And choose a caliber/platform that you enjoy shooting. A gun that inflicts pain on you probably won't get shot much.

Soybomb
January 21, 2008, 02:06 PM
As spwenger pointed out you're talking about the difference between anecdotal evidence and scientific quality research. You can't make trustworthy statistics based on anecdotal evidence of stopping power, the parts don't add up to the whole that you're wanting.

Why would any individual want to collect and publish information on the effectiveness of of handgun rounds?

They need only remember the abuse that Marshall & Sanow were given by those who felt the need to question their integrity (while not necessarily having better data themselves).
Numbers based on sound methodolgy would be tremendously useful but you can't expect to publish data and not have people test it. You can't get your feelings hurt, its the way things have to be done if you want accurate data. It is no different than what happens in any other field from medicine, to biology, to physics, to chemistry, etc.

The problem is that the gelatin, unlike a living body, human or otherwise, is homogeneous.
That is where we take different paths. If it were anything but, it would be useless as a test medium because we could never get consistent results from testing. All is not lost however, we can compare a sample of real world shooting victims and the penetration of that round in their bodies with gelatin and see just how far off they are. For example this is exactly what was done in eugene wolberg's paper where measured the wound channel length in corpses shot with the 147gr ranger round by the san diego pd and compared it to the gelatin test data for the round and was able to show that the gelatin was a useful predictor of expansion and penetration.

tipoc
January 21, 2008, 03:50 PM
Ballistic gelatin only became standardized as a test medium about 20-25 years ago. The standardization was a big step forward. Before that ammo manufacturers, the military, and others were shooting into newspaper, boards, sand, etc. These was no standard from one manufacturer to another or one country to another.

With gelatin a base line for testing was established. It meant that the data collected for penetration, expansion, etc. was no longer anecdotal but could be tested and replicated. It meant that new bullet designs had standards that they had to meet or exceed and that the claims of manufacturers could be examined. This was a big step forward.

tipoc

Soybomb
January 22, 2008, 12:13 AM
To follow up to the topic earlier about tissue densities and bone I decided to do some research. Not only is the varying density of the body still reflected well in gelatin through actual shootings but the bones thing has even been covered.


http://www.tacticalforums.com/cgi-bin/tacticalubb/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=78;t=001310#000004
Testing with ribs embeded in gel has been done and the results published by the IWBA, FBI, and RCMP--as the presence of ribs didn't significantly alter test results, they are no longer included in test protocols.

Rexster
January 22, 2008, 12:58 AM
Please do keep in mind that scientists are not traveling around with armed private citizens and police officers, documenting shooting incidents as they occur. I give much credence to the Fairburn Study, as imperfect as it was. Another rough guide is to find large agencies that shoot lots of bad guys, and see if the officers are happy with the results of their ammo. One anecdote means little, but a body of anecdotes can cumulatively mean something significant. Ah, then there is ballistic gelatin, which means little on its own, except to indicate potential, but coupled with a large body of anecdotal evidence, can be significant. Really, what is most important, is adequate penetration for the circumstances, and shot placement. Then, stay out of the bad guy's way long enough for those factors to take effect. FWIW, my wife is a forensic investigator for a medical examiner, in one of the largest and busiest M.E. offices in the USA. She is perfectly content with .38 +P, and sees nothing wrong with .380 ACP, for personal protection, but really would rather have her 870 handy. Of course, she has never been there when a shooting actually occurred, but blood spatter evidence, and other evidence, can be quite good at telling the tale of what happened after a bullet has struck a person.

RPCVYemen
January 22, 2008, 10:53 AM
While the topic of handgun stopping power has been "discussed to death", I am seeking something beyond the average discussions that characterize this subject. Indeed, a recent thread I started on this topic consisted mainly of personal opinion and anecdotal evidence.

I think that you will be disappointed. The problem


The sample size is very small - and that's a good thing. :)

The number of factors is very large (placement, clothing, mental state, etc.)

Reliable data is very hard to obtain from participants - for both legal and psychological reasons.


I think these factors combine to make a "trustworthy" report pretty much unobtainable.

Mike

tipoc
January 22, 2008, 02:23 PM
Many folks these days want quick answers to complex subjects. The subject of stopping power is a complex one that has been debated for over a century. No completely reliable statistics based on reports from the field, i.e. shootings, exist for the reasons that have been stated by some posters already. That does not mean that the statistics gathered from those studies are worthless, it just means that they only go so far.

Several things have resulted from the various studies (reports from morgues and medical reports, tests in ballistic gelatin, the shooting of live animals, compilations of reports of police shootings, etc.) over the decades. Better ammo design is one. Improved bullet design has been one of the more important results of the last 30 years of debate and study.

If you want to learn from a study whether a 124 gr. bullet in a 9mm is or is not superior to a 147 gr. bullet there are studies that point in both directions. Go with what you and your pistol shoot best.

The most important conclusion that can and has been drawn from the various studies is this:

Match the gun to the task at hand. Match the ammo to the gun and the task.
Select a gun and a caliber that the shooter can shoot well. Shot placement trumps caliber and is critical in stopping an attack.

These simple points and a few others that could be added are the results of many decades of debate and study. They are not just "my opinion" or the opinion of a few they are the results of the "caliber wars".

A 200 gr. 10mm JHP round of proper design is a more effective "stopper" than a 124 gr. 9mm JHP. One can hunt hogs, deer and black bear with the 10, I would not do that with a nine.

But with proper shot placement the 9mm will accomplish the same task of stopping an attack and be for all practical purposes as effective. This is especially true if the person armed with the 9mm cannot shoot a 10mm fast and accurately but can do so with the nine. The nine can be had in a smaller package for concealed carry. This is not "my opinion" it is the results of the caliber wars and it is true.

tipoc

Timthinker
January 22, 2008, 06:13 PM
Rational arguments are won or lost on the basis of revelant, reliable evidence. This old adage came to my mind as I read the comments our contributors have made to this discussion. The topic of handgun stopping power is a complex subject, as one of our members correctly noted. To address such a complex issue requires that contributors provide detailed evidence to support their viewpoints, while being able to refute or minimize counter claims. This is the nature of rational discussion and I am glad to see it is alive and well here.

Now, meeting the standards of rationality that I briefly mentioned is not easy. In other words, it requires work. But the fruits of those labors are confidence in the findings presented. That is what I wanted from this thread and I am glad to receive it. I hope our members recall what I have typed in this posting because it applies to so many areas of life. Gentlemen, well done. I appreciate the evidence and arguments presented.


Timthinker

Firepower!
January 27, 2008, 06:51 AM
Tap Tap and One in the Head if its still charging.
This is called stopping power.

The best stopping power in your practice. First head shot- I would be amazed if the intruder is still breathing.

KenW.
January 27, 2008, 01:08 PM
Tap Tap and One in the Head if its still charging.

Rather than the traditional failure drill, we're now being taught in my agency the "zipper". Still three rounds; but one center of mass, one upper chest, and one to the mouth or forehead. (Mouth can be targeted because the center of the brain that controls involuntary movement is at the brain stem, behind the mouth). Use the recoil of your weapon for the climbing motion.

The 9mm guys can pull this off better than we .45 ACP guys.

We're also taught to consider a pelvic shot because the head is small and moves so rapidly. Massive bloodflow through the region and a large bone to quickly stop/slow the bullet for effective energy transfer. Break the pelvis and the person will be on the ground.

Shot placement, and not caliber, is pivotal.

slide
January 27, 2008, 01:18 PM
I agree KenW that placement is vital, but what if placement isn't right? Then, IMO, caliber makes a difference. a 22 lr placed in the eye will stop anybody, but a .22 lr in, say, the high thorax may not. However, a 454 in that same high thorax will.

In addition, clothes and body composition make a huge difference. I personally witnessed a shooting where a fellow put 5 .25 acp shots into a guy's abdomen area. The guy was a fat guy wearing clothes including a leather jacket and vest. Not one bullet made it to the skin. The one who was shot beat the shooter up.

shadowalker
January 27, 2008, 01:49 PM
Shot placement without sufficient penetration is worthless. Penetration without good shot placement also isn't ideal. Worst case scenario if I fail to stop the bad guy I want him to be wounded enough to need medical attention so they can catch him.

Shot placement is important but not more important than penetration, in fact I'd say penetration is slightly more important. Penetration is what will make the difference when a non perfect shot is made and the bullet has to travel through an arm or the side of a BG or another intermediate barrier before hitting vitals.

Penetration is becoming more and more important because Americans are getting larger, it takes more penetration to reach vitals in a 250 or 300 LB person than a 180 lb person.

I'm in the penetration camp. I don't care about the size of the hole, I just want one deep enough that it hits a major organ if I do my part. I want a bullet that will dig past the thickest winter clothing, layers of fat, muscle and bone to reach those organs. I don't care if the hole is .38 caliber or .45 caliber as long as it does just that, penetrate.

I'm also in this camp, expansion is nice if it occurs but I'm not counting on it. Handguns lack sufficient energy for temporary cavity to matter, and may not expand, penetration is what they use to stop a threat.

slide
January 27, 2008, 02:02 PM
OK, if we're going to bat this about, then there is the issue of over penetration. That's a charge I've heard thrown at the .357. I'm not even getting into police issues where this is more serious as police need an arm which can work against an auto where we don't.

While we may not be held liable for a bullet used in self defense which penetrates the bad guy but then goes on to do unintended damages, I personally am concerned. I personally, and without any real scholarship, feel that the 45 acp is the ideal combination of appropriate penetration, no over penetration and large hole size. I think bullet design not of much concern. That is, I don't see a RN, SWC, SP, or HP any more effective than the other. I tend to favor RN because a jam can really ruin your day.

KenW.
January 27, 2008, 03:18 PM
Shot placement without sufficient penetration is worthless

Obviously. You don't hunt elk with a .22 LR regardless of shot placement. A hit can be in the perfect spot, but the projectile must reach something vital.

I advocate using the largest caliber and hottest ammo you can control well enough to put three rounds into a dinnerplate size target at 7 yards in 3 seconds or less. If thats a .500 or .380, so be it.

DougDubya
January 27, 2008, 04:14 PM
Mr. Marshall has said the only reason he carries a handgun is to keep his enemy's head down until he can reach his rifle.

So, handgun stopping power is pretty much a factor of getting accurate hits. Train well, and hit early and often, and you'll be fine.

KenW.
January 27, 2008, 06:49 PM
I don't know Mr. Marshall, but I have taken plenty of deer with a 12 ga. without any "tactical" goodies.

briang2ad
January 27, 2008, 07:23 PM
The "penetration guys" hate the 40.

The "big hole" guys hate the 9mm.

Thats all you need to know. On any forum, if you want to see pages and pages of circular debate, just say "cal X is ___ for defense".

makarovnik
January 28, 2008, 12:48 AM
No comment.

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