Terminal Ballistics of Rifles and Shotguns in Home Defense


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Bartholomew Roberts
March 24, 2010, 08:31 PM
There is so much mythology out there about these two firearms, that I thought a thread discussing this topic might be worthwhile.

First, let's take a look at how these two calibers behave in ballistics gel. Here is Brassfetcher's testing of 12 gauge Remington Express 2 3/4" 00 buckshot through heavy clothing (http://www.brassfetcher.com/index_files/Page541.htm). The relevant statistics for 12ga are:

Deepest penetration depth : 16.0+ inch
Maximum crack diameter : 6.0+ inch
Maximum crack diameter location : 4.5 inch
Cavitation depth : 0-15.8 inch

Now let's compare some common .223 loadings through heavy clothing:
http://www.thehighroad.org/attachment.php?attachmentid=26243&d=1120919514

The first thing you'll notice is that out of the different .223 loads, only one outpenetrates 00 buckshot. The second thing you'll notice is the ruler at the top - it shows that the maximum cavities and the depth of those cavities isn't dramatically different from the 12ga 00 buckshot.

However, if you don't trust eyeballing it, here are some stats from Hornady LE for their .223 75gr TAP BTHP (http://www.hornadyle.com/products/more_detail.php?id=130&sID=141&pID=1):

Deepest penetration depth : 12.0 inch
Maximum crack diameter : 5.5 inch
Maximum crack diameter location : 5.25 inch
Cavitation depth : 0.5-9.5 inch

Now let's look at a cross section of an average human torso:
http://www.thehighroad.org/attachment.php?attachmentid=62607&d=1187581713
An average male torso is approximately 9" deep and 19" wide.

Assuming we are barricaded up and waiting for police to arrive when the bad guy comes through the door, you can do a mental overlay of either wound profile on top of the torso above. In terms of room for error for shot placement, we are talking approximately a 1/2" difference between the Remington 00 buck and the Hornady 75gr TAP.

As you can see, both firearms are plenty adequate to do the job and with both firearms penetration can be limited by proper ammo selection. In terms of drywall penetration; both the 00 buck and 75gr Hornady will still have enough force to be lethal after penetrating a typical interior wall. For more data on this see: http://how-i-did-it.org/drywall/results.html

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Uncle Mike
March 24, 2010, 08:39 PM
An average male torso is approximately 9" deep and 19" wide.

Wow! guess I'm far from average! Where's the weight watchers meeting?

TexasRifleman
March 24, 2010, 08:39 PM
As you can see, both firearms are plenty adequate to do the job and with both firearms penetration can be limited by proper ammo selection.

And that's pretty much the meat of it. There is no advantage to shotgun vs rifle when it comes down to what matters, the projectile.

So, you make your choice on other things; training, experience, cost, availability, comfort level etc.

Unfortunately there continue to be people who are absolutely convinced that one platform is vastly superior than the other.

Good stuff, thanks for putting that together.

GIJOEL
March 24, 2010, 09:15 PM
Thats some good info BR, I was wondering about the light ad fast .223 for HD. Just because it fits with the tread I'll post the link for http://www.theboxotruth.com

NG VI
March 24, 2010, 09:41 PM
I was wondering why all the .223 was so slow till I saw the firearm used.

Casefull
March 24, 2010, 10:52 PM
I have nothing against the rifle but the shotgun hits with at least 11 projectiles at one time or if you wanted a 450 g slug. That will stop a grizzly. I do not think the 223 is a good comparison and is definitely a more of a danger from overpenetration through walls.

TexasRifleman
March 24, 2010, 10:57 PM
I do not think the 223 is a good comparison and is definitely a more of a danger from overpenetration through walls.

Even when presented with evidence it isn't true you say that?

Why? Doesn't make any sense.

General Geoff
March 24, 2010, 11:11 PM
I do not think the 223 is a good comparison and is definitely a more of a danger from overpenetration through walls.

This myth seriously needs to die.

Bartholomew Roberts
March 24, 2010, 11:15 PM
I have nothing against the rifle but the shotgun hits with at least 11 projectiles at one time

A Remington 12ga 2 3/4" 00 buck shell has 9 projectiles. I'm not sure where you are getting the 11 number from; but as you can see in the above link, those projectiles hit cover about 6" inside gel.

if you wanted a 450 g slug. That will stop a grizzly.

And why does it stop a grizzly when .223 will not? Because a 12ga slug has the momentum necessarily to penetrate deeply enough to reach the vital organs on a grizzly.

I do not think the 223 is a good comparison and is definitely a more of a danger from overpenetration through walls.

Well, you can think it until you're blue in the face; but you'll still be wrong. This isn't an opinion based question. 12 gauge buckshot outpenetrates most .223 in bare gel, in heavy clothed gel, and through drywall.

This myth seriously needs to die.

It does; but given that I just posted a ton of information demonstrating that this was in fact a myth and still people are posting, apparently without reading or understanding that information, gives an idea of how hard it is going to be to kill that myth.

jobu07
March 24, 2010, 11:29 PM
Thanks for posting that info Bart.

Even though it isn't scientifically conducted, Box'o'truth should be a real eye opener on penetration of dry wall for those who think .223 is a bigger hazard to bystanders than any 12 guage load.

memphisjim
March 24, 2010, 11:42 PM
i still believe the 12 gauge will create more shock
which will more quickly stop the threat

leadcounsel
March 24, 2010, 11:53 PM
I favor the 12 gauge for home defense because, all things considered, the 12 gauge pump gun is ULTRA reliable. The AR15 is not. The 12 gauge is much easier to use. The AR15, while easy, requires more training and technique. And ballistic gel doesn't register knockdown and kinetic energy. My AR 15 holds 30 rounds before reload. My 12 gauge holds 7 buckshot (x 9 pellets). That's 63 pellets and easier to top off. The shotgun also has the versatility of slugs for a whole new dimension of hurt.

I have the advantage of both platforms and a lot of training. For a newbie or someone one a budget, the 12 gauge shotty is a $300 weapon, 1/2 the cost of the AR15. And it's incredibly easy to use and versatile.

For these reasons the 12 gauge is superior for barricade or typical home defense situations.

General Geoff
March 25, 2010, 12:06 AM
And ballistic gel doesn't register knockdown and kinetic energy.

"Knockdown" in small arms cartridges is another myth that needs to die.

NG VI
March 25, 2010, 12:40 AM
30 rounds that are significantly more effective than any four, five, six, or possibly more of those 63 little poorly shaped pellets (for terminal performance). Personally my own AR has never malfunctioned, despite using the dreaded carbine gas system and being fed a variety of things including the dreaded Wolf steel case 62 grain FMJ. I have had an M16A2 malfunction once during a State Marksmanship practice (great guys who run that by the way) which I believe had a double feed.

I've caused more malfunctions than I can remember with my shotgun, a Mossberg 500. And I will never be able to send a second projectile or group of projectiles out the barrel of the Mossberg as fast as I can with an AR. That's just me, personally, but I think there are lots of people who feel the same way.

DasFriek
March 25, 2010, 01:38 AM
This thread can go so many ways its scary to think of of the possibilities!

It kind of reminds me of the thread at another forum i read a few days back about a guy wanting to know the best SD ammo for his M&P 15/22 for HD.
Thats a .22lr for those who don't know the gun. Oh, i see. Isn't the .223 just a high velocity .22? Maybe a tad heavier tho.

If i was gonna use a rifle for HD id go .50BMG id bet 1 round would do the job.

Now to be serious. I use a 500SPX 6+1 3" 00buck 15 pellet with 5 extra on the stock, And in no terms would i consider a .223 round more effective even in a 30 round clip.
But i would consider it effective tho.

This is my personal opinion, But for a round to be effective it needs to leave a really big hole on the backside when it exits. Over penetration is just a matter of compromise, Just has handguns are a compromise for CCW.

If i lived in an apartment and i TRUELY had to worry about over penetration id use my 1911 with 230gr hp's
As a matter of fact i think id rather have that weapon than a .223 for HD also. Pretty soon it wont be too much longer ill be reading a thread that will discuss how the .17hmr i own is a good HD gun when used with ballistic tips.
For head shots it surely would be too.

It comes down too a few things that make a weapon good for HD in this order.
Load size and weight.
Exit hole size.
Velocity for shock effect.
Capacity.
Compromise for over penetration.

General Geoff
March 25, 2010, 01:47 AM
Isn't the .223 just a high velocity .22? Maybe a tad heavier tho.

Isn't a meteor just a high velocity rock?

DasFriek
March 25, 2010, 01:54 AM
Isn't a meteor just a high velocity rock?
I know! I knew there had to be other people here who thought just like i did.

memphisjim
March 25, 2010, 01:56 AM
some people use 3 1/2 inch shells as well for double the payload

DasFriek
March 25, 2010, 02:02 AM
some people use 3 1/2 inch shells as well for double the payload
I tried those but they would only go half way in the chamber, But after i kept ramming the ejector forward enough it finally pounded it in enough to fire.

Ok guys, I dont wanna ruin the thread. Fun is fun as i love joking around. But i dont want a real thread closed due to what i find funny.
So ill be serious now, As was my first post.

NG VI
March 25, 2010, 02:21 AM
DasFriek I'm gonna have to interject, a .45 ACP anything is not better than a .223 in any way for home defense except that you can open doors and things while remaining ready to fire. A .45 pistol will penetrate more building materials than a .223 rifle, while causing less trauma (significantly less), and being less precise over a wide variety of conditions, including darkness and a hectic situation.

And come on, you don't really think the next logical progression is the .17HMR do you? That's just silly.

DasFriek
March 25, 2010, 02:39 AM
Ill admit im no fan of the .223 for HD or stopping power, But it does have good shock trauma. A good HP .45 HP has about a 50/50 chance of exiting a body with alot of factors in between. While having less shock it does have more physical potential for damage.

The .17hmr was kind of a joke, I say kind of as nothing surprises me anymore of what people think could be used for suitable HD.

Now im not putting the .223 in that league, Its a serous round. But for me i find a good 12 gauge and 00buck much better. And for apartment living a suitable .45 load a good fit.

I bet if a poll was taken here a good amount of people use the AK47 with FMJ as a HD weapon and are fine with that. As long as neighbors aren't and issue i wouldn't argue with it.

We all have opinions and the things opinions are like also. But that doesn't make them wrong, Just not the best to that person.
We can discuss .223 vs 12 gauge all day, and its fine and fun.
But the people who need to be discussing it are the ones guarding their homes with .22lr's.

noob_shooter
March 25, 2010, 04:01 AM
Since we need deep penetration, why arent we using steel core ammos? i wanna know how well that will penetrate

167
March 25, 2010, 07:05 AM
It is important to keep in mind that crack diamter in ballistics gel does not directly translate to tissue distruction.

A good HP .45 HP has about a 50/50 chance of exiting a body with alot of factors in between. While having less shock it does have more physical potential for damage.

Negatory, a quality .223 round will cause significantly more damage than a .45 ACP is capable of.

why arent we using steel core ammos?

Because we don't want too much penetration. Plus you will miss out on some of the wounding effects of quality lead core FMJ.

TexasRifleman
March 25, 2010, 09:04 AM
I favor the 12 gauge for home defense because, all things considered, the 12 gauge pump gun is ULTRA reliable. The AR15 is not. The 12 gauge is much easier to use. The AR15, while easy, requires more training and technique.

The pump shotgun is ultra reliable, no question. More than a well running AR? Eh, maybe but too close to call. I've got AR's with thousands of rounds through with no malfunctions. Both are plenty reliable.

Where I have a problem with the shotgun is in the training/practice area. While they are a little easier to use they are not foolproof. They still have to be aimed, they still require practice and some kind of familiarity.

This is where it gets tough for the shotgun. At least around Texas there are very few shooting ranges that allow for practice with a tactical type of shotgun. Dove hunting isn't really something that relates to self defense unless you are hunting dove at night, with a weapon light, and the dove are shooting back.

The ability to practice now and then to SOME extent is important to many people and the shotgun is the most difficult to practice with in some kind of semi realistic manner since most ranges don't allow them.

I have the advantage of both platforms and a lot of training. For a newbie or someone one a budget, the 12 gauge shotty is a $300 weapon, 1/2 the cost of the AR15. And it's incredibly easy to use and versatile.

But most people don't have the budget for training. At least with a carbine you have the chance to hit the range now and then. With a shotgun it's almost impossible, at least around me. There isn't a range that I know of around here that allows anything other than patterning off of a bench of a shotgun. That's not enough for lots of people. Despite the movies, shotguns are not "point and click" magic.

Bartholomew Roberts
March 25, 2010, 10:18 AM
Guys, I would appreciate it if we could keep the thread somewhat technical and leave the shotgun vs. AR15 discussion for another thread. I understand that is going to be closely related; but if we end up discussing every myth related to shotguns and rifles in home defense, nobody will end up learning anything because of the amount of info.

Let's just keep the discussion to what happens downrange (either a miss or a hit) with both rounds.

And ballistic gel doesn't register knockdown and kinetic energy.

What exactly is "knockdown" and how do you register it?

As for kinetic energy, it is defined as "the work needed to accelerate a body of a given mass from rest to its current velocity. Having gained this energy during its acceleration, the body maintains this kinetic energy unless its speed changes. Negative work of the same magnitude would be required to return the body to a state of rest from that velocity."

So ballistics gel DOES show kinetic energy. The bullet or shot uses its kinetic energy to create a channel in ballistics gel. This is the negative work that returns the bullet or shot to a state of rest (unless the shot completely penetrates the gel, in which case whatever is downrange will catch the remaining kinetic energy).

But it does have good shock trauma.

And what is this and how do you measure it to determine whether or not it is good?

While having less shock it does have more physical potential for damage.

A .45 can only crush tissue in its immediate path. The only way it will destroy more tissue than a .223 is if the .223 exits before it yaws and the temporary cavity does not cause nearby organs to exceed their elasticity limits.

"Exceeding elasticity limits" is a fancy way of describing what happens to prairie dogs when they get hit by a small, high speed round. The round creates a pressure wave that moves tissue. The tissue stretches and moves out of the way of the round; but then returns to its normal location with minimal damage after the round passes (kind of like a rubber band snaps back after you let it go). However, if the wave stretches the tissue further than its limits (think stretching a rubber band until it snaps), organs and tissue are destroyed instead. In a small animal like a prarie dog, a 6" stretch cavity is going to make the animal literally explode.

In a bigger animal like a 200lb mammal, you won't see that same effect visibly; but the same thing can happen to organs and tissue inside the body in the path of the bullet. A .45 bullet will not do this because it isn't travelling fast enough to create this effect, it will only crush the tissue directly in its path.

This is an important point in HOW shot and .223 differ in their wounding mechanisms though. Shot creates a 6" maximum cavity by 9 individual pellets each crushing their own wound track similar to a pistol round. .223 creates a 5.5" maximum cavity by a combination of the temporary/stretch cavity and fragmentation.

As a .223 round hits a mostly liquid medium like ballistics gel or flesh, the nose of the bullet slows down faster than the rear of the bullet due to the spitzer shape. As the nose slows down significantly below the speed of the rear of the bullet, the rear of the bullet flips over the nose causing the bullet to tumble. In most bullets the round then travels base forward until it exits or stops. However, because .223 is both high velocity and a comparatively fragile round, it breaks apart at the cannelure. As it breaks apart, it sprays the stretched temporary cavity with tiny fragments (think a rubber band stretched; but not to the breaking point and then imagine hundreds of tiny pin holes being made in it while it is still stretched - what is going to happen?) This is why .223 (and any rifle round relying on fragmentation really) is able to create wound cavities that are all out of proportion to its size.

However, unlike the 12 gauge several things need to happen for .223 to do this:
1) It must have sufficient velocity
2) It must break apart (either through expansion that fragments or by the yawing/breaking described above)
3) The breaking apart must happen while the round is still in the target and preferably; before the round has reached the depth of vital organs

Since we need deep penetration, why arent we using steel core ammos?

We don't need deep penetration. In fact, we only need the FBI recommended penetration of 12-18" of ballistics gel. Take a look at the torso picture above. If we are shooting at that target from the front with the arms at the side) then even 12" seems ridiculous because the target is only 9" deep. However, the target also has bones (ballistics gel does not) and we also need to consider different angles. For example, from the side, we have the arms in the way. Now the same 12" that was too much a minute ago is about the minimum we need to reliably reach where the vital organs are.

huntsman
March 25, 2010, 10:45 AM
A Remington 12ga 2 3/4" 00 buck shell has 9 projectiles. I'm not sure where you are getting the 11 number from; but as you can see in the above link, those projectiles hit cover about 6" inside gel.

from the BF test:
Cartridge : 12 gauge Remington Express 2 3/4” 00 magnum buckshot

I don't see a pellet count on the test, but a Remington 2-3/4" 00 magnum has a 12 pellet count.
http://www.remington.com/products/ammunition/shotshells/buckshot/express-magnum-buckshot.aspx

Al Thompson
March 25, 2010, 10:57 AM
IMHO, the box of truth guys were truly pioneers. However, the web site below is the gold standard on wall penetration by bullets, pellets and other assorted novelties. Mr. Roberts already posted the link, but I wanted to doubletap this target. :D

http://how-i-did-it.org/drywall/results.html

Bartholomew Roberts
March 25, 2010, 11:47 AM
I don't see a pellet count on the test, but a Remington 2-3/4" 00 magnum has a 12 pellet count.

My bad, thanks for the correction.

shephard19
March 25, 2010, 11:58 AM
You should post a warning about that torso pick, I can only imagine with horror the horrific process to get that pic.

jmr40
March 25, 2010, 04:03 PM
Buckshot has a lot of history. Unfortunately a lot of that history is mythology. It is not that buckshot is not effective, it is just that many have overstated it's effectiveness.

A shotguns greatest asset is low cost. Which is certainly something to consider. Not considering cost the lighter weight, and lower recoil of the short barreled AR rifles outweigh any advantages of the shotgun for me. With proper ammo over penetration has been proven to be less of a problem. Wish that myth would die too!

DoubleTapDrew
March 25, 2010, 07:38 PM
the lighter weight, and lower recoil of the short barreled AR rifles outweigh any advantages of the shotgun for me.

I have considered doing a SBR for a HD rifle but after shooting a PLR-16 (9" barrel) I think the horrendous blast and flash indoors would be too disorienting without a suppressor (add about $800 for a can and stamp), and I don't know if it would achieve the velocity needed for the bullets to fragment.
It would definitely be handy for maneuvering though if you needed to get kids to your room.

NMGonzo
March 25, 2010, 07:48 PM
Inside the house ?

I have an AR and a 870

The 870 comes out.

MachIVshooter
March 25, 2010, 08:41 PM
I have considered doing a SBR for a HD rifle but after shooting a PLR-16 (9" barrel) I think the horrendous blast and flash indoors would be too disorienting without a suppressor (add about $800 for a can and stamp), and I don't know if it would achieve the velocity needed for the bullets to fragment.It would definitely be handy for maneuvering though if you needed to get kids to your room.

It does, just barely. But for close range work, that's enough. 55 gr. ball averaged 2,600-2,700 out of my PLR's, depending on manufacture. My 40 gr. V-max handloads, however, were still getting over 3,200. That'll git'r'done.

That said, my HD rifle is an AR-10A2 carbine, loaded with 15 110 gr. V-max handloads over 10 162 gr. armor piercing. I figure if they're still standing after the first 15, they've got armor, and it'll take a couple AP rounds to chew through it. And no, my neighbors don't live close.

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