1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

"One Shot Stops": testing the effectiveness of handgun rounds

Discussion in 'Handguns: General Discussion' started by .38 Special, Jul 15, 2009.

  1. .38 Special

    .38 Special Well-Known Member

    So yet another thread got sidetracked into a "Jello Junkies vs. Morgue Monsters" argument, with the usual slanders, personal attacks, and general eye-poking, and it got me to wondering: what is the best way to measure handgun "stopping power"?

    My personal feeling is that the basic premise of Marshall and Sanow's work is sound. I cannot see any better way of testing handgun effectiveness than evaluating the results of shooting a bunch of people with various handgun rounds.

    But obviously this opinion is not universal, and I think most people would agree that Marshall and Sanow's work is imperfect. So I'm asking: what do you think is the best way to test handgun "stopping power" and why?

    (Please, please, please, let's not turn this into another game of junkies vs. monsters. It's old, no one cares, and it's not going to be settled on yet another internet poop-flinging contest.)
  2. Oro

    Oro Well-Known Member

    I think the best way to settle the argument is to realize that:

    1) It's shot placement and what it hits, not what it was hit with.

    2) Move on to more interesting and meaningful discussions.
  3. MikkOwl

    MikkOwl Active Member

    Stopping power is, I gather, only a theoretical measurement of how much damage the bullet will do if it hits. Therefore recoil, accuracy, weight and all that is completely irrelevant. When choosing a cartridge then, stopping power is only part of the consideration.

    I think that stopping power should be measured by constructing a more human-like ballistic doll (ever seen "Deadliest Warrior"? They have some interesting ideas there), test on normal ballistic gel, do math, physics and theorycraft, collect data from actual shootings and morgues, and then compile it all into a reasonable guesstimate style report.


    1. Ballistic Gel
    2. Ballistic Anatomic Doll (with various types of clothing and all kinds of angles)
    3. Ballistic real world people (shootings, autopsies)
    4. Physics & number crunching & comparing to other cartridges
    5. Summarize into a reasonable report.
    From all this, a reasonable impression can be found.
  4. kanewpadle

    kanewpadle Well-Known Member

    If you didn't want this thread to degenerate then you should never have brought "Marshall and Sanow" into the discussion. Who doesn't agree with Marshall and Sanow and how is their work imperfect? Have you bothered to read any of their work? Or have you jumped on the "misinformed" bandwagon? Most people that bash their work never even bothered to read it let alone understand it. Way too many opinions are formed while reading the many BS posts in gun forums such as this. It would be nice if people would take the time and effort, do their own research, and form their own opinions. Stop by Evan Marshall's site, READ, and make your own decision.

    Not bashing you. But you did make the statement.

  5. CWL

    CWL Well-Known Member

    You asked for it.

    I've read their book, plus their follow-up material. The basis of their claims is from "studying" hundreds of shootings gathered from all over the USA and boiling this down into a formula of likely "stopping" percentages for most common calibers and bullets.

    My question, which is the same one that has never been answered, is HOW did a pair of nobodies such as M&S (without the authorizations of, or financial backing from any LE or medical Agencies) ever have "pull" to get Medical Examiner or Police Departments to release the results of firearm fatalities/injury investigations?

    Try calling-up your local Medical Examiner and ask them for an autopsy report from a recent firearms fatality. It won't happen.

    I say M&S is crap because they made up the majority of their data.
  6. Trebor

    Trebor Well-Known Member

    Actually, if it was done scientifically, that would be the best way to determine handgun effectiveness against humans. But, you'd have to do it so that you could control the experiment, acurately measure the results, and then be able to allow others to replicate your experiments.

    Obviously, since we're talking about shooting *real people* here, under labratory conditions, that isn't going to happen. (Nor should it. Science should only go so far.)

    Short of that, there is no way to scientifically study the result of shootings of human beings based on autopsy reports, etc. The plual of "anecdote" is not "data."

    The M&S info is not scientifically rigerious by any means. People tend to trust the data in so much as it meets their own preconceived notions.
  7. psyopspec

    psyopspec Well-Known Member

    Ever noticed how it's measured in ambiguous terms rather than a number? The guy at the gun shop assures me that a 1911 has "good stopping power" and that if I put hollow points in it I'll have "REALLY good stopping power." A way to calculate it? There ain't one, as stopping power is not quantifiable measurement, but rather a phrase tossed around in gun shops to make you buy stuff.

    Shot placement. Shot placement, shot placement, shot placement.
  8. Gun Slinger

    Gun Slinger member

    My "Stopping Power" Thread Haiku

    Ah, "Stopping Power"...

    Pointless arguments "rage on"

    Senseless conjecture.

  9. MCgunner

    MCgunner Well-Known Member


    The definitive work, far as I'm concerned, is Doctor Michael Courtney and wife, fellow physicist, Dr. Amy Courtney with the Ballistics Testing Group, West Point, NY. Drs Courtney agree with you on the M/S data. In their work, they show a correlation coefficient of over .9, forget the exact number, between wounding measurements and models in their work and the M/S data set. Read about it, it's complicated and I can't tell the story second hand. :D I'm just a layman, they're the experts.

    This is an old argument, but finally physicist, not just medical examiners, are working on the subject. Again, read some of the papers on that site. Very enlightening and confirm and give reasons for some of the things I've known instinctively from hunting over the years. I've never shot a human, but hogs and deer I have shot, a lot of.

    You know, in science, often one discipline will think they know it all, they're the experts, it's their science. Then another discipline will come along and re-write the science. Geneticists and their work with mitochondrial DNA are adding much to and busting myths of the anthropologists who for years were THE authorities. There are other examples, but that one comes to mind. It's about time the physicists got involved in the big/slow, small/fast argument. The effects of a bullet is a physics argument, after all. What does an MD know about the workings of mass at high speed? They see the crush cavity, that's pretty much it.

    BTW, Dr Courtney's presence on this very site is where I found out about all this research. He has a lot of informative posts if you wanna search his name in the search function. If you guys keep this bout alive like the 1500 before it, he might just pop in and put in his 2 cents, which are worth a lot more than my 2 cents. :D
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2009
  10. .38 Special

    .38 Special Well-Known Member

    I think shot placement is indeed very important. Obviously it does not matter what caliber you are using if you hit your bad guy in the hand. And it probably doesn't matter much what the caliber is if it disrupts his central nervous system. But there is a lot of room in between those two extremes. I think, if presented with the option of hitting the bad guy center-of-mass with a .22 LR, and hitting him center-of-mass with a .44 Magnum, most folks would prefer the latter. So cartridge does matter, at least to a certain extent. Moreover, I am not aware of any research indicating that caliber is totally unimportant. Nobody is arguing that .38 Special/158 LRN is interchangeable with .357 Magnum/125 JHP, as far as I know. So "shot placement" isn't the entire argument.

    Posts #4 and #5 illustrate the emotion that unfortunately pervades the argument. I guess I'll just point it out as an example of the kind of post I'm hoping to avoid, and move on.

    And I suppose I have to reject the idea that there really isn't any way of knowing, at least outside of laboratory conditions. I guess in the strictest, most rigorously scientific sense, it is probably true, but I'm not sure we need to meet that standard in order to have really useful information.

    And I appreciate MCgunner's post. I'll have to spend some time with that link...
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2009
  11. .38 Special

    .38 Special Well-Known Member

    I do find the results of the handgun hunters very useful, BTW. These are folks firing a wide variety of handgun bullets into live targets, many of which approximate the weight of average humans. Obviously animals are not a perfect human analogue, but I do think certain broad conclusions can be drawn from the field: that you cannot count on a "one shot stop" unless you hit the CNS, and that non-expanding roundnose bullets suck regardless of caliber, are two that come to mind.
  12. pps

    pps Well-Known Member

    The premise lead to faulty data collection. A case in point is that multiple hits to center of mass were not included. Is that not real world data? If 5 hits to center of mass fails to stop but the 6th succeeds...is that 5 failures and a stop in reality? M&S data collection technique throws out all that data.

    What of the smaller calibers like the 22lr rated at what 30 something percent by M&S? How many times were people hit multiple times with a total failure to stop? That data was discarded, thus making the "30%" a meaningless number as so many failures were thrown out. Thus, the smaller calibers will tend to look more effective than they really should be.

    I don't question the intent of M&S, but their data collection has rendered the data as being next to worthless. Is it less worthless than shooting jello? that could be debated endlessly. What the jello does do is this: It provides a repeatable consistent tool to compare bullet performance relative to one another in terms of expansion/penetration/core-jacket seperation...et al. Does it tell me how it will perform on the street if I do my job with picking the right location, maybe...maybe not.

    What do I base my choices on? To some extent...all of the above.
  13. Dimis

    Dimis Well-Known Member

    Ask a knife fighter what the best knife to use and he will tell you the one in your hand

    with that out of the way i personaly look to see how big it is and how hard it hits OR how fast it is and how hard it hits

    i find that most people fall into two catagories the big n slow or small and fast groups i tend to fall in the "one in my hand" catagory if it shoots it has the potential to injure and kill

    ive stated on here before that i deliver pizzas and i will not go into some places unarmed at first i had nothing bigger than a .25 auto did i feel 100% safe with the mouse gun not really but i felt alot safer with it than without it thats for sure

    now i have a .38+P rated revolver do i feel 100% safe with it again no but i do feel even safer with it than the .25

    i could own a .50AE or .500S&W and still not feel 100% safe because its still gonna take more than just caliber to determan a fatal or stopping shot

    unfortunatly the answer will forever be the poo flinging contest because alot of people dont think of the formula to a stopping shot instead they fall into the snake oil solutions of caliber wars and dont want to practice for a situation that may never happen to them or there ego wont allow them to shoot a "girl" caliber or whatever there excuse is these days if all else fails give me a gun ANY gun id rather be armed with a pipsqueek .22 short derringer than nothing at all
  14. kanewpadle

    kanewpadle Well-Known Member

    Ah..... So the expert has spoken.

    Prove they made up their findings. I bet you can't.

    Go to Marshall's website and ask for yourself.

    It's real easy to bad mouth someone online. Let's see if you can grow a pair and ask him yourself.
  15. harrygunner

    harrygunner Well-Known Member

    Most people on the planet are not interested in analyzing the "obvious". Like most of the world, gun forum members are rarely scientists and rightly are a cross section of society.

    If done properly, there is information in shooting encounters. And it makes sense to use a non-physical parameter to compare outcomes. Scientists do it all the time. But a lot of people take the phrase "One shot stop" literally.

    Statistics is exactly what you want to use for complex situations that are not easily modeled. If you want to keep your data gathering and analysis simple, the "Central limit theorem" helps smooth out complexities that are often brought up on gun forums.

    There are a few people quietly, scientifically analyzing bullet design. I've felt that a computer model of the human body would be interesting. Failure modes (what makes a person "stop") would be postulated and modeled using physiological and empirical data. As our knowledge improves, object oriented sections of the body model would be updated.

    We could "shoot" the "body" within the model and compare results to real encounters. Eventually, model results would reasonably match real results and bullet designs could be compared on a computer.

    But, the customer base is not interested. And even a scientist is likely to admit that shot placement will overwhelm advantages of one bullet design over another. Still, history is filled with unexpected breakthroughs when someone took a look at something that was "obvious".
  16. kanewpadle

    kanewpadle Well-Known Member

    Well said.

    True most people are not interested in the obvious but there sure are a lot of experts on these gun forums. They read things and not knowing whether the information they are reading is accurate and true, they pass it on to the next person or forum. He said this, she said that. But there is never any proof except for hearsay and secondhand news.
  17. DougDubya

    DougDubya Well-Known Member

    One shot stops are a unit of possible measure, never a tactical concept.

    Go with what you aim best with and hit most easily and often with.
  18. Frank Ettin

    Frank Ettin Moderator

    I tend to think these discussions get way overdone and there are probably no ultimate answers. For one thing, in real life there are too many variables. For another thing, randomness and chance will play some role, to some degree, in the outcome of any shooting event. There seem to be some general themes, however.

    [1] Shot placement is king.

    [2] As I recall the tables tabulating results of actual events on the street, for at least .45 ACP all JHPs performed close enough to the same, and all JHPs performed uniformly better than FMJs.

    [3] Adequate penetration is vital. (But excess penetration doesn't do anyone any good.)

    [4] Bigger holes are better than smaller holes.

    [5] Sometimes a .32 in the thigh has stopped a fight. Sometimes 10 rounds of .45 ACP +P, JHP COM didn't.

    [6] With a handgun, there will always be compromises -- size, concealability, and manageability against size and power of the cartridge.

    [7] There are no magic bullets.
  19. LightningJoe

    LightningJoe Well-Known Member

    Stopping power mostly in the head of the guy who gets shot. Even if he were made out of Jello, what the bullet did to a human would be radically different from what it did to ballistic gelatin.

    All those real shooting incidents involve real humans who don't know what caliber they've been hit with and whose reactions won't be proportional to the type and severity of injury they experience.
  20. CWL

    CWL Well-Known Member

    Well, proof should fall on the ones who claim the data, they've never showed their data, so I don't believe them.

    Since my mother is a surgical forensic pathologist with close to 40 years experience, I have had direct access to people who do the medical examinations and know proper medical procedures. Since I've worked in the legal field, I'm familiar with legal and HIPPA regulations plus proper procedures involved in shootings -no DA, Judiciary, police Agency, medical professional or any law firms representing anyone involved in a shooting would publicize any information. I've twice fired weapons in anger while in Asia and have never seen anyone practicing a one-shot-stop combat philosophy. I've squatted in the forests of Cambodia talking with ex-Khmer Rouge guerrillas and discussed the merits of small arms, none of the seasoned veterans have ever stopped at one-shot unless it was an execution. I've also spent considerable time & money training with SWAT, SEAL and a Delta Operator; none of them have ever come close to sharing a "one shot stop" methodology in their combatives philosophy.

    Nah, I don't believe in magic bullets.

    Perhaps you should put down your videogames, go into the world, get an education and learn that M&S 'statistics' isn't real math. :rolleyes:

Share This Page