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Penetrating a skull (head) ?

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by Bullet, Nov 2, 2007.

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  1. Bullet

    Bullet Well-Known Member

    I’ve 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)?
  2. rockstar.esq

    rockstar.esq Well-Known Member

    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.
  3. North of 49th

    North of 49th Well-Known Member

    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.
  4. AntiqueCollector

    AntiqueCollector Well-Known Member

    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.
  5. plexreticle

    plexreticle Well-Known Member

    Hit the surface straight as possible. I've seen some pretty heavy duty handgun rounds graze off a pig's skull.
  6. esheato

    esheato Well-Known Member

    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. :eek:

  7. C-grunt

    C-grunt Well-Known Member

    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.
  8. RyanM

    RyanM Well-Known Member

    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.
  9. eliphalet

    eliphalet Well-Known Member

    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.
  10. crebralfix

    crebralfix member

    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.
  11. James T Thomas

    James T Thomas Well-Known Member

    Her Majesties Service

    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.
  12. standerson

    standerson Active Member

    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.


    The piece of the guys skull with the hole in it was in the Criminal Justice Department at WVU at Parkersburg.
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2007
  13. Soybomb

    Soybomb Well-Known Member

    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?
  14. bdjansen

    bdjansen Well-Known Member

    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.
  15. brickeyee

    brickeyee Well-Known Member

    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.
  16. ernunnos

    ernunnos Well-Known Member

    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.
  17. Harry Paget Flashman

    Harry Paget Flashman Well-Known Member

    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.
  18. 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??
  19. Harley Quinn

    Harley Quinn Well-Known Member

  20. defjon

    defjon Well-Known Member


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