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Ballistic Research - A very short non-definitive study

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by Wichaka, Jun 13, 2018.

  1. Wichaka

    Wichaka Member

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    As started from another thread about ballistic penetration;
    https://www.thehighroad.org/index.php?threads/penetration-question.837651/

    I made a post about my very short and very non-definitive study on ballistics from 2003 - 2008, in the above thread...see page 2 of that thread.

    I mentioned that I was able to attend a ballistic seminar put on by Dr Gary Roberts, at our annual LE firearms instructor assoc. conference. If I recall correctly, back in 2003 or 4.

    Here's some of the notes I took, along with some of the hand out notes as well from him that evening;


    People are often rapidly psychologically incapacitated by minor wounds that are not immediately physiologically incapacitating.

    Unlike rifle bullets, handgun bullets, regardless of whether they are fired from pistols or SMG’s, generally only disrupt tissue by the crush mechanism. In addition, temporary cavitation from most handgun bullets does not reliably damage tissue and is not usually a significant mechanism of wounding.

    If handgun bullets do fragment, the bullet fragments are usually found within 1 cm of the permanent cavity; wound severity is usually decreased by the fragmentation since the bullet mass is reduced, causing a smaller permanent crush cavity.

    Bullet designs like the Silver Tip, Hydra-Shok, and Black Talon were state of the art 20 years ago. Modern ammunition which has been designed for robust expansion against clothing and intermediate barriers is significantly superior to the older designs.

    The bullets in the Federal Classic and Hydra-shok line are outperformed by other ATK products such as the Federal Tactical and HST, as well as the Speer Gold Dot; likewise Winchester Ranger Talons are far superior to the old Black Talons or civilian SXT's

    Rather than using larger caliber duty pistols, most people would be better served by issuing a quality 9 mm handgun along with good ammunition, and then spending the majority of their efforts on mandating effective, high quality, ongoing firearms training—a good minimum would be 100 rounds per week of dedicated, objective, monitored and scored training shots. The keys are:

    -- Invest in competent, thorough initial training and then maintain skills with regular ongoing practice
    -- Acquire a reliable and durable weapon system.
    -- Purchase a consistent, robust performing duty load along with a similar practice load in sufficient quantities to allow yourself to maintain and improve their skill.
    -- Then STOP worrying about the nuances of handgun ammunition terminal performance and focus on training and tactics

    Handguns chambered in .380 Auto are small, compact, and generally easy to carry. Unfortunately, testing has shown that they offer inadequate performance for self-defense and for law enforcement use whether on duty as a back-up weapon or for off duty carry.
    The terminal performance of .380 Auto JHP's is often erratic, with inadequate penetration and inconsistent expansion being common problems, while .380 Auto FMJ's offer adequate penetration, but no expansion.
    All of the .380 Auto JHP loads we have tested, including CorBon, Hornady, Federal, Remington, Speer, and Winchester exhibited inconsistent, unacceptable terminal performance for law enforcement back-up and off duty self-defense use due to inadequate penetration or inadequate expansion.
    Stick with FMJ for .380 Auto or better yet, don't use it at all. The use of .380 Auto and smaller caliber weapons is really not acceptable for law enforcement use and most savvy agencies prohibit them. While both the .380 Auto and .38 Sp can obviously be lethal; the .38 Sp is more likely to incapacitate an attacker when used in a BUG role.

    There have been many reports in the scientific literature, by Dr. Fackler and others, recommending the .38 Sp 158 gr +P LSWCHP as offering adequate performance. Please put this in context for the time that these papers were written in the late 1980's and early 1990's--no denim testing was being performed at that time, no robust expanding JHP's, like the Barnes Tac-XP, Federal Tactical & HST, Speer Gold Dot, or Winchester Ranger Talon or Ranger Bonded existed.
    In the proper historical perspective, the 158 gr +P LSWCHP fired out 3-4" barrel revolvers was one of the best rounds available--and it is still a viable choice, as long as you understand its characteristics.
    With few exceptions, the vast majority of .38 Sp JHP's fail to expand when fired from 2" barrels in the 4 layer denim test. Many of the lighter JHP's demonstrate overexpansion and insufficient penetration in bare gel testing. Also, the harsher recoil of the +P loads in lightweight J-frames tends to minimize practice efforts and decrease accuracy for many officers.
    The 158 gr +P LSWCHP offers adequate penetration, however in a 2" revolver the 158gr +P LSWCHP does not reliably expand. If it fails to expand, it will produce less wound trauma than a WC. Target wadcutters offer good penetration, cut tissue efficiently, and have relatively mild recoil. With wadcutters harder alloys and sharper leading edges are the way to go. Wadcutters perform exactly the same in both bare and 4LD covered gel when fired from a 2" J-frame.
    When faced with too little penetration, as is common with lightweight .38 Sp JHP loads or too much penetration like with the wadcutters, then go with penetration. Agencies around here have used the Winchester 148 gr standard pressure lead target wadcutter (X38SMRP), as well as the Federal (GM38A) version--both work. A sharper edged wadcutter would even be better.

    Currently the Speer Gold Dot 135 gr +P JHP, Winchester 130 gr bonded +P JHP (RA38B), and loads using the Barnes 110 gr all copper JHP (for ex. in the Corbon DPX loading ) offer the most reliable expansion we have seen from a .38 Sp 2” BUG; the Hornady 110 gr standard pressure and +P Critical Defense loads also offer good performance out of 2" barrel revolvers.

    The 5.7 pistol as a carry gun is a mistake. There are far more effective weapons and ammunition combinations out there.

    The new Federal #1 buckshot, 15 pellet, 1100 fps "Flight Control" load (LE132-1B) offers IDEAL terminal performance for LE and self-defense use and is the best option for those who need to use shot shells for such purposes.

    223 - Unfortunately, recent LE use and combat operations have once again highlighted terminal performance problems, generally manifested as failures to rapidly incapacitate opponents, during both LE OIS incidents and military combat engagements when M855 is fired from 5.56 mm rifles and carbines, especially those with shorter barrels.
    The best LE 5.56 mm/.223 loads for intermediate barrier penetration using 1/9 and faster twist barrels are the 5.56 mm Federal 62 gr Trophy Bonded Bear Claw (TBBC) bonded JSP (XM556FBIT3) and 5.56 mm Winchester 64 gr solid base bonded JSP (Q3313/RA556B) developed for the FBI, along with the outstanding new Black Hills 5.56 mm 50 gr TSX loading. The Hornady 5.56 mm 55 gr GMX is another acceptable option. Most other acceptable LE barrier blind loadings are at .223 pressures, including the superb, well proven .223 55 & 62 gr Federal bonded JSP Tactical loads (LE223T1 & LE223T3), along with loads using Nosler 60 gr Partition JSP, Remington 62 gr Core-Lokt Ultra Bonded JSP (PRC223R4), .223 Horn 55 gr GMX, and the .223 Speer 64 gr Gold Dot JSP's (and identically constructed Federal 62 gr Fusion JSP and Federal XM223SP1 62gr Bonded JSP).
     
  2. Wichaka

    Wichaka Member

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    Winchester 230gr. FMJ
    Weight retained: 100%
    Expanded Diameter: .467"
    Medium: T-Shirt
    Distance: approx. 30"
    Firearm: 1911

    This case happened about 20+ years ago, during a robbery. Suspect shot victim at close range, entering just south of the rib cage and coming to rest at the spine, going thru multiple organs in it's path. The shot was fairly level, and pretty much front to back straight away laterally.

    bullet.jpg
     
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  3. Blue Feather

    Blue Feather Member

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    Interesting. As far as handguns go, I’ll stick with my .40 S&W 180 Grain JHP. I don’t think it’s a wonder cartridge but it’s a decent choice.

    IMHO, the Gen. 3 Glock 23 is the most size efficient pistol made when concealability, power and capacity are factored in. I carried one for a long time and still carry it from time to time.

    I adopted the .40 in 1993 and at this point, I see no reason to change. I’d say don’t overthink it. A handgun in good working order is better than no handgun.

    As far has home defense, I’ll always defer to a 12 gauge shotgun. If I could have only one firearm, it would probably be a 12 gauge shotgun.

    For a self defense rifle, I choose a well made AK-47 Variant for a myriad of reasons.

    For fun, it’s hard to beat an AR 15 rifle. Just my two cents worth. Be safe. Be legal. Be armed. Practice. Support 2A causes.
     
  4. JR24

    JR24 Member

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    Informative.

    My own reckoning, vis a vi caliber was when I looked at various data and determined that the numbers put my preferred carry ammo for both (HST) had .40 having around a 10-15% advantage in penetration and expansion while, in my hands, generally a 25% loss in speed (split times) over 9mm, and with more misses under the clock, generally (Glock 23 vs 19). Pretty much a wash.

    I decided to go with more hits faster with the 9mm. Plus I enjoy practice with the 9mm more.
     
  5. badkarmamib

    badkarmamib Member

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    AMEN. Find something you are comfortable with, understanding that there is a trade-off between power and size/capacity. Then, learn how to use it effectively.
     
  6. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    "People are often rapidly psychologically incapacitated by minor wounds that are not immediately physiologically incapacitating.

    Unlike rifle bullets, handgun bullets, regardless of whether they are fired from pistols or SMG’s, generally only disrupt tissue by the crush mechanism. In addition, temporary cavitation from most handgun bullets does not reliably damage tissue and is not usually a significant mechanism of wounding."

    This is the facklerite conventional wisdom - only permanently-damaged tissue contributes to reliable stops. This is not a surprising lens of understanding coming from someone with a surgical background.

    I have my doubts about whether this is reflective of the full reality of fights. You know what has ended a lot of fistfights? A punch to the solar plexus that knocks the wind out of that fighter. That is incapacitating. Temporarily, to be sure, but incapacitating. A surgeon examining that fighter a few minutes or hours later would find no permanent wound. He might be tempted to characterize the stop as "psychological." He would be wrong.

    You know what else ends fights? Getting "choked out" by compression of the carotid artery. Again, most times a surgeon (like Dr. Fackler) would struggle to identify a permanent wound channel behind that incapacitation and might call it "psychological." It is not.

    I have had the interesting and intensely unpleasant experience of having a surgically-implanted drain removed while I was conscious. The drain was in my lower abdomen. Its removal was not exactly painful, but it was extremely unpleasant. As it was pulled out (under clean procedure-room conditions by a highly-skilled surgeon), I could feel the drag of it through/along my innards. I was not wounded. No new tissue was crushed - the "wound channel" had been there for weeks. Bleeding was very minimal (in fact, no stitches or further repair/closure was necessary). I promise you, during the few seconds of that event and for half a minute thereafter, I was incapacitated.

    I think Fackler's insights have been very valuable, and he greatly advanced the frontiers of terminal ballistics. I don't think he captured the totality of incapacitation by a long shot. He captured what could easily be measured and recorded by surgical examination hours or days afterward - because that was his primary method of investigation.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2018
  7. 460Shooter

    460Shooter Member

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    @Wichaka

    Thanks for sharing those findings. It's good to hear from someone who has actually looked at terminal performance rather than just gel tests.
     
  8. Wichaka

    Wichaka Member

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    I was very fortunate to have the patience of a few ME's, and my then Admin which gave me the time to document what I felt at the time would be pertinent info in making a decision of what to use.

    Yes, shot placement will always be paramount, but having a projectile that performs well is a plus.

    I'v always been a 45 guy, but after my short study...if someone took my 45 and gave me a 9mm with a well constructed bullet, I wouldn't cry much.
     
  9. Gridley

    Gridley Member

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    Thank you for sharing this. Am I correct that Dr. Roberts' data came from fatal GSWs (as I believe yours did)?

    I wonder what he would say about bullet development in the last 15 or so years?
     
  10. lysanderxiii

    lysanderxiii Member

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    Hmmmmm.......

    I have seen many fights end at the appearance of a gun, without even the shooting of it.

    An attacker thinking the victims is unarmed and helpless, may break-off the attack after being winged, because before he/she was sure that they were not in danger from the victim, but now it is apparent they are.
     
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  11. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    Sure, although that is obviously a "psychological" stop, in that it is based on the decision of the other participant. I'm talking about physiological/physical stops that are typically missed in the medical-examiner/trauma-surgeon methodology that has become the bedrock of terminal ballistics science today. For instance, many "gut shot" individuals in gunfights fall down or are otherwise taken out of the fight. But if they never lose consciousness and there is no destruction of load-bearing capacity (i.e., bones broken such that the person's weight literally cannot be supported) and no severing of the nervous system, many Facklerites chalk that up as a "psychological" stop, especially if the person shot is eventually able to move away under their own power.

    Again, it seems to me that this is akin to saying that someone who gets hit in the solar plexus and stops fighting long enough for the other person to leave (or get more permanent control of the other person) is someone who succumbed to psychology. No, they were physically incapacitated for some period of time.

    ETA: Neither this nor my prior post is in any way about the efficacy of fistfighting techniques versus guns.
     
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  12. Wichaka

    Wichaka Member

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    The data I collected was obviously from fatal gunshot victims, but not all the data collected was from fatal shots.

    Some of the rounds were deemed to be non fatal by the ME, but were still recorded for bullet performance, as I belive Roberts has done as well.

    The non fatal rounds provide just as much information, as fatal rounds. Bullet performance, crush cavity, organs and bones contacted. This gave me a way better overall view of bullet performance based on what they contacted.
     
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  13. Gridley

    Gridley Member

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    Good to know, thank you.

    Only one of the three GSW patients I had was a fatality, and I certainly felt I learned more from them than the fatality. Do you know of any large-scale studies of hospitalized GSWs that compliment this research? I've seen a few, but they generally lacked critical details (bullet caliber listed but not type, for a contrasting example to the OP).
     
  14. Wichaka

    Wichaka Member

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    I do not know of any hospital research. But me thinks there's probably another someone like me out there that has done such a thing as I have...can't believe I'm the only one.
     
  15. Odd Job

    Odd Job Moderator Staff Member

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    I have many hospital cases but they aren't documented from the point of view of looking at ammunition effectiveness, they are documented from a clinical and forensic point of view. My research was aimed at looking for missing projectiles and trying to reconstruct the trajectory by means of clothing clues and radiographic appearances.
    If you are interested in those you can get to them from the link in my signature.
     
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  16. Wichaka

    Wichaka Member

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    I'll be looking that up.
     
  17. Wichaka

    Wichaka Member

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    I have attended a few ballistic seminars where manufacturers would test their products in gel tests, impressive yes...but having been in a few scrapes, I always wondered how accurate they were.

    I've always had good results from HST, from my own research as we're discussing here, and from other LE dept's that used it. It expands reliably, even thru auto glass.

    Winchester SXT, at the time of my research was having jacket separation problems. Again, my research was done 10 years ago...I would hope they would have the problem fixed by now.

    Here's an SXT taken from a plain gel block...clearly showing the starting of separation. Also clearly showing the talons too.

    sxt2.jpg

    Back in around 2004, a plain clothes officer who is also a SRT member, firearms instructor etc. here in the state of WA., went out to leave for work. He forgot something in the house and left his dept. unmarked car running in the driveway. He came back out to find a male subject who had just got in his car and just closed the door. Because of all the weapons, munitions, flash bangs etc. in the car, he decided he was not going to allow this male subject to leave. As the subject was backing his car out of his driveway, he fired one shot from his 1911 using a Winchester SXT thru the windshield of his car at approx. 20 feet. The jacket of the bullet was found on the dashboard of the car in front of the drivers seat, the lead core was found just under the skin high on the male subjects sternum. Needless to say the bullet failed, and a fight ensued. Subject was eventually arrested...but that's not how we want this type of thing to go.
     
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  18. Blue Feather

    Blue Feather Member

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    Choose a decent caliber, be very familiar with the platform and practice. Keep calm and chive on.
     
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  19. Blue Feather

    Blue Feather Member

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    This is why I like .40’s, .45’s and .357 Magnums ——- less worry over what load to choose.
     
  20. Walkalong

    Walkalong Moderator

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    I like it. (And shot placement) :)
     
  21. JR24

    JR24 Member

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    I just use HST in all of them and don't worry.
     
  22. Blue Feather

    Blue Feather Member

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    The thing about some calibers is you can walk into any Wal Mart in America at 10:00 PM and find a pretty good self defense round. Other calIbers require much more scrutiny. I’m confident with any .40 180 Grain JHP or .45 ACP 230 Grain JHP. I prefer HST’s or Golden Sabers but I won’t sweat it if I can’t find them.
     
  23. JR24

    JR24 Member

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    Fair. I'd feel pretty good with just about any jhp I'd find at the store in 9mm too, personally.
     
  24. Blue Feather

    Blue Feather Member

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    There you have it. I tell people new to shooting to choose any caliber from 9mm up and buy a well made, armory grade handgun, get training and shoot it. Armory grade as in any brand that is issued regularly by large agencies or departments. Not that there aren’t other good brands out there but for a neophyte, it’s hard to go wrong with a Sig, Beretta, Glock, HK or S&W. I push neophytes to the 9mm frankly. If I was just starting out, I would probably choose the 9mm.
     
  25. JR24

    JR24 Member

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    Certainly good advise. I started with magnums and .45 and eventually wandered back to 9mm. I like 9mm for carry these days simply because I am faster getting good hits with it over anything else.

    But I still have a love for the big fat .45, especially out of a 1911 or Sig P220.
     
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