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On handguns and calibre wars...

Discussion in 'Handguns: General Discussion' started by Geckgo, Jun 1, 2011.

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  1. Geckgo

    Geckgo Member

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    Hello all. I would like to start a discussion of current thoughts on different handgun calibers, types of guns etc, that hopefully we can discuss this without threads like "I only use calibers that begin with .4" or "9mm is the smallest bullet I would use" and other such nonsense.

    To my knowledge, the hydrostatic shock thing has been beaten to death, and on the whole, we can take it as an irrelevant point regarding guns. Yes there has supposedly been tests on either side of the argument, but for the sake of this discussion, if we can, let's disregard it.

    Basically, when I started researching my first handgun, I ended up choosing an XD45, mostly because I wanted to use the same bullets when I someday get enough money to get some snazzy 1911s, but I had biases. I didn't want something smaller than 9mm and even thought the 9mm to be a "small" calibre. I was convinced that a nice .7" hole from a .45 HP put me in a comfort zone, and they still penetrate "deep enough" according to the little FBI minimum requirements.

    What I see more now, is that 10-14 inches of penetration is more and more the only real factor to look at most of the time. Put the bullets in the vitals or CNS and the job is done. I've got some little factoids here, let me know how yall feel.

    A heavier bullet will penetrate deeper, all other things being equal.
    A faster bullet will penetrate deeper, all other things being equal.
    A smaller bullet (radius) will penetrate deeper, all other things being equal.

    People, IMHO, are far too concerned with Hollowpoints nowadays. To me, a hollowpoint is useful for taking a bullet that will overpenetrate, and reducing it's penetration to get a maximum energy dump for the intended target.

    i.e. .22LR from a 10/22 rifle will penetrate 10-14 inches with a velocitor, regular supersonic hollowpoints 8-12 inches, but a solid moving at the same velocity will penetrate even deeper. A squirrel is nowhere near this thick, unless you shoot him along the face-to-tail axis, so smaller, more explosive expansion will still get you adequate penetration and dump a lot more energy into the squirrel, thus things like stingers are nice on small game headshots or getting rid of pests.

    When it comes to defensive handguns, the same general rules apply, and HP manufacturers, i believe, correct me if I'm wrong, like to stay around the 12inch range for their HPs, while making them as powerful as they can otherwise, which means taking a sufficent round, and curbing it's penetration to make a bigger hole and dump more energy. In that respect, the big 3, 9mm, .40SW and .45ACP are all really doing the same thing, if we look at hitting the vitals/etc.

    .380 HPs have had issues with penetration of hollowpoints, but some newer HPs, and definitely FMJs will do the same, punch a hole to and thru the vitals.

    When you get down to .25, .32, and .22Mag, and .22LR, nearly everyone will say "get a bigger bullet" but maybe the idea is to get a more "suitable bullet". A sufficient powder charge in any of these with proper placement and non-expanding bullets should be able to effectively penetrate from a pistol with solid non-hollowpoint rounds.

    There does seem to be one more item, before I close this, is that light bullets (20-50gr) might tend to change course more easily than heavier bullets with more momentum, so the tendency to deflect may be one issue to consider.

    Reliablility is important in a defensive pistol, we all know that, but for this lets look at the bullets themselves. I basically want to know how, looking at these comments, if there is something else that I have missed that would make small, non-hp rounds bad for SD if they can adequately penetrate.

    Just food for thought, let's keep it friendly :)
     
  2. skoro

    skoro Member

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    My thoughts...

    1. expansion is a nice feature, but not necessary

    2. rifle loads for big, dangerous game tend to be nonexpanding

    3. overpenetration is a concern, but a minor one

    4. I carry ammo that tends to favor penetration over expansion
     
  3. BADUNAME37

    BADUNAME37 Member

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    My philosophy is to take accurate shots, then I don't need to worry so much about whether my bullets are expanding or not. Of course, to take an accurate shot, one must shoot on a fairly regular basis. To know just how your gun is shooting at certain distances is good information, however to really know your gun and load, one should shoot frequently.

    I have to admit, I do not shoot as often as I should. There is just too much other stuff I need to do around my house when the weather is good than to be sitting at a range shooting. Perhaps if I plan on short range sessions, that would work with my schedule. After all, any shooting is better than no shooting.

    I vary in what I carry, sometimes I carry Silvertip HP's in my LCP (.380) and sometimes I carry FMJ. For my .45, all I have at the moment is FMJ, so that has to work. For .38 Special, I tend to carry either Gold Dots for short barrels which are perfect for my S&W 642 as they say those are good for 1 7/8" barrels, and that is precisely what the gun has on it!

    I really don't get too worked up over what bullets I am using as I believe if something ever goes down, whatever I have in the gun at the time will be what was best for that situation, whether it be FMJ or HP's. Where one bullet lacks, the other makes up, where that lacks, the other makes up! It all works out in the end.
     
  4. Geckgo

    Geckgo Member

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    Friendly, I definitely agree with you on the practice aspect. I have a lot of .45 fmj that I get from wally world for practice ammo. I usually keep her loaded with gold dots around the house, and I have a couple hundred rounds of those laying around. I'll empty two mags of them at the range while I'm practicing with the FMJs.

    My 380 on the other hand, strictly WWB flat point FMJs. That is the only thing I buy for it and the only food it will ever see, unless I find a more cost effective FMJ with a flat point. Thought about casting some lead flat points for it, but I don't have my reloading setup yet :(
     
  5. Effigy

    Effigy Member

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    Penetration is important, but if that's all you have there's less margin for error when you're trying to stop an attacker. One thing that needs to be considered when comparing hunting vs. defensive ammo is the requirements for killing a target as opposed to stopping a target. Hunting loads favor penetration to make the animal bleed out fast, but it's likely that it will continue to run for some distance. Against dangerous game, penetration is favored because those animals often have thick skin that an expanding round wouldn't do well against.

    Against a human attacker, your goal isn't to kill them necessarily, but rather to incapacitate them. Punching a bunch of clean holes through them may very well kill them, but probably not immediately unless you severely damage the CNS. While you may be a crack shot at the range, I wouldn't plan on having that kind of accuracy in a defensive shoot. Larger/expanding bullets should be more effective at incapacitating the target quickly in the absence of perfect shot placement.
     
  6. Geckgo

    Geckgo Member

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    Effigy, you seem to have done your home work on this, but I'm wondering, is it faster incapacitation due to bleeding out from nonvitals?? In other words are those times that i've seen everywhere (9s to pass out, 15s, etc) from a shot to the heart/lungs or are those gutshot figures. Just how perfect is "perfect" placement, in your opinion?
     
  7. Effigy

    Effigy Member

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    Admittedly I don't have experience shooting people. I'm just going on what I've read and what seems logical. It seems the best way to incapacitate a target is to attack the brain or upper spine. These are small targets through and difficult to hit firing under stress. Even if you shoot the heart, all you've really done is limit the body's oxygen supply. It may take several seconds before the body runs out of oxygen and shuts down, and in the interim that target still presents a threat.

    Probably the next best option is attacking the CNS through shock, which is where the "hydrostatic shock" debate comes in. I know it's a contentious point, but it merits consideration. In general, I think penetration is inversely related to the "shock" caused by bullet impact (insert icepick vs. hammer analogy here). Shot placement isn't as critical in this case because you don't need to destroy any specific organ, just overload the CNS and/or vascular system. I expect hitting anywhere on the torso would be sufficient, assuming the bullet transfer enough energy.
     
  8. THplanes

    THplanes Member

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    The 15s time is related to the time a brain can function on the blood and oxygen in the brain with no more blood flow. Basically if you sever the aorta it will still take 15s or so for the brain to shut down from oxygen starvation. Bleed out times from a single gunshot to the lungs or abdomen will be measured in terms of minutes, not seconds. Even with a heart shot there may still be blood flowing to the brain and the bleed out time will be longer than 15s.

    The bleeding from vitals deep in the body can't be stopped by external pressure. It requires time or a surgeon to stop the bleeding. Shallow surface wound bleeding can be stopped by pressure.

    So in essence, if you don't hit me in the CNS, I can dump my mag, reload and dump the second mag as well.

    On another note, since you have ruled out any of the various hydrostatic shock models, why are you talking about energy dump. It's a non factor in service caliber handguns. Energy dump (basically it causes the temporary stretch cavity) does not produce localized wounding in service caliber handguns. At least that's the Fackler position.
     
  9. Onmilo

    Onmilo Member

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    Shot placement is everything and a poorly constructed hollowpoint bullet is nothing more than an overpriced full metal jacket.
     
  10. THplanes

    THplanes Member

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    I'll give you a little warning on this path of discussion. It generally deteriorates into name calling and devolves into insulting each others intelligence.
     
  11. duns

    duns Member

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    I'm not sure what the OP was asking here. If it's the effectiveness of different calibers, I rely on the work of Marshall and Sanow (yes, I know Fackler has tried to discredit it). This showed to my mind that any major caliber *in hollow point* will do a good job and also that differences in cartridge design can mask any differences between calibers - e.g. if I remember rightly, the Corbon +P 9mm beat pretty much everything else?
     
  12. Effigy

    Effigy Member

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    That seems to be the case with caliber discussions in general, so I think it's unavoidable. You can't really have a worthwhile discussion without talking about the "H word" though.

    What's the point of discussing poorly constructed hollowpoints? That's like saying "a poorly constructed pistol is nothing more than an overpriced brick." It's not exactly a profound statement. It makes more sense to discuss well contructed hollowpoints, which are readily available and affordable to anyone that can afford a gun in the first place.

    Shot placement is certainly important. However, you can't rely on being able to place shots precisely in a defensive shoot. You'll be lucky (or highly trained) if you even get a proper sight picture under those circumstances, much less good trigger control, grip, stance, and so forth. If shot placement is everything, it's a grim outlook indeed for the man attempting to defend himself with a pistol.
     
  13. wow6599

    wow6599 Member

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    This was the OP's question, and the answer is a simple one........over-penetration.
     
  14. 357 Terms

    357 Terms Member

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    Effigy; those are excelent points, I cant agree more.
     
  15. Effigy

    Effigy Member

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    In response to the line wow6599 quoted, I agree that overpenetration could be a problem. In addition to reducing the energy transferred to the target, it also means the bullet could hit an unintended target behind the intended one. Small caliber FMJs are still much better than nothing, but you'd need to rely on shot placement more than with a larger caliber or JHP loading. Even if you're a good shot, you want every advantage you can get for self defense.

    If your gun is unreliable with JHPs, then it makes sense to use FMJs. I'd try to address the unreliability before switching to FMJ though, for instance by polishing the feed ramp or trying a different magazine. For cartridges smaller than 9mm Luger, you might consider using FMJs regardless of JHP reliability just for the sake of ensuring adequate penetration. Personally I wouldn't go smaller than 9mm unless I had a really compelling reason though.
     
  16. Prosser

    Prosser Member

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    I think the original poster bought the ammo makers desire to be richer then Glock. Lead bullets, or cast, are cheap, easy to make, and are hard to justify high prices with. Now hollowpoints, them there have them fancy technology, which means we can charge 2 doolars a round for em, or more, and suckers buy em. Even better, everybody gets used to absurdly high prices, so we can then sell cast boolits rounds for 3 dollars each.

    I don't buy the 14" penetration stuff. That's for cops, leos, that have to justify their huge ammo bill to the people, for hollow point ammunition that is not really anymore effective then expanding lead bullets are, since, other then a fancy copper jacket, that's all they are. However, they can sell that the ammunition won't penetrate, and hit an innocent behind the intended target, when in fact, this rarely if ever happens, and, they are neglecting to mention that the offside skin is worth 6" of penetration in gelatin. In other words, the human body does a pretty good job as a bullet catcher.


    Penetration? The FBI started out with 18", which, if you think about it, makes a bit of sense. Most people you are going to shoot are going to be trying to shoot you, so their arms become bullet catchers, and soft tissue that must be penetrated to get to vitals. Then, once through the arms, part or all, it must still have enough velocity to penetrate the chest cavity.

    Velocity THROUGH the target is vital. Why? It effects the size of the temporary and permanent wound channel size. A bullet going 950-1200 fps
    through the target is going to create usually around a 1-2" permanent
    wound channel. This increases your 'bullseye' and makes it more likely you are going to do incapacitating damage.

    This is where heavy bullets, with flat noses, really shine. They can also be soft, if they are heavy enough, so they expand, create a larger channel, but, make a larger wound channel, because the extra weight pushes them through the medium faster.

    Now, all that said, there is more then one way to skin a rat. Solid, light bullets, when designed right, tumble, creating a wound channel much larger then their caliber. The new 5.7 pistols, using light bullets, at 2000 fps show there maybe more then one way to achieve an end. .223 rifle bullets are effective for this very reason.

    And, last but not least:

    There are factors that don't make any sense. Big, heavy bullets, starting with .45 Caliber and going up, at slow speeds, like 950 fps to around 1350 fps, seem to kill and hit WAY out of proportion to their ballistics. I believe at least part of this is the bullet goes through the target at much higher velocity, turning bone, or relative solids into projectiles, creating secondary projectiles, much like a shotgun wound. They also create a much larger wound channel, since the channel is similar from start to finish, vs. the diminishing channel that you get from a lighter bullet, designed to slow down and not exit. If you look at ballistic gelatin, the first 6-8" are rather large, damage wise, compared to the last 6-8" where the bullet is seriously slowing down, and does little damage.

    In conclusion, you can see that the theory of the bullet slowing down and stopping in the target, to give maximum energy dump, is really just a big dump in logic. Maximum damage is done by the bullet maintaining velocity through the target, creating a maximum diameter wound channel, and, creating secondary projectiles out of bone and stuff.

    Here is what a 440 grain .500JRH bullet does, on exit, after going side to side on a buffalo:
    440grainHardcastat950fps500JRH300wincartridgeforcomparision.gif
    That's a 300n Win Mag cartridge for size comparison. By the way, that exit is nearly 4 times the size of the 300 Win Mag on the same animal.
     
  17. Geckgo

    Geckgo Member

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    To everyone:

    Excellent posts and thanks for keeping it civil!

    Prosser, while experimenting with some terminal ballistics models I have noticed that momentum seems to affect penetration depth more than energy. The models I've come up with are not perfect, but definitely suggest that the v^2 in energy makes fast bullets look good, and while it may have more of an effect on wound channel size, it doesn't involve that much more penetration. I think this may be why the slower/heavier bullets seem "off" on their penetrations to you. Maybe?

    From what you've shown, the big and heavy vs slow and fast argument may not be an argument at all, but rather two different attempts to solve the same problem, and both of them effective solutions, which is something I hadn't considered before. I like learning stuff :)

    for those unclear about my question, it's basically trying to figure out the exact advantage of punching a .22 cal hole vers a .72 cal hole from a .45 hollowpoint. In reality, the difference is huge but not enough so IMO to bring accuracy into question. Maybe apart from energy dump and the dreaded hydro-******* *****, we can also look at permanent wound cavities, which would be somewhat related to both but a more realistic thing to look at.

    Any other wound cavity researchers around?
     
  18. THplanes

    THplanes Member

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    This the ultimate book on the subject.

    http://pw2.netcom.com/~dmacp/index.html

    [It's a book by Duncan MacPherson. He's the guy who calculate the orbital trajectories for the Mercury space launches.

    Note that this is a Fackler only look at wounding mechanism. I have not read it, but I've seen a lot of info from it posted on another site that seems to get into a shouting match over Fackler vs BPW (a different more refined form of the H word) every month or so.
    .
    So I have a few problems with some areas of it. That said, it's probably the best book for studying the the wound cavity formation. It also gives a model that will allow you to approximate a bullets penetration in ballistic gell using data from water penetration tests. Once you have derived the ballistic gell data, you can them compute the theoretical volume of the permanent crush cavity,ie how big the hole is. It also has a model of incapacitation from wound trauma. This is where I disagree with what I've seen others post about the book. I'm not going to go into that because I have not read the book yet. I will acquire a copy and give it a read when time permits.
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2011
  19. JustinJ

    JustinJ Member

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    It all comes down to probabiliities. A large diameter projectile traveling through tissue has a higher probability of severing arteries and damaging other vital components. The farther it goes also increases the chances of these things happening. Hollowpoints make the projectile bigger and sharp jagged edges are more likely to severe things we would all rather not be severed in ourselves. Same holds true for head shots. The larger and deeper the projectile the more neurons destroyed. Hydrostatic shock is, IMO, not likely to be a significant factor with most handgun velocities.
     
  20. THplanes

    THplanes Member

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    comments in red
     
  21. Prosser

    Prosser Member

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    I'm well outside the "service caliber" box. Most loads for service calibers are either military hardball, or HP's. J. Browning thought the best was around 200 grains, in 45ACP, and, 950 fps, flat point that would feed in a 1911. Plenty of penetration, and an excellent size wound channel, both wide, and long.

    The problem with .22's is getting enough velocity to maintain penetration through the target. Even the .223 isn't really a great penetrator with ball, because it tumbles and deforms. It does make one heck of an initial cavity, however.

    The 5.7MM is certainly something I don't want to get hit with.
    http://www.brassfetcher.com/index_files/Page2558.htm

    Also, at a certain point, somewhere around 2500 fps, bullet materials, unless you get exotic, deform, and reduce penetration. So, the faster it goes, the less it penetrates.

    Your question is in fact, flawed. I'd go to this page, and play with the wound channel calculator to get a better idea of how velocity effects wound channel diameter, then look at brassfetcher.com for actual gelatin results.

    http://www.beartoothbullets.com/rescources/calculators/php/wound.htm

    Actually this webpage will answer your questions:

    http://www.brassfetcher.com/index_files/Page1950.htm

    The super slow motion shows the shock caused by the different calibers, and, the effects on the gelatin. Pretty amazing. I now have a new favorite page.

    The beartooth calculator sort of quantifies the brassfetcher super slow motion effect.

    I'm pretty much of the opinion that the service calibers generally lack case capacity to move heavy enough bullets, fast enough to use HP's. The .475JRH
    and the .50GI might be exceptions.

    Also, buffalobore has a 250-260 grain flatpoint 45ACP load that equals a 45 Colt load, for me, the Holy Grail of effective ballsitics. But, what does 150 years of being effective have to do with modern day ballistics?
     
  22. Prosser

    Prosser Member

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    If you look at the difference between the .44 magnum 240 grain blowing through the gelatin, and, the .45 ACP 185 grain, and how it slows down, you can see the bullet slow down, and the wound channel is smaller at the far end.
    45ACP Remington 185gr +P Golden Saber (3.8” barrel)

    I think the real answer is heavy and relative to service calibers, fast. A 240-260, or more, grain bullet, moving at least 950 fps with an expanding design, or, a lighter bullet, with a flat point, going faster, should give you near equal wound channels, if not recoil.
     
  23. Loosedhorse

    Loosedhorse member

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    Not irrelelvant. At rifle velocities, hydrostatic shock has been shown to tear major blood vessels. It is unclear a what velocity (energy) threshold this stops happening, but it is probably not active for most handgun rounds.

    However, hydrostatic shock can also deliver a "punch in the solar plexus" effect, which is an inconsistent stopper.
    Not necessarily. A good HP driven at faster speed will expand more and /or fragment; either can cause it to penetrate less than if driven more slowly.
    Well, except that practically, you can't keep everything equal. If you design a 9mm with the same ogive as a .45 and lengthen it so it weighs 230gr--how are you going to get it into the case and have room for powder?

    Practically, smaller diameter bullets have less mass in order to fit into smaller cases. But one only as to look at the differences between .380 ACP and .357 Maximum to know that diameter probably doesn't say much about penetration.
    Sure. The extreme case of a small penetrative bullet is a long hatpin. You stab someone in the heart with that, how long before they're out of action?

    The extreme case of a big, non-penetrative bullet is a bean-bag projectile hitting your attacker in the chest.

    Both extreme cases have their own disadvantages.
    People like the police and FBI. Can you name a LE agency that doesn't use HPs?

    There's probably a reason that we have settled, after decades of looking at this carefully, on (for handguns) HPs penetrating no more that 14-18 inches (and often less) in calibers between .355 and .454. The FN 5.7 was supposed to change all that, but it hasn't.

    I agree that HPs are useful for decreasing over-penetration threat. And so does the New York Times:
    Massad Ayoob also had an article on (I believe) the same NYC statisitics.
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2011
  24. Carne Frio

    Carne Frio Member

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  25. Prosser

    Prosser Member

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    Such drivel. Hardball should never...etc...
    Hardball weight and penetration can be matched to the desired penetration level. Concerned about over penetration? Use a light ball round, at high velocity, that generates a large, deep wound channel, and doesn't over penetrate.
    Better yet, flatten the tip on the ball ammo to increase resistance, and increase penetration.

    Hollow the base of the bullet, and it will tumble, further decreasing penetration.
    Match your ammunition to your situation, and possible backstop. If I'm carrying in a city where shooting around crowds is likely I would pick ammunition that would work for that situation. If I'm in Montana the situation is different. So is Alaska. There is no absolute for any defense situation. Over simplyfing is a sin.;)
     
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