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Why isn't there better information about the performance of 9mm FMJ in combat?

Discussion in 'Handguns: General Discussion' started by UrbanHermit, Oct 21, 2021.

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  1. UrbanHermit

    UrbanHermit member

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    The 9mm was created 120 years ago, has been used extensively in two world wars and countless other conflicts, has been issued to police in hundreds of countries, has found it's way into the hands of millions of gang members and criminals, and for about 90 of those years the only bullets available were full metal jackets, which are still used by military forces to this day. Presumably millions of people have been shot with 9mm FMJ by now.

    Given the above, and the fact that carrying FMJ for self defense is extremely controversial in the gun community, and that caliber and bullet decisions have always been a subject of conflict in police and military circles, why don't we have better scientific information about the performance of these rounds? All we have are anecdotes on gun forums that don't agree with each other, antiquated tests performed decades ago with extremely misguided parameters (such as seeing which rounds caused hanging carcasses to "sway" more), "one shot stop" records that are missing critical information, and so forth. Why aren't there organized studies that document shootings with these rounds and include the exact shot placement in every case and other pertinent factors? Haven't autopsy technicians been compiling this information for a century?
     
  2. Madcap_Magician

    Madcap_Magician Member

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    Probably not. Where that information is available, it is probably not consistent or consistently accessible in a format that lends itself to meaningful direct data comparison. In cases where forensic analysis is done of gunshot wounds, the primary concern of the coroner or medical examiner was probably not "A century from now, people might want to do retrospective data analysis on the efficacy of bullets."
     
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  3. JTQ

    JTQ Member

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    If the training was shoot once, assess, if the threat is still active, shoot one more time, assess, if the threat is still active shoot one more time, assess, etc., sure, there would probably be some useful information, if it was ever gathered.

    I suspect the common training is to shoot until the threat stops. With a semi-auto pistol, where 9mm is usually chambered, and since the 1980's, most of these have come with 15+ round capacities, shooting multiple times into a threat is probably pretty common. While an autopsy may be able to determine which bullet stopped the threat, it is probably impossible to know where within a string of several shots that shot was fired.
     
  4. entropy

    entropy Member

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    As JTQ says, almost none of the fatalities caused by 9mm in wars since it's introduction were caused by one single round, unlike .357 Magnum where there is ample evidence of one shot stops. OTOH, few if any of those were in actual war, where one is much more likely to fire multiple rounds at one target.
     
  5. John_R

    John_R Member

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    Military sidearms are probably not used that much in combat. I could be wrong...

    What specifically are you looking for in data?
     
  6. UrbanHermit

    UrbanHermit member

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    I find that surprising. You would think militaries would place a high value on that information and would be insisting that medical personnel keep track of it. Caliber/bullet wars go back centuries and conflict regarding the effectiveness of various configurations of weapons in the same class go back millenniums. You can find writings left behind by Roman generals weighing the merits of various sword designs.
     
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  7. UrbanHermit

    UrbanHermit member

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    How do you know that?
     
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  8. UrbanHermit

    UrbanHermit member

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    I don't see why that would prevent the results from being compared to shootings with other bullets and calibers in which the same organs and tissues were struck.

    A woman I knew growing up was killed by a police officer with a single shot to the neck, I'm guessing with some kind of hollow point. So there's an example of someone using only one round of 9mm to stop a "threat" (in this case just a mentally ill housewife who was not actually a threat to anyone). Surely there have been hundreds of people shot once through the neck with FMJ, or with other calibers. Probably there have been thousands of people shot exactly twice or three times through only lung tissue with every caliber and bullet combination out there. I cannot believe that the potential for better scientific scrutiny than what we have does not exist.
     
  9. entropy

    entropy Member

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    As JTQ said, would you fire, assess, fire, assess, etc? No. In combat ( I have not been, but I know some who have) you tend to keep firing until the target stops moving and/or is no longer a threat. There might have been a few here and there, sentry elimination, tunnel rats using Hi-Powers shooting surprised VC from inches away, etc.; not every combat kill is documented and assessed.
    Fackler's data might have some instances, or maybe Marshall and Sanow's, but I don't have it handy.
     
  10. UrbanHermit

    UrbanHermit member

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    Yes, because I expect my bullets to actually do something and train to shoot accordingly so that adopting a consistent form and engaging the sights becomes my default response under stress.

    Regardless of how many times someone is shot, or which shot proved fatal, I believe the wounding effectiveness could be quantified and used for comparison. I would be interested in seeing a large compilation of photographs of the wound channels left by various calibers and bullets in living humans. It seems odd that such a thing doesn't exist.
     
  11. JTQ

    JTQ Member

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    Is there a lot of accurate information on other rounds?

    We really don't shoot a lot of humans, and of those that are shot, not many corpses are studied in regards to bullet wounding effectiveness.
     
  12. UrbanHermit

    UrbanHermit member

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    No, but there is better information on the performance of hollow points than with FMJs in general. I'm interested in the performance of FMJ because that is what is available and affordable in large quantities and that is what has been used for over 100 years. That is what we're probably going to be stuck with for a long time as supply chains continue to break down.

    Most people today seem to view FMJ as "range ammo" or "training ammo", with HP being the only viable ammunition for real-world use. I don't share this attitude. I view FMJ as being "basic" or "general purpose" ammunition, while HP is specialized to give the best performance under a very specific condition.
     
  13. entropy

    entropy Member

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    Well, 9mm FMJ has killed a lot of people since probably 1914, but it sometimes took more than one round. It's better than nothing, but not as good as a good HP bullet design. I have carried ball ammo in my .45 ACP 1911 and believe it would do the job. I prefer 230 Hydra Shoks, though.
     
  14. JTQ

    JTQ Member

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    You probably don't need any more data. I think you have come to your own conclusions already. That's perfectly fine. I argue for folks making their own choices all the time. Choose whatever works for you.

    The folks that do shoot a lot of "stuff", and expect one shot stops, are the handgun hunters. They also study the effects, though certainly not formally, of the rounds on their target. After years of trial and error, they develop an understanding of what works and what doesn't.
     
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  15. JTQ

    JTQ Member

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    We do have threads all over this and other forums, from folks with new 9mm handguns, that have cycling problems with their new guns. Nearly all of these instances involve the use of inexpensive 115 gr ball ammo. This ammo lacks the recoil energy to drive the slide and allow the gun to cycle. Staying with ball ammo, moving up to 124 gr or 147 gr, or using higher powered "NATO" 115 gr ammo usually corrects the problem. The typical hollow point defensive ammo also doesn't have this problem. Just something to consider.
     
  16. 1942bull
    • Contributing Member

    1942bull Contributing Member

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    There are no stats because no one accumulates them. There is scant empirical information of the effectiveness of any military round for rifle or pistol. They do not do autopsies on dead enemy. I would surmise that in terms of civilian gun deaths the 45 ACP was likely the least used of non-magnum calibers. Most gun owners bought lighter calibers and still do. Also, autopsy results where the caliber is identified are not aggregated.
    I have limited personal experience with the M1911 in combat. As a combat photographer I carried lots of camera gear and am M1911, but only had to use it when things went bad on the battlefield and the enemy got in the wire. But I did have to use it, mostly in open air CQB. But in Hue City no Marine was anything less than a rifleman. The cameras got stowed. I cleared building for two weeks. I first use an M16 that I literally took off a dead Marine. I stopped using it and went to 1911 because the rifle length was (in my mind) restricting my ability to turn blind corners and enter blind doorways. The 1911 eliminated those impediments.

    I did shoot NVA in the process of clearing the buildings. Her is what I can offer about the effectiveness of the 1911 with ball ammo. Then first myth is that a 45 ACP has some kind of mythical power that can stop an adversary with one shot. Incapacitation is dependent upon what we all know about any caliber. Shot placement is critical. A 45 in the arm is not going to incapacitate unless you hit an artery. The round will not knock anyone over unless it is an incapacitating shot.

    I found that my pistol trainer was right. Keep shooting until the enemy drops then shoot him one more time (really). Accuracy and speed of follow up shots was impeded by recoil. However, when you hit a target in the sternum, neck, face, or head he was likely to visit his ancestors without need for a second shot, which you still took.

    If I had to do it again, I would want a duty size 9mm even with only FMJ. Why? Accuracy is king.
     
  17. UrbanHermit

    UrbanHermit member

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    The data I want is whether thoracic wounds from typical 9mm FMJ bullets on humans (which generally do not present the opportunity to transect both lungs with a single shot) have a tendency to resolve themselves in the absence of urgent, competent medical care. I'm interested in "worst case scenario" information in general. With 9mm, the worst case scenario would be having to either engage a threat at long range where multiple, precise hits are not a possibility, or else making a marginal hit on a threat whereby one of you subsequently leaves the area. In either case, it would be nice to have a rough idea of the probability of the threat recovering and catching up with you later.
     
  18. JTQ

    JTQ Member

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    In 1994 a USAF Security Police man stopped a threat with his M9 from approximately 70 yards.

    https://www.police1.com/active-shooter/articles/10-lessons-from-the-fairchild-afb-shooting-11AZrSqTp4IM3diw/
     
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  19. edwardware

    edwardware Member

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    Better than what? I can't tell if you've done a bibliography study and didn't mention it, or didn't bother.

    Start here, and then you'll have a reference from which to ask further questions:
    INTERNATIONAL WOUND BALLISTICS ASSOCIATION
     
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  20. edwardware

    edwardware Member

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    That's both silly and irrelevant to defensive (civil or military context). The fact that you can spell thoracic indicates that you likely already know how unattended chest wounds resolve.
     
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  21. bdickens

    bdickens Member

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    Why would anyone autopsy dead soldiers? The cause of death is blindingly obvious. Medical personnel have a whole lot more important things going on.
     
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  22. UrbanHermit

    UrbanHermit member

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    I would.
     
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  23. John_R

    John_R Member

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    Sounds like you want a rifle, in a rifle caliber.
     
  24. UrbanHermit

    UrbanHermit member

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    Under current rule of law circumstances with urban shootings where there is always an ambulance around the corner, yes. Otherwise no. If I were shot at from a 100 yards in the woods and managed to hit the attacker once in the chest and then escape, I couldn't really guess what would happen to him. Maybe he'd be up and functional again in three days, or maybe he'd be dead in three hours. Maybe he'd shoot me dead in my tent in the middle of the night.
     
  25. Zerodefect

    Zerodefect Member

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    Because it sucks. From the militaries perspective, if you have to use your sidearm, you're having a really bad day. They don't need a study to tell them that their sucky tertiary weapon, sucks. Or that with a different ammo, or larger caliber, it still sucks.

    Do we still have a need for pistols? Sure. Do troops in CQB, still transition to pistols? Sure. Do troops not doing CQB stuff choose to leave their pistols behind? You betcha.
     
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