Ignorance knows no boundaries

While browsing the web tonight I came across two drastically inaccurate quotes:

Having held a used hollow point slug in my hand, I will state unequivocably that there is no valid reason any civilian should have access to that ammunition. None. The autopsy photos showed the damage one bullet inflicted. Any so-called sportsman who thinks he needs those bullets for any legitimate purpose should have his head examined or just admit that they’re sadistic ratbags.

And the following reply:

There’s actually a physics-related reason for the existence of frangible rounds.Remember, the point of shooting someone who’s attacking you (and I limit my comments to that circumstance — defense, not offense) is to STOP them. Not kill them. Stop them. That’s why you aim for the center of mass in the chest, not the head.

Now, bullets that remain in one piece can sometimes travel through a person. What they call in the CSI shows “a through-and-through.” If they do that, they have not transferred all of their momentum into the target, which is supposed to be the idea. That’s the reason behind big bullets and/or high muzzle velocities: greater momentum to transfer into the target.

A frangible round such as a hollow-point is generally better at transferring all of its momentum to the target, because it breaks up on impact and remains embedded. It is more effective at STOPPING the attacker in his tracks, even possibly driving him backward. The unfortunate side effect is that it is also more effective at killing, since the bullet becomes just so much shrapnel.

But here’s the kicker. A .45 has so much momentum on its own that even a partial transfer of momentum is usually effective at stopping an attack even if the bullet exits the target. A hollow-point .45 is really nothing more than a killer round. OR maybe in a completely contrived justification, a way to defend yourself against a charging bear? Yeah, not much other use for a hollow-point .45 than to kill. Now, smaller rounds like a .38 or a .22, I can see the greater justification for a frangible round. Especially in a .22. And .22 hollow-points are much more survivable in center-mass shots, for the same reason of them being so much smaller.

The ignorance oozing from these two comments was almost enough to get me yelling at the screen of my laptop.

So where do we start? I guess I’ll begin with the effectiveness of the .45 ACP cartridge both with standard FMJ ammunition declared “humane” by the Hague Convention, and with Hollow Point Ammunition recommended by every self-defense instructor worth his or her certification.

Many years ago Evan Marshall conducted a study to determine the effectiveness of various handgun rounds in real world shootings. His data shows that a projectile from a .45 ACP when loaded with FMJ Ammunition will cause a stop about 62% of the time. Comparable to the .380 ACP when loaded with Hollow Point Ammunition. (a round not highly recommended for personal protection) When the .45 ACP is loaded with Hollow Point Ammunition its stp percentage increases to a whopping 87%. Not too bad but no where near the king, which is the .357 Magnum propelling a 125 grain hollow point bullet at 97%.

The above data shows that when using Hollow Point ammunition you are more likely to stop the fight sooner if you use FMJ ammunition in a .45 caliber handgun. That is just one justification for Hollow Points though.

Another is the safety of bystanders and this is where one of our intrepid commenters comes close to being correct. The effect of expanding causes the bullet to shed energy, this may or may not cause it to stay in the body. However it will reduce the chances of injury to anyone nearby. Considering that every bullet you fire in a defensive situation has a lawyer attached to it, you must do everything possible to decrease your liability.

One of our commenters suggests that “A .45 has so much momentum on its own that even a partial transfer of momentum is usually effective at stopping an attack even if the bullet exits the target.” Granted the FMJ .45 ACP was chosen by the U.S. Military because it was more effective at stopping an assailant. However the U.S. Military was constrained by the Hague Convention to non-expanding ammunition. Civilians and Law enforcement are not so constrained so let’s compare penetration of the FMJ round to a Hollow Point Bullet. According to the following illustration by Martin Fackler the standard Military issue FMJ round will penetrate over 60 centimeters or 23.6 inches of tissue before stopping.

Compare the above to the following illustration also by Dr. Fackler showing a 185 grain Hollow Point from a .45 ACP

Here you can see that the Hollow Point only penetrates 25 centimeters or 9.8 inches of tissue.

Given the above which round do you think poses the least risk to bystanders?

Finally we will address the last four technical errors. 1. Hollow Point Bullets are not frangible ammunition. They are expanding ammunition. Frangible ammunition is ammunition designed to disintegrate on impact like the Glaser Safety Slug at $3.62 per shot it’s too expensive for most people to use though. 2. The purpose of using a handgun in self-defense regardless of caliber is not to kill. It is to stop the attack. In fact as lethal weapons go handguns rate as very poor killing machines. With studies showing a survival rate of around 80% for handgun wounds compared to around 30% for wounds inflicted by long arms. This is why some firearms trainers like Clint Smith of Thunder Ranch say “A handgun is there only to use to fight your way to your rifle.” This is also illustrated by examining any Police Department. All officers carry handguns, but when things get heavy they reach for their shotguns, or becoming more common their AR-15 Carbines. If .45 Caliber handguns were such great killing machines why do patrol cars still carry longarms and why do SWAT teams use long arms? 3. The .45 ACP will only make a bear mad. If one were to carry a .45 caliber firearm in bear country they would be much better served by a .454 Casull Magnum. 4. Getting shot with any firearm will NOT drive someone backwards. I don’t care how many times Hollywood shows it in movies. It just doesn’t happen! If it did the guys in the following video would be flat on their asses.

I’ll post more on the use of force and why we aim where we do later.


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