Tag Archives: wound potential

SKILLS: Handgun Stopping Power

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One Shot Stops, 9mm vs. .45, Magic Bullet. READ MORE

Bob Campbell

stopping power
The .45 ACP was developed to offer similar wound potential to the .45 Colt, lower. These are old school handguns perhaps but only a few months old. One is for concealed carry and the other accompanies the author on the trail.

In writing, I prefer my information to be valid and the research verifiable, and the experiments repeatable. I like to give the reader an opportunity to get a handle on things. Quite often the things that the critic points out harshly are the things that majority of the readers find valuable. I have found that the subject of handgun wound potential or stopping power isnt a puzzle at all but remains a puzzle to those that make it so. I realize that there is not natural law that gives a man a reward that matches his endeavor, so I hope that the reader finds something of value in this work. There has been more debate concerning handgun stopping power in the past 20 years than in the previous 100. A lot of gunplay took place in the old west, but period literature covers the tactics and personalities far more closely than the guns and calibers used. The .44 and .45 caliber revolvers in wide use on the frontier seemed to work with authority, and no one much questioned the efficacy of their ballistics. There are reports of the effect of the .44 on horses and the problems with the .36 at long range during the Civil War, but perhaps that is going back too far and reading too much into different technology.

Since the days when word-of-mouth was the only barometer of handgun effectiveness, we have made many advances in measuring handgun power. The standard was once pine boards to test handgun cartridges, penetration being the only criteria. Penetration is still the most important criteria. Ductseal and clay were widely used to test hollowpoints, both unrealistic media. Today we have carefully formulated ballistic gelatin, developed by trauma surgeons to replicate human tissue, as well as some highly significant scientific studies of gunshot effects.

stopping power
With plus P loads with a good balance of expansion and penetration the .38 Special and 9mm Luger are lifesavers. These handguns are the right size for good control.

The study of tactics and human behavior is more important than the weapon, caliber and loading used in combat. Marksmanship can be proven to be the most important component of handgun effectiveness. Wound ballistics is a science, with conclusions drawn from studying bullet tracks in both ballistic gelatin and corpses in the medical examiner’s morgue. Detractors of laboratory tests feel these tests cannot duplicate differences in point of impact, clothing, attitude, muscle structure and intoxication. But a ballistic scientist does not ask us to believe anything. He simply presents the results of his tests. The results are not only verifiable, they are repeatable, the real test of science.

Stopping power “studies,” on the other hand, ask us to believe in someone’s conclusion. Assuming such compilations are valid requires a considerable leap of faith. Reports are often sensationalized, even glamorized. Are such studies grounded in reality? Are they even useful? Can they be supported by scientific methods? I don’t have all the answers, but I do know this — cartridges and loads are not as important as basic shooting skills. I don’t believe trick loads significantly alter the ability of a smallbore cartridge to inflict damage. I simply don’t accept many published reports because they are anecdotal and based on hearsay. Even if the shootings actually occurred — which is reasonable to ask — the methodology is flawed. In other cases, there are conclusions made that are so irrelevant to the reality of interpersonal combat that they are not even worth publishing.

A Skeptical Eye
When it comes to the various handgun “studies,” we must consider their validity. These “researchers” are not writing the King James version of stopping power. Yet the figures expressed are often quoted in the popular press as gospel. A criticism of some of the work might be the inability of others to inspect and review source material. To some, this reduces the validity of the study to zero. Certainly, such unsubstantiated work does not meet an investigative standard. As a longtime officer, I understand both sides of this debate. Confidentiality and respect for families must be considered. Cops who collect shooting histories may not have engaged in much gunplay, but have arrived just after quite a few gunfights ended. Cops from Area Six in Chicago, Fort Apache (the Bronx) in New York, or The Wall in California have a good idea of the type of damage different handgun calibers inflict. They are good investigators as well. They realize that three eyewitnesses testifying in good faith may perceive events three different ways.

Human perceptions differ. The road to a detective’s badge in many agencies is through the traffic division. Working wreck scenes is small-scale investigation, and separates the sleuths from the duffers in some cases. Applying normal investigative standards to stopping power studies often reveals bankrupt methodology or standards. These “studies” do not even meet the criteria demanded by some agencies in ascertaining who is at fault in a fender bender.

stopping power
The author prefers the balance of control and power in the .45 automatic. The Nighthawk, top, and Colt, below, are frequent companions.

Most police trainers have long abandoned the attempt to study stopping power and instead have concentrated on tactical movement and the actions of felons in combat. Tactics carry the day. By criticizing issue arms and equipment, we undermine an officer’s confidence in his gear, something he is usually unable to change. Sure, a DAO 9mm loaded with subsonic ammunition is not my first choice but a good man or woman behind the sights can make a difference. Tactics and marksmanship are a better answer than hotter loads in minor calibers.

One writer did the boys and girls in blue no favor when he stated in pat terms that load selection is more important than shot placement. His reasoning was that we can control load selection, but not marksmanship. Evidently he does not realize that shots that do not find critical areas are relatively ineffective. Any hunter knows better, and hunting lessons do indeed translate to self defense. A gut-shot man behaves just like a gut-shot deer — both are up and running for quite some time. A man and a deer are similar in size and may be about as hard to put down. The man knows he has been shot, the deer does not, and men are more susceptible to shock.

Most studies, or rather I call them published opinions, eliminate multiple bullet strikes from the data as they ‘confuse the issue.’ This simply makes small caliber bullets look much better than real world experience would indicate. Most handgun fights will be multiple strike incidents. One shot failures would be rare. After all, if the first shot fails, won’t you fire another? Besides, trained shooters often fire double or triple taps before a subject can fall. A problem with handgun histories is qualifying hits. I have on hand a report from police sources in which a coroner and a medical examiner, both reputable men, disagreed concerning the number of hits on a felon’s body. In a class I once attended, a medical examiner spoke in glowing terms of a certain new generation hollowpoint. He showed an impressive slide in which a bad guy — “Satan Lives” was tattooed on his chest — took a single hit which produced a long and wide wound track. Years later, the officer involved in the incident spoke at a seminar. He noted the man took the shot, stopped his attack, and remained mobile for some time, asking the officer to call an ambulance. The felon expired. The officer was certain the man could have continued the fight had he so wished. Two conflicting opinions on the same shooting. Some adversaries are “machinegunned” in shootings — five .38s, seven .45s, or 41 9mms. Excited, frightened men empty their guns under deadly stress. If the felon goes down in such a volley, it may have been a one-shot stop. The volley that leaves a felon standing is always a failure to stop. Dismissing multiple hits eliminates the majority of smallbore shootings.

stopping power
The .357 Magnum, above, pretty much eclipsed the excellent .38 Super, below. In appropriate sized handguns each is a viable personal defense handgun.

There are three components of wound potential that must be stressed — marksmanship, marksmanship and marksmanship. We are not very bright if we have time to arm ourselves with a long gun and fail to do so. In comparison to a 12 gauge shotgun or a .223 rifle, the “weak .38” and “strong .45” are more alike than they differ. A sobering thought.

Tactical Info
Shooting histories should be used for tactical information first and bullet performance information second. As for lab work, gelatin is homogenous and flesh and blood are heterogeneous. It is not the same, but gelatin is a good media for comparing bullet performance. What counts is point of impact and perhaps the adversary’s tox sheet. (Certain drugs are not called painkillers for nothing.) Even ordinary water is good for comparing bullet expansion and penetration. Whether or not we regard the studies as valid, one rule we may take away from learned research is that bullet selection is more important in the weaker calibers. One authority, Dr. Vincent J. Di Miao, has stated that perhaps half of all handgun bullets designed to expand actually fail to expand in the body. They strike a portion of the body that doesn’t stop the bullet or they strike bone and close up on the nose. The works of this respected medical examiner do not inspire confidence in smallbore hollowpoints. We are led to the conclusion that all handguns are weak instruments.

stopping power
A fast handling short barrel revolver is a reasonable choice for personal defense. That’s a five shot .45, left, and a six shot .38, right.

Some decades ago the Police Marksman’s Association published a study that I found among the more valid of the day. The calibers included were .38 Special, 9mm Luger, .357 Magnum and .45 ACP. The .40 S & W was yet to come, so, yes, this was some time ago. While the results of the study are valid, the study, which was conducted by a respected researcher and the records were available to interested researchers, also included hit probability. This simply reflected the number of hits per shots fired. This was a reflection on training than anything else but notably the .357 Magnum exhibited the highest hit probability. The .45 auto and .357 Magnum revolvers showed the highest hit probability of any service handguns. Hit probability is a side issue, but one which remains valid. You would imagine if the agency has a hit probability of fifty per cent with the 9mm, the shots that hit are probably not well centered. Some agencies, such as the Kentucky State Patrol, engaged in rigorous training with their Magnum revolvers.

What follows is a divergence from the scientific, but bear with me — life has to have some fun too — and all this about combat reminds us that life is what it is because men live it.

Fun With Math
One “study” shows a 9mm cartridge that has proven to be a 50 percent stopper. Hit probability in this agency has proven to be 50 percent — far higher than average at the time. What are the chances two felons will be stopped with two shots? Given that only one out of two rounds will hit Felon X and Felon Y, at least four shots will have to be fired to connect, and then only one opponent is likely to be stopped.

Here’s the math on that probability: .50 x .50 = .25. What you have is a one-in-four chance of stopping Felon X with one shot.

What about the .357 Magnum revolver, per PMA stats? It works out like this: .75 x .60 = .45. The conclusion, if we were peddling this “study” as a major work, would be this: The .357 Magnum is nearly twice as likely to produce a one-shot stop as a 9mm Luger. So there you have it. How much faith can we put in these studies? We can learn from the PMA study that firing less with more accuracy means a lot. That doesn’t mean we are slower to the first shot but we should fire with greater accuracy.

The Answer
What stops human adversaries during a deadly attack? A brain shot or a spine shot are the only two instant stoppers. Damage to blood bearing organs which causes rapid blood loss and a drop of pressure causes the body to shut down. Common sense is the best guide. Bigger bullets cause more damage. Bigger knives cut better. Bigger engines pull better. However, handgun bullets aren’t very big. We should practice with the largest caliber we are able to control. Accuracy can make up for power. The reverse may not be true.

REVIEW: Glock 48

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The Glock 48 just may be the ideal carry 9mm for Glock fans, and for the rest of us as well! READ WHY HERE

G48
The Glock 48 is a handsome handgun, light, and reliable.

Wilburn Roberts

One of the great revolutions in handgun manufacture is the polymer-frame striker-fired revolution. Glock led the way and still dominates the market. Arguably Glock remains first with the most. I should note that I am not the greatest Glock fan but I certainly am not a Glock basher. The Glock is in my opinion the baseline gun for personal defense and a great choice for many shooters. The Glock is as reliable as a handgun may be, easy enough to use well, and chambers popular cartridges. If you spend less money than the Glock then you should look hard at the pistol in question and determine what corners have been cut. If you pay more than the affordable price of a Glock you should be certain of the advantage. If you choose a more expensive handgun with a different trigger action or manual safety then be certain you are willing to master the handgun. When you take a hard look at the alternatives Glock looks good.

G48 sights

G48 sights
The standard Glock sights allowed good speed and accuracy at close range.

One of the new introductions is the Glock 48 9mm. I do not form an opinion of any handgun until I have fired it for myself. As an example I was interested to see the introduction of the Glock 19X, which some felt was not a good idea. I liked the 19X but I find the Glock 45 9mm a better fit for my preferences. When you fire the piece and work it out on the range the differences in handguns become more apparent. For some it may be the reliable and fast-handling Glock 19, others may prefer the longer Glock 17. All are good. When testing the Glock 48 I expected certain things regarding reliability, trigger action, and accuracy from any Glock but kept an open mind.

Glock 48 Specifications
Length                            7.3 inches
Height                            5.04 inches
Width                             1.1 inches
Weight                           19 ounces
Magazine capacity 10 rounds

The Glock 48 is about two ounces lighter than the Glock 19 9mm and otherwise similar in dimensions save for the thinner grip frame and slide. The pistol appears to have a stainless slide. The actual material is silver nPVD coating. The sights are the standard plastic Glock variety with white outline. These work well for personal defense shooting at ranges of 5 to 15 yards and are still useful for those that practice at longer range. The grip has an excellent feel to it. My hands are smaller than average but I have never had a problem handling and controlling the Glock 17, 19, 22, and 23 and similar frames (the Glock 21 is too much of a stretch). That said, I do feel more in control with the Glock 48. The grip frame is nicely pebbled and offers good adhesion when firing. Trigger action is standard Glock Safe Action. My Glock 48 breaks at 5.7 pounds. The pistol features forward cocking serrations. There is a lightening cut under the front of the slide. The barrel features a nicely countershrunk barrel crown. The interested shooter will find many good features on the Glock 48. The slim line grip holds a relatively thin 10- round magazine.

G48 magazine
This is the Glock 48 slim line magazine.

Performance
Next was to find out how it handled in firing combat drills and firing for accuracy. The pistol was lightly lubricated and taken to the range with an assortment of ammunition. I used Federal American Eagle 124 grain FMJ and Federal 124 grain Syntech for the majority of firing. I also had Federal 124 grain HST, Speer 115 grain Gold Dot, Speer 124 grain Gold Dot +P Short Barrel, and Speer 147 grain Gold Dot, and Federal 135 grain Hydra Shock. This mix included ball ammunition and both standard pressure and +P 9mm loads as well. This should give an idea of how the piece handles all types of ammunition.

G48 ammo
The Glock 48 was tested with a wide range of loads.

The Glock 48 proved to be fast from the holster and fast to a first shot hit. I burned up 100 rounds each of American Eagle and Syntech loads firing personal defense drills. The Glock is fast in use, very fast, and that means a lot in personal defense. There were no failures to feed, chamber, fire, or eject. Control is little if any different from the Glock 19 9mm. I would rate the pistol a bit easier to use well than the Glock 43, however, since the heavier slide dampens recoil and the longer grip also helps spread recoil about the palm.

Moving to personal defense loads I found much of the same. Load selection is important for defense. While the 9mm offers good wound potential careful testing and research should be behind your choice. I prefer a loading with a good balance of expansion and penetration. I fired at least a magazine full of each JHP load, and two magazines with some of the other loads. The pistol is well regulated for a 6-o’clock-hold and 124 grain loads. The 147 grain load also strikes to the point of aim. Lighter loads may be used with the dead on the target hold. At 10 and 15 yards it wasn’t difficult to empty a magazine into the X-ring. Recoil is greater with 9mm personal defense loads but the pistol remains controllable and overall pleasant to fire.

The Speer 124 grain Gold Dot +P is a Short Barrel load with a projectile designed to open up at the lower velocities exhibited in short barrel personal defense handguns. It has performed well as far as expansion goes and is a highly recommended personal defense combination. I particularly like the 135 grain Hydra Shock, but to each his own. The Glock 48 will exhibit the same velocity as the Glock 19, Glock 19X, and Glock 45, but it feels like a smaller gun in the hand, is easier to conceal, and yet, as said, recoil is manageable. The pistol fired over 300 cartridges in the first range outing without complaint or sore wrists, spaced over a little more than an hour and a half. Some may find the thinner grip makes for a heavier push in the palm than the Glock 19. In my opinion the lighter Glock 43 9mm is a sweet shooting handgun for its size and the Glock 48 handles a bit easier. The longer grip frame allows a faster grip acquisition.

I also fired the piece from a standing braced barricade for maximum accuracy at 15 yards. I fired the American Eagle 124 grain FMJ and the Speer 147 grain Gold Dot in this drill. I shot several 5-shot groups firing quickly but regaining the sight picture after each shot. Firing a 5-shot 3-inch group wasn’t difficult with some 5-shot groups falling into 2 inches. The pistol is as inherently accurate as any Glock 9mm pistol.

g48
The Glock 48 is slimmer than the Glock 45, top, and doesn’t mount a combat light.

Where does the Glock 48 stand in the scheme of things? The Glock 17 is a holster pistol that a few dedicated shooters wear concealed. The Glock 19 is easier to conceal — and not a bad service and duty gun at all. The Glock 48 is a superior concealed carry handgun. I think that many shooters may find the Glock 19 a stretch for their hand size. I do not, but the Glock 48 may feel better for some shooters. Yet, you do not give up much in capacity the pistol is a ten-shooter. You do give up the ability to mount a light rail, so consider how important this is to you. The Glock 48 fills a similar niche to that once filled by the SIG P225. Although the SIG P228 holds more rounds many shooters preferred the slim line P225 for hand fit and also felt that it was faster from concealed carry. The Glock 48 is fast, very fast, and offers a good chance at a rapid first shot hit. The extra two ounces of the Glock 19’s weight may make for better recoil control but you cannot prove that easily. I find the Glock 48 a very neat, attractive and useful handgun. It may be the best Glock for concealed carry yet manufactured.

glock grips
The Glock 45, top, is a larger grip than the Glock 48, bottom, and both are nicely pebbled.

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