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Misconceptions about bullet stopping power

Bullet stopping power

“Now standing in one corner of a boxing ring with a .22 caliber Colt automatic pistol, shooting a bullet weighing only 40 grains and with a striking energy of 51 foot pounds at 25 feet from the muzzle, I will guarantee to kill either Gene Tunney or Joe Louis before they get to me from the opposite corner...”
Excerpt from Ernest Hemingway, Hemingway on Hunting

“We know that it is the hits that count. We will hit...”
Excerpt from the Marine Corps Rifleman's Creed

When we walk into a gun store, almost everyone naturally gravitates towards the .45s, .40s, and the coveted .44 when thinking about stopping power. The natural instinct ingrained in so many intermediate shooters is that a bigger round equates to neutralizing a target faster. We wrote an article earlier named "the caliber wars are over" which you may find interesting, take a look: The Caliber debate.

In a defensive situation, no one wants to second guess whether or not the rounds they're exchanging will stop an aggressor.

In this article, we'll dispel the myth but keep the fact about several misconceptions about the lethality of firearms.

3. Hollow Points

In a defensive situation, tensions run hot. Surely, a hollow-point does create a mighty fierce channel through the body of an assailant and inevitably it's a whole lot harder to continue attacking when a sizeable chunk of flesh and bone is missing. We included this ballistics gel video to demonstrate the difference between an FMJ and a hollow point round. But what it comes down to is bullet penetration.

When that bullet hits sinews, muscle fibers, cartilage and bone it surely will tear through them because it has a greater surface area. But often times, the bullets are so high velocity that they blow right through. If you're not hitting a vital area such as the heart, lungs, or brain – this means the assailant could still be viable. Thus, a hollow point, by itself, is not a “Get Out Alive” free card.

If the bullet punches straight through – it doesn't matter if it's hollow point or not.

2. Magazine Capacity

This article is focused on defensive situations like home invasion or potentially being assaulted in the street. The myth that magazine capacity equates to more fight is about as silly as it gets. Sure, a pistol equipped with a fourteen or twenty round magazine will surely be a godsend in the event you find yourself in a protracted firefight – but in the case of being assaulted in close quarters? Or even medium range at 20-40 yds? If you have time to reload, you're in the wrong firefight.

According to the NRA's published statistics regarding shooting incidents, only a half of a single percent (0.05%) reloaded. That means, in all likelihood, the deal is done well before you're through your first magazine. Most of the distances reported, on the defensive end, were usually within 2-3 ft of target and usually within 2 bullets.

So, for self-defense, more doesn't mean better.

1. Caliber: Bigger = Better

For the grand majority of cases where a .22 caliber bullet or .25 was employed – at distances up to 30 yds – the NRA reported that those bullets were immediately lethal. Now, we're just talking about statistics. Not imagined, fantasy scenarios or offensive strategies. Should you ambush a column of North Korean troops with a .22lr? Hopefully not. Now shooting someone who is approaching your house with a gun drawn - .22lr is lightweight, compact, cheap and extremely lethal.

Accuracy and precision equal stopping power – not caliber.

James England

About The Author

James England is a former United States Marine Signals Intelligence Operator and defense contractor with over two tours spread over the Al Anbar province and two more operating across Helmand and Baghdis. He is presently a writer focused on Western foreign policy and maintains an avid interest in firearms. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, he presently resides in New Hampshire – the “Live Free or Die” state. He is finishing up his first novel, “American Hubris”, which is set to hit shelves in Fall of 2015.