Misconceptions about bullet stopping power

Bullet stopping power

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.

The Myth Of Stopping Power Of Hollow Points

A lot of people think that if you carry hollow points, that means you'll have the stopping power you need. After all, these rounds give you the balance between the need for bullet penetration but also the need to not overpenetrate, along with increasing the size of the wound channel.

Sure...but just carrying a hollow point alone doesn't matter.

In order for a wound to cause a person to stop attacking you (or another person) it has to hit a vital area. In order for a bullet to hit a vital area, the shooter has to do their part in aiming and firing the pistol accurately.

You also have to have selected a quality hollow point to begin with. Not all of them area. In fact, that was law enforcement agencies preferred semi-wadcutters for the longest time over jacketed hollow points. JHP rounds didn't start to get really good until the late 1980s and early 1990s.


The Myth Of Magazine Capacity

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.

The Myth Of Handgun Caliber

Another myth about "handgun stopping power" is that of caliber. Bigger is better, the .22 can't stop anyone, they don't make a .46 and so on and so forth. A larger bullet will carry more energy, this much is true, but does that necessarily translate to having more stopping power?

Real-world incidents have given lie to these myths. People have failed to stop attackers with .45 ACP, and people have put down bad guys with one shot of .22 LR. People have dropped grizzly bears with .22 and 9mm, and people have absorbed multiple rounds of buckshot and kept fighting.

Only when it comes to the large magnums, meaning those larger than .44 Magnum. .454 Casull, .480 Ruger, .460 S&W Magnum...THOSE have stopping power. The typical carry pistol? Not so much.

Multiple studies have revealed that the majority of people shot with a handgun survive. The number depends on who prepares it, but 80 percent or more of people who suffer a GSW from a handgun live to tell the tale in almost all instances. Clearly, handguns are not the killing machines that people who wax lyrical about their .45 think they are.

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.