MORE ON STOPPING POWER
This is information regarding "stopping power." Please
note in one incident, the attacker was shot four times
in the chest with a .357 magnum, yet kept right on doing
what he was doing, and shot and killed the officer with
one shot from a .22 revolver, not to mention various
other happenings that we like to pretend can't happen.
THE MYTH OF ENERGY TRANSFER
Tactical Briefs #3, 15 March 1998
The Myth of Energy Transfer
In June 1994, Nicole Brown-Simpson, former wife of star pro-football
player O.J. Simpson, was murdered on the secluded front walkway of her
condominium when someone cut her throat with a knife. How long do you
think she remained conscious and able to perform willful activity? How
much kinetic energy do you think was "transferred" from the knife blade
to the soft tissues of her throat?
Nicole Brown-Simpson collapsed unconscious very quickly because the
knife blade ruptured the carotid arteries and jugular veins in her
neck, causing massive loss of blood which deprived her brain of vital
oxygen needed to remain conscious and function.
When you shoot an attacker in the torso, the goal is to produce fatal
hemorrhage by rupturing the heart or a major blood vessel so he will
quickly collapse. This is why shot placement is so important. These
vital structures lie deep within an average-sized person's torso, and
you should choose a bullet that will not only penetrate deeply enough
to reach them, but to go through them and crush a hole in them from
any engagement angle.
There have been many police officers here in the United States shot
with medium-high energy Magnum handgun bullets (as well as shotgun
slugs) while wearing soft body armor. Soft body armor is constructed of
several layers of fabric. When a projectile impacts soft armor, its
energy is transmitted directly through the flexible fabric to the
officer's body. There's not one documented incident in which an officer
was knocked unconscious or physically incapacitated or in any way
rendered unable to perform willful activity after his soft armor stopped
such a projectile. These officers absorbed nearly 100 percent kinetic
energy transfer, yet none were incapacitated by the blunt trauma "shock"
of projectile impact or temporary displacement of underlying soft tissues.
When soft body armor is tested to meet National Institute of Justice (NIJ)
certification, a single armor panel is fitted against a large block of very
stiff oil-based roma-plastilina modeling clay. When high energy projectiles,
such as Magnum handgun bullets or shotgun slugs, are shot into the armor,
the resulting collision produces a deep depression in the clay behind the
armor (provided the armor stopped the bullet). This dent (referred to as
"backface deformation" by the NIJ) is representative of the temporary cavity
produced in the human torso by the non-penetrating projectile. However,
because of the stiffness of the clay, the dent is not as deep as the
temporary cavity dent produced in the human body.
Soft armor appears to actually provide better protection when it's worn on
a human body than when it's backed by clay during certification testing. The
apparent reason is because the human body's greater flexibility and resilience,
which acts as a better shock absorber than stiff modeling clay. This shock
absorbing effect decreases the stress on the armor, which in turn increases
its effectiveness. Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) is a good example of
the body's resilient shock absorbing quality.
Any handgun bullet you shoot into an attacker's body will deliver less energy
than the energy transferred between the shoulder harness of a seat belt and the
upper body of a 180 pound person during a head-on auto collision into a fixed
object at 25 miles per hour. Consider the amount of "kinetic energy transfer"
experienced by a NASCAR driver who survives uninjured, remains conscious and
walks away from a spectacular collision at Daytona motor speedway, where speeds
are almost eight times greater. A football pass receiver absorbs far more
energy in his body, his internal organs subjected to much greater jarring shock,
than any handgun bullet can deliver when he's running as fast as he can (15+
miles per hour) and makes a flying leap to catch a pass that's just out of his
reach, and his body collides with the ground.
In November 1992, South Carolina Highway Patrolman Mark Coates shot an attacker
four times in the torso with his 4 inch Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum revolver. His
attacker, an obese adult male who weighed almost 300 pounds, absorbed the hits
and shortly thereafter returned fire with one shot from a single-action North
American Arms .22 caliber mini-revolver. Coates was fatally wounded when the tiny
bullet perforated his left upper arm and penetrated his chest through the armhole
of his vest where the bullet cut a major artery. Coates, who was standing next to
the passenger-side front fender of the assailant's car when he was hit by the
fatal bullet, was very quickly incapacitated.
The slaying was recorded by the video camera mounted in Coates' cruiser. For our
law enforcement readers, a copy of the video was obtained by Calibre Press a few
months after the shooting, and is shown at their Street Survival seminar. Frames
from the video are published on page 238 of Calibre Press' book, Tactics for Criminal
Patrol. (The Coates shooting is also presented in detail on pages 239-240).
After Coates was hit, he immediately ran several feet, scrambling around the front of
the assailant's car while simultaneously radioing dispatch that he'd been shot. As he
neared the driver's-side front fender he suddenly collapsed onto the pavement.
Trooper Coates fired four 145 grain Winchester Silvertip .357 Magnum bullets
directly into his assailant's heavy abdomen, achieving solid hits with each.
These particular bullets penetrate deeper than 125 grain JHPs, however none
ruptured any vital cardiovascular structures. During the initial ground struggle,
Coates was shot twice, but his vest protected him. After fighting off his attacker,
Coates quickly climbed to his feet and emptied his revolver. At that particular
moment the assailant was still lying on the ground. The combination of the
assailant's obesity and the unusual angle at which the bullets entered his
body worked to the disadvantage of Trooper Coates.
The Coates shooting exemplifies the fable of energy transfer, especially when
encountering a determined attacker. The .357 Magnum cartridge is regarded by
many as the ultimate manstopper; a true one-shot stop wonder. The Winchester
145 grain .357 Magnum cartridge is given a one-shot stopping power rating of
86 percent by Marshall and Sanow. According to this rating system, a single
hit ANYWHERE in the torso is supposed to be highly effective in stopping an
attacker, regardless of whether or not the bullet destroys vital tissue. But
on this night, it failed FOUR TIMES! The assailant easily absorbed four bullets
in his body, each delivering over 450 foot pounds of kinetic energy. This is
equivalent to being hit four times by a baseball traveling 210 miles per hour.
None of Coates' powerful .357 Magnum bullets were effective, but the bad guy's
weak .22 caliber bullet was. The .357 Magnum bullets dumped all their energy
into the attacker, whereas the single .22 caliber bullet disrupted vital tissue.
The assailant survived the shooting, was convicted of murdering Coates and
was sentenced to life in prison.
Another shooting captured on video explains a reaction known as psychological collapse.
A few years ago, two Houston police officers cornered a suspected motorcycle thief
at gunpoint against a chain-link highway perimeter fence. Upon being cornered, the
suspect drew a revolver and threatened to kill himself. After negotiating, the
officers convinced the suspect to put down his gun, and to catch and put on a pair
of handcuffs that the officers were going to toss to him. The confrontation ended
after the offender obtained the handcuffs, then reached to pick up the revolver that
lay on the ground beside him. Despite a warning, he grasped and lifted the weapon.
One officer opened fire with a Colt Government Model .45 ACP. Upon being hit in the
right shoulder by a 230 grain Federal HydraShok JHP bullet, the surprised offender's
facial expression instantly conveyed shock, horror and utter disbelief.
As he immediately slumped unconscious onto his left side, two more HydraShoks
perforated his right upper arm and buried themselves in his right upper torso.
The second officer, startled into reacting by the first officer's gunshots, fired
several rounds from his Colt Combat Commander .45 ACP. He attained a single hit
with a 185 grain Federal Hi-Shok JHP bullet, which perforated the offender's
left arm and grazed, but did not enter, his left upper torso.
The offender survived the shooting, and according to Houston Police, the only vital
structure hit by any of the bullets was the brachial artery of the right upper arm,
which was repaired during surgery. The initial wound could not have caused the
offender to collapse unconscious from blood loss as quickly as he did, nor were any
central nervous system structures disrupted by the bullets. Although he rapidly
collapsed unconscious after the first bullet struck him, there was no physiological
reason for him to do so.
When a person is shot in the body with a handgun and falls down unconscious within
a half-dozen seconds, it can only be attributed to a psychological reaction to
being shot. This person simply faints from the sudden realization and fright that
he has been shot, not from blood loss or any other reason. (This discussion does
not apply to rifle bullets. Obviously, wild animals that immediately collapse
after being shot by a centerfire rifle bullet do not faint from fright. The wound
dynamics of rifle bullets are markedly different, but the physiological mechanisms
are identical). In order to be FORCED to collapse an attacker must lose at least
20 percent of his total blood volume (unless the bullet damages his brain or
cervical spinal cord). This will take several seconds to occur, even with a
direct hit to the aorta or vena cava with a large caliber bullet.
Most "stops" are psychological, not physiological in nature. The bad guy either
faints or makes a voluntary decision to stop what he's doing. It's possible that
a bullet with more "wallop," one that quickly delivers its energy and produces
more blunt force sensation, might play a role in producing psychological collapse.
But, psychological reaction to being shot is highly erratic and unreliable. It
doesn't happen to everyone, especially a highly motivated attacker who's
determined to cause as much harm as he can before he's stopped.
Unless you're clairvoyant, you cannot predict the exact circumstances of any
self-defense situation you might find yourself in. Therefore, your goal in
choosing a bullet for personal defense should be to select one that will be
effective in as many different scenarios as possible. Your bullet must be
able to penetrate deeply enough to contact and destroy tissue that is
critical to the immediate survival of your attacker.
The two most important factors in stopping a bad guy are: 1) where you place
your bullets, and 2) what organs your bullets penetrate and damage.
How much penetration is adequate? According to the nation's most prominent
wound ballistics experts, your bullets should penetrate at least 12 inches
of soft tissue. Penetration beyond 18 inches is considered too much, and less
is should be considered to optimize the cartridge's wounding potential.
But with small caliber cartridges such as .22 LR, .25 ACP, and .32 ACP (and
sometimes .380 ACP), you're better off selecting a non-expanding bullet that
might exceed 18 inches of penetration than to choose a bullet that expands
and underpenetrates. When a bullet expands, the increased diameter and non-
aerodynamic shape acts like a parachute to quickly slow and stop the bullet
as it penetrates flesh. These tiny bullets lack the mass and momentum to
achieve adequate penetration after they expand.
Bullets that meet the 12-18 inch penetration guidelines have proven to be
very effective in police shooting incidents that have been investigated by
reputable researchers who use the scientific method. These findings have
been verified and validated by other distinguished wound ballistics
researchers who've fully reviewed the data. These findings are far
superior in validity to the Marshall/Sanow "one-shot stopping power"
junk-science that is published in newsstand gun magazines.
There are a lot of people who've been deluded into believing that legitimate
wound ballistics researchers simply shoot bullets into ordnance gelatin and
ignore shooting results that show how effective these bullets are in stopping
an attacker. This kind of faulty research would be incredibly absurd, wouldn't
it? Do you really believe these researchers are that incompetent or ignorant?
Their work wouldn't pass peer review or be accepted as valid by the scientific
community. However, these scientists don't publish their work in newsstand gun
magazines for financial gain, and they really don't care what the general
population chooses to believe. These researchers publish their findings in
professional journals, so it's available to people truly interested in the data.
The concepts of placement and penetration are simple -- too simple for some people
to accept -- but these factors are the most important in stopping a homicidal attack.
What bullet is best? It's one you can shoot accurately under stress that's capable
of penetrating deeply enough to inflict fatal hemorrhage and reliably functions in
your gun. There's nothing mystical or complicated about handgun ammunition wounding
effectiveness. It's simple: placement and penetration.