Hey all,

82ndtrooper asked me to cover ballistics for my next topic, so here we go...

There are a lot of myths out there when it comes to this topic, and they are ingrained in our culture. You watch movies such as "Lethal Weapon" where people get shot and fly across the room... and this just doesn't happen in real life. There was actually a recent "Mythbusters" special on this. Even a shotgun at close range will not cause a person to "fly" through the air. Fall down yes, but certainly not as dramatic as Hollywood always portrays it. So the idea that a bigger caliber pistol has more "stopping power" is not exactly the whole truth...

When it comes to ballistics, it is shot PLACEMENT that is much more important than the caliber of the bullet, or the design of the bullet (i.e. hollow point vs. expanding, etc.) And here is another myth: everyone is taught to shoot center of mass to "stop" an adversary. However, it is possible to take many center of mass shots before a person will go down. An adversary shot in the heart has at least a minute to keep shooting back until he effectively bleeds out enough to pass out. And if the heart is missed a collapsed lung will not stop a determined foe. There are two shots that should be able to stop an adversary immediately -- the brain stem (for obvious reasons) and the pelvic ring. The latter works because shattering the pelvis will imbalance the adversary and he will be guaranteed to fall to the ground.

Basically there are two concepts to think about when it comes to stopping an adversary -- either he has to be stopped by shot placement (as noted) or he has to take enough shots (or enough well placed shots near large blood vessels) to bleed out. This is where your larger caliber bullets and the bullets with hollow points etc. come into play because they will make bigger holes in tissue and also cause more tissue damage (i.e. the expanding tips like hydroshock). Hollow points, hydroshocks, etc. also have the benefit of staying within the tissue due to the bullet expansion, and this helps prevent through and through bullet tracks that can injure nearby innocent bystanders as the bullet exits an adversary.

One other point... rifles are much more accurate than pistols. If you know there is a high potential of getting into a firefight, have a rifle with you. Rifles are designed as offensive weapons. Pistols are designed much more as defensive weapons.

One other point about shot placement... don't try to get too fancy with your shots. Again the movie myth -- Dirty Harry may be able to place perfect shots each time, but perfect shot placement in the middle of a firefight is very difficult. This is why everyone is taught to shoot center of mass for the best chance of hitting the target. Just understand a center of mass shot will not likely stop an adversary immediately and to keep shooting until the adversary is truly down. This also stresses the importance of training to take head shots or pelvis shots... AND training under realistic fire scenarios, not just at the "sterile" range.

EMSDoc :cool:
Great comments !

I've taken a couple few tactical and self defense courses for pistol proficiency. It seems everybody in the business has their own methods, rather based on real world experience or someones gun shop gossip.

Some tactical course concentrate soley on the "Mozambique" drill while other tend to stay with COM and pervic girdle shots. I'm not an expert, but my contention is two to the chest then one to the head will just about take any offender out of the fight. Of course I'm probably going to seek cover and move and shoot at the same time if find mysef in a gun to gun fight, assuming I've got the distance to move and engage without it becoming a grappling match on the ground.

I've heard many an airsofter type talk about 9mm Luger ammunition not stopping the bad guy. "I carry a .45 ACP, it's the one shot stopper"...............What ? Somehow I don't think that the diameter of the .45 ACP is going to do much good if the shot placement is anywhere but a vital organ or the central nervous system. In other words, it I'm shot in the leg with a .45 ACP and return fire with a 9mm Luger +P+ JHP to the bad guy's running lights, then my proficiency is what has overcome the odds of the bigger bullet. A .45 ACP to the shoulder is not nearly as good as to 9mm Luger +P+'s to the central nervous system and just because the .45 ACP is bigger doesn't make it compensate for lack of proper shot placement.

I'd be interested to hear what terminal tissue affects varying round have on the street in GSW's coming into the ER. What caliber is used most often ? and does any of the ER stats prove beyond a shadow of doubt that bigger is better in every circumstance.

Thanks EMSDOC for starting this thread.

It's from the 80's but still applies. Falls inline with everything I have seen and dealt with.

Temporary cavity doesn't matter, and hydrostatic shock only damages a few organs at all... kidneys, liver, brain.. You need to make big holes to cause the most damage. Otherwise, make up with lots of holes. Hollowpoints are nice because it's a big hole that if it works right gets bigger and causes more damage.

Basically if you aren't hitting the off switch you're choosing to bleed the other guy out, and that involves as many large holes as possible to facilitate it.

It's from the 80's but still applies. Falls inline with everything I have seen and dealt with.

Temporary cavity doesn't matter, and hydrostatic shock only damages a few organs at all... kidneys, liver, brain.. You need to make big holes to cause the most damage..

Often called the "Big Hole" theory of ballistics which people like Dr Roberts support with data, while others are still inventing magic pressure wave theories and such...The projectile that reaches terminal depths that allows the most air in and the most blood out, all things being equal, wins...I believe the rnds seen most often by ER docs are small caliber, .22., .25, and such as that's what most BGs get their hands on, so it would be difficult to use such info to correlate to effectiveness per se, as we all know a .22 will kill you just as dead as a .45, it's whether or not the BG had the time to beat you to death with your empty .22 or return a shot that matters, which also can't be figured out in the ER I would think. :)
The way I see it, is that if someone survived long enough to make it TO an er, you need to rethink your shot placement, ammunition, and weapon choices because they should be DRT. The LEO's arriving to a scene should be telling the medics to disregard and calling for the coroner instead.
Most of the GSW injuries I see in the urban ER I work at are from small caliber weapons.

And again, it is all about shot placement... those that are hit in vital organs i.e. brain, heart, or large vessels tend not to survive, while those hit elsewhere do. I have seen people survive with GSWs to the head and chest though... and have seen people not survive after a lucky shot to the femoral artery in the leg. For that one reference my other thread... how to stop bleeding.

It's really more about shot placement than the size or technology of the bullet, unless you plan on landing a lot of shots to be effective.

Doc :cool:
The problem with head shots at any distance is that head is almost always moving. If you shoot enough to "keyhole", then pick up your pace til you start throwing shots out of the "bowling pin" and slow down. We generally teach the "six-inch" pie plate idea. If you can keep all your shots, while moving and the target moving as well, then no matter how good a doc is, it will be hell to patch the individual back together. Shut them down mechanically or shut them down hydraulically. spine head heart lungs major artery.... The point is that whatever caliber you are using, the target is engaged until it is no longer a threat. This is not to be legel advise for anyone but more of the mindset in a life or death situation.