Killing Bambi with a 9mm (Or Why A Head-Shot Might Not Stop The Attack)

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Click bait title right?  Obviously I don’t mean using a 9mm to hunt Mr. Buck; but, I recently had to dispatch a gravely wounded deer with my CCW and in doing so I came away with some insight worth sharing.

First a quick yarn about how the events unfolded.

I was on my way to work in pretty heavy fog, when out of nowhere a deer jumped in front of the car ahead of me and tried to wrestle.  As expected the car won.  Amazingly the driver didn’t stop, instead they  kept going (how do I know they didn’t have insurance…) even though their headlight and portions of their bumper where now occupying the road.  Normally I wouldn’t have stopped either, but the deer came to rest directly in front of the bus entrance to my son’s elementary school.  It was early in the morning and the buses hadn’t started running, but I knew if I didn’t move the carcass no one would.  I didn’t want school buses dodging a deer in morning school traffic, nor did I want small kids to start their school day witnessing bloody gore.

I parked my truck, donned my work gloves, and head over to the “dead” deer.  Only when I touched the poor thing it became apparent it wasn’t dead.  It made the most heart-wrenching, misery-filled, noise I have ever heard, as it slung blood all over me.  I tried to help it up, but its back was broken, it was bleeding from its mouth and its breath was accompanied by the sound of gurgling.  Death was imminent, the only question was how long would it suffer and how was I to move it off the road without hurting it more.  I used to hunt, so am not opposed to the killing of animals for food or even sport, provided it is a quick clean kill. But this… this was anything but clean and quick.  What I was witnessing was brutal and tough to witness.  It didn’t take long to weigh my options.  I drew my CZ P-07 and put two 9mm, 124 grain +P Remington Golden Saber’s into the deer’s head.  It expired quickly and I was able to move the animal before a child could witness the horror.  As I drove home to take another shower and change clothes a couple of revelations started to brew in my mind.

This was the first time I had ever used a 9mm round, of any type, on a living creature.  The ultimate goal was met – a swift extinguishing of a life – but, neither bullet had penetrated the opposite side of the skull.  Both bullets were entombed in the brains and hard bone on the skull.  I was equally bewildered on how hard it was to make the shots; even though the muzzle was less than 18” away.  This was due to the simple fact the suffering creature was flailing about and not stationary.

What about a self-defense situation?  The human skull is rather bony and hard – some are harder headed than others.  If we look at the actual human skull we will notice the effective target area is rather small.  I have heard some say it is similar to a 3”x5” index card; while others claim it is credit card sized, similar to the upper A on a USPSA metric target.

Front with Target

Either way the target is but a small portion of the entire head.  While a head shot might be highly effective, it is not an easy shot too make.  Making repeatable hits on a 3”x5” index card located 15 yards away while stressed not child’s play.  Now imagine that same index card is  attached to a helium balloon and moving about!  We should easily understand that a head shot is not a gimme!  “Just shoot’em in the head” is the mantra of those that are ill-informed and the fools at the gun shop.  Don’t let Hollywood fool you; a head shot does not always equal a positive end to the hostilities!

Side with Target

The other thing worth noting is the simple fact the bullets were trapped.  Given the distance to target I was expecting to see a violent exit wound.  Not so.  The facts are simple: a weapon designed for CCW, one truly small enough to easily conceal, will always be a poor man-stopper.  And by easily conceal I mean normal clothes, not a Secret Service suit custom tailored for the concealment of a hand howitzer or a UZI!

As I mentioned above, my goal was attained – a quick end to the suffering of the poor creature.  But it does bear questions that aren’t easily answered.  Questions that each CCW holder should ask themselves.

  • Would a smaller or larger round have performed differently? (Likely, my goal was met this time, but in that moment I would have preferred using my AR.)
  • Would the little 380 ACP have gotten the job done? (I don’t know.  I want to say yes, but I can’t be positive.)
  • What about a bigger round, such as a 45acp or 10mm? Are the negatives of less ammo, more recoil, and greater noise worth it?
  • How about a magnum revolver round? (You get considerably more power, but slower reloads are the trade-off. {Unless your name is Jerry Miculek})

I also advise each of you to seek out guidance from an experienced trainer; one whose teachings are based in CCW reality and not the needs of a multi-man tier 1 assault team.

Understand I am not discounting a head shot.  It might be the only shot you have, but if a head shot is the only option; you had better have confidence in your abilities.  The best way I have found to gain confidence in your abilities is to get out there and practice!

28 thoughts on “Killing Bambi with a 9mm (Or Why A Head-Shot Might Not Stop The Attack)”

  1. I killed an ailing grown turkey hen with 22LR to the head. It was not quick. When time came to dispatch my infirm tom, I used 9mm 147 grain Ranger T. One shot to the head and he bled out, but not before involuntarily flapping across his pen five feet into the hole I had predug for his corpse. Death is ugly.

    1. Indeed. About 15 years ago I shot a coyote in the head with a 22lr from about 50 yards. It was not as quick as I would have liked. “Use Enough Gun Ruark on Hunting Big Game” isn’t about using a large caliber rifles, but the concept rings true.

  2. This post is honest and authentic. That first comment also tells the truth about dealing with death. Very good narrative on reflecting for oneself and on the effect of the circumstances on others!

  3. As an EMS provider, I have seen numerous attempt suicides with .40 and .45 rounds that failed to exit the head including those pointed into the mouth. The account related here is not special to 9mm.

    1. Odd that in a suicide attempt, with the muzzle to the skull, the projectile fails to exit. I was reasonably sure a 40 and 45 wouldn’t have exited either. That is kind of the point of the article – a head shot with a pistol is difficult and it is not a guarantee the fight will end.

    2. I am also an EMT going on 20 years. I’ve been on several suicides with 22LR. No exit but just as effective.

  4. Having put down two injured whitetail bucks, one with a bullet wound through its upper front shoulders and the other caught on a fence, I have often wondered whether they must be tagged according to, in my case, Texas law. I found nothing except a general defense of necessity, to excuse me from tagging the bucks. Out of season, what would have been legal? I tagged both and did not take a different buck on what would have otherwise been a legitimate harvest. This is why regulations promulgated by bureaucrats are always deficient. Let us deal with Life in God’s way, having due respect for the animals but with the understanding that the animals were placed here for our benefit.

    1. This would have been a great animal to harvest for food, during legal hunting season. Instead it was a waste.

  5. We’re there any repercussions to discharging your firearm within city limits (in a non life threatening situation) or the fact it was at the driveway of a school even?

    1. Not in city limits; unincorporated county outside of small town Texas. Other than the car that kept driving, I was basically alone. Even if someone had called it in, it takes the Sheriff 10 minutes to get here.

    2. I was going to say — I agree with you 100% morally, but you probably broke at least 3-4 local and federal laws, several of which are felonies. I know in some places even dispatching the injured deer with a gun in the middle of nowhere could get you in trouble, let alone in front of a school. 🙁

      1. I went through the consequences when reviewing my options. I choose the ethical solution.

        For the record, Texas law prohibts discharge of a firearm within 100 yards of an OCCUPIED school building. The building was empty and with the long drive, I was more than 100 yards from the building.

        It was county so no worry there. Discharge in a public road is a minor offense that carries a ticket.

        As far as game laws, I took my chances. I know several game wardens and a Texas Ranger. They would all agree with my choice.

        Ironically I am volunteering at the school today, as I type this actually. My wife posted the event (minus the dispatching) on FB and several faculty saw it and have thanked me this morning, even after I told the whole story.

        I don’t recommend or condone my choice, but I stand by it and would do so again if covered in blood standing over a pitful suffering animal the was injured through no fault of mine.

        I live in small town Texas, in an extremely conservative county. Your mileage may vary.

        1. 2 years ago, MSW looked at the mess that is 18 U.S.C. § 922(q)(2)
          http://modernserviceweapons.com/?p=8276
          and ended up concluding that even active LEOs might need to have a suitable state CCW permit for some scenarios. Eventually, I suppose, some caselaw will arise from one or more situations.

          1. In Texas we can carry on school grounds up to the door. We cannot enter the building. License To Carry (LTC) required.

            We can have a gun in our car on school grounds. No permit or license required.

            Texas Penal Code §46.035(f)(3)

  6. I had a very similar situation a couple of years ago the day after hunting season closed. My problem was that my brain was still in hunting mode and I put a round right behind the shoulder. As soon as I pulled the trigger, I realized I was an idiot! Moved up to put a 124gr Federal Hydro-Shok out of a Glock 26 to the head and it was over in an instant. I had the same result. Not a big deer but there was no exit would which I thought was very strange.

    1. It would be interesting to talk to a coroner who has autopsied deaths involving a head shot with no exit wound and see if brain tissue slows the bullet too much, or if the cranium is too dense and internal ricochet is the result.

      1. Physician here. Brain tissue density is not the issue but cranial bone density. Internal ricochet can actually result in more grievous brain injury and commonly occurs with any round that actually enters the cranial vault.

  7. People shouldn’t be surprised that a pistol round to the head won’t exit. You’ve seen too many movies if you think it will.

    1. From my experience (we process our own pork), a 9mm 147 grain hydro-shock can and about 70% of the time will exit the skull of the pig going from top of the head generally exiting into the mouth. About 30% of the time going through the bottom of the face.

  8. Once shot an impala between the eyes with a 30.06 (meat harvest for the local chief). No exit, no blood – just a bullet hole and two slightly bulging eyes.

  9. I once saw a deer finished off with a big 6 D mag light to the forehead. I damn sure don’t want to ever get hit in the head with a big ol flashlight, I can tell you that.

    1. “HE WAS UNARMED, HE JUST HAD A FLASHLIGHT, YOU DIDN”T HAVE TO KILL HIM”

      I can see the headline now, man shoots man carrying flashlight and the actually story would be flashlight man started beating the other man with the mag light.

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