“A .22 in the eye beats a .45 in the forearm” was the response that I was given by a 20+ year Coast Guard warrant officer when I had the cojones to ask him about the relative stopping power of the 9mm that we were using. What he was saying to me was that shot placement was the critical factor in puttingbadguys where they belong.
I love it when people talk about “stopping power”; it’s one of the subjects in the gun world where thousands of pages have been written and yet very little has been said. I’m not an expert on stopping power, and I’m certainly not going to say that “bullet X stopsbadguys better than bullet Y”; that’s just asking for trouble.
Ambulance Driver’s post on the Mechanism of Injury got me thinking about how a handgun bullet actually kills a person (I’m leaving rifle bullets out of this one). You’ll note I said “kill” and not “stop”; while everyone agrees that the purpose of a defensive shooting is to “stop” the fight, the most efficient way to “stop” someone is to make them DRT. Plus, saying “kill” as opposed to “stop” is so delightfully un-PC that it makes me a wee-bit happier than I should be. However, I should note that “killing” your assailant does you no good if he dies from slowly bleeding to death after clubbing you into oblivion with a 2×4. So, if I say “kill” I mean “Kill dead right there”.
The question of how a handgun bullet kills someone is best looked at by examining the human anatomy. The body is an extremely efficient machine for moving oxygen to the brain so the brain can send nervous signals to the body. Disrupting the Central Nervous system (spine, brain) will generally produce a stop. The brain cannot operate without a steady flow of oxygenated blood cells, which are supplied by the heart and lungs. Additionally, hits on major arteries (such as the femoral) produce rapid blood loss, which will eventually shut down the brain.
Based on the above, it’s a relatively safe assumption that the most efficient way to produce a DRT badguy is to hit either the heart, lungs, spine, or brain. This is the basis for the primary target zone on human assailants being “center of mass” – this also happens to be where the heart, lungs and part of the spine is located. We’ll temporarily remove theheadshot from the equation, and consider only COM shots for now.
To reach one those vital pieces of tissue, you must have a bullet that penetrates enough. If your round won’t go deep enough (sometimes through arms, leather jackets and other mediums), it’s not going to get the job done. So…penetration is important. Of course, even if you penetrate deep enough, you need to hit something important – the best way of increasing your chances to do that would be to use a larger diameter bullet. If you have two bullets: Bullet X is .32 inches indiamter , and Bullet Y is .45 inches in diameter, and each bullet penetrates tissue to a depth of 10 inches, (assuming a perfectly tubular cavity) then Bullet Y is going to be a better choice. It crushes a wider diameter of tissue for each inch of penetration, thus increasing your chances of putting a hole in something valuable.
So, it would seem that I’m advocating using the biggest bullet you can that penetrates deep enough to get the job done. As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what I’m saying. But I’m going to add the caveat that it doesn’t matter how big your bullet is if you can’t hit a goddamn thing with it.
Which brings me to my final point, and if you’ve read my blog before it’s a familiar drum for me to beat. Practice. Practice. Practice. If you’re going to carry a gun for self-defense, practice with it. Get some training. ShootIDPA . Shoot cans. Shoot shoot shoot shoot. If you’ve got a different gun for home defense than you do for carry, practice with them both. Practice your draw. GET TRAINING. In the off chance that you actually do need to deposit some high-velocity particles into a person’s main deck, you need to hit them for it to count.
John Wayne carried a .45, and thank to the magic of movies, he rarely missed. In Big Jake, he gives his “grandson” a Remington O/U Derringer. What would John Wayne do? He’d use the biggest gun that he could to place accurate hits onbadguys.