Quote of the day

For one example, the M&S (Marshall & Sanow – ed) study measures instances of “One Shot Stops”. Fine. Fair. But they don’t go on to qualify this measure. “One Shot Stop”, as a name, doesn’t offer any information regarding WHY the person stopped; i.e. the difference between a “physical stop” (the person is physically/mechanically disabled and cannot continue the attack) and a “psychological stop” (person undergoes the “I Just Got SHOT!” reaction and subconsciously DECIDES to stop the attack themselves). Without taking the time and care to qualify what parameters you use to define the Primary Measurement used in your study, anything you derive from that measurement is going to be inaccurate.

In conclusion, reading the M&S study is like working under a car with a child fetching your tools. What you really need is a 3/4″ socket. When the kid shows up with a handful of screwdrivers, you have to thank him for trying, but you still can’t use any of those to fit the task at hand; and you’re really no closer to tightening that bolt. What you really need now is someone who knows what that tool looks like, and knows how to get it to you.

From this thread at The Firing Line.  Most of it is pretty bad, because it’s full of people who believe that the Marshal and Sanow study was something other than total nonsense.  The guy that wrote the post I linked to though is pretty squared away.

Remember, the one-shot-stop is a myth.  The most effective way to incapacitate an attacker when using a pistol is multiple rapid hits to the thoracic cavity, and even then that’s no guarantee.  Your gun isn’t a deathray, whether it’s a 9mm, a .40, or a .45 ACP.


  1. If under attack, keep firing until your attacker is down and even then don’t let your guard down. Just because they are on the ground doesn’t mean you are safe. Be careful.

  2. Although it does make me curious what correlation *does* cause the higher one-shot-stop numbers for different calibers. Is it who was more likely to be shooting that caliber (ie, police or civilian)? Does having a higher energy bullet make the impact “scarier”?

    Out of curiosity, has anyone mined the same data for things like “who won”, “average number of shots to ‘winning'”, “average number of shots to physical incapacitation”, “relative training of combatants” and that sort of thing? It seems like these guys were looking at a lot of good data, they were just looking for the wrong thing.

  3. Page 161 of Street Stoppers details the criteria that Marshall & Sanow used. With all due respect to those who disagree with M&S, they have done more to examine the issue and eliminate variables and hearsay than ANY of their detractors.

    They provided all of their data, and with sample sizes per caliber that often number into the hundreds, it would be a mistake to discount the value of the information they collated. They also examined many other studies of ammunition effectiveness.

    I laugh when people act like M&S’s extensive report has no meaning whatsoever. Complaining without offering a viable alternative is, um, worthless. Like the advice of people who think hardball ammo is a good choice for self-defense.

    1. The problem with that mindset is that the M&S data is actually useless in any meaningful scientific sense, made even more suspect by the fact that they refuse to release their full data or allow it to be peer reviewed. At best, the M&S data is an interesting collection of anecdotes that have been analyzed by a couple of dudes, at worst it’s junk science.

      If you want to read QUALITY analysis of shootings, read the stuff written by Massad Ayoob. If you want actual ballistics research, go to the FBI.

  4. We also need to remember that Evan Marshall has said numerous times his advice is to shoot to slide lock. He is also a proponent of carrying multiple guns, and not just to cover malfunctions.
    Many seem to look at the entire OSS thing as a recommendation to shoot an attacker only once, and the OSS is a suggestion of what to use for that. They then pick it apart based on the logic that it’s foolish to fire one shot and hope. That was not the intent at all, and his own practice supports that.

    The intent was to see how each bullet/load stacked up against each other in actual shootings instead of gelatin. To do that, they had to discount data where multiple shots were fired. Even if only two shots were fired and they got an instant stop, you will never know if it was the shot that tore a chunk from the heart or the poor shot that was also lucky, hit the diaphram, and literally took the wind out of them.

    It’s my guess that if they were to do it again, they would not use “stop” as the qualifier, and would be more specific. People “stop” for a variety of reasons, as has been said. Of course, we can have that happen no matter how we picked our ammo.

    I think the OSS is just one piece of the puzzle. It’s not The Answer, but neither is any other method. I try to look at all the studies and data I can, and see a lot more in common than I might have thought. Often, the same loads at or near the top of one method’s ratings are at or near the top of others’, even though the tests and comparisons were done differently.

    1. If the data had distinguished between mechanical “stops” and psychological “stops”, that would have done a lot to help it be more reputable.

      1. I’m not sure if they could have. I don’t know how often (if ever) we know why someone was “stopped”.

        They did limit it to “the aggressor must collapse without being able to fire another round or strike another blow. If he or she was fleeing, they collapsed within 10 feet.” I know some people (including me) think they included events when the attacker was shot and then simply quit whether struck in a vital area or not. Apparently they did not, at least based on that qualification.

        My biggest thing when this comes up is that it always seems a lot of people think the whole idea was to say “This works best and you can shoot just once and be fine”. I don’t see that at all.
        They had to use single shot stops for the data because when there is more than one, you can’t know which was The One without a lot of speculating.
        They are saying Load A seems to work better than Load B, so when you empty your gun into the guy,you stand an ever so slightly better chance if you fill him with Load B.

        Overall though, I agree with Louis Awerbuck: If we spent one minute on the range for every hundred minutes spent quibbling over this stuff, we would be a lot better off.

  5. Thanks for the information on the one stop shot myth. It seems like expecting one shot to work every time would be a lot like trying to tune only one string on a piano and expecting it to be effective.

    1. “One shot stop”, as used by Marshal & Sanow, is intended and used as a way to minimize unknown vairables.

      It was NEVER intended to be taken as tactical advice.

      As I have read both Sanow and Marshal state, the very fact that the numbers are so close indicates that, given a good caliber (what most American shooters would consider “service caliber”, i.e., anything from .38 Special on up) loaded with good modern hollowpoints (i.e., “almost any HP, JHP, or SJHP design from a prominent US manufacturer”), you should be fine.

      Asanother poster already stated, they have recommended hedging your bets, because if all other variables are equal (such as “shootability” in YOUR hands, concealability, capacity, etc.), shooting your gun dry and landing those rounds on the Bad Guy with a load that has a OSS or 90%+ is probably a skosh better than if you did it with a load that has a OSS of 70%.

      OSS is more of a mathematical construct for abstract comparisons than a description of how to shoot. In the end, you still just have a handgun, and all handguns suck — but some suck more than others.

      You’ll notice there are no OSS percentages for close range torso hits with 12 gauge buckshot (or at least I have never seen any). That is becuase, to teh best of my knowledge, the OSS for that approaches unity (I don’t care whether you’re using #4 Wally World Party Pack or #000 3″ Magnums marketed by the Zombie Slayer Company, LLC).

      Focusing a lot of time, effort, and brain energy worrying about the exact OSS of a particular bullet and “OMG! I hear teh new DeathBlaster round has a OSS number 2% higher than my apparantly obsolete Hydroshock JHPs!” is about as useful as focusing on penetration, or velocity, or bullet weight, or kinetic energy, or momemtum, etc. to the exclusion of EVERYTHING else. As the Morgue Ghouls (M&S) have said themselves.

      The biggest takeaways from the M&S stuff are:

      1. Even little guns have a bigger number than you would expect. (That’s because the best guess is that roughly HALF of all people will stop when hit ANYWHERE with ANYTHING — i.e., the psychological aspect.)

      2. Generally speaking, the more beaucoup the gun, the more beaucoup the likelyhood that a hit that misses the CNS will make the Bad Man go away.

      3. Pistol caliber FMJs suck at stopping people quickly with torso hits. As in, “they suck even more than the very best pistol rounds.”

      4. Hollowpoint designs that have a decent balance between weight and velocity make people sit down faster and more reliably — looking at the exit wounds or the work of the Jello Junkies (Fackler, et al.), this is somewhat commonsense. (If teh bullet goes WAY too fast, the wound is often spectacular, but shallow; if it is so heavy it doesn’t reliably open at the appropriate depths, it may well perform like RNL. That’s a major reason why I wouldn’t use 90 grain bullets in a .357, and why I prefer my 9×19 bullets to be between about 110 – 125 grains.)

  6. Every time I hear someone tell me they want to buy a 45 because it has more stopping power I cringe a little. I have no idea why this myth persists that the difference between 9mm and .45 is so substantial.

  7. “one shot stop” has ALOT to do with where you hit, not just with what caliber you shoot. Any pistol capible of penetrating the skull AND striking a person in the head will put them down as near to instantly as possible, even an arrow thru the brain is usually instantly fatal. I’ve seen 2 deer that proved this by dropping in their tracks when arrowed in the head, one went in and stayed there, the other actually passed thru. Both dropped like rocks.
    And no-one would argue that a bow and arrow has “knock down power” would they?

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