Thursday, November 6, 2014

Concealed Carry: Final Word on Caliber

I had a discussion with a co-worker the other day. They were trying to decide on a caliber of handgun to buy. They had just recently got their concealed carry license and had decided on a particular gun, but were not sure of the caliber as their gun of choice came in 3 calibers. My friend did some research and came across some dubious ballistics information. I shared with him what the FBI had to say about their findings in wound ballistics. This is from their report “Handgun Wounding Factors and Effectiveness”, July 14, 1989, FBI Academy
“The tissue disruption caused by a handgun bullet is limited to two mechanisms. The first, or crush mechanism is the hole that the bullet makes passing through the tissue. The second, or stretch mechanism is the temporary wound cavity formed by the tissue being driven outward in a radial direction away from the path of the bullet. Of the two, the crush mechanism is the only handgun wounding mechanism that damages tissue. To cause significant injuries to a structure within the body using a handgun, the bullet must penetrate the structure. Temporary cavity has no reliable wounding effect in elastic body. Temporary cavitation is nothing more than a stretch of the tissues, generally no larger than 10 times the bullet diameter (in handgun calibers), and elastic tissues sustain little, if any, residual damage.”
This is something all of us that carry a weapon, law enforcement, soldier, civilian alike, should bare in mind. Temporary stretch cavity is only a significant wounding mechanism in projectiles over 2000 FPS, which no handgun round is going to be able to reach. Why does this matter? Because the discussion of terminal ballistics is fraught with so much myth and nonsense that it's very easy to lose sight of what a pistol bullet is actually doing. Remember: kinetic energy doesn't kill, energy dump doesn't kill, and temporary stretch cavity doesn't kill. The only wound mechanic of a pistol bullet is the permanent crush cavity, which is the actual path of tissue destroyed by the bullet. For the crush cavity to be significant, it must damage the central nervous system, or cause sufficient blood loss to shut down the body.
Does it matter if the round is a .45 or a .22? Not really. If you carry a pistol or any caliber, you must hit something vital to stop the threat. This can be achieved with any caliber handgun as long as shot placement is specific.
So you say you carry every day but seldom go to the range? You may have a problem using deadly force. I have strong feelings about this, not only because I think any responsible American should be armed, but I feel someone who is not responsible has no business carrying a lethal weapon with the intent of using it. It makes us all look bad. What good is your gun if you can’t hit anything with it? And you won’t be able to hit anything with it without practice and training. How comfortable would you be with a pilot who flies occasionally?
Get trained. Use that training to improve yourself. Practice even when it’s boring or mundane (I can’t imagine that!). It would be tragic to be a licensed weapon carrier but get killed because you can’t stop the threat. Or worse, if you hit the unintended target.
Now you’re not completely in trouble if you don’t practice. Just being shot will often take a person out of the fight. Most of us learn how to get shot from movies and TV. Being shot is no fun, it hurts! But for many it stops them in their tracks, just like in the movies. But don’t depend on this physiological phenomenon, get trained and practice!
Remember this FBI report and don't believe the nonsense.
Semper Paratus
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