Google+ Badge

Sunday, 23 April 2017

'Handgun Stopping Power' - Myths, Fables & Beliefs:

 Even I (who - me?) - a small voice looking for acknowledgement of the .32" calibers effectiveness - I am getting impatient with what is becoming a circular argument. -  'Colpepper' (& no doubt many others) stubbornly refuses to accept that the results for .22 rim fire & .32" effectiveness figures in Greg Ellifritz's 2011 study are factual - saying ..

"Arguably the most well known of those (other) studies was by Evan Marshall & Edwin Sanow" 'Handgun Stopping Power - The Definitive Study' "  (Published 25 years ago in 1992) .. and of-course this book points to the claimed superior stopping power of the large calibers  .. including the .45" ACP.

To help my understanding of how those authors constructed their claims I have now imported & read a copy of this "bible" from USA.

- A Quote from that book where they explain how the RELATIVE INCAPACITATION INDEX was calculated:

"Actual shot placement has a tremendous effect on the overall stopping power of a bullet; in fact, it is the most significant factor. It is also the factor over which we have least control, so it was important to isolate this variable first."

They go on to state that the computer image used to calculate the index was generated by using the M1911A1 .45 ACP - saying "There were lots of misses and lots of poor shots, just like reality."

- So this Index and their figures were calculated by deliberately "isolating" these .45" ACP misses - as the targets didn't stop and only counting the hits that worked ... while we are (US Govt. figures) informed that between 80 - 85% of shots miss their intended target in US police duty shootings.

- Then further into 'Handgun Stopping Power' the author says ..

 "Frankly, I had no intention of including any caliber smaller than the .380 ACP, but I kept stumbling across cases where the excellent (.32" ACP) Silvertip jacketed hollowpoint was used.

- So these preclusions in the criteria then are the unscientific basis that this "most well known of those studies" was based on.

In a couple of places the authors state that shot placement is critical  - but then go-on to write "Only torso shots were used." thereby discarding from their calculations all the 'major caliber' misses or marginal hits "from the Street" - And "Multiple hits were also discarded."  when calculating stopping power - thereby eliminating any repeated effective follow-up shots from the smaller calibers which are more easily held on target in rapid fire.

- If you only count single shots that hit in critical areas - then calculate 'stopping power' by recording how long it takes for that 'stop' to happen - no wonder you get high percentages of effectiveness for the cartridge so assessed.
My statement here is that defensive shooters such as US Citizens should use the most powerful cartridge caliber that they themselves can carry & control, shoot easily, accurately and quickly - rather than any fabled man stopper .. as shot placement is the single most critical factor. -  If that choice is a 'thirty-two' - the latest study of factual records clearly shows that they will not be disadvantaged by their choice of a "minor" caliber.

The concept of defensive "stopping power" is close to meaningless if it ignores 'shootability' & accuracy by discounting all the misses.


If you are a well trained and practiced professional - or a competitive handgun shooter - your personal ability may possibly extend your choice toward more powerful handguns.

 'HANDGUN STOPPING POWER' fails to provide a proper methodology for "stopping power" conclusions - while claiming tabulated results for handgun effectiveness as high as 96.96% (a .357" Magnum load). The major part of their book repeats gruesome anecdotal tales of fatal shootings. - Just because you title your book as "Definitive" doesn't mean that it is.

 - However - The authors do make sense late in the book when they state:

 "A strong case can be made for simply putting the ammo in the guns and ignoring small design differences between loads. Instead time and effort should be spent developing shooting skills so that the shooter always hits what he aims ..." 

and again - "It is an error to overstate differences between calibers and loads that do not exist in reality."

  Chapter (11) Specialty Ammunition was usefully informative in describing the construction of specialist rounds such as 'Glasers' and other inventions like "explosive bullets" - attempting to improve handgun performance in novel ways. - Chapters 14 & 15 are also generally interesting regarding terminal ballistics.

Marty K.