Hollow-Points-

NOTE: This article is intended to be a basic rationale for the use of hollow point ammunition. It is not an exhaustive, ballistics-tested study on ammunition/bullet effectiveness.

My recent article on the plight of Shaneen Allen, a 27 year-old medical professional and mother of two arrested for possession of a handgun and hollow point ammunition in New Jersey raised quite a bit of commentary on hollow point ammunition restrictions. Allen was merely visiting New Jersey when stopped for a minor traffic violation. She politely informed the officer she had a handgun in her glove compartment, and her concealed carry license in Pennsylvania availed her nothing. She is facing up to ten years in prison . . .

New Jersey law doesn’t absolutely ban hollow points, but makes it virtually impossible to use them for self-defense outside the home. One may own hollow points in their home or property, but only “sportsmen” are allowed to transport them, but their guns must be unloaded and the ammunition removed and kept separate, and even in some circumstances, locked up. In addition, one must go straight to and from their range or hunting area and have a valid hunting license. The New Jersey State Police have a helpful article on the issue available here.

In other words, in the name of public safety, New Jersey makes the use of the most effective and safe handgun ammunition all but impossible outside the home, particularly for self-defense, and actually endangers the public. The laws are so convoluted and nonsensical that most people would be wise to avoid hollow points–even gun ownership–entirely. No doubt, that’s what New Jersey politicians intend.

Why are such draconian restrictions on hollow point ammunition dangerous? It has long been understood–and exhaustively proved through real world experience and ballistic testing–that round nosed, entirely lead (non-jacketed) bullets are not effective in rapidly stopping human beings.  Their all-lead composition limits their velocity—too much velocity leaves excessive lead deposits in barrels–and they can be deformed, deflected, even stopped by thick clothing and a variety of types of cover.  They simply don’t penetrate well, and when they do, tend not to cause immediately debilitating wounds.

Fully metal jacketed round-nosed ammunition—commonly called “ball” or “hard ball”–does indeed penetrate much better, but in human beings, tends only to more or less drill holes no larger than the diameter of the bullet.  Because human tissues are elastic, unless the bullet strikes an artery, the heart, or other vital structure, they tend to do little long-term damage and tend not to immediately stop an attacker.  The greatest danger is that they tend to over-penetrate, particularly with higher-velocity bullets such as the 9mm.  This is the primary reason the police uniformly avoid such ammunition.  The last thing they want is to legitimately shoot a bad guy only to have the bullet zing through them into an innocent while having little immediate effect on the bad guy.

This is where hollow-point ammunition is invaluable.  Early attempts consisted of little more than hollowing out a cavity in the nose of standard ammunition.  These efforts met with relatively little success.  In human tissues, they may or may not have expanded to various diameters, and in any case, expansion was not at all uniform or consistent and could not be relied upon.

With the advent of computers and ballistic modeling software, bullets could be optimized in every way.  Contemporary hollow point handgun ammunition will generally reliably expand to at least some degree in human tissues under normal circumstances. This is important for several significant reasons:

Carrying hollow point ammunition is responsible. If one is legally authorized to use deadly force, they may use as big a gun as they can carry and shoot as many times as necessary to stop the threat with the most effective ammunition lawfully available. To use less effective means endangers not only the innocent victims of criminal assault, but every innocent citizen.

One shoots only to stop, never to wound or kill. Hollow point ammunition, if it works properly, maximizes the probability that a killer—or a vicious, attacking pit bull–will be quickly stopped, a matter of some importance when one is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death, and minimizes the danger of misses or ricochets to innocents. That is why one shoots: because they are facing imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death. There are no warning shots, no shooting to wound, no trying to shoot a gun out of someone’s hand. Not only will those movie conventions fail to stop a determined killer, they are highly likely to injure innocents.

Handgun ammunition is notoriously ineffective at immediately stopping human beings.Most people shot with handgun ammunition, hollow points included, do not immediately die, in fact, most recover.

If someone is trying to cause serious bodily injury or death, it matters not whether they’re trying to do it in the course of a robbery, an arson, shoplifting, or any other crime.  The issue is their putting another in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death, and in that case, one is justified in using the most effective means possible to stop them as quickly as possible.  The same principles apply in case of an animal attack.

If someone demonstrates their intention to shoot you, or is actually shooting, it is very likely indeed—in real life–they will continue to shoot if they are not immediately stopped.

The police use hollow points. Even though many police executives and officers are not gun enthusiasts, they universally use hollow point ammunition. Are the lives of citizens worth less than those of police officers?

The danger to life and limb of ricochets or over penetrating bullets is present everywhere. Wherever homes or people are present, citizens and the police must always be very careful.  We are always strictly responsible for every bullet we fire, and bullets can travel for a mile or more

Consider “Claudia.”  Claudia is a 28 year-old nurse who works at a hospital in a bad, crime-ridden part of her community.  Her daily commute also takes her through very high-crime neighborhoods.  She carries her 9mm handgun when and wherever it is legal.

If the day ever comes when Claudia must use her handgun, it will be when she needs to protect herself from the imminent threat of serious bodily injury or death.  There is no other justification for employing deadly force.  In that event, she will want to deliver a volume of accurate fire sufficient to immediately stop her attacker from doing whatever he was doing—in this case, he’s holding a large knife and threatening to rape and kill her—that gave her the justification to shoot.  With this in mind, what characteristics will she want her ammunition to have?

We carry handguns because long guns, while far more effective, are simply too big.  However, handgun bullets are usually less effective than rifle bullets.  Many weigh less and travel far more slowly, imparting far less energy to the target.  To deal with this deficiency, Claudia will want her bullets to reliably and uniformly expand when they hit her knife-wielding, leering attacker.  If they expand to greater than their normal diameter they will more effectively transfer their energy, making a rapid stop more likely.  If they expand, it also becomes far less likely they will over-penetrate, failing to stop her attacker and possibly striking others.

New Jersey politicians probably think we should never shoot deadly predators in the first place, but if we do, we should only shoot them a little bit and with ammunition that won’t really hurt them.  This “thinking” ignores the reasons why human beings need firearms, not only for sustenance, but to preserve their lives and the lives of others from four legged and two legged predators.

Life is a matter of risk.  Nothing is guaranteed.  If we have an inalienable right to self-defense—and the Heller and McDonald decisions have made that plain (for now)—we have the right to use the most effective means commonly available in that pursuit: modern handguns and hollow point ammunition.  To allow less returns us to a pre-civilization state of anarchy where the strong and vicious do whatever they please, particularly to women.

This would seem to be something of a contradiction for a progressive state like New Jersey claiming to care for and represent women very much like Shaneen Allen. Denying women the most effective means of preserving their lives might be reasonably thought to be the ultimate “war” on women.

More and more women are taking advantage of their fundamental, inalienable right to protect themselves and those they love.  Unlike plastic guns undetectable by X-ray, “cop killer bullets,” “assault weapons,” and every other invention of those who would deny Americans their fundamental rights, hollow point bullets actually exist.  Like contemporary, easily concealable handguns, they serve a vital, useful purpose in protecting innocent lives against those cruel and violent enough to take them.

New Jersey politicians, police and prosecutors seem to care very much about policy, but much, much less about actual people.

Mike’s Home blog is Stately McDaniel Manor.

71 Responses to Hollow Point Ammunition: A Basic Rationale

  1. NJ’s laws are so screwed that even police officers, who carry hollow points in their service weapons, are NOT allowed to carry HPs off-duty.

    • If there is No Duty to Inform…. Don’t !!!

      You are not doing anyone a favor… least of all yourself… by trying to be helpful to the police.

      Keep you mouth shut and take your ticket without volunteering any information.

      • +1

        If you’re carrying on body remove the weapon and stash it out of sight while pulling over. Then keep your mouth shut.

        • Except – plate scanners. Big brother knows you have a CCW the second he runs your tags. And some states are “duty to inform”….

        • If you live in a state with a duty to inform it’s best to know and follow the law. But if you’re traveling from another state they won’t have your CCW information and even if they did they’d ask if you have any firearms and if you say yes then you’ve performed your duty to inform the cop.

        • Remember the guy from Florida who was harassed by the Maryland cops because they ran his plate and it came up as a CCW holder. They share that info so you might be screwed if you don’t tell them!

        • i live in fl and CCW info according to deputies here is not on your dl and especially plate. the Maryland cop was bluffing
          his thinking since so many fl residents have them he tries to get away. add to the fact in fl you may have a holstered loaded gun in your glove box without CCW

    • Dudes, thugs know that a bullet, any bullet, will put a bloody tunnel in their body. A 4″ or 14″ deep tunnel is the same visit to an ER room to them. That attack is gonna come fast and hard, one won’t have time to draw, take aim, hold breath and squeeze one off. Carry your piece UNHOLSTERED in a pocket or purse , keep your hand on it and blast away without drawing, that is if the thug gives you time to even do that. Example, “the knock out game” they like to play. Do whatever you can to keep distance, that’s your best first move.

  2. The fact that the proponents of these laws and the media so often group hollow-point ammunition with armor-piercing ammunition and sometimes even frangible ammunition all under the heading of “Special Evil Cop-killing Bullets” tells us all we need to know about the logic of such laws… or lack thereof.

    It’s a great case of people not having any idea what they’re talking about, but not giving a hoot. These are the same people who believe in ghost guns and 30 magazine guns.

      • You mean XM193?

        There are a ton of rounds out there that are legal to own that have MUCH more penetration that the ammo covered in all the “cop killer” statutes.

        There is AR500 stuff that will handle REPEATED impacts from .30-06 AP that the manufacturer says “not guaranteed to stop M193 or equivalent”. Ceramic plates will stop the first 1-3. After that…

  3. There are workarounds, expanding FMJ and plugged nose rounds (Cor-bon Pow’r ball, Hornady Critical Defense, etc) can give similar effectiveness to true JHP, so NJ residents aren’t deprived of effective self-defense ammunition, however the fact that these are available makes their anti-hollow point stance all the more nonsensical.

    • And for you NJ reloaders (if any exist), take a look at hard cast lead bullets using the Keith semi-wadcutter design. They will feed in many semi-autos, and the bullet design will produce a pretty effective wound channel. Or buy the Glaser safety slug cartridges.

      • Not a fan, just because I shoot with a guy who loads those in his competition pistol, and every time he chambers, he shaves off lead. It may save your life, but it will kill your barrel. OTOH – better than nothing in NJ.

        • Have you tried a patch of RIG Lead-Wipe cloth for barrel leading? I have used it on my Sharps .45-70 silhouette rifle (cast lead bullets), and it really cleans the lead out of the rifling. Follow the use instructions. WARNING: do NOT wipe any blued surface with this cloth, as it will remove the bluing.

    • .45 is effective, even with ball, if you put it in the right spot. (So is .22, but .45 is DESIGNED to stop a charging person with ball).

      • Sounds like we all need lessons in ballistics of pistol rounds. None of them are the man killers we envision them to be. Effective? Yes, after the shooters hits a vital blood producing/storing unit or an artery. Lots of research on this and how they pale in comparison to rifles. Secondary wound cavities are not good and the “energy” myth just doesn’t manifest itself in pistol rounds.

  4. “or a vicious, attacking pit bull”

    Not to nit-pick, but was this really necessary? Just because pit bull-looking dogs are the breed du jour for abusers, drug dealers, dog fighters, and other idiots doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with the dogs in general. Before them it was dobermans, rottweilers, and german shepherds. It’s a little hard to take you seriously on stances you take against anti-gun emotion-based rhetoric when you turn around and do the same thing to someone/something else.

    • In all fairness, Pits tend to be virtually indestructible. in my experience they far out-tough Alsatians, Dobermans (Dobermen?) and such.

      I’ve had several, and they are loving, gentle and thoroughly delightful creatures. They are also made of tire rubber and spring steel.

      That said, you are correct that “dog” would’ve sufficed.

    • Sentry dogs are ineffective against trained infantry. Against the doofus that wants to steal your TV they kinda rule.

  5. In the ridiculous patchwork that is NJ gun law, hollowpoint ammunition nicely highlights the types of problems that residents face.

    You are permitted to have hollowpoint ammunition for self-defense in your own home. It has been pointed out that if you were to shot an intruder with hollowpoints, he would then be in possession of hollowpoints outside of his home, thus adding another charge to his sheet. No doubt that’s what the politicians intended.

    Unless you have a permit to carry (and less than 1200 people in the state do), then your possession of a handgun must fall into an exemption (which is an affirmative defense that you have the burden to prove at trial). Possession in your home is an exemption. So is moving (otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to possess your handgun while your between homes). Oddly, for hollowpoints, there is no moving exemption. Therefore, by the letter of the law, you should abandon the ammo when you sell the house. I’m sure the politicians intended that outcome as well.

      • He was making a joke…

        Once you give the Intruder the hollow-point (at 900fps) – the intruder is now in possession of a hollow-point bullet.

        • What is sad is that with convoluted laws, something like that could possible really be the case in certain areas. One can never be too careful.

    • i believe this and the assault weapons ban in NJ which even includes 30 cal pistol round m1 carbines was signed into law by one term jim florio who right after signed an extremely high tax bill even taxing toilet paper raised the rate in addition to expansion to add to the fact NJ politicians have been indicted and convicted at a rate second only to illinios
      they were afraid NJ citizens might someday revolt every blank billboard had recall Florio who lost to Whitman

  6. Good article. As a commenter pointed out a while back, a NJ license holder can carry a .454 Casull legally but a .25 with hollow points can get him into trouble. Crazy.

    • Let’s not forget that NJ defines ‘airguns’ as firearms so you better not get caught plinking in your backyard with a red ryder unless you’ve got a firearms ID…

      • Once tried to buy an air rifle from an FFL who told me that NJ law required him to ship to an FFL only. I said it was interstate commerce, I wasn’t in NJ, and even if NJ law required FFL transfer for air guns, it couldn’t require me to receive one at an FFL.

        He thought I was entirely unreasonable in refusing to buy from him.

        I thought about it a bit and decided it wouldn’t be entirely unreasonable for me to have a personal trade embargo against NJ like USA has a trade embargo against Cuba. I don’t travel there, and I won’t do business with anybody located there, and I won’t knowingly buy anything made there.

  7. Good post. I know ad hominem attacks are not allowed, but we can rip on places with impunity right?

    NEW JERSEY BLOWS. terrible laws..taxes…the beaches there are overrated. The only thing i miss about that place is the Tropicana down in a/c. :p

    • Some people are guided by common sense. This is generally a plus, but can lead people seriously astray when dealing with the law (particularly, but not exclusively, in blue states).

    • Because it makes sense! Universal Reciprocity is so common sense that she probably thought it was already in place.

    • Right Kyle. Throw her dumbass in jail. She needs to be removed from society so you and I will be safer. Yeah that marine in Mexico too.

      • That is not what I am saying. I do not mean she should be thrown in jail because “she should have known better.” It’s just that someone who goes through all the trouble to get a gun license I would think would be aware that the license is not accepted everywhere.

    • Kyle is contemplating getting a driving license from all 50 states so that he can take a long summer vacation next year.

      • That would be interesting if anyone has way too much free time on their hands. Call up the DOT from every state that doesn’t recognize your state’s CCW and ask them what it takes to get a non-resident driver’s license since you’re planning to visit their state. Play dumb and explain that you thought that since they didn’t honor your CCW that they wouldn’t honor any other licenses from your state. Record it, post it up on YouTube.

      • I dunno, maybe since 11 states have decided to give out driver’s licenses to anyone with a pulse regardless of whether they are legally in the country we might eventually see the issue of driver’s license reciprocity come up.

    • You guys are missing my point. Gun licenses are not like car licenses. One should never just assume that one state accepts another state’s gun license. Yes, it SHOULD be that way, but that isn’t the reality Common sense to me is that you always assume another state doesn’t accept your license and even major cities WITHIN your state do not.

      And no I do not mean to imply the woman should be thrown I jail because “she should have known better,” I am just surprised by the numbers of people who go through all the trouble to get a gun license and then just “assume” it applies everywhere.

  8. I use plastic-tipped to hunt, and my personal weapon alternates between FMJ and HP as it is not unknown for a bad guy to be wearing armor.

    A double tap makes it pretty damned likely that things’ll go my way.

    As to what to avoid, I’ll just make that the whole of New Jersey…

    • Curious what caliber you’re using where FMJ would help with armor. I’m assuming the plastic tip refers to a rifle bullet, but FMJ/HP refers to pistol.

  9. Great article Mike.
    If you are a responsible and humane hunter, why wouldn’t you want to use the most effective round?
    If you are a responsible parent, especially someone smaller, or using a more compact gun for cocealed carry outside the home, to protect your family…why wouldnt you want to use the most effective round?

    We already know that criminals dont obey the law.

    So, the only reason I can think of that makes sense, from the politicians perspective, is that they must personally fear the use of effective ammo by the law abiding…

    Sheesh. Are the pols in Jersey really that bad?

  10. This is one reason i live in the south and will never visit the north. Way to many Liberals,taxes,laws,restrictions and crime.

  11. “In other words, in the name of public safety, New Jersey makes the use of the most effective and safe handgun ammunition all but impossible outside the home, particularly for self-defense…”

    Except for the police. “I will give up my hollowpoints when they pry them from the hands of the NJ police.”

    Another excellent reason to escape from Joisy.

  12. The article states: “If the day ever comes when Claudia must use her handgun, it will be when she needs to protect herself from the imminent threat of serious bodily injury or death. There is no other justification for employing deadly force.?

    Is not the defense of a third person, whom one believes to be in threat of immiment serious bodily injury justifiable, as well?

    • Dear John Dalton:

      Indeed, deadly force may generally be used in defense of self and others when the imminent threat of serious bodily injury or death is present. I didn’t specifically add that because, well, that wasn’t the specific focus of the article. But thanks!

  13. Good post. Well except for the verbal gymnastics of “stopping” but not wounding. Of course I want to wound some criminal when I stop him. Or kill him…

    • I get a little tired of the semantics as well… given that the means of ‘stopping’ someone in this case involve putting holes in him with metal until enough of his blood leaks out to put him into hypovolemic shock or his nervous system shuts down I think we can safely say we’re shooting to kill.

  14. ‘Are the lives of citizens worth less than those of police officers?’

    Do you really have to ask? In the eyes of the state of New Jersey?

  15. For some ungodly reason (thankfully, I point out), Guard Dog and the Hornady Criticals are not considered hollow points by NJ law. It sure beats FMJ’s in your home.

    • I’d love to see some evidence of that ruling, although I just checked a box of Critical Defense 9mm and nowhere does it say hollow-point or HP. That will likely not deter most NJ DAs unless there is a binding decision or case law. True, CD is not technically hollow, being filled with a polymer material, but that is a distinction without a difference.

      If true, thank god for stupid law makers.

  16. After reading this…

    http://www.firearmstactical.com/pdf/fbi-hwfe.pdf

    I am not a huge believer in HP rounds for hand guns. The report goes into good detail about how “penetration through vital organs” is the #1 factor when stopping someone. It states that HP rounds need to reach 2000 FPS to properly expand and penetrate, which most hand gun rounds will never do.

    The report is no older, so perhaps HP hand gun rounds of 2014 are technically better these days….as they are not weakened in order to make them expand more because they lack enough speed.

    Either way pistols poke holes and rifles tear shite up. With a pistol, if you have to pull the trigger, do so more than once.

    • The internet is full of videos showing handgun rounds expanding in ballistic gel. TTAG here has featured more than a dozen from ShootingTheBull410.

    • Just checked the report. On page 5 it is discussing FRAGMENTATION of handgun rounds, not expansion. Two different things Expansion is good, fragmentation not so much.

  17. “Because human tissues are elastic, unless the bullet strikes an artery, the heart, or other vital structure, they tend to do little long-term damage and tend not to immediately stop an attacker.” While the rest the statement is mostly true the fact that human tissue is elastic does not mean that there is no secondary damage from the temporary expansion. I’m pretty sure that the speed of expansion and contraction of human tissues, which occurs on the order milliseconds even for a relatively slow pistol round, exceeds its elastic limits. Damage will be done even if not to the extend of a centerfire rifle round. I think it was the FBI that discounted the damage form the temporary wound cavity because they had a particular round in mind when they did the study. Having some familiarity with government operations research analysis applied to procurement it is my experience that it is not uncommon for measures of performance to be discounted when they do not support the desired outcome.

  18. “The laws are so convoluted and nonsensical that most people would be wise to avoid hollow points–even gun ownership–entirely. No doubt, that’s what New Jersey politicians intend.”

    I just choose to avoid the state of New Jersey entirely, doesn’t everybody?

    Dialog from The Long Kiss Goodnight:
    Charly Baltimore: Easy, sport. Got myself out of Beirut once, I think I can get out of New Jersey.
    Mitch Henessey: Yeah, well don’t be so sure. Others have tried and failed. The entire population, in fact.

  19. it IS kind of funny that an article designed to make a rational case for people not freaking out over hollowpoints takes a little turn into the “vicious pit bull” zone.

  20. As for getting out of Jersey, many of us were born and raised here with family…obligations..more or less successful careers etc. so we stay until we can retire then run. On the way out they hammer us with an exit tax as well. As for drivers license reciprocity vs cc, well the second amendment is a constitutional right. Nowhere in the U.S. Constitution are drivers licenses mentioned. So it would seem more rational for ccw licenses to reciprocate than drivers license. Driving is a privilege not a right. As for the entire hollow point issue. If I need to protect my family inside my home Im grabbing a 12 gauge. Even with an ounce and an eighth of bird shot I think the perp will stop functioning effectively. Not to mention #1 or #4.

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