JHP bullet expansion stopping power
Dan Z. for TTAG
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By DrF

I’m not sure what would happen if there were no more internet discussions about “stopping power” as applied to handguns. What would we talk about? I am sure that it would be a better world, and there would be lots more available bandwidth.

The stopping power of the brakes on my car is easily determined, as is the (absence of) my power to stop eating chips and salsa. But when it comes to handgun stopping power, things get a little trickier.

What is “stopping,” exactly? From a physics point of view, we could say “stopping” is taking the momentum of an object to zero. In the case of the FAA standard 170 pound man walking three miles an hour, his momentum is 68.8kg*m/sec.

A .45 ACP round has a momentum of 8.3 kg*m/sec meaning that if you can put every shot where it counts, you can stop your standard guy from moving forward after more than eight shots. I guess there’s a reason for 8+1 pistols, huh?

Of course, that’s pretty meaningless. What we want to know is what is best for stopping threats or attackers, commonly expressed as “stopping power.”

We want to protect ourselves and our own. There are lots of ways to do this. Simply producing your weapon, of any sort, may discourage your opponent and that may be all it takes.

A hammer to the head might do it, and pepper spray can take a lot of grown men to their knees. If you are skilled, there are all sorts of things you can do with your hands and feet, but if you’re close enough to put the hurt on the bad guy, he’s close enough to return the favor.

Of course, you can always run. Even if the law allows you to stand your ground, that isn’t mandatory. Running might be the best option. You’re not trying to prove anything, you just want to sleep in your own bed tonight with all of your people secure.

Handguns are wonderfully…handy. But that’s their only functional advantage. In every other way, they are inferior to long guns. The mighty .45 ACP is a pop gun compared to most any deer rifle or a 12 gauge shotgun.

Barnes Vor-Tx bullet expansion test
Handgun calibers don’t hold a candle to rifle ammunition. (Dan Z. for TTAG)

An AR with 30 rounds of 5.56 is a lot more useful than anything you can carry easily and shoot with one hand. But you’re not going to have any of that in your IWB holster as you pick up the dry cleaning or run out for bread and milk. So when it comes to guns for defense, we’re mostly left with (relatively) wimpy handguns, the weak sister of the firearm world.

So comes now the day you’ve been dreading. The fight has come to you. You draw and fire, and you get it done. The bad guy gets one right in the breadbasket. Or maybe three or five. But you might not be done yet.

Unlike the movies, your shot will not lift the guy out of aisle 4 and fling him into the dog food. He may not react at all. Now the question of “stopping power” is entirely relevant. What can your trusty heater actually do to end a fight?

Shooting deer at 100 or 300 yards with my trusty .280 is easy. I’ve done it a number of times and all of the deer ended up with two holes in their chest and died promptly.

Hitting things with a handgun is comparatively difficult. And you can be sure that your skill will drop off considerably if you find yourself actually fighting with your handgun.

I am aware of a situation in which law enforcement officers fired north of 50 rounds at a bad guy, and they all missed. Skill with a handgun is not easy to develop and skill in shooting while moving at people that are moving and who are shooting back isn’t generally available without a 4-year commitment and a trip east. WAY east.

Leaving aside the interaction of you with your weapon, there are two variables to consider as to the “stopping power” of a gun. The first is bullets.

Love and beauty aside, the function of guns is all about the projectiles. The point is to send little bits of metal downrange to a predetermined place to do a specific thing. In the case of self-defense, the object is to eliminate the threat.

How can this be done? You are going to launch a bullet — probably hollow point, not FMJ — into a bad guy (you hope). Maybe more than one. And perhaps more than one bad guy. What can your handgun bullets do to help you get home that night?


There are lots of personal defense bullets out there. There has been lots of testing done shooting walls and car doors and FBI standard gelatin, with and without clothing, wet phone books, you name it. What hasn’t been done is shooting angry people of identical build in exactly the same place with the same projectile at the same velocity a few hundred times.

Until Dr. Moreau does that experiment a few hundred times, it’s all speculation. Till then, we’ll be shooting Jell-o, which can tell you a lot about what to do if you get attacked by dessert.

Is all this testing useless? Who knows? It seems reasonable to think that more energy is better, or that bigger and faster is better than smaller and slower. But we don’t really know what the difference is, and how much.

Add to that all of the possibilities that we’ll peek at below, and I maintain that no one knows which bullet at what velocity is best for a given situation, let alone what’s best for all situations. Reasoned speculation is often correct, but it isn’t the same as knowing.

Likely as not, we’ll find out in five years that tissue stretch at a certain high velocity causes the release of massive quantities of vital fluids, causing rapid incapacitation and we’ll all be shooting phonograph needles at 121,000 fps and knocking ‘em down.

Shot Placement

So what can you do with your handgun cartridge (whether it’s .380 ACP, 9mm, .45 ACP, .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum) to get the bad guy to lose interest quickly? You have the gun out, and he’s still in the game. The first and best thing is to take out the brain.

The brain is what tells the rest of the body what to do. If you can put out the lights, that will incapacitate the person and he will no longer be able to hurt you. KO, you win.

human range target paper

But the brain is relatively hard to hit. It’s surrounded by thick bone that can deflect bullets and your bad guy might just move as you draw a fine bead on him. So brain shots are tough.

Bleeding is generally how game animals are brought down. It’s the most reliable effect of a bullet. Bullets make holes. Holes in people bleed. If there is enough bleeding, weakness will come, followed by unconsciousness. It’s just applied physiology.

Bad guys bleeding is a good thing, but it may take a while. Some holes bleed more than others, and exactly what’s bleeding matters.

If you can blow the heart apart, blood pressure will go to nothing pretty quickly. Well done. Lots of points. But your bad guy still can have a functioning brain for maybe 10 more seconds.

Ten seconds is a very long time in a real fight. During those 10 seconds, muscle function will be pretty normal, so your guy can still do lots of damage. People do Bill drills in two seconds. If your bad guy is a pistolero, he might get two or three of those on you before he passes out. You may both die, but you get more points for drawing first blood.

Next up are the long bones of the leg and the spinal cord. Take out the cord and you paralyze your bad guy at that level. And to do that, you will be shooting at the chest or neck. There is lots of stuff that bleeds in both of those places. Two ways to win.

If you paralyze your assailant, he can still shoot, but you are way ahead on points. You’ll probably win. But of course, he isn’t always going to hold still for that, and you probably don’t know exactly where it is in every posture, do you? I sure don’t, and I’m a doctor.

The human spinal cord is an inch or less in diameter. Try hitting that in someone who is attacking or fighting you. Long bones in the leg are pretty good also. Hopping around on one leg isn’t an efficient way to fight, Karate Kid aside. But long bones in the leg are also tough to hit.

Last, but in my opinion not least, is the psychological effect of being shot. If someone notices they have been shot, it can change their attitude. They may not want to fight any more, no matter how wounded they really are.

This effect may be greater if some real visceral damage has been done. They may sit down, wave the white flag, and wait for EMS. Then again, they may not. If they quit, great. If not, well….

The second factor is who you’re shooting at, and under what circumstances. People are variable. Grown men can weigh anywhere from 100 pounds to well north of 300.

Not only that, people are built out of a variety of tissues in varying amounts, including bone, and are full of things that are more or less important to the ability of the person to keep giving you a bad time. So your bullet may have wildly differing performance requirements depending on the circumstances of your fight.

Anatomy can also ruin your day. An inch or less this way or that may be the difference in your future. People are not homogenous, and no one is good enough to shoot the heart on a fighting person reliably. It’s luck. And it gets worse.

Your bullet may absolutely shred the heart, or it may not. No bullet is perfect. Throw in a few inches of fat or muscle, some bones, varying positions, and it’s all, pardon me, a crapshoot. No telling what will happen. If I find myself in a gunfight with you, I’d prefer to put some holes in you first on general principle, but there is no guarantee of any particular effect.

And it gets still more difficult. People wear clothes and hide behind things. They have stuff in their pockets. They sit in cars. They might be standing over you ready to deliver the coup de grace when you get off your first shot into the pelvis from below. Then you’ll be wishing for a lot more than 12 inches of penetration in gelatin.

Add to that the variation in the determination of your assailant, what he is wearing, how far away he is and how good you are in the worst moment of your life. Add it all up, and you will have to shoot until there is no need to continue, (or you run out of ammo) and hope for the best. There is no guarantee of winning even if you shoot first and best with the most.

Handguns are wonderful things. They’re excellent for concealed carry. I own them, carry them, and have been pleased to have one handy in bad times. It is nearly always better to have a handgun — any handgun — if you have to fight. But trying to predict what will happen or which one is best is a fool’s errand. There is no quantifiable “stopping power” and way too many variables to make anything about this predictable. The correct answer to most “stopping power” questions is “Who knows?

My advice (or reasoned speculation) is get a gun that you like and will carry around with you. Since what little data there is suggests that guns usually stop the festivities without pulling the trigger, don’t get too lathered up about what caliber it is. More important is that it’s comfortable and that you like it, and will actually use it.

You’ve heard it before: a .22 in your hand is better than a .45 at home. View the advice you receive at the gun store or from cops and other counter commandos with healthy skepticism. I was the kid behind that counter at a really good gun store back in the day, and I can assure you that we didn’t know the answers. Some of the biggest, most egregious whoppers I’ve ever heard floated across counters at gun stores. And cops…well, never mind.

More importantly, get your mind off of stopping power and onto fighting. That’s what your gun is for, and it’s what you’ll be doing even if your gun doesn’t work. They don’t always. Most of us would be safer with some generic training in tactics and strategy for everyday life instead of blasting away at hanging paper on a square range, fun as that may be.

If you want to become a shooter, do it! It’s great fun and the people are wonderful. Play around with different guns and calibers and bullets. Learn about tap-rack-bang and headspace and DA/SA or SAO. Then log in and let us all know what you think is best.

No hurry. That debate will go on forever. No one can prove they are right, so no one has to be wrong.


[This article was originally published in 2014.]

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    • 1 of the men with him spent the rest of his life in a wheel chair. From the same gun. Over in KY near where my father lived his last days a KY State Trooper lost a leg to a .22.

      Those of us that have lived on farms/ranches know that the .22 is highly underrated.

      • JWM
        Agree with.22 being under rated. I put down cattle and occasionally hunted feral pigs with one as model 10 was the farm vehicle gun.

        Shot placement beats everything but as the article says that’s hard to do with a moving, aggressive target.

        Practice especially with moving targets helps. One club I’m in uses ropes and pulleys to make targets go sideways and towards you. We also use the clay targets that are made for running on the ground. Amazing how many of those we use multiple times.

        • And as I’ve mentioned here before, one of my best friends died from a single .22LR. Don’t ever underestimate any gun, period.

        • I’m honestly impressed y’all used a .22 to stop feral hogs. I haven’t seen too many of them but _none_ of the ones I’ve ever seen were what I’d call “fun sized.”

    • If there was ever an argument against the 22 or other small caliber firearms for self defense, it’s the shooting of President Reagan.
      Reagan was hit under the arm. After he was shot, Regan didn’t know he had been hit, and assumed the blood in his mouth (from a bleeding lung) was from where he bit his lip.
      Reagan walked into the hospital, he was not carried nor did he use a stretcher. When he got short of breath, everyone assumed a heart attack. When the trauma team realized he had been shot, he complained about the fact that they cut his suit. He was conscious and lucid. The surgery was uncomplicated, and lasted about 10 minutes.

      If your goal is the stop an attacker, don’t go with something that, even at extremely close range, not only didn’t stop a 70+ year old man, but was so minor that neither he nor those around him even knew he was hit.

      • jwtaylor,

        That was by far and away the most compelling argument that I have ever heard against .22 LR for self-defense.

        Countless people will shout, “But .22 LR is just as lethal as any other caliber.” For the most part, I agree. What those people fail to realize, though, is that .22 LR will almost always take a lot LONGER to be lethal than larger calibers.

        To the extent that simply producing any firearm of any caliber will immediately stop something like 90% of attackers, a firearm chambered in .22 LR is certainly an excellent choice for someone who cannot shoot a larger caliber accurately and quickly (or if they cannot afford a different firearm). If you can shoot a larger caliber quickly and accurately and you can afford it, that has a higher probability of more quickly stopping a determined attacker who doesn’t care that you are armed.

      • Mr. Taylor,

        I have wondered if .22 LR is more lethal than it should be because people don’t even realize they are wounded or don’t take their wound seriously — and by the time they realize they need immediate medical trauma care, it is too late.

        Consider the attempted assassination of Reagan. If he did not have a Secret Service detail who immediately transported him to a hospital, and if the hospital had not been only a mile or two away and the medical staff had not immediately began checking for gunshot wounds, he could have easily died. Or, saying it another way, any average Joe in the same situation could have easily died.

        • No one is saying it won’t kill. But the goal is to immediately stop an attacker so they cannot continue to aggress. The .22LR really sucks for that, in comparison to other common rounds.

      • Mr Taylor
        President Reagan was not trying to run away after being shot. As you said he walked into the hospital. His heart was not pumping faster as a criminal heart would be after being shot and running away. Causing them to bleed out and drop dead. I have read of other people being shot by a .22 and just walking to get help or even driving themselves to hospital.

        Thanks to TTAG and other sites, I have collected many stories over the years of defenders using .22 rifles and handguns to stop an attack. This includes criminals who have used them successfully as well. Sadly to kill many innocent people.

        I train with my beretta 21a in .22 caliber. I know I’m ok pocket carrying it at work. When I’m not at work I carry a 17 round 9mm handgun. Those of us with “real jobs” can’t carry at work and keep our jobs. Those of you who can carry a full size gun while at work can count your selves as lucky.

        1. The murderer used a ruger 1022

        2. Terrorists use 22 caliber AK47s

        3. Kauhajoki school shooting. Killer used a walther p22, 10 people shot dead

        I have many more examples.

        • the bullets didn’t “explode ” like they were supposed to . that was just marketing . I also believe it was 22 short ammo in the RG pistol used in the reagan attack . in combat people get shot with 9mm’s and 45’s and don’t know they are hit either. I agree the 22 is not ideal and do not carry it . but the conclusion from the reagan attack is placement matters most .

      • This. A .22 LR is only running around 70-100 foot pounds out of a handgun. A 4″ 9mm will get you 340-400 plus foot pounds with defensive loads. A .22 LR is better than nothing, but vastly inferior to .380, 9mm, .40, .45, etc.

        • Not arguing that the .22 is the best. But there have been times in my life when all I had was a .22. My first wife ran a guy off with a Jennings .22. Her and the baby were safe. Made so by a gun that could barely fire 3 rounds straight without a jam.

          My finances are much better nowadays. But there are a lot of folks out there that cannot afford a vault full of top of the line combat hardware. A .22 beats harsh language.

  1. The magic bullet or caliber does not exist. Double stack autos are the best primary fighting handgun for most folks. More bullets is better.

    Just my opinion.

    • Some people are way more accurate with single stacks or revolvers. And that’s what they should carry.
      Hits count.
      This very article cites cops spraying and praying 50 rounds with 0 hits. Happens all the time.

  2. I found this article to be well written and very clear about all the variables involved. Thank you to the author of six years ago.

  3. Doc F. You are a great writer. Really enjoyed this, hugely entertaining. And it all holds true with my personal experience in combat in a “real” war, and on the streets of a couple US cities. Thanks again. 🙂

  4. “Until Dr. Moreau does that experiment”

    Don’t give him any ideas, I’m still having nightmares about the human/octopus hybrid.

    Personally, I follow the lead of the big game hunters and use fully jacketed at solids, relying on shot placement. Many opponents are very unsportsmanlike, often hiding behind various objects, penetration is King.

  5. I agree with all of the author’s presentation.

    I use “reasoned speculation” in a very simple manner to guide my choice of caliber and bullets.

    A caliber/bullet that is more likely to create a substantial entry AND exit wound is probably more likely to stop an attacker faster — for the simple fact that the attacker would bleed out faster through two holes rather than one hole (if there is no exit wound).

    A “large” caliber/bullet is more likely to cause more bleeding than a “small” caliber/bullet and is probably more likely to stop an attacker faster — for the simple fact that the attacker would bleed out faster.

    Those previous two considerations suggest that I should carry a .454 Casull revolver loaded with 300 grain hardcast lead bullets (with large, flat meplats) which WILL make a huge entry and exit wound in every attacker, no matter how large that attacker is and no matter what angle I shoot the attacker.

    And yet there are other considerations which argue against carrying a .454 Casull revolver. First of all, it is almost guaranteed to over-penetrate and kill (not just wound) bystanders. Second of all, the recoil is atrocious which means it will take a relatively long time to send follow-up shots if I missed with the first shot, which is quite likely in an actual life-or-death situation.

    So, how do I boil all that down? The same way that many people have explained: I carry the largest caliber loaded with the heaviest bullets that I can shoot quickly and accurately. For me, that could be either .40 S&W or .45 ACP. I opt for .40 S&W because I get more ammunition capacity in the same size of magazine and the ammunition is less expensive. For other people, that could be 9mm Luger or even .380 ACP. For still others, they might only be able to shoot .22 LR or .25 ACP quickly and accurately.

  6. Actually the magic bullet does exist, its just that most of you are not aware of it. Its called a DRT round. Its the only handgun round I’ve ever seen that can replicate the ballistic effects of getting hit with a rifle. People keep believing only one thing Because 99% of of people are brainwashed by repetition, they repeat what they’ve heard because they’ve heard it a million time. And before some genius says its just a “Frangible” bullet, …no its not just a “frangible” bullet. Normally I don’t say anything but I just can’t understand why people just repeat shit over and over again. Just because something is popular, and the “experts” agree to it, doesn’t make it true. Don’t take my word for it ,do some research on the round, use it in hunting, talk to the president of the company. But most importantly, please remember there are exceptions to every rule. Just because 99% of handgun rounds suck doesn’t mean there isn’t a round out there that has true rifle type stopping power. Everyone in this world just repeats…repeats…and repeats what they heard but never actually looks and thinks for themselves and then they call this knowledge….okay rant over…https://drtammo.com/product-category/pistol/

      • Your statement reflects the typical american and why our country is going to hell. The height of ignorance is to have an opinion on something you know nothing about. You merely dismiss it because it doesn’t meet you narrow view of reality. I listen to comments like yours and its no wonder that the gun controllers and gun grabbers are winning. You and most humans mock anything you can’t understand and dismiss it. This is why your poor, this is why you’re dumb and this is why your dependent on a medical system that kills 250k people a year. Its because instead of investigating you mock. A rational person would investigate my claims to prove me wrong. But you are the typical mouth breather who can only mock what you don’t understand. I give up on you and the human race.

        • Yeah, no. Your link leads to a place I can buy some, I guess I’m supposed to then go shoot somebody and see how it works? Clearly, we can see who signs your paycheck, otherwise your post is exactly like any other advertisement; “it’s the best because I say so, and there is magic!” And getting pissy just cinches the deal. There is no information at that site.

        • Well since you give up please demonstrate to us your magic ammunition by inserting a round into your cranium at muzzle velocity. We all eagerly await the results of your experiment.

        • Here is a proof that you are wrong:

          Ammunition works by exchanging chemical energy into kinetic energy which gets used to do work in the target. Rifle bullets can do lots of destructive work, because they carry a lots of energy.
          Pistol ammo (no matter how “Dead Right There” named) can’t replicate performance of rifle ammo because it lacks energy. It can’t get more energy, because it can’t get more speed and keep reasonable projectile mass. There simply is not enough barrel length in handgun formate to give us enough time to burn large amounts of slower burning propellant. Using existing technology, that is the only way to give the projectile enough speed, while keeping the pressure low enough we avoid blowing the gun into pieces.

          TL;DR – physics say you are wrong.

          This srgument reminds me of one guy, who was willing to bet money on his 200cc scooter winning a short drag race against Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa. He couldn’t understand how, no matter how much lighter and more controllably launched his automatic scooter is, the raw power of the large engine, burning many times more gas for each foot of the pavement, will always chew it up and spit it out. He FELT so quick!

    • This one sounds familiar, didn’t it horribly fail even backyard gel penetration tests to the point where the rip round was generally a better bet?

  7. Note to TTAG. Although fun and interesting, you might try noting that old (in this case 6 years) at the beginning instead of the end of something y’all drag out of the archives. Slow news day?

  8. As mentioned I can’t carry my rifle around(especially in ILLinois!). So I use my lowly 9mm Taurus. I’ve even heard of severe harm from a BB gun to the eye(but I ain’t carrying one)😏

  9. The lack of new content is getting ridiculous. Ever since the change of ownership it’s been a steady descent. Sorry guys but my husband and I are losing faith in this site. I hope it turns around but for now it’s just too stale.

  10. I thought this so called debate was finalized back in WWII.

    Battlefield evidence clearly showed the .45ACP was the best.

    If you can’t understand that, you are an effiminate moron.

    • Actually WW2 showed that the 9mm was better than the .45:

      From an analysis of these facts and the requirements for penetration of skin and bone, it can be readily appreciated that the .45 caliber bullet is of little value as a wound-producing agent except in the softer tissues and at near ranges. The bullet often fails either to penetrate or to fracture bone and practically never shatters bone in the manner common to the rifle bullet or fragment. The Japanese and German sidearms with muzzle velocities of approximately 1,100 f.p.s. were much more effective as antipersonnel weapons than the .45 caliber weapon. While the same bullet with its characteristics was used in the submachinegun, multiple hits probably compensated for the weaknesses, so apparent in single shots.
      CHAPTER II: Ballistic Characteristics of Wounding Agents
      Maj. Ralph W. French, MAC, USA (Ret.), and Brig. Gen. George R. Callender, USA (Ret.)

  11. One of the best articles I have ever read on this site. I assure you a ball pin hammer to the head trumps any handgun caliber. If you can get close enough. Doctor, I’ve preached for years handguns are under powered for what we ask them to do. Bigger deeper holes. Leak them to death. Unless you get lucky with a brain/spin injury. Rifles. If you know you’re going to a gunfight take a rifle. .30 caliber. With soft point ammunition. If at all possible. Seldom seen anyone survive that.

  12. Quote: And you can be sure that your skill will drop off considerably if you find yourself actually fighting with your handgun. I am aware of a situation in which law enforcement officers fired north of 50 rounds at a bad guy, and they all missed. End Quote

    This is what I’ve been saying for some time. A study of New York police showed that they hit what they’re aiming at only 25 percent of the time. So 75 percent of your “adequate six rounds” in a revolver – or low-capacity .45 semi-auto or super-duper-tiny compact 9mm semi-auto – are going to most likely miss.

    Fortunately, according to that New York study, criminals only hit what they’re aiming at 11 percent of the time. So ninety percent of the time your assailant is likely to miss you. Especially if he’s one of those idiots who hold the gun at a ninety degree angle, so all his recoil just takes his aim that further off the target. LOL

    I also read – in a police textbook – about a perp who was shot *33 times* with 9mm rounds by police and still managed to run 100 yards before collapsing.

    The bottom line is as I keep saying: You carry a primary firearm in a caliber starting with a number higher than 3 (no .380’s, no .38’s.) You carry a backup magazine for that firearm which is either standard or preferably extended, depending on concealment constraints. Then you repeat that process with a secondary firearm, with the secondary caliber being the same as the primary (and preferably takes the same magazines.)

    Then you learn how to draw fast and hit what you’re aiming at under *massive stress.* Do your high-intensity exercise workout and when you’re exhausted and sweating profusely, do your handgun drills.

    Then you learn *strategy* and *tactics* – which is where the real rubber hits the road in any conflict. Soldiers don’t win battles because they know how to ruck or how to shoot. They win with strategy and tactics.

  13. I’m ahead of the game I guess – I just mounted my frog gig on my .38 snub so I can’t miss after I stick ‘em. Appendix carry gets a little uncomfortable sometimes, so gotta keep the wedding tackle pushed to the left…

  14. “A .45 ACP round has a momentum of 8.3 kg*m/sec meaning that if you can put every shot where it counts, you can stop your standard guy from moving forward after more than eight shots. I guess there’s a reason for 8+1 pistols, huh?“

    See, I took this as an argument for why we should all be carrying full auto Thompsons.

  15. So next time a “democrat-socialist” controls the levers of government again, and we’re all limited to 10-round magazine, I’ll be back in the market for a ,45.

  16. I agree with the whole concept of shot placement, what gun you are likely to actually carry, and on and on. However, I also see the logic of what is “likely” to happen with a center mass hit with a .380 ACP versus what is “likely” to happen with a center mass hit with a .357 Mag. And center mass is where I am going to be aiming.

  17. Good article. Terminal ballistics and human physiology are weird things. Psychology, too. People sometimes collapse because they THINK they’ve been shot when they have not. Others power through multiple lethal wounds until their blood pressure cannot sustain consciousness because they don’t think they’ve been shot, or don’t care.

    Do the best you can. That includes carrying the best all-around cartridge including capacity and your ability to use it. Generally speaking, the larger expanded handgun round you can use that gets sufficient penetration, the better off you are, since handgun bullets to the chest pretty much just make holes. But all else is rarely equal, so that might mean you don’t carry that .600 Nitro express in a revolver to the corner store.

    “A .45 ACP round has a momentum of 8.3 kg*m/sec meaning that if you can put every shot where it counts, you can stop your standard guy from moving forward after more than eight shots…”

    Ah, but you can only stop his initial momentum. He can easily charge you even if you shoot him a hundred times (ignoring effects of the wound)… in the same way I can very easily run forward while shooting without getting pushed back by the force of my own handgun.

  18. ,,,, the .45acp steals the soul the .45 LC locks the gates of heaven. Creedmoore’s? we don’t need no steeenking Creedmoore’s

  19. A member of the medical profession which is responsible for more deaths due to medical misadventures than guns. See anything wrong with that picture?

  20. Great information in an unemotional no caliber fanboy format.

    Stopping power is a myth as this article points out. Thinking otherwise? Go read some Medal of Honer winner stories that include hero absorbing multiple rifle shots and shrapnel wounds, many mortal, and still carrying on the fight.

  21. Three questions for anyone.
    1. Is the goal to stop an attack?
    2. Or is the goal to kill an attacker?

    You don’t have to kill the attacker to get them to stop. The threat of being shot is enough to get a bad guy to stop his attack. This according to John Lott and his research. If your goal is to kill then you had better train like Jack Wilson. The texas church defender with one shot to the head of a moving target at 20 years away.

    3. Do you have the $$$ and the time to train like Jack Wilson? He has his own range.

    “Nearly 40% of the criminal attackers in this study had received FORMAL firearms training (mostly in the military). More than 80% of the criminal attackers regularly practiced with their firearms, with an average number of 23 practice sessions per year! ”

    “The cops involved in these incidents all had some type of formal training at their departments, but on average, only fired their guns 2.5 times per year”


    According to Tom Givens, Range Master founder, the Memphis Tn Police department only requires cops to fire 5 shells for shotgun qualification. Per year!
    I budget for two visits to the range each month for handgun practice. Most indoor ranges aren’t built to handle rifles or shotguns.

  22. I just watched a video on the TV show Body Cam. Where a man attacked a police officer with a pipe. He started running at the cop from over 20 feet away and continued up to the police officer and swung. Even after being shot 5 times in the torso. Being shot or the fear of being shot does not ensure the perp will not continue to attack you. Stopping the threat by killing the threat is the only guarantee of surviving the threat. My only goal is to survive the threat. Keep Your Powder Dry.

  23. Have an acquaintance who used to be a surgical nurse. According to him, gun shot “victims” fell into 2 categories. Folks shot with 40’s and 45’s went to the morgue. Folks shot with anything less came thru his surgery.

  24. Very interesting discussion. I carry a 38 special or a 1911 in 45 cal. I don’t know what is best. My better half carries a Kimber 380. My feelings is that I had rather get hit with a fast moving tennis ball than a slow moving bowling ball but in actually I don’t want to be hit by either so I try to avoid being in a place where it might happen. All said, I do know it could happen, so I carry.

  25. If I could carry around a 20mm vulcan cannon I would, but short of that there will always be that 5%. Sometimes it breaks in your favor and that .22 derringer everyone makes fun of you for carrying drops a big bad ass in one shot and other times it breaks against you and 5 .44 mag hits center mass doesn’t stop the guy from sticking a knife in you. There are only 2 things that are certain. First the only way you secure a 100% is if the encounter never happens and second if that encounter happens anyway having something more than skin filling my hand will make me feel better about what happens next.

  26. Most commenters here have valid points. Too many variables to say this or that is optimal. Shot placement is key. I’ve been shooting since I went to Marine OCS in Quantico in1987. Since then I’ve shot it all. I also hand load. For EDC I like my Glock 20,21 and 29. Got into 40 and 45 Super last year. I’ve tried all kinds of carry ammo. Mostly JHP’s of course. But lately I’ve just decided on carrying 275 grain hard cast 45 Super using 9.8 grains of 800X. The resulting projectile is capable of breaking bone, tearing tissue and making bad guy bleed out. Poor man’s Grizzly load. Plenty to pick apart with this choice but I don’t fear underpenetration, or bone deflection, or clogging JHP’s. Just my opinion.

  27. Common sense is not so common anymore. Stopping power is NOT a myth. Folks can’t see the forest for the trees, and get mired into technical stuff. Let’s use a bit of common sense here: It is no coincidence that most people do not shoot a deer with a .22, or even a 9mm for that matter. There is a reason why state laws won’t allow people to do that with low powered weapons. Folks should just apply the same principles as used for medium game hunting (i.e. 200 – 400 lb+ deer). Bullets of at least 124 grains with more velocity = Energy (grain weight of bullet x velocity squared is what drives energy). While not the only thing that matters, higher energy is a legal requirement for humane hunting. Lowest pistol caliber for med game hunting is .357 magnum, or 10mm for a reason. You can’t shoot deer 10 times with a 9mm or 2x with a .45 with follow-up shots. So, if stopping power is the desired focal point for self defense, a hollow point, 124+ grain bullet with energy of approx 500 ft lbs is a good guide to stop a human threat. Yes, a documented 10 – 15% of humans typically survive a 1st hit for whatever reason. But odds are in your favor if you simply apply the principles above. Enough said.

  28. People may preach their “no smaller than 4’s” but when it comes to real-world combat studies agree you can’t beat a good, reliable .357. (Magnum) If you can’t get a .357, get something with a 4. Problem solved.


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