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 .270 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 rounds out there. Lots of testing have been done shooting walls and car doors and FBI standard gelatin blocks, 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 a 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.

Courtesy Ballistic Dummy Lab

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 way to quantify “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 the need of 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 be able to use it effectively.

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 ever has to be wrong.


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    • The “.9 mm” you reference, if it existed, would be thinner and smaller that the flat toothpicks at picnics. Not the round ones, those might really hurt. But .9 mm if very, very small no matter how fast it is moving.

  2. Dear Doctor:

    I don’t know where you’re hanging out, but you might think about finding better friends.

    I have never engaged in a conversation about “stopping power”. Not online, and not in real life. Except maybe when talking about antilock brakes on a slippery road. But there’s always TTAC for that kind of conversation.

    I’ve been reading this forum for more than 6-7 years now…stopping power is just not discussed here to any great (or small) extent, except maybe to occasionally make the age-old joke about a .45 making a black hole so big it will suck your soul in. But we all know that it’s the permission-slip and other unconstitutional government regulations that ACTUALLY drain our souls.

    Lately, we have been making fun of our befuddled President for thinking that a 9 mm will “blow a lung out of the body”. Maybe the lung of a chipmunk, but not a human. Poor chipmunks!

    Besides all that, our President isn’t a font of wisdom. Or intelligence, for that matter. So we basically ignore his idiocy and hope he won’t end up getting us all nuked before he finally flat-lines and leaves the seat of power to the laughing hyena we have for VP, who will probably just do more of the same.

    I suspect that most of us here buy what we can afford and what we’ll be likely to carry and fire competently, particularly if something should go “bump” in the night. Some of us like bigger bullets. Others don’t. Some like having a variety. But it’s been years since the last skirmish in the “caliber war”.

    Where have you been hanging out that you’re getting a different story? Are you okay, Doctor, and do you need some new friends?

    • Who is making fun of our President?
      Everyone here knows and agrees
      President Biden is the greatest president America has ever had or ever will have.
      If you want to make mockery, mock Gerald Ford he fell, down stairs, unlike our President Biden who defys gravity by falling upstairs.

      Hes a Magic Man

    • Generally agree, the point of anything is better than nothing is a valid one but few people really get seriously heated over caliber. With that said the discussion can be fun in learning things (or finding things to look up) when someone uses something different. In the end of it is carried, goes bang reliably, hits what you aim at, and you can keep enough in practice in to be useful when needed there are few survivable situations it will not handle. As to extreme situations yes they absolutely can happen and are not always avoidable so balancing choices by individual reality is important.

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    • I noticed that DrF didn’t want to append his name to his diatribe about stopping power. A doctor who appends his name to the many pieces he writes for different publications dealing with firearms has real world experience having, I believe, three trips to various sandbox countries where he got to treat real wounds with real medical treatment. When he writes about bullet efficacy, he is talking about the real deal and I pay attention. I am talking about Will Dabbs MD. I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to somebody whose real life experience apparently is shooting a couple of deer. Dr. Dabbs, before he was a medical doctor was a helicopter pilot extracting wounded U.S. servicemen and occasionally some wounded opponents from hot LZs. He is a guy who has been there and done that. That’s somebody I give credence to, not somebody who doesn’t have any more real experience than I. I have seen autopsy reports and crime scene photographs and heard coroners talk about real life gunshot wounds on real people and what effect the various projectiles actually had on both good people and some not so good people. I thing this doc should stick to whatever field he practice in. Apparently he has never spent a tour in the ER of a hospital in a major city.

  3. as someone who has been through it in real life several times with no other choice or options I can tell you the doctor is right on target with this article.

    • +1. Fortunately, I have not had to live thru the experience (other than thru force-on-force training, which is admittedly a pale shadow of the reality), but anyone who can turn a phrase like:


      gets a big thumbs up from me.

      • Well, the blog software ate the quote:

        “ Till then, we’ll be shooting Jell-O, which can tell you a lot about what to do if you get attacked by a dessert.”

      • @LKB

        “Fortunately, I have not had to live thru the experience”

        I hope you never experience it.

        • .40 cal,

          “I hope you never experience it.”

          And that’s what ALL rational people hope. As the old saying goes, “Hope don’t float” (or, as my dear daddy used to say, “Hope in one hand, boy, and s**t in the other, and see which one fills up fastest”).

          I am sorry you had those experiences (obviously, you came out the winner, since you’re here, commenting), and I SINCERELY hope and pray I never do, but . . . hope don’t float. IF (God forbid) it ever happens to me, all I can do is prepare myself for it the best I can.

          Sounds like you did a pretty damn good job, both in preparation and execution. Glad you’re still here, commenting.

    • Same here .40, been there done that, got a gorilla box full of the sandy t-shirts.

      This is a well written article in that the good Doc covers the variables with humorous, yet relevant information. I appreciate reading an article, even I gain little from it, that informs, is relatable and entertaining.

  4. “You may both die, but you get more points for drawing first blood.”

    Dear Lord…

    • Better than a knife fight, loser dies at the scene winner dies in the ambulance. Not always the case but typically nasty business for all involved.

  5. If I’m ever in a gunfight I’ll do the best I can. I have 3 9mm gats. And an AR. & a 12 gauge shotgun. And a helluva assisted knife. And “stuff”. 2 much better eyes than 2 years ago after cataract surgery🙄

    • Me too on the surgery. I was getting pretty nervous, going blind, the plandemic hit and couldn’t go to hospital, out in the streets there was violence, and I cant see how many fingers are on my hand.
      Just the other day was thanking the Lord that I could see His world again, butterflies, flowers, birds, trees, and people killing each other.

  6. Great article. Well written, and humorous to boot!

    And really, the conclusion is the same as has been postulated by Col. Cooper, Clint Smith, and Massad Ayoob.
    Learn to fight.
    And in the realworld you need to train… WITH APPROPRIATE INSTRUCTORS !!!
    How you train (x repetitions) determines how you react.
    (No training = deer in the headlights reaction, or fumble-itis)
    You buying a guitar doesn’t make you play like Jimi Hendrix. It’s the training! Duh-oh¿!

    Reading books, watching YouTube videos… they’re no replacement for live training.

    Transparency… I’m an instructor and RSO. I love going to training classes hosted by qualified-for-their-level instructors. I learn something every time. And that brings me joy to know I’m a wee bit more experienced & knowledgeable.

    • That is because he copied their work and changed a few words. That is whey he came to the came conclusion.

  7. Shot placement is the answer to a question few will ask. Caliber is relative, but where that bullet hits is more important than how big or fast it is.

  8. This clown propaganda site engages in the same type of censorship Shannon Watts does. Pure fraudulent scum.

      • no name,

        We can only hope Commie Coyote will go away. Unfortunately, like dacian the demented, MajorLiar, and Prince Albert, he’ll be back to offer us more of his “wisdom”. On the other hand, they are fun to play “whack-a-mole” with. Treat them with the respect they have earned (which is to day, none at all).

  9. Shot placement is needed but it does matter what size of bullet you place as with the smaller 9mm may miss the right whereas the larger .45acp may be larger enuf to hit it. !2 or 20 Gauge Birdshot hitting the neck/face area will –pop out the eyeballs, penetrate the windpipe, and sever the Carotid Arteries on the sides of the neck. All of these or just one is definetly a fight stopper. The Carotid Arteries supply all the blood to the brain and just a little hole in one will lead sudden and MASSIVE blood in moments ending the fight, not 10 seconds. Stopping power is where one gets punched in the jaw by your neighbor(the 9mm) and when one gets punched by a Heavyweight Pro Boxer(.45acp). It is clear which punch is the stronger one.

    • Your argument would make a lot of sense if you were comparing 9mm to .44 mag, but not so much .45acp. Both rounds crank out about the same energy. The .45 has an advantage in that (with 230grs) it’s slower and can still penetrate well while expanding to a greater diameter, but that’s not enough to counter the lower round count. One punch, sure but your neighbor gets more punches.

      • The larger the bullet=the bigger the hole=the faster the blood loss=the quicker the fight stops. If shot placement and accuracy are all that is needed then everyone would be carrying the Kel-Tec PMR, a .22lr that has a 30 round mag. Anybody can place the .22lr exactly where they are aiming but as my NRA Instructor told me-That makes a tiny hole so you would need quite a few to be effective. Go with the .45 as proven deadly in two world wars. Nothing else has a comparable track record. Still waiting for the FBI to post real life shooting stats of their vaunted 9mm. If it is the best then why are they not showing us just how deadly it really is???

  10. Ballistics is not necessarily a good replacement for accuracy. A 22 caliber through the brain pan is far more effective than a 45 in the shoulder. Although neither is a good thing to happen to you.

    • Recently picked up an LCPII .22LR and was surprised at how well it shoots. Reliability, not so much unless you’re shooting Mini-mags. I could easily place my hand over a 10 shot mag dump at 15 feet. Pretty sure 11 rounds of .22 in the face beats 7 rounds of .380 in the bushes.

  11. Excellent Doctor. I wonder is your last name Dangerfield?
    “Of course, you can always run. Even if the law allows you to stand your ground”
    I can’t run and lucky be standing on ground, so not many choices left for those like me.

  12. You don’t have to worry about tap-rack-bang drills if you carry a revolver. Shots 7-16 aren’t much use if you can’t get past 1-6.

    Threat avoidance and de-escalation are better than many hours of tactical training.

    • Training classes using a revolver can be a bit of a bitch (reloading under stress) but fun to learn even if by a lot of measures the classes make more sense with semi autos. With that said plenty of times a 357 (or whatever fits) in the pocket makes more sense than a host of other options.

  13. I will argue that any more 9mm wins the debate for “stopping power” but not in the direct sense. It wins it in the sense that most people won’t cringe to go and burn through a couple boxes at the range practicing while say a .357 magnum someone’s going to think “I’m burning at least two quarters when I pull the trigger” when they do it typically and therefore will not practice as much.

    Reloading nonwithstanding.

    If I had a choice, based on a study of actual incidents a long time ago I’d start with .357 magnum though, and not through a 1-7/8 J-frame. or a Glock 29 in 10mm. The reason why is that everything improved in terms of actually stopping an attacker (first shot stop, physical and psychological stops.) I don’t know that I’d care too much if it’s an amalgamated cross section of shootings, as there’s a chance any shooting you do will be an amalgamated cross section statistically.

    • XZX, I’m afraid you may be the “factually incorrect” person. I know of a formula to calculate foot pounds of energy. It has to do with mass and velocity of an object. Unless it’s a motor vehicle it has little to do with instantly stopping a human. If you know of a formula that can accurately quantify “stopping power” please share it with the rest of shooting world. You will be an instant celebrity.

      • Sure! Ft/lbs per given munition. Includes bullet size, shape, weight and of course velocity and placement.

        Or to get an empirical look, hang a feed sack (or a bag of ballistic gel) from a rope, and set up a video camera at right angles to the bullet path. Measure the distance that the target is displaced by the impact of a given munition. Quantified! But there are lots of terms in the formula.

        The current mysticism driving the (to me) mystifying crusade to pretend there is no such thing as blunt force is all generated by inadequate data concerning the *target* and *shot placement*, per given munition, IMO.

        My personal philosophy is taken from a locally famous gunsmith who said, “l have shot a lot of different people with a lot of different calibers, and I am here to tell you that if you have to shoot someone holding a gun, you want the biggest damn thing you can get.” He was not bragging nor did he need fear legal consequences.


        Also – I have noticed that deer shot heart/lung w/buckshot @30m run a short distance – deer shot w/a rifled slug, same distance, fall down INSTANTLY.

        Stopping power! Buckshot is lethal (sharp force), slugs are stoppers (blunt force).

        • XZX, I hardly know where to begin. I’ve been on the range with the factory reps from Federal, CCI/Speer (It’s why I carry Gold Dot HP in all my defensive handguns), Remington and Winchester testing their ammunition. A benefit of being a LE firearms instructor, living ten miles from the largest LE academy in Florida and having a best friend that ran firearms there. I got invited to everything. it was free ammo and I got paid to shoot it. Life can be good. If I had suggested hanging a bag of feed on a string to establish empirical, scientific evidence of “knock down power” I would have been laughed off the range. Mark would have been so embarrassed I doubt he would have invited me back again. Think about it. How does a bag of feed relate to a human torso? Since humans come in lots of different weights; which bag of feed to use? Is the knock down power of a particular caliber/bullet the same for a 150 lb man the same as it is for a 300 lb man? As for the deer thing. I was a kid when I killed my first deer. Have the antlers today. They’re on a walnut plaque with a brass plate my dad engraved himself. My mom sewed the black velvet wrap around the skull plate. Anyway, shot it with my dad’s Winchester 1200. 28″ modified choke. Remington 2 3/4″ 0 buckshot at about twenty yards. Shredded his heart. Fell out of his tracks. The only advantage a slug has is to extend that a little further. If you need that range you need a rifle. I learned that at 12 y.o.a. when a saw the second buck I could have killed if it hadn’t too far to shoot with a shotgun. Shotguns are for feathered game. Although, they do have a limited role in defense.

  14. Stopping power is dependent on many factors.
    Best to know what you are willing and capable of doing. If you determine you can shoot and possibly kill if needs be, then choose a handgun you are comfortable using and are willing to train with. Punching paper is fine, but real training and muscle memory will be needed if it comes to a fight. And you will fight the way you train.
    Sure, a big bore cannon is effective. But if you don’t train with the chosen weapon, whether it is expensive or uncomfortable to shoot, you may as well not have it. A couple well placed .22 rounds will be more effective at stopping a thug than a .50 caliber round in the wall 2 yards off to the side.
    My preference is either a .45LC revolver for open carry, or a .45ACP for ccw.
    I’ve been using the same handguns for many years and have developed some skill with them. That is a simple advantage of experience and practice.
    Situational awareness and avoidance of bad situations is something else to practice. Notice the kid in the hoodie on a hot day. Notice the coyotes stalking the sheep.

  15. “we’ll all be shooting phonograph needles”
    Wow, you old!
    Even phonograph “needles” haven’t been actual needles since, like, the ’40s!

  16. I come for the idiotic comments and stay for the stupid responses. I just use that lung blower 9mm. How many trips “east” ended up in using their pistol terminally? Wanna know for a friend who spent decades going back and forth “east”. 😂🌈🤡🌏

  17. Shot placement is everything. Caliber means nothing. Bigger holes are better than smaller holes. But bigger holes in non vital areas do not stop criminals.

    • For most people 9mm or 380 will be good enough for being useful, controllable, affordable, and generally available. All kinds of reasons to use other stuff but for the moment those really occupy the average shooter niches.

        • 15 years ago absolutely now it just costs too much and is getting harder to find on the shelves. Great if you reload though and would say similar for 357 magnum and 45acp.

  18. I very seriously doubt a doctor wrote this as neither the organization outlook or vocabulary are impressive at all. This would have been a poor report even twenty years ago when such drivel was more common. We learn nothing, we gain nothing, we waste time reading this.
    Wound potential as defined by Laborataory results are dry reading but informative.

  19. That was a good article. I’ve said it many times. A handgun, any handgun, is an inadequate tool for the job at hand. I’m excluding handguns in rifle calibers for hunting big game. The only reason to have a handgun is that they are handy. If the question is a gunfight, a rifle is the answer. As for head shots. They do work very well. A few years ago I took a couple of Bill Roger’s classes. He teaches head shots exclusively. A Roger’s range consists of 8″ steel plates on a pneumatic system. The plates can be set for exposure for as little as 1/4 of a second and appear randomly. It’s a demanding course. I’m not a doctor. I don’t even play one on TV, but I have been to a couple of autopsies. My observations led me to the conclusion that most fatal handgun wounds cause the deceased to leak to death. Rifle wounds, especially with SP ammo, is much more impressive. As is a shotgun if used a close range. Slugs can extend the range a bit and are also impressive. The two decapitations I’ve seen by firearms were a 7mm-08 140 gr. SP and a 12 ga. rifled slug. Based on my personal observations, I believe in bigger, deeper holes in very bad people. Several of them.

  20. I’ve seen people shot multiple times, that I was sure they were gonna die, recover…I’ve seen people that were shot, that looked minor, die shortly thereafter… the ones that died shot with a 32 acp and a .380 acp…The ones that lived with a .223, 357 mag., 45 acp, a 44 mag and a 7mm-08…A higher power determines life or death…

  21. You forgot the genitals.

    On most men, especially Democrats, the genitals are a small target. The major exception is prominent Democrat women such as Nancy Pelossi and Hillary Clinton who tend to be a bunch of big Cee unts.. However; the genitals are in close proximity to the pelvis and femurs as well as the spine. Any bullet impacting anywhere near the genitals is likely to hit bone. Hitting a bone with any pistol more powerful than a mouse gun is going to break that bone. The fracture toughness of bone is much higher than wood, but it isn’t that tough This is true even if impact velocity is far short of the speed of sound in soft tissues (about 1,500 meters per second (over 4,500 feet per second) depending on tissue type. The speed of sound in bone is even higher, about 4,500 meters per second or nearly a mile per second in skull bone.


    If you break a bad guy’s pelvis, thigh bones or lower spine, they will not be able to stand much less ambulate They can’t chase you or run away. They can not manauver to avoid follow up shots. They become a stationary rather than a potentially moving targets. They become sitting ducks.

    Now along with the high probability of hitting major bones that neutralize mobility, there are other structures near the genitals. The femoral arteries are extremely lucrative targets. Severing a femoral artery will be almost as debilitating as perforating the heart. The nerve bundles that lead to the legs are also situated near the genitals. Damage the nerves and the target is paralyzed. Keep in mind that all of these potentially debilitating injuries can be inflicted by bone fragments as well as bullets.

    Finally, some criminals do wear body arm. Most body armor doesn’t include an armored cod piece.

    Aim for the genitals.

  22. I thought this was a well thought out article. Stopping power is impossible to quantify assuming you mean stopping an attacker. Just showing your firearm can end a situation. In fact that is the one time I defended myself with a firearm against a half dozen punks — I showed them my Glock while being very careful not to point it at them. The saw it and left. Stopping power does not mean killing. A shot to the foot, if it make the attacker stop, is stopping power.

    Some others have mentioned what I believe is the key issue. Whatever you carry you must be able to hit the target repeatedly and to do that you must practice. I have been to the range many times where a man has purchased a gun for a woman or small person — often say a S&W Lady Smith in .38 with a two inch barrel. Woman shoots. Hits nothing. Drops gun. Hates it. I go over with several of my .22 firearms and ask the man to allow me to let his woman shoot them. Wow! A whole bunch of holes in the target and a smiling woman. No recoil to speak of so follow-ups are fast and accurate. So that is when I get the stopping power argument from the man. I try to explain — if she won’t practice and she can’t hit the target it does not matter the caliber (I can’t hit much with those revolvers). Someone here said 11 shots to the face with a .22 is better than 11 shots anywhere but on target no matter the caliber. In civilian shootings more people have been killed by a .22 than all other calibers combined. And many studies show the one shot stop of a .22 to me 1/100s less than 9 mm. The studies that count the miss with the 9 mm. In addition many older people cannot rack the slide on a heavy semi-auto such as my 10mm Glock. In AZ in 120 degree weather concealment is difficult — you need a very small gun to actually hide it.

    Caliber and type of firearm depend a LOT on the person, how they plan to carry including weather, practice and a lot more. What works for a small woman, a huge strong man, an elderly man, etc. is not the same.

    I find it amusing that people say all kinds of crazy things — like a 9 mm is more powerful than a .357! Really? a .380, .38, .38 special, .357 Magnum are all the same caliber bullet. The difference is the case length and how much powder you can load and what the gun can take as a hot load. There is zero chance that the hottest 9mm load is more powerful than the hottest .357.

    In the heat I carry a Bond Arms Bullpup — 7+1 9 mm +P — and due to the bullpup design recoil is much different … it settles straight back instead of lifting the barrel. And it has a 3.3 inch barrel in a tiny package (smallest 9 mm semi-auto there is — at least certainly rated for +P+ ammunition. It is very easy to conceal (I use a pocket holster). In cool season a compact Glock .40. In the back country a single action army in .44 magnum. In my house I have a Glock and Ruger Mark 4 Hunter with suppressor (that gun is incredibly accurate, no recoil). One thing the doctor can confirm — fire the Glock in the house and you will likely cause permanent hearing damage. The Ruger is almost silent (and that is a tactical advantage in itself). The one time we had some concern (an escaped murderer from a nearby prison was on the loose) I kept the Glock and my wife the .22 … while I pulled out my AR-15 🙂

    So quantifying stopping power and trying to make a one-size-fits-all solution based on attacking Jello and wet phone books and a bunch of numbers is futile. Find a really good trainer and find what works for you — and that will be the weapon with the best stopping power. As I have aged I have much less desire to shoot .44 magnum or .357 magnum or 9mm +P+ … so keep practicing and make changes as needed.

    I don’t respect people that just spout numbers (I only comment every year or two) — I respect those that train and practice with what works for them.

    • You spouted a number BTW…that you only comment every year or two. 😉

      Otherwise put:

      Carry what you’re able to shoot well, no matter what caliber…because something smaller on target is better than anything bigger/more powerful that is off target.

      Carry something that is comfortable and concealable, so that you’re more likely to carry all the time (where legal). There are many stories where guys say SHTF, the one time they weren’t.

      Practice regularly. Drawing and shooting. Also just practice drawing from different positions (seated, standing, in the car, etc).

      That Bond Arms is a great looking little pistol. Not legal here in Kalifornia. The Kahr CW9 is my choice. Very thin, light and comfortable. 8+1 and a reliable shooter.

    • Yes
      Well thought out by the one who wrote it and then endlessly copied.

      Nothing original here

  23. I regularly take deer with my Bersa .380 at 200 yards. Head shots every time. I’m special though…and therefore, so is my Bersa.

  24. I’m old enough to remember the Miami Shootout in 1986 so 9mm is off the table for me. 10mm with 95 grain TRX bullets stop 100-200 pound wild hogs with one shot quire reliably. But I will rely on my .40 S&W and .45 ACP to bring activities to a stop quickly. Good article. Lots of realistic info.

  25. As a retired police investigator who has worked numerous shootings/homicides over the years, the discussions about the ‘stopping power’ of different calibers/firearms is endless. The only general rule is that the bigger the gun/caliber will kill someone ‘deader-quicker’ than a smaller one –sometimes. I’ve worked homicides where victims were shot one-time with .22 pistols/rifles and dropped dead in their tracks. I have also worked shootings where the victims were shot with high-powered rifles and shotguns and survived. For handguns, shot placement is the most critical aspect regardless of what caliber or bullet type is used. Bullet penetration is also important. Usually they die from blood loss. How quickly depends on many variables such as physical condition, drug levels in the body and adrenaline. High-powered rifles with expanding (hunting) bullets are absolutely devastating to the body due to massive shock and blood loss. Shotguns at close range can be deadly with buckshot. Slugs will put just about anything down quickly. Pro tip: Remember that the biggest, baddest gun in the world won’t do you any good if you can’t hit what you aim at. Have something that you can handle and shoot well enough to defend yourself and your family.

  26. Good article. As a former Paramedic and Registered Nurse, I’ve seen my share of gunshot wounds, some that the recipient survived and recovered, and some that didn’t. Every wound had unique characteristics, and the total damage depended upon a variety of factors.

    I’ve never had to draw my gun to defend myself or others, and I pray I never have to. I train, because of I have to, I want to be as prepared as much as possible.


  28. Howdy all!

    A very interesting and entertaining read including many of the comments. Might I suggest a study by Greg Ellifritz which looked at almost 1800 real life shootings.


    Key takeaways:
    * Nothing beats a rifle or shotgun.
    * Bracketing out long guns and mouse guns (.22, .25, .32) there was VERY little difference in stopping power among the remaining calibers.
    * 380 showed some impressive results.
    * The average number of hits until incapacitation with any handgun caliber was just over 2 but less than 3

    All the best to all of you.

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