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Trillions of electrons – and tens of thousands of gallons of ink, before that – have been spilled in the never-ending debate over stopping power. People have nearly come to blows over which caliber is the most effective. It seems safe to assume that the majority of  shooters are convinced that bigger is always better. “I wouldn’t be caught dead carrying anything with a caliber that doesn’t start with a 4.” How many times have you read that one? Or heard it at the range? I’m a photographer and the same thing happens when the question is cameras. Nikon, Canon, Leica, Hassy, yadda, yadda, yadda. But as it turns out, guns are very much like cameras. No matter what the brand – or caliber – the one you have with you is always better than the one you don’t…

John Shanks (above right), a serial criminal whose record has more entries than his body had tattoos, decided to invade a home in Magalia, California Monday. According to, he chose poorly:

The male resident of the home, who has yet to be identified, reportedly shot Shanks once in the chest with a .22-caliber handgun, according to Butte County sheriff’s Sgt. Jason Hail.

Hail said Shanks, who was wearing a bandana over his face when he entered the home, originally went to the front door and demanded to be let in. The man then allegedly forced his way through a sliding door.

The resident then shot Shanks. Arriving deputies found Shanks on the floor in the hall of the house. Deputies attempted to resuscitate the man, but were unsuccessful and Shanks was pronounced dead in the home.

One shot with a .22 LR. Now that’s stopping power.

I’m not saying I’d rather shoot an attacker with a .22 than a .45. But when defending yourself, you use whats you got. Even if whats you got starts with a 2 instead of a 4. Because just like in real estate, the most important factors in a DGU are location, location and location.

The unidentified homeowner appears to have known enough to take his time and make his one shot count. Center of mass rather than spray and pray. Always good advice. So maybe a little less sturm und drang over caliber and more emphasis on shooting the gun you have well is the way to go. Just a thought.


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  1. Yes, but the perp would have been even deader if the home owner had been handling a .45. And he would have been blown out of the house doing cartwheels as he went.

  2. There’s no doubt a .22LR CAN do the job. So CAN not having a gun at all and using a knife or unarmed combat method. But of course you want something that is most likely to do the job when your life is on the line. And that’s almost never a .22LR. If it is the gun you have, you use it. If you have the option of having almost any other gun, you take that opportunity instead.

    • Its a reason cops are taught to lay down as many bullets in the shoryest time. In real life situations u don’t have time to close 1 eye, breath, aim shoot by then the assaulter may get lucky with just shoot and what do you know all that practice aiming perfect was useless

  3. Many folks underestimate the lethality of a .22LR. If I had to choose a bigger and better caliber for DGU, of course I would select something bigger than a .22LR. Does it really matter as long as it works for you? No one can predict how a DGU situation will work out. What this homeowner did worked for him, and that is all that matters.

  4. “So maybe a little less sturm und drang over caliber and more emphasis on shooting the gun you have well is the way to go.”

    Unfortunately the advertisers in the gun rags will never make as much money telling people to get more training and practice with the gear they have, as they will make by selling new products.

  5. It was probably an assault .22 that did the job. But why only one shot by the unidentified male resident?

  6. Shot placement is the key. ANY bullet will stop an attacker if it hits the right spot. The problem is that hitting the right spot under stress, when you are moving and your attacker is moving is not something we can guarantee.

    For that reason, we have to rely on large bullets to damage as much flesh as possible.

    Since handgun bullets are not effective at damaging flesh we have to shoot multiple shots.

    Put as much hurt on the attacker as soon as possible and keep shooting until the threat stops.

  7. I saw a stack of one dozen Crickett rifles (boy’s model) at my LGS.
    They were to be delivered to the local cattlemen’s association. They
    put one on each of their cattle transport trucks, in case of a turnover.
    Grim, but you get the picture.

  8. Trillions (10^12) of electrons? 1 amp = 6.022×10^23 electrons. Neglecting power requirements to actually support local servers, computers, chargers, etc. and I’m sure we are waaaaay above a trillion! 🙂

  9. Chicken chest, tattooed pu$$y got what he asked for. Think of the cost savings, no trial or incarceration expense. No more anything. All handled by a 1 cent bullet.

  10. One shot with a .22 LR. Now that’s stopping power.

    No, that is dumb luck, and betting one’s life on dumb luck and/or shot placement in an unexpected critical situation like a home invasion is equally dumb.

    When it comes to making bad guys hit the sawdust at close range– e.g. every single violent encounter one is likely to have, you want to transfer as much energy to the target as possible. Ideally without Mr. Bullet continuing on through several other walls/homes/people.

    A .22 is better than nothing. A .380 or 9mm is better than a .22. A .40 or .45 is better than a .380 or 9mm. A .223 or .308 is worse than any of those options, except for nothing at all, and a 12-gauge is better than anything.

    • “and a 12-gauge is better than anything.”

      Well, no – a claymore mine is a lot better at close range, and an 8″ self-propelled howitzer with a beehive round beats a claymore, and a 5 megaton nuke beats that. Admittedly, they aren’t portable like a 12 ga, but the 12 ga isn’t as portable as a pistol, etc., and we get back to “the best carry gun is the one you carry all the time.” And in some circumstances, the best defense is to run like hell.

      The main thing is to not let yourself be forced into a situation where your only option is to die like a sheep. If the guy had only a .22 available, for whatever his reasons, he at least used it effectively.

    • “No, that is dumb luck, and betting one’s life on dumb luck and/or shot placement in an unexpected critical situation like a home invasion is equally dumb.”

      You’ve made an assertion without any supporting evidence.

      I say “stopping power” and “energy transfer” are 100% irrelevant in a DGU such as a home invasion. My supporting evidence is the fact that in every single DGU I’ve ever heard about (not including police), the perp either disengaged (i.e, ran like hell) when he realized the victim had a firearm, or was shot and the crime prevented.

      Care to support your assertion? Or point me to a case where “energy transfer” was insufficient to prevent a crime?

      • Supporting evidence: The vast majority of people do not affect good shot placement in critical situations, not even those who have been professionally trained to do so. You can take any recent cop shooting of note in which 70-odd rounds results in an unharmed suspect if you like.

        The claim was made, albeit (I assume) with tongue positioned with a high degree of cheek contact, that a .22 is just as good at stopping a bad guy as, say, a .45. I have already dealt with the “shot placement” issue, so, lets move on to energy.

        While a .22 and a .45 have a very similar momentum in flight (generally speaking around 3-4 newtons), the .45 weighs quite a lot more and has a larger surface area, hence it is able to impart considerably more kinetic energy to the target (around 700 joules, versus ~175ish for most .22s). That means Mr. 45 hits Mr. Bad Guy four times “harder” per round, and all else being equal, Mr. Bad Guy is going to be more efficiently compelled to hit the ground than with a .22.

        Of course, neither round, or anything that isn’t mounted or crew-served can impart enough kinetic energy to Mr. Bad Guy to knock him flat on his ass hollywood style. However, a heavier bullet, with more sufrace area, will generally carve up Mr. Bad Guy’s organs much better than a lighter, smaller one. It is also much less likely to blow a hole right through him, as is the case with rifle rounds.

        With all that being said, of course, either bullet directed to Mr. Bad Guy’s brain, heart or spine will, generally speaking, put a rapid end to his party. But when it comes to non-fatal soft tissue damage, big, heavy bullets work better.

        So, one can train to a ninja-grade level of tacticool in which one is able to wake from sleep and place a single .22 in the eye of a dozen bad guys at 3am in the dark, and rely on that to save their lives. Or, they can use a tool that will work better if they don’t hit a insta-kill spot. Which would you prefer to trust your life to?

    • Police officers and offenders have emptied entire clips at each other yet neither drop to the ground; why? Because they hit everything else but eachother. It’s about shot placement folks. If a .22 was that worthless then our LEOs and armies would be training with those instead of airsoft pellets. Whether you want the leave nothing but hamburger or not is a completely different story.

      If you’re good enough with a .22LR to double/tripple tap your placements with quarter sized grouping then you do NOT need a larger cal. Whether your attacker is on PCP, adrenaline, meth, or some other “super human” inhibitor their bodies still react to the real world regardless. Remember; drugs don’t make people invincible, they make them not care about what they’re about to do or encounter.

  11. The main goal of self defense is to defend one’s self. The second goal is to make the bad guy leave life with more holes than he started with.

    You can’t get much deader than dead. Aside from what Miracle Max will tell you, there’s no such thing as “mostly dead” or “kind of dead”. Even if the perp is blown up into a disorganized mass of organized chemicals, he’s still just dead.

    I’ll take shot placement over caliber any day.

  12. I’ve been harping on this ever since I started commenting.

    Just curious: has anyone ever heard of a case of DGU, where the perp was shot at least once, and still managed to overwhelm the victim?

    Every single case I’ve read about (or seen video of), the perp sprouted wings when he realized the intended victim had a firearm.

    So somebody convince me “stopping power” (for DGU) is worth one more picoliter of ink or one more electron.

  13. The .22 penetrated the thugs center of mass and stopped him. Good. I agree that the humble .22 is generally under-rated. In this case, what if the .22 penetrated his center of mass and there was then a long delay with him stopping or what if he got hit in the left shoulder while holding a knife in his right hand and being high on meth? What if he had been wearing a leather jacket and other padding underneath? Shot placement is vital yet so is stopping force. So is being able to function under the stress of an attack in the first place.

    Six months ago I badly broke and dislocated my left shoulder. I could not load a magazine or even rack back the slide on my Glock .40 cal semi-auto for almost two months. That was the final straw since I never felt comfortable or in control of the Glock. I sold it and bought a Ruger SP101 357 revolver that I can load and fire with one hand. A loaded revolver is a simple gun to shoot under stress of a home invasion or on the street — aim and pull the trigger.

    • “What if” the perp was really an alien with bullet-proof skin?

      Yeesh. Point me to a single case of DGU where caliber was insufficient to prevent the crime. Then you start back up with the “what ifs”.

      • They’ve been trained to fall into the “what if’s?” immediately by the gun press and they have too much what ifs, not enough actual ‘what the hell?’ I have a close friend whose resume is exactly that of a premier spec ops guy recently retired. We first met when I was helicopter crew loaned out to fly that sort of person decades ago. Three decades later and after many many missions, including Panama, Grenada, and the various deserts he came to believe that it wasn’t the active engagements that were hard on the mind, but all the training, all the thinking “what if?” Best not to over-indulge that sort anxiety-producing bit. Just get good with an item or two and then go about your life. You’ll cope when the time comes.

      • Currently and I’m not going to waste my time doing research to prove it, there have been cases when a leather coat has stopped a 22 caliber. Choose your SD ammo caliber and I’ll choose mine.

      • Splashman,

        Why aren’t any of the world’s militarily forces, police departments, and security forces equipped with the 22? It would be a lot cheaper on budgets and they could carry more ammo. Do you imagine it only has to do with the limited range of a 22?

          • Allegedly, the sniper weapon of choice in urban combat in Chechnya was the suppressed .22LR rifle. Inside of 100 yards if you can hit an eye, carotid or ear it works just fine and makes about as much noise as a mouse fart.

        • I have a .22 mag pistol. It packs 280 lb of energy and has a nice hollow point on the end. Shots into water soaked phone books confirm it’s a jolly good round.

    • Carlos & Moonshine,

      It was a bad break that almost required surgery. I was in so much pain (even on pain killers), my physical movements so limited, and my muscles so weak that I could not even chamber a round let alone try to clear an FTF/FTE later in a SD situation. It took me about seven weeks before I could tie my shoes. I’m still in physical therapy now trying to regain full movement and strength. Currently, I can rack the slide on my new Ruger SR9C yet my left side still has limited movement. I do respect a revolver’s simplicity and reliability, no slide to rack back, and no need to remember disengaging a safety. When injured and unable to use one arm and hand, having only to remember to draw a gun, aim it, and squeeze the trigger is something I learned to appreciate. Every half-second sometimes counts.

      • Ouch. Best wishes to you as you work on getting back to full health. Over the course of a dozen years, I had fourteen shoulder dislocations in my right shoulder before I could afford to get it fixed. I was laid up for a good month and a half and full recovery took a couple months after that.

        That was before I was into guns and it was my strong side, so I’m not even sure what I would have done, but I definitely get what you’re talking about.

  14. I am a large caliber kind of guy but I think “stopping” power is a relative thing. In personal self defense all stopping power menas is that you have stopped your assailant’s attack. Most successful DGU’s involve no shots fired. The bad guy sees that you are ready to use lethal force against him so it’s “hasta la vista baby.” If you want to exclude successful brandishments and move on to hitting the bad guy then a hit in the arm with a 22lr at 25 yards has more stopping than a less than immediately lethal hit with a 45 Auto at 25 feet. In the former case your assailant goes “ouch that hurts” and runs away while the guy who will probably be dead in ten minutes continues his attack because he is locked up with you at close combat range.

  15. I am still missing some of the picture here– this happened in CA, where we do not have the castle law (forgive me, unable to remember the proper term at the moment).

    While I do agree that what was done was, indeed, the right thing to do, I, as a homeowner in CA, am somewhat fearful of the law myself…. and really question whether or not it’s legal to shoot an intruder– unless of course said intruder was coming at me with a weapon, or some other fact which would put in my brain “he means to kill me.”

    As a close friend once advised: once the perp is down & if unarmed, place a kitchen knife in his hands, and for God’s sake make sure the body is inside the home (and not on porch/outside).

    • “Castle Doctrine”, or “Stand Your Ground” or “No Duty to Retreat” depending on the exact details.

      If it applies in the home only, it’s generally called the Castle Doctrine. If it applies outside the home, it’s generally called Stand Your Ground. Here in Washington State, you have the right to use lethal force to defend yourself and any other person you’re with against the threat of death or serious bodily harm in any place you’re legally allowed to be. The antis would have you believe this kind of law would cause the streets to run ankle deep in blood. I guess we just haven’t gotten around to doing that yet. Or something.

  16. I read a story in American Rifleman that sounded similar. One shot from a .22lr killed an intruder. One shot, one kill.

  17. I think we have tended to look to technology to solve our problems rather than developing our skill with what we have.

    I like the story (I think it was in Outdoor Life about a zillion years ago) about the guy who took his shotgun in because “it wasn’t shooting right” – meaning he was missing birds. After looking it over the gunsmith told him that all it needed was “to tighten up the nut behind the buttstock.” After looking with puzzled expression at his buttstock, he realize what the gunsmith meant.

  18. People survive handgun wounds and stabbings with the same frequency. Once I learned this nifty statistic, my impression of a handgun changed from Han Solo’s blaster to basically a very long skewer. A handgun does not make anything explode, it is just a modern rapier minus the slashing ability and with a considerable range advantage.

    You can make the blade of your virtual rapier a little wider or a little smaller, depending on recoil sensitivity, need for concealment and other factors, and it may poke in a little deeper with more velocity or a different bullet design, but fundamentally it’s a knife. You’d better stab something deep and well, and people bleed out from handgun wounds unless you manage to hit the spinal cord or the T-zone, and most of us can’t count on doing that 100% of the time at all reasonable ranges. The extra 3.5 millimeters on either side of the wound channel that a .45 carves compared to a .22LR may make a big difference depending on placement, but there are few places in the body where counting on crushing an extra 3.5 millimeters either side of your impact point is going to make a huge difference. Yes, you might nick some vital vessel or critical structure and stop the fight immediately, but fundamentally the bad guy will only bleed a little faster for most non-critical injuries.

    One chest shot from a .22LR means that either a very fortunate shot took out the conduction system of the heart, resulting in a lethal arrhythmia and a DRT (10-15 seconds of consciousness at most in cases of ventricular fibrillation) or it hit a vital structure like the aorta or pulmonary artery and hypertensive Meth Man bled out faster than normal but flopped around for a while. No mention of police response time in the TTAG article, or how long the homeowner waited before calling 911. It could have been several minutes for each period of time, minutes that the perp did not have with a 17-French hole in a major blood vessel.

    Platt from the 1986 Miami Massacre took a 9mm Silvertip into a pulmonary artery branch, a lethal wound, but not lethal enough fast enough to keep his Mini-14 from wreaking havoc and leaving a trail of widowed and worried FBI wives. He took several other handgun wounds and kept coming. Adrenaline is an incredible thing.

    I don’t disdain handguns, I carry one that I know I can shoot well and hope I can shoot well under pressure. But I carry a handgun only because a rifle is too conspicuous and a knife, while just as effective if properly used, requires me to get uncomfortably close to someone who is trying to kill me. Handguns fill the distance gap between me and an attacker (in optimal situations), and a time gap between me making it to my rifle o the cavalry showing up.

    I agree that quibbles over caliber are foolish, I carry a 9mm because I can shoot it faster, better and more often than a .45 of the same size, but I don’t feel under-armed because it’s “only” an 9mm. I feel under-armed because it’s not a shotgun or a rifle.

    • Thank you Darren for that explanation of the mechanism of the one shot stop with a .22. I have many incidents like that in my 3000+ shootings database but didn’t understand why it occurred. Having come close to dying from V-Fib myself, it makes perfect sense now.

  19. The search for the best gun / magic bullet is the stuff that sells magazines.

    It is a know fact that the only factors which must be considered when discussing bullet effectiveness as pertaining to handguns are, in order of importance:
    1. penetration
    2.permanent (crush) cavity
    All other considerations are of no importance. Again this is a known fact and has been so for many years.
    Knock down power is a myth. Energy transfer and temporary (stretch ) cavity do not wound. Again this has been known for many years.
    So called “street results” are flawed. They are based on way to few results and there are no explanations given as to why one shooting was successful and the next was not.
    If a punk is grazed on the arm by a .22 he may very well go down, but it has nothing to do with which bullet was used. Still it counts as a “one shot stop ” for that particular bullet. Another punk hopped up on drugs or rage may take several hits from a .45 and not go down. A .22 hit that severs the upper spinal cord will result in a one shot stop every time. A .45 shot to the arm may or may not.

    It is a well know fact that there are only three ( 3) ways to stop an attacker with one shot (immediate incapacitation).
    The first is to sever the upper spinal cord.
    The second is a shot to the brain.
    The third is psychological. The punk believes through repeated exposure to movies and TV, that when shot, one is suppose to fall down.

    Barring immediate incapacitation the punk must bleed out.
    This is accomplished by damaging the heart or other major blood vessels. Thus causing a stoppage of blood flow to the brain, resulting in unconsciousness and eventual death.
    The problem is this takes time. How much time depends on what is hit and how much damage is done. Under the best case scenario, complete destruction of the heart, the brain contains enough oxygen to allow full deliberate function for 10-15 seconds. More than enough time to inflict serious damage. Lesser organs or lesser damage require more time.

    This is why penetration is most important. To be effective the bullet must penetrate deeply enough to reach the spinal cord or major vessels from every possible angle. Recommended depth is twelve (12) inches minimum in soft tissue.

    Permanent (crush) cavity is the tissue destroyed by the bullet. The larger the bullet the more tissue is destroyed. But it must be able to penetrate deeply enough to reach vital vessels after passing through layers of heavy clothing, fatty tissue, thick muscle and bone. There have been many cases where punks have suffered mortal wounds but continued to fight for several minutes. Probably the most well known is the infamous Miami shootout.

    This is why I have a problem with so called “Personal Defense ” loads which are designed and marketed with the assumption that every shot you take will be a frontal shot and that you will never have to shoot through a barrier.
    The fear of over penetration is there main selling point. In reality they are promoting a bullet that by design may not penetrate deeply enough to reach vital vessels, except under ideal circumstances. I do not use these, but if I did , I would employ the “last two in / first two out” concept.
    On the subject of over penetration, remember that even the best marksmen miss many more shots than they hit when shooting under life or death stress.
    A round that passes through a human body is not more deadly than one that misses entirely. Infact it is less likely to be as deadly, having deposited much of its energy, it will be traveling at a lower velocity. This is not to say that over penetration is of no importance but when both over penetration and adequate penetration are considered, over penetration must take a backseat. A bullet that under penetrates will not be effective except from the psychological standpoint.

    Which is best? There have been many studies on bullet effectiveness over the years and the consensus seems to be that there is no measurable difference between .9mm, .357 Sig, .40 S&W and .45 ACP. All are capable of adequate penetration and expansion.
    Operating on the principle that a larger bullet has the ability to hit what a smaller bullet will barely miss, the .45ACP has the advantage. But with modern hollow point bullets it is not nearly as big an advantage as was once believed.
    Operating on the principle that shot placement is most important, the gun you shoot best should be your choice. Of course shot placement is a learned skill and (barring physical limits ) almost anyone can learn to shoot any gun well.

    If you live where it is legal to use police ammo, a good rule of thumb is to use the same ammo as your local police department. Most departments try to equip their officers with the best equipment available. Also if you find yourself in court being asked why you shot someone with that bad old hollow point bullet, you can reply, ” It’s what my police department uses so I thought it must be the best choice.” Not the most deadly, the “best”.

    If you can, go to a range that rents guns and try one that appeals to you in each major caliber. I know one woman who shot a .9mm for years because she was “told” it would be best for her, but she hated the “snappy recoil.” Then she tried a friends 1911 and fell in love with the “gentle push ” of the .45ACP.

    After you decide on a caliber, research hollow point ammo that penetrates at least twelve (12) inches in ballistic gelatin and expands every time.
    A good place to start is Speer Gold Dot. This is also a good place if you prefer a revolver.

    • As a journalist, I’ve covered a number of shootings involving various calibers. I’ve seen several altercations end abruptly and fatally at the end of a .22. Two leap to mind:
      — Two young burglars broke into the home of an 86-year-old man who was asleep on his couch. The man drew his .22 and, undeterred, the thugs came at him. After warning them to step back, the man fired at the closest attacker, who flinched, then realized he’d been shot and dared the old man to shoot him again. So, initially, it seemed that the shot had no effect. Seconds later, the thug who’d been shot went limp and vomited. He headed for the door, tumbled outside and died in the front yard.
      — In the other incident, two groups of teens squared off in a bowling alley. Punches were thrown, one group ran for the or car and piled in as the second group gave pursuit. Before the first group could drive away, a man fr the second group reached the car and started throwing punches through the open door. One of the teens in the car pulled a .22 and fired once, striking the attacker in the torso. The attacker went down and died immediately.

      While I’m not a firearms expert, it seems to me there is ample anecdotal evidence that the .22 is a lethal round, even under stressful conditions and when the shooter doesn’t have the time and training to place his shots carefully. Based on my observations, which I admit is hardly a scientific sampling of shootings nationwide, I would say that it is not rare, as some would suggest, for a .22 round to cause fatal wounds.

  20. ahhhh lets see .22 semi auto assault rifle using Remington yellow jacket hallow points with a 30 round magazine. Any questions?

    The first 2 ,placed properly, will take nearly any man down. If he’s tougher than that? Add another 5 rounds with a mere 3 second burst. Leaving you another 23 rounds to play with if necessary.

    Case closed … or ‘casket closed’ rather.

    No causalities on the other side of the wall. No neighbors filing lawsuits. No wounded wives or children, No ‘excessive force’ courtroom shenanigans.

    1500 fps. Anyone in the family can fire one quickly and at anytime necessary.

    Think smart people. This is your home not the battlefield!

  21. You don’t need a cannon if you’re proficient with any firearm. Carry what is comfortable for you! A 22 lr or magnum will be quite adequate if you know what you are doing. This maximum firepower which is great in the military is not always realistic in the “real world”! Just ask Tex Grebner. And I think he is a really decent guy for posting his misadventure. That took a lot more courage than many want to admit. Probably one of the most useful public service announcements ever! Check out his review of the NAA Pug 22 magnum. He was right on the money! It will do the trick in a pinch.

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