Friday, July 25, 2008

The Hollowpoint Cult

Along with the proliferation of CHL's has come the proliferation of gun writers extolling the exclusive use of hollowpoint ammo for defensive purposes. The pages of the big gun magazines are chock full of "experts" screeching with a zeal reminiscent of a global warming alarmist, that the debate is over and hollow point pistol ammo is the ONLY way to go. These members of the hollowpoint cult preach about the dangers of overpenetration and drone on about the superior "fight stopping capabilities" of their favored bullet design. This mindset has taken hold so solidly that hardly anyone is willing to publically disagree. This is where I come in.

Any reasonably intelligent firearm enthusiast, who has been actively involved for say 5 years or more, knows by now that a gunwriter's job is to pimp the latest hot thing. Anyone who has ever bought and read a half dozen or so gun magazines knows that you will never see a new product test that ends with the subject being called junk, even if it is. Sometimes they push their advertisers ideas, as well. This doesn't mean that gun magazines or gun writers are bad, it just means that their job is to sell products, not dispense truth. As long as the reader knows this, he can enjoy the photographs and check out the specs.

In our overly litigious society, every manufacturer worries about liability, they would be foolish not to. The limiting of ammunition manufacturer's liability(and selling a more expensive product) is what's driving the hollowpoint craze. If those behind this movement would just admit that, there wouldn't be a problem. But they don't, instead they try to "sell" us with phony science, guilt, and repetition. In an effort to turn a negative into a positive(for them), the ammo makers enlist the firearms publications to help convince us that what is best for them is best for us. Such is not the case.

Contrary to what a lot of agenda driven experts and some just plain morons will tell you, when it comes to smallarms projectiles, velocity does not kill, bullet expansion does not kill, energy does not kill.( Note: I am too lazy to play the semantic stop vs kill word substitution game. Feel free to do whatever you like in the privacy of you own mind.) Penetration and placement are what kill. Period. Since hollowpoint bullets are designed to LIMIT penetration, they are, in essence, designed to fail. The idea that ammo manufacturers can design a bullet that won't shoot all the way though a shirtless, 120lbs crackhead, but will reliably penetrate the heavy coat, leather vest, wool shirt, 4 inches of pectoral muscle, ribcage and finally vital organs of roid raging 300lb body builder is ludicrous. Concealed carry is all about protecting yourself and your family from whatever threat presents itself, hope for the best all you want, but the prudent man prepares for the worst.

Over penetration is a genuine problem, but in a gunfight it is a purely secondary concern. I would venture to say that more people have been killed by bad guys that failed to go down after being shot, than by over penetrating 45acp ball ammo. If I ever have to shoot someone, I expect every bullet to make two .45 caliber holes in him, I want lots of air going in and lots of blood coming out. And until the gunwriters come up with some real science that tells me I'm wrong, I probably won't change my mind. For what it's worth, my advice to concealed carriers is as follows. From your gun, demand reliability and accuracy. From your cartridge, demand large diameter and penetration. And from yourself, demand good judgement and precise shot placement. Everything else is just commercial chin music.


King Selfish said...

As much as I enjoy proving you wrong, on this subject I have been unable to do so. Therefore, though it pains me to say it, I'm with you. I guess there's a first for everything.

The Archduke of Arrogance said...

I've always known that if I talked long enough, eventually I would be right about something. Seriously though, wound ballistics is a pretty esoteric subject and there are a lot of armchair experts (like me) who just make stuff up (unlike me). My opinions are based on some very good, but hard to find, studies done by medical doctors, physicists, and professional shottists. None of whom have anything to sell.

James R. Rummel said...

Good post, but I don't agree with you at all.

I'm afraid that the lethality of handguns is increased slightly with the use of proper hollowpoint ammo, mainly through increased blood loss. This increase is not particularly significant, usually about 20% to 25%.

I urge all of my students to use some sort of common hollowpoint ammo, mainly because I want them to grab any advantage they can even if it is not a huge increase in effectiveness.


The Archduke of Arrogance said...

By not agreeing with me on this subject you are certainly in the majority. Our main disagreement is with the validity of the idea that hollowpoints are more effective. I have not seen the science to prove that, it may be out there but I haven't found it. If it could be proven to me that hollowpoints are truly more effective and that they can be counted on to expand and continue to penetrate without coming apart then I would change my tune. Until then I'll just be the one crazy guy, swimming upstream, in a futile search for 45 acp ammo loaded with jacketed truncated cone bullets. By the way thanks for the link to you blog, we got a lot of hits from that.

The Vicar of Vanity said...

I must say I am read this post in amazement. The writing is superb, points are well made and supported, the clarity of though and ability to maintain a point is well beyond my means. It is well researched and makes a very strong case. My main problem with the post is I kept yawning and my eyes would glaze over so it took maybe 10 times longer to read than it normally would. In fact my microbursts of sleep allowed me to finally finish the article and once finished I celebrated just like a man who has won the Boston marathon, I was joyful yet fatigued, blissful but spent happy I survived. I did notice though it did attract some readership from another blog so KUDOS to you my esteemed colleague!
I am going back to bed now.

The Archduke of Arrogance said...

I get that a lot. And I am just as effective in person. My ability to magically heal those with insomnia is truly amazing. It's a gift and my way of giving back to the community.

WT said...

"Over penetration is a genuine problem..."

These magic bullet discussions are boring, but I would like to see any documentation that over penetration is indeed a significant problem. I keep hearing about it and I have yet to see a single documented case where it was a significant problem, particularly with handguns.

The Archduke of Arrogance said...

Recently, Massad Ayoob wrote an article where he cited several cases of over penetration causing injury and very occasionally death. But I don't recall which magazine it was in. In my opinion 5 or 6 cases a year would qualify as a genuine problem, though not enough of one to justify all the rest of us using less effective ammunition.

WT said...

Everyone has their own theories in the endless quest for the magic bullet. I lean towards shot placement and penetration, myself, but I am not dogmatic about it. There are a lot of different types of people, situations and different firearm/cartridge combinations. Shoot until the threat stops.

In .45ACP I think the issue is largely unimportant anyway, since FMJ seems to work as well as anything else in that caliber. Over penetration is a non-issue to me. Complete misses are a much bigger problem than shoot throughs.

The Archduke of Arrogance said...

Amen to the part about complete misses being the MUCH bigger problem. Perhaps Mr. Ayoob and the other writers should spend more time railing against people who don't shoot enough to become proficient and less time worrying about what those of us who do, are feeding our pistols.

xuimod said...

"Penetration and placement are what kill. Period."

Note entirely correct. The energy TRANSFERRED to surrounding tissues is also important. This is from 'Practical Pathology of Gunshot Wounds' from a medical journal:

"Generally, 3 factors determine the severity of a gunshot injury: the amount of kinetic energy transferred by the bullet to the surrounding tissues, the internal organs and structures damaged by the bullet, and the bullet's final disposition. The formula KE = ½mv2 expresses the amount of energy transferred to the body by a bullet. Kinetic energy (KE) is the amount of tissue damage delivered to the surrounding organs and is the product of the mass of the bullet times the square of the bullet's velocity, divided by 2. Increasing the velocity of the bullet is more significant than increasing its mass because an increase in velocity is exponential, whereas an increase in mass is linear."

The Archduke of Arrogance said...

xuimod, thanks for the comment, but the "high velocity/kinetic energy" psuedo science has been disproven time and time again. What works is poking large diameter holes in vital organs. Poking holes = penetration, vital organs = shot placement. Everything else is what Jeff Cooper termed "preoccupation with inconsequential increments".