Recently I had the opportunity to read an article on 9mm for use as a defensive handgun cartridge. This article was the FBI 9mm Justification for Law Enforcement Partners by FBI Training Division, FBI Academy, Quantico, VA. This article discusses the long running debate over which defensive handgun cartridge is the best for law enforcement officers. Those who do carry concealed for personal protection should also consider their caliber selections advantages and disadvantages.
“First a quick lesson on wound ballistics, there is no magic bullet. The only shots capable of immediately incapacitating an attacker are hits to the Central Nervous System. Shots that cause massive bleeding, hit vital organs, large muscle masses, and major bones will also incapacitate an attacker, but they will have a period of time they may be mobile during this time is possible they could be able of continuing to attack their victim, possibly even inflicting life threatening wounds.” 5 Tips on Selecting Ammunition for Concealed Carry
Handgun cartridges only cause a permanent wound cavity to the diameter of the bullet to the extent the bullet penetrates the attacker’s tissue. The fallacy that handgun cartridges can cause a temporary wound cavity is simply not possible as they do not produce enough velocity to do so. Fragmentation at typical handgun velocities is not sufficient to cause additional incapacitation and only reduce the amount of penetration achieved by a bullet that will fragment in tissue. The feet per second needed to differentiate between pistols from rifles starts at about 1700 fps. The current FBI testing standard requires 12-18 inches of penetration into ballistic gelatin to be considered effective. While many medical examiners reports state they can not distinguish the difference between handgun cartridges used during autopsies. My thoughts are larger holes do lead to quicker incapacitation times when discussing marginal hits and hits to vital organs these hits do require blood loss to incapacitate an attacker.
While it is true technological advances in metallurgy have come a long ways in advancing the ammunition projectiles available for self-defense. There are some styles of projectiles that are not reliable. When selecting your defensive load for self-defense you should choose a medium to heavy weight bullet in your selected caliber. It is recommended your chosen self-defense bullet is of a “Bonded Jacketed Hollow Point” design. This bullet should be achieving the fastest velocity it can and still safely be fired.
Bonded Jacketed Hollow Point Bullets are bonded through a chemical or electronic process resulting in the copper jacket becomes bonded to a lead core. These bullets will have the best chance of staying together and achieving the penetration needed to hit the spine or a major organ when they hit the attacker. Bonded jacked hollow points are available through several manufactures, like Federals, Speer, and Winchester.
Non-bonded jacked hollow point bullets are formed by pressing a lead core into a copper jacket and held in place by friction and/or some type of crimping process. Bullets of this construction suffer from jacket core separations that can cause less than adequate penetration depths needed for self-defense.
Specialty self-defense ammunition consists of a copper jacket filled with birdshot. Once one of these self-defense rounds impacts they begin to fragment while fragmenting they are loosing mass. This loss of retained mass and deceleration generally provides poor penetration for self-defense purposes.
While many law enforcement agencies are considering switching to the 9mm -vs- staying with other commonly found cartridges in law enforcement, such as the .40 S&W and the .45ACP. Citing many reasons such as:
- Savings on price of ammunition.
- Wounding potential is the same when comparing the 9mm with certain bullets to the .40S&W and .45ACP.
- Increased accuracy for their weaker shooters.
- Increased magazine capacities.
- Reduced recoil.
While some of the reasons may warrant a valid switch for a law enforcement agency. For the people carrying concealed for personal protection the issue is a little more complex. What’s In Your Holster? To the average concealed carry person they want a pistol that:
- Fits their hand
- Controllable to shoot in your selected caliber.
- Point ability allows the user to point the pistol at the target and quickly acquire the sights.
- Accuracy for a defensive purposes and optimum distance the handgun must provide acceptable.
- Reliability a defensive handgun should be reliable out of the box; if the weapon proves to be unreliable it would defeat its purpose even if it met the rest of the criteria needed for a concealed carry handgun.
- Size & Weight Some handguns are just too light or small to be controlled easily with full power defensive ammunition, while others are so large that they either will expose more easily or will cost the owner extra effort and money to achieve the needed concealment. A heavy gun, if not worn correctly or with the wrong type of equipment, will be difficult to conceal and uncomfortable to carry.
This being said when it comes to personal protection the cost of the firearm and ammunition is a concern. Those of us carrying concealed do not have the budget of a law enforcement agency to purchase firearms, ammunition for self-defense and practice along with any other accessories that may be needed.
No matter what caliber, make, model of pistol you choose to use for self-defense training and practice are vitally important to surviving a potentially life threatening encounter. While teaching NRA Personal Protection classes and Non-NRA Defensive Pistol Courses, I have found a majority of student’s accuracy drops by 80% or more when faced with the Tuller Drill and students start with their firearm in the ready gun position.
In closing shot placement is paramount when faced with an attacker bent on causing you great bodily injury or death. While the goal would be to stop the attacker as quickly as possible, we need to remember…
“Speed is Fine but Accuracy is Final.”