October 07, 2012

Ballistics, and Why Animals Are Tougher than We Are

Hunters like to talk about ballistics and "stopping power." So do archers, with their own variations. Likewise, shooters concerned about self-defense carry on at great lengths about the advantages of this cartridge over that.

After reading "An Alternate Look at Handgun Stopping Power," I realize why animals, pound for pound, are tougher than humans.

Image: Buckeye Firearms Assn.
In the article, Ohio police trainer Greg Ellifritz analyzes ten years worth of shootings by police and civilians both.
I talked to the participants of gunfights, read police reports, attended autopsies, and scoured the newspapers, magazines, and Internet for any reliable accounts of what happened to the human body when it was shot.
He developed tables by cartridge size for hundreds of shootings both within and without the law.
I documented all of the data I could; tracking caliber, type of bullet (if known), where the bullet hit and whether or not the person was incapacitated. I also tracked fatalities, noting which bullets were more likely to kill and which were not. It was an exhaustive project, but I'm glad I did it and I'm happy to report the results of my study here.
The results are counter-intuitive. Bigger does not equal better. For instance, the "Average number of rounds until incapacitation" number for .22 caliber was 1.38, whereas for the poplar and larger 9mm Luger round it was 2.45, and for the even larger .44 Magnum it was 1.71.

Does that make the .22 a better "man-stopper" than the .44 Magnum? Not necessarily. See below.

People generally don't like to get shot. We are likely to dwell on the consequences. "Oh shit, I've been shot." Bleeding . . . chance of infection . . . need for medical help — we think about these things.
In a certain (fairly high) percentage of shootings, people stop their aggressive actions after being hit with one round regardless of caliber or shot placement. These people are likely NOT physically incapacitated by the bullet. They just don't want to be shot anymore and give up! Call it a psychological stop if you will. Any bullet or caliber combination will likely yield similar results in those cases. And fortunately for us, there are a lot of these "psychological stops" occurring.
While a lot of attention is paid to stopping the psyched-up, adrenalin-filled opponent, even many criminals are not in that state of being. I venture to say that many people killed in combat are not either.

Ellifritz adds,
If our attacker fights through the pain and continues to victimize us, we might want a round that causes the most damage possible. In essence, we are relying on a "physical stop" rather than a "psychological" one. In order to physically force someone to stop their violent actions we need to either hit him in the Central Nervous System (brain or upper spine) or cause enough bleeding that he becomes unconscious. The more powerful rounds look to be better at doing this.
That brings me back to animals. They are tougher because they are immune to "psychology," I reckon, not because they can go "berserk."  They just keep on keeping on until they no longer can.

So if you look at page 12 of the Colorado big-game hunting brochure, you find minimum caliber requirements,  for instance, a minimum of .24 cal. (6mm) for big game with a minimum of 1,000 foot-pounds of energy delivered at 100 yards. As a hunter,  you want a quick "physical stop."

If there were a minimum requirement for a self-defense gun . . . it would not make a bit of difference. The Internet forums would still be as contentious as they are today.


jason said...

So you're saying that .45 ACP is best, right?

Chas S. Clifton said...

Jason, you are not trapping me that easily. :)

jason said...

Heh. Because the real questions is Glock or 1911.

Steve Bodio said...

I love my 1911's but as Chas knows working the slide has become a problem. Blogger NC has shown me a new gen Glock that is ergonomic if not esthetic.

But the gun most often with me is a 1950's blue classic S & W "kit" revolver and I don't live in fear. I know several pro guides who have killed cougars with 22 handguns.

Chas S. Clifton said...

No doubt about the cougars, Steve, but I'll bet they were treed by dogs at the time — a close-range shot at a (more or less) stationary target.