FBI Handgun Ballistics Report

Article Posted: April 17, 2012

The following is a summation of the FBI's Handgun Wounding Factors and Effectiveness written back in July 14, 1989 the original report is also attached as a pdf at the end of this page. Let us first state that we are only posting this information so that people may have a better understanding of how a projectile impacts a body (be it animal or man). For our readers that may be offended by this we apologize, but this data is critical to defeating some of the misconceptions and will surely help save both the lives of military and law enforcement personnel, as well as those who wish to protect their home from others wishing to do them harm.

The report puts emphasis on handgun stopping power in terms of using deadly force to terminate a "bad guy". Note: The use of deadly force is justified only under conditions of extreme necessity as a last resort, when all lesser means have failed or cannot reasonably be employed. The right to use deadly force is dictated at the state level, as it should be, and we hope you are aware of those laws. If you are not please visit http://www.handgunlaw.us/ and make yourself informed.

So what matters?

According to the FBI report there is only one way to reliably stop an attacker immediately, and that is by having the projectile strike the central nervous system in either the brain or brain stem area. Even when the heart is destroyed there is enough oxygen in the brain for the attacker to continue for up to 15 seconds. Even if the person is shot 20 times they have the ability to continue on until they have enough blood loss to cause death, and this could take 10, 20, 30 minutes depending on location. (note this last estimation of time is just exemplary and not a stated fact within the report so take it with a grain of salt please)

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What about stopping power?

This next bit is liable to make a few people very angry but again this is from the official FBI report.

It states that stopping power is a myth... The ability of a bullet to push a man back is directly related to the amount of recoil the gun generates. Do you remember Newton's 3rd law of motion? "To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction: or the forces of two bodies on each other are always equal and are directed in opposite directions.". So the ability to physically halt a person from moving forward with a bullet is just not possible.

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What about temporary cavitation?

The effects of temporary cavitation are minimal and secondary to the equation. Tissue expands and compacts regularly. I want you to perform an experiment right now. If you look down you may a few things depending on your physical condition. If you are like me you see a slightly protruding mound of fat that you may call you stomach. I want you to take your finger and poke yourself. See you are still alive, and the temporary cavity that you had created with your finger has closed back up right? A bullet will create temporary cavity up to 10x the diameter of the bullet itself. Note: there is a massive difference between temporary cavitation and permanent cavitation.

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What about permanent cavitation?

Permanent cavitation can be roughly defined as a permanent cavity that has been created by tissue destruction. It is said that the 5.56x45 ammo is designed to tumble and create cavitation. We may in the future do some ballistic test with this ammo and ballistics gel to look and measure the permanent cavitation that this tumbling effect causes. Is it temporary or permanent we are not sure.

So the cut and dry is that yes permanent cavitation does indeed matter, but it has no effect on the ability of the projectile to immediately stop someone. It will greatly increase the ability of the round to permanently incapacitate the individual through blood loss, but as stated earlier this will not guarantee anything.

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What about depth of penetration?

The FBI report states that you should have around 18" of penetration to account for different angles body types. A handgun round that penetrates less than 13" is of no use.

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What about Hollow Points?

Yes hollow points matter because they increase the bullet diameter and therefore increase the chances of the bullet hitting the central nervous system. That being said hollow points do decrease penetration, and remember they said you need at the very least 13" of penetration, and set a optimal depth of 18" of penetration.

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What now?

We are in the process of gathering the results of varying ammo calibers and types so that we may present the results to our users and allow them to make more informed decisions themselves. The test will be made with FBI Grade ballistics gel and all results will be photographed and measured precisely. Please bookmark this page and come back later. If you are a member in a forum...please post and share our information with your colleagues, we just ask that you provide a link to this original article.


Download Original FBI Report

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