Monday, May 22, 2006

One More Ammo Story Then We'll Move On

"I recently had a patient shot with 2 .40 cal Gold Dots (by the police) to the chest. Both went into the chest cavity, through the lung and I retrieved both of them from the soft tissue under his arm. One was completely expanded (as predicted in gel, with a penetration of only 8 inches. The other was only 1/2 expanded, based on recovered diameter and traveled 6 inches, having struck a rib first. The patient was not only very much alive but only needed a chest tube for36 hours and then was released to the police. The Lt. that I spoke with about the condition of the patient thought I was putting him on when I said the patient would likely be discharged in just a few days...he expected a dead patient; his experience and training with the .40 cal Gold Dots was that this bad guy should be dead from 2 center of mass hits."

Without knowing the Lt. it would be unkind of me to call him a blithering idiot so I will not. All of these inches here, and inches there, comes from the gelo test results, and what gelatin testing does is predict what will happen to a bullet when fired into gelatin. Gelatin is homogeneous, and without hide nor bone nor keychains, etc, while a person is not. Gelatin is a good way to QC bullet, and in the lab Gold Dots will do 13" or so when fired into the simulacra of a pigs thigh. Unobstructed penetration numbers are relevant to firing-squad members and those who believe that a gremlin will stand stock-still and allow you to pump round after round into his innards. Civilians do not require bonded bullets, such as the Gold Dots happen to be, because bonding lessens the chance for expansion, but increases the likelihood that the round will penetrate a barrier such as auto glass, doors, etc. Cops are forced to think of a lot of factors while all we must come to grips with is how big a hole can I blow through the sunovabitch who broke my door down. Minimum calibrated gelatin numbers are fine to use as an example of what can be expected if all things go well, but it still boils down to the size of the wound and how much permanent destructive force has been transferred to the target.

Conversely, there are far too many reports of modern hollowpoints passing straight through the intended target, and that comes directly from the fast-is-beautiful crowd who worship at the altar of kinetic energy. They stock up on relatively swift 155 grain .40 calibers and are then amazed to discover that all they've done is perfect a modern day hole punch. Wound ballistics is the study of extremes. Go over a certain velocity and, depending upon the size of the target, non-survivable wounds are almost assured, but then the dreaded "snappiness", and severe recoil effects enter into the picture, so it's off to find the magic bullet that will somehow warp the laws of physics because the marketing people say so.

The old street cop used his .357 magnum and was amazed at how well a 125 grainer @ 1600 fps, or a 158 @ 1400 took the starch right out of Mr. Bad Guy. Then strange things began to happen. The bad guy got bigger, the cop got smaller, and the media got whinier. The original 10 mm loads were designed to come close to .357 performance with more rounds available, but guess what. The recoil was too severe for smaller hands to bear, so back to the drawing board, and out came the .40 caliber. The rounds were, and continue to be too light or too slow, with regards to what police are permitted to use, and Lt's all over the country are shaking their heads wondering what's up. This isn't to say that the Gold Dot is a bad bullet. It does a lot of things reasonably well, but won't expand all that much to begin with, and clothing exacerbates the dilemma so oft times the round becomes an in-'em then-out-'em FMJ. The key to solving this problem is to increase the bullet's velocity, but we're then back to square one as recoil gives little hands the flinchies.

Law enforcement officers are taught to fire until the threat no longer exists. In this case the felon was rendered harmless after 2 shots, and all went well. Another felon of the same physiology might decide to continue to fight back and 3, 4, or a magazine full might be necessary to stop the engagement because head shots are a no-no.

There ARE bullets out there that can stop a fight a whole lot better than Gold Dots, but LE agency's have enough problems on their hands without worrying about a frenzied media screaming police brutality, so the situation isn't getting better anytime soon.

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