Friday, December 22, 2006

Deep Or Wide

"Whats is more important...penetration or mushroomed expansion..."

Both or neither. At the risk of appearing to be a no-nothing blowhard (I know, I know, too late), the best of all possible worlds is impacting a target squarely between the eyes. Neither humungous penetration nor dinner-plate expansion means squat if the central nervous system is sent packing by a head shot, or one that severs the spinal column (C1 to C3 the experts they tell me). Large, aggressive men on heavy duty pharmaceuticals have survived direct hits to the heart and continued for a time to be both large and aggressive, but no one has ever survived a 357 Magnum bullet to the forehead.

That aside, the real world comes a' knockin', and without sufficient penetration the vitals cannot be reached, and without a large enough wound channel the fight can continue until the bad guys just might conclude the action to the tune of an unnecessary draw. I've never believed that a straight-on shot needs to penetrate much more than 10 or 11 inches in order to wreck havoc, but sure, hands and forearms get in the way and a round must have SOME punch to it before giving up the ghost. And when the bullet is doing its thing, the bigger it is allows it a better chance to disturb something really really important.

When in doubt, ask for both. 11" minimum, a quarter-sized hole, and any modern cartridge with a caliber beginning with 4 (or 357 and Magnum) will suffice. The best shots in the known universe miss an awful lot when the shit hits the fan, so relying on placement alone is foolish. Were that the case all we'd have to do is practice like hell and carry .22's. Personally, I've never seen a man get back up after taking a 40, 45, or 357 Magnum directly into the upper pec, but shit happens.

I won't argue the veracity of the following chart. One-shot stops are a thing of legend to those who've never fired a gun in anger, but have a look at the percentage versus penetration. The Federal 125 grain Hi-Shok's went a little over 11" deep, expanded to .74", and did the deed 96% of the time. For many years they were considered the best man-killer available, and you'd do a lot worse but not much better by loading them into that S&W or Ruger sitting on the nightstand. Until Winchester manufactures Ranger-T's in 357, or Federal gives us an HST for that caliber, it's Hi-Shok or Double-Tap's super-scorchers, but that's another story entirely and the recoil of a 158 cranking 1400 is not everyone's cup of tea.

357 Magnum Stopping Power, all bullet weights
BrandBulletShootingsOne Shot StopsPercentDiameterPenetration
Remington125 gr JHP43141496%0.58"12.3"
Federal125 gr JHP64161596%0.74"11.1"
CCI125 gr JHP18317093%0.69"13.1"
Remington110 gr JHP716389%0.65"10.9"
Federal110 gr JHP28025189%0.71"11.2"
Winchester145 gr ST1008787%0.64"14.2"
Federal158 gr HS786887%0.66"13.8"
Winchester125 gr JHP1018887%0.72"10.4"
Federal158 gr Nyclad766484%0.61"13.5"
Remington158 gr JHP655382%0.64"14.7"
Winchester158 gr SWC1209378%0.49"16.2"

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