Friday, May 22, 2009

Why hollow points?

I know you stress the importance of using JHP ammunition. However, right now the price of JHP here in the US is very high in comparison to FMJ. My local gunshop has FMJ $11US for 50 rounds, compared to JHP $25US for 20 rounds. Is it really worth that much more for self defense?

By the way, while I like the Cold Steel machetes too, I rely mainly on my Tramontinas. Anything up to the size of my wrist I can usually cut through with one swing.

Yes, it’s definitely worth it. Ballistics is a complicated issue and takes years of research and testing just to begin to understand how it works.

Some people are adamant regarding their position, that only a brain or spine shot will put an attacker down. That in my opinon is pure theory and no empiric comprehension of what really happens when guys get shot, since sometimes a person gets shot in the arm and goes down fo good, while another one gets shot in the head and keeps fighting, even survives after hospitalization.
Anything that tried to simplify stopping power into an easy to replicate analysis should be taken with a couple pounds of salt.
I’m referring here mostly to gelatin tests and penetration tests in different media.
A gelatin block helps and comes close to flesh replication, but again, it’s a very simplified version. I never draw my gun on a block of gelatin, and I’m sure you never will either. If I ever do I hope it’s strawberry flavor… that sucker will be dead in seconds if I’m armed with my spoon!

Human anatomy is complicated, we’re not gelatin. We have bones, flesh, fat, tissue of various density, organs that are flexible, organs that are less flexible and would suffer great damage when under hydraulic shock such as liver and even lungs. Lungs are flexible, right, but flexible when breaking, not when forced to change shape immediately like it happens with an expanding projectile’s hydraulic shock. We have organs like our stomach and bladder that have liquid inside.
Sounds complicated enough already? It gets better. People have a nervous system, that makes things even more interesting.
Give me the biggest worlds greatest badass, stick a needle into a main nerve and wiggle it around a bit,the person will collapsed overwhelmed by pain. It’s unavoidable, the pain suffered by direct trauma to a nerve is too much for any human.
I remember a guy that shot a bad guy in the shoulder with a 45, hitting the shoulder and tearing into the bone socket. The guy went down and stayed down. The nerve damage not only caused him to go down and stay there for good even though he was armed, the nerve damage was beyond repair and the arm had to be amputated. Maybe hitting in this exact same spot with a 9mm would have achieved the same, but 45 is still bigger and increases the odd.
Pretty much any big bore handgun, 9mm and bigger ( some would include 380 ACP as well) will penetrate enough. But it soon becomes clear that the mandatory 12 “ of penetration is a small part of the equation, and it’s not even the most important part.
9mm and 45 ACP, both in full metal jacket configuration, achieve roughly similar penetration ( slight advantage to 9mm) and leave behind a similar permanent cavity when fired into gelatin.
But when it comes to people, any cop with lots of experience with both will tell you the same thing: 45 ACP is no doubt better (always in FMJ configuration) it has more knock down power. Usually one center of mass shot is all it takes, while with 9mm you’re more likely to need to shoot 3 or 4 times do drop someone right away.
Why is this? 45 ACP, being a 11,25 mm projectile, is bigger and wider than 9mm. Even if it moves slowly, it pushes away more mass as it goes through the tissue, this displacement occur at greater speed, thus the hydraulic sock is greater than with the faster but smaller 9mm. This shock wave, seen in gelatin with the “temporary cavity” affects nerves and organs, and enough shock , enough temporary cavity, will damage disuse but also stimulate the nervous system and has a greater chance of causing a nervous shutdown. The guy simply goes down. The bigger the bullet the better.
A 9mm still has a lot of energy, but energy isn’t the problem, the problem is that is doesn’t cause enough shock, enough temporary cavity when it hits. This is where JHP (hollow point) enters a small but fast hollow point will open like a flower, will mushroom, creating a greater frontal surface therefore wasting that energy in the body, avoiding over penetration and creating a nice temporary cavity that as greater chances of provoking the desired shock.
An icepick damages but has little stopping power compared to, say slamming someone with a bat.
The faster the projectile moves, the more effective results you will get when the hollow point projectile mushrooms.
This is only achieved with quality (expensive) hollow point ammo that reliably expands. So yes, expensive ammo like Gold Dot and Corbon is well worth it, and there is a difference in performance, well worth the money you spend on it defending your life.



theotherryan said...

JHP's help with stopping power in every caliber but are more needed at the lower end of the caliber spectrum. Also often overlooked is that JHP's cut down on over penetration.

You don't need a thousand rounds of HP ammo. I like having at least 100 rounds of hollow point ammo and then buy FMJ until I am comfortable with the total ammo amount I've got. The bottom line is to have good JHP's loaded in your gun with some spares and a few boxes of ball ammo just in case.

I have a lot of brands of hollow points but most of my defensive handguns get loaded with Federal hollow points.

Kerry said...

+1 on the over penetration concern. I was sold on JHP by my concealed carry instructor. The point was to take out the bad guy without your rounds going through him and hurting innocent bystanders.

Bones said...

Check out this link:

It's an FBI document about handguns and ammo. A bit old but everything is still relevant.

Anonymous said...

Just remember to practice feeding whatever ammo to your firearm to make sure it functions reliably, and practice malfeed/malfire exercises.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry about over-penetration. Worry about misses.

Anonymous said...

From the FBI Firearms Training Unit:

"Barring a hit to the brain, the only way to force incapacitation is to cause sufficient blood loss that the subject can no longer function, and that takes time. Even if the heart is instantly destroyed, there is sufficient oxygen in the brain to support full and complete voluntary action for 10-15 seconds.
Kinetic energy does not wound. Temporary cavity does not wound. The much discussed "shock"
of bullet impact is a fable and "knock down" power is a myth. The critical element is penetration. The
bullet must pass through the large, blood bearing organs ..."

PaleHorse said...

I'm the one who originally asked the question. I know that JHPs are more effective. What I was really looking for advice on was when on a very limited budget, for roughly the same amount of money, I can get either 20 rounds of JHP or 100 rounds of FMJ. I'd like nothing more than to be able to pick up several hundred rounds of JHP, but I just don't have the money for it right now. Not "I can't afford it", but I just don't have it.

FerFAL said...

It’s safe to say that it’s better to at least have a couple magazines full of JHP ( at least buying a 50 round box of Gold Dot) than having 100 or 200 rounds of FMJ.
JHP is more effective. Or a little more effective depending who you ask. What no one can argue is that you have to make the best of each shot you land, since it just might be one, so you want the best ammo you can buy. It’s your life after all.
Of course, try buying more JHP as soon as you can, just 50 certainly isn’t enough. Remember a gun is useless without ammo.
Just a 20 round box is VERY marginal, you barely have a magazine.
Having sad that, yes, for self defense situations, give me a magazine full of corbon rather than 3 full of FMJ.


Anonymous said...

A shot to the pelvis will put anybody down. It is a large structure, easy to hit and is usually not covered by body armor.

KeithC said...

PaleHorse, I hope this isn't utterly useless advice (at least it's free!) but is it possible to set up for reloading? Back when it was easily available (I stocked up), I'd order Rainier plated HPs from Cabela's or Midway and load it to the same velocities as my carry ammo. Those reloaded HPs still cost less than factory FMJs but duplicated my carry loads for cheaper practice.

If the budget is super-tight, you could start with a Lee hand press for ~ $25 USD and a set of carbide dies (don't need lube) for $25. Of course, you'll need some patience to find components these days but I load 124 gr 9mm JHP +Ps for $0.19/rd and 230 .45ACP for ~ $0.28.

PaleHorse said...

KeithC, I already reload for practice ammo. But I'm not comfortable carrying reloads for self defense due to issues about using handloads that may arise in court if I ever do have to use my weapon in self defense.