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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Stopping Power

Having just read a pretty good article on stopping power for weapons, mostly involving pistols, I thought I'd share my view on stopping power.

My opinion is a bit different on this topic because I look at a couple of factors that are a bit different and outside the norms that most people subscribe to.  I feel that a single round is a great way to judge the stopping power of a firearm... if you only have one round.  With only one round there is no need to take anything else into consideration.  You don't need to have the ability to rapidly get back on target to achieve follow up shots.  There is no need to consider the controllability of the caliber in that particular firearm.  Any firearm is totally controllable for that first round.  I could shoulder fire and control an 81mm mortar for one round.  I'd be gathering bone fragments at the hospital when I regained consciousness in a few days, but it was controllable for that one round.

So what exactly do I look at in terms of stopping power?  First off, I guess I had better define MY definition for stopping power.  Stopping Power is:  The ability for YOU to stop the actions of another.  How easy is that?  Even a drinking straw has stopping power.  Stab someone in the eye with one and see if he stops.  Told you... stopping power.  Okay, all kidding aside, I am really talking about firearms and your ability to stop a threat with one.

The ten things I look for in determining stopping power are listed below and we will be talking about each of them, but first I just want to say that you and I will all mentally evaluate these things to one extent or another every time we are in a situation in which someone needs to have their actions stopped.  We may not consciously go down the list but we all do this... near instantly.  The ten are:
  • Objective of The Combination
  • Your Ability
  • The Average Encounter
  • His Ability
  • Total Energy of The Round
  • Bullet's Performance
  • Shot Placement
  • Penetration of Intended Target
  • Controllability of Combination
  • Total Round Capacity
  • Ease of Firearm Reloading
So let's walk through an average self defense type situation from the viewpoint of the inside of your head:
(Holy crap.  That dude is robbing the store with that knife.  Man that's a big dude, he's ripped.  He obviously knows what he's doing with that knife, look how he's handling it.  Oh shit... he's going to kill that clerk.  I gotta stop this NOW.  I can't do this barehanded... I gotta go to my pistol.  Man, that's a big dude.  I know I can get it done with this LCP but I gotta put 'em in the ten ring.   Sight alignment, sight picture.  Squeeze squeeze squeeze squeeze.  BANG!  Man, he dropped like a sack of taters.  That was a big dude.  Okay... break my tunnel vision, finger off the trigger, look around for other threats.  Good, nobody here... yet.  Reload in case his buddies come in... mag swap.  Get the new mag in my hand, used mag out, new mag in, retain the mag with the missing round.  Okay... somebody needs to call the cops... That dude over there is calling them.  I should tell him to tell them that I'm the good dude here and what I'm wearing... ) Verbally now-  STAY DOWN!  DON'T MOVE!  IF YOU MOVE I WILL SHOOT YOU AGAIN!!! (moves attention to the guy calling while maintaining observation of the bad guy) SIR!  Is that 911 on your phone?!  Tell them I shot the guy one time in the spine, he's down and needs medics.  He had a knife and was trying to kill the clerk.  I'm the guy wearing the yellow jacket and blue hat!  I will put my weapon away as they approach!  (moves attention back)  SIR! DO NOT FREAKIN MOVE!

Nope, no verbal warning.  That's how it'll happen.  All that in 2/10ths of a second.  Hyper slow motion.  Trust me, I promise you will have that entire conversation in your head in a situation like the one described.  But did you do your evaluation of the points I brought up earlier?  Let's see.

  • Objective of The Combination:  I want to stop the average threat with the least effort and the most effectiveness.  But because it's a tiny little thing I can and will comfortably carry it all summer.  Good thing I have it with me today!
  • Your Ability:  I am better than an average shooter and would feel competent to hit a paper plate at 15 feet under high levels of stress.  While I'm a rather good shooter, this is a itty bitty pistol.  I know I can make this shot from six feet I am sure of it!
  • The Average Encounter:  Less than 21 feet, usually closer.  Usually involving an average sized, more athletic than average, male between 16 and 35 years of age.  This dude is six feet away, 5 feet 9 inches, 195 pounds, stacked, a male, and about 25 years old.
  • His Ability:  Does he appear to be in control and does he look competent with whatever he is doing?  Does he appear to be in better shape than me?  Much better?  Stronger?  Faster?  Yeah, he knows what he's doing, look at that knife usage, and he is in much better shape than me... no hand to hand combat here.  Gun time!
  • Total Energy of The Round:  What round am I carrying?  Does it pack the punch needed to drop this dude, from this angle and distance?  What if I gotta have follow up shots?  Multiple follow ups?  It is a hot loaded, 95 grain Golddot .380, but I wish I had my 10mm with anything right now... but where would I have stowed a full size 10mm in a tee-shirt and a pair of shorts?  Good thing I do have my LCP.
  • Bullet's Performance:  Is this bullet going to penetrate that heavy leather jacket and still perform as intended to perform in naked flesh?  I guess we'll see.  I hope all my research into the .380 ammo I am carrying was right.
  • Shot Placement:  I need to hit this guy square in the spine if I can, but if I miss just a bit it is still in the ten ring of the center of the chest.  If he doesn't instantly drop like a sack of taters, I'll need to repeat the shot.  Slow steady squeeeeeeeze. 
  • Penetration of Intended Target:  It it misses his spine will it make it deep enough to take out his heart? What if it misses his spine but hits a rib?  Will it still make it to his heart?  My research says it will.
  • Controllability of Combination:  What if he doesn't instantly drop?  Can I quickly get back into that ten ring and accurately squeeze another round or two or three into him?  Yes, I can do that.  
  • Total Round Capacity:  Crap!  Only seven rounds here... wish I had my Glock with a normal capacity of 16 rounds instead of my reduced seven round capacity.  BANG!  Well, only took one... so far.
  • Ease of Firearm Reloading:  Danm... I wish I could control my hands better.  There we go, new mag out of the pocket.  Current mag out of the pistol.  New mag in and back toward the threat.  Now, old mag into the pocket.  There we go.  Gotta remember five rounds still there if his buddies show up.
See, we touched on each and every one of those didn't we?  Told you we would.

Now just so we can be clear, I also have my own version of how to determine a pistol and ammo's stopping ability.  Similar to the above, but without "you" in the equation but dependant on your ability.  This works for anything from a little .25 ACP to a .500 S&W.  It is also a measurement that can be put into writing so it makes people feel more comfortable.

This is how it works:
Total Potential Energy is the maximum energy of the selected round multiplied by the total number of rounds in the firearm.  Also, to factor in controllability and your ability to manipulate the firearm quickly, you multiply by 1 plus the percentage (1.75 for 75%) of the chance that you can complete the following: Starting with the weapon in hand and off safe, can you empty it and reload in four seconds with the reload that is on the bench in front of you and put all the rounds into a 8 inch paper plate at 5 feet. OR if you expend 12 or more rounds without running out of ammo in the firearm, multiply by 2.  Also, add one round to the total capacity for every round shot after the reload prior to the four second limit.

If you can't empty it one time in the four seconds and get in a reload, you multiply by 1 minus the percentage of rounds remaining (0.70 if 30% of rounds remain).  Remember, FOUR seconds.  If you can't get them all off and get the reload, take one round out of the mag or cylinder and try it again.  Keep doing that until you get the reload done.  Those removed rounds are subtracted just like unfired rounds.  (Harder than it sounds... try reloading a .38 by hand in under four seconds sometime.)  Because it is based on the percentage of the chance that YOU can complete the task, it is an personalized number.  Some pistols are easier to work with than others and some are impossible to get all the rounds off.  Try it with all you favorite pistols and see if it doesn't work for you too.

  • Beretta Cougar 25ACP- 10 round capacity.  10 x 63 ft/lbs (Hornady 35 grain XTPs) = 630 x 1.40 (40% Chance of getting all ten off and getting reloaded in four seconds)
    882 wey's (<--- some of you will get that, everyone else will just have to pretend it is a highly scientific term).
  • Ruger 22/45 22 LR- 11 round capacity.  11 x 126 ft/lbs (Stingers) = 1386 x 1.75 ( adds 75% for chance of completion).  Notice this is actually right there with a .38 snubby....
    2426 wey's. 
  • S&W .38 snubby- 5 rounds at 251 ft/lbs (Cor-Bon 125 grain +P) = 1255 x 1.95 =
    2447 wey's WITH a speed loader.
    1317 wey's reloading (x 1.00) by speed strips, or x 0.80 by hand for 1004 wey's.
  • Ruger LCP .380ACP- 7 rounds at 267 ft/lbs (Buffalo Bore 95 grain +P+ GD HPs) = 1869 x 1.90 (adds 90% for chance of completion)
    3551 wey's.
  • Colt 1911 .45 ACP- 8 rounds at 405 ft/lbs (Federal Premium 230 grain HSTs) =  3240 x 1.95= 6318 wey's 
  • S&W 500- 5 rounds at 2877 ft/lbs (Winchester 400 grain Platinum Tip HP) = 14,385 x 0.66 (33% of rounds were not fired in 3 seconds.)
    9494 wey's
  • H&K P-2000 .40 S&W- 13 rounds at 492 ft/lbs (Winchester 155 grain JHPs) = 6396 x 2 (over 12 round capacity rule)
    12,792 wey's.
  • Sig Sauer P228 9mm- 15 rounds at 410 ft/lbs (Speer 124 grain +P GD HPs) = 6970 x 2 (over 12 round capacity rule)
    13,120 wey's.
  • Colt Delta Elite 10mm- 10 rounds at 782 ft/lbs (Buffalo Bore 180 grain HPs) = 7820 x 1.95 = 15,249 wey's.
    *These are my personal numbers and your's will not be the same.

So you see, not every pistol stacks up as the ultimate self defense weapon.  Some folks would have considered the huge 500 Smith as the ultimate, but in the end controllability killed it.  If I can't get the rounds off, what good does it do you?  The opposite side of that coin is the .22 LR pistol.  Full controllability and an easy reload made for a great combination that scored pretty highly.

Basically what this formula does is sort out the very best of the middle of the pack.  It is highly dependant on YOUR ability to operate the weapon, the ammo, and the weapons controllability.  These are all high performance personal defense loads shown above.  Drop down to a lesser load and the controllability will increase, but the energy will decrease.

If you notice, the 10mm out scored everything, and many would be skeptical of the results.  This is from a customized Colt Delta Elite which is basically a 1911 in a different caliber.  Because of the weight the controllability is still very good as that heft soaks up a lot of the recoil.  Even then, the recoil isn't that bad to begin with.  It is also a fairly large capacity, and a really high energy level.  It is MY absolute highest rated personal defense weapon because it is all I can physically do to get off all ten rounds, drop the mag and send another mag home in four seconds.  With harder recoiling loads in this same pistol, this becomes impossible and I can't get the reload done.

Anyway, hope this helps someone out there.  Give this a try on your next range outing and see what really works for you.

Wonder what Jerry Miculek's wey's are? 



BogSpores said...

I also have a 10mm Delta Elite SS. Glad to see it made the top of your power list. Great article!

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