On TV and in the movies, we often see people flying backwards after they have been shot. This is, of course, pure fantasy since the laws of Newtonian physics show that any gun powerful enough to do that would have the same effect on the shooter. Nevertheless in any self-defense situation, it is vitally important to understand what your ammo can and can’t do.

When fired through angled glass, some bullets have a tendency to tumble but can still effectively incapacitate the intended target.

In the Spring of 1986 in Miami, eight FBI agents cornered two bank robbers, and the shootout that ensued sparked an intense debate and adjustment of how law enforcement officers were armed and trained nationwide. Early in the gun battle, one suspect was shot with a 9mm round that went through his arm and into his chest. The wound, the first of several, proved fatal, but not before he was able to kill two FBI agents and wound several more. The entire gun battle lasted less than five minutes with almost 150 rounds fired.

Following this tragic incident, the FBI spent considerable effort in studying wound ballistics and ammunition. How was it that, despite numerous wounds, the two suspects were able to continue fighting? What the FBI found in their study is that the only two things that stop a person quickly and decisively is damage caused by blood loss or immediate central nervous system trauma. The most important factors in this regard are shot placement, size of the wound cavity, and penetration.

Choosing your firearm is only part of the equation. You must also select a load that will perform effectively against your intended target. For self defense, you want a handgun round that both creates a large permanent wound cavity and does not overpenetrate and pass through a target. Photo Courtesy Jeff Rose

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