"Terminal Ballistics"

Written by Scott Fuller on . Posted in Blog

The definition of stopping power should be an ammunition’s effectiveness to render a person unable to remain a threat. A more precise would be Wound Trauma Incapacitation. Wound Trauma Incapacitation sounds important and all scholarly.

There is of course the psychological reaction to getting shot. Simply hearing a gun go off nearby may incapacitate one individual while another person may continue to fight after receiving a fatal gunshot wound. We cannot take this aspect of fighting into account when choosing defensive ammunition so we will have to ignore this variable.

If you are shooting a person, you are shooting them for a reason. You need them to stop what they are doing RIGHT NOW! Weather it is attacking you with a knife or kicking in your kid’s bedroom door, you need to incapacitate them.

There are several ways to physically incapacitate a person. You could theoretically do enough damage to bones, tendons muscles or nerves to keep a person from stabbing, shooting or kicking you. This seems like it would be a very difficult thing to do.

You could also do enough damage to major systems in the attacker’s body to cause their blood pressure to drop to an incapacitating level. Enough damage to the right part, major blood bearing organs like the heart, lungs and lover or a major blood vessel like the aorta will cause an interruption of blood to the brain and eventually incapacitation will be the result.

The central nervous system (CNS) consists of the brain and upper spinal cord. Any trauma we can cause to this area of our assailant will almost always cause immediate incapacitation, and will certainly cause rapid incapacitation.

Thus shot placement is always the key. We want to shoot our badguy in the CNS or a major cardiovascular component. Terminal ballistics of the projectile we send out is another key factor, as we want to do as much damage as possible to the CNS or organ thereby ensuring quick incapacitation.

See this article for picking a handgun round: Recommended Defensive Ammunition

So if you are serious about self defense you will want to choose a bullet/caliber/firearm combination that gives you the best chance of hitting the CNS of a person OR putting a gaping hole in a vital organ. Luckily for us the FBI has already initiated a criteria for testing and evaluating a particular loads ability to do the Wound Trauma Incapacitation (WTI) thing, and many manufacturers are building bullets and ammo to meet or exceed this criteria. Hence the list in the article above.

When it comes to picking the correct rifle round for home defense it becomes it bit more nuanced. While there are bullets and loads that do a better job in the terminal ballistics department, we are talking minutia. Shooting someone with a .223 Remington (or 5.56 NATO) rifle round will almost always do the trick, regardless of the ammo in the magazine. If you have no fears of over penetration or concerns over backstop, any more powerful round will do just as well or better in the incapacitation department.

Watch this space for a link to an Defensive Rifle Ammo article.

So what can we take away from this lesson:
-Pick a gun that works
-Pick a caliber that offers adequate penetration
-Pick a gun that you shoot well, or learn to shoot your gun well
-Practice with your gun
-Practice some more with your gun
-Carry ammo from “The List” that works well in your gun (Don't rely on “magic” bullets or other snake oil)
-Get good hits on target count, everything else is secondary

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