Sebastian sent me an email this morning and suggested:
Apparently the Paris bombers had vests made of TATP explosive material. I was wondering if it might make a good post on the nature of the explosive, and particularly its sensitivity to bullets.
Good idea. I have written a little bit about TATP before but not in this context.
Sebastian also wrote on the general topic today. I would like to add that steel matches are excellent practice for making multiple head shots. In the right circumstances five head shots can be made in two seconds flat.
If you are in a shooting situation where your target is in close proximity to TATP explosives you should either make certain you don’t hit the containers or you are prepared to accept the consequences of a detonation. TATP is extremely impact sensitive:
GlobalSecurity.org says, “TATP is one of the most sensitive explosives known, being extremely sensitive to impact, temperature change and friction.” I have zero doubt about a TATP bomb detonating from a bullet impact.
In the case of a suicide bomber give serious consideration to a head shot. This is not just because of the reason above but because if you don’t shut them down in a fraction of a second they are likely to manually detonate it after they take a solid hit to anything but the central nervous system. Even then, a deadman switch could cause detonation as soon as they let go.
The range of the explosion is of course dependent upon the amount of explosives and the type of fragmentation jacket (which creates the shrapnel) used, and the objects between the bomber and innocent people. I can’t vouch for the accuracy of this but it is better than no information at all:
A common security drill against suspected suicide bombers is to isolate the suspect to at least 15 metres (49 ft) away from other people, and ask him to remove his upper clothing (coat, shirt, etc.) in order to see if there is an explosive vest strapped under them.
Personally I would want at least this much range between them and me and I would take cover as low to the ground as I could. You will also have a fraction of a second between the time you pull the trigger and the time shrapnel arrives at your location. Use that time wisely.