A modest stopping power study

An Alternate look at Handgun Stopping Power.

Some things surprising, some things not so much. Shot placement counts for a lot. Some people give up when you start shooting at them. Sometimes it takes more than a single round to stop an attack. There is not nearly as much variation in overall effectiveness by cartridge as I’d expect when you get head/torso hits and don’t pause to admire your handiwork but just shoot until the threat stops.

H/T to Paul K.

7 thoughts on “A modest stopping power study

  1. You don’t often hear about violent criminals charging headlong into a steady stream of accurately fired .380 or even .22lr (or your choice of “anemic” cartridge) and completing their assault.

  2. Reading the comments the author laments that he couldn’t control for things like shot placement, distance to target, clothing worn, drug or alcohol consumption, et cetera, ad nauseam. Yes, it’s an imperfect world and the data is also imperfect, but that’s exactly the thing that makes it valuable. It shows us what our overall expectations should be for handguns in real life incidents.

    Looking at the data, the larger sample sizes show a lower percentage of 1-shot stops & incapacitation. This is probably reasonable as larger samples include the outliers like longer range hits, barrier penetration, heavier clothing, etc. For example, the 9mm data set is over twice that of .38 Special. Compare the relevant percentages:
    9mm vs. .38 Special
    24% vs. 29% – (Δ 5%) Fatal hits
    13% vs. 17% – (Δ 4%) No incapacitation
    34% vs. 39% – (Δ 5%) One-shot stops
    74% vs. 76% – (Δ 2%) Accuracy (head & torso hits)
    47% vs. 55% – (Δ 8%) Actual one-shot incapacitation
    There are too many unknown variables to make a strict apples-to-apples comparison, but the numbers say there isn’t much difference between the two cartridges.

    I think the reason the small calibers showed up reasonably well is that most of these are used at near-contact distance whereas larger calibers are used at several yards distance.

    Determined attackers are rare
    Inmate and victim surveys tell us most criminals try to avoid getting shot. For most criminals they are more interested in a “fast score” of valuables than a gunfight. This also shows up in Kleck’s 1995 study where >90% of defensive gun uses didn’t require any shots to be fired.

    I would hazard a guess that the a substantial number of the ~10% or so where shots were fired were the result of being surprised by their victims and unable to disengage – the stalker, thief, the burglar in an occupied home, mugger or rapist. This would also tell us the percentage of criminals that are primarily motivated to harm others — and thus likely to keep fighting after being hit — is very small.

  3. Focusing on the cartridge, I submit, is looking at it from the wrong direction, and so of course the results will be a bit cloudy.

    Hunt big game for ten years and get back to me on what it takes to “stop” a human-sized creature. Use the pistol of your choice, up to the most “badass” carry gun caliber you think you can pack. Or use the pistol caliber carbine of your choice, up to 44 Magnum.

  4. Pingback: SayUncle » A look at handgun stopping power

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