Bob’s Armory, Chapter 6

Aug 8th, 2015 | By | Category: Firearms, Spotlight

(This originally ran in May, 2008. It has been updated along the line.)

Chapter 6. Ammunition.

I’m going to kick around a couple of things here, caliber and bullet type. I started out with the premise that the .38 Special was a reasonably good choice in a self-defense round, especially for newbies. I stand by that, but it isn’t the ideal choice. Trouble is, nothing is.

Everything in the real world is a trade-off. The most effective generally available pistol round is the .357 magnum +P+ 125 grain JHP, sometimes called the Treasury Round because it was developed for the the Dept. of the Treasury. It has a one-shot stop potential in real world shootings of over 95%. It also kicks like the devil and has a very nasty muzzle blast. Back when the military was moving A-Bombs around the county in camouflage Piggly-Wiggly trucks the agents who rode protection on them were required to carry .357 Magnums.

The .41 Magnum was developed as the ultimate police round, but is only available in a large frame revolver or a very large semi-auto. The 10mm round in it’s original loading was very much like the .41 Magnum. I went through Massad Ayoob’s LFI course with a Glock 10mm Model 20. I didn’t know it until I showed up for the class but Mass said at the time that he considered that to be the ideal police uniform duty gun. It has, in it’s original loading, more power at 100 yards than .45 ACP does at the muzzle.

The .45 Automatic is no slouch with a good bullet. The military hardball load actually ins’t that great in real world shootings. Hydra-shocks have been consistent excellent performers in this caliber. The .40 auto has a lot of adherents and the new .357 Sig auto has some serious potential. The point is that while there are a lot of good rounds out there, there is no absolute best round for all situations and all shooters. You want to get something that works for you and that you have confidence in. The round and the weapon are a package deal. A round you like in a gun you can’t hide and can’t handle is no bargain.

That being said, there are bullet types to avoid. The 9 mm full metal jacket military round has the bad habit of shooting through people. When the NYPD first went to the 9mm they used military hardball against the strong advice of their own firearms people. This was political correctness in the extreme. In the first year they had several shoot-through incidents including a couple that wounded their own people. At least one of these incidents was fatal to a bystander. NYPD quickly abandoned the military round in favor of a JHP (jacketed hollow point). The old .38 Special round nose had similar problems. I took a class from the late Jim Cirillo, who was the winner of more police gunfights than any person in modern history while with the NYPD stakeout squad. In one shooting he and his partner shot a large bad guy (6-2, 300 #) eleven times in the face and neck with the old .38 RNL (round nose lead) rounds at close range. After it was over the guy walked to the ambulance, though he did have to be helped to his feet. The bullets bounced off his skull, none penetrated.

The feds have done some extensive testing of ammunition and evaluation of real world shootings. They have come to the conclusion (as have other people who have studied such things) that shot placement is the number one most important thing. A marginal hit with a great round will not produce the desired effect, at least not quickly. Adequate penetration is number two. Ideally you want about 12 inches of penetration in ballistic gelatin. While bullet expansion is a nice thing you should NOT depend on it to do the job. Bullet expansion out of handguns is not something you can count on. Everything else is so distant as to be almost academic. You can argue until the cows come home about Silver Tips vs Golden Sabre vs Black Talon vs Whatever. The fact is that any of them will do the job under most circumstances if you can hit what you are shooting at. Any of them can fail under certain circumstances. All of them will fail if you miss, or get a poor hit.

It should be noted that the FBI has recently decided to move back to the 9mm from the .40 caliber.  They have come to the conclusion that the 9mm with newer bullet designs is much more effective than it was 20 years ago when they dumped it after the Miami shootout.  Many local agencies are sure to follow suit.  The 9mm is easier on the shooters, easier on the guns and easier on the budget from a couple of different directions than is the .40 caliber.

Another thing you want to make sure you do; rotate your ammunition. The rounds actually in your weapon will be the crummiest ammunition you own. Modern ammunition is very reliable. However, handling and oil exposure are bad for ammo. Shoot up the stuff you actually carry with you AT LEAST once a year. Twice a year wouldn’t be bad. Ammo isn’t cheap any more, but you do want it to go “bang” when you pull the trigger. Also, do not carry hand loads for self defense. It shouldn’t make any difference, but it can. A slick lawyer (or a DA who doesn’t like you) may try to make you out as some sort of a homicidal psychopath just itching to try out your own recipe on the bad guy, or maybe a not-so-bad guy. In addition, factory loads have a known, verifiable powder dispersal pattern. This can demonstrate in a legally provable way how close the bad guy was to you at the time of the shooting. This will not be possible with handloads. It’s just another one of those things that can back your play in court, if it comes to that. A lot of people, including many jurors, are not shooters. Most shooters are not reloaders. It’s just one less thing to throw in the mix.

Next time, breaking in a new gun.

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3 Comments to “Bob’s Armory, Chapter 6”

  1. Bo Hunter says:

    Bob, I have a good variety of calibers, although I never had a 9mm until last year. But my question for you is the 10mm. I started looking for one, 2 or 3 years ago. I figured I would get a Glock-20. Then all I could find were short frames and I have large hands and did not like them. More research let me to believe that the ballistics of the 10mm may be overrated. I do not believe the 10mm is close to the 41 Mag. In fact I think it is closer to the 45 than the 41. What do you think? I never had the opportunity to shoot a 10mm, only what I have read.

    Army Considering .40 caliber as FBI Returns to 9mm

    • Bob Walsh says:

      Bo, the ORIGINAL loading of the 10mm by Norma was indeed very close to the .41 magnum in performance. It has been downloaded significantly since then. It is still an excellent cartridge. I have three of them, the old style Glock 20, a Smith 1066 and a Smith 610 revolver. I had to have a butt job done on the Glock to have it fit my smallish hands reasonably well. If you could come up with one of the old ones you might very well like it. I used to carry my Glock on a regular basis though I don’t so much any more. I do still qualify with it. I would stay away from the 1911 platform for this cartridge, I don’t think the basic design of the gun is tough enough to handle the cartridge long term, especially if you load for it and load a little on the stiff side. I also put an aftermarket barrel in my Glock so I could shoot lead bullets out of it with no serious issue. I am aware of the FBI move. With the advances in bullet design since the Miami shootout the round has improved substantially and is much easier to shoot than a .40. I suspect it is a good move and admit I am surprised that the army is thinking of going to a .40. Much of the reason they went to 9 was political and not performance. The politics have not changed since the decision was made.

  2. bulldogger says:

    good advice Bob