Throughout the past 30 years, I ve spoken to many people who have been involved in gunfights, and I ve combined this with what I experienced while serving in law enforcement. The one truth I ve found is that fights are usually a mess, and it s the mentally prepared individual who prevails. Mental preparation includes physical skill. The person who has confidence in their physical abilities is the one who will utilize the correct technique under duress without hesitation or confusion, and will thus prevail.
What does that have to do with the incapacitation potential or any small arms cartridge? Incapacitation comes in two forms: psychological or physical. Psychological incapacitation is hard to measure because any number of things can make a person stop and drop. Sometimes, if a person is shot they ll stop regardless of the severity of the injury, but this shouldn t be counted on.
One thing I ve learned from the many felons I ve interviewed is that they don t think like we do, and they certainly don t feel fear the same. To ensure the incapacitation of a crazed killer, we need to hurt them as severely as possible, actually make them want to quit due to injury. Death is irrelevant; all we want to do is stop their immediate action.
Anyone who s a student of combative firearms needs to have a basic understanding of human anatomy. I m not a doctor, but I ve taken a few anatomy courses throughout the years, so I have a rudimentary understanding of what and where vital organs are located. Basically, the body has a computer (brain), a pumping station (heart) and lubrication (blood) that keeps things running smoothly. If you can disrupt the process that keeps these organs working, you can stop a person s ability to fight. Other things will do this as well, such as interrupting their ability to see or breathe, but this is normally the goal of unarmed combat.
It should also be understood that the position of the attacker will affect your point of aim. It s quite common to shoot at targets that are in a full frontal position and stationary, but this isn t always the case in a fight. It s likely your attacker will be moving and offering a side profile that offers little of the targeting zone of a frontal shot, thus 3-D training is wise.
To the point, the areas of the body that will result in rapid incapacitation due to physiological disruption are small and well protected. The brain is surrounded by the skull which is round, hard and normally in motion. Rounds deflecting off the head or traveling around the skull are more common than many think. The heart is a muscle that is well exercised and quite strong. It s also covered by the rib cage and sometimes heavy clothing. Hitting these areas with one well-placed shot is problematic as best. For these reasons, asking a bullet to stop someone with one round fired is darn near impossible. The body is tough and in motion, so expect to shoot more than once to stop a determined opponent.
Law enforcement officers currently enjoy the best ammo ever developed. Select HST, SXT, DPX or Gold Dot from the various manufacturers, and you ll get ammo you can count on. In other words, they ve been proven in the street.
What caliber should you use? The largest caliber bullet that you can control in rapid fire, as you ll likely need fast follow up shot to stop a determined killer. Is a bigger bullet a better bullet? Certainly, and it can be proven with tests into ballistic gelatin, where the wound volume is charted. How much better is the larger bullets, say 9 mm vs. .45? Mathematically, it would be 15 20%, which is good news. The bad news is that this will not make up for poor shot placement. Where does that put us? Back to our ability to put well-placed shots on out attacker under duress.
Training & Practice, Not Gear & Gizmos
The harsh reality is all of the research that has gone into the current generation of ammo is lost if the round you fire impacts the wall next to your attacker s head. The truth is, it s more likely that you ll loose a gunfight due to poor trigger control than the caliber of gun or type of bullet you select. Quite frankly, trigger control is weapon control, and if you can t control your gun well enough to hit your target then all of the time you spent choosing just the right ammo was wasted. It s as simple as that.