Weapons>Bullet stopping power

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Bullet stopping power


On television and in the movies, one shot from a handgun drops the bad guy or it throws the bad guy across the room. It would seem the handgun is the ultimate self-defense weapon. However, these are special effects, not real life. 

Any hand-fired projectile that strikes a person with enough force to throw the person backward will have an equal and opposite force would make the gun jump out of the shooter’s hand or break the hand. Or, in the case of a shoulder-fired weapon, break the shoulder, or throw the shooter backward. 

When it comes to self-defense, you want to stop the attacker from pursuing the attack. While this may involve killing the attacker, it may only involve incapacitating the attacker. 

Facts about a bullet’s stopping power

  • Knocked down does not mean knocked out.
  • There is no predictable and reliable medical reason for a person to fall and become "instantly incapacitated" from a gunshot except for a wound to the brain stem.
  • Sometimes the bullet will produce no visible effect at all. It may take 30-90 seconds or even longer for the person to fall.
  • Even if shot placement is good and vital tissue is damaged, it is reasonable to expect the person to remain mobile, active, and hostile for 10 to 5 seconds after the shot.
  • Pain inflicted on a person, even extreme pain, should never be confused with incapacitation. Neither does the simple act of falling to the ground upon bullet impact constitute incapacitation.
  • Bullet effectiveness can be extremely slow even when the bullet perforates the heart, collapses both lungs, or cuts open the aorta. Imagine how slow bullet effectiveness can be if vital organs like these escape its damage.


Marshall and Sanow. Handgun Stopping Power -The Definitive Study.

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