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GUNS Magazine September 2011 Digital Edition - Page 26
• M A S S A d A y O O B • don’t obsess over “magic bullets.” Real world criteria are sometimes deceptively simple. ne of the more popular Internet gun forums, www. O glocktalk.com, recently introduced a question/ answer section they called gATE, which stands for go Ask The Experts. I wound up doing the self-defense section. I had expected it to be heavy on tactics and mindset issues, but I probably shouldn’t have been surprised when the most common question turned out to be, “what’s the best self-defense round for my (insert make, model and caliber here)?” board—I look for five other baselines. Most defensive shootings take place at relatively close range, and the single most important factor in the outcome is going to be shot placement and what parts of the body are rendered at least temporarily inoperable by the given gunshot wound. Reliability is the first criterion. The defensive firearm is emergency safety rescue equipment! Certainty of function is a non-negotiable baseline. I recently taught a police instructor class where the host facility issued the ammo, a frangible training round that modern high-tech bullets give good performance. This fully expanded Federal hST 230-grain .45 acP at +P velocity, was recovered at the necropsy of a hog. dEfENSIvE hANdGUN AMMO This is an issue I’ve studied seriously for an adult lifetime. It is a learning experience that has taken me from ammo factories and sit-downs with their engineers; to major police departments to debrief the personnel on ammo performance in the field; to gelatin binges, to autopsy observation and necropsy of many animals that died by gunfire under test conditions. The answers are not what I might have expected 40 years ago. Before I even look at accuracy— which, with a very few exceptions, is generally “adequate” across the controllability is a key factor. arrows show brass in the air from this on-target FNP-45 Tactical .45 auto. used very light bullets. The ammo didn’t generate enough power to reliably cycle the slides, and malfunctions occurred epidemically up and down the firing line. I don’t trust a handgun for selfdefense until it has gone a minimum of 200 rounds with the proposed carry load, with zero malfunctions. There are some authorities who think I’m too easy on that, and don’t trust a new carry load until it has gone a 1,000 rounds in their particular gun, with 100-percent reliability. Controllability is also critical. The combination of caliber, specific load and chosen gun should be controllable in accurate, rapid fire by the user at his or her least physically capable. Bear in mind that home-defense guns are “pool weapons” that might be used by a petite female or a physically small, but responsible and competent older child in an emergency, not just the big, strong alpha male head of the household. Most 9mm service pistols and .38 Special service revolvers fit this criterion. The .45s may require a little more time and technique. By the time you get into full-power .357 Magnums, let alone .44 Magnums or super-light .357 revolvers with Mag loads, the shooter really has to pay some serious training dues to gain competence. Optimum penetration—deep enough but not too deep—is vital. Some prefragmented bullets sold for self-defense “open up” too soon, and fail to reach adequate depth to shut down vital internal structures. Non-expanding bullets tend to pierce too deeply, shooting through-andthrough the body of the opponent 26 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • SEPTEMBER 2011