Handguns > Semi-Auto

Handgun Stopping Power: Sizing Up Your Options

The author fired 100 handgun loads into ballistic gelatin, measuring velocity, penetration and expansion for each.


The term handgun “stopping power” generally relates various opinions about the ability of handguns to create ballistic wounds sufficient to incapacitate a target. Using muzzle velocity, caliber, bullet weight and energy, there have been multiple attempts to create formulas to rate handgun stopping power. The problem is that these theories are tied to mortality; the notions are based on the handgun’s ability to kill. From a hunting standpoint, that makes sense, but when looking at the role of a defensive handgun, it’s at least partially of no consequence.

The goal of the hunter is to kill as humanely as possible. The goal of an armed citizen using a defensive handgun is to stop an attacker as fast as possible. As similar as killing and stopping may sound, they are two very different things. It’s true that if you kill something you have stopped it, but unlike a hunter who can shoot an animal and let it run off a short distance to expire, a defensive handgun user needs to stop an attack immediately.

Causing immediate death with any firearm is difficult, achievable almost only by a shot to the cranial vault that destroys the brain and nervous system. That is difficult to accomplish in a dynamic situation. It is why law enforcement officers, soldiers and civilians train to shoot center mass of the available target; it increases hit probability. As a result, that is where the debate of handgun stopping power is centered.

What handgun/ammunition combination will do the best job of stopping an attack when a bullet is placed center mass of the attacker? The operative word here is stop, not kill. If an attack is not halted immediately, death might be the ultimate result, but it might arrive too late to matter.

Animals, and that includes humans, die when their brains run out of oxygen. As a law enforcement officer, the first murder I investigated was perpetrated with a .17-cal. pellet rifle, proving to me that about any bullet through any vital organ can kill. But it can take from 10 seconds to 10 minutes to occur. In 10 seconds an attacker can carve you up like a Christmas turkey. What’s needed is a combination that’s very likely to make an attacker stop doing the thing that is endangering you, immediately.

Jim Cirillo, a New York City cop who survived many gunfights, once wrote, “The only one-shot stops I ever saw were a .38 Special Super Vel hollow point and a 12 gauge slug. Both shots were to the brain.” Two other cops, Evan Marshall and Ed Sanow, authored three books examining one-shot stops from defensive handguns. Their work is shrouded in controversy for several reasons, but something that cannot be ignored is that they found multiple instances with every common defensive handgun cartridge where one-shot stops had occurred. Keep in mind their study was about one-shot stops, not one-shot kills. It is most important to recognize that Marshall and Sanow did not find a single cartridge that had not produced multiple one-shot stops.

How could that be? How could small caliber, pipsqueak guns stop attacks? The answer is simple; pain and fear. Police officers know that pain compliance is an important tool. They are issued batons and pepper spray to bring that about. But you don’t have to be a cop to know that. Few things control human behavior like pain. Smack your thumb with a hammer hard enough and you’ll immediately stop what you’re doing, and even the toughest cage fighter can be stopped with a solid hit to the groin, kidney or liver.

The key to immediately stopping an attacker with a handgun is either through the conscious fear that you’ll shoot him or through the conscious or unconscious fear and/or pain the shot inflicts. Fear and pain are why things such as pepper spray, batons and less-lethal rubber bullets are effective too. Regardless of how determined someone is to doing harm to someone else, if the aggressor is hurt badly enough he or she will stop. So, the logical approach to handgun stopping power would seem to be to use the combination capable of causing the most pain.

The problem with pain is that there is no way to measure the amount any combination might produce. It would seem that those loads that make very wide and nasty, but sometimes shallow wounds, such as Corbon’s 165-gr., .45 ACP +P load, would hurt the most; it will literally chew up the first 6" of a gelatin block. Loads like that damage a great deal more tissue than those that punch a neat hole all the way through a bad guy like a 230-gr., .45 ACP full-metal-jacket (FMJ) load, which can penetrate 3 ft. in gelatin. The data collected by Marshall and Sanow seem to support that conclusion. So do the results of the controversial Strasbourg Tests, in which multiple goats were shot while being electronically monitored.

That all makes sense, but by itself can be a foolhardy approach because pain is not experienced the same by everyone and pain can be blocked by adrenalin and drugs. Soldiers and police officers who have battled through pain become heroes, bad guys that do the same become wanted. It’s likely that the adrenaline in your attacker will be high and it’s possible he could be under the influence of a mind altering drug. Pain and fear are effective but might not be enough.

So what is the answer? Some like to base conclusions on caliber, bullet weight and energy. So let’s consider those. The caliber of the unfired bullet matters very little since bullets radically change shape in the first several inches of penetration. And, after dynamic expansion has occurred, the wound created varies minimally regardless of expanded bullet diameter. Jim Cirillo stated in his book, Bullets, and Gunfights, Lessons and Tales from a Modern-Day Gunfighter, “The forensic experts I have questioned while attending many post mortem examinations stated that they could not tell the difference between a .32 caliber round nose bullet and a .45 caliber round nose if both passed through the body, since both only make small wound channels as they pass through tissue.” My testing has confirmed this; in 10 percent ordnance gelatin their wound channels are indistinguishable.


What about bullet weight and energy? Energy, kinetic energy, is a product of bullet weight and velocity, but two bullets can have the exact same energy and create substantially different wounds based on how they work, how they expand and their path in tissue. Realistically, it makes no sense to base performance on the potential to do work—kinetic energy—if that work is not done. With regard to bullet weight alone, Finn Aagaard, a much respected gunwriter and very experienced big game hunter once wrote, “Given sufficient penetration, what does any additional bullet weight add to killing power? Nothing, absolutely nothing.”

This leaves us with the more logical approach of basing stopping power on terminal performance—what occurs after bullet impact—not external ballistics. Impact velocity, bullet expansion and actual penetration would seem to be the pragmatic guide to the determination of effectiveness.

A bullet that expands creates a larger wound cavity. The more expansion, the more tissue that is damaged, destroyed or traumatized. Multiple tests have shown a correlation between large wound cavities and bullets that expand at least 1.5 times their unfired diameter. However, over-expansion and/or fragmentation to the point the bullet loses a lot of weight limits penetration and penetration is important. The problem is that deep penetration without expansion is notorious for slow incapacitation. Hunters and gunfighters will confirm this and the reason is that bullets that penetrate really deep and expand very little damage small amounts of tissue and cause minimal pain. Still, if we hope to penetrate the vitals as a failsafe to the possible lack of our attacker’s ability to feel pain, “sufficient penetration”—like Aagaard alluded to—is important.

And then there’s impact velocity. When you combine high impact velocity with expansion, wound cavities get very large. This should not come as a surprise. The .38 Spl. and the .357 Mag. shoot the same caliber bullet, but the .357 Mag. pushes it much faster and has a much better record for stopping bad guys. When comparing their performance in 10 percent gelatin using similar bullets, the difference is obvious.

So, should you carry the combination you think will cause the most pain or the one you think will penetrate through to the vitals no matter the shot angle and regardless of what gets in the bullet’s way? Common sense should tell us that the failsafe, penetration, is our first priority; if pain fails to stop the attack—and it might—we have to rely on the bullet’s ability to drive through vital organs. The ability to inflict the maximum amount of pain should be our second goal. This makes choosing the handgun/bullet combination simple—you want the combination that penetrates to a sufficient depth and damages the most tissue in the process.

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81 Responses to Handgun Stopping Power: Sizing Up Your Options

T. wrote:
December 17, 2014

WMR: Winchester Magnum Rimfire...

Troy wrote:
December 01, 2014

March 2014, Rimfires, page 69. What exactly does the acronym (WMR) stand for? It may have been in the article but I must have missed it.

ibie wrote:
October 16, 2014

Hi there. I would like to know what was the length of the barrel of your test guns used to get these results. Specifically for the .380 and 9mm tests.

Chuck Haggard wrote:
July 28, 2014

The lack of knowledge of real world terminal ballistics displayed in the comments section is simply stunning. 'Knock a man off his feet' and such is completely ignorant.

Jacob wrote:
June 21, 2014

I am disappointed to see that .44 magnum was left off this list

NewYorkjoe wrote:
May 13, 2014

I carry Glaser Safety-Slugs for defense because they provide they highest kinetic energy transfer, but primarily because I don't want to kill/wound innocent bystanders with a through-and-through or a riccochet.

mr c wrote:
May 13, 2014

I carry a .40.and a.45 cal. While the 45acp fmj 230 is a heavy hitter the total expansion was about 50 [%]of size versus a .40.cal fmj 180 gr with 90[%] expansion . Both fired at the same target and same backdrop to simulate bone body bone impact. While they are both through and through I feel that the best of both worlds is the .40 cal.

Norm wrote:
April 26, 2014

A lot of people are picking guns the average joe can't afford that's why 9mm are so popular they are affordable I hav 9mm 45 acp 45 long Colt and 44 Remington mag handguns I choose to carry the 9mm its light I hit what I aim at and if needed could empty my mag on an assailant. I use the 44mag to hunt with Its what you feel comfortable with I use Hornady critical defense Ammo in my 9mm and 45 acp

Ace wrote:
September 08, 2013

nvrpc, you wrote you like the black talon. I hope you have a stockpile and considering they were pulled from the shelf in 2008. To be honest, Winchester took the black paint off and now call them 'rangers'. I have never understood why alter the rounds in the mag. I fire Corbon lightest grain possible straight through. Its not as much the caliber for stopping power as it is the round. Look for lower grain for greater energy dump, creates a larger wound cavity. More mass missing from the body would make greater stopping power.

Samuel Reich wrote:
July 02, 2013

Since the chest is the aim point in most defensive shooting. It should be noted, lungs are only 1/3 the density of water. Any expansion has to be in getting to the lung cavity. Fast expansion is the most important part of JHP but not reported.

Big Al wrote:
June 23, 2013

Boys b Boys Boys, put em where Boys Boys Boys, practice,practice,practice', even a sharp stick in the eye will put em down ------- ,SHOT PLACEMENT ************** !!!!!

Willy wrote:
June 12, 2013

Reading the comments here, it is quite clear that most have a favorite caliber and think it's the best. Having been a Marine in Vietnam and a police officer in Chicago afterwards, I've had the misfortune to have to use a handgun in anger more than once. Firing an old government issue M1911 with government-issued FMJ ammo put the attacker down both times I had to use it (one kill, one badly wounded but alive). While a police officer, I witnessed a partnet hit an attacker with 4 rounds of 9mm JHP (Super Vel was all the rage then). The attacker died of his wounds but not before stabbing my partner. The most important thing with any caliber is hitting thr X-ring and that's not always easy. Shooting on the range is one thing but on the street, in the dark/rain with the attacker running toward you is quite another and practice - under realistic conditions, with the same ammo you're carrting on the street, is critical. I've always believed that bigger is better and in my limited experience actually having to defend myself or another I found that, again in my limited experience, to be true.

John wrote:
June 08, 2013

Something ignored is that most people are intimidated by large caliber pistols. I teach that you should use the largest caliber that you feel comfortable shooting. Most of my students start with a 22 and usually move to something less than a 357 after more trigger time. There is no benefit when a shooter is intimidated by the recoil of the round.

AΩ357 wrote:
April 17, 2013

Confirms my personal choice: Coonan Classic .357 Magnum 1911 Auto with Barnes VorTX Hollows.

Ken wrote:
March 22, 2013

The answer is simple! Buy a 357 magnum and Rest Assured....

swshooter wrote:
March 02, 2013

Problem with this test is the use of the recovered bullet diameter. Most obvious in the low rating of the 357 mag loads and the 10mm. The high velocity loads lose their noses and the recovered diameter bears little resemblance to the maximum diameter achieved during the bullets transit of the medium. Does anyone really believe that any 380 load is a superior stopper to any 357 mag hollow point load?

JOHN wrote:
December 16, 2012

I notice that there are many posts like the ones below. Everyone is getting technical with what round will do this and what round will do that. The difference between a 1/4 and a 1/2 inch of penetration/expansion is not going to make a difference on an intruder. Not only will their adrenaline be maxed but so will the person who is trying to defend themselves. Instead of all these calculations try sprinting for 50 yds and then try and hit a paper plate sized target from 25 yds with a pistol. Most individuals will miss completely so the penetration and expansion would not be a factor. Each person has the right to defend themselves in whatever manner they see fit. The best ammunition for self defense is no other then 12ga. 3in.00 buckshot. One shot from a full choke barrel would be more then sufficient and is simple enough for women and trained children to operate. Also,this method takes away from the notion that "excessive force" was used.

Rick wrote:
December 12, 2012

What about the truncated bullet? It was quite the rage a few years back.Anyone know how effective it has turned out to be?

nvrpc wrote:
December 01, 2012

I still like the 45 ACP with th Black Talon and Wilson Combat JHP staggered in the mag.

Bob wrote:
November 15, 2012

I don't agree that pain will stop an attacker. All the examples you give (solid hit to the groin, kidney or liver), represent specific trauma to areas of the body that cause specific physical reactions in the body that can incapacitate an attacker for a limited or protracted amount of time. Trauma and pain are different and pain won't stop an attacker. Damaging the body so it cannot function or delivering trauma to the body such that it reacts involuntarily, will. Professional athletes and weekend warriors alike compete with pain all the time. Motivation and adrenalin allow people to continue the fight, shrugging off pain. By contrast, trauma that causes injury or an involuntary physical reaction cannot be shrugged off. An attacker who is on drugs, or just super motivated won’t stop to say “ouch, that hurts”. And yes, when I hit my thumb with a hammer, it stops me for a few seconds- about long enough to say a few swear words but after that I resume working. If I can “push through the pain” a psychopathic killer hyped up on meth will not even notice you broke his nose (very painful) with a perfect strike or kick. That’s not going to stop him. When defending yourself, never focus on causing pain. Cause injury.

Ray wrote:
September 23, 2012

There are three ballistic categories; internal, external and terminal. Velocity is part of external ballistics as is foot pounds energy. Terminal ballistics is what the projectile does on impact with the target. It is not a smorgasboard as the article presents. Some lower velocity rounds meet or exceed the higher velocity rounds, hence velocity isn't part of terminal ballistics.

Jon Bee wrote:
September 21, 2012

I think a man-stopping pistol or revolver starts with a 4-inch, 357 Magnum shooting 158 grain, expanding-bullets. I have never shot anyone but have shot wild domestic boars weighing 250 to 400 pounds,Deer (bucks)weighing 100 to 200 pounds and for sympathy or slaughtering purposes have shot sheep, cattle, horses weighing from 150 to 1150 pounds. for hunting purposes I base the cartridge to be used on on certain weight game as follows: LW = BD^2*BV^2*BW^3*200/7000^3 BD = bullet Diameter (in) BV = Bullet impact velocity (fps) BW = Bullet weight (gr) For this to work some conditions have to be met: A hit in the vitals area of the lung heart and liver area Heavily damaging two or more organs, The live weight of the animal or adversary's weight has to match or exceed calculated live-weight (LW). The bullet has to expand 1 1/2 to two time its original diameter and penetrate to the skin on the off side. It has been my experience that an animal so hit will expire 10 seconds or less. To stop a charge or an adversary with a weapon the LW value needs to be doubled!

John wrote:
September 19, 2012

This write up is not correct. Simple fact is physics, larger the bullet, faster it's traveling = force of impact. Force of impact / by resistance = Stopping power. To create resistance you can use jhp instead of fmj. A 50 bmg has more stopping power then a .22. This thing about bullets rapidly changing size is/. Bullets don't change size, mass can't be destroyed or created remember? The more lead in a target means the faster they go down, end of story.

Donald H. Conner wrote:
September 14, 2012

This is a very detailed and well-presented paper. There is more here than most could ever hope to remember. The author is to be commended for his peseverance and compilation of his findings. I read and re-read this article, amd found no reason to change my choice of caliber or ammunition. Why? Because the United States government has more money than anybody, and more resources and people to arrive at an acceptable conclusion. Which is to say succinctly: the Winchester PDX1 and the Remington Golden Sabre (just a new dress on the Black Talon)in .45 ACP with a 230 grain hollow point projectile meet all FBI specifications and are authorized for use in the .45ACP format. So, our tax dollars have resolved the issue for us: When in Rome, do as the Romans do. With a 14 round magazine and 1 in the chamber, my Springfield 1911A1, and two extra magazines, I have a total of 43 rounds immediately accessible. In all but the most unlikely circumstances, that combination should suffice. If it's good enough for the FBI, it's good enough for me, and it obviates learned counsel's protestation's of "too powerful" "too deadly' "Too 'whatever'". I'm shooting to stop the attacker and to survive. As soon as I can escape and/or he/she ceases to be a threat, I'm done shooting. Respectfully Donald H. Conner

Chris wrote:
September 14, 2012

If you really want to learn about real world ballistics go here, http://www.m4carbine.net/showthread.php?t=19887

Pfletch83 wrote:
September 14, 2012

What about the .410 revolvers and the 2-1/2 inch '000' buckshot loads? They offer a very good chance at structural damage,and two shots (if needed) from such 4-pellet loads equal what the threat would get from a single 12 gauge '000' load

doug wrote:
September 13, 2012

10 mm 180 grain black talon.

Gary wrote:
September 13, 2012

If you are about to get mugged by an unarmed BG, whipping out your mouse gun will probably send him on his way because "having any gun on you is better than a bigger one at home." But what if the BG is armed with a more powerful gun than you have? After you shoot each other once or twice, you will probably die on the street and he will probably go to the hospital. That's your bad! At some point you have to sit down and give saving your life some serious consideration. Do want to carry a "feel-good" gun just because it is COMFORTABLE to carry or do you want to carry a gun that is COMFORTING because it can save your life? It seems that most people think they can carry any gun they want because shooting BGs is no different than shooting targets. If you can put two in center-mass, you're good-to-go on the street. Too bad their fantasy doesn't include the BG shooting back.

Physboy wrote:
September 13, 2012

.357 Sig ignored, only one caliber for 10mm tested. Laughable choice of ammo to test. I guess the .327 is waaaaay more popular...

SecurityPRO wrote:
September 12, 2012

The chart shows a 10mm with a 135 gr 1588fps making penetration of 6.5 inches?!? Someone made a serious mistake or forgot the second digit! Anyone reporting better ballistics from a .380 than from a 10mm is smoking something!!!

Tellis wrote:
September 11, 2012

I second the motion for arming ANYONE with whatever they can handle and more importantly, WHATEVER THEY ARE LIKELY TO CARRY. The gun you have with you is 1000 times more effective than the one you left behind because it was too heavy, too bulky, etc... Most criminals work by intimidation. A potential victim merely showing intent to resist is often enough to end an attack. Showing intent to do so with a gun - any gun - is much more likely to send them on their way. Until the popularity Semi's by drug dealers in the 80's, the .22LR was THE most deadly caliber in the FBI's records! Not because it IS deadly but because it is popular. Again, it is the gun you have that's most likely to be your best defense!!!

ron taylor wrote:
September 11, 2012

I have a friend who is a very experienced pistol shooter. His strategy is to have a FMJ every third round in his magazine. That way the BG can select the round he really doesn't like. I would like to see results for the Fiocchi 124 gr. truncated cone round.

Unclenick wrote:
September 09, 2012

One problem with attempting to establish relative stopping power is the various thresholds involved. Some bullets have narrower bands of minimum and maximum impact velocity over which they perform well, even in a homogenous medium like ballistic gelatin. As a possible example, I’d guess the bullet in the 10 mm round had exceeded its best penetration velocity. Be interesting to learn what it would do loaded down. I know that’s counterintuitive, but think of too much impact velocity like doing a belly flop into a pool from too great a height. The faster you hit the water, the harder it is, so you have to be built to take it. For the bullet that means not coming apart and losing SD. I’m not convinced of the predictive value of kinetic energy in handgun ammunition, either. I put the FBI test data from the firearmstactical site into Excel, and found a significantly better correlation between permanent wound volume (based on expanded diameter and penetration) and momentum (R=0.78) than I did to kinetic energy (R=0.41). I think the difference in kinetic energy is mainly playing out in temporary cavity size, and that’s subject to all the pain response limitations discussed earlier, as well as to the chance of hitting the right spot to get some pressure wave conduction to the CNS. Counting on either doesn’t seem like something anyone should stake their life on.

Ray L wrote:
September 08, 2012

Having been in a few firefights with military weaponry, and teaching female relatives in self-defense, the best advice given is to use the weapon you are capable of handling. self-confidence and training more important than bullet size. My personal carry is Kimber "Shorty" .45 with Corbon powerball.

Pumpkinslinger wrote:
September 07, 2012

Kinetic energy gets poo-pooed by some but it is a calculation of a bullet's ability to do work. A bullet's KE is used to damage the target, deform the bullet, make noise and make heat. In the .38 Spec/.357 Mag example the faster bullet does more damage because it has more energy. However, you always have to keep the bullet design in mind. Think of a .223 rifle shooting a "Varmint Grenade" or a TSX of the same weight and at the same velocity so they have the same KE at impact. The fragmenting bullet will cause a shallow wound while the monolithic may completely penetrate. KE isn't a magic number but it is an important number, as long as you’re comparing apples to apples.

Miguel wrote:
September 07, 2012

These comparisons are interesting and as always the discussion continues.What is ignored in all of these tests is the foot pounds of energy that each bullet produces at point of entry into the bad guy. A 40 GR .22 LR bullet travelling at 1200 feet per second does not produce as much energy as a 230 GR .45 cal. bullet or other large caliber bullet.travelling at 900- 1200 feet per second.The energy that the bullet releases,when it hits,is what does the damage and can knock you off your feet.For those that do not understand what a foot pound of energy is.It is the energy that will move a weight of one pound a distance of one foot.So when a heavy .45 cal. bullet hits the bad guy it will release several hundred foot pounds of energy. That's enough to move the heaviest intruder back several feet provided that as much of that energy is dissipated into the body through expansion of the bullet.A solid nosed bullet will retain most of its energy and pass through the body unless it hits bone.

RichardD wrote:
September 07, 2012

This article is the best and most balanced summary of handgun stopping power I have read, and I have read plenty. (Many of them with a bias toward or against certain calibers.) I offer two observations—one trivial and one that may be of some interest. The trivial one is that one of the best rounds is the .45 Long Colt. It loafs along at barely 700 fps (read that easy shooting, quickly back on target) yet it penetrates a full 12 inches (the benchmark for optimum balance between enough and not too much) and it expands more than all but two of the other rounds tested and it already started out pretty big. Those old black powder cowboys must have known something . . . The other observation is that the chart is useful for comparing cartridges of the same caliber but not so useful for comparing between calibers. The expansion factor only tells you the size relative to the initial bullet diameter. A .22 bullet with an expansion factor of 1.33 (the average for the caliber) is still a lot smaller hole than a .45 that does not expand at all! A better comparison would be the actual cross-section area of the expanded bullet. In other words, how big a hole did the bullet make. This assumes that the bigger the tunnel created by the bullet, the greater likelihood it will stop the fight. Suggested formula: bullet starting diameter (in 100ths of an inch)(1 mm = 4/100”) x expansion factor, divided by two (for radius), squared, multiplied by pi (3.14159) = area of hole created by passage of the bullet. The answer for the .22 is .06723 for easy comparison I called that 6.723. Other calibers (based on chart averages) are: .22 = 6.723; .32 = 15.99 but note low penetration; .32 mag = 15.54; .327 = 25.72; .380 = 22.30; 9mm = 25.09; .38 = 20.76; .357 = 20.19 but note high penetration; .40 = 35.89; .45 auto = 29.42; .45LC = 48.71. Just another number to throw into the discussion. Speaking of numbers, is there any scale for hydro-shock value? Richard D.

Stepcof wrote:
September 07, 2012

Is that a typo on the 10mm? Only 6 inches? It's a 40cal bullet with additional powder. All the 40 caliber rounds did better.

JohnCfromMD wrote:
September 07, 2012

I hunt deer with a muzzleloader (60 grains of FFG, 240 grain lead .45 caliber flat nosed pistol bullet from a Knight Rifle, velocity about 1,300 fps) and a 7mm Remington Magnum, 140 gr. Nosler soft point, at 2950 fps. I prefer the black powder load because the hydrostatic shock caused by the bullet is at a lower frequency and lower amplitude and it produces less bloodshot (spoiled) meat. Clearly, hydrostatic shock is a very important factor as it can stun and tear vital organs (lungs, heart, cardio-pulminary blood vessels) even if the bullet's path does not go through the organ in question. As always, a humane kill (as, I assume, a "stop") requires proper bullet placement. I find both calibers equally effective in killing a deer...but then again, If I don't have a clear shot, I don't take it.

Chris Singletary wrote:
September 07, 2012

Expansion factor is relevant compared to original caliber but why not just report it as expanded diameter (aka wound channel diameter). As presented it makes little sense. Someone is going to see that and come to the conclusion that a .380 expansion of 1.37 is the same as a .40 1.37 and that is misleading. I agree that hydrostatic shock was also not mentioned though I think it is partially implied in the bullet velocity. Why couldn't it just be boiled down into an effectiveness column??

m-14 sniper wrote:
September 07, 2012

I have to agtee with Hawley, you shoot till they go down. If your gun doesnt hold enough, reload fool! What about hydrostatic shock,a known killer,but also creats substantial tissue damage. Author seems to have rrached results to justify a pre- concieved conclusion. According to the tables the .380 is just as good as a .45, when.in fact we knowa .45 is a proven stooper and a .380 is to say the least , not. A lot was missed by author. This is a very complex subjet and the data here is superficial and of dubios use. The main thing for carry to remember is carry the biggest gun you can hit with. It does no one any good if you miss!

Derek wrote:
September 06, 2012

Simple stuff. Present your gun point and shoot until it's empty. Eject your mag. Load next mag. Chamber and continue to shoot until it's empty. Threat over.

Homer wrote:
September 06, 2012

Astra A 100 small frame 45 ACP. Chambered and second rds r Blue Glazer. Nxt 7 r hydro shock. Pls pass the nxt clip. All 9 r hydro ahock. If at this point u r not dead then go ahead and kill me. I dont deserve to live.

spymyeyes wrote:
September 06, 2012

Why did it stop at 45LC? What about 454 casull & the S&W 500 rounds? Very disappointing it is incomplete, innaccurate, and leaves a lot to be desired for following a standard format consistantly with explinations.

MR wrote:
September 06, 2012

I see all posts are well pass away, any how, I have used shot encapusalated 22WR's convided with 22WR brass in a 2 Shot Derringer, shooting fase first wuith Shot shell and inmediatly solid one to the blinded guy, that in my idea wiyh yhis little consealed weapon I have given to family for present meny years ago. Hope en article on this kind of weapons an Shot ammo as a defense arm.

kenneth k. wrote:
September 06, 2012

I carry two handguns off duty. either it will be my S&W .500 w/.440 hard grain. Or I will carry my Desert Eagle .50 W..300 grain XTP round or the .350 grain. Why was these rounds not tested?

Gary wrote:
September 06, 2012

As you have all noticed over the years, lots of articles on stopping power, lots of one-stop formulas, and lots of inconclusive results. The problem with handgun cartridges is that they're not rifle cartridges. They are woefully lacking in raw power and shocking power is nonexistent. So what's a guy to do? You have to create advantages in your favor. Bigger holes are better than smaller ones because they can cut a nerve bundle or artery that a smaller hole would miss. Heavier bullets are better than lighter ones because they will plow through bone instead of getting deflected and don't forget that all the major organs are protected by bone. Deep penetration is better than shallow because you can drive one deep through clothes, bones, and important organs. Velocity is needed because it creates expansion but expansion limits penetration. You can overcome that with more bullet weight (momentum). So the ideal weapon would be a long-barreled .44 Magnum. You have large diameter, high velocity, and heavy bullets, everything needed in an all-around problem solver. But its probably too big and powerful to be practical. On the other end of the scale we have the diminutive .380. So the trick is to pick a cartridge that is as close to the .44 as possible and as far away from the .380 as possible. Having done everything possible under your control, the result of your shot will depend on your luck in where the bullet hits. Assuming you are taking on an armed assailant, you only get a shot or two before he fills you full of holes. That's why you need to bring a stopper to a gunfight: no do-overs. These arguments of shooting the BG 125 times with a mouse gun in order to make up for lack of power just don't make sense. So do your homework. All the power you can carry on the street and all the power you can shoot at home. Don't give the BG any chances, give him shock and awe.

Richard W. wrote:
September 06, 2012

Did my own "test" some years ago -.45ACP, about 10 different loads, included Black Talon, Detonators, "Flying Windmills" etc. THE BEST was 255 gr Keith SWC loaded heavy - its entrance hole was bigger than any of the hollowpoints ever managed, and it out-penetrated any of them. An LBT FN bullet would do even better! No need for expansion when the bullet is big enough to begin with. And a wide, flat nose destroys everything it comes in contact with.

Hawley wrote:
September 06, 2012

As a 29 year veteran in law enforcement, there is one simple solution as I advised my wife who carries a .22 caliber S&W 8 round revolver. Someone assaults you, you empty your gun on them, period. I carry a .45 ACP loaded with 14 rounds of Double Tap 230 grain rounds. I won't try to stop anyone with a single shot. You keep firing until the threat goes down. The article appears to have had extensive research done but addresses a "one shot" scenario. No one is Clint Eastwood. Expect to fire multiple rounds to drop the creep. Simple.

James wrote:
September 06, 2012

I carried a S&W 44mag until forced by dept to use a semi auto. I found the Glock 40cal provided the power and reliability that I demanded. I have observed the stopping power of the 44mag, It was impressive and Terminal. Also I never felt outgunned with my S&W 44mag. This is one instance where size does matter, I believe I carried Hydra shock in 44mag and then later Hydra Shock 40cal. Exit wounds were substanial with both calibers.

Paul wrote:
September 06, 2012

Wonder why they skipped 22 Magnum?

mater wrote:
September 06, 2012

what no 44 data? and little hornady data ive done extensive testing myself and found that the xtp from hornady is top notch in expansion and wieght retention which was not covered in this article.experianced handloaders can get much better results in most calibers. why so little data on the 357?

John wrote:
September 06, 2012

Looks like I made a good choice with those Speer Gold Dot 9mm +p's.

Gerald wrote:
September 06, 2012

A lot of buildup in the article but no real conclusions until the last paragraph. Do we have to comb through all those tables to conclude which bullet/gun provides the best stopping power? Why not just draw some basic conclusions for readers with only a small amount of knowledge of the subject but still want to own a gun that will stop the intruder most effectively?

Cdr. P. w. PRAWL, SR. USN RET wrote:
September 06, 2012

As usual, .22 mag ignored-again.

JIm L wrote:
September 06, 2012

I have to agree with others who are disappointed that you left out 357SIG while including rounds that Grandma used to carry.

Bob wrote:
September 06, 2012

The Test Results tables inlude some results identified as "Short" or "medium" barrel, however I did not find barrel length discussed anywhere? How long is the "Standard" (or "Long") barrel used for each caliber? How long is the Medium or Short barrel for each? For example, 9mm ammo is supposed to be optimized for short barrels, however these results show significant compromise (velocity and expansion) of some ammo in short barrels. This is potential ammo choice concern when you have a "Full size" for Home and a Compact (short barrel) in same caliper for carry.

Your NameCal wrote:
September 06, 2012

180 grain + P jhp in 10mm for EDC (G-29) I've never seen available the light load (85 grain) 10mm shown tested... With 6' pen. showing poorly.

Terminator wrote:
September 06, 2012

So a 9 mm with an expansion factor of 1.5 is equivalent to a 45 cal with an expansion factor of 1.5 if both have similar penetration? Probably not so instead of listing expansion factor, why not list expansion size instead?

GeezerGeek wrote:
September 06, 2012

If inflicting pain is the primary goal, how about a .410 load of size 4 shot from a Judge? Your range of fire with such a load is limited but it makes a head shot easier. It may not kill but an attacker is unlikely to continue an attack with his face ripped apart with such a load. The Judge is a bit bulky for concealed carry though.

WoodenPlank wrote:
September 05, 2012

So, you can include .327Mag, and two different .32 loads... but no 357SIG?

Brittographer wrote:
September 05, 2012

Rats. I would wish to have seen the 9mm Winchester 147 grain JHP load I carry daily, and it would be interesting to see the .41 Magnum Winchester Silvertip loading, but I guess he did test 100 different loads...

September 05, 2012


possum wrote:
September 05, 2012

I have always and will always carry 44 mag if it will take down a bear man don't stand a chance think about it what would you rather have as your back up

Gene Caple wrote:
September 05, 2012

Your argument of stop vs kill is well taken However, a shot that effectively stops a subject by immediately incapacitating him usually results in death. Haed shots are obvious but a shot to center mass or to the upper abdominal area will cause immediate incapacitation by disrupting blood flow to the bain, however, as I said above, this will also cause death.

Chris Chambers wrote:
September 05, 2012

I found this very interesting. I have always favored velocity, over caliber or weight. It would be interesting to see the data for a .357 sig.

Steve wrote:
September 05, 2012

Remington has re-released the 125 gr JHP with the scalloped edges in a plus-p loading. It has one of the best reputations in the business of one-shot stops, and was a very lethal round also, according to the Southwest Forensic Medicine Center in Dallas, where manyh of the autopsies were performed. It is an excellent round with good accuracy and excellent expansion.

j. w wrote:
September 05, 2012

Intreting read. I carry .380 auto defensive rounds. Much ballyhooed as marginally good or marginally bad. So why carry it? I can...easily concealed, easy controlled, and with its laser sights i figure 6+1 fast, well placed rounds better than 15 rnds of .44 mag that miss.

SGG wrote:
September 05, 2012

wheres all the HORNADY rounds in .45 acp???(custom,critical defense,etc.etc..)

D Odom wrote:
September 05, 2012

It doesn't matter what caliber/bullet you miss with. Practice & carry.

T. Sladden wrote:
September 05, 2012

As ususal the 357 sig is ignored.

David wrote:
September 05, 2012

I'm surprised by some of the obscure calipers tested. Why did .32 ACP not make the list.. I know it's not as popular as .380 is now, but I think a lot of us would like to see where it stacks up.

Josh wrote:
September 05, 2012

Hmm, I'm not sure why the "expansion factor" would be more informative than the final diameter. If a for example a .38 expands by a factor of 1.6 and a .45 expands by a factor of 1.4, the resulting slug from the .45 will still be larger.

Thea Vogel wrote:
September 05, 2012

I would exercise my rights to carry if it wasn't so hard to obtain (and keep renewed) a carry permit in my state (RI).

DaveO wrote:
September 05, 2012

The Glaser Safety slug had the least penetration, but I think I'd probably hate to get shot with that more than a lot of the others. I might live, but the doctors will have one heck of a time getting all that out of my body.

Paladin wrote:
September 05, 2012

Excellent article. Major weakness: after explaining why adequate penetration should be of primary importance, he goes on to list the penetration results. He forgot to state what range of penetration is considered "adequate" and why. Thus, although we have the penetration test results, we do not know how to interpret them. IIRC, acc to the FBI and/or IWBA, in standardized 10% gelatin, 12" - 16" is ideal.

ethib wrote:
September 05, 2012

So the avg 40 s&w is better than an avg 45 acp? Does this then mean unless you're willing to spend more on high quality 45, 40 s&w is the way to go?

William Ritchie wrote:
September 05, 2012

GREAT article! Did I miss a conclusion. Not being a handgun ballistics expert, I fear I may err in my analysis of so much data. Thank you, again, for sharing.

Northern-Lights wrote:
August 29, 2012

The best cartridge it the one you are carrying. If you don't carry, you are not prepared. Carry and practice! From the charts above, all the hoopla about caliber seems petty. All of them listed showed that they are capable. Pick the right gun for the carry situation and put the right ammo in it. But most important....exercise ALL your rights. Not just the 1st, the 5th, the 10th....but also the 2nd! Carry daily.

J.Baker wrote:
August 29, 2012

No 44spl/mag?

Mark wrote:
August 29, 2012

Godbless The NRA !!!!