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Old 06-15-2013, 12:13   #1
CougarRed
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I learned something today

The 1989 FBI paper entitled "Handgun Wounding Factors & Effectiveness" states page 11:

The single most critical factor remains penetration. While penetration up to 18 inches is preferable, a handgun bullet MUST reliably penetrate 12 inches of soft body tissue at a minimum, regardless of whether it expands or not. If the bullet does not reliably penetrate to these depths, it is not an effective bullet for law enforcement use. FN36

Footnote 36 is:

Wound Ballistic Workshop: "9mm vs. .45 Auto", FBI Academy, Quantico, VA, September 1987. Conclusion of the Workshop.

So I went and found the 1987 Workshop. Guess what? The workshop concluded something different. Near the end it says:

The single most critical factor remains penetration. A handgun bullet MUST reliably penetrate 10-12 inches of soft body tissue at a minimum, regardless of whether it expands or not. Penetration up to 18 inches would be even better. If the bullet does not reliably penetrate to these depths, it is not an effective bullet for law enforcement use.

I wonder how 10-12 inches in 1987 became 12 inches in 1989? Perhaps they wanted to hold the ammo manufacturers to a higher standard? Perhaps they worried if they said 10-12 inches, they knew it would be interpreted as 10 inches?

In any event, in the past I have looked at the 12" penetration standard as a pass fail test for my ammo selection. I don't think I am alone in that thinking. This discovery introduces shades of gray in the penetration standard.

And if 10-12 inches of penetration is minimally acceptable for law enforcement (per the 1987 FBI workshop), this can have enormous implications for certain ammo.
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Last edited by CougarRed; 06-15-2013 at 12:15..
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Old 06-15-2013, 12:28   #2
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This ought to be a sticky just for those awesome links. I intend to print both and read them till the end. I am halfway through the one on my IPhone.


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Old 06-15-2013, 13:36   #3
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Originally Posted by CougarRed View Post
...If the bullet does not reliably penetrate to these depths, it is not an effective bullet for law enforcement use...

Go back & reread the red part. LE face different scenarios than non LE, e.g., vehicles, barriers, etc. However, there were political reasons for this decision moreso than any scientific correlation, i.e., many were fearful for their jobs and/or stagnating careers after the post '86 Miami Shootout and as bullets don't talk back they are far easier to assign blame to than bad tactics and stupid decisions.
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Old 06-15-2013, 13:47   #4
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LE face different scenarios more often than non LE, e.g., vehicles, barriers, etc.
FIxed it. Interesting point about politics.
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Old 06-15-2013, 14:29   #5
uz2bUSMC
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Originally Posted by Tiro Fijo View Post
Go back & reread the red part. LE face different scenarios than non LE, e.g., vehicles, barriers, etc. However, there were political reasons for this decision moreso than any scientific correlation, i.e., many were fearful for their jobs and/or stagnating careers after the post '86 Miami Shootout and as bullets don't talk back they are far easier to assign blame to than bad tactics and stupid decisions.
Yes, the bad guys are bigger and civilians never encounter barrier problems.
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Old 06-15-2013, 15:15   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tiro Fijo View Post
Go back & reread the red part. LE face different scenarios than non LE, e.g., vehicles, barriers, etc. However, there were political reasons for this decision moreso than any scientific correlation, i.e., many were fearful for their jobs and/or stagnating careers after the post '86 Miami Shootout and as bullets don't talk back they are far easier to assign blame to than bad tactics and stupid decisions.
Yep, I remember reading a lot of the stuff printed for LE use out of FBI workshops in the late 80's, receiving relatively fresh copies in my FI class in which the FBI participated (and signed our certificates).

One of the things that caught my attention was how one group determined they wanted a larger caliber with a heavier bullet than 9mm, but didn't simply just go to the .45 ACP. It was explained to me that a working group had already determined that there wasn't a use for .45 ACP in modern LE, and the 10mm was available ... which allowed them to sidestep revisiting the .45 ACP.

Of course, then some time later the FBI SWAT & HRT adopted .45 ACP, as well as 2 different 1911 designs (initially).

Not a problem, though, since the rank & file agents still used the .40 S&W ... and changed ammunition (bullet design, weight & velocities) now & again. However, 9mm is still available for those agents which may require it due to disparate impact issues (which is why they still order 9mm).

Political realities are forces with which to be reckoned.

Remember when the Customs folks determined that 10" penetration level was acceptable for their needs, unlike the 12" preference expressed by the FBI?

The FBI did stop making their ammunition testing results easily available after I got my first copies. They started requiring letterhead requests, signed by someone of at least supervisor rank, and agreement that the info wouldn't be disseminated outside the agency. We were told that they didn't want to have their results considered as any sort of recommendation, or endorsement, for any LE agencies other than their own, let alone anyone outside LE.

One of the more important things I thought came out of the later paper was a working definition of a "stop", and how it involved a cessation of ability for continued voluntary actions on the part of the aggressor/attacker.

One of the reports you don't seem to see online is the study of the aluminum alloy framed service pistols done toward the end of the 80's (which also included early samples of the G17/19 and a couple Rugers).

It was a different time back then, that's for sure.

It seems that with the newer generation of LE FI's we're seeing a lot of re-inventing of the round wheel ... again. (As if we didn't do that, too, right? )
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Old 06-15-2013, 15:50   #7
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Posts #3 and #6 echo my experience since I first got my hands on a late 1970's FBI 'Uniform Crime Report" and started dissecting their data. Later I got the ammo tests and such and I decided that they did a fantastic job of getting the raw data, but their conclusions sometimes flew in the face of the evidence they had. It didn't hurt that a close friend was an Agent and clued me in about the way things worked.

"The word" had been issued on the .45 and that was that. But someone or something had to take the blame for Miami. Again "the word" was that no study would find the .45 the answer, period. Further, the FBIs own statistics which showed the effectiveness of the 125 gn .357 round were to be considered moot because revolvers were on the way out. The Bureau had to lead the way into the new era and it couldn't do that with an "old fashioned" round. Showing they were modern and forward thinking was the goal. All LEAs should be following the FBI into the future. They couldn't afford to be a step behind anyone and hope to keep their position.

It would have been problematic to conclude that a round as old as the .45 might be the answer, it would beg the question be asked "why have you overlooked it for all these years then?". There had to be a "new" answer that wasn't embarrassing.
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Old 06-15-2013, 16:27   #8
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... It didn't hurt that a close friend was an Agent and clued me in about the way things worked.

"The word" had been issued on the .45 and that was that. But someone or something had to take the blame for Miami. Again "the word" was that no study would find the .45 the answer, period. ...

They couldn't afford to be a step behind anyone and hope to keep their position.

It would have been problematic to conclude that a round as old as the .45 might be the answer, it would beg the question be asked "why have you overlooked it for all these years then?". There had to be a "new" answer that wasn't embarrassing.
Damn, you said some of the things I decided to simply avoid saying, but which were exactly the same things I'd been told way back when.

I doubt we knew the same SA, but then I doubt the writing on the walls was limited to one just one place in the organization.
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Old 06-15-2013, 16:33   #9
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Any of you guys think maybe the reason for the hesitance to go the 45 ACP route might be that they just didn't want a round so easily associated with military use?

It seems to me that 45 ACP was/is capable of doing everything they needed it to.
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Old 06-15-2013, 16:58   #10
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Remember when the Customs folks determined that 10" penetration level was acceptable for their needs, unlike the 12" preference expressed by the FBI?
Man, if you had a link to a PDF file or some Customs study that concludes 10" penetration is minimally acceptable, I'd love to read it.

If not, what time period was this?
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Old 06-15-2013, 17:16   #11
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Any of you guys think maybe the reason for the hesitance to go the 45 ACP route might be that they just didn't want a round so easily associated with military use?

It seems to me that 45 ACP was/is capable of doing everything they needed it to.
No, that wasn't the reason. Remember in the "good old days" the FBI helped make the Thompson famous. They had rejected the round for individual issue handguns and the Bureau never makes a mistake.
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Old 06-15-2013, 18:01   #12
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I've always wondered if Patrick Urey wrote that FBI paper of if Martin Fackler did and Urey just claimed authorship.

Anyway, Americans are getting fatter (not more muscular) and I think 12" penetration is a sensible minimum penetration standard for handgun self-defense rounds.
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Old 06-15-2013, 18:08   #13
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It would have been problematic (for the FBI) to conclude that a round as old as the .45 might be the answer, it would beg the question be asked "why have you overlooked it for all these years then?". There had to be a "new" answer that wasn't embarrassing.
Still today we sometimes read comments about the ineffectiveness of calibers that have been stopping deadly encounters for 100 years. I really find those comments bizarre, to say the least.

It's okay to favor a particular proven caliber or platform over another but the logic of denying the effectiveness of a proven calibers escapes me.
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Old 06-15-2013, 18:43   #14
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Because the .45 ACP is a poor penetrator of vehicles, that's why. The FBI found this out in the 1930's when those on the cutting edge of Gangster "reformation" were switching to the .38 Super. FWIW, J. Edgar Hoover had a S&W Registered Magnum.
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Old 06-15-2013, 18:54   #15
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Because the .45 ACP is a poor penetrator of vehicles, that's why. The FBI found this out in the 1930's when those on the cutting edge of Gangster "reformation" were switching to the .38 Super. FWIW, J. Edgar Hoover had a S&W Registered Magnum.
Hoovers 'Registered Magnum" was a gift from S&W but the Bureau would allow agents to opt for the round. But the question of vehicle penetration for "field Agents" is a bit stretched when considering policy of firing at moving vehicles.

The .38 super was used by those in LE that had a high probability of being in such a situation BUT (no surprise) they found it woefully lacking in effect on the suspect then he was out of the car. In fact the early .357 magnum rounds were not much an improvement (if even as good) as it's parent the .38/44 "Heavy Duty" with it's heavier than standard .38 bullet.

And, again, the penetration of the .45acp can be greatly improved via ammo at much less trouble than was gone through for a new toy.
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Old 06-15-2013, 19:08   #16
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Tagged.
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Old 06-15-2013, 19:11   #17
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I'm glad some of you distinguished gentlemen here have a vast, collective mental data base from 'back in the day'.

Good stuff.
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Old 06-15-2013, 19:30   #18
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Frank Hamer carried a .38 Super when he was in pursuit of Bonnie and Clyde. He favored the Super's ability to penetrate auto body material.
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Old 06-15-2013, 19:41   #19
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Frank Hamer carried a .38 Super when he was in pursuit of Bonnie and Clyde. He favored the Super's ability to penetrate auto body material.
He also had his Colt SAA he nicknamed "Old Lucky" with him. And they did rather ventilate the car as was their plan.
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Old 06-15-2013, 19:46   #20
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He also had his Colt SAA he nicknamed "Old Lucky" with him. And they did rather ventilate the car as was their plan.
They did a number on that car. I had read somewhere that Frank Hamer had possession of the Bonnie and Clyde guns, and the Parker family was trying to reclaim them.

But Frank Hamer wasn't giving them up.
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