Self defense, stopping power, and caliber: Part 8

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“So, smarty pants – what the best self-defense caliber?”

I receive many emails asking, in essence, what the “best” self-defense caliber might be. (Those emails, in fact, have served as the motivation behind this series.) The correspondents are probably expecting sage advice, the wisdom of years, a sort of Ballistic Oracle. What they get is a non-committal “it depends!”

If you take nothing else from this series, take this: there is no such thing as “best” – there is only “suitability for ...

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Self defense, stopping power, and caliber: Part 7

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There Is No Such Thing as a Magic Bullet

What does that mean, you ask?

One of the last bastions of the snake oil salesman is in the field of ammunition promotion. Claims that would make Professor Harold Hill blush are the norm, and are repeated in gunstores, shooting ranges, and deer camps across the country. They sometimes even make their way into magazines and the internet – though the latter’s instant exchange of information has helped to quell the worst of ...

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Self defense, stopping power, and caliber: Part 6

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“What would I want with a reputation? That’s a good way to get yourself killed!”

– Jason McCullough, as played by James Garner, in “Support Your Local Sheriff” (my favorite movie of all time!)

What about “reputation”? Some cartridges or loadings have reputations for better effectiveness than others. Sometimes that’s valid, but other times it may not be.

Let’s take the mighty .357 Magnum, one of my favorite cartridges. The 125 grain semi-jacketed hollowpoint loads have the reputation of being superbly effective; ...

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Self defense, stopping power, and caliber: Part 5

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More energy can be a good thing – as long as it actually does something useful.

Last time we discussed the concept of the hollowpoint as a way to increase the frontal diameter of the bullet in the target. I also introduced the idea that it takes energy to expand the bullet, energy that is also needed to push the projectile into something that it needs to reach.

There is no such thing as a free lunch. If we want the bullet ...

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Self defense, stopping power, and caliber: Part 4

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The bullet is more important than the caliber.

We know that our bullet needs to do damage to whatever important thing it manages to find. How, exactly, is that going to occur? It just so happens that most animal tissue (including that of the violent felon who has just attacked you) is remarkably elastic, and consequently difficult to damage. Most tissues have a tendency to “close up” around puncture wounds, in the same way that they close up after a hypodermic ...

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Self defense, stopping power, and caliber: Part 3

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Once it gets there, it has to do work.

In today’s installment, we’re going to look at the second of the Twin Tasks:

2) The bullet has to do rapid and significant damage to that thing when it arrives.

It may not be self evident, but kinetic (moving) energy is either used or conserved (stored.) In the case of a bullet, it starts being used simply by fighting the friction caused by traveling through the air. Unless it encounters a target, the bullet ...

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Self defense, stopping power, and caliber: Part 2

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If it doesn’t get somewhere, it can’t do something.

OK, so we know about the Twin Tasks, the two things that a bullet has to do in order to stop an attacker:

1) It has to get to something the body finds immediately important, and
2) It has to do rapid and significant damage to that thing when it arrives.

Today we’ll be taking a look at Task #1: getting to something important.

Let’s start by pointing out that the user of the bullet ...

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Self defense, stopping power, and caliber: Part 1 of a series.

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I’ve gotten a bunch of emails recently regarding the choice of an appropriate self-defense handgun caliber and/or bullet. Around this one topic swirls more misinformation – and outright inanity – than any other I can think of. And now, here’s mine!

What follows is a layman’s understanding, backed by research of available literature and years of hunting and shooting experience, of the practical mechanics of wound ballistics. It is not intended to be a complete and exhaustive study of the subject. ...

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Foreign ammunition plus your gun equals ignition troubles?

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I’ve gotten a number of inquiries over the past few months regarding ignition troubles in otherwise stock revolvers.

As ammunition prices continue their climb, many enthusiasts find their budgets strained. In order to continue shooting, those who do not reload their own ammo have been looking at less expensive options for feeding their guns. Brands like Fiocchi and Sellier & Bellot (“S&B”), brands that didn’t have many takers a couple of years ago, are now being featured at many sporting goods ...

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Defensive ammunition for the revolver: an update on Speer Gold Dot!

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It’s been several years since Speer introduced their Gold Dot Short Barrel Personal Protection 38 Special +P loading. It looked good on paper, and the Gold Dot line has a superb reputation for performance, but many of us prefer to carry well-tested ammunition. Let someone else be the guinea pig!

Sporadic reports have come in that the Gold Dot load is “working”; Massad Ayoob told me that he’s heard around the country that people are “satisfied” with the performance. Still, I’d ...

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Reloading equipment round-up, 2007 edition.

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This last year I’ve been using a number of new reloading tools and components. I’m generally one to “stick with what works”, but that doesn’t stop me from looking for something better!

Late last year I bought a new Hornady Lock-n-Load progressive press (known as the “LnL AP”.) This is a five-station auto-indexing press with a motorized casefeeder. I bought it after becoming disenchanted with my Dillon and Lee presses – though I can always find something to like about any ...

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More on the use of +P in older Colt revolvers.

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The internet “experts” just can’t let this one go!

If you’re new to this discussion, please read this short article on the use of +P ammunition in Colt revolvers. Apparently, the fact that a manufacturer would dare tell a customer what kind of ammunition they should use rubs some people the wrong way!

The latest argument from the “experts” delves into Colt advertising history. Way back when, Colt’s advertisements stated that their small revolvers were suitable for use with the .38-44 ...

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My favorite powders for handgun reloading.

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Every reloader has his or her favorite powders. When I first started reloading handgun cartridges, I used what everyone around me used — which I found wasn’t always the best choice for my needs. After experimenting with lots of powders, I settled on a few favorites.

As a general rule I prefer flaked powders over ball (spherical) powders. I’ve found that they meter more consistently in a wide variety of measures, and they seem to burn a bit cleaner than their ball ...

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More on the Dan Wesson .22 revolver.

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In response to Monday’s blog post about .22 accuracy, a couple of readers asked about the loads that had proven to be accurate in the Dan Wesson .22LR Model 15-2.

Before I answer, you need to keep in mind that your individual DW may not like the same ammunition mine does. With that understanding, my DW likes the Remington Match Target (subsonic, LRN bullet) and the Remington “Golden Bullet” bulk pack. Of the 23 ...

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Wringing accuracy from your .22 rimfire: yes, it can seem frustrating at times!

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I’ve been shooting a lot of .22LR on a recreational basis lately, and am reminded how fickle this round can be.

Many people seem to be unaware that you can’t put just any old .22 round into a gun – be it rifle, pistol, or revolver – and expect it to function correctly, let alone hit where it is aimed!

It is not unusual to find that any given .22 firearm will not function with certain ammunition. I’ve seen guns that didn’t ...

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A primer about primers.

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When doing action work, I ask my clients how they’ll be using the gun. For instance, a competition shooter who handloads their own ammunition can utilize a lighter action than someone who needs the gun to work with a variety of factory ammunition.

Why is this? Well, primers are not created equal – the brands vary in terms of their sensitivity. Some of this is due to the type and thickness of the metal that the cup is made from, but ...

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What is it with the reloading press fanatics?

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Funny thing…the other day, Tamara posted this rant about brand fanaticism over at her blog. The subject popped up again this week in a different context.

I’d popped in to a couple of the reloading forums to ask a question about dies (I’m considering new ones.) Reading through some of the past posts on the boards would lead one to believe that there is a Reloading Press Jihad going on! Take a look for yourself sometime…the subject is ...

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“Can My Colt Use +P Ammunition? “

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This is one of the first questions a new Colt “D” frame owner asks. The answer depends on the model and the vintage of the individual gun.

What Colt says
Post-1972 (shrouded ejector rod) models: The owner’s manual says that these guns are rated for +P ammunition. The manual calls for a factory (gunsmith) inspection every 1,000 rounds for the alloy models (Cobra and Agent), and every 3,000 rounds for the steel-framed guns (Detective Special, Police Positive Special, Diamondback.)

Pre-1972 (unshrouded ejector ...

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