Hendon Publishing - Article Archive Details

Print Article Rate Comment Reprint Information

Handgun Ammunition Stopping Power Update

Written by Evan Marshall

Handgun Ammunition Stopping Power Update

By Evan Marshall

 

The ability to stop a fight with a handgun bullet is often a difficult goal to achieve. However, the ability to select ammunition designed to protect both officers and citizens is too critical a task to rely on artificial test mediums in sterile lab environments. Such test mediums have value, but unlike the human body, they are a homogeneous substance that offers the same ballistic resistance throughout. Humans, however, offer varying levels of resistance and as such a homogeneous test medium cannot offer us the level of confidence that the collection as the study of actual shootings will. This study shows the results of thousands of actual shootings.

In some calibers, the top performer is the heaviest bullet weight, while in other calibers the best results come from medium weight loads or the lightest loads. In some calibers, the best results come from a total mix of the very heavy and the very light bullets, which defies all theories. What follows is the latest results from a steadily increasing body of actual shooting results. These ammunition effectiveness results have been accumulated for several decades and the results updated in books published in 1992, 1996 and 2000. This is the first update of the results since the September 11 attacks.

Some definitions are in order. For the purposes of this study, a “stop” is defined as: 1) one shot to anywhere on the torso, not counting head, neck or extremity shots; 2) where the subject stops shooting, if he was shooting, or stops striking blows, if that is what he was doing; and 3) runs no more than 10 feet, if he runs. This study only deals with what happens in the first few seconds after the shooting, and does not factor in the eventual lethality of the wound or total recovery from the wound.

Other ways to accumulate the results could have been performed, such as factoring in multiple shots, or allowing different amounts of activity after the gunshot, or counting all shot placements. But I didn’t do it that way. I collected this data for my own use as a detective homicide sergeant starting years ago, and those are the criteria I set. Others, of course, are free to collect and categorize shooting data any way they want. Lots have tried.

In the past five years, some newer calibers have experienced a tremendous growth in law enforcement usage such as the .357 SIG. We have also seen a resurgence in .357 Magnum shootings out of short-barreled revolvers. The lightweight and small frame magnums have brought them back into the limelight. There has been a significant increase in the presence of patrol rifles and the 5.56mm caliber, though rifle results will be covered separately.

The development of compact auto pistols in .32ACP, .380 ACP and 9mm have resulted in a number of these guns being carried as backup guns, and a significant increase in shootings in these calibers from small pistols.

A 9mm pistol with the right load will do just about anything we can reasonably expect a handgun to do. That said, my duty pistol these days is a SIG P220 in .45 ACP because it’s the issue pistol of the agency for which I work. I would rather carry a Browning Hi Power, but I don’t make the policy.

In the calibers typically used for backup and off-duty, only the results from shorter barrels are listed. This includes the sub-caliber autos, but also the 38 Special and the 357 Magnum, which were once used also for police duty from longer barrels. In the calibers typically used for uniformed police duty, only the results from duty-length guns are listed, even though these calibers are also used in compact, more concealable pistols. In these calibers, while the actual effectiveness varies, the trends within the caliber are the same. That means the best loads from a duty auto pistol are also the best loads from a compact, duty-caliber pistol. The detailed results are available on my Web site devoted to handgun stopping power. 

When reviewing the results, the ones with the most shootings are, of course, the ones with the most statistical validity. I require at least 10 shootings with each particular load before publishing the results. That is why some newer loads don’t appear. I don’t have a large enough database on those loads yet.

Also, when reviewing the results, don’t tunnel vision on any one particular load. Look for the trends. You will see that most calibers have groups by bullet weight. For example, as a rule, in .40 S&W the 155-grain loads are across the board better than the 180-grain loads. If your ammo bid is not with the company with the top rating, get the same weight from the company you must do business with. Don’t split hairs with effectiveness ratings. Don’t get hung up on 93% versus 91%. Now, 93% versus 87% or 82% is worth arguing about to get better ammo. Pick anything in the top one-third of the caliber’s results.

These are the latest results then in the calibers routinely carried in law enforcement. We need to remember that while ammunition selection is important, it will never negate the need for superior tactics and marksmanship.

32 ACP                 

The introduction of small semiauto pistols in this caliber has formed a following of small caliber enthusiasts. The 32 ACP has a place in law enforcement, not as a backup, but as a hideout. The 32 ACP is available as a Seecamp and an NAA Guardian. Actually, the NAA Guardian in 32 NAA caliber, the so-called Nuclear Chihuahua, has replaced my original 32 ACP. In the 32 ACP caliber, the Silvertip has amassed the most credible street record. Based on a far smaller database, the more recent loads, like the Hydra-Shok and Gold Dot, are comparable to the Silvertip.

                                                                                Total                      Stops                                                      %

1. CorBon 62gr JHP                                            17                           11                                                           65%

2. Win 60gr Silvertip                                            162                         104                                                         64%

3. Fed 65gr Hydra-Shok                                     32                           20                                                           63%

4. CCI 60gr Gold Dot                                          15                           9                                                              60%

5. Win 65gr FMJ                                                  219                         107                                                         49%

 

380 ACP              

Again, while this caliber makes an excellent hideout gun, I’m not a fan of it as a second or off-duty gun. The results from the 380 ACP are quite similar to the standard pressure 38 Special. The 9mm is now available in such small pistols, the 380 ACP is caught between the 9mm and the 32 ACP.

 

                                                                                Total                                      Stops                      %           

1. Fed 90 gr Hydra-Shok                                    119                                         83                           70%

2. CorBon 90 gr JHP +P                                     59                                           41                           70%

3. Fed 90 gr JHP                                                   184                                         127                         69%

4. Win 85 gr Silvertip                                           111                                         75                           68%

5. Rem 90 gr JHP                                                 82                                           55                           67%

6. CCI 90 gr JHP                                                  85                                           57                           67%

7. Fed 90 gr FMJ                                                  245                                         135                         55%

 

.38 Special           

For generations of officers, the .38 Special snub was the off-duty weapon in this country. The introduction of genuinely compact semiauto pistols allowing officers to carry a weapon of significant power and more bullets than either a five- or six-shot revolver changed all that. I consider the .38 Special snub as an excellent backup weapon and carried one for most of my career in Detroit. I’ve replaced mine with a Taurus five-shot .357 Magnum snub loaded with the Federal 125gr JHP .357 Magnum offering. However, the .38 Special snub fills a valuable niche. These results are from two- and three-inch snubnose revolvers, not the four- and six-inch revolvers. In spite of the short barrels, which limit muzzle velocity, the 158-grain lead hollowpoint at +P pressures is the clear load of choice.

 

                                                                                Total                                      Stops                                      %

1. Win 158gr LHP +P                                          178                                         121                                         68%

2. Fed 158gr LHP +P                                           178                                         120                                         67%

3. Rem 125gr Golden Saber +P                         39                                           26                                           67%

4. CCI 125gr Gold Dot +P                                  48                                           32                                           67%

5. CorBon 125gr JHP +P                                    15                                           10                                           67%       

6. Rem 158gr LHP +P                                         134                                         87                                           65%

7. Rem 125gr JHP +P                                          107                                         70                                           65%

8. Fed 129gr Hydra-Shok +P                             86                                           56                                           65%

9. Fed 125gr JHP +P                                            166                                         108                                         65%

10. Fed 147gr Hydra-Shok +P+                        67                                           43                                           64%

11.Win 125gr JHP +P                                          83                                           52                                           63%

12. Fed 125gr Nyclad LHP                                                53                                           33                                           62%

13. Fed 125gr Nyclad LHP +P                          41                                           25                                           61%

14. Win 110gr Silvertip                                       25                                           15                                           60%

15. Fed 158gr SWC +P                                       277                                         136                                         49%

16. Fed 158gr RNL                                              429                                         210                                         49% 

 

9mm     

The 9mm was the first semiauto caliber to find widespread acceptance as an issue weapon in law enforcement. The better loads do quite well. If it wasn’t for the introduction of the problematic 147-grain loads, I’m convinced it would still be the most common handgun caliber among the badge guys. I’m aware of many departments that switched to .40 S&W simply to get away from the 147-grain loads. The current generations of 147gr JHPs are vastly superior to the originals, but they still can’t hold a candle to loads such as the CCI 124gr Gold Dot +P or the Win 127gr JHP +P+ offerings. Federal’s new HST offerings and CorBon’s PowR’ball look extremely promising, but we haven’t seen any street results with either yet. Clearly, the best 9mm police loads are the 115- and 124 / 127-grain JHPs driven to +P+ pressures.  

 

9mm Service Pistols

                                                                                Total                                                      Stops                                                      %

1. Fed 115gr JHP +P+                                         209                                                         190                                                         91%

2. Win 115gr JHP +P+                                         167                                                         150                                                         90%

3. Win 127gr Ranger SXT +P+                          104                                                         94                                                           90%

4. Rem 115gr JHP +P+                                       98                                                           88                                                           90%

5. Fed 124gr Hydra-Shok +P+                          111                                                         99                                                           89%

6. CCI 124gr Gold Dot +P                                  193                                                         170                                                         88%

7. CorBon 115gr JHP +P                                    89                                                           78                                                           88%

8. Rem 124gr Golden Saber +P                         49                                                           43                                                           88%

9. Fed 124gr Nyclad LHP                                  271                                                         224                                                         83%

10. Win 147gr Ranger SXT                                129                                                         107                                                         83%       

11.Fed 124gr Hydra-Shok                                 261                                                         217                                                         83%       

12. Win 115gr Silvertip                                       474                                                         393                                                         83%

13. Fed 115gr JHP                                               414                                                         340                                                         82%

14. Rem 115gr JHP                                             288                                                         236                                                         82%

15. CCI 115gr JHP                                              132                                                         106                                                         80%

16. Fed 135gr Hydra-Shok                                                341                                                         273                                                         80%

17. Fed 147gr Hydra-Shok                                                319                                                         252                                                         79%

18. Fed 147gr JHP                                               85                                                           66                                                           78%

19. Win 147gr Ranger SXT                                111                                                         87                                                           78%

20. Win 115gr FMJ                                              349                                                         244                                                         70%

 

.357 Magnum                     

Once the king of law enforcement calibers, the .357 Magnum revolver has been replaced by the semiautomatic pistol in a variety of calibers. There has, however, been a resurgence in short-barreled revolvers in this caliber due to the development of light weight and small frame revolvers duplicating the dimensions of the same small revolvers in .38 Special. These results are from those short, two- and three-inch revolvers, not the four- to six-inch revolvers. Those wanting an auto-pistol with .357 Magnum-like performance, which from duty guns had stopping power up to 96%, should consider the 357 SIG caliber.

 

                                                                                Total                                      Stops                                      %

1. Rem 125gr JHP                                               118                                         107                                         91%

2. Fed 125gr JHP                                                 105                                         96                                           91%

3. CCI 125gr Gold Dot                                       76                                           68                                           89%       

4. Rem 110gr JHP                                               49                                           42                                           86%

5. Rem 125gr Golden Saber (MV)                    38                                           32                                           84%

6. Fed 135gr Hydra-Shok                                  78                                           65                                           83%

7. Win 145gr Silvertip                                         44                                           36                                           82%

8. Rem 158gr JHP                                               39                                           31                                           79%

9. Fed 158gr Hydra-Shok                                  41                                           32                                           78%

 

.357 SIG               

The latest contender for the best law enforcement cartridge, the .357 SIG is certainly working well in actual shootings. It may be a bit of a stretch to say it’s the replacement for the .357 Magnum, but it will do its job if the officer does his. The 125-grain JHPs from the 357 SIG have a velocity of 1350 fps from smaller auto pistols and 1450 from larger auto pistols. That matches the 357 Magnum.

 

                                                                                Total                                      Stops                                      %

1. Win 125gr Ranger SXT                                  48                                           45                                           94%

2. CCI 125gr Gold Dot                                       76                                           71                                           92%

3. CorBon 125gr JHP                                          20                                           18                                           90%

4. Rem 125gr JHP                                               28                                           25                                           89%

 

40 S&W                               

The .40 S&W has proven to be a very popular law enforcement caliber. I consider it a “bridge caliber.” It provides more bullets than is commonly available in platforms chambered for the .45 ACP and yet provides bigger bullets than the 9mm. I’m of the opinion that the 9mm is an excellent police caliber, but since we live in a perception-driven society, the .40 S&W has become extremely popular. The clear trends in the .40 S&W caliber are for the 155-grain and full-power 165-grain JHPs. The more popular 180-grain JHPs are at the bottom half of the caliber’s results.

 

                                                                                Total                                      Stops                                      %           

1. Rem 165gr Golden Saber                              311                                         292                                         94%

2. CCI 155gr Gold Dot                                       89                                           83                                           93%

3. CCI 165gr Gold Dot                                       153                                         142                                         93%

4. Fed 155gr Hydra-Shok                                  94                                           87                                           93%

5. Fed 155gr JHP                                                 183                                         167                                         91%

6. CorBon 135gr JHP                                          98                                           89                                           91%

7. CorBon 150gr JHP                                          76                                           68                                           90%

8. Rem 155gr JHP                                               67                                           59                                           88%

9. Win 155gr Silvertip                                         158                                         139                                         88%

10. Fed 180gr Hydra-Shok                                                83                                           73                                           88%

11. PMC 155gr Starfire                                      89                                           77                                           87%

12. CCI 180gr Gold Dot                                     77                                           66                                           86%13. Rem 180gr Golden Saber                             99                                           85                                           86%

14. PMC 180gr Starfire                                      58                                           50                                           86%

15. Black Hills 180gr JHP                                  56                                           47                                           84%

16. Fed 180gr JHP                                               145                                         122                                         84%

17. Win 180gr Ranger SXT                                67                                           56                                           84%

18. Win 180gr JHP                                              120                                         98                                           82%

19. Fed 165gr Hydra-Shok (MV)                     179                                         147                                         82%

20. Win 180gr FMJ                                              134                                         95                                           71%

 

45 ACP                 

The 45 ACP caliber has been around more than 90 years but still seems to hang in there. It has a hardcore following and continues to be issued or approved by a number of agencies. Based on its reputation alone, LAPD approved it after the North Hollywood shoot-out even though it would not have been effective against gunmen who were equipped with armor designed to stop rifle rounds. It certainly is an effective caliber and there is something about those big old bullets that brings a sense of comfort that smaller ones do not. The large diameter and heavy weight of the bullet are the foundation for the “momentum” theory of stopping power. However, the actual results are a mix of light / fast and heavy / slow JHPs.

 

                                                                                Total                                                      Stops                                      % 

1. Rem 185gr Golden Saber                              148                                                         142                                         96%

2. Fed 230gr Hydra-Shok                                  211                                                         200                                         95%

3. CCI 230gr Gold Dot                                       63                                                           59                                           94%

4. Fed 230 gr Tactical +P                                   24                                                           22                                           92%

5. Rem 185gr JHP +P                                          89                                                           82                                           92%

6. Win 230gr SXT                                                118                                                         109                                         92%

7. CorBon 185gr JHP +P                                    46                                                           42                                           91%

8. Rem 230gr Golden Saber                              43                                                           39                                           91%

9. Fed 185gr JHP                                                 145                                                         128                                         88%

10. Win 185gr Silvertip                                       139                                                         122                                         88%

11. Fed 185gr Hydra-Shok +P                          99                                                           87                                           88%

12. Fed 165gr Hydra-Shok                                                49                                                           41                                           84%

13. Rem 185gr JHP                                             177                                                         145                                         82%

14. Rem 230gr FMJ                                            191                                                         118                                         62%

15. Win 230gr FMJ                                              241                                                         149                                         62%

16. Fed 230gr FMJ                                              239                                                         148                                         62%

 

Evan Marshall is a firearms and tactics instructor with Wackenhut Services currently assigned to a federal agency with direct counter-terrorist responsibilities. The author of three books on ammunition effectiveness, he may be reached at marshall-e@sbcglobal.net.http://www.paladin-press.comhttp://www.evanmarshall.com


Published in Law and Order, Jan 2004

Rating : Not Yet Rated


Comments

Comment on This Article

GOOD INFO

By ROADDOG3035

I go along with most of the information you put fourth in this article. Not sure I agree with some of your assessments, especially regarding the 9mm. I am retired law enforcement with 35 years of experience. My experience was that the 9mm and 45 are both weak rounds. If my memory serves me right, the FBI did a study after the 9 was inservice for over a decade. They found that it took 8 or 9 hits to take a suspect down. As for the 45, great round if only you can pumo some velocity into it. I have seen shootings in winter where the round failed to get through several layers of clothing to any damage to the suspect.

Of course, we all kow that a large round traveliing at high velocity is the ideal round for stopping power. We all know that they are impractical for every day use. My belief in velocity is born out with the 357 SIG. It is basically a 9mm on steroids and is a good round. I cannot understand why more agencies have not gone to them. Most likely the cost.

I spent 25 years with AZ DPS (HighwayPatrol) and I was almost distraught when the department went to auto pistols in 1986. Till that time I carried my trusty S&W model 66 with magnum loads. Over a ten year period of carrying SIG 9mm and 45's we had ten shootings with poor results. Much better since DPS went with the 40 cal. in mid 90's.

I have always felt that the guns departments choose has more to do with political correctness than is has to do with giving the office the best stopping round. I truely believe that one of the reasons the 9 was the rage is because we now had women on the job and the height and weight requirements went away, meaning you had people with small hands and you go with the smallest caliber possible with the least recoil so these people can shoot it. This is what brought about the 40 Cal. FBI had S&W come up with the 10mm, which by all accounts, was a real stopper. Unfortunately, some agents could not shoot it. Give me a magnum every time! Instead of making good shooters today in LE, they teach them to pray and spray. Too bad no one has been able to produce an automatic pistol in a true 357 Magnum caliber that is small and light weight. Unfortunately, autos just can't stand the pressures a revolver can, unless they are thick and weight ten pounds. Maybe some day they will figure it out.

Submitted Jul 11 at 9:07 AM

Related Companies

Hydra-ShokRemingtonS&WSpeer Gold DotWinchester
 

Related Products

.38 Special155-grain Hydra-Shok32 ACP357 Magnum380 ACP45 ACP9mmCCI-Speer 40 S&W 155-grain Gold DotRemington 115-grain JHPWinchester 357 SIG 125-grain Ranger SXT
 

Events and Tradeshows: LAOPFMTRPSIT
Latest News: LAOPFMTRPSIT
 
Close ...