Sunday, August 05, 2012

Gun myths that make me GROAN

Despite the fact that most of us have the collected knowledge of the world literally in our pockets, there are many myths which refuse to die.

While myths about getting red wine out of your carpet or the best way to repel insects may exist, myths about how to effectively defend your life must not. Yet nary a youtube video, forum post, or blog lacks a comment espousing the same tired, completely disproved old wives' tales.

So why am I adding fuel to an already tremendous bonfire while the people I want to reach are obviously too busy staring at the sun? I really don't know. I suppose I just need to vent.

Lets start with the list, then explain them afterward.

Knockdown Power: If I shoot someone with my .45/12 Gauge/30-06/.50 BMG/20mm, he's going to vanish into the horizon, likely enter low Earth orbit, and suffocate in the low oxygen environment. ONE SHOT STOP!

Pain Power: If I shoot someone with rock salt or bird shot, he'll say, "OUCH! I stood my ground after you pointed that shotgun at me because I didn't think it would hurt, but clearly, I was wrong. Good day, Sir. I bid you adeu."

Pistol Power: Handguns are more than enough to stop someone, why would I need a giant shotgun? What is this, world war two?

.45 Magic Bullet: The .45 ACP: Because shooting someone twice is silly.

Shotgun Spread: I call my 12 gauge "The Hallway Cleaner" because all I need to do is hold it out my bedroom door, and pull the trigger, and everything will be swept away by the wall of lead.


Knockdown Power
Perpetuated by: The ammunition industry, movies.
The Facts: There are two simple reasons why this is very wrong. The first is called inertia, which is a brand new theory you might not have heard of since it was asserted in 1687, and has stubbornly persisted for 325 years. Somehow every child with a grade-school education knows this, but I guess you don't need a grade-school education to post comments on youtube.

Inertia says that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is great because you already know this when you feel recoil. The force that shoots your projectile forward is the EXACT SAME as the force that pushes you back. So why don't you fly backwards at 2200 feet per second? It's because you're bigger than your projectile! The force on a massive object, like a human body, translates to less motion than it does on a less massive object. If you wanted to knock someone back, you could fire a 1.3 million grain projectile at them, but if you did that, you would be knocked back at the same velocity as your projectile. PHYSICS!

The second reason this doesn't work is because projectiles don't transfer their energy perfectly into soft targets. If you hit a baseball with a bat, it will fly through the air with the energy the bat transferred to it. If you hit a gallon jug of milk with a bat, the jug will crumple, pop, and likely spray milk everywhere. Similarly, if you jab a needle at a block of wood, the wood will move. But if you jab it at an apple, the needle will sink into the apple.

The projectile is doing more than transferring energy into your target, it's puncturing into your target, and having complex interactions with the matter within your target. Ignorant people sometimes counter this by arguing that if the target has a bullet resistant vest on, the energy will transfer perfectly into push-back force, and ergo-ipsum-phalus knock your armored attacker over. Again, wrong. See the first reason; the shooter of the projectile IS getting the energy transferred perfectly into his body, and the shooter is not being knocked backwards.

Pain Power
Perpetuated by: Gran'pappies.
The Facts: Rock salt in the chest hurts. Birdshot in the stomach hurts. But hurting does not mean stopping. This "recommendation" usually comes with the footnote that the first shot is the pain shot, and the next is the grown-up self-defense load, offering the explanation, "If the that first shot doesn't stop him, the second and third will." Which seems to be an admission that the first shot is a kind of warning shot that stupidly carries the message, "Yeah, I shot you with a shotgun, but if you don't stop, I'll shoot you for REAL this time!"

PCP is a drug, but so is adrenaline. Expecting your attacker to feel pain is not a solid bet. Arguing, "Well, I'd certainly stop!" is even worse. Meth is turning people all over America into zombies with no regard for their personal safety, who would stab you with a steak knife for the fiver in your wallet. I don't want to hear that criminals used to be civilized, respectful, and know well enough to back down once they get an ouchie. I want you to deal with the reality of the threats that exist, and defend yourself like you mean it.

Pistol Power
Perpetuated by: Movies, teevee.
The Facts: All handguns suck. A pistol is a tool of convenience. It is small, light, easy to carry, and available when you need it. It is a very useful tool, but its strengths are also its weaknesses. Pistols are hard to shoot, they have small capacity, they shoot small bullets, and they deliver much less power to the target.

The inflated perception of pistols usually comes from our heroes in the movies and on teevee. Where pistols serve the dual purpose of eliminating minor bad guys in one shot, while merely wounding major bad guys long enough for a satisfying quip before death. The other reason handguns are so prevalent is that actors like it when people see their faces, and that's hard to do with a proper cheek weld on an AR-15. So everyone important almost always uses a pistol, except when things get serious and someone has to pull out the big guns. But even then, they're usually fired from the hip for the same reason above.

.45 Magic Bullet
Perpetuated by: Internet Commandos.
The Facts: Modern pistol ammunition can expand to double its size, making the difference between 9mm and .45 ACP negligible. While the expanded .45 will still be larger than the expanded 9mm, the fact above remains. All handguns suck. What doesn't suck is scoring hits on vitals that damage tissue, leading to blood loss. You can do that with a .45 and you can do that with a .25. Bigger holes do mean more damage, but there is absolutely ZERO guarantee of the much bandied "One shot stop."

If you're defending your life with a handgun, the thought that you need only shoot once is simply dangerous. You must practice rapid fire with your self defense handguns.

Shotgun Spread
Perpetuated by: Movies, video games.
The Facts: An 18" barreled, full bore 12 gauge shotgun fired at indoor ranges can expect to have the pattern of shot covered by a tea cup. Walk to the end of your hallway, or wall opposite your bed, and count all the areas a tea cup can cover that don't include you.

Don't take my word on this, take your home defense shotgun to the range, and put your double-aught buck on paper at the ranges you find in your home. Your "scattergun" does not fire a city bus down your hallway or across your bedroom. You must aim it in order to hit your target.

Ok, Mister Mythbuster, what DOES work?
I'm sorry to be disappointingly obvious, but: Rapid delivery of trauma to vital organs precipitating a sudden drop in blood pressure, and loss of consciousness.

That's it. That will stop any human being, any time.

To accomplish this, you need the following things.

1. Shot penetration to reach vitals.
2. Ammunition that will damage vitals.
3. Ability to hit vital areas.


Gosh, that's boring! Who wants to argue on the internet about that?

Shot penetration to reach vitals
When we are cut, we do bleed, but we don't bleed anywhere near as much as if someone cut our spleen. We want to damage vital organs to have the fastest impact, and we can't do that with birdshot. Generally, 12 inches of penetration into ballistic gelatin is the minimum, and allows for heavy jackets, rib cages, and other real world variables.

Ammunition that will damage vitals
A full metal jacket .22 will do less tissue damage than a .45 mushroomed open with spinning copper petals as sharp as razors. A low velocity .223 FMJ will make a neat hole, while a high velocity .223 soft point will tumble and break into many pieces which will scatter into a target's vitals. The impact your bullet has on the target is generally called the wound channel, and there are different ways to achieve a large one. Heavy, high velocity rounds made to stay together generally rely on hydrostatic shock, while smaller, low velocity rounds try to make the projectile deform into a more damaging shape as it passes through the body. Make sure that the ammunition you're shooting is designed to maximize tissue damage, and functions as designed in your firearm. Hollow-point bullets that expand completely out of a 6" Magnum may act like full metal jackets out of a 2.5" snub nose revolver.

Ability to hit vital areas.
This is simply skill with your firearm, and frankly, is probably the most important. A hit with a .22 is better than a miss with a .45. Firearms skill is an interesting thing. Some people just shoot revolvers better than automatics. They can certainly practice more, but if they don't feel comfortable getting hits on vital areas with a gun, they shouldn't rely on it. Ammo is much cheaper than a funeral. Practice on human-sized targets until you can reliably hit vital areas. Keep in mind that long guns are simply easier to shoot, so you can save money practicing with something that doesn't take as long to learn.


See? Was that so hard? I hope everyone I was talking to can take a few minutes out of their busy day of posting comments that start with, "Well, I don't know anything about any fancy physics, but I always figured..." to read some actual truth.

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