Sunday, August 28, 2005

Handgun Ballistics: Comparing Stopping Power

357 MagnumMany people come to this site looking for information on the stopping power of the .357 magnum handgun. So I thought I should oblige by providing some info and a link to where you can find more.

[Visit for Books on Handgun Stopping Power]

I selected the Remington ammunition ballistics table (it is a PDF - You are warned!) because I shoot a lot of Remington ammo. (I also shoot Winchester and Federal and others, but Remington's info was easy to find, and organized nicely.) Also, all of the manufacturers sell several variations of each of the popular handgun cartridges. Different primers, different bullets and bullet weights, different powder loads all combine to influence stopping power, which is recorded as foot pounds of energy delivered down-range.

Just for a comparison, lets look at one typical load for a .357 magnum and compare to a similar load for 9mm Luger and one for .45 ACP. (All of this ballistic data is for specific Remington cartridges, and is just meant to be representative of the differences between these cartridges.)

1911-AA 125 grain Semi-jacketed hollow-point bullet loaded for .357 magnum can deliver 427 foot pounds of energy at 50 yards, while a 124 grain jacketed hollow-point bullet loaded in 9mm Luger can deliver 291 foot pounds at 50 yards. A 185 grain jacketed hollow-point bullet loaded in .45 ACP can deliver 372 foot pounds at 50 yards. (Though people tell me that many 1911s won't feed hollow-points, I use this bullet for comparison to keep everything equal. I also don't know if that is true, but I am sure some 1911 expert will set the record straight in the comments.)

Note: A grain is a unit of measure for weight (mass actually) used for measuring bullets and gunpowder. There are exactly 7000 grains in one pound. (thanks to Boomershoot for the definition)

Update - Sept. 5, 2005: Like everything else in life, your mileage may vary. I am told that the .45 hollow-point issue is a function of which gun and which ammo. "Try it and see" is the message, and you can probably find a hollow-point that will work.


Hale said...

I have a SWAT officer acquaintance that says there is NO round of ammo that can knock a man off of his feet and throw a full grown man backwards when the projectile hits him center mass. In Vietnam I actually have witnessed this happening with my own eyes but I cannot seem to change his opinion. Is there a non-lethal way to prove my point?

Zendo Deb said...

No one ever said there was - well outside of Hollywood movies.

Of course that isn't the issue. Knocking a man down. The issue is stopping the threat.

If your first shot severs the spinal cord, he will go down, of course. Aside from that, there are rounds that are better than others for stopping. And the reason that the post talks about hollow-points is that full-metal-jacketed handgun rounds are fairly useless for self-defense.

There was an article in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin a few years back that detailed police shootings with various calibers and the results. In one instance, a group of LEOs shot a suspect 19 times with 9mm FMJs and he still ran 2 blocks to a friends house. To my mind, that doesn't sound like a sound way to handle defense.

You can kill someone with a single shot of .22LR, if you hit them in the right place. But usually you would have to shoot someone many times before you "stopped the threat." .357 magnum on the other hand, is a lot more powerful. We aren't discussing hollywood "knockdowns." We are asking how many times do you have to shoot the bastard before he decides that attacking you is a bad idea.

Zendo Deb said...

As far as ballistic comparisons go, ballistic gelatin is fairly standard way to go. People will occasionally embed short-ribs, or other cuts of meat in the gelatin to show what skeletal structures will do the impact.

Lozarch said...

While not exactly the same thing, I was instantly floored once by a paintball fired from a gun using a bit too much pressure at about 6 feet of range. The ball hit me in the shoulder and left a circle welt/scar on my shoulder. This changed my whole perspective on the matter. Maybe he would be willing to consent to this?