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Old 03-02-2005, 04:42 PM   #1
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Overpenetration: A Real Threat or Overexaggerated?

Hello. It seems that we have handgun ammunition designed to rapidly expand with but miniscule odds of completely penetrating a human. This appeals to some but others cry foul and cite the Miami Fiasco or testing that leads them to want more penetration...even if the bullet leaves the original intended recipient. Others opine that this is dangerous and needlessly endangers bystanders.

Is it your opinion that overpenetration concerns are legitimate and a major consideration or do you believe the perils are overexaggerated and unlikely to be of consequence?

Thanks in advance and best to you and yours.

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Old 03-02-2005, 05:15 PM   #2
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Overpenetration: A Real Threat or Overexaggerated?

It is my perception that overpenetration is overemphasized in bullet design and selection. A miss is much more common and much more dangerous. I do want an expansive bullet in small to medium calibres, but that is to increase the damage to the assailant, not to reduce the risk to anybody in a direct line behind him.

For bigbores, my preference is colored by the report of my only personal acquaintance who has had occasion to shoot a man. It was at close range with a 1911A1 and .45 ACP hardball. Neither of two bullets exited the torso and the assailant was effectively stopped and soon dead.
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Old 03-02-2005, 06:21 PM   #3
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Overpenetration: A Real Threat or Overexaggerated?

Mr. Camp,

I believe that if there is a bystander directly behind a problem, then the shootist shoot move in relation to the problem and the bystander.

This could be as simple as going down on one knee to 1) disorient the problem and 2) hopefully give an upward angle to any bullet which may overpenetrate.

I, like Mr. Watson, prefer the enhanced effects on the target which an expanding bullet gives. Of the expanders, I prefer the ones which give deeper expansion, about 14" and prefer it to shore up on skin rather than creating an exit wound. However, this is asking a bit much because of all the variables. I would therefore err on the side of caution and say that any bullet I fire in self-defense or otherwise will overpenetrate, whether it be a .25acp or 9mm. I will therefore take appropriate action to minimize risk.

In other words I believe that yes, it is a major concern, and though expanding bullets help, they can also hurt in some cases and the burden of safety falls on the firearm operator and not the bullet design.

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Old 03-03-2005, 07:50 AM   #4
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Overpenetration: A Real Threat or Overexaggerated?

Yes, I believe that perforating shots are a threat, though to be honest, I have no idea how much the safety of bystanders is compromised. I'm sure that bystanders are hit by rounds that miss their intended target many, many times more often than they're hit by bullets that go through some intermediate person.

My use of expanding bullets is based primarily on a desire to impart 100% of available bullet energy to the target, and in doing so I achieve the side benefit of keeping innocent bystanders from being hit. Any extra "stopping power" effect given by expanding bullets isn't really a consideration for me. To quote Vincent J. M. Di Maio in his Gunshot Wounds (Second Edition): "In regard to charges that hollow-point ammunition is 'more lethal', in an unpublished study of over 75 fatalities from hollow-point ammunition by the author, he was unable to demonstrate any death that would not have occurred if the bullet had been an all-lead bullet. As to increased severity of wounding, this is purely theoretical (emphasis mine) To this day, the author cannot distinguish a wound by a hollow-point bullet from that by a solid-lead bullet of the same caliber until recovery of the actual bullet."

Whether expanding bullet ammunition is more effective at "stopping," seems also to be in doubt; according to what I can glean from Di Maio, truly devastating wounds seem to be more a result of high velocity than bullet design.

So in answer to the question, yes, I am concerned about overpenetration, but somewhat less concerned about danger to bystanders than danger to myself when my assailant doesn't lie down and stop fighting.
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Old 03-03-2005, 11:16 AM   #5
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Overpenetration: A Real Threat or Overexaggerated?

Yes, I think it's a real threat. But it might be a moot point, depending on the circumstance.

It all depends on where we're at when a deadly confrontation occurs. We'll only have seconds or fractions of seconds to decide whether to shoot or not if the three criteria of lethal force response are there (intent, capability, opportunity). We may be justified in shooting, but our target may risk bystanders unnecessarily, then again they might not.

I recall reading Jeff Cooper's comments once where he said "any cartridge capable of doing the job will be overpenetrative, at least by some criteria...".

I'm currently carrying a Makarov with hardball, waiting to get some JHP's when I can find them. I also am looking forward to Corbon's latest DPX offerings (I think 9mm Mak is one of them). I do not feel unarmed with the hardball.
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Old 03-03-2005, 12:38 PM   #6
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Overpenetration: A Real Threat or Overexaggerated?

I do remember reading more than a couple after-action reports that might indicate a trend towards overpenetration with the 10mm in any of its full-power loadings. However that hasn't stopped me from carrying my Delta Elite for ccw, stoked with Silvertips or CorBon.

Have long made target/non target 'alignment' part of my concerns during practice, so hopefully it will never be an issue for me.
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Old 03-05-2005, 01:16 PM   #7
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Overpenetration: A Real Threat or Overexaggerated?

Right off the top of my head, I can think of one case (and another unconfirmed one) that I've personally worked on in which a person was shot by a bullet that had passed completely through another person. FMJs in both cases.

Let's face it though, the likelihood of having to use a defensive gun in a crowded situation is pretty minimal. Criminals like their victims isolated.

Still, it's something to consider.

So, I don't worry about it nearly as much as a lot of folks.
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Old 03-07-2005, 05:36 AM   #8
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Overpenetration: A Real Threat or Overexaggerated?

The Mississippi Riverboat captain who was sitting across the card table from Wild Bill Hickok, was a victim of overpenetration. The bullet that killed Hickok lodged in the captain's hand and stayed there until his death many years later. It earned him many free drinks.

Is overpenetration a problem? Yes. However, FBI stats show that in police shootings the hit ratio is 12 percent. That means 88 percent of bullets fired by police officers go flying off into the distance somewhere. I seriously doubt that non-commissioned people have a better hit ratio. So misses are a much more serious problem than overpenetration.
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Old 03-07-2005, 06:52 PM   #9
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Overpenetration: A Real Threat or Overexaggerated?


Interesting statistics. It all boils down to bullet placement, doesn't it!
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Old 03-08-2005, 12:07 PM   #10
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Overpenetration: A Real Threat or Overexaggerated?

I think it's a risk; it does occasionally happen as a poster above noted. To me it's another consideration in the category of the fourth rule: be sure of your target and what's around it.

It does seem like an expanding bullet would destroy more tissue and make a bigger permanet would channel, but maybe not. I've read that Di Maio quote before. Human tissue must be amazingly elastic. In .45 acp, Taurus Hex reportedlyexpands to more than .80 inches, but apparently makes a considerably smaller permanent channel becauuse the copper tines are not sharp and tissue wraps back around it after the bullet has passed.

Still, I carry jhp, but now that I think about it, the main reason is to prevent overpenetration, not in hopes of delivering a devastating blow.

Take that chain of logic further and you come to one advantage of .45: if it failed to expand you'd get two .45 holes, each bigger than what you'd get with a smaller round. Also at 800fps it might pose less of overpenetration threat compared to a 9 mm +p, for instance.

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