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"Explaining the difference between pistol and rifle bullets" Topic

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Last Hussar25 May 2013 3:07 a.m. PST

A colleague couldn't understand why the suspects in the Woolwich murder were still alive, despite being shot multiple times.

I explained that although the 9mm I guess the police were using is heavier than rifle ammo, it moves at about a 1/3 of the speed, so f x V produces less damage.

I found these 2 wiki articles (unfortunately every entry in wiki is laid out differently, making it difficult to compare- the same data isn't on each, and there is none for 5.56).

link – Russian
link – 9mm para

the tables are about half way down

Is Muzzle Energy (7.62) the same measure as Energy (9mm)

I don't need a long technical explanation (some maths is ok), but what is the relative energy imparted by 7.62, 5.56, and 9mm. Just out of interest, what is the ball weight.

Additionally, does anyone know if SO19 uses any kind of 'safety' ammo, and what effect that would have?

Personal logo Rrobbyrobot Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member25 May 2013 4:02 a.m. PST

I don't know. But I'd bet they don't use ball ammo.

Personal logo Saber6 Supporting Member of TMP Fezian25 May 2013 4:30 a.m. PST


Personal logo Doms Decals Sponsoring Member of TMP Inactive Member25 May 2013 4:54 a.m. PST

The relevant one is Kinetic Energy = 1/2 Mass x Velocity Squared. So making a bullet twice as heavy doubles the energy, but making it twice as fast quadruples the energy.

zippyfusenet Inactive Member25 May 2013 5:36 a.m. PST

It's not just the caliber of the bullet. Look at the length of the bullet. Longer bullet for same caliber = more mass.

Look at the relative size of the cartridge cases between pistol and rifle rounds. Much bigger cartridge cases in rifles for similar-sized bullets = more propellant = more go-power for the bullet in the rifle round.

Also the longer barrel of a rifle compared to a pistol allows the same amount of propellant to develop a higher muzzle velocity in a shoulder arm. Muzzle-flash is wasted propellant energy, the shorter the barrel the more is wasted.

A shooter can support more weight and sustain more recoil with a shoulder arm than with a hand gun. (That's one reason removing the shoulder stock and going to pistol grips on a 12-gauge shotgun is problematic.)

To confuse the matter, there are short-barrelled shoulder arms and long-barrelled pistols. There are shoulder arms chambered for pistol rounds. These are properly called carbines. And there are hand guns chambered for what are normally rifle rounds. You can find lots of footage on You-tube of shooters getting smacked in the face by their huge pistols when they let off a round, because they can't control the excessive recoil.

Finally. The 9mm ball pistol round has been known to be deficient as a man-stopper since WWI. On the other hand, when you shoot any size hole anywhere in most people, they lie down, bleed profusely and demand to be taken to a hospital. That's how it worked out in this case.

Personal logo Patrick R Supporting Member of TMP25 May 2013 6:34 a.m. PST

I would add that the police possibly didn't try to inflict lethal injuries in the first place.

Besides wounds ballistics has a strong lottery aspect. Some people are hit by a .22 and instantly drop dead, others take a .50 and don't even notice until somebody points out they are dripping blood on the Persian rug.

Ron W DuBray Inactive Member25 May 2013 7:16 a.m. PST

Also has a lot to do with where a person gets shot. Type of ammo is also a very big factor as in Ball,soft point, hollow point (police use ball type ammo) this type does a lot less damage, and how fast they get medical help

Martin Rapier25 May 2013 10:48 a.m. PST

"I would add that the police possibly didn't try to inflict lethal injuries in the first place."

I remain to be convinced that 'shooting to wound' is anything other than a Hollywood fiction.

Not everyone shot with bullets dies.

Parzival25 May 2013 11:48 a.m. PST

"I would add that the police possibly didn't try to inflict lethal injuries in the first place."

I remain to be convinced that 'shooting to wound' is anything other than a Hollywood fiction.

I understood they had shot the terrorists' legs?

A good shooter should indeed be able to differentiate between the lethal zones (head, upper torso) and potentially non-lethal zones (legs). I imagine that against a machete-wielding opponent, the legs become a safe option, though still a difficult shot. But if the opponent has a gun, you'd better shoot to killó a wounded knife wielder isn't going to rush you, but a wounded gunman can still shoot.

Toaster25 May 2013 2:17 p.m. PST

The problem with the shoot to wound idea is the legs are a moving target and if you hit the femoral artery the perp will bleed out quicker then any chest wound less severe then a shot through the heart. The police are trained to aim for the center of mass it's the easiest target and you don't have to fire a dozen shots to hit the rapidly cycling legs with one while the other 11 rounds ricochet into the bystanders.


zippyfusenet Inactive Member25 May 2013 3:33 p.m. PST

A good shooter should indeed be able to differentiate between the lethal zones (head, upper torso) and potentially non-lethal zones (legs).

If the target is standing still and you have time for an aimed shot, maybe. If the target is running around, shooting back, there are bystanders present, forget it. Aim for center-of-mass and put him down as fast as you can.

You shouldn't shoot anyone you don't want to kill. Really. Ever.

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP In the TMP Dawghouse25 May 2013 5:25 p.m. PST

Cops should be trained to do leathal shots, if they go cowboy and starts aiming at legs and arms like some hollywood hero, it's bad, it's hard enough to hit center mass when bullets are flying, trying to hit something much smaller like an arm og leg is not a good choice, norwegian police often hit people in the leg, I'm not sure if they are just bad shots and hit the leg by accidents or if they are using their .38 reovlers as some sort of less then leathal weapons. Guns are not less then leathal, and don't try and make them so, if you have to fire your gun, do so to kill, it's for your own and civilians saftey.

As to why they are still alive, even in ww2, with rifles fireing more powerfull rounds then the 7.62 nato, most people shot survived. there are only 2 ways bullets kill, exangunation, death by blood/fluid loss and if the brain stem is destoyed. natural most people aren't shot in the brain stem, so most people die from blood loss. this take from seconds to days depending on the wound.

If you can keep the blood pressure up, wither by IV fluids or better still blood transfution, you can almost keep anybody alive indefinatly. sure is you got a bullet that has destroyed your liver, you most likely won't surive, but even in korea, people with liver and kindey, lung damage did surivive, if they got shot, they got fluids or IV, then sent by air or regual ambulance, once you got to a MASH you have a 95% chance of survival.

So yes bullets can kill you if you get shot in the foot, or you can surivce 3 rifle bullets to the chest, in the end, it's random, some bodies are frailer, some are not, some bullets hit the chest but miss lungs and heart, some get shot in the thigh and bleed to death in 3 minutes. ITS RANDOM. sure if you aim center mass fire twice, there is a good chance whom ever you shot will fall down and stay down, also known as knowdown power, is is an overload in the body, massive damage and force to the body, makes it shut down, some bullets are better at this then others, the .45 is far superior to the 9mm at this. the 7.62 is superior to the 5.56, (tho the 5.56 is deadly when the right ammo is used for the right gun) but when they fall down they are not dead!!

Again, only way to instantly kill someone with a gun, is to shoot the brain stem, all others shots will take some time to kill from blood loss. so this guy you shot that is laying there on the ground, might be dead in 50 seconds or 40 minutes, but he will probebly not regain consiousness before he is dead, unless he gets medical treatment. if he does, he might surivce.

Personal logo Dan Cyr Supporting Member of TMP25 May 2013 10:11 p.m. PST

Trained shooters aim or fire for the "triangle" (shoulders and waist). Most people, even trained shooters, miss most shots in the moment. Pistol shooting beyond a few yards requires skill AND luck. Note the 300 rounds plus shot by the police in Mass when they killed one and wounded the other bomber (and shot at least one of their own).

I shot the .45 while in the army and think they made a real mistake when they stopped using it as standard issue. Shoot someone anywhere but thru the tip of their nose, ear lobes or fingers and they are going down. There was a reason the .45 was developed.


Martin from Canada26 May 2013 5:52 a.m. PST

This may be slightly off-topic, but there is also the whole Hydrostatic Shock effect.

I have the scientific paper on which this is based, but I can't seem to find it right now. Anyways, there's an article in Outdoor life that sums it up nicely.

This epiphany came about a couple of years back when I was passing a pleasant afternoon in a bird-watching blind in the wilds of Namibia. A previous guest had obligingly left a few copies of a South African outdoor magazine and as I idly leafed through the pages my attention was arrested by an article on knockdown effect. It was not the same tired old stuff about ballistics and penetration, but the result of a controlled study carried out by professional veterinarians engaged in a buffalo culling operation.

Whereas virtually all of our opinions about knockdown power are based on isolated examples, the data gathered during the culling operation was taken from a number of animals. Even more important, the animals were then examined and dissected in a scientific manner by professionals.

Predictably, some of the buffalo dropped where they were shot and some didn't, even though all received near-identical hits in the vital heart-lung area. When the brains of all the buffalo were removed, the researchers discovered that those that had been knocked down instantly had suffered massive rupturing of blood vessels in the brain. The brains of animals that hadn't fallen instantly showed no such damage. So what is the connection?

Their conclusion was that the bullets that killed instantly had struck just at the moment of the animal's heartbeat! The arteries to the brain, already carrying a full surge of blood pressure, received a mega-dose of additional pressure from the bullet's impact, thus creating a blood pressure overload and rupturing the vessels.

If this is the key to the "knockdown" mystery, it has answered a lot of previously unanswered questions. It's certainly the best explanation of knockdown I've heard yet, but it also poses a new quandary. How do we time a shot to hit on the beat? Let the debate begin.

And so, pistol bullet < rifle bullet, and thus smaller time window for lights out effect.

Personal logo Patrick R Supporting Member of TMP26 May 2013 8:37 a.m. PST

Hydrostatic shock was invented by the marketing department trying to sell the 5.56mm to the army.

Everybody was convinced that the ammo was underpowered and not an effective military round.

Then some clever guy started the following idea. Water doesn't expand, a human body is 70% water so a hyper-velocity impact should create highly destructive shockwaves inside the body. They set up a bunch of tests to prove this by shooting tightly sealed cans filled to the brim with water or other water-filled targets with a hard and rigid exterior. This creates some very spectacular explosive effects when hit, but of course this has no bearing with reality because humans are not a rigid container filled with only water. The key lies in the 30% remaining non-water stuff and the fact that water in the human body is rarely present in pure concentrate liquid form (and the all-important rigid exterior), it's part of our tissues which are very elastic and diffuse those imaginary shockwaves tearing up the body. People always try to show the lacerations caused by "hydrostatic shock" in bullet wounds, but they never spread beyond the immediate vicinity of the actual wound channel. So the effect is minimal and does not travel very far inside the body.

In fact ultrasonic waves used to crush kidney stones are far more powerful than the ones created by a 5.56mm impact and they don't tear up the subject as hydrostatic shock requires. In addition the FBI did some research on the subject and aside from a few very particular cases (see below) they found no evidence of hydrostatic shock being a real phenomenon.

Now the 5.56mm turned out to be more lethal than the naked ballistics suggest and it was discovered that a small, lightweight bullet travelling very fast is inherently highly unstable. As soon as it hits anything it starts to tumble and the tumbling action is what causes highly effective injuries (that and the fragmentation of the bullet). Larger bullets like the 7.62 and the 30-06 do their work the old fashioned way through bullet trauma, smashing up bone and putting big holes in organs to let in the air and the blood out.

I've heard claims that a 5.56mm hitting you in the little finger would cause your internal organs to explode, this is just self perpetuating BS, forensic scientists have yet to find such a case.

Now there are organs in the body that are not very flexible and a direct impact is pretty devastating (the spleen being one IIRC and the brain, being encased in the skull is another such example, but given the sensitivity and vital function of the brain any impact even without the skull amplifying the effect is likely to cause major injuries, but then again these effects would be the same for any bullet and not limited to the magical high-velocity 5.56mm and its hydrostatic shock.

And despite a total lack of evidence supporting the hypothesis of hydrostatic shock as originally conceived, people are still convinced it exists and they try come up with a bunch of ideas to prove it does exist.

Conventional ballistics and wound analysis covers the effect of small, high-velocity ammo very effectively, and you don't need some kind of magic shockwave effect to explain it.

Personal logo Patrick R Supporting Member of TMP26 May 2013 8:58 a.m. PST

I knew I was opening a can of worms when I suggested they didn't try to inflict lethal injuries.

The whole shoot the legs thing is mostly Bleeped text (though it is still attempted by some)

Most cops and military are trained to shoot the centre of body mass, because it's the easiest target and contains enough vital areas that would hit the perps' "off switch" This method is considered the most effective to take down a target, but doesn't guarantee the target will be dead.

But there are cases where a very fast, incapacitating/fatal wound is preferable (suicide bombers etc) and there are techniques like the double or triple tap to the head. These are taught to special forces, SWAT etc.

UK Armed police is either not fully trained for this or will not resort to this method if they believe the situation is best resolved with more conventional technique, since the more lethal techniques tend to generate negative feelings (the De Menezes case comes to mind here)

At the end of the day guns are still lethal force, they don't have a stun setting. Guns work by putting holes into people, sometimes it kills them, sometimes it doesn't, what and how you shoot somebody with can make a difference, but some people will die from what looks like a minor injury while others are technically dead, but can still cause a storm before the reality of it finally gets to them (cf the 1986, FBI Miami shootout)

McKinstry Fezian26 May 2013 10:45 a.m. PST

Most people, even trained shooters, miss most shots in the moment.

Toss in a racing heartbeat, rapid breathing, variable light conditions, a moving target that is likely trying to do harm to you and all that adrenaline dumping into your system and it is hard to hit at stunningly close ranges.

Only Warlock Inactive Member26 May 2013 4:50 p.m. PST

Trained shooters ALWAYS go for the Center of Mass. There is no such thing as "Shooting to wound", that is pure Hollywood fabrication.

If the police were trying to do >that< they should be immediately dismissed.

If you decide Lethal force is necessary, you shoot to kill.

Anything else is Taser Work.

The only time you go anywhere else is if the target is in Body Armor. It is HARD to hit a Man Sized target that is maneuvering at even a range as short as 20 feet. that is why police generally empty the clip to ensure hits.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP26 May 2013 5:50 p.m. PST

I remember one Mythbusters episode where they looked at the standard TV/Movie bit of someone shooting a padlock with a gun and getting it open. Well, they took a pretty standard padlock and began shooting different guns at it (I guess they used a new lock for each shot). Well, the pistols didn't do so well. Even big .44 Magnums and such just made small dents.

Then the switched to an M-1 Garand. Only 30 caliber, but BOOM! First shot and the padlock just disintegrated!

A lot more energy in a long gun.

Martin from Canada26 May 2013 7:55 p.m. PST

Patrick R,

I was simply relating it to the "Lights out" knockdown that could sometimes be achieved with a well placed bullet in the right area at the right time.

In fact, the article goes on to point in the opposite direction of what you're implying.

It simply states that when culling wild buffalo in South Africa, the ones that fell as if a switch had been flipped all had burst blood vessels in the brain during the autopsy despite all being shot in the heart/lung area. The conjecture is that if the bullet hits a major artery when the artery is at high pressure, the over-pressure might burst blood vessels in the brain. The original article (the one I can't find at the moment) also postulates that more energy in the bullet will give a bigger "window" in order to achieve blood pressure high enough to burst vessels.

Personal logo Bowman Supporting Member of TMP27 May 2013 3:56 a.m. PST

The problem with the shoot to wound idea is the legs are a moving target and if you hit the femoral artery the perp will bleed out quicker then any chest wound less severe then a shot through the heart.

Or, the aorta.

Klebert L Hall Inactive Member27 May 2013 8:13 a.m. PST

The real answer as to why they lived is probably just that they didn't get shot anywhere instantly fatal, and got prompt modern medical attention.

People can get shot in the torso and or head and live.

As for your original question:

9mm Luger – Bullet weights range from 88 to 147 grains, generally.
Muzzle velocity ranges from around 900 to around 1500 feet/second.
Muzzle energy ranges from around 275 to around 475 pound/feet .

5.56mm NATO / .223 – Bullet weight 30 – 70 grains generally.
Muzzle velocity from around 2800-3700 fps.
Muzzle energy from around 950-1500 lb/ft.

7.62mm NATO / .308 – Bullet weight 110 – 200 grains generally.
Muzzle velocity from around 2400-3200 fps.
Muzzle energy from around 2100-2800 lb/ft.


Parzival27 May 2013 9:58 a.m. PST

Ah, I stand corrected. Since according to the brief reports I had seen, the two thugs weren't running, but more or less hanging about, taunting people to video them, I assumed there might have been a static moment where a leg shot was feasible. So either the reports of leg shots were wrong, and they were hit in the torso (though not fatally), or the shots missed the torso but "accidentally" hit the legs. Given journalism's track record on stuff like this, I'll go with "the reports of leg shots were wrong."

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP In the TMP Dawghouse28 May 2013 1:56 p.m. PST

I remember reading Black Hawk Down, and both delta and Rangers used armor pericing 5.56 ammo, not only that but because delta used the short barrled colt commadoes the 5.56 didn't each the magical speed to thumble.

So when both delta and rangers shot somalies(that did not have armor) the bullets when right through then, so unless you hit them in the head, heart og spine, they could still fire back.

And because the bullets overpenitrated, the deltas used their .45s not only did it have better stopping power then the 5.56 but didn't over peintrate so the chances of hitting your own people was less.

There was also a part were one of the deltas cursed to him self for making fun of Randy Shugrart for his M14, but now his Colt commando couldn't stop a rabbit with a single shot, while Shugarts M14 was a one shot one kill weapon,

Last Hussar04 Jun 2013 10:02 a.m. PST

Kle wins the "reading the original post prize, which is a night with the OFM.

Cheers mate, copied and emailed

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