May 19, 2010

Panic! Hysteria! Doom!

Or it could just be pandering and a lack of fact-checking.

A friend sent me a link to a "news" story today, entitled "Army OKs Hollow-Point Bullets" and the tag line, "The Pentagon's new plan to stop shootings on bases: Give MPs lethal handgun ammo that's banned for use in wars."

Without even clicking through the link, my first reaction was, "What, they issue blanks now?"

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A NON-LETHAL HANDGUN BULLET.

Let me repeat, in case you didn't catch it the first time:

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A NON-LETHAL HANDGUN BULLET.

I took a deep breath and clicked through to the article. It's roughly what I expected based on the tag line. Misinformation, mistakes, and hysteria.

"These rounds [...] feature a small depression cut into the slug's nose, usually filled with notched steel."

Not exactly. Yes, there is a cavity or depression in the nose - hence the name "hollow point" - but it is not filled with notched anything. The metal seen inside is generally lead or some alloy thereof, and the metal around the lead is copper. Steel is very unusual in bullets because it tends to damage steel barrels rather quickly. No modern ammo made in the US is going to have a steel jacket.

"their kinetic energy is lower"

Sorry, no. A 115gr 9mm slug at 1200fps has the same energy regardless of bullet shape. (And actually, the 115gr JHPs stuffed in my S&W are about 60fps faster than the 115gr FMJs I use for practice.) What a hollowpoint will do is shed that energy much faster in its target - and expand in the process. A wider wound channel and more energy deposited in the target generally leads to faster incapacitation.

"[A]s Norman Siegel of the New York Civil Liberties Union asked in '98: What about when an innocent bystander—or another police officer—is what the bullet hits directly?"

Shooters learn, early on, that they are responsible for the final resting place of each and every bullet that leaves the muzzle of their gun. Police officers and MP/SP are no different. If that bullet hits something other than the intended target, they are liable for it.

"It's also not obvious to me that hollow-point bullets would have made much difference when Sgt. John Russell killed five soldiers last May on Baghdad's Camp Liberty"

Red herring. Camp Liberty is in a foreign country AND a combat zone, this directive only applies to Army installations *in the US*. The military won't issue HP ammo in a combat zone to begin with due to the Hague Conventions; usage of HP ammo in foreign countries would depend on agreements established with the host government.

In the comments, this winner:
"I can't understand why they made a choice based on what would fuck people up more."

They made that choice because when the decision to use lethal force has been reached, the goal is to STOP the threat as quickly as possible. If the same goal can be achieved with two or three shots of JHP instead of a magazine full of FMJ ammo, that is undeniably a faster stop. Fewer rounds in the air also means fewer chances of a bystander being struck.

There is a reason that nearly every police agency in the US is using hollowpoints, and nearly every person who carries their own handgun loads it with hollowpoints: THEY WORK.

Oh, and one last time, in case you missed it before:

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A NON-LETHAL HANDGUN BULLET.

(The original article can be found here, in the Army Times.)

3 comments:

Michelle said...

Hey BEC, glad you enjoyed the article *chuckles*
I figured you'd have plenty to say about it, but I was not expecting a WHOLE blog entry about it! Lol!

Tam said...

The stupid, it burns!

ZerCool said...

@Michelle - I was going to comment in the article, but the stupid over there was just too thick.

@Tam - painfully so.