CCW Weekend: Handgun Ballistic Bunk

Guns and Gear | Contributor

By Sam Hoober, Alien Gear Holsters

Handgun ballistics are fun to read up on and talk about. They are. They might also be close to pointless. Granted, this isn’t to say everyone should put a .22 in their concealed carry holster and not worry, but more that some healthy skepticism regarding velocity and muzzle energy may be warranted.

There’s also something to be said for the Patrick F. MacManus principle that putting up with gun nuts talking about gun stuff was often something you have to put up with to go on a good hunting trip.

As has been found out again and again, “stopping power” and/or “knockdown power
is basically a lie. Newton’s Third Law has had that particular myth busted since he wrote it down all those years ago in the Principia Mathematica before allegedly inventing the cat door. The force of recoil is equal to that of the impact since every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

No round is really capable of knocking a person down until you get into the larger dangerous game rounds. A .577 Tyrannosaur or .700 Nitro Express may have something like “knockdown power,” but handgun rounds just don’t.

The only thing that stops a person in their tracks with one shot is either the psychological shock of being shot or a hit to the brainstem. The latter is the only 100 percent reliable kill-shot on any organism, let alone human beings.

Blood loss takes minutes to take effect, especially if an attacker is charged with adrenaline after being hit. That is why a deer can run a few hundred yards after taking a round (or arrow) in vital areas. Elk can practically get into the next county.

Speaking of hunting, if you carry for protection but don’t really pursue game, ask a few hunters what they’ve experienced in terms of game going down with one shot. After all, plenty of people who carry and shoot a lot don’t; Hickok45 has one of the biggest gun channels on YouTube and he doesn’t. You’ll likely hear some surprising stories.

Why that matters? Long guns are FAR more proven as manstoppers than handguns. Peruse the classic gun writers that had served as lawmen and shot people in the line of duty. Almost every one of them, to a man, says a long gun is vastly preferred when trouble is imminent. If long guns, therefore, aren’t 100 percent reliable on dropping game animals…then that should tell you just how much ballistics matter when it comes to potentially using one on a human target.

While my opinion and experiences generally aren’t the most relevant (or interesting) to anything concealed carry related, I have had some experience in this regard having shot a bit of game. (I don’t claim to be any good, and definitely have lousy luck.) I’ve shot deer broadside in the vitals at 30 yards with a .30-06, and they just kind of shudder. I’ve seen people shoot them at 300 yards with a .270, and they get stunned, wobble and drop nearly where they stood.

I’ve shot turkeys (and seen them shot) from 15 to 30 yards with 3-inch and 3-½ inch 12-gauge shells, only for them to not only get up, but sprint uphill and fly into the timber. In other instances, the same shell, placed in the same location, drops a different bird of nearly the same size where they stand.

What appears to be the case is that how effective a shot is going to be on an animal or a human attacker comes down to placement and the target’s will to keep going. No criminal has ever said “I’m glad you used that +P ammunition, officer. If it was traveling at 100 fewer feet per second, I would have kept fighting.” If shot enough times and in the right location, they stop. So, while certainly not unimportant, it may be the case that ballistics don’t matter as much as people like to think that they do.

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Sam Hoober is Contributing Editor for, a subsidiary of Hayden, ID, based Tedder Industries, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. Click here to visit

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