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Markinsa

The FBI picks 9mm because: Science

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The FBI picks 9mm because: Science

UPDATE: The FBI’s solicitation for 9mm handguns generated a flood of questions from state and local agencies, many who carry .40, about the change. The FBI drove the initial move from 9mm to .40 for many of these same agencies.  As new details come to light about the FBI’s ultimate choice, expect more details here.  Below is a statement was prepared the FBI Training Division to answer those questions and was intended for dissemination to law enforcement agencies. It was not classified Law Enforcement Sensitive and has spread to civilians. I have confirmed its origin and feel that its release poses no threat to law enforcement while providing enlightening science, paid for by taxpayer dollars, to the public.

Some of this information was published by Loose Rounds on September 21, 2014.

After the Miami Shootout in 1986, the FBI invented modern ammunition testing and led the law-enforcement movement to .40 caliber. The FBI is very conservative, and has one of the best ballistics labs in the world.

With the amazing 21st-century advances in ammunition technology, many people have advocated a move back to 9mm. Recently, the FBI announced they were buying a new gun in 9mm. When the FBI makes a move like that, they have thought it through very thoroughly.

I respect the science and how hard it was for them to make this change. The FBI takes their leadership role in law enforcement very seriously. Below is their carefully crafted message, sent to other agencies, explaining their reasons.

FBI 9MM Justification

FBI Training Division: FBI Academy, Quantico, VA

Executive Summary of Justification for Law Enforcement Partners

· Caliber debates have existed in law enforcement for decades

· Most of what is “common knowledge” with ammunition and its effects on the human target are rooted in myth and folklore

· Projectiles are what ultimately wound our adversaries and the projectile needs to be the basis for the discussion on what “caliber” is best

· In all the major law enforcement calibers there exist projectiles which have a high likelihood of failing LEO’s in a shooting incident and there are projectiles which have a high ting incident likelihood of succeeding for LEOs in a shooting incident

· Handgun stopping power is simply a myth

· The single most important factor in effectively wounding a human target is to have penetration to a scientifically valid depth (FBI uses 12” – 18”)

· LEOs miss between 70 – 80 percent of the shots fired during a shooting incident

· Contemporary projectiles (since 2007) have dramatically increased the terminal effectiveness of many premium line law enforcement projectiles (emphasis on the 9mm Luger offerings)

· 9mm Luger now offers select projectiles which are, under identical testing conditions, I outperforming most of the premium line .40 S&W and .45 Auto projectiles tested by the FBI

· 9mm Luger offers higher magazine capacities, less recoil, lower cost (both in ammunition and wear on the weapons) and higher functional reliability rates (in FBI weapons)

· The majority of FBI shooters are both FASTER in shot strings fired and more ACCURATE with shooting a 9mm Luger vs shooting a .40 S&W (similar sized weapons)

· There is little to no noticeable difference in the wound tracks between premium line law Auto enforcement projectiles from 9mm Luger through the .45 Auto

· Given contemporary bullet construction, LEO’s can field (with proper bullet selection) 9mm Lugers with all of the terminal performance potential of any other law enforcement pistol caliber with none of the disadvantages present with the “larger” calibers

Justification for Law Enforcement Partners

Rarely in law enforcement does a topic stir a more passionate debate than the choice of handgun caliber made by a law enforcement organization. Many voice their opinions by repeating the old adage “bigger is better” while others have “heard of this one time” where a smaller caliber failed and a larger caliber “would have performed much better.” Some even subscribe to the belief that a caliber exists which will provide a “one shot stop.” It has been stated, “Decisions on ammunition selection are particularly difficult because many of the pertinent issues related to handguns and ammunition are firmly rooted in myth and folklore.” This still holds as true today as it did when originally stated 20 years ago.

Caliber, when considered alone, brings about a unique set of factors to consider such as magazine capacity for a given weapon size, ammunition availability, felt recoil, weight and cost. What is rarely discussed, but most relevant to the caliber debate is what projectile is being considered for use and its terminal performance potential.

One should never debate on a gun make or caliber alone. The projectile is what wounds and ultimately this is where the debate/discussion should focus. In each of the three most common law enforcement handgun calibers (9mm Luger, .40 Smith & Wesson and .45 AUTO) there are projectiles which have a high likelihood of failing law enforcement officers and in each of these three calibers there are projectiles which have a high likelihood of succeeding for law enforcement officers during a shooting incident. The choice of a service projectile must undergo intense scrutiny and scientific evaluation in order to select the best available option.

Understanding Handgun Caliber Terminal Ballistic Realities

Many so called “studies” have been performed and many analyses of statistical data have been undertaken regarding this issue. Studies simply involving shooting deaths are irrelevant since the goal of law enforcement is to stop a threat during a deadly force encounter as quickly as possible. Whether or not death occurs is of no consequence as long as the threat of death or serious injury to law enforcement personnel and innocent third parties is eliminated.

“The concept of immediate incapacitation is the only goal of any law enforcement shooting and is the underlying rationale for decisions regarding weapons, ammunition, calibers and training.”1

Studies of “stopping power” are irrelevant because no one has ever been able to define how much power, force, or kinetic energy, in and of itself, is required to effectively stop a violent and determined adversary quickly, and even the largest of handgun calibers are not capable of delivering such force. Handgun stopping power is simply a myth. Studies of so?called “one shot stops” being used as a tool to define the effectiveness of one handgun cartridge, as opposed to another, are irrelevant due to the inability to account for psychological influences and due to the lack of reporting specific shot placement.

In short, extensive studies have been done over the years to “prove” a certain cartridge is better than another by using grossly flawed methodology and or bias as a precursor to manipulating statistics. In order to have a meaningful understanding of handgun terminal ballistics, one must only deal with facts that are not in dispute within the medical community, i.e. medical realities, and those which are also generally accepted within law enforcement, i.e. tactical realities.

Medical Realities

Shots to the Central Nervous System (CNS) at the level of the cervical spine (neck) or above, are the only means to reliably cause immediate incapacitation. In this case, any of the calibers commonly used in law enforcement, regardless of expansion, would suffice for obvious reasons. Other than shots to the CNS, the most reliable means for affecting rapid incapacitation is by placing shots to large vital organs thus causing rapid blood loss. Simply stated, shot placement is the most critical component to achieving either method of incapacitation.

Wounding factors between rifle and handgun projectiles differ greatly due to the dramatic differences in velocity, which will be discussed in more detail herein. The wounding factors, in order of importance, are as follows:

A. Penetration:

A projectile must penetrate deeply enough into the body to reach the large vital organs, namely heart, lungs, aorta, vena cava and to a lesser extent liver and spleen, in order to cause rapid blood loss. It has long been established by expert medical professionals, experienced in evaluating gunshot wounds, that this equates to a range of penetration of 12?18 inches, depending on the size of the individual and the angle of the bullet path (e.g., through arm, shoulder, etc.). With modern properly designed, expanding handgun bullets, this objective is realized, albeit more consistently with some law enforcement projectiles than others. 1 Handgun Wounding Factors and Effectiveness: Firearms Training Unit, Ballistic Research Facility, 1989.

B. Permanent Cavity:

The extent to which a projectile expands determines the diameter of the permanent cavity which, simply put, is that tissue which is in direct contact with the projectile and is therefore destroyed. Coupled with the distance of the path of the projectile (penetration), the total permanent cavity is realized. Due to the elastic nature of most human tissue and the low velocity of handgun projectiles relative to rifle projectiles, it has long been established by medical professionals, experienced in evaluating gunshot wounds, that the damage along a wound path visible at autopsy or during surgery cannot be distinguished between the common handgun calibers used in law enforcement. That is to say an operating room surgeon or Medical Examiner cannot distinguish the difference between wounds caused by .35 to .45 caliber projectiles.

C. Temporary Cavity:

The temporary cavity is caused by tissue being stretched away from the permanent cavity. If the temporary cavity is produced rapidly enough in elastic tissues, the tensile strength of the tissue can be exceeded resulting in tearing of the tissue. This effect is seen with very high velocity projectiles such as in rifle calibers, but is not seen with handgun calibers. For the temporary cavity of most handgun projectiles to have an effect on wounding, the velocity of the projectile needs to exceed roughly 2,000 fps. At the lower velocities of handgun rounds, the temporary cavity is not produced with sufficient velocity to have any wounding effect; therefore any difference in temporary cavity noted between handgun calibers is irrelevant. “In order to cause significant injuries to a structure, a pistol bullet must strike that structure directly.”2 2 DiMaio, V.J.M.: Gunshot Wounds, Elsevier Science Publishing Company, New York, NY, 1987, page 42.

D. Fragmentation:

Fragmentation can be defined as “projectile pieces or secondary fragments of bone which are impelled outward from the permanent cavity and may sever muscle tissues, blood vessels, etc., apart from the permanent cavity”3. Fragmentation does not reliably occur in soft tissue handgun wounds due to the low velocities of handgun bullets. When fragmentation does occur, fragments are usually found within one centimeter (.39”) of the permanent cavity.4 Due to the fact that most modern premium law enforcement ammunition now commonly uses bonded projectiles (copper jacket bonded to lead core), the likelihood of fragmentation is very low. For these reasons, wounding effects secondary to any handgun caliber bullet fragmentation are considered inconsequential. 3 Fackler, M.L., Malinowski, J.A.: “The Wound Profile: A Visual Method for Quantifying Gunshot Wound Components”, Journal of Trauma 25: 522?529, 1958. 4 Handgun Wounding Factors and Effectiveness: Firearms Training Unit, Ballistic Research Facility, 1989.

Psychology

Any discussion of stopping armed adversaries with a handgun has to include the psychological state of the adversary. Psychological factors are probably the most important relative to achieving rapid incapacitation from a gunshot wound to the torso.5 First and foremost, the psychological effects of being shot can never be counted on to stop an individual from continuing conscious voluntary action. Those who do stop commonly do so because they decide to, not because they have to.

The effects of pain are often delayed due to survival patterns secondary to “fight or flight” reactions within the body, drug/alcohol influences and in the case of extreme anger or aggression, pain can simply be ignored. Those subjects who decide to stop immediately after being shot in the torso do so commonly because they know they have been shot and are afraid of injury or death, regardless of caliber, velocity, or bullet design. It should also be noted that psychological factors can be a leading cause of incapacitation failures and as such, proper shot placement, adequate penetration, and multiple shots on target cannot be over emphasized. 5 Ibid.

Tactical Realities

Shot placement is paramount and law enforcement officers on average strike an adversary with only 20 – 30 percent of the shots fired during a shooting incident. Given the reality that shot placement is paramount (and difficult to achieve given the myriad of variables present in a deadly force encounter) in obtaining effective incapacitation, the caliber used must maximize the likelihood of hitting vital organs. Typical law enforcement shootings result in only one or two solid torso hits on the adversary. This requires that any projectile which strikes the torso has as high a probability as possible of penetrating deeply enough to disrupt a vital organ.

The Ballistic Research Facility has conducted a test which compares similar sized Glock pistols in both .40 S&W and 9mm calibers, to determine if more accurate and faster hits are achievable with one versus the other. To date, the majority of the study participants have shot more quickly and more accurately with 9mm caliber Glock pistols. The 9mm provides struggling shooters the best chance of success while improving the speed and accuracy of the most skilled shooters.

Conclusion

While some law enforcement agencies have transitioned to larger calibers from the 9mm Luger in recent years, they do so at the expense of reduced magazine capacity, more felt recoil, and given adequate projectile selection, no discernible increase in terminal performance.

Other law enforcement organizations seem to be making the move back to 9mm Luger taking advantage of the new technologies which are being applied to 9mm Luger projectiles. These organizations are providing their armed personnel the best chance of surviving a deadly force encounter since they can expect faster and more accurate shot strings, higher magazine capacities (similar sized weapons) and all of the terminal performance which can be expected from any law enforcement caliber projectile.

Given the above realities and the fact that numerous ammunition manufacturers now make 9mm Luger service ammunition with outstanding premium line law enforcement projectiles, the move to 9mm Luger can now be viewed as a decided advantage for our armed law enforcement personnel.

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Thanks Markinsa ! For personal up close self defense I'll take my S&W 40 cal any day over a 9mm, my brother prefers his Colt 45. One thing is certain I don't need more than one round up close, the extra is just my adrenaline kicking in.

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I like my 357 mag.  Plenty of damage capability and penetration. 

Nice article.  

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I personally have a S&W M&P 40C.  I'm getting comfortable shooting it, but I can understand the FBI's reasoning.  You can definately get more rounds off in a shorter period of time with a 9 vs 40, 45.

 

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Thanks Mark.  I saw an article similar to this about 6 years back when researching the best caliber for everyday conceal carry.  At that time the FBI and most police depts were going with the .40SW due to better stopping power and less chance of over penetration than with the 9MM, so I went with the Walther PPS .40SW.  At the time the PPS was the slimmest semi-auto for conceal carry and, due to a previous partial amputation of my trigger finger many years ago, it was the only compact semi-auto that fit my hand properly (thankfully not a problem with full size semi’s or revolvers).

More recently I saw an article like the OP regarding LEOs switching back to the 9MM because of the newer 9MM bullets which have remedied the main disadvantages of this caliber.  After reading that article I began researching the 9MM bullets to see which would be best and how the new 9MM compare to the 40SW before committing to changing my carry weapon.

I found a website that tested many different bullets in .380, 9MM, 40SW, & .45ACP.  The website started with a long explanation of their testing procedures and then they detail the results for each brand of bullet tested.  They have a link for every projectile tested that includes penetration and expansion of each bullet along with a video of each bullet fired into ballistic gel.  Too much information to post on its own so I will include a link here.

http://www.luckygunner.com/labs/self-defense-ammo-ballistic-tests/

What I discovered is that all hollow points are not alike by any means.  Before buying any ammunition it would behoove you to check this information.  After looking at the OP and these tests I concluded I will be getting a new Walter PPS only this time it will be a 9MM, that way I will not have to change my Crossbreed Supertuck holster.

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Think I'm covered - Have a Targus in 9mm, Smith and Wesson in .40 and a European Arms America revolver in .45 LC

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Personally, I prefer my .45. It's not my intent to get into gun fights out in the street where I need 14, 15 17 round magazines. 8 rounds is a good start.  My .45  is going to knock down whatever I hit and if I need another round...

A lot depends on the ammo that you use as well. I keep Remington Ultimate Defense hollow point rounds in my weapon for defense. I will say that I'm intrigued by G2 Research R.I.P. rounds. They just look nasty.

I also find it interesting that the military is quietly looking at returning to a .45 weapon after 20 or 30 years with the 9mm. The argument is greater knockdown power at close range.

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One Christmas my son (Federal Agent) gifted me with his old gun.

S&W MP40 - it shoots better then any pistol I have ever shot. The only drawback is that it does not have a safety so while I carry I can not have a round in the chamber.

Fits like a glove in my large hands!

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6 hours ago, 429 said:

A lot depends on the ammo that you use as well. I keep Remington Ultimate Defense hollow point rounds in my weapon for defense. I will say that I'm intrigued by G2 Research R.I.P. rounds. They just look nasty.

Those are in mine. :twothumbs: I haven't shot anything with them yet. :lol:  I need to find a place somewhere around town so I can test them out.  They're expensive too!  I think it was $40 for 20 rds.

I put 10 in mine, and gave my brother the other 10 for his.

 

 

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On May 8, 2016 at 9:26 AM, RV ME said:

Thanks Mark.  I saw an article similar to this about 6 years back when researching the best caliber for everyday conceal carry.  At that time the FBI and most police depts were going with the .40SW due to better stopping power and less chance of over penetration than with the 9MM, so I went with the Walther PPS .40SW.  At the time the PPS was the slimmest semi-auto for conceal carry and, due to a previous partial amputation of my trigger finger many years ago, it was the only compact semi-auto that fit my hand properly (thankfully not a problem with full size semi’s or revolvers).

 

More recently I saw an article like the OP regarding LEOs switching back to the 9MM because of the newer 9MM bullets which have remedied the main disadvantages of this caliber.  After reading that article I began researching the 9MM bullets to see which would be best and how the new 9MM compare to the 40SW before committing to changing my carry weapon.

 

I found a website that tested many different bullets in .380, 9MM, 40SW, & .45ACP.  The website started with a long explanation of their testing procedures and then they detail the results for each brand of bullet tested.  They have a link for every projectile tested that includes penetration and expansion of each bullet along with a video of each bullet fired into ballistic gel.  Too much information to post on its own so I will include a link here.

http://www.luckygunner.com/labs/self-defense-ammo-ballistic-tests/

 

What I discovered is that all hollow points are not alike by any means.  Before buying any ammunition it would behoove you to check this information.  After looking at the OP and these tests I concluded I will be getting a new Walter PPS only this time it will be a 9MM, that way I will not have to change my Crossbreed Supertuck holster.

 

 
Thanks for the awesome link RV ME!  Here's a short video about their research...
 
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