Stopping power – it’s all about bullet placement

We’ve spoken about the so-called “stopping power” of firearms in these pages before, specifically in this three part article.  Basically, no handgun has much “stopping power” compared to a rifle or shotgun, and we’d do well to bear that in mind.  What makes the difference is where the bad guy gets shot.  A central nervous system hit – specifically, in the brain stem or spinal cord – will shut down the fight right there and then.  Anything else might not do so.

Two videos came my way via e-mail this week that illustrate that reality very clearly.  WARNING:  These videos show people getting shot, and in one case, getting killed.  If you’re squeamish about such things, DO NOT WATCH THEM!

In the first incident, shown below from two perspectives, an agitated man at Dallas Love Field airport attacked police.  He was shot four times, but was able to get up and attack again, being shot five more times for a total of nine hits.  He survived them all, and is facing criminal charges.

The first video is silent, from surveillance cameras.  The second was taken by a bystander, and the nine shots can be heard clearly.

In the second shooting, two criminals try to hold up a store clerk at gunpoint.  He fires a single shot at point-blank range into the face of the nearest criminal, who drops to the ground, dead right there.  It’s a perfect example of a central nervous system hit, probably taking out the brain stem.

That’s “stopping power”.  One shot in the right place – the cartridge and caliber were basically irrelevant.  It might have been a lowly .22LR, or a full-house .45 ACP.  Doesn’t matter.  It was in the right place.  In the first incident, the first four shots were clearly not in the right place, because the attacker got up and continued his attack;  and the last five shots stopped the attack, but didn’t kill him.

It’s all about bullet placement.



  1. Wow, did you see Sgt. Flab McPorkbutt coming to the rescue on the Segway? He comes rolling up nonchalantly, moves an innocent into the line of fire, and then has to calm his nervous mount while the other guys are neutralizing the threat. Some critters just don't take to loud noise I guess.

    I mean, wow….. glad it wasn't ALL up to him.


  2. Hey, man, don't be so harsh–without Blart they'd have been lost.
    I think we've finally found the legendary Gecko45. He quit the mall job & moved to Dallas. He's probably an up-&-coming star at TSA.
    –Tennessee Budd

  3. Nice post. The first time I shot in practical carry competition, I couldn't hit a thing. Those plates just sat on the rail and looked at me. I finally calmed myself down and hammered 'em, but it took a while and a lot of ammo. A good friend of mine was reloading the magazines as I dropped them, and I think it took about 50 plus shots to clear a course designed for 15.

    Well, the second time around I shot a Colt Python in .357, and did a good deal better, clearing the first third of the course in the required 8 shots.

    I had a great time that day, and I've still got the score card around somewhere. I finished in the middle, which I'm still very proud of. The men and women that finished in the top five shot .38 super race guns, and they could take the targets down as fast as I could pull the trigger on anything.

    This is something that the gunfighters of the Old West emphasized after a fashion, that shooting at a paper target at the range is one thing, shooting under pressure (buck fever, anyone?) is another thing, but being able to hit anything when there's someone shooting at you is something else entirely.

  4. It looks like the clerk fires at least twice, perhaps three times. What appears to be the third is after the body hits the floor.

  5. Back when the Dallas and airport police wasn't losing competent officers to the surrounding cities and suburbs they shot better.

    They also used some effective loads that tended to be eventually fatal if not immediate due to good placement. There were some complaints from trauma surgeons about Black Talon bullets and the ilk back in the day, but mainly that well placed center of mass shots were irreparable.

  6. With the wide spread availability of body armor, this is one more argument for going to a smaller higher capacity firearm. If one is to be shooting at a smaller target, might as well have a few more shots available.

  7. My hunting friends have 2 terms for a shot that drops the target;
    Trip Switch = Head shot.
    Engine room = heart/lungs.
    The first one is the more difficult but yields more Biltong. 😉

  8. Those cops just didn't buy the right magic bullet! Heck, I was down at Bass Pro this weekend and they had shelves full of stuff that all GUARANTEED TO make me invincible.

    So I bought some of each and loaded one of each until I filled the magazine. Groups got kind of messy but hell, one of 'em's GOTTA work, right?

    /jes kiddin

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