Join Date: March 11, 2006
Location: Upper US
If you could ask all the people shot with handguns, including the dead ones, I don't think the majority answer would be that they are weak and ineffective.
Are they as powerful as rifles? Generally no. Todays most powerful pistol rounds are more powerful than the lighter rifles rounds, but they are not common used for defensive purposes.
Stopped is stopped, and dead is dead. The attacker who is stopped by a .38SPL is just as stopped as one stopped by a .375H&H. Which one is more likely to stop an attack? Which one is more likely to do it with a single torso hit? These are very different questions. And,Which one are YOU more likely to be able to do it with? That is yet another, and to me, a more important question.
And, which one is better in a given situation is totally dependant on the specific situation. Somthing going bump in the night, that .38 Colt snubnose is going in my pocket, or my hand while I investigate. If a buffalo decides to punish my car for not being recptive to his amorous advances, I may keep the Colt in my pocket and the Ruger #1 .375H&H would be in my hands, just in case...
Ok, so maybe its not a realisitic situation (although I do have a small herd of buffalo (actually Bison) living just a couple of miles down the road), but I think you get the intent. There is a best tool for every situation.
However, since we cannot be certain to have the best tool, we make do with what will work "best" over the broadest range of easily forseeable circumstances.
Over penetration is a big bug-a-boo, I hear constantly about the "risks" of overpenetration, and danger to innocent bystanders. And that is so, in some situations. But one needs to balance this risk with the fact that a bullet that will not completely penetrate may not penetrate enough from some angles.
Police agencies, who have the overwhelming majority of their shootings happen in populous areas have a different risk perspective than a private citizen in the same place. And lots of us private citizens do not live cheek to jowl packed with other people. We need, and should use a different risk assesment.
Everything works if the bullet gets in the right place. Everything from .22 on up to elephant gun, from FMJ to the most expansive JHP, all work if the bullet gets in the right place. And all FAIL if it does not.
We spend, as a group, a tremendous amount of time, energy, and money doing everything we can think of to increase, (by a small amount) the odds in our favor. Practice, caliber choice, load choice, Practice, etc...considering what might hang in the balance, anything we can do to help tip the odds in our favor is both reasonable, and prudent.
But don't go thinking you and your family are all going to die horribly because your FMJ plinking ammo isn't going to stop an attacker. IT may very well fail to do so, but if it does, it will because of what YOU didn't do, not because of any flaw in it. According to the best info we can get, guns stop attacks more times without being fired than they do when fired. And when fired, FMJ still has the largest number of stops overall. Just because of its widespread history of use.
But those are just numbers, and while useful for consideration, any encounter you or I get into will be a 50/50 event. Either we are successful, or we aren't. We can do a few things to shade the odds in our favor, and we can do A LOT of things to tip the odds against us. Guns and bullets are not magic wands or enchanted swords that never miss or fail. And even orcs get saving throws.
We are not all doomed, and we are not all magically protected, it is what YOU do, with what you have that counts more than what you do it with. That has proven true countless times, and isn't likely to change, ever.
All else being equal (and it almost never is) bigger bullets tend to work better.