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Old December 27, 2011, 08:42 AM   #1
Don P
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Reloads for Personal Defence

Last night on the Sportsman's Channel they did a segment on ammunition for personal defense. Massad Ayoob did the segment and he stated this with regards to ballistic analysis.
When factory ammo is used in a SD shooting they can check as he "stated inch by inch to duplicate gun shot residue because they have factory back specifications to work with. As far as reloads for SD goes they would have no data to back up the shooters claim as far as ballistics go".
I did not post this to start the old reloads verse factory for SD. Just passing along some info which to me sounds like experience talking and sharing advise.
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Old December 27, 2011, 08:57 AM   #2
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Seems to me that given a couple rounds of the reloaded ammo and the recipe the reloader used, a good ballistics lab could develop that data rather easily. Just an uneducated guess, but ballistics are ballisitics. Once you know the velocity from the end of the barrel, any given bullet has the same ballistic path no matter what powder and primer are used.
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Old December 27, 2011, 08:57 AM   #3
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The case that Mas has brought up in the past was one where a husband alleged that his wife committed suicide, and used his hand loads to do it. IF this guy is truly innocent, I'd argue that even having hand loaded ammo in the house at all really hurt his case, since his wife "chose to use the hand loads"

I got the impression that the guy was convicted on the totality of the circumstances. Even if this guy DID use factory ammo, it still would not, hypothetically, have precluded his wife from using his hand-loaded ammo.

I have not seen any cases of a person getting convicted of adw/murder from using hand-loads in defense of their lives. I'll keep my gun stoked with factory fodder since I live in a state ruled by liberals (just look at the majority of the voters here in Cali), therefore I refuse to give any additional doubt to a jury pool with the collective IQ of a gnat.
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Old December 27, 2011, 09:05 AM   #4
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Quote:
Seems to me that given a couple rounds of the reloaded ammo and the recipe the reloader used, a good ballistics lab could develop that data rather easily. Just an uneducated guess, but ballistics are ballisitics. Once you know the velocity from the end of the barrel, any given bullet has the same ballistic path no matter what powder and primer are used
Who is going to pay for the testing you mention?
Can you match factory ammo with regards to uniformity ballistic wise and have the same data to back up your claim? Personally I think not.
With Mas being the expert and one of the folks called to testify at trials that involve deadly force I'll take "his" advise and use factory ammo. One less hurtle to overcome if ever involved in a SD shooting. Again to each there own on there ammo choice for SD.

He did NOT mention any particular case in the segment.
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Old December 27, 2011, 09:17 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimPage
Seems to me that given a couple rounds of the reloaded ammo and the recipe the reloader used, a good ballistics lab could develop that data rather easily. Just an uneducated guess, but ballistics are ballisitics. Once you know the velocity from the end of the barrel, any given bullet has the same ballistic path no matter what powder and primer are used.
The problem is not a ballistics problem. It's an evidentiary one. Regardless of what a good ballistics lab might come up with, a court might not allow any evidence of the shooter/defendant's handloads in. Some time ago, I started a thread to put all of the "handload vs. factory loads for SD" threads in one place: An Archive Regarding Reloads and Self-Defense.

I'll just go ahead and add this thread to the archive.
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Old December 27, 2011, 09:54 AM   #6
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Just for the record, you can read practically every possible angle to this debate that is possible in Spats McGee's archive link and the archive has great input from laywers, law enforcement investigators, etc.

The big thing to keep in mind is that not every single thing you might wish to say or show in a trial is admissible under the rules of evidence. For reasons that are covered in great detail in Spats McGee's link, reloads complicate several important details you might wish to show in a self-defense case.
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Old December 27, 2011, 11:22 AM   #7
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From Spats link, I found this posted by Glenn Meyers: Though it doesn't talk about the factory/re-load debate, I find it interesting, and may help us understand how jury's look at SD shootings.

Very interesting and educational. I think you can use Glenn's article to understand the reload vs factory dispute.

http://www.thejuryexpert.com/wp-cont...olume21No5.pdf

In reading the article, I can see different scenarios. For example, I think you would see a difference in court if, for example, you were using re-loads in heavy "N" frame revolver vs. a reload in a little 642, and also, it looks as if who is using the reloads would make a difference.
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Old December 27, 2011, 11:42 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kraigwy
. . . . For example, I think you would see a difference in court if, for example, you were using re-loads in heavy "N" frame revolver vs. a reload in a little 642, and also, it looks as if who is using the reloads would make a difference.
Only if you're allowed to talk about your reloads at trial. The basic problem is that a handloader (& his or her expert witnesses) may never get to talk about the handloads at all.
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Old December 27, 2011, 11:50 AM   #9
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I can see the potential for a bad court case if using handloads, but this whole economy thing makes fancy store bought ammo further and further out of reach of my budget. Knowing that my handloads are much better than factory rounds in my guns, I must conclude that they are the most prudent choice that I have in ammo. Sometimes ya gotta go with what you have and hope for the best...

I think I'll go rub my Wifes feet some to take away that suicide urge (sic)
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Old December 27, 2011, 11:52 AM   #10
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My .02: http://thefiringline.com/forums/show...53#post4245153

Now with the moderator hat on: threads on this topic have a long history of turning vicious pretty fast. I'm watching, and will NOT warn for misbehavior here. I will simply ban outright anyone who insults any member of TFL for any reason in this thread.

Think twice, post once.

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Old December 27, 2011, 12:00 PM   #11
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Investigating Further:

We've all heard about the case mentioned above, Suicide Vs Homicide; but that is one case.

Reading further, on the average there are approx. 400,000 cases per year of Defensive Gun Use (DGU)

The numbers very, but even on the low end, the case of "reloads" seems only to pop-up in one case out of a low estimate of 60-70,000 to a higher estimate 600-700,000 per year. Makes you think.

Interesting article on DGU numbers.

As a side note, in reading the article, look at the numbers for preventing "injury" or "property loss" due to DGU. So much for the argument that having a firearm is more dangerous.

http://www.pulpless.com/gunclock/kleck1.html
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Old December 27, 2011, 12:07 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Edward429451
I can see the potential for a bad court case if using handloads, but this whole economy thing makes fancy store bought ammo further and further out of reach of my budget. Knowing that my handloads are much better than factory rounds in my guns, I must conclude that they are the most prudent choice that I have in ammo. Sometimes ya gotta go with what you have and hope for the best...
I wholeheartedly feel your pain about the whole economy. Believe you me, I wish I had a place to reload. That said, I'd reload for practice, and keep one box of fancy, store-bought ammo for carry.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kraigwy
We've all heard about the case mentioned above, Suicide Vs Homicide; but that is one case.

Reading further, on the average there are approx. 400,000 cases per year of Defensive Gun Use (DGU)

The numbers very, but even on the low end, the case of "reloads" seems only to pop-up in one case out of a low estimate of 60-70,000 to a higher estimate 600-700,000 per year. Makes you think. . . . .
If you look at the number of DGUs vs. the number in which reloads actually become an issue, the odds of handloads coming up in one particular case is fairly low, no question. If it does become an issue, however, the risk and the cost associated therewith is very, very high, particularly in light of the very low cost of eliminating the risk (that handloads will become an issue at trial) altogether.
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Last edited by Spats McGee; December 27, 2011 at 12:52 PM.
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Old December 27, 2011, 12:09 PM   #13
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Thanks for the mention of my article. It was solicited after a professional one in a psych. journal. Pax is so correct about the venom that can be involved.

At our local gun club, I was invited to summarize it. One member had a giant hissy that I was arguing not to have assault weapons (definition battle - boring) even though that genius had seen me shoot mine many times.

On a couple of other forums of lesser standing () than ours, one guy said he could disprove the findings in an hour and that Mas Ayoob and I were grand conspirators and obfuscators in some plot to ...

Not that I don't get crap at work for being a RKBA advocate. Let me tell you - You can't win. Interestingly, though - you'd be surprised at those in the professorial class who come to me for gun advice.

Written from my secret headquarters.
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Old December 27, 2011, 12:19 PM   #14
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Personally, I can see no benefit to carrying reloads rather than factory ammo.

Since there is no discernible upside and unquestionable potential problems, why would I do it?

It's one thing to argue odds when there is a quantifiable benefit, I've made that argument many times on other topics, but to argue the odds of a negative outcome with no positive off-set..... I see no reason.
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Old December 27, 2011, 12:46 PM   #15
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I've participated in this debate before, with Mas Ayoob involved even.

Here is the bottom line.

1) If you want to be 100% safe use factory ammo for defense, its not bad advice. To me it falls into the realm of using the same ammo as your local police. It makes good sense, depending on where you live.

2) There aren't a lot of legal cases on file where handloads played a role. In fact it doesn't take a genius to see that out of the four cases commonly sited, only two really apply. Even if all four cases did directly hinge on handloads, four cases out of all the defensive shooting cases there are, is tiny to say the least.

3) If one decides to use hand loads for defense, make sure that you know the attitudes of your local law enforcement and states attorneys. Thats really the key. If you live in a pro gun, pro CHL, Castle Doctrine State and you justifiably use a firearm for defense, the odds of handloads leading to your downfall are infinitesimally small. If on the on the other hand you live in New Jersey for example, where only solid bullets are allowed for CCW, well you get the idea.


Thats basically the conclusions to whole debate. Anything else, is pure speculation, based on what ifs and maybes on both sides.
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Old December 27, 2011, 01:25 PM   #16
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I think one of the issues that is difficult re: reloads is the challenge in being able to do a good cost/benefits anaylsis when it is so difficult to quantify the cost aspect of the problem.

Looking at just the rough numbers from the archive links, reloads are used in self-defense shootings very rarely to begin with. And once that rare event happens, you must also have a case where that shooter is prosecuted and where the distance the shooting took place is in dispute and forensic evidence is the best answer available.

How often does that happen? We know that all three lining up happens rarely; but it does occasionally happen. One thing that makes it difficult to measure is the way records at trial court and motions on evidence are kept. Unless a case is appealed based on a denial of an evidentiary motion, there is practically no way to search for these cases short of going down to the courthouse and digging through the paper records of every claimed self-defense shooting page by page.

So you've got a risk that by any measure is relatively rare (though difficult to say how rare) but when it does occur, the potential problems it presents are very serious and worrisome.

I think where this debate diverges a lot of times is that one side focuses on the big consequences of "What happens if all three do line up?" and weighs that against the benefits of reloaded ammo, while the other side focuses on the "What are the chances all three will line up?" (Although in my mind that second part brings up a whole new discussion about conditional risk).
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Old December 27, 2011, 02:43 PM   #17
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Quote:
Posted by Bartholomew Roberts: Looking at just the rough numbers from the archive links, reloads are used in self-defense shootings very rarely to begin with. And once that rare event happens, you must also have a case where that shooter is prosecuted and where the distance the shooting took place is in dispute and forensic evidence is the best answer available.
That explains very well why one does not hear about evidentiary problems in actual self defense cases involving reloads. It also explains very well why the absence of such cases does not really tell us anything at all pertinent to the attendant risks.

Quote:
I think where this debate diverges a lot of times is that one side focuses on the big consequences of "What happens if all three do line up?" and weighs that against the benefits of reloaded ammo, while the other side focuses on the "What are the chances all three will line up?" (Although in my mind that second part brings up a whole new discussion about conditional risk).
Exactly. Now, let's look at the issue of conditional probability for a moment:
  1. A small percentage of people handload their handgun ammuntion.
  2. The number of defensive gun uses in which a firearm is actually fired each year is very small indeed.
  3. The number of shootings claimed to constitute self defense that occur outside the home, where justication is generlally rather straight forward, is still smaller.
  4. The number of shootings that occur outside the home, that involve self defense claims, that involve contractory testimony and/or a paucity of evidence supporting a defense of justification, and for which the charging decision is unfavorable to the actor is even smaller.
  5. Of those, the number in which evidence that indicates he distance at which the shooting occurred is critical to the actor's defense is smaller yet.

Because the number of claimed defensive shooting incidents involving handloads, an unclear set of testilmony and other evidence, and the need for the defense to rely upon evidence regarding the distance involved all at the same time is very small, there are very, very few cases to substantiate what must therefore be substantiated in some other way. I know of one, offhand. In that case, the admittance of GSR test data from factory loads resulted in an acquittal. It is crystal clear that, had the shooter used handloads for which the test data would not have met the standards for admissibility of scientific forensic trace evidence, the outcome could well have been different.

Regarding the risks: when one steps outside with a loaded firearm on any given day, the likelihood that he or she will have to fire it is extremely low indeed. However, that fact really should not influence how one should address the management of the risks that might occur should that gun have to be used. That brings into play the subject of conditional risk.

Look at it this way: should one ever have to fire a gun defensively in the out of doors in the absence of evidence of an unlawful forced entry, should the testimony and evidence be contradictory, and should evidence supporting the actor's account of the distance of the shooting become critical, the admissibility of GSR test data could become crucial, and the probability that the entire case could easily hinge upon whether or not factory ammunition had been used would be extremely high.

Spats McGee put it this way:
Quote:
If you look at the number of DGUs vs. the number in which reloads actually become an issue, the odds of handloads coming up in one particular case is fairly low, no question. If it does become an issue, however, the risk and the cost associated therewith is very, very high, particularly in light of the very low cost of eliminating the risk (that handloads will become an issue at trial) altogether.
The two things to remember are these:
  • GSR evidence is routinely gathered, analyzed, and used in the analysis and prosecution of shooting incidents; and
  • Unless factory ammuntion had been used, GSR test data involving the kind of ammuniion used will not meet the standards for admissibility under the rules in effect at this time.

Those simple facts nail it for me.

Just to make one other thing clear, it really doesn't matter whether a shooting case involves a claim of self defense or not, or whether it involves an accident or negligence or not, or whether it involves a criminal question or civil liability, the same principles and the same facts are relevant. The fact that the Bias case did not involve a case of self defense is completely beside the point.

Last edited by OldMarksman; December 28, 2011 at 08:21 AM. Reason: Correction in last paragraph--"rules" changed to "principles"
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Old December 27, 2011, 06:01 PM   #18
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Yes, I have some that I have built up over the last 3 years with well known performing bullets in them with new brass, good primers, and sealed in zip lock bags. They are +P45ACP, 40S&W and +P9MM. These are last resort ammo if I run out of the "Social Ammo" that i have quite a lot of. Cause if I get into this ammo, I won't be worrying about the District Attorney or anyone else.
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Old December 27, 2011, 07:29 PM   #19
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Where I've seen this issue discussed in the past, the usual argument against using reloads is that a wily prosecutor will claim that factory ammunition wasn't deadly enough for the defendant, so he made his own "super powerful, kills on contact ammunition." I've always thought that a reasonably competent defense lawyer could blow holes in this argument pretty easily. Where the use of reloads might be an issue is where the defendant's guilt or innocence is somehow predicated on the distance at which the shot was fired. Testing another round out of the box used by the defendant might be determinative of the distance at which the shot was fired, by studying powder dispersion patterns. Even this won't necessarily be dispositive, since an element of randomness is going to be present and the dispersion pattern won't be exactly alike even from the same box of cartridges.

In short, it's probably a good idea to carry factory ammo just so a prosecutor can't go down that particular rabbit trail, but I wouldn't hesitate to load up with reloads if that's all I had.
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Old December 27, 2011, 07:55 PM   #20
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JayCee, you neglect another branch of the argument (Edit: To which Don P alluded in his OP) - if there is conflicting testimony about what distance the shooting occurred at, GSR from handloads probably won't be admissible.

"So you say you shot him as he was pulling you from your car... why was there no trace of gunpowder on his clothing?"

IE, it's not just limited to suicides.

The fact that your light loads might not leave the expected levels of residue probably wouldn't be admissible, because it couldn't reliably be replicated by evidence specialists. They'd have to take your word, or the word of your logs, as to what and how you had loaded. What little precedent exists does not favor that.

Last edited by MLeake; December 27, 2011 at 08:07 PM.
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Old December 27, 2011, 08:16 PM   #21
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In one of my ccw (sig 220/45ACP) icarry my reloads and practice with them, I reload a 185 JHP for about .20 each and can afford to practice with them. Not so with factory loads, too expensive.
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Old December 27, 2011, 08:25 PM   #22
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Perhaps I'm showing my ignorance of reloading here, but can you find a factory load that is close to your reloads in performance? If so, I'd suggest buying a box of factory loads for carry, and practicing to your heart's content with the reloads.
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Old December 27, 2011, 08:28 PM   #23
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Spats, other way around, but that's what I do. The money argument is a non-starter -- you can practice with reloads tuned to match your factory carry rounds, and you don't have to cycle your carry loads all that often.

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Old December 27, 2011, 08:28 PM   #24
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My personal consideration is,

I will reload practice ammo that attempts to mimic my carry ammo.

When changing out old carry ammo, I will use that for a bowling pin match.

Interesting read and much too consider.
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Old December 27, 2011, 09:34 PM   #25
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For my fellow members and mod's I posted this after seeing the new episode last night. Mas explained what they would do to duplicate gun shot residue in a SD shooting doing so inch by inch until the pattern was duplicated. He stated it was much easier to do with factory ammo because the courts will accept there data without question. My intention was NOT to start a war or debate on the subject but to just pass on some information that to me had a very valid and understandable explanation behind it.
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