Letter Re: Firearms Stopping Power

Thanks for posting that link to the best article ever on stopping power! (An Alternate Look at Handgun Stopping Power.) I am completely re-thinking the role of my .22 [rimfire] in light of these results (i.e., The incapacitation percentage is much higher than I would have thought). Apparently the lowly .22 [rimfire] has a place in defense after all. – Neo

JWR Replies: Just keep in mind that this study was an abstract view that doesn’t distinguish the circumstances of each incident tallied. For example. .22 rimfires are more often that not rifles, rather than handguns, and they are most likely to be used in home defense against burglars than they are against aggressive armed robbers in street encounters, or someone that comes spoiling for a fight. So there may have been far less “fight” available in the recipients of the lead, from the very beginning.

The fight/flight continuum definitely skews the outcome of gunfights, both psychologically and physiologically. Someone who goes into a fight on the offensive is far less likely to be incapacitated than someone who is just engaged in a sneak and peek burglary. And although inconsistent, the effects of adrenalin can be amazing. Gunfights are messy and complicated. They can also take a lot of rounds to finish, as illustrated by the FBI’s 1986 Miami shootout. Sometimes it takes a lot of lead to stop a man. Carry plenty of extra magazines, and don’t stop shooting until your opponent is clearly no longer a threat. (But, as recently mentioned in the blog, don’t carry on beyond that, especially after more than a moment’s interval!)

Also, keep in mind that the statistics in the study also show that shotguns and centerfire rifles still rule. I would only use a .22 rimfire as a last resort. And if I were forced by circumstances to use one, then I would want to put a large number of rounds into an opponent in rapid succession.

Lastly, with any caliber, only shots to critical areas (brain and spine) are sure stoppers, so accuracy counts. (I’ve been to several shooting courses, and they all stress: speed and accuracy. If at all possible, concentrate on your opponent’s ocular window.