Miscellaneous Questions #15

This section contains brief discussions of various ballistics and shooting related topics as requested by correspondents. If you have a question you have been trying to find an answer to (keep 'em ballistics and shooting related--see your minister for the mysteries of life) email me by clicking here and I'll do my best to find the answer for you and if it is of general interest, publish it here. If you can contribute additional input to one of the answers I'd would appreciate hearing from you too.

Check back frequently as new topics are always being added.


On this page:

What modification or "custom" features do I really need on my pistol?
How hot does ammunition need to get to "cook-off?"
Are there any data available on the statistics of gun fights?

What are the standards for body armor and other ballistic protection?
What are some of the common causes of chronograph problems?
What is a flechette?
What are the safe ways to store ammunition, powder, and primers?
"Shottist" or "Shootist?"
Who really invented gunpowder?


Q. What modification or "custom" features do I really need on my defensive pistol?

A.  As with all things the best idea is to keep things simple.  While you can spend thousands of dollars on a custom pistol what you really need are

Good Trigger - smooth with a clean break.  About 4 pounds for single action autos, about 5-10 pounds for trigger cocking autos and revolvers (weight obtainable depends on the particular brand).

High visibility sights - A clear and sharp sight picture that is easy to pick up.

External Dehorning - Insuring that there are no razor sharp edges to catch on you or your clothing. This includes the edges of safeties, operating levers, sights, buttons, edges of the trigger, etc.

Internal Deburring - Insuring that the ammunition feed way, magazine well, and magazines (on autos) and cylinder mouths (revolver) are free from burrs and that all levers, safeties, etc. are operating smoothly and that all action parts are free from burrs and rough edges. With auto pistols also ensure that extractors are properly shaped and smooth and that extractor tension is correct.

Anything more than these is simply icing on the cake, and unless you impressed with glitz or are a world class championship shooter you will be better off spending the extra money for practice ammo or getting training.  On 1911s I do admit an extreme liking for the old style "burr" Commander hammers which I tend to install,  the old style Jim Hoag beavertail grip safeties that don't have the exaggerated upward sweep of the current crop, and the flat main spring housing with the lanyard loop.  Other than these items my 1911s have always be basically stock.

And of course... don't bet your life on any firearm / ammo combination until you have put several hundred rounds through it and are sure it will work.

Two bad trends, IMHO,  are the current fad of using Allen screws or Torx head screws, particularly on the 1911, the use of square profiled hammer struts on the 1911, and fitting bushings so tightly to the slide that you need a vise and wrench to remove them.  With original spec'd parts no tools are needed to detail strip the 1911.  The shaft of the safety can be used to push out the mainspring housing pin, the hammer strut can be used to drift out all remaining cross pins, and the lips on the sear spring can be used to remove the grip screws and magazine catch.  While you shouldn't need one, if you are enamored with full length guide rods be sure you use one that does not require any tools to disassemble the pistol.  Torx and Allen screws require special tools to remove and you are much more likely to find a conventional screwdriver out in the field than a specialty driver.  Bushings can be fitted snuggly but there is no need to make them impossible to remove without shop tools.  Save the cool looking Allen and Torx screws for scope rings and bases where their extra strength is needed.

If you want to return your commercial 1911 to JMB's original standards Brownells has the parts.

Magazine catch lock (slotted head) PN 965-001-153
GI Recoil spring guide PN 634-000-006
Recoil spring plug PN 087-881-001
Hammer strut (round profile tip) PN 087-823-000
Slotted grip screws (set of 4) PN 080-831-004

While it is all the rage, the use of MIM (metal injection molding) for small parts gives many people a queasy feeling.  While a friend in the metalurgy business assures me that MIM parts CAN be just as good as forged/machined parts, the quality depends greatly on the alloy used and the care taken in the casting process and heat treatment.  If you are "mission critical" you might want to consider replacing the MIM critical parts (hammer, sear, extractor, and disconnector in 1911s and whatever in other designs) with forged/machined parts as available.

Q. How hot does ammunition need to get to "cook-off?"

A.  The NRA tested this at H. P. White Laboratories some years ago.  They found that rifle, pistol, .22RF, and shotgun shells needed to be heated to about 320 degrees F for about 20 minutes to induce a cook-off in an unconfined space.  In no case was there an explosion .  Rather the cartridge cases ruptured and in the case of the rifle and pistol rounds there was evidence that case fragments, the projectile, and the primer struck the sides of the oven but did not penetrate or cause any damage.

The powder being practically unconfined in these tests, very little pressure was developed.  The projectile being heavy moved very little but fragments of the brass case did fly out and could cause skin or eye damage up to several feet.

It appears from several other tests that primers will cook off at about 350-400 degrees Fahrenheit, and single-base powder will ignite at about 600 degrees F, and double-base powders will ignite at about at about 320-350 degrees F.

If a cartridge cooks-off in a firearm it is a different matter.  The effect is as if the cartridge was fired normally since the cartridge is contained and serious damage or injury could result.  Remember Rule 2 - Don't let your muzzle point at anything you are not willing to destroy.

Q. Are there any data available on the statistics of gun fights?

A. The following information is extracted from data on police gunfights as described in the document Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted - 2003, available from www.fbi.org, and is based upon totals from 1994 through 2003.  The report is broken down into ridiculous detail and I have highlighted what I believe are the teaching parts.

While this data is based upon law enforcement encounters it probably holds true for members of the "Armed Civilian Defense Forces."  Newer documents have effectively identical  data with only minor differences.

ENGAGEMENT DISTANCES

2010 - 2014 combined data (385 incidents))
< 5' - 26%
6-10' - 18%
11-20' - 21%
21-50 - 14%
>50' - 8%
Unreported 13% 

For 2015 (38 incidents)

< 5' - 32%
6-10' - 13%
11-20' - 16%
21-50 - 5%
>50' - 5%
Unreported 29%

Lesson:  More attention needs to be placed on very close range engagement training as close to 30% occur at about 3 yards or less, and about 65% occur under 7 yards--and they STILL miss. (However, the need to accurately engage targets at distance should not be overlooked in training--"just in case.") I didn't see any stats on the number of assailants but it seemed to be implied that there was usually only one. However, in training, potential multiple targets need to be stressed (especially a target off axis to the initial threat) to help prevent tunnel vision and improve situational awareness.

BULLET IMPACT AREAS
This data is on where police officers were shot.

Head shots 49%
High torso shots 46%
Low torso (Belt line and below) - 5%

Lesson:  The bad guys seem to be aware of body armor and are aiming high in an effort to defeat it. (Thank you liberal media folks for making the bad guys aware of this.)

VEST USAGE
Non vest penetrating fatalities
Head shots - 49%
Above vest (38% of hits)
Arm hole / shoulder area - (34% of hits)
Side-between front and rear panels - (20% of hits)
Below vest - 8%
Lower Body - 5%

Lesson: Of all fatalities 51% were wearing vests, but were not shot in the vest area. From the statistics presented it is plausible that an additional 200+ officers out of 616 could have been saved if they had been wearing vests. For some reason there were no statistics on the number of saves due to body armor--at least I could not find any. (Not politically correct?) After all, a dead cop gets budget increases while a live cop who caps a bad guy results in lawsuits and bad press.) No data presented about where on vest hits were made on "saves" but one would assume most were high chest.  See "lesson" in previous section.  In addition more attention needs to be given to designing comfortable vests with better side and arm hole protection.

Vest penetrating fatalities
Only kills by vest penetration were from rifle fire (19 out of 114 upper torso vest incidents). No handguns penetrated vests.  The rifle calibers predominantly used were 7.62 x 39 mm and .223

Lesson:  So much for the evil "cop killer" pistol rounds. As mentioned above, vest design needs to be improved in the shoulder and side coverage areas.  Nine millimeter was by far the caliber of choice of assailants, with .40 S&W, .38, and .357 as runner ups.

TACTICAL DATA
It appears from the data presented that the vast majority of fatalities occurred from lack of situational awareness, and 6 percent of officers shot were shot with their own pistol that was taken from them and 11% were killed by some other weapon picked up at the scene.. Most dangerous time appears to be between 8 pm and 4 am. The months of April and August are the months with the most fatalities, and Friday the worst day. Over half (52%) of the officers NEVER attempted to use their own weapon before being killed and only 20% actually fired their weapon.  Sixteen percent were killed from ambush..

Lesson: Teach the "color code" and situational awareness.  If you are not awake and aware you will die. Condition White is always fatal.  Also training needs to be such that  confidence in the ability to successfully use one's firearm is instilled, and the "never give up" spirit needs to be developed (a possibly impossible task in the age of the whimp).  

Some additional interesting statistics come from the New York City Police department.

In 2005 there were 123 shootings, involving 166 officers, firing a  total of 616 rounds, giving an average of 17.3 rounds per incident.

Distance Stats.

And remember these rules for gun fighting.

  1. Bring a gun. Preferably, bring at least two guns. Bring all of your friends who have guns.
  2. Anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice. Ammo is cheap. Life is expensive.
  3. Only hits count. A close miss is still a miss.
  4. If your shooting stance is good, you're probably not moving fast enough nor using cover correctly.
  5. Move away from your attacker. Distance is your friend. (Lateral and diagonal movements are preferred.)
  6. If you can choose what to bring to a gunfight, bring a long gun and a friend with a long gun.
  7. In ten years nobody will remember the details of caliber, stance, or tactics. They will only remember who lived.
  8. If you are not shooting, you should be communicating, reloading, and running.
  9. Accuracy is relative: most combat shooting standards will be more dependent on "pucker factor" than the inherent accuracy of the gun.
  10. Use a gun that works EVERY TIME.
  11. Someday someone may kill you with your own gun, but they should have to beat you to death with it because it is empty.
  12. Always cheat = always win. The only unfair fight is the one you lose.
  13. Have a plan.
  14. Have a back-up plan, because the first one won't work.
  15. Use cover and concealment as much as possible.
  16. Flank your adversary when possible. Protect yours.
  17. Never drop your guard.
  18. Always tactically reload and threat scan 360 degrees.
  19. Watch their hands. Hands kill. (In God we trust. Everyone else, keep your hands where I can see them).
  20. Decide to be AGGRESSIVE enough, QUICKLY enough.
  21. The faster you finish the fight, the less shot up you will get.
  22. Be polite. Be professional. But, have a plan to kill everyone you meet.
  23. Be courteous to everyone, friendly to no one.
  24. Do not attend a gunfight with a handgun, the caliber of which does not start with a "4".
  25. Your number one option for personal security is a lifelong commitment to avoidance, deterrence, and de-escalation.

Q. What are the standards for body armor and other ballistic protection?

A. The current standards are listed below.

Standard Class Caliber Bul. Wt Vmin Vmax Shots Distance (ft) Notes
Handgun

NIJ

I

.22 LR

40

1010

1090

5

16

 

HPW

 A

 .38 SPL

 158

 700

 800

 3

 20

 D

NIJ

 I

 .38SPL

 158

 800

 900

 5

 16

  

NIJ

 II-A

 9 X 19 LV

 124

 1050

 1130

 5

 16

  

DIN

 C1-SF

 9 X 19 HV

 124

 1166

 1199

 3

 9.84

  

HPW

 B

 9 X 19 HV

 124

 1100

 1180

 3

 20

  

NIJ

 II

 9 X 19 HV

 124

 1135

 1215

 5

 16

  

UL

 1

 9 X 19 HV

 124

 1175

 1293

 3

 15

  

ANSI/UL

 M.P.S.A.

 .38 Super

 130

 1152

 1344

 3

 15

  

ASTM

  

 .38 Super

 130

 1230

 1330

 3

 25

 E

NIJ

 II-A

 .38 Super LV

 130

 1200

 1300

 5

 16

  

ANSI/UL

 H.P.S.A.

 .38 Super HV

 130

 1305

 1523

 3

 15

  

BSI

 G1

 .38 Super HV

 130

 1378

 1574

 3

 9.84

  

DIN

 C2-SF

 .38 Super HV

 130

 1363

 1396

 3

 9.84

  

UL

 2

 .357 Mag

 158

 1250

 1375

 3

 15

  

ANSI/UL

 S.P.S.A.

 .44 Mag

 240

 1323

 1544

 3

 15

  

ASTM

  

 .44 Mag

 240

 1400

 1500

 3

 25

 E

BSI

 G2

 .44 Mag

 240

 1451

 1647

 3

 9.84

  

DIN

 C3-SF

 .44 Mag

 240

 1429

 1461

 3

 9.84

  

HPW

 C

 .44 Mag

 240

 1350

 1450

 3

 20

 D

NIJ

 III-A

 .44 Mag

 240

 1350

 1450

 5

 16

  

UL

 3

 .44 Mag

 240

 1350

 1450

 3

 15

  

Submachine gun / carbine

ASTM

 SMG

 9 X 19

 124

 1350

 1450

 3

 25

  

BSI

 GO

 9 X 19

 115

 1247

 1443

 3

 9.84

  

NIJ

 III-A

 9 X 19

 124

 1350

 1450

 5

 16

  

SD

 minimum

 9 X 19

 115

 1350

 1450

 3

 30

  

UL

 6

 9 X 19

 115

 1350

 1450

 5

 15

  

Rifle

ANSI/UL

 H.P.R.

 .30-06 SP

 220

 2169

 2531

 1

 15

  

SD

 Rifle

 5.56 x 45 M193

 55

 3135

 3235

 3

 30

  

UL

 7

 5.56 x 45

 55

 3080

 3388

 5

 15

  

UL

 5

 7.62 x 51 SP

 150

 2750

 3025

 1

 15

  

ASTM

 Rifle

 7.62 x 51

 147

 2750

 2850

 3

 25

  

BSI

 G3

 7.62 x 51

 147

 2609

 2805

 3

 32.81

  

DIN

 C4-SF

 7.62 x 51

 147

 2578

 2611

 3

 32.81

  

HPW

 D

 7.62 x 51

 147

 2725

 2825

 3

 20

  

NIJ

 III

 7.62 x 51

 147

 2700

 2800

 5

 16

  

SD

 Rifle

 7.62 x 51

 147

 2700

 2800

 3

 30

  

UL

 8

 7.62 x 51 SP

 150

 2750

 3025

 3

 15

  

UL

 Shotgun

 12 ga Lead Slug

 437

 1585

 1743

 3

 15

  

Rifle (Armor Piercing)

DIN

 C5-SF

 7.62 AP

 150

 2627

 2660

 3

 82.02

  

SD

 rifle

 7.62 M61

 150

 2700

 2800

  

 3

  

ASTM

 rifle

 .30-06 M2

 165

 2725

 2825

 3

 25

 E

HPW

 E

 .30-06 M2

 165

 2725

 2825

 3

 20

 D

NIJ

 IV

 .30-06 M2

 165

 2800

 2900

 1

 16

  

SD

 rifle

 .30-06 M2

 165

 2750

 2850

 3

 30

 F

Information listed for comparison ONLY, contact applicable standards and testing labs for current information or certifications.

Standards:
*ASTM—American Society for Testing and Materials, Test Method for Security Glazing Materials and Systems, F 1233.
*NIJ—National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice, Ballistic Resistant Protective Materials, NIJ Standard—0108.01, September 1985.
*ANSI/UL—American National Standards Institute/Underwriters Laboratories, Inc., Standard for Bullet-Resisting Equipment, ANSI/UL 752—1985, Rev. 13, May 1988.
*SD—U.S. Department of State, Ballistic Resistance of Structural Materials (Opaque and Transparent) Test Procedures and Acceptance Criteria, SD-STD-02.01, March, 1986.
*HPW—H.P. White Laboratory, Inc., Transparent Materials and Assemblies for Use in Entry or Containment Barriers, HPW-TP-0100.00, Rev. B, Dec. 10, 1983.
*BSI—British Standards Institution, Security Glazing, Part 1. Specification for Bullet-Resistant Glazing for Interior Use, BS 5051, October 1973.
*DIN—Deutches Institut for Normung e. V., Security Glazing, DIN 52 290, Part 2, May 1981.
BThe various standards specify different locations to measure the bullet velocity. They are as follows: ASTM—15 ft from weapon muzzle; ANSI/UL—at muzzle;
*BSI—strike face of the target; DIN—8.20 ft from weapon muzzle; HPW—15 ft from weapon muzzle; NIJ—6.60 ft from weapon muzzle; and SD—10 ft from strike face of the target. For meeting the various velocity measurement requirements, the use of custom (special) powder loads may be required.

NOTES
D-Three shots required for the base materials and twelve shots required for assemblies.
E-Minimum number of shots.
F-Minimum of three shots required for the glazing and six shots required for other parts of the assembly.

Q. What are some of the common causes of chronograph problems?

A. This information has been moved to its own page.  Click here.

Q. What is a flechette?

A.  Flechettes are very small dart like projectiles developed for anti-personnel use.  They are fired in bunches (8500 from the 90 mm and 105 mm canon) at very high velocity (4000 f/s +)and can be fairly devastating when fired in large quantities at close range.  They were also looked at as individual projectiles.  Their light weight and high drag causes then to have poor penetration,  and poor long range performance.  They were used in the so-called "Bee Hive" rounds developed during the Vietnam conflict to deal with human wave charges and in experimental shotshells, but they met with only limited success and are now no longer used, being replaced by "canister" rounds--basically giant shotgun rounds-- containing lead or tungsten balls that provide a better terminal effect.

Flechettes with a .22 RF

Photo courtesy River Valley Ordnance

Q. What are the safe ways to store ammunition, powder, and primers?

A. While the storage of end user quantities of ammunition, powder and primers is frequently governed by local regulations, the following are some common sense guidelines.  Where ever they are stored, the temperature and humidity should be moderate and not fluctuate wildly.  Click here for more information on ammunition storage. 

Powder - Store powder in its original DOT approved containers in an insulated, but not sealed storage cabinet that will allow powder gases to escape should the powder be ignited.  Most local regulations frown on more than 50 lbs of powder stored inside of a home.  I have several friends who use an old refrigerator (with the magnetic seal stripped door, not a locking door) to store their powder.

Primers - Primers should be stored separately from powder, in their original containers, and should be separated into groups of 5,000 (case lot size) with space between them. A refrigerator, as described above can be used if desired.  Most storage guidelines recommend no more than 50,000 primers in a residence.

Q. "Shottist" or "Shootist?"

A. Both are correct.  The term "shottist" is the older variant (and being an old fart I prefer it in my writings) and "shootist" is the modern spelling.  Take your pick.

Q. Who really invented gunpowder?

A. In the west it is generally attributed to Sir Francis Bacon or Berthold Schwartz circa the 1200s, but they basically popularized what had been known for a long time and did not invent it.  It was undoubtedly known to the early Chinese and Hindu people of India.  Some early writings, circa 1300 BC, from these cultures speak of such a substance though it was used as an incendiary or a demolition device and not in "firearms."  It is also clear that such a substance was known to the ancient Greeks.  The earliest known use of it as propellant in firearms was by the Arabs circa 1150 in their war with the Iberians.


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Disclaimer

As far as I know all the information presented above is correct and I have attempted to ensure that it is. However, I am not responsible for any errors, omissions, or damages resulting from the use or misuse of this information, nor for you doing something stupid with it. (Don't you hate these disclaimers? So do I, but there are people out there who refuse to be responsible for their own actions and who will sue anybody to make a buck.)

Updated 2009-05-09