A Simple Explaination of Duty Pistol Caliber Terminal Ballistics


Optimal pistol wounding is caused by a balance of projectile weight, construction, size, materials, shape, and velocity (not even talking about shot placement here).

Too much or too little of any variable and the projectile performs poorly. Performs poorly- being compared to HST or Gold Dot which are the current standards of optimal performance within duty caliber pistol performance. There are constraints to velocity based off four factors in duty pistol calibers- construction, projectile weight, energy causing the projectile to move (powder charge), and projectile shape/size.

Duty caliber pistol solids are performing closer to a full metal jacket (FMJ) just due to the nature of the wounding. Duty pistol caliber projectiles can pretty much only wound by piercing, cutting, smashing, tearing (poking holes) the flesh it is in contact with. The velocity is too slow to create rifle like wounding.

People who are wowed by gel testing do not understand how to interpret gel testing. They are being misled and manipulated. The large cavities you see in duty pistol caliber calibrated ballistic gel testing (if it is even actually done right) is a temporary cavity which is not really deemed wounding. It is just representing the natural elasticity of flesh.

When the natural elasticity of flesh is taken to its limits and beyond, that is when you see permanent damage. A bullet piercing flesh is breaking that elasticity.

Target size factors in with temporary cavities. Shoot a squirrel with a 9mm- You are introducing factors outside the limitations of the squirrel’s body structure. When temporary cavities exceed elasticity, you create permanent damage – there is no recovery. From Chuck Haggard- “Shoot a prairie dog with 5.56 and it explodes due to the wound cavity exceeding (beyond the size of the animal) the elasticity of the animal’s flesh. If you shoot a deer it is seriously wounded or killed if you place the bullet right (but you will lose the deer if shot placement is off). Shoot a Cape Buffalo in the ass or shoulder with that same bullet and you’ll have a Very Bad Day.”

Ultimately pistols are poor performers, but they might be an only option, so it is wise to do your due diligence and choose the best option for your mission.

Matt Landfair
Lead Editor/Contributor at Primary & Secondary
Active Law Enforcement background since before the turn of the century in the middle of no where. Firearms instructor, armorer, has attended numerous training courses including DARC, Follow Through Consulting, EAG, TMacs, and more boring mandatory popo training you can shake a stick at. Has died a million deaths by powerpoint. He has written for RECOIL Magazine, Breach Bang Clear, Soldier Systems Daily and Monderno. Enjoys long walks on the beach, blah blah blah… Known as Matt Prime or Riafdnal in some circles.
Matt Landfair on FacebookMatt Landfair on InstagramMatt Landfair on Twitter


So empty here ... leave a comment!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Skip to toolbar