Consider The Bullet

The bullet in a cartridge of defensive ammo has to do a lot of different things, and do them on-demand.

posted on May 13, 2023
sheriff Jim wilson

A few years ago, a friend of mine was taking some clients fishing in Alaska. Their fun trip was interrupted when they were charged by a grizzly at very close range. My friend killed the grizzly with his handgun, a 9mm.

Now, when this was reported, just about everyone was amazed that a 9mm handgun was up to the task. But, it really wasn’t about the caliber so much as it was about the bullet. This outdoor guide had carefully chosen his ammunition to include a bullet that would drive deep enough to get the job done in just such a situation. The same consideration is important to the armed citizen.

When you think about it, the bullet that we choose for defensive purposes has a pretty complicated job. We want the bullet to penetrate deep enough to impact the vitals and it would be very nice if it would also expand; all of which is needed if we are to stop the criminal attack as quickly as possible.

On a frontal target, the bullet has to get through the sternum or ribs and travel just a few more inches to do its job. However, suppose your only target is a side view and the bullet has to go through the upper arm bone, through the ribs and then travel a bit further to impact the vitals. That is a good deal more bone and tissue to deal with. Consider as well that dealing with a 130-pound attacker would be a good deal different from trying to stop a raging, muscled up 225-pound attacker, yet those bullets that you have in your defensive ammo have to be up to all of those challenges and deal with them quickly and successfully.

But, wait, there’s more. Before that bullet even gets to the bad guy it may have to go through some sort of external material. It could be a car door or a sheetrock wall. It could also be heavy winter clothing or any number of other obstacles.

For this reason, I want a defensive bullet that penetrates deeply, deeply enough to handle as many of the challenges as possible. It would also be nice if it could expand and thus maximize the stopping effect. However, a bullet that penetrates properly but doesn’t expand in an impressive manner is way better than a bullet that expands but doesn’t penetrate to the sufficient depth. I choose my carry ammo with that consideration in mind.

The concern is often expressed about defensive bullets that penetrate completely and the danger they represent to innocent bystanders. First of all, more bystanders are in danger of getting hit with misses than with bullets that completely penetrate. But, we are also reminded of the 4th Safety Rule, “Be sure of your target and what is behind it.” In a crowded room, for instance, we simply may not be able to return fire. Anyone who told you that life was fair lied to you.

We are blessed to live in a time when the ammunition manufacturers are turning out some really good defensive ammo. When selecting that ammo, the armed citizen should consider all of challenges that the bullet, when launched, has to deal with. We want to stop that attack, in whatever form it appears, as quickly and safely as possible. The proper bullets, in modern ammo, will do that. Choose wisely.


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