Why I Carry Hollow Point Bullets

After studying ballistics tests for hours, I’ve landed on the Federal HST. Image courtesy of Federal.

Every once in a while, I come across an anti-gun person decrying the idea of civilians carrying hollow point bullets. They typically publicly demonstrate their ignorance of the topic by citing the Geneva Convention and it’s prohibition on using hollow point rounds in military conflicts. Those who actually know a little about history recognize that it was the Hague Treaty that suggested that hollow point rounds should not be used, and the US never signed it. But what difference do facts make?

The media loves to demonize hollow point bullets, calling them sinister sounding names like “cop-killer bullets” without any actual understanding that pretty much any bullet can kill pretty much anybody if deployed properly (or improperly, as the case may be). They also fail to recognize that expanding bullets generally don’t make it through soft body armor typically worn by police, while the non-expanding, full metal jacket bullets they apparently advocate often defeat soft body armor. They will invoke phrases like, “These bullets are designed to expand in the body with razor-sharp petals that do as much damage as possible.” Which, come to think of it, is actually what they do. And why do they do that? Because the point of shooting someone is to stop a threat as quickly as possible.

Fast is Better than Slow

When you are in a fight for your life, time is of the essence. If one has to engage and shoot an attacker, one wants said attacker to go down and stay down as quickly as possible, thus ending the threat and preventing further damage. As I mentioned in my previous post about carrying a spare magazine, handguns are notoriously bad fight-stoppers. We only carry them because they are way easier to conceal than a long gun. Thus, when faced with a threat, you want to tip the odds in your favor as much as possible.

There are three ways a person ceases an attack when shot: Psychological—they decide being shot is not fun and stop the behavior that caused them to be shot. Exsanguination—the attacker loses enough blood that they become physically incapacitated. This takes a lot longer than most people realize. I was recently in a defensive handgun class with a surgeon who explained that even with a direct hit to the heart, it could take 20-30 seconds for enough blood loss to lead to physical incapacitation. A lot of bad things can happen in 20-30 seconds. Finally, there is shutting off the computer, a direct hit to the central nervous system.

We can’t count on psychological stops; depending on the mindset of the attacker, being shot might just piss them off and make them increase the attack. A CNS shot is desirable, but difficult to achieve under high-stress shootings when the target might be moving. We might well be able to shoot a 2” group into the head zone of a target at 10 yards on a square range when we’re warmed up, relaxed and in a safe state and no one is moving. But put everyone in motion, and make it a fight for your life and that level of accuracy becomes challenging. Not impossible, but difficult.

Thus, nearly every defensive shooting instructor will train students to shoot to center mass. Shots to the chest have the highest likelihood of hitting organs and blood vessels that will lead to a rapid loss of blood pressure and stop the attack quickly. But consider this; a 9mm bullet is .355” in diameter, or roughly 3/8” of an inch. That’s not very big. Non-expanding, full metal jacket (FMJ) rounds go in .355” and come out .355”. Those very small holes don’t often cause much damage.

However, an expanding round might open up to .55” or even .65” and do so with petals that tend to cut things as they pass through. This does two things: First, it causes more damage which leads to quicker incapacitation. Second—and this is also important—it keeps the round inside the attacker. This second trait is something completely lost on those opposed to hollow point rounds. FMJs very often cause through-and-through wounds, meaning they go right through the target. And what happens when they come out? They could very well hit someone else who didn’t need to be shot. I don’t want to have to shoot anybody, but I really don’t want to shoot—even accidentally—someone who doesn’t need to be shot. That’s all kinds of bad. Using bullets that stay inside the bad guy seems like a smart idea.

Moreover, expanding bullets that stop a threat more quickly require fewer rounds to be fired during the attack. Fewer rounds means fewer opportunities for stray bullets that miss the target.

The Left’s Love for the Criminal

Something I’ve never really understood is those on the far left and their love for criminals. Perhaps it’s because they live life in perpetual victimhood that they see anyone who has anything bad happen to them as the victim. Armed thug attacks man; armed thug gets shot and the left is calling for the public hanging of the actual victim—the man who was attacked. Three low-lifes break into a house, get shot and the left wants to ban guns. I don’t get it.

I generally try to live at peace with everyone. I would prefer to live my life and you can live yours. But if I’m attacked, I will fight to the death to come out on top. That means I’m going to use every tool at my disposal to win the fight. Hollow point bullets that pass the FBI testing protocol are one element of my defensive package that I rely on to make it home if I’m ever attacked. I want the fight to be over as quickly as possible and I want to get home to my family. Period.

No Downside

There are really no downsides to carrying high-quality defensive ammo (i.e. hollow points) in your carry gun. Yes, they cost more than basic FMJ ammo, but you’re not shooting hundreds of them a month. You should shoot them occasionally, however. As an aside, I’m actually considering doing some testing with various defensive loadings to find the right fit for my gun. I’ve discovered that my current carry load impacts about 2-3” low at defensive distances. It’s still combat accurate, but I would prefer matching my point of impact to point of aim. But that’s another post.

An expanding bullet will likely end the attack faster, stay inside your attacker and give you the best chance you can have to make it out alive. Unless you live in gun-hating New Jersey—which inexplicably bans even the possession of hollow points—you should carry them. Besides, the police carry them, as does the FBI. We ordinary citizens should have the same advantages they do when it comes to deadly encounters.

  2 comments for “Why I Carry Hollow Point Bullets

  1. Michael
    November 9, 2017 at 6:01 pm

    “Something I’ve never really understood is those on the far left and their love for criminals.”

    Mike, this line feels a little strawman to me, but I’ll bite:

    I’m a Christian, who considers myself fairly progressive and I’m all for justice. But that doesn’t *just* mean criminal justice. It means economic justice and racial justice and even social justice. (How did that become an epithet?) It means looking at the structural factors that lead to crime. No innocent child says “I want to be a hardened criminal (or a school shooter or a terrorist) when I grow up.”

    I am very lucky to live in a developed country with a high quality of life, economic and religious freedom and to have been born to the family I was. In a different neighbourhood, with a different peer group, fewer social supports, abusive parents or mental illness, I can’t know what my life would look like. I’m very lucky that I haven’t had to find out.

    Extreme mental illness aside, people should be held to be responsible for their actions. Prisons are there for punishment, deterrence and the protection of society. But they’re also meant to be places of rehabilitation and restitution (or dare I even say redemption). And we should do all we can to prevent the need for them. That means more than “being tough on crime” – it means identifying and working at the underlying root causes of crime (and terror and war).

    It means valuing life *more* than our enemies. It means doing our best to love modern-day Samaritans. It means continuously accepting the redemption of Saul of Tarsus. It means breaking vicious cycles. It means doing justice *and* loving mercy.

    We live in Grace, let’s not keep it to ourselves.

    “Our warfare is to make the dead to live, not to make the living dead” – St. John Chrysostom




    • Mike
      November 12, 2017 at 9:22 pm

      I don’t really disagree with anything you wrote here. I think there are a ton of problems that are actually problems and they need to be addressed. You listed some of them, and they all need work.

      Let me clarify my comment to which you took exception, however. I’ll use two examples from recent US history.

      The extreme left in this country–as distinct from regular everyday liberals, who I can actually get along with–held up Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin as paragons of virtue. They weren’t doing nothing when they were brutally gunned down by evil white guys with guns. That is the actual story that played on the news–and still plays on in my Facebook feed from my more progressive friends.

      Reality is a little different. Both of them were felons, who were in the act of committing a felony (attempted murder) when they were killed. Both Brown and Martin forced their victims–the actual victims of the crimes–to use deadly force in defense of their lives. In the case of Martin, the media destroyed George Zimmerman’s life. The people of Ferguson, MO burn the place down at the behest of Brown’s stepfather, and a complicit media.

      Years later, I still see posts that begin with, “When Michael Brown was murdered…” (emphasis added) in my feed. He wasn’t murdered. He was killed during the commission of a crime. He had just robbed a convenience store and was assaulting a police officer, trying to wrestle the gun from the officer. He made a lot of bad decisions, decisions that ultimately led to his untimely demise. Now, I feel for his family–no parent should ever have to burry a child. However, calling for the death of police officers because of that event is a little much.

      So that’s what I meant. I could have explained it more, but it wasn’t really the point of the article. And, as we now see, it takes another 200 words, and I’m already pretty verbose.

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