This is a guest post by Andrew Betts
4 Gun Myths
If you have been around guns long enough, you have probably run across an “expert” who has been kind enough to share his wisdom with you. He might have been wearing a greasy John Deere hat and overalls or he could have had his black BDU trousers bloused into his jungle boots, but the one thing these experts all have in common is bad advice. If you did not know any better, you might even have believed him.
Here are a few commonly held ideas that are dead wrong.
Racking a Shotgun
It sounds like a good idea, right? Why shoot someone if you don’t have to? If you think someone is in your home, work the action on that ol’ pump gun and the worst thing you will have to worry about is cleaning up the mess they leave in their shorts. Except real life isn’t a movie.
Chambering a round in a shotgun certainly seems like it would frighten any rational person into fleeing. The problem is that people who break into occupied homes are not known for their clear thinking and rational behavior. What’s worse is that the only thing that is really sure about fear is that it elicits the fight or flight response. That means that a person might flee, but they also might be frightened into fighting, especially if they are accustomed to a violent lifestyle.
What’s worse is that they now know where you are and the fact that you are armed while you do not know where they are. It is possible that hearing that sound could prompt them to leave, but it could instead panic them into emptying their 9mm Hi-Point through your daughter’s bedroom wall. Alternatively, they might wait in your living room for you to poke your head around the corner. The point is that their actions are not remotely predictable. If you wish to avoid shooting a person, you should stay in a safe place and wait for the police. That is your safest course of action anyway. By all means arm yourself, but keep that bolt closed on a live round with the safety on and your finger off the trigger.
Manufacturers have been making extraordinary claims for quite some time and PT Barnum famously reminded us that there is no shortage of customers to buy those products. There is an almost endless variety of claims that could be made. They usually fall into one of two categories, though. They either claim some sort of magical shape like the ammunition above or they use a fragmenting design. In the case of the former, it is truly snake oil. There is nothing magical about the shape of the Lehigh Extreme Penetrator.
We can see in the video that it creates a wound that is, if anything, less impressive than 9mm FMJ of the same weight. The same goes for any other manufacturer making fantastic claims about hydraulics and fractal geometry. When it comes to fragmenting designs like Glaser, Magsafe, or the newer G2 RIP, they all suffer from a similar problem: fragmenting the bullet causes it to increase surface area and the now separate projectiles lack the mass
to penetrate deeply enough to reliably incapacitate. To make matters worse, these types of bullet are usually lighter than normal for their caliber, which also leads to insufficient penetration.
The over penetration myth often revolves around the use of a particular cartridge for defense. For example, someone may claim that it is a poor idea to use a .357 mag or .223 Rem for defense because “you’ll shoot through the neighbor’s house”. In reality, any cartridge that is capable of penetrating a bad guy deeply enough to reliably incapacitate him will also penetrate multiple walls if you miss your target.
Similarly, most defense loads will penetrate about 14” of tissue, no matter what the caliber. This is the ideal penetration depth and the standard which any quality ammunition will be designed to meet. It is far more important to choose ammunition that will reliably stop a threat and train to put the rounds where they need to go. Those two factors will reduce the number of rounds that need to be fired, which reduces the potential for misses and reduces the probability that some uninvolved third party is injured. For what it’s worth, though, we know of no incident where a private citizen fired their weapon in a justified shooting and their bullet injured an innocent person.
There are several claims that usually go along with the recommendation to use birdshot. One of them is that it will not penetrate interior walls. This is absolutely untrue. Most birdshot will indeed penetrate interior walls but even if that were true, how could something that was stopped by a thin layer of gypsum have any chance of causing enough damage to stop a man from harming your family?
Another claim is that birdshot acts like a slug at close range. This is also false. It is true that at close range the pellets have not separated much but they penetrate independently. There is no magical power binding the shot pellets together. Even when they are physically held together with wax as in the test above, they penetrate far too shallowly to be relied upon for defense. To put these test results in perspective, the majority of the pellets penetrated less than the .177 caliber BB used to calibrate the block. Would you choose a BB gun for home defense? Birdshot is for little birds.
Andrew Betts served with the Arizona National Guard for over 12 years, including a tour to Afghanistan. Visit his YouTube Channel for more great shooting information.