It seems like every time a conversation turns to guns, it isn’t long until it comes to cartridge. It also seems that as soon as it turns to cartridge, someone is going to start spewing all manner of buzzwords that mean absolutely nothing. Over-Penetration is one of those nonsense buzzwords.
Over-Penetration is the concern that when you hit the bad guy, the bullet will achieve 100% penetration. The bullet will sail in one end and out the other, with enough energy to harm the guy behind the bad guy.
Over-Penetration is an over-hyped concern.
I am not saying that over-penetration is an invalid concern. I am saying that it is an over-hyped one. Here are a few reasons why.
- Firearms work by way of penetration.
- Over-Penetration beats the alternative.
- Situational awareness doesn’t only pertain to threats.
Now lets look at these a bit further.
Firearms Work By Way of Penetration
It isn’t news to anyone that the way a bullet causes damage is by penetrating the target.
The interesting phenomenon is that only people who know something about firearms need to actively acknowledge this. A newbie can easily understand that penetration is the desired effect when firing a gun. A man whose got some experience under his belt is thinking about many other things before penetration ever enters his mind.
Why is this? Simple. Marketing.
Every ounce of marketing we consume on cartridges and bullets (except for hunting ammo) emphasizes something besides penetration. Maybe it’s expansion. Maybe it’s permanent wound cavity. Sectional density. Ballistic coefficient.
It becomes very easy for the thoughtful shooter to forget that bullets just poke holes in shit.
Draw gun. Point gun at shit that needs a hole or ten in it. Press trigger. Bang. Bullet pokes holes in shit.
No more, no less.
Over-Penetration Beats the Alternative
What happens when you beat the fear of over-penetration into a shooter’s mind? They start seeking to minimize it. After all, the overwhelming majority of shooters don’t want to hurt anyone until they’re made to. Even then, they want ZERO damage to innocent parties who were in the wrong place like they were.
So what happens?
They select a load that performs absolutely perfectly…in ideal conditions.
What happens if the shot they need to make to save their life isn’t ideal conditions?
Considering that we do not choose the fight, but the fight chooses us, odds are good that conditions will not be ideal. If conditions were ideal, we would not be in a gunfight facing imminent threat of death. We’d be at home with a cup of tea and a good book.
So, if penetration is desirable and not something to avoid, what about innocent bystanders? Again, we do not choose the fight. The fight chooses us. And, being good men, we do not want to harm passers-by. So what do we do?
Simple, we maintain situational awareness.
Situational Awareness Doesn’t Only Pertain to Threats
It is what it says, be aware of the situation in your environment. Pay attention to what is going on around you.
Maybe I see the penetration issue differently because I am a hunter. You may be wondering what being a hunter has to do with situational awareness. It has everything to do with it.
In nature, you are not guaranteed a perfect broadside shot. The good news is that bullets that penetrate deeply don’t magically stop. They will continue in a straight line unless hard bone stops them or makes them ricochet.
Bullets don’t magically perform differently because they’re used in a different context. A bullet fired in self defense will behave the same way as a bullet fired in hunting. So what does this mean for us?
Very simply, observe the third safety rule. Be sure of your target and what lies beyond it.
Train yourself to consciously consider what is behind your target. It isn’t hard to do. You should consider different angles and ranges to impact the same area of your target from unconventional positions.
Here we are reminded that the martial arts are not only the unarmed arts. An art in which the purpose is the harm of a hostile individual is a martial art.
Never forget that the body is the first weapon. Use it to augment all other auxiliary weapons.
Even then, knowing to take your bullet’s path into consideration, you may have some concerns.
What About Expansion?
Expansion is something we cannot take as a given. It is not guaranteed, as there are no guarantees in life.
The individual situation will determine expansion. How much tissue, muscle, water is impacted before bone or organs? These details cannot be predetermined, and as such cannot be counted upon.
What we need is not as much expansion as necessary. What we need is as much penetration is necessary to ensure our bullet reaches vitals, with as much of a permanent wound cavity as possible to ensure tissue disruption.
As big a bullet as possible, expanding as violently as posible, with enough penetration to reach what is needed for incapacitation. That is what we want.
Penetration is the vital component. The other two considerations, projectile size and projectile expansion, are situation dependent. We cannot rely on them.
Don’t worry about Over-Penetration. Worry about where your bullet will go if it achieves 100% penetration. Ensure that you never take a shot that would harm an innocent if it achieves 100% penetration.
Like the man said, be sure of your target and what lies beyond it.
I can’t make it any easier than that. All I can add is…
Live Free, Make Money, Pack Iron
The above is the author’s opinion. Make up your own damn minds on penetration and tell me what you think in the comments below. – ed.