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Thread: Lethality of Handgun Calibers?

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    Lethality of Handgun Calibers?

    I read one time, somewhere on the internet, that the best way to understand the lethality of a caliber is to understand the energy it creates.

    I can't remember the formula, but it was explained that greater bullet mass creates more energy that can then be transferred once the bullet strikes an object. For example, a car and a baseball could be traveling at the same speed. But since a car has more mass, it transfers more energy when it hits an object, thus creating greater carnage.

    I see and hear debates all the time about 9mm versus 40. versus .45. I understand that a bigger bullet makes a bigger hole, etc. Many people argue, however, that a proper 9mm hollowpoint can be nearly as effective as a .45. But haven't we forgot about the energy a bullet creates. Doesn't a .45 transfer more energy because it has more mass? And doesn't more energy mean more lethality?

    Could someone tell me if all this is true or not? Also, why is this rarely brought up?

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    Handguns poke holes, rifles tear shit up.

    Best short explanation I was ever given.

    Try looking at the stickied threads the Doc has provided.
    Last edited by Heavy Metal; 07-01-11 at 12:32.
    My brother saw Deliverance and bought a Bow. I saw Deliverance and bought an AR-15.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Leonidas77 View Post
    I read one time, somewhere on the internet, that the best way to understand the lethality of a caliber is to understand the energy it creates.

    I can't remember the formula, but it was explained that greater bullet mass creates more energy that can then be transferred once the bullet strikes an object. For example, a car and a baseball could be traveling at the same speed. But since a car has more mass, it transfers more energy when it hits an object, thus creating greater carnage.

    I see and hear debates all the time about 9mm versus 40. versus .45. I understand that a bigger bullet makes a bigger hole, etc. Many people argue, however, that a proper 9mm hollowpoint can be nearly as effective as a .45. But haven't we forgot about the energy a bullet creates. Doesn't a .45 transfer more energy because it has more mass? And doesn't more energy mean more lethality?

    Could someone tell me if all this is true or not? Also, why is this rarely brought up?
    Crap! here we go again!
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    Mass of the bullet is not the all important factor in hurting people that many think it is. After all, a .308 which is smaller in diameter and mass than a .40 or .45, but which would you rather get shot with? id rather get shot with any handgun caliber over a rifle regardless of actual bullet size. Bullet shape and velocity are important as well. Im no ballistics expert but there is more to it then the size of the bullet.

    People say that bullets poke holes in people so pick a bullet that pokes the biggest hole. What they mean is the biggest diameter hole. What about the deepest hole? What about the most ragged? What about the one that makes it easier to get more then one hole? What about the one that pokes holes in the best spots?

    I don't have it all figured out but i think theres a lot more to the equation then your typical person thinks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Leonidas77 View Post
    I read one time, somewhere on the internet,
    Is that not how all the best threads start?
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    Quote Originally Posted by NeoNeanderthal View Post
    Mass of the bullet is not the all important factor in hurting people that many think it is. After all, a .308 which is smaller in diameter and mass than a .40 or .45, but which would you rather get shot with? id rather get shot with any handgun caliber over a rifle regardless of actual bullet size. Bullet shape and velocity are important as well. Im no ballistics expert but there is more to it then the size of the bullet.

    People say that bullets poke holes in people so pick a bullet that pokes the biggest hole. What they mean is the biggest diameter hole. What about the deepest hole? What about the most ragged? What about the one that makes it easier to get more then one hole? What about the one that pokes holes in the best spots?

    I don't have it all figured out but i think theres a lot more to the equation then your typical person thinks.

    I understand what you're saying. I'm just trying to figure this out.

    When people talk about rifle calibers, the discussion usually leads to velocity. This is simply the other half of the equation because velocity creates energy as well.

    But it's not the same with pistol calibers. Usually they just talk about the diameter of the hole being created and I feel it's more complicated than that.

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    You're talking about the formula for kinetic energy=0.5Mass * Velocity^2.

    Kinetic energy doesn't equate to lethality though all other things being equal the more kinetic energy, the more damage.

    This is one of myriad factors that make up terminal performance. You have crush, you have tear, you have fragmentation, you have expansion and each of these impacts the other.

    Don't get wrapped around the axle the biggest factor involved in lethality is whether you can put the bullet where you should.

    A hit with a .22LR is a lot more "lethal" than a miss with a .50BMG.
    It is bad policy to fear the resentment of an enemy. -Ethan Allen

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