Stopper

Ballistics experts claim there is no such thing as a stopper handgun bullet. The relatively low velocity and mass of a pistol bullet allows people to simply muscle their way through anything less than a headshot. Experts discuss formulas and coefficients and cite example after example of folks who ignore the holes and blood and keep on going, even after being hit multiple times.

Here is an example. On January 14, a 22-year-old Cleveland man named Ronald Newberry was shot 16 times while pulling out of a driveway on the city’s east side. When police arrived, they found him wandering down the middle of a street. He had somehow driven a quarter mile before stopping, apparently crossing Cleveland’s city limits. Since he was officially in Euclid, Cleveland EMS refused to respond. Euclid said its people were busy. Police officers eventually put Newberry into the back of one of their cars and drove him to a Euclid hospital themselves. He was later transferred to Metro Hospital in Cleveland, where he was treated and released several days later. The Cleveland EMS dispatcher and her supervisor were suspended for refusing to send an ambulance. If there ever was testimony to the failure of a pistol as a stopper, it might be this story. Of course, if Mr. Newberry had been hit in the head or perhaps directly in the heart, the story might have ended differently.

We might well speculate that Mr. Newberry was shot with a 9mm, because it is the most popular handgun cartridge around the world. I have shot a 9mm often, and it feels soft in the hand after shooting my .40 or a .45. I believe it has been so widely adopted because it is principally a wounding weapon, not a killer. A .45 is a killer, and a .40 is a killer. If Mr. Newberry had been shot 16 times with a .45 or .40, he would be pushing up daisies as soon as the Cleveland ground thaws. The incident in Ohio generally supports the argument that a handgun round is not a stopper and adds credence to calls for increased training.

I have shot a stopper, although I do not own one. Several years ago, I had an opportunity to fire a Smith & Wesson 500. It is a .500 S&W Magnum caliber five-shot revolver with a massive X-frame. Smith & Wesson calls it the “most powerful production revolver in the world,” blasting 2,600 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. It costs $1,369 on the Smith & Wesson website, but you can certainly find one for hundreds of dollars less. The fact that it was developed for hunting should tell you something about its stopping power. Is it a practical carry gun? Well, it weighs 4.3 pounds, and its barrel length varies between 3.5 and 15 inches. The Smith & Wesson shooting coach taught me a grip that would not break my thumb when the cartridge burned off. After a couple shots, I was like, “Nah.” Personally, I like the pocket rockets like my new Smith & Wesson M&P .380 Bodyguard and was not especially comfortable shooting this enormous revolver.

So there are stoppers out there, but if you are interested in one, you will need a large-caliber revolver and must be prepared to make the sacrifice of lightweight, thin and concealed. Now, I have seen a few folks here in New Mexico with real hog legs strapped to their hips, but each time, they have been carrying pistols, not revolvers. You would have to be a pretty beefy individual to carry the S&W500 successfully, and after the wrist-twisting recoil, bringing it back onto target for a follow-up shot would not be easy (though nobody is going to get shot 16 times with this gun and live). Of course, one shot ought to be enough. Shooting this big gun made me realize just how powerful a handgun can be. As for me, I am sticking to the pocket rockets.

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