Bullet Behavior, Part II

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Picking up where we left off last episode, we had determined that shooting AT a person in a STATIC not to mention, MOVING vehicle is a precarious and delicate affair. So many things can go “Sideways” in a situation like this… so it is of utmost importance that your reasoning be SOLID in wanting to take this shot.  As already discussed, the probability that other by-standers in the cab, not to mention innocent pedestrians OUTSIDE and/or near the vehicle will be wounded or killed either by flying bullet shards or over-penetration is fairly high. Not to mention the possibility of an errant ricochet coming back and hitting the shooter. ALL of this must be factored in before the trigger is ever pulled! This is why in Private Security it is almost NEVER authorized to fire on a vehicle with a VIP or HVT inside or anywhere near it.., it is just too risky a venture.

OK, so you have been duly warned that these are DANGEROUS Activities. My lawyer has also asked me to repeat my Disclaimer clause which is stated on my Home Page of this Blog:

The information contained in the articles posted to this site is for informational and/or educational purposes only. HammerHead Combat Systems and its staff disclaim any and all liability resulting from the use or misuse of the information contained on this site.

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Shooting at Static Vehicles

We will assume that you will be using a semi-automatic handgun in  a proper modern defensive caliber (9mm or better) for both scenarios. We will save the rifles article for another day. We will also assume that you are fully aware that the person behind the wheel of this 2 ton+ vehicle you are going to be shooting at has you out-gunned and out-maneuvered. They have you Out-Gunned simply because a 2 ton+ mobile vehicle trumps a puny hi-capacity pistol any day of the week, plus Sundays! He has you out-maneuvered because regardless if you can run like Carl Lewis on crack cocaine, that gas-powered engine can go faster! So having said All that, let us hope your reasons for taking this shot are well founded and SOLID!

So let’s approach the static vehicle first. Of course, this is going to be the easier of the two not only because the variable of MOMENTUM is not in play, but also the fact you can now POSITION yourself much easier to take HIGHER PERCENTAGE SHOTS through the side windows versus the windshield. As we discussed and as the B.O.T. showed, us,  Auto Windshields because of their construction and the angle in which they are installed (all makes and models have varying degrees of slope) tend to retard a bullet greatly as it passes through. As the B.O.T.’s examples showed, the point of aim and point of impact varied according to the bullet’s weight. We also saw varied fragmentation impacts from bullet shards and other interior material as the bullet came apart as it passed through.

So, to get the best HIGH PERCENTAGE SHOT we need to position ourselves to the flanks of the vehicle, either the passenger or drivers side windows. Now before we talk about taking the shot through the glass, we first need to review what we talked about previously on how bullets react going through most vehicle doors. The main reason you need to consider this is the probability that your target will MOST LIKELY MOVE when you start shooting!! (duh!!) So be prepared to shoot through the doors to get the hit also.The final verdict on vehicle doors was that overall, most bullets cut through them like “Shit through a cat” (forgive the crude southern humor) however, there is the “Murphy’s Chance” that the bullet will strike either a cross-bar,  panel, motor, pulley or many other types of assorted shit you might find inside a door frame. In this instance, the only way to increase our odds of success is to increase the number of rounds fired (aka VOLUME OF FIRE).

Finally, the only question remaining is How will the side window glass effect the bullet? Since most vehicle side windows are safety glass and not laminate glass like most windshields, you will not have the same issues we discussed previously. However, since there are no B.O.T files showing this experiment, and most of the YouTube vids out there attempting to demonstrate it are garbage made by in-bred alcoholics, you guys will just have to take my word on this. Based on my experiences while operating in some of the “armpits & assholes” of the world, most all hollow point and ball ammo have no problem with side window auto glass, passing right through with no deviation in flight, regardless of distance, with the farthest shot I have seen personally being around 25 yards with a .45acp pistol.

So with that, there is not much left to do but break the shot. Remember what he have talked about thus far:

  • Be mindful of your background and by-standers, as it is likely they will be hit if they are in the car

  • Aim where you want to Hit

  • VOLUME OF FIRE is key! If your gun holds 17 rounds, be ready to fire 17 rounds!

  • Shoot until the threat is down

A real world, yet grisly, example you can look at is how most cartel assassinations are carried out south of the border. The standard MO is 2 guys on a fast motorcycle, the back rider as the shooter. He is typically armed with some type of machine pistol or sub-machinegun. The motorcycle simply negotiates the congested traffic, pulls up to the stopped or parked car (at a red light or stuck in traffic, whatever) and empties the mag into the cab through the side window. Of course most cartels are now hip to this tactic and are riding around in armored, hard skinned vehicles now, but a lot of your low-level grunts that can’t afford this luxury still get bumped off like this every day.

Police detectives investigate a shooting incident involving a truck in Torrance

Shooting at Moving Vehicles

OK, this is where shit gets tricky and where in this writers humble opinion, you really need to ask yourself some soul searching type questions. One of them being “Do I REALLY need to take this shot?” The safety concerns obviously increase 100 fold from shooting at a static vehicle due to you are now throwing a 2 ton MOVING vehicle in the mix, not to mention that it is being driven (by I am guessing) one or more HIGHLY pissed off and agitated enemies! If all of this was not enough, you are also firing high velocity pistol rounds at a target made of angled metal and glass that can cause the rounds to ricochet, deflect & separate and become small, flechette like projectiles, that can tear through human flesh with little effort.

Here is the worst part in my opinion; As we discussed earlier, a puny pistol is no match for a 2 ton mobile vehicle with a highly pissed off driver at the wheel, with the vehicle mobile, two distinct possibilities exist:

  1. They are going to try and run over you once or repeatedly (ever see Death Race 2000?)

  2. They are going to do the Wise Thing and EGRESS out of the kill zone!!

Combine all of this with the LOW PERCENTAGE chance you will actually hit what you are shooting at and it is a huge LOSE/LOSE!

OK, I feel I have done my best to dissuade you, on to the job at hand.

I want to discuss three primary things:

  1. Understand that shooting through the windshield is your WORST, LOW PERCENTAGE SHOT for many reasons:

  • You have to be positioned in front or near the front of a moving vehicle to take the shot (not good).

  • A moving car’s momentum combined with the deflection potential of a modern windshield makes an accurate shot difficult.

  • If you have no other choice and must take the Shot, your best option (if the vehicle is MOBILE) is to aim LOW and keep your volume of fire up until your threat is down. You may wonder why I said Aim LOW, when the B.O.T.’s files showed that most pistol rounds are deflected down by a windshield? The reasoning is this:  You must take the car’s momentum into account (Remember the skeet shooting analogy?) By the time the round is fired, the object (car) would have moved from the original point of aim, now putting the impact of the bullet higher on the windshield (if the car is moving toward you). Of course, many variables can effect this: bullet caliber/type, speed of vehicle, wind etc.

A short experience story on this: I would say 3/4 of the occurrences where a moving vehicle was fired upon with a sidearm (9mm and .45acp) with the vehicle moving anywhere from 50-65 mph from a distance of anywhere of 15 to 30 yards away, when I aimed near the bottom of the windshield, my rounds hit 2-3″ near the top of the glass, sometimes striking high, near the top gasket, sometimes hitting the roof  and some missing all together. Most of these rounds penetrated the glass, deflected down, and either hit or wounded my target, some did not of course, but more times than not the target was wounded more times than he was killed. This is just the reality of firing at moving vehicles with a handgun..extremely high-risk combined with a extremely small chance for success.

2. Second, as with the static vehicle, do your best (right out of the gate) to try and position yourself to the flanks to get a shot through the side windows, which is your BEST, HIGH PERCENTAGE SHOT.

3. As I mentioned in Part I, shooting at moving cars from a static position can be likened to skeet shooting; you have to shoot where the target is going to BE, not where it IS.

  • Depending on the vehicles speed, you are going to have to gauge how far you must “lead”  or “trap” your target. This type of shooting is not nearly as hard as the windshield shot, as you are just shooting at a moving target moving horizontally.

  • Remember: Volume of Fire until the threat is down!

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Ricochets

Moving on from vehicles, let’s address a subject that is more likely to have effected (or WILL effect) us all at one time or another. Ricochets are both a training safety issue and legitimate real-world problem that if not addressed and trained for, can put you “Horizontal and 6 ft under”. But like all problems we encounter in the field, there is often a bright side if we look hard enough. If we filter out all the garbage and “urban myths” about ricochets and look at them for what they are, we can train both to AVOID them and USE them (to a degree) with some effectiveness.

Since their is an unlimited amount of scenarios for ricochets, and just a limited amount of time and blog space, I want to cover two scenarios that I think are the most applicable to the CO:

  1. Ricochets in a parking lot and/or an asphalt

  2. “Bullets Follow Walls”

Parking Lots and Asphalt

Since a majority of us live and/or operate in the urban jungle, it makes since to know how bullets react to the most indigenous substance in an urban jungle; ie, asphalt and/or concrete. When thinking back to all of the civilian CCW shootings I personally know or have read about, a majority of them occurred in an urban environment, ether on an asphalt highway or parking lot. Think back to all of the police shootings you have seen on YouTube via dash-cam video, where did most of them occur? Same places I would bet the civilian ones did: Asphalt Highway or Parking Lot, right?

So now that we know the likelihood of a ricochet incident is high around asphalt, what do we need to do to be Safe? First, if at all possible, NEVER fire into asphalt if you can help it, the likelihood you will hit a bystander or injure or kill yourself  from bullet fragments is high. Second, Negate the effect of possible ricochets by always using solid cover when possible.

Bullets Follow Walls?

We have all heard this at one time or another either in training or in the field, but what does it mean? Simply put, where we were aware of ricochets off the ground with asphalt, the same principle applies with walls. Lead bullets can “skip” off hard surfaces and carry right along a wall. This is why in structure clearing and MOUT Training,  it is often emphasized to “Stay off walls”.  Don’t run along the walls and NEVER stick your head, hand or foot beyond cover for any reason.

The following article by the guys at Valhalla explain it pretty well.

So there it is guys, a small snippet into the wild and unpredictable world of Bullet Behavior. Stay Safe out there and use your head, because it is a good chance the other guy isn’t!

Stay Alert, Armed and Dangerous!

Bullet Behavior, Part I

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I am a firm believer in being a student.

I remember my grandpa telling me when I was 9 years old that:

“If you are not learning something every day son, you are doing yourself a grave injustice and are well on your way to becoming a FOOL!” 

The CO, in order to function at maximum capacity, needs to be a student of many things also in order to survive. One of the main ones being Firearms and Ballistics. But going beyond just the facts you might find in the ballistics tables of the Shooters Bible are the sorted tales of the unpredictable behavior of bullets fired in training and combat.

We all have heard stories about richochets, skips, bounces and amazing bullet penetration through various objects and mediums. But I think for the CO to really become a TRUE Rifleman, Shootist or if you prefer the overly verbose nom de guerre; “Practitioner of the Firearm Arts”, they have to be able, with great certainty, to separate URBAN MYTH/ “GUN SHOP” BULLSHIT from REALITY.

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Bullet Penetration

This is a subject that for the CO, can serve him equally well either offensively or defensively. Knowing what (to a certain degree) materials or medium a bullet can or cannot penetrate can help both keep the CO alive (through cover) and kill their enemies easier (shooting through concealment). An eon ago, when I started collecting Curio and Relic Firearms, a friend of mine directed me to a fellow Texans web site that he thought I might enjoy; The Box O’ Truth. Upon visiting it however, I soon found out that C&R Weapons was just one of the many topics covered; the main emphasis was ammo penetration testing..very cool discovery!

Since the Box’O Truth is what I consider one of the best REFERENCE websites on the web for ammo penetration, I will leave it to you to peruse their extensive files, and draw your own conclusions about bullet penetration myth and reality. But, I would urge you to donate a few dollars in the process; Don and his Crew at the Box spend a lot of their own time and own money to build the extensive reference site that you and me enjoy every day, let’s help em’ out!

I did want to go a little deeper on a couple of materials I think relevant to the CO regarding penetration before moving on from this subject, namely, materials the CO will typically be taking cover behind and/or shooting through during a skirmish;  Sheetrock and Vehicle Doors & Glass.

I have used the B.O.T extensive library for my findings, but also included some personal experiences to help the CO draw their own conclusions.

Sheetrock

Since sheetrock is used in just about every type of building construction, and most of us have it in our houses, it is a practical material to start with. To make this evaluation easy for you, it SUCKS as far as stopping bullets! B.O.T. tested both 5/8″ and 1/2″ Sheetrock. To answer a common question I hear a lot in training: “Isn’t it true that most all walls in a standard home are insulated? Wouldn’t that make a difference in penetration?” Answer: Only EXTERIOR walls are insulated typically, but, NO, as a general rule, it did not make a difference in the test. The B.O.T boys proved this fact also…see HERE.

The guys also tested Shotgun loads, and the results were similar. Boil it all down and you come up with the same conclusion:  Sheetrock SUCKS for Cover!

There is a duality here for the CO. Knowing the above information, The CO definitely needs to train HOW to shoot an intruder (inside a structure) and subtract and/or takeaway the threat of over-penetration. Besides switching to frangible ammo (which we will discuss in a future article), some simple baseline tactics involve knowing your background and changing the shooter’s position prior to the shot. Secondly, armed with the same information along with an in-depth study of how the CO’s particular firearms and defense ammo behave through sheetrock, the CO can now take a shot THROUGH sheetrock with confidence against an intruder, if need be.

A quick note about shooting through sheetrock. Personal Experience has taught me several things on this subject:

  1.  Remember your Background! The Number 1 Rule in Firearms Safety, Period!! What is behind the wall you are shooting through (beside the bad guy?) What is behind the room the bad guy is in? If you are working with a team or family members are still present in the house, where are they?

  2.  Shoot more than one round..in fact, I would say shoot at least five to six. Bear in mind you are shooting blind, so this is essentially “Recon by Fire”; after you have shot, gauge how effective the rounds were; if you hear movement or if you take return fire, obviously, KEEP SHOOTING! (Typically, a large thud or groan/scream is a good sign you hit your target).

  3.  Aim where you want to hit. It has been my experience that sheetrock does not change the trajectory of a bullet that much if any, hollow points included (As the B.O.T confirms).

Of course, ALL of this advice, is heavily Situation Dependent. Ask yourself: Is it Safe? (Notice how I keep coming back to this!?) Do you really want to give away your position by shooting blindly through a wall? Can I wait for a cleaner shot?

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Vehicle Doors & Glass

Besides our homes and work, our vehicles are where most American spend a majority of their time. Either commuting too and from work, that weekly trip to the grocery store or taking kid’s to soccer practice, vehicles are a large part of our lives. So it makes total sense for the CO to spend a LARGE part of their training time learning to FIGHT efficiently IN, FROM and AROUND Vehicles.

In accordance with vehicle combat training, is the essential knowledge of what MOST bullets do when fired through vehicle doors and glass. I picked these two categories, because experience has shown that these two area’s take the most action in a typical vehicle skirmish.

Thankfully, B.O.T.’s illustrious “Buick of Truth” helps us answer these questions without having to go out in our beloved rides and get shot at to find out! A quick word about the Buick of Truth: This particular model contains power windows and locks, meaning that there is much more “equipment” (ie motors and gears) in the door panels than a non-power locks/windows model, giving the bullet more things to hit and/or deflect off of. Something to think about while you are drawing your conclusions.

OK, so the first “experiment” was pistol rounds, as you can see, they chopped through the Buick like butter, some of them even penetrating all the way through the passenger door! This should tell you that in no uncertain terms what the rifle rounds are going to do!! So, in essence guys, vehicle doors SUCK for Cover, don’t use them nor depend on them!

Moving on to Vehicle (Laminate Safety) Glass. A quick word about factory vehicle glass: Most factory auto glass is safety-laminate, which means it is shatter proof and designed not to shatter into a thousand shards upon impact. It is extremely tough and has dramatic effects upon bullets, as we will see.

As far as B.O.T’s files, the only examples they have are for Pistol rounds fired from the outside and the inside of a STATIONARY Buick. The results show how much standard Ball ammo fragments through the glass, also note how much the trajectory is retarded from the original point of aim. The conclusions on the last page are spot on.

To boil it all down; Shooting at a person inside a stationary, not to include a moving vehicle is a precarious affair at best; not only are the odds that you will actually hit your intended target at the point of aim very low, but the odds are greatly increased that you will also hit other people in the car. This is what the Military and HRT call “LOW PERCENTAGE SHOTS” or in plain speak, Shots that should not be taken unless absolutely necessary!

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On that note, a short story about fighting from vehicles. I guess you could call it my “Murphy’s Law Story”  because in essence, it really applies to combat in general. It has been my experience that in having been both shot at inside a vehicle and having shot at moving and static vehicle’s (in pursuits and ambushes) that it is really a “crap shoot” in how things turn out, simply because in real-world combat, things move very fast! People do not stand still when shot at..they move quickly, typically in the opposite direction you are! In a dynamic vehicle situation, I can liken it to skeet shooting.. for those of you who have shot skeet, you know the #1 rule:, You don’t shoot where the target IS, you shoot where the target is going to BE. Add all of this up, combining all the variables listed in shooting at just STATIONARY vehicles, and you have a very dynamic, unpredictable soup!

I mean just consider for a moment trying to hit a 60mph moving target by itself with just a pistol and no other variables…NOW add to this putting a barrier in front of that target (windshield) that depending on the angle, can deflect your shot to such a degree as to cause a total miss, PLUS the glass material can fragment your bullet to such a degree as to reduce it’s killing power to NILL. To boil it all down: Gunplay in vehicles is an extremely dangerous, high risk, LOW PERCENTAGE SHOT activity that SHOULD NOT be attempted unless absolutely necessary.

But for the CO to be prepared to fight in a dynamic, real world environment, he MUST train for that day when it becomes necessary! Stay tuned for Part 2 where we will cover training to take that shot, ricochets and much, much more!

Stay Dangerous!