There are a lot of misconceptions about what bullets do and how they work.  Most of it comes from TV and Movies.  As a result, there are people out there making a lot of money on milling out some overly fancy bullets that are overly priced.   Self Defense is not magic, it’s science.  “Applied Physics”.  There is no voodoo to what a projectile does.  There is no mystery.  There is no Magic Bullet.  There is no dragon slaying Black Arrow.  There is only science.

Let’s take a brief look at how a bullet stops a bad guy.   Bullets do one thing.  They make holes.  This causes different reactions in an adversary’s anatomy depending on that bullet’s vector through the target.   So we have different functions of how the bullet to stop a threat.

  1. Hydraulically. Making the target bleed out. Once a human loses enough blood, he goes into Hypovolemic shock. Hypovolemic shock refers to a medical or surgical condition in which rapid fluid loss results in multiple organ failure due to inadequate tissue perfusion. Most often, Hypovolemic shock is secondary to rapid blood loss (hemorrhagic shock). The cardiovascular system initially responds to Hypovolemic shock by increasing the heart rate, increasing myocardial contractility, and constricting peripheral blood vessels. What this means, is that shots to extremities get a biological response that naturally reduces the loss of blood. A center mass hit is required to insure this rapid loss of blood. If you aim Center Of Mass (COM from now on) the bullet has the best chances of penetrating deeply into vital internal organs.
  2. Structurally. The human body is built on a solid framework we call the skeleton. Certain bones in the skeleton support the whole weight of body. I’m talking about the legs and the pelvis. A shot that hits and shatters one of these bones disrupts the structure and causes a collapse. Actually making this shot is difficult as the legs are much thicker than the actual bone. There is another downside to a structural hit, and that is the subject may still have some fight left in them. He may not be able to stand, and probably won’t be doing any tap dancing for some time, but if he is armed, he is still a threat. He just might still be able to take a shot back at you.
  3. Electrically. CNS. Central Nervous System. The nervous system in the human body is basically like electric wiring and all the wires run to the brain via the conduit called the central nervous system. It’s located in the spine. Sounds easy enough, but really this is where it gets complicated. If you fire a shot that hits the spine and severs the CNS, you’ve disrupted the electrical system. But only everything “Down Stream” from that wound. That could be a problem. If it was a COM shot and you hit the subject in the spin in the middle of the back, he will not be able to use his legs, but the upper body is still connected and functional. The subject could still return fire. You want to hit the Medulla Oblongata. It is the size of a Grade A Medium egg and it is nested in a protective covering of very solid bone. Making that shot with a handgun is unlikely.
  4. Psychologically. Getting a bullet wound, even a minor one can have a drastic effect on someone’s motivation. Some people, they see a little blood, and they just lose the will to fight. They give up right then and there. They may even go into shock. Some people have even died from this, when the wound its self was not even life threatening. Although this can happen, don’t bank on it. You might think that the bad guy might stop having been hurt.   Unfortunately there is a pretty good chance if they were not bright enough to stop at the sight of an aimed gun; they are not going to stop with a mere wounding. Sometimes getting hurt just makes the subject all the more dangerous.  Even if your shot was a lethal one.  The famous Miami Massacre in which two mortally wounded villains took on and wounded and killed several agents of the FBI is a good example of this.

Looking at these four ways of how a bullet stops a fight…   We are left with the simple conclusion that the only thing that we can bank on in a self-defense situation is well aimed shots to the Center Of Mass. You want to use as big of a bullet as you can handle… in as powerful of a load as you can handle. You want to drive that slug deep into the vital organs of the threat. That has the best chances of stopping the threat via one of these 4 ways.  Notice that I used the word “shots”.   We do not shoot to kill.  We shoot to stop a threat.  We don’t shoot to take lives, we shoot to save innocent lives.

The next time you see full color two page advertisements for some wonderfully tactical ammunition that is obviously used by every Special Forces Ninja out there… take it with a grain of salt.  If you want step up your Self Defense game, look for the training that will help you make those critical center of mass hits when you need them the most.