Stopping Power - Dynamics of Bullets

Dynamics of Bullets

A bullet will destroy or damage any tissues which it penetrates, creating a wound channel. It will also cause nearby tissue to stretch and expand as it passes through tissue. These two effects are typically referred to as permanent cavity (the track left by the bullet as it penetrates flesh) and temporary cavity, which, as the name implies, is the temporary (instantaneous) displacement caused as the bullet travels through flesh and is many times larger than the actual diameter of the bullet. These phenomena are unrelated to low-pressure cavitation in liquids.

The degree to which permanent and temporary cavitation occur is dependent on the mass, diameter, material, design and velocity of the bullet. This is because bullets crush tissue, and do not cut it. A bullet constructed with a half diameter ogive designed meplat and hard, solid copper alloy material will crush only the tissue directly in front of the bullet. This type of bullet (monolithic-solid rifle bullet) is conducive to cause more temporary cavitation as the tissue flows around the bullet, causing a deep and narrow wound channel. A bullet constructed with a two diameter, hollow point ogive designed meplat and low-antimony lead-alloy core with a thin gilding metal jacket material will crush tissue in front and to the sides as the bullet expands. Due to the energy expended in bullet expansion, velocity is lost more quickly. This type of bullet (hollow-point hand gun bullet) is conducive to causing more permanent cavitation as the tissue is crushed and accelerated into other tissues by the bullet, causing a shorter and wider wound channel.

Bullets are constructed to behave in different ways, depending on the intended target. Different bullets are constructed variously to: not expand upon impact, expand upon impact at high velocity, expand upon impact, expand across a broad range of velocities, expand upon impact at low velocity, tumble upon impact, fragment upon impact, or disintegrate upon impact.

To control the expansion of a bullet, meplat design and materials are engineered. The meplat designs are: flat; round to pointed depending on the ogive; hollow pointed which can be large in diameter and shallow or narrow in diameter and deep and truncated which is a long narrow punched hole in the end of a monolithic-solid type bullet. The materials used to make bullets are: pure lead; alloyed lead for hardness; gilding metal jacket which is a copper alloy of nickel and zinc to promote higher velocities; pure copper; copper alloy of bronze with tungsten steel alloy inserts to promote weight.

Some bullets are constructed by bonding the lead core to the jacket to promote higher weight retention upon impact, causing a larger and deeper wound channel. Some bullets have a web in the center of the bullet to limit the expansion of the bullet while promoting penetration. Some bullets have dual cores to promote penetration.

Bullets that might be considered to have stopping power for dangerous large game animals are usually 11.63 mm (.458 caliber) and larger, including 12-gauge shotgun slugs. These bullets are monolithic-solids; full metal jacketed and tungsten steel insert. They are constructed to hold up during close range, high velocity impacts. These bullets are expected to impact and penetrate, and transfer energy to the surrounding tissues and vital organs through the entire length of a game animal’s body if need be.

Bullets with sufficient stopping power for humans are generally large caliber, 9.07 mm (.357 caliber) handgun bullets of hollow point design. Pre-fragmented bullets such as Glaser Safety Slugs and MagSafe ammunition are designed to fragment into birdshot on impact with the target. This fragmentation is intended to create more trauma to the target, and also to reduce collateral damage caused from ricocheting or overpenetrating of the target and the surrounding environments such as walls. Fragmenting rounds have been shown to be unlikely to obtain deep penetration necessary to disrupt vital organs located at the back of a hostile human.

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