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Tactical Briefs #2, 1 March 1998

A question many concealed weapon licensees ask is: "When is it appropriate for me to draw my gun in self-defense?" The answer isn’t easy, because each confrontational situation is unique. As a result, we’ve developed Five Rules for Concealed Carry which are intended to serve as a quick decision-making guideline to help you determine if the situation you face is one that warrants drawing your concealed gun in public.

As we promised you in our last update, we describe in detail the wound ballistics of the unique Winchester Ranger Talon (formerly Black Talon/Ranger SXT) cartridge. We answer the question: "How does this bullet really work?"

We again take issue with Evan Marshall’s One-Shot Stopping Power handgun bullet effectiveness "data." Unfortunately the NRA published an article written by him in last month’s edition of American Guardian. We’re not advocating censorship here, but we feel the NRA has done an enormous disservice to their members by publishing this rubbish. In this update, we explain just a few of the problems with Marshall’s "study" to help you understand why informed law enforcement agencies have overwhelmingly rejected it as a credible measure of bullet effectiveness.


Five Rules for Concealed Carry

1.  YOUR CONCEALED HANDGUN IS FOR PROTECTION OF LIFE ONLY. Draw it solely in preparation to protect yourself or an innocent third party from the wrongful and life-threatening criminal actions of another.

2.  KNOW EXACTLY WHEN YOU CAN USE YOUR GUN. A criminal adversary must have, or reasonably appear to have:

A)  the ability to inflict serious bodily injury (he is armed or reasonably appears to be armed with a deadly weapon),

B)  the opportunity to inflict serious bodily harm (he is physically positioned to harm you with his weapon), and

C)  his intent (hostile actions or words) indicates that he means to place you in jeopardy -- to do you serious or fatal physical harm.

When all three of these attack potential elements are in place simultaneously, then you are facing a reasonably perceived deadly threat that justifies an emergency deadly force response.

3.  IF YOU CAN RUN AWAY -- RUN! Just because you’re armed doesn’t necessarily mean you must confront a bad guy at gunpoint. Develop your "situation awareness" skills so you can be alert to detect and avoid trouble altogether. Keep in mind that if you successfully evade a potential confrontation, the single negative consequence involved might be your bruised ego, which should heal with mature rationalization. But if you force a confrontation you risk the possibility of you or a family member being killed or suffering lifelong crippling/disfiguring physical injury, criminal liability and/or financial ruin from civil lawsuit. Flee if you can, fight only as a last resort.

4.  DISPLAY YOUR GUN, GO TO JAIL. Expect to be arrested by police at gunpoint, and be charged with a crime anytime your concealed handgun is seen by another citizen in public, regardless of how unintentional or innocent or justified the situation might seem. Choose a method of carry that reliably keeps your gun hidden from public view at all times.

You have no control over how a stranger will react to seeing (or learning about) your concealed handgun. He or she might become alarmed and report you to police as "a man or woman with a gun." Depending on his or her feelings about firearms, this person might be willing to maliciously embellish his or her story in attempt to have your gun seized by police or to get you arrested. An alarmed citizen who reports a "man with a gun" is going to be more credible to police than you when you're stopped because you match the suspect's description, and you are found to have a concealed handgun in your possession.

Before you expose your gun in public, ask yourself: "Is this worth going to jail for?" The only time this question should warrant a "yes" response is when an adversary has at least, both ability and intent, and is actively seeking the opportunity to do you great harm.

5.  DON’T LET YOUR EMOTIONS GET THE BEST OF YOU. If, despite your best efforts to the contrary, you do get into some kind of heated dispute with another person while you’re armed, never mention, imply or exhibit your gun for the purpose of intimidation or one-upmanship. You’ll simply make a bad situation worse -- for yourself (see rule #4).

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NRA American Guardian Magazine Unwisely Publishes Marshall One-Shot Stopping Power "Data"

Sadly, the February 1998 issue of American Guardian, the National Rifle Association’s official Journal, unwisely published an Evan Marshall article titled "One Shot Stop." Exactly, what’s wrong with Marshall’s methodology?

To get you skeptical readers thinking, here are a few quotes from Dr. Martin Fackler regarding the credibility of Marshall’s "one-shot stopping power" research. Dr. Fackler has conducted extensive inquiry into Marshall’s work and has found some troubling problems, both with the data and with Marshall’s reputation for truthfulness.

In a handout prepared by Dr. Fackler, for the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission*, Fackler states:

"We pointed out in IWBA Bulletin No. 1/92 that three academic statisticians had judged, independently, the Marshall/Sanow one-shot stop data, to be bogus, i.e., made up to fit a preconceived theory. Since that time, another renown academic, Dr. Carroll Peters, Professor of Engineering at the University of Tennessee Space Institute, has analyzed the Marshall/Sanow statistics and calculated the probability that they could be true to be one in ten to the twentieth power (1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000)."

*Fackler, Martin L., MD, President, IWBA: "Too Good to be True." Exploding the Mythology of Stopping Power: Ballistic Myths of the 90's, presented to the Washington State Law Enforcement Firearms Instructor's Association (WSCJTC Firearms Instructor Update #2015-A), 10/29/93

In Fackler’s review of the Marshall/Sanow book "Street Stoppers," he makes the following observations about how Marshall and Sanow "reworked the numbers" of the "Police Marksman/Fairburn Tests" (Chapter 6 of the book) to claim that the Fairburn study supports their one-shot stopping power data:

"One would expect Fairburn’s ‘success ratio’ to be higher than Marshall’s ‘one-shot stop’ percentages: the ‘one-shot stop’ being a sort of super success. Yet we find just the opposite -- and dramatically so. The overall ‘success ratio’ for all of Fairburn’s 187 handgun shooting incidents was only 49% while Marshall’s overall ‘one-shot stop’ percentages for the same four handgun calibers was 78%. Yes, I think this, the only statistic with enough cases to assume any kind of validity, tells us a great deal about Marshall’s ‘one-shot stop’ data."

In Marshall’s American Guardian article, the caption on page 34 for a photo of a bullet shown penetrating a block of uncalibrated ordnance gelatin states:

"Gelatin provides a standardizing medium for testing, however, it reveals only what a bullet does in gelatin. Bullets often perform very differently in actual street shootings where they encounter infinite numbers of variables."

Fackler takes issue with a similar statement in the Marshall/Sanow book "Street Stoppers" by observing this obvious incongruity:

"Despite this and other gelatin bashing, we find a photograph of a bullet being fired through gelatin on the cover of ‘Street Stoppers,’ and 85 photographs of bullets shot in gelatin throughout the book. Indeed, Marshall and Sanow claim to use shots in gelatin as the basis for their ‘predicted one-shot stop’ percentages."

Then there’s Marshall’s marginal reputation for truthfulness. Fackler states in his review of the Marshall/Sanow book "Street Stoppers":

"’Statistician Dan Watters from the University of South Carolina’ is mentioned on page 330 of ‘Street Stoppers.’ It appears that Marshall and Sanow are implying that there exists a professional academic statistician who doesn’t burst out laughing when presented with their ‘data.’ I was especially interested in this Watters because all of the professional statisticians, who I know have seen the Marshall/Sanow ‘data,’ were in clear and unequivocal agreement that the ‘one-shot stop statistics’ were so flagrantly bogus that nobody competent in statistics could believe them to be genuine. I tried to reach Watters: the University of South Carolina directory does not have any such person listed -- and the Department of Statistics there denies that any such person works for them, or has in the past. I remain eager to contact any professional statistician who thinks he or she can support the Marshall-Sanow ‘data.’ Further evidence regarding these authors’ credibility (or lack thereof) is contained in the detailed reviews of ‘Handgun Stopping Power’."

Note: In January 1999 we exchanged e-mail with an individual who identified himself to us as the "Dan Watters" who assisted Marshall and Sanow. Although we've not made any effort to confirm this person's identity, we're satisfied that he is probably the person he claims to be.

Watters stated that he was a student at University of South Carolina at the time he offered to assist Marshall and Sanow. He was pursuing a Master of Arts degree, and was taking a few courses in biostatistics.

Given this information, it appears that Marshall and Sanow intentionally misrepresented Watters' credentials, attempting to pass him off as a professional statistician, which he was not.

Lastly, in the American Guardian article, Marshall repeats his "criteria for the study":

"4) before a shooting could be included in the study, some of these reports would have to be provided or available for review: (a) police reports, (b) evidence technician reports, (c) autopsy and homicide reports, (d) statements by surviving victim, (e) relevant photos, and (f) medical treatment records."

"5) any recovered bullets would be personally examined by me, or acceptable photos of the bullets provided by my source,...."

We’ve reprinted a critical review of Marshall’s first book "Handgun Stopping Power: The Definitive Study." In it, one of the authors of the review, Gene Wolberg, denies having provided Marshall any of the materials he insists he must examine in order to include a shooting in his study. Marshall mentions Wolberg by name in the book as his source for this information regarding five shooting incidents involving Glaser impact fragmentation bullet cartridges.

These are just a few of the problems with Marshall’s "one-shot stop" percentages. Why does he continue to be published? If you weren’t aware of these problems, why should the editors of magazines like American Guardian be any different? What’s sad about this whole situation is the NRA has an outstanding reputation for the credibility and validity of information they provide their members and the news media. In this case, the NRA failed its membership by accepting the validity of Marshall’s data at face value, and as a result, they’ve badly misinformed their members.

Responsible law enforcement agencies who’ve examined the Marshall/Sanow "data" in any detail have dismissed it due to these credibility problems. If one of their officers were to be injured or killed after having shot an assailant using ammunition issued by the department, and the department used the Marshall/Sanow "data" as the basis for their bullet selection, the department would not survive a lawsuit brought on by the injured officer or his or her survivors once this defective junk-science is exposed in a court of law.

Marshall, Evan: "One Shot Stop." American Guardian 2(2); 32-35, 59-60. February 1998

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Winchester Ranger Talon (Ranger SXT/Black Talon) Wound Ballistics

If you’ve read the FBI publication "Handgun Wounding Factors and Effectiveness" that we’ve reprinted on our web site, you’ll recall the four components of projectile wounding:

Generally, a handgun bullet penetrating soft tissue permanently damages only the tissue it comes into direct contact with. The bullet damages this tissue by crushing it.

A temporary cavity is formed in soft tissue by the transfer of kinetic energy between the penetrating bullet and the tissue it contacts. Soft tissue is propelled radially outward away from the wound track at a speed no greater than one-tenth the velocity of the penetrating bullet, causing temporary displacement of these tissues by stretching them.

Unless the bullet passes through non-elastic soft tissue, which has little tolerance for stretching, such as kidney, liver, pancreas and spleen during the first few inches of penetration (these inelastic tissues often tear, split and rupture), the temporary cavity does not reliably increase wounding effectiveness.

The resilient, elastic-like tissues of blood vessels, bowel, heart, lung, muscle and nerve can easily absorb the stretching and transient displacement of temporary cavitation without sustaining very much damage.

When elastic soft tissue has stretched to the point where all the energy transmitted to it by the penetrating bullet has been dissipated, the displaced tissue rebounds to its original configuration, causing the temporary cavity to collapse. The hole that remains after the bullet has passed is the permanent cavity.

Temporary cavity is comparable to the splash produced by a rock thrown into a pool of water. The water near the surface and directly in the path of the rock is pushed aside as the rock penetrates, then quickly rushes back in to fill the void after the rock has passed. Temporary cavity has been sometimes referred to as "tissue splash."

Some handgun bullets fragment as they penetrate. The detached fragments produce their own wound tracks, usually straying no farther than half an inch from the main path of the bullet. Fragmentation of hollowpoint bullets does not contribute to any substantial increase in wounding effectiveness.

With handgun bullets, penetration and permanent cavity are the only mechanisms that can be relied upon to produce rapid incapacitation of a criminal attacker. The bullet must penetrate the attacker’s torso deeply enough to reach and crush a hole in critical blood bearing soft tissues, and produce rapid fatal hemorrhage.

A bullet that expands to increase its diameter is able to contact and crush a greater area of tissue as it penetrates than a bullet which does not expand. This is the concept behind hollowpoint bullets.

Hollowpoint bullets are designed to expand upon impact with flesh. Hydraulic pressure from the fluids in soft body tissues presses against the internal wall of the hollow cavity, causing the wall to peel backwards around the bullet shank, increasing bullet diameter. (The mechanics of hollowpoint bullet expansion are entirely analogous to cuffing a shirt sleeve.) Bullet expansion acts like a parachute to slow and stop the bullet as it penetrates dense soft tissue.

If a hollowpoint bullet is propelled too quickly, it will either overexpand and not penetrate deeply enough, or it will fragment. If the bullet fragments, it defeats the purpose of using an expanding bullet.

It’s best to think of a hollowpoint bullet as being similar to a broadhead hunting arrow. The arrow damages only the structures its blades come into direct contact with. It has less kinetic energy than a .22 Short. A bullet that overexpands and fragments is comparable to a broadhead hunting arrow that jettisons it blades immediately after impact. The resulting permanent cavity is no greater in diameter than the diameter of the arrow shaft, resulting in decreased wounding effect.

In police action and civilian self-defense shootings, excepting disruption of the central nervous system by a hit to the brain or the cervical spinal cord of the neck, blood loss in sufficient quantity to produce unconsciousness is the only reliable mechanism to stop a determined criminal attacker.

An adversary whose heart has just been destroyed may not collapse for up to a dozen seconds afterward due to residual oxygenated blood remaining in his brain. He remains able to perform willful post-fatal injury activity until blood loss affects the ability of his central nervous system to function.

The advantage of using a bullet that expands to increase its diameter is because it might contact and rupture the wall of a major blood vessel that would have been barely missed by the smaller diameter of a nonexpanding bullet following the same penetration path.

As a bullet penetrates soft tissue, it loses velocity, and this affects its "effective diameter." When the bullet first penetrates and expands, it is moving so quickly that it crushes almost all soft tissue it comes into direct contact with. However, as velocity begins to slow, soft tissue is then able to stretch around the smooth outer edges of the mushroom-shaped lead core shoulder to move out of the way. As the bullet slows further it plows more and more tissue aside instead of crushing it.

Near the end of the wound track, the diameter of the permanent cavity might be less than 60 percent of the expanded diameter of the bullet. The last few inches of the wound track are the most important because this is where the vital cardiovascular structures are located that you’re trying to damage.

This is where the police only Winchester Ranger Talon (formerly Black Talon and Ranger SXT) bullet departs from conventional expanding hollowpoint bullets. Ranger Talon adds an additional wounding mechanism: cutting.

When Ranger Talon expands, its copper jacket peels back to form six sharp claws. These claws protrude outward just slightly beyond the smooth outer edges of the mushroom-shaped lead core shoulder.

Upon impact with flesh Ranger Talon performs identical to conventional hollowpoint bullets. However, as it penetrates and slows it does not suffer a decrease in effective bullet diameter. This is because tissue that stretches and flows around the smooth shoulder of the mushroom-shaped lead core comes into contact with the sharp copper jacket claws and is lacerated.

These lacerations contribute little to overall wound severity.

However, if Ranger Talon happens to pass very close to a major cardiovascular structure, instead of merely shoving it aside as it passes by, one of the six claws might be in position to cut the wall of this structure to cause profuse bleeding.

This additional cutting mechanism gives Ranger Talon the potential to be approximately 3% to 5% more effective than other expanding bullets of the same caliber. In one out of every 20-30 shootings, Ranger Talon might make a difference.

In order for Ranger Talon's increased wounding potential to be realized, at least two conditions must be met: 1) the bullet's wound track must pass close enough to a major blood vessel to physically touch it, and 2) one of the talons must be in the right orientation to physically contact the wall of the blood vessel as the bullet rifles past. If one of these two conditions are not met, the wound will be no more severe than any other JHP expanding bullet.

This very slight advantage could be just enough to save the life of a police officer who has to shoot a psychotic, enraged or chemically intoxicated attacker who is oblivious to being shot.

The Black Talon bullet came under intense negative media scrutiny after it was criminally misused in a shooting rampage in a San Francisco office building in July 1993. Nine people were killed and six wounded by gunman Gian Luigi Ferri. The news media reported falsehoods that Black Talon's "razor sharp claws" created particularly ghastly, devastating and unsurvivable wounds.

The forensic pathologist who performed the autopsies of the fatal shooting victims gave a detailed presentation about his findings at the 1994 IWBA Wound Ballistics Conference in Sacramento: "The 101 California Shooting: The Black Talon Bullet," Boyd Stevens, M.D., Medical Examiner, San Francisco, CA. He stated that the wound trauma produced by Black Talon was unremarkable, meaning the wounds were no different nor any more severe than wounds produced by typical JHP handgun bullets. Each of the victims incurred fatal injury because a bullet passed through a vital structure.

Winchester designed the Ranger Talon with what they call a "reverse-taper" copper jacket. What this means is that the copper jacket on the Ranger Talon is thicker at the tip than at its base, and this is the opposite of conventional hollowpoint bullet designs. This thickness is necessary to provide stiffness to the talons after expansion so they remain in ideal position to cut tissue that flows around the mushroom skirt.

Contrary to the pronouncements of gunwriter Ed Sanow, who claims that the Black Talon/Ranger SXT/Ranger Talon bullet slowly expands during its first 8 inches of penetration, the thick copper jacket requires the bullet to rapidly expand after impact when velocity is highest. Once the bullet begins to slow, the forces acting on the copper jacket and lead core which cause the bullet to deform, decrease. His absurd claim that this bullet gradually expands as it penetrates simply defies the laws of physics, and is based on fantasy.

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