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Reprinted from Wound Ballistics Review; 3(1), 1997: 26-31.
Review By Martin L. Fackler, MD.
Marshall E.P., Sanow E.J.: Street Stoppers --The Latest Handgun Stopping Power Street Results, CO, Paladin Press, 1996. (374 Pages, $39.95)
The authors of this book are gunwriters who have close ties to bullet companies that specialize in lightweight handgun bullets shot at higher than usual velocities. They have published numerous articles, and a previous book, Handgun Stopping Power -- the Definitive Study, which are essentially unabashed advertisements for this type of bullet.
Rather than a "study," their work consists of unsupported pronouncements. A "study" implies serious intellectual work, using accepted scholarly guidelines. A "study" provides a source of verification so that serious readers can peruse the raw data and decide for themselves if the authors have interpreted it correctly. The more marginal the reputation for truthfulness of the authors, the more critical such independent verification becomes. The authors, however, have repeatedly refused to allow any independent review of their "data" -- claiming some strange need to protect their sources.
Fortunately, the great majority of law enforcement groups have ignored the Marshall and Sanow "Definitive Study" and opted for the heavier, slower bullets, which have proved far more reliable than the faster, lighter bullets that they replaced.1
Marshall - Sanow Can't Beat the Long Odds -- Wound Wizards' Tally Too Good To Be True (Soldier of Fortune Jan 94, pp. 64-65) presents the facts in a way that allows the interested layman to comprehend why the impossible regularity of the Marshall - Sanow data has caused professional statisticians, unanimously, to declare it bogus -- or "too good to be true." More recently, Duncan MacPherson has written, "it is almost impossible for a layman with no knowledge of statistics to avoid the 'too good to be true' trap in manufacturing or doctoring data," and "Any claim that WTI (Wound Trauma Incapacitation) can be assessed within a few percent based on combat shooting data is based on ignorance, or fraud, or both."2 "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 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 details reviews of "Handgun Stopping Power." 3,4
In mid-1992, Sanow made an abortive attempt to delude law enforcement by publishing several articles in the popular gun press in which he claimed that the heavier, slower bullets were failing with great regularity. He included details of about a dozen purported incidents and mentioned the departments involved. In response to Sanow's onslaught on the 9mm WW 147 grain JHP bullet, SGT Mike Dunlap, Rangemaster at Amarillo, TX, PD contacted every department for which Sanow claimed poor results with this bullet in his "anti-subsonic" articles. Mike submitted his results to Law and Order: they showed that Sanow had misrepresented what these departments found. In the November 1992 issue, Law and Order published three letters contradicting Sanow's "data" (p. 90). SGT William Porter, head of the Michigan State Police Marksmanship Unit wrote, "I hope that those who read this article will not be influenced by what Sanow wrote about what happened in the Michigan State Police shooting, because it didn't happen that way." In a note introducing these letters, Bruce Cameron, Editorial Director of Law and Order wrote, concerning Sanow's article, "...we do apologize for printing information that has proven to be in error."
In mid-1993, the results of an authorless "study" done purportedly by shooting more than 600 goats in Strasbourg, France, were circulated, anonymously, throughout the handgun community. A copy of these "Strasbourg Tests" was sent to the Firearms Training Unit of the FBI just before a scheduled meeting of the Wound Ballistics Committee. The committee members, all respected pathologist or trauma surgeons, were unanimous in their opinion that these "tests" were, in fact, a hoax -- and had been fabricated, most likely by somebody without a medical background. A detailed analysis of these tests was published in the Wound Ballistics Review.5
Conceptual Problems in "Street Stoppers"
This book is filled with contradictions, inconsistencies, incongruities, and outright errors. These include:
On page two we find "...there is no substitute for bullet placement...." Yet, the "one-shot stop" concept contradicts the necessity for good bullet placement: a shot that disrupts nothing but skin and the fat of the abdominal wall is counted equal to one that goes through the heart or aorta. This "one-shot stop" concept is of great advantage, however, to these gunwriter/bullet salesmen authors: it says, "buy the bullets we recommend and you can forget about all those hours of practice -- just hit your adversary, with one shot, in any part of the torso, and 96% of them (more than 19 out of 20) will immediately cease their aggression."
On page 201 they wrote "The issue of lethality is strictly one of shot placement; the issue of stopping power is more one of energy transfer." So again, buy our bullets and shot placement doesn't matter.
On page 161, "we have had a number of calls from agencies who...selected loads that looked great in gelatin but proved to be dismal failures in the most realistic laboratory of all -- the street." On page 162, "Bullets recovered from people rarely resemble those recovered from gelatin," and on page 251, "Generally, bullets which expand perfectly in bare gelatin and water are too strong for good expansion in humans." 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. Unfortunately, however, we found no calibration BBs in any of the gelatin blocks shown. Without this calibration none of these shots can be considered valid: gelatin consistency varies greatly with temperature and how it was made. The mandatory calibrating of gelatin is as fundamental to scientific method as verifying the accuracy of a sensitive balance with a known weight.
On page 193 we are told that those who assumed that the FBI Miami shootout would have turned out differently if Agent Dove's bullet had perforated Platt's heart (rather than stopping before reaching it) were wrong. Marshall and Sanow evidently just discovered that some physical activity can occur after a person is struck in the heart by a bullet. Unfortunately, they overlooked the fact that this activity usually ceases within a dozen seconds -- Platt took much longer than that as he ran around while killing two FBI agents and wounding five.
On page 198, "The 147-grain subsonic is a low momentum round." In fact, the 147 grain subsonic possesses more momentum (0.65 lb-sec) than the 115 grain Silvertip bullet (0.62 lb-sec) which it replaced.
Comments Related To Specific Chapters
CHAPTER 4 -- "Strasbourg Goat Tests." Here Marshall and Sanow reproduced the aforementioned anonymous "Strasbourg Tests." In analyzing these purported test results, Marshall and Sanow found an "extremely high rank correlation" with their very own "actual street results." Interestingly, if we compare the shot trajectories in the purported "Strasbourg Tests" with that of the most common shots in humans, we find:
A bullet fired into a goat from side to side, above the heart and behind the shoulder, will pass through or very near the major pulmonary vessels at a penetration depth of three to five inches, and must pass through the mediastinum, either near or through other very large blood vessels.
Conversely, with a shot passing front to back in the human torso, most bullets do not pass near or through the aorta or vena cava until more than six inches of penetration depth in a small slender person and at greater penetration depth in a larger person, or if penetrating at a significant angle.
Due to human anatomy, most shots from the front do not come near major blood vessels. Most go through perforating just lungs near their periphery or just loops of bowel.
Given these facts, the near perfect correlation of Marshall's random torso "one-shot stops" with the purported goat shot results is strong evidence that the anonymous "Strasbourg Test" results have been fabricated or doctored; or the "one-shot stop" results have, or both have.
Some might argue that the "Strasbourg Test" results could be from a real experiment; but one planned with incredible incompetence.5 A few things, however, do not ring true: for example, they mention great difficulty in finding enough goats for the study. Yet, strangely, each of the more than 600 goats found purportedly weighed within four pounds of 160 pounds. Anybody familiar with large animal experimentation realizes that here Marshall and Sanow apparently fell into another "too good to be true" trap.
CHAPTER 5 -- "Navy/Crane 9mm Ammo Tests." This chapter consist of ten pages of "excerpts" from a series of six year old tests done by the US military. Then Marshall and Sanow spent three pages pointing out the Navy researchers' "misunderstanding of the police shooting scenario," pontificating, and correcting "the errors in the cycle testing and in the subjective opinions." The reason for all this quibbling was that the Navy researchers had a 147 grain subsonic 9mm JHP bullet as their top choice. That couldn't be right, it disagreed with the gunwriter/bullet salesmen. So Marshall and Sanow reworked the "numbers" and guess what: a 115 grain +P+ round came out on top. Yes, "reworking the numbers" so that bullets they are touting come out on top seems to be a specialty of these gunwriter/bullet salesmen.
CHAPTER 6 -- "Police Marksman/Fairburn Tests." Here we find the Marshall - Sanow spin on an abortive collection of subjective opinions submitted to Police Marksman magazine purportedly by law enforcement officers. I recall Dick Fairburn calling me before his study started and mentioning that Marshall was very upset at the prospect of such a study. Cases came in slowly, after three years of collection Dick had less than 200 shootings with handguns. He wisely stopped the study, but unwisely Police Marksman published what had been collected. In 1992, I discussed with Dick the problems with his study, which included:
How could he tell that some of the reports sent to him were not being made up? or slanted by the reporter? or misrepresented through ignorance? With his study as described there was no way he could avoid being victimized by those with a need to have his study support the bullets that have already declared to be the most effective.
Any data collection, short of gathering every shooting for a particular time period from a particular police department, is invalid. Unless all cases are included, the unscrupulous investigator can "prove" anything he wants by just selectively including the cases that tend to support his preconceived theory, and omitting the ones that don't.
Here again, Marshall and Sanow appear to have "reworked the numbers" in claiming that Fairburn's study supports their "data." "The 147-grain subsonic JHP is the least effective expanding 9mm caliber according to Fairburn...." Eleven shootings were reported for this bullet: interestingly it had a "50.0%" success ratio. Given the success or nonsuccess type of compilation (yes or no -- no maybes), getting 50.0% outcome from a sample of 11 is interesting mathematics indeed. However, even if we assume that most of the cases sent to Dick Fairburn were honest and unbiased, there are far too few cases to support any valid conclusions for any particular bullet. The only possible indication of any value might come from a look at the comparative percentages for the entire group of cases. 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.
CHAPTER 7 -- "Royal Canadian Mounte