Another Case Study on Bullet Effectiveness

Winchester Black Talons.

Is there any bullet out there that has sparked as much hysteria, fear, dread, and media coverage as the legendary Black Talon?

Just how deadly was it?  If you shot someone with a Black Talon, was their ticket immediately punched?

I don’t know of any comprehensive studies on Black Talons, but I do know that Winchester pulled them off the market, and subsequently introduced Ranger SXT, which has been characterized by pundits as standing for “Same eXact Thing” as the Black Talon… just not “black” (the Black Talon bullets were covered in a Lubalox coating, which gave them a distinctive black appearance).

So let’s examine another case study of how real bullets performed against real people in real shooting situations.  The idea here is not to prove or disprove any particular aspect of bullet performance; rather it’s really just to provide another example that will hopefully enlighten the self defense community as to what MAY happen in a shooting scenario, and what you should be prepared to face.

There are cases where a single shot stops an attacker; the case of George Zimmerman vs. Trayvon Martin comes to mind, where a single shot of 9mm resulted in Mr. Martin’s death.  That one incident, however, must not be taken as representative of what a person is likely to encounter if they use a 9mm pocket pistol for defense — it would be unwise (if not downright insane) to conclude that a Kel-Tec PF9 (the pocket pistol used by Mr. Zimmerman) was a “one shot stopper” or that “if you use a Kel-Tec PF9, you only need to shoot once.”  The only reasonable conclusion we can draw from this scenario is that, regardless of the gun, a gunshot through the heart is very difficult to survive.

The Case of Officer Soulis vs. Tim Palmer

So, let’s go on to today’s incident, which didn’t take place today, it’s actually from several years ago.  The writeup I’m using as the basis for this article is from a 2008 article on lawofficer.com.  And in this incident, officer Peter Soulis used a .40-caliber Glock 22 in a protracted gunfight against Tim Palmer, who (unknown to Soulis) was wanted on a murder charge in a neighboring state.

So, to set the stage — Officer Soulis is armed with a Glock 22, a full-sized handgun (no pocket pistol here!) chambered in the quite-powerful and large .40 caliber, and loaded with Winchester Ranger SXT ammo (which is, as said before, basically the Same eXact Thing as the vaunted Black Talon).

Would you say that Officer Soulis was well-armed?  I certainly would!  A Glock 22 holds 15 rounds of .40 S&W, and Soulis was using premium ammunition that was so feared that it was literally hounded off the market for civilians.  I don’t know about you, but I would gladly trade in a pocket pistol with 6 rounds of .380 or 9mm, in favor of carrying a Glock 22 with 15 rounds of .40 S&W.  That would be a huge upgrade in firepower!

And, being a well prepared officer, Soulis also had spare magazines on hand.  It would be hard to imagine how someone could have been better armed for a handgun fight.

If you’re unfamiliar with this story, I recommend buckling your seatbelt, because over the course of the gunfight Soulis hit Palmer with 22 rounds of .40 S&W!  Twenty-two hits… and 17 of those were to center-of-mass!  And yet, Palmer just Would. Not. Stop.  Palmer lived for over four minutes after the last bullet hit him, and over the course of the fight Palmer would hit Soulis at least five times with 9mm bullets.

One shot stop? Don’t be a fool.

Was Palmer amped up on drugs or booze?  No, an autopsy showed nothing more than a small amount of alcohol in his system.  What about Officer Soulis?  He ended up receiving multiple gunshot wounds, including one that may have hit his leg’s femoral artery.  Palmer used a 9mm handgun and hit Soulis at least five times, although Soulis’ vest stopped one of those.  Soulis wasn’t amped up on drugs or booze either.  Both men were just exceptionally determined: Palmer was determined to avoid going to jail and facing that murder charge, and Soulis was determined that Palmer wouldn’t kill or hurt anyone else.

22 hits with a .40 S&W?  And he kept fighting?  Think about it.  If you were to be involved in a self-defense scenario, would you really be comfortable firing just one bullet and then looking to see what the effect would be?

Where can we lay the blame for this failure to stop?  On the gun? I don’t think so, the Glock 22 is among the most superb and powerful weapons.  On the ammo?  Maybe, maybe not.  SXT was Winchester’s premier hollowpoint at the time, and even if it was failing to expand and just passing through, 17 hits has to add up sooner or later.  Shot placement?  Well, yes and no; Officer Soulis hit his target 17 times in center-of-mass!  How can you get better than that?  Yet Palmer kept coming.  We can only conclude that while Soulis did his best to get the shots where they would matter, it seems unlikely that any of those shots actually damaged vital circulatory system organs or vessels that would have caused rapid incapacitation due to the blood pressure dropping below the level necessary to sustain consciousness.  The one thing we do know is that an attacker cannot continue to attack if their arteries are severed or their heart has a hole blown through it and they’ve bled down to the point where not enough oxygen is getting to the brain.  And seeing as Palmer kept coming shot after shot after shot, it seems safe to assume that that situation had not occurred.

I haven’t seen any info on Palmer’s autopsy, which might answer some questions; until then I can only speculate.  It seems like either the “Black Talon”-like SXT either failed to expand, in which case it would perform like an FMJ and would have comparatively little actual terminal performance, or Palmer was the luckiest guy in the world in that the bullets just managed to keep missing his vital organs.  And if a bullet doesn’t hit vital organs, then the aggressor may very well not be stopped — even after absorbing 22 rounds (more than a full box!) of premium .40-caliber hollowpoints from a full-size handgun!

What Will Your Shooting Scenario Be Like?

If you are ever unlucky enough to be involved in a defensive shooting, what will yours be like? Will the aggressor brown his shorts and run away at the mere sight of your gun? Or will you have to empty the magazine, pop in your backup mag and empty it, and he’ll keep coming at you?  I don’t know.  And you don’t know.  There’s no way to know in advance — heck, if you knew for a fact that you were going into a gunfight, you should go somewhere else instead!  And if you can’t go somewhere else, you should bring something better than a handgun — a 12-gauge shotgun, or a .308 rifle, would be two good places to start.

I hope none of us ever has to face that situation again.  But if you do… use the most powerfun handgun you can accurately control, and the best-performing ammunition that works properly from that handgun, and put your shots on target, and don’t stop shooting until the threat is neutralized.  It MAY happen after one shot, but you would be very unwise to expect it to happen after just one shot.  Ideally you would have a spare magazine on you, and shoot until the threat stops.

Share Button

12 thoughts on “Another Case Study on Bullet Effectiveness

  1. Mike Orick

    Local deputies hit a man 14 times w the 40 JHP, 7 in the torso, hands, and face. They had to chase him down and wrestle him to the ground. Two bad guys in Idaho took over 20 hits of 45 JHP before they went down.

    Reply
  2. JoelT

    I remember reading about that case you mentioned. I know there was some kind of slide show that was produced for LEO training that had some autopsy photos of the badguy that was shot 22 times. From what I read there ammo failed to expand (which means it would have acted like an FMJ) and yet they only penetrated about 2″. Assuming the report I read was accurate, and I haven’t miss read something, what might have been causing such horrid underpenetration? When people talk about 9mm/.40S&W, they are usually worried about overpenetration. I know it’s had to comment without having the report and maybe examining the wounds yourself. But still, 22 rounds? Is it possible Olin sent his department a defective batch? Or do you think it might be just the unluckiest shots ever? That Trauma anesthesiologist video you’ve mentioned shows a man that was x-rayed that shows that should have been a 100% fatal shot. However his sternum caught the bullet and it never went more than an inch in. Maybe this guy had an adamantium skeleton?

    Reply
  3. rw walden

    i think the bottom line is you can never depend on your handgun to get the job done with just a few hits. the body has lotsa material that can be penetrated without catastrophic result…regardless of calibre of bullet. many people are putting their lives in jeapordy by thinking a hand cannon will settle all disputes quickly, efficiently and with little effort. the thrust and concluion of the article is one cannot go around placing blind confidence in equipment. be prepared, be vigilant, be aware, expect any shooting episode will turn out vastly different than you expect (people who have been in infantry combat know nothing will work the way you want, any time you want). a ‘firefight’ will freeze most civilians, the intensity of gunshots where there is no ear protection will throw off your timing (especially if you never, ever have heard an unmullfeld gunshot) while you grasp “what the hell was that”. any movement of a target or shooter will vastly complicate the firing solution, and if you hit a bystander (and know it), you will hesitate. shoot until the threat stops, or you can get clear of the danger zone. bug-out is better than gun-up.

    cheers,

    Reply
  4. Pingback: The Best Ammo Test Ever | Shooting The Bull

  5. D Wayne

    Thank you, just saw your VID on Liberty going through walls… but still would like to see that round in one of your other tests with denim and gel… I would really like to know if that round really does “expload” in the intended target to stop the threat of a bad guy…

    2. ALSO please…. am very happy that you now recognize copper bullets as effective… the LEHIGH Maximum Penetrating was very informative but still am concerned about possible over-penetration. I spoke with the LEHIGH guys and they said I should look at the MAXIMUM EXPANSION LEHIGH ammo for .380 … Would you consider conducting a test on that round please? It actually shows more promise than the Liberty round.

    Reply
    1. Sian

      Having worked with the stuff, I don’t expect denim to impact the Liberty much in any way. Simply put, the cavity is so enormous that it would take a lot more than 4 layers of denim to clog it significantly and impede expansion/franging.

      Reply
  6. Pingback: What about Kinetic Energy Transfer? Does It Cause Psychological Stops? | Shooting The Bull

  7. Pingback: Does Caliber Even Matter? | Shooting The Bull

  8. THOMAS BARTON JD

    I ENJOY YOUR ARTICLES AND YOUTUBE VIDEOS . I THINK THESE OUTLIERS SHOW THAT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN ENGAGING A THREAT IS TO GET ROUNDS ON TARGET. I THINK YOUR EARLIER ESSAY CONCLUDED THAT OVER 93 PERCENT OF ENCOUNTERS END WITH THE FIREARM BEING PRODUCED AND THEN BEING FIRED. SO NOW WHAT CAN BE DONE IN THE MINOR CASES LEFT . I THINK THAT GETTING HITS IS FAR MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE CALIBER. I HAVE SEEN THAT MANY PEOPLE BUY A HANDGUN THAT THEY DO NOT HANDLE WELL AND THAT THEY ARE ANXIOUS JUST TO FIRE. I WOULD RATHER SEE A PERSON WITH A 380 AUTO THAN A 40 OR A 357 THAT THEY FEAR TO HEAR ITS REPORT AND RECOIL AND GENERAL SOUND AND FURY. THE OUTLIERS JUST ILLUSTRATE THE FEROCITY THAT LIES AT THE HEART OF EXCEPTIONAL INDIVIDUALS, BE THEY CRIMINALS OR JOE AVERAGE OR WELL-TRAINED POLICE OFFICER.

    Reply
  9. A Man

    The story of the man shot 22 times was in New York and the officer was armed with a 9mm, just as ALL NY police departments require. Anyone check this guy’s link for reference? Here’s what comes up “The page you requested does not exist. Have you tried our site map?”

    Research it for YOURSELF. Caliber does matter. Except the last few years on the Internet has caliber been irrelevant. As far as I know, zero shootings have occurred on the Internet.

    As you will find on every gun forum and YouTube videos, the only people who have the pertinence to speak about calibers not making a difference are the guys advocating 9mm is equal to anything bigger. This is getting dangerous and giving people the wrong ideas and false hope.

    Just like how this story of the man shot 22 times has been changed to a .40 S&W round, when in actuality, it was a 9mm. Please research this for yourself.

    I know weird things happen, but come on, the .40 S&W has, brand for brand, 150% more kinetic energy. They aren’t equal. Not in ballistic testing and not in real life.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>