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.