Handgun Wounding Factors

I haz a PDF of the FBI: Handgun Wound Factors and Effective report they released in the late 80s. Even though it’s about as old as I am, it is still a good read for anyone seriously into firearms for self defense. It’s only 19 pages long and can read rather drab, but it’s interesting enough.

If you want a copy, feel free to hit me up. My contact info is on the right ->

If you are reading this going “huh?” or have heard of it but don’t know any of the history behind it, let me explain.

In 1986, there was a shootout in Miami between several FBI agents and 2 suspects. The suspects were armed with a rifle (Mini-14) and a shotgun, while the FBI agents had .357 mag revolvers shooting .38 Spl +P and 9mm pistols. Both suspects were eventually killed, 5 FBI agents were wounded, and 2 FBI agents were killed. One of the suspects was shot 6 times, the other was shot 12 times.

An initial investigation into the shootout came to 2 conclusions (or take-away points). One of the take-aways was that the agents were underpowered compared to the suspects. So, the FBI did research into the matter, and initially adopted the 10mm round as their standard sidearm round. A few years later, after an unsuccessful revision to the 10mm load, Smith & Wesson developed the .40 S&W round, which later was adopted by the FBI.

Anyway, the Handgun Wounding Factors report was one of several reports that came about because of the 1986 Miami shootout. This report, in a nutshell, basically says that the bigger the round you have, the better, and that penetration is the ultimate key factor you should look for when choosing a round to defend yourself with. It dispels a lot of the myths regarding the fabled “knockdown power” and “hydrostatic shock”.

However, one thing I want to take the time to remind everyone about. This is an FBI report, written for law enforcement use. A vast majority of it is applicable to self defense, however, it doesn’t take into account the nuances of CCWing, such as you can’t always carry a 1911 or a full sized Glock everywhere you go.


3 Responses to “Handgun Wounding Factors”

  1. Have a look at for the International Wound Ballistics Association reports on handgun effectiveness.

    The IWBA is made up of Coroners who are studying real dead people from real gunfights that happened on real streets. As well as firearms professionals developing standards to realistically test firearms ammunition performance to reflect real world performance not some contrived “goat test” or other “standard.

    You can also look for the FBI’s report on a shooting, I believe it was in Philly, where the locals had determined that .40TAP and .223TAP were inadequate ammo after the bad guy was shot some 60ish times. Or more correctly was shot at some 60ish times and hit some 14 times and after reloading his single stack gun from loose ammo in his pocket, continued the fight until he ran out of ammo and still had to be wrestled to the ground to be cuffed before he bled out.

    FBI concluded it had nothing to do with the rounds but had EVERYTHING to do with where they were placed. His autopsy photos and x-rays showed lots of hits in his butt and legs and hip and shoulder and arm. NOTHING through the vital areas of his body (heart/lung or head). It also showed his tat’s “live by the gun die by the gun” and “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” among others.

    The shootout was four cops including a SWAT team member with service pistols (.40) and two AR’s taking on a very determined individual and not getting effective hits and then the department officially blaming the ammo for the bad guy not going down faster and wounding the officers.

    The FBI concluded correctly that the caliber and ammo used was not as important as getting effective hits to vital areas in stopping a fight.

    and BTW, the guys tox screens came back clean! He was not hopped up on anything, just determined and not hit effectively.

  2. Well, there is more. This months RangeMaster newsletter has an article on handgun wounding factors.


    And a link to Hnadgun wounding factors report.


    Both excellent resources. Go. Read. Learn. Enjoy.

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