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soapy self-defense

A lot of bytes have been sacrificed in the unending debates and conversations we pro-rights activists have about the efficacy of various calibers in self-defense situations, but it is a rare opportunity indeed to come up with some actual, hard data concerning how a small piece of lead traveling at high velocities will affect the human body. One such opportunity presented itself in Gwinnett, Georgia this very week:

Gwinnett police Cpl. Edwin Ritter told the AJC that the woman, who is in her late 40s or early 50s, was getting out of the shower when the intruder, who she did not know, turned out the lights and attacked her.

She fell back into the shower, injuring her back, and attempted to fight the man off with the shower rod, Ritter said.

"She was telling him that she has money and please don’t hurt her," Ritter said.

"He forced her into her bedroom," Ritter said. "Once inside the bedroom, she retrieved a .22-caliber pistol and shot him several times."

The suspect, who was in his 20s, collapsed outside the house. He was taken to Gwinnett Medical Center, where he died.

1. There is almost no way this is not a clean shoot. A stranger broke into this woman’s home and attacked her in her shower while he was wielding a knife – barring some odd circumstances, that is the very definition of self defense, and thankfully the Gwinnett police have indicated that charges will not likely be filed.

2. Once again, guns are "bad news" for women… only in that "not" kind of way. What chances do you think a naked, scared, caught-off-guard, 40- to 50-year-old woman would have against a 20-something thug armed with a knife? Not odds I would like to bet on, that is for sure. However, thanks to her being willing to defend herself and having a tool with which to do so (namely, a firearm), this victim is still alive, still unraped, and still mostly undamaged. That is a win.

3. The victim employed a .22 caliber handgun, and it worked; however, there are some pretty big caveats to go with that statement. First, the scumbag home invader was shot "several times", but was still physically capable of making it outside the woman’s house before he collapsed. This indicates he would also have been capable – if he had the presence of mind or desire to do so – of killing the woman before he collapsed from his injuries; remember, he was armed with a knife.

Likewise, the attacker did not die until after the victim had called the police, until after the EMTs had arrived, and until after he had made it to the hospital (a trip of at least five minutes, according to maps). This, along with his ability to leave his victim’s house, indicates that one of the primary measurements of caliber effectiveness – central nervous system disruption – was not met. Is this due to shot placement, or deficiencies of the caliber? Hard to say. But given the average energies imparted by an average .22 caliber bullet, I am definitely leaning towards the latter, with considerations given to not-quite-perfect aim due to a high-stress situation.

So, yes, a .22 caliber handgun worked… slowly. Too slowly for me to feel comfortable with*. However, if a .22 is all you feel comfortable with, and all you can reliably and accurately hit targets with, then it sure as hell beats being robbed, raped, or murdered.

4. Crime happens anywhere. Not many people plan on being accosted in their showers by a knife-wielding stranger – understandably so – but we rarely expect most of the bad things that happen to us.

In the end, the victim only received minor injuries from which she will recover, and the home invader’s recidivism rate has been reduced to zero… no matter what armchair quarterbacking I do from the comfort of a state away, score two for law-abiding citizens defending themselves with firearms.

(* – That said, I still toy with the idea of a Tactical Solutions AR-22 SBX-equipped .22-caliber AR platform, complete with suppressor, for home defense. Compact, no need for hearing protection, and 20+ rounds on tap. Unfortunately, even the fastest versions of those rounds only yield about 200 ftlbs of energy, which is damned close to "useless".)

9 comments to soapy self-defense

  • Not that I’m keeping a .22 around myself, but most of these types of cases seem to end up with the shootee in a similar sort of situation. They run away and either collapse near by or end up in a hospital.

    Anyway, it’s why I like a rifle or shotgun for home defense.

  • A life saved is a life saved in my book, but I really do prefer something that is a bit more… precipitous. Even looking past the medical problems associated with a spraying-blood person physically assaulting you, there is the whole, “he tried to kill/rape/rob you” issue, and he might still try.

    “Shoot until you stop the threat” indeed, but I would prefer that to be as few shots as necessary.

  • the Dude

    All I can say to the “shoot till threat stops” deal is this: shot placement.
    In theory, a bb to the eye will stop you, let alone a .22 to the forehead. Only constant practice will enable one to make that one stop shot.

    But yeah, if there’s a panic situation like that story (unless it’s the most deadpan woman on the planet), I’ll bet my paycheck someone will put a few shots into the wall, unless they’ve practiced a ton. Even then, you never really know till it happens to you (which it shouldn’t).

  • qlint

    You can improve your lethality by selecting the right kind of ammunition – 22 lr Quik Shok used to be available, which would fragment into 4 pieces upon impact. (unfortunately, CCI stopped making it) A magazine full of those would spoil your day, but again, the perp would probably die outside on the lawn, or in the ER, and not on the spot.

    Multiple hits are MUCH more lethal than single hits. The probability of a kill is proportional to the cube of the number of hits – i.e. two hits is eight times worse than one, three is 27 times worse, 4 is 64 times worse… That is the way the military analysts calculates these things, and it has to do with the ever decreasing probability of missing everything that is vital. This is because it is likely that no two bullets will follow the same path, so more and more tissue is destroyed with each hit.

    So, the ultimate self defense handgun might just be one of those 30-round plastic 22 mags from kel-tec. (Not that I’m planning to trade in my 45.)

  • AM

    Damn, the “200 foot pounds of energy is “damned close” to useless” statement gets my goat.

    Energy means nothing. Ever calculate the energy of a hunting arrow used to take down elk or bear? Less than 200 foot pounds.

    What that arrow has is MOMENTUM and the SECTIONAL DENSITY to use that momentum to cut deep. Energy is calculated by halfing the mass and squaring the velocity, so faster bullets get better energy ratings than arrows. So why don’t you hunt elk with the 22 that generates more energy than a hunting arrow? Because the arrow has a sectional density measured in whole digits, while that 22 has a sectional density rated in the low end of decimals. Momentum is calculated by multiplying mass and velocity.

    A 32 ACP with what I consider “good” loads from a pistol will be around 110 ft lbs of energy, BUT this is more than enough momentum to penetrate to the vitals. The 380 ACP also has right around 200 ft lbs of energy, but what it also has is more mass therefore more momentum.

    The idea that “energy” is somehow related to “stopping power” needs to go away. Stopping power is a function of biology. You can hit a bad guy in the chest with a 12 guage SLUG and he will eventually die, in a minute or two from blood loss. No matter the caliber if you want to stop the fight NOW it HAS to be a CNS shot.

    http://randomthoughtsandguns.blogspot.com/2011/05/energy-momentum-and-lethality.html
    http://randomthoughtsandguns.blogspot.com/2011/05/more-on-lethality.html

  • @ the Dude: Well, when it comes to shot placement, quantity has a quality all its own, and given the largish capacity of some .22 caliber magazines, you could certainly put a lot of rounds on target and hope one of them hits something important.

    Or you could put a lot of rounds into your wall. Depends on the person…

    @ qlint: Yeah, that is the other side of the SBX argument – volume of fire, lightweight ammunition, and no recoil generally results in more overall hits.

    By the same token, though, that fragmenting round is going to do scant more than flesh wound a human, which is definitely not sufficient for self-defense.

    @ AM: Honestly, I do not really consider .32 or .380s to be sufficient for self-defense either, but that is a personal preference based on what is out there at the moment. No, I would not want to catch one, but I would not want to catch a .22 either. And given how teensy weensy 9mm pistols are getting these days, there is less and less reason to rely on those calibers.

    And no matter what metric you decide to grade .22s on, they still come up deficient, even if you get the super-fast solid-copper rounds… In this case, the woman lucked out by convincing the guy that he did not want to hang around and be shot any more, which counts as a win, but I would not rely on that as a consistent tactic…

  • AM

    Not to beat a dead horse, but to give you some more data points to think about (I used to think that “any caliber that doesn’t start with a 4″ was insufficient). But now the only conclusion I can make is that bigger calibers make bigger holes, and all else being equal bigger holes usually bleed more. But bleeding doesn’t stop fights immediately.

    Graybeard posted a nice graphic here http://thesilicongraybeard.blogspot.com/2011/05/more-on-that-unanswerable-question.html that shows what I consider rather uniform performance from light 9mm loads through 45 ACP JHP loads.

    When you compare that data with 380 ACP data here http://www.brassfetcher.com/380ACP%20ammunition%20performance%20in%20ballistic%20gelatin.pdf you will see that the 380 with an appropriate load is right there with the classic “self defense” calibers.

    I am pretty sure we agree; it isn’t energy, momentum, or sectional density that kills a bad guy or stops a fight, it is adequate accuracy.

  • @ qlint wrote: 22 lr Quik Shok used to be available, which would fragment into 4 pieces upon impact. (unfortunately, CCI stopped making it)

    http://www.cci-ammunition.com/products/detail.aspx?use=1&loadNo=0074

  • @ AM: Exactly that… people are going to be comfortable with different calibers depending on their own personal tastes and preferences. But as long as you can hit what you are aiming at, and aim at the important parts of a human body, you will probably be ok… as long as you are shooting something larger than a .22.