Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Why 12 rounds to bring down Michael Brown?

The testimony regarding Ferguson, MO, Police Officer Darren Wilson's justified killing of teenage Negro thug Michael Brown, brought to like some interesting facts, and some questions.

Officer Wilson fired twelve 180-grain .40 S&W rounds from his Sig Sauer P229 pistol.  He emptied the 12-round magazine, apparently, and didn't need to reload.  But why did he have to expend so many rounds of ammunition to stop one man?  What if two or three had rushed him?  Shouldn't he have had the ability to take out his assailant with just one round?

The circumstances answer part of that question.  In a struggle inside his car with the assailant, Wilson discharged his pistol at least once.  One of the rounds might have struck Brown then.  Brown ran, Wilson followed and ordered him to stop, Brown turned and walked toward Wilson, and Wilson emptied the magazine in his direction.  The autopsy report revealed that 9 bullet entry wounds in Brown's body - 3 to the head, 2 to the chest, 3 to the right arm, and 1 to the right hand. None left powder residue.  One of the wounds entered the top of the head and might have exited the eye and entered the arm.  If so, that would mean Wilson actually hit Brown with only 7 bullets, and he missed with 5 of the shots.  The shooting took place within 3 to 15 yards.

Missing with the shot inside the car seems understandable.  But I have seen no coherent explanation for Wilson's missing Brown with 4 additional shots at such close range.

Combat veterans generally agree on several ideal conditions for stopping a determined antisocial aggressor:

  1. A reliable, accurate, and manageable weapon
  2. Big, powerful, mushrooming or frangible bullets (9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, Sig .357, 10mm, etc.) that impart as much of their energy as possible in the body of the target.
  3. Training for competence in handling, accurately firing, and reloading the weapon
  4. Use of proper combat tactics
They also agree on the goals of combat:
  1. Don't die for your cause.  Remain alive if at all possible.
  2. Change the other guy's thinking so he goes away, and if you can't do that...
  3. Stop the other guy's thinking altogether - make him die for his cause.
In other words, armed combat contains no elbow room for "civilization," regardless of rules and laws to the contrary.  Regardless of the ideals of law and domestic relations, it simply makes no sense to engage in armed combat against an assailant and then leave the assailant alive for a future engagement or to bear witness about the event.

From the practical standpoint a gun and its ammo must have accurate stopping power.  A person who gets hit with one round should suffer such a devastating impact and agonizing pain as to demoralize and immobilize him if he doesn't die from it.  That means the shooter must aim accurately and place the shot where it will have that effect.  Some bullets impact so hard that they immobilize through catastrophic shock to the nervous system, and that alone can kill the person, even if the bullet did not destroy a vital organ.

Domestic and military combat shooters have admitted their failure to stop the aggression "antisocial" targets until after shooting them with 8 or 9 rounds.  Obviously, one cannot stop a 292-pound antisocial attacker with one or two shots except by shooting the attacker in the right place, such as head, heart, spine.  Furthermore, a bullet that passes through the target has less stopping power than the same bullet that expends all its energy in the target.  That makes it necessary to use substantially powerful cartridges with bullets that mushroom or fragment on impact and cause such damage to the skeleton, nervous system, or cardiovascular function that the target cannot continue aggressive physical action.

This web site shows the effectiveness of different cartridges in STOPPING the opponent in combat situations.  The following table shows the ammo with the most effective stopping power listed:

Ammo Mfg. & Brand
# Incidents
9mm Federal 115gr JHP +P+ 91% 209
Sig .357 Winchester 125gr Ranger SXT 94% 48
.40 S&W Remington 165gr Golden Saber 94% 311
.45 ACP Remington 185gr Golden Saber 96% 148

The article did not list 10mm ammo, but I consider that the most effective because it has better overall penetration and stopping power with the right bullets, and a flat trajectory typical of magnum cartridges.  The FBI adopted it in 1989. Many of the daintier agents in the FBI and on police forces complained about the recoil
, so Smith & Wesson developed a 3mm shorter, 22mm casing, containing less powder and causing less recoil, naming the cartridge the .40 S&W.  Now that has become exceedingly popular, making 10mm ammo quite expensive by comparison.

The table above shows one interesting point regarding Officer Wilson's choice of ammo.  He should have chosen the Remington 165-grain Golden Saber ammo because it has better stopping power than the 180 or 185 grain ammo he used.  And he might have fared better with the 125-grain Ranger SXT Sig .357 ammo in his Sig P229 with a different barrel because that also has excellent stopping power because of its much higher velocity.  The .45 would have worked well too.  But I definitely would not recommend a 9mm for police work.

Most law enforcers get plenty of weapons training, and only that training can carry them through the distraction and fog of combat to terminate with a hostile threat. Officer Wilson probably needed more REALISM in his combat training, and more drilling in dealing with physical conflict and then going into his combat stance and calmly shooting his assailant in a vital spot to stop the conflict with that person forever.

Perhaps Wilson intended to miss Brown with those four shots that missed.  Perhaps he shot wildly because of nervousness and lack of control.  But he did recover enough to dispatch Brown to never-ever land.

And yet, everyone can learn a lesson from this and similar incidents.  For self defense, people need accurate weapons like the Sig Sauer P series, Glock, Smith and Wesson M&P.  They need sufficient bullets without reloading so that they can afford to miss a few times, and those bullets should have sufficient mushrooming ability and stopping power to stop the aggression or life of any enemy combatant.  They need sufficient training to use it effectively in the fog of combat. They need to have the weapon available and ready for use when the emergency arises.  And most importantly they should remain situationally aware and keep themselves and their families out of harm's way.

Officer Wilson, of course, seems to have had no choice.  The job fell on him to bring the thug Michael Brown to bay.  He did it admirably, at a great benefit to society and future victims of Brown's thuggery, in spite of the nationwide rioting and protests by outraged Negroes who failed to see the justice of Brown's demise.  I imagine if Wilson had it all to do over again, he might do it exactly the same way.  I wonder if Michael Brown would.

For reference, see

Post Script:

I received this response from a correspondent.

------------- Response --------------

As I wrote to some other people, Brown had six chances to have a different outcome.  First, he could have paid for his stuff and avoided any problem whatever.  Second, he and his friend could have promptly obeyed when Wilson told them to get out the the street, not mouthed off and gone on to Granny's house with the loot. (This probably would not have worked, because after Wilson drove on he realized that Brown fit the description of the robber he heard from the dispatcher.)  Third, he could have halted or gotten down on the ground when Wilson backed the vehicle.  Fourth, he could have refrained from taunting Wilson by saying "You're too much of a pussy to shoot me."  Fifth, he could have refrained from attacking Wilson and trying to take his gun.  And sixth, when ordered to get down on the ground, he could have obeyed instead of advancing toward Wilson.  

He might have gotten a year in jail for the robbery, maybe five years for assaulting a police officer, maybe life if he had succeeded in killing him.  But he sentenced himself to death.

There were two shots discharged in the car, both during Brown's struggle to take the weapon and shoot Wilson. One shot hit Brown in the right hand near the base of the thumb, plowed about 2" through the palm and exited.  He lost a flap of skin that stuck to the vehicle door and his hand was stippled with gunpowder residue.
Another of the four shots you count as misses grazed Brown's upper arm but did not penetrate. It's in the autopsy report.
Consider that Wilson had been punched in the face twice and had been in a struggle over the weapon, with Brown squeezing the trigger twice in an attempt to shoot him.  Only the slide being out of battery prevented the gun firing.  Any time a person is involved in a fight, particularly one involving a gun, the extra adrenalin in his system causes a significant loss of fine motor control and often loss of peripheral vision and sense of time.  It's a different world for a little while.  A combat shooter has to have a lot of situation-specific practice to develop muscle memory to compensate for the loss of fine motor control.  Most cops don't do that much firearms training.  When Dick Marcinko formed and trained Seal Team Six, his 90 men fired as much practice ammo annually as the entire Marine Corps, but that made them deadly shooters
Consider also that Brown was a moving target, though apparently with not much angular velocity.
Put it all together, and Wilson did okay for the conditions he was dealing with.

------------- End of Response --------------


Bob Hurt            Blog 1 2   f  t 
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