This past Monday I was at a state bar association headquarters, leading a panel discussion they were filming on gun modifications and gun-and-ammo choices as they relate to shooting cases.  On the same day, half a world away, South African athlete Oscar Pistorius was on trial for murder in the death of his girlfriend. It turned out that the ammunition in the death weapon in South Africa was jacketed hollow point, and the prosecution was making a huge deal about its deadly effects, implying that using it was indicia of malice in and of itself.  Oddly enough, at the bar association CLE (continuing legal education) film we discussed the same thing.

The ammo was reportedly Ranger, a Winchester brand which in this country is generally sold as “law enforcement only,” though outside of San Francisco I don’t know of any laws actually banning its use by private citizens.  (Interestingly, the images they showed on CNN looked more like Federal HST.  I watched the talking heads babble on about how the bullet spread itself out into petals that spun like a fan.  Slice and dice…it could have been a Cuisinart commercial.

The panel they were filming on our end was made up entirely of people carrying Glock pistols with Winchester Ranger ammunition.  The police chief who used to command LAPD Metro and SWAT had 124 grain Ranger +P in his 9mm Glock 17. The Sergeant/Rangemaster who had shot a guy with such a bullet was wearing the same Glock 21 he had used that night, with 230 grain Ranger .45 ACP.  And I had the same ammo he did, in my RoBar custom Glock 30S.

The BS arguments about “malicious dum-dum bullets” have been going on for more than 40 years in this country.  Yet such expanding bullets are issued to virtually all of American law enforcement, and are the smart thing to put in personal defense and home defense handguns. The reasons are reduced likelihood of overpenetration, reduced likelihood of ricochet, and faster neutralization of threats to the innocent so deadly that they warrant lethal force in the first place. I think those are incontrovertible arguments.  But there’s also a fourth argument, and we’ll get to that before long.

This will kick off a five-part series, so our readers can have the tools to defend their use of appropriate ammunition when that choice is falsely questioned in a court of law.


  1. Mas, since you mentioned that you were also discussing gun modifications, can you also devote a column to that? Specifically to trigger work such as a trigger job on a revolver or a 3.5# connector on a Glock? Since you are carrying a Robar-modified Glock, how might you defend it’s modifications were you in a position to use it?
    Thank you for your leadership role in our ability to defend ourselves and our loved ones.

  2. Thank you. I hope I never need it, but forewarned is forearmed… Thanks again for the time and effort Mas!

  3. I use the most effective 10 rounds for defense since I am limited in the People’s Republic of Kalifornia.

  4. I watched the talking heads babble on about how the bullet spread itself out into petals that spun like a fan. Slice and dice…it could have been a Cuisinart commercial.

    I hope you pointed out that a typical handgun bullet makes one rotation in between nine and twenty-four inches, which means it rotates about once, or less, in the distance it takes to go through a person.

  5. It amazes me that there are so many lawyers and politicians (both inside the US & abroad) who still fail to understand the various differences in results from carrying JHPs vs “ball” ammo. The only reason I can figure that this debate continues today is that these severely misguided detractors of JHP’s know that the Hague Convention of 1899 prohibited the use of expanding bullets in international warfare. The People of the Gun know why we use JHP’s, but it’s an uphill battle trying to (re)educate the willfully ignorant. Plus, if you’re already anti-2A, and you’re speaking to an audience that is also anti-2A (or simply ignorant of the science involved) then it sounds good to pile on the BS about how Joe Blow had malicious intent when he shot the deceased because he used [gasp] HOLLOW-POINT BULLETS!

  6. Hey Mas, imagine all the hay that might be made in anti-gun court cases with your “fire until the target no longer presents a threat” advice.

    Each time I think the “septic stupid” has reached the acme of existence, some idiot pipes up on TV or in the news to prove me wrong, and I cannot believe the longevity of tropes like “dum-dum bullets” and “spraying bullets” from semi-automatic firearms…

  7. Looking forward to your future arguments on this topic, Mas. I’m familiar with those you brought up in Part 1, but to this day it’s clear that the public is very ill-informed about hollow points and I expect to keep having to defend my load of choice for a long time. The more ammo for the god guys, the better (pun fully intended).

  8. Mas,

    Thank you very much for continuing to be our voice of truth and facts. Your the man! Keep it up sir. I first heard of you through Mr. P Wong and i’m glad I did.

  9. I am going to repeat something I’ve said before. I once read about an advertising man who felt as though he learned a lot about various businesses in his career, because he had to make commercials for them. Well, consider journalists. They are actually in the advertising business, because it’s the commercials that bring in the bucks to the TV stations. Also, they report on crime and police happenings every day. In one way or another, guns are in the news EVERY DAY. The story may be about a crime, or a war, or whatever, but guns are related somehow. Yet, these journalists, who consider themselves to be educated, don’t know anything about guns! How absurd. They deal with guns every day, and yet they refuse to educate themselves about them. Or, they could take the lazy way out, and hire an expert to make sure they are accurately reporting the facts about guns. They have no interest in accuracy, it doesn’t fit their agenda. I guess guns are just too scary for them to study.

    Hollow points are very important to me. Three of my four handguns fire .357 Magnum, which is a great round if the bullet expands. But it is not a good defense round if it doesn’t expand and just goes right through the bad guy. If I couldn’t use hollow points in .357 Magnum, I would probably have to go with lead round nose .38 Special. Yuck.

  10. Expanding bullets should only be used to shoot gorgeous supermodels who are suspected of criminal activities. Ordinary models and mere mortals can be normally blown away with solid projectiles loaded to non+P velocities.

    The way certain sleazy lawyers (the ones who donate heavily to our Dear Leader and his cronies) are going, if people are still allowed to use guns for self defense, their small caliber, non-expanding bullets must be completely sterile and maybe even coated with an antiseptic so wounds don’t become infected. Using dirty/lead bullets will be indicative of malicious, evil intent.

  11. Certainly the ill informed buy into the idea that hollow points are bad. But in some ways Oscar Pistorius was ill informed as well. He seemed to have thought that a pistol probably with the best ammo was the TOTAL solution.

    From the court proceeding it was clear Oscar Pistorius was concerned about someone entering through the bathroom window. So why did he not install bars (removal perhaps with a key some distance away) over this window? Condo rules maybe?

    Also Oscar Pistorius should have had some overall plan to respond to a threat within his residence, especially given his stated concerns. Again he seemed to feel that having a gun, probably with the best ammo was the solution, period.

  12. “Mr. Smith, exactly why were you carrying a firearm loaded with Rabid Weasel Death-Smasher +P++ bullets?!”

    “They were on sale at Wal-Mart.”

  13. @LarryArnold, Good point, but actually the linear momentum in the forward direction and the angular momentum from the spin are separate properties. They are independent of each other. As the bullet slows down in the forward direction, the rotation will only change because of friction opposing the torque of the bullet. The demonstration we use in the classroom is to take a bicycle wheel and spin it to a few hundred rpm’s. It will resist being rotated against its axis of rotation (torqued) but if you hold it spinning and move in the direction of its axis of rotation, you can speed up or slow down and never affect the spin nor will the spin affect you.

    What is the substantive difference, if any, between Winchester Ranger and Winchester’s PDX lines of ammo? I was under the impression that the the PDX and Ranger lines were the same quality and performance just branded and marketed differently. I’ve shot both in .40 S&W but in very different guns so I don’t have an impression of differences in performance. I do seem to remember that the Ranger line started as a substitute for the “Black Talon” line that was so vilified in the media.

  14. I see you’re carrying 45 ACP pistol now, but I recall in the past you experimenting with the 357 Sig due to its .357 Magnun-like ballistics. Do you still subscribe to the idea of the “Lightning Bolt” effect of the .357 Magnum or do you feel that concept has been debunked?
    I am considering a 10mm with light weight bullet for homestead defense as I feel it, too, would be of similar ballistics to the .357, but I am also afraid this choice would be the perfect “fodder” for the many dishonest and sleazy, say anything to win, prosecutors. Perhaps I will be better served by sticking to a caliber and load used by local law enforcement, I will read this upcoming series with great interest.

  15. Mark Laderwarg: Photo can be arranged, stay tuned. That RoBar Custom 30S was IIRC the cover gun with my story on it in GUNS magazine about a year ago.

    William: After a long period of skepticism, I became a fan of the .357 SIG with 125 grain bullet. It has worked out extraordinarily well “on the street.” The Gold Dot gives me 1430 feet per second from my 16-shot Glock 31. I often carry that gun at home, but don’t take it on the road. Even before the ammo shortage, it was hard to find ammo for some calibers I like: .357 SIG, 10mm, and .45 GAP. When you travel, you need a more common caliber to replenish ammunition, especially nowadays.

    Tom: After we get done with the hollow point series, I’d be happy to address other modification issues, as we did for that CLE presentation. If I haven’t gotten to it by three or so weeks from now, send a note here to jog an old guy’s memory. 🙂

  16. As a mom, who has a gun only for the defense if my children in the hopes that any intruder will not harm them or leave them without a mom, I load hollow-points for exactly those three reasons. One of my biggest fears when I first started thinking about having one in the house was that I would use it against a bad guy and it would go right on through and into one of my children. A bullet that promises to stay inside the body I aim at was, honestly, a great comfort to me. Thanks for all you write Mas, I truly appreciate you.

  17. The rotational speed of a bullet is an interesting topic.
    Glock lists the 45 at 1 in 15.75 in., the 357sig, 9×19, and 40 s&w at 1 in 9.84in. For ease of figuring lets just
    go with 1 in 12in. That is 1 revolution in 12 in. forward.If the bullet strikes the attacker going at 1000fps, that is in 1 second the bullet will have rotated 1000 times. If the bullet is in the attacker for 1/10 sec then the bullet will have rotated 100 times. Give or take. If the bullet is in the attacker for 1/100 sec. then the bullet will have rotated 10 times.

    For comparison take a look at a rifle bullet. A 6mm bullet at 1 in 12 at 3000. fps. I once had a .350 Remington Magnum that I would fire 90gr pistol bullets at around 4000fps. The bullet would usually disintegrate shorty after leaving the muzzle due to the bullets light construction and high rotational speed.

  18. Thanks Mas, I just got my 30S back from having an RMR installed. I need the grip reduction.

    This is what happens when 1911 people buy Glocks.

  19. Mas, I’d be particularly interested in the damnable S&W lock being removed, and how this might be viewed by a prosecutor. Until then, thanks for (as always) excellent efforts!

  20. Lest you believe all liberals are of a single mind on this kind of thing, I agree with Mas that if you’re going to carry a handgun for self-defense and only intend to use it when it is legal and necessary to do so, then it needs to be loaded with hollow points. If you’re going to have to use it in those circumstances, it needs to be able to stop your attacker in the fastest way possible, with as little lethal damage to him as necessary to achieve that stop, and with the least danger to bystanders. Only hollow points provide that combination, and only in the most effective caliber you can personally handle accurately and efficiently.

  21. Mas,
    As you go through your series, I hope you address new bullet types such as this one. “”. I can’t assess how well it works. But I can say the marketing they use would make it hard to defend yourself in court. On one hand they tout it’s stopping ability; but in thier videos, they try to see how many rounds they can put into a block of ballistic gelatin, as fast as possible. I imagine the best advice is, until we see police using a particular round, keep it out of your carry gun.

  22. the hague convention of 1899 is often regurgitated alongside demonization of hollow points (HP). it’s meant to be understood as if the usage of HP bullets is so fundamentally wrong that everyone agreed to it over 100 years ago. it’s highly likely that the writers of such nonsense do not understand the hague convention.

    article 4.3 of said convention was a binding contract between nations that signed the contract, during a time of war. it also ceased to be binding when “one of the belligerents is joined by a non-Contracting Power”. USA never ratified said article.

    speaking of living by golden standards of the last century, the hague convention of 1899 and subsequently 1907 essentially banned air to ground warfare by prohibiting discharge of projectiles and explosives from balloons or by similar means. this is still technically in effect today, but we don’t hear anyone cry foul on that one.

    it’s amazing how effectively damaging these catch phrases can be when the audience is moved more by emotion that a curiosity for the truth.

    PS> Aug 2013 issue of Guns Magazine displayed a stock 30S on the cover, but the robar is featured in the article on page 40. more digital editions here.

  23. Be careful in NJ!! I think you have to shoot them with ball there too!! Even if you’re carrying on a LEOSA permit.

  24. @Randy- Same thing, in my experience, with hot .35 Remington hand-loads using older, very “thin skinned”, 110 grain bullets. My bullet disintegrated about 25 yards into a 100 yard shot. I’ve heard of the same thing when using 40 grain varmint bullets in fast twist .223 or 22-250. If the bullet disintegrates, terminal performance is zero.

    The .35 Rem. in a Contender does remind me that a local law enforcement officer used this combination in a quick and desperate response to stop an abduction in our area back in the 80’s. As I recall, no one complained that he was “over-gunned”. By the way, this was a really strange circumstance involving a mental patient, their victim, and an off-duty officer with a silhouette gun in his car for a trip to the range latter that day. The DA was a member of my bullseye team and commented that it was “damn good shooting”.

  25. Mas, Randy and friends:

    I think we need to revisit the “rotational speed” issue – because it leads to a lot of potential bogus claims from wrong-headed and conviction crazed prosecutors or plaintiffs attorneys – the spinning metal petals of the expanded hollowpoint bullet “buzz saw” through flesh to make a terrible wound.


    Doesnt happen.

    As one lawyer told me once as I tried to explain a technical detail ” if I understood math and physics I would not have become a lawyer”.

    Using the twist rates Randy offers., examine the .45 ACP.
    If the barrel twist is 1-15.75, and the bullet travels 1000 fps ( which is indeed stepping out for a 230 grain .45 ACP), we can determine the following:

    1 turn in 15.75 inches of travel, means 1 turn in 1.31 feet.

    Dividing 1.31 into 1000 we arrive at 761.9 revolutions per second.

    A bullet travelling 1000 feet per second will pass completely through a 12″ ( 1 foot) deep human torso in .001 second ( one-one thousandth of a second), neglecting in this case the velocity loss due to impact and increased resistance due to the change in medium from air to tissue.

    The bullet rotates at 761.9 revolutions per second, for a time duration of .001 while passing thru the torso, and we get a rotation inside the torso of 0.76 revolution, or about three-quarters of a turn.

    Interestingly enough, if the bullet does not exit, if we use a straight-line decelleration for the bullet , averaging initial velocity of 1000fps with final velocity of 0 fps ( zero), the average bullet velocity ( 1000 + 0 / 2) in the target is 500 fps.

    Since rotational velocity also changes from its original figure of 761.9 rps to 0 fps when the bullet comes to rest, we can determine the straight line average rotational velocity as (761.9 + 0 / 2) or 380.9 revolutions per second.
    Divide 380.9/500 and we get 0.76 revolutions in the target, or about three quarters of a turn.

    Please note that bullet decelleration may very well not be straightline, but likely follows a parabolic curve , but the difference is likely trivial.

    There is no “buzz-saw” effect at any reasonably achievable pistol bullet velocity, in this universe at least.

    Any prosecutor who tries to sway a jury with maledictions of the hollow-point bullet and its deadly “buzz-saw” killing ability, in an attempt to make a citizen look bad, needs to retake 9th grade science or 10th grade physics.



  26. @TRX – That’s an excellent reply, but I think I’d go with “It was the only box of ammo left at Walmart”. 🙂

    As far as educating the prosecution, guys, forget about it. They do not need educating, they are perfectly aware of the laws of physics and all the same things we know about handgun performance. They are in the business of Putting People In Prison, which is directly linked to Staying Employed. Every day facts and reality are ignored or twisted to achieve those two goals, its simply become part of the job requirements.

    The people we want to educate are the jurors, the Average Citizen. **Those** are the folks who actually decide whether or not you go to prison, whether or not the Prosecutor can continue to alter/ignore facts, and whether or not the media is rewarded for fabricating news (rather than reporting it).

    And in any case, never NEVER compromise on your choice of self defense ammo because there is a chance in the far future that you will have to defend your choice in court. Better to be alive to see that courtroom, than dead because you carried ineffective ammo for fear of public opinion.

  27. Something that I’ve been saying for years is that a prosecutor can vilify whatever ammunition you use, regardless of type. If you use ball, you can be accused of trying to imitate the military of of being negligent since you’re intentionally using a bullet type that most likely will over penetrate. If you use HPs, you could be accused of trying to imitate the police and be a vigilante by trying to act like a cop. Or a prosecutor can make an argument for malicious intent since you’re using a bullet that is designed to cause maximum damage (as in this case). If the ammo box was marked “self defense”, then you were just looking for trouble. If it was a hunting load, you were trying to hunt down and kill the innocent guy who broke into your house and only wanted to rape your family instead of kill you. The list of possibilities is endless. That’s why I personally refuse to take that aspect into consideration. I use whatever gun/ammo combination I think is best based on the science, area of usage (home defense, ccw, etc.), my budget, and a few other factors. If a prosecutor wants to vilify my choice of gun or ammo, that’ll happen regardless of my reasons for choosing that particular gun and ammo combination.

  28. As a person with bone loss and correspondingly weak wrists, I prefer 38 Special wadcutter. My understanding is that it tumbles on impact, likely causing great injury. My knowledge is that I can fire these one after another while my wrists stay intact. My hope is that one or two of these rounds will be stoppers if I ever need them.


  29. Marcel, it has been my experience that the .38 Special wadcutter tends to create a straight-track wound without tumbling, and penetrates deeper than one would expect.

    Tim, I agree that opposing counsel can vilify any choice. However, instead of ignoring that, I think a better approach is being able to clearly explain and validate our choice. That will be the focus of this blog for the next few entries.

  30. Mas, Looking forward to the series. I’ve had a number of discussions with people over the years about self-defense ammo and why it is ethical especially in comparison to the military and their use of FMJ rounds. I have always found the problem, in discussions of that sort, to be one where those who think self-defense rounds are unethical react in a completely emotional (almost frenzied) manner and are completely closed-minded to any other view. It takes an incredible amount of patience and usually they have underlying ideas about guns and the right to defend oneself that also surface during the “discussion” so that one winds up debating the entire issue of the validity and legality of using lethal force for self-defense.

  31. Mas, for the from reading your publications I’m familiar with the arguments your presented so far. But I do have a question about the “petals” – do they really make the job of an emergency room surgeon and/or coroner more dangerous because of a greater risk of cutting through their gloves when operating to extract the projectile from the body? And if so, does the Federal Premium “Guard Dog” ammo with a polymer element that fills and effectively protects the sharp edges of the expanded bullet address this? Many thanks for sharing your solid information, as always.

  32. Reliably expanding handgun hollow point ammo is (relative to my age), a fairly recent development, as are semi-auto pistols that will reliably feed them.
    Keep the latter in mind if you employ vintage 1911’s, Walther PP’s, or any semi-auto that started out as a military pistol.
    Personally, I always carry quality hollow-points, but never without running at least 100 rds. of my preferred carry ammo through the pistol first.
    Know you guys are aware of these precautions, but thought I would throw it out there for folks that might be just starting out.

  33. I agree. I think we need to be able to clearly articulate our reasons for using the ammo we use. I don’t think we should ignore that aspect, and it’s a good thing to have someone like you writing about it. As I stated earlier, I decide which ammo I use based on the ballistic data, scientific and real world data, performance in my particular firearms and availability., among other things. Personally, I don’t take into consideration the possibility that a prosecutor may attempt to vilify my choices. That can happen regardless of what I use, so I focus on being able to validate my choices rather than living in fear that those choices will be damning factors in a legal case.

  34. Good point Dennis. The ammo should be reliable and the results should be expected. I found that out the hard way when a reliable load for my S&W model 19 failed miserably in a light-weight J frame. Four of five bullets came unseated after the first round was fired and locked the action. This was a well accepted 125 grain load from a well-know manufacturer and could have gotten me killed if I had used it in self defense (unless I achieved a one shot stop). Your 100 round test seems very sensible.

  35. Mas – I’m also interested in your thoughts about how high pressure loads (ie. 9mm Winchester Ranger +P or even +P+) play in to this discussion. Thanks!

  36. GKT, thanks for the accurate analysis. I have to explain this to people all the time. What we see on TV has befuddled most of the sheeple into believing the “buzz-saw” phenomenon.

    I just measured myself, and skinny as I am I measure about ten inches front-to-back. A bullet rotating at the rifling-induced rate of one-turn-in-ten-inches would rotate exactly once as it passed thru my body . . . except for the fact that its rotational velocity would actually be reduced slightly due to the friction/resistance my body presents to the bullet, same as it does to the forward velocity.

    Nope . . . no “buzz-saw” effect.


  37. 1) “The police use it, and after all, their armorers and trainers should be experts in this sort of thing.”

    2) “It’s commonly available in stores like K-Mart and Wal-Mart.” (add civlian-market ball vs. hollowpoint production figures if favorable)

    3) “Hollowpoints stop in a shorter distance than hardball; therefore, they are more likely not to penetrate completely through a body. As a responsible shooter, I want to minimize the possibility of injuring someone downrange.”

    4) “Look at the cool box these came in!” (on further thought, probably not a good response…)

  38. Back when I was still getting my info from gun magazines and buying their over-hyped products I loaded my guns with Glasers. I kept one packaging on purpose because it read ‘Safety Slugs’ and I thought this could help me in court. Since then I’ve switched to duty loads, often +P and ‘LE-only’, and I’m counting on other rationales to explain my choice. But as someone above said, if they wanna hang you they can make a case any which way you go.

  39. mas i know your gun friendly towards law enforcement but where do you stand on civilian gun ownership..i have met some of your students who would love to confiscate civilian firearms.. but i have been threatened by a law enforcement officer for bringing this up

  40. Randy, a 1 turn in 12″ twist will only result in a max of 1 revolution in 12″ of travel, the rotational speed will not increase in distance traveled. This means if you shot a threat that had a chest thickness of 12″ the bullet might make 1 full revolution in full passage, but would probably be less due to the frictional deceleration of rotational velocity. Distance travelled compared to time in the target would modify that slightly, but I believe friction is the major factor. So the “buzz saw” effect is truly a matter of myth and legend and prosecutorial aggrandizement. Rogn