They don’t call cities “concrete canyons” for nothing. Many shootings have taken place at banks and courthouses. Did you ever notice that the architects who build such edifices seem to be obsessed with polished marble? It would be hard to design a substance more likely to cause ricochets. And, we all know, “bouncing bullets” follow unpredictable paths. Heavy bone can also deviate a bullet off its intended path. An adult lifetime of studying shootings has shown me multiple cases of bullets glancing off sloping foreheads, U-shaped human mandibles, etc.
If the Good Guy’s bullet ricochets away from its intended trajectory it can continue onward with enough residual velocity to kill the next innocent person it meets. This, obviously, is unacceptable.
While any bullet can ricochet on an extremely acute angle, the supposedly “more humane” round nose non-expanding bullet is MUCH more likely to do so. It’s as if the damn thing was DESIGNED to ricochet.
The hollow point bullet, by contrast, has a nose that is literally shaped like a cookie-cutter. It is MUCH more likely to bite into the hard surface it strikes, and either bury itself there, or shatter into small, less harmful fragments, or tumble and quickly decelerate, decreasing its power to cause injury.
The NYPD was one of the last police departments to drop “ball ammo” for hollow points. A couple of years ago, a controversial shooting took place outside the Empire State Building, in which two street cops engaged a man who pointed a .45 at them after just murdering a man. The officers quickly dropped him, but the department took a lot of heat because some nine bystanders were injured by their gunfire.
NONE of the injuries were life-threatening. Then-NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly initially reported that all the bystanders were hit by fragments. Later reports (and lawsuits) indicated that two or three of the bystanders might have been hit by whole bullets. At least two of those projectiles were recovered from a limb or a buttock at the treating hospital. Exact details on this have not yet been made public.
The officers were issued Speer Gold Dot 124 grain +P 9mm hollow points, which will penetrate a foot or more into solid muscle tissue simulating ballistic gelatin. If they stopped in a glute or a leg, they were obviously slowed down by something before they hit: something like the concrete planters outside the Empire State Building, which were behind the killer from the officers’ angle of fire. Had those been the full metal jacket round nose bullets that NYPD issued prior to 1999, more deeply penetrating wounds and more serious or even fatal injuries would likely have resulted from ricochets.
Reduced ricochet potential is another reason why virtually all of America’s police issue hollow points. It’s a public safety thing. But there are still more street-proven reasons to use hollow points, and we’ll detail them as this series continues.