By Richard E. “Rick” Dennis CPP
Freelance Writer and Author
November 1, 2021
HISTORY OF AMMUNITION
Ammunition (informally ammo) is the material fired, scattered, dropped or detonated from any weapon or weapon system. Ammunition is both expendable weapons (e.g., bombs, missiles, grenades, land mines) and the component parts of other weapons that create the effect on a target (e.g., bullets and warheads). Nearly all mechanical weapons require some form of ammunition to operate.
The term ammunition can be traced back to the mid-17th century. The word comes from the French la munition, for the material used for war. Ammunition and munitions are often used interchangeably, although munition now usually refers to the actual weapons system with the ammunition required to operate it. In some languages other than English ammunition is still referred to as munition, such as French ("munitions"), German ("Munition"), Italian ("munizione") or Portuguese ("munição").
The purpose of ammunition is to project a force against a selected target to have an effect (usually, but not always, lethal). The most iconic example of ammunition is the firearm cartridge, which includes all components required to deliver the weapon effect in a single package (e.g., shell casing, powder, ignition primer, and a specific projectile). Ammunition comes in a great range of sizes and types (e.g., calibers and gauges) and is often designed to work only in specific weapons systems. However, there are internationally recognized standards for certain ammunition types (e.g., 5.56×45mm NATO, 7.62 X 51 NATO, and 9X19 NATO) that enable their use across different weapons systems and by different users.
There are also specific types of ammunition that are designed to have a specialized effect on a target, such as armor-piercing shells, tracer ammunition, full metal jacket, hollow points, jacketed soft points, and lead projectiles which are used only in certain circumstances. For identification purposes, ammunition is commonly stamped with the correct calibre or gauge as well as the ammunition manufactures name. This calibre or gauge designation is to prevent the wrong ammunition types from being used accidentally or inappropriately.
The lethality of a bullet depends on the amount of hydrostatic energy the bullet imparts on the human target. Hydrostatic energy is the energy stored/exhibited in liquids under pressure which relates to hydrostatic shock in the human body. Bullet energy is relative to hydrostatic shockwaves which develop after a bullet enters the human body, thus destroying tissue and organs. The ideal self defense bullet is the one which enters the body, fully expands creating a large hydrostatic shockwave and never leaves the human anatomy while expending all of its energy inside the body cavity. Ammunition capable of such rapid expansion and energy dump is specific to the hollow point design. In this article, ammunition is limited to hand and shoulder fired weapons (e.g., Single and Double action Revolvers, Semi-Auto Pistols as well as Single, Bolt, Pump, Double, and Semi-Auto Rifles and Shotguns used for personal or home defense applications.
DEFENSIVE AMMUNITION (LAW ENFORCEMENT, PERSONAL, AND HOME)
LAW ENFORCEMENT: Ammunition used by law enforcement has to meet a wide variety of specifications (e.g., ammunition designed for law enforcement applications also include ammunition types used in an offensive and defensive criteria), whereas ammunition designed for personal defense are designed to meet this specific criteria. Law Enforcement ammunition types must be able to perform properly across a wide variety of parameters and at various velocity levels. Usually, law enforcement ammunition criteria is established by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
However, the same ammunition types used by law enforcement can also be purchased and used for personal protection or home defense, by the general public, but it’s not advisable due to the ammunitions over penetration factor. Law Enforcement projectiles, more commonly (bullets), (e.g., pistol, revolver, and shotgun slugs) are manufactured to perform across a wide variety of parameters (e.g., barrier penetration such as auto windshields, tires, and doors, heavy clothing, wooden barriers – such as doors, and windows, etc., while expanding reliably and retaining a significant amount of projectile weight and force (energy) sufficient to eliminate a threat or immobilize an attacker.
Shotgun ammunition designed for law enforcement purposes also carries the multiple duty application requirements. Generally, the shotgun gauge is specified as a 12 gauge with a chamber designation of 2 ¾ to 3 inch capability. Rifled Slugs, Sabot Slugs, Buck Shot, and high brass number 4 shot is the ammunition of choice. Law enforcement Semi-Auto Pistol and Revolver ammunition is limited to the calibre and pistol type. Most law enforcement agencies usually limit their officers to the 38 Special, 9 mm 9X19, 40, and 45 calibers. With manny law enforcement departments the 357 Magnum ammunition isn’t usually readily available to it’s officers although Smith & Wesson initially developed this cartridge for law enforcement use. The ammunition type and weight is also designated by each law enforcement agency, as are the types of handguns and shotguns used to fire such ammunition.
PERSONAL AND HOME DEFENSE: Essentially, the firearm, ammunition type, calibre, and gauge used for personal protection or home defense can, in actuality, be identified as any loaded rifle, handgun, or shot gun loaded with a shell (e.g., a loaded cartridge containing powder, an ignition primer, and a projectile or projectiles) which can be used to stop an assailant without over penetration thus endangering loved ones in another room of the residence or the neighbors, for that matter. The main concern for the home owner is SAFETY. In Drug Enforcement, Agents were faced with the same dilemma when serving search warrants in apartment complexes or densely populated neighborhoods.
Being cognizant of this dilemma, Agents were issued 12 gauge shotgun high brass number 4 bird shot in conjunction with buck shot and rifled slugs. The environmental setting predicated which shot gun shell was being used at the time of the search warrant execution. Again, the selection of the type of projectile or projectiles used should be based on its over penetration abilities. After all, a shotgun has long been known as the fight stopper in any personal combat situation. Remember, the average room of a residence is 18 feet. The average gun fight is 7 to 10 feet. At this distance, a 12 gauge shotgun loaded with # 4 high brass pellets is devastating to the human body with a direct hit.
SELF AND HOME DEFENSE FIREARM GAUGES AND CALIBRE’S
As previously stated handguns and shoulder fired weapons (e.g., shotguns and rifles) come in an array of calibre’s and gauges. Shotguns ranges from 410 bore to 12 gauge bore. Similarly, hand gun calibre’s range from the diminutive 22 calibre all the way up to the 500 Smith and Wesson Magnum. The best calibre or gauge is the one that fits a shooter the best. For the record, all of them will stop an attacker. Bullet placement is the key. For the record, there’s no such calibre or gauge which can be stated as a “man stopper.” Each calibre or gauge will stop an attacker with a well placed shot. Shot placement is the key to ending a gunfight.
Humans are like deer, their considered a light thin skinned animal. Any well placed direct hit in the spine or head/brain will immediately terminate mobility and life. So pick a weapon your most comfortable with and one that fits into your budget in order for you to practice and become proficient. Remember, a well place shot with a 22 calibre or a 410 shotgun loaded with the proper ammunition is better than a miss with a calibre or gauge your uncomfortable shooting.
“Until Next Time, Keep Em Between The Bridle!!”