expanded bullet

The widow of a Wisconsin delivery driver wants a ban on the kind of self-defense ammunition most commonly used by homeowners and concealed carriers in the misguided belief that such a ban would save lives.

The widow of a Racine delivery driver James Norris, who was gunned down on Racine’s north side in March 2016, is calling for a ban on hollow-point bullets that reportedly contributed to his death.

“The guy bought the ammunition from Walmart that killed him,” Stacy Blevins said. “You don’t buy hollow-point bullets unless you meant to kill him.”

“Why would you sell something like that?” Belvins said.

Blevins and Norris’ mother-in-law, Sandra Stravropoulos, want Walmart to stop selling the ammunition or do background checks for buyers.

“If they hadn’t sold the bullets that man would be alive. This has got to stop. They shouldn’t sell hollow-points,” Stravropoulos said.

In a statement to The Journal Times, Charles Crowson, a spokesman for the Arkansas-based retailer, said sales of hollow-point bullets will continue.

“The ammunition we carry is legal and in demand for self-defense and sport shooting among our customers. At this time, we don’t plan to remove the items,” Crowson said.

Hollowpoint ammunition is almost universally recommended for the defensive use of handguns because it has the dual effect of being more effective on the target, and posing less of a risk to those innocent bystanders downrange.

Jacketed hollowpoints (JHPs) are the standard for most semi-automatic pistols and many revolver calibers, while soft, all-lead hollowpoints are preferred for use in some revolvers with short barrels which generate low muzzle velocities and cannot reliably expand JHPs.

Hollowpoints for handguns are designed with a cavity in the front of the bullet that forces the front of the bullet to peel back in a mushroom shape, creating a larger permanent wound cavity. This damages more tissue around the bullet’s path. The more tissue that is damaged, the greater the likelihood of faster incapacitation. Faster incapacitation often translates into fewer shots needing to be fired to stop a threat. Fewer shots fired means less risk to innocent bystanders downrange.

The mushrooming effective of a handgun bullet also has the important secondary effect of helping slow the bullet down, so that the bullet does not pose as great of an over-penetration to those downrange. There are numerous documented examples of top-tier JHPs penetrating completely through a threat, and then being recovered in the clothes of the person on the opposite side of the body, or penetrating almost completely through and being captured in the skin on the opposite side of where the threat was shot.

What critics Belvins and Stravropoulos clearly don’t grasp is that if they have their way and people are forced to carry round nose lead (RNL) or full metal jacket (FMJ) ammunition, that the smaller diameter “icepick” type wounds will not cause the same tissue damage, and in many instances, people aren’t even immediately aware that they have been shot. This will result in people having to fire more rounds in self-defense even if they make good hits to stop a threat, and decades of data tell us that they’re going to miss many more times than they make hits. Belvins and Stravropoulos would unwittingly increase the number of rounds fired in each incident, posing a much greater potential threat to innocent people downrange.

In addition to posing a greater threat because of the number of rounds fired to effect a stop, FMJ and RNL (or older or less well-designed hollowpoints that don’t expand and act like a RNL or FMJ) tend to grossly over-penetrate human bodies. Well-designed JHP ammunition will ideally penetrate 13″-15″ inches of simulated muscle tissue, with an ideal maximum of no more than 18″ in ballistics gelatin. It is disturbingly common for .380 ACP RNL, FMJ, and JHPs which failed to expand to penetrate 20+ inches in ballistics gelatin, and .40 Smith & Wesson bullets can penetrate 30 inches or more.

To the best of my knowledge, only the New Jersey legislature have banned hollowpoint ammunition for self-defense, a law that came to pass because of fear-mongering and abject ignorance.

I suspect that if Belvins and Stravropoulos were better educated on the subject, and understood that the hollowpoint ban they currently champion actually increases the likelihood of innocent people being wounded or killed, that they’d change their minds entirely.