Good shoot, Bad ammo?

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Recently two radically different bullet designs have taken the internet by storm, garnering a tremendous amount of attention all out of proportion to what the products seem to deliver.

 

G2 Research released the R.I.P. or Radically Invasive Projectile, a mean looking bullet with a tooth edged hollowpoint designed to splinter upon impact and create multiple wound channels. A solid core remains which continues to deliver a more traditional wound channel in the target.

 

Also new to the market is Advanced Ballistic Concepts Multiple Impact Bullet. This is essentially a three lobed bolo round, connected by a fine wire. In addition to multiple calibers they also offer this ammo in three levels of “lethality”. More on that terrible idea later.

The design theory behind this bullet is that it instantly expands upon leaving the barrel to a diameter between the lobes of 14 inches, thus reducing the need to precision aiming and increasing hit probabilities.

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Let’s take these bullets one at a time and discuss what’s good and bad about them.

 

First up is the G2R R.I.P. bullet. This thing has been a hit all over the internet in recent weeks but will it live up to the hype?

 

I do have to applaud G2R for at least releasing videos that appear to show their ammunition performing under similar conditions to the FBI protocol testing. In their videos they show the RIP bullet entering ballistics gel after penetrating plywood, sheetrock, and auto glass. They also show several instances shooting in to bare ballistics gelatin, and that’s what has me the most worried. Their own video shows that even with a center mass hit, several of the ‘trocar’ petals are seen exiting the gel block and continuing on a tangent to the target. It real world applications not only are these fragments no longer creating damage inside your intended target they’re creating a tremendous liability of hitting others. Off center hits, the kind likely to occur in a defensive shooting situation are even worse, with more petals exiting sooner, dissipating energy and increasing the odds of hitting other victims. The remaining solid plug now appears to generally over penetrate the target due to no longer having the resistance of the removed trocar petals. With no expansion of the remaining solid plug it continues to bore a narrow wound channel that doesn’t fully release its maximum energy inside the target. Upon exiting there now exists the possibility of hitting even more unintended victims with this remaining piece of the projectile.

One of my final complaints with G2R’s new RIP bullet is this bit of marketing.

 

“Imagine a Hole saw. The hole saw action that occurs at points of entry into different mediums reduce initial drag which allow the hollow cavity in the center of the projectile to rapidly pack.”

 

At first, this seems reasonable. The bullet does in fact look a little like a hole saw, we know bullets rotate due to rifling in the barrels, so what’s wrong with this? Well, pistol barrels typically have twist rates somewhere around 1:10, or you get one revolution of the bullet for every ten inches the bullet travels. So now, imagine a hole saw. Now imagine trying to cut through ten inches of material while only rotating the saw once. This is a basic fact and it’s clear that the designers of this round have to be aware of it, so this represents a flat out lie in their marketing material just because it sounds good. Their bullet is penetrating because of crush forces just like every other bullet, but they’ve marketed a deliberate lie. Because of this I doubt every other claim they’ve made even where it might objectively seem reasonable.

 

What about the Multiple Impact Bullet?

 

Similar to the RIP bullet this operates by splitting the projectile in order to create multiple wound channels. They’ve taken a different approach however and they have their projectile split upon exiting the barrel, with the fragments remaining attached via a cable to create a three lobed bolo projectile. They’re marketing this as increasing hit probabilities, but they’re also increasing probability of a miss with with at least one, if not two lobes. Their own own targets demonstrate how these lobes miss, and should the tether part those are now projectiles loose to hit unintended victims. Instead of precise shot placement you now have a large area that you have to mentally try to compensate for.

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Should your target be partially behind cover this large, 14 inch spread now means you’re more likely to hit that cover, spoiling your aim and depleting the bullets energy. With a traditional round you’d be able to target the area that was exposed, missing the cover without fear of it ruining your shot. In any confined space like inside any home or business the multiple impact bullet is going to cause far more potential for collateral damage and disrupted shots.

 

What about penetration? We really don’t know how well it penetrates. All the videos on their website show the bullet hitting paper targets. One video does show them shooting the 12 ga version of their round at watermelons in a plywood box. While the melons were pulped the plywood seems to have stopped the round. In smaller calibers this effect is going to be even more pronounced. While limiting unintended penetration in a self defense situation is a good thing, we still sufficient penetration on our targets. Based on their own videos and the design of this round it seems like it would turn things that are traditionally only “concealment” into cover for the bad guys. Common furniture like couches and chairs, interior doors, or even things like floor lamps seem like they would be able to catch this round and prevent you from hitting your target. Firing down a hallway or other narrow corridor now has the chance of hitting the wall and spoiling your shot. Hampering yourself in defensive situation is never a good thing. This however, is not the worst thing Advanced Ballistic Concepts has come up with.

 

What is the “Smart Stack?”

 

It’s a dumb idea. Advanced Ballistic Concepts has taken their Multiple Impact bullets and designed them with three levels of “lethality”. They have what they’re marketing as their fully lethal round, the Stopper, but they also have two additional levels aka the “semi-lethal” Stunner and less lethal Stinger rounds.

They claim that by using lower density materials they can control penetration depths to create rounds that can be fired from the same gun in sequence, with increasing levels of lethality (their “smart stack” concept).

There are some MASSIVE problems with this idea however. By their design, you load the less lethal first, then the semi- lethal, then finally the fully lethal rounds. You can continue to fire until you achieve a stop on the intended target.

The idea of less lethal rounds in shotguns is something that law enforcement has been using for quite a while. However in nearly every department across America there is a strict prohibition against using the same shotgun for both lethal and less lethal rounds. These restrictions exist because the likelihood of accidentally firing a lethal round when only non-lethal force is justified is too high. Conversely, when lethal force is needed then the risk of firing a non-lethal round and thereby not stopping your target is unacceptable, jeopardizing the safety of the officer and others.

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From a civilian standpoint it’s even more clear. Typically a civilian is only justified in firing a weapon when imminent harm exists, and deadly force is authorized. The law makes no distinction about the type of ammunition being fired and ANY round fired has the capacity to be lethal, thus the move to less lethal as terminology as opposed to non-lethal. Numerous people have been killed by rubber bullets due to being struck in the head, neck, or other vital areas. The “semi-lethal” category of round makes the murky territory of “less lethal” downright muddy. The manufacturers claim that by using lower density materials they can control penetration to cause superficial wounds, lacerations, and other injuries that are not immediately lethal. They acknowledge that without immediate medical attention the chance of death is highly likely. It’s obvious that any shot to the head or neck with this semi-lethal round would likely be fatal before medical attention could arrive. Marketing aside, this is a lethal round and as such should only be fired in a true deadly force encounter. Since even Advanced Ballistic Concepts recognizes that it’s not the most effective round for a lethal encounter, just why does this round exist?

 

Liability

 

With both of these rounds there is an increased risk of hitting unintended targets. You are responsible for every projectile that leaves your gun, including those fragments that might separate once they hit their target. Rounds like the RIP offer no true increase in stopping power over a quality hollowpoint but do increase the chance of petals exiting the target and hitting unintended victims.

 

The Multiple Impact Bullet takes liability to a whole new level, not only dramatically increasing the chances of missing your target with at least one lobe which can separate from the tether and hit others, but also by encouraging shooting in unjustified conditions with their marketing of their less lethal and “semi lethal” rounds.

 

In addition, I am reminded of the Texas case in which an elderly gentleman was forced to defend himself in his car against a younger assailant. The prosecutor in the case tried to use the defendants choice of using “deadly” hollowpoint bullets as proof that he was just itching to shoot someone and was looking for a confrontation. Through the use of expert testimony it was able to be proven that hollowpoint ammunition was in fact the recommended ammunition for self defense, and it was in use by the local police jurisdictions as well.

With defensive shootings garnering national media attention I can see current prosecutors looking to send a message and make a name for themselves resorting to similar tactics. Unlike hollowpoint ammunition however, no expert witness could argue that there was any prevailing wisdom in the use of these gimmick rounds, nor could any police departments be located that were using this as issued ammunition. That would leave the shooter in a position of having to justify to a jury, the need for a round that was deliberately marketed as extra dangerous, deadly, and devastating. Overcoming the impression of a bloodthirsty vigilante looking for a fight is already difficult just because you choose to carry a gun. Adding this ammunition to the mix might well prejudice a jury against the defendant, regardless of the actual circumstances of the shoot.

 

Recommendations

 

Save your money on this ammo and purchase any one of the quality defensive hollowpoints available. They’re time tested, proven designs, many of which are in use by law enforcement. Skip the gimmick, spend the time on training so you can fire that accurate shot under stress with quality ammunition and you’ll increase your chances both during and after the shoot.

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