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"Defending your store": the best in bullets.

In any retail business, the threat of robbery is always present, but it is especially real for the proprietor of a gun shop. Firearms do not lose their value on the black market and, to the twisted minds of many criminals, guns represent power, making them even more tempting targets for theft.

Of course, if a criminal is going to rob a gun dealer, you can bet he's going to be packing a gun himself, because it's a good bet that the dealer will be armed. In fact, the felon will probably have a few of his best friends along just for laughs. With this kind of scenario, you want the gun you use to defend your business to be loaded with ammunition which is likely to take down a crook on the first shot. This month, Massad Ayoob examines your options.

As a staffer in a retail gunshop open to the public, you may have chosen to carry a loaded handgun on the job for personal defense and store security. The ammunition in that gun, however, may not be the same as you'd recommend to your customers, your local police department, or that you would carry yourself out on the street.

Different job descriptions require different tools. The police officer or the civilian licensed to carry in public wants a tactical load. Circumstances may require that the round be capable of penetrating light cover, like a door. The police officer in particular is likely to have to fire angle shots -- that is, put a bullet through an offender's arm and into his chest from the side.

The armed citizen assaulted in public is likely to have been waylaid in a lonely place; innocent bystanders in the background will often be notable by their absence.

Similarly, a highway patrolman making a traffic stop at the roadside has both isolation and fire angles in his favor. If he has to fire when assaulted by a motorist, he is quite likely to be standing while the offender is seated in the car. This downward trajectory in and of itself reduces a lot of worry about overpenetration.

The firearms retailer is in another situation entirely. His "shooting background," as they say on the LAPD, may be wall-to-wall customers. His antagonist is quite likely to be facing him straight on. Cover is unlikely to be a consideration. It can happen though; in one Texas gunshop shooting, the armed robber took cover and a Dillon press absorbed a charge of buckshot the gunshop owner sent his way. Sustained fire, however, put the robber down for the count.

As a general rule, the storekeeper in any retail establishment is better off with a handgun round that (A) will stay inside a human body with a frontal shot while (B) delivering sufficient terminal force to insure neutralization of the offender. Remember, you'll probably be in close proximity to one another, and the closer he is, the more likely it is that he can still shoot you even while he's falling.

Let's examine the five most popular handgun calibers.

The New Load On The Block

The relatively new .40 S& W is putting together a surprisingly good track record for stopping power. With several shootings of perpetrators now on file, we note that all have ceased hostilities very quickly when hit with one or two solid hits.

Because Winchester was first on the market with ammo, their 180-grain, copper jacketed hollowpoint has been most represented in the field and therefore the most used in actual shootings. It generally is found on the opposite side of the body on a frontal shot, or halfway through or a bit more on side shots, always well mushroomed. Interestingly, it is dramatically outperforming its big brother, the 10mm.

In the one shooting I've run across with Federal's Hydra-Shok .40, it performed identically and delivered a fast, fatal one-shot stop.

Light, fast rounds on the order of a 150-grain hollowpoint at 1,200 fps -- CorBon, for instance, or Hornady -- show great promise but are not yet field proven. For now, the Winchester Subsonic 180-grain JHP seems to be the load of choice for the.40 S&W auto.

The High-Capacity Choice

9mm Parabellum is as popular among gun dealers as their customers. It is a sensible choice. Crooks dumb enough to try to stick up gunshops are often at least smart enough to employ force of numbers.

Police statistics for trained cops armed with double-action revolvers indicate about one hit for every four shots fired. If you have a five-shot revolver and face three offenders, it doesn't require a degree in calculus to determine that you're behind the proverbial eight-ball.

With a 15-shot 9mm, however, five shots per suspect almost guarantees a hit on each member of our hypothetical robbery trio, and that's with revolver-level hit potential. Cool hands with autos generally have a 65 percent hit potential because of the self-loader's superior ergonomics.

But what load? The currently trendy 147-grain subsonic has proved a spotty manstopper in the field, and will generally have enough "oomph" to go completely through an offender with a frontal shot, potentially killing an innocent customer behind him. The best bet seems to be the +P+ level 115-grain hollowpoint, which in the Evan Marshall study shows the highest percentage of one-shot stops with a velocity of nearly 1,300 fps.

In a standard pressure load, the 115-grain JHP Winchester Silvertip and Federal 9BP seem most likely to stay in the offender's body.

Big Bore Auto

In .45 ACP Winchester's Silvertip may not be the most thunderous of manstoppers but it is probably the most likely to stay inside the offender's torso. Federal's Hydra-Shok is another good choice. Tests by FBI indicate that Remington's potent +P 185-grain hollowpoint will expand sooner and travel through less tissue than a regular 185-grain. Conversely, the old standby 230-grain ball is all but guaranteed to exit the bad guy with enough residual force to kill a customer in the background.

Rounds For Revolvers

Looking at revolvers, the .357 Magnum 125-grain semijacketed hollowpoints by Winchester, Remington, Federal, or CCI seem almost guaranteed to stay inside the body on a frontal shot and to deliver massive destruction and high one-shot stop probability. This is critical with six-shooter technology.

.38 Special street experience is that the 158-grain lead semi-wadcutter +P hollowpoint is generically the best manstopper. Of the major brands, Remington seems to have the softest bullet, opening soonest and over-penetrating least, making it perhaps the best choice for the gunshop environment.

Exotic specialty loads like the MagSafe, while limited in terms of a field data base, also seem to offer significant stopping power with minimum likelihood of bullet exit.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Lethal Force
Author:Ayoob, Massad
Publication:Shooting Industry
Article Type:Column
Date:Jul 1, 1992
Words:1114
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