Re: High-tech weaponry

James Rogers (
Mon, 14 Jun 1999 15:55:30 -0700

At 04:39 PM 6/14/99 -0400, Michael Lorrey wrote:
>> >If you're a good guy, the flechettes cause the least possible
>> >damage that will let you get away, shoot the deer that's kicking
>> >your kid, hunt, hit the 9 ring of the paper target, or whatever.
>Actually, interestingly enough, small projectiles don't shock the body
nearly as
>much, even when using equal or more energy. According to Massood Ayoob, your
>1911 .45 ACP with black talon rounds provides excellent stopping power, with
>LESS chance of killing a perp than with a smaller caliber like a .22, .32,
>.380, .40 or even 9 mm. The smaller the caliber, the less you shock the perp,
>but your chance of killing them is higher, because the projectile is going to
>fragment and bounce around inside the target more. Because the perp is not
>shocked by the impact of a small caliber, they are more likely to be able to
>continue coming after you. Large calibers will knock the guy over and keep
>down, but is less likely to kill him.

Its really much more complicated than this. Flechettes are generally more lethal than slugs, but as Michael Lorrey points out, they do a less effective job of stopping the person or animal quickly. Flechettes are basically death by a hundred pin pricks. Excellent penetration, but the damage is distributed over a much larger area and is highly localized. With flechettes, you are basically waiting for a cumulative systemic failure, whereas a slug tends to do severe and immediate damage to a single sub-system. However, this *does* make flechettes more programmable in terms of terminal results, something I will go into below.

Even in the realm of comparing slugs, it isn't so clear. For the record, I do not consider Massad Ayoob to be a particularly reputable expert on projectile lethality.

There are two components to lethality: penetration depth and damage volume. Adequate penetration is the first requirement for any lethal projectile; if you can't reach anything vital, it doesn't matter what the damage potential is of the projectile. Due to inadequate penetration, low velocity small caliber projectiles (e.g. .25 or .32) tend to be non-lethal. In terms of pistol cartridges, 9mm is pretty much the minimum entry point for reliable penetration on a human. .40 and .45 both have excellent penetration. However, capacity to damage is dependent on more than just size and weight. For example, in compact pistols (barrels < 4"), the .40 is a more lethal cartridge than the .45 because the .40 can develop an optimal terminal velocity in about 3", whereas the .45 requires 4.5-5" to develop its optimal velocity. Most lethal design features on projectiles have an operational velocity range (it has been fairly well documented that 230gr .45 hollow-points can fail to expand when shot out of compact pistols due to inadequate velocity). However, when both slugs are shot at their optimally lethal velocities, the damage volume of the .45 will edge past the smaller .40 slug.

Back to flechettes, it is conceivable to develop a weapon with highly programmable terminal effects by controlling both the number of flechettes per shot and the average spread on impact (i.e. the distribution of damage). A large number of flechettes sent to a small region could be as effective at stopping an aggressor as any slug. By reducing the number of flechettes sent to a small area, you would probably stop a person since you would still be inflicting significant damage to a single sub-system, but the survival rate would increase because it would take longer for the damage to aggregate. On the other hand, a large number of flechettes with a large spread would probably be lethal, but there may not be enough damage to any one sub-system to cause an immediate stop. A small number of flechettes with a large spread would probably be only marginally lethal, but it would send a person to the hospital, even if it didn't stop them.

It should be noted that human psychology with respect to being shot is really odd and differs significantly from any other animal. In many cases, whether or not a person is "stopped" by being shot is determined by whether or not that person perceives themselves as being "stopped". Many people will roll over with minor physiological wounds due to their *belief* in the level of damage inflicted, which many times exceeds the actual damage. Most animals and some people with impaired perceptions (such as psychotics or people under the influence of heavy drug use), are much more resistant to being stopped, since the level of damage inflicted must be physiologically severe for them to be stopped; psychologically "severe" damage is not applicable in these cases.

-James Rogers