For most of us our usual source of information on firearms and ammunition are publications such as Gun Magazines. There are several things to be aware of before accepting all that you read as Gospel.
The first is that such magazines make their money from advertising. While a writer may be allowed to say he doesn't like a 9mm for self-defence, very few editors would allow a statement such as claiming that all 9mm weapons are a poor choice for self-defence and police use.
Many writers like to dress their articles with graphs and tables. However, some of them do not have a very good grounding in science or statistics. I've seen an author say he'd ignored the data from rounds that did not mushroom, when in fact how often that didn't happen is of great interest. Sample groups are often too small to draw conclusions from, and interpretation is also often a problem, the evidence on the graph sometimes contradicting the writer's conclusions.
The format itself may also be a problem. A 125gr round at 1,450fps producing 584ftlbs looks a lot sexier in print than a 200gr at 950fps with 401ftlbs. But in fact the heavier round with less energy is likely to be more effective over a greater range envelope.
The document below describes an extensive series of trials, the findings of which often contradict the opinions you may see in Gun Magazines. The papers written on the results are under a gag order, but no such restriction applies to the recollections of the experimenters. The findings of these trials is of considerable importance to anyone who uses firearms for defence and needs to be more widely circulated.
Bruce Jones is a USMC Infantry Weapons Program Manager and has served for over 30 years in the area of use, design, test and manufacturing of weapons for the U.S. Department of Defense, both in and out of uniform. The Scrapboard thanks him for making the recollections of his colleague available to the public.
The Pig Board II Bruce L. Jones Program Manager Infantry Weapons USMC - Pacific Theater October 13, 1998
Re: Law Enforcement/Military Cartridge Effectiveness Study Conducted 1995 - 1996
In the recent past, performance tests were conducted to determine the ballistic effects of different weapons and ammunition on flesh and bone targets, living and dead, and to determine the efficacy of different types and designs of body armor in defeating the threats presented by these projectiles.
The following information was taken from the personal notes of an experienced law enforcement observer in the field of forensics from a large western law enforcement agency.
The final reports were proprietary to armor manufacturers who funded the research as well as being classified as proprietary/ confidential by certain government agencies that placed a gag order on distributing data from the report. The report itself can't be distributed, however, the individual mentioned above was under no such constraint to not discuss what he saw and wrote down in his personal notes.
It should be noted that on at least two other different occasions in the past, the U.S. Army has conducted similar tests on unarmored subjects. The first of these was a handgun test in conducted in 1904 that resulted in the adoption of the .45ACP cartridge as the military standard and the second was convened in June of 1928 and dubbed the Pig Board due to it's use of pigs as test subjects. The purpose of the Pig Board was to determine the most effective cartridge for use in military rifles against human targets. That exercise resulted in the identification of a .276 caliber (approximate 7mm) high velocity bullet as the optimum choice. That choice was not put into practice, although the M1 Garand was developed in a working model for it, because a high ranking general of the time (General Douglas MacArthur) insisted on using the already developed .30/06 cartridge; which was more powerful anyway. Thus the Army adopted the M1 Garand in .30/06 caliber, which was later changed to the .308 caliber. The .308 caliber approximated the results of the .276 in a larger diameter projectile. This choice was probably precipitated by the popular manufacture of commercial weapons in the .308 caliber.(1)
Although these tests appear conclusive, the scientific acceptance is tainted by the perceived need for secrecy. This perceived need was driven by two factors, one is a potential profit motive of ballistic vest manufacturer(s) co-sponsoring the tests, while the second is the perceived negative political atmosphere in which such tests may be received by certain anti-weapon activist groups.
It would certainly be important to military and law enforcement agencies if these tests could be replicated in an acceptable enough political atmosphere to make public release of the information acceptable. This office, therefore, recommends such a study be undertaken by the appropriate military agency.