Questioning the FBI 12" - 18" Penetration Standard

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RoyOdhner
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Questioning the FBI 12" - 18" Penetration Standard

Post by RoyOdhner » May 21st, 2016, 1:44 pm

The FBI penetration standard of 12" - 18" is a fine standard, I'm sure. However, I'm not entirely convinced that it applies to civilian self-defense needs. For the average civilian self-defense need, I believe that a 10" - 14" standard will work - assuming that the round offers decent expansion or gets in there and tumbles around.

The FBI created the 12" - 18" protocol following the infamous Miami shootout where FBI agents found themselves outgunned by some dedicated criminals who were not afraid to die and were armed to the teeth. A good many agents were killed or maimed by these outlaws, and I can see the FBI's logic. However, this protocol was developed with the potential for an active shoot-out/running gun battle in mind - one in which LEO's are engaging dedicated criminals... one in which an officer is going to be packing a full-sized duty pistol and has the potential for being in harm's way for the duration of an entire 8 - 12 hour shift.

As civilians, I don't think we face this reality on a regular basis. Certainly there are criminals out there who might do us harm, but I don't think we're facing the same level of risk. I think that good many of us don't envision a running gun battle with a gang of methed-up zombies in the Wally World parking lot as a likely scenario, so we carry a personal-defense sized handgun like a snubby, G42, PPK, Mak, P64, PA63, or pocket rocket like a TCP, LCP, or P3AT. These sized guns fit our lifestyles, and we've done the calculations in our heads and have determined that we probably don't need something quite as big as a G17, G19, Model 92, or full-sized 1911. In this case, we're opting for a 9x17, 9x18, .38spcl, .32ACP, .25ACP, or .22LR/WMR. Some of us may even pack the smaller 9x19 platforms like the SCCY, G43, LC9, PF9, CW9, or similar sized platforms. If we manage to lay our hands on the right self-defense ammo, we might be able to make 12" penetration with really good expansion. However, the "right" ammo may not be readily available, so we're probably gonna have to settle for 10" - 11" (ish) penetration with good expansion, or 12"-20" (or so) penetration without much expansion.

I think that many of us are good to go with penetration that falls short of the 12" minimum. Myself, I don't actually subscribe to the FBI protocol and feel confident packing any self-defense load that is gonna give me 10" - 14" inches of penetration so long as it will give me some decent expansion or will tumble around inside to create a nasty wound channel. This is because my perceived self-defense needs don't include running gun battles with methed-out bodybuilding zombies in the Wally World parking lot on a regular basis. I'm more likey to come across a meth monkey or crack rabbit looking for a quick score, a pissed-off probationer or parolee that I used to supervise who is now looking for some quick payback, or an odd paranoid schizophrenic who has decided that I am the CIA agent who has been sent to take a coronal slice of his frontal lobe. Thus, I'm not inclined to pack a full-sized combat handgun. My relatively quiet and tranquil surroundings convince me that I will probably do just fine packing a G42, a P64, or a Mak as an EDC/primary pistol - and a Taurus TCP or a NAA .22WMR revolver as a back-up.

Given the right combo of slug and powder, a JHP 9x17 might be able to get expansion and penetration over 12" - but not very likely. I've yet to see a 9x18 do this. Hell, not even most 9x19 JHP's can do this when fired from the micro-9mm pistols. Realistically, I don't care. I figure that any JHP giving me 10" -14" of penetration with decent expansion or tumble capability is gonna work - especially here in Texas where most thugs and paranoid schizophrenics are not likely to be wearing jackets made from four layers of ballistic-grade denim. Anyway, I don't hedge my bets on a one-shot stop, and I don't need to render my attacker GYD - I just need him/her to be taken out of the fight long enough for me to advance rapidly to the rear and find a safe place where I can dial 911 and prepare for round two. However, having worked around thugs for the past 19 years I've yet to find any so dedicated to their jobs that they will come back for round two. I've met a really mentally ill individual or two that are crazy enough for round two, but in their cases I don't think a single shot from any sized slug is likely to immediately stop them short of a clear head shot - but a double or triple 9x17 or 9x18 tap center mass probably will.

The 12" - 18" protocol was adopted following a law-enforcement situation that took place in 1986. Prior to that, we were all blissfully (and successfully) defending ourselves with ammo that did not meet that criteria. Regardless of marketing hype, I don't think that basic human anatomy has evolved that much. Would I like to find a JHP 9x17 or 9x18 round that routinely meets the FBI standard? Sure. I'll always keep an eye out for such a round - one that can be proven to meet the FBI protocol and that I can actually find locally or over the internet. But I'm not gonna start packing a hog leg because I can't. I don't routinely do business in gang land or live in a really bad neighborhood, so I don't perceive my need to do so. If I did, I'd bust out the SW9VE from my gun locker and stoke it with some premium 9x19 SD ammo. However, my reality is that my routine threat level is pretty minimal. I refuse to live in paranoia and imagine all manner of goblins or terrorists will storm the cigar shop or David's grocery store , so I confidently pack a G42, P64, or Mak, and am secure in the knowledge that the current premium Federal, Hornady, or Speer SD offerings are gonna deliver the level of performance that I am ever likely to really need.

robhic
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Re: Questioning the FBI 12" - 18" Penetration Standard

Post by robhic » May 21st, 2016, 5:26 pm

I think the better the penetration, the better for you but I don't think that's the be-all, end-all. I've seen my share of these discussions and while penetration is great, ACCURACY is your friend! If you're loaded-out with some hi-power, HP, +P kill-all ammo with 20" penetration but you miss - well, you get my drift.

If you hit your target 5 of 5 times CoM with a good HP bullet with 10" penetration, who do you think has got the edge...?
- Robert

"Giving Money and Power to Government is Like Giving Whiskey and Car Keys to Teenage Boys" - PJ O'Rourke

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Curly1
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Re: Questioning the FBI 12" - 18" Penetration Standard

Post by Curly1 » May 21st, 2016, 6:22 pm

+1 placement is everything.
Laugh Hard and Often.

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chestertnted
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Re: Questioning the FBI 12" - 18" Penetration Standard

Post by chestertnted » May 21st, 2016, 10:23 pm

I agree. Penetration tests should not be the only consideration.
"For the Founders, the right of the citizen to be armed-they never imagined a world in which they would be disarmed for the supposed benefit of preventing access to weapons by madmen."

bigbake132
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Re: Questioning the FBI 12" - 18" Penetration Standard

Post by bigbake132 » May 21st, 2016, 10:59 pm

Great post! I wish I could see more thoughtful and pragmatic posts like this in comment sections of Youtube or other forums.

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herr mario
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Re: Questioning the FBI 12" - 18" Penetration Standard

Post by herr mario » May 22nd, 2016, 12:14 am

....thank you for an excellent post
:)
...typical bitter clinger...

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