More on Ballistic Contradictions : Follow-Up Comments

By John Farnam

Suicide Gun Shot Blood
More on Ballistic Contradictions : Follow-Up Comments
Defense Training International, Inc
Defense Training International, Inc

Ft Collins, CO –-( “When you just ain't got nobody Since you've gone and lost your head Rigor mortis has set in, Daddy Jack, you're dead!” ~ From “Jack, You’re Dead,” Written by Walter Bishop. and Dick Miles. Most famous rendition was sung by Louis Jordan in 1946 (sound track video below).

Authoritative follow-up comments on my ballistic performance article, from colleagues who know what they’re talking about:

“I’m not worried about having a ‘less-than-perfect’ round in my social guns, because I think the same criteria is most important for selecting the brand/type of JHP, as for selecting caliber:

Shot placement!”


“As you note, ‘deanimation,’ as a result of direct injury to the supply agent to the circulatory system, can certainly take many seconds. Forensic pathologists further opine that as long as the brain remains oxygenated, the actor is still capable of cognition, decision making, and action. Assuming zero blood pressure, one must expect that the brain will remain sufficiently oxygenated to allow calculated voluntary action for a minimum of fifteen seconds, an eon in the course of a critical incident!

Similarly, as you note, deanimation in an antagonist as a result of a gunshot is usually voluntary.

In one case I handled, a 6'4″ 220lb person who, thanks to his constant workout routine at the local state-provided gym (State Prison) was built like an action-figure doll. He was shot in the upper, lateral shoulder with a single .25 auto round. Witnesses reported that, upon the single shot being fired, this giant fell as if he had been pole-axed!

The one wound that does reliably cause deanimation is a blow to the CNS (central nervous system). Shock/trans-section of the spinal column regularly deanimates from the point of injury downward. The only injury that almost always causes total deanimation is one that effects the 1st/2nd vertebrae.”


“Last year, I inspected handgun bullets, and one shotgun slug, from a shooting in ______ City in which police fired over sixty rounds (at a single suspect, during a single incident), and the autopsy detailed forty-five separate wound paths through the suspect’s body. Suspect was on PCP!

Hollow points are prominent for opening up
When I started work in this field nearly forty years ago, hollow point handgun bullets only expanded fifty percent of the time.

Suspect, with pistol in hand, took eleven steps toward police, while being simultaneously struck by a hail of police handgun bullets, until a shotgun slug, that struck his spine between T6/T7, dropped him to the pavement. Even then, his upper body remained functional, as he retained and tried to point his handgun at police with his right hand, while he held a cigarette between his left index and second finger, with his forearm held vertical from the pavement. It took a 40S&W round to the brain stem to finally stop this threat.

In another recent case, the shootee, shot through his heart with a 9mm, and also hit in the thigh and arm, subsequently walked down a hall, down a flight of stairs, across the stair landing, and halfway down another flight of stairs before he collapsed, and thereafter died. The medical examiner and I, without speaking with one another, both noted in our reports that a man shot through the heart can subsequently remain upright, mobile, and aggressive for thirty seconds, or more!

When I started work in this field nearly forty years ago, hollow point handgun bullets only expanded fifty percent of the time. Today, handgun rounds from the major manufacturers expand most of the time, even when they only hit an arm, and the expanded rounds often look like the advertising photos in the gun magazines. We have the FBI to thank for this, as major ammunition manufacturers are all designing their ammo to perform well on current FBI testing protocols.”

Even so, while stopping effects seem to be better now than what occurred a few decades ago, there is still no certainty, and two suspects of the same size and physical condition, hit in the same part of the body, with the same rounds, may well behave dramatically differently.

We must train our students to expect this, and to keep firing accurately, creating distance, using cover and obstacles, reloading, and getting out of the kill-zone when possible, until the threat is stopped, or he chooses to stop!”


“This raises a not-so-subtle psychological and legal question:

When you’ve hit and downed an assailant, regardless of what your bullet(s) did mechanically, but he then partially reanimates, does he still represent the threat of continued lethal assault?

A private citizen’s job is usually limited to protecting himself, while subsequently moving to a safe place, and then notifying authorities to come take definitive charge of things. But, what about this case:

You’ve been aroused by a threatening figure in the doorway of your second-floor bedroom. You’ve been able to confirm that this person has neither reason nor leave to be there and constitutes a threat that demands a lethal response. So, you fire your weapon at him. He is down, but not unconscious. His weapon is on the floor and within his reach.

You’re in a cul-de-sac. The only way out, and to safety, is past this injured suspect. Your current cover is minimal.

It can be argued that you’ve ‘neutralized’ the threat, at least in the short term, but clearly you haven’t. You’re trapped, with no safe way to exit. Even when his flopping around on the floor seems non-purposive, how can you know? And, how can you be sure that in your present position you can make the appropriate response fast enough to save yourself, when it’s suddenly called for?

Should you:

(1) Resume shooting, even with no particular threat that you can specifically describe? Or, should you

(2) Attempt to exit past him, exposing yourself to the risk of getting close to him while he is still at least partially animated?

Or, should you:

(3) Do nothing, continually exposing yourself to the risk of him suddenly resuming his attack?

There is no ‘risk-free’ option! There is no even ‘good’ option.”

Comment: All else being equal, I’d probably execute option one, but afterward a local prosecutor may well take issue!

No guarantees!

“What's the use of having muscles When your life hangs by a thread When you ain't got no red corpuscles Jack, you're dead!” ~ Again, From “Jack, You’re Dead,”


About John Farnam & Defense Training International, Inc
As a defensive weapons and tactics instructor John Farnam will urge you, based on your own beliefs, to make up your mind in advance as to what you would do when faced with an imminent and unlawful lethal threat. You should, of course, also decide what preparations you should make in advance, if any. Defense Training International wants to make sure that their students fully understand the physical, legal, psychological, and societal consequences of their actions or inactions.

It is our duty to make you aware of certain unpleasant physical realities intrinsic to the Planet Earth. Mr Farnam is happy to be your counselor and advisor. Visit:

  • 10 thoughts on “More on Ballistic Contradictions : Follow-Up Comments

    1. The Florida shootout with bank robbers ended when a severely wounded agent realized the two men had defeated his fellow agents and we’re struggling to start the engine of a car positioned so that the only way out was backward, directly over the top of two of his critically wounded colleagues. The agent realized he had to act. Despite being essentially paralyzed, and limited to the use of only one arm he emptied the remaining rounds from a pump action 12ga, and his sidearm into the two assailants from less than ten feet away. That was a case where the majority of hits on the bank robbers were fired from subsonic handgun cartridges through car widows, interior seats/materials, and sheet metal (perhaps even lvl 2 vests I don’t recall). One of the robbers was a well trained combatant with either a ruger mini14 or mini30 and the FBI “take cover, return fire” tactics of the time were completely unsuited to that situation, but those shooters died somewhat predictably once direct hits were made on them. As to the hypothetical home invader… if you reach the conclusion that you should fire a gun at them why are you conserving ammo? You should always fire multiple rounds when confronted by an armed assailant. It’s hard for anyone to question the decision to fire 3-6 rounds in 1-2 seconds, but I would never be able to feel quite right about timidly hiding in a room and then executing an incapacitated man because I was afraid to kick his gun away, or step over him. If you can’t handle yourself under pressure well enough to control the situation at that point, you’re probably not going to be the one standing after the initial exchange anyway.

    2. Always entertaining to hear internet ninjas brag about what they would do in a hypothetical scenario. Nobody knows what they will do until it happens. The best predictor of what one will likely do, is the quality and quantity of professional training.

      1. I’m glad to see that Jim corrected his typo. It’s important for us to use correct language, so the anti-gunners don’t accuse us of being dumb rednecks. Similarly, I wish Farhham had corrected the quote from from his colleague at the beginning of the article (“I’m not worried about having a ‘less-than-perfect’ round in my social guns, because I think the same criteria is [CRITERION (singular) IS, CRITERIA (plural) ARE] most important for…”).

    3. People like big game animals (for this example) will die differently. In the famous FBI and bank robber shoot out situation a couple of decades ago, the only reason the one bad guy with several wounds finally died after getting hit several times while he continued to shoot hell out of the FBI agents was he finally just ran out of blood. In other events like the sited .25 shot in Farnam’s above story–a “mere” one shot .25. People just die differently.

    4. My question is why did my four dogs not raise Hell at this intruder when they do so if a shadow falls across the front door. The person in your story failed to have layered security. Are you also going to assume that the intruder is acting alone? Another fail.

    5. Wow, that sounds like a lose-lose situation. I see that shooting again would be bad, too, unless your shot while perp is on the ground was also a “lethal” shot, otherwise the ME report would just show you shooting a “dead” person while they were down, which would invalidate the argument that they were still a danger.

    6. There are 2 people there, you and him. He went down but still had the weapon in his hand, he began to raise the weapon and I fired again to top the threat. Make sure it is stopped with the next shot. That is my story and I am sticking to it.

      1. And thank you for posting what you are going to say. Thank you for posting what your story is going to be for everyone to see and for the authorities when they confiscate your phone and computer and look through your internal history log and they find this post about what you are going to say and your sticking to it. That’s like shooting someone on your porch and dragging the body in the house. If you think it is that easy wait until a prosecutor finds your post here and eats you alive…

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