Sunday, April 20, 2014

Stopping Power

There was an article on Craven Desires the other day involving the use of a firearm to stop a dog attack. The attack in question could be an attack on yourself, another person, or another animal. I concur that a “proper” use of such a device in the scenarios indicated may stop the attack. While not a perfect solution, certainly, it definitel gives the victim an advantage.

Lethality VS. Stopping Power.

When you attend self defense training classes (totally recommended), they instruct you that you use your weapon to STOP, or neutralize a threat to your safety. You are not necessarily trying to kill your attacker. The attack ends when the attacker STOPS attacking you (or someone or something else), not necessarily with the attacker dying. So, while killing something will definitely stop it from attacking you, you don't need to kill your attacker dead in its tracks to stop the attack. Therefore, incapacitation of the attacker stops the attack.

You want to select a weapon and associated ammunition type with optimum “stopping power”. “Stopping Power” being a standard euphemism indicating a weapon/ammunition's effectiveness in incapacitating an attacker.

Firearms are not created equally. Firearm ammunition is not created equally. Some have more stopping power than others, some have a higher degree of lethality than others. Again, stopping power and lethality are not necessarily the same thing. If you shoot your attacker, they proceed to murder you, and they die in the hospital 2 days after murdering you as a result of the gunshot, you did not stop the attack. Yes, you killed him but you failed in stopping the attack against yourself.

Here is a link to an FBI preliminary analysis of handgun effectiveness. It notes that a human being can pursue an attack for up to 15 seconds after the heart has been destroyed. However, note that many lethal pit bull attacks drag on for several minutes, so shooting your canine attacker in the heart would certainly increase your chance of survival, and reduce attendant injury. Again, not necessarily a perfect solution, but a LOT better than nothing.

Note that an attacker can be incapacitated immediately by a shot to the brain or central nervous system. The pain of the gunshot wound to any part of the body may also incapacitate them immediately.

I did some casual research on firearm effectiveness in incapacitating canine attackers. There has not been much (or any) formal research done on this issue. So, I perused YouTube for dog attack related shootings caught on video. I focused on videos because I don't necessarily trust police reports or witness testimony: In other words, I want to SEE what happened and decide for myself. This is by no means a statistically relevant list, but it may give us an idea of what to expect if a similar scenario plays out against you.

Main selection criteria:
  1. Dog has to be in the act of attacking, charging, or otherwise behaving dangerously towards the shooter, another person or another animal.
  2. The attack and subsequent shooting incident could actually be seen on the video.

Cop shoots attacking pit bull in Nampa. Handgun. 3 shots fired. Threat neutralized.

Cop shoots charging pit bull in New Orleans. Handgun. 2 shots fired. Target does not drop immediately. Threat neutralized.

Cop shoots pit bull attacking another animal. Handgun. One shot fired. Threat neutralized.

Cops shoot (at?) attacking pit bull in Russia. Handguns. 8 shots fired. Only one hit was obvious. Dog was able to run and elude them.

Cops shoot, kill, attacking pit bull in Russia. Handguns(?). 6 shots fired - # hits not obvious. Threat neutralized.

Cop shoots charging pit bull in New York City. Handgun. 1 shot fired. Threat neutralized.

Cop shoots attacking pit bull, unknown location. Shotgun. 1 shot fired. Threat neutralized.

Cop shoots attacking Rottweiler. Handgun. 4 shots fired. Threat neutralized. Skip to 3:10 on the vid.

Cop shoots charging dog in Sandusky. Handgun. 1 shot fired. Threat neutralized.

Cops shoot pit bull attacking another dog, location unknown. Handguns. 3 shots fired, though first 2 neutralized the threat (will count this as 2).

10 random incidents. 9 threats neutralized. Again, we are contemplating “stopping power”/incapacitation, NOT (immediate) deaths.

Averaging out the # of shots, you get 3.2 shots fired per incident. However, the 2 Russian incidents involved shooting at a dog that was running away: Something that is running away does not present an immediate threat to the safety of the shooter or the victim, so if we discount those we get 1.875 shots fired per incident.

Also noteworthy was the single shotgun incident – it literally dropped the dog like a bag of dirt.

Essentially, 3 things indicate a weapon's stopping power.
  1. Weapon type / caliber.
  2. Ammunition type.
  3. Shot placement.

(2) is of capital importance due to the fact that a 125 grain magnum hollowpoint fired from a .357 magnum will be a LOT more effective (due to a greater wound channel) than a full metal jacket .38 special fired from the exact same gun. Now, the .38 round might stop the attack, but is less likely to do so.

(3) is of capital importance due to the fact that, it doesn't matter what you are shooting if you miss, or only score a grazing hit. A head shot is ideal, but often impractical. Center of bodymass (chest cavity) hits are usually the best bet. A well placed round of .22 is a LOT more effective than a poorly placed round (or 10) of .357 magnum.

There may be a gun video in my near future.  Stay tuned.


  1. Thank you for doing this research.

    I've gone through some training, but there was nothing about dogs. I know a slight bit about hunting, but not from personal experience. The problem is, all of the animals I've heard about have less natural protection than a pit bull.

    I know they can be shot dead with one shot, but I feel I don't know all the ways to be able to do this.

    1. Unfortunately, there is going to be more and more data on this in the near future.

  2. Thanks! What a compilation. Makes me happy just watching it. Maybe a playlist on repeat is in order?

    The difference between neutralizing and killing ought to be something people consider more often.
    You can kill a pit, but still get badly mauled, if your method does not have stopping power. The methods I have experience (unfortunately) with were both lethal, but low on neutralizing the threat. You can save yourself, or someone else, but there WILL be injury, often severe.
    This is pretty typical of non firearm defense against pits, but you use what you have available, and what you are able to carry around with you/keep in your house. Not everyone can, or should, have guns.

    I would love to see more self defense training for this risk. I went looking, and found none. I am much more likely to have to defend against the many aggressive maulers in my area, than a person, just based on life style and such. I also find pits more dangerous because you cannot just give them what they want and make them go away, like most human criminals. Pits are more like the Green River Killer of the dog world.

    I would love a nice arsenal, and all the training it would take to be effective enough not to kill a bystander :)

  3. Do not leave it alive to kill again. If you make this mistake, there will be some rescue angel to nurse it back to full mauling vigor, beg for its life, then release it back into the community- but a different city so no one knows about its history.
    The standard for use of lethal force doesn't apply to dogs, but you never know when you will get a zealous nutter out to punish you for failing to ask pibbely-wibbely to stop shredding flesh in a nicer way, maybe over tea? Just be aware that cruelty charges may follow if you could have not killed it, or if you killed it in a vicious way (even if it was required for YOU to live).
    Insane I know. But worth any hassle to keep a deadly dog out of society.

    1. "The standard for use of lethal force doesn't apply to dogs, but you never know when you will get a zealous nutter out to punish you for failing to ask pibbely-wibbely to stop shredding flesh in a nicer way, maybe over tea? Just be aware that cruelty charges may follow if you could have not killed it, or if you killed it in a vicious way (even if it was required for YOU to live)"

      Excellent point. Rule of law matters less and less these days, and they may just go ahead and arrest/prosecute you for shooting a dog even though it was a clearly legal scenario.

    2. This is a very serious consideration, especially if no one witnessed the fight. Many incidents go unreported because of this. Who knows what AC/pit bull social workers or law enforcement (LOL) would do? Why make a bad situation worse, it's not like YOU will get any justice.

      Just about every charge I have seen brought against someone (none successful) for defense against dog, was against an owner saving their dog with a knife. One that went the other direction was an owner that shot his own pit bulls after they killed a dog- he should have been commended, not jailed, IMO. I guess he shot them afterwards, when he found out, not during the fight. They also charge when the killing was more painful than it needed to be- because they were there to figure out the best way to kill an attacking pit, right?
      I am all for humane laws, but come on now.

      Thankfully, many crematoriums won't ask questions, they just take your fee and your blanket wrapped "package" and that is it. As long as you aren't bringing in dogs weekly, I doubt they even blink.