During the Moro Rebellion in the Philippines it was discovered that military rifle bullets would pass through the Moro’s bodies and with even fatal shots delivered the Moro’s would power through their attacks taking multiple rifle hits to put them down. The 38 caliber revolvers where totally ineffective in stopping an attacking Moro. The US Army then reverted to the 45 Colt and 45 APC which was more effective at stopping an attacking Moro warrior at close range. This was the American experience and highlighted an ill-defined concept of stopping power.
Single Rifle Shots VS Machine Gun
During the Chinese Boxer Rebellion, a similar situation plagued the American and British soldier trying to halt the attack of sword and spear bearing Boxers. One incident illustrates this, a British soldier fired at point-blank range, it took 4 hits from the British rifle to stop an attack. Single rifle shots were ineffective, only the devastating power of the machine gun was effective.
Stopping Power Infinite Warfare
The British during combat in northwest India and in the Sudan used expanding bullets. The British voted against the prohibition of expanding bullets at The Hague Convention of 1899. The U.S. never signed the agreement, consensus being there was no humane way to kill or maim. However, the U.S. has complied with the mandate and uses fully jacketed ammunition. The prohibition was only related to international warfare, uniformed soldiers of opposing recognized state powers. Technically in police actions and counter-insurgency operations expanding ammunition could be used. But the logistics of providing multiple cartridges loadings would be prohibitive, so non-expanding bullets are used, however there are no prohibitions to blowing up the enemy with your artillery.
The concept of stopping power, though ill-defined as it is, has a long history. During the black powder era with muzzle velocities limited to around 1800 feet per second (fps) or less, and shooting a round ball, the only way to increase lethality is to up the caliber. The Brown Bess musket used by the British during the Revolutionary War was a .69 caliber (18 mm) hand cannon shooting a soft lead cast bullet. It was devastatingly effective, especially when hitting bone causing a massive dispersion of bone fragments (secondary projectiles) and disrupting organs and nervous system.
What Happens When You Get Shot & a Bullet Travels Through Your Body?
So, what really happens when a bullet strikes a living high order organism like us or game animals? On entry, the bullet will create a wound channel. The is the devastated and destroyed tissue in the region of the bullet’s path, and is referred to as the permanent cavity. The temporary cavity is the temporary but instantaneous displaced tissue caused by the bullets passage and is many times larger than the bullet’s diameter. How much damage? That depends on the bullet’s velocity, mass, material design (expanding vs. non-expanding) frontal area defined by the bullet’s diameter. Bullets don’t cut their way through tissue, they crush it. Bullet construction and design figure prominently is effective performance. A monolithic hard solid copper alloy will have minimum expansion and create a long narrow wound cavity. But a thin jacketed, pure lead core and a flat hollow-point meplat (bullet nose) will expand. Kinetic energy is converted to power (the ability to do work) expanding or deforming the bullet and creating a short but wide channel.