Army pistol and stopping action of pistol cartridges

In previously published materials, we examined the thorny path of the emergence of a new army pistol in the armed forces of the Russian Federation: Part 1, Part 2, as well as a similar process that took place at about the same time in the US armed forces: Part 1, Part 2. The next article was planned to consider what a promising army pistol could be in the context of the PDW concept. But since the topic of the army pistol is quite extensive and interesting, it was decided to preliminarily consider some aspects of the use of the army weapons close combat and the stopping action of ammunition.

The most common army pistols in the Russian armed forces are PM, MP-443 Grach and SPS Gyurza

Appointment and requirements for a modern army pistol

What is the purpose and objectives of the army pistol in the armed forces? On the website of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation (Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation) in the comments to the samples of small arms it is indicated:
- Makarov pistol (PM): "Designed to defeat manpower at short distances";
- MP-443 "Rook" pistol: "Designed to defeat the enemy at short distances, protected by anti-fragmentation bulletproof vests I and II level of protection";
- ATP pistol "Gyurza": "Designed to defeat melee manpower, protected by anti-fragmentation bulletproof vests or in unarmored vehicles."

Based on the foregoing, it can be noted that in more modern MP-443 Grach pistols and SPS Gyurza, the task of defeating the enemy in bulletproof vests is indicated, which is a consequence of the requirements laid down in the ToR R&D of 1990 of the year.

At the same time, in the American program of the new army pistol MHS (Modular Handgun System, a modular weapon system), there is no mention of the need to hit targets protected by means of individual armor protection (NIB), at least in the part that is available for study. The basic requirements of MHS are rather aimed at increasing the modularity and improving the ergonomics of the army pistol, which in turn should positively affect the speed and accuracy of firing from weapons.

Pistols viewed under the Modular Handgun System program: Beretta APX, CZ P-09, Glock 19X, Sig Sauer P320-M17, Smith & Wesson M & P9 M2.0

Due to dissatisfaction of military personnel with pistols chambered for 9x19, which appeared during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the pistols for .40 S&W .45 ACP, .357 SIG and FN 5,7 × 28 mm cartridges could be considered in the MHS program. But later they were abandoned. To increase the damaging properties of 9x19 mm cartridges, the possibility of using expansive and fragmenting bullets in them is considered, while there was no need to increase the armor penetration of information.

Army pistol and stopping action of pistol cartridges

Pistol cartridges, top: 9x19 mm Para, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, 5.7x28 mm, bottom: 9x19 mm Para, .357 SIG, 10 mm Auto, 5.7x28 mm

Thus, you can see a clear difference in the requirements for an army pistol (weapon-cartridge complex) in the armed forces of Russia and the USA, in Russia it is high armor penetration, in the USA it has a stopping effect.

What is the purpose of an army pistol? There is no doubt that the infantryman’s main weapon is an assault rifle / assault rifle (hereinafter - assault rifle).

Based on this, it can be assumed that a fighter needs a gun in order to get to the machine in case of loss or damage. At the same time, with high probability, the fighter will resist the enemy in the NIB, which imposes a requirement to ensure high armor penetration of the weapon-cartridge complex.

Sometimes opinions are expressed that the military doesn’t need a gun at all, it’s better to take more grenades or magazines to the machine gun, and only officers need the gun as a “status” weapon, for which the PM is suitable, they say, it is easier to carry. The presence of pistols in the Russian armed forces only among officers and fighters of special units is most likely a consequence of the fear of his loss or theft by ordinary conscripts. For military personnel contracted, this is no longer true. One way or another, but the leading armies of the world do not plan to abandon the army pistol in the near future, which means it makes sense to give this type of weapon maximum efficiency.

Why, given the increase in the number of NIBs in the world, the US does not use armor-piercing bullets in army pistols? Perhaps they are counting on the backward action of conventional cartridges against the enemy in body armor. In other words, in close combat, a soldier fires an 1-2 shot in the hull, which for some time puts the enemy out of action, after which he has time for an aimed shot at an unprotected part of the body. It is believed that the PM pistol bullet in its kinetic energy is equal to the impact of a sledgehammer weighing approximately 2 kg, for more powerful cartridges this value will be even greater.

The disadvantage here is that the NIB's protective properties are constantly improving, including in terms of decreasing back-fire, and at one fine moment, the ammunition that does not penetrate the bulletproof vest may not disable the enemy even for a short period of time (the enemy will move, shoot back ), and it will be impossible to carry out an aimed shot at an unprotected part of the body.

The Russian approach involves the use of reinforced cartridges with an armor-piercing core. In fact, when shooting at an enemy in NIB, only the core with a diameter of 5-6 mm penetrates “under the armor”, and a shirt with an outer diameter of about 9 mm is crushed on the body armor, without making a special contribution to the damaging or stopping effect. At the same time, the high return on ammunition of increased armor penetration complicates the task of hitting a target.

The nature of the deformation of the shells of bullets cartridges 7Н21 and 7Н31 when penetrating the armor

Which approach is preferable, Russian or American, and can they be combined? As for armor penetration, there are no questions. Most likely, this requirement will be increasingly relevant, including for melee weapons. But what to do with the stopping effect? Increasing the caliber and power of ammunition is ineffective both due to a decrease in ammunition and an increase in the difficulty of firing from such weapons. To understand this issue, it is necessary to understand in more detail the factors that determine the stopping effect of ammunition.

Stop action

Various techniques for assessing the stopping action of small arms ammunition are well considered by Maxim Popenker with the article “Stopping the effect of bullets”, published in the magazine “Weapons”. It also identifies the definition of stopping action given by Dale Towert: D. Towert: “The stopping power of a bullet is simply the ability of a bullet to hit a person and cause him to instantly stop any action that he performed at the time of the shot”. By “instantly” is meant no more than 1-2 seconds.

It is believed that the stopping action is the property of a bullet to ensure the complete inability of the target to attack and resistance when hit. Causing death is seen as the "lethal action of a bullet."

The article lists such approaches and theories as Taylor’s formula, Evan Marshall’s and Ed Sanow’s theory of police, Dr. Martin Fackler’s theory of optimal penetration depth, MD, Strasbourg goat tests and various types of tests weapons and ammunition by the Weapons Advisory Committee of the FBI.

The FBI commission was assembled after the “Miami Massacre” in 1986, when an FBI agent shot a criminal who had just robbed a bank. The bullet fired by the agent 9 mm hit the criminal on the side, pierced the right hand and got stuck in the right lung, fully opening. However, the culprit returned fire, killed two FBI agents, and injured four others.

All tests and studies often show rather contradictory results when the 9x17 cartridge, with an initial energy of about 300 J, shows a stopping effect comparable to that of the .357 Magnum cartridge, with an initial energy of about 800 J (according to the results of the Strasbourg tests).

Table of the best munitions for short-barreled weapons according to Marshall and Senow (left), overall combat suitability according to IWBA (top-right), average time of failure according to the results of the Strasbourg tests (bottom-right)

The article lists various damaging factors of bullets, including the depth of penetration of the bullets, the transfer of kinetic energy to the body (the bullet went through or stuck in the body), the change in the shape of the bullet when moving in the body, the appearance of a temporary cavitation cavity, and others.

At the end of the article, Maxim Popenker concludes that the conclusion of the FBI commission that the guaranteed immediate hit of the target cannot be ensured by any combination of caliber and bullets is closest to reality, it is necessary to fire to kill until the target is a threat . Therefore, all experts recommended the use of weapons with a larger capacity stores.

Key findings of the FBI Commission:
- with the exception of direct damage to the central nervous system (destruction of the brain or spinal cord), reliable and reproducible instantaneous incapacitation of a pistol (revolver) bullet is IMPOSSIBLE for any combination of bullet and caliber;
- the temporary cavitation cavity created by the pistol (revolver) bullet does not play a significant role in the formation of the damaging effect. The organs of the body are destroyed if they are directly affected by the bullet, the bullet must penetrate deep enough into the body to hit the vital organs. In order to normally pierce muscles, fat, bones, clothes and nevertheless hit the vital organs of the human body, the bullet must be able to pierce at least 25-30 centimeters of soft tissue;
- with the same penetration depth, a larger caliber bullet would be preferable. However, experts could not clearly state that the 45 ACP caliber is more preferable than, for example, the 9 mm Para. 3 of eight experts preferred the 45 caliber, four decided that with the same depth of penetration of bullets there would be no significant difference, one recommended the 9-mm Pair.

With regard to the enemy, protected by NIB, it can be added that the influence of the caliber of the bullet will be even less, since only a carbide core with a diameter of 5-6 mm will penetrate the body through the body armor.

Evaluation of the breakdown and off-line action of bullets (V.K. Zelenko, A.V. Bryzzhev, V.V. Zlobin, V.M. Korolev)

The forbidden action of a pistol (revolving) cartridge, without breaking through the NIB, may not provide the effect necessary to incapacitate a target for the time necessary for its targeted defeat in unprotected parts of the body. Significantly reduce the barrage effect helps climate depreciation support (KAP).

Climatic depreciation support

Tests of the Soft Climatic Suspension Support, manufactured by MBC

To understand the problem of stopping action, we can give an example of the conflict between the Indonesian police and the French MMA fighter Amokran Sabe that occurred in 2016. During the clash in Sabe, approximately 15 bullets from various weapons were fired, but he managed to stab one of the policemen with mortal wounds with a knife.

Shot of former MMA athlete Amokran Sabe in Indonesia on the island of Bali

It is not known for certain what the reason for the high survivability of Amokran Sabe - drug intoxication and the strength of the body of an MMA fighter, or the low rifle training of the Indonesian police, but the fact remains - half a dozen people with pistols and automatic rifles could not stop one person with a knife without loss on his part . Fire was fired by pistol and rifle cartridges, most likely the calibers 9x19 mm Para and 5,56x45.

In my opinion, this incident clearly confirms the thesis that only the defeat of the central nervous system can guarantee the cessation of an enemy attack. To a lesser extent, this applies to damage to vital organs, for example, the heart, and organs whose damage leads to heavy bleeding. Accumulation of damage from two to three or more hits significantly increases the likelihood of the enemy breaking down.

Getting into the head of an actively moving adversary is extremely difficult. It is also difficult to get into a specific organ, both due to the movement of the enemy, and because of the individual characteristics of the location of the internal organs and the unpredictable displacement of the bullet in the body after being hit (especially in the case of overcoming NIB).

From the foregoing, we can conclude that an army pistol should allow a fighter to make the maximum number of shots at a target in a minimum amount of time. At the same time, moderate recoil should be realized, contributing to the necessary accuracy of shooting, and a sufficient depth of penetration of the bullet. These requirements must be observed to defeat targets protected by NIB. To increase the likelihood of hitting the target, the number of rounds in the gun magazine should be maximum, without increasing the existing dimensions of this type of weapon.

Currently, the Russian Armed Forces use cartridges with increased armor penetration 9х21 mm 7Н29 and 9х19 7Н21 / 7Н31 (there are other types of cartridges, including with an expansive bullet). These ammunition show excellent characteristics, but is their modernization potential not exhausted, and it is necessary to move on to new form factors?

Pistol and revolving cartridges of the USSR and the Russian Federation: 7,62 mm Nagan, 7,62x25 mm TT, 9x18 PM, 5,45 mm MPTs, 7N16, 7Н25, 7Н31, 7NXNXN

We will talk about how a promising weapon-cartridge complex designed for use as a promising army pistol with characteristics that exceed those that can be obtained using existing ammunition, we will discuss in the next article.
Andrey Mitrofanov
Photos used:,,,,,
Articles from this series:
Army pistol in Russia. Part of 1
Army pistol in Russia. Part of 2
Army gun in the USA. Part of 1
Army gun in the USA. Part of 2
About ammunition, army pistols and submachine guns in the RF Armed Forces
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