Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Lessons Learned

Eaton Rapids Joe talked about it yesterday.  In 1986, eight FBI agents got involved in a shootout with two very bad actors, and changed the way police look at firearms, tactics, ammunition, and equipment.  The aftershocks of that fight were seminal to how law enforcement looks at fatal encounters.

At the time I was a young peace officer and I remember reading the reports, following the FBI testing and trying to digest the data that came out for several years There were some interesting things that came out of that event and the subsequent reassessment.

The 10mm cartridge.  The 10mm is a direct result of the FBI testing that followed the shootout.  The problem is that most people can't handle it, it's a high energy cartridge designed for semi-auto handguns and is more demanding than the vast majority of folks find it uncomfortable.  That, and it beat the early guns to death.  Handguns designed for it seem to do okay, but it is tough on handguns.  Interestingly, the .40 SW cartridge is the little sister of the 10mm.  Many cops carry a .40 SW today, and we never heard of it before the shootout.

Better bullets.  The FBI tested a lot of bullets in the aftermath, and the bullet manufacturers paid attention.  There were some startling things learned, and for a while, it seemed that everyone was testing bullets.  We started learning about things like tissue displacement, penetration, wound cavities and how bullets acted when shot through various mediums.  The result of all that testing and evaluation is that we have a better understanding of terminal ballistics and we have much better bullets, across the board, than we had in 1986.

We also learned that the old things work.  The fight, with all its savagery and horror was ended by a determined FBI agent shooting a revolver.  Probably using the FBI standard load, which was a .38 Special +P load.  Sometimes good enough is good enough.

It's been over 30 years since that fateful day in Miami, and lots of things have changed in police work and in the gun community in general since that time.  A lot of it came out of  that day in April 1986.


Jonathan H said...

I haven't seen anything definitive, however I suspect that shot placement, and possible prior wounds, were helped the revolver equipped agent to end the shootout.
In a military context, I have seen discussions that the claims of distant insurgents being hit multiple times with the M4 carbine and continuing to fight were most likely multiple misses due to poor marksmanship, not an ineffective 5.56 round.

Anonymous said...

This shootout caused many different directions in defensive firearms. Remember the .41AE (Action Express) ? Had a rim like the 9mm, so that with a barrel and magazine change could used both the .41AE and 9mm in same gun. It never took off, the .40 S&W effectively killing the project. The 10mm was just too much horsepower for everybody to deal with. Good bear protection gun if you live in those parts of country.

You likely read Bayou Renaissance Man's post on big bore vs. small bore bullets and its arguments / reasonings made lots of sense to me.

Termite said...

Call me "Old School", but what works, works still.

That fight was determine by adequate bullet in the right place.

It has been determined, after much testing, that a .357 158gr SWC-HP lead bullet at 975 - 1000 fps is a very effective load. That's a .38 Special +P load. It works, if kept in the 8-ring or better.

I have many handguns. What I CCW with varies with season and temperature. But I can tell you is that from Nov till March, my "go-to" handgun is a S&W M13 .357 revolver. 3" heavy barrel, round butt, K-frame. My standard carry load is the old "Treasury" load, a .357 load with a 110 gr SJHP loaded to 1250-1300 fps. It is a "85 %" load. hotter than a .38, less than a full .357 load.
It works, over multiple shooting evaluations. And my standard technique is double-taps. Old school.

And it works, every time it's tried.

The Termite

Nik Faldo said...

Paul Harrell has a fantastic You Tube video about that very FBI shooting incident. Were the police under gunned? Yes. Were they improperly trained for the situation? - Yes and No. Did they handle the situation incorrectly? - No, given what they had to work with. Were mitigating factors more to blame for the carnage? - Yes. Gunfights always go off script.

Ryan said...

The really crazy thing about that fight is that for all practical purposes they really just fought one guy (platt). That said he was a ranger in Vietnam.