I noticed over the weekend a couple of stories that made passing reference to the weapons U.S. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan used in his rampage at Ft. Hood last week. This AP dispatch is characteristic:
The most powerful type of ammunition for the FN 5.7 gun is available only to law enforcement and military personnel. Gun control advocates call it a "cop killer" weapon because that ammo can pierce bulletproof vests, and its use by Mexican drug cartels worries police.
It is not clear what kind of ammunition was used in the Fort Hood attack.
Although I don't know much about the FN 5.7, I've read enough bad reporting about guns to know the AP correspondents come off as typical know-nothings who went the predictable alarmist route. I also noticed the subtle shift in terminology. Years ago, we heard about "cop killer bullets" -- ammo usually coated with teflon that could supposedly penetrate body armor. Now it isn't the bullet, but the weapon. Except it isn't. I thought to myself, Maybe there's a post in this...*
Turns out, there is a post. Bob Owens wrote it and posted it over at Pajamas Media. Owens points out:
It may seem counterintuitive to many, but the high velocities that enable the Five-seveN’s .22 bullet to drive through soft body armor are thought to be mostly wasted on unarmored targets.
The 5.7 is a relatively new cartridge with limited distribution and so actual “real world” ballistic performance is anecdotal at best, but high-velocity pistol bullets like the .38 Super noted earlier and the 7.62×25 Tokarev have been around almost 80 years. Their established track record is that of bullets with excellent penetration characteristics but with questionable stopping power. The 5.7 round uses a far lighter bullet at higher velocities and the high velocity gives the bullet the distinct possibility of fragmenting. But even then, a high-velocity bullet that only weighs 40 grains (as does the legal SS197SR bullet Hasan used) is at a distinct disadvantage when compared to other pistol cartridges. Instead of dumping the bullet’s energy into the body of the person shot, these high-velocity rounds typically stab a long narrow wound channel completely through a human-sized target, or they erupt into fragments that cause narrow wound channels.
Slower, heavier bullets such as those found in the .40 S&W and .45 ACP hollow point cartridges favored by American law enforcement dump most if not all of their energy in the human body. The difference between a wound from a 5.7 bullet and a .45 ACP is not dissimilar to the difference between the wound from an ice pick and the wound from a sledgehammer. The ice pick will penetrate far deeper, but the sledgehammer will cause far more traumatic injuries.
Most journalists wouldn't know any of that, and so their reporting reflects an ignorance underscored by the received wisdom of activist groups that peddle in nonsense like "cop killer guns" and "assault rifles that fit in your pocket."
Owens's kicker is spot-on: "The American media has a long and ignoble history of firearms ignorance often based upon the propaganda of anti-gun organizations. Finally, if but for once, that ignorance and fact-free hype may have served to actually save lives." Read the whole thing.
* An aside: A Google search led me to this post by "Orange County Conservative Examiner" Gregory Dail, whose hysterics make the Associated Press reporters sound like PR flacks for the NRA. Dail, like so many others, doesn't know what he's talking about and confuses means with ends.
(Hat tip: Instapundit)