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Weapons: Take Down Power
   Next Article → SPECIAL OPERATIONS: MacGyver Commandos
April 8, 2009: American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are discovering, through combat experience, what types of weapons work best at close range to take down the enemy. Same with SWAT teams and commandos all over the world. When conducting a raid, and you find yourself up close and personal with someone trying to kill you, there is a need for a heavy caliber pistol or a shotgun firing 00 shot or slugs. The premier pistol for ensuring you take down someone is still the .45 caliber (11.4mm) or .40 caliber (10mm, but only with a heavy bullet) pistol. These weapons are light and handy, compared to assault rifles or shotguns, and have a long history of quickly taking down an armed foe.

As the U.S. Army Special Forces discovered, if you are well trained and know what you are doing, you should carry a pistol, in addition to your rifle. But not the official issue 9mm pistol, but something with a bit more stopping power. The Special Forces prefer a new model .45 caliber pistol, although 10mm weapons are also popular. The reason for this is that you are most likely to be using the pistol indoors, where your target is going to be really close. You want to knock him down quickly, before he can get at you with a knife, or even his hands. Many troops are getting their own pistols, and most commanders have been lenient on this issue. The same applies to shotguns. Although the army and marines have bought a lot of them (the Benelli M4 Combat Shotgun is a particular favorite), there never seem to be enough of them for some units (that spend a lot of time raiding buildings in hostile neighborhoods.) 

The troops also appreciate getting the most realistic urban combat training possible. This included the use of modified (to fire slower bullets that sting, but don't break the skin) pistols and rifles in "kill houses." Here, training can be carried out with live ammo. Kill houses are also equipped with vidcams, and the troops particularly like to watch the vids of their performances. Seeing your mistakes apparently makes it easier to correct them. For close combat, a weapon with stopping power is no good unless you know how to use it.

All of this stuff is old news to the Special Forces, which have been doing all of this for years. But the army and marine grunts are smarter, better trained and better led than at any time in the past. That's always been the description of the Special Forces, so it's not surprising that the better quality "regular infantry" are starting to adopt Special Forces techniques. SWAT teams everywhere pay attention to this military experience, as they often get involved in the same kind of close combat. SWAT operators are a large market, and driving the development of new equipment, which is often later picked up by military personnel.

 

Next Article → SPECIAL OPERATIONS: MacGyver Commandos
  

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Bob Cortez       4/8/2009 9:58:55 AM
My late father really liked the 45 as a manstopper:  "It really bruises them up...."  He apparently got a good body count as a gun sargeant in ETO. 
 
FBI research indicates that #4 is better, and perhaps a new 'duck-bill' choke might be just the thing.
 
The point is that these issues are to be resolved in practice, rather than pronouncement from on high, divorced from any ground truth.
 
 
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greyghost       4/8/2009 9:22:50 PM
I bet something like an MP5 in 45acp or a saiga -12 would make an excellent entry weapon.
 
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smitty237       4/9/2009 12:35:12 AM

I bet something like an MP5 in 45acp or a saiga -12 would make an excellent entry weapon.
 
They have an MP-5 in .45 caliber.  It's called the UMP, and most of the guys I've talked to say it's a piece of junk.  There are a couple of fullly automatic shotguns out there, but they tend to be a little too heavy for entry work.  If I had the option during my SWAT days I would have carried the Beowulf rifle, which was an AR-15 type rifle that fired a .50 bullet.  It the knockdown power of a shotgun slug, but the range of a carbine.  It could also be used as a breacher in a pinch.  For the most part most SWAT teams in the U.S. have switched over almost entirely to 5.56 caliber carbines, usually an M-4 or a variant.  They have superior range to 9mm, .40 cal, and .45 cal weapons, but will do something that those rounds won't do, which is penetrate body armor.  With the right round, the 5.56mm will also penetrate less than standard pistol rounds, which can be important when shooting inside a building or in a place where you have a lot of people confined to a small area. 
 
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WarNerd       4/9/2009 5:38:03 AM

FBI research indicates that #4 is better, and perhaps a new 'duck-bill' choke might be just the thing.

#4 buckshot is frequently preferred for police work because it can barely penetrate 2 layers of plasterboard, making it safer to use than a pistol in crowded urban areas where over penetration is a major concern.  '1' buck is generally considered the minimum shot size for a reliable killing load, based on target penetration. [link]
 
Chokes are for the birds (literally).  Their exact effects are still fairly unpredictable, but the principle effect is over the distribution of the pellets, not the size of the pattern.  Most experts recommend that a shotgun be test fired at a target to 'pattern' it (using at least 10 rounds) for the each load (i.e. shell, primer, powder, wad, and shot combination) that it will be used with to determine which produce an acceptable distribution of pellets.  Yes, this does seem to indicate that 2 nearly identical shotguns can produce significantly different results.  It also assumes a fixed choke, in shotgun designs with an adjustable choke that becomes yet another variable to consider.
 
Regardless of the choke selected the diameter of the pellet pattern typically grows by about 1" per meter of range.  Maximum range is therefore dictated by 2 considerations:
The chance of a target in the pattern being hit by one or more pellets, which is a function of the number of pellets and their distribution in the pattern. 
 
The retained energy of the pellets, which is a function of the individual pellet mass and surface area.  Shot is spherical and does not spin, a combination that produces a lot of drag.
Typically, unless using slugs, maximum effective range for shotguns is usually around 50m, practical range is maybe 1/3 of that. 
 
But inside 16m the shotgun is king.  A single round of 12 gauge 00 buckshot has about the same effect on a target as a burst from a 9mm submachine gun, but far greater stopping power.
 
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