Stopping Power and Other Myths That Plague the Gun Industry

Social media is something you should really curate to make you happy. It makes too many people unhappy. My wife taught me this valuable lesson when I learned her social media is entirely cute animals, comedy skits, recipes, and family stuff. That’s it. Since I started writing about guns, I’ve learned a ton and become a constant student. This involved following god pages online and learning from experts willing to post their knowledge and know-how. It took me away from low-information groups, well, until recently. I dived back into some low-information groups and found that the myths I thought were long gone live on.

In 2023, it’s surprising that people who own guns don’t always seek out the best information. How certain myths that have been perpetuated for decades are still around and posted publicly and not immediately shot down is beyond me. I gathered the five myths I most commonly see and decided to debunk them the best I could.

The King of Myths – Stopping Power

Stopping power is this nebulous concept that surrounds ammunition. I’ve even seen calculations that put together velocity and mass to try and deliver a scientific method to stopping power. For years, people argued that calibers like .45 ACP and 10mm had greater stopping power. Stopping power is their ability to stop a threat. Grab a 1911 build kit and you can kill anything!

In reality, the idea of stopping power is flawed. What stops a threat isn’t the speed or size of your projectile but where it hits and what that hit does. Admittedly, a round has to be heavy and fast enough to penetrate deep enough to strike something vital in the human body. We use the FBI standards to determine if the round can at least do that. This standard involves a round penetrating at least 12 inches in a block of 10% ballistic gel.

If it can do that, we know it can reach deep enough to stop a threat. The human heart, brain, and lungs don’t really care if your bullet is one millimeter larger than another. If the hit hits, it stops threats.

The Shotgun Cone of Death

There are tons of shotgun myths, and I debated between the cone of death and birdshot for home defense. I decided birdshot needs its own article. The shotgun cone of death directly relates to the you don’t have to aim a shotgun myth. Just point and shoot!

In the year of our lord 2023, even the cheapest buckshot doesn’t spread fast enough to create a cone of death. Inside of a home defense situation, your pattern is likely less than 6 inches wide. It’s easy to miss with a shotgun, so make sure you aim the thing. If you use modern defensive loads like Flitecontrol, your pattern is even tighter! Aim the guns and get a red dot!

Competition Will Get You Killed In the Street

Competition is a big world, and maybe this myth is true if you carry a handgun and the only time you ever shoot is skeet matches with a shotgun. This competition gets you killed in the street has always been silly. It’s mostly tied back to the idea of Bull’s Eye shooting styles that weren’t uncommon with law enforcement before the 1970s. The Newhall Incident, for example, showed that CHP teaching cops to shoot Bull’s Eye style wasn’t conducive to combat shooting.

However, modern competition forces you to shoot fast, shoot straight, and do it in a wide variety of scenarios. Not everything you do in competition will translate to self-defense, but a lot of the basic skills remain the same. Each elite special operations guys use competition to train. Competition shouldn’t be your only defensive shooting practice, but it certainly tests your skills.

The 22LR Bounces Around

The .22LR can be a viable defensive option for some people. It can penetrate deep enough to shut down vital organs. It’s not optimum, but it can work. With that said, there is a subset of people who believe that .22LR isn’t just viable but is the ultimate option. The reason is that it bounces around like a pinball inside the body. The bullet will bounce off bones and create chaos inside a human.

This is a huge fabrication. Can bullets bounce off of bone? Sure, but they often lose energy rapidly when it hits bone. It’s certainly not zipping around the body and creating havoc. It might deflect on bone, but it might not.

Pistol Pillow Suppressor

Okay, I’ll admit this isn’t a common myth I see all that often. However, in one month, I saw it twice. Both people said they didn’t need to get a tax stamp or an expensive suppressor when a pistol would work fine. Admittedly, they didn’t just say pillow, but also nipple for a baby bottle and a potato will both make good suppressors.

Folks, a pillow cannot suppress a gun. Regardless of what movies tell you. It just won’t work, neither will a potato or nipple from a baby bottle.

Myths Abound

The gun community needs to do better. We need to find a way to make it common knowledge that the above myths are bull honkey. The World Wide Web was supposed to make us smarter, but sometimes I feel like we’ve stalled with the general population. Let’s continue to educate others and hopefully not bully them.

Travis Pike
Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.