Why do cops use hollow-point bullets?

Hollow-point bullets before and after hitting their targets.

A Board of Supervisors committee will tomorrow (Thu/21) consider a pair of proposals to regulate the sale of ammunition in San Francisco. And while the legislation is all but certain to pass – gun control is always popular in San Francisco, even when it has minimal impact – one of the measures raises some interesting questions about our understanding of the purpose of deadly weapons.

Sponsoring Sup. Malia Cohen and Mayor Ed Lee held a press conference in December, shortly after the horrific shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, announcing proposals to require notification of the San Francisco Police Department when someone buys 500 round or more of ammunition and banning “the possession or sale of law enforcement or military ammunition.”

The latter measure concerns the sale of hollow-point bullets that are designed to expand after entering the bodies of their targets, which General Hospital Dr. Andre Campbell told those assembled at the press conference “create absolute devastation in the victims. When they strike a victim it's like a bomb going off.”

So why do we let police officers use them? After all, while officers are instructed to shoot-to-kill when firing their guns, do we really need to make extra sure that those hit by police bullets die? I'm sure the families of the long list of people shot by police who are at most guilty of less than a capital offense -- let alone innocent victims of overexuberant policing -- might disagree with that approach.

Well, one reason that law enforcement sources cite for their use of hollow-point bullets is that they tend to stay in their targets, thereby reducing collateral damage from bullets exiting a victim and hitting someone else. Fine, but doesn't that same logic also apply to criminals shooting at rivals in the street? Isn't it better for their intended target to suffer more damage if it might save other innocent bystanders?

Incidentally, the use of hollow-point bullets was once recognized as a war crime, banned under the Hague Convention of 1899, precisely because of the extra damage they inflicted on human bodies. But now, San Francisco seeks to protect them for cops but ban them for citizens, which certainly seems to violate the spirit of the Second Amendment and intent of allowed an armed citizenry to stand against police state tyranny.

The board's City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee takes up the measure starting 10am in City Hall Room 263.


If a big guy is coming right at you threatening deadly force, then your one and only concern is to stop him. Some guns have more stopping force than others. The Magnum .357, which we all know and love from the Dirty Harry movies, is pretty effective at stopping a man but that firearm is not practical to carry around and use day-to-day. It's kick alone is debilitating and the movie glossed over that.

The 9 mm guns that have taken over the planet are portable, but one bullet might not be enough to stop a man, unless you get lucky with a head or heart shot. And 9mm slugs travel a long way, meaning potential collateral damage to bystanders.

What a cop, or anyone, needs in such a life-and-death situation is a "one shot kill". And the only way to guarantee that in the "fog of war" is a hollow point, because it is in any event the shock waves that incapacitate a bad guy, lowering his blood pressure instantly. A hollow point will do that even if the shot was to a part of the body that would normally enable the bad guy to keep coming at you.

Yes, a few more thugs die because of these bullets. Cry me a freaking river. It's cops' safety that counts here.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2013 @ 4:31 pm

Dirty Harry used a .44 Magnum not .357.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2013 @ 1:31 pm

I just love it when some whiny chicken-headed dope says something stupid in a moist-eyed tremulous voice like "The Magnum .357, which we all know and love from the Dirty Harry movies" ! I guess that you're the only person that NEVER saw that movie? Eastwood said "This is a 44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun made"!

And, MAVEN you can also notice that the only handgun ammo available in most calibers/retail are indeed hollow points (because) the open tip design does NOT penetrate the soft armor worn by the police. Don't think for a moment it's a coincidence.

Posted by Ben00 on Jun. 29, 2013 @ 1:04 pm

You might as well go to Texas and lecture them on gay sex.

Posted by anon on Jun. 29, 2013 @ 1:55 pm

Let's try to sound like collected adults here. Most commercially available pistol ammunition will not go through any kind of body armor, save for like the bastard calibur used in the FN P90 and FN-FiveSeven, shit's like firing needles. Even a few rifle rounds won't go through, but that's not the issue. You know what absolutely shreds kevlar? Arrows... Knives... Shotguns filled with nails.... all shit that's easier to manufacture than buying a firearm and loading it with hollow points.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 04, 2013 @ 8:02 am

Hey asshole, did you even read the article?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 12:43 am

That's great logic unless you happen to be the 'bad guy'! Im not too sure if you're aware of this fact, but the police are human and as such are falible and prone to making mistakes.
Lets hope you're never a victim of one of those mistakes.

Posted by Guest Mike on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 3:19 am

It's the civilian safety you should worry about cops are paid to put them selves in danger

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 10:27 pm

that's why. In a city you do not want loose ammunition flying around during a gunfight.

Do you ever stop bitching?

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 20, 2013 @ 5:06 pm

there. We should be grateful for small mercies and concessions.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2013 @ 6:14 pm

Well, OK. I can sort of see the logic here. Well we definitely want to save people from random shots going through walls and hitting people.

Soooo.... I'm thinking more lives of innocent people behind walls saved is a good thing. Well then that begs the question.... do more innocents die in this manner from the bullets of cops, or from the bullets of gangbangers? Now I have NO doubt that bullets from cops would account for *some* of those deaths, but I'm guessing that even if cops didn't use hollow point bullets, the victim count would *still* be higher from the bullets of gangbangers.

Therefore, if you're going to allow them for cops on the grounds that you just articulated, then we should allow them in general, because they'll save even more lives that way.

IF you're going to allow hollow point bullets for your stated reason, AND you're going to allow them for cops but not for anyone else, then you must think that cops are the most dangerous class of people with guns out there. Lucretia, why are you such a cop hater?

Posted by Greg on Feb. 20, 2013 @ 8:44 pm

Yes...good point...we would be better off if criminals used these hollow point bullets that don't go through walls.

The SFBG should call for a bullet exchange program where gangs, car jackers and other urban gun enthusiasts can turn over their existing arsenal in exchange for hollowed out bullets. It would make the city much safer.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2013 @ 9:48 pm

Gang members and criminals focused on property crimes are a natural and welcoming outcome of societies such as the US that are so heavily tilted in favor of wealthy families over poor families. There are plenty of gated communties in the Bay Area where you can run and hide, but you better hurry since they are becoming very expensive. If you can't see the civil war between the haves and have-nots quickly approaching, you're just as clueless, ignorant, and arrogant as the Lucretias of the world.

The government may be spending almost half its budget on a highly paid police force to protect the wealthy property classes, but when 2/3 of the population sees little hope for a better future, the police can have the most advanced weaponry and best technology and they still won't have a chance against the streaming masses fed up with an economic system that rewards the very wealthy over everyone else.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2013 @ 11:53 pm

Not too sure i agree with all of your 'sentiment' but some of what you say is true. Unfortuantely you'll struggle to find anyone here able to listen to what you're saying as Americans are so indoctrinated into their system that they're unable to question the inequities and unfairness of it. Generations of brainwashing by their government and those in positions of power, have turned the vast majority into scared unquestioning sheep.
Start thinking and questioning American.

Posted by Guest Mike on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 3:38 am

Yes, because 'Urban gun enthusiasts' as you describe them, are always the ones who go on gun rampages, shooting up schools and cinemas.

Interesting that you seem to attribute the most danger to yourself as being from 'urban gun enthusiasts' and i believe we all know who you're describing, when the people who are probably most at risk from these people are the poor people who can't afford to be anywhere else.
People like yourself should probably keep an eye out for the guy (and they are guys, as i've yet to see any women going on the rampage) who's standing next to you who's not 'urban' as they're the most likely source of danger to you.

Posted by Guest Mike on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 3:31 am

There was an urban gun enthusiast woman in Florida who on camera took her son into a shooting booth and shot her son inthe back of the head before killing her self author woman Sylvia defeatist went on a shooting rampage in 1985 there was also marry ann holder

Posted by Guest on Oct. 09, 2013 @ 10:47 pm

Which is normal for you but is it necessary to babble endlessly while doing so? Just bang randomly on your dirty keyboard and hit "save."

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 20, 2013 @ 9:49 pm

I'm just taking it to its logical conclusion.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 20, 2013 @ 11:59 pm

It is as different from "straw man" as music is to darkness.

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 21, 2013 @ 1:33 am

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Posted by GSA on Sep. 09, 2013 @ 4:20 am

One big problem for cops today is that some of the bad guys are using hard penetrating bullets to shoot through the cops' bullet proof vests.

Also regarding shooting through walls. Most walls are sheetrock and 2x4 studs. If you hit the 2x4 wall stud the energy will be seriously reduced, ergo less colateral damage. However, do not be mislead. If one''s shot hits a typical wall, it will be a horrible projectile on the other side and still have most of its energy left.
For the person who said that solid bullets would still stop most criminals, bull ship.
Not only does a hollow point expend most of its energy in the subject, large caliber hollow point bullets usually knock them down with the added shock. Not so with full metal solid bullets. PERIOD! Why are cops taught to shoot to kill? Because a wounded subject is more dangerous for follow on action than a dead one. Simple huh.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 22, 2013 @ 10:08 am

You often hear of gang fights causing collateral damage (by their bullets entering adjacent homes). So wouldn't it be better if criminals had these bullets too?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 28, 2013 @ 8:19 pm

A hollowpoint will definitely go through a wall. Their expansion is caused when they hit soft tissue and fluid. Fragmented bullets, on the other hand, will break up on impact, and are less likely to penetrate walls.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 20, 2013 @ 4:09 am

I would assume that most people killed by the cops are shooting at the cops, attempted murder is a capital crime.

Posted by matlock on Feb. 20, 2013 @ 6:27 pm

I assume that most people shot by cops are not shooting at cops. Some of them are running away, or brandishing a wallet, or driving from a wedding, or acting weird because they're off their meds, or delivering newspapers in a truck that looks vaguely (but not really) like the truck of someone the cops are looking to kill... or maybe just lying face down on the ground in handcuffs until some pig decides to shoot them execution style.

I'm guessing most people shot by cops don't even have a gun on them, let alone firing it at the cops.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 20, 2013 @ 8:33 pm

>"I'm guessing most people shot by cops don't even have a gun on them, let alone firing it at the cops."

Good guess. Is there a single molecule of truth in it or is just something that you like to say?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2013 @ 9:51 pm

Your cluelesslness get in the way of your understanding, of course, but Greg cleverly made every one of his examples a real life case.

That cops ostensibly are supposed to use guns on people with guns or otherwise presenting a clear danger to them or others does not change the fact that they often use guns on unarmed -- and un-dangerous -- civilians.

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 20, 2013 @ 10:23 pm

I thought you were dead. Pity.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 20, 2013 @ 10:52 pm

Um...better leave him be. The statement in question is true because lillipublicans says it is. No further verification is required.

Just leave it at that and maybe he will simply go away pleased with himself.

Not our problem.

Posted by Troll on Feb. 20, 2013 @ 11:17 pm

Google Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Reynaldo Cuevas, Oscar Grant, Idriss Stelley, Emma Hernandez and Margie Carranza, etc. etc. For every person "shot by cops while shooting at the cops," as the troll stated, so casually sure of himself that this was the typical case of a police shooting, Google seems to come up with literally multitudes of people shot by police while completely unarmed, and often completely innocent of anything.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 21, 2013 @ 12:22 am

Amadou Diallo, Reynaldo Cuevas and Sean Bell happened in New York. Idriss Stelley was in the Bay Area in 2001. Emma Hernandez and Margie Carranza - Los Angeles.

So you picked out 7 tragic incidents from across the country going back 12 years and claim they are proof that "most" of the shootings are mistakes.

Do you understand why that destroys your credibility???

I don't buy into the Tim Redmond school of "If any statement supports our cause it is BETTER than true".

Posted by Troll on Feb. 21, 2013 @ 8:42 am

I could provide more. I'm just waiting for someone to provide one case where someone was shot while shooting at the cops. I can guarantee you that for every one such incident provided, I can provide more incidents like these.

If you recall, matlock made a casual "assumption" as he put it, without providing any evidence for that assumption whatsoever, anecdotal or otherwise. I've seen no evidence to support that assumption from you either, and that's what I'm responding to. I think I've demolished the assumption pretty well. The ball is in your court.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 21, 2013 @ 8:53 am

>"I'm just waiting for someone to provide one case where someone was shot while shooting at the cops."

Yesterday. Sacramento - http://www.sacbee.com/2013/02/21/5206331/stolen-car-suspect-killed-after...

Sorry, I don't have time to do a national search going back 11 years.

Posted by Troll on Feb. 21, 2013 @ 9:12 am

How about the 4 Oakland cops killed in the line of duty, Isaac Espinoza- SFPD killed in the line of duty. CHP officer Youngstrom- killed in the line of duty. The recent Dorner case in LA. You really put your foot in your mouth on this one.

Posted by Whackamole on Feb. 21, 2013 @ 11:11 am

You must be the biggest idiot to bring up that case. Dorner btw was a former police officer so basically that's cops shooting cops but literally how many innocent people took bullets because the police "thought " they were Dorner. GREG YOUR COMMENTS ARE AWESOME. STEVE GREAT ARTICLE! All anyone has to do is YouTube POLICE BRUTALITY, YOU WILL FIND HUNDREDS FROM JUST THE PAST 3 MONTHS...

Anyone who believes the police should have more artillery then it citizens does not support American values or it's constitution.

Posted by FightBackAgainstSociety on Jun. 13, 2013 @ 11:09 am

because I distrust the government.

The Black Panthers tried your approach but it didn't end well for them.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 13, 2013 @ 11:32 am

Those would be the cases which made the news nationally and internationally. Try digging a bit deepper, for those cases where the shootings were not fatal, and then try looking at the police shooting cases where the 'victims' were possibly criminals or at least defined as being known criminals.
Again this is not an attack on the police just a need to acknowledge that mistakes can happen and that sometimes things are not always as clear cut they first seem.

Posted by Guest Mike on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 4:10 am

No, your problem is something else. I also recognized every one of his examples as real-life cases. Even a dumbo shd have picked up on the Mesehrle (sp?) case.

Posted by tagletigre on Feb. 21, 2013 @ 11:13 am

You must be very proud of yourself, you were able to string quite a number of sentances together there. Well done.

Posted by Guest Mike on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 3:53 am

Lilli may be just as lonely, needy, and loathesome as you and a few of the other non-stop posters here. But at least lilli's posts occasionally have something useful to say, whereas your posts almost never add anything but hateful snark. Nice life. Your parents must be so proud that you're using your privilege and wealth to tear down others.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2013 @ 11:29 pm

Quite a bit - and your post was funny too.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Feb. 20, 2013 @ 11:58 pm
Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 21, 2013 @ 1:19 am

Is that you are guessing. Yes- the Oscar Grant shooting was horrible as were a few shootings by NYPD etc. If you truly think most cop shootings are done by cops looking to kill someone- I suggest you move to a safer country. Seriously.

Posted by Whackamole on Feb. 21, 2013 @ 11:07 am

After all, a case can be made that he was simply responding in-kind to an absurd pronouncement.

I will say, though, that Greg doesn't seem to have never said anything the least bit positive regarding cops.

I suspect that bad experiences sway Greg's opinion and obscure the reality that cops are for the most part decent people just trying to "do good"; and that it is the system which selects them and the milieu within which they operate which is to be reviled for producing the results we see.

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 21, 2013 @ 12:01 pm

possibly in a mis-spent youth, and that has colored his judgment on this topic.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2013 @ 12:44 pm

during war protest and other such events.

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 21, 2013 @ 1:09 pm

Thanks for the nostalgic, sentimental blowback.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2013 @ 1:18 pm

All men are pigs.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 21, 2013 @ 1:39 pm

You're barely a man at all.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 21, 2013 @ 1:47 pm

What's your hero Jim Goad have to say about it?

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 21, 2013 @ 1:49 pm

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