Safety Slugs

      Should you use "Safety Slugs" for personal defense? This is a topic of great debate at gun stores, in gun rags, and on internet bulletin boards. To answer the question one must first realize and understand what a bullet must do in the context of self defense - that is, stopping an assailant's action as quickly as possible.

      Bullets cause incapacitation by striking vital organs in one or more of the critical areas. The most positive is through central nervous system destruction, caused by a brain or upper spinal cord injury. These target areas are fairly small and difficult to hit given the circumstances associated with a lethal force encounter.

      A bullet may also incapacitate by causing significant amounts of blood loss (Hypovolemic shock) which deprive the muscles and brain of oxygen. In order to end the threat as quickly as possible, the blood loss must happen at a very fast rate. This is best accomplished through hits to the heart and lung and/or nearby major blood vessels located in the upper and middle spinal region of the torso.

      The bullet must penetrate deep enough into the body to reach the vital organs. A hit to the heart from a direct, frontal position requires about 8 inches of penetration in an averaged sized person. Factor in a slight angle or a less desirable shot through an upper arm and the penetration distance increases to as much as 14 inches for an average sized person. These figures do not take into consideration any clothing or bone the projectile must pass through to reach the vital organs. Penetration is key to reaching the vital organs.

      The "bullet" in a Safety Slug (Glaser in this case) is constructed of a thin, copper-jacketed shell filled with lead bird shot (#12 and #6 pellets are both available) and capped with a section of plastic.

      This particular slug offers about 5 inches of penetration into 10% calibrated, bare ballistic gelatin.

      Calibrated ballistic gelatin testing provides penetration results within a couple percentage points of shooting into human tissue, but it is not a replacement for actual penetration data. Below are some X-Ray pictures of an individual's buttock area. Keep in mind that this area is comprised only of soft muscle tissue. This is a side view. Pay attention to the shallow depth of penetration.

This is a frontal view of the same area.

Do you think this slug would have penetrated the soft tissue above the heart to a depth of 8 inches? How about hitting the sternum or a rib on the way?

This fellow was shot in the arm with a safety slug. The entry wound can be seen in the picture below.

Here are a couple x-ray images of the arm. Again, pay attention to the very shallow depth of penetration.

      How about this one? Do you think it would have penetrated the soft tissue above the heart to a depth of 8 inches? How about hitting the sternum or a rib on the way?

      Neglecting the "psychological stop", it is my opinion, and that is based only partly upon the information above, that the safety slug does not provide adequate penetration to be effective for use as a self defense or law enforcement munition.