Analysis of FBI Ballistics Data - Part 2: Recoil

Analysis of FBI Ballistics Data - Part 2: Recoil

This is a discussion on Analysis of FBI Ballistics Data - Part 2: Recoil within the Defensive Ammunition & Ballistics forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; I found a website that listed 90 results from the 1989 FBI Ballistics test. There are some good thoughts on this but no-one really went ...

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Thread: Analysis of FBI Ballistics Data - Part 2: Recoil

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    New Member Array matt787's Avatar
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    Analysis of FBI Ballistics Data - Part 2: Recoil

    I found a website that listed 90 results from the 1989 FBI Ballistics test. There are some good thoughts on this but no-one really went in depth analyzing the data. I'll cover the important findings in several parts over the next couple of weeks. I know the data is old, but even after this much time the relationships stay the same. There were many hollow-points that performed well even in 1989. Looking at the data you can also pick out which ones fragmented and which ones didn't expand when penetrating clothing, so it is easy to point out what would be different if these tests were repeated today. I also managed to get some more recent data from 1991-1997 which followed the same general relationships. Unfortunately I couldn't find enough modern data to do a good analysis on so I'm stuck with 1989.

    Caution: I'm going to try to keep this easily readable but it will get technical at times.

    Part 1: Muzzle Energy and Momentum
    Part 2: Recoil
    Part 3: Bullet Expansion, Speed and Weight
    Part 4: Penetration
    Part 5: Overview

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Wound channel volume is total size of the permanent wound channel. Average wound channel size is the average of the wound channel for clothed and bare ballistics gelatin. I'm going to consider wound channel volume the same as damage. Recoil energy is in ft.-lbs. and assumes 1.88 lbs. for the firearm weight.

    Recoil vs. Average Wound Channel Size.jpg

    This graph shows the relationship between free recoil energy and average wound channel size. The orange line IS NOT a trend line. It is a line that shows what the trend would be if 1 ft.-lb. of recoil energy resulted in 1 cubic inch of wound channel volume. With that in mind the general trend is, as calibers get larger, you will experience more recoil to do the same amount of damage. In other words if you want to minimize recoil, stick to smaller calibers as they are more efficient as translating recoil into damage. However, load choice makes a difference! The right load in any caliber can provide a lower recoil and yield more damage.

    While most .45 ACP rounds performed below the benchmark I created, a few can be seen with the .40 S&W results. These produced high damage with relatively low recoil. If you look follow the 5 and 6 lines for wound channel volume across you will see that for .45 ACP some rounds were able to inflict this level of damage with only 4.5 lbs. of recoil while others used as much as 8 lbs. of recoil to achieve the same damage. Other calibers exhibited a similar trend, but the difference was not as significant.

    Recoil vs. Momentum.jpg

    To further explore this relationship this graph shows recoil energy vs. momentum. The best fit line on this graph has a correlation co-efficient of 1, or a perfect correlation. However, this line isn't linear (straight). From part 1 I showed that generally more momentum results in more damage. In this graph we can see that more momentum means more recoil, but momentum increases slower than recoil. That means as we try to produce more damage, the firearms we use will become less efficient as translating recoil to damage.

    Average Recoil to Damage Ratio*
    1. 380 1.76
    2. 9mm 1.09
    3. 40 S&W .97
    4. .357 SIG .89
    5. .45 ACP .86
    6. 10mm .8
    7. .357 Mag .75

    *This ratio gives you an idea of how many cubic inches of wound channel volume a caliber can create for every ft-lb of recoil energy. The results for .357 SIG, 10mm, and .357 Magnum are based off of limited testing and could change substantially with more data.

    Key Takeaways
    1. Smaller calibers are generally more efficient at translating recoil energy into damage. .380 was the best followed by 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP.

    2. Your choice of load matters! Some loads can deliver the same amounts of damage with very different recoil numbers.

    3. .45 ACP was the most "recoil diverse" round. If you shoot .45 ACP and are sensitive to recoil, pay close attention to your load choice. Some .45 ACP rounds were very efficient at translating recoil energy to damage, others were horrible.
    Last edited by matt787; March 23rd, 2014 at 05:35 PM. Reason: Added Links


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    The thing I've noticed over the years is that some of the classic blow-back .380 pistol designs have a more pronounced recoil sensation than good ol' Colt Government model .45s. A Walther PP, LLama, Colt Model 1908, Browning Model 1910,1922,1955, Sauer, and similar aren't really "cozy" to fire. My Kel Tec P3AT or the Ruger LCP are almost more pleasant to fire. The .380 pistol in some renditions is not a gun for novices, women, or those intimidated by recoil.
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    VIP Member Array glockman10mm's Avatar
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    I'm not really much in to graphs and charts.
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    You can go crazy thinking about all that stuff. Easier to practice enough to get proficient with your choice of weapon an ammo. When your confident enough to know you can hit com or head shots the rest is for someone else to pontificate about.

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    VIP Member Array Bad Bob's Avatar
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    Recoil is very subjective. I have found that a 45 ACP revolver recoils more than a 1911 shooting the same ammo.
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    VIP Member Array maxwell97's Avatar
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    Though useful data, it should be remembered that there's more to recoil than energy. There's also the maximum force applied, which can be greater for high-pressure rounds like .40 and make them more "snappy." So even though a .45 may have greater recoil energy, it may feel more controllable.

    Weight of the gun and bore axis height are other factors that play heavily into the practical effects of recoil.
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    TRX
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    Quote Originally Posted by 40Bob View Post
    Recoil is very subjective. I have found that a 45 ACP revolver recoils more than a 1911 shooting the same ammo.
    Graphic example: My wife would shoot multiple boxes of .44 Magnum in a Desert Eagle, but the Security Six with mild .38 reloads "kicked too hard."
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    Distinguished Member Array RightsEroding's Avatar
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    I generally look at ANY data, be it tires, batteries or ammo as "Analysis Paralysis."

    While interesting to a point, it is often used as a way for this mfg or that one to sell (their) product; based of course on some
    so called empirical data.

    Eventually; these graphs, tables and filtered data come down to arguments on "what is the best ammo?" A discussion I find to be a complete waste of time.

    If in a defensive scenario IF need ONE shot "stopping power" I would carry something other than a pistol if possible.

    Then again, in a purely defensive scenario; I am not a believer in the "one" shot threat stop or placing 3 rnds in a quarter sized group which
    for most of us just ain't gonna' happen when the adrenaline is pumping.

    This over analysis of ammo, gel tests, recoil... blah, blah blah reminds me of golf, a multi billion dollar industry.... read every magazine you can on the game,
    try every single piece of advice from the pros, keep buying the magazines, the*new* balls, new clubs; the list is endless.

    In the end, my score is not that much improved, I am NOT on tour, and my body hurts from trying all the things I learned from reading about it.
    "When those who are governed do too little, those who govern can, and will, do too much." Ronald Reagan

    Do what you can; then do what you must

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    VIP Member Array LimaCharlie's Avatar
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    Many things contribute to felt recoil. Shooting the exact same ammo out of a revolver compared to a similar size and weight semi-auto will be different. Shooting the exact same ammo from a standard grip Ruger Blackhawk compared with a Bisley grip Blackhawk will feel much different. Shooting the exact same ammo out of a locking breech action compared to a blowback action of similar size and weight will feel much different.
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    VIP Member Array Bad Bob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TRX View Post
    Graphic example: My wife would shoot multiple boxes of .44 Magnum in a Desert Eagle, but the Security Six with mild .38 reloads "kicked too hard."
    A 44 magnum and a 45 colt shooting equivalent loads, the 44 recoils more.
    My rifle and pistol are tools, I am the weapon.

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