Thursday 8 March 2018

Pistol Penetration

Penetration (or, rather, overpenetration) is an important topic for small arms as well as artillery. In this document, several different pistol rounds are compared in their ability to punch through 11 dry pine boards from a distance of 25 meters.

The guns in the list are:
  • "Mod. 1930" (likely TT-30)
  • Voyevodin's design
  • Browning (likely Hi-Power)
  • Lakhti-35
  • Star 7.63 mm
  • Borchardt-Luger
  • Colt M1
  • Mauser 7.65 mm
  • Sauer
The note on the bottom says that the Star pistol was using 7.62 mm model 1930 cartridges, more commonly known as 7.62 Tokarev. As you can see, that particular pistol was the most impressive, penetrating 8 boards with 10/10 shots, and the only gun to make a hole in the 10th and 11th board. The TT-30 doesn't do as well, only conquering 6 boards, but that's still better than the .45 bullet of the 1911 (3 boards) and 9 mm Luger (4 boards).

Via kris_reid


  1. aaawwwww....there's no Dirty Harry gun (.44 magnum revolver) :(

    1. Seeing as this would seem to be from the mid Thirties and .44 Mag production only started in '55... plus one may note the study covers solely self-loading pistols which modern armies actually use. The .44 Mag isn't exactly a militarily relevant cartridge anyway, though individual troopers at least in special-forces circles have been known to sometimes carry revolvers in that caliber as backup weapons.

  2. Generally speaking people carrying pistols are more concerned about punch as opposed to penetration. A .45 or 9mm may not go through many boards, but by the time the bullet stops in your body a lot of flesh will be displaced.

    1. Then again, at least the Shanghai Municipal Police had a reinforced variant of their homegrown bulletproof vest specifically to deal with the considerable penetration power of the Mauser (which for assorted reasons was extremely popular in China at the time)...
      Along the same vein but coming from the other direction the .38 Super was introduced in '29 and appreciated for its penetrating power (the .357 Magnum came out in '34 and offered equivalent performance for revolvers).

      Particularly for police and civilian users penetration of light cover like car bodies tends to be a real consideration, and early bulletproof vests were by no means uncommon already in the interwar period.

    2. What you say is true, but based on post war civilian use. In the military context, pistols are a last ditch weapon. For example in the Army we were issued the Colt .45 but our primary weapons were our tanks cannons and machine guns. Police on the other hand need a weapon that is portable enough to carry around but must kill in a wider variety of situations. If our .45 didn't penetrate the enemies armor we had already lost and it was time to surrender.Thanks for the history.

    3. Most armies don't even bother issuing pistols to the rank and file and instead consider more ammo and grenades a more gainful use for that space and weight allocation. Anyway, do remember that many if not most period military and police pistols were chambered for what would be nowadays regarded as pretty puny cartridges for combat duty, such as 7.65 mm Browning (AKA .32 ACP) and equivalents.
      I have no idea why.
      The selection in the table seems to mostly consist of more credible "combat" calibers though; 7.63mm Mauser and Tokarev (the unspecified model of Star probably uses the former, as IIRC the company was a major maker of Mauser C96 derivatives), 9 mm (the Lahti L-35 is probably the version in this, given the similarity of results to the unspecified "Browning"), .45... guessing the "Borchardt" was using 7.65x25mm Borchardt which AFAIK was for all practical intents and purposes a weaker Mauser round (and the direct ancestor thereof, as well as of the 7.65x21 and 9x19mm Parabellums).

    4. KIllomies, Actually anyone who is a vehicle crewman is issued a pistol as a backup weapon. Basically if your vehicle is hit the only weapon you will have is one strapped to your chest. So are officers and MPs. Personally during maneuvers I liked to wrap my pistol in plastic wrap to keep it from getting dusty.

    5. Crew "personal defense weapons" whatever their specific form are a topic of their own and rather distinct from the needs of the common infantry, ie. what the "rank and file" was referring to. (Ditto obviously the officers by definition and the somewhat specialised MP branch.)

  3. I don't see any military relevance for pistol performance. As others have already said, pistols are a last-ditch self-defense weapon for vehicle crews, crew-served weapons gunners etc.

    HOWEVER, for submachinegun use this is an important topic.

    1. IIRC several period armies still issued only pistols to officers, following the old logic that their job was to lead and coordinate the troops rather than dedicate their attentions to firefights. Plus pistols were great for rallying wavering troops in a pinch; US and British officers certainly reported forcing men back into line at gunpoint in very matter-of-fact terms, and these were the "citizen-soldier" armies - the more autocratic ones were hardly less ruthless about such matters.
      The practice of issuing available SMGs first to squad leaders followed much the same logic - at long range they were busy assessing the situation and giving orders anyway and weren't really expected to personally fight until things got up close and every gun counted. (Ofc in practice soldiers deviated from regulation kit according to practical experience, personal preference and whatever was actually available...)

      Anyways, this kind of benchmark testing more or less files under "good to know for reference".