This really shouldn’t surprise anyone, since most of what passes for news in popular media regarding guns is inaccurate and/or outright biased. Today CNN reports in shock that hollow-point bullets were used in the murder of Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen last week.
“One bullet was recovered from her back while at the hospital and is possibly from a 9 mm hollow point,” according to the document shown on Los Angeles television station KTTV.
Hollow-point bullets are controversial because the slug is designed to expand after it enters a body, causing greater damage to tissue than a solid bullet.
Hollow-points are only controversial to anti-gun crusaders and people who aren’t familiar with ammunition in general. Here’s the rundown on the two major types of ammunition available to the general public.
Jacketed rounds have a solid lead core which is fully or partially encased by a covering “jacket” of some other metal. This jacket minimizes the amount of deformation which takes place when the bullet hits its target. As a result, jacketed ammunition has an improved ability to pierce through hard materials such as wood, concrete, and steel. This property is highly desirable for military applications in which the target is often concealed by an obstacle of some sort. The major drawback to jacketed ammunition is a direct consequence of this property: jacketed rounds tend to overpenetrate or pass entirely through soft targets—such as humans. This is not a problem for the military, as the guy standing behind the target is highly likely to also be a target. In civilian and police applications, however, this is clearly not a desirable trait. Very often in such scenarios, other humans in the immediate vicinity of the target are not targets, but are innocent bystanders. A jacketed round is quite likely to penetrate all the way through the target and, on exit, strike something unintended.
Hollow-point rounds, on the other hand, are not jacketed (or are only semi-jacketed) and have a lead core with an indentation hollowed out of the point (hence the name). The shape of the bullet’s tip is designed to cause the lead to flatten—or mushroom—achieving two simultaneous and highly desirable goals: the increased surface area of the bullet after deformation causes more internal damage to the target (and increasing the probability that the target’s attack will be stopped) and it slows the bullet down so that it is much less likely to pass through the target into an innocent bystander. While hollow-points are used mostly in handguns, in recent years they have become available in some popular defensive rifle calibers (e.g., the .223 and 7.62×39 that the AR and AK rifles employ).
Although the CNN article certainly doesn’t tell you this, police everywhere in the U.S. use hollow-point ammunition and recommend that civilians do the same in their self-defense weapons—primarily for the two reasons highlighted above. So the fact that hollow-points were used in this murder—any murder, really—does not surprise anyone who has any real familiarity with guns and ammunition. Almost all handgun owners load their weapons with hollow-points.
This is not news—and certainly not headline news. It is merely more manufactured hysteria.