DHS and Hollowpoints Explained

Posted: April 28, 2013 by ShortTimer in Economics, FedGov, Government, Guns, United States Department of Homeland Security, US Military

This has been done a few times here, addressing the initial 450 million rounds of JHP, then addressing it with Social Security’s investigators, and then debunking it again, but the story of DHS’s millions and billions of rounds keeps resurfacing.  And it’s good to ask questions, but some of them have answers that have already been given, and others are answers that just aren’t was widely known because they’re just a bit specific and technical.

From HotAir:

Why do they need to purchase huge stockpiles of ammunition? Far more, in fact, than the the Army buys on a per capita basis.

Homeland Security’s procurement officer is grilled in Congress on why federal agents who rarely fire weapons need several times more bullets annually than an Army officer. Who or what are they shooting at?

Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz on Thursday asked Nick Nayak, DHS’ chief procurement officer, a question we and others have been asking: Why has the Department of Homeland Security been buying so much ammunition?

The military doesn’t actually shoot that much.  Military personnel walk around on base unarmed, and their issued weapons are locked up in armories, stored far from ammunition (hence why civilian security stopped Hasan at Ft. Hood).  There just isn’t that much shooting done – for example, rifle qualification in the Marine Corps has been an annual thing for years.  Infantry may fire more rifle or machinegun rounds, armor crews may fire more machinegun rounds, but admin and intel and logistics and motor T and the like will fire maybe once a year.

By contrast, federal law enforcement goes everywhere armed.  They even fly armed.  Pistol, rifle, and shotgun qualification for federal law enforcement is often a quarterly event.  They carry guns every day, everywhere, in contrast to the military, which carries when deployed or on assignment, and sometimes not even then.

Law enforcement often operates as individuals who encounter violent criminals who are an immediate, personal threat to their lives.  The military operates as a large group, and in such a manner that overwhelming force is used to prevent losses.  A law enforcement officer is responsible for their own safety in an immediate and personal way, and can only fire when personally threatened.  The soldier, sailor, airman or Marine is responsible for his own safey as well, but in a different way, and very rarely is he alone, and he can fire when a target is present – whether or not that target is a personal threat to his own life.  The law enforcement officer usually can’t run and hide from a thug with a knife 10 feet away, but the soldier can usually take cover from fire 500 yards away and call for an airstrike.

Apples and oranges.

Chaffetz notes that DHS is currently sitting on more than 260 million rounds of ammunition. Their current claimed rate of expending bullets works out to between 1,300 and 1,600 rounds per officer each year, while the Army averages 350 per officer. Nyak agreed with the math, but insisted that DHS goes through roughly that amount every year, almost exclusively for training. But if it’s for training, there’s another question to be answered.

Another question is why so many hollow-point bullets are being purchased?

Federal law enforcement fires a lot more rounds per year.  They shoot a lot more.  They are issued ammunition for training and duty, and that ammo is the same.  The last thing you want to do is issue out some full metal jacket ammo for training and have someone carry it to the field.  The reason jacketed hollow points are used is because they’re very effective at energy transfer.  They’re good for stopping bad guys.

And that’s what law enforcement does.  Law enforcement shoots to stop.  Not to kill, but to stop an immediate, personal threat on the officer’s life.

That’s an important distinction, and one that needs to be made.

Full metal jacket rounds penetrate easily, but don’t do as much energy transfer.  They don’t create wounds that are immediately disabling the same way that JHP rounds do.  There is a plethora of information about this on the internet.

Full metal jacket:

Jacketed hollow point:

The duty and training ammo is the same because the agent training with it will know how it fires, how it recoils, and they’ll know how to handle it.  FMJ loads do not recoil the same out of a defensive pistol as a JHP duty/defensive round, either.  Ammunition is manufactured to its use, and JHP is manufactured to have to stop a threat, so the ammo is hotter, and recoils differently, which has effects on follow-up shots.

Pistol rounds in FMJ are not the best there is for self-defense, and are often wholly inadequate.

The duty and training ammo is also the same because if the agent were to bring a magazine loaded with FMJ to the field, and if the agent needed to stop a threat, the rounds wouldn’t perform as well.  If that threat overpowered him and the agent was killed, his family would have a pretty decent basis for a lawsuit on their hands.  Even if it were found to be the dead agent’s fault, the lawsuit would be expensive, as would the loss of an agency’s investment in a trained agent.

How many millions of dollars would that be, and how many millions would the repercussions be as compared to just buying JHP for everything?  Bean counters do those kind of numbers and find it’s probably easier just to spend the money once and just use JHP.

There have also been specific incidents in which FMJ rounds have been used in the field by federal law enforcement, and failed.

In 2009, a Border Patrol BORTAC unit in Arizona tracking rip crews ran into an armed smuggler group, one of whom decided to engage one of the BORTAC members with a revolver.  The BORTACer did what he could to try to avert the attack by attempting to blind and disorient the smuggler with a high-power flashlight and get the subject to surrender.  Even knowing he was spotted and caught, the smuggler turned to fire. The BORTACer had to fire 14 rounds with his rifle, 11 of which hit his assailant.  The first 10 were center-of-mass hits, and did not stop the attacker.  The smuggler, despite receiving 10 wounds from a rifle, was still able to fire all 6 rounds from his revolver at the agent.  What stopped the attacker was the last round – a headshot.  The ammunition used by the BORTACer was 55 grain FMJ.

Would the smuggler have died due to the FMJ in the body?  Yes, later.  But as demonstrated, it did not stop his attack.

The law enforcement officer is responsible for all of his rounds.  He’s not shooting in a war zone.  The military soldier, sailor, airman or Marine is not responsible in the same way for every round he fires.

HotAir quotes IBD here:

As former Marine Richard Mason recently told reporters with WHPTV News in Pennsylvania, hollow-points (which make up the bulk of the DHS purchases) are not used for training because they are more expensive than standard firing-range rounds. “We never trained with hollow points. We didn’t even see hollow points my entire 4-1/2 (years) in the Marine Corps,” Mason said.

As already noted, with pistols especially, performance is different, both for training purposes and especially for application purposes in the field.

The reason the Marine Corps doesn’t train with hollow points is twofold.  One is that the Hague Convention of 1899 outlawed the use of soft points and hollow points (so even though the US didn’t agree, they weren’t exactly in use much), and the other more important reasons are that the military may have to engage targets through concealment and/or cover, or to destroy materiel as well as personnel.

A JHP round will deform when it hits an object, as it’s supposed to mushroom out and cause more immediate damage to an immediate assailant that needs to be stopped RFN.  An FMJ round is much more likely to penetrate objects and still retain some performance, enough to cause disabling wounds or injuries which will take a combatant out of the fight, even if it’s a few minutes later from blood loss.

For example, federal law enforcement is unlikely to shoot through walls or doors because they have to be sure of their target, and prove ability, opportunity, and intent of a lethal force threat to be legally justified in a shooting.  If someone runs into a building to hide, you probably don’t keep shooting, because they’re probably no longer an immediate lethal force threat.  It’s time to call the negotiators and sit.

By contrast, if a Marine or soldier has a target that runs into a building to hide, shooting through walls or doors is quite often an option.  That’s because the person they’re going after isn’t even called a threat, but a target.  The military doesn’t have to wait to fire in self defense (discussions of bad ROEs aside), the military identifieds targets and destroys them.  Law enforcement reacts to threats.

JHP and FMJ rounds are used for different things.  DHS knows enough to buy it cheap and stack it deep, just like serious citizens have done for decades.  That’s just a matter of economics.  Is it good to ask questions?  Absolutely.

But it would be better to find out what Napolitano knows about terrorists that get in the country, and maybe why she’s allowed to not answer questions.

Or why Eric Holder, who’s killed DHS personnel in ICE and USBP through his Fast and Furious program, isn’t in prison.

  1. Mike Gay says:

    Excellent article!! Very well done. I appreciate your obvious hard work in pulling this together. I might not agree on the amount of ammo used by the military, because the numbers I’ve seen indicate a much higher amount per man, especially when compared to the numbers given by Sen Inhofe last week. Other than that, though, your article is well-stated. I will link you your article if that’s OK.

    • ShortTimer says:

      Thanks, and you’re more than welcome to link.

      The amount of ammo that I used and saw used while in the military was actually pretty limited – at least as far as small arms went. When vehicle weapons were included, it went up quite a bit, but I was in a combat arms MOS.

      For those fields totally not connected with actual combat, like, say… most of the air wing, there wasn’t anywhere near the same amount of ammo used.

      Grunt units might burn more (especially small arms ammo), and their associated comm guys and such would as well, but so much of the military is support personnel that there are plenty to offset their greater usage.

      What I’ve seen used by federal law enforcement, and what I’ve read used by certain agencies is consistent, and in pretty large amounts. Depending on regions, they may burn even more. I’m told that federal air marshals sometimes spend a week on the range per quarter doing qualifications and drills, burning hundreds of rounds per day, because they can’t afford to miss. Having seen a former FAM shoot his first ever 3-gun competition and come in 5th out of some 60 people (with many other skilled competitors there), I’d lend some creedence to that.

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