Ferguson – and Every other American City

Here’s the problem with rifles in the hands of the police, for those who need it spelled out. Overpenetration. Just google “overpenetration” and read the plethora of articles that explain the consequences of overpenetration and how to avoid it.

For those who will not actually read up on the subject, overpenetration means hitting what you aim at but “accidentally” also hitting whatever or whoever happens to be behind the target, and sometimes whatever or whoever is behind that. Overpenetration is in fact no accident.

It does not matter if it’s a ranch rifle, a full-auto assault rifle or an old-fashioned lever-action carbine. The rifle might shoot 0.223, 5.56, 7.62 x 39, 7.62 x 51, 0.308 or the old-fashioned 30-30. These and other common rifle rounds will overpenetrate. That’s well known.

In a military scenario, overpenetration is not of much concern. In a military scenario, a mass of soldiers is expected to be shooting at a mass of enemy soldiers on a battlefield more or less devoid of civilians. All the soldiers would like to be able to shoot effectively at some distance and to shoot through walls, car doors and other obstacles.

Police forces should expect to operate in the presence of civilians; bystanders who those forces are supposed to serve and protect. They should be armed for that task. It used to be that police forces carried 0.380 ACP or 38 special handguns with ball ammunition specifically because these were powerful enough to be effective but not likely to overpenetrate. Today, hotter rounds of hollowpoint ammunition that are supposed to dump most of their energy in the first few inches are common in police handguns.

The FBI specifies that acceptable handgun ammunition should penetrate from 12 to 18 inches in ballistic gel. All the rifle rounds mentioned above, fired from a common rifle, will penetrate 24 inches of ballistic gel and damage whatever is behind the gel. Rifles in general are not appropriate police weapons except for something very unusual such as a hostage situation where it is not possible for the police to get close to the armed hostage taker.

In other words, the policeman armed with a rifle is prepared to treat everyone in front of him as an enemy. That’s just what a rifle does. It means they have abandioned “serve and protect” just as their political bosses have abandoned “democratic control.” That’s the problem with a militarized police force. It is no longer a proper police force, but is in fact an occupying army.


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