Armor Piercing Handgun Ammunition KTW and Its Legacy

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In the 1960s, KTW ammunition, a form of "armor-piercing" handgun ammunition intended for police use, was introduced. It was subsequently banned in some localities because of its potential to perforate bullet-proof vests worn by police. The cartridge was loaded with a light-green Teflon-coated tungsten alloy or steel bullet with a copper half jacket on its base. This jacket, rather than the bullet proper, is gripped by the lands and grooves. Thus, rifling marks will be present only on this jacket and not on the bullet.

If it is fired through a body, there is the potential for this jacket to separate from the rest of the bullet and be deposited in the body. The author is unaware of any homicides committed withthisammunition. Thisammuni-tion has not been available for decades. Itsvaluenowisinits collectability.

Because of the KTW controversy, awhole mythologyhasarisenabout "armor-piercing" handgun ammunition in relationship to "bullet proof" vests, i.e., soft body armor worn by police. A numberof vapidpublicstate-ments and proposed laws concerning ammunitionallegedlyof this typehas emanated from government officials. Theonlyhandgunammunitioncur-rently manufactured in the United Statesthat will routinelydefeatthesoft body armor worn by police is in the possessionof themilitary. Toprevent its getting into civilian hands, the military has made an agreement with Federal law enforcement agencies not to issue this 9 mm ammunition to troops unless they are going into combat.

If one wishes to defeat the soft bodyarmor worn bymostpolice, there is no need to resort to the procurementof exotichandgunammunition. Most centerfire rifle cartridges will defeat this armor. Soft body armor used by police is intended to protect them from handgun bullets not rifle bullets. These vests are composed of multiple layersof bullet-retardantmaterialsuch as Kevlar®. The number of plies of this material in a vest determines the ability of the vest to stop a handgun bullet. Vests are rated as to their ability to stop bullets of various calibers. Thus, one vest may be rated as suffcient to stop bullets from .22 LR to .38 Special, while another vest may be capable of stopping bullets up to .357 Magnum. Consequently, a vest will stop a bullet only as long as it does not exceed the capability of the vest. While increasing the number of layers of material increases the ability of the vest to stop bullets of increasing lethality, it also has the effect of making the vest heavier and more bulky, thus making it uncomfortable for the individual. After a certain point, a vest may become so uncomfortable that it is no longer worn, defeating its purpose. Because of this, police agencies and individuals end up making a compromise between the degree of protection sought and what an individual will wear. Thus, to defeat soft body armor, one only has to use a caliber of weapon beyond the capability of the vest.

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