But there still are knowledge gaps and opinion chasms when it comes to rifle bullet effects. Corporal Sanow and I once discussed the subject at length, swapping personal observations and experiences. It was Sanovv's view that rifle bullets having a remaining velocity of more than about 1,200 to 1,300 fps would cause injuries through temporary cavitation as distinct from wound channel damage. 1 share his belief that a rifle bullet's cavitation pulse becomes so sharp, so sudden, so violent, and so large that it can tear flesh from bone, hemorrhage or bruise blood-rich organs, and even sever veins and arteries.
Dr. B.R.G. Kaplan, M.D., has told me that, beyond question, hvpervelocity bullets (more than 3,000 fps) induce significant tissue damage through cavitation, a belief widely recognized in the wound ballistic community. Current concepts explain part but not all of what's happening—too many contradictions and exceptions exist for one pat theory.
For instance, I was reliably informed of a Mideast sniping incident in which a counter-terrorist marksman—presumably Israeli—drilled a hostage taker with a .300 Winchester Magnum center-chest. Instead of a mere wound channel, the terrorist's entire chest cavity "was filled with a mush of organs and tissue and blood so convoluted that it looked like Jello," I was told by an expert on the subject. Much of that damage resulted from a violent, massive cavitation.
My personal observations, too, tend to support the "there's more happening here than a mere wound channel" opinion. After witnessing more than 30 rifle gunshot wounds, all inflicted by 7.62x39mm rounds at less than 100 yards, I can say beyond any doubt that even the moderate-velocity AK round nearly always inflicts much more than simply wound channel damage.
It was while working on the first edition of this book and recalling such shooting incidents that an unusual research approach arose: informally interviewing gunshot victims to determine to what extent they could continue to resist despite their injuries. This way, we can project the kinds of effects rifle wounds will have on hostiles, especially enemy snipers struck bv our fire.
I must thank several old friends who relived incidents they'd rather forget so that you could benefit from their knowledge.
Our first subject, Greg K., had been hit twice in the thighs by 7.62x39mm rounds, breaking one leg and initially losing considerable blood. Greg told me that after he'd stopped the bleeding, he was quite capable of continuing to shoot his M16, although he could no longer walk without assistance.
Larry P., our second subject, took an AK round though the upper left arm, which tore away much flesh and caused heavy bleeding, although it didn't break the bone. He, too, was certain he could have continued to fire, even though he w:as in pain and feeling some shock. The situation was similar for a Vietnamese member of my team, Hai, who took an AK round high in his right arm; he was in no mood to fight, but could have shot in self-defense at close range. In neither case, however, could they have delivered precision fire.
Our next subject, Larry W., had been hit in the stomach, most likely by a 7.62x39mm round. He told me only a year after being wounded that he'd felt as if the wind was sucked from his lungs, and he could not breathe without great effort and pain. Between the pain and shock, he was not capable of handling a weapon. The same was true for a Vietnamese teammate who'd taken an AK hit to the stomach. We all but had to carry him back to an extraction helicopter landing zone; I doubt he could have done much more than hold a rifle in his lap.
Another subject, John S., rook an AK wound in his left ankle, which broke the bone. He was in tremendous pain and not capable of aimed fire and required morphine in order even to walk with assistance.
This last subject's experience raises the issue of pain and its debilitating cffects that cannot be measured objectively. From personal observation, I'd say that, mercifully, the most severe wounds seem to generate the least pain-perhaps great shock pops a nervous system "circuit breaker"—although attendant shock causes disorientation and reduces motor skills. The worst gunshot wound agony I ever observed was caused by a bullet punching through a man's hand, shattering a dozen tiny bones in the process.
Now, considering that a .308 generates 50 percent more energy with a bullet weighing 30 percent more than an AK round, we can reasonably extrapolate some conclusions.
First, any wound inflicted by a high-powered rifle bullet is serious and greatly reduces a subject's effectiveness. This is an important lesson for a friendly sniper who mistakenly awaits a "perfect" shot against a hostile sniper. As I advise elsewhere, it's seldom that you'll get a truly perfect shot at a sniper, and it's much better to wound him—even with a limb shot— than it is to hope for a better opportunity. Merely wounding him will reduce him from an offensive threat (capable of maneuvering and firing deliberately) into a defensive threat (no longer able to move and only capable of firing in self-defense at short range).
My second conclusion is that limb wounds— arms or legs—will incapacitate though not kill a target, at least to the extent of converting an offensive into a defensive threat.
My third conclusion is that—unlike a pistol—any torso hit with a high-powered rifle will either kill or totally incapacitate a target. As distinct from a limb wound, he probably won't even be a defensive threat; although not dead, he's completely out of the fight.
Our fourth and final conclusion is that these wound ballistics demonstrate that shot placement is as critical a consideration for police, hostage rescue, and counterterrorist snipers as it is for a uniformed law officcr firing a pistol.
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