Lessons from “The Shot That Failed”

Today is the 38th anniversary of the “FBI Miami Shootout.”

FBI agents attempted to apprehend 2 violent criminals in their vehicle.  When they did, the next 5 minutes 145 shots were fired and law enforcement and self defense ammo and training changed dramatically as a result.

One of the rounds fired by an FBI agent stopped JUST short of the heart of one of the shooters…after this hit failed to stop the shooter, the shooter murdered 2 FBI agents.

This incident forever changed how law enforcement chose ammunition and weapons for gunfights and it influenced a lot of what and how responsibly armed citizens own and use today.

For most of the 20th century, the rule of thumb was that when you’re using a pistol for self-defense, the bigger the bullet, the more effective it is.

That led to many shooters becoming passionate fans of the .45 and eventually the .40.

9mm was seen as a pathetic self-defense round and .380 was worse.

This was kind of ironic since the .357 magnum bullet is the same size as the 9mm and .380, but I digress.

The world of ammunition has changed at an exponential pace in recent years and caliber doesn’t really matter like it used to…even as recently as 5-10 years ago.

This happened mainly because of 3 factors.

First was the April 11, 1986 shootout in Miami involving FBI agents where the 9mm they were using didn’t get the job done. This event, 38 years ago, led to very specific penetration requirements by the FBI.

The FBI wasn’t the only organization to use the standard. So did other Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies as well as civilians. It meant that ammo manufacturers had to design defensive ammo to meet the requirement, regardless of caliber.

That started the ball rolling…but these next 2 factors kicked things into overdrive.

Second is a huge increase in civilians buying defensive handgun ammo. People want to buy ammo that would be most likely to work, so they tend to buy ammo that meets the FBI standards. This made it profitable for more companies to manufacture defensive ammo and compete for people’s business. That competition fueled innovation.

Third is the internet and specifically YouTube. Testing results, shooting results, and a bazillion statistics are available online to everyone in a few seconds on almost every defensive round made. This put pressure on ammo manufacturers to not only make ammo that worked in theory…but that worked when some dude with a YouTube channel decided to shoot stuff in his back yard to test it out.

It’s amazing when you think about how we’ve gone from shooting full metal jacket or lead bullets for self defense to hollow points that kind of worked some of the time to hollow points that are engineered NOT to expand when they go through glass, but that will expand when they hit fluid and maximize penetration without over-penetrating.

The defensive ammunition that’s common today would have been thought of as science fiction a decade ago.

In fact, the SimX ammo that I’ve been testing since SHOT show is 9mm and has a muzzle velocity of more than 2200 feet per second out of carry/duty pistols!  That’s probably double the muzzle velocity of your carry ammo…and the recoil, as measured on a ransom rest, is about half.

In short, any reports that you read or beliefs that you have about ammunition that are more than 3-5 years old need to be re-visited.

Ammo has changed that much.

Here’s an example of how this has played out.

The penetration performance of top loads is amazingly consistent, regardless of caliber.

They’re shockingly uniform, regardless of size, weight, and speed…because the majority of manufacturers are aiming for the standards that the FBI has set.

And there’s not that much difference in the number of hits that it takes, on average, to stop a threat either. (It’s between 2-3 hits, regardless of caliber…as long as it’s a hollow point in a defensive caliber or a wadcutter/semi-wadcutter in low-power loads.)

So what’s that mean for you?

First, it means shoot the gun you like. Especially for women, this can mean shooting a 9, .45, .380, .32 (revolver), or even .22 with the right ammo instead of a .40. Just pick the one you enjoy shooting the most. You still want to do the majority of your practice with dry fire, but you want to make sure that your live fire practice is enjoyable and not painful.  As you try lighter recoiling loads…especially if you try a .380, make sure your gun+ammo combination will run reliably when you’re shooting with your support hand only.

Second, there’s no one-shot man-stopper in defensive pistol calibers. Other than SimX, The FASTEST pistol ammo is more like poking with a sharp stick than shooting with a rifle. If you think .45 ball is incredible because of the size hole it makes, keep in mind that a 9mm hollow point will expand to over .50in. Shoot a gun because you like shooting it and can shoot it well…not because you think it has magical powers to compensate for bad shot placement.

Third, THE most important factor in how effective a particular gun/caliber is going to be at stopping threats is you. Your skill with the gun and your skill executing those skills under stress.

That’s why it’s so vital that you practice on a regular basis.

It doesn’t have to always be live fire…you can do the majority of your practice with dry fire at home.

It doesn’t have to be for an hour, 30 minutes, or even 15 minutes at a time…when you do the right practice the right way, you can quickly make huge improvements in performance with 5-10 minutes of dry fire practice, a few days a week.

The key is to do your training as efficiently and effectively as possible so that you don’t waste any time or effort.

And that’s the whole point of this training. In just a few minutes per week, it seamlessly incorporates more than a dozen accelerated learning techniques into the training so that you can squeeze the most benefit possible out of your training time.

Get it today…because no matter how awesome your gun or ammo, the biggest factor in how quickly you’re able to stop a threat is your ability to put hits on target under stress.

This is how you build the skills 10x-20x faster than traditional training.

Please follow and share:
Pin Share


  • rod vanzeller

    Reply Reply April 11, 2024

    Anything below 2000 feet per second the only thing that matters is shot placement.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply April 11, 2024

      Yes. That’s why I haven’t been more impressed with the monolithic bullets that have 1800fps muzzle velocity but why I am impressed with SimX’s 2200+fps.

      • rod vanzeller

        Reply Reply April 11, 2024

        Agreed. I find it interesting that we agree 90%
        of the time LOL

        • Ox

          Reply Reply April 12, 2024


  • Big Sarge

    Reply Reply April 12, 2023

    I am a retired LEO. We carried 9mm with no exceptions. I now carry 45acp exclusively. I understand what you and other 9mm proponents are saying about improved ammunition. These same improvements have been made to 45acp also. I mostly shoot ball ammo at the range but I carry either plus P or even 45super. I’m sorry but I refuse to believe the rhetoric that the 9 is as effective in a self defense scenario as a plus P 45, and definitely not a 45 super.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply April 13, 2023

      Hey Sarge,

      Here’s why I think .45 is more effective but I carry 9.

      1. We have to take range into account. Not because of bullet drop, but because of time. We can get away with only shooting a determined threat once if they’re at 50yards. At that range, the bullet has time to do it’s job of modifying behavior in a timely manner. In that instance, I’d lean towards using the .45 instead of 9. Time is on my side at 50 yards and the bigger .45 has more time to do it’s work. If the threat is at 5 yards, 3 yards, or closer, they can close distance in under a second or shoot me. I am not able to count on a 1-shot stop and need to put multiple effective hits on target to change behavior in a timely manner. I can do it quicker with a 9 than with a .45.

      2. We have real world statistics we can look at rather than just rhetoric. 9, .40, and .45 all take between 2 & 3 hits to stop a threat. They are essentially the same. This is because of the distance that most shootings occur at. I can make those 2-3 hits quicker with 9 than with .45…especially with an injured hands. Most shooters can make multiple hits MUCH faster with their support hand with a 9 than a .45.

      3. Capacity. In a multiple-bad-guy situation where multiple attackers need multiple hits and I may not make all perfect hits, 9mm gives me a better chance of stopping the threats without a reload. I’m not thinking about single handedly taking on ISIS…I’m thinking about 2-3 determined threats.

      What about 45 Super? I do not know of a dataset of real-world performance with 45 super. It’s a really cool round, but it’s still pushing lead at 800-1000fps slower than it needs to for creating a permanent wound channel larger than the expanded projectile. The way I typically explain it is that all self-defense pistol ammunition sucks…some just sucks a little less. This is a case again where I’d rather shoot a threat at 50 yards with .45 super than 9, but if I needed to get multiple effective hits on target within 3-5 yards, I’d choose the 9.

      A couple things I’d keep in mind…first is that I’d keep your eyes open for a current list of agencies (preferably near you) who are carrying .45 super to use to justify your decision in court if necessary.

      Second is that not all threats are human. I carry hard cast lead a good portion of the year because of the fact that I have a much higher chance of needing to defend myself from large 4-legged threats than 2-legged ones. If you’re in the same situation, then .45super may be a better choice for you.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and decision on what to carry. As you find data on the 45 super, please pass it my way.

    • rod vanzeller

      Reply Reply April 11, 2024

      Take a look at the latest Tom Grieve latest you tube video latest interview of a man who survived being shot 15 times with 45 acp at very close range.
      When it comes to hand guns on humans the only thing that matters is shot placement. Mossad, CIA,mafia hit men, all very effective “decommissioners” of humans, caliber used 22lr.

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field