Wounding Potential

Every moving bullet has a maximum wounding potential determined by its mass and velocity. Bullets of equal wounding potential may produce wounds of very different severity, depending on bullet shape, internal and external construction, and which tissues they traverse.

Bullets with equal wounding potential often do not produce similar wounds. A heavier, slower bullet crushes more tissue but induces less temporary cavitation; most of the wounding potential of a lighter, faster bullet is likely to be used up forming a larger temporary cavity, but this bullet leaves a smaller permanent cavity (crushes less tissue).912 The heavier, slower bullet causes a more severe wound in elastic tissue than the lighter, faster bullet, which uses up much of its wounding potential producing tissue stretch (temporary cavitation). This tissue stretch may be absorbed with little or no ill effect by elastic tissue such as lung or muscle. In less elastic tissue such as liver or brain, the temporary cavity produced by the lighter, faster bullet can produce a more severe wound. Penetration depth will be less with the lighter, faster bullet, and critical structures such as the heart may not be reached.

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