Safety (nee Terror) In the Skies, Part VIII

Annie Jacobsen added an eighth part on October 1st, and I missed it until now!


To date, the FAMS continues to publicly deny that any evidence of probing exists on commercial aircraft. Meanwhile, speaking on conditions of absolute anonymity, pilots, flight attendants and Federal Air Marshals (via media outlets) are saying probing is occurring and have been literally begging for the authorities and the general public to listen to them.


Hollow point bullets may be designed to mushroom inside the human body, but if they're the kind of hollow point bullets the FAMS uses—SIG–357–HP's according to my sources—then they travel about three times faster than other bullets. Couple this with the incredibly close quarters on an airplane, and you've got a problem. When fired at close range, the bullets used by the FAMS will likely travel not just through the targeted assailant, but also through up to four more bodies—and possibly through the cabin wall of an aircraft.

Argh! I don't know of any .357 SIG hollowpoint that travels three times faster than other, presumably handgun, bullets. They could be edging past 1400fps, perhaps. Perhaps this is just under 30% faster than a typical large-bore carry round like 200gr .45 ACP hollowpoint at around 950–1000 fps (my favorites are from ProLoad), and less than 10% faster than a typical 9mm carry round. Certainly you could claim they are twice as fast as the large bore wadcutter target loads people shoot in bullseye matches.

Perhaps it's okay to worry about overpenetration, a little, except we've never had an Air Marshall shoot on a plane at all. Frankly, if they did have to shoot, we'd prefer the terrorists to be dead for sure. Overpenetration means less energy spent on the terrorist, but if they were wearing body armor (and it's still legal to fly with body armor) you'd want to penetrate more than your typical carry load.

Besides, a good Air Marshall will kneel behind the concealing seats and shoot the terrorists in the head. Little tiny holes in the ceiling don't do much to aircraft. It's kinda like thinking that the Earth is annoyed by oil wells.

Josh Poulson

Posted Monday, Oct 4 2004 06:54 PM

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