The Seven Worst Tactical Myths

The firearms and tactical world is one of the very worst for misinformation. So much ego gets attached to ideas, techniques, and tactics that make the firearm industry a slow behemoth. Some of this misinformation stays around long enough to become what I call tactical myths. These tactical myths should be debunked, defused, and flushed when possible. With that in mind, let’s look at the seven worst tactical myths.

1. Just Rack the Shotgun

I honestly wasn’t going to include the ole “Just rack the shotgun” on this list because I thought it was one of those things we’ve moved past. However, I joined a few Facebook gun groups, and holy crap, the misinformation is strong. This is one of the oldest tactical myths that just keeps bouncing around.

The noise of a shotgun racking should only be heard when you are loading the next round for your next shot. Maybe folks think, “But it so scary!”

Do you know what’s really scary? The noise of a shotgun going boom.

S&W M&P 12
Shotgun go BOOM!

Racking the shotgun in an attempt to scare off the bad guy is absolutely foolish. It’s literally a bet, and that bet might scare someone, but it also reveals your location.

Racking a shotgun as a defensive technique is right up there with using birdshot for defensive use. If I didn’t leave a round in the pipe, I would slowly rack the gun and keep it quiet before I let loose my repeating claymore.

2. .22 LR Bounces Around

“I’ll just shoot ‘em with a .22 LR. The round bounces around and will make their insides mincemeat.”

You know, if 22 LR was so damn effective as a fight stopper, why wouldn’t every police and military force use it? Seriously, the dirt-cheap nature of the ammo would make the bean counters happy at the very least. Hell, in Israel, they use modified Ruger 10/22s with 22 LR as a less-lethal tool. That’s not to say that a .22 LR can’t be lethal. Plenty of people are in the dirt because of it.

Federal Punch 22LR personal defense ammunition
Federal Punch 22LR personal defense ammunition.

Also, projectiles can ricochet off of bone after they enter a body, but the 22 LR isn’t expressly better at this than other calibers. Also, the bullet isn’t zig-zagging back and forth like a pinball ripping apart someone’s inside. It might deflect once, and that’s not a guarantee.

This tactical myth makes the case for .22 LR for defense based on something that might happen and it might not make a real difference. In fact, it might exit the body instead of striking a vital organ.

3. Stopping Power

When the FBI swapped back to 9mm, they released an Executive Summary that includes the line, word for word, “Handgun stopping power is simply a myth.” Stopping power was one of the few tactical myths that were believed by a large portion of the gun-buying public. Stopping power was often a nebulous term that would often declare bigger bullets have more stopping power.

In reality, what stops a bad guy isn’t a big projectile. What stops a bad guy is a projectile that penetrates deep enough to strike and destroy an internal organ like the heart or brain. Blood loss from lots of little holes works, as does the less reliable psychological stop from being shot.

Springfield Armory Emissary 1911 Variants
Emissary 1911 Variants [Photo courtesy of Springfield Armory]
When high-end defensive 9mm, and 45 ACP are compared, the wound tracks are identical. The FBI’s testing showed no significant difference between the 9mm, the 40 S&W, and the 45 ACP. Sure, more powerful rounds like the 40 S&W or hell, the 10mm, will outperform the 9mm through barriers and glass, but that’s not stopping power. Stopping power is a myth.

4. There Are Only Like Five Forges, Bro

The AR quality argument is full of people who get lots and lots of stuff wrong. I’m certainly no expert, but one of the bigger tactical myths floating around is that AR receivers are all made in the same place and that there is no difference between a BCM lower and an Anderson lower if they are both mil-spec and they are all basically made in the same place.

Sure, plenty of lowers come from the same factory, but the highest-end companies produce high-end lowers for the other high-end companies.

JP5 roller delayed pistol caliber carbine
The JP5 for example demands the highest QC and is completely ambidextrous.

Some companies have strict QC requirements, and others have specific specs they demand a forge follow. It’s not true, and when you start checking tolerances, you’ll see a big difference between a Poverty Pony and a Colt.

Guns might go together fine and function fine…until round counts get high. A lower with an out-of-spec design might not be an issue at first. It might be a tiny amount of abuse, but after a few thousand rounds, that little bit of abuse becomes a lot, and your gun breaks.

6. Handguns and Hydrostatic Shock

Hydrostatic shock exists, and it’s a rather controversial subject when it comes to firearms. The theory states that when you shoot someone, the bullet can hit so hard and so fast that it sends shockwaves through the body’s blood vessels and incapacitate the individual through shock to the brain. This is called remote neural damage.

Studies come and go. One might debunk the idea, and the next might prove it has some effect on the body.

Sig Sauer 357 V-Crown bullets, expanded
Nearly every 357 Sig load I’ve tested looks something like these Sig V-Crown bullets after passing through heavy fabric layers and into gel blocks.

Can it occur? Possibly, but it’s not going to occur with handgun rounds. Sure, “handgun round” is a nebulous term in a world where .308 Winchester exists in ‘pistols,’ but you know what I’m saying. A traditional handgun round does not cause hydrostatic shock.

Also, since we are on the subject, let’s talk about temporary wound cavities. Plenty of people confuse temp wound cavities with hydrostatic shock. Temporary wound cavities most certainly occur with handgun rounds, but not to the point where they make a wounding difference. Rifle rounds, however, can create temporary cavities that do cause a greater chance of death.

7. Silencers are Whisper Quiet

My favorite. In fact, I blame a lot of media for portraying suppressors as mouse farts of death for the fact that we can’t get suppressor reform. Suppressors can make certain firearms loaded with certain ammunition hearing safe. For example, when I reviewed the Hyrbid 46M, I used subsonic 9mm and enjoyed the hearing safeness of the two.

With a suppressed 5.56 rifle, I still need to use hearing protection due to the supersonic snap.

Hybrid 46M suppressor
Some guns just look right suppressed, this is one of those guns.

The closest to what the movies portray as a suppressor is a single shot 22LR rifle firing subsonic ammunition through a suppressor. Even then, there is still a noticeable pop.

For most guns, a suppressor reduces a “Bang” to a “pow” and is not much lower than that. It’s a heckuva lot quieter, but it sure as hell isn’t movie-whisper quiet. That gunfight in John Wick 2 in the subway would have never happened that stealthily. Tactical myths like these hurt our rights as gun owners.

The Best of the Worst

These are the worst tactical myths, misinformation, and urban legends I’ve ever had to deal with. They persist and stick around regardless of how often people correct them. If just one person learns something from this article, I’ll feel happy. However, someone is likely already in the comments telling me how great birdshot is for home defense.

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

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