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Lessons from “The Shot That Failed”: The FBI Miami Shootout

We just passed the 37th anniversary of the “FBI Miami Shootout.”

One of the rounds fired 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, 37 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 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, or even .22 or .32 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.

Second, there’s no one-shot man-stopper in defensive pistol calibers. 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’s got 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.

About the Author /

Mike Ox is an avid defensive and competitive shooter who has co-created several firearms training products, including Dry Fire Training Cards, Dry Fire Fit, 21 Day Alpha Shooter, and See Faster, Shoot Faster. His brain based training focuses on accelerated learning techniques for shooting as well as controlling brain state and brain chemistry for optimal performance in extreme stress situations. Learn more about dynamic dry fire training for defense and competition at

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