For Release: Wednesday, June 2, 2004
New VPC Study, Vest Buster: The .500 Smith & Wesson Magnum: The Gun Industry’s Latest Challenge to Law Enforcement Body Armor, Documents That the “Most Powerful Handgun In the World” Has Armor-Penetrating Power That Can Pierce the Highest Level of Bullet-Resistant Patrol Vests
Washington, DC – The Violence Policy Center (VPC) today released a new study, Vest Buster: The .500 Smith & Wesson Magnum The Gun Industry’s Latest Challenge to Law Enforcement Body Armor, warning that standard ammunition fired by the recently introduced .500 Smith & Wesson Magnum revolver, promoted as “the most powerful handgun in the world,” can penetrate the highest level of body armor worn by the nation’s police while on patrol.
Police body armor is designed to protect against handgun threats. The new Smith & Wesson .500 Magnum revolver, however, develops a striking force exceeding the power of many rifles. Only special external body armor, designed for use by SWAT teams and other high-risk units, can withstand rifle fire. The .500 Magnum thus brings a new level of handgun threat to the nation’s streets.
“This vest-busting 50-caliber handgun draws a bead on every law enforcement officer in America,” said Tom Diaz, VPC senior policy analyst and study author. “It is unfortunately only the latest example of dangerously reckless marketing by America’s virtually unregulated gun industry.” Diaz further noted that the .500 Magnum handgun, first introduced in February 2003, is already appearing at gun shows, notorious as sources of criminal gun trafficking. In addition, he pointed out, at least one shoulder holster is being sold for the Magnum revolver, thus making it easy for criminals to carry the gun concealed.
For the report, the VPC analyzed information published by Smith & Wesson, ballistics test data from the National Rifle Association’s American Rifleman magazine, and federal body armor standards established by the U.S. Department of Justice. Vest Buster demonstrates that the power of the new .500 Smith & Wesson Magnum round substantially exceeds the protection of the highest level of concealable body armor normally worn by law enforcement officers in the field, known as Type IIIA.
The .500 Magnum follows a Smith & Wesson tradition of designing extremely powerful handguns. Vest Buster points out that 27 out of 144 (nearly one out of every five) law enforcement officers slain with a handgun from 1998 through 2000 were killed with one of three types of handgun and cartridge combinations originally designed and introduced by Smith & Wesson: the .357 Magnum, the .44 Magnum, and the .40 S&W.