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High-powered guns' ammunition particularly destructive

The high energy of ammunition used in military-style, semi-automatic rifles causes more damage than similar bullets fired from other guns, an Oklahoma City trauma surgeon and police officers said.
BY MICHAEL KIMBALL Published: December 23, 2012
Editor's note: Upon initial publication, the following article had erroneous information about the speed of ammunition fired from military-style rifles. Bullets fired from these weapons generally travel much faster than bullets fired from pistols.

Oklahoma City police Lt. Stuart May has come across high-powered, military-style rifles occasionally over the course of his career, most often when investigating gang shootings.

“And when you do, you remember it,” May said.

High rate of fire and large magazines aside, the ammunition used with the guns travels much faster than bullets of a similar caliber used with other rifles and pistols.

May recalled an incident from the 1990s when he investigated a gang shooting involving a military-style rifle. About 40 shell casings from a 7.62 mm rifle were recovered at the scene of an above-garage apartment targeted in a shooting.

“One of those rounds, I can remember, went through the outer wall, went through an inner wall, through a bathtub — there's actually four sides of the bathtub, the outer and inner wall on both sides,” May said. “So it went through the first two (sides) and hit the opposite side of the bathtub, and then went into the air and through the roof of the apartment.”

The high energy of the faster bullets makes wounds produced by high-powered rifles worse on the body, said Jason Lees, a trauma surgeon at OU Medical Center. Lees is also an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma medical school, and the residency director for trauma and surgical critical care.

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