Tuesday, August 14, 2012

National Weather Service Orders Up 46,000 Rounds of Jacketed Hollow Points

Watts Up With That? points to, what at first glance seems a rather odd purchase by the National Weather Service: 46,000 rounds of .40S&W jacketed hollow points.  But it turns out that, no, it's not for climate change deniers, but for the law enforcement division of NOAA.  As one of the commenters explains:
I am a former federal agent. NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration has a SMALL (about 100) group of federal agents and officers who are GS-1811′s and GS-1801′s who enforce federal game laws on the high seas. They are ocean going federal game wardens enforcing the Lacy Act and the Magnison Conservation Act. It’s a great job. I personally know some of them and went to FLETC with one of them. They have been around since at least the mid-1980′s. Almost no one in the public domain and most of the people in federal law enforcement don’t know they exist BECAUSE THEY ARE SO SMALL. They carry .40 caliber handguns and have for many years. This is a routine ammo purchase. 


  1. Don't Panic, it's the Fish Police.

    And their jobs can get pretty wild:

    "Eagle Saved from Drowning...."

    "NOAA seeks information on dead dolphin ...
    Animal stabbed in head with screwdriver"


    For some reason they don't highlight the forceable assault part of that, although it sounds like it was more "icky" than seriously violent. Worth two months in prison, for sure.

    Hmmm, that's not the only assault:

    "Rhode Island Fishing Boat Captain Pleads Guilty to Assaulting Two NOAA Monitors"

    On the other hand, I've independantly heard many of the monitors are outright harassing the fishermen, and in searching for details about the first case came across allegations that some of them are dangerously clueless, or you could shade it into deliberate sabotage of electronic gear.

    And I suppose we should be thankful someone is policing this:


    The false claim was of losing fishing income.

    Plus a lot of what you'd expect, mislabeling of seafood, illegal importation, etc.

  2. So far, nothing explains why they want hollow point rounds - rounds designed solely to cause maximum internal organ damage in humans - rounds that are outlawed for use by military forces during wartime.

  3. Hollow points are preferred for self-defense because they cause more immediate incapacitation of an attacker, and reduce the risk of overpenetration injuring bystanders.

    They are outlawed for warfare for reasons that have historical reasons. At the time, machine guns would not feed them reliably.

  4. I understand that Clayton, but why would a police force want to use them against fellow citizens?

    How is their use justified?

    If their use can be justified, why not regularly arm police officers with M-16s or some other over the top over powered weapon? Not as backup weapons locked in the trunk, but actually carrying them like para-military police forces in some foreign countries.

  5. Re: Hollow points - it is my understanding they are not specifically banned for warfare. I think the protocol bans weapons that inflict "undo" pain (or some such). But that's not my main point in writing.

    What is anybody in the National Weather Service doing enforcing game laws on the high seas or anywhere. We might just as well have the Forest Service inspect boats.

    On a broader point, it seems I remember during the Clinton years that the number of IRS agents who carried guns was increased. I thought I also remember the number of Forest Service was also increased. Now we hear that DHS is arming more agents. I wonder if anybody has cataloged or tracked a trend of the growth of armed government officials (if indeed there actually is one). This may another case of governmental idiocy - there certainly is enough of those - but what if it is a part of a larger trend?

  6. It appears that it is actually NOAA (part of the same agency as NWS) that is actually the armed fish police.

    Police use hollow points for self-defense for the same reason that civilians generally do: the goal is not to kill, but to cause an attacker to immediately stop an attack, and to reduce the chance of overpenetration. I keep my Browning Hi-Power and Colt Mustang loaded with jacketed hollow points. The only reason my Firestar is loaded with full metal jackets is because it doesn't feed JHPs very reliably.

    A JHP expands, sometimes as much as 70% over the original diameter of the bullet, when it hits a hard surface. This means both a larger wound channel, causing more traumatic shock, and therefore faster incapacitation. Ideally, immediate incapacitation would happen quickly enough that there was no need for the attacker to die. In practice, it doesn't work that way. The chances the attacker will die are pretty similar, either way. If you have sufficient legal reason (for either civilian or police) to shoot someone, it means that you have sufficient legal reason to kill that person. If you don't have sufficient legal reason to kill someone, you have no business shooting them.

    Overpenetration is another reason to use JHPs. That expansion of the bullet means it is expending energy, and while it might stay in the body, it is more likely that it will exit the body with considerably reduced energy. That means that gravity will bring it to the ground more quickly, and even if it hits another person, it will have less energy and therefore be less dangerous. Ricochet is also greatly reduced because of the reduced energy.

    Police in much of the U.S. are armed with high lethality weapons right now, and have been for a long time. A 12 gauge pump action shotgun is lethal about 60% of the time, and I think that includes the shots that didn't hit center of mass. LAPD has put M16s in the trunks of sergeant's vehicles for at least ten years. California Highway Patrol has put Ruger Mini-14s (same caliber as the M16, and similar firepower) in their vehicles for at least ten years. Shortly after we moved to Boise, there was a domestic violence call the next street over. Because the husband had a pistol, the officer pulled an AR-15 out of his trunk, and loaded it.

  7. You have a Firestar too? That's my primary carry gun. The only think I don't like about is the lack of double action, simply because in my fanny pack, I don't trust keeping it in condition 1.

    It's a surprisingly nice little gun otherwise. Too bad Star is out of business.

  8. The "fish police" is the National Marine Fisheries Service, which does lots of things, but given the laws that we have regarding fishing rights and limitations on take, they do need a police force. They probably have many, many more paper pushers at the back office than men with guns, but enforcing laws does sometimes require *force*.

    NMFS actually seems to be somewhat reasonable to deal with - I'm working on some projects in San Francisco Bay where they are issuing permits to allow some harassment of marine mammals ("take", in regulatory parlance), and for environmentalists, their rules and specifications are fairly reasonable and well-written (both of which qualities are uncommon in the regulatory environment).

  9. No insult was intended by using the whimsical name "Fish Police", I just thought it was cute, concise and reasonably accurate: looks like they're part marine Fish and Wildlife Service, part USDA, and e.g. in the BP fraud case I mentioned they were no doubt tapped because they know commercial salt water fishing and fishermen.

    From a comment on this at David Hardy's blog, here's an update with all the numbers, and the math even works out: 134 officers total, a rough 700 round/person/year budget (includes instructors), this is 900 rounds shy of 1/2 year's expenditure, and with the end of the Federal fiscal year coming no doubt an entirely routine purchase marred only by someone accidentally labeling it as for the National Weather Service, also a part of NOAA.

    As a side note, it is good to see they seem to be more than minimally serious about training.