MotherJones SO93: This bullet kills you better

For some, the national epidemic of handgun-related violence represents a business opportunity. Winchester-Olin, for instance, introduced a new bullet, the Black Talon, that's specially designed to cause unparalleled damage to human flesh. Its six razorlike claws unfold on impact, expanding to nearly three times the bullet's diameter after traveling four inches into the body. These copper spurs efficiently chop through tissue and bone, then fold back slightly so the bullet can continue at least eight more inches.

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Winchester designed the bullet for use by law enforcement, but it can be purchased at gun shops by anyone willing to pay the premium price. Among recent buyers was Gian Luigi Ferri, who used the Talon in his rampage in a San Francisco high-rise last July that left nine people dead and six wounded.

Hunters and self-defense enthusiasts are lavish in their praise of the bullet. In Handgunning magazine, writer Dick Metcalf wrote of its performance in ballistics gelatin, which has a consistency similar to a human torso: "The effect is devastating. The cuts made by the tips of the 'blades' promoted further tearing along the length of the wound. The actual measured surface area of the permanent wound channel is therefore hugely greater than the mere tubular track left by any conventional hollow point bullet."

Gun World's Steve Comus was impressed by "the amount and type of trauma caused in the muscle and bones of the harvested animal," in this case a wild pig. "The Black Talon bullet took out both shoulders, causing the fleeing animal's snout to form a fulcrum as it flipped end-over-end into the bushes like a gymnast at the Summer Olympics."

Less thrilled about the bullet are medical personnel, who fear they may be cut by the Talon's sharp barbs while examining or operating on wounds. They could also face an extra risk of contracting deadly viruses like HIV or hepatitis. "It is a hazard and shouldn't be used," says Dr. Edward Quebbeman, professor of surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin and a general surgeon in Milwaukee hospitals. "At an absolute minimum, I would like to see it banned from the civilian population."

The only ammunition previously restricted in this fashion is the infamous "cop killer" bullet, banned by Congress in 1986 because it could penetrate flak jackets like those worn by police officers. But earlier this year, Senator Daniel Moynihan introduced bills (S.B. 178/179) that would ban certain sizes of handgun bullets--including the Talon--or, as a backup strategy, tax such ammunition at a rate of 1,000 percent.