The Hatcher formula was proposed by Major General Julian Hatcher of the US Army. He was originally a Navy man, before transferring to the Army. He worked his way up in the Army Ordnance department over several years. During the World War II time period, he served as Commanding General of the Ordnance Training Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Chief of the Military Training Division, Office of the Chief of Ordnance and later, Chief of Field Service, Ordnance Department. Due to the nature of his job, he became a well known firearms expert and after he retired from the military, he served as technical editor for American Rifleman magazine and wrote several books on firearms as well. One of his contributions to the literature was the Hatcher Formula, designed to measure the effectiveness of pistol cartridges. He also came up with a corresponding Hatcher Scale to put some meaning behind these empirical values.
Public domain image of Major General Julian Hatcher
The Hatcher formula was originally developed in the 1930s when Major General Hatcher was working in the US Army's Ordnance department. It uses the bullet mass, velocity, frontal area of the bullet and also a 'form factor' which depends on the type of bullet. Unlike the Taylor KO factor and Thorniley Stopping Power formula which only consider the diameter of the bullet in their calculations, the Hatcher formula uses the bullet cross-sectional area in its calculation. It also uses the bullet momentum formula (we studied this three posts back) as part of its equation. Additionally, unlike all the other formulae we have studied until now, this one includes the bullet type (jacketed, non-jacketed, flat point, round nose etc.) as part of its calculation. The Hatcher Formula is:
RSP = M/(2*g) * A * F
RSP = Relative Stopping Power
M = Momentum of the bullet in foot-pounds/sec (momentum = mass * velocity where mass is in lbs and velocity is in feet/sec)
g = Acceleration due to gravity in feet/sec2.
A = Frontal area of the bullet in square-inches
F = A bullet form factor that depends on the type of the bullet (see notes below)
In General Hatcher's original paper, he quotes the formula as RSP=M*A*F and prints a table of the calculated RSP values for a variety of common handgun bullet types. However, he calculates the momentum incorrectly as (kinetic energy/velocity), which ends up calculating a value of 1/2 of the actual momentum (since kinetic energy = 1/2 * mass * velocity2). He also incorrectly divides by g (acceleration due to gravity) when converting grains to lbs (no need to, because grains are a units of mass, not weight). Therefore I've updated the original formula to match the numbers on his original table and translated the equation to M/(2*g)*A*F.
The values for bullet form factor for some bullet types are defined as:
F Bullet Type
700 Fully Jacketed Pointed
900 Fully Jacketed Round Nose
1050 Fully Jacketed Flat Point
1100 Fully Jacketed Flat Point (Large flat)
1000 Lead Round Nose
1050 Lead Flat Point
1100 Lead Flat Point (Large Flat)
1000 Jacketed Softpoint (unexpanded)
1350 Jacketed Softpoint (expanded)
1250 Lead Semi-wadcutter
1100 Hollow Point (unexpanded)
1350 Hollow Point (expanded)
In an earlier version of this article, your editor had accidentally quoted the numbers as 0.7, 0.9, 1.05 etc. instead of 700, 900, 1050 etc. Apologies for that and thanks to reader Nathaniel Fitch for pointing it out in the comments below (boy, do I have egg on my face now :-))
Because the type of bullet is part of the calculation, cartridges of a particular caliber meant for a single firearm can have different RSP values because they have different bullet types. For example, for a .45 ACP bullet which has a mass of 185 grains and moving at 1000 feet/sec, we compute a RSP value of 65.661 if the bullet is a Lead Round Nose bullet, but 88.642 for a Hollow Point (expanded) bullet. How do we get these numbers, you ask?
Weight of bullet = 185 grains.
We know that 1 lb = 7000 grains.
Therefore, mass of bullet in lbs = (185/7000) = 0.0264285 lbs approximately
Velocity of the bullet = 1000 feet/sec
Therefore, Momemtum of the bullet (M) = 0.0264285 * 1000 = 26.4285 foot-lbs/sec
Diameter of the bullet = 0.451 inches. Therefore, radius of the bullet = 0.451/2 = 0.2255 inches
Frontal area of bullet (A) = pi * r2 = 3.1415927 * 0.22552 = 0.160 inches2 approximately
Now, let's assume acceleration due to gravity (g) = 32.2 feet/sec2 approximately.
For a lead round nose bullet, the form factor bullet F = 1000 from the table above.
Therefore RSP for this bullet is calculated as:
RSP = M / (2*g) * A * F = 26.4285 / (2 * 32.2) * 0.160 * 1000 = 65.661
For a hollow point (expanded) bullet, the bullet form factor F = 1350 from the table above.
Therefore RSP for this bullet is calculated as:
RSP = M / (2*g) * A * F = 26.4285 / (2 * 32.2) * 0.160 * 1350 = 88.642
Special thanks go out to reader Nathaniel Fitch for pointing out the errors in an earlier version of the article. His comments are posted below. Give him a big round of applause folks!
For self-defense purposes, the Hatcher scale recommends that the RSP be between 50-55 for effective stopping power. Values of RSP beyond 55 lead to diminishing returns, as the increase in stopping power is offset by the extra recoil strength that must be managed by the user. Per the Hatcher scale, values below 30 give a user a 30% chance of stopping the target in one shot. For values between 30 and 49, the chance of a one-shot stop rises to 50%. For values above 50, the chance of a one-shot stop rise to 90% per the Hatcher scale. Most .45 ACP cartridge types have a RSP value over 50, while 9 mm. Luger cartridges are mostly between 30 and 40. This means Hatcher's formula tends to favor .44 Magnum and .45 ACP over 9 mm. Luger for stopping power.
While the Hatcher formula does not consider factors such as bullet penetration, it is considered a fairly decent formula to determine the effectiveness of pistol ammunition.