The End to the 9mm vs. .45 ACP Debate? U.S. Army to Replace 9mm

Sig Sauer M11-A1 handgun

The U.S. Army has settled the age-old 9mm vs. .45 ACP debate with its latest request for a new service pistol with more “knock down” power. Army officials were recently quoted declaring its stock of 200k-plus semi-auto Sig Sauer M11 and Beretta M9 pistols to be outdated. The Army therefore wants a new platform that offers increased reliability and durability. Given the record of both of these weapons, more reliability is going to be a high bar to get over.

THE Beretta M9 (92FS)
THE Beretta M9 (92FS)

“Advancements in firearms have taken place since the M9 was adopted nearly 30 years ago, and it is our intent to take advantage of these advancements,” a military spokesperson told on Friday. “The Army is seeking to replace the M9 and M11 pistols with a handgun that is more accurate, ergonomic, reliable and durable than the current pistol.”

New pistols also open the door to new ammunition too! Beretta immediately responded with an offer to update the current M9, but the Army is looking toward field trials to vet something new.

“We have submitted numerous changes or product improvements that really address a lot of the shortcomings that are either perceived or real,” Beretta development manager Gabe Bailey recently told

The Army isn’t wasting any time. Field trial are set to begin on July 29, 2014 when the Army hosts an “industry day.” This will not be a day of popping primers and inhaling the sweet aroma of gunpowder and Hoppes No. 9. July 29 will be the day when the Army layout the requirements for a winning proposal and how the competition to select the new winner will be conducted. The winner(s) can look forward to a contract for up to 400,000 new pistols—when and if a winner is selected.

A few of the requirements are easy to determine ahead of time based on common complaints among soldiers and market trends. The current 9mms are taking a beating and the Army has long complained of the cost of repairs. Newer ergonomic grip designs seem be a leading feature among new models over the past year and will likely make the list. The harsh condition of desert warfare are unlikely to go away anytime soon, requiring attention to redesigning the open slide bullet chamber. Lastly, soldiers in the field have complained of safety devices locking inadvertently so ergonomics and function will also be paramount—regardless of whether the current problem is mechanical or operator generated.


The debate whether the 9mm was a well-reasoned choice has raged for decades. Whether the Army’s appearant desire to abandon the round will put the matter to rest… only time will tell, but it is doubtful. The 9mm was adopted (at least in part) due to cost savings. Will budgets allow a larger caliber at a higher cost? What will happen to the ammo market if the military abandons the 9mm and adopts something bigger? Good question to which the answers are simply not available, but do not stick a fork in the 9mm just yet. The Army is not ruling out the 9mm as a caliber, but requirements will dictate something with performance that surpasses the current M882.

“We are not dictating a caliber during the competition,” the military spokesperson stated. “A vendor may submit multiple calibers of ammunition. However, the ammunition must exceed the performance of the current M882 9mm round.”

Sig Sauer M11-A1 handgun
Sig Sauer M11-A1
However, if the 9mm does not make the grade, the next two likely choices would be the .40 S&W and .45 ACP. If the Army is already worried about abuse, wear and the cost of replacement parts, the .40 S&W will have a strike against it. Most .40s are built on 9mm frames, but does that mean the Army will go full circle and return to the venerable .45 ACP?

The Process

More information will be available after industry day when the Army will release a draft Request for Proposal, which seeks input from manufacturers. The Army will then consider the manufacturers’ comments and modify the request as necessary so the details and requirements will remain fluid. However, the Army plans to have a final industry day to issue its final proposal before the end of the year. That should make for an interesting SHOT Show in January 2015. That would be too soon for the new models, but we may be able to pry some information from insiders or preview new features in the 2015 lineup.

After the determination of the final requirements, the Army will transition to field trials. During this period, the Army test and begin the elimination process. Technical performance and soldier feedback will be key factors.

“One of the primary requirements for this weapon system is to provide the soldier with increased terminal performance,” the military spokesperson said. “Feedback from soldiers in the field is that they want increased ‘knock-down power.’ And the MHS program will evaluate commercially available weapons that meet that requirement.” So, standby for a host of new models, upgrades, redesigns and enhancements to current models and a potential price drop to the M9 and M11. OK, prices are not really going to drop, but we can always dream.

What do you think will be the outcome of the Army trials? Will the Army abandon the 9mm? Which pistol or feature will be crowned in the end? Share you opinions in the comment section.


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Comments (214)

  1. I just think that if someone enters in your house and you gotta shoot him, better using a caliber with high stopping power and low penetration, I dont think you wanna risk to shoot an intruder in the kitchen and with the same bullet hurt your wife/kids in bedroom.
    I dont think high penatration is a thing that civilians should look for.

  2. I have read tons of these posts regarding the age old debate regarding which caliber is better for self-defense 9mm or .45 acp. Every post I read completely misses the point when deciding what is best for you. Most of these posts reference what police or military prefer or use as a reference. And since law enforcement or military use them it must be the best caliber for you. This is not how you should be deciding caliber. Obviously most reader’s Googling this particular question are not law enforcement or military. If your law enforcement or military you find yourself running towards assailants or the enemy to engage in a gun fight back and forth. For the private citizen, who are only looking to defend themselves or family you most likely have different mindset. Many of these posts don’t talk about what is best for the everyday private citizen who only wishes defend themselves or family in a sticky situation. So let’s answer this question for the majority of the readers who would be Googling 9mm vs 45 acp to figure out which caliber is better for self-defense. First we need to establish which of the following two camps you fall into.

    Scenario: You’re at the mall with your family and an active shooter goes postal in a department store.

    Camp 1
    You’re in camp 1 if you’re the type of person who’s first reaction is to move away from the situation if you can safely and will only draw their firearm if it’s their last option to save themselves or family. Not saying these types of people are better or worse. Some people just place a higher value on not wanting to risk the possibility of their kids growing up without them around.

    Camp 2
    You’re in camp 2 if you’re the type of person who will not move away from the situation but rather move towards the assailant to take him/her out in order to save others’ lives and not just yourself. These are the types that are willing to die to save random strangers. Not saying these types of people are better or worse.

    Some individuals may be in either camp depending where they are at that point in life. It doesn’t mean you’re a better or worse person sitting in camp 1 or 2, but before you pick your caliber you need to be brutally honest about which camp you’re currently in. I used to be in camp 2 most of my life before I had kids. Now I’m in camp 1 since I have small children. Once their grown I will most likely be back in camp 2.

    Now that you know which camp you’re in let’s talk about caliber.

    If you’re in camp 1 you are better served choosing .45 acp. Let me explain. If you’re only drawing your gun at the last moment or right before the assailant discovers your position then you don’t need to be concerned about accuracy. You’re usually going to be within 15 feet, give or take. In fact you probably don’t have time to line up your sites taking aim. Usually you’re reverting to intuitive style shooting. Intuitive shooting is pointing your gun in the general direction of the assailant and pulling the trigger (intuitive shooting takes lots of practice to become accurate). Close quarter’s defense. Since you’re unloading a .45 acp round into the assailant you’re not going to need to shoot more than once or twice since the wound will be massive and the .45 has incredible knock down power. It thumps really hard since it’s a slow round at 850-900 fps and a much larger round. Center punch will most likely knock them clean off their feet. If you’re using a 9mm at 15 feet, give or take, the round most likely will pass through since it’s a much faster round traveling at 1,200-1,300 plus fps. With that said you don’t need a high capacity clip due to the devastation of the .45 round. If the assailant is on drugs and shot with a 9mm they can keep coming at you if not hit in a vital organ. Even though modern ballistics of the 9mm round have become much more advanced in recent years, so has the advancement of the .45 round. With that said the advanced 9mm round still will not match the damage and knock down of the advanced .45 round. If the assailant is hit with a .45 on drugs they most likely won’t be getting up for a second round.

    If you’re in camp 2 you are better served choosing a 9mm. Since you will most likely be shooting from more distance you will want the higher accuracy and higher capacity of the 9mm. It’s a combat style weapon. This is why military and law enforcement use the 9mm as side arm of choice. They are protecting citizens.

    Since I am a family man now, I personally conceal .45 acp. If you are still having a hard time deciding which camp you are in and which caliber to choose then settle for the best of both worlds at 40 caliber which may start a whole different debate.

  3. I was in the Army when the M-14 was phased out. The M-16 was adopted based on revised thinking about total down-range power and number of rounds a soldier could carry. Accuracy in any gunfight is vastly diminished by adrenaline. The M-16 gave our soldiers more chances of hitting the enemy (provided it did not malfuntion) with lethal force using .223 high powered fmj ammo. The new shorter long-arm M-4 cuts the need for pistols, even at short distances. That said, as long as fmj is Geneva Accord standard, and as fast as semi-automatic pistols can be fired (especially by ampped up soldiers) the number of rounds that might hit the enemy times the energy per round is a better standard than the impact of fewer rounds with higher energy. Of course reliability is more important than anything else. Ask the guys whose M-16s jammed in Vietnam.

  4. Stopping power begins to have meaning, like most metrics, when you hold other variables constant. For instance, if you hit someone in the center of the chest from a specific distance, it might be important to rank 5 different guns by “stopping power” – that is, which one did the most damage. Substituting ballistic jelly for a real person, is likely to give similar results. As a former ballistic tester, I can tell you that it is very useful to be able to quantify what a bullet will do as compared to another bullet – whether you call it delivered energy, ballistic damage, hydro-shock, or stopping power.

  5. “stopping power” has no real meaning, because the documented results of damage due to pistol calibre bullets (and maybe even rifle calibre) is so varied as to be useless as a concept. many one-shot stops with pistol bullets, many multi-shot stops with pistol calibre. too many examples of engagements of less than 20ft where the bad guy was still able to flee or continue attacking…and we are talking calibres that start with 4. so, without an agreed upon standard of what constitutes stopping power, (one shot anywhere on the body at zero to 600fty results in immediate inability of an attacker to make any further movement of attack?), using “stopping power” as a criterion is unhelpful (.22 accounts for more shooting deaths than any other calibre). a .177 round at 4000fps hitting the bad guy in the eye at a range of 1500ft would be considered having “stopping power”. meaning at least shot placement is a critical component of “stopping power”. perhaps the idea of one shot-one stop only existed in legend, but has warped our current perceptions.

  6. “Stopping power” is coming from down range and in the field. When it comes to actual duty, 9mm or 5.56 is not doing the job stopping their attackers especially when they are coked up.

  7. the US limits itself under a treaty it signed, but did not ratify. over 100yrs ago, the “civilized” world worked to get rid of bullets that can do horrible damage with actually killing. some think it was humanitarian. actually, it was a tactical move. armies don’t like wounded comrades. takes one or two other soldiers to carry/tend to a wounded soldier. the helpers also become easier targets.

    at to NATO rounds, the 7.62 is the NATO standard because the US demanded the allies unify around a single round, that would be easy to produce, and unsnarl some of the supply chain by having only one type round to support many armies. Coincidentally (not), 7.62 = US .30 calibre. NATO does not force US military to use 7.62, the US forced NATO.

  8. one element that hasn’t been discussed in this string is why the military thinks they need something “with more stopping power”. no mention of how the current sidearm is used, were the expectations unreasonable (like, one-shot stop from 100yrds, or something). using a handgun beyond about 30 feet is very problematic. are the forces trying to breach hard barriers, like glass, doors, walls, whatever, rather than combat clothing (which presents its own problems)? while i do not see the viability of a gun with an open slide (dirt, grit, mud, fouling), the military must might be deluding themselves with notions from ww1 about “stopping power”, overlooking the fact that handgun proficiency and the difficulty of hitting critical organs with a pistol while under duress may be the leading reasons soldiers are unhappy with the 9mm. if you look at the original 1911 (and it’s contemporary, the german luger, they have tiny sights, making it obvious the guns were designed for cqbd, not distance shooting.

    1. The question should be choice of ammunition instead of caliber, like bonded hollow point or expanding FMJ something that will have better stopping power.
      What are the soldiers aloud to use in the current weapons system?
      Aside from that question, it is true the Beretta is an out dated design.
      The Sig Sauer is a good choice to replace the Beretta but still an old design weapon but some upgrades that make it good choice.
      Correct me if I am wrong, the soldiers are only aloud to use NATO ammo, meaning ball ammo or FMj, that being said you would pick the .45 ACP every time.
      Ask the soldiers what they have seen, they will tell you that the current ammo is not as effective as other ammunition could be.

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