Consumer Information

What to Think When Gun Experts Disagree

Glock and Springfield XD handguns side by side

It’s easy to become dogmatic when it comes to our shooting techniques and gear. The Internet is in a constant state of uproar over which new pistol, rifle or shotgun widget is marginally superior to the next one down the line.

Part of this, I think, is the fact that there is a great deal of personal pride involved when men (I have yet to encounter a dogmatic female shooter) and personal weapons are mixed. And a lot of us can let this pride get in the way of furthering our shooting education. We can get so emotionally wrapped up in our personal gear choices that it can actually affect how we learn or perceive new skills and techniques! To make things even worse, it’s easy to find conflicting opinions—from genuine subject matter experts—about guns and gear by simply opening up your Internet browser. What are we to think when knowledgeable names in the gun industry disagree?

Glock and Springfield XD handguns side by side
The task of selecting a handgun for duty and defense will always be shrouded with debate.

Caliber choice is a good example

The debates between 9mm Luger and .45 ACP owners will never end, and the simple fact is that both calibers are good at what they do. But depending on who you talk to, the story doesn’t end there.

Many qualified shooters and instructors recommend different calibers as the “ideal.” Who are we to believe when it comes time to open the checkbook?

Handguns are another great example

One of the best examples of this predicament is handgun choice. Ask 10 different instructors which pistol is the best to carry and train with, and you’ll probably get 10 different answers.

It’s safe to say that many of the popular instructors recommending different pistols know their way around a handgun… yet the fact remains that ideas about which handgun is the best can be rather contradictory!

The main point

So, who’s “right?” And, more importantly, what can we take away from this? It’s actually pretty simple, in the end: Differing parties aren’t necessarily wrong. After all, there are no rules saying there can’t be multiple ways to get from point A to point B.

The danger lies not in choosing the wrong way, but rather in assuming that “it” is the only way. What works for one instructor and his preferred sight set up, holster or other gear choice obviously may not work for another. And there’s no reason to assume that either way will work for you. Test and question everything for yourself, and always get more than one opinion.

Springfield XD pistol with Streamlight TLR-1 light mounted and a SureFire hand-held flashlight
Some instructors recommend a gun-mounted light, others a hand-held light.

But not everything is true

Just because there’s more than one way to accomplish a task, doesn’t mean that all ways are valid.

I’m not claiming that everybody is always right in one way or another. There are without a doubt some rather worthless instructors out there, who teach lots of bad doctrine on a regular basis. But we’re not referencing them; we’re discussing the idea of subject matter experts who genuinely know what they’re talking about.

Among those performing at the bleeding edge of the envelope, there are fewer black and white truths and more grey areas, mostly pertaining to the instructor’s unique personal experiences.

More broadly applied, I would encourage you to seek out a qualified instructor with some credentials under his or her belt, get their take on whatever question you may be asking, and then test everything out for yourself.

Just remember: There is usually more than one way to skin a cat. Or shoot a pistol, for that matter.

Have you ever had any gun related experiences or lessons that run counter to commonly held knowledge? Let us know in the comments below!

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (31)

  1. If you’re not doing it exactly like me, then you’re doing it wrong. I hope you know that I am kidding.

    One serious point I do want to make though is on the debate of # of rounds. If you can’t take care of the situation with 8 rounds of .45 might not have been such an unrealistic idea years ago. However, my friends, “the times they are a changing”. Way to many threats are of multiple bad guys these days. Add the terrorist threat in the mix and I want as many rounds as I can realistically carry, and at least 2 firearms.

  2. Gun experts. That sort of reminds me of college professors. The proliferation of gun blogs and magazines has given rise to a massive increase in experts. Well, we are all our own gun experts. Yes, instructors and advisers are critical and we all have our favorites, but in the end we have to learn and develop and achieve as individuals.

    I read gun reviews, like all of us do, but in the end I decide what is the best fit for me, no matter what the “experts” say.

    1. Sums it up well, Mikhial.

      Carry what you’re comfortable with — power, weight, concealability, reliability, affordability — and have the training and practice to shoot accurately under stress.

      Throw in awareness training, the ability to recognize a threat, and the mindset to deal with it and we’ll still be around to continue discussing hypotheticals.

  3. Maybe back then,( Key stone cops) But I took and watched Police being trained. And they teach them (S.T.K.) Shoot to Kill. A wounded animal will still attack!

  4. No gym short or shorts, blue jeans most days and a long black t shirt to cover, as long as it is cover I am with in the law, sure you may see the outline of my weapon, but I am not breaking the law. It’s covered And yet in most states they allow open carry. I would never open carry. You end up making yourself a target the bad guys know who to shoot at first. Part of the military oath to defend and protect and that does not ever expires.

  5. Here that all of the time, if you can’t do it with eight throw the weapon at them, if you have ever been in a firefight you will know what I mean. And like in Paris their was more than one terrorist (target) I hate to run out of ammo during a fire fight One magazine in my Glock 3 spare on my belt. I rather have to many than not enough. When ever we returned on a mission they would count how many rounds you came back with, and if they felt it was to many you got K P better to use them then return with them.

  6. Yes variety is always a good thing. I trained and carry in the service a 1911 and for the past five years or better I carry Glocks 45 semi auto and fire off my old rounds very few months, and carrying a 45 semi auto Glock I feel ready and able, to defend and protect my loved ones And if I come across a shooter or a terrorist look out.5

  7. Ah, yes, the perennial whizzing contest. Mine is bigger than yours, Mine shoots farther, faster, flatter than yours. If yours isn’t as big as mine, you are some kind of sissy.

    Than there is always my style of weapon draw, stance, of sight picture is superior than yours.

    Then there is always the equipment/gadget argumen, real men only use revolvers, single stack autos, double stack autos, night sights, laser sights, red dot sights, etc., etc., ad infinitum.

    The fact of the matter, in my humble opinion is that the best weapon for any job is the one that you able to have with you when you need one.

    If you are wearing gym shorts and a tank top, and you are able to conceal a full size 1911, along with a spare magazine, you are either quite the specimen of masculinity, or a bald face liar.

    There are a few things that are true about using a firearm for self defense. First is to have one on your person carried in a manner that will allow you to present it in a timely fashion. Second, you need to be able to accurately and quickly place your shots to remove the threat. And, last, you must have the mindset to use deadly force when it is appropriate.

    That being the case, actual caliber/bullet/ firearm becomes secondary. Nobody in their right mind would want to be shot with a .22lr, .32acp, .380, .38 special, Makarov, or 9mm, yet you have those who consider all of these calibers as “pipsqueak” and nothing short of .45 or larger to be less manly.

    The ability to shoot accurately and quickly will get you home safely.

  8. Many years ago, police officers carried .38 cal police special revolvers. I have one of those guns. In a close proximity shooting, that pistol would work well whether it be a head or body shot. But, not all encounters will be close proximity and you need a gun that will put an attacker down permanently. In my years in the Military the only pistol worthy enough for that purpose is the .45 cal automatic. I also own one of those. I only use hollow point FMJ loads in both guns. Today, police officers use a .40 cal pistol. The reason is that a police officer is not supposed to kill a suspect, but only wound the suspect. There is a .50 cal pistol on the market, but personally I don’t see a logical reason to carry a cannon on my hip, or in concealment. A .9 mm, which I find many people carrying, is another good close proximity gun. It will knock an attacker down, and if you have the training or the guts to approach that attacker you can put a second or third round in the head or heart. Since there are usually more than one attacker involved in most incidents though, I prefer my trusty 1911.

    1. Gerry, I suggest you go back to school. Police officers in the United States often use .40 S&W as a compromise between 9mm handgun double stack magazine capacity and the better terminal ballistics of a larger projectile, like a .45. The result is a high capacity handgun with the recoil of a .45 and the terminal ballistics of a 9mm. This compromise is often mandated by the officer’s employing agency. A 9mm (or .40 or .45) will NOT “knock an attacker down”. They just do not generate that much energy. And you would deliberately chose a single-stack 1911 against multiple opponents? You sound confused.

    2. I never said the first thing about a single stack 1911. I carry a large capacity 15 round 1911 .45 ACP. Also, if you think a .45 cal won’t knock an attacker down then please tell me why they were used so effectively during WW2, Korea, and Vietnam. The .40 cal that police carry was mandated by the Federal Government for all police departments in order to allow all of us tax payers the opportunity to pay out the nose to keep criminals alive in these resorts they call prisons. And Yes I have seen the prisons.

    3. There is no Federal mandate for U.S. police officers to carry .40 S&W handguns. There are numerous uniform standards they encourage, but very little is actually mandated. And no conventional handgun cartridge generates enough energy to “knock someone down”. A well placed shot might make a 280 lb meth head drop, but it will not knock him down.

    4. Gerry,
      The 1911 was a good choice because a bigger bullet creates a bigger hole and incurs more tissue damage and blood loss. Remember, The military was going on the (miss-interpreted) Hague (or Geneva) Convention against using hollow points. So our military carried FMJ ammo for over a century. Funny thing, the U.S. never signed that document and so was not actually required to use only FMJ. I’ve heard that in the near future, our military will be moving to hollow points. Probably for side arms initially.

    5. Gerry,
      Not all police departments carry .40 cal. In our county here in Florida, the Sheriff’s dept carry Glock 21 which is of course a .45 ACP. It would not come as any surprise that there are many departments carrying 9mm handguns as well. Our dept up in WV went to 9mm for the added capacity since we were unlikely to get backup in less than 15-20 minutes.

  9. The endless debate over the perfect carry pistol, or the best caliber, or the best grip/stance, or the best accessories/no accessories, etc etc is entertaining and at least somewhat instructive. And in general I agree with the conclusion of this article; no one right answer and it comes down to personal choice. However, I think this debate tends to obscure the most significant factor….training…do the basics, again and again and again until they are so ingrained you do them in your sleep, then do them some more and keep doing in them for as long as you want to have the skill.

    Most modern big name pistols are capable of performance at a higher level then the vast majority of people are capable of shooting. I have been lucky enough to spend range time with some of the men who inhabit the very worst nightmares of Americas enemies. From those experiences I took one supreme lesson…it is all about training, and trigger time…the weapon is just a tool and as long as it meets some basic requirements it is the man behind that weapon that counts.

  10. It boils down to training. A lot of guys recommend second rate guns because they have not bee around long enough to seem them fail. The same for poor calibers.

    Some of the poor training is self imposed but there are many that are training under trainers without real qualifications. Their crowning achievement is a four day course somewhere and they have enough conceit to fill a small town council meeting with enough left over a mayor’s race in Podunk. He has given himself much unnecessary credit for his perseverance and regards his work from an artistic viewpoint. I do not think he quite understands that a study of the adversary is as important as any introspection he might do. Since he has not faced the adversary, he does not understand him and he does not understand the problem. He has drafted a resolution from a committee of one become a trainer. When the social atmosphere becomes charged and needs cleaning this isn’t the man your should have trained with. Likewise only heed advice from those that have been there and done it. The list is very short. If a trainer has no police or military experience but has only been to schools he just isnt worth a damn past target shooting.

  11. Everyone has their preference. If you are strong and can handle the recoil..45 cal. or .44 mag may be for you.
    Someone with less strength may want a less powerful shell, but more in the magazine.
    If you don’t hit the target, it doesn’t matter what kind of “stopping power” it has.
    Variety is a good thing.

  12. Well, 9mm requires 12-15 rounds. You can carry more because you need more ( ergo 5.56 vs 30 cal) 8 .45 rounds is often sufficient for most any circumstances. If you need more than 8 rounds, you much biggers problems than caliber.

  13. I know the definitive answer to all these gun questions.
    Why would I cut off so much great debate and speculation by irresponsibly divulging the ultimate knowledge… gun wise?

  14. I like both calibers, .45ACP and 9mm Luger…I also like the Tokarev 7.62×25 and the 9×18 Makarov. So? I some of each. My personal concealed carry weapon is a Springfield XD Mod.2 9mm 12+1 and 16+1 in the extended mag. I carry my .45ACP SARK2 full sized pistol when I can use a shoulder holster or my chest holster. 14+1 rounds of 230 +P. Sometimes when I feel extra crazy, I conceal carry both weapons…just for grins as they say. Both will kill you dead if used properly. That is why I train for head shots.

  15. A “CURIOUS” Question? What are the Constraints that Qualifies Someone to be a “Gun Expert”. In 1977, while in the US Army. I Was “Certified”, with Letter of Certificate, Lapel Pin, Warrant Officer/WO-01 Bar, Handshakes and an Ice Cold 20-Gallon “Dousing” to be a Ordnance and Armament Expert. But upon leaving the Army, I SOON found out that It DIDN’T MEAN A THING. FORTY-YEAR’S Later, and It STILL DOESN’T MEAN ANYTHING…

    1. It means one hell of a lot to me.

      Salute.

      I have no military experience but plenty of police experience.

  16. Any handgun caliber is a mediocre choice for an armed confrontation. As a very good rule of thumb, larger is better than smaller, and faster is better than slower. The whole “my modern 9mm (or .40 S&W) is as good as your .45” line is pure hogwash. Step up the .45 to the pressures and velocities of a modern 9mm or .40, top it with a modern hollow point bullet (or my preference a hard flat nose) and it eclipses the smaller rounds. Now it might not be as efficient, when you consider magazine capacity; or maintenance requirements in the field, for a platform like a 1911. Best off-the-shelf handgun caliber? .357 Sig or 10mm, out of a Glock for duty use, maybe out of a good 1911 if you are up to the maintenance.

    1. “…Any handgun caliber is a mediocre choice for an armed confrontation…”

      Bob, you said it best. However, I find it quite difficult to conceal carry my AK-74…it sorta “prints” – even with a trench coat! So, I’ll go with the far less potent handgun.

    2. Hey Red, I do not carry a concealed handgun any more. When I retired from our police department 6 months ago, I did not feel like jumping through the hoops. Now I usually carry a registered SBR in a tennis racket case. Got tax stamp? No license required. But I will probably get a concealed carry license eventually; a standard CCL, not through my former agency.

  17. As I have said in the past with a 9 MM you have to fire what they call a double tap, two rounds fired at same target, the first may not enter and the second one will, but with a 45 cal the first shop will enter the target. 9 MM you have a larger magazine but if you have say 18 rounds and you have to fire twice at a target, then you only have nine shots, were as a 1911 45 cal, you may only have 6-8 rounds per magazine. But as the sniper says one shot one kill. I will stay with my Glocks and load only Gold dot ammo HP’s

    1. And if you have a modern gun like a Glock21 or an XD45, you have 13 rounds. With an extra mag and enough training and practice, you should be in pretty good shape.

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