Ammunition

Loads and Logic — Big Calibers Rule!

Cross section of a Hornady Critical Defense bullet

There is a tremendous interest in research and development of defense loads for handguns. The majority of offerings use some variation on the jacketed hollowpoint bullet although a new trend is toward bullets that have a cutting mechanism. JHP bullets may have a soft lead core bonded to a jacket designed to stay together as they expand, or they may have a traditional cup and core construction that expands more quickly. Some, such as the Federal HST, are highly developed and offer impressive expansion.

9mm and .40 S&W Glock
9mm or .40? It takes about 20 percent more practice to master the .40.

The competition in designs is interesting and comparing the Winchester SXT to the Hornady XTP leaves one with the impression that a great deal of research and development went into these bullets. An interesting development is the Hornady Critical Defense. This bullet uses a polymer nose cap that is driven into the bullet as it meets resistance, instating expansion.

I see these loads offered at gun shows and gun shops by those with no knowledge of how they work to a public with little idea of the dynamics of wound ballistics. This isn’t surprising because very few writers have any idea concerning wound ballistics. Quite a few modern JHP bullets do not offer sufficient penetration for all around defense use, in my opinion, and they will expand too early. A hollow nose and lead core do not constitute a great defense load all on its own.

I have tested many loads that do not expand at all in media, others that expand well, and a very few that offer a good balance of expansion and penetration. Bargain basement loads, especially the foreign loads, offer bargain basement Testing and Evaluation. The major makers offer bonded core designs that meet FBI criteria. Among these are the Winchester SXT and the Hornady XTP. These companies also offer faster expanding bullets such as the Winchester Silvertip and the Hornady Critical Defense.

Man shooting a pistol in nid recoil
A .45 +P has more recoil than standard and can be a bear to control.

The personal defense bullet should be designed to penetrate in the worst-case scenario, not the average scenario. Some like to limit penetration in buildings, apartments and street scenarios. The real problem isn’t over penetration. Once a bullet strikes the body, unless it is a FMJ bullet, it will expand and most pistol bullets stay in the body or exit with a fraction of the force they began with.

The real problem is a bullet that misses. That isn’t an over penetration problem, it is a problem of missing. Wild shots the opposing attorney will call them. The folks at Federal Cartridge have done a great job at designing bullets, but you have to put this bullet where it will do the most good. Now, back to the problem with recommendations on choosing bullets.

The lack of experience in interpersonal combat doesn’t stop folks from commenting on pistol bullets and effectiveness. A lack of experience doesn’t seem to be a burden in commentary. As an example, I have never shot a moose and cannot comment on moose hunting, or polar bear for that matter. I could do no more than look over ballistic tables and hope for the best. Any recommendation I would make would be limited by my experience. Consulting tables or reading articles by those with no more experience than you, and then postulating on the best choice isn’t the scholarly approach.

Micrometer of bullet
Expansion in artificial media is easily measured. Even modest expansion increases the wound channel considerably as tissue is cut rather than pushed aside.

Many editors—not my editor, a very experienced individual—allow scribes to submit monographs on subjects about which they have no experience. It is OK to compare ballistics and fire off the bench but not to comment that due to the properties of this or that bullet the .380 ACP is now an acceptable defense load. Or that the ‘9mm now equals the .45.’ This is junk science. This is a disservice to the reader and professionally bankrupt.

I think that perhaps we should examine the history of personal defense cartridges before we proceed because this is a very interesting and valid study. Unfortunately, too many do not have the time to study factual events and stack up articles in gun rags. In the time before hollow point bullets, bullet mass meant the most—and still does in the opinion of many. A horse pistol was designed to drop a horse just past saber range and both horse and men fell to such pistols. There was another component, however. The soft lead ball often expanded.

When Colt introduced his small caliber .36 revolvers, they were useful at short range because the lead ball expanded and did a lot of damage. They were similar to a good .38 Special lead hollow point. However, at longer range where the bullet did not expand effect was poor. The .44 Dragoon, and the later .44 Army, solved the problem. The soft .457-inch ball of the Colt Army at 900 fps is as effective a combination as anyone could ever field. The .45 Colt was designed to drop an Indian war pony at 100 yards if need be. In many battles, more horses than men were killed. This continued to be an important consideration well into the Mexican Revolution.

Cross section of a Hornady Critical Defense bullet
The Hornady Critical Defense bullet is a remarkable bullet.

The .45 ACP was designed to meet the same criteria as the .45 Colt. A consideration for far flung troops was that the .45 ACP be useful against mounted troops and also Jaguars in the jungle. A more modest cartridge, the .44 Special, was designed as an accurate and mild shooting big bore. This cartridge succeeded famously and perhaps those that hot-rodded the Special did it a disservice.

A point should be made concerning these revolvers. Recoil was manageable, even comfortable, in revolves such as the Smith and Wesson Triple Lock .44 Special and the Colt Peacemaker .44-40. None gave sharp recoil. The balance of weight for the caliber was respected. A .38-40 revolver with 200-grain bullets at 900 fps kicks much less than a lightweight .40 auto with the same or better ballistics.

The .44-40 will equal the 10mm auto but do so with much more comfort in the firing hand. Recoil is a push and not sharp at all. The .38 caliber double-action revolvers at 30-35 ounces were light to carry and fast handling. They proved ineffective against outlaws and most famously against Moros in the Philippines.

two revolvers with wood grips
Once heavy loads were introduced, revolver grips were painful to the shooter—the Ahrends grips (lower) on the Magnum are arguably among the best for recoil control.

Heavy loads were developed for the light .38 revolver and for the first time recoil became an uncomfortable part of the personal defense handgun. Smith and Wesson developed the Magna grips and custom makers such as Walter Roper developed excellent custom designs. Recoil became bothersome in some revolvers. The .357 Magnum was developed and then lightweight revolvers such as the Colt Trooper and the Smith and Wesson Combat Magnum were chambered for this cartridge. Wound ballistics, penetration and accuracy were excellent by any standard. Recoil was stout and weapons wear unacceptable for long term service use. The revolvers did not blow up—although some suffered cracked forcing cones—but small parts broke and the revolvers went out of time. In actuality, they were a handgun to be carried much and fired seldom.

When I was a young cop, the FBI released a study that confirmed what many of us knew—a service handgun over 36 ounces became a burden on the hip. The FBI’s service handgun had to be lighter for constant carry. This isn’t a problem in a 9mm handgun. The adoption of the 9mm in police work led to more missed shots than ever and also a severe problem with wound ballistics.

The 9mm proved less effective than the Winchester .38 Special 158-grain lead SWCHP—much less so. Hit probability was poor compared to well-trained officers with the .357 Magnum. Development in loads led to a few outstanding choices that give excellent results. As an example, the Winchester 127-grain SXT +P+ exits the Glock 19 at 1245 fps.

1911 pistol in Galco shoulder holster
Good load bearing gear is essential. It doesn’t get any better than this Galco shoulder holster. Weight is spread out over the shoulder and the holster carries both the handgun and the magazine positioned for ease of access.

I have on file a solid dozen examples in which only one shot was needed to stop a felon. I have on file five more in which a single shot was probably all that was needed but two or three were fired. No service cartridge has a better record than this specific loading, but the 9mm is all over the map otherwise. A few others such as the Federal Cartridge 115-grain JHP +P+ at 1340 fps have similar histories.

A new cartridge was introduced to solve the problems with the 9mm. It is worth noting that the 9mm +P+ loads I find historically and provably effective did not meet FBI penetration criteria. The loads in 9mm that do—the 147-grain Subsonic loads—have not proven effective in shootings across the board. So, the 180-grain JHP .40 caliber was developed to meet FBI criteria for penetration, offer superior wound ballistics, and also fit into a platform that was comfortable for all day carry.

The .45 offers superior wound ballistics but it is big and heavy, a legitimate complaint. .45 recoil isn’t a problem in a 40-ounce pistol. It becomes tiresome in lightweight handguns. After shoehorning the .40 into a 9mm pistol, recoil became a problem. The .40 generates sharper recoil than even the .45, many of us feel. The standard 180-grain JHP is the most controllable. The lighter and faster loads are a problem in the lightweight automatics. So, the various agencies have continued to run in circles, it seems, for over 100 years.

Shooter at indoor range with fiery muzzle blast
The Magnum is a great cartridge but muzzle blast and recoil may be disconcerting.

After realizing that the small bore isn’t ideal for personal defense, they develop reinstate or reinvent a big bore that will do the job. It is interesting that high velocity small bores—the .357 Magnum and 9mm +P+—may prove less than ideal due to muzzle blast, recoil, or weapons wear but solve many problems as far as size and weight go.

The reasonable alternative seems to be a 38-ounce .45 with standard pressure loads. The Hornady 185-grain XTP offers modest recoil for the caliber but excellent ballistics. This combination offers the same power factor as a 180-grain .40 at 1,000 fps but recoil in the steel frame .45 is lighter and weapons wear hardly a concern. Inexpensive practice loads are plentiful.

When certain criteria exist—such as a need for effect at longer range or greater penetration—the .357 Magnum is another choice I make. When hiking I do not feel naked with a Peacemaker .45 and feel closer to the earth and history than with a polymer frame handgun. Emotional attachment and a sense of history are important to me, perhaps not to others, but it works.

Bob Campbell shooting 1911 9mm pistol
The author finds the 9mm easy to control and a joy to fire.

As for the current trend toward the 9mm, I understand that many cannot spare the time and money for sufficient practice. That is understandable. But you have to keep a degree of practice up with any caliber or handgun combination. Practice drawing from concealed carry and hitting a man-sized target at 10 yards, on demand, in 1.5 second. Hit the target in the center. There is no excuse for miss in this drill. Set up multiple targets and address steel plates at longer ranges.

A level of proficiency may be reached with the 9mm that makes for a high level of protection. You may be able to defend yourself well but have no illusions. The laws of physics cannot be changed but suit personal whims. As the Pythagoreans stated All Things Are Numbers. For hundreds of years, people have used flawed math and logic to support one hypothesis or the other to suit their opinions and it isn’t valid. Big bullets do more damage. More tissue is displaced, bones are more likely to be broken by big bullets, and more blood is let out. Measurements are exact. This is mathematics. Physics includes a healthy dose of philosophy, but common sense must rule.

Are you a fan of larger calibers for self-defense? Did the author get it right? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comment section, and bring the evidence to back up your points where possible.

[bob]

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 (170)

  1. While I carry my 1911 in .45 ACP, most of the time, I sometimes carry my ‘mouse-gun’ .22 NAA revolver, when concealment is an issue. Better something than nothing. However, I love the feel of the .45 and it’s weight is very comforting. There have been times, though, that I have thought of going bigger. I have long been a fan of the .454 Casul(?) and .50 AE, though the weapons that fire these rounds are massive and present concealment concerns. Yet, I adhere to Elmer Keith’s; “If it ain’t big, it ain’t crap” comment. This being said, I’m not sure if the slight gain in so called, ‘knock-down’ power is worth the extra weight. Guess, the next time, I get my hands on a Ruger Alaskan, I’ll have some serious thinking to do. But, bigger is always better, especially in portable fire power, ‘hand guns.’

    1. Get a baby .380. I’d rather that than a rim fire all day, and not much larger. ..

    2. My NAA revolver is approx. 4″ x 2 1/2″. Never saw a .380 that small. There is however a 2 shot derringer in .45 LC that was offered some years ago about the size of my revolver, that would be idea. Haven’t seen or heard of it in years. Like the .44 mag. that was offered about the same time, perhaps, it was just TOO much caliber in such a small platform. Like the .44 mag., when you looked down the bore, there was only 1/2 inch from round to muzzle. Don’t imagine it had much accuracy except at 5-6 feet. But thanks for the feedback.

  2. Great point. In my ignorance I fired a round in a traffic tunnel under a train overpass. My right ear still feels it some. The sound was unreal loud. Careful. I’d rather not imagine a .357 or other loud load

    1. If anyone knows how Hollywood gets away with the noise factor, I’d sure like to know. Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) and the Russian agent in “The Bourne Supremacy” simulated shots fired in a tunnel and also from the car’s interior. Even blanks have to be deafening. My ears hurt thinking about this.

      Excuse me, did you say something?

  3. Okay, I get the love of the .45 thing… personally, I enjoy the .44 Special which I imagine could be loaded with + P loads if fired from a magnum, though I’ve never heard of it being done.

    Aside from likes or dislikes, and I’ll remain on-thread since this is still a topic for “Big Bore” lovers, I hear debates over performance, recoil, ammo and mechanics, but I never hear (pun accidental) anything said about the relative “Kaboom Factor” — better known as the price shooters pay in noise level for whatever powder charge they shoot.

    In my army days, I had an issue with some alley cats getting into my trash cans, so I purchased an S&W .38 Chief’s Special and stood ready- in-waiting in my car for my little pals to show up. (I was living in the country.) When one of the rascals showed up, I fired my 3″ barrel revolver from my car window, only to soon thank the Divine Power Above for my having spared my hearing since I shot just outside the window rather than inside the car.

    I had always seen movies include cop and robber chases with firefights between cars, with some shots coming from near-inside the car. Believe me, my ears felt the concussion of my ignorance! I was immediately made aware of the consequences of firing from an enclosure, such as a car, home or apartment. Imagine a parking garage!!!

    A deputy friend of mine suffered permanent hearing loss while on a drug bust when the bad guy surprised he and his partner by firing a .380 while they were all in the reverberating acoustics of a tiled bathroom.

    I sincerely wonder how many shooters ever stop to think of what might happen to their hearing if they choose to defend themselves in enclosed quarters.

    This topic should keep everyone busy for awhile. (Remember, this still relates to “Big Bores”!, so don’t get mad!)

    1. 45 should be a winner when it comes to the hearing damage department (after 44 special). The amount of hearing damage is related mainly to the pressure of the round and somewhat to the volume of gas expelled (but mostly pressure).
      44 special 15.5k psi
      45 20k psi
      45+p 23k psi
      380 20.5k psi
      9mm +p 38.5k psi
      40 and 9mm 35k psi
      10mm 37.5kpsi

    2. I have a permanent ringing in my ears since 1971, thanks to a drill sergeant who told us that we would all be going to Vietnam where we wouldn’t be wearing hearing protection so we needed to get used to the noise of gunfire. This was immediately after the LT had told us we needed to wear hearing protection before we wen. t out on the range. The DS added that only a Candy@$$ would wear hearing protection on the range. Guess how many of us wore earplugs. NONE that I know of. During my tour of duty, i was exposed to significant amounts of small arms fire, artillery fire, helicopters and other sources of, shall we say, noise that exceed the recommended volume allowance for the human ear. Now, I spend much of my time telling people, “I can tell you’re talking but I cannot understand you…”
      When I go to the range now, I wear inserted plugs and earmuff protectors so I can carry on a conversation with my wife when I get home. I would love to sneak up on that drill sergeant, smack him upside his head, and ask him why he couldn’t hear me coming. Once you start to lose your hearing, it never gets any better. And the VA tells me that my hearing is fine, I just need to go to a quieter environment… Don’t get me going on that…

    3. I feel for you, Chuck… I think many of us get exposed to that kind of “DS thinking” in our lives at some point. I am sorry about your hearing loss, but excellent testimony. …Either “the right way, the wrong way, or the Army way”. Some of us, unfortunately, have dealt with the “Perceived Hardcore Army Way”.

      I’m with you on having had to seek a “quieter environment” — I’ll bet many of our bloggers are on the same thread in that pursuit. ; ) Maybe that’s the REAL reason for the popularity of hearing protection.

    1. Bob, you are correct.
      momentum = mass x velocity
      Kinetic energy = mass x velocity ^2(squared)

      Kinetic energy increases exponentially with speed but momentum only linearly.

      When we feel recoil, we are feeling a momentum transfer, not kinetic energy. This is why the power factor in IPSIC and IDPA is based on the momentum equation rather than the kinetic energy equation. I used the term kinetic energy in my earlier physics post erroneously but on purpose as people in these forums are generally more familiar with that term then the term “momentum”. Since the concepts and equations are closely related despite being the same, I chose to use the term kinetic energy to enhance understanding but notice I used the equation of momentum when explaining it. Maybe that was a mistake. Sorry if I caused any confusion.

      Cheers

    2. I’ve done some reading regarding our topic of comparing the numerous variables regarding recoil and comparable energies in support of, or critical of, impact power, stopping-power, killing effectiveness, muzzle flash, chamber pressures, powder variations, bullet profiles — all of which can be a perpetual maze of analysis.

      I appreciate your inputs and the explanations and have come to the conclusion that I did long ago, that each of us has to find the combination that we’re comfortable in trusting to deliver an incapacitating blow to our adversary (– ies), whether intended to be permanent, or otherwise. Each of us has to make our own decision.

      With all the arguments about firearms, it would be my hope we could find a less controversial and gory way to incapacitate human aggression at firearm-relative distances, but such means, at present, are limited.

      In my study and practice of martial arts over 45 years, there are many ways to incapacitate. In martial arts, it’s about knowing what technique(s) best suit(s) the situation.

      Likewise with firearms, our differences in caliber choices must give way to accuracy, for the most powerful firearm is useless if the shooter can’t hit the intended target. We must go with what works for us, but with knowledge and wisdom of the market.

      The formulas for best velocities, impact, and recoil can be argued, indefinitely, but “push to crunch” the choice of caliber must be within the shooter’s realm of personal confidence and control. Few of us will argue against shot-placement being key, so it seems obvious that all of us must find the combination of energy, projectile, and weapon that best suits our “comfort zone”. It is our personal responsibility to acquire the knowledge of the what we can expect from our choices, at our level of individual ability.

      People have been incapacitated and have lifelong disabilities from BB guns. pellet guns, slingshots, and frying pans over the head. I’ve had the privilege of testing most calibers and frying pans over my lifespan, and I know what feels comfortable for me and how accurate I can be with what I have, so I’m going to maintain that concept in mind.

      I don’t have the qualifications to argue all the scientific aspects of shooting, but I do know how accurate I am with my choice of weapon — and what power I’m comfortable with — and to me, that’s all I’m going to worry about — and more importantly, my adversaries better be worried, too.

      .

    3. Stan -The Man, Well said!!! What works and proven for each individual in their own manner and choice of weapon and caliber We/One may have at hand at the moment of NEED!!! There is at least one way (perhaps others) that will help a person tame recoil that no one has mentioned and that is “MAG-NA-PORTING”….not everyone can afford…..But it does help. Proper grips also help. Proper stance also helps…but I do believe those have been mentioned.

      Proper training with smaller caliber weapons such as air pistols, .22LR,and working one up to larger calibers definitely is a biggie. I have trained numerous women and others of slight stature that have NEVER fired a firearm. Quite a few could outshoot me with my own .45 ACP 1911 when we were “ready to flee the nest” in their and my opinion. The advent of the FN-5.7 is new player in the game so to speak. The 5.56 NATO was a new player in the game when it came to being. It had issues with the wrong powder , NON chrome lined chambers, and a reputation of NEVER NEEDING TO BE CLEANED……..among other things. After initial failures that cost countless troops their lives or other injury/ies……the 5.56 NATO still reigns top of the line US (and other nations/countries) battle rifle. We have the former Soviet Union also reducing from their 7.62 Russian to their 5.45 Russian as a standard battle rifle. Granted neither have the range of the 7.62 NATO or the 30.06 (Also a NATO Caliber) No one can deny bigger is better when it hits the target……and does instant damage to the CNS or injury to vital organs, and blood loss. I do not know IF there are any stats on the FN5.7 from handguns to any of the other “Major” Calibers. I can say with all confidence…….there is no perceptible recoil from the FN5-7 in the handgun. Granted it has a large size and holds 20 rounds. PART OF TRAINING is to make EVERY ROUND one sends down range COUNT!!! Far too many people that realize they have more than 6-8 rounds will often forget about accuracy and go into “Spray and Pray” mode for lack of better term.

      I love my 1911 and will not trade it for anything else….though IF I ever get the $$$ I will gladly buy an FN5-7 and non issues with depending on it. But that is ME! NOT YOU or anyone else…….What I place my life and trust on, comes with past training, experience, proven data over years, and what has worked and what does actually work for various other people……No matter what you drive it is a vehicle you depend on to get you there and back home safe. We all drive different vehicles or prefer different makes and models……Foreign or Domestic. SMART CAR, Toyota Land Cruiser, whatever……….. Whatever works for YOU is what matters!

      Is the .45 ACP “THE KING” ??? I would in say so. But I also must say…….. While there are other calibers out there that will work when depended and called upon….I don’t foresee “The King” being replaced anytime in the soon/near or far future! Over a Century of proven use in WWI,WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and numerous other countries and “Hell Holes” all over the World, among Civilian uses….There is “no magic” bullet that will do everything. There are bullets that can and do perform better than bullet designs from many years prior to date. Various new designs seemingly come out every year or so…..some good, some great, and some perhaps even greater.

    4. I have come to the conclusion that 45 is the king of the auto pistol cartridges when it comes to engaging unarmored targets that are not hiding behind significant cover.

      Removing all other variables that people like to argue about capacity and recoil I think we can definitely conclude from available evidence that 45 is a superior fight stopper if you only had 1 bullet. I conclude that the reason for this is not necessarily the larger diameter of the bullet but it’s increased mass that leads it to have less propensity to be deflected by bone (have the direction of the bullet changed significantly)

      But I also think we can saw that 9mm is an adequate caliber and although you hear anecdotes about someone continuing to fight after multiple hits it is a rare thing.

      Being able to operate the firearm effectively is of prime concern as many have pointed out and this is where recoil and grip size come into play.

      High capacity, while comforting, is just not needed for the average guy and situation as shooting statistics will confirm.

      The way I see it, if you are deciding between 9mm based on these identified criteria you should ask yourself the following questions:

      1. Can you accurately fire 45 at a speed of at least 1 shot per second (yes/no)
      2. Will the form factor/size of typical 45 pistols work with your primary carry mode/mission (yes/no)

      If you answer yes to both of these questions then you should go with 45. If you answer no to even one of them then you should go with 9mm.

  4. Not wishing to be contrary, but recoil is a DIRECT result of energy. Simple physics. Yep, been a 45ACP fan for 50 years. Not about to change! Want magazine capacity, try a Springfield XD or XDM. Up to 16!!! in the magazine, with available aftermarket extension. THAT is one additional reason I am a 45ACP fan.

    1. “Not wishing to be contrary, but recoil is a DIRECT result of energy. Simple physics…”

      I accept your “contrary” as a good point and I can see your logic, Al, and being serious about my questioning, maybe it’s just me, but I perceive the recoil to be less in the .38 Super than the .45, yet, ballistically, they have been on record with comparable muzzle energies.

      I purchased ammunition from a Texas company who boosted their muzzle energy stats to extreme heights with the old “Super-Vel” concept of increasing the powder charge and reducing the projectile mass. The recoil was lessened by the fact the mass of the projectile was greatly reduced, but the energy at the point of impact provided comparable force due to the increased speed of the projectile..

      The recoil was less because the powder burn met with less resistance to move the smaller, lighter projectile, thus, less gas pressure was needed to extract the projectile. As a result, the gasses escaped at a greater rate, similar to “the muzzle brake concept” of reducing recoil.. In other words, the boom is the same, but less work is required to move the smaller mass, so, to my understanding, it should stand-to-reason that the recoil would be less.

      Thanks for your rebuttal.

      Do we have a scientist in the crowd?

    2. Science…more specifically physics states that an object (bullet) propelled forwards with a certain force (mass x velocity) will push back on the motivator (in this case the pistol) with an equal and opposite force. This means the energy absorbed by the shooter is directly proportional to the kinetic energy of the bullet. But that is over simplified because it does not take into account the time variable. You see, all that kinetic energy is not transmitted instantly because the bullet does not reach max velocity instantly and it is the difference in the way the KE ramps up between a slow heavy bullet and a lite fast bullet that generates the difference in “perceived” recoil.

      end science.

  5. “So, to get things back on track…I was all ready to build my next pistol in 9mm due to my research suggesting that shot placement and penetration was more important than bullet size…”

    Back with you, Pappy… I am one who agrees with you on your reasoning. I know police officers who have wanted more than the 9mm, which is why many justified going to the .40 caliber — and why the .40 was introduced as a compromise between the 9mm and .45..

    Agreeing with your logic, may I suggest the .38 Super round which pushes the muzzle energy to surpass the .45 ACP — of course, depending on the load of the .45.

    My point is that you will have comparable muzzle energy without the ugly recoil of the .45, which has made the Super a favorite of mine. I have mine on a stainless or nickel Colt Series 70 frame. I love it, and
    it’s very accurate, which is why I qualify with it.

    Frankly, I don’t know why the Super isn’t more popular as it has been around for years and has proven lethal against wild hogs, unless you hit them in their tusk. (humor) The evidence was a dated article back in the late 50’s which included a photo of a kaput javelina and a dead wet telephone book. I wouldn’t have wanted to be either one. I couldn’t resist replying to you — agreeing with your perspective about the significance of velocity and mass.

    1. The .38 super is a well established load in competition and was developed to deal with the very real world problem of heavy steel car bodies, 1930’s bank robbers wearing armor and the .45ACP’s inability to penetrate cars and armor making it almost impossible to stop these gangsters who were carrying BAR’s and Thompsons from rolling into a town brazenly robbing the bank and leaving the state.

      But you realize that with modern loads you get equal or better than .38 super performance out of the 9mm right?

      Buffalo Bore a company along with Underwood that make the hottest and most effective defensive loads offer the .38 Super in 147gr +P with an advertized MV of 1150fps

      So its a .38/9mm projectile at 1150 FPS.
      They have a 9mm 147gr +P with an advertised velocity of 1175fps.

      So basically the identical load.
      And Underwoods 147gr +P comes out of my 4.6″ CZ at a very consistent 1200fps.

      Go through modern ammo, start comparing the hottest and heaviest .45ACP .40S&W 9mm .357Sig and whatever other load you want, and you will start to see how little of a difference there is.

      With the hottest 9mm I get identical ME to the hottest .45acp

      And the performance of modern FMJ bullets also closes the supposed gaps between loads even more.

      If you are considering the .45 ACP you have already made the choice to carry a full size gun. I know there are commander 1911’s that are “compact” and that there are plenty of polymer pistols that offer .45ACP or something like the .45 GAP that are very small.

      But the 9mm sucks out of tiny guns with range ammo, and it really sucks with full power loads.

      The 147gr underwoods I chose to use for self defense are very stout out of my CZ85, and its 42oz with 16+1.

    2. We’re pretty much on the same page, JohnClark, and thank you for your acknowledgment of the .38 Super history.

      I guess I look at comparisons in a different light than most. Most shooters are looking at calibers being the difference, by name. From my angle, the 9mm bullet encompasses any bullet diameter of that size, to the same hundredth of an inch .

      So, in reality, as pictured in the link below, the 9mm is actually any bullet with a diameter of 9mm, give or take about four thousandths of an inch! The 9mm should be deemed a .35 caliber by name, not a .38 caliber. Of course, differences of performance are linked to the bullets’ weights, case dimensions, propellants, barrel length, twist, and and choice of frame.

      https://www.google.com/search?q=.38+super+ballistics&biw=1024&bih=753&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&sqi=2&ved=0ahUKEwjR892e7v_MAhUIQ1IKHdOQBBoQsAQIKQ

      I’m saying that the name doesn’t really matter other than the way the cartridge is packaged. The velocities are based primarily on each bullet’s weight and configuration, how much power can be stuffed into each case, the barrel length, how much pressure the gun can handle, and we must include how much power the shooter can handle, accurately!

      The effective damage is relative to the previous factors, plus each target’s characteristics. Think about the fact that most of our GI’s in WWII were using rifles of .30 caliber, such as the famed 30.06, yet the 9mm is actually a .35 caliber! Isn’t it true, thus, that the damage inflicted by our choice of weapon is more dependent on our choice of propellant, the velocity we attain, and the bullet configuration? Arguments of the effects of “big bore” size, will always remain relative. Why don’t we end these debates by us all driving tanks?

      Rather than debate targets and if one 9mm caliber is better than another, aren’t we really trying to sort the vegetables in a Minestrone soup? The 9mm can be pushed to velocities around 1400 feet per second or more, depending on the bullet weight and guns that can handle the pressures. At that speed, with the right combination of bullet, the 9mm can easily outfly and outperform other calibers. At that point, the debate is merely an “arm’s race” — “I can put more power behind mine than yours”. The real question is, what combination serves the purpose, within the shooter’s capability, of hitting the intended target and achieving the desired result?”

      This sort of debate, JohnClark, makes me tired. I do wish that the entire firearm community would do away with caliber names that don’t reflect the true diameter of the bullet, i.e. the .38 and .44 calibers. Such names have only served to add confusion by misdirecting and providing false images.

      Thank you for your perspective and reply concerning the .38 Super relative to the 9mm.

  6. So, to get things back on track…I was all ready to build my next pistol in 9mm due to my research suggesting that shot placement and penetration was more important than bullet size. I was liking the lower recoil of 9mm for quicker f/u shots and the increased capacity. But I have always been a 45 guy and shoot it quite effectively. Chuck’s comments of real world witnessed shooting aftermath swayed me back to 45. Does anyone on here have real world experience that would refute what Chuck has witnessed re 45 vs 9mm effectiveness?

    1. In my own exp bullet weight does matter in recoil. Overcoming the initial moment at 0 inertia, slug weight does make some difference. For instance i feel like crit duty +p 220 gr bucks a little harder than Underwood’s loading of a Lehighs 120 gr despite having lower muzzle energy. Ill impart the same energy on a bowling ball hitting it with a baseball bat as I do a baseball given same speed and weight of bat. My hands ARE gonna sting after I hit that bowling ball and Wont after hitting the ball. “Hand sting” here being a measure of felt recoil.

      Id love more real world stuff too if anyone has it. And in closing: .45 is better.

    2. I would go with the 9mm if I were you, for all of the reasons you said yourself, more bullets, deeper penetration, and with modern JHP expansion near equal expanded size of the same design in .45acp
      follow up shots and everything else make the 9mm a very effective handgun.

      You ask for a real world example of a 9mm, I say avoid anecdotal evidence like that as it can be used to argue a case for anything.

      for instance the founder of second chance armor killed 2 men with 5 shots with a 22lr pistol. That could be used to argue that the 22lr is a devastating round up close.

      I could also use it to argue a case for only carrying a 22lr because he was able to shoot one handed and land 4 hits out of 5 shots on two targets with a decent distance between them. something that the almost nonexistent recoil of the .22lr made easier.

      See how little value anecdotal evidence really is? Just because some freak happenstance caused a situation to end one way does not mean you can draw sweeping and accurate conclusions from the “evidence”

      Ive been waiting for someone to finally say that all handgun calibers, at least ones that are actually carried and used for duty are underpowered and not ideal for killing a man. Please lets forgo the “I carry such and such” because if you EDC a .454 casul you are an incredibly small minority, and I just plain dont think its true.
      Even though you certainly would be better off with a rifle or shotgun that is capable of delivering much more energy to the target, that statement kind of misses the point.

      Handguns are underpowered and you cannot rely on them to cause fatal trauma due to the sheer force of impact and temporary cavity formation.
      If you dont hit something vital a bigger bullet wont help

      Is it possible that a larger bullet given the same trajectory as a smaller one could cause a fatal injury the smaller round is not capable of? Yes of course, having an extra mm of expansion diameter could cut an artery a smaller bullet would miss.

      But that is a hell of a thing to bet your life on.

      Even though I hate anecdotal evidence and think its absolutely useless for making any sort of accurate estimation of performance I will give you one.

      My uncle killed a 800+ lb grizzly bear in 1977 with a Browning Hi Power and FMJ ammo.

      He was 24 Bow hunting Elk in Alaska, He startled a bear after sliding down a little hill, he came to a stop like 15 ft or so behind the animal who immediately turned to charge, He rather foolishly tried to draw the bow and get a shot off, he did but it was nothing more than irritating to the bear. He was flattened by a swat that hit him on the right side, he went for his pistol that was in a full flap military style hip holster, He was able to get his hand on the gun and pull it out but the bear started the “bouncing” thing they do with their front paws, and started breaking ribs, the bear stopped bouncing, and then swatting while keeping one paw on him to hold him down, unfortunately this pinned his right arm underneath him, and when the bear started bouncing again he was unable to get his arm free, he got his left hand on his Buck hunting knife and was able to stick the bear in the neck. he lost hold of the knife as the bear stood upright on its back legs, still laying on the ground he was able to free his right arm and shoot.
      Out of 14 rounds 11 found flesh and only 4 were center mass and two of those center mass shots passed through the bear.

      Not bad shooting considering on top of the broken and fractured ribs, and deep cuts from the claws he now had a broken right radius, a fractured right ulna, a broken right clavicle, a compund fracture and dislocation of the little finger and a bunch of smaller bones in his hand were also fractured.

      He said he didnt know anything was broken other than the ribs until he fired the first shot, and as you can imagine that probably hurt like hell. The radius is the bone that runs along to top of your arm in line with your thumb, the one that takes the brunt of recoil , his was snapped in half.

      He was carrying a 9mm with just off the shelf FMJ’s, the deep penetration of those FMJ rounds made it possible to get through all that meat and bone protecting the bears vital organs.

      He said the bear took a few staggered steps back on its hind legs, and then dropped to all 4’s and collapsed.

      So with that “evidence” I could easily make the case for the 9mm being the premier bear gun cartridge for protection.

      The deep penetration of the 9mm performed perfectly in that situation, allowing him to punch through all the pre winter fat and muscle, the ribs and still keep going. The light recoil made shooting while severely injured possible, and the magazine capacity gave him the shots he needed to kill the bear.

      See how easy it is to draw idiotic conclusions based on anecdotal evidence? All anecdotes do is show us what is possible, not what is probable

      Of course the 9mm isnt a great Bear Gun, its better than nothing, and in some freak cases it may actually be better than something like a 44mag, but for the most part a 9mm is far from ideal for self defense agianst a bear. Hell no handgun is well suited to stopping bears, not even the 500S&W.

      If you ever do need to defend yourself with a handgun statistics show its probably going to be within 20 ft, its probably going to take 5-6 hits to stop the attacker and its probably going to take all of your bullets to do so, and you are probably going to land 30% or so of your fired rounds.

      Sadly most of our statistics are from police shootings and police have pathetic training, so if you work at it you can improve those probabilities, giving yourself the best chances of success.

      I say 9mm but thats what I like to carry, I love the 1911 and the .45 ACP, the 1911 is one of my favorite all time guns thats why I own one.

      But when it comes to self defense I choose the 9mm, I compete I know I can be very fast and accurate with it, and I have never been out performed by a .45 while in the “duty” class.

      Shot placement matters most, obviously penetration and expansion are important but a bad shot with a deep penetrating massively expanding bullet of any caliber is still a bad shot.

    3. This is in response to Lee Anderson’s comment regarding the Underwood 45LC ammo. I have shot the Underwood 45 LC XTP Jacketed Hollow Point (300 gr) that produces 1,126 Ft. lbs. of muzzle energy. Underwood makes one more 45 LC ammo a bit more powerful – the 325 gr Lead Long Flat Nose Gas Check +P that produces 1,267 ft. lbs. which I have not shot. I have a 45 LC Ruger Blackhawk Flattop and I have set the max power limit on this around the Buffalo Bore Jacketed Hollow Point +P 3C/50 (260gr) which produces 1,214 muzzle ft. Lbs., which I have also shot I do not think I would want to rattle my Ruger heavy gun any more than that because this ammo is VERY powerful.!

      The Underwood ammo is a little less expensive, and quite good as well. I have created an Excel file (NOT for smart phones) that lists nearly 300 hand gun ammos in many calibers, which includes pricing, where to buy online, and ballistics! I have over half a dozen people from this forum who have received this file already and are on my monthly email distribution list. There are also some rifle ammo calibers listed, and a few awesome military guns and cannons at the end, just to give prospective. If you would like a copy of the free file, just email me at vlavalle @ix.netcom .com and I will send you the file. If you buy hand gun ammo, this is almost a must!

      Vincent (05-30-2016)

  7. Talk about hijacking a thread. How did we go from talking about large bore pistols to small bore rifles. Stop it already.

    1. That’s because many here would rather ask a question and have someone else do the work for them, instead of just doing the research on their own. Doesn’t really fit the narrative of self reliance and personal responsibility I see pushed all the time here.

    2. I’m the “bad guy” who was new to your blog. I can assure you there was no intent on my part to “hijack” your thread and I thought my question could be easily answered based on the knowledge and experience-level of the contributors.

      I now realize my question could be deemed out-of-place as I was consumed with interest in the discussions, for which, I apologize. As you say, I’m not the first shooter to get carried away and go off-topic. In the future, I hope your webmaster, another blogger, or you, yourselves, will be polite enough to suggest another thread rather than make accusations which certainly didn’t fit my intent to cause such offense, or appear too lazy. It seems apparent to me, if everyone on the blog did their own research, there would be little need for you all to say anything..

    3. Basically, most people are stupid. There are those that can’t follow the most basic instructions or stay on topic. ‘Big Calibers Rule.’ Very basic, RIGHT? Au Contrare. There are people, who wishing to sound intelligent, opine about anything and everything, whether they are knowledgeable on the subject matter or not. Thusly, knowing nothing about the subject at hand; ‘Big Calibers’, they opt to ‘high-jack’ the conversation and shift it to things in which they think themselves to be experts.

    4. And there are those who must find someone to whom they must condescend in order to elevate their perceived standing in a group. Courtesy is sacrificed for the sake of ego. In some circles, it is the norm. It shows a lack of personal security as they must put people down and feel good about it so they seek to strain gnats while they swallow the refuse of their surroundings.
      BTW, you spelled hijack wrong.

    5. Reading this thread that should be about big-bore pistols is depressing. Where the discussion should be about the relative merits of .45 Colt, .45 ACP, .50 AE, even .45-70 and 600 Nitro Express, etc, in hand guns, it has denigrated into a discussion of small caliber rifles and such. Even name calling, when those that change the subject, willy-nilly and get called to task for doing so. Incidentally, went to the Oxford English Dictionary to look up correct spelling of hijack as opposed to high jack. According to OED, either form is acceptable. While definition does vary somewhat. Hijack, is to stop and steal a moving vehicle. High Jack is to steal cargo from a truck or other vehicle, or as is the case of this thread, to high jack the subject at hand, Big Bores in pistols and to change it to a subject you would rather discuss. So all of you would be English teachers that insist on correct spelling, read it in OED and argue with that!

    6. Dark Angel… I provided an apology for my error in side-tracking… and I’m also sorry if I, and others, are not as gun and blog savvy as you, but I’m trying to figure out how your comment provides any useful dialogue relative to what you, and others, believe the “Big Bore” blog was obviously intended. At least I can say my inquiry was about guns. How does your comment contribute by you rubbing salt into people? Are you starting a new thread? You and others can rejoice, this will be by final post — I certainly have no interest in dueling — especially with “Big Bores”. Good day, ladies and gentlemen..

    7. Stan – The Man, you do not owe anyone an apology. As someone with ADHD, I enjoyed the tangential take of the conversation. I almost feel sorry for those who are so tightly wound they cannot abide any deviation from their well controlled, suffocating biospheric path, I find that life boring. I also find blogs that do not allow for those “squirrels” to be too dry and stodgy to hold any interest for me. My comment above was not directed at you but at the one who seems to feel he is an arbiter of this conversation and, as such, is authorized to depart from courteous discourse. In a conversation such as this, there is never any excuse for condescension, arrogance, or discourtesy, all of which were displayed by one individual. I would surmise that his description directed at others would more accurately go down as a self description, albeit unwittingly on his part. Have a good day, my friend.

  8. RE: Ruger Mini-14 & the 223 round/5.56 round controversy. According to RUGER’S CURRENT WEB SITE: ALL models of the Mini-14 series are chambered 223/5.56 (shoots either/both!) EXCEPT the “Target” models, which shoot 223 only. LOOK FOR YOURSELF! YES, I AM SHOUTING! During the history of the Mini-14, there have been others that were limited to 223 only. I am positive the folks at Ruger will advise you properly. If you doubt them, consult a Ruger history reference. ALSO, as I understand the problem with mil-spec ammo in a civilian 223 chambered rifle, it is what we commonly call “free-bore” in the mil-spec chambers. That is, the distance the bullet travels before it engages the rifling. 223 chambers have a shorter “throat” than mil-spec. So, if a 5.56 round is fired in a 223 (only) chamber, the bullet hits the rifling before it would in a 5.56 chamber. THUS, higher pressure.

  9. You’re solid, once again, Yosemite. Thanks very much. I believe you all took the right precaution with the “14” — my style, as well.

  10. RE: Mini-14 shooting 223 &/or 5.56. Depends entirely on the model. Some were/are made to shoot 223 only, others shoot either/both. My recommendation is to consult Ruger customer service.

    1. As Far as I know ruger only marks guns .223
      but it does not matter!!!
      SAAMI scpec for .223 55,000psi operating 62,366 overpressure
      NATO Spec 5.56 55114!!!!! 114PSI difference, Max overpressure 62366.

      So good lord before you overthink yourself into a problem, dont worry.

      any ,223 that has been made well and pressure tested will fire 5.56, no problems

      Dont Bother contacting ruger they will tell you “fire only cartridges your firearm is specifically marked for.”

    2. Good dialogue, Guys… While I always believe in making my errors on the side of safety, in this case, I believe JohnClark has provided substantial reasoning to trust the NATO round in the .223 [Ruger] Mini-14.

      We can certainly remain open to anyone who can prove otherwise, since these rounds have been around a long time and there would certainly be testimonies of extreme pressure consequences out there.

      Appreciate the depth of the comments on all sides.

    3. Hear ye! Hear ye! I went looking for an answer to the question about the safety of using the 5.56mm NATO in the .223 Ranch Mini-14. The following link provides the answer as this site shows evidence from the Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle Manual that states that the Ranch Rifle is chambered to accept the .223 and the 5.56 NATO rounds. The target model in .223 will not accept the 5.56mm NATO. Here is the link of the video’s host showing his reading from the Ruger Ranch manual:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zznNu2Exsto

      I started this controversy, so I must apologize for not investigating this myself. You all tried to give good advice “from the hip”, but now we know for sure. Thanks to you all.

    4. Thanks to you, as well, Big Al. By admission, I took the “lazy” way thinking others in this knowledgable group would have sought the same answer. Good advice.

  11. Good info about the chamber pressure difference between the .223 v. Nato… Taking the lazy way, anyone know if the Ruger Mini-14 Ranch stainless can handle both? Thank you, in advance.

    1. Stan-The-Man, I can only say this …..I would start off saying NO…… but check the rifle and see what the receiver says…. Best thing for any owner of a MINI-14 is/ would be to contact Ruger and ask them. Give them the Serial Number, and they should be able to answer that question for you. You can get an 800 number by going to their website.

      http://www.ruger.com

      I can say that I and numerous others, HAVE fired the 5.56 NATO in MINI 14s and MINI -14 RANCH Rifles, BEFORE we knew about this higher chamber pressure factor. We never saw any indications of high pressure on any of the cases. We stopped firing the NATO ammo in them when we found out.

      That is the best info I can give you my brother. Hope it helps!

    2. My brother in law carries a mini 14 186 series as his duty rifle for fish and game its had nothing but surplus 5.56 through it and its going strong well past 10,000rds.

      Yes the 5.56 produces higher pressure, but lets not kid ourselves into thinking some .223 “rated” barrel will blow up because it shot a 5.56, they are all proofed well above 5.56 pressure, well above any pressure you could accidentally achieve without a bore obstruction.

      5.56 out of a .223 is like +P out of a hangun, it will just minutely speed up the wear process on some parts.

    3. JohnClark, Yes, No, and Maybe, IMSHO……Granted as long as no sign of high pressure is being shown,…blown primers, or other signs…..one should be ok ………THEN AGAIN….take a look at the catastrophic slide failures of the Barrettas with the Sub-gun 9mm 147 grn JHP +P or was it +P+ ammo….?

      No matter it was a HOT load meant for an HK-94 to take head shots with, and NOT for a handgun. Quite a few people were severely injured in such failures.

  12. I suggest you guys read medal of honor citations, there are counltess stories of gys getting shot with full power rifle rounds such as 8mm mauser, 6.6 and 7.7 Arisaka, getting bayonetted and gettig fragged with nades and mortars and they are able to fight and function, and in many cases survive simply because nothing vital was hit….

    grow up get over your fanboy bs and pull your head out

    1. AMEN, JohnClark!!!! My point exactly!!!!! In this game, understanding reality — between fact and hype can easily be the difference between life and death. Here’s hoping those of us in the know will save some lives of/from those in their egos. “Mine is bigger than yours” is not a practical or justifiable attitude when it comes to self-defense. How many martial artists have proven that point?!!! Spot-on, JC!!!

  13. I recently purchased a 9mm for personal/home defense. I’m 52 years old and it’s the first handgun I have ever owned. All of you here have more knowledge and experience than I do when it comes to what load is what and the damage it will do. I didn’t really know what to expect the first time I fired it. After putting 50 rounds through it my conclusion is simple: I DO NOT want to be on the receiving end of a 9mm!

    1. I don’t want to be on the receiving end of any caliber GS. But having seen as many GSW’s as I have, I would rather be shot with a 9 than a .45 given exact same placement. I have a higher probability of surviving the 9, That is why I carry a .45. It is tried, and found to be NOT wanting in crunch time. The same cannot be said for the 9. See my first post on this topic. There is a reason that SEALS, Special Forces, and Marine Force Recon prefer the .45. In combat, it has been shown to be more effective with proper shot placement. Most of what is deemed combat is not purposeful fire but spray and pray. I will take marksmanship over more rounds. And that takes practice.

    2. Thanks for the reply. It makes sense and gives me something to think about for my next purchase.

    3. I told myself I wasn’t going to get back into recycling firearm debates, but I have to say that Chuck has a point about the 9mm being too light of a caliber for combat and police work… but we’re back to “Square 1” in that if a shooter can be more accurate and confident with a 9mm, then I say that it’s better to hit the target than not.

      I once had to put a diseased animal out of its misery, which I did not want to do. I was way out in the country and no animal control officers or any vets were available. I wanted to make the end as swift, sure, clean and painless as I could in respect for the animal. I was young and I had never seen the effects of any .45 ACP used in combat or hunt, but I had heard and read war stories of its reputation for being such a great man-stopper. I chose my .45 Colt Series ’70 for the job, and regrettably used military hardball ammunition.

      Yes, the animal was knocked down on the first shot by the trauma, but I emptied the clip, firing 7 rounds into the animal’s most vital areas. The round-nose bullets just went clean through without enough damage to finish the task, quickly.. I was sick to my stomach and vowed never to use round-nose ammunition, again. This ugly situation could have been avoided by having actual knowledge rather than my reading and listening to warrior hype and gossip.

      This incident is over 40 years old and it continues to haunt me to this day. If I could replay the incident, there’s no question I would choose a
      shotgun at point blank range from behind the head, and I would have the decency to cover the animal’s head prior to shooting..

      I posted this comment to counter the endless debates of caliber size when the real question is — “With your one shot, taking into account clothing, hide, or possible barriers, along with your accuracy level, how much damage can you anticipate inflicting on the victim with your weapon’s ammo?” You should also read into this calculation your odds of your first shot, alone, hitting your target, day or night. End of story.

    4. Uhh the SEALS have the MK23 in the toolbox but the P226 is their “go to” weapon , Delta Force uses a whole host of guns because they recon, plan and execute plans all on their own, they carry ANYTHING but the 1911/Mk23 or anything in .45ACP because it screams AMERICAN! Because in order to gather intel you have to blend in and in order to do that but still fight and leave evidence behind that can lead anywhere thee CZ-75 is a favorite of Delta.
      Yes Marine Recon Use the MEUSOC 1911’s and they are highly specialized in both construction materials and techniques but the skillset of the armorers making them.

      If I am going to carry a full size gun it will be a 1911 just because I love them, or if I actually expect to use it a CZ-75 or P226 with 147gr +P+ Gold Dots, From Underwood they come blistering out of my CZ 85 at 1175fps. and are still pretty tame simply because its an all steel gun.

  14. Couldn’t agree more with you about the placement concept, but I’ve learned one important lesson about making assumptions — “Don’t”. There always seems to be exceptions to the rule(s).

    Many police officers and soldiers have been killed, throughout history, due to assumptions. Note the vintage films from WWII. Our surviving experienced GI’s learned to remain alert and “always make sure…” whenever possible — regardless of caliber or circumstance!

  15. People who always talk about “stopping power” are also the ones who talk about hitting center mass.

    I guarantee you that a bullet to the bladder will do more to stop a bad guy than the biggest caliber you got.

    1. DrRjP,
      There is a reason people are trained to shoot center mass……It gives the shooter the greatest probability to hit the target. Think about it…it is the largest area of the body…under stress in a real life shooting….most people cannot hit a very small area such as a leg/knee or head….or often miss the target entirely.

      I cannot say I have said much of anything about stopping power…..I have repeatedly said accuracy was more important than caliber. A direct hit to the CNS will put an end to the fight……THAT is not debatable.

      There is something to be said about physics though…..a bullet hitting a body with 400 fps or so…is usually going to cause a person to react in some manner…. the reaction may (OR may not) be noticeable. adrenaline can make people (and animals) react in strange and unexpected ways. No matter the bullet energy has to be absorbed by the person or animal…..follow up shots may be required to stop the bad guy or kill the animal. Proper and accurate bullet placement with a .22 LR or anything else can take the fight out of the bad guy.

      Always plan, prepare, and train on Worst Case situations / scenarios……

    2. Nice idea, but not always reliable. Years ago, I took care of a guy who had been shot 5 times in the chest with a .25. Three of the rounds were stopped by his sternum. The other two played the marimba off his ribs, inside his chest. He succumbed to his wounds but not before he beat the shooter to death with his bare hands. Sometimes, the only wounds that get a person’s attention during a conflict are those that cause exsanguination (bleeding to death) Only when there is no longer blood getting to the brain, will all purposeful activity cease.
      I have seen the same in deer that, even though their heart was ripped apart, ran a good hundred yards or so. Even people when struck in the chest, with a mortal wound, may continue to fight until no more blood is reaching the brain. Head shots with a large bore gun, in my experience, are the only thing close to a guaranteed end of the discussion. Snipers are trained to target the “golden triangle” because when this area is hit, all neurological activity ceases. I have never seen deer or people do anything other than fall down dead with that shot.

    3. Military and Law Enforcement are taught to shoot ‘center mass’. Why? That is where the heart and other vital organs are located. Too, the torso is a very large target at ‘gunfight’ engagement distances; 0 to 25, 50, 75 and 100 yrd. ranges. Even a so-so marksman can’t miss, generally. Also, when you are ‘pumped-up’, your fine motor control are none existent. You coarse motor control is in charge. The torso,(center mass) is just easier to hit. Highly skilled marksmen, snipers, etc.,can take more precise shot, because they get more training than a ‘grunt’ or ‘street cop’ and are far enough away from the ‘heat of battle’ they can be more deliberate in placing their shots. I, personally, have take ‘head-shots’ at 300 yrds. Anything passed that get real ‘iffy’ very quickly. So, center mass is the shot to take for the average street cop, soldier and even civilian.

  16. I think I know how to end this argument, or if you wish, discussion. Let’s face off two shooters at 20 feet. One with a 9mm and one with a 45. The 9mm shoots at the 45 shooter first, If the 45 shooter is still standing then he/she gets to fire back…..iwinner is the survivor and they get to write the final chapter of this article.
    I don’t believe I want to be shot with ANY caliber…
    The only statement I can believe in this debate is the “ACCURACY” one. The rest will be debated for a LONG time…..

  17. Sorry to burst your bubble with this explanation. First, some background, I spent 1971-1975 working for your and my favorite uncle in places that you never heard of and no one wanted to say we were there. I was a medic on a team that did Search and Rescue and Recon. When I got out, I went to nursing school and became an RN. I spent more than 30 years playing in some of the busiest ER’s in my state. I have seen more gunshot wounds (GSW’s) than just about any civilian I know, and that is just from my ER time, not military.
    I have seen multiple GSW’s to the head that not only did not kill the individual, but the level of incapacity was astoundingly inconsequential. I have seen people killed with some of those same rounds. There was the guy who was accidentally shot with one round from a .22 rifle who died right there but they brought him in anyway. I have seen multiple people shot in the head with every caliber imaginable, .25, .32, 38, 9mm and not have any real damage. One woman was shot with a .38 and it never penetrated her skull, she looked like she should have been dead, but her skull was intact. I know of at least two cases where men were shot in the head with nines, multiple times and survived. One ended up killing himself to avoid going to trial over killing a cop and the other had some disability but overall was surprisingly functional.
    The only calibers that I have seen to be guaranteed to kill in a head shot have all started with .4.
    I have never seen anyone shot with a .45 in the head doing anything other than falling down dead. See the first paragraph. For this reason, I have for my carry gun, a Smith Pro Series short barreled 1911. Any lesser caliber is most likely to piss the shootee off and begin to hurt you, like taking you gun away and sticking it up places that will hurt you really bad. I have seen more than one case where someone was shot with a smaller caliber (read .25 up to 9 mm) and the shootee either took the gun away from the shooter and shot them or they beat the shooter to death before they finally succumbed to loss of blood.
    Numbers on paper look really nice and pretty, but they don’t mean diddly squat when applied in the real world of personal conflict where shots are imprecise and adrenaline is flowing. Stick with a large bore and live.
    BTW, I am 5’6” and have a small frame. For fun, I shoot .44 Magnum. If recoil is a problem, start with a lighter load and practice until you can shoot your carry load, you might live longer.
    PS. There is a reason that Marine Force Recon, Special Forces and SEALS seem to prefer the .45. Stops the bad guys with one shot rather than 6.

    1. Wow! What an amazing and even ‘funny’ ‘article’! This backs up the statistics on the ballistics, where the smaller calibers have little power and the bigger bores with definitely more,, to LOTS more. I love he real life details and the experiences I believe Chuck has gone thru, so this is not wishful thinking at all. Great story!

      If you want to be included in my monthly ballistics Excel file distribution (NOT for Smart phones), then email me and I will send you this free Microsoft Excel file, which is mainly about hand gun ammo, with a few rifles, and a few military high power weapons & cannons. The real benefit when using this file is to actually purchase online ammo at the best prices for the power and bullet type you may want. It has Hyperlinks to the Web for each entry. I already have about 5 people from tis forum already signed up and have received this file and were amazed! vlavalle @ix.netcom.com.

      Vincent (05-07-2016)

    2. Chuck
      Thanks for your narrative. My experience is smaller but mirrors yours. The lower jaw also absorbs a lot of damage.

      Best,

      RKC

  18. Just an observation regarding the 5.45 Russian round using a “17 caliber bullet”. 5.56mm (the USA 5.56X45) = .219″, using a .224″ diameter bullet.The Russian 5.45mm round – 5.45mm = .215″. 17 caliber rifles use a .172″ diameter bullet. Does this mean .215″ and .172″ are the same? Probably not.

    1. Big Al,

      I was not being specific and that is why the “ROUGHLY” was in the comment.
      There are any numerous such calibers that ARE NOT the actual bore diameter. I am not sure just what it is you are trying to say.

      Are you saying it is not safe to use a .38 Special, or .38 +P or ,.38 +P+ in a .357 Magnum??? or a .44 Special in a .44 Magnum???

      How about using a .45 LC in some of the .410 derringers?

      Would you say one cannot shoot a .223 Remington in a 5.56 NATO???

      Or perhaps a 7.62 NATO in a .308 Winchester?

      How many .22 CTENFIRE calibers shoot the more of less the same diameter bullet or a different diameter bullet yet can still generically considered to be a .22?

      BTW just saying the .38 Special, the +P and +P+ loads, and most 9mm, and .357 rounds shoot ROUGHLY a .35X diameter bullet….. SO WHY is the .38 Special called a .38 when at best it could be considered a .35 or a .36 Caliber? I mean carrying on using your math…..and conversion tables, Something is vastly wrong after all these years…..

    2. It has to do with the measuring of the grooves and lands of the rifling. The .38 and .357 bullets are interchangeable when reloading. The .38 cartridges (all flavors and weights) may be shot safely in a .357 pistol but not the other way around. Likewise the .44 Special and the .44 Magnum. I loaded .44’s years ago and downloaded the Specials and up loaded the Magnums.
      You can certainly safely shoot a .308 in a 7.62 NATO as well as a .223 in a 5.56 NATO. The bore is the same BUT the exact measurements of the two cartridges are not. The NATO rounds, according to specs, may deliver pressures too high to be used in certain civilian models, and a shooter should pursue whether or not it is safe for his weapon.

    3. Chuck, Welcome Home!!! Thank you Bro for being there! Former USAF Security here! I was not IN Country , a tad bit young to have been there.
      Most of my instructors were.

      First, I must say I was responding to Big Al ‘s comments about his response to my describing the 5.56 NATO and the Russian 5.45 roughly a .17 caliber.
      His implications were that I was wrong.

      Again the US Military (among numerous others) have used the 5.56 for many decades. The former Soviet Union went from their 7.62 X 39 to the 5.45 Russian.

      I have qualified and carried all of the organic military firearms when I was Active Duty.

      Over the years me ands quite a few others have interchanged 5.56 NATO with the .223 Remington. Until recent years we found out the
      5.56 is loaded to higher chamber pressures. Thankfully we had no issues what-so-ever. No signs of higher pressures or blown primers or anything else. So as you pointed out THERE IS A DIFFERENCE between the rounds.

      Also conversely…the .308 Winchester is loaded to higher chamber pressure than the 7.62 x 51 NATO….so it is safe to shoot the 7.62 NATO round in the .308 Winchester.

      There are various AR-15 platforms that are marked 5.56 NATO ( and at least one or more different calibers) than can safely shoot both rounds/calibers. However IF it is marked .223 only then stay away from the 5.56 or face the eventual “Catastrophic Failure” and severe injury.

      Thank for your info. I am sure it will help some one out. 🙂

    4. No way to edit the above post/last post…… Not only were most of my instructors In Country / SEA, so were most of my Flight Chiefs. Also the comment should have read the 5.56 NATO being a .223 caliber and the 5.45 Russian being a .17 caliber and the various diameters Big Al was stating. A LOT of ammo has a different bore dimensions/size….was my main point…like the .38 Special for example, there are quite a few 9mms out there that will shoot the same projectiles/bullets……as well as the .357 Mag. The .357 Mag and the .44 Mag were developed from RESPECTIVLY the .357 Mag developed from the .38 Special…and the .44 Mag was developed from the .44 Special.

      Welcome Home Chuck!

  19. The USA has been using a 5.56/.223 rifle for decades… Russia converted to a 5.45mm cartridge – roughly a .17 caliber bullet??? Per typical metric conversion: 5.56mm is about 0.219″, while 5.45mm is about 0.215″. Pretty close! Don’t think the Ruskies missed their bore diameter by 0.05, do we?

    My personal choice = 45ACP, but it is really what you have with you & what you can handle effevtively.

  20. Bob, I failed to mention to your earlier comment, BUT I clearly stated in earlier posts….. I AM NOT A “Darling”. I am former USAF Security and other Security jobs. I have qualified with all military organic weapons. and other various handguns, shotguns, etc.

    I have read the article several times. No matter how you slice it/dice it, whatever form…..

    Our military uses a 5.56mm /.223 rifle and have done so for several Decades….. the Russians went from a 7.62 (.30 caliber bullet) to a 5.45 Russian (roughly a .17 caliber bullet) rifle.

    While arguing which bigger is better, is like asking a woman which is better, bigger or…….?

    No matter how many shootings you have seen victims of,…..you cannot deny shot placement is more important than caliber.

    What for you or me or someone else may not work for everybody out there.

    I do agree a person that decides to carry a firearm…SHOULD USE THE LARGEST CALIBER THEY CAN CARRY Concealed and be Accurate with. THAT DOES NOT MEAN a .50 S&W or 50 AE…….or .454 Casul or whatever Alaskan Moose or Bear gun!

    What works for them is what works for them..9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, or an FN5.7, or .357 Mag, or .38+P+. One can argue or debate any best caliber forever…….No matter if you drive a Chevy, a Ford, a Mercedes or a Porsche, or a Fiat or a Honda or whatever…….. It gets you there and back. THAT IS WHAT COUNTS!!!!

    1. Amen, Yosemite! I’ve been around guns all my life, been a reloader and had the opportunity to test almost every caliber. Nothing beats placement. A baseball bat proves that analysis.

      Aside from carry aspects, any knowledgeable shooter would prefer a rifle opposed to pistol in any sort of confrontation for deliberate shooting accuracy and power. (Yes, shotguns have power for limited ranges, but the shot spread could easily take innocent life, thus, their placement cannot be compared in this analogy.)

      Aside from accuracy (“shot placement”), the only major difference between handgun bullet effectiveness and rifle bullet effectiveness is the powder charge behind the bullet — summed up in the word “velocity”. All one has to do is compare the bullet weights and muzzle energies.

      As you infer, Yosemite, other than that, shooters love to talk and can get paid for keeping the wheel spinning.

      Loved your reply.

  21. How is a 45 acp more manageable than a quality 9mm? I have shot numerous 1911’s and Glock 21/30’s along with Springfield XD45’s. None of them recover as fast as a 9mm. Sure we’re talking a second of less but point being, the 9mm is very managable. That’s why many Police departments and the military went to the 9mm among other reasons. Sure cost was a factor but so was capacity and recoil recovery. The .40 vs the 45 acp, yeah I’ll agree any day of the week that the .40 recoil more. But not the 9mm. Put aside ypur bias, and do an honest comparison and you’ll find the 9mm’s lighter, faster handing with faster follow up shots and higher capacity mags. Not only that but the 9mm is a flatter shooting round with less drop at mid range should you ever need it.

  22. Dear Bob,

    Thank you for the kind comments. I suppose, buried in most people, is some desire to help others — if it does not require too much effort.

    I hate to see others make some of the same mistakes I have already made.

  23. Some of the history is inaccurate here… The 45 acp and 1911 were actually developed to replace the wholly inadequate 38 spl round for fighting the Moros in the Philippines. Most of these encounters were engaging fighters who jacked up on drugs and the 38 just didn’t do it.

    I laugh at the whole argument about caliber. As a hunter and former army medic who has seen a lot of wound channels, bullets kill when placed tactically. Its ridiculous. Granted a bigger, heavier round at proper velocities is going to impart significantly more force (resulting normally in more damage) on the end target.

    That said, I took 2 elk at 900 yards with a bullet that most people would claim shouldn’t be able to drop them. It was “too light”. But I am enjoying the meat as I write this.

    So having a gun to defend oneself is better than not. Period.

  24. Dave, I can see from your post here that you feel the 9mm is a very good and potent ammo, so there is no point in my trying to convince you otherwise here. In fact, even a .22 can be potent if aimed at the right place. But I would like to direct you to my ballistics file that shows without a doubt as to how weak the 9mm is. If you look at this file, you will see that the most powerful 9mm cartridge is a little bit more powerful as the weakest .357 Mag and weakest 45 ACP, but this is not comparing “apples to apples”.. You should compare the strongest vs. the strongest.

    Send me an email and I will gladly send back my free ballistics Microsoft Excel file that will dispel any issue regarding cartridge power. This ballistics Excel file is mainly for hand gun ammo, although I do have a few rifle ammos included, and some very impressive military hardware ballistics as well. The .45 ACP +P loads come close to almost double the power of the 9mm, and the .357 Mag can get to almost 3 times the 9mm’s power.

    I can be reached at vlavalle @ix.netcom.com. I have sent this file out already to a few here in this forum, and they have all been very impressed. Please note that is a full fledged Excel file and is NOT for smart phones with tiny screens.

    Vincent (05-02-2016)

  25. Well, well, well. LETS GET TO THE NITTY GRITTY!!! THANKS FOR THE COMMENTS!! WE NEED TO STAY ON TOPIC WHICH IS CONCEALED CARRY FOR SELF DEFENSE!! THE LAUGHABLE 9mm CARTRIDGE!
    1st most encounters are within 21feet or less and people will ONLY GET ONE SHOT!!! WE ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT COMBAT OR THE POLICE! SELF DEFENSE PEOPLE!!! CRIMNALS & DRUG USERS ARE WHAT WE HAVE TO DEAL WITH TODAY!!
    WITH THAT SAID, I WISH YOU LUCK WITH YOUR 9mm’s!! ESPECIALLY WITH THE DRUG USERS!!!
    MAYBE YOU SHOULD TALK TO THE VIETNAM VETERANS THAT HAD TO DEAL WITH A FOE HIGH ON DOPE!!! NOTHING LESS THAN A HEAD SHOT TO STOP THEM!!
    WITH YOUR SOUPED UP 9mm’s in a SMALL FRAME THE RECOIL IS NOT MANAGEABLE!!
    EVERYBODY DOES NOT HANDLE A PISTOL THE SAME WAY!!
    FURTHERMORE, THE RECOIL OF THE .45 acp IS MANAGEABLE. A PERSON NEEDS TO TRY DIFFERENT BRANDS AND DIFFERENT MODELS!!!!!! THERE WILL BE ONE THAT WILL BE MANAGEABLE!
    THE DESIGNS ARE DIFFERENT AND THE PISTOLS ALL HAVE DIFFERENT CHARACTERISTICS!! LET’S NOT FORGET THE AFTERMARKET ACCESSORIES!!! I HAD TO REPLACE THE STOCK HAND GRIPS THAT TOOK OUT THE SQUIRM IN THE GRIP WHEN I FIRED IT AND ADDED A QUALITY ADJUSTABLE SIGHTS! THE GRIPS CHANGED THE HANDLING CHARACTERISTICS OF THE PISTOL. A $325.00 PISTOL WITH $65.00 UPGRADES MADE MY RUGER P90 IN 45acp MANAGEABLE FOR ME TO PLACE THE 1st 3 ROUNDS IN THE BULLSEYE ( TAKE A QUARTER AND PLACE IT IN THE CENTER OF BULLSEYE – 1st 3 ROUNDS) I’M NO EXPERT!!

    DO YOUR RESEARCH AND YOU WILL FIND LAW ENFORCEMENT SHOOTING HUNDREDS OF ROUNDS ( WILD ROUNDS) OF YOUR 9mm’s AT ONE TARGET!!!!!!! MOST ARE MISSES PEOPLE!!!!
    A GREAT DANGER TO THE PUBLIC & INNOCENT!!!!
    WHAT I HAVE STATED IS BETTER TRAINING!!!!!!!!!!
    45acp is MANAGEABLE FOR ANYONE WHO IS LEGAL TO CARRY A FIREARM!!! GET THE RIGHT BRAND & MODEL THAT WORKS FOR YOU!!! YOU MAY HAVE TO UP GRADE WITH AFTER MARKET ACCESSORIES!!!
    AND ONE MORE THING PEOPLE …SHORT RANGE IS WHAT SEL DEFENSE IS ALL ABOUT!

    1. Good article, but I believe it misses the main point that statistically, the 38 spl, 9mm, 40 and 45 all require two shots to incapacitate a target. All of those popular calibers produce similar wound channels balistcally. That’s been proven. Unlike the 357 magnum, the 45 isn’t a one shot manstopper. My point is, if a controlled pair is required to adequately stop a threat, then I’d rather have a weapon which is faster handling, produces faster follow up shots and can penetrate light forms of mediums far better than the 45 acp due to velocity, when a threat takes cover. When the Cavalry and the Army went to the 45 from the 38 LC, it was because we used FMJ. With modern expanding bullets, HST etc, I find little need to tote around my 1911 with only seven rounds. Plus many 1911’s are ammo sensitive and prone to jamming with HP’s. I find modern 45 acp pistols too bulky for concealed carry. My Glock 19 brings me comfort knowing that I can carry all day, draw and get off two accurate shots in quick succession and have enough ammo left in the mag to deal with multiple threats. There’s a reason many Police departments are dumping their .40’s and 45’s in favor of 9mm’s. If you review reports of 9mm balistics in actual shootings, it may seem lack luster. But thats only because the vast majority of uneducated perps carry 9mm FMJ and not modern quality HP ammo. And if you only get one shot in a gunfight, I’d rather be carrying my 357 magnum vs a 45 acp any day. Not saying the 45 isn’t a great round. I own two as matter of fact. But statistically and thru my own experience, I carry my Glock 19 with tritium night sights and a viridian light/laser combo in a custom kydex holster loaded with 15 124g Federal HST’s or my four inch S&W 686 with 125g or 180g buffalo bore (when hunting in the lower 48). Just my .02

    2. ALL CAPS LOCK MEANS YOU ARE SHOUTING!!! Welcome to the internet.

      “NOTHING LESS THAN A HEAD SHOT TO STOP THEM!!” A head shot from a 9mm will stop anyone just as a head shot from a 45 would. This adds nothing to the argument.

      “WITH YOUR SOUPED UP 9mm’s in a SMALL FRAME THE RECOIL IS NOT MANAGEABLE!!
      EVERYBODY DOES NOT HANDLE A PISTOL THE SAME WAY!!
      FURTHERMORE, THE RECOIL OF THE .45 acp IS MANAGEABLE. A PERSON NEEDS TO TRY DIFFERENT BRANDS AND DIFFERENT MODELS!!!!!! THERE WILL BE ONE THAT WILL BE MANAGEABLE!”

      No logic to this statement at all. I don’t have a problem with 9mm recoil in small framed guns. You might, but just as you said, everybody does not handle a pistol the same way.

      “DO YOUR RESEARCH AND YOU WILL FIND LAW ENFORCEMENT SHOOTING HUNDREDS OF ROUNDS ( WILD ROUNDS) OF YOUR 9mm’s AT ONE TARGET!!!!!!! MOST ARE MISSES PEOPLE!!!!”

      What??? How would shooting a 45 rectify that situation?

  26. I read an article recently about an the author asking a combat medic and now emergency room surgeon with over 20 years in OR about what pistol caliber is the best. The idea being that he’s seen plenty of bullet trauma up close and should know what works. In short what he said that it doesn’t matter the caliber. What matters is how many rounds on target and where they hit. One 9 mm shot to the heart or head is better than 4 – .45 shots to the extremities – and vice versa. A double stack magazine gives you more opportunities than a single stack. Makes alot of sense! Shoot what want and make sure you train so you’re comfortable!

  27. Unfortunately the article is little more than a collection of anecdotes and unsupported opinions. It may be fun to read, but with so little scientific data or process, it has little value beyond that. It is hard to argue with in that it talks about overall effectiveness but does not really define what that is, how it is measured, or how various loads in the calibers considered scored. Who ca argue with that?

    1. Also I find it interesting that the same people extolling the constitutional virtues of personal freedom don’t waste any time telling others what THEY need to be doing and that what currently works for them is wrong.

  28. I once heard the question asked “why do you carry a 45?” The answer “the Germans lost two world wars carrying 9 mm.” I didn’t have to think about that very long. Been carrying a Colt Gold Cup for 30 years.

    1. Practice with a 9mm to get the technique down if you like. Defend your life with .45ACP. Nobody should have to shoot twice and be wasteful with ammo.

    2. As Col. Jeff Cooper (USMC deceased), so often said:”Anything worth shooting, is worth shooting twice. Ammunition is cheap, life is expensive.”
      Once an attacker is disabled, a second shot will end the threat, FOREVER. One thing I learned in the Military and many, many years as an ‘Independent Contractor’, PMC/PSC, Soldier of Fortune, Mercenary, or whatever term you wish, is, ‘Never leave a live enemy behind you.’ Never leave a live attacker at your back.’ 1. If only wounded, they can still reach a weapon and kill you. 2. It was a gross misunderstanding on your part. They never meant to hurt you. 3. You will ‘always’ be in the wrong. No matter what. Your attacker is on the ground, unarmed, you are standing over him with a weapon in your hand. 4. Dead men tell no tales. Dead he can’t lie and say you attacked him.

    3. A Men Jim.

      I suppose the next bout of revisionist history will state they won–

  29. The 9mm is so inferior it is Laughable. The Author Should go and get all the FBI statistics and Test Evaluations from them.
    Most Confrontations take place at 21 feet or less. Close shots. No need for +p or +p+ loads. Furthermore, most Shots were missed (so called Wild Shots) and these were from Law Enforcement and not the regular Joe Citizen. This creates MORE DANGER to the PUBLIC than the Criminal.
    The larger Calibers are extremely MORE Effective starting with the .40 caliber on up. You Only Need SUB SONIC VELOCITIES with these Bullets. They make LARGE Wounds, DEEP Penetration, DO NOT TRAVEL FAR in POPULATED AREAS, and Can Penetrate Car windows. Try Shooting a 9mm at a Car Window. It will Bounce OFF. I have seen this on Police Recordings of LEO Cams. These Shots were at CLOSE RANGE and the CRIMINAL just Drove AWAY!
    What is REALLY NEEDED IS BETTER TRAINING for LEO’S. With Modern Technology and Materials the .40 calibers on up can be used in a Firearm of Lighter Weight and Still have REASONABLE RECOIL.
    That is why the FBI came up with the 10mm cartridge. Even the .45acp in Modern Handguns have HIGH CAPACITY ( FNH FNX – 45). I am a SMALL MAN with SMALL HANDS with SLENDER BUILD and the .45acp Recoil is MILD Enough to Shoot ACCURATELY.
    I have a RUGER P 90 and with a Change in Hand Grips and Adjustable Sights I am Able to Place the First 3 Rounds on the BULLSEYE at 25 Feet. I am no Expert . So, ALL these So-Called EXPERTS are FOOLS!
    I WILL STICK with MY .45acp’s. All FOUR of Them. Easy to SHOOT & ACCURATE!!

    1. Ahh yes another hater of the 9 and purveyor of knowledge. Ever see the rounds pulled from corpses? I’ll bet not. Ever read a certain document by an expert in ballistics wounding thats used by nearly every us agency and military? Of course not.

      A 9 mm fmj will pierce a heart or lung just like a .45 and the minimal difference in diameter will mean absolutely nothing since both rounds will destroy the organ.

      What does matter is if you miss your first shot or pull your second. Recoil of 45’s and 40’s are much higher than 9mm which slows shot to shot time and that cannot be disputed. I’d much prefer to have two 9mm rounds impact closely ON target than to have 2 45 or 40 rounds spread out in the same time frame. Unless you are a exceptional competition shooter I highly doubt you can shoot 2 or 3 rounds on target of 45 or 40 in less time than you can 3 or 4 with a 9.

      As for diameter, nearly all testing shows minimal difference between 9 and 45 and by minimal I refer to about .010″. If you bet your life on those thousandths, you’re a better gambler than I.

      Penetration? Fed hst is the most consistent performer across the board in fbi testing but seems that isn’t good for personally opinionated arguments.

      Multiple rounds, quickly and on target is all I ever hear advocated by any trainers that are worth their salt and its the only logical stance in todays world of high capacity weapons. This notion of bigger is better is only touted by nostalgic “shooters” of the good ole days who love to say ” if you can’t do it in ( insert 1, 6, 7, or 8 ) then you shouldn’t be carrying a gun”.

    2. Oh I love how this guy accuses people of using flawed math and logic, but then goes on to say “big bullets do more damage” and bones and vital organs are more likely to be hit, when the difference between the 9mm and the .45 is like .1 sq inches at full expansion. and depending on the load the 9mm will actually expand to a larger diameter than the same design .45 ACP.

      You also have to love his “I have a few cases that show one shot stops from a large caliber” but “9mm is all over the map”
      completely hiding and discarding the 1 shot stops with 9mm’s because it does not fit his BIAS

    3. The 9mm is hardly inferior. There are many test and yes, by Experts that show the 9mm is very close to the 45. You might want to also actually look up FBI testing and find that they are now moving and have been using the 9mm. along with many Law Enforcement officers. Not to mention that the 9mm ballistics come close to the 357 magnum, without the harsh recoil and noise that can blow out a eardrum. Not to mention that 9mm is so available, cheaper, easy to reload etc. all of which increase training time and at a lower cost expense. Long live the 9mm!

    4. Sadly there is some truth to that. I carry 45 in the form of an xds with tritium speed sights, aftermarket trigger, sandpaper grip enhancements, 6 rnd mag +1, 2 spare mags for a total of 21 rounds. I edc that. My ammo of choice is now the underwood loading of the Lehigh defense xtreme defense bullet. None of that is as cheap as a 9 with ammo that might not be the latest and the greatest but will certainly get the job done, however, comma, I’ll take my rig over any 9 setup in a self defense situation.

      I’m not trying to save $ I’m trying to save my life.

      I understand money is an issue and cheaper training leads to more training, which is only a good thing presumably. .. 9 has it’s appeal

      Again tho im not cutting corners I’m cutting tissue.

      Gotowargun? Might be an m9a3 or some such just because I could easily carry more ammo. I feel tho that the advantages of the 45 outweigh the drawbacks in a sd scenario IF you are willing to carry an xtra mag or two, which I am

  30. The thing with the light High// Heavy Velocity, is that they usually do not tend to penetrate deep enough. I do agree they are going to make a most devastating wound channel……….Butt say using such a load on a BAD GUY….. that is over 300 pounds……..I do agree in GENERAL that a bullet that fully expands and stays inside the body s going to cause some serious trauma and cause more damage PROVIDED the bullet penetrates deep enough to hit the CNS or vital organs. One gets “TERMINAL ENERGY DUMP” of the bullet.. say like compare with being hit by a fist and being hit with a finger……. just some food for thought for anyone interested in this subject…..

    1. Yosemite,
      I agree. You are planning for the worst case scenario, not the average. I have arrived just after the fact and found a number of shootings that did not fit the general expectations and experienced an under penetration myself by the gun writers (of the day) darling, the 200 grain Flying Ashtray. Expansion to .99 is good but not when it stops in a few inches of hard bone and gristle. Our protein fed ex con criminal class is often big and mean. Not much to do in prison but work out and eat.

    2. bob Campbell, Note what I said above “……….I do agree in GENERAL that a bullet that fully expands and stays inside the body s going to cause some serious trauma and cause more damage PROVIDED the bullet penetrates deep enough to hit the CNS or vital organs………..” There have been a number of cases where a person has had adequate penetration but no vital organs were hit…a through and through shot. There have been numerous bullet failures for what ever reasons as mentioned elsewhere.. There is no such thing as a “magic bullet” that does it all…..kind of hard for ball ammo to fail…..

      Pretty much I tend to think we are in full agreement….

    3. MAC on youtube and Iraqvet88 both have videos up with this fun new solid copper, non-expanding, barrier blind, JHP cavitation surpassing, round. Xtreme defender/defense. Won’t just make a shallow splash, won’t over penetrate or underpenetrate. Sounds too good to be true?

    4. “Terminal energy dump”? You don’t know what that means. It equates to the temporary cavity and that’s all. In other words it’s next to meaningless in a handgun load short of 44 mag and up and even then. What matters is permanent wound cavity not some myth of energy dump which goes hand in hand with ” stopping power”.

      As for a finger or a fist, I know some folks whose fingers are more lethal than a fist but here’s some physics for you, the target feels about the same energy as the shooter does and no handgun is going to knock anyone end over end let alone any shotgun or even rifle. A 50 cal will pop a human like a balloon but won’t flip em over.

      As for others who’ve mentioned Lehigh…. at least some people are paying attention.

    5. Terminal energy dump, temporary cavity, etc, mean nothing. All that matters is actual damage. Adequate penetration and damage. You are correct concerning these myths. Stopping power does not exist but wound potential does. As for all of the new ammo types, well, quality control is going to mean the most to me. If they survive multiple chamberings without bullet set back and immersion in solvent, oil and water, then they might be service grade. I think that when the OSP fired 228,000 rounds of Winchester and Speer ammunition without a single ammunition related failure we can trust these loads. Just every lightweight bullet load with an odd OAL isn’t going to work in every firearm.

    6. What I meant by “Terminal Energy Dump” is the bullet depleted all of it’s energy and velocity inside the body/target and did not over penetrate is what I meant by it and not any particular other definition.

      Over the years the military has experimented with various flechette type rifles. I recall Sig made one of the Prototypes……The flechettes penetrated both sides of a human body…..The wound channel and all that…..but the rounds were not effective combat rifle rounds. Flechette rounds are used by some in shotguns and were employed in other weapons such as the “Beehive” tank round.

      I never said anything about knocking anyone down with a hand gun or any other round. Although I don’t know of many that can remain standing when hit once or twice, with a load of # 4 Buckshot to the gut or center mass…..Even with a vest AND the inserts…………. I am sure there are some people that can stand their and act like nothing happened.

      As for the .50 BMG does besides vaporizes heads, and other serious devastating and catastrophic damage. I take the word of my Brother vets that have been there done that…that have.seen the results first hand or the pics of the results. There are a few videos on the net out there.

      I would have no trouble relying upon an FN5.7 for a handgun…. accurate and no perceptible recoil. A tiny bullet yes…. no doubt Col Cooper would refer to it as a “poodle shooter”.. but also deadly. I still like my 1911 .45

      A direct hit to the CNS with any caliber from any firearm is going to stop the fight in the bad guy.

      Does anyone have any ballistics data on the compact 9mm NATO vs the .380 ACP????
      The 9mm NATO is developed for the full size 9mms and the chopped down ones must be losing something…… While the .380 ACP is meant for the smaller framed weapon…….is not going to be losing anything.

    7. GunTests doe a lot of testing with ammo.
      Most often the 90 grain JHP runs around 880-920 fps in most .380 pistols.

      9mm 115 gr jhp from a SW Shield usually runs about 1050-1100 fps.
      that is a significant difference in the two calibers

      the 9mm uses powder efficiently, it is a small high pressure cartridge so the velocity loss isn’t that severe, usually on the order of 50-70 fps.

    8. Bob, thank you. I have seen where some writers say the .380 does not expand. Most of the various hollowpoints I have fired do regularly expand. Some not to the depth I would like to see in various mediums….. but they do fire reliably and no failures from any of them as of yet.

      I also do not see the justification FOR MYSELF…in selling trading my .380 for a 9mm…..at the range I will be needing to be using it, it is not really going to matter……

  31. Big calibers are nice, but “shot placement” rules. One hit with a smaller caliber is better than several misses with a bigger one. Shoot what you can hit with!

  32. Barry, Thanks for the response. I got the impression from your earlier message that you implied that the ammo you mentioned was really hot, and you didn’t seem to emphasize its high speed, so I responded to its power. But if you are really enamored with high speed, MagSafe makes two 45 ACP cartridges with much higher muzzle velocities (and thus, much smaller bullets). Email me and I will send you my free MS Excel file and you can track down these and perhaps order them!

    Vincent (04-30-2016)

    1. Thank you as well! Really what I’m most enamored with if we wanna get right down to it is the Lehigh defense bullet. Pretty new though so it won’t be for everyone. ..

  33. I carry. a GLOCK .45 for home defense an carry with 230 grain FMJ ammo nothing fancy. This round has proven it self in many wars and confrontations worldwide has been a man stopper for over a 100 years. It works!

    1. The only trouble with ball ammo is that it tends to over penetrate/ Of course it does not expand.. It DOES leave a rather large temporary “balloon” in the wound channel.

      The .38 Special in RNL or Jacketed ball ammo is not USUALLY a very effective or accepted as a defense round, just for example….. but notice how the +P and +P+ rounds are generally wildly accepted as such to be adequate or better in a defensive round.

  34. I was watching a self-defense related program recently where a paramedic with 20 years experience in Houston was interviewed. I was shocked to hear him say that, within reason, caliber was of little importance, it was the number and placement of hits that mattered. To be fair, he was talking about victim survival, not stopping power, but few people ever see as many gunshot wounds as the medic has.
    I agree that there is a limit to how much gun weight is bearable, and the best gun is always the one you have when you need it. Absent a medical condition, recoil is manageable with practice. my 66 year old 5 foot tall wife has no problems with her 1911s or her .375 & .450 rifles. She also has no trouble with my Glock 20 in 10mm, but that is likely due to the polymer frame soaking up the punch. I think the bottom line is to always carry the baddest thing you can shoot well.

    1. Boggman, That paramedic is most correct. Shot placement matters THE MOST…. nothing beats accuracy of a well placed shot in stopping any bad guy! The bullet will need to adequately penetrate into the Central Nervous System (CNS). Most decent quality .22LRs are capable of doing such….

      BUT for the firearms ammo to be able to so is going to make the owner to practice, practice, practice, and practice some more and to constantly practice! The owner of any firearm MUST DO THEIR PART.

      I have to disagree with you about the polymer frame “soaking up the punch”. The polymer frame is lighter than a metal frame….thus reducing the weight of the firearm. Now the grip angle may effect the felt/perceived recoil. then again a person well trained learns or has learned on how to handle the recoil. Foot placement, proper stance/grip, a firm but NOT overpowering grip, lean into the firearm…..at least with heavy caliber rifles or shotguns with magnum loads….. The weight of the firearm helps tame the recoil, along with muzzle brakes, stock / grip configurations/ etc……

    2. The opinion about the polymer frame dampening recoil came from a friend, a certified armorer, and retired sherif’fs” deputy. There is high speed video showing the large amount of flexing that a polymer frame pistol undergoes when firing. There is also the issue that if we do not accept that idea, we run the risk of bruising the egos of the FBI agents who found the recoil of the 10MM to be too excessive!

    3. Boggman, we must have read the same article! I commented pretty much what you said too! Great article! Cheers!

  35. I myself chose to carry , Colt 1911 Gov. stainless 38 SUPER. My choice of ammo, Glaser Pow’R Ball polymer capped 38 Super +P with a velocity 1525 fps. Energy 516 ft. / lbs. Next I choose is Cor-Bon 38 Super + P JHP 125 gr. With a velocity of 1325 fps, Energy 487 ft/ lbs. Very accurate and deadly. Where I aim they hit. Very pleased. when you carry , and if it is an auto, always carry at least 2 extra-mags for you will not know what you may come up against. A little much is better than not enough fire power.

  36. I have fired the Atomic 185gr (600+fpe) load in a Ruger P97, Springfield XD and Springfield XDs. It feeds & functions flawlessly in all 3. It is my favorite carry load in the P97 & XD. However, with the XDs being a 23oz pistol, I defer to Speer 200gr Gold Dot +P (400fpe) in the smaller gun. Yes, the XDs will handle the Atomic ammo just fine. It is a bit much in the recoil department. I have found that MOST currently loaded HP ammo in 45ACP feeds/functions well in MOST modern pistols. You just have to determine which ones expand/penetrate sufficiently.

  37. Barry, in response to your note regarding the 45 +P ammo “At 120 grains, with its very light for [this] caliber, yet at 1420fps the +p carries an advertised 537 ft lbs muzzle energy”, but this is not very powerful for a 45 ACP +P load. The Atomic 45 +P comes in 2 variants, and the more powerful one is a 185gr bullet with a muzzle velocity of 1225, resulting in 616 ft. lbs.. And there are yet even more powerful 45 ACP +P ammo – such as those made by Buffalo Bore who makes several with muzzle energy of 639 and another with 694 ft. lbs.

    If you would like a free copy of my Microsoft Excel file of mainly hand gun ballistics, email me at vlavalle @ix.netcom.com. This list links you to actual sites online where you can buy ammo, and it also lists cost per load, so you can easily buy the best bang-for-the-buck ammo as well. I update this weekly, trying to keep current on prices and availability.

    I have shot the Atomic ammo ($.76-$.84/rd.) numerous times and it is accurate and flawless. But keep in mind, I have a single action Ruger Blackhawk 5.5″ Convertible Flattop (shoots both 45 ACP and 45 LC), and not a semi-auto 45, so jamming is not an issue with my gun. But steel cases are, so I recommend to all to stay away from those. Also, the 45 LC ammo varies a lot more in power than any 45 ACP, from low power Cowboy loads (250 ft. lbs.) all the way up to near 44 Mag +P loads (1344 ft. lbs.). I highly recommend this Excel file (not for Smart phones) to anyone who buys already loaded ammo..

    Vincent (04-30-2016)

    1. Not tryin to say it has the highest power, but it does in that bullet. And I don’t reload just yet so I love that I found some great hot fast barrier blind ammo. And my edc is 45 acp not long colt and I love light fast bullets so I love that speed, again in that bullet. If you haven’t already done so, check em out. If you find that bullet in a hotter load I’ll buy it today.

  38. Well written, and true to the facts. My favorite gun is in fact a small, but very heavy gun. 3″ 44mag round but S&W,Mod 629. However that is not the gun I keep on me. Because the most effective gun is not the one you leave at home. There is a very shoot-able Beretta Pico 380 tucked into a pocket holster and with me at all times. With more time and a cover shirt, I also like the Glock 27,40cal (small but effective)

  39. When a knowledgeable gun owner asks me, “Why do you shoot .45 ACP?” my answer is “Jeff Cooper,” and that usually does the trick!

    1. HOORAH!, for Col.Cooper and his ‘Art of The Pistol’ and his love of the 1911 in .45 ACP. However, let us not forget Elmer Keith and his love of ‘Bigger is better’ & ‘If it ain’t big, it ain’t crap.’ Plus, he gave us the .44 Mag.

  40. I personally edc an xds in .45 with 4.0 in barrel. 2 sparemags. Based on gel tests and others experience, I have found what works for me. The underwood loading of the Lehigh defense xtreme defense bullet in +p. At 120 grains it’s very light for caliber yet at 1420fps the +p carries an advertised 537 ft lbs muzzle energy.

    1. Barry
      Thanks for reading. Looks like you are well armed.
      Those all copper bullets are very interesting and seem to do what they are intended to do.

  41. I was in a bar in vista California, 1985, a biker was bothering a girl to the point where she pulled a .22mag, he said that would just make him mad, she said, after placing the gun on his chest…lets just see how mad I can make you,
    I carry a .45 EAA witness hunter 6″ ..the extra weight helps hold the big boy down. I have shot swat loads…40 gr. 2000fps- 230gr 950fps 185 gr silvertips and golden sabers/now my house round is the new RIP round by G2 research. I would not want to be shot with any one of them and suspect the same from an intruder… one or two should do the trick…if you do carry a smaller caliber be sure to keep pulling till you get the job done. I have heard and read several stories about people getting hit with multiple 9mm rounds and kept coming at the person that was shooting, and only one where a person was shot with a .45 and did not drop…he got hung up on the car door that he was using for cover…large caliber all the way, or a mag full of little one’s

  42. Yosemite,
    Very well written and well thought out piece. Generally, for anyone knowledgeable and trained, I am in complete agreement. However, I am concerned about the uneducated and, in my opinion, the uninformed.
    I know several people who are otherwise above ordinary intelligence and yet they are completely ingenues when it comes to firearms. These people own companies, practice law or medicine and have outsized egos. They exhibit self confidence but do not always know as much as they think they do on every subject.
    They are caught up in their lives and careers and either do not have or will not take the time to become educated on the subject. Two are almost completely untrained and are armed with .380s and whatever box of ammo they were sold when they bought the pistols. A third has a .22 in a revolver because she is a single woman who thinks she is completely safe traveling to horse shows all over the country because she has a gun in her purse.
    She got into an oral confrontation a year or so back at a rest area off an interstate highway late at night. She had taken a show horse out of the trailer, late at night, to give it water and exercise. That disturbed a couple of scruffy looking young men who hassled her about her horse defecating on the grass in front of their vehicle — described as an old pickup. Fortunately for her, a husband/wife team truck drivers happened along and came to her assistance. But, given her nature and devotion to her horse, she was all set to take them on over the issue of horse crap –by herself, late at night in a remote rest area. She was confident her little pistol would keep her safe. While I do not know exactly, I doubt she has ever fired it. She dodges the question.
    I am trying to educate her to consider relative merit of her values. Her horse is not worth her life, traveling alone at night is not a really good idea and if she must, having a .22 revolver is not necessarily going to stop one or two angry men bent on hurting her.
    I have no doubt that a 9mm in the hands of a SEAL, Delta Force operator and a well trained law officer can do the job. But, what about those who lack knowledge and experience and who cannot or won’t devote time to training and gaining knowledge? Those who know their tools and who are trained in their employment may be just fine with a .380, provided that they can place their shots in critical areas. But, do we have any duty to warn those who lack knowledge and skill? If “experts” who are published espouse an opinion that a marginal cartridge can do the job in well trained hands, is it much of a leap to the uniformed that it is all they need? That is my concern.
    I pack either a 10mm or a .45 ACP, always carry two extra mags and still believe that I might be vulnerable in the right situation. What about someone with a .380, no extra mag and a false sense of confidence that may encourage him/her to venture some place they should not otherwise go.
    The public is arriving at the opinion that owning a pistol might be a good thing, if the numbers on gun sales and background checks is any indicator. Is the next problem, employing those implements in self defense with less than powerful caliber, by an ill informed public who has false confidence? Of course, I cannot be certain or know the future. But, I worry about misleading someone without background or experience.

    1. Hi MacII, I thank you for your nice comments and I do agree with you about people not educating, training, practicing and general lack of care in acquiring ANY firearm.

      All firearms are tools and each is designed to do a specific job…….Though one or some firearms may handle several jobs a, and do them well. THAT DEPENDS ON the person that has trained and spent range time and a lot of practice, practice, practice, practice some more.

      I am former USAF Security Specialist now known as Security Forces. I have worked other armed Security jobs over the years. I have qualified, and handled and carried a vast variety of firearms over the years. handguns, M-16s, M-60 Machineguns, M-79/M-203s, etc..,…

      I know the feeling what you mean about the woman with the horse. There was a young woman that worked at a convenience store usually late at night that wanted to learn how to shoot and get a firearm. I told her any time she wanted to go out and do some shooting tell me and I would let her handle a variety of firearms…….One day I stopped in on my way from work and she had went to a gun shop or a pawn shop…not sure and it does not matter……she bought a .25 ACP… BECAUSE it WAS CHEAP and the guy that sold it to her said it would stop him……..

      I had a nephew that was murdered with a .25 ACP shot straight into his heart. Mostly unless it is a very lucky shot a .25 ACP is useless and is only going to piss some off if they get hit with it or MAYBE scare them off because of the noise.

      I do FIRMLY BELIEVE a person should carry the biggest caliber that they can handle and shoot accurately and consistently and it does not have any issues…ie FTFeed, extract and eject, whatever…..

      THAT being said that does NOT mean one should carry a .44 Mag, .50 AE, 50 S&W, .454 Casul, or any of the other “Alaskan Bear Guns” (IF you will allow that term) or Behemoth calibers….

      When taught properly…a novice is easier to teach than an experienced shooter…. Start them off with an air pistol or a decent .22 LR such as the Ruger convertible Single Six or other .22LR revolver and work them up with larger calibers from there as they grow more confident and skills are showing/ being demonstrated. Working with such people that have no “flinches” or other bad habits, usually are more accurate and better shooters. As I posted elsewhere I know of one woman that had never shot or handled any firearm. I worked her up to my 1911 .45 ACP that could out shoot me with it. Even to my .41 Mag. She could have my Six ANY DAY at any given time…

      Some people are more or less see things on TV/ Movies from all of the Police and other shoot’em up scenes and believe that is what happens in any shooting with whatever firearm…. So they believe whatever most anyone will tell them when it comes to firearms and once they have one…..

      Most will most likely ever do much practice as needed or probably never fire the weapon to break it in or try different types of ammo.

      To break in any firearm one shoot 500-1000 rounds to break it in. In the semi-autos ie 1911s for example, the breaking in will do a lot of polishing and smoothing out…… one does not need to spend the $$$ to have things done to a brand new out of the box pistol, they have never fired. Many will so though.

      The woman with the horses and the .22 if you have the time and she has the time take her to the range….whatever it takes to get her there. Let her handle various weapons, revolvers and semi autos…..any and all that you can let her handle and shoot. Something else I have found to do is use “reactive targets” if you can…… Such as unopened coke/soda cans and liter/2 liter plastic bottles that have carbonated whatever contents in them. Also grapefruits/oranges, melons……etc.
      The effects of the bullets on them gives them a bit of a good feeling.

      She may or may not be able to handle a .50 AE or 50 S&W but she probably would not do so……..but I have no doubt she could eventually handle a .38 Special +P or +P+. Possibly by a .357 Mag and carry those loads in it. It would also give her dual calibers!

      There are smaller handguns in larger caliber these days such as in 9mm or .40 S&W, or .45 ACP for example. When I bought my .380 years ago, it was the largest caliber and small semi auto I could find that fit my hand….. yes of course I ALWAYS have more then one magazine.

      I have larger caliber firearms but they are too big for me to carry concealed… so I stick with what I know will go bang, is accurate, and if the bullets do not expand so be it..at least the bad guy is going to have an unwanted perforation in his/her body and be leaking much needed bodily fluids.

      I have a question for all out there….. Most .380s 9mm Kurtz/Short are designed for the short barrels so the bullets do not lose velocity as much as a small 9mm NATO that has the barrel shortened to make it more concealable.

      So How does the shorter barrel effect the velocity of the 9mm NATO
      , vs the velocity of the .380??? I do not have any equipment to tell or show results……..

    2. Yosemite,
      Well said and really nothing I can disagree with. I suspect you and I could be friends.
      I have done much the same as you with novice shooters, at the range and otherwise. Each of my grandchildren I have tried to take to Eastern Oregon to a friend’s ranch. He, among other things, raises alfalfa and he is infested with rats — digger squirrels. They are everywhere and you can actually get quite close to them. I have each child shoot one with a .22 hollow point and then we carefully, with implements, examine the corpse. Someone told me that their fleas can transmit bubonic plague. I want them to understand the destructive power of even the lowly .22. It is graphic but my grandsons are, without exception, very, very conscious of gun safety. Seeing a partially dismembered corpse of a rat they have just shot is a graphic lesson and makes a point about what a firearm does to tissue and even bone.
      One grandson, at age 13, regularly accompanied e to a local range. The range officers were very leery at first of letting him shoot. After watching him a couple times, the senior range officer told me he could shoot any time, whether I was there or not. He regularly shoots my old Series 70 Colt Combat Commander (4.25 inch barrel) steel frame .45 ACP and he shoots better than quite a few other shooters at the range. It is bone stock except for the sights which were replaced with night sights and Pachmyer rubber grips which are far older than he is.
      I try to make sure all of my grandchildren, and anyone else who would like to, fires a .22, a .45, my 1903A3 30-06 (steel butt plate, completely stock rifle) and my shorty 12 gauge Mossberg 500.
      We discuss the recoil issue and I demonstrate that while the gun (except for the .22) is going to recoil forcefully, it won’t hurt nearly as much as they might imagine. When held properly, it is not going to do any permanent damage.
      I am a firm believer in the idea that we are sometimes our own worst enemy. If we think it is going to hurt, it dams sure will. But, if we believe that we will feel it but so what? It is not going to physically injure us, break bones or do any lasting harm.
      I went through boot camp a long time ago and thought it was impossible to get through it. A wise DI, who was later killed in I Corp, took me aside and counseled me that I could do it if I thought I could. I got my mind right and proved he was right. Gunnery sergeant John Mikikus. The world lost a great warrior when he died, and a great man. But, the point is that we can always do more than we think we can. However, if we think we cannot, we surely cannot.
      I try to teach the same thing about handling recoil and thus far, it has worked. It is a mental state as much as anything, in my experience. In my experience, most people who can wrap their mind around that idea go on to shoot the .45 ACP and some shoot it quite well. It is about the idea being firmly lodged in their head that it is not going to be that bad and they can tolerate it. Then, they can. GSGT Mikitus taught me something like that and I have shared it with all who will want to learn. If my life has been a success, it is due in large measure to him.

    3. MacII I suspect you are right about being friends. I would like for us to make that happen. Please send me an email if you would/want to make it happen! 🙂

    4. Yosemite,
      Been at a wedding out of town all weekend. Just saw your reply. I can’t find an email for you but send me a text at (541) 520-7973 and I will reply with our email address. Not sure I want to post my email on a public blog for all to see but would like to make contact with you.

    5. So you don’t want everyone to know your email address, but you post your phone number for everyone to see. Holy cow. Send a message to the moderator, or hopefully they will read this message and remove your phone number.

  43. One thing about this article not said, while I do agree BIGGER IS BETTER in most cases, is not always true.

    What counts most IN ALL CASES is bullet placement. In handguns it does not matter what the caliber is, but the weapon MUST FIT YOUR HAND COMFORTABLY. If it does not fit your hand, most likely you will not have any decent accuracy.

    When carrying concealed I may carry a .380 and have no issues about it. I know it’s limitations and I know and realize what the caliber was designed for. FYI the .380 ACP is also known as the 9mm Kurtz or 9mm Short. The basic/standard ballistics on the .380 may be a bit better than .the standard .38 Special 158 gran RNL.

    I have other handguns in 9mm NATO and 1911 .45 ACP. both are hard a tad difficult to carry concealed for me to carry concealed. mostly light clothing and no jacket. Winter time is no trouble at all to carry the larger framed weapons.

    All of that being said…..THERE IS NO MAGIC BULLET!!! Not one bullet out there will do everything. No matter what you want to call the vast variety of all the new self-defense loads. Many factors as noted can cause the bullet not to expand….. If so guess what…it is going to act exactly like ball ammo. So no reason not to use such new fangled bullets as long as the feed and function with no issues in your firearm.

    Again all of that being said I would not hesitate to carry an FN5. other than it’s size and I would gladly carry ONE IN THE OPEN. It is accurate. no noticeable recoil. and an effective round but no doubt some would just consider the caliber to be ( pardon me quoting Col Jeff Cooper) a “Poodle Shooter”. There are also several different handguns chambered in 5.56 NATO/.223.

    Col. Cooper was big fan of Bigger is be and better,.
    I also like the .41 Magnum. The 10mm mag was/is the ballistic equivalent of the ’41 Mag. The Bren Ten never actually made it in large numbers. The FBI went to the 10mm Mag and found most of their agents had issues with the recoil. they then went to the “attenuated”10”.
    Ballistically recreating the .45 more or less. Yes there were issues with the Colt 1911’s in 10mm Mag. BUT carrying on the same line S&W developed the .40 S&W pick what ever reason you like but S&W was well liked by the Gov’t at the time. I know and have trained women of light stature to shoot and they had no trouble handling my 1911 and could out shoot me with it.

    The 9mm has been around Europe and other countries and works for them. The British SAS carried the Browning Hi-Power at one time and for years.

    No matter pick what works best for you.. Firearm, caliber, bullet type and weight, sites, grips, whatever. It is YOUR LIFE and perhaps loved ones and others that depend on it! Your decision and clearly your choice to make.

  44. The soft .457-inch ball of the Colt Army at 900 fps is as effective a combination as anyone could ever field.
    Love that statement.. I own 6 cap and ball pistols, all 45 caliper and everyone has sufficient penetration (Wood) to make be believe I could survive with them.Would I carry one as a self defense weapon? Only if i could empty and clean them as often as I should so I use the 9mm. My cap and ball seems to have more penetration at a longer distance but then if confronted I suspect it would be within 10 yards so the 9mm seems to be acceptable to me.
    Great informative article for this novice.

  45. I loved this article! I am a long time owner of a Ruger 357 Blackhawk (6 1/2″ barrel) single action revolver which shoots both 38 Special and 357 Magnums. I recently purchased another Ruger Blackhawk – a 45 Colt Flattop convertible (shoots both 45 ACP and 45 long colt ammo with different cylinders). I sue both of these for target practice and use to quick draw with my 357 from a western holster.. I am a firm believer that the bigger the caliber, the more effective the weapon will be, either for hunting or for personal defense.

    I have never shot anyone with any weapon, so I cannot comment first hand how the bigger caliber does versus the smaller ones, but I have shot low powered 38 special up to very hot 45 Colt ammo, and there is a HUGE difference. I would consider that the 38 special is very similar to the 9mm in power and effectiveness.

    But to make this all clear scientifically, I have put together an Excel spreadsheet that list many handgun calibers – their power (ballistics) and where to purchase them online. Of course, I include in the spreadsheet what is costs per round, which ranges from about $.25 to $3! The smaller calibers cost less in general, but NOT always. I use this Excel file to order ammo online myself, and I usually get the best bang-for-the-buck ammo. For high power 357 mag, this is usually under $.50 per round for the 357, around $.80 a round for the +P 45 ACP, and between $1.00-$1.50 for the 45 PC +P ammo.

    This list will make it VERY clear as to how low power the 9 mm is, and how much more powerful any of the bigger calibers are. So, this issue should ever be challenged! But there are several other factors which Bob raised, such as recoil, and weight, and the bullet itself. These factors very greatly from specific ammo to ammo as well as the design of the gun. Can you get a 45 ACP semi-auto hand gun that does not recoil much – yes! But then it may weigh more than you like or the ideal weight. But the weight issue is somewhat nebulous – can you hold it in your hands and shoot 10-20 rounds without being exhausted? Or is it too heavy to carry around on your person? It seems to me that most people could manage either of these, so it really comes down to more of a personal feeling as to what you are more comfortable with.

    But just ‘personal comfort’ does not bare much for personal defense, or if hunting. Once you get ‘trained’ (either by self with practice, or professionally), bigger has a lot more impact. If your are a small framed person, such as many women are, then a heavier gun it perhaps just too hard to hold out in front of you for more than 20 seconds, so here a smaller gun and hence, a smaller caliber is better. If you are strong enough to hold out a heavier gun in front of yourself for say 40 seconds, the bigger caliber is for you!

    One more point to make is the cost of the ammo. While 9 mm ammo is the cheapest after 22 ammo, the 45 ACP ammo is not far behind. So, it is incorrect to think that you will save a lot of money shooting (practicing and plinking) with the smaller caliber 9 mm vs. the other larger ammo, especially with the 45 ACP ammo.

    Send me an email and I will be glad to send you my Excel ammo ballistics file. This is a full fledge Excel file and is NOT for smart phones. It has some rifle ballistics as well, but is 90% is hand gun ammo oriented. I also have a special military section which includes some Gatling guns, cannons, and WW II big battleships (which will blow your mind on how powerful these were). vlavalle @ ix.netcom.com.

    Vincent (04/24/2016)

    1. Very good!

      I apply hunting skill to personal defense– I believe that one big hit is much much more important than a tight group of 50 small caliber hits. If your adversary is not down and out during the first few seconds and with the first three shots your battle is probably over.

    2. Bob, send me an email and I will gladly send you my Excel caliber file! This clearly shows how weak the 9mm is and how almost anything bigger is considerably better in power.

      I update this file almost every week, either with new entries, or updates to existing ones, like availability and pricing. Right now I have about 250 hand gun ammos listed, from 9mm up to the big 50 cal hand guns, plus a few rifle and military ‘guns’..

      Vincent

    3. “….one big hit is much much more important….”

      As do I, somewhat;) Police personnel, as well as personal protection nimrods, would do well to consider that Boston bomber running around, still in the fight, with eight (8) .40 caliber rounds, from police pistols, in him. Not dead, until his brother ran him over with a car!

      Most folk practice at some ‘stationary’ target placed directly in front of them. Perhaps this is better than no practice at all; however, there is a defensive term called “move off the X,” more than likely, your antagonist/attacker will not be ‘stationary’ waiting for you to fog off a ‘few’ rounds at him – likewise, you should not be rooted to your spot!

      I’m ‘old school,’ so too think BIGGER is better. I want to feel comfortable that my self-defense load WILL penetrate through the arm and into the heart/lung area of any protagonist I might shoot at an angle! I am ‘comfortable.’

      Having said all that, I/we are in opposition to current FBI findings dealing with handgun caliber lethality: http://www.grandviewoutdoors.com/guns/case-closed-fbi-says-9mm-is-the-best-pistol-round/

      On a last thought, I debate this often with my Marine son. He loves citing the FBI, and throws in that those guys wearing ski masks (special ops/special forces/frogs, etc.) can have ‘anything’ they want and they mostly carry the 9mm – some the .45. The problem I have with those logical dishes against BIGGER is better; both of these entities are ‘group’ oriented and have to meet several political as well as logistical issues! I DON’T…. My son also dismisses the idea that foot pounds of energy has much to do with a handgun’s effectiveness – states that Chuck Liddel (MMA) can punch you with 700 foot pounds of energy! I think I must have raised this guy wrong? “….the kinetic energy of a bullet can sometimes send a shock wave through the body, transferring physical shock to tissues whose physiologic function may be disrupted by it (especially in the circulatory or nervous systems).” Wikipedia

      My G29, running the equivalent 180 Buffalo Bore round, has accounted for two one shot kills on coyote, and a two shot kill on a running LARGE boar hog. One coyote was range finder verified @ 110 yards, the hog was 35 yards, one shot through the heart and lungs – still running – the second shot just behind the ear sent him cartwheeling. Even at this power, I can put two shots on target at 22 ft. in <2 sec – YMMV

      Lastly, as noted by many, carry the gun you are most comfortable with, can handle accurately, and practice regularly with "what you carry!" At a match, one time, the range officer made the comment to my granddaughter, "you can't miss fast enough to win!"

    4. “If your adversary is not down….the first three shots your battle is probably over.”

      As well as probably FATAL for you, you might well have added. Reminds me of the recent case of the woman, in Atlanta (if semi-functioning memory is correct), found, by her ‘break-in’ perp, hiding in her closet with her child.

      On the phone with her husband, who was telling her to keep shooting him with the .38 revolver he had given her; emptied the gun at the guy, hitting him five times, missed once, he asked her not to shoot him anymore, left and walked out to his truck – I think he may even have survived? Fortunate for the woman and her child that this guy was probably unarmed, or at best, no killer!

      Another occurrence had a man and his wife startled awake by an intruder in their bedroom. The intruder had a shotgun. The home owner, a decent shot with his .357 mag revolver (no stress), fogged off all six rounds at a distance of approximately seven (7!) feet. His wife said later, it was incredible how fast her husband was. “Fatal” problem was ONE round went through the fleshy part of the perps right arm, ALL other shots were MISSES – the perp then blasted and killed the ‘good shooter’ with one shot from that shotgun. Why he spared the woman, who was a witness, is speculation.

      As an RO at a pistol match once told my granddaughter, “you can’t miss FAST enough to WIN!” BIG bullet, small bullet, no different.

      Too many folk are ‘overconfident’ in their safety/ability with a firearm! Too much concern over “caliber” and too little concern about getting enough practice. Mixing STRESS into your “life or death” situation may make even an excellent gunny unable to hit the proverbial barn door!

      Most should also know that someone out to assault or kill you isn’t interested in giving you advance notice, or standing in front of you waiting for you to shoot them. Anyone of ‘average physicality’ can be on you in 1.5 seconds from a distance of 21 feet – are you considering that likelihood/probability and have a “plan” to respond?

      Practice, practice some more, and practice regularly – if you expect to be a RESPONSIBLE armed citizen – and know the law that applies to bringing ‘deadly force’ into any situation! When you can put two shots on target @ 21 feet, from concealment, in less than 2 seconds, preferably 1.5 seconds, you have ONE element checked off in your chance of surviving!

    5. You only mentioned; “recoil, weight and the bullet itself” as the other factors Bob raised. I think you missed the point IMHO where Bob stated in the article that it takes 20% more training with the 45. Extrapolate that to; it’s 20% less accurate. Shot placement trumps all!

  46. The real question for the author is that if it’s really as simple as “big bullets do more damage”, why does he advocate .45 ACP over the larger and much more powerful .50 AE?

    I’ve yet to see a .45 ACP lover offer an intelligent response to that rebuttal.

    1. I think ANYONE firing the .45 could offer that rebuttal. The .50AE is too big to carry comfortably, too large for most hands, and the pistols are not known for longevity. When a handgun reaches the size over the 1911 or perhaps much larger than the HK special purpose .45s– which I love–you are better off with a carbine. Never said the .45 offered the best ballistics, of course there are more powerful handguns. The combination of controllability power and control are unbeatable. I really do not take counter arguments seriously although I listen. I do to folks with creds, such as my friend Trevor Evans. Once the best boxer in South Africa he also served with the Rhodesian SAS. Like many men on the point in that war he paid a month’s pay in personal funds for a Colt 1911. That kind of thing carries weight.
      Your argument isn’t logical. It is much like saying if my Ford has a heavy chassis than a Toyota why didn’t I get a MACK truck

    2. So when it comes to handgun rounds you agree that a good balance of power and control is more important than the size of bullet coming out of the muzzle. That’s exactly the reasoning that leads many to the 9mm Luger over other calibers, and the rationale behind the FBI abandoning the .40 S&W to go back to the 9mm Luger.

      Regarding your Rhodesian SAS friend – what pistol was he issued by his unit, and did he buy the 1911 because it was a 1911 or because he wanted something in .45 ACP? Also, when was this?

    3. 1970s, issue pistol was Star 9mm—

      some units were issued German P1 9mm

      Rifle was the FNFAL

    4. I would agree his decision makes a great deal of sense in that context, given that this was well before the release of the Beretta 92, SIG P226, or Glock 17.

    5. The Beretta 92 is a high capacity P 1/P38, nothing more.
      The Browning High Power 9mm will achieve anything, tactically, that
      the SIG or Glock will do.

    6. “….is too big….”

      Concur! The G40 from Glock is an interesting piece; however, it is primarily designed for hunting. That six inch barrel and slide, as my son says, looks like something the Joker pulled out of his pants!

      Having said that, I carry the G29, have a G20 set up with a BarSto six inch ported barrel w/red dot sight. I get 1250 fps from the 29 w/my carry load. The 20-6″ improves that to 1400-1425 fps. While the 6″ could be carried, and is for hunting, the 29 is my daily ride. Over 600 fpe w/29 and over 800 fpe w/6″!

      Most of those Speer 180/GDHP bullets recovered have expanded to nearly .80 – to even my limited mathematics capability, .80 caliber is much larger than anything you can expand out of a 9mm!

  47. Well written, well thought out article. I, of course love my ‘big bores’,but at times carry a so-called ‘mouse-gun’ in .22 when carrying something larger just isn’t possible. Any gun is better than no gun, when you need one. Too, I just don’t miss. I have been in enough armed confrontations that I do not go into panic mode, or ‘fight or flight’ mode. Okay, true a whole lot of adrenelin is dumped into your system, but this rush can be overcome with training and experience. At close range, 5-10-15 feet, I always take a head shot, between the nose and chin. A shot there will cut the brain stem and the fight is over before it begins. At greater range, passed 15 feet, I shoot center mass. Mostly, if given a choice, big is always better. According to Elmer Keith; “If it ain’t big, it ain’t crap.”

  48. “That the ‘9mm now equals the .45.’ … is junk science … a disservice to the reader and professionally bankrupt.”

    Let us know how the FBI’s Training Division responds to your stern rebuke. After all, what’s their data-driven research from thousands of officer-involved shootings across the nation compared to your anecdotes and gut instinct?

    1. Adam, I fear we lost the feelings and personal experience vs facts and data argument a while back.

    2. For the average shooter the 9mm may be a good base—
      One generation made a different decision. This group will choose the 9mm and the next will choose another caliber. And so on.

    3. Yes, a generation with a much more limited selection of reliable pistol designs and ammunition options chose the 1911 firing .45 ACP ball ammo. This generation of LEO and civilian shooters has a wider selection of reliable pistols and broader ammunition options, and many are making different choices because of that.

    4. We agree on there at least. If you feel that way they why continue to re-hash this argument almost bi-weekly by saying things like “As for the current trend toward the 9mm, I understand that many cannot spare the time and money for sufficient practice. That is understandable.”??

      That statement has an element of truth for some, but it’s NOT responsible for why 9mm is so popular. The reality is that 9mm+P HP will get the job done most of the time. A fact that you seem to refuse to believe, regardless of anything because of your personal experience.

      It’s the spare tire argument. Most of us only carry one spare. It’s usually not practical to carry more than one. What happens if you get ANOTHER flat? What the crap will you do then? You’ll have to call for help or hope it doesn’t happen. 99.9% of us are never going to get two flats in a row. It does happen, it’s just rare.

      Apply that same logic to personal defense. How many of us are going to be forced to draw a gun and defend ourselves? A small percentage. Of that small percentage, in how many of those encounters would the extra stopping power of the .45 be needed? Another small percentage.

      I only carry one spare, you might feel more comfortable with two. Lets stop trying to explain to the rest of us why you’ve got a spare tire strapped to the roof.

  49. An excellent article. I nwas never in civilian law enforcement, just trained for Counterintelligence and Area Intelligence in the military. Those of us that have not had the chance to do our own testing must relie on that of others. Consequently, for several years I relied on a model 19 Smith with truncated cone 180 gr hollow points. (note: when Smith & Wesson installed the 6 inch barrel, they admonished me that the shell was too heavy for the frame and might knock the weapon out of time. My answer was when it did, I’d buy another.) I now carry a RIA hi cap .45 with 185 gr hollow points in a Strong shoulder holster. Although Galco makes a good setup, I prefer mine. It is too bad that Strong no longer sells to the public or even makes their version of the Second Chance rig. The shoulder rigs that they do make are made for “name brands”. I also have a Desert Eagle in .44 mag which is a great firearm with just a bit more recoil than my .45. It is too bad that it is a ‘moose’ for weight. Now if someone would take the P38 design, add a decocker and chamber it in .357 with a double stack magazine, not .357 Sig, that would be an awesome weapon!

  50. Mr. Campbell does do a fair amount of justice to the old and ongoing argument of “Big and slow vs. small and fast” that has been rattling around since the 1890s. But he makes an interesting avoidance of a particular combination.
    Wilson did a book on police involved shootings in the 1980s that seemed to indicate that the .357 Remington Magnum with a 125 grain bullet was one of the most consistent and effective cartridges. This led to the development of the 357 SIG, in 1994 or so. Since then, a lot of data by the Delaware, Virginia, and other state police departments, as well as the Texas Department of public Safety (The Texas Rangers) seem to indicate that this is indeed one of the most effective calibers available. The is whe e the 9MM would like to be, and more effective then the Large Bores against armed assailants. The United States Air Marshals, the Secret Service, and other agencies use this to enormous positive effect. Pistols using this cartridge are very durable, often need minor maintainence during service lives of 5000, 10000, or even,for SWAT, 20,000 rounds.

    The criticism of this caliber lies in two areas. Cost of training, both in terms of ammunition and hours at the range, are the sum of it.

    To both of thes I say ” if you cannot qualify, go to work somewhere else.”

    That used to be the criteria for weapon selection.

    As always, Mr. Campbell, a very interesting article.

    1. The .357 SIG is essentially a faster 9mm Luger but with the same reduced capacity and similar recoil as the .40 S&W. Like the .40 S&W, it’s intended to be a compromise caliber between the 9mm Luger and .45 ACP. Unlike the .40 S&W, the .357 SIG did not have a major early adopter and so has seen even less general adoption.

      Another major issue is the limited options for pistols chambered in .357 SIG. Other than SIG itself, Glock seems to be the only major manufacturer making a full line of pistols chambered for the cartridge. S&W has offered the M&P line in .357 SIG, but those are rather uncommon and aren’t even listed as part of the product line anymore.

    2. I agree. I do not see a great deal of difference between the .357 SIG and the 9mm +P+=—in fact, with proper bullets, the 9mm +P+_ has the advantage. Most .357 SIG loads are designed for penetration and the balance between expansion and penetration favors penetration in a worst case police scenario. When all is said and done I find the 9mm +P+, 115 grains at 1350 fps or the 124 grain at 1250 fps, well suited to personal defense. If I could not have a .45 I would skip the .357 SIG.

    3. Personally, I’d be very leery of putting 9mm +P+ rounds into a pistol. They’re generally designed for pistol-caliber carbines and are well above SAAMI pressure specs for 9mm +P.

      To add some historical perspective, it’s suspected that the use of +P+ rounds meant for carbines is why several Navy SEALS were struck in the face by their M9 slides after the locking blocks cracked.

  51. Bob,
    Excellent article and I felt you were trying to establish a reasoned basis for opinion, instead of opinion driving the basis with a seeming absence of reason.
    Quite a few years ago Colonel John T. “Tommy” Thompson (of Tommy gun fame) of the Infantry, and Major Louis Anatole LaGarde of the Medical Corps.in the Chicago stock yards, using live cows (and possibly horses) and human cadavers suspended by rope, tested the common handgun rounds of the day. Animals were shot until they died, or (after 10 shots) hit in the head with a hammer to end their suffering. All the significant handgun calibers of the day (1904) were tested and two remain popular today (the 9mm and the .45) while the rest of pretty much passed out of existence.
    The tests have been lauded and criticized. At the conclusion of the tests, the .45 was found most effective. Of course, all the modern, whiz bang bullets common today did not exist in 1904. However, if a wonderful modern 9mm bullet fails to perform exceptionally as it is designed to do, then its effectiveness has to be questioned in light of the study that condemned 9mm full metal jacket bullets as effective.
    It seems to me that the only difference between then and now is that the 9mm is crowned with a modern, whiz bang bullet instead of the FMJ tested in 1904. Remove the modern whiz bang bullet from the 9mm and you have the round that failed to perform in 1904. If for any reason, the modern whiz bang bullet fails to perform (environmental factors, heavy clothing on the attacker, something in the pocket of the assailant, whatever) and you have the 9mm that failed in the tests in 1904, do you not?
    That study supports what you say in the article. The .45 performs with any old bullet it has but the 9mm requires a super whiz bang bullet that has to perform up to design specs or it is less than effective, from my reading of the study. Of course, that is comparing the standard 9mm (9X19) round and not the 9mm +p+, the 9X21 or the 9X25. However, finding 9mm +p+, 9X21 or 9X25 is tough to do, in my experience. Common 9mm is everywhere, as is the .45. So, if availability is a concern, or factor, I feel my choice of a .45 is better.
    The 9mm +p+ was not tested, just the standard 9mm of the day. It was found definitely lacking. In other words, if a modern 9mm bullet in a standard load fails to function as designed, then it is likely to fail in its intended purpose. However, if a modern .45 bullet fails to perform as an extraordinary bullet but still be a .45 bullet, it still performs as intended.
    In actual tests on live animals and dead human cadavers, the .45 did not need assistance from some super whiz bang bullet to accomplish its purpose. But, the 9mm does.
    So, in packing a 9mm with the usual loads, you must not only hit your target, but your bullet also has to perform exactly as designed or you are undergunned. All the .45 had to do was just hit the target.
    I prefer to eliminate unnecessary risk and limit factors that can cause a failure to perform. For a great many years, the .45 has been my trusted companion.
    While I do not enjoy punishment any more than most usual people, and do not look for painful recoil hitting my hands, I can tolerate a certain amount of forceful recoil if that gives me a margin of safety in a deadly confrontation. That is my personal opinion.
    However, recently, I put aside my larger and heavier .45’s for the smaller and lighter 10mm, which is basically a .40 caliber bullet that often doubles the energy of a standard 9mm. My preferred weapons are a model 29 Glock which has a Glock 20 barrel installed or an EAA Witness compact, both in 10mm. There is recoil but it is not so severe as to be painful or even terribly uncomfortable.
    I consider the .44 Mag and more powerful cartridges to be uncomfortable and not suitable for me as a defensive weapon. But, 10mm is quite acceptable. I am 74 and hardly a muscle man yet I manage just fine.
    I suspect most everyone else could too, if they did not convince themselves otherwise. We are often our own worst enemies and the power of our minds to convince us of some failing is amazing.
    By the way, never shot a polar bear but 3 moose did pass on after our encounter. While moose are very large, I did not find them particularly tough. They did not seem to take a lot of killing. Now, the Rocky Mountain Elk — that is a tough animal. In my personal experience, the physically smaller elk takes significantly more killing than a much larger moose. It may be just my personal experience but it is what I have observed.

    1. The good news is that most makers of those “modern, wizz bang bullets” of which you disapprove use more modern testing methods than shooting live animals until they die. These testing methods include penetration through heavy clothing and possibly (if the full FBI protocol is used) other barriers like metal and glass. This testing is done to verify that those “modern, wizz bang” bullets will reliably perform as expected.

      Also, I hope the irony of complaining about modern technology in the comments section of an Internet blog isn’t lost on you.

    2. Adam,
      You seem to assume that because I do not want to bet my life on the 9mm with a new, whiz bang bullet that I have some problem with technology. To me that seems like a rather large leap from one specific to the general without any evidence to support it other than reference to one specific. While some technology is admittedly beyond my grasp, I embrace all that I can — but I do not choose to bet my life on what evidence leads me to believe is not infallible. After all, it is the internet and research that leads me to reject the 9mm for my personal defense.
      Second, from what I have read the 9mm has a history of being accepted, then when it has, in the past, failed to perform in the 9X19 configuration, been replaced with some other caliber — like the 45, or the .40, or the .357 Sig, or the .357 Mag and so forth. The problem with a self defense situation is that there might not be a “do over” and I have to assume I will have only one shot at it. What is it that Einstein said about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?
      Is there another cartridge in history that has been selected so many times by an agency only to be replaced later due to disappointing performance? None that I know of. That indicates to me that the performance of the 9X19 in the past has not been satisfactory.
      But, now, with “new bullets”, suddenly all of its past failures are to be forgotten? Not by me, until I see a history of performance just like the .45.
      Yes, on occasions the .45 has been replaced, but not (to my knowledge) because it was too little gun and not effective. The criticisms of the .45 have been that it is too big, too heavy, has too much recoil or costs too much to shoot. Not that it fails to perform in its job of ending a dangerous encounter.
      It is just too much gun for some people and if that is your position that all of the weak and inexperienced should not train or try to master a harder recoiling pistol than the 9mm, there is a certain logic to the argument — based upon the frailty of the shooter. It that is all they can handle, I imagine it is better than nothing. Besides, the frail shooter might get lucky. It happens and can never be completely ruled out.
      After all, wasn’t that one of the principle reasons for the FBI adopting the 9mm in the last century? It’s female and puny men could not handle the larger calibers used by the older male agents who had actual experience. If memory serves, all of the really bad desperadoes of the 1800’s and early 1900’s were taken down with some caliber other than the 9mm even though it was around. After all it is only a .35 caliber, doesn’t have a whole lot of frontal area, doesn’t have a whole lot of mass and the desperadoes were generally pretty tough. But, I suppose a new bullet changes all that –maybe?
      Third, what I just have trouble grasping is the almost religious like devotion to a cartridge that has to be admitted to have a checkered past as far as its fight ending performance is concerned. It borders on the fantastic and seems more emotional than rational. It requires a leap of faith that borders on a committed belief akin to a religious belief.
      I suspect that the real problem is that the 9mm is almost the “Little Engine that Could”. It is almost enough gun and sometimes is. But, there are mountains of evidence when it was not enough and I just do not want to take the risk it would be my bad luck to have one when it was not enough. Remember, no do overs.
      Fourth, when there is a choice between one cartridge that most every one agrees has over a 100 year history, generally, of success versus a cartridge with the same longevity but whose performance has never been stellar or universally acknowledged as effective, I am going with the tried and true and not bet my life on the speculative just because it wears a new bullet.
      Fifth, I am old and was around in the 1960’s and 70’s when the DOD decided to go with the .223 and the 9mm to replace the .30 and the .45. It was largely a matter of cost. The 9mm required significantly less raw material to manufacture and cost less to purchase, was substantially lighter and smaller so it was cheaper to ship more than the .45. The DOD reasoning at the time largely assumed that the 9mm was comparable to the .45 without any evidence to support it. That is what you get when you use bean counters to make operational decisions. Meanwhile, those of us on active duty kept our old, heavy sidearms and put the new 9’s away to bring out for inspections when needed.
      But, having a generally proven technology in preference to one that might work is my choice. That’s me. It is a free country and you can do whatever you want. It is your choice and you have the right to choose, just as I do. But, do not except me to applaud your choice and laud your decision when I think it is seriously flawed.

    3. Modern testing methods do not necessitate better testing methods. Just look at the great performance in ballistic gel of the 147gr 9mm but the bad performance in real life cited by the author. I really want to like the 9mm due to the high capacity and lower recoil for faster and more accurate f/u shots but I am still torn.

    4. Excellent posts, I have read this twice. You are so right and made many good points.

  52. When you consider that most self defense gun battles take place within 6 to 10 feet and most of the time people miss, the simple rule of thumb is that whatever gun and caliber you have at the moment is the best gun and caliber to have providing you can hit your target. The bottom line using any weapon is whether or not you really have the will to do what needs to be done. The best example I have ever seen of this is a video showing a cop choke and it cost him his life. Search Vietnam Veteran shoots cop and you will probably come across this video.

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