Why I Will Remain a Big Bore Man (And Validity of Research)

Hornady Critical Duty Ammunition boxes with a Glock 17 pistol

In 1876, Thomas LaGarde was decorated for gallantry during the Powder River Expedition. His intellectual accomplishment and military acumen were much respected. Later, Dr. LaGarde became best known for a few months of research during his long career. The Thompson LaGarde test of handgun calibers has been brought into controversy by some but were the definitive word when conducted. Their biomechanical fidelity in the use of both cadavers and live animals must be respected. The test did not come from nowhere. It was built upon previous research.

Since the early 1800s, both French and German military had used cadavers and animals in testing. Dr. Theodore Kocker was a Swiss researcher that who at least a year in his research—much it on live animals and some on cadavers. The Number 3 Military and Medical College in China has done such work more recently, and Australia presented its studies at the 5th Symposium on Wound Ballistics. The primary difference between any test medium and humans remains is animals do not know they have been shot and will have no psychological response. Sometimes we wonder not why humans were not stopped by gunfire but why they are at all since it takes 10-12 seconds to lose consciousness and bleed out from wounds. We use processed bone chips and pig hide called gelatin to evaluate ammunition, but perhaps the answers will remain elusive.

One of my friends is an evangelical minister of some note. He is also interested in firearms and personal defense, and has taken responsibility for his safety and that of his parishioners. He is armed every day everywhere. Another friend and pastor isn’t of the type to have never had a problem and cannot relate to the rougher walk. He has had his share of fights and was wounded in Africa while fighting terrs. Each holds a PH.D, which I do not, but I have helped edit various publications and dissertations for these men.

I recently caught the term ‘inverted theology’ to describe the unfortunate turnaround of some churches. It seems that tradition and science are each taking hits these days and are not in harmony with modern thinking. There are certain truths that will be grasped only by the dead or moonstruck but what was true is still true.

I have taken some of the things that occur in my personal field of expertise to learned friends as a sounding board. They have learned to learn and are still learning. They are comfortable in their field. They may not be the wealthiest, but they are among the most respected at their jobs.

Another friend is an accomplished physician. Unlike the father of anatomy, Herohilus, she hasn’t dissected live criminals, but she has examined quite a few dead ones. After all, she lives and works in an area with one of the highest crime rates in the United States. She has served as a medical examiner and performed autopsies of those who met violent ends.

Some were accidents from car wrecks and falls and are important as well, as a homicide may be masked by the mundane. She performs the task with the necessary clinical resolve as coolly as Rachel Ray cutting poultry. Fat, muscle and fascia give way to surgical steel. I have outlined my concerns to her concerning imaginative writings, or perhaps I should say writings not completely accurate in their rendering.

It seems every month we see the phrase repeated, ‘A medical examiner will tell you that there is no way to tell the caliber of the handgun simply by the wound.’ The writer goes on to state that all handgun calibers are just fine for personal defense. It seems that the statement isn’t original or the product of research but rather a worn phrase that sounds good in a catchword salad. All this from journalists who—as far as I know—have never seen a fresh corpse, stiff, or sat in on an autopsy. Nor have they seen the smoke clear the V as they aim at another human being.

The best of fabrics have a dull spot, but just the same I respect my friend’s opinion. I felt that this physician is qualified to comment, and in any case, she is the only doctor in my circle of friends and acquaintances who is approachable on the subject. Her papers are clearly written and while not artistic they are economical but accurate. She replied that there is some truth to this opinion.

Paper vs. Practical

I have stated myself that the handgun doesn’t compare to a rifle, and this is true. However, I often question the value of paper energy figures. As an example, the writings of Elmer Keith, Skeeter Skelton, and others are those of men that killed more game that many of us are likely to. Quite a few writers that wish to contradict these men have never shot or killed anything.Keith in particular actually tried the smaller guns and witnessed gunfights. As he stated, “The Hell with those little guns!” His experience cannot be faulted. The point I am getting to is that both of these men, and other western writers, noted that heavy-loaded .44 and .45 caliber revolvers dropped game (at modest range) faster than the .30-06 and similar rifles. Get your mental antennae and open your mind. These men were experienced and wrote the truth.

The .22 is hard to find as the wound closes. As an example, she stated, (in reference to an early case of mine and a dig) a .22 in the eyeball almost was undetected in one incident. .22s and .25s do not leave much of an imprint. From the .32 to the .38, the wound looks like a bee sting. The .45, and the less seen .44 Special, leave entrance wounds that are recognizable for their size. They are, in other words, larger than most especially if they hit underlying bone. Fat tends to close up but the elasticity of tissue is finite.

The .357 Magnum isn’t seen often, but the wounds are memorable. The doctor mentions horrible wounds. In one case, the victim had what seemed to be the edge of a white dinner plate protruding from the back but it was a piece of bone carried by a Magnum as it exited. The .357 Magnum disrupts a lot of tissue and bone. The damage is irreparable.

I am associated with a university program. As both instructor and interested student, I still attend a lab from time to time. My expertise is called upon when a bullet strikes a vehicle door or ricochet and the investigator asks whether the bullet could have traveled in such a manner and whether the report is realistic and accurate. Some time ago, I gifted a bright young investigator with my complete reference library including DiMaio; he still stops by from time to time to discuss some incident.

He notes, it is interesting how some individuals have a similar appearance yet are so psychologically different. By the same token, the humble cadaver, no longer a person but an object, is often individualistic in how it reflects the damage it has incurred. Many seem capable of taking a lot of damage. Other humans—and they were beings before they became cadavers—seem to be unable to withstand much punishment. Some succumb to minor wounds.

The final reality is that there are some wounds that will always have effect. These are wounds that occur in the arterial region and which cause immediate blood loss. A large enough hole in this vital tissue will produce blood loss leading to a shutdown. No amount of unconvincing writing will persuade me that a smaller diameter bullet, weighing half the weight of a larger bullet, will do the same amount of damage. No amount of poor science, secret sources, or modern perspective will disguise physics.

My doctor friend is not without introspection. She ponders at the chances of the intersection of two beings—herself and the cadaver—and how they came to be together in this manner. I added that an equally troubling question might be the intersection of the dead and the still living that inflicted death upon the cadaver. Although, in fairness, the end was well deserved in many incidents.

My friend was quite gifted in medical school and with successful focused dissections graduated to living subjects that actually benefit from her surgery. Contrary to myth, there is no joking or callous comment in the autopsy room—only respect and concentration. The hemisections dissected are studied with intent, and that intent is to find an answer. Another friend is an attorney that specializes in David versus Goliath. Defending children and the hopeless is his forte.

He has told me over lunch many times that he can make a good living taking cases that are without a shadow of a doubt the right thing to do, and has no need to take questionable cases. A skilled attorney is a man or woman who can right wrongs in a lot of cases, something that is sometimes lost on the personal defense writer. He loves the Single Action Army revolver but carries a SIG or 1911 most commonly.

I mentioned some of the so-called studies that have been discussed in the popular press. He laughed. Secret sources and unidentified individuals have no validity he says. An experiment that cannot be repeated has less validity. Neither would meet the test to be allowed in a small town traffic court much less a capital case. So much for the reports!

That is the learned counsel of a number of individuals that were surprised that statements without hard proof behind them are even accepted. On the other hand, military after-action reports have to be accurate, and our intelligence was accurate and won the war during World War II. Many accounts including the single greatest house clearing by one man were performed with the .45 ACP pistol loaded with 230-grain FMJ ammunition.

The Medal of Honor is awarded by congress, and a great deal of research goes into this action. Then, there is the personal experience of the hardest type. For those who feel the 9mm is their best choice, they are probably right. The 9mm is a powerful cartridge.

The advantages of high velocity ensure bullet expansion and modern bullets are very well designed with a good balance of expansion and penetration. The 9mm is easy to control well, and ammunition is economical. But it isn’t a .45 and there is no need to tear down one cartridge to build up the other. Until the laws of physic are changed, the .45 will be the more reliable stopper and the one that rides with me with the greatest confidence.

Doctor, police officer, medic — Do you have experience with bullet wounds? Share your observations or favorite ammo in the comment section.

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
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 (53)

  1. When it comes to the discussion of what caliber “stops” a human, of course the larger caliber will always win. However, you have to also take into consideration that there are certain laws of physics that have to go along with the larger calibers (higher recoil, decreased magazine capacity, etc.). If all of us could train daily with a .45, then it would be a no-brainer. The truth is, most people that look for a gun for personal defense are not very comfortable with handguns. Handing them a .45 that jumps in their hand is not going to encourage them to go out and train with it. The higher cost of large caliber ammo is also a turn-off to people. The key is training, and that is what we should be debating. An article like this can prove what we already know, but caliber size is completely useless if a person can not hit a target before running a magazine dry!

  2. This is and was reality, and the statistics are against you with your more is better attitude. In 9 different CQC situations, 1 round from my .45 is all that was required to terminate the situation. If the 9 NVA had survived, they could attest the results.

    Allen’s, below, says it all for you.

  3. I too, am a fan of large bore calibers for self defense. Just from recent events, I look at the FBI report with skepticism, and make the assumption that politics was a major influence, due to the rapid switch from 10mm > 40S&W > 9mm. Politics aside, the report does provide feedback that enforces the need to consider bullet construction. Though anecdotal, MasterORTech provides valuable insight into the end results of a gun fight, and should not be lightly dismissed.

  4. Where is the mention of the most recent FBI study? Why does cheaperthandirt keep letting bob Campbell put out horrendous advice on caliber choice? I see various fallacies committed here as well as over reliance on anecdotal evidence. In a gun fight you need capacity. Bottom line. No pistol will “stop” a man outright in his tracks. This is a misnomer created by GIs returning from WWII. The FBI is much smarter than 50 year old advice from elmer Keith. The FBI uses nine millimeter Luger. 9 x 19. Fine enough for them, fine enough enough for me.

    1. The weapon or caliber each of chooses and why is strictly a personal choice. Bob is a helluva shooter and has the advantage of first hand experience. His choice for caliber is reasoned—for him and those who choose that path. Others prefer capacity of caliber and that is a decision that is right for them. However, to call Bob’s choice horrendous, is ridiculous. Bob and I often disagree on caliber, but I have always paid close attention and seriously considered his words. ~Dave Dolbee

    2. The FBI is filled with dedicated agents. That being said they have a system they must work with. When they wanted a 10mm they wrote a circular for acquisition describing the 10mm–when they wanted a 1911 for swat teams the circular described a hammer fired pistol with a slide lock safety and grip safety– had to be the 1911! and later when they wanted to issue the Glcok they described the polymer frame striker fired type they wanted without naming the glock. I suppose those that place a lot of weight in the most recent test have not seen the half dozen tests that I have over the past forty years beginning with the absurd computer man and the fairy tale Stragbourg tests. The FBI report does contain good logic for general issue but FBI SWAT is keeping their Springfield .45s!

    3. A few points here. First, Elmer Keith and Jeff Cooper had more experience and knowledge about ballistics, wound channels, etc. than a dozen ‘johnny-come-latelys’. Without these two and others, the modern pistol calibers that most dote on these days wouldn’t exist. 2nd, the 9×19 is an effective round but by no means definitive. It is almost as old as the .45 ACP and has considerably less first round stopping power than the .45. 3rd there are one shot stoppers in pistol caliber, the .45 ACP being one. Not big enough, the .454 Casull. Pretty sure if it will stop a charging cape buffalo in it’s tracks, it will slow a man’s forward movement to a crawl. Need yet bigger? Try the .50 AE and now some ‘bright boy’ has built a revolver around the .600 Nitro Express. Guess it could be called a ‘pistol caliber’ now, if you have the nerve to fire it. There are dozens of ‘pistol calibers’ that provide one shot stops in between. Still, the venerable .357 mag. has proved it’s self in such situations. It still comes down to one thing: SHOT PLACEMENT!

    4. Another student of revisionist history. A few years ago it was the ‘stopping power’ studies, that were ridiculous. A few years before the computer man generated by 1970s computers and a very serious flawed study. .Some even believed the hoaxers claiming they had shot goats wired to computers.
      As for tales brought home by GIs I suspect few modern doubters would have taken those doubts to these men’s face.


  5. As a former Navy corpsmen and with nearly 30 years in trauma surgery in and around Baltimore and Washington DC seeing MANY gunshot victims I can say beyond the shadow of a doubt that concerning pistols the M in F=MA rules when you’re talking about human flesh and bone.
    I and many of my trauma compatriots can tell if the wound is from a 9, 357, or 45. The 9 makes neat LITTLE holes that unless they hit bone or things like one of the great vessels, brain, heart are survivable. Conversely the hole from a 45 or 357 entry might be smallish the underlying tissue DESTRUCTION is devistating.

    Two cases in particular come to mind. A crazed man decided to commit SBC (suicide by cop) and approached the gate to the White house with a 3 foot Machete duct taped to his hand. He came to our Operating Room with no less than 17 9mm holes in him, he lost his left leg just above the knee due to a direct hit to the femur that the bone fragments got the nerve and artery. His left arm and hand would never function right again, his liver had neat little holes in it as did one of his lungs. HE LIVED. The next day a man broke into an off duty policemans home. The cop had a 45 ACP. Three shots, one hit the left lung, one the liver, one the left shoulder. The liver wound was so massive the bleeding could not be stopped, it looked more like liverwurst than a human liver, the entire left upper lobe of the lung was destroyed not just holed, and he would have lost his entire left arm from the tissue and bone damage to the shoulder girdle. In short he died on the table despite getting to medical help faster than the suicide by cop guy.
    I can quote case after case like this over the last 28 years of trauma in the ER and OR.

    9mm unless it hits bone or a great vessle, makes neat little holes that slowly leak blood. Heavier bullets destroy the tissue they come in contact with causing massive blood and tissue loss. Seen it time and again. The reason you need 17 rounds of 9mm is because unless you make a great hit they will keep coming and, most of the time, live. With the heavier loads they go down hard AND STAY THAT WAY.

    1. Anecdotal evidence means nothing. Judging by your comments you clearly know nothing about bullet construction. FMJ rounds “punch nice little holes” regardless of caliber. Modern hollowpoints in 9mm do much much more than “punch little holes”.

    2. Mr Hoke,

      I would be interested to know what your background is that allows you to condescend to a man with 30 years experience with bullet wounds and trauma of all sorts. The real point here is no matter what you prefer if you can’t put rounds on target you won’t stop anyone or anything so you have to be comfortable and confident in what you carry and shoot.

      I don’t take offense in your disagreement, just the tone of your disagreement. We are all members of the same pro 2nd ammendment community here, civil disagreement and discussions are good for everyones knowledge. Condescending comments make you sound more like those people who voted against the Constitution last week.

      As for the FBI study, they have made some pretty big errors in their choice of handgun caliber in the past and if you think they are free of political influence in their decisions …well that was proven wrong recently as well. The FBI study had a lot of good data in it as did the study they did years ago that justified 10mm as did the previous one that justified staying with .38.
      In the end it all comes back to my point, if you can’t hit the target with a particular caliber it doesn’t really matter what the ballistics say. So choose what you are most comfortable and confident shooting.

      I am also a former Navy Corpsman and government contractor, firearms enthusiast for 40 years. I own and shoot all calibers but my EDC is .45 ACP. Mostly because that is what I am comfortable with and I know I will hit what ever I need to with it and that what I hit will go down.

    3. well shows how much you know Mr. Hoke. These were standard LEO 9mm JHP hits, the holes on entry most were found only because of the small amount of blood around them, The internal injuries from the rounds that didn’t hit bone ;ike the Liver hits were no bigger than a dime, The ones that hit bone shattered the bone and the bullet pretty much became small little fragments.
      On the other hand the 45 rounds were actively bleeding and easily found. The liver hit from the 45 you could fit a large lemon the hole and the tissue for 3 or 4 cm around it was pretty much liquid. The large bullet fragment in the shoulder was still identifiable as a bullet and the bones were dusted.

      These are hardly anecdotal as they are consistent with the wounds on MANY other patients and the Marines I cared for in the field. The 9mm holes were easily controlled and the larger hits were pure hell to get to stop.

      When you have 28+ years of peering into the GSW of all kinds of weapons then you can say it’s anecdotal. Exactly how many GSW have you seen for real not on a movie or TV screen, how many have you put in people? my Guess is 0.

    4. Well eventually they do more once they expand and then they make larger holes. The total wound volume depends upon the total wound volume, and that means penetration.

    5. That many just gave us excellent information that was logged into a lengthy report afterwards at the ER I am certain. He is giving us the short versions. This mirrors my experience. Jared I wish you well but you have a poor attitude and I believe that all of your information is second hand from the gun comic books.

  6. How is the FBI study not mentioned? It is the most recent, relevant, and thorough ballistics study to date. Bottom line; if you want stopping power, get a rifle. If you are STUCK with a pistol, capacity and shot placement is crucial. Translation… 9mm all day.

  7. I feel the writer needs to read the FBI’ s report on their decision to return to the 9mm. It’s full of quality research, with thousands of ME’s and trauma surgeons interviewed, and decades of data.

    Their reasoning was that the possible slight increase in stopping potential was far outweighed by the increased capacity of the smaller 9mm round. In gunfights, only about 20% of shots fired find their target. 20% of the 7 rounds carried in a commander size 1911 pales in comparison to 20% of the 15 rounds in a G19.

    As a paramedic/RN, and working in the emergency medicine and trauma fields for the last 15 years, I can say that I don’t have the experience with gunshots to really weigh in, but I’ve seen several killed by a well placed 22lr, and seen people walk out of the ed who were shot with large caliber pistols.

    1. Wow; 20% of a 1911 with 7 rounds equals 1.4 bullets, so you must round up to 2 bullets. And 20% of a Glock 19 with 15 rounds is…wait for it…3 rounds. I don’t think that really “pales” in comparison. And…where did the 12 misses go? I think 12 misses vs. 5 misses, uh, pales by comparison.
      Bottom line, even shot in the heart, it takes Mr. Badguy 6-10 seconds to die, so don’t shoot any faster than you can aim.

    2. Reference the recent FBI report; a little history. It was an FBI report after their 1986 Miami shootout (where 9mm and .38 was used) that compelled them to switch to the 10mm. That report used the best techniques of the time and concluded that the 9mm/.38 did not possess the power to rapidly stop a person.

      The FBI then switched to the 10mm cartridge and a Smith & Wesson to shoot it. That did not last too long because; 1) many agents could not qualify with that powerful of recoil (particularly female), 2) the grip was too large for some (particularly female) and 3) it is a very large gun to carry concealed. As the FBI was searching for a replacement gun and powerful enough caliber, the .40 S&W came out, in smaller sized guns, and they switched to that. It was declared the best of both worlds. Unfortunately, over the years they have found that they have the same problem as before, although not as severe; trouble qualifying (particularly female).

      This experience mirrors my police department where I was a firearms instructor. We issued 9mm. Over time, we found that the 9mm was not ending gunfights. We switched to issuing the .40 S&W (and allowed to carry .45ACP on personal purchase) and gunfights ended quickly more often. But, just like the FBI, qualification problems arose (particularly female). And so now, we issue both the .40 S&W and the 9mm (it is now the officer’s choice) and the FBI goes back to the 9mm.

      So what has changed for both the FBI and my PD? In my opinion, liability and politics. If someone who does not qualify gets into a shooting, there WILL be horrendous liability, even if it’s a lawful shooting. If they are not allowed to carry a gun then it’s not safe for them to be on the street so available manpower is effectively lowered to dangerous levels. On the politics side, in government at least, it is almost impossible to fire a minority, no matter the failing. If there are protected classes then no one can be fired for the same failing. Therefore, people don’t get fired when they fail to qualify. So what do you do with them? They get endless re-training (and out of action the entire time) and most will finally qualify…this time. At the next qualification, we start the process all over again.

      I have pointed out a particular problem with females. That is only because they are generally weaker and have smaller hands so it shows up more often. However, it is by no means limited to females.

      It is also my opinion that the rising qualification problem in general is due to attitude. When I became an officer in 1976, agencies wanted people that were aggressive (in the good sense; chase down the bad guys and put them in jail, etc.). An interest in being proficient with guns and shooting is part of that attitude. Over the past twenty or thirty years, the agencies have emphasized new hires be “kinder and gentler”. I doubt if an officer from 1976 could get hired today. Today, officers are supposed to want to go to block watch meetings, be school resource officers and be counselors and psychologists. Therefore, for these officers there is not the interest in mastering a gun and qualifying; its just seen as a necessary evil.

      So, the recent shift back to less proficient calibers by PD’s and the FBI (supporting it with a new study that supports the decision…remember that liability! Can’t have wounded or dead officers/agents suing the departments for using inefficient weapons and calibers.) By the time its figure out that gunfights don’t again end soon enough, maybe there will be Star Trek phasers, set to stun, with no recoil and unlimited grip sizes.

    3. If you don’t know where 80% of your shots are hitting, you shouldn’t be carrying a gun. If you don’t care, carry a .45 with a double stack. What this excellent discussion doesn’t really talk about is where your shots are going that miss. I had a 9mm but when I moved to a more urban area I was worried about penetration through walls. Most rounds will go though a wall, but the .45 is a slower round, and post wall testing shows a 24% drop in velocity compared to a 16% drop in a much faster 9mm. That wasn’t hollow points so I don’t know the effect of that, but I like to control what I’m shooting at without being distracted by what’s behind it. When I went for my CCW the instructor basically said something similar about a gunfight and missed shots. He trained up to take our time and aim because the other guy isn’t and there’s a good chance they’ll miss while you’re taking 3/10ths of a second longer to aim to kill. I practice at least once a month and can be on target with a double tap to the chest and one to the head in 1.5 seconds at 30 feet. Of course they’re not shooting back. PS, make sure your handgun can FEED a hollow point. You don’t want to find out it jams when you actually need it.

  8. What I seen going on here is, once again, the endless debate of the “perfect cartridge” that preforms like magic in all situations. What I am not seeing is “bullet placement.” You can stop an assailant with a single .22 round if you hit a vital area. I would venture a guess that most individuals that own and/or carry a firearm for personal defense, does not have adequate defensive training nor range time to have good bullet placement___ especially under stress. Thus the new trend of higher capacity magazines, regardless of caliber. Make up with repeated firepower due to lack of shooting ability.

    The choice of a defense firearm, and associated caliber should be based, firstly, on the individuals ability to use and control the firearm. And secondly, having proper defensive training and range time.

    Speaking only of myself, I prefer and carry a 1911 .45 with a 7 round magazine. Not because it is a large bore, but because it is what I was trained on in the military and used in combat. It is what I am comfortable and most proficient with. In my lifetime, I have gone through 3 different defensive training courses, have spent countless hours on the range and am a consistent 10 ring shooter. Should the misfortune of ever having to use my 1911 in a defensive situation, I am confident that I can stop my assailant with a single round. Not because it is a large bore .45, but because of accurate bullet placement.

    1. This isn’t reality. Statistics are against you. You will rUN your gun dry AnD the assailant will kill you. 7 rounds is not enough.

    2. Maybe you need more range time Jered. One good shot beats three fair shots. Spray and pray is what you get when you think ‘I have seventeen rounds, so maybe I can get a good one’. When you know you have only seven or eight, you take the extra tenth of a second to make it count. If you need more bullets, maybe you should carry an Uzi with a thirty round magazine. A single .45 to center mass beats thirty 9mm holes in the air!

    3. Heard the story, when I was a kid; A old man went deer hunting every year. Carried a Winchester ’94 in .32 Winchester Center Fire. Every year, he put venison in his freezer. Didn’t need the latest and best. It was shot placement that brought home a deer every year. A deer is a ‘tough critter’ to put down. I know, I’ve had to track wounded deer more than I should have. In deer hunting, like self defense, shot placement is more important than caliber. However; I have always adhered to the ‘bigger is better’ school of handgun calibers.

    4. This is and was reality, and the statistics are against you with your more is better attitude. In 9 different CQC situations, 1 round from my .45 is all that was required to terminate the situation. If the 9 NVA had survived, they could attest the results.

      Allen’s, below, says it all. Go to the range and learn to shoot.

    5. Bob, thought I had heard/read everything that Col. Cooper had wrote/said. Very good show. Not Cooper, but good, but can’t remember who said it. “There are lies, damned lies and statistics.’

  9. I hate to correct people. But as a physics instructor, I feel I have to comment. Force is simply mass time acceleration (no square). Force is not a good indicator of damage because it is almost impossible to measure the deceleration of a bullet in a body. Energy depends on mass and the square of velocity. Twice the velocity produces four times the energy. I have a pistol that fires both 22 LR and 22 magnum with a swap of cylinders. The magnum is astoundingly different.
    I would love to see data on the effectiveness of 22 magnum for self defense.

    1. Bob,
      Richard Mann did a nice article on .22 for self defense in the Oct. 12, 2010 Shooting Illustrated. Certainly not in the same catagory as .45 but an eye socket full would change a miscreants channel.

  10. I agree that once you reach 9mm or .38/.357, arguments about caliber take second place to load and shot placement. Any handgun bore this size or larger that can achieve MV of at least 900 fps and develop an ME of 400 ft-lbs (or greater) should deliver enough velocity in tissue to fully open an expanding bullet and penetrate well enough to create a CNS-stop or induce neural shock in a susceptible attacker. Again, shot placement is key, but once you’ve hit the right place, the right bullet/load really helps.

  11. i see no ‘hard proof’ here. i see vague references to ‘physics.’ i see appeals to authority. i see anecdotes. no actual data and method, though.

    there’s nothing authoritative here to indicate the .45 acp is superior or inferior to any other cartridge as a man-stopper.

  12. “The .357 Magnum isn’t seen often, but the wounds are memorable.”

    Interesting how it manages to be so effective despite not being a “big bore” cartridge of .40 caliber or larger.

    Also, most of Mr. Keith’s research was from the 1960s or prior – meaning it did not (and could not) take into account the degree to which modern hollow-point ammunition reduces the difference between 9mm, 40 S&W, and 45 ACP. Keith and others were certainly correct in their conclusions, but obviously they could only make decisions based on the ammunition available at the time.

    The simple truth is that ammunition choices today are much wider and of better quality than the luminaries of generations past had available to them.

    1. Mr. Keith may not have been around when the new hollowpoints came out, but he had a chance to compare a lot of the older ones in various calibres. (the spelling is actually correct) A combination of speed, mass and diameter is what creates a wound channel and does damage. If you want to see the difference between high velocity wounds like the .357 and larger calibres, in apples and apples comparisons, look at the .44 Magnum. That would be a proper comparison in stead of the .45 ACP.

  13. In my 26 years of military duty, I was trained in several different fields of military endeavor. I spent 15 years as a Senior Counter Intelligence Agent and 6 years as a Foreign Weapons Instructor as well as most of my career on both pistol and rifle marksmanship teams. I carry a hi-cap .45 with a 5 inch barrel in a Strong shoulder holster. Before that I carried a S & W model 19 in .357 in a Strong shoulder holster. If I could find a shoulder holster that fit I’d carry my Desert Eagle in .44 magnum. You’ve most likely noticed I like weapons with a great deal of ‘knock down’ power, but the caliber that I respect the most is the Russian 5.45 x 39mm because of its wound characteristics. When soft tissue is hit by the American 5.56 round it tumbles making a slit that can be triaged, but when the 5.45 round hits soft tissue, it tumbles not once, but twice. The first resembles that of the 5.56, but the second most closely resembles that of the .357 and cannot be triaged. Although in most instances, bigger IS better, this does not hold true in every instance. What most of us Americans seem to forget is that in war, the object is not to kill the enemy, it is to maim the enemy because it takes up to three or four people to care for a wounded soldier and while they are doing so, they cannot be shooting at you.

  14. oh, and BTW, with the recent performance of our US Congress, I would take it as an insult if I had been awarded the MoH and somebody called it the “Congressional Moh”, and tell that person off to their face immediately, then execute a sharp about-face and step out smartly away from them to end my interaction with them!

  15. The Medal of Honor is NOT awarded by Congress. This myth persists probably due to the extreme amount of vetting that is required in the paperwork channels starting from the initial recommending officer up through the chain of command to the service Secretary, the SecDef and the CinC, aka Prez. Congress, or more precisely, the US Senate, only has a very indirect role in that they confirm the Prez’s choices of appointees to the Secretary jobs. Take it from a Retired Soldier, a senior NCO who had to study this type of info for promotion boards.

  16. Elmer Keith, father of both .357 mag. and .44 mag. once said and quiet elegantly; “If it ain’t big, it ain’t crap!” Being a ‘big bore’ fan, I concur. There was a time, I even considered carrying a .500 Linebaugh revolver for concealed carry. Of course, the weight and size of the revolver, even in 4″, made the idea just silly. Love my 1911. Not to heavy, not to bulky for easy concealment in a waist-band carry.

    1. Re; Bob Campbell. Don’t know how much you know about Elmer Keith, but his bio is an interesting read, most of his books too. Basically, he was of small stature, 5’4″, 5’5″, or there about. Grew up shooting the 30-06, so he was recoil sensitive. Loved BIG GUNS all of his life. He, Col. Jeff Cooper, Bart Skelton, Phil Spangenberg, and too many to list, all whom I deeply respect, were pioneers in their respective fields. All are worth a quick read.

  17. You really should run these articles by a professional editor before stamping “CTD” on them. Besides a variety of (to me obvious) grammar errors, you have usage errors such as:

    ” By the same token, the humble cadaver, no longer a person but an object, is often individualistic in how it reflects the damage it has incurred. ”

    A cadaver cannot incur damage, as it cannot commit an act with resultant consequences; it is dead.

    Just a thought for you there – you’ve got a potentially interesting article, but it needs some work. I happen to be a 2nd Amendment supporter as well as an editor. I’m sure we can work something out. -S. King

    1. Haven’t you seen “the walking dead” or “z-nation”? Those cadavers can really get around!

  18. Try this: Fire into a berm and run over and pick up the bullet. It’s really hot, too hot to hold. Now imagine that bullet lodged inside your body. The pain is incredible. I have been shot and can tell you the pain of a lodged bullet is something hard to imagine. The pain alone will stop all but the most determined attacker. I carry a heavy stainless firearm in 45acp because I want a big hole and an imbedded bullet. If I have to go small I carry a 2.25 inch 357 revolver.

    1. Been shot a time or two. Each time, I didn’t realize that I had been shot until I felt the blood running down my side, leg, etc. and soaking my clothing. The bullet is indeed hot, but cauterized the nerves. Only afterwards, sometimes minutes later, did I feel the pain of being shot.. Different people experience being shot different ways, but never Hollywood like, where they stop immediately and drop dead. My initial reaction, the first time I was shot, after feeling the blood running down my leg and after feeling it with my hand and pulling my hand away covered in my own blood was; “SON OF A BITCH, I’VE BEEN SHOT!!!

  19. You argue against your conclusion. You state the the 357 left the most harmful wound and then conclude that the 45 ACP is the best caliber. The 357 shoots a 9mm dia bullet. The 357 is the best one shot stopper according to the FBI stats of actual shootings. What the 357 has is velocity and that velocity is what gives it it’s power, NOT large diameter.

    Certainly the 223 is a better stopper than the 45 ACP. But the 223 is only a 22 cal. The difference is velocity, not large caliber. Lewis and Clark carried a 69 caliber musket. They had to shoot the first brown bear 11 times to stop it. BUT a modern 7mm rifle will stop a brown bear with one shot. The 7mm is much smaller, but much faster. The difference is velocity.

    It is velocity that gives firearms their power. Because you square the velocity but only multiply the weight of the bullet to get the energy of the firearm.

    The is why the small 9mm cal 357 magnum is a better one shot stopper than the 45 ACP. It has far more velocity and therefore more power.

    1. They compared the .45ACP 230gr. hardball with 125gr hollowpoints in most of those tests. They also stayed away from +p ammo. Try the 165gr +p capped hollow point in a .45ACP at around 1200fps and see how that compares. And remember: the 45 was designed to drop horses. It was developed when Blackjack Pershing was still chasing Pancho Villa. It had to be able to stop a cavalryman or his mount (the mount being the larger, easier target). Thus a heavy full metal jacket bullet was used for mass. They went for mass and size because mass and size works under nearly any condition. Also note, the .223 or 5.56 round is a RIFLE round. Apples and oranges. Compare it with the .308/7.62×51 for a real comparison next time.
      The fact is that the .45ACP is a serious stopper of human beings in nearly any bullet configuration, and when compared to the 9mm in hardball loads there is no comparison. With a modern hollow point load, especially a +p, the 45 will match the .357.

    2. Sir,

      It is good to hear from a man of intelligence and experience. You are of course correct and the rifle and the pistol are not the same, something that escapes some due to ballistic misunderstanding. Interesting point concerning the .45 and .357 I tend to agree, the .45 having the better balance of control. I think some want a light kicking heavy hitter and it isn’t in the cards.

    3. I was planning on making the same point! Force is mass x acceleration squared. The velocity of a bullet has a much larger affect on the energy a bullet carries than the diameter or mass does. I carry a .40 because I get the speed and weight I am looking for. Plus, I have seen what it can do to a pig at 25 feet!

    4. Mr. Newton, the .45 ACP and .357 are both excellent defense rounds and both have excellent merits.However, I would like to mention the 38/.357 bullet is exactly that. .357 in (9.1mm). The 9mm (9 x 19) is .355 in. Not much of a difference, but none the less, different in construction and diameter.
      The .357 Sig shoots a .355 in diameter. Basically a 9mm +p+.
      Also, Comparing a single shot, muzzle loading, black powder, flintlock. Shooting a round ball out of a smoothbore to a modern smokeless round is not exactly a fair comparison.

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