Why Nine

Tim (MAC) has written several articles about why his caliber of choice is 9mm (The Fading 40  and Teats, Bulls and the .40 S&W).  In the past, I too have mentioned my move from .45 to 9mm, and why I have never been a fan of the .40SW.

Before we get too deep into this, we must first look at some very basics about how handgun bullets stop (kill) humans.  They either immediately incapacitate the target with a CNS (central nervous system) shot or they stop the target by causing them to bleed out.  Absent either of those, the attacker can still carry on their attack, even if they become slower or hindered by wounds.  The FBI report I look at later goes further into this, but that is how it works in a nutshell.

Recently, I attended an advanced handgun tactical training class, and at the beginning of the first day we watched a PowerPoint presentation put together by the rangemaster on my department.  It was an excellent presentation, and one in which he spent much time compiling and sorting information.  As I have mentioned before, he was a long time .45ACP carrier, just like me, who has since switched to 9mm based on the results of his research.  One of the sub-topics of that presentation was ammunition selection.  It was clearly stated at the onset of that topic, and anyone would be foolish to argue this point:

All other things being equal, the bigger the bullet the better

The problem with that caveat is that nothing else is equal.  No other “big boy” caliber handgun will carry as many rounds as a comparably sized 9mm and none of them are as easy to shoot as a 9mm.

To better understand why the .40SW became so popular, let us first look at why the 9mm fell out of favor.  One of the most noteworthy cases, and as far as the FBI is concerned, the precipitating event was the 1986 Miami-Dade Shootout between eight FBI agents and two well-armed bank robbers.  Two of the FBI agents were armed with shotguns, three with 9mm S&W semi-autos and the rest had S&W .357 revolvers.  Two of the FBI agents were killed and all but one of the survivors was injured.  The FBI’s investigation of this incident placed partial blame on the stopping power of the 9mm handguns carried by only three of the eight agents.  This prompted the FBI to look for a new cartridge, and a new standard gun as they also concluded that revolvers were no longer the best option for gun fighting.

In 1987, the FBI  held a Wound Ballistics Seminar from which a report was generated.  The forward from that report is well worth reading.


The selection of effective handgun ammunition for law enforcement is a critical and complex issue. It is critical because of that which is at stake when an officer is required to use his handgun to protect his own life or that of another. It is complex because of the target, a human being, is amazingly endurable and capable of sustaining phenomenal punishment while persisting in a determined course of action. The issue is made even more complex by the dearth of credible research and the wealth of uninformed opinion regarding what is commonly referred to as “stopping power.”

In reality, few people have conducted relevant research in this area, and fewer still have produced credible information that is useful for law enforcement agencies in making informed decisions.

This article brings together what is believed to be the most credible information regarding wound ballistics. It cuts through the haze and confusion, and provides common-sense, scientifically supportable, principles by which the effectiveness of law enforcement ammunition may be measured. It is written clearly and concisely. The content is credible and practical. The information contained in this article is not offered as the final word on wound ballistics. It is, however, an important contribution to what should be an ongoing discussion of this most important of issues.

John C. Hall
Unit Chief
Firearms Training Unit

The report listed four mechanics of projectile wounding: 1) Penetration, 2) Permanent Cavity, 3) Temporary Cavity and 4) Fragmentation.   It goes on to explain that fragmentation cannot be counted on with handgun rounds by saying “Fragmentation, on the other hand, does not reliably occur in handgun wounds due to the relatively low velocities of handgun bullets.”  Of the remaining three factors, they also discount the importance of the temporary cavity saying “temporary cavity is frequently, and grossly, overrated as a wounding factor when analyzing wounds.  Nevertheless, historically it has been used in some cases as the primary means of assessing the wounding effectiveness of bullets.”  That leaves us with two remaining causes for projectile wounding, penetration and permanent cavity.

Some other useful points that come from that report follow:
–  Except for CNS (central nervous system) hits, instant incapacitation is not possible with a handgun bullet
–  Even with the heart destroyed, voluntary action by the subject shot is still possible for 10-15 seconds
–  Organs are only damaged by a handgun with a direct hit
–  Temporary cavity caused by a handgun bullet has no effect
–  Kinetic energy deposit has no effect

The summary of that report does an excellent job putting it all in perspective.

Physiologically, no caliber or bullet is certain to incapacitate any individual unless the brain is hit. Psychologically, some individuals can be incapacitated by minor or small caliber wounds. Those individuals who are stimulated by fear, adrenaline, drugs, alcohol, and/or sheer will and survival determination may not be incapacitated even if mortally wounded.

The will to survive and to fight despite horrific damage to the body is commonplace on the battlefield, and on the street. Barring a hit to the brain, the only way to force incapacitation is to cause sufficient blood loss that the subject can no longer function, and that takes time. Even if the heart is instantly destroyed, there is sufficient oxygen in the brain to support full and complete voluntary action for 10-15 seconds.

Kinetic energy does not wound. Temporary cavity does not wound. The much discussed “shock” of bullet impact is a fable and “knock down” power is a myth. The critical element is penetration. The bullet must pass through the large, blood bearing organs and be of sufficient diameter to promote rapid bleeding. Penetration less than 12 inches is too little, and, in the words of two of the participants in the 1987 Wound Ballistics Workshop, “too little penetration will get you killed.”  Given desirable and reliable penetration, the only way to increase bullet effectiveness is to increase the severity of the wound by increasing the size of hole made by the bullet. Any bullet which will not penetrate through vital organs from less than optimal angles is not acceptable. Of those that will penetrate, the edge is always with the bigger bullet.

Where They Went From There
Now, let’s examine what they had to work with in 1987 when this report was generated.  The 9mm ammunition of the day did only one of those two desired things (penetration and permanent wound cavity) well.  They either penetrated very well, as in the case of 9mm ball ammo, or they had large, but short, permanent wound cavities.  Most of the hollow point rounds from that era rapidly expanded causing a larger diameter cavity, but they stopped very rapidly and fell far short of what the FBI determined was to be the minimal effective penetration depth of 12 inches.  Based on the poor performance of the 9mm ammo available, they looked to other calibers.

Initially, in 1988, the FBI adopted the 10mm, but the very sharp recoil of that cartridge lead them to develop a lighter load, referred to as the “10mm FBI” load.  S&W took that lighter load and shrunk the case in length allowing it to fit in the same sized action as a 9mm, thus creating the .40SW which debuted in 1990.

In 1993, the FBI conducted a second Wound Ballistics Seminar which essentially validated everything they learned in the first one.  They also noted that it is impossible to predict how a human will react to being shot, and that shot placement is critical and is dependent on good training.  They stressed that the only thing an officer (shooter) can depend on to produce rapid, reliable incapacitation with a handgun is the infliction of trauma so severe as to totally disrupt the central nervous system.  Finally, due to the nature of both the makeup of the human body and the effect that clothing and other barriers can have on the bullet as it impacts people in the real world, expansion should never be the basis for bullet selection, but should only be considered a bonus if and when it occurs.

In 1994, the Clinton gun ban went into effect.  The firearms manufacturers had all seen it coming and that was when they began to really push the .40SW guns, especially on law enforcement.  Not only did they want to get back as many of the pre-ban 9mm guns and magazines as they could to resell to the public, but now since they could no longer produce “high-capacity” magazines for the public, they pushed the new caliber guns since both guns would be limited to 10 rounds, and thus was born the era of the .40SW.

Several rounds that I watched fired directly into clear ballistics gel.

Several rounds that I watched fired directly into clear ballistics gel. For each caliber, the round on the right is the Federal HST, the round on the left is the Winchester SXT.

Fast-forward 20 years.  Many of the reasons for moving away from the 9mm are no longer applicable.  Modern bullet design not only achieves excellent penetration, but also allows for excellent expansion (when the stars align and it actually expands).   Since as it is stated in the FBI reports, the kinetic force exerted upon impact is irrelevant (one argument for larger diameter and heavier bullets) and in the realm of handgun rounds, there really is no such thing as “knock down power” (another argument for larger diameter and heavier bullets), and even back in 1987, the temporary wound cavity was discounted as insignificant, some of the arguments for a larger caliber start to fall apart.

Let the Argument for 9mm Begin
When considering all of the information provided in that FBI reports, combined with the advances in modern handgun ammunition, I began to look at caliber choice in a new way, with much thanks to my aforementioned rangemaster.

Argument 1
For argument sake, let us say we are in a gun fight and since we cannot count on expansion or CNS hits, we are left with exsanguination as the only reliable means of stopping our foe.  Now let’s take the same handgun in either .40SW or 9mm.  For this argument, I will assume we are using a Sig P226 since I am quite familiar with them.  Now, in our gunfight, we fire every round in our gun, and by some miracle, all of our rounds strike our target in the torso.  I ask you, which will cause our foe to bleed out faster, the 12 10mm holes (.40SW is the 10mm in diameter) or 15 9mm holes?

Argument 2
Given the same training and trigger time, the average shooter can put more rounds on target in a shorter period of time with a 9mm than with a .40SW.  This comes down to pure physics.  The .40SW is a harder kicking, sharper recoiling round than the 9mm.  I would argue that even those who prefer .40SW, if firing the same platform in both calibers, they would be hard pressed to shoot their preferred .40SW as quickly and accurately as they could with a 9mm.

Argument 3
Given the same platform firearm (as in the case of the Sig P226), the same platform can hold more 9mm rounds than it can in .40SW.  More bullets is always a good thing in a gun fight.

Argument 4
When comparing the duty ammo that my department carries (Federal HST 147 grain 9mm and 180 grain .40SW), the 9mm rounds actually outperform the .40SW rounds for penetration in ballistics gelatin.  I actually witnessed this first hand last week in the advanced handgun class I attended.  Considering one of the two primary wounding characteristics is penetration depth, this is another win for the 9mm.

Argument 5
The difference in diameter between the two rounds is only 1mm.  Even if you assume absolutely zero expansion, that is an extremely minimal difference in size between two holes from which the intended goal is to have blood leak.

As we have said in the past, caliber choice like many things in the gun world is a personal decision.  I personally have no stake in what you carry or shoot.  I am only offering this information as it is what finally caused me to switch from my venerable, loved, tough and manly .45ACP all the way down to the sissy, girlie-man 9mm.  Just consider this food for thought.

As always, your questions and comments are welcome.
Be safe out there,


Matt is a full time Deputy Sheriff that has been on the job since 1996. During his time as a LEO he's attended countless training classes and is a court recognized firearms expert. Matt brings a unique perspective to TBS given his LEO experience and life time appreciation of firearms and our 2nd Amendment rights.

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  • http://gravatar.com/tierlieb tierlieb

    “I ask you, which will cause our foe to bleed out faster, the 12 10mm holes (.40SW is the 10mm in diameter) or 15 9mm holes? My very basic math skills tell me that the .40SW gun has a total combined diameter of 120mm where the 9mm provides me with 135mm combined.”
    This can be misunderstood, as it might sound like you were comparing a hole with a diameter of 120mm to one of 135mm (which would be wrong), while you are actually comparing a 135mm long line of 9mm diameter holes to 120mm of 10mm holes.

    Comparing the area might be less prone to misunderstanding: 12*(10mm/2)^2*pi to 15*(9mm/2)^2*pi shows that the areas are pretty similar: 942 mm^2 to 954mm^2. Not much of a difference there, with 9mm being slightly favoured

    Comparing Glock 22 and 17 with 15 and 17 rounds respectively is 1178mm^2 versus 1080mm^2, slightly favouring the .40 S&W.

    If pierced area is an important factor, the differences are negligible.

    • Matt

      You are correct, I was miscalculating that, hence the “my very basic math skills” comment… :-)

      Thank you for correcting me. In the interest of keeping this simpler for people with the same math deficiencies I have, I dropped the math from the article.

    • XHLN

      I’d like to just add a little to your examination of the math:

      Increasing the size of the hole made by the bullet does not increase the size of the blood vessels hit, or even that there would be a guarantee of more intersecting major arteries along the bullet’s travel path (not with +1mm anyway). The wound can only bleed as much as the supply of blood is available to the area hit.

      It can be argued that with those three extra rounds of 9x19mm, you could (and practically would in a hectic firefight) place those extra shots in different areas of the body, thus likely hitting more unique arteries and causing more effective bleeding.

    • http://suburbansdomain.blogspot.com Suburban

      Unlike paper or cardboard, flesh is elastic. Even an expanded 9mm bullet doesn’t necessarily leave a .355″ diameter permanent wound track. Calculating area or volume based on bullet diameter is an oversimplified method of measuring wounding capability. Trying to calculate wounding capability with numbers and data will likely leave you with “paralysis through analysis,” and perhaps still leave you with an invalid conclusion.

  • Nate

    I agree. Plus it’s cheaper to train with. Great article.

  • Curtis

    You’re talking about switching from .45 to 9mm, but you compare .40 to 9mm. Overall, it’s a well written article, but could you round it out by including a little info about penetration and permanent wound cavity of the .45?

    • Matt

      True, I switched from a .45 to the 9mm, but I was one of the exceptions. Very few law enforcement officers carry .45’s on duty, and even fewer agencies issue them (both of mine that I carried on duty were personally owned guns). I carried my .45 because I shot it faster and more accurately than I did the .40SW. The vast majority of agencies in this country have not issued .45’s for some time, if ever, and in the late 90’s, most were going to .40SW, which is why I compared those two primarily.

      In regards to the .45’s ballistic performance, the permanent wound cavity created by the .45ACP is larger than that of the 9mm and .40SW, but in the few tests we ran in the class last week, we only fired a couple rounds of .45. However, those few penetrated further than the .40SW did. In fact, the penetration between the .45ACP and the 9mm was nearly the same, while the permanent wound cavity of the .45 was definitely larger than either the 9mm or .40SW.

      The .45 is also a slower cycling gun and while I, and many others, feel the recoil is easier to control than the .40SW, it is not as easy to control as a 9mm, nor can it by fired as rapidly (merely a function of the speed and length of the action, nothing to do with the shooter).

      Where the .45 loses out significantly to both the 9mm and the .40SW is in the area of capacity (yes there are some larger capacity .45’s out there, but with few exceptions, the grips are too large for most shooters to feel comfortable with). As was noted in the FBI report, and as is supported by extensive examination of shooting statistics nationwide, hit ratios in a gunfight are not high, and by limiting the amount of ammo carried, you are limiting your ability to both sustain a gunfight, and possibly to win the gunfight. As much as we would like, we cannot count on every round fired to hit our target.

      More bullets in a gunfight is always better, and as much as I always liked shooting my .45, it is severely lacking in that area.

      • Curtis

        Thank you. Keep in mind we’re not all LE. Many of those reading this article will be people trying to sort through personal and social biases to select an EDC caliber, so the extra info is appreciated.

  • Jay

    Great article. I’m circulating this one around the office.

  • https://www.facebook.com/zachbillings Zach Billings

    Two issues with your argument (I carry 9mm, but I’m just pointing them out). I don’t think the sum of the diameter of the bullets is the valid measurement. You say 120mm vs 135mm. Area would be more relevant for a hole, so you’re looking at 942sq.mm. vs 954sq.mm. for 9mm. 9mm is still better by that measure but the margin is less. Then if you take expanded rounds into account, the .40 is very likely to be wider by a larger margin once both are expanded. The face area of an expanded .40 is what(?) 20% greater than an expanded 9mm? Now the .40 would actually have the greater total face area over 12 rounds, compared to 15 of 9mm. You should calculate the face area of the two rounds compared (taking into account gap between the pedals, rather than just taking the widest point as a diameter and doing a standard area measurement).

    I think if we’re being honest, the total permanent cavity would be greater with 12 expanded .40’s than 15 expanded 9mms. That being said, I carry 9 because more rounds means more targets engaged, more room for error under stress, more changes at a CNS hit, and more controllable recoil. I’d take round count and controllability over the marginal increase in single round effectiveness any day.

    • Matt

      Zach, you are correct. That math/geometry error on my part was already addressed and I dropped that part from the article. You must have opened the article before I removed it.

      As for expansion and permanent wound cavities, as I said in the article, based on real world examples and the FBI report, you cannot count on expansion to happen. If and when it does, it is merely a bonus.

      Just as a side note, the amount of expansion and differences in size really depends on the bullet itself. I was actually surprised when firing the various rounds into ballistic gel, the Federal HST 9mm actually expanded to a larger diameter than the Winchester SXT bonded .40SW. I cannot say that is normal or even the average as we only fired 1 round of each, but in our testing, that actually occurred. This clearly speaks more to the design of the bullet than it does to the caliber, but it was definitely noteworthy.

  • Eric

    As with anything else, it comes down to practice, technique, and cost. 9mm has been, is, and will always be a cheaper round to shoot. It will be ‘easier’ to shoot, as in less felt recoil.

    The question is whether someone chooses to take the extra time and extra cost (relative to the 9) to learn how to shoot larger cartridges effectively. If they do, those cartridges will outperform a 9 each time, every time. If they don’t, they won’t.

    For trainers who shoot a bajillion rounds a year, 9mm is a no-brainer based on just cost alone… and if you’re going to spend all that time shooting it anyway you may as well carry it. Add in that, even at its inception, there never was a pronounced difference in the rounds performance and that’s the case for the cartridge right there.

    For single-pistol shooters if you’re going to shoot 500ish rounds a year you can be every bit as effective a shooter with a 9 as you can with a .40 or a .45.

  • zerozoku

    I also prefer to carry 9mm. Its obviously an advantage to have more bullets, but I think we also shouldn’t be so quick to undermine the importance of ‘knock-down power’ as discussed. From what I’ve seen, the 45 seems to put the BG down a lot quicker.

    • http://gravatar.com/thomaswde thomaswde

      Zerozoku based on the FBI info provided in the above article there is no such thing as “knock down power” in the sense that you seem to be referencing, the tradition “sledge hammer” sense. FBI tests state that kinetic energy on target have no effect on incapacitating a human body. That’s done via CNS hits, brain hits, or blood loss (essentially oxygen loss to the brain). Based on this info the need for kinetic energy on target, your argument for 45, isn’t very important.

  • P

    No matter the word play or match the 40 is still the only compromise between the 45 and the 9 period. I would rather have a 9mm wound than a 40 or a 45.

    • Ryan

      I would think .357 SIG would also be considered, taking the capacity of .40 S&W with improved 9mm ballistics. Arguably the old .38 Super as well, though it has never been a popular choice.

  • LeftThumb

    What was the reason the Marine Corps went with the .45 Colt Rail gun? This is an open question, not rhetorical. As far as felt recoil goes between 40 and 45 you must consider similar sized guns and not a full size Glock 21 vs a Glock 23 or even 22. Having fired a Glock 20 with a 40 conversion barrel, I doubt many people would consider it to recoil as much as a 21.

    • Matt

      I cannot answer that question specifically, but if I had to guess, I would bet it has something to do with the wounding ability of ball ammo they are forced to use.

    • W

      When I had asked my grandfather, a WWII vet, told me that the switch from 9mm to 45 occurred because the 9mm did little to stop a determined islander with a machete. But that is hand-me-down history.

      • Sequoia

        Keep in mind military must use FMJ ball ammo … If my only choice was ball, I would probably pick 45 over 9 as well. The 9mm from 90 years ago is nothing like a modern JHP

  • Rick

    Great article. I to find myself carrying the 9mm more often than my .40 the question I have is the 9mm going to be as effective in colder months? When people are wearing heavy coats and winter clothing. I live in Florida so winters are cold but not near as bad as the north. Is the 9mm in 147grain going to be as effective or is a larger bullet like the .40 better?

    • Matt

      Rick, that is where the level of penetration comes in and like you point out, heavy clothing can play a big role in that. The tests we conducted were on bare gel, but I know the FBI tests using a set prescription for “heavy clothing”. While their “heavy clothing” (4 layers of denim) may not be en vogue any more, it just gives a standard on which to base penetration.

      I did find a comparison that someone did using more realistic heavy winter clothing and the penetration level was very similar for both 9 and 40. (http://www.defensivecarry.com/forum/defensive-ammunition-ballistics/105360-9mm-40-45-testing-results-5-15-10-a.html)

      Also, as a related side note, one of my coworkers was involved in a shooting last year where the suspect was wearing a Vietnam era flak jacket (not designed to stop bullets, but still quite heavy compared to lighter clothing). He fired 6 rounds, all rounds struck the torso of the suspect, and all rounds penetrated that flak vest, and he was carrying a 9mm (coincidentally, he had just switched from his personal .45ACP to a 9mm two weeks prior to that shooting).

  • Wheelgunner87

    Now, what about 5.56 vs .308?

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  • Ryan

    I’m curious Matt as to your opinion of .357 SIG. I would assume you would have similar opinions due to the similar capacity issue, increased recoil, and as a LEO additional training costs, but do you think the increased wounding potential would be worth it?

    • Matt

      I’ve never shot it so I have no hands on opinions of it, I don’t know anyone who owns one, and none of the local agencies in my area even allow its use, so I am severely lacking in any real world knowledge about the .357SIG.

      Personally, I never saw the appeal of the .357SIG. I put it in the same category as the .45GAP – cartridges designed to solve problems that didn’t truly exist, which succeeded only in creating other new problems (just my personal opinion there)

      • http://mcthag.blogspot.com/ McThag

        My wife has a S&W Sigma in .357 SIG. It’s the result of her falling in love with that model gun and that being the only chambering we could find it in.

        Thus far it’s done everything we’ve asked it to. Admittedly we’re not running and gunning with it. It mostly holds her purse down and keeps it from blowing away.

        Shooting it is different from 9mm and .40. The report is sharp and loud. The muzzle blast is smaller and the flame is whiter than .40. Everything seems to be going on faster than 9mm is the way I’d describe it. That makes me worry that it’s going to affect the longevity of the pistol.

        It’s accurate, but it’s literally the same capacity as a .40 S&W gun. It’s also expensive and often hard to find. She’s open to changing to an M&P in 9mm though.

  • RPM509

    Excellent article. I was ready to pounce on a couple points but they were already pounced upon by previous posters and replied to satisfactorily by you so…great article. Not a LEO here, so my EDC concerns are not altogether in line with a LEO on duty. My intent is to hopefully fight my way out of a bad situation or to a bigger gun (rifle), depends on where I find myself shooting (outside or in the home). I will stick with my Kimber in .45 ACP with an extra magazine, as it conceals better on my body, and I can handle it as well as any of my three 9mm offerings. The extra rounds would be nice in the 9mm, but so is the ability to train more with my preferred handgun (.45), for me, these two balance one another out. When it comes right down to it, you’ll perform better with what you train with.

  • Dave

    What if you are in a state that limits you to 10 rounds in a magazine? Wouldn’t you want 10 of the biggest bullets you could get?

    • Matt

      Dave, yes to a certain degree, but bigger bullets are only good if they hit the target. In that regard, I personally always shot my .45 better than my .40SW, which is why I carried it instead of the higher capacity .40SW.

      Bullet size is not everything and is only a part of the complex equation, as the FBI noted in the forward to their report.

      The problem for me is that even with my .45 I love so much, while the accuracy is there, the speed is not, and only because the gun cycles slower. With a .40, I find I need to slow my rate of fire to keep my accuracy there. If you can afford to routinely train with a larger caliber, and can shoot it rapidly under stress and hit your target consistently, then by all means choose the bigger bullet.

      • https://www.facebook.com/mike.goncalves.777 Mike Gonçalves

        Dave, you have to also understand that this article was written by an LEO. They are not limited to mag capacities. Therefore, Matt was writing it from an LEO perspective, not necessarily a civilian perspective.

    • http://www.youtube.com/user/armaggedonite Zach S

      While I agree with the general premise of the article, I subscribe to your reasoning here.

      I am impressed with the quality of discussion on this article versus the usual dump of unsubstantiated opinion.

      Fortunately I live in WA, where I can carry what I please. If I were limited by capacity, I would err on the side of larger ammo. However, I think that would be application specific. Namely, how concealed does my gun need to be? Out in the woods, or wearing winter gear, maybe a compact 45. Generally, a 9mm with good ammo. However, if there were a very compact 40 about the same size as the 9, why not? I think if things had happened in a different order, we would see verticals about “why get the new 45? 40 seems to be good enough…”

      Another thing is that while the FBI test were good, they were not complete, and are getting kinda outdated. The generalities from them stand firm, but other nations have tested more modern ammo and found that temporary would cavities do matter. It is a bit sad that every article I see like this fails to rely on the vast body of research that is still being done, or including new data on new loads. FBI studies and protocol are a great starting point, but they are not the whole story.

      FBI protocol has a few arbitrary calls in there. i.e. disallowing the best performing shotgun shell because 1-3 of 27 pellets stopped a half inch short despite having way more wound channels that qualify. FBI talks in absolutes, to change minds, but that is not the real world. Realistically we are talking about tenancies and probabilities. Obviously kinetic energy has some effect too. How much is debatable, and maybe negligible statistically. Saying it has no effect is not quite true. My opinion is that in order of importance, a civilian should look for placement, quantity of projectiles on target, penetration, expansion, permanent wound cavity, temp cavity, and foot pounds, in that order. Other factors equal, I think any reasonable person will have to acknowledge than in increase in any of those factors is desirable.

      I’d say they are all equal on the first category, or at least personal to the training of each shooter. Arguably the smaller categories win because cost = more practice time. Smaller caliber wins hands down on the second factor, any gain is still a gain. For me, that puts it ahead of .45. They all tie on the third factor, penetration, so long as you are willing to sacrifice expansion with the smaller calibers. The other factors mostly correlate to the first two if you tune the projectile to achieve a certain amount of penetration.

      So I don’t think any of the 3 is a bad choice, but I think the user’s circumstances and preferences can help to inform the decision.

      For Civilian LE: 9mm with larger capacity and good ammo is a clear choice

      For civilian CCW in a free state: 9mm compact is clear choice with ~12 shots in a slim gun. If super concealment is needed,9mm adequate ballistics in a tiny gun, much smaller than the others. In some situations, 9mm kurz is probably a practical choice despite ballistics. (.380 in the pocket > 45 on the nightstand. But 9mm in the waistband > .380 in the pocket)

      Civilian CCW in oppressive states: 9mm ultra compact when clothing dictates, either of the larger calibers when practical. 45 if you shoot it better

      Military sidearm: Due to nonsensical treaties, you can’t carry the obvious choice of 9mm with good ammo. Capacity is good, and I would still take 17 or 18 rounds of 9 over 8 of 45. However, that is not the full spectrum of choice. Realistically looking at a gun similar to FNP, with ~12 rounds of 45 ball or ~15 rounds of 40 TC FMJ, I would take the 40, for capacity and girth. It is enough power even with an FMJ to do the job well, is a good barrier penetrator, and capacity matters. So does ammo weight.

      Military stealth: For those who need to be sneaky and use a suppressor, 9mm ball subsonic, is loosing badly in performance. (Subguns might justify it though) 40 is velocity dependent too. 45 wins hands down here for caliber, but let’s be open minded enough to choose a platform with some real capacity. Probably something on the lines of FNP 45T would be a good choice.

  • http://twitter.com/kbucksot Kyle Bucksot (@kbucksot)

    Matt, I have a couple of questions:

    My local sheriff’s office still issues the the 45M&P. I have the XDs45 for my edc. Do you prefer more rounds from a 9mm vs more “stopping power” you get from the .45?
    Since I am a Marine (OIF 06-08) and seeing how the Marine Corps is going with the Colt 1911 .45, and getting away from the M9 in 9mm, what are your thoughts on the move?

    I totally agree that the .40SW is very snappy, but from my experience with the .45, that round is just solid. It might just be me or the great sights on the XDs, but I feel more comfortable with that than my dad’s S&W9SVE in rapid fire scenarios and training.

    Thanks for your write ups and your videos.

    Semper Fi
    Sgt Bucksot

    • Matt

      Kyle, I don’t pretend to know more than the guys that wrote that report, but it seems to me that the report essentially says there is no such thing as stopping power (which I have always heard equated to knock down power) because that relies on the “myths” of kinetic energy, shock, and temporary wound cavities. Absent a CNS hit, stopping power really relies on bleeding out, because even a guy with a broken pelvis can still return fire from the ground. Yes, the .45 will bleed more than a 9mm, but how much more? I don’t know.

      Personally, after looking at all of the information in that FBI report, and considering the ballistics ability of modern 9mm defense ammo, I’ll take the few extra rounds. I too carry an XDs in the summer months, but I went with the 9mm version (love that little gun). In the winter months, I carry my 4″ XD in 9mm with the 18 round flush fitting Meg-Gar mag. Based on the insignificant ballistics difference between the three main defensive handgun calibers, I’ll take capacity every time now.

      Someone else asked about the Marines going back to the .45 a little earlier, and while I don’t pretend to know what their reasons are, I am willing to bet it has something to due with the fact that the performance of 9mm ball vs. .45ACP ball is significant. Unfortunately, the armed forces are relegated to ball ammo, which is far less effective on human targets than modern hollow point defense loads. I do agree that the .45 is a solid round, and I really enjoy shooting it.

      Regarding the Marines and going back to a 1911, I am going to piss some people off with this one, but there is no way in this day and age I would (by choice) carry a 1911 into combat. While I love shooting my 1911’s (I own several), there are many far more modern, higher capacity, more reliable, lighter, less complex combat handguns out there that I would choose over a 1911 to take into a gunfight. Then again, I also dislike the Beretta M9, but those are both personal feelings. Luckily, in my career, I am afforded some choice in the handgun I carry.

    • http://Whitehouse.gov George

      The Marine Corps is not moving to .45 from 9mm. In fact, the Marine Corps ordered another 7,500 M9A1’s in 2006. The Marine Corps ordered about 4,000 Colt M1911A1 to issue to Force Recon and Recon only.

      • http://www.Range5.com George Hill

        No, not Recon only. MARSOC and Recon.

  • Chris. B

    I’m still sticking with .40 due to the fact i’m heavily invested in it. Shot placement is key no matter which caliber you have.

    • Tim

      Ditto! And it packs a whollop in my pistol caliber carbine!

  • Jim

    I’ve read many articles on this subject and I am a loyal reader to the Bang Switch as well as others too. I find them all interesting. So I’m going to say this with they utmost respect and ask that you please not take it the wrong way. But it is very apparent that all of these articles defending the 9 are continuing to get more and more lengthy, and more detailed, and far, far above and beyond the call of duty so to speak. Anything that you have to continue to put that much effort into in order to defend it, make me ask who are you trying to convince? Us, or yourself? Especially when you end it with caliber choice is a personal decision. Not trying to be a jerk here please understand that. Obviously all three will do the job.

    • Matt

      Not taking your comment personally Jim, but let me respond.

      Both of the previous articles Tim wrote generated decent discussions, and many of the comments got almost heated. Discussions of caliber selection seem to evoke very emotional responses from some people, almost as if we were directing insults at a persons mother, wife or child.

      It seems silly to me how emotional some people get about defending their caliber choice, just like they do in Ford vs. Chevy or DI vs. Piston discussion. I don’t see why we cannot have a calm, rational discussion about the topic, which is what I tried to promote by addressing the topic as I did. Having just discussed much of this topic in a training class last week, the topic was fresh in my head which is why I wrote about now. The fact that it is longer than the two previous articles by Tim really means nothing other than I am a longer winded writer.

      This article is merely my expressing my reasons for making the same decision Tim did when it comes to caliber choice. While Tim and I may agree on caliber, we differ on our preferred carry guns (Glock vs. XD).

  • Mark7Seven

    You’re arguments and examples are factual, well presented and clear. I may be going back to my 9mm and selling my 40 based on the information here. More hits on target and more rounds to put on target are strong selling points to move from 40 to 9mm. Especially considering the incapacitating damage between the two rounds is negligible.

    As an armed citizen and not a LEO this is great Food for thought.

  • Vince

    .40 here. But write whatever it takes to make you feel good about your puny gun. After yet another article trashing the .40 you should be feeling great.

    • Matt

      You’re response is very emotional, almost like the whole article was intended as a personal insult, when in fact it is nothing of the sort, nor did I remotely bash the .40SW in the article. Additionally, this is the first article I have written on the subject of caliber choice, hardly “yet another article”.

      Rather than bash the .40, which I did not, I instead praised the modern 9mm. Just because I and many others are choosing to carry a 9mm after having carried “man guns” for many years does not mean we are speaking negatively of said man rounds.

      My entire argument for why I chose to move to the 9mm was all factually based, as I laid out in the article. Your response was entirely the opposite.

    • Don

      This article was only based on matters of personal preference and the set of facts based on testing. The testing was limited in nature, but that was duly noted in the article and the evidence listed was based solely on that. The article does not refute other testing done in other situations, or in any way bash the .40.

    • Don

      I’m a .40 person myself, but don’t think Matt was bashing the caliber at all. In fact, I think he made some good points and while it doesn’t change my choice in caliber, I can certainly respect and appreciate the information.

  • https://www.facebook.com/robert.long.336333 Robert Long

    Caliber is the secondary choice for me, My primary choice is which hand gun I can instinctively put on target. 1911 has been the one that requires the least amount of concentration and XD hand guns follow in second. Both can come in 9mm and 45 and which one I carry depends on where I am going and how I will be dressed. IWB 9mm, OWB 45 with spare mags.

  • Cliff Williams

    Wish I had kept the article but I once read an even more detailed examination regarding handgun caliber by a guy who had done a thesis on it. He examined LEO incidents, FBI stats, coroner’s reports, etc. His conclusion – the only thing that really made a difference was proper shot placement, not size of caliber.

    But let me ask a different question. I have read after-action reports coming out of the sandbox and many servicemen do not like the 9mm and opt for a larger caliber claiming it is ineffective. You say kinetic energy deposit has no effect? Does it not matter for penetration through clothing and barriers? Would not a larger piece of lead have an advantage in that respect with all ammunition being equal? What about the sheer shock to the body? We know a shotgun blast even with pellets can cause shock trauma.

    • Matt

      Cliff, that was not me saying kinetic energy has no permanent wounding effect, that was me quoting the participants in both of the FBI’s Wound Ballistics Seminars (1987 and 1993). Also, that statement is specific to handgun rounds. Rifle and shotgun rounds are not in the same category because they travel at much higher velocities and carry more kinetic energy due the weight of the projectile (or combined weight as in the case of a shotgun).

      Again, comparing military handgun ammo to civilian/LE handgun ammo is apples to oranges. The military is restricted to ball ammo which has far less wounding capacity than modern defensive loads.

  • Mark

    Interesting thoughts on how 94AWB may have affected 40sw adoption during that time. Having lived and bought firearms in a state that banned standard-cap mags, I chose the larger .45 because I had a forced handicap. Also the first pistol caliber I ever shot was .357mag so power and kick weren’t an issue in my mind

  • https://www.facebook.com/william.mills.14 William Mills

    I like shooting the .45 ACP, I don’t think it is cannon, I just really like the recoil, I am probably one of the only people out there that prefers .45 to 9 in that department but there you go.

  • Chris

    I carry a 9mm for work. A Glock 19 for the Sheriffs Dept. I have a Glock 22 as my home defense pistol, or if I open carry. Or just not concerned with being super discrete while carrying. I had a 17, but wanted the option of a 40 caliber for sake of ammo availability.
    Your article is one of the best for arguing why a 9mm is good enough. Without bashing the larger calibers. Thanks for sharing. I will probably get a 9mm if I leave the dept or we get issued something outside of the 9mm family.

  • Torrey

    After reading MAC’s earlier article on the benefits of the 9, I actually went out and bought a glock 19. I am a 1911 aficionado and, at this point I consider the glock to be an addition to the collection. I’m certainly not switching over to it any time soon. I just have a hard time believing that that skimpy little bullet is going to inflict as much damage as a .45. If you go to tnoutdoors9 site on youtube, you can see very objective ammo tests. He tests the federal hst in both 9mm 147 gr and 45 230 gr. The 45 penetrates .5 in deeper and is expands to almost an inch wide vs .6 in for the 9mm. The 45 is clearly more devastating than the 9 in these tests. Not only that, but double tap ammo sells a bonded defense 45 230 gr that has a muzzle velocity of 1050 fps which blows the federal out of the water.
    The capacity argument is, in my opinion, more applicable to LE than to CCW carriers. As a private citizen, I’m going to use my gun long enough to get the hell out of there. I’m not going to be turning a confrontation into a drawn out event like I’m in a chuck norris movie. My running shoes are just as important in my self defense set up as my gun. Plus, 45 mags are slim and easy to carry (even the 10 round ones) unlike double stack mags. I usually have 24 rounds on me which, if used intelligently, should be plenty.
    In WW 1, sargent York is reputed to have killed 7 nazis with 7 rounds of 45ACP hardball. This would almost certainly never happen with a 9. Lastly, I’m a paramedic and have seen a lot of GSW’s. The people who get shot with 9’s rarely die and the ones who get shot with 45 are usually dead before I even get there. Seeing is believing.

  • Chris

    I shoot 40 for USPSA Limited competition. I am set up to reload for 40 so I can make practice ammo reasonably. Through practice I have gotten used to the 40 and how it shoots so for me it makes more sense to standardize on a single cartridge (40 is the minimum required by USPSA for major power factor in Limited/Limited 10). Just my take on it. With modern bullet designs and good shot placement both seem to perform well these days.

  • http://Facebook Dean

    Your arguments have a number of flaws Matt and I think you’re doing a huge disservice to the readers who view this as gospel.

    – Your “exsanguination” argument is just plan lame. There are innumerable factors that will affect the human body when it comes to blood loss. Saying that “x” number of smaller holes will cause a body to bleed out faster that “y” number of bigger holes is not well thought out.

    – A millimeter of extra expansion can make all the difference in the world! It could literally be the difference in severing an artery, spinal column or brain stem to end the fight for the bad guy. I guess you would encourage bow hunters to stop using razor broad heads and switch to field tips on their arrows?

    – You act like the recoil of the .40 caliber is equal to that generated by a 120mm main gun bolted on an Abrams tank! The recoil of the .40 S&W is not excessive and you have some serious training issues if you can not deliver quick, accurate follow-up shots on a target at the same rate as the 9mm. Here’s something to chew on. What’s the most popular assault rifle in the world? Hint; it ends in a “47.” Which has more recoil? It or a M4? Hint; the rifle ending in “47.” So I guess that makes the 7.62×39 round useless for follow-up shots too? If your argument for recoil was true, the militaries of the world should switch to the venerable .22 long rifle.

    – How does the performance of your department issued duty ammo have anything to do with the dozens upon dozens of other personal defense loads that are on the market? So one test, performed by your department using one brand of ammo, provides enough evidence in your mind to consider the .40 dead and buried. Pretty weak Matt!

    The both of us share a mutual occupation but our opinions on the .40 S&W will never converge.

    • Matt

      Dean, I certainly hope no one views anything I say as gospel, and I assume they do not which is why I ended this article by saying it was just food for thought.

      There are two things that make a person incapable of voluntary action, a central nervous system shot and enough blood loss to cause the brain to lose consciousness. That is not my argument, that is science.

      You are right that there are countless variables when examining human blood loss, but in order to have some sort of logical comparison of ammunition, you have to assume certain constants. In my argument, the constant I assumed was similar shot placement with the various calibers. I would likely be correct in saying that a single, well placed .22LR in the femoral artery or jugular would cause the subject to bleed out faster than several torso shots from a .45ACP, but then we would not be comparing apples to apples. It is the same reason that the FBI adopted a specific formula for their ballistics gelatin and a specific “heavy clothing” recipe for testing bullet ballistics. There needs to be a constant in order to evaluate effects evenly.

      You appear to be counting on expansion occurring by your statement, but as is noted several times in the FBI report, and you can ask any coroner, expansion does not always occur. Any hard object in between (car door, glass, sheet rock, etc) the barrel and the target will likely damage the bullet making expansion not happen. Also, in order for a bullet to expand, it needs to pass through a certain amount soft tissue (varies by bullet design) and the human body is full of bones, and many are close to the surface. A bone impact will also damage the bullet preventing expansion. These too are not my arguments, but are science.

      I never once claimed that the recoil of a .40SW was uncontrollable or even horrific. I did say they recoil more sharply than either a 9mm or a .45. Again, that is not just my opinion, that is fact. For that matter, talk to any Glock armorer and ask them what caliber gun requires more gunsmithing, or ask Glock or Oakland, CA Police which that same question. It is not new news that the .40 is tougher on guns than other calibers.

      I offered the results of the tests I witnessed (2 brands of ammo, not one, 3 different calibers for each) only as anecdotal evidence, and by no way, shape or form was that intended to be the Holy Bible of ballistics. The fact that you insinuate that that was my intention I find utterly ridiculous.

      As I stated in the article, we are all free to choose the caliber we prefer, and as I also stated, this is merely intended to be information for the reader to consider. I am by no means insinuating that you and I need to agree on caliber selection.

      And by the way, it is quite possible to offer differing opinions without being completely condescending. Your argument tends to carry more weight with the person with whom you disagree if you are not trying to belittle them while talking to them. I have found that ability useful in my career. It might be worth trying sometime.

      • http://Facebook Dean


        You offer more mixed signals in your arguments that Helen Keller directing traffic.

        The article stated that your department used an unnamed ,180 grain .40 caliber round in the test. That’s one brand and one design of .40 caliber ammunition going against your death ray 9mm round.

        Yes, creating oxygen depravation to the brain through blood loss is a means to stop a bad guy. No doubt about it! But equating blood loss in the body like it’s a kitchen strainer isn‘t a viable argument Matt. That’s pretty much what your premise is based on.

        If you think that I’m not creditable because of my writing style, then so be it. My experience has taught me that reporting accurate, truthful and objective information on a given topic is how credibility is earned. You cite data that’s twenty to thirty years old on how the .40 caliber came to rise in popularity. But you offer no modern, empirical data as to why the .40 S&W is the dog you make it out to be.

        It’s funny you should mention the topic of Glock armorers because I happen to be one for my department. I’m also a firearm’s instructor and blessed to be part of an agency that conducts firearms training on a monthly basis. This means that we shoot- a lot. In the eighteen years of using .40 caliber Glocks, we’ve experienced very few problems. Have we had some issues come up? Sure we have. But nothing that can be attributed to the caliber selection.

        You’re correct that expansion is unreliable. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that a wider projectile has a greater chance of damaging vital organs and tissues as it travels though the human body. All things being equal, the extra millimeter you start out with in the .40, with no expansion, increases the likelihood of hitting something important. That tiny amount in diameter may seem insignificant but it could be critical in the long run!

        You did state that the reader should formulate his own opinion when it comes to choosing a particular caliber. But I view this topic as a literal life and death issue Matt. This isn’t some harmless argument like debating whether a Mustang is faster than a Camaro. This blog and your given occupation garners a lot of weight with the good folks that come on here looking for advise. I have no doubt that a number of people view you as a subject matter expert and take your advise as gospel. It‘s a free country and people can do what they want when it comes to caliber selection. In my humble opinion, you’re backing the wrong horse and directing people in choosing a caliber with less performance than the .40 S&W.

        With everything being said, you’re still a brother in my eyes and every family has disagreements from time to time. Stay safe!

        • Matt

          “The article stated that your department used an unnamed ,180 grain .40 caliber round in the test. That’s one brand and one design of .40 caliber ammunition going against your death ray 9mm round.” – Please note the caption below the image of the 6 different expanded bullets. The image is located about 2/3 of the way down the article and on the left side of the page. Three different caliber calibers, two different brands of each, all noted.

          You seem to be very hung up on the fact that by my choosing to carry a 9mm, I am somehow talking negatively about the .40SW. For example, you say “why the .40 S&W is the dog you make it out to be”. I have reread my article many times and do not see how anything I said can be taken as making the .40 out to be a dog. My only remotely negative comments about the .40 is that it recoils more sharply than a 9mm and that when comparing the same gun model in both calibers, the 9mm version will hold more ammo than the .40. Neither of those is opinion, nor is that remotely equating the round to being a dog.

          Let’s be serious here for a minute, by your response, you are acting as if I am telling folks to carry a .25 or .32 auto for self-defense. That is hardly the case. The modern 9mm is a very competent round, and has come a long way since the .40 took the market by storm back in the early 1990’s. Modern 9mm muzzle velocities, penetration depth, and when it happens, expansion are all very close to the .40SW.

          You are right, this could potentially be a life and death issue. I know all to well how valuable having a firearm can be to ensuring one’s survival. I have weighed all the empirical data, as well as my personal abilities and preferences, and I chose to go with a 9mm, both on and off duty. I absolutely trust it to function as intended should I ever need to employ it. I would expect the readers of this blog, or any other article, to do the same thing I did, evaluate all the information and consider their own abilities and preferences so they can make their own educated decision.

  • FIDO

    I think some are missing the point. The projectile must damage a vital structure of the body in order to incapacitate the threat. So, as long as your chosen ammunition is capable of the penetration required and your bullet finds the intended target it doesn’t matter what caliber it is. All calibers being discussed are capable of doing this. That means if you shoot an attacker in the heart with a 10mm it would have the same effect as a 9mm. The fact that you hit the heart is what gives the results we are looking for. As long as both meet the standard why would you pick one that is harder to shoot and has less ammunition immediately available?
    I’ve been to bad places and have had bad people try to hurt me. I never
    wished for less ammo or a weapon that was harder to use effectively.

  • Lee

    I carry .40 because I like it, I have carried it for years, I can hold my own with either my G35 or G23 against any 9mm shooter I have encountered in competition, and because I have reloading dies for it. I will continue to carry it completely unswayed by pointless articles like this one. I think the author’s rationale is completely sound considering that it is applicable only to the author. I couldn’t care less about stats, numbers, wound channel comparisons, bla bla bla. I care about what I like to shoot. I shot plenty of 9mm in the military. I even own a couple of 9mm handguns. It shoots great and I like it, but I like .40 better. I am not a Jason Bourne wannabe and I have no plans to participate in any Hollywood shootout. However, I am absolutely 100% certain that I will always be better protected by the caliber I am most comfortable and happy shooting and that happens to be a .40. There is my counter-article for you. :)

    • Vince


  • Jim March

    Matt, I think you are correct when comparing the 9mm, 40S&W and 45ACP. You miss two things though:

    1) The “9mmPara” caliber is in my opinion in the process of splitting into two calibers, at least functionally. You are describing the performance of what might be termed “super 9″ loads that will work great in police duty-sized handguns…the Gold Dot 115gr load driven +P+ by Buffalo Bore and Underwood Ammo, Winchester’s 127+P+ “police sales only” load (Ranger-T projectile) and the Federal HST “police sales only” loads (esp. the 147). But try to shoot this class of round out of a “9mm” mousegun like the Beretta Nano, Ruger LC9, small Kel-Tecs and the like and you’re going to have a Bad Time[tm]. The gun will wear prematurely and controllability will go to hell. And expansion out of really short barrels may be “iffy” with some loads. So when dealing with duty-sized guns the 9mm has in fact come into a world of it’s own just as you say, but in mouse-9 guns…different story.

    2) You exclude fragmentation effects. When the choice is the 9, 40 or 45(ACP) I agree. But the very hottest 357Magnum in modern loads, esp. using the Gold Dot 125gr projectile driven to bat-outta-hell speeds by Buffalo Bore, Underwood and the other small crazy ammo houses of that ilk are…another matter entirely. Ditto the best 10mm loads. Once you hit 800ft/lbs of energy, you get…interesting stuff happen. I once blew up a bowling ball with this class of load – literally blasted it in half and sent fist-sized pieces of the concrete core back past my feet and I was about ten yards back. I believe that on a bone hit there may be enough energy on tap to cause bone fragments to form secondary wound channels. There isn’t enough science on this because police don’t use wheelguns much any more and they don’t use the more radical small-ammo-shop rounds…but I sure as hell wouldn’t want to be hit by this class of load!!!

    Now. That said the 9mm “super loads” as you describe have become good enough that I converted my personal 357 wheelgun to 9mm – and of course it can eat a steady diet of +P+ crazy stuff all day long! I did the conversion because that’s what was required to add magazine feeding to my revolver…and yeah, I did it!


  • https://www.facebook.com/benjamin.froland Benjamin Isaac Froland

    Not this again…

  • Lee

    The title “Why Nine?” Sounds a lot like “Whine,” but with a speech impediment.

  • RGL01

    I’ll still take my chances hitting an attacker with a 230gr .45, over a 115/124/147 gr 9mm, anyday. P=MV. The 45 hits harder. Anyone who has seen these two rounds hit reactive steel targets knows this.

    • ren5000

      @RGL01 the human body doesn’t contain any reactive steel targets.

      To everyone complaining about this article; facts and personal preference of the author were presented, no insults of any caliber occurred. What was stated was that the performance between the calibers discussed were very similar and that 9mm will almost always have more capacity in the same size framed firearm (for example the oft favored Glock 19 and 22). I personally see this article as an argument for higher capacity. If your personal choice is a high end Kimber 1911 that you are fantastic with no one is saying don’t carry it. However it is a fact that it will be physically impossible for you to hit the target more times with it (assuming all rounds hit their mark with both firearms) with a 1911 or a glock 22 than with a glock 19 (also assuming standard magazines that come with said firearm.)

      Final thought; carry what YOU are comfortable with, shoot well with, and can afford to train with. Try not to bash people if their carry choice is different than yours.

  • Aaron

    So here’s the deal. I love the .45 vs .40 vs. 9mm debate. In interest of full disclosure, I’ll tell you that I do not feel under-gunned carrying a 9mm, nor do I feel as though I don’t have a enough ammo with a .45. I own both, I’ve trained with both, and I love both.
    What this article fails to take into account is how the empirical evidence shows that 9mm ball ammo has such a piss poor reputation vs the .45 ball. (Remember, we are ignoring expansion) The author has it correct that for a handgun penetration and wound cavity are the determining factors. So if the wound cavity of the .45 is only 2mm’s wider….then why does the .45 ball work so much better? What is the real difference between a 9mm and a .45? It’s very simple. The .45 is TWICE as heavy as the 9mm. The added weight means that the .45 not only has more momentum, but its superior mass gives it more inertia to overcome, meaning that intervening mediums such as walls, car doors, glass, muscles, and bones don’t deflect the .45 nearly as often, thus it will penetrate deeper & far more consistently. I’ve seen this played out over and over in my ER. Guys hit with .45s just don’t live nearly as often as the guys hit the 9mms or .38s.
    So what does that mean?
    It means that during lower time engagements in a built up area…..say a room in your house filled with wood furniture, or a 7/11 in the candy isles….. those 2-3 shots you fired with your .45 are going to consistently do more damage than the four 9mms that stand a better chance of being deflected. During higher time engagements, say fighting two guys in the parking lot who just don’t want to die, your 17rd 9mm magazine is going to give you the advantage, as at least a few of those 9mms are going to expand out to .60 and tear up a vital blood way before you run out of ammo.
    Either way, the .40 remains the most pointless caliber known to man, as it has worse muzzle flip than either the 9mm or the .45, has less capacity than the 9mm, and at 165grains on average, isn’t that much more deadly than a 135g 9mm. It also beats your gun up waaay faster.
    But no matter what, shot placement is key. If you think you’re doing anything other with your .45 than increasing your chances of incapacitation while hitting a vital area, you’re on crack.
    Thus my polymer guns are made in 9mm. I don’t see the point of the poly gun if it’s not in 9mm. Why deal with all of that recoil? My steel guns are in .45, as they handle the recoil way better and allow me to place more rounds on target faster.

    • http://gravatar.com/alphagrendal alphagrendal

      Seems like the reason John Browning went to the .45 in the first place, no?

  • http://gravatar.com/alphagrendal alphagrendal

    Matt, Thanks for the great article. When I switched from a .45 as my carry arm to a smaller caliber a few years ago, I was really thinking heavily on going to a 9mm but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I was just old enough when I was getting into the firearms world to go through the 9mm witch burning. I went ahead and got the Glock 27 instead of the 26 because of those past prejudices.

    What I ended up with was a very harsh recoil .40 that I really don’t enjoy shooting. I’m a competent shot with it, but I’ve shot the 26 also, and much prefer it. One caveat to the 27 though, a Lone Wolf 9mm barrel for it, and it virtually becomes a 26. Best of both worlds I guess.

    Still, a pistol is a pistol and no matter the caliber, you will make ballistic and tactical sacrifices for a gun small enough to carry.

  • heywood

    This article is missing the bulls eye completely. As debated back and forth the comparability of all 3 calibers is very similar and really the only measurable comparison that can’t be debated is magazine capacity, although to a degree is irrelevant. When looking at LE shootings look at the number of rounds per event shot. Very rarely is a 1911 even going to need a re-load.

    The big picture that is being missed is the variable of the shooters ability. Over the years i’ve told people who ask, shoot the biggest bullet you can shoot accurately. That is because without accuracy NOTHING ELSE MATTERS! The example of all rounds in the 2 compared guns is moot because no one shoots 100% and empties their mags in a real firefight. The question that should be asked is if you get to put 3 holes in someone that needed holes put in them, where do you want the holes placed and how big do you want these holes to be?

  • http://anthonyquickle.com Anthony Quickle

    Nice article & well edited in the comments. Still going to carry my 1911 .45 as its the weapon & caliber with which I am most comfortable & accurate. I tend to think of the 9mm arguments as who can throw the most lead downrange. My stance is how much accurate lead can I place on target. Stay calm & aim. Probably helps that I’m a real slow twitch guy…. I wonder what the preferred handgun / caliber is among snipers….

  • AnthonyC

    I can see the logic of your argument and appreciate those who have worked out the math more accurately. It seems that the 9mm is the ideal caliber for self defense carry handgun. However, I live in an illogical state, New York, where the politicians have decide to penalize law abiding guns and limit the number of rounds that can be in a magazine to SEVEN! Although we can still own 10-round magazines (which has been the arbitrary limit since 1994), since the oxymoronic SAFE act was push through New Yorkers are restricted to carrying only 7 rounds in each magazine. Therefore, a CCW pistol with at most 7+1, negates any capacity benefit the 9mm offers.
    As such I am researching slim, single-stacked .45 ACP pistols for CCW. 1911s look great but most are expensive and require learning a new manual of arms. Some Sigs and Springfields look promising. However, if I am going to be limited only 7 in a magazine they are going to be the largest, common caliber. Gov. Cuomo may have inadvertently pushed many New Yorkers to become big caliber shooters.

  • http://Tridentmw.com Ethan

    It was my understanding that one of the reasons for going to the .40S&W was due to its stopping performance, not against the human body but against the engine of a vehicle since more shots fired by LEO’s were an attempt to stop a moving vehicle. Urban legend?

    • Matt

      No handgun round will stop a car engine, and I don’t know anyone who would suggest trying to shoot the engine of a car to stop it. If you want to stop a car engine, get a .50BMG or something else in that range. Urban legend indeed.

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  • Drmaudio

    I would like to offer a small counter point (more of a side note really):

    I am a 9mm guy that is on the small side of average and shoots about 2500 rounds per year. I am a decent shot and can shoot any caliber, but find my follow up shots are significantly faster with a 9mm.

    In that range time, I have run into some guys who are either big guys and well practiced, or just extremely practiced, to whom it doesn’t seem to matter what they are shooting.

    There are guys out there that are just as fast with a .40 or .45 as they are with a 9 (they are the exception, not the rule). To those guys a .40 or .45 might make more sense. I am not one of those guys.

  • Aaron

    I also have to wonder why the author is ignoring expansion in his arguments for the 9mm? Coming from a guy who would only carry a .45 for years, the whole reason why I adopted the 9mm was because I was watching test after test show defensive 9mms expand out to .60 cal and penetrate very well, even after hitting some mediums. (Albeit expansion gets iffy after hitting most mediums) I don’t think you can discount expansion anymore as the technology seems to be making it far more consistent.

  • whamprod

    I’m not a professional…..just a guy who carries a handgun with a concealed carry permit…. I have owned a .40 and sold it because I simply could never reconcile myself to the recoil characteristics. It was a good gun, and if I had bought it in 9mm or .45 ACP, I’d still have it today. I’ve shot .45 ACP all my life (I’m 61 now), and I also own a 9mm Kahr PM9 and a Glock 19. But my primary carry guns have always been .45s. What you say makes a lot of sense, but then I have a lifetime of confidence in the .45 ACP cartridge…..and….I tend to shoot it better because I prefer a recoil impulse that is a “slow push” to one that is a “fast snap.” Also, as I get older and more tired, my guns seem to get heavier and heavier, and I find myself devolving to whichever is lightest and I spend less time worrying about capacity. My lightest guns, which I often pocket carry (although I do own holsters for them), are: a XDS45, a PM9, and a M&P340 .357 snubbie. All are low capacity, and all are chambered in calibers with proven self-defense reputations. I’m not looking to get into a firefight. I don’t get paid to run toward the sound of the guns. I just want to be able to tell a mugger in the Walmart parking lot to get lost…..and make it stick if I have to. If I hear shots fired, I have urgent business elsewhere. Any of my higher capacity guns are essentially for home defense.

    Thank you for the analysis.

  • Kevin M.

    Nice review.

  • https://www.facebook.com/JeffPederson1986 Jeff Pederson

    Matt, you have the best logical comebacks I have read to people using emotion as their main tactic in their attempt at debate. Not coming back with anger and instead using the facts of your article makes for a nice comment section in the blog. I get real tired of other blogs who use the comment section for scratching/pulling hair rather than helping to spread knowledge and information.

    • Matt

      Thank you Jeff. I try. Sometimes it takes great restraint.

  • Steve

    Matt, what would your opinion be in a limited capacity state? I live in Kommifornia, therefore limited to 10 rounds at all times. 10 x 9mm holes, or 10 x 10mm holes? I know if I lived in America I’d just carry that 9mm XD with 19+1 capacity. Thanks in advance!

    • Matt

      Steve, that one is a tough one.

      Even when I artificially limit my carry capacity (carrying a smaller gun), I still choose to carry a 9mm. My summer carry gun is an XDs in 9mm. I could carry the exact same gun in .45ACP, but I still prefer to carry it in 9mm as it still provides me additional rounds over the .45ACP version.

      That said, if I were going to carry a full size gun and it was limited 10 rounds (or 7 for the poor souls stuck in NY), and all of the major calibers were equally available… Man, head scratcher there.

      Personally, it would be a tough toss-up between 9mm and .45ACP as those are my preferred calibers. I think if that were the case, I would spend a little time with each on the range (find someplace you can rent them or someone who will loan you one), put some rounds through each and see which I can shoot the best rapidly, because if and when pucker moment ever happens, that is what likely you will do, shoot fast. Then I would take an look at ammo costs and honestly weigh which you would be more likely to shoot on a regular basis, because if you can’t afford to practice with it, the caliber is not going to matter when the excrement hits the oscillator.

  • Brightlightman

    If had a gun that could carry only one round, I’d choose a .45. Bullet for bullet, bigger is better. Sorta like sticks. I’d prefer .50bmg ballistics too. But since a 9mm, .40, or .45 in the exact same spot is going to do essentially the same exact thing, I’ll take a more opportunities to miss. I’ve seen where people soak up 22 rounds of .40, or 12 rounds of .45 and they were still fighting. Sometimes a single. 380 will do the job. Since all modern HP ammo is designed to do the same thing (penetrate so much and expand), I might as well have a gun that I can shoot faster and for longer. This comes from somebody who was issued Glock 22. I’ve since switched my personal weapons from .40 to 9mm.

    I think you did a great job Matt. Both in the article and in your responses. Very classy, keep it up.

  • snowshredder

    Can we ask someone that has actually used the round to take down a bad guy in 40 and 9 mm instead of looking at gel test and reading studies.. I’m sure they are out there, we have been fighting two wars for over ten years and we have some law enforcement officers who have been to hell and back.

    • Matt

      The rangemaster on my department goes to every scene of every officer involved shooting (OIS) to observe the scene and get the best, most accurate information about the shooting. He then attends every autopsy of every subject killed in an OIS. He has been to many that involved our service pistols (that is the majority of our shootings) including both .40SW and 9mm. Both work equally well, in the real world, when the rounds hit their target.

      As I mentioned in a comment above, one of my coworkers shot a guy wearing a Vietnam era flak jacket. He shot him 6 times in the torso as the suspect, who was wielding a pitch fork, charged at his beat partner who had tripped and fallen and was on the ground. All 6 rounds penetrated the flak jacket and stopped the suspect before he could injure the fallen officer. The officer was carrying a 9mm which he had just switched to (from his personally owned .45) two weeks prior. Is that real world enough? And BTW, that officer is still carrying a 9mm.

      Also, just for information, those FBI seminars were attended by doctors who deal with the actual results of real world shootings, not by people putting rounds into ballistic gel. They are the folks that produced the information that the FBI then put into the report.

  • http://www.JTollett.com James Tollett

    Thank You, That was a well written article with facts & you explain your position well.

    On a side note, I personally switched my off duty carry from a 40sw (S&W SW99) to a 45acp (XD45 tactical) to my current EDC a Glock 19. I just simply shot the glock 19 better than my other handguns.

    and the simple fact that a fully loaded G19 with two loaded G17 mags for reloads is a 50 round box ammo. well, that’s a lot of ammo and more quickly available is always better in my opinion. Much better than the 38 revolver I am required to carry at work as an armed bank guard. I’m good with it, but capacity is its biggest downfall.

    Thanks for good article

  • Troy

    Wow. I do appreciate the perspective. I have carried professionally for 17 years myself and remember, personally, when the State Troopers here decided to get away from the 9mm. They had a shootout in which the rounds weren’t penetrating automotive window glasso they wanted a round that hit harder. At the time, the department’s tactical guys were carrying Sig 45’s and the weapon was highly favored. They tested them against a few others, one of which was Glock, which they decided to go with in 40 because of the increased capacity over the 45 and once they showed the “brutality” tests to Sig and asked if they could do that with their gun, Sig had no response.

    Anyway, back to the point at hand, I have had hang-ups about 9mm since and have carried Sig or Glock 40’s on duty (issued) since. I had an XD in 357 sig until the platform became available in 45, so as my personal carry I like it…hey, a LOT of 45, right.

    All that being said, I realize that 9mm ammo has evolved and, though I don’t carry it, I certainly would not feel outgunned with it.

    I admire how you handle the responses from those who seem to attach their ego to their caliber platform of choice.

    If you feed a 9 right, it will do what you need it to, and like previously stated by another, nobody who has been in a gunfight has ever walked away wondering why they had all this ammo.

    Stay safe, and drive on.

    • Jock Ellis

      According to my uncle who was the FBI’s bank robbery expert and who gave J Edgar a face to face report on such crimes every Monday, “In a firefight if you can reach out and touch someone, you can probably hit him.” So in order to hit your target 10-15 times you are pretty much going to have to have your arm around him.

  • Tim U

    I actually go back and forth on this a lot right now.

    My “service pistol” of choice is a 9mm.

    I own 9mm, .40, and .45.

    My carry gun is a .380, and I’ve been looking at the XD-S.

    Unfortunately, because I have both .45 and 9mm, I am having a hard time picking the winner. Unlike double stacks where the round count is significantly higher, in this case the difference is 2 rounds. Two.

    I know in my head that 9mm works just fine, and I’ve trusted it for years. But for two guns that are 100% identical except for caliber, is the extra 2 rounds worth it?

  • Mike

    Having read through the majority of the comments here about the 9mm vs the 40 S&W and the 45 ACP it seems to still come down to the “Ford vs Chevy” argument, which in the long run, both are an endless conversation topic. What I don’t see here is someone stating that they actually were in a gunfight with and shot another human being with what ever caliber they are using and the results thereof. What I do see is alot of test result data being tossed around. The other thought is about the need to carry a gun that carries alot of rounds. While this is a good thing in a prolonged gunfight, it is not necessary in a normal CCW situation where you may have to use it for defensive reasons. I have found that with the knowledge of having only 7, 8 or 10 rounds in your carry gun, causes you to train more and be more attentive to your accuracy in putting the rounds where they need to be and not having a “spray and pray” mentality found with many who carry 9mm coupled with lack of training and experience. I am a combat veteran of Vietnam and Desert Storm and a great number of years wearing a badge and gun in both city and county departments. For over 40 years I have carried the 1911 (mostly) and the Sig 220 (older German) and I own three CZ models in both 9mm and 40. It comes down to what you like, what you are comfortable with and what you shoot well with. The idea is to find what you like and train as much as possible for as many scenarios as possible and be prepared. There are NO perfect/magical guns or rounds out there! Take what you use and use it well. Don’t underestimate it or overestimate it. But by all means, if you find yourself in a gunfight situation…you darn well better have a gun!!! And that, my friends, is what counts!

  • http://www.markandrewedwards.com/markblog Mark Andrew Edwards

    Thank you for the article. It’s a good write up and summary of why to carry the 9. Personally, I’ve been carrying the XD9 for almost ten years now. I love it. But I just bought a Glock 20 and…man, what a gun. I’ve been afraid of the 10mm for years based on this FBI report. I found I can fire it rapidly and accurately (and then there’s the ‘smile on my face’ factor, which is a bonus) so I’m planning on transitioning to it in the winter months.

    I do have a question about incapacitation. One of the training courses I took years ago talked about targeting the hip bones or pelvis as a take-down target. I remember doing shooting drills that started in the COM and then transitioned to the hip/pelvis. The thinking being that if you break one of those bones, the bad guy would be unable to advance. Do you have any thoughts on 9mm vs 10/.45/.40 in that scenario?

    Thanks again, looking forward to your next article.

  • Jim Holladay

    I appreciate the discussion and Matt’s well reasoned responses. I read all the comments and certainly understand the many different points of view. I am not a LEO just a long time CC permit holder who does what I would guess is more of an average amount of training and shooting. I have no dreams of putting 15 rounds on target. I am much more concerned in remaining calm enough to put one or two on target and then getting out of Dodge. I carry not to apprehend the BG but to hopefully protect myself and others long enough to disengage from the situation. While I own and shoot all of the described calipers I count on my 45 with one extra magazine to give me enough time to get away.

    • http://www.youtube.com/user/armaggedonite Zach S

      I am in the same situation as you. However, I value capacity not because I expect a prolonged fight, or because I intend to apprehend an assailant. For me it is preparedness for a variety of situations. Most assaults have more than one attacker. I want enough for two shots per each of 3-4 assailants, the likelihood that I will not get good hits, and enough left over to cover them while I scamper to safety. 8 shots in a 1911 or fat revolver doesn’t give me this, but 12 shots would. in 45, this would be a huge gun. in 9mm, I know of several guns with this capacity which are slim light and easy to comfortably conceal. Do you think you could really make every shot count 100% if you had to turn and fire while being chased by several gang members and a dog? I know whatever you carry there is some scenario which could be made up which will require more firepower, but I think many people plan expecting a single assailant from the front. I think that is probably the least common real scenario.

      I am not LE either, but I used to work as a clerk in a jail and also as a paralegal in the felony division of a prosecutor’s office. I have read a vast number of reports with multiple people attacking one. I’ve met a lot of the people too. It isn’t just strangers and people you never meet. One of the reports that crossed my desk was a guy I didn’t know well, but had been in my house a few times because his half sister is a close friend of mine. Normal seeming guy. Clean cut. With very little provocation, he beat in a stranger’s face with a piece of steel while several people backed him up. There is someone like this in the tangents of your life too, but you have no way of knowing who. Most of the time it is bad guys against other bad guys, but far more are bad guys against a surprised stranger. Very little of the violent crime that occurs gets reported in the news. The longer I worked at those places the less I rolled my eyes at the sort of guy who would CCW with an oversized gun out of sight.

  • Brian

    The way I see it, carry a 9mm, 40, and 45. Have all three then you are sure to have the correct caliber for the situation or gun discussion with a fellow enthusiast.. You will never be wrong..

  • Guy

    Shot placement really is king.

    Here’s an article about a police officer shooting a bad guy with 17 rounds of .45 ACP. He was mortally wounded and still continued fighting. It took THREE headshots to put him down.


    • http://www.13cgunreviews.com Joe

      Shot placement is key Guy. I’ve seen similar things in my line of work. I will be working with MAC in the next few weeks for the next step in this discussion and to interject my real world observations of how these various rounds work when the ‘bullet meets the bone’ so to speak. Keep your eyes open for it, it’ll be something you’d probably really be interested in.

  • Blackhawk2001

    Interesting article. I don’t have a lot of experience with many different handguns; I can only go my own experience with Glocks. I carried a G27 for many years and learned to shoot it pretty well. I shot a G27 (.40 S&W) side-by-side with a G26 (9mm) and – to my surprise – found the 9mm seemed to have more felt recoil and to be more difficult to shoot quickly. Keep in mind this is two calibers on the same frame. I also found the G21 in .45ACP to have less felt recoil than my G27 (not unreasonable considering the size difference). While the author hasn’t seen many police agencies favor .45 ACP, here in central Indiana I have seen several police agencies switch from smaller calibers to .45 ACP and back – usually the downsizing has been, so it has been said, due to the fact that 9mm costs less to train with and carries more rounds. Except for cost, I think I’ll take the G30, with its 10 round capacity, over the G27 with 10 and the G26 with 11 rounds, respectively. But that’s just me.

  • http://thebangswitch.com Lt. Donn Gallahue (ret)

    Great article: Regarding the on-going and seemingly endless debate, I can only add some real-world experience: The agency I retired from had several Officer Involved Shootings using the “original” Winchester Black Talon 147gr 9mm load, carried in our G-19’s
    Without exception, each suspect shot with this ammo was DRT with one shot torso-hits.
    Now, tab forward 20+ years and we have the Winchester Bonded 147 Gr…for my money, I will stick with this load and couple it with more trigger time.

    • Matt

      Funny you mention the Black Talon and the SXT that replaced it (both excellent cartridges). I heard a funny story about that name, not sure how true it is.

      When the Black Talons got the undeserved “cop killer” reputation, Winchester stopped using the black coloring on the projectiles and needed a new name for them. An employee suggested SXT as the new name. When asked why SXT, he replied because they are the Same eXact Thing…

  • Jackie

    I want to thank you for this article. I chose my 9mm b/c I was far more accurate with it. Guns and ammo are so unique to each individual. My thought was simply this. If I am more accurate with a 9mm than with a .40, which I really wanted to get, but the hubby was not wanting me to have more power than him, (Girls with guns, who knew) than in a hard pressed situation, accuracy of shot placement is key. I felt it smarter to purchase the 9mm. Of course I still want a .40 and a few other things out there, but I want one I can carry well and shoot well with. For me, it is the Girlie Man 9mm. Anything worth shooting once is worth shooting twice. If my center mass shots are more spot on with a smaller caliber, well then my basic math says, I will place more wounds in the center mass, thus my shots will be worth it. This article was helpful to me, b/c I am just one of the average people out there looking for article that help you learn about caliber and its abilities. I think this article gave me a lot of good information to better understand what my caliber is able to do. Along with more information about why the others became what the did and why. I thank you for that. I will be sharing it with my other female shooters as well.

    • Matt

      I’m glad you found the information useful. That was my sole intent in writing it.

  • Greg Jackson

    Id like to point out that the Oregon State Police shooting in the Columbia River Gorge a few weeks ago resulted in the Officer being shot in the chest AND the Perpetrator being shot in the chest.

    I didnt hear what the perp was armed with, but I assume credit is given to the Officers armor saving his life.

    The Bad Guy was shot in the chest, yet still managed to continue firing AND managed to drive away from the scene a fair distance before blood loss took his life….

    Oregon State Police are armed with .40 S&W (to my knowledge)


  • Corey

    Argument 1: i give you this point. Given the same platform. However my taurus 840 compact carries 15rnds of .40.
    2: this is invalid. This is not physics, this is -your- physics. I know plenty of .40 shooters who blow with 9mm times amd target acquisition.
    3: ill give to you, once again, because you are speaking of only the same platforms.
    4: the 180gr .40 blows. 155/165 shows far better penetration, amd is nearly the best mid-grade bullet to shoot. I know some who prefer the 135gr for the penetration. Not a valid point.
    And 5: a 1mm difference in your liver is a major difference. And 1mm extra on a bullet is 1mm closer to a vital organ. This is always, and will always be, a huge factor when comparing calibers.

    Point being, i am an owner of the 9mm, .40, and .45. I prefer my .40 for edc because i trust it and the ammunition i carry will easily penetrate any clothing from summer to winter. I often carry a 9mm with me as well, or occasionally my .45. It is all personal preference. But to make an argument over what round is superior “and this is why” is asinine. The best round, and gun, is the one in your hand that puts holes in a target. Ballistics are a scientific tool to show you numbers and how it looks when a target is hit. Everyday persons, they need to be able to hit what they shoot. Thats the best round. The one you dont miss with.

  • brandon

    Great article.

    It’s good for those in LE with a choice on what to carry. As far as someone in my situation, where I do private armed security patrol in California, it helps little.

    I have to work some of the worst areas around in San Bernardino and Colton, in sprawling housing projects filled with gangs constantly at war ( one of them has 800 units). I’m on the ground and see shootings and murders monthly if not bi-weekly.

    The two respective police departments that respond are understaffed and underfunded (san bernardino city is bankrupt). That being said i’m pretty much alone out there all the time.

    Being California I can only carry a 10 round mag, whatever the caliber unfortunately.

    My weapon of choice is the .45 USP. If i only have 10 rounds per mag, I want as much damage on target as possible. ( i do carry many extra mags).

    be that as it may, i still carry 7 mags on me at all times on my duty belt and my vest carrier. that’s still 70 rounds. Almost every local PD i come across has a dual mag carrier on his belt and one in his gun. Even if he’s rolling a XD9 with 19 rounds he has 57 rounds to my 70. (this isn’t the case they all carry glock for the most part)

    I believe it’s an issue of situation. If i drive into one of my housing projects that has 1 way in and 1 way out, and is terrible in the cover and concealment area, I might need to engage multiple targets in a gang related situation, i have seen groups of 10 to 15 subjects. If for some reason they want to target me i will definitely be in a more rounds the better scenario, hence why i carry so many mags.

    I feel you should carry whatever caliber works for you, what you’re trained with and even with my 10 rounders, i can reload extremely fast.

    Is your main opinion that the 9 is better because of recoil and capacity to the .45? What is the argument about carrying more mags to have more ammo? Does the arguement just become a recoil issue?

    If that is the case why doesn’t everyone carry a .22 with no recoil and rediculous capicty? you could still get a brain or cns hit, and the .22 will ‘bounce’ around causing more damage.

    thoughts? or is 9 just the end all be all. because tactically if it performs better i might consider a switch. If you had only 1 body hit, would you rather it be from a 9 or a .45?


    • Corey

      I find this to be a very valid argument. The simple fact that everyone wants to choose favorites in a caliber and tell us why we are wrong with our choice is ridiculous. The fact is, is that the best weapon in your hand, is the one you are comfortable with. This “9mm is the best and this is why…” stuff is old. Carry what you want, get effective with it, and be proud of yourself. My 18rnds of 9mm vs my 8rnds of.45 are equally effective if i hit them the same amount of times. Plus, i have seen the physical differentials regarding damage, and a .45 is far more devestating than a 9mm every time (i work in EMS). Does that make it better? Not at all.

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  • http://TheBangSwicth Michael K Smith

    I have carried a 9mm pistol in some form or fashion since 1986, a long time. Through all the hype about this round or that round is better I keep working on the basic lessen I was taught as a boy and that is bullet placement. Center of mass shots quickly and in quantity works no matter what your shooting. A round noise FMJ 25 cal will do the job if you land all the rounds center mass. Shoot what you can unload the whole clip into at 25 yards dead center mass the fastest. All the other factors will work themselves out afterwards.

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  • Nick

    I carry .40 S&W for my department, and am switching to 9mm. If my department would allow it, I would prefer to shoot .357 sig myself. The flatter trejectory and increased velocity, to even the 9mm, is a selling point for me.

  • EOFVet06

    9mm Luger is my preferred cartridge when I can find JHP self-defense ammo for it. After Newtown, trying to find JHP was difficult in all cartridges, but especially 9mm Luger. That’s something to keep in mind. Having, for example, a Glock 23 in .40 S&W to complement a Glock 19 in 9mm Luger ain’t a bad idea when there’s a Democrat in the White House.

  • scott will

    people who have less rounds in their gun must think they are a heck of a shot.9 works for me.

  • scott will

    If someone said they were going to shoot me dead and I could have a 10 second head start to run and told me I could pick their weapon,glock 17 or 21.I would prefer they use the 9 even though I am most likely a dead man.

  • Raoul

    The difference in the rounds is more than 1mm. Given average expansion in gel/denim for the 180gr HST is .743, and the 147gr HST is .667, that would be equal to almost 2mm(.076 inches), which is over 20% of the non-expanded 9mm bullet diameter.

  • http://luvsiesous.com/ el_guero2000


    You wrote that your journey went from .45 to 9mm. But, your story only covered the .40 S&W?



  • Ron

    Hello. I learned a lot from your article. One claim that I find extremely difficult to believe is that shock value is irrelevant. I’m talking about the hydrostatic shock of a bullet striking a human body. The body is 90% water. Did you ever see what happens to a can full of water when you shoot it? I think the same thing or very similar would happen to a human body.

  • Brett C. Mills

    Fluid mechanics wise, the blood flood difference between 12 rounds of .40 caliber (.394″ or 10mm) is almost identicle to the bleed rate of 15 rounds of 9mm (.354). But given 5 rounds of each, the .40 or .45 wins hands down. We are talking strictly physics in terms of hole diameter. You choose your weapon and how many times you believe you can successfully hit your target in a high adrenaline situation.

  • Buffy McMuffin

    What about being in CA where the limit is 10 rounds. Does that change things for you? I think I’d rather have 10 rounds of .40 than of 9mm