The BEST Caliber For Defensive Pistols


If your hackles went up and you assumed a war footing when you read the title of this article, you’re not alone. 🙂

The debate between projectile sizes has been raging since Cain was deciding on whether to use a small rock or a big rock to kill Abel (if, in fact, he used a stone 🙂

Sometimes it matters, and sometimes it doesn’t, but in the instances where it matters, there aren’t any do-overs.

So, what’s the answer?

Your ability to quickly put high quality rounds on target has a much bigger impact on whether you are going to be able to stop a threat than the caliber of ammunition that you happen to be sending downrange.

And that’s exactly the conclusion that the FBI came to. All pistol rounds suck, so go with the one that will allow you to practice the most and put the most accurate rounds on target in the shortest period of time.

There IS a place for the 9 vs. 45 stopping power debate, but for most people, it is an extremely low leverage part of the defensive shooting equation.

If you get into this discussion, there’s a time component that you have to be aware of.  9mm defensive rounds from 2018 are so different from 9mm defensive rounds from 2000, or even 2007, that they should almost have a different designation.

The arguments that you see, read, or remember from 5 years ago about which caliber or bullet is best probably don’t apply to the upgraded bullets we have today.

On the whole caliber thing, there ARE some calibers that are better than others. I would never suggest that someone carry a .25 or a .32, and there are very few people who I would suggest carry a .44 magnum unless you’re in bear country.

99 times out of 100, your ability to put fast, accurate shots on target is going to be more of a factor of whether or not you can stop a threat than whether it’s a 9, .38, .357, .40, .45, .22, .380 etc. coming out the end of your barrel.

I even occasionally carry a .22 as a last resort, but I carry a revolver because of the inherent reliability issues with rimfire ammunition and rimfilre semi-autos.

And what IS the best caliber for defensive pistols? It’s the caliber that allows you to put fast, accurate, threat stopping shots on as many targets as are posing a violent threat to you before they are able to impose their will on you.

Let me share a picture with you…

That’s a Speer Gold Dot 9mm after punching through a car door like butter. So if you know one of those guys who are wrapped around the axle about a 11mm (.45) hole being better than a 9mm hole…to the point of carrying .45ACP ball ammo, this might give them something to think about.

Keep in mind that a .45 hollowpoint will expand too, but the latest FBI stats show that it takes an average of 3 rounds of 9mm, .40 or .45 to stop a threat, so that extra expansion doesn’t seem to be increasing effectiveness very much.  And none of them have the kinetic energy to blow out a lung.

And, in response to questions/comments, here is some comparative penetration tests of hollow point defensive ammunition:

It’s only when you’ve maxed out your ability as a shooter that
caliber becomes an issue.

Time and money spent developing, fine tuning, and sharpening your technique has a LOT more leverage than switching guns, triggers, springs, grips, or ammo.

And that’s why I want to encourage you to check out Chris Graham’s 30-10 at-home pistol training course by going to

Chris isn’t your average instructor. As a Force Recon Marine, he worked alone “in Indian country” with an Iraqi paramilitary force under constant threat of assassination and kidnapping, hours from US backup, and normally only armed with a concealed pistol. Few people in the world have the ability to speak about fighting with a pistol with as much authority as Chris.

Today, he provides advanced weapons and tactics training to personnel prior to deployment to high-threat zones.

If you’re an instructor, Chris is one of the guys who you want to be picking stuff up from to use in your own classes.

If you’re a shooter, Chris is an instructor who is teaching based on first hand experience downrange against determined attackers as well as constant feedback from his students. His teaching isn’t stuff that worked 5, 10, or 15 years ago…it’s stuff that he or his students have more than likely used in the last few months, weeks, or even days.

I want to encourage you to learn more now by going to

What are your thoughts? Share them by commenting below:

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  • Lewis

    Reply Reply June 1, 2022

    Simple question. If *modern* improvements to the 9mm have increased its effectiveness *this much* as so many explain, then why cannot those same techie whiz bang ballistics and/or manufacturing trix be applied to .45 and make *today’s .45* that much vastly superior to the same caliber a few years back.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply June 10, 2022

      The .45 has improved quite a bit over the last several years.

      As to why the 9mm has improved more…perhaps it’s that the .45 didn’t have as much room for improvement 🙂

  • wes

    Reply Reply July 23, 2018

    Shot placement. More people have been killed with 22 cal. than any other caliber. I have 45 judge, 3 22s 2 nines 2 380s Depends where I am going and my attire as to which I carry. Actually place better with 45LC single action. In public the 380 six shot will do everything I need. If you are over 15ft away you are not a threat to me. If you are 3ft away I dont need a gun.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply July 24, 2018

      Hey Wes,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment! Yes…shot placement is key.

      I’ve heard what you said about more people being killed by .22 cal than any other caliber, but I have never been able to prove it and my study of warfare in the last 300 years just doesn’t support it. I understand if you heard it from several instructors, but don’t know the study, but if you happen to be able to point me to the numbers supporting that stat, I’d love it.

      • Kerry

        Reply Reply October 17, 2019

        Late reply – BUT… The report of more people dying from .22 is from a FBI report which reviewed a database of all reported deaths by gun shot. I have read the report. More people died from .22 several days after being shot because they thought the injury was minor enough not to merit medical intervention. After a few days, combinations of slow bleeds and infection took their toll. So yes, more people died from .22. HOWEVER, stopping power was lacking in most of those cases.

  • Kevin

    Reply Reply December 7, 2017

    Well, I’m glad that’s finally settled! lol

  • Joe

    Reply Reply June 19, 2017

    According to the stories I hear from people I know who have been there, 99% of the time, you can win the fight with an empty .22 with no firing pin. That’s because 99% of the time, all you have to do is point a gun at the bad guy with an angry expression on your face, and he’ll run away leaving a brown trail.

    In this context, winning is defined as going home uninjured.

    I am no longer a soldier, and I’m not a cop (my thanks to all who are) so I’m not looking for trouble, and I get to leave if something starts to happen. My EDC is a J-frame .357 (yes, it recoils) and I practice with it every ten days of so. I carry only five rounds, and if that isn’t enough to stop a threat, something is very wrong — really.

    I’ve never had to point a gun at anyone, and the chances I’ll have to shoot someone are somewhere around one in a billion if I think realistically. Those are pretty good odds.

    That said, target shooting is a whole lot of fun, and the shooters I know are uniformly nice people.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply June 19, 2017

      Hey Joe, thanks for your comment! While I agree with the gist of what you said, there are some particulars that can cause people to make some very bad decisions if they’re viewed in isolation.

      The 99% of the time number has a snippet of truth to it, but is an overstatement of the facts. Here’s a more accurate way to look at it:

      1. A lot of the time, a violent attack will be stopped when the intended victim resists.
      2. When that doesn’t work, most violent attacks are stopped when the intended victim introduces a firearm.
      3. When that doesn’t work, most violent attacks are stopped when the first shot is fired, regardless of whether or not it hits the attacker or is an effective hit. (most don’t hit)
      4. When that doesn’t work, you’re looking at a situation where it may take 5, 10, or more solid hits to stop a threat in a timely manner. In one case in particular, an officer outside of Chicago HIT an attacker 14 times center-mass with .45 hollowpoints. 6 of those hits were considered “fatal” on a long enough time scale, but the attacker was still shooting at him. It eventually took 3 hits to the head to stop the threat.

      When you say that if 5 rounds aren’t enough to stop a threat, something is very wrong, you’re right. If you’re getting attacked, something is very wrong. If your attacker doesn’t respond appropriately when you brandish a firearm, something is very wrong. By the time you make the decision that you have to start shooting, averages don’t mean anything anymore…all that matters is your ability to stop the threat before they seriously injure you.

      5 rounds is better than nothing…and there are times when that’s all I have on me…I just encourage you to make the choice to only carry 5 rounds with your eyes wide open to the facts, rather than beliefs that may not be as true as you think they are.

      The actual odds that you’ll have to shoot anyone are probably a little higher in 1 in a billion. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics our chances of being a victim of violent crime average 2-3% per year. You may make lifestyle choices to reduce that. You may be able to talk down an attacker. Brandishing may stop an attack without you having to fire a shot. You may shoot and miss. But if you own a gun for defense, you really want to treat your firearm like the life saving tool that it is…the tool that may keep you alive when nothing else you’ve tried in a violent attack up to that point is doing the job.

      Train hard, stay safe, and DO keep having fun target shooting in addition to whatever you do for self-defense 🙂

  • Robert L.

    Reply Reply November 5, 2016

    And, it goes on and on…. The bottom line is carry what you can consistently shoot well. Practice, practice, practice, this is where dry fire training helps. Keep ball ammo reserved for the paper bad guys. If my life depends on it, I’m buying the best ammo available for that caliber and then I’m going to shoot some at paper to know what to expect “out there”. Practice, practice, practice!
    In the woods I carry a Glock 40 MOS with a Trijicon RMR Dual Illuminated co-witnessed with Trijicon Suppressor Height sights, Underwood’s 180 grain RNFP, staggered with Underwood’s 135 grain Penetrators. I have spent a lot of $$$ coming up with this combination that works best for me. My EDC is a gen3 Glock 19 stoked with 124 grain Hornady Critical Duty. This combination works best for me. The Glock was not my first choice, but I shoot better with it than any other platform, and again it’s cost me $$$ to find that out. My duty sidearm has changed over the years, S&W model10, H&K 9mm, and most recently the M&P 9, because they’re cheap. I have been able to adapt to the M&P platform fairly well and dry fire with it as well as the Glock. I am thankful that the Colt AR is still our primary duty weapon. It is a familiar platform that, like me, has survived several generations. Best advice, find what you shoot best, buy two of them, and practice, practice, practice.


    Reply Reply November 4, 2016

    Hey OX, nice job.
    My opinion follows.

    Which to get/use?
    The LARGEST caliber YOU can USE , EFFECTIVELY .

    5) Many secondary factors come into play, concealed carry, attire, size(body/frame/hands), comfort in gripping/using, mentally ready to handle , purpose.
    4) Most bad guys wont stop to ask what size/make is the round being fired at them. (Someone once said, “your best knife is the one you have on you when you need it . . .”)
    3) It is said instructors would be hard pressed, sans serious circumstances, to advise carrying anything smaller than 0.36″ – .

    2) SHOT PLACEMENT D O E S COUNT. A scratch is a scratch, even if made with a cannon ball. Reliable platform,quality ammo, good skills . . .

    1) I use the single stack 1911 in 45ACP 230Gr. Reg & +P.
    It fits my hand. It works, as do most quality sidearms that are properly maintained.
    I used the data from warfare to aid in my selection.
    WARNING = using as issue weight, ball ammo, the 38 and 9 were found to be lacking. In many different decades.
    Science dictates that instead of badmouthing other calibers, I see the obvious facts.
    We are now on third generation hollowpoints that not only make many calibers good, to potential excellent, personal defense choices; BUT, have bread ‘almost’ custom defense ammo that is scenario specific and/or properly expands out of shorter barrels.
    I once read to use a sidearm to fight your way to a rifle. None do any good if you just “making noise”. Also read of a 68 yr man didn’t like anything till he handled a 38. When he tried it, all rounds went into the V. It went home with him.
    Ask friends to try a box or two of ammo through what they use.

    Find the system/ammo combo that works for you and have fun getting your skills up. Stay safe.

  • David H Davis

    Reply Reply May 18, 2016

    I learned to shoot with the Colt 45 during Korea. Since then I have tried other calibers but am not so confident with their stopping power. For Concealed Carry I have 2 Para double stacks, one with 11 + 1 and one with 12 + 1. I do feel much better with more than double what my 1911A holds. I do agree that accuracy and speed is at least as important as caliber.

  • coyotehunter

    Reply Reply May 14, 2016

    I like big holes, but main emphasis should always be bullet placement…period.

  • Robert Lind

    Reply Reply May 14, 2016

    I have carried a hi-cap 9mm for 20 years. Granted you will not get the desired performance from ball ammo, but ammo manufacturers have got some high quality product that will get the job done. I have recently purchased a 10mm handgun, but specifically for use with a specialized sighting system and ammunition for a specific task. I have heard it’s okay to own more than one. The bottom line remains, you still have to be able to direct the pointy thing to the intended target for it to do its job no matter what caliber you choose.

  • Jay

    Reply Reply May 13, 2016

    I think David slaying Goliath would have been a better example. Great read and right on point.

    • Methuselah

      Reply Reply June 21, 2017

      No, Goliath was killed when beheaded with his own sword. The stone in the forehead merely knocked him to the ground and made him vulnerable.

      The fight isn’t over until the threat is completely neutralized.

      • Ox

        Reply Reply June 21, 2017

        I like the lesson, but it’s not real clear in my versions (KJV, NKJV) whether Goliath died from the stone or from the sword.

        On one hand, it says that David slew Goliath, but didn’t have a sword in his hand.

        In the next verse, it says that David slew Goliath with Goliath’s sword.

        I do know that a stone that hits the forehead hard enough to sink in will very likely kill a person eventually and render them a non-threat immediately.

        If you’ve got another version of the text that supports the fact that Goliath was still alive after being hit by the rock, it’d be fascinating to read it.

        • Julie

          Reply Reply March 7, 2020

          In the end, it’s a story. Told repeatedly, interpreted many times, translated even more times. Likely may never have even happened, as with many biblical stories.

          • Ox

            March 7, 2020

            I used to think the same, but over time I realized that that it can’t just be a story.

            It’s either true and the promises included are true or it’s one of the most delusional collections of literature ever assembled until Common Core was introduced. The more you dig into it, the more you realize that there isn’t a ton of middle ground.

            As time progresses, more and more of the Bible is being verified and validated by archaeology and other research disciplines. Dragons are in the Bible, Dinosaurs are in the Bible, and the geological record supports the Biblical account of the flood.

            As far as stories being told repeatedly, interpreted many times, and translated even more…a little perspective is incredibly valuable.

            If you look at the ancient oral cultures, what you’ll find is tribes separating, being separated for multiple generations, and their common oral accounts remaining almost identical through the ages. Because it was their history and their only way to pass lessons from one generation to the next, they were MUCH more disciplined with their memorization and periodization of historical events (repeated small block repetition over time) both as a family and as a tribe. In other words, archaeologists and sociologists have shown that it wasn’t like the modern version of the game “telephone.” It’s easy to make that assumption and project our experiences on to oral cultures, but it just isn’t an accurate fit.

            If we look at “interpreted many times” and “translated even more” things get truly fascinating. Many religious texts have had THOUSANDS of modifications over the last 200-250 years as their knowledge and understanding of science, geography, and man has evolved. The Bible is very special in that regard. We can buy, hold, and read Bibles that were printed in the 1800s, like this Oxford Bible:

            1869 Oxford Bible

            or even from the 1600s, like this 1617 Barker Bible:

            1617 Barker Bible

            What we see is that the Bible has remained amazingly intact. There are definite dispensational issues between the more traditional and more “modern” translations and there is a big difference between versions that try to translate word-for-word vs. sentence-for-sentence vs. idea-for-idea as well as versions that try to simplify things for an audience with a smaller vocabulary. Even sentence structure and grammar can cause differences…but the amazing and important thing is that the versions are being translated from the same texts.

            One of the biggest examples of this was the unearthing of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 40s and 50s. What the Dead Sea Scrolls confirmed was that thousands of years of interpretation and translation did not change the message or the “stories.”

            As to whether Biblical stories happened or did not happen…I don’t have the ability to convince anyone, but I can tell you that for the last 30+ years, I’ve researched it as someone who is naturally skeptical. For 30+ years, I’ve run into continual archaeological studies and scientific discoveries that support the Biblical account and I’ve never encountered a collection of books that harmonizes the way that the Bible does…even though it was written by dozens of authors over several generations.

  • Tom Gough

    Reply Reply May 13, 2016

    At age 65 I am not as quick or highly finessed as I was when I was younger. I am not going to win any gun competitions like I could in younger days. I also don’t get to shoot as much as I did years ago, so most of my “practice” is a dry fire practice I do at home or in my back yard. That said I presently carry three different guns. I carry a longslide 45 1911 in an SAS type holster when out in the woods or as backup when hunting with a long gun. When in town or wearing common heavy clothing ( what passes for it in south Texas) I carry a S&W 4913 single stack because it conceals well. S&W no longer makes this gun which is sad because it is one of the best concealed carry guns ever made in 40 cal. If I am in shorts and a T-shirt I carry a little 32 auto Keltec with the 10 round mag, and a couple spares (which ever gun I carry I have spare mags) also because it conceals very well. All that said, I have found that from the holster I am just as fast with the larger guns as I am with the smaller guns, and time to put that first shot accurately on target is the same. Thats just for me my old numb hands don’t seem to care which gun is in them the work at about the same speed. I can put more rounds on target faster with the longslide 45s but I wouldnt’ want to carry one of them concealed.

  • Don Smith

    Reply Reply May 13, 2016

    Good article! Although very interesting, articles regarding “knock down” capability of various weapons, calibers, and ammunition too often forget that some of their readers are average Joes like myself (non-military and minimal firearm training). Some are likely to rush out and purchase a particular weapon and ammo without considering the need for quality firearm training and quality practice. I like the sentiment that the best weapon for you is the one you can use proficiently. The Yugo and the Rolls Royce may each take you down the road (but you like one better than the other), however you need to know how to drive with either one.

  • KT carpentry

    Reply Reply May 13, 2016

    Since we’re on the subject, you obviously recommend CCI mini mags? I can’t find them anymore. The Israelis used subsonic loads as air marshals and mossad hit teams. Instead of the magic one shot drop, which doesn’t exist, they just emptied their magazines, then reloaded.
    Anyway, any recommendations on .22 loads for CCW? Lead nose, jhp?

    • Ox

      Reply Reply May 13, 2016

      They’re hard to find, but I can almost always get them at local mom & pop gun stores. I just checked and ammoseek has them:

      I like the performance of lead nose, but fire exclusively jacketed rounds…here’s why:

      1. I do a lot of suppressed shooting and I don’t want the lead buildup.
      2. I simply don’t like handling lead. The neurological risk isn’t worth it for me…it is for some.
      3. Hollowpoints exist to minimize over-penetration. Over-penetration isn’t as much of an issue with .22. I want as much penetration as I can squeeze out of that round, which means having as small of a cross-section as possible. Hollowpoints expand so that a bullet that would normally pass completely through the body does maximum tissue damage in the body and using up all of it’s energy destroying things before leaving. In addition to hollowpoints not being all that necessary or beneficial with a .22, they really don’t expand reliably. I have a mix of ball ammo and hollowpoints for .22s, but I don’t really expect the hollowpoints to perform like a 9, .40, or .45 hollowpoint does.

  • KT carpentry

    Reply Reply May 13, 2016

    I practice drawing and dry firing my .22 all the time. Sitting and watching TV. Whatever. I do that with all my pieces. Out back doing yard work. I actually won’t pay for snap caps though. I just use spent brass.

    BTW, the 71 is a single action only. I carry it the recommended way now; hammer back, safety off, empty chamber. You pull the gun and rack the slide. I’m not a huge fan but I practice it. I don’t want to carry it condition 1 because there is no grip safety. Would anyone here carry condition 1 with only a thumb safety? It’s a pretty solid click.

  • Hermanator

    Reply Reply May 13, 2016

    Great article. I have shot a lot of different calibers and my EDC is a SIG 357. Because that is the largest caliber/muzzle velocity I can effectively control recoil with. I train to put a number of shots in a very small area quickly. Carry on.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply May 13, 2016

      I carried the .357 SIG for years during the rut (I’d run into moose & elk when trail running) and have switched to +P+ 9mm during that time of year and 9MM +P the rest of the year.

      Why? The .357 SIG bullet tends to push into the brass when it hits the feedramp on Glocks…there’s just not much of a neck on the brass to hold the bullet in place. Please make sure that you’re particular feedramp doesn’t push the bullet into the brass when you manually cycle the gun or when it cycles after firing.

      Another thing that you have to watch VERY carefully with .357 SIG is that they’re notoriously underpowered. The ONLY reason why the .357 magnum and .357SIG shine is because of the 1400+FPS muzzle velocity that they’re supposed to have.

      If you go into your local gun store and check the specs on all of the .357SIG, you’ll find that the majority of defensive and practice rounds are loaded to 1050FPS to 1250FPS, which puts them into the 9mm or 9mm +P range. Since the .357SIG is a .40 case necked down to 9mm, what it means is that the majority of .357SIG is nothing more than VERY expensive 9mm.

      Just curious…Have you tried the 10mm?

  • raymond sisko

    Reply Reply May 13, 2016

    I have a Kimber pro carry cdp 2 , nice gun and accurate. 2 inch groups at 30 feet. But for fast follow up shots in rapid fire in a tactical situation, with good accuracy I will take my Bersa Thunder Pro ultra compact 9mm. My every day carry weapon.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply May 13, 2016

      Gotta love Kimbers 🙂 I’ve got a TLE II. Thanks, Raymond

  • KT carpentry

    Reply Reply May 13, 2016

    I’ve been wondering about this quite a bit lately. I noticed that you would never recommend carrying a .25 or .32 but you include a .22 in acceptable calibers. Good for me. I qualified for my CCW with a full-size Beretta 92. 16 rounds of 9mm Federal hydrashoks. But it’s very big and heavy, and being Mr. Mom I’ll admit to wearing sweats and gym shorts far more than I should. I love the platform though. So I picked up one of the surplus Beretta 71s out there. .22 pocket pistol with the same feel and controls as the larger 92. I found that I am so much more accurate with it. This little gun is a tack driver! I keep several magazines in my pockets so I always have several dozen rounds with me. I also find that the follow up shots are so much quicker that I can empty a magazine into the ten ring at 20 feet. That means an aggregate of almost 2″ of initial penetration. I know all about rimfire reliability but of the several hundred rounds I’ve put through it since getting it this spring, zero FTF or stovepipes. Perfect reliability so far. And not to beat a dead horse yet again, but it was reliable enough for the Israelis. I’m extremely comfortable with it and practice a lot. It goes with me everywhere. Isn’t that the true test of a CCW?

    • Ox

      Reply Reply May 13, 2016

      Thanks for your comment, KT! The .22 won’t win you any “most manly gun” contests at your local range, but I’d much rather people carry a .22 than nothing. There’s no question that it won’t perform as effectively as a larger/faster bullet, but if I remember right, I’ve got some 1200-1400 fps .22 from CCI that is faster than the majority of 9mm rounds out there.

      Here’s a few rules to keep in mind for a gunfight:
      1. Have a gun
      2. Have training
      3. Have enough ammo
      4. Have a squad of guys with you with carbines, grenades, and overwatch
      5. Have the ideal gun in the ideal caliber

      You can do the first 3 with a .22. Is it ideal? No. Is it WAY better than being unarmed? Absolutely.

      Here’s a question for you…do you do your dry fire practice with your 92 or do you use .22 snapcaps in your 71?

  • SY

    Reply Reply May 13, 2016

    I agree with you, while the 9mm JHP was the same depth as the 45 the diameter of the expansion channel for the 45 was much larger and in my book that equates to more damage, greater shock value, and perhaps greater/faster bleed out. Knowing this I will stick to my .45 cal and place as many, if not more, on target shots as with my 9mm.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply May 13, 2016

      Hey SY,

      There’s 2 parts to this…

      1. Carry whatever caliber you want. Ideally, that means that you carry the caliber that you practice with the most and can carry the number of rounds that you’re comfortable carrying. If that’s .45, great! If it’s a .22, great!

      2. No defensive handgun round has an expansion channel in the sense that a rifle does. They exist, but they’re minuscule. You don’t get shock value with a defensive handgun round like you do with a rifle. Again, it exists, but it’s minuscule. Neither of these terms should drive your choice of caliber.

      3. Bleed out/hydraulic shock is something that you consider when you’re engaging an attacker at standoff distance. It’s not a consideration when you’re at typical pistol self-defense distances. Why? It simply takes too long. You need a psychological stop (which can occur regardless of what caliber you’re using, where you hit, or even IF you hit), a mechanical stop (like breaking the pelvis) or an electrical stop (like hitting the spine or mid-brain). A heart-double-lung shot can leave you with an effective attacker for 5-10 additional seconds. If they’re 10 feet away, that’s plenty of time to empty their magazine at you or close the distance and start cutting.

      4. If you can place more accurate rounds on target with your .45 than with a 9, stick with it.

      My point in replying isn’t to try to get you to stop shooting/carrying the .45…it’s to make sure that you and others make your choice with your eyes wide open with as many facts (and as FEW non-facts) as possible driving the decision.

      Please let me know if you’ve got any questions.

  • Bob Thomae

    Reply Reply May 13, 2016

    100% Correct!!!

  • Filmaker

    Reply Reply May 13, 2016

    In the 9mm vs. the .45 debate, most of the analysis is in the technical area (fps at muzzle, square area at impact point, etc.). As I understand it, the 9mm is a small bullet that is propelled at a high speed while a .45 is a bullet propelled at low speed, with real world results having the 9mm penetrating a human body with little immediate impact (unless hitting a vital area) while the .45 often remaining in the body with extensive shock trauma (or as one author I read put it; “knocking him off his steel toed boots”) which the person feels immediately.

    I may be wrong in all this, but if I am not, I want the round that will send an immediate message; I’ve been shot!.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply May 13, 2016

      You brought up a few good points and I appreciate them. I’m going to attempt to clarify a few things that you said that are VERY common beliefs.

      The .45 is a great round with a great history and I love shooting my .45s, but it’s not a magic bullet. The 7/100ths of an inch size advantage that the .45 has doesn’t turn a bullet from anemic to all-powerful. But if you listen to many shooters wax eloquent about the .45, you’d think it was the answer to all problems requiring a gun. It’s a GREAT round. As far as defensive handgun rounds go, it’s very effective. It’s proven. It’s just not all of those things at the expense of the 9mm.

      I find it funny that a lot of people who find the 9mm round to be ineffective think that the .357 Magnum is incredibly effective. They’re the same size bullet. If you go to your local store, you can usually find some 9mm loads with higher muzzle velocities than some .357 loads. Bullet diameter alone doesn’t make a bullet effective or ineffective.

      No defensive handgun round (regardless of caliber) will have much immediate impact unless the bullet hits a vital area, unless the attacker DECIDES to stop or run away. There’s not much difference between the 9 and .45 in this respect.

      No defensive handgun round delivers extensive shock trauma or knocks people off of their boots. The majority of shooters think the same as the author you mentioned, but it’s not correct. Even a .338 Lapua to the head at close range (which I’ve seen) doesn’t knock people off their boots…it simply “cuts the strings” and the person drops to the ground like a puppet. The shock trauma that you’re referring to is probably also known as a temporary wound cavity that occurs when a high speed bullet goes through soft tissue…this doesn’t occur with defensive handgun rounds.

      The speed and dynamics of a fight where you use a gun in self-defense make it such that you might not want to send a message as much as try to stop the threat as quickly as possible. With a pistol at self-defense pistol distances, that means getting a bullet to the spine or mid-brain on a determined attacker.

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