Monday, November 26, 2018

.45 ACP vs 9mm Debate Rages On

One of the oldest debates among gun enthusiasts is which caliber of handgun is best for self-defense.  The two top (or most contentious) calibers are 9mm parabellum and .45 ACP.  20 years ago, this debate was moot, as the .45 was simply superior in capability, while the 9mm had an advantage in magazine capacity.  Today, with advancements in modern ammunition, the gap in capabilities between these two calibers has narrowed greatly.  I've been asked a few times which caliber I prefer, and I answer enthusiastically with .45 ACP.  Remember that there's a difference between personal preference and ballistic capability.  Let's talk about both.

One of the best (and most exhaustive) tests available on this topic was conducted by the folks at Lucky Gunner.  You can view the article and results at this link.  You'll note that there are several good ammo choices in both calibers, as well as in .40 and .380.  You'll also note that the .45 simply makes a bigger wound, 20 percent bigger in most examples.  Before you complain about the shortcomings of ballistic gelatin, go read the article.  They included layers of heavy clothing in front of the gel, more closely simulating a real-world shooting scenario.

Another interesting article can be found at Ballistic Magazine (click here), where 14 "experts" give their opinion.  Note that some of the experts are simply competitive shooters, and don't have any real world experience with defensive shooting or training.  All of the assembled experts prefer the 9mm cartridge over the .45.  What is telling about their opinion is the reasons given.  Without exception, the top drivers of their opinion are cost and magazine capacity, not terminal ballistics.

There are even a few articles out there written by folks in the medical profession, and they indicate, without exception, that larger caliber handguns cause more devastation in human tissue. Others claim that because the FBI chose the 9mm round for all of their issued handguns, it must be the best for self defense.  I would argue that the FBI has a much different mission than a civilian defending themselves from an armed assailant.  The FBI must be prepared to possibly face multiple suspects in a lengthy gun battle; in circumstances like that, magazine capacity is important.  Cost is also a driving factor, along with recoil and speed.  The 9mm cartridge produces less felt recoil than the .45, enabling most shooters to fire a follow-up shot more quickly.

 So, the 9mm is almost as lethal as the .45, but not quite, but it has a distinct advantage in cost (ammo is cheaper in 9mm), felt recoil, and magazine capacity.  With all of that, why do I still prefer the .45?  The number one reason is that I love the 1911 platform.  I can shoot better with my 1911, chambered in .45 ACP, than with any other handgun I've ever shot, in any caliber.  This includes simulated defensive shooting drills.  Yes, there are 1911s available in 9mm, but the magazine capacity is still less than in other designs, so why not use the more lethal ammo?  

In the end, the best answer to the debate over these two calibers is that you should shoot what you're most comfortable and capable with.  Shoot both calibers in a variety of guns, and pick what you like best in comfort, shootability, concealability, etc.   I've made my choice, and I trust my life with it. 

1 comment:

Michael Joshua said...

You are very innovative.I just came into possession of a Stevens Favorite in 32RF-Shot.It has a smooth bore and is in decent shape.I will use this concept ro make some shot loads. Thanks!
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