A look at the 9mm vs 45 debate. Some common sense

I have been reading a lot online recently with some people arguing over the 9mm vs the 45 ACP.   Now I am not going to say one  is much better then the other but I will point out a few things.  The reason I am talking  about this is not that I want you to buy what I think is the prefect round or to try to change minds, but to show how some of the logic of the arguments do not hold up.   The 9mm is being said  to be the best choice right now by a few for a variety of reasons. None of which I agree with.  I think the 9mm has great value to us.  But it does need to be viewed at with some some sense so we do not lose all perspective.  So, below are  a few things to think about.

One of the things I keep seeing is that the 9mm is better then the 45 ACP now. The proof is that modern tech has been applied to the new line of 9mm bullets. Better design, better metals, better  shape etc. That is a great thing and it does wonders. But, the same improvements have also been applied to the 45 ACP and the 40 S&W.  Companies do not make advancements in bullet technology and not apply it to all calibers, or just do it for the 9mm.

Next is that the 9mm will penetrate deeper and defeat body armor.  Speed is not the main factor in penetration. Bullet shape and the hardness of the bullet matter a lot.  A steel core 40 S&W or 45 AP will defeat armor or penetrate as well as a 9mm. Same with a more pointed bullet shape.  If you run across body armor that will defeat a 45 or 40, round with a steel core, or a pointed design, it is going to stop any other handgun round as well.  If the enemy is hiding behind cover, you are not going to get through it with a handgun no matter what it is.  If they have on effective body armor. You are going to shoot them in the head, crotch, thighs etc.  Its not going to matter what handgun round you use if what you need is a rifle.

The talk of the 45 being to much recoil to shoot well is a training issue. Pure and simple. Taking some one who can not handle the recoil of a 45 after being trained, is not trained well enough to be using a 9mm, or a 380 or a 32 auto or a 22LR.   Women shooters in IPSC shoot major power factors with the 45 ACP.  This is full power ammo. So you are going to tell me, that a 5 foot 3 asian woman can handle the 45 ACP round well enough to win a national championship, but a 6 foot tall Marine can not because its too much recoil? Ok..

Another complaint is weight.  OK, lets take a  look at that. 22 rounds of 45 ACP compared to 22 rounds of 9mm ammo is a difference of 6 ounces.  If you can not handle an extra 6 ounces, then you maybe should rethink carrying a gun.

Some other complaints about the 45 or bigger calibers are really a hidden slight at the 1911 in most cases. Even though the 1911 is said to need more training, the 1911 does not have  a double action trigger that is further away from the grip like most DA guns like the M9 or the P220.  It has less levers. it has no decocker that allows the hammer to fall on a loaded chamber. I always thought this odd that a culture so keen on safety, is fine with  man made mechanical device falling on a live round.

My favorite reason is that 9mm guns are easier to use for smaller hands and much easier to use.  this strikes me odd. Most 9mms are double action, This puts the trigger further forward and harder for small hands to get to.  The capacity of the magazine also makes it much wider..  The larger the magazine and the more it holds, the bigger the grip frame has to be to allow it.  Some  Double action pistols in the common 9mm also have a higher bore. The XD is a good example.  When fired, the recoil of the 9mm works on a longer lever making it snap more and recoil feel snappier.  A lot of people find 9mms in this type of handgun more unpleasant.

The magazine capacity is the shinning example of why the use of the 9mm is not to be contested. Everyone loves more ammo right?  The FN  45  will hold 15 rounds.  That is the most common amount for the 9mm. Once again, this is aimed more at trying to tear down the 1911.  9-10 round mags for the 1911 are common and easy to get. With a wilson combat 10 round mag plus one in the chamber that is 11 rounds. You can add two more spare reloads, which is standard for most, and that is 31 rounds or two 8 round mags instead. That is not counting the fact that frames are made for the 1911 that will hold 15 plus rounds.

If you need more rounds then 9-10 then you need a rifle.  Laying down suppressive fire with a handgun inside the USA as a CCW civilian or LEO  would be so rare, it may not even be worth talking about.  If you need to use your side arm for this work, you are not going to have enough ammo. It is not going to work out.

As  the majority of people seem to need to be told over and over, hits are what counts.  The vast majority of encounters happen so fast and so close that  having to reload or even using up most of the mag, are tiny.  Hits are what matter.   the idea of more ammo puts the idea in a lot of peoples heads that they can slack off on their standard of training.  “I can shoot more if I need it” they say. Often they use this as an excuse to let themselves miss more.  I am not saying you need the accuracy of a bullseye match, but you do have to hit. If you have missed 12 times or made 12 marginal hits, 3 more may not be much good to you. Or you are in serious trouble already. Few people trying to kill you,, will not stand by as you fire 11 or more ineffective rounds at them.  Even in war, if you have gotten to the point its just you and your side arm and needed more then 10 rounds, there may not be much hope for you depending on whats going on.

I agree the idea of “knockdown power” is absurd. Nothing you can hold in your hands , will stop a threat with one shot every time. And even some things crew served will from time to time take more shots to kill some one then seems possible.  No handgun is going to take a man off his feet or blow off arms.  The idea is idiotic.    Neither will a handgun round be small and fast enough to act as a rifle round.  Hollowpoints often fail from handguns for a laundry list of reasons I am not going into right now.  But I would rather have a failed HP round that is 45 and stays 45, then a failed HP round that is 32 or 25 or 9mm that stayed a 9mm, 32, 25 etc and had only its size making a hole to bleed out through, to stop a fight.   If this still has trouble sinking in, let some one throw a wiffle ball at you and hit you in the chest. Let them throw it hard.  Yes it will hurt.   Then let them do the same with a softball.  The Softball is bigger, and heavier.  I do not think it takes a lot of mental gymnastics to understand this unless you are working hard to convince yourself or others that a smaller lighter bullet will work better then a larger heaver one when we are talking about handguns.

This is not even counting how things perform when the projectile works as it is designed to do and everything goes right. Even though, often the bullets do not work as advertised.

As I said, I think the 9mm is just fine and has a much valued place.  I do not want anyone to think i am trying to talk them out of using it. What I am trying to do, is to get people to think about it.  If something out performs something else, that is great. But we need to look at this in a way that is honest. Not just using personal preference as an excuse to declare something so much better that the people who use something else is outdated or dinosaurs or wimps for using something so small.  I picked on the 9mm heavily in this case not because I dislike it, but because some people have went above and beyond logic in some cases, to try to make other agree with them. And sadly, their status has gave weight to their statements when they are not exactly experts on terminal performance. Being a great shot, or a champion, or karate master does not mean their personal views over take facts or common sense.

To me, listen to the guys telling you to train, find a gun that fits your hand and you can shoot well. They know hits are what counts, and your mindset and willingness to fight to live.  Sure they have their own favorite, but you will not see them harp on it over and over.  Training is what counts.  Do not get fixated on equipment or what some one tells you is the best caliber.  Use the most effective caliber you can handle. Do not assume something is hard to use just because some one slightly famous tells you it is.  use some sense, and look at facts. And, if you still want to use what you want, then by all means do so, just train with it to make the hits that count.

My thoughts on it is to use the biggest round you can effectively handle and staying away from double action and DAO autos. I do not mean trying it out to see if you can hit a pop can either. I mean train with it. Practice and learn it. Work with it. If you can not become proficient with it because the recoil is just too much, then by all means, take a step down.  I will say this, there are too many tiny women winning national matches with full power ammo in the 45 to dismiss it as hard to shoot or make follow up shots with.   Thee is a video on youtube of a 6 year old boy shooting a full size 45 ACP in a IPA match.   Training,  that is really all that needs said.

8 thoughts on “A look at the 9mm vs 45 debate. Some common sense”

  1. Your defense of the 45, and the points you make are well taken. The counterpoints that support the 9mm were not countered (cheaper, lighter, effective). Please, please: 1. Learn the difference between “then” and “than.” Also: 2. Have an acquaintance check your sentence structure. These two distract from your argument.

  2. I love my xds .45 and xd .45. My wife is deadly accurate with it too. I find it doesn’t have a ton of recoil. I feel good having a big fat bullet. Have a good one, enjoyed the article.

  3. Hmmm … which ever one I’m more accurate with is the one I’m going to carry and use, period. It surprises me quite often how some folks can be so passionate about 9mm vs. .45. Sometimes I carry a .40 … makes me feel left out of the discussion 😉

    At the end of the day a gun is simply a tool to drive holes in to things at high velocity. The mass and size of the 9mm round vs. the .45 round is fairly negligible. Combat medics can rarely tell one bullet hole from another in this caliber range.

    I recommend reading “Surgical Speed Shooting” by Andy Stanford for some solid professional, no nonsense, information.

  4. I agree with you 100%…however, and I’m sure you know this, training for the “masses” to reach that level of competency is an unrealistic goal for most ALL law enforcement agencies…simply too costly; and/or too many Gun-carrying personnel truly don’t want to carry a gun in the first place because they live in a bullshit TV world of “look at me, I’m cool”; and/or too many don’t really don’t give shit about showing up on training days; and/or too many aren’t willing to spend a penny out of their pocket to build those skills! This is from someone directly involved in firearms training over the last 20 years…

    1. Most of your points are reasonable but I prefer DA to the 1911 action. Then again I have been their fir real and know what the adrenal rush does to you. Hence I won’t have a Glock or almost any striker fired weapon. The XD 40 is an advance on the striker design due to its 19111 still safety grip.There is a reason Glock has been the leader far and wide in negligent shooting or ‘accidental ‘ shooting legal cases.

      Next of course you are quite correct than pistol is not a rifle. A 45 ACP moves out at normally 850 fps, that is to slow to make any bullet design expand. The 9mm has average velocity of 1150 fps which is just enough to likely expand if the cavity is not filled with clothing or leather on the way in. BUT the thing to understand is that the bullet expanding has in itself nothing to do with stopping power, it is the hydrostatic shock wave that is created by the deceleration of the hollow point that creates traumatic damage ( by means of the hydrostatic shock wave it propagates) that contributes to stopping power.It is not simply that the bullet gets bigger when it expands at all.

      In the scores and scores of post mortem shootings I have investigated the .45 ACP FMJ has less stopping power than 115 grain JHP that actually does expand and creates that very destructive hydrostatic shock wave that can rupture a spleen or artery the bullet never actually touches. But if the 9mm JHP does not expand well, then they are about the same in stopping power. And you are right expanding ammo does not always expand properly.

      You really need to understand the role of hydrostatic shock to frame this discussion accurately and in a substantive way.

      I would not feel ‘under armed’ with my 0ld 1911. But I would ratgher have 15 rounds of (mm JHP in 92F. Toi me 19111 with 230 gr FMJ has not much recoil. But a .45 ACP loaded hot enough to get the veloicty needed for hydrostatic shock ( good expansion) well then it really does pack some increased recoiul and longer recovery time.

    2. yes Ike I agree. but people’s willingness does not change the fact that it is still a training issue.

      what i want to know is why a post damn near 3 years old all the sudden has so many people reading it and ( not you) but others suddenly wanting to lecture me haha

      1. Good point, a post 3 years old getting this attention I’d say it is mainly the understable love and attachment many have for the 1911. THis combined with the fact that the military is limited to FMJ ammunition which makes the 9mm appear weak in stopping power in the Big Sandbox.

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