OK, the beast rears its ugly head again. 9mm vs. .45…..light & fast vs. big and slow….David vs. Goliath..
On the ride home from the range on Saturday the subject of 9mm vs. .45 was brought up again between Kevin and I. Kev is a fairly staunch .45 guy while I, while realizing that by all measures that the .45 is a more powerful round, exist with a 9mm gun at my side. I am good with this. I don’t see myself actually having to draw on anyone that would be any farther than about 15 or 20 feet realistically and at this range the ballistic performance of the 9mm is more than adequate IMHO. Moreover, Kev stated that he often does not carry based on the fact that his G30 .45 is fairly wide. In the unlikely chance that you would need to defend yourself, my LCP (which used to be his btw) in .380 in my is a more potent weapon than his .45 at home. Right now 9mm single-stacked pistols seem to be the “flavor of the moment” in CCW, surpassing the wave of .380 subcompact autos that ruled the roost the past 3 years.
Back to the main point…I would like to draw your attention to the following, well published, chart showing comparative effectiveness of various handgun rounds in ballistic gel. Clearly the .45 has a much bigger temporary and permanent wound channel than the 9mm..yet both penetrate to the FBI minimum standard of 12” and the 9mm does look comparable in profile to several other rounds. On most people it would be difficult to find some area of the body that you would not hit some type of major organ or system within 12” of penetration.
My biggest point of contention, again, with the reputation of the 9mm is that many of the “horror” stories associated with it I bet are with the use of round nose bullets pushed to high speeds. With a slimmer profile and a lot of energy those rounds will tend to “poke through” tissues rather than slow down and expend their energy in the target. Modern HP bullet designs will both offer penetration and expansion/energy dump as the chart shows.
Just as a side note…check out that .357 Sig…yikes!
Just as I argued with my post on chaos theory as it applies to firearms, I would not expect ANY round to be a magic bullet that would stop an assailant with a single shot. Despite this, numbers to point out that a good majority of gunfights are won by the person who gets off the first accurate shot. And when I say accurate I mean a shot that hits a major organ or disrupts the central nervous system. Believe it or not, I do spend time down in my “man cave” practicing drawing from a holster with and without a outer garment (always with nothing in the weapon of course) in order to try and assure myself that I can draw as quickly as I need to do and as accurately as I need to be. Having that extra 3/10 of a second to get your front sight post on center mass of the target before you pull the trigger could be the difference between having to explain your actions to the court or explain them to St. Peter.
So in this vein of logic, the 9mm does not provide a one hit wonder with stopping power to take down a charging elephant (which a .45 does not either btw). What the 9mm does provide, again IMHO, is ENOUGH power to get the job done in a smaller package which enables me to not only get better control of recoil for follow up shots but pack a few more rounds in the same size magazine compared to a larger caliber.
The 2 rounds I currently use in my weapons is the Winchester 124gr. +P PDX1 round and the Federal 115gr +P+ Hi-Shok round. Both are hollow point rounds (for those readers in New Jersey those are the evil bullets with a hole in the nose that causes them to “explode”). Just to leave honesty on the table I found two videos of their relative effectiveness on YouTube, neither seem too favorable…
First the Hi-Shok. This round has been a favorite 9mm round in Law Enforcement for well over 20 years and has proved itself in many gunfights. It is one of the preferred 9mm loads by noted expert Massad Ayoob.
Next is the Winchester PDS1 bonded round, this is supposed to be one of the better rounds out there..
Yikes! Neither of those tests looked too comforting, did they? Truth is that testing like this, or like the gelatin chart are really not all that conclusive or comparable to real life results. Like I said, the Hi-Shok round is very popular in law enforcement and has ended more than its fair share of criminal activities, yet in this test seems to be very fragile…when shot into a barrel of water. It is even rumored to be one of the rounds capable of inducing the mysterious and legendary “hydrostatic shock” effect (for another post). Despite these videos I will continue to pack the 9mm until I have a better reason not to. Maybe if I somehow get my dream job of being a globe trotting gun-for-hire and have to start picking off Taliban soldiers at 100 meters with my handgun I will go to a bigger round (can you say 10mm!).
The Lab of the Mad Scientist..
And now some info for those dying to “try this at home”…
OK, maybe you don’t trust the chart above and want to verify the results independently. Cool, please post and share the info here. What, you don’t have the money for lab grade ballistic gelatin? Well, thankfully there are several home made recipes available to try. Here is a link to one such concoction and a video. The steps between the link and the vid vary slightly, but you should be able to get the general method down.