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Again..Really 9mm vs. .45acp?????
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Again..Really 9mm vs. .45acp?????

Once again...9mm vs. .45acp 
 
Yes, again. Amongst avid handgun fans thedebate between big and slow versus small and fast stretches backover a hundred years now I'd guess. Next year marks the 100 year anniversary ofthe Government Model 1911 .45ACP having been adopted by the U.S. Military (eventhough it existed in 1904) and the 9mm is even older than that. What makes thedebate relatively new (and hopefully interesting) is the addition of what Icall "compromise calibers". There are a couple in between the maximumends of the debate and recently that has been thrust into my considerationalmost against my will.
 
What I refer to as Compromise Calibers includes anything that is betweenthe 9mm and the .45ACP is size (10mm, .40S&W, etc) or a production caliber(as compared to a custom-only wildcat cartridge) that changes the basics ofeither such as the .357Sig or the .45GAP. Arguably the first compromise caliber(in a pistol) was the 10mm presented in the early 1970s, but before we get intothat, let's talk a bit about the compromise being made.
 
Way back when the U.S. Military discovered that the .38 caliber bullets theywere firing from their revolvers were not delivering incapacitating injuries tothe enemy. That's not to say that the injuries weren't fatal - just notimmediately so. Of course, 100 years later we have thoroughly documented (now)that an injury isn't immediately fatal unless it hits the Central NervousSystem (brain or spinal cord) and even then, if it's a spinal cord shot it mayonly be incapacitating, not immediately lethal. That's why our bullet designsand caliber / velocity pairings focus on doing as much damage as possible tolarge blood-bearing vessels and organs so as to cause the enemy to bleed asmuch as possible as fast as possible to shut down their system. In other words,we cause injuries that make them bleed to death (or close to it).
 
Now, I know that police officers and deputy sheriffs and every othervariant of law enforcement professional in the country today doesn't shootsuspects with the intent of killing them (and if you did, you'd be a fool toadmit it). Instead, you deliver shots to the center mass of the suspect whenjustified in an attempt to incapacitate them as quickly as possible therebystopping the threat to you, your partner and all bystanders in the area. That'syour job. Writing for soldiers can often be easier: soldiers kill the enemy.That's what they do. "Overkill" is a political term of concern. Screwthat. I used an AT-4 to stop that enemy truck? Yeah? The problem is? Mybooby-trap had two grenades instead of one which would have been sufficient?What's your point? You get the message. Law enforcement has to be far morecareful about what they write and say. That means that the people who designammo and weapons also have to be careful what they say in sales pitches.
 
Keep all of that in mind as we discuss a few compromise calibers, focusingdown on one, and the pros / cons to be had.
 
So the compromise is a balance sought between carrying as many rounds as wecomfortably can of a caliber that will do sufficient damage to the enemy orsuspect when necessary and deliverable from a firearm that can be convenientlyworn or carried. Agreed? Cool.
 
As we've identified the 9mm and the .45ACP as the genesis of this debate ifyou will, let's talk about them briefly. Both created before 1900 and bothpackaged in relatively concealable carry packages (i.e. the Browning High Poweror the Government Model 1911), they offer a choice:
 
 
 
 
 
Remembering Einstein's formula of E equalsM times C-squared, we have to admit that the smaller faster bullet can deliveran equal amount of energy as the bigger slower bullet. In fact, if engineeredprecisely, they could deliver an exactly identical amount of energy. But is itall about energy? We all already know it's not. As we said earlier, whenstopping the aggressive action of the opponent, the goal - short of a centralnervous system (CNS) hit - must be to cause sufficient damage to create a quickdrop in their blood volume so that they drop.
 
Simple logic - with a focus on simple - would dictate that a bigger bulletmakes a bigger hole and therefore does more damage. The challenge with thatsimple logic is that terminal ballistics have proven less predictable than weoriginally thought they would be. Bullets traveling faster than 1,000 feetperson second do some strange and unexpected things upon impacting flesh.Hollow point, jacketed bullets sometimes don't expand as they are designed todo; other fragment for no observable reason. In other words, quite often ourhigh-tech science does little more than allow us to take a good guess at whatthe bullets will do. In field terms we call this a "WAG" or WildAss Guess. In more specific and technical terms we call it a"SWAG" or scientific wild ass guess.
 
Past history shows us that people can die from being shot with a .22lrbullet. Countless hundreds of thousands have been killed by .223 / 5.56mmbullets. Velocity certainly plays a part along with multiple round delivery.There was a time when we had to separate the arguments between rifle calibersand handgun calibers, but with some effective rifle cartridges now packaged inhandguns (i.e. the FN 5.7mm) the lines get more blurry than ever.
 
As we said earlier, the debate has long primarily been between 9mm (orequivalent such as .38) caliber weapons and .45ACP weapons. In common handgunstoday, if we're arguing capacity then the argument is small. For instance theGlock Model 17 holds 18 rounds of 9mm (17 in the magazine plus one in thechamber). The Glock 21 holds 14 rounds of .45ACP (13 +1). Is the debate reallygoing to rage over FOUR rounds of capacity? If you are a fan of the .45ACP butwant a higher capacity and so you switch to the 9mm to gain FOUR rounds, don'tyou think you should probably re-assess your shooting skills?
 
For decades the U.S. military found eight rounds (7+1) of .45ACP in aGovernment Model 1911 pistol sufficient. For most of those decades lawenforcement found 6 rounds of .38 in a revolver sufficient. With two magazinesfor backup in the 1911 you had a total of 22 rounds of .45ACP. With twospeedloaders for your .38 you had a total of 18 rounds. Certainly there wereinstances of officers and soldiers feeling under-gunned or citing examples ofhow those weapons and/or cartridges failed. There are also hundreds of storiesabout how well those weapons and calibers performed. 1985 changed it all. Thedebate wasn't settled but it was certainly quieted when the U.S. Militaryadopted the Beretta M9 9mm pistol with its 15+1 capacity. Adopted by themilitary and picked up by law enforcement agencies across the nation, theBeretta M9 or the civilian variant Beretta 92F seemed to silence the 9mm vs.45ACP debate. Maybe...
 
But there were still plenty of people out there who weren't confident thatshooting someone with a 9mm round would provide sufficient immediate (or asclose as possible) incapacitation. Other options were sought. That same yearthe .40S&W was born. Evolving out of the 10mm as the load was developed andchanged in accordance with FBI requirements, the .40S&W cartridge ended upthe same overall length as a typical 9mm Parabellum round. Since .40 and 10mmequal, the difference in diameter was only 1mm. Could it really make adifference? Apparently so. People and law enforcement agencies flocked to the.40 in untold numbers. In some pistols the change from a 9mm to a .40S&Wcaliber design didn't mean huge scrifices in capacity. Again, the Glock 17 9mmwith its 18 round total capacity was compared to the Glock 22 .40S&W withits 16 round total capacity. Would those two rounds really matter? Many saidno.
 
Then came compact and sub-compact models of .40S&W pistols. My latestventure into this arena is the Beretta 96F Centurion with its 11 round totalcapacity. The shorter slide, barrel and frame as compared to the Beretta 96Fmake the 96F Centurion easier to carry and conceal. However, since it's a .40caliber weapon I hardly feel like I'm carrying a "mouse gun".
 
It's my opinion that the .40S&W is theultimate compromise cartridge. It's small enough in diameter to load plenty ofrounds into double-stack magazines, but it breaks that psychologicallymeaningful barrier of a caliber that starts with a "4" instead of a"3" or anything equivalent. That said, now I have to select betweenmy carry guns from amongst my:
 
·        Glock Model 19with its 15+1 9mm capacity, or
 
·        Beretta 96FCenturion with its 10+1 .40S&W capacity, or
 
·        SpringfieldArmory 1911 with its 8+1 .45ACP capacity.
 
The difference between the 9mm (16 rounds total) and the .40S&W (11rounds total) is the most extreme. The difference between the .4S&W (11)and the .45ACP (9) doesn't really seem worth arguing about, does it? Then mythought is this...
 
Is it really worth arguing in the first place? Probably not. If you're afan of and comfortable with the .45ACP weapons, carry one. If you prefer andare comfortable with the 9mm, carry that. If you like the .40 because it makesyou feel like you've solved a difficult conundrum, then carry it.
 
As for Me? Well we will just let the bad guys, guess, what Im carring today???
 
Jim Sturnum
Ret. LAPD.
 
 

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