A dear friend came to me the other day for advice on his first firearm purchase. After a lively dinner, we determined that he really wanted a semi-automatic centerfire handgun. The night was young. Our local gun shop closed at eight.
Here’s the deal, folks. Thanks to the FBI, there’s a manageable wimp load in every caliber. Thanks to the interwebs, anything is “cheap enough” when bought by the case. I’m more concerned with whether a newbie wants chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry than whether they wind up with an equally high-quality ice cream, fro-yo, or custard. All I wanted to do was show a guy his options before hitting the range, permit in hand.
So there we were, taking an hour to go through the inventory. With a wink and a nod, an older salesman starts feeding me objets d’art as I go over their history, takedown, and mechanism with a growing group of customers. It was a grand old time. Ladies, do I need a life or what?
Now, I kid you not, there’s this guy down the counter dressed like the black-leather Liberace of country music. He’s been inching closer the whole time.
“So, what do you think of the Kimber,” he asks. “Beautiful guns, dependable too. But they’re so expensive to shoot, you know, and .45s only holds seven rounds. I hear the caliber is unreliable. Besides, isn’t the nine a way better stopper?”
“Actually, sir, you can get .45s holding over a dozen rounds.” His pupils dilated like a kid on Christmas as I pointed out the options. “When it comes to ‘stopping power’ nothing is perfect. A 9mm can be a great option but the .45 has an outstanding reputation.”
“Oh yeah!” pitched in a young clerk. “Modern technology has totally changed the nine…hotter charges, better bullets, they work every time. Most people just can’t control anything more than a 9mm. Besides, handguns are ineffective: they only get you to a rifle!”
And on they go, talking about calibers as customers disperse. It was late. I was tired. Just show my friend the Beretta 92 so I can go home.
A few months ago, I stopped by a local big box; let’s call it Gosling Foothill. I was a GLOCK guy feeling guilty about not having an all-metal gun, namely a 1911. It couldn’t hurt to “just look”, right? There’s a bunch of staff with nothing to do, so I ask to see a Para in the case.
“What, you want to see one of those?” asks the young woman behind the counter. “You don’t want one of these jam-o-matics. Besides, no one can really control a .45.”
She hands me the Para.
“Nine is where it’s at. You should get a Walther CCP. It’s the best pistol I’ve ever shot. I’m a shotgun girl, but I figured I should have a centerfire handgun so I got it last Christmas. I’ll never need another! Here, these are really nice.”
She hands me a Kimber. 1911. In .45.
“Yeah, when it comes to defense, you just need to shoot real fast, poke lots-a holes. That’s why you can’t beat the nine: capacity is king! Plus, modern bullets move slower and cause more damage. It’s all about shot placement. That’s why I use a shotgun….”
“You look like a smart guy. 1911s jam, you know, and trust me, you’ll never control a .45 like a 9mm. You have no reason to buy anything other than a 9mm. Don’t be an idiot.”
I ask to see a forty. Just for kicks.
Rolling her eyes, she loses interest and starts chatting with coworkers. In her defense, they didn’t exactly pitch in.
I carry a nine. I drive a Nissan. I eat at Burger King. Life doesn’t get any better than this?
So, your hipster instructor is preaching the gospel of the best-ever-caliber-du jour. The FBI has come to Jesus on the 9mm. The nine is the perfect caliber. For everyone! ASSIMILATE!
Let’s put things in context, kids.
Not that long ago, your instructors carried their dad’s .38s. Then they got tactical and switched to 1911s. Then they got smart with double-stack .40s. Ah, but now they serve you up a big slice of 9mm humble-pie. They’d hate to see you caught up in a fad.
Speaking of fads, there were some fantastic 9mm loads in the 80s. Unfortunately, the FBI didn’t issue them to agents who died in a tragically handled felony stop. The whole mess was a bullet’s fault.
Back in the 90s, the 10mm was serious business. Unfortunately, the FBI had a hard time justifying the large handguns made for it, especially after watering the cartridge down. That was the caliber’s fault.
Through the 2000s, FBI agents have struggled to master the .40 as issued in featherweight plastic pistols designed around the 9mm. How unfortunate. Clearly the caliber’s fault.
But now, the gods have spoken in 2016. The modern 9mm is “good enough” for the FBI. That makes it “best practices” for you and me. Isn’t it funny that the FBI SWAT team has been happily shooting .45 through 1911s the whole time?
I carry a 9mm. My friend is getting a 9mm. Everyone should have several 9mms. But there’s so much more to life than a pile of 9×19.