10mm .40 S&W
10mm Auto (left), .40 S&W (right) (Image: Jeremy S. for TTAG)
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Almost like a memorized prayer, there are certain defensive gun myths that people will recite reflexively. Some of them are correct, some are true with caveats, and others are just garbage with no basis in fact.

One of the big ones that’s mostly correct is that defensive shootings happen in “three rounds, three seconds, three feet” (or some variation of this, like “two rounds, two seconds, two feet”).

This idea has led to a whole industry of guns optimized for concealed carry. Little pocket pistols have been around for a long time, but in recent decades pistols like the Ruger LCP have proliferated. They don’t have much sight radius, barrel length, or magazine capacity, but for that 3-3-3 or 2-2-2 fight, they give you what you need without much bulk and weight.

The industry has rebounded somewhat more recently, with “just right” pistols like the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield, SIG P365, and Springfield Hellcat. Many people loved carrying tiny pistols, but found that they were just awful to shoot, so the industry continues to optimize for more segments of the concealed carry market.

Most CCW guns now tend to be 9mm guns in that “just right” size, increasingly equipped with a red dot sight, for accuracy and speed, especially at extended ranges.

And then came the Greenwood Park Mall shooting, where Eli Dicken shot a would-be mass shooter from 40 yards away with a pistol, and saved dozens of lives. This is far from the first time anyone has taken a long shot like this (I discuss several examples here), but it’s one that woke many people up to the idea that there’s a difference between self-defense and defense in general.

The whole 3-3-3 or 2-2-2 thing is usually true because the person defending themselves is standing at the zero mark and the ability/opportunity/jeopardy framework for reasonable use of deadly force favors smaller distances. But, if you’re defending other people, you have to add the distance between you and the intended victims to the equation. In a place like a mall, supermarket, or most streets, that distance could easily exceed 100 yards, putting the shooter a whole lot farther than 3 yards away.

The YouTube shooting community has responded to this reminder of reality with the “Dickens Drill” (which might not be 100% accurate), with the basic idea of being able to hit targets at 40+ yards with the gun you carry.

While most modern handguns can do this and red dot optics make it far easier, there’s one thing people forget about when taking on the long shots: external ballistics.

Bullet Behavior For These Long Shots

Normally, we can ignore external ballistics with pistols and skip straight to terminal ballistics. Energy losses, bullet drop, and things like windage/elevation just don’t make enough of a difference at 10 yards for most people to need to consider. But, move the target away to 50-100 yards, and we’ve left the world of point blank behind.

It’s generally accepted that more powerful rounds like .357 SIG and 10mm have little to no incapacitation advantage over 9mm when hollow points expand and get good penetration (one ballistics researcher said of .357 SIG, “…what is the point of this cartridge?”), because the extra energy doesn’t cause permanent damage (unless you get to rifle velocities) and therefore doesn’t aid in incapacitation.

But, as the yards fly by, things change.

One problem with most pistol rounds is that hollow points are optimized for the velocity that bullet will have for the first couple of dozen yards. If it goes too slow (and at 50-100 yards, it will), the bullet won’t expand much and will act like an FMJ. This means a lot less wounding and that the bullet will probably zip on through and hit other things, possibly on the other side of the target or through walls (overpenetration).

This is where one of the disadvantages of 10mm and many .357 SIG loads becomes an advantage. Because .40 S&W was made by shortening the 10mm Auto, many manufacturers just put a bullet optimized for the more popular .40 S&W round in there. With .357 SIG, the bullet is the same as 9mm NATO/Parabellum/Luger/Whatever, leading to many manufacturers just putting a 9mm bullet in the .357 SIG case. The result is that, at normal distances, the bullets are going too fast for the bullet design, and tend to expand early and possibly fragment, leading to less penetration in some cases (which is especially weird, given 10mm’s reputation for penetration).

Numbers for .357 SIG 125gr Gold Dot (Blue) and 9mm +P 124gr Gold Dot (Green) defense rounds, out to 100 yards. Screenshot from GunData.org

But, at 100 yards, when full-power 10mm slows down to .40 S&W speeds and .357 SIG has slowed to 9mm speeds, these bullets will be in their design velocity range and perform ideally. Meanwhile, a 9mm hollowpoint becomes a .380 or weaker round and possibly fails to expand. It’s also important to keep in mind that the faster .357 or 10mm bullets will experience less bullet drop, making it faster and easier to hold over (assuming this is necessary at all for center of mass shots).

Bullet drop for the same .357 and 9mm Gold Dot loads, on a graph. Screenshot from GunData.org

How I Navigate This Compromise With 10mm

In my reading and research, I’ve found that bonded Speer Gold Dot bullets designed for the slower caliber tend to do well both up close and at distance. For 10mm, the 180 Gold Dot bullet is definitely driven too fast, but the bonded design holds things together and even allows for reasonable penetration, with plenty of damage that occurs during expansion, before it folds back more and becomes a “meteor.”

But, ballistics calculators show that at 100 yards, the .40-caliber Gold Dot bullet would be within normal velocities for .40 S&W, so you’d be able to expect normal closer up .40 Gold Dot behavior at extended pistol ranges. So, it’s still a bit of a trade-off (slightly reduced performance closer up (but still very acceptable), but bonded bullets help expand the useful ranges pistol ammo is useful from.

How Useful Is This, Though?

What I’d really like to see is manufacturers design hollow points that expand at a wider range of velocities. This would be better than the trade-off I’ve negotiated with 10mm, but would require a lot of research and development (assuming it’s possible), and there aren’t enough options like that on the market like that right now.

Obviously, we’re getting pretty far into the long tail of defensive gun use here, and this small tradeoff to get performance at longer ranges might not seem useful to many readers. But, if you’re going to be doing the Dickens Drill and practicing for the long shots, you’d better consider the reduced velocities and potential for non-expansion you can expect at longer ranges as you prepare for that scenario.

 

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103 COMMENTS

  1. “because the extra energy doesn’t cause permanent damage”

    I wonder about that. Paul Harrell’s meat target gets more damage with higher velocity rounds. I understand that living tissue will have a different reaction. However, Paul has stated that the difference in damage from something like a 9mm compared to a 38 Super is consistent with what he has observed in real world damage to deer while handgun hunting. There’s a big difference between a 38 Special and a 357 Magnum. Why is that?

  2. quote———–And then came the Greenwood Park Mall shooting, where Eli Dicken shot a would-be mass shooter from 40 yards away with a pistol, and saved dozens of lives——–quote

    This cherry picked example is truly a 1 in a million example. I might also add sad to say most people look out for number one and most would never even be so foolish as to try and take on a madman with a highly accurate long range assault rifle and not even knowing if he had body armor on which most maniacs usually use these days.

    There have been many mass shootings where the armed people simply looked out for No. 1 and vacated the area quickly.

    I might add that the reason most people who have pistols and can even legally carry them often do not carry them is that even .380 sized guns can often be very uncomfortable to carry for any length of time. I personally saws 3 cops in a dangerous bar take off their guns and give them to their girl freinds (not their wives) to put in their purses for them because they simply were uncomfortable with their guns digging into them.

    That .44 magnum with a 8 3/8 inch barrel does not do you a whole lot of good when you leave it at home or under the seat of your car because its just to damn uncomfortable to carry or its hot out and you cannot conceal it very easily.

    No firearm is ideal under all circumstances but you are far more likely to consistently carry a very small and lightweight and comfortable gun than you are a 65 caliber Strato Blaster that shoots out a 3 foot flame out of the barrel and vibrates the fillings out of your teeth.

    Well over 120 years ago Big Game Hunters around the world proved that it was bullet placement and bullet penetration that killed NOT CALIBER. In fact the big bore guns often failed many times more to penetrate to the vitals than smaller calibers that were higher in velocity, more inherently accurate and recoiled far less.

    Agnes Herbert (almost unknown today) was extremely famous in her time. She wrote in 1900 that “The Moron gun writers of the day did not know what the hell they were talking about”. Sadly there has been zero change in gun writers since 1900 as they are all mostly pompous loud mouth fools.

    It is a fact that even a .177 cal pellet rifle has killed people dead as hell with one shot in the head or heart and pellets as a rule do not expand all that much either if shot into soft tissue.

    Cops for years carried the much maligned .38 special using nothing more than solid lead bullets and even round nose lead bullets at that. The people the cops killed must have died because they did not read the gun writer rantings that they were safe from being killed with that ammo.

    I had a buddy of mine go off on me in a rant, he said “Why would you carry such a worthless .25 acp pistol”? I responded “Because I know how to shoot and having a .25 acp in the hand when you come out of a dark alley at night is way better than having nothing more than your dick in your hand”.

    • Reality is really doing a number on you. Hopefully you don’t figure out subcompact 10mm and 357 sig exist and many of your derided gun writers will have more forgotten anecdotal experience than you will ever have hands on. Good luck though your fake copy is getting good enough to make it not worth the trouble of figuring out if it’s you.

      • It hurts even to think about shooting a subcompact handgun in 10 mm or .357 Sig. I once rented a Ruger LCR in .38 Special. The shop gave me standard pressure 158 LRN ammunition. Recoil was so nasty I quit after one cylinder and used up the rest of the box in my 6″ model 19. I would carry an LCR; it’s a great revolver. But I’d load it with low powered 148 grain target wadcutters or buy one in .327 Magnum and load it with .32 H&R Magnum.

        • G33 and p320 subcompact setup were no worse than a .40 or spicy 9mm in similar sizes so varies by user tolerance. Haven’t messed with a G29 so not sure how that would go but the 20/40 was very manageable once you get a grip size that’s comfortable (see above re tolerance).

    • “380 sized guns can often be very uncomfortable to carry for any length of time.”

      Say what? I can throw one in the pocket, a spare mag in the other pocket, and pretty much forget they’re there.

    • But will that .25acp be able to drop the meth-head trying to have his way with your dog without a reload? Do your dog a favor and buy a .22lr for real penetration…

    • “I had a buddy of mine go off on me in a rant, he said “Why would you carry such a worthless .25 acp pistol”? I responded “Because I know how to shoot and having a .25 acp in the hand when you come out of a dark alley at night is way better than having nothing more than your dick in your hand”.

      If they knew that it was a 25ACP, they would probably be more afraid of you standing there with your dick in your hand, than your 25ACP.

      A 25ACP has 63ft*lbf at the muzzle. 25Ft*lbf at 100yards. It will literally just bounce off your clothes at ranges past that. The 25ACP is meant to be fired at point blank into a belly or chest, and it requires surgical precision of your aim. But if you emerged from a dark alley walking towards me with your dick in your hand – I would get scared immediately and run away, so that is probably more effective.

        • I started policing in the early 80’s and a .25 killed the first officer to die after I joined. The officer was 6’4 and 300lbs he was hit on the collar bone and the bulled deflected straight into his heart. You can laugh at a .25 if you want to I’ll take cover.

  3. The secret is to get hits, as misses just don’t count. In the real world, the further the distance, the more likely you are to miss. Just learn to brace against a barrier or other support will make a huge difference at longer ranges.

    We all want and desire immediate incapacitation, but at distance, it may be about them having reduced ability to fight and eventually to just bleed out. Not perfect, but perhaps more inline with reality. Carrying an 8″ scoped 44 magnum is not a good choice for ccw. The majority of fights are still going to be close-up and you shouldn’t arm yourself based upon exceptions to the general rules of distance and number of shots fired. Training is what everyone should focus on.

    • Good analysis. Rounds on-target. Force the perp back into their OODA Loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act). The hunter becomes the hunted. They stop shooting the innocent.

      For the record, I have performed the Dickens Drill. 6/10, then 9/10 at 40 yards. Requires a cool head. Don’t know if I could have done it in Indiana. Eli Dickens is a hero.

  4. I have totally changed my train of thought on this. I believe that hydro static shock has a bigger factor than realized. This is why rifle calibers even small ones tend to have more incapacitation than pistols. Jim Cirillo noted that the weapon that gave the most one shot incapacitation was the cut down 10-12 inch barrels 30 carbines with soft point bullets. These would have been moving around 1,500-1,600 fps. This was compared to shotguns with slugs and buckshot, .45’s ,9mm’s , .38 and .357. The bullet was smaller than any of them but was moving faster. I carried a .45 1911 for all my street duty time but now carry a custom .22TCM that I built.

    • Tended towards the higher velocity underwood copper solids for similar reasons. Well that and lot of equipment related limitations in this state. TCM was a neat looking round but never ran into it and my only concern is does it penetrate enough…….well that and can you find ammo 😋

      • In test I saw it gives a consistent 12″ in gel. I saw another test where it shot through a level 3 vest and through ribs a roast and destroyed oranges. I’ve only killed armadillos with mine and it is superior to .357 and .45. When shot with .357 and .45 they jump 2-3 feet and flop around until they run out of blood. With the TCM they fall over and their feet twitch. I love mine.

        • Brings varmageddon rounds to mind🙂 probably would work fine for criminals but may have issues with barriers (honestly not that common an issue)

  5. Self defense shooting at 100 yds. would be a hard sell unless it was a mass shooting incident. My 357 mag works just fine. Of course, it’s not the noise that does the job, it’s the hits.

    • “…there’s one thing people forget about when taking on the long shots: external ballistics….”

      I agree with Ed and add that the further away the “in fear of your life” thing is the less it is. Of course it depends, every situation is different. One needs to remember what geopolitical area this happens in. This is the one thing people should remember.

      • Actually Elmer Keith solved this problem 88 years ago, but what with the Great Depression it took a little while to catch on.

    • Yep, at <3' you don't have to worry about pushing the slide out of battery and at 50 yards you can hit 'em hard with a .357. If it can't be done with a .357 you're probably dead anyway. Or at least you need a butt stock.

  6. This is one reason why I’m increasingly drawn to my Spain-made 1911 Llama Extra and it’s 9mm Largo (9×24) chambering. Largo cases accept normal Luger loadings without fuss, but the extra 5mm of powder capacity also allows for spicier shots with better external ballistics. Keeping a specially marked “Dickens magazine” with longer-range loads, alongside the normal ones for personal defense distances, would be quite feasible.

  7. Go with Underwood/ Lehigh Defense Xtreme Defender rounds and these problems mostly go away. There is no expansion so it can’t fail in that regard. The flutes need speed to work, so they use light bullets. Also, P, +P and +P+ variants are available for most calibers. they are mostly barrier blind as well (blessing or curse, depending on the situation).

    I think monolithic ammo is the way of the future.

  8. In my own experimentation I have found that even standard velocity 115 grain 9mm like Winchester white box and Remington green and white box will get decent expansion and penetration out to 50 yards, more premium rounds like Sig V Crown and Federal HST make it to about 70. Plus P versions still work at 100, with 124 grain out performing the 115. This was shot with a p320 compact.

    For what it’s worth, 165 grain Winchester white box and Remington green and white box 40 S&W from an M&P 2.0 compact performed well out to 100 yards, though it required a lot more hold over to make those hits than it was with the 9mm.

  9. I don’t really care if the bullet expands or not, all I care about is getting hits. Wars have been fought for more than a century with Full Metal Jacket bullets. The person on the receiving end doesn’t know what they’re getting shot with. If the first one doesn’t do the job I’ll shoot them again, ammo’s not that expensive.

    • It’s tactically advantageous on the battlefield to wound enemy soldiers, rather than kill them outright. It makes the other side expend more effort and resources to extract them. The dead can just be left where they lie until the battle’s done.

    • It’s somewhat relative. Use FMJ for range practice and HP’s for defense but there are caveats. As drednicolson said, there are advantages to just wounding on a battlefield. But when it’s a one on one personal attack, all that changes. It becomes a keep pulling the trigger till the threat stops kinda thing. Your just more likely to end the threat with fewer shots using HP’s. It’s all about what your trying to do.

  10. If it be a new house, car, boat, gun, who doesn’t like_ a one size fits all? Today’s technology in firearm development is creating sub-compact pistols more capable than ever. Before you buy a Ruger LC9 and a Glock 17 for carry and home defense. But why when now you can buy just one P365 Macro that does it all?

  11. Generally my grocery getter is a 3″ 5 round .32 H&R Magnum steel revolver/head cracker. Standard loads for summertime and Buffalo +P for perps who usually layer up for winter.

    When it comes to self defense it’s not so much what you use and the technicalities it’s more about having the law on your side.

    • “When it comes to self defense it’s not so much what you use and the technicalities it’s more about having the law on your side.”

      Knowledge of the political climate where the carrier is at the time of necessary firearm use is a *critical* calculation that must be made by the carrier *before* they ‘clear leather’…

      • Interesting thing, saw an article a while back, might have been here but I can’t remember, self defense shootings in Philly are way up. Krasner is not prosecuting them. So far, as I understand it, none of the defensive shooters so far “fit the narrative”, so I don’t know if his leniency would hold for someone of my complexion.

        • Not bad, no power for 2 days. Just long enough to ruin a lot of expensive food.

          No property damage, thankfully. Humans and dog safe… 🙂

  12. For many of us, this is all academic. Interesting, but academic. I have mentioned many times, here and in other places, that my wife cannot handle anything above .380 and I cannot effectively shoot anything above 9mm.

    She is 5’1 and has tiny tyrannosaur arms and hands. .38 special and 9mm feel like a mule kick to her. She is not going to train with anything above .380 and, if forced to shoot one, has a heck of an anticipation to the shot that would make it essentially ineffective if she had to do it in a defensive situation.

    I carried .40 for about 11 years and man I tried to get good with it. I really did. Lot’s of money and time invested in learning to shoot it well. But in the end I had to admit that 9mm was my limit for actual useful functional self defense. I can put the 1st round on target with .40 but, after that, if you don’t like my driving stay off the sidewalk. Or standby while I carefully realign the sights. With 9mm I can put quick follow up shots on target without issue.

    My wife will never take a 50 to 100 shot because her carry gun is an LCP. She will run or hunker down and wait for a closer shot.

    I have practiced at longer ranges. With .40 it was because I was too lazy to relocate from the rifle to the pistol range at the place I was shooting at back then. I started doing it with 9mm after I saw the shot in the church in White Settlement, TX. Watching that video I asked myself if I could make that shot. So I know I can make a 100 yard shot with all of my 9mm guns except one. I can also make it with 7.62×25 and 9mm Makarov. If the shot isn’t effective when it gets there then maybe the distraction will be enough to save some lives. Not much else I can do as trying to rapid follow ups with anything bigger endangers everyone around.

    Oh and John Correia disputes the 3/3/3 stuff. He has watched over 40,000 videos of actual shootings and defense situations and he says he just doesn’t see it at all.

    • Look into the 68 and 90 grain underwood defenders (+p) of the typical loading is light for you. Their 380 in the same type seems good as well (don’t know those grains off hand).

    • 40 yds is about the maximum for most handguns….even though we were required to shoot some of our rds at that range it didn’t add much to our score…

  13. The reason 9mm has become the “just right” choice is because it is. Lots of more powerful choices and you are welcome to them, but for my most likely use cases in the places I go, and situations I might expect to find myself in, the 9 can be expected to work. You are welcome to make your own choices, for now it is a free country. *

    * With some exceptions if you are stuck in tyrant territory.

    • I tend to go towards 9mm in semi-autos, and .38+P / .357 mag for pocket wheelguns.

      That’s just for standard daily carry. If I was out ‘in the sticks’, I’d adjust weapon choice / load accordingly.

      Like a lever-action in .44 for bear country…

      • I crossed paths with a bear last week. He was about 25 feet from me. He wanted nothing to do with me. He scurried up a bank and slowed down when he got behind a tree. He was small, but old enough to be out without mama or siblings (I looked around). I was armed with a pocket 7+1 380. Of course brown bear country would be a different story.

        • Dude,

          I crossed paths with a bear last week. … I was armed with a pocket 7+1 380.

          Yeah, that would be pretty much worthless against a 200+ pound bear that decided to attack you. While that pocket pistol could very well impart fatal wounds, the odds of those fatal wounds incapacitating the bear before it shreds you and imparts fatal wound to you are pretty low.

          In black bear country you need a larger caliber firearm for effective self-defense. Of course you cannot go wrong with a .44 Magnum revolver loaded with 240 grain softpoint bullets. And 10mm Auto with 200 grain hardcast bullets should also be quite effective. I imagine that even a .357 Magnum revolver with 4-inch (or longer) barrel loaded with 180 grain hardcast lead bullets would probably even save your bacon.

          Note that black bears can easily weigh-in between 350 and 500 pounds–with a few bruisers tipping the scales at over 600 pounds. You definitely need those larger calibers that I listed above for larger black bears.

          If you ran into smaller black bears between 125 and 200 pounds, I have heard that even 9mm Luger in a full-size semi-auto pistol is quite effective. And if 9mm Luger works on smaller black bears, then I have to think that a semi-auto pistol chambered in .40 S&W would also serve you well in that limited role.

        • That probably came out wrong. The pocket 380 wasn’t for bear defense. It’s easy carry to dissuade any two-legged critters. I carry a full size 40 or at least a 9 when I’m deeper in the woods. I was close to my vehicle when this happened. The black bears around here are rarely aggressive, but they have killed and mauled people.

    • Even though I’m a die hard revolver and .357 magnum fan, I still appreciate the wonderful compactness of the 9mm cartridge. It does a lot without a lot of size.

      • nothing like reversing yourself down a mountain trail and seeing a fresh bear track right where you were…especially when all you have is a .22 pistol for snakes…

    • I’m old & find it unlikely I’ll shoot a bad actor at 300feet. That’s what my AR is for. Do I practice? Sure but I know my limitations. And as mentioned 300 feet would be a hard sell…

    • One thing Jenn misses out on in the .357 Sig, and Tok. Good for armor penetration, and better than 5.7 when they do pen. 10 years ago, you couldn’t get anything short of Lvl 4 plates that would stop either of them reliably.

      New gen 3A will these days, caveat is helmets still won’t stop Tok, but the Sig is another story with some. Depends on who you’re going up against as to whether they are worthwhile.

      • To split hairs tok and higher velocity copper solid 357 sig tended to be able to penetrate lower toid level kevlar (yes most issued helmets up to ACH) but will have trouble getting through kevlar/dyneema blends or dyneema (uhmwpe) which is currently used in new helmets ECH which can be rated from 7.62×39 up to 7.62×51 NATO ball. 5.7 does have an option that will out penetrate most anything in a pistol re armor (solid copper spire point) and still be readily legal in any state but your point of larger rounds being more effective post penetration is well founded. With that said many new helmets will absolutely stop tok unless you have some steel core AP.

  14. 100 yard shots with a pistol? Sorry folks, not for me. I’m pretty damned good at 25 yards, and manage to at least hit a man-sized target at 50 yards. I’ve never done the work, or invested the time or money to get that good.

    Yeah, I probably should invest in it, but, geeze Louise, if the shooter is 100 yards away, I probably have some kind of options. Cover and concealment, general retreat, or get to my truck to retrieve a rifle.

    Somebody somewhere said that we all go to hell in our own ways. I’ll just go on being moderately good with a pistol, and rely on the rifles if I need longer range.

    None of the above is meant to imply a lack of respect for those who do target practice at 100 yards with a pistol. If/when SHTF, I hope we’re on the same side!

  15. I load 29 grains of H110 in a .44 magnum with a 180 grain XTP and get 1800+ from it. Spicy! Fun too! My vision’s not what it used to be, but a friend of mine knocked down 6 bowling pins with 6 shots at 100 yards with the ones I made. Hell, I could hardly see them.

  16. WELL AT MY AGE AND HAVE RIGHT ARM , R HAND DISABILITY ,
    SW 638 AIRWEIGHT 38 REVOLVER , BETTER THAN A FIST FIGHT OR KNIFE FIGHT ..
    VERY RELIABLE PISTOL I THINK
    OLD AGE A BUMMER WITH OLD BODY DISABILITY …

  17. As an “older shooter”, found that my S&W 638 needed replacement (larger) grips to handle it. Love my .45 ACP but have trouble racking the slide. But, while even my 638 (using 110 gr HP) is capable of making hits at 100 yards, almost nobody shoots at 50 yards, never mine 100 yards with a handgun. Start with being able to properly handle/hold your handgun, and then work on proper technique. Only then can you try to be like Elmer K. or Jerry M. and shoot at 100 yards. P.S. – A solid hit with a .25 ACP is still better than a miss from a .45 ACP.

  18. Let me get this straight. If I am shooting at a bad guy from 100 yards away and aim for the head, I will hit them in the groin. This is a problem why?

      • once heard of a guy shot in the back in a bar with a 25ACP…bullet lodged in his shoulder blade…after which he turned around and beat the crap out of the guy…true story…

  19. And then came the Greenwood Park Mall shooting, where Eli Dicken shot a would-be mass shooter from 40 yards away with a pistol …

    Decide which of the various possible threat scenarios you want the ability to handle and then choose your self-defense firearm/s for those scenarios. With that in mind, realize that defenders taking-on spree killers at 40+ yards are black swan events.

    While it is certainly possible to score reliable hits on targets out to 100 yards, that usually takes a LOT of practice and skill that just will not happen for 98% of the population.

    In my opinion there are two practical distance limits that people should consider: 45 feet (15 yards) and 150 feet (50 yards). If you have the innate ability and resources to practice at 45 feet (15 yards), have at it. And the same applies to 150 feet (50 yards). Just realize that self-defense events at those distances are quite rare and decide accordingly if it makes sense for you to dedicate the time and money to be proficient at those ranges.

    Last thought: in lieu of investing the time and money to become proficient at 50 yard shots, how about just changing your tactics to rapidly close the distance on spree-killers until they are within range? A person of even modest physical ability should be able to reduce the range to an attacker from 50 yards to 15 yards in about 6 or 7 seconds.

    • Sorry, but I ain’t about to get any closer to a psycho-spree-killer than I am when I realize there’s a psycho-spree-killer in my general vicinity. I’ll take pot shots from cover 40 yards away any day over running toward a psycho-spree-killer. That said, if like me, you practice at 15 yards with those mini-silhouettes you’re pretty much ready to engage a foe at 50 yards.

  20. I think that we should all be grateful that computational fluid dynamics enables bullet manufacturers to design bullets that will expand reliably even within a narrow velocity. (Lead and Copper behave like high viscosity fluids when under the high pressures experienced during impact.) The Federal HydraShock was among the first such bullet.

  21. What is more likely- that someone has the training and skill of someone who can take out a target from 40+ yards without causing more danger to people around him or her and yet ends up missing or being less effective because of slight ballistic differences at that distance (wasn’t a problem for Mr. Dickenson and 9mm)?

    …or that someone will pick up a 10mm and then end up missing altogether because it’s harder to shoot and maybe they can’t afford as much ammo to train with?

    No one says that all (defensive, carry) shootings conform to 3-3-3. It DOES encompass so many, though, that it provides a good guideline. In a world of scarcity (time, money, etc), choosing to try and set up for the extreme outlier might make you feel more prepared but end up less.

  22. Thanks! I want to express my admiration for your writing skills and your ability to keep the reader reading from start to finish. I want to read more new articles and share my thoughts with you.

  23. What drivel. The author is capable as witnessed by other articles. But facts are not journalism.
    It is generally accepted these calibers have no greater incapacitation value-
    Sure. Accepted by gun shop lightweights and those without experience. While few shoot people the study of shooting people= not to mention the knowledge of hunters – is respected as are lab testing results. The 10mm and .45 are much more capable than the 9mm! The bullet construction of the .357 SIG is misstated. The 125 grain Gold Dot is of harder construction than the 9mm version it IS Not the same bullet as the 9mm Gold Dot. Police wanted more penetration. In general the .357 SIG has a tougher bullet.
    I wish the ammunition companies would give us a bullet that expands well over a wider range of velocity- Let me introduces the author to the Hornady XTP which expands some at 650 fps and expands very well over 1,000 fps.
    The author is guilty of parroting drivel from the popular press rather than taking time to read technical reports from reputable sources and the FBI ammunition testing. A point should be made- at shorter range the 9mm and .40 are useful at longer range they become useless. The 10mm and .357 offer excellent wound ballistics at short range and remain useful at longer range.

  24. Dred
    I hope you are in jest! Those Llama were none too strong when new.
    Witness the dismal results o the HP White Lab tests. I am pretty certain you are in jest just to see if anyone notices. The Largo case is longer than the 9mm sure but loaded to the less pressure.
    I comment so the inexperienced do not take such comments to heart.

  25. The guy who said a 380 is worthless against a 200 pound bear- bears are usually nice.
    How about a 200 pound member of our protein fed ex con criminal class who have been working out for the past seven years at our expense? A deer is about the size and weight of a man and it takes about the same to put a deer down as a man. When folks starting taking deer with a .32 or .380 while there you go.

  26. DICKINS was an untrained one lucky feller that’s for sure . Go on give him a test against a moving man at 40 yards and lets see just how good he is with a snap shot instead of trying to tell the rest of us he’s some kind of handgun genius and an example to you all? . Of course you can alwayss quote the one or two LUCKY SHOTS [I once took a rabbit in the eye at nearly fifty yards with an iron sight.22 snap shot but do I think I could do it again in a month of Sundays NO I elfin well do not!!] Then there is the question – if DICKINS is so bloody good why did he need TEN SHOTS anyway. OR was it a case of using the other seven ‘just to make sure’? And what about the two that missed/ Wher did they go / they could so easily have KILLED two bystanders or wass Dickins standing right over the perpetrator.
    Seems to me that far too few people are are asking the right questions here or those questions are not being given air time by the FIREARMS INDUSTRY and it’s paid servants.
    Being lucky is NOT much of a self defence I’d say for anybody and I have also have to ask WHAT TOOK DICKINS SO LONG to make his MIRACLE SHOTS

      • Short and sweet. I nominate jwm to give us an abstract of Johnson’s tirades. That is, miner/dacian/al’s tirades. Who knows, once Johnson’s paymaster realizes so few of us read them any more, he may pony up some coin to fund the effort of translation. We’ll still shake our heads and laugh, though.

  27. “The extra energy doesn’t cause extra damage”
    Says the paper target shooter. You’ve zero idea what your talking about from experience. At least hunt or do testing. Reeks of an 80s GnA magazine fudd article

  28. After reading the article and the comments to this point, about all that seems certain is that somewhere around 99.8% of “us” have never found ourselves in any such real situation, 3′, 40 yards, or anywhere in-between. For that we should truly be thankful.

    Preparing for every/any situation is an impossibility. We’d all do well just to practice attaining a good grip, clearing leather (and garments), utilizing any available cover or support, and learning to make accurate hits on whatever target we decide needs to have holes in it. And to lessen the inevitable legal hassles that always seem to follow even a “legally acceptable” DGU, maintaining a decent level of physical conditioning which might allow us to just retreat/run away should also enter into the discussion.

  29. My range has a C-Zone steel at 50 yards. I won’t carry a gun that can’t hit that with a full magazine (or cylinder); no misses.

    With 9mm and .38 Special (+P) there is no holdover even at 50 yards.

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