Thanks to a recent New York Times article, People Kill People. But the Bullets Seem to Matter, it appears that the Gray Lady has finally settled the age-old, never-ending argument over the best handgun caliber for self-defense. Oh, who am I kidding? The Times randomly looked at an academic study and pieced together an anti-gun article and an attack on commonly used self-defense cartridges.
In Boston from 2010 to 2015, there were 221 gun homicides.
Research suggests that one change could have lowered that number by 40 percent: smaller bullets.
A study last year, published in JAMA Network Open, examined the type of weapon used in every fatal and nonfatal shooting in the city. It found that — regardless of the time of day, the number of wounds or the circumstances of the crime — the size of the bullet affected which gunshot victims lived and which ones died.
The NYT is looking at a study that claims that smaller bullets mean fewer deaths. That’s a conclusion that will no doubt shock most TTAG readers.
Probably the best line out of the whole piece is a quote from Gary Kleck, professor emeritus of criminology at Florida State University, when the Times’ bothered him for a comment:
“As far as I know, everyone in the field believes bigger-caliber handguns are more lethal than smaller-caliber handguns — it’s a nonissue.”
The source study that the Times is looking at is comprised of mostly criminal shootings. The Times concludes, based on the JAMA study, that if all of Boston’s criminals used firearms chambered in .45 ACP, there’d be a 43% increase in homicides.
Crooks, in my experience as a cop, tend to use the cheapest ammo out there. Typically that includes mismatched, corroding FMJ round nose ball that’s typically fired out of a rusted out claptrap guns that would require a tetanus shot if you just look at ’em funny.
The article notes that over the past recent decades, carry guns have shrunken in size and grown in caliber. No kidding? And all this time I thought the most advanced thing on the street was a .22LR Beretta Jetfire.
Of course guns have grown in caliber. Back in the good old days, most carry guns, particularly those used by criminals, were chambered in .22LR, .25 ACP, and .32 Auto, frequently referred to at the time as “Saturday Night Specials.”
But when the 1994 Clinton “assault weapons” ban went into effect, gun companies found a greater demand for compact-sized versions of service caliber semi-autos If you’re limited to 10-round magazines, having wasted space was a waste of time.
The Times article has more shocking revelations:
A recent study of guns used by criminal gangs, also in the Boston area, found that gang members paid the most for large-caliber semi-automatic pistols, which they often bought secondhand at prices much higher than those paid by legal purchasers in gun stores. Police seizures of guns in other cities, including Chicago, also show a growing share of large-caliber handguns.
They even poke a little fun at the FBI for their recoil sensitivity.
Because the bigger ammunition tends to fire with more explosive power, the .40- and .45-caliber handguns that some Boston criminals were using can have strong recoil that can make them hard to handle or to aim subsequent shots. The trade-off between caliber and aim is, in part, why the F.B.I. and many police departments carry 9-millimeter guns rather than larger alternatives.
The article includes a tiny bit of common sense…and then douses it in gasoline and throws a match at it.
It’s true that the era of larger-caliber handguns has also been an era of declining violent crime. Homicides in most major American cities peaked in the early 1990s, just before larger-caliber pistols became common. The homicide rate has fallen nearly by half since then. But the research about weapon caliber suggests it could have dropped by even more.
“Would we have done still better with smaller guns and if we had stuck with Saturday night specials?” Mr. Cook said. “The answer is sure, absolutely. I think the shift towards more reliable and more high-powered guns has been contributing to the deadliness of gun violence.”
That rising popularity of larger caliber handguns occurred at the same time concealed carry laws were eased and more law-abiding civilians began carrying firearms. That was a major factor in those plummeting crime rates. More good guys had guns and started to shoot bad guys.
Now, though, the Times is actually defending the Saturday Night Specials that they had demonized back in the day. It is to laugh.
So the New York Times concludes that .22LR is basically like a squirt gun, 9mm is the equivalent of a staple gun, and anything shooting .45 ACP is a super mega murder death weapon. In the end . . .
There are no serious current proposals to regulate or limit the sale of handguns by caliber size. A recent anonymous survey of gun researchers by the nonpartisan RAND Corporation found that the field remains divided on the question of how much weapons matter in crime.
I think I’ll stick with .40 S&W and 10mm Auto. They completely blow the Times’ argument out of the water since they’re smaller in diameter than .45 ACP but still more powerful. How about you?