9mm ammunition ammo
9mm ammunition (Dan Z. for TTAG)
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There’s a tendency among gun owners to follow whatever law enforcement does when it comes to selecting a firearm for defense. When the police carried revolvers, many civilians had a revolver (yes, that’s mostly what was available at the time). When police departments  switched to semi-auto pistols, the civilian world largely followed over time (with a few really obsessive holdouts, like these guys). We can see a similar thing with shotguns gradually falling out of favor for home defense in favor of the AR-15 in recent years

Calibers are the same way. Many people carried .357 Magnum or .38 Special when the police did. Later, 9mm was the thing, followed by .40 S&W when it became a popular law enforcement round. Now that the FBI and many state and local cop shops have moved back to 9mm, the civilian CCW market is following (resulting in some sweet deals on lightly used police guns if you’re still into .40).

There are some obvious drawbacks to the approach of following cops around. One’s defensive needs will obviously differ from that of someone who’s job entails being out and looking for trouble.

The 9mm caliber may be too much for some shooters (especially in micro compact pistols). I have a relative with a serious wrist condition who loves to carry and shoot .380, and no amount of “But the cops carry 9mm!” is going to undo the cumulative effect of several injuries and surgeries.

I know that 9mm fanatics and advocates understand that there are unusual circumstances, like someone who can’t handle 9mm, or someone who lives in the woods and needs to defend against bears. I’m not going to raise a straw man here.

Absent unusual circumstances, they’re still arguing that 9mm is the superior choice for most urban and suburban defensive needs (“nine in the hoods, ten in the woods”). Not only are the cops carrying that now, but gel tests show little advantage to .40 S&W or .45 ACP these days, while the disadvantages of those larger bore calibers (recoil and capacity) are still present.

So you’re probably a “boomer” if you carry “.45 AARP” or you’re a 90’s kid if you’re packing something chambered for .40 S&W or .357 SIG. It’s time to live in 2022 and carry Parabellum.

But, as a writer, it’s never interesting to feed the sacred cows. Plus, we need people to question those dogmas to keep ourselves from falling into a rut or making bad decisions. So, I’m going to present some alternative data and ideas on the idea that 9mm is a good “one size fits most” round. I’m not going to argue that 9mm isn’t a great choice for many shooters (it obviously is), but I am going to argue that we shouldn’t discourage people from looking at other calibers and making different choices.

Does Less Recoil Mean Better Shot Placement?

The central argument behind choosing 9mm over larger and more powerful defensive handgun rounds is that shot placement is key. The biggest, most powerful round that doesn’t hit anything vital (or doesn’t hit anything at all) doesn’t do you much good in a fight. Lower recoil rounds are a lot easier to shoot with greater accuracy and speed on the range, so it makes a lot of sense to use what works best, especially with advances in ballistics that make for some very effective lower-recoiling ammo choices.

But, this isn’t the whole truth.

handgun ammunition ammo
Common handgun ammunition (Dan Z. for TTAG)

First off, the range isn’t a great analog for a real defensive encounter. Adrenaline levels, the need to move to avoid danger, and the complexity of the environment all make for far less accurate shooting when you’re being attacked than we see on the range.

That doesn’t mean we can skip range practice (because you don’t want to start out inaccurate and then get worse under stress), but it does mean that the accurate shot placement you got on paper or steel is going will be harder to repeat on the street.

A 2018 study bears this out. The sad fact is that there’s no correlation between caliber and shot placement away from the shooting range or plinking in the desert or woods. Or, as the study of hundreds of shooting says, “Firearm caliber had no systematic association with the number of wounds, the location of wounds, circumstances of the assault, or victim characteristics.”

I know that a study of shootings, including criminal activity, defensive gun use, and professional law enforcement shootings leaves some room for argument (pretty much everything involving caliber comparisons does).

If we’re going to include gang bangers who don’t bother with sights, a good guy spending time on the range and getting professional instruction should get better results, right? But, if that were the case, there’d be at least some statistical clustering in the data caused by police, who get, er, “professional” training.

When You Don’t Score That Perfect Hit

Another key finding in the study isn’t great for the 9mm “one size” theory. While shot placement isn’t better in the real world for lower-recoil rounds, the real world end results of 9mm tend to be inferior to more powerful choices. While the study could only focus on lethality (investigations only look at things after the fact), greater lethality should correlate well with ability to incapacitate.

As you’d expect, rounds like .38 Special, 9mm, and .380 ACP are vastly superior to rounds like .22 (short or long), .25 Auto, and .32 ACP. The study shows lethality is 2.25 times greater. But, more powerful rounds, like .40 S&W, .45 ACP, and 10mm are even better, with more than double the chances of lethality compared to the 9mm and .380.

Personal Defense Ammunition hollow points
(Photo credit: Kat Ainsworth)

We can probably argue all day about why real-world shootings with higher calibers are far more deadly on average (BIGGER HOLES!), but I think this article at American Handgunner sums up a great possibility.

When you can score a perfect hit, the chances of even .25 Auto are probably about as good as a rifle round. A perfect hit to the CNS is a perfect hit to the CNS. But, when you can’t hit the proverbial X-ring, having those imperfect shots count for a little more seems to make a lot of difference in the real world.

After all, the improvements in bullet technology that made the 9mm more effective have also made .40 S&W, .45 ACP, 10mm more effective, too.

The Complex Truth: There Is No ‘Perfect’ Defensive Caliber For Everybody (or Maybe Anyone)

Given this data and my experience in both law enforcement and as an instructor, I’d argue that the better results in police qualifiers with 9mm isn’t due to an inherent advantage of the caliber. The sad truth is that the average cop doesn’t have nearly as much training as people think. There are many, many officers who barely pass, and their shooting fundamentals aren’t very solid.

Recoil doesn’t create problems with shooting. It only amplifies them. If you suck and can barely pass an easy shooting test with 9mm, you can’t blame recoil from .40 S&W or .45 ACP ammo for your problems. In most cases, it’s probably that you need better fundamentals — better grip, better stance, and better trigger control — assuming you’re not a five-foot-nothing 98-pounder or don’t have problems with age or disability, of course.

Like clothing, vehicles, and just about anything else in life, you have to go with what fits the situation. The truth is that you should probably choose the most powerful caliber you can shoot well that also fits your defensive and carry/concealment needs.

That can and sometimes does change over time as you gain skill or lose ability with age. It could also vary depending on what situations you’re carrying into on particular day. So in the end, even an individual may not be able to settle on just one caliber that works for them in all situations.

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  1. Caliber wars, again?

    This article could have been reduced to, “Shoot what you can physically, and reliably, shoot well. Any firearm is better than no firearm.”

    • Sam, up to a point, I agree with you. But to use a .22 or a .380 for self defense is all but futile.
      As a starting point, at minimum a 9mm or .38 is the smallest someone should carry. Juat my personal opinion, but based on the results of ballistic gel results.

      • IDK, I’ve yet to see a lunatic take 11 rounds of .22LR to the face and not break off the attack. I suppose it’s possible though.

        • Well, the face is mostly bone and sinus cavity but I suspect that one of those 22 at least would reach the brain and cause symptoms.
          I’ve met a vet who told me of a man losing upper and lower jaw and staying conscious a bit. Hard to understand how such a trauma wouldn’t result in unconsciousness.
          My friend reported spraying someone heavily in the face with industrial strength pepper spray and the meth cranked con could not see but did not slow down in any way. So it might be that injury must either drop blood pressure greatly so brain is deprived or the brain shocked enough to pass out.
          I’ve noticed good penetration with standard 22LR in various media. Those stinger 22 have little penetration.

      • “Sam, up to a point, I agree with you. But to use a .22 or a .380 for self defense is all but futile.”

        Are you aware that the corollary to that statement is, “If you can’t afford, or shoot at least 9mm, you are doomed,”?

        As said previously, “caliber wars, again”. The only thing resolved with these fights is the reinforcement of the personal choice by the commenter.

        • Same I am sure that somewhere on this planet there is someone who can’t shoot the 9mm (which is just about the same as a.38SPEC cal), but I doubt it. Unless we are referring to children.
          If someone wants to use an inferior caliber as a “self defense:” round, then that is on them.

        • I dunno, there are usually a few loadings or calibers brought up that I have never heard of so research and expansion of knowledge of the various angels dancing on the head of the pin does come from caliber wars. With that said overwhelmingly prefer to start at 9 and move up as able but sometimes it’s smaller or the guy providing “security” may notice (see formal attire). In that case whatever you can get away with and get to a larger option if needed.

        • Well hot damn Sam, I agree with you on the caliber wars only serving to reinforce the belief of the commenter. Personally, I usually carry either a compact 9mm, a 1911 in the Holy Caliber (Blessed be John Browning), or a GP100 in .357, depending on temperature and where I’m going. Must say, I’m apparently a young Boomer since I love my .45 but hey, I’m just 31. In my mind, if you’re comfortable shooting it, and you’re accurate with the thing, run it. Hell with what anyone else says, as I doubt they’d volunteer to take even a .22 or .25 to the chest to prove their point.

      • Sure there are better picks than .380…but not at 10 ounces, thin, flat, and in your front pocket. You could clearly mess someone up with .380, so the “all but futile” is just wrong. It’s a small mouse gun that you shoot at close range…so shoot for the head.

        • Copper solids (not the compressed copper dust ultra high speeds) help with penetration for 380 and 32acp not much you can do with 25/22/similar. And pocket pistols for formal attire that you carry (well pocket, belly band, ankle holster) are better than the compact 9 that you are unable to conceal and leave behind (results may vary by size and body shape).

      • lil ‘d , the REST of us have agreed for the longest time, that you are an idiot. Besides, in your utopian dreamworld island of misfits, 22s are outlawed and you’re just going to have to be satisfied with a squirtgun that shoots jelly. Even on an Island of Misfits you’re a misfit.

      • “Sam, you abbreviated! Clearly, any firearm is better than no firearm, SO LONG AS IT IS .45 ACP.”

        Nah. .5, or don’t bother. Anything else is just sound and fury, signifying little in particular.

    • After all that said and I actually understand it all but just put some Hornady CD in your M&P Shield and be on you way. Projectile engaging rifeling bla bla bla

  2. Still, my choice to date is the 9mm because of the versatility of the rounds (and it doesn’t hurt that I build Sig P320s). Haven’t found a defensive need to go to 10mm or .45 ACP plus I’d have to buy a whole bunch more ammo of yet another caliber. The wife still likes her “little blue gun” (a blue Ruger 22/45 Lite) and chews out target centers at 25 yards easily with it. To make it a better carry gun (she’s gonna carry it anyway), I bought her a case of the Federal 22 Punch rounds. I am impressed with the wound channel it puts in gel and really would like to know if anyone has used this round on larger game, larger carcasses, or even self defense and how well it worked.

  3. 9mm is the worlds pistol round. And if your only interest in firearms is strictly self defense the 9mm will serve your needs quite well.

    But remember folks. Real POTG shoot and use guns for self defense. And hunting. And fun. We do not limit ourselves to one type or caliber.

    It’s a pretty boring world where everybody is self restricting to 9mm and 5.56.

    • Call me a boring boomer. No hunting. No recreational shooting. I never shoot my shotgun. I shoot my 9mm handguns & my 556/223 AR. Real enough for me…yeah this is silly. 32 is not “vastly superior” to 380.

    • Earlier this year, at one of the gunn courses I attended, one of the instructors told me (as we were talking shop between drills) that he still carries his Glock in .357 Sig. He loves it, and said the only downside is finding ammo for it.

      Shoot what you like. Carry what you’ll use.

        • “.357Sig is snappy.”

          Pretty much like how 10mm is a ‘snappy’ .40 S&W?

      • I wonder how .357 SIG compares to 9mm Major. I would think that with appropriate bullets, 9mm Major would be an excellent defensive round. On paper it looks like it equals or exceeds .357 SIG performance, with more rounds in the magazine in full size double-stack service pistols, and it would fit into thinner, flatter single-stack subcompact pistols for carry.

        Lots of the 9mm Major load data that people have worked up and published is built around 115-125 grain FMJ bullets loaded out very long, right up close to the 1.169″ SAAMI limit to leave more room in the case and reduce pressure peaks, when it’s not using Montana Gold JHPs or Hornady HAP bullets, which were not created with performance in soft tissue as a criterion and might or might not expand in soft tissue. Lots of it is loaded with small rifle magnum primers to prevent the 50K+ PSI pressures from puncturing the primer at the firing pin indentation.

        And let’s say you follow the recipe from some web forum, and get some good quality virgin brass, some CCI small pistol magnum primers, some 115gr HAP bullets, and load them up at 1.150″ over oh-my-god-you-can’t-be-serious grains of Autocomp or Silhouette or 3N38 with a heavy taper crimp. If you drop them into the chamber of a tiny singlestack subcompact pistol, are they going to seat, or is the truncated cone bullet loaded out that long going to hit the rifling and not fit in the chamber? Are those truncated cone bullets loaded long going to bind in the magazine? If you can get it into the chamber, will Major Nine pressures blow the gun up when you pull the trigger? Will an HAP bullet expand at those velocities? If you don’t use the bullet the load was worked up with, and try to drop in something different, will the different seating depth push pressures up further? Will a bullet designed to expand at 1000 ft/sec disintegrate at 1500? I imagine muzzle rise might be a bit snappy too, though we can overcome that with training.

        I think it’s worth looking into but it might be necessary to design a new subcompact pistol around Major Nine. People shoot Major Nine out of Glock 34s and 2011s all the time, but those are hardly carry guns.

        • How ’bout the trusty 9mm magnum, instead? Seems like that would work better than an all new round to accomplish the same thing, propelling a .356-.357″ BB to higher velocities than .380, 9mm, or .38 Spl, etc. The 9mm magnum is well proven over 75 years or so, sometimes referred to as “.357 Magnum”, it should satisfy those who irrationally insist on 9mm everything, without excessive amounts of “research”. It can also fire the “9mm Special” ammo without modification.

    • I discovered 32 Smith and Wesson several years ago. And I enjoyed it very much. Also 32H and R magnum is, very, very good as well.

    • Enter my house and it’s spin the wheel of caliber you may receive. But if I have the time it will be a suppressed 300Blk with Lehigh Defense max expansion. You don’t want to encounter the Lehigh max expansion, trust me I tested them.

      • I guess off topic though. I carry 9mm ARX rounds. Light weight and I assume effective like the Lehigh Xtreme Defense technology.

    • Agree. Likely because the same topic has been passed around here so many times it’s been committed to memory by now.

      The key is to practice with your EDC. If one is consistent at hitting center of mass, the one with the hole likely won’t be able to tell the difference between a 9 mm or a .40 S&W.

      Finally- the primary reason for so many choosing 9 mm is the huge pile of small, light, high capacity and easy-to-carry handguns that have flooded the market over the past 6 years or so. That was the sole reason I put my Detonics .45 away for a while.

  4. The basic principles should be the best weapon is the one u have with you when the problem starts. The firearm should be suitable to the user and most importantly you must be comfortable and confident that if you need to use it you have the will and ability to do what needs to be done.

  5. Jennifer,
    I noticed that you left out THE pistol round that rules them all…the oft mentioned and rarely seen .9mm.

    BTW…I agree with Sam’s comment 100%.

    • “I noticed that you left out THE pistol round that rules them all…the oft mentioned and rarely seen .9mm.”

      There was rumor a coupla weeks ago that the LGS had not only .9mm ammo, but an antique .9mm pistol.

      The LGS was closed a few days for repair of property damage due to the large crowd that tried to break into the store to be first in line. The name of the winner has not been publicly released, but I can say with authority, it wasn’t me.

    • “FWIW, I agree with Sam’s comment 100%.”

      That sort of statement can get you barred from the best gin joints in all the world.

        • “When I was a much younger lad I visited Casablanca, Morocco…never found Rick’s Café.”

          Read somewhere that Rick’s had been converted into a combination hair/nails salon and laundromat.

  6. Interesting breakdown Jennifer. Bravo.
    I am 50, yeah ok old and fat.
    I have always loved the 45 in a steel framed pistol.
    Then I got to shoot my friends S&W 6509 in 9mm.
    That was a hefty steel frame with very little recoil.
    Then the polymer wars began.
    The .40 was sort of a middle ground.
    Even still with a lighter frame it meant recoil of larger calibers made repeated shot placement a challenge.
    I still prefer steel frame pistols, and a larger caliber.
    Regardless of what you choose, learn to shoot it and shoot it well.

    • Daniel, I have a Springfield 1911 in 45 acp. The slide is steel, frame is alloy. It’s very light and shoots like a dream with no more recoil than my Colt all stainless. They are both full size. The Springfield is a total gem to carry. However I also have a Kimber 10 mm Stainless II. It’s about the same weight as my Colt and is wonderful to shoot. I carry all my 1911’s in horizontal shoulder shoulder holsters. I must admit, with aging and 3 shoulder surgeries, the Springfield alloy is my go to carry gun.

  7. Just the shock value of a larger round(even in the hand), might be enough to stop a criminal. Taking a bullet(or a through and through) in the hand is bad enough, but losing the whole hand to a 10mm or a .45 would be a hell of a shock to the system.
    But, let’s get real, here. How many people carry hand cannons 24/7? Even with the micro 9s on the market, I prefer a .380, because it is shorter. Now, people here don’t wear thick clothing, even in the winter, so it should do the job and the recoil is manageable for anyone.
    I will never be a long distance handgun shooter, but the .380 will do damage to anyone that is close enough to rush me or mine.

    • I carry a 10mm G29 as my EDC, when I’m not out it rests next to my recliner in a holster attached to the back of my end table, I keep a Ruger P90 .45 “AARP” in a holster attached to the mattress when I go to bed. My wife carries a S&W .38 Spec. I do keep a 9mm AR pistol w/4 1/2″ barrel and four 30 round magazines in the tour pac on my Harley.

  8. It has been established that the 9mm can blow the lungs clean out of your target. One size is good enough for me! /sarcasm

    • “It has been established that the 9mm can blow the lungs clean out of your target.”

      How can stating a truth be sarcasm?

      Not only is the truth been established, it is settled science; a doctor made the statement.

      • “…a doctor made the statement.”

        Not only that, but the duly elected [sic] Resident of the United States also shouted er, mumbled those same words….and, by Joe ya know, he wouldn’t lie about something this important being the ardent shotgunner he is.

  9. No (reasonable) pistol caliber will reliably incapacitate an attacker with a single shot. This is why capacity is king. Multiple hits with a smaller caliber is always more likely to get results than a single hit with a larger pistol. I really believe that 40 S&W became far less popular due the sunset of the magazine ban in 2004. If you are limited to 10 rounds, then 10mm starts looking a lot better than the same number of shots in 9mm.

    • Don’t doubt that capacity getting expanded helped but even in capacity limited states 9mm is outnumbering sales by a considerable margin. I would guess availability of firearms (most things on the shelves being 9) and cheaper ammo has a lot to do with 40 being displaced as well. With that said wouldn’t mind a 357 sig/40 conversion combo.

    • But isn’t it widely accepted that an expanding bullet of high energy such as 44 Mag in centre of mass will cause catastrophic blood pressure drop and unconsciousness instantly or quickly?
      It’s been lots of years since I read about this stuff.
      All those pistol hunters dropping big animals etc. etc. ?
      I have never hunted but have shot a large block of plastecene with a 9 mm black talon and it formed a big donut shape with toroidal flow lines. Looked like a very unsurvivable injury to me.
      I did read that the hydrostatic shock thing has been called into doubt.

      • Always was trained with the concept that unless it is a shotgun or rifle with appropriate ammo if it’s worth shooting once it’s worth shooting twice and if it is still standing shoot it somewhere else that might be important. I can’t speak to specific loadings of 44magnum I just remember one person was shot a couple of times (I think lower abdomen but not positive) and ran off to later go to the hospital. Pistols are great defensive weapons but they are limited in that they are pistols. As to black talon aren’t they winchester ranger t now?

        • I read the Wikipedia on Black Talon and it says they haven’t shown any more lethality than regular HP.
          I just can’t believe that.
          When I shot a block of play gel, it formed a big donut shape with toroidal flow lines and the bullet flattened with the jacket sharp and splayed out. Massive energy transfer. I can’t imagine surviving that much tissue loss. The opposite is the several / many vets I spoke with who survived FMJ. Like my father : a .303 in the face and out the top of skull.

        • Black Talon’s entire claim to fame was not increased lethality, it was decreased wear of the barrel. National loss of sanity caused manufacturer to voluntarily discontinue it. Hint: what did your gel block look like with each of, say, a hundred other “regular HP” loads?

        • We did that.
          We took the inside out block of play goo and made it back into a block.
          Shot it with a few other soft points and hollow points. The other bullets expanded much less and penetrated much more. The Black Talon expanded to a disc shape whereas the regular HP increased in diameter. It’s like they found a way to get the thick jacket to split out all the way to the bottom of the bullet but not fold back.
          The sense I got was that all the energy was transferred in a shorter period of time. I do understand that the play goo is utterly different from flesh.
          Reminds me a bit of my 22-250 but only in the energy way. If I shoot an orange with a 45 grain HP the paper behind it has no holes except little ones from bits of jacket. The orange is vaporized. I believe the bullet is mostly vaporized and the orange in fully energized with all the mechanical energy including quite high frequency parts of it. The 9 mm black talon is a bit similar in terms of the sudden energy transfer. I believe that a zone of tissue would be ripped up at the micro level, turned into chaos, and very large bleeding would happen. But that report on the shooting victims said no, not much different than regular bullet wounds. I just can’t reconcile what I saw with that report.

  10. I shoot 9mm but for a reason different that mentioned. I shoot 9mm because it is the cheapest center fire ammo. you can buy for a semi-automatic handgun. I shoot 38 Special because it is the cheapest center fire ammo for a revolver rather than 357 Magnum that also fits. I shoot 22LR because it is the cheapest ammo I can buy for anything, I shoot 12 gauge because it is the cheapest and most available you can buy for a shotgun and I shoot 223/5.56 because it is the cheapest centerfire rifle ammo I can buy.

    What I buy and shoot is just a matter of economics because they are all effective for their purpose.

  11. “It’s time to live in 2022 and carry a parabellum”. That sentiment always amused me. The modern cartridge that hit the world stage in 1908. Read a Rifleman Went to War.

  12. I was raised up with guns, everyone in the family has more than one gun.
    I have bought guns as gifts for family, but never own a gun, even after train both in the military & private training.
    I bought my first gun, a 9mm glock 1700 because of antifa, even tho they have stayed away from S.C. for their health.
    The reason I got a glock, it performs well, fits my big hands & was on sale & replacement part are easy to find.. It has good stopping power as long as you are not fighting Navy Seal or such.
    My wife may want a smaller gun, but can shoot the glock & rifles.

  13. Can’t forget shape, weight, and composition. Also smaller diameter bullets over penetrate taking energy with them. Yes Virginia energy does kill people. I am a fair size boy so rp 45 with 15+1 230 gr.45acp gets it done! If you have armor shoot you in the thigh take your leg off, or break your femur, catch artery bleed out quickly. If I hit chest plate 5 or 6 times beats dogshit out of you.

    • Minor correction if chest plate (hard armor various types) get involved no pistol will do much absent rare and likely illegal ammo there is simply not enough force for relevant blackface deformation to be more than a sudden push. Now against kevlar and 3a dynema there can be enough force to hurt but much better idea to shoot for pelvic girdle or head as you mentioned. Our instructors covered a case where bad guy with a vest took 7 shots of 45acp to the back (think it was gold sabers) and turned around and killed the good guy for the inconvenience.

      • I talked with a cop who had trained himself to a very high degree of intuitive shooting. He worried his ISPC habit of centre of mass rapid double taps would get him killed against a Kevlar opponent. So he switched to triple taps with third one in the head. I am guessing if later he was criticized for “killing not stopping” he could argue that the first two rounds 350 milliseconds earlier didn’t stop the opponent.

      • The real problem is training, most people are taught center mass and continue to train on center mass therefore when confronted with a situation you do how you train. I train in double tap one in the chest one to the head with a full size (waist up) silhouette target.

      • Tell me about the illegal stuff that gets through plate armor?
        Just curious is it like sub caliber penetrator or explosive?

        • Tungsten core fmj loaded for MP5 and similar smg. Largely discontinued due to the M4 taking over the role but I think buffman did a video of one at some point. I just remember seeing it mentioned in older manuals and a brief google search.

        • I’ve got some weird old Czech 7.62 x25 loaded hot for the Vz 52 and they have this weird sub caliber pet cock shaped insert and when I cut it in half with Dremel it used up several discs and made a reddish brown powder.
          I should check to see if those are Tungsten
          They are very hard so maybe Tungsten carbide? When I shot into a rock pile the rocks smashed.
          Or I guess I could just look up on ammocollector website

        • Reddish brown more likely would be a steel core but I am not as familiar with the former USSR oddball loadings so would be interesting to see what you found.

        • Opened a 1954 Czech 7.62×25 steel case round.
          Got the soft copper plated cupro nickel jacket off, melted out the lead, and inside is a magnetic penetrator I guess steel but has a weird soft grey color. The penetrator resembles a blunt cone with a cylinder extension shape and weighs 41.6 grains. I’ll try soaking in bleach to see if it rusts. I’m not convinced it’s plain steel. Wondering if it’s got cobalt in it. Or something. It feels less magnetic than plain steel.
          These will turn tough rocks into gravel really well and the bullets turn to dust on impact with a big rock.

        • The mystery metal in a Czech AP penetrator – its silvery grey, magnetic but not fully magnetic. I immersed it in salt water and there’s a rust tint in the water but the penetrator is an even deeper dark grey with silvery shine. Like magnetite jewelery. So I’m sure it’s an alloy. I’ll read to see if you can allot tungsten carbide with steel. Or maybe this is a cobalt steel? I can hear it red hot then repeat as I know if there’s chrome in it that will ruin the corrosion resistance by forming chrome carbides.
          Yeah this is ammo nerd stuff.

        • Some day when I have time I really need to learn more about the various Russian pattern of arms and ammo especially with the smg end as it seems a neat study and they have a lot of weird stuff.

        • Update; Czech APP penetrator now beautiful blue black after 2 days in salt water. Water stained rust color.
          I’m thinking I’ll try heating it with a torch as a tungsten mix should refuse to melt. Best guess so far is an iron tungsten mix.

  14. there is one wrinkle that was not mentioned: several states limit capacity, so many people start thinking why not use a bigger caliber if can only shoot up to 10 rounds from a magazine…

    • Good point.
      If you can only have 10 make them very effective.
      Does anyone still practice revolver fast reloading with those 6 round holders?

    • “there is one wrinkle that was not mentioned: several states limit capacity, so many people start thinking why not use a bigger caliber if can only shoot up to 10 rounds from a magazine…”

      Not any longer, in the near future. Along with the ‘Bruen’ win, the SCotUS GVR’ed 3 other gun cases, and magazine capacity limits was one of them.

      We won a *LOT* more than just carry in all 50 states last month… 🙂

      • “We won a *LOT* more than just carry in all 50 states last month…”

        Yep. We won the need to file an enormous number of new law suits to enforce the SC decision.

        • “We won the need to file an enormous number of new law suits to enforce the SC decision.”

          Yeah, but instead of filing with the faint hope of winning, now we can file with a spring in our step, a song in our heart, a smile on our faces, and a *snicker* on our lips… 🙂

        • Staying armed and out of trouble in the mean time will get challenging for some barring some injunctions but see how crazy things get.


  16. My take on this is that the avg. Joe or Jane should carry at least 4 handguns in 4 different calibers with a minimum 2 reloads for each. Plus a couple tactical blades. All discretely concealed, but readily available. After all there is no “one size fits all”, right? 😉

        • I sometimes carry my old Blackhawk (.41mag), but it’s really hard to conceal so I don’t bother. And in case people question it, a SA revolver can do a decent cylinder dump in about 3 seconds or less.

          I’ll have to think about the ballpoint advice. 🙂

        • “And a tactical ballpoint with your field notes… (-:”

          Not complete without Bell&Howell Tac Glasses.

  17. My take is that the power of pistol caliber weapons is limited by the fact that you need to carry them concealed. Which means that for most people that power is going to be very limited. A hot 45 acp or 9mm ++ is nothing compared to even a 20 gauge shotgun or 30-30 in terms of power.

    For hydrostatic shock to make significant difference you need to have much higher velocities then anything a pistol round can produce. It’s not so much a issue of “power” as it is velocity. They just don’t go fast enough.

    Meaning to actually “stop” somebody with a pistol round you need to hit something important. You can go and watch videos of people blowing up plastic jugs all you want, but rigid plastic jugs isn’t going to reflect what is happening in soft tissue.

    Lethality reports are fairly worthless because most people die from blood loss. It doesn’t do you any good if the guy that buried a ax in your forehead dies 45 minutes later in some ditch somewhere.

    So the real name of the game is:
    How many, how fast, and how accurate are the shots you make.

    9mm has two significant advantages:

    1. You can get high capacity pistols easily. A Glock 26, for example, is easily concealed, holds 10 rounds, and is not expensive. And a half a dozen other companies produce comparable pistols.

    2. It’s cheaper. 380 is pretty cheap to shoot, but 9mm is cheaper. More cheaper, means more practice, means more better.

    If it wasn’t for lack of reliability and magazine limits (due to the rim) my carry choice would be ‘hyper velocity’ .22lr. The .25 ACP would be next on my list if it wasn’t so expensive and limited pistol selection.

    So as it stands 380 acp or 9mm is my goto.

  18. @Old Guy in Montana
    Only laundromat in town with an old upright piano in the corner…”

    Wonder if anyone plays it, these days?

    Not worth the trip to find out.

    • “Not worth the trip to find out.”

      Cost so much in gas, you can find an old upright locally.

      Oh, and piano lessons aren’t cheap, either. Best to choose a mate who already knows how to play… 🙂

      • “Oh, and piano lessons aren’t cheap, either.”

        Any piano can be converted to a player piano for around $5k.

  19. (1), ANYONE who “hunts bears” (even Black bears) with a 9mm is a fool..! All a 9mm will do with regards to shooting a bear, is to set the shooter up for a very rude and horrible surprise – the 9mm (even multiple rounds) will merely ROYALLY piss the bear off & the shooter will likely become “ordeurves” for the bear. This fact has been born out of the fatal experiences of people in both Canada and Alaska. I can send you can photo of the remains of Timothy Treadwell, a young man who, many years ago, shot an otherwise “curious” Alaska Brown (Grizzly) bear with all 6 rounds of .38special cartridges in his revolver. All 6 bullets were later on (after the bear was located and shot) found imbedded in the bear’s hide – none had penetrated beyond the thickness of the bear’s hide. (2), If you’d actually spend some time doing a little bit of research into how and why the .45ACP cartridge came into being in the very early 1900’s, you’d understand that the .45ACP cartridge, even in “military ball” form, is much superior in stopping power when compared to the 9mm. Recent and years-past tests by the FBI have placed current .45 HP’s at about 96-97% effective in “one-shot” stops; the most effective 9mm was way down at around 80-82%. The problem with most “gun writers” is they like to compare the .45ACP “ball” round with the latest 9mm “whiz-bang” hollowpoint, and that’s quite unfair to the true test results. If you’re gonna compare bullet effectiveness, then compare ball rounds with each other, etc. (3), All bullets have the capability to kill. A hit to the brain will almost always be instantly fatal. The problem is, not all bullets will “STOP”. And that is what the defensive handgun is for – to stop. And the .45ACP round (HP), at around 850-930 fps velocity, will stop most attackers with one or two shots, unless crystal meth or some such drug is involved. The .45ACP round is easily learned and is very much an effective round – in military “ball” form, it was learned that caliber .45 and a minimum bullet weight of 750 grains would effectively put an enemy soldier down with one shot. At 830 grains, the current “ball” round in 830 grain form, is double the weight of 9mm ball, which is around 115 grains. Most handgun rounds, designed for self-defense, will get superior stopping power from two factors: bullet caliber and bullet weight.

    • “Recent and years-past tests by the FBI have placed current .45 HP’s at about 96-97% effective in “one-shot” stops”.

      That’s a lie.

    • You better check your bear data with Dean Weingarten over at Ammoland. He has been compiling the data and handguns of any caliber are 97% effective against bear. Not saying you should hunt them with a .22, but if one suddenly becomes a problem shoot it with what you have and you will probably be fine.

    • I think your .45ACP bullet weights are a bit out by a factor of 3-4.

      AFAIK .45ACP bullet weights typically vary between 185 and 230 grains (YMMV).

      830 grains? That’s a musket ball.

      • Put in perspective, .50 BMG is a 750 grain projectile. I have a case and projectile. The bullet is the size of my little finger.

    • I’ve got a 200 grain jacketed soft point bullet and dial calipers in my hand. That bullet is .533 long. A 750 grain .45 caliber bullet like this one would be 1.99 inches long.

      You have no idea what you are talking about.

  20. Absolutely one of the dumbest articles I’ve seen at TTAG since the many Farago contributed back in the day. Obviously the author is embarrassingly ignorant of the leaps and bounds achieved in bullet design and gun powder advancements that forced even those of us who didn’t at first want to believe it had to eventually admit that there’s now so little difference in ballistic performance (penetration & expansion) when comparing the top defensive application 9mm ammunition now available with yesterdays 357 Sig/40 S&W/45 ACP, that it’s a no-brainer why 9mm is the practical smart choice for anyone serious about defense handgun use. 357 Sig & 40 S&W are obsolete as a practical matter, 45 ACP is only spared from obsolescence because of the continued popularity of the 1911 platform. It takes a special kind of shallow hard head to keep flailing away at this long dead horse. Study up Jenn! There’s an abundance of ballistics data & test results available for those smart enough to interpret it.

    • ” the author is embarrassingly ignorant of the leaps and bounds achieved in bullet design and gun powder advancements that forced even those of us who didn’t at first want to believe it had to eventually admit that there’s now so little difference in ballistic performance…”

      ‘Fraid you are incorrect in your conclusions. It is settled science that the larger calibers (.45 and up) will blow the aggressor clean into the next room (leaving no lung at all). Have yet to see any generally accepted ballistics expert claim that for lesser calibers (.44 and down).

      Note: .44mag might blow a head clean off, but it won’t launch the recipient into the next room (else, Eastwood would have said so.)

      • I feel a 44 hollow point into a reasonable amount of tissue would be non survivable. I have no experience but I remember reading those articles when handgun hunting was a big thing and 44 hollow point was described as causing too much loss of edible game.
        From shooting soft stuff I saw lots of messed up results do can’t imagine a person brushing off a 44 hollow point to the chest. But, I’ve met men who kept fighting after hits such as a guy shot in guts with m1 carbine ball ammo who was able to run a bit before needing to stop. He was operated upon same day and had clumsy scars but no permanent effects.

        • “can’t imagine a person brushing off a 44 hollow point to the chest. But, I’ve met men who kept fighting after hits such as a guy shot in guts with m1 carbine ball ammo …. He was operated upon same day and had …no permanent effects.”

          Possibly quite true, but beside the point: neither were blown into the next room, as would happen with use of a “high caliber” bullet.

  21. “No, 9mm Is Not A ‘One Size Fits All’ Defensive Caliber”

    Yes, it is a ‘One Size Fits All’ Defensive Caliber. If fits in all bad guys just fine, its sometimes just a matter of how many you need to put in.


  22. “you’re a 90’s kid if you’re packing something chambered for .40 S&W ”

    I carry a Glock chambered in .40 S&W, its got nothing to do with the 90’s

    • Liked the 40sw and 357sig overall they just were not cost effective to get good with and pistol primers are a currently mocking me in availability/cost effectiveness. So 9 and eventually 10 and 44mag for me ………..maybe 475 linebaugh if I get more money than sense for a bit.

      • “So 9 and eventually 10 and 44mag for me ………..maybe 475 linebaugh if I get more money than sense for a bit.”

        Meh. “Go big, or go home”….only S&W .500 are manly man guns, and ammo. If’n you don’t EDC the “Bone Crusher”, you jess pretendin’. The .500 bullet will knock the attacker through a wall, and into the next room; no lungs remaining.

        • With my luck NY would outlaw anything .50 cal or over (might have that legislation pending already actually) but 475 /480 ruger is more than enough for a why the fuck not gun up here.

  23. Dean Weingarten over at Ammoland has done the research on handguns and bears. He has discovered that handguns of all calibers are 97% effective against bears. So spare us the “If you shoot a bear with X caliber (meaning any generic caliber round and not the sword) and he finds out about it he’ll be pissed.” crap.

    I stopped reading after the paragraph that begins “A 2018 study bears this out. “. I went to the link and started reading the study information and quickly came across this “the case-fatality rates of assaults inflicting gunshot injury increased significantly with the caliber of the firearm.”

    So apparently size does matter, and you did not represent the study correctly.

    Having said all of that, I would never tell someone what to carry or disparage someone’s choice. I know a guy who is over 6′ tall, proportionally sized, and works out like a beast. He shoots 10mm comfortably. My wife can’t handle anything above .380 or 7.62×25. The 7.62 may only be because the Tok is all metal and the round doesn’t have a lot of recoil. I carried .40 for about 11 years and put a lot of money and effort into trying to make it work. ultimately I switched to 9mm because I can get multiple hits on target with that, because ammunition has advanced and 9mm is better now than it used to be, and because someone identified a flaw in Evan Marshall’s data from the 90’s: some of the apparent difference in one shot stops was due to a shooter being able to get multiple hits on target before he realized the attacker was going down. As you said, you don’t want to start bad and get worse. So I start with what I am better with. But if couldn’t get 9 and had fotay I’d put the fotay barrel back in and carry that.

  24. Until I get my 10mm, I am sticking with my 9mm.
    From breakup to freeze up I’ll load it with. 147gr FMJ moose and bear protection.
    From freeze up to break up 147 gr HST any thing that is a threat.

  25. Good story.

    Good points.

    Statistics are used by rascals to impress fools. Most ‘stopping power’ paper studies are products of the imagination not ‘study’. Of course bigger bullets do more damage. Of course they require more practice. The 9mm is a pretty good all around everyone’s caliber.

  26. Rainbow flag in her Twitter bio, bleating about supporting gay “marriage”. Not a reliable source for anything.

  27. 9mm, .45acp. 380. .32. .40. 10mm. any of them as well as almost any other will do the job.
    Try out a couple different calibers, and different loadings. Try out a couple different sizes and types of weapons if possible. Find out what you’re comfortable with and will actually use and train with. My personal preference would be my old S&W Model 25 in .45LC. Followed by 1 of my big single action revolvers. Not practical for CC use. For that I prefer my old 1911 officer’s model. Nothing against the 9mm. I own a couple and my wife prefers to carry 1. As far as stopping power, well, the massive S&W 500 likely outclasses most other pistols. But, it is not the most enjoyable hand gun to use. But then, the tiny .25 my sister left when she passed is not comfortable for me to use. Not because of recoil, but because it is hard for me to get a decent hold on. Little tiny pistol in my big bear paw hands just doesn’t work well.
    Find a 45 that you are comfortable using? great. Hands more suited to a little 380? By all means use that. Just carry and train with whatever you choose.

    • “Not because of recoil, but because it is hard for me to get a decent hold on. Little tiny pistol in my big bear paw hands just doesn’t work well.”
      I can relate to that. It’s what made me give up on the Ruger LC9s.

      • Sig 365 is about as small as I can go with any level of comfort and consistency in shooting. The Glock 20/40 frame with the larger grip module is just about right…….I blame the M-9.

  28. “One size fits all” is available and it works GREAT. It’s called a revolver, preferably in .44 Magnum, .41 Magnum, .45 Colt… they’re far more useful than a pile of modern semi auto mouse guns.

  29. The part of all this that I find perplexing is the idea that I must ‘follow’ anyone at all. It’s MY life, why should I do that?

    I choose my defensive weapon. Be it a knife, a gun, or anything else. We fight so hard to say that we can carry guns in general and rebel against the notion that a cop determines our ability to obtain a license for it. But yet, we want to do as THEY do. Meanwhile there is this “defund the police” nonsense. The chosen people that the rest of us are NOT to talk to. If I carry a .38 snubby , it’s a choice I make because it’s small and light that conceals easily. That isn’t going to be done to emulate the ‘once upon time cop issued’ level of department thinking that was never my experience in the first place. Making such choices based on this kind of reasoning is beyond my desire as an American. Personally, I couldn’t care less what LEO carry. Many are likely to carry a Glock at this point. I’m not likely to ever even own one. Much less carry one.

    I am free to choose and as long as that’s the case then the decision is mine and something for me, by me, based on me.

  30. A perfectly standard 9mm with standard ammunition is sufficient for all but the most extreme situations [you mention elfin bears at one point but how likley is it tha anybody in their entire life is going to meet a bloody bear or anything like it??].
    In a self defence situation you are hardly bloody likely to have much choice and if you have to go through any ‘selection’ process or, even THINK about a selection process, to decide what bloody handgun is most appropriate to the situation you are ALREADY on the way to the elfin morgue.
    It is simply not bloody possible to cover each and every situtation. That’s only as usual marketting hype.
    There are definite reasons as to why the Police pros choose the weapons they do and as I’ve said a decent 9mm with perfectly standard ammunition is a much as anybody actually needs rather then what by paid marketeers like you fool them into believing they need.
    Why then the shift by some Police Forces from 9mm to .40 calibre and back again? Because once again the marketting men [and no doubt kick backs to those responsible for purchase] THereis ballistcally not a lot of intrinsic difference between 9mm and .40 and certainly not to the mad buggert who got either between the bloody eyes. But bthe Police Forces like most are I believe swayed by fashion into expenses they themselves do not have to fund and those that do have to fund the Police are just plain ignorant.
    Meanwhile the SARMED Serrvices that have access to every single weapon ever made have to plan for the next two decades or more so they apply rigorous and prolonged test regimes and are not easily swayed by commercial marketteers.
    They also have access to the test regimes of ALL NATO member States and with them have to arrive at what is the best and cost effective solution for the highest numbers. That descision is the Standard NATO 9mm round and whilst not the same weapon in every case they are interchangeable operationally with the same action drills

    • TL;DR but this caught my eye:
      “how likley is it tha anybody in their entire life is going to meet a bloody bear or anything like it?”

      It depends on where you live and where you go. Why would you assume everyone is just like you? I’ve come across countless black bears. One has even been spotted in my back yard on two occasions, years apart.

      • Yeah they say the garbage dumps have made the poor black bears used to human smell and on top of it idiots go to the dump and feed the bears so people is food then they wander in and get killed (oh excuse me relocated but don’t ask questions). The black bears I’ve met have been curious or afraid, never aggressive. If one broke into my house I’d exit house, they are looking for food not trouble but of course animal control will ultimately kill it.

        • of course animal control will ultimately kill it.

          Only if they get too close to a homeless camp in California. Most others will drug the bear and move it somewhere away from population.

        • Bears…too close to a homeless camp…..
          I don’t want to make an insensitive joke about Mother Nature restoring balance but my fingers keep touching the buttons.

        • It actually happened recently in Kommifornia a Black Bear and her two cubs were “euthanized” when they got too close to a homeless camp.

    • but how likley is it tha anybody in their entire life is going to meet a bloody bear or anything like it??].

      A bear encounter in the US is fairly common and their are only 9 states including Hawaii (0 bears) that do NOT have a significant bear population, that means there are 41 that DO have bears. I can understand your ignorance on this one since England does not have a bear population but even here in FL there are several stories a week in the local news about bears invading residential neighborhoods and they even started a hunting season for Black Bears a few years ago, but you are excused.
      As for this little gem “It is simply not bloody possible to cover each and every situation.” You again show your ignorance. I carry a one size fits ALL “situations” 10mm Glock, perfect for EVERYTHING from the smallest pest to a hog, a man and yes even an “elfin” bear.
      But let’s continue (damn you are fun), “There are definite reasons as to why the Police pros choose the weapons they do”. Indeed there are reasons why most cops carry 9mm (OBTW I would hardly consider cops to be “Pros” at gun choice) it is because most PDs look at cost vs effectiveness, 9mm does not TOTALLY suck and it’s relatively cheap. Find a small PD that allows their cops to provide their own firearms and you will not find many 9mm.
      “have to arrive at what is the best and cost effective solution for the highest numbers” And there you have it, Not necessarily the BEST choice period, but the best “most cost effective” choice, brought to by the same idiots that replaced 7.62 NATO with a glorified .22. Schools out and thanks for playing.

      • Speaking of which I see M-14 with good scopes are entering Ukraine service.
        Those Dragunov are inferior in every way compared to M-14.
        Makes me happy to see old but excellent stuff doing good.
        I wish usa would send some of those new 6.8mm suppressed pkastic case rifles fr field test.
        Oh, and say 500 old M-109. They’re just rotting in storage.

        • I carried an M-14 and a Starlight Scope in Vietnam; she was the envy of a lot of M16 humping grunts had 14 mags and a full auto selector, party time. You couldn’t jam that rifle with a tree trunk, have an M1A now, not quite the same but the look is there, and it shoots fine.

        • I’ve met a Vietnam vet who had a full auto M-14 with rest of patrol equipped with M-16, no M60, only grenade launcher.
          He described enemy as close by and behind thick brush cover with the brush giving away their outbound fire. The M-16 rounds didn’t seem to be doing well penetrating the cover. He fired a few mags into the area and the brush was shredded, killed one enemy and the others withdrew. He credited the brush cutting energy of his full auto 7.62.
          I’d have to read up again but I think the early 5.56 was fast light bullets and were over stabilized so I’d expect these to turn hitting vegetation.
          Love those old stories. Now the M-14s are back in the field and I can imagine a Russian with a crappy 2 MOA Dragunov and those Russian 3.5x scopes at 600 yards vs M-14 with 0.75 MOA and a big bright scope calmly putting a bullet into the Russian as the Dragunov round misses by 4’.

        • My first kill with a whole 10 days in country was an unfortunate VC who just strolled out into a trail about 15/20 feet from me, I emptied a full mag plus one in a panic and nearly cut the poor shit in half from his lower right side up his left shoulder, he was dead before he even registered that I was there…

    • You know even less about bears than you do firearms. Hardly surprising from the drivel you generally post. I recommend you avoid subjects beyond your limited intellect.

  31. Eventually I may sell my last .45 AARP that is what I carried for years in the 38 ounce steel frame version, but while it is easy to conceal even the lightweight version is 32 ounces. Empty. I can carry a 9mm with more ammo and a spare mag and a holster at less than the weight of that gun loaded.

    My single defensive use of a pistol involved taking off my jacket and handing it to my wife, so that the five guys who laid the hasty ambush could see there was going to be real incoming pain for them. They lost interest and wandered off. Caliber clearly didn’t matter in that case.

  32. Holy hell. Someone is overthinking it. If you can’t effectively stop a human threat with a 9mm pistol, learn how to fricken shoot.

    Every single person who has ever been shot in the face by 9mm has ceased to be a tangible threat.

  33. Its interesting to note that the reason the German Army chose the .32acp over the .380acp was because the .380 bounced off of a German Helmet while the .32acp penetrate the helmet.

    Its interesting to note that in 1945 the U.S. Military ran a test (see the book “The Inglis Diamond”) and the result was that the .45 acp bounced off of a military helmet at a scant 35 yards while the 9mm penetrated it at an astonishing 125 yards.

    So what does all this mean and is it relevant to the civilian? Yes it is because when the wrong caliber or even wrong bullet weight is used it may not penetrate to the vitals. Even the superior penetrating 9mm failed in the famous Miami shootout because the Feds used the inferior 115 grain expanding bullet (which did expand) instead of the heavier 125 grain bullet with its superior penetration. The 115 grain bullet went through the suspects arm and then into the chest but stopped just short of penetrating the heart. The suspect kept on fighting and succeeded in killing more of the Feds.

    In my own tests with the .45 acp v/s the 9mm I found much the same lack of penetration with the .45acp as compared to the 9mm. I once performed a simple test of shooting at EMPTY 55 gal drums. The 9mm zipped right through both sides of the steel barrel while the .45 acp only penetrated one side. If someone had been hiding behind the barrels they would have been safe from the .45 acp. In real shootouts people do not stand around saying “try and shoot me” rather they hide behind cover and this is where the .45 acp fails big time because of its inferior penetration level.

    Generally smaller diameter bullets at high velocity penetrate better than larger rouds which is why FN developed its Five Seven pistol caliber as it was designed to penetrate military body armor.

    The Gunsmith , P.O. Ackley, found the .220 Swift penetrated a U.S. Military Half Track that had 1/2 armor plate while the U.S. armor piercing 3006 round did not. The Swift killed 650 lb feral mules much better than a variety of military rounds in a culling operation.

    Many old time elephant hunters were killed because the large elephant calibers failed to penetrate sufficiently compared to the much smaller military rifle rounds that poor white farmers used to kill off marauding elephants.

    African hunter/author Stewart Edward White once asked a retired widow why she was only using an 8mm Mauser to kill off marauding lions instead of a bigger elephant size caliber and she replied “Because dumb ass when you pull the trigger they fall down dead”.

    W.D.M. Bell used the 6.5 mm to kill over 1,000 elephants and the proof in the pudding was that he survived while a lot of hunters who used big traditional elephant calibers did not survive. Bill Judd and his son shot a bull elephant 6 times with .600 Nitro express rounds and Judd was still killed.

      • I lost a bet once when I said no way can a 9mm (from a longish barrel in this case) pass through an old phone pole. The wood was dry and cracking at surface but no way, it was like 14” diameter. Dammit (FMJ) bullets passed through.

    • Dacian..er, Vlad…oh I meant Cisco..you’ve been playing that flute for years on this site..about armor piercing mouse guns and how a .32 is more effective than a .45. No one has ever believed you and no one ever will. You should really move on.

  34. If you can find me a better intersection of performance, cost, capacity, recoil, and availability than 9mm – I’ll switch.

    • For the next decade there will likely be nothing that remotely comes close. If females continue to dominate new handgun owners and shoot at similar rates as males maybe 380 or 30sc if it actually performs and takes off.

  35. Many years ago a friend and his boss brought a Full auto Thompson and one of those drum mags out to their private property where they set up a scrap home heating oil tank. A long burst and lucky the bright sun showed glinting of the bullets coming back so he let go of the trigger as ricocheted bullets began pelting all around them. They were firing hardball. So somehow the sheet metal tank was able to spring back and ricochet the hard ball. Not intuitive.

  36. All handguns are compromises. To me (and I would say MOST) 9mm is the sweetspot of cost/availability/effectiveness.

    So if there’s somebody new getting into shooting handguns (and want something more than .22lr) – I gently steer them to 9×19. If they were experienced they wouldn’t be asking the damned question.

    Advanced shooters – shoot what the hell you want & who cares. Yes, 9mm is the “best” service caliber weapon for newbies. So buy your 9mm & when you find the shortcomings of 9mm for “you” – get something new. Until then, you don’t know what you don’t know.

  37. @RGP
    “That’s because it was filmed in California.”

    Well…..that explains things.

    Thanx. I was completely unaware.

  38. Geoff “I’m getting too old for this shit” PR
    “Yeah, but…”

    I should have written, “We won another ride on the lawsuit merry-go-round.” No court victory regarding the Second Amendment is assuredly settled, there being no penalty for lower courts, legislators, and regulators to ignore the SC.

  39. @Richard Kudrna
    “I’ve met a vet who told me of a man losing upper and lower jaw and staying conscious a bit. Hard to understand how such a trauma wouldn’t result in unconsciousness.”

    A distant family member sucked on a 20guage, lost an eye, and lower jaw. Still walks and talks; just doesn’t have visage one would find attractive.

  40. Crimson Pirate
    If the bear study isnt on timid black bears shot in zoos- DNR in Montana mauled by bear after five .357 MAgnums in skull. Bear died when last 125 grain bullet penetrated skull. In Alaska Inuits really liked the .300 Savage until they shot bears – and did not kill them. Most studies are the product of an active imagination.
    Gunny Gene- a three second cylinder dump with a single action revolver? D—- you get the BS reward for the month. I suppose you are an undiscovered savant who is able to outperform the late great Bob Munden. You folks need some experience for G—- sake!
    The difference between the bullshit guys today and writers like Jack O’Conner and Elmer Keith is that the old guys were there. There are a very few today who have accomplished some things in the field.

    • Astounding that the .357 couldn’t generate enough shock energy to knock out the bear. I guess they have better brain protection than humans. I feel sorry for these animals such as mother bear programmed to defend cubs then all die.
      I spoke with a vet who explained why you never use a gun for euthanasia on an animal – he tried on a loved horse and missed the brain 5 times. He was extremely sorry about that.
      Also he explained that sone animals have very strong and dense skulls such as horned animals and that these could break up at least 45 ACP jackets.

      • i have a friend who is a mobile butcher and he uses 22 magnum Thompson Center single shot to dispatch the cows. He has a great knowledge of the cow’s anatomy and knows exactly where to shoot.

        • When I was about 8 I watched the farmer use one of those bolt guns where a steel ball is projected against a spring. The animal was instantly unconscious or dead.
          I immediately left upset. But in hindsight that tool seems ethical.

        • Knock them out pierce the carotid while the heart is still beating animal bleeds out without regaining consciousness most humane way.

  41. The FBI review pistols’ effectiveness and returned to the 9mm. Why; where you hit and hitting deep enough matters the most. So a firearm that lets you hit the easiest, pens well, and give you the most chances is the best choice for nearly everyone. 9 mm quietly took over among those that train others. If asked what caliber would you pick, if you had to pay for guns and ammo, nearly all of the big names, said 9mm, and one held out to .45. 9mm was $8 a box, .45 was $15. 18 rd in the gun vs 8/9. Though I would take a P7M8 with 9 over a 1911 with 9, any day. Objective testing answers what someone should carry and use. Timers and scored targets do not lie. If one is not clear, run things like the 5×5 of IDPA, to compare what works for you best.

  42. @CC Ryder
    “I’d guess that a 460 S&W round would do about the same as S&W 500.”

    Thinking that in an instance of defensive gun use, “about the same” isn’t really the same.

    • Thinking if you pull a S&W 500 out of your pants and the object of your attention does not shit/piss himself, run away screaming, have a stroke, die of a heart attack (fright) and/or a combination of all of the above then it’s not going to matter how big your gun is you’ll still have to shoot the asshole.

  43. @SAFEupstateFML
    “…but 475 /480 ruger is more than enough for a why the fuck not gun up here.”

    You guys do understand the whole S&W .500 string was/is a gag. right?

    • .500 is largely a gag ……….until you meet people that shoot it for fun and competition. Sadly not kidding about pending new nonsense laws that may ban the caliber here but I have learned to take .500 seriously after seeing it shot out to 150 yards with startling effectiveness. With that said I am not looking to buy a 9+ inch revolver just to have manageable recoil so step or 2 down for me.

  44. I fired 450 Casull and took off my glove due sweat and it peeled my palm.
    Wrist hurt as well deep inside.
    This after say 25 rounds.
    Hand cannon not for me.

    • Size and material of grip and weight of revolver as well as bore size/pressure all play a role there. The 500sw I tried out in the 9 1/2 inch barrel was manageable but not particularly comfortable so smaller hand cannon once I am used to .44 mag would be likely. Also a more in depth study of revolvers as I have only messed with borrowed/rented over the years.

  45. My 6” model 29 with factory checkered grips needs a thin glove, (checkering bites) then I can shoot boxes but peopke my at the range don’t like the full load gas slap.
    I wonder how much flesh a .500 would strip from a goofed fast draw ?
    I bet the gas from the gap would cause agony and say the muzzle area 1” from leg would ice cream scoop out the flesh.
    This came to mind only cuz the cowboy fast draw article.

  46. Astounded that a fast opening hollow point designed for use against humans did not penetrate the skull of a creature four times the size of a man?
    It takes a hatchet to clean and skin a bear. A three inch blade a deer.

    Please learn something about animals. The fellow who said that standard calibers are good for bear, whatever his motivation, has no first hand knowledge.
    This is way off topic of defensive 9mm use.

    • “This is way off topic of defensive 9mm use.”

      Not entirely.

      There are many here who declare that we should gun-up for the most ridiculously unlikely events, because you never know.

      • Guilty – see my preference for underwood extreme defenders and/or interest in body armor/ballistic resistant equipment.

    • Actually I said shock energy not penetration. I mean like going unconscious from impact like a boxer.
      Four times the size of a man? You mean like a Kodiak bear? He wrote Montana, so I guess. I’m used to black bears that max out around 200 lbs. Still, even a Big bear say 400 lbs being hit in the head with 357 i’m thinking knocked out. I admit I have no info on brain shock tolerance of bears but I just realized that humans have big sloppy brains way more sensitive to impact than typical animals. Woodpeckers are king though with their cushioned brains.

      • Good observation, Richard. Neural shock was a HUGE reason the 357 magnum was so effective out of revolvers. Hit near a nerve center (like solar plexus) with enough kinetic energy (over 500-600 plus foot pounds) and many a bad guy goes down due to temporary incapacitation. Just like a boxer you mentioned being punched hard in the side and going down. No, you cannot count on the neural shock because some people may not be effected…but MANY were/are. The late Chuck Karwan talked about it. This is why a 357 is my nightstand gun.

  47. In environments where there are a lot of vehicles, the .40 and .45 shine because of their performance against barriers (like auto glass. Also, just about any older tech ammo is effective, so no need to be super selective. You can select lower velocity .40 that roughly equates to 9mm energy if recoil is an issue. Another thing I wonder is why so many load 9mm with +p, +p+ (which gets into .40 realms) but say .40 is a problem?

    • Bullet weight plays a factor in recoil and pistols strong enough for +p+ reliably tend to be heavier so usually less noticed recoil than 40 is common. With that said Lehigh extreme defender or penetrator in most calibers do great against auto glass.

      • You sure want a heavier gun if you are popping hotter rounds, and you want lighter weight bullets if you increase foot pounds energy. Each individual should find that balance to match their expected performance. No doubt .40 and .45 have less deflection regarding auto glass and such, but you had better still be able to handle the gun at an acceptable level.

  48. I used to pitch in with friends and buy running junk cars and we would tie the wheel and brick the gas pedal. The car goes in a circle then back spins out then repeat and we would stand back and blast the crap out of it.
    We learned that cars don’t suddenly stop when you hole the block or diff or most things except ignition parts. These were all Old carburetor cars. Anyway about everything broke the glass. 9mm would pass through two panes easy.
    Even soft 38 special broke the glass.
    We cleaned everything up after. Tons of work but it was totally fun.
    BTW best car stopper I had was Garand. Say three clips and eventually hit the transmission or ignition system.

  49. I would really like to have a number of calibers.
    Sadly, the budget will not allow for it, so I have to stick with the one.

  50. @Walter E Beverly III
    “If someone wants to use an inferior caliber as a “self defense:” round, then that is on them.”

    Anything less than .500 is a popgun.

    I auto know; I own one.

  51. The All-New 30 Round Curved Magazine for the Stribog is the result of consumer demand and mutual cooperation between Global Ordnance and Grand Power. This magazine utilizes the same anti-tilt follower perfected in the Steel Feed Lip Magazine designed for the Stribog platform and integrates the same base pad design currently in use.

    Capacity: 30 rds
    Fits: Grand Power Stribog
    Caliber: 9mm



    Backwood Sports abides by all state regulations regarding the sale of high capacity magazines. We DO NOT ship high-capacity magazines with firearms to these following states (CA, CO, CT, HI, MA, MD, NJ & NY).

    • Well, now that that is settled, I guess I can throw out my .22lr, .22 magnum, .38 special, .357 magnum, 10mm, .44 magnum AND all my old .45 APCs (P90, a couple of 1911s) damn glad I never pulled the trigger on that .50 😉 or this could get REALLY expensive. Of course, I realize I’ll be saving big bucks in the long run by buying only one size round AFTER I toss out the 6,000 or so assorted handgun rounds I have in stock. So, thanks for clearing that up, Publius you managed to fix everything with one clear and concise statement. But does that ALSO include Rifle calibers? Should I also just trash my .22, .22lr, .223/5.56, .243, 7.62×39, 7.62×51, 7.62x54R, .300blk, .308, 9mm Mauser (oh wait, not a true 9mm but can I keep it anyway?)? That would leave me with two 9mm handguns (both subs so I guess I’ll need a full size one, what do you recommend oh enlightened one?), a 4.5 inch barreled AR pistol and I suppose I could build a 9mm AR carbine, damn THAT really simplifies things… I don’t know why no one ever pointed out that 9mm was “the one true round” before this… Guess I could have a yard sale to get rid of the 20,000 plus rounds of rifle ammo I have stashed.

  52. “The One True Caliber.”


    Have never encountered a situation where one caliber was masquerading as another.

  53. @SAFEupstateFML
    “…overwhelmingly prefer to start at 9 and move up as able…”

    For not a few of us, it is the “if able” that controls. $500 annual budget for range membership/lane fees, ammo, and firearm. kinda like deciding between eating, and buying prescription medication.

    • Understand that fully, we only recently were able to move out of 9 and 22lr. for any level of shooting that is meaningful. Half the time borrowing friends pistols/renting to learn about how other things work. And knew more than a few people that got a cheap used 32acp/38 special and cant afford to shoot it based on price per round (out of pistol primers as well).

      • “Understand that fully, we only recently were able to move out of 9 and 22lr. for any level of shooting that is meaningful. Half the time borrowing friends pistols/renting to learn about how other things work.”

        Always like the Colt .32 Automatic (from the Cagney and Bogart films). Those beauties never appear for rent at the range, or sale at any gun store. Of course, have read numerous reports that the .32ACP is no better, or even worse, than .22LR for self-defense.


        • Penetration is acceptable from the underwood xtreme defender loadings (beats 22 and most 380) but do not expect hollowpoint performance or armor penetration above MAYBE 2a (harder to get that right with ballistic fiberglass than 2 or 3a). With that said double check your pressure rating for the pistol as something like the Tomcat would be fine with standard (american) load but may have issues with frame cracking with +p (european standard) loadings in 32. No idea for the 380 stuff yet.

  54. @SAFEupstateFML
    The Tomcat is an interesting looking pistol, but a Colt .32 automatic is a true “gat”. Looked online, and the re-release of the Colt model is apparently .380, at ~$1300. The “real deal” seems to run around $2000, for “average” condition. Saw a beautiful restoration at http://www.mobguns.com/….way out of sight pricing.

    My Baretta Zeos .22LR pistol is a cool-looking space gun design, but .22magnum is apparently a bridge to far for the gun. Now, if there ever comes a magnum version…..might sell a few savings bonds to go beyond budget.

    • Adopting used and abused pocket pistols has been a growing option as estate sales filter to the shops up my way but that aside only so much you can do with 22. I hear the federal punch line is a bit better but never see it anywhere so no idea if it is worth checking out.

      • “I hear the federal punch line is a bit better but never see it anywhere so no idea if it is worth checking out.”

        Some of the online videos indicate it is better than standard .22LR, but obviously the bullet is not in the “disruptor” weapons class.

  55. @M60E3
    “I’m apparently a young Boomer since I love my .45…”

    You gotta step up, young boomer. Anything less than .5 is a pop gun. Doanchaknow?

  56. “Use the largest, most powerful centerfire cartridge that you can reliably and accurately shoot out of a gun that is sized such that you can carry it every day into every legal location.”

    There we go, I wrote the article for you.

  57. @Kilke
    “Biden said that about 556”

    Thinking the recoil spring for a 556 handgun would be a bit on the weighty side.

    But not as weighty as would be for a 600.

  58. these arguments always assume that *in the average case of self-defense* you want to kill the attacker. that’s just not true. the ideal outcome is to deter but not kill. if you look at it that way, then you would end up choosing a different caliber. imo, 22lr or .380 seems ideal if that’s the outcome you want, based on the data i had access to.

    • just want to clarify that this was based on an *average self-defense situation*. i.e. i’m not referring to the ideal caliber for the russian army invading your small town. i’m assuming the average self-defense case involves one or two attackers, who are unarmed.

    • the ideal outcome is to deter but not kill.

      ????, maybe in your world, if you want to take time (maybe ask your assailant(s) to wait while you line up your shot) to aim to ensure you don’t hit a vital organ or a major artery that’s cool (for you). I prefer the double tap method (chest and head) with a large caliber (10mm for EDC) and see how it shakes out, if the individual survives you might just have to do it all over again later if they don’t get you in the back of the head before you see them. If someone is stupid enough to move on a person they know nothing about and expect compliance out of fear then that’s their bad luck… Like they say, “Play stupid games win stupid prizes”.

  59. I haven’t read an article like this for years. Didn’t know this controversy was still of interest. For myself, the most powerful and fun to shoot firearm is the Browning .50 BMG. You will never be in doubt of the end result. Ammo is expensive, but a couple of reloading companies do offer a single-stage press to develop your own.
    Back to reality. I own a Ruger 9E, a variation of the SR9. It is high capacity and fits my hand like my old Springfield .45 ACP 1911. The only drawback is it is striker-fired. I had a stroke 2 years ago and cocking the pistol is near impossible. I keep it loaded in my apartment and ready for non-invited guests. My .45 was easy to cock. I do not know if I will ever need the 15 round capacity of the Ruger magazines, but I guess it will never hurt. I think I would prefer being able to reload without a reloading tool. The double-stack magazines also make it hard to conceal (pistol width). I wish I could find a Smith & Wesson Model 39 9mm. Our detectives used to carry these, instead of the Smith Model 66, SS, .357 mag. the officers carried. Around the same, the Illinois State Police, switched to 9mm pistols from their service revolvers (1980 or so). Ammo of choice, Federal Hydra-Shok 9mm. I used to carry my Walther .380 PPK/S with the same ammo. The Walther was a concealable pistol, but not the 25 yd wonder of James Bond’s PP (movie myth). Still better than throwing rocks.
    Caliber & pistols still depend upon the individual and the purpose you need the pistol for. Police need a pistol and ammo that provide them protection from harm and death. I’ll never forget when I was new at the department, I asked one of the officers, “do you shoot to kill or just wound”? The quick answer was to kill. You wound a career criminal, and once he/she recovers, they can sue you for interfering with their ability to make a living. True, it has happened in America, and the crooks won. Think of that when you have to defend yourself and property. Make sure you can hit a vital target that will incapacitate and kill.
    The most compelling pistol drill I saw on TV was during Navy Seal training video. I think it was a 50 yard running pistol course with straw filled dummies as targets. Recruits run the course with their pistols and fire two shots to the chest and one to the head of each target, reloading on the run. The participants run at full speed. Try that at your outdoor range.
    I have a lot of favorite calibers, mostly rifle, since that is the first firearm I fired in ROTC in High School. The 7.62X51 is next. The M14 or Springfield version is the best rifle for dispatching a threat. That brings up a question I have had for some time. Why did the US Government switch from .30 caliber rifle ammo to the dinky 5.56. All I heard in Basic that it is easier to shoot and you could carry more ammo. Doesn’t matter if someone takes you down in one shot with a AK-47(7.62X39). I have a Marlin 30-30 loaded and ready for at-home defense of serious threats. Don’t have to worry about thick clothing or even some vests (my ammo is suitable for bear hunting). Fortunately, here in the Northwoods most criminals stay in populated areas and do not like the weather and terrain. Good.
    Best wishes to you all in your never ending discussion of ammo and firearms. Without range practice and determining that you will kill anyone that wants to kill or harm you and your family, it won’t matter what you choose. As an old gun dealer I knew said, “better to be judged by 12, than to be buried by 6”. Fair enough


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