9mm: Cool again?

30-Jul-13 – 16:27 by ToddG

A friend of mine emailed last week to say that his small police department in Ohio was switching from the .40-cal pistols they’ve been carrying for years to a new 9mm. Just yesterday, local papers in South Dakota announced that the Sioux Falls PD was also switching from .40 to 9mm.

Quieter and still happening behind the scenes, two major federal agencies are both considering a move from their current sidearms to 9mm. Between the two they represent almost 20,000 armed personnel.

calibersIt’s a growing trend and, in my opinion, one that is long overdue.

Look at the photo (left). Even from just arm’s length away it’s hard to discern any real difference between the huge .45 Auto on the left and the tiny 9×19 on the right compared to something like a Surefire 6Z flashlight. (kids, that’s a flashlight the dinosaurs used to hunt cavemen during the Cantakerous Era)

The huge shift in American law enforcement to the .40 S&W in the mid-90s is often seen as proof that it’s more effective at stopping bad people from doing bad things. But that’s not how the .40 proliferated so quickly among LE agencies. The .40 S&W’s popularity is owed almost completely to the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban and its limitation on magazine capacity.

<Archer voice> Gasp you should! </voice>

The AWB allowed gun manufacturers to buy back previously issued LE magazines and resell them on the commercial market. That made all those used, abused, high capacity magazines worth their weight in gold. So manufacturers went to agencies and offered to trade them, at no cost, new & improved big-caliber guns for their wimpy little 9mms. The agency got a new gun that fit in its current holsters, replacing old and sometimes completely worn out guns. The administrators and union leaders got to parade the new guns in front of the troops as proof that they were Doing Something Important. And the gun companies got a bunch of guns that they could refurbish for a few dollars and then sell for a small mint simply by supplying one of those pre-ban high capacity magazines in the box.

That’s not idle speculation. I worked for two different major handgun manufacturers during the AWB. That’s how business was done. It made the companies a lot of money and made the LE customers very happy. And in the process it brainwashed many people into thinking that somehow the 9mm was a spitball while the .40 was a cannonball.

Now, decades of experience have proven that no common law enforcement handgun round, whether it’s 9mm, .40, 357, or .45 rises to the mythical “one shot stop” level. With current technology, the hollowpoints being designed and manufactured by the major ammunition companies are all comparable to one another regardless of caliber. Heck, it’s a very poorly kept secret that the FBI considers its current 9mm duty ammo — issued primarily to shooters who cannot handle the .40 during qualification — more effective than the .45 ammo it issues its own SWAT personnel. Why? The 9mm round was developed just a couple years ago. The .45 round is from the mid-90’s. That’s how much JHP design has advanced in 20 years!

The move to 9mm does many things for an agency. First, as alluded to above, it is easier for many marginal shooters to qualify with the lighter recoiling 9mm. That means a lot to law enforcement agency administrators and legal counsel: fewer reshoots (costly in terms of ammo and manpower) and fewer failures (costly in terms of retraining and, all too often, lawsuits). Second, for a given gun the officers have more rounds on board while actually reducing weight.

Third and perhaps most importantly in an age of tax shortfalls and budget cuts, 9mm ammo is just plain cheap. I just got a quote on some .45 ammunition — straight from the same company and at the same price most LE agencies would pay — and compared to the same exact brand in 9mm it was sixty percent more expensive.

9mm: easy to shoot, effective, economical. And it even works in 1911’s.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

  1. 65 Responses to “9mm: Cool again?”

  2. I currently run the firearms program for a large law enforcement agency in Northern California. Our officers currently have a choice between 9mm or 40 S&W in our duty weapons. Most officers selct the 40. We are switching to all 9mm (and a new pistol platform) in the next few months.

    My reasons for making the change is not so much cost, while that is a nice addition, it is the ballistic qualities of our current duty 9mm ammuniton. We have found through real world shootings, that the ballistic quality of 9mm ammunition is equal to, or in some cases, better than our 40 ammunition (especially through auto glass). Another reason for switching, is we don’t armorer 9mm pistols as much as 40’s. The round is simply easier on guns.

    I have also attended many autopies from our OIS’s and studied the ballistic qualities of the ammunition. 9mm retains its weight very well and has excellent expansion. The shot groups on 9mm shooters is better than 40 shooters. The 9mm shooters have better overall hit placement. I know that the shooter has a lot to do with it. I always tell my shooters, if you are not giving up anything with ballistics, why not carry a gun thats easier to shoot?

    By Steve H. on Jul 30, 2013

  3. Thanks for the helpful information. Any thoughts on how a modern/improved .45 JHP design compares to a modern/improved 9mm JHP?

    By MT on Jul 30, 2013

  4. This is long overdue I think. Kind of knew it would happen one day. I have been a big fan of 9mm for many years and have never felt under armed while carrying one.

    The .40 and .45 guys will not go down without a fight though, you can bet on that. For some it is like a religion.

    By Ernest Langdon on Jul 30, 2013

  5. Thanks for the helpful information. Any thoughts on how a modern/improved .45 JHP design compares to a modern/improved 9mm JHP?


    I do not have any real world data for you regarding 45 acp. I can tell you that 45 ammo has stayed in line with 9mm technology. The current 45 ammo is very good (depending on the manufacturer). Unfortunately 45 acp is a dying caliber in my area, thats not to say it is inferior in anyway….guys just are not carrying it very much anymore.

    By Steve H. on Jul 30, 2013

  6. I write as someone who usually carries a .380, when I carry. I’m not a cop and my job is to break contact–not shoot it out.

    But my bedside gun is a 40 or a .45 for their marginal extra effectiveness for when my eyes are blearly, my fear levels or through the roof, my shot placement probably really bad and I might only get one opportunity for a hit. Under those circumstances, every little extra bit of terminal effectiveness might help.

    With modern JHP’s, though, a 9 mm makes lots of sense as a cop’s gun because it really does make training easier and you reduce the number of trainees who develop a bad flinch.

    From what I’ve seen there are a lot of cops who flinch badly with a 40, and it isn’t clear to me how some of them pass their qualifications. (I have seen some who appear to keep their eyes firmly closed once they start squeezing the trigger). I wouldn’t say this if FMJ ammo was being used, but with modern hollowpoints, and the cheaper training ammo, 9mm is probably the way to go.

    By SteveJ on Jul 30, 2013

  7. Some interesting observations, but I remember part of it just a bit differently.

    The law enforcement transition to the pistol started in the early 80’s and really got traction in the mid to late 80’s. Those agencies that switched early went with the 9mm because there was no .40 S&W and there certainly weren’t many suitable service pistols chambered for the .45 ACP.

    When the debacle in Miami (1986) birthed jello ballistics and terminal performance values as we know them today, quite a few agencies moved UP to the .40 based on the reported “failure” of the 9mm in south Florida. There weren’t many agencies utilizing the .45 and any movement there towards the .40 was indiscernible.

    I personally always viewed the .40 as an answer in search of a problem, but that was obviously not the mainstream point of view. I’ve also thought the .40 and the Glock platform was a poor marriage but again, what do I know.

    I don’t dislike the .40 in a pistol heavy and durable enough to maximize its potential, but with so many females and small statured males in LE these days, the 9mm certainly makes a lot more sense than any other service pistol cartridge.

    By BKS on Jul 30, 2013

  8. BKS — The Miami incident was, as you pointed out, in 1986. The .40 S&W wasn’t even on the market until 1990. Most of the agencies that dropped the 9mm as a result (including, eventually, the FBI) switched at first to 10mm.

    The FBI itself, whose “10mm Lite” specifications were the genesis of the .40 S&W, didn’t adopt the caliber until 1998.

    While there were certainly some agencies that went .40 before 1994, the number paled in comparison to the tidal wave of trade-ins that occurred as a result of the AWB.

    By ToddG on Jul 30, 2013

  9. I was around for the AWB and I remember the pain of having to submit forms to the Chief so I could buy a hi-cap. And I carried a .40 then while many, many agencies in my area the issue was still a revolver with approval for something on a list. .40 was the most prevalent and what I heard most was …-it’s almost as big as the .45 and holds almost as many as the 9mm..the most of both worlds-. 17 9 or 15 .40 for many the logic was clear…. But I’ve seen the trend too and personally I’ve carried a 9mm for the last half dozen years or so. And I continue to watch IOP’s trend towards 9mm, and the last few agencies change around me have all bought both 45 and 9’s as the officer’s choice (and in M&P too). The reason I continue to hear is what everyone is hearing; performance is on par and they are more shootable.

    By Matt on Jul 30, 2013

  10. What is the current FBI 9mm load?

    By Tony B on Jul 30, 2013

  11. I seem to recall the standard FBI 9mm load was the 147 grain Winchester Ranger RA9B/Q4364. Not sure if that has changed more recently.

    By JSGlock34 on Jul 30, 2013

  12. Back in the 1970s, the genesis of the .40 S&Ws parent cartridge was rooted in the primitive technology behind the 9mm rounds of the day. It was a gamble whether the old JHP rounds of the day would expand or not , and a lot of gunslingers justifiably wanted something with more punch AND capacity.

    Enter the 10mm and the .40 S&W. But WAIT-9mm ammo companies didn’t just sit on their laurels. Corbon and other firms stepped up their game, so that nowadays 9mm ammo has experienced a renaissance. There’s 19 rounds of CorBon 9mm loaded in my Beretta 92FS as I type this; with that combination of firepower and capacity, who needs .45 ACP and 10mm?

    If 15+ rounds of modern 9mm won’t take care of the problem, its time for a rifle or an airstrike.

    By ST on Jul 30, 2013

  13. I was ahead of my time it appears.

    Last year Wichita KS PD also switched to 9mms, allowing Glocks and M&Ps.

    Overall, at my job we have been very happy with the results of our being in 9mms for so many years.

    Give me a call Todd, I have a story for you on this very subject involving recent local events.

    By Chuck Haggard on Jul 31, 2013

  14. I definitely enjoying every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post. Its a nice post about firearm training which is helpful for the people of MA.

    By Jenny Brighton on Jul 31, 2013

  15. I got our agency into .40 pistols in 2003. We’d been with .45 ACP (DA S&W) since 1986. The (new) sheriff was hot to get us into .45 Glocks — he’d been a trooper and was hot for us all to be little troopers too. The G21 was vastly big for people with ‘normal’ hands and the regional Glock LE guy wanted bushel baskets of cash. I made the deal for G22s, which they still have. Why not a 9mm? Because we still had so many who drank the .45 koolaid and who though the 9mm had the power of the Daisy BB gun. Can’t say I didn’t try.

    By Rich on Jul 31, 2013

  16. Rich — I feel your pain. While I was still at SIG, an agency I dealt with was beginning the process of choosing a new sidearm. The firearms training staff and the tactical training staff proposed switching from 357 SIG to 9mm. Within both groups the recommendation was nearly unanimous. But when the final decision hit the desk of a mid-level manager he rejected it.

    Was it because he thought he knew more about ballistics? No. Was it because the agency was sitting on years worth of ammo in another caliber? Not at all.

    No, he rejected it because he was worried that if the 9mm failed to stop a threat in an officer involved shooting, he’d be blamed and his career could suffer. It was easier to stick with the status quo — a much more expensive, greater recoiling round — because if it failed in a shooting, it had been someone else’s choice and he couldn’t be blamed.

    By ToddG on Jul 31, 2013

  17. Finally common sense and real world shooting proof has prevailed. Can’t tell you how many times I got the “.45 is soooooo much better” speach. “All you have to do is nick them and they go down with a .45” BS.

    Certainly all one has to do is look at the manufacturers testing, and confirm it with the FBI Ballistic’s lab, to see almost identical performance in the 3 rounds, 9, .40 and .45. Across the boad with barriers there is no one with a great advantage over the others. Ammo manufacturers have done it right to make the 9MM police duty rounds very effective. I have seen first hand what they do, how they expand, how they penetrate and how they stop threats when delivered to the right place.

    And, the reduced price of the ammo makes it all the better. More rounds to shoot, easier to shoot and most people shoot better the more they practice.

    I see this rock rolling down the hill quite fast now that it has begun.

    By KennyT on Jul 31, 2013

  18. As a civilian, I am shooting the .40 now for one & only one reason….availability. When 9mm mags & ammo are nowhere in sight, there seems to be a plethora of its .40 counterpart. I prefer 9mm for the reasons stated above, but a .40 I can actually shoot is always better than the 9mm I can’t.

    By Wes on Jul 31, 2013

  19. Acknowledging the 9mm’s advantage of increased magazine capacity and lower recoil, are there any advantages to a modern .45 JHP over a modern 9mm JHP?

    This is a sincere question. I’d like to think I’m objective enough to acknowledge true advantages and disadvantages of each caliber (i.e. rarely is one option entirely absent of merit). Todd’s post seems to indicate the two are essentially equivalent in terms of ballistics?

    By MT on Jul 31, 2013

  20. I worked for the Border Patrol in the early 90s when they still allowed personally owned pistols in 9 and 45, and the issue 9 as either the Federal 9BPLE or Hydra Shok +p+ or similar Winchester loading. Of the real world shootings that occurred at my station with 9s, all were very effective. Surprisingly those 115 +p+ bullets never performed well in gelatin tests. I’ve seen two kinds of 45 shooters – those who train and shoot well, and those who don’t.

    By walkin' trails on Jul 31, 2013

  21. I was a .40 kool-aid drinker. When my agency switched from 9mm to .40, I was in the Amen crowd. I after carrying .40 for almost 2 years, and attending AFHF shooting primarily a glock 27, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss the 9mm. Todd was very gracious in pointing out to me that the G27 is a very difficult weapon to shoot well. Bigger is not always better. Being effective is what matters most. If you can be effective with a .40 or .45, hat’s off to you.

    By Damon on Jul 31, 2013

  22. (kids, that’s a flashlight the dinosaurs used to hunt cavemen during the Cantakerous Era)

    Needs a GG&G TID. Just so people will know you’re tactical.

    By Tam on Jul 31, 2013

  23. Another reason for the .40 stampede was the horrible 9mm ammunition in the early 90’s. After the FBI shooting, 115 grain 9mm became the round no one wanted. The new 147 grain wonder round at 900 FPS was what everyone needed. It worked great in MP5’s but not so great for street cops.

    Instead of admitting the 147 grain 9mm bullet was no better than a 158 grain round nose .38 special; the entire platform was blamed.

    By Steve B on Jul 31, 2013

  24. Yep, poor ammo performance happens when you vary greatly from the original round design. Most companies have gone back to a 124-127 grain hollow point for LE, which works well. In +P AMMO it works really well.

    By KennyT on Jul 31, 2013

  25. Uh no.

    The IWBA published some of Gene Wolberg’s material from his study of San Diego PD officer involved shootings that compared bullet performance in calibrated 10% ordnance gelatin with the autopsy results using the same ammunition. When I last spoke with Mr. Wolberg in May of 2000, he had collected data on nearly 150 OIS incidents which showed the majority of the 9mm 147 gr bullets fired by officers had penetrated 13 to 15 inches and expanded between 0.60 to 0.62 inches in both human tissue and 10% ordnance gelatin. Several other agencies with strong, scientifically based ammunition terminal performance testing programs have conducted similar reviews of their shooting incidents with much the same results.

    Like SDPD, other large California agencies have successfully used the 9mm 147 gr JHP, such as LAPD, LASO, SJPD, SCPD. These and other California agencies successfully using the 9mm 147 gr JHP have thousands of officers with hundreds of officer involved shootings, all who have successfully used 9mm 147 gr JHP loads.

    Perhaps the documented success of the 9mm 147 gr JHP in California is a result of differing laws of physics on the West Coast than in other areas. Unfortunately, that conjecture does not stand up to scrutiny as the extensive Royal Canadian Mounted Police studies determined that the 9mm 147 gr JHP was the most effective load for the caliber. In addition, during the ammunition trials for the U.S. Military M11 pistol conducted by Navy Weapons Center Crane Indiana, the 9mm 147gr JHP was selected as the issue load for the M11, beating a variety of other 9mm JHP loads, including both standard pressure and +P pressure 115 gr and 124 gr JHP’s. Not to mention the FBI has consistently selected 9 mm 147 gr JHP’s for issue to their personnel who are running 9 mm.

    By DocGKR on Jul 31, 2013

  26. This is why Danny Vermin carries an 88 Magnum.

    By David on Jul 31, 2013

  27. “This is a sincere question. I’d like to think I’m objective enough to acknowledge true advantages and disadvantages of each caliber (i.e. rarely is one option entirely absent of merit). Todd’s post seems to indicate the two are essentially equivalent in terms of ballistics? ”

    While this is a Appendix holster / 9mm website, the above is not possible. It goes against physics that a 230 grain bullet traveling 1100 – 1200 feet per second does the same to a target that a 9mm bullet does, magic bullet or not. Comparing new jhp 9mm bullets to old 45 bullets is also silly. The best military unit on earth uses 40 even though its worse than 9mm.

    That being said all pistol ammunition is vastly worse than rifle so who cares anyways; I never understood the “bedside pistol” thing unless rifles didnt exist. I think the main takeaway from todds post is that bullets 9-45 are do similiar in size that you might as well go for capacity. I can see the merit in that. 145 vs 180 isnt earth shatteringly different and fairly similiar downrange. Personally I carry a m&p midsize on my hip with a thumb safety in 45. I wont win any battles between myself an 6-10 armed assassins due to my lowly 10 + 1 capacity but I feel that for civilian carry its appropriate. 11 rounds I feel fine with, I honestlu dont feel the need to tote 17+1 everyday. What definately doesnt make sense to me is chosing a single stack 9mm which negates 9’s biggest advantage – capacity

    By Will on Jul 31, 2013

  28. Will — Which commonly available police .45 ammunition pushes a 230gr projectile at 1100-1200 feet per second?

    By ToddG on Jul 31, 2013

  29. Will – but that 230 grain .45 isn’t actually moving at 1100-1200 fps. Most 230 grain loads are moving under 1000 fps, and many are moving closer to 800 fps. To get that 1200 fps in a .45, you are generally talking about a 185 grain bullet, and then you are getting pretty close to weight/velocity of 9mm rounds.

    I am completely agnostic on this – I have and like both, but I really don’t like the .40.

    By dan-o on Jul 31, 2013

  30. Todd your right about LE ammo, I was quoting a buffalo bore load which of course is on the extreme end of the spectrum. And for LE use 9mm with the capacity increase makes sense, especially as LE is more apt to face multiple people than I am going to walmart with the kids.
    Out in the woods I carry a 460 Rowland which is a 255 hardcast at 1300 fps, again for me I think that makes more sense than a 9mm, day to day I personally chose 45 as I can shoot any bullet I want. My other ccw is a 40 solely because I already have it, if I had to buy new I would have bought a p30 or m&p in 9.

    By Will on Jul 31, 2013

  31. Oh and I recently aquired a P7M8, which is the only gun to make me go against my anti low capacity 9mm stance. Beautiful, unique weapon that is a joy to shooy (and accurate) its a shame that the butt heavy no nose naturr dorsnt lend itself to aiwb, but it dissappears behind the hip.

    By Will on Jul 31, 2013

  32. The initial 147 grain 9mm loads worked okay against flesh only targets. They did not do well against heavy clothing or any type of material that got between officers and suspects. Southern CA agencies had better results than agencies in Northern CA.

    Current 147 grain loads are not the same as 147 grain loads of 1990.

    By steveb on Jul 31, 2013

  33. Even Buffalo Bore’s 230 gr .45 ACP +P stays well below 1000 fps. Their 230 gr .45 Super at 1100 fps barely makes the low end of the supposed velocity range. While we’re at it let’s cite full power 10 mm data to represent .40 and 9×23 Winchester to represent 9 mm. I use those loads for unicorn defense.

    By Marc on Aug 1, 2013

  34. Something I think wasn’t said was the problem is many agencies just don’t spend the time to train with their firearm. So with this is it important to find something you can qualify with and have done very little training with. Yes the manufacturers have done a great job of making a 9mm round that will do what it needs to do. I know a local chief that even with them getting new pistols they are staying with the same caliber because they have too much of it in stock to switch. And the reason they have so much is because they only make officers shoot once a year. We all know people will argue over which round is better for a long time. The trouble is departments pick the caliber for may different reasons. From which pistol can everybody shoot, what does the rounds cost and what can everybody qualify with. What they need to do is add this all together but then train so that when they have to use them the rounds hit the target

    By BenM on Aug 1, 2013

  35. I worked out of San Diego in the early 90s and recall the PD seemed happy with their 147 grain loads; just as we were pleased with the lighter weight +p+ rounds. The current 9MM duty load we have the option of carrying is the Ranger 147 bonded. I started to rethink the 9mm this past spring and will be switching over this fall. As a part time instructor, I have observed a number of shooters who would be better served with a 9, although I suspect after an initial increase UN scores they’ll settle back into their bad habits unless they put forth the effort to train on their own. There ain’t no magic bullet, but an officer who is comfortable and competent with a pistol he/she is able to handle will shoot more confidently, I believe.

    By walkin' trails on Aug 1, 2013

  36. 9mm is no longer .45ACP set to stun.

    It is now .45ACP Lite.

    Just as deadly, but with fewer calories.

    By Mitchell, Esq. on Aug 1, 2013

  37. It’s not caliber, it’s shot placement. If technology improved 9mm then it improved the rest of the calibers.

    By Joe Paskvan on Aug 1, 2013

  38. We did an ammo check on the bonded Gold Dot bullets. Check out how close the three calibers are for expansion and penetration during our gel test. Not a lot of measureable differences. Speer advised they developed them to perform that way.

    Speer Gold Dot 9MM 124+p grain 1238 fps
    Speer Gold Dot .40S&W 180 grain 1022 fps
    Speer Gold Dot .45ACP 230 grain 859 fps

    Bare Gel.
    9MM expansion .863 penetration 12.63
    .40 .68 13.63
    .45 .662 15.75

    Heavy clothing
    9MM .603 14.38
    .40 .65 13.25
    .45 .626 17.63

    Wallboard barrier
    9MM .70 10.75
    .40 .636 13.13
    .45 .597 18.5

    By KennyT on Aug 1, 2013

  39. The only reason that .40cal took off was pure fanboy-bufoonery. The cost of .40 over 9mm, the reduced capacity, and the increased recoil and over-penetration are not a plus.
    I have been shooting 9mm for over 20 years, 6 years of that as a Marine. Carried a 9mm in Combat.
    Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of .45, but I am not going to carry a .45 as a CCW piece. I carry a Glock 19 or 26 as a CCW piece. 9mm will put down nearly any target you are engaging.

    By Jamie Northam on Aug 1, 2013

  40. While I am probably the least experienced and knowledgeable person commenting on this topic, I thought I would just throw out my opinion and put my flame suit on.

    My carry weapon is 45acp XDS. I am very short, a little pudgy around the middle, and have small hands. I have always liked the 45 caliber…personal choice. I picked the XDS as it just felt good and fit my hand well. I have the 7 round extended magazine so I am 7+1. The shorter barrel fits on my hip comfortably, amazingly utilizing the XDS factory holster.

    I went from a S&W j-frame revolver to the XDS because I wanted more rounds in the gun. I shoot it accurately enough within personal defense range. I have middle aged eyesight and wear bifocals, so I am not interested in putting 8 shots inside a dime at 100 yards!!!

    As for 9 mm, I don’t really have any reason NOT to move to 9 other than I just like 45 and like the fit and feel of my XDS. That said, my wife is not able to handle the 45. So I am thinking of moving to 9 for both of us. Ammo compatibility and operational compatibility so, if needed, either of us can pick up and use either gun.

    I did shoot a friend’s 40 a few time, just never did like it.

    Sorry for the long and rambling post.

    By chiggerbug on Aug 1, 2013

  41. i,m a fan of all 3 cal and own all 3 , but real life shootings tell me this is all bull , i have data from real world shootings , it starts at .22 and ends at 44 mag , the heavier more powerful the round the better it stops , period . why would it be anything else ?? its simple physics . i,ll stick with 9mm for target and training , then keep my 40 for carry and 45 for home . until anyone starts buy ME the guns and ammo i,ll make my own choices .

    By ron on Aug 1, 2013

  42. I’ve been retired from the Corps for the last fist full of years. I’m very familiar with both/all rounds, in the real World. There were some comments that I thought really summed up the whole thing.

    1.”It’s not caliber, it’s shot placement. If technology improved 9mm then it improved the rest of the calibers.”

    2.”9mm is no longer .45ACP set to stun.

    It is now .45ACP Lite.

    Just as deadly, but with fewer calories.”

    3.”Even Buffalo Bore’s 230 gr .45 ACP +P stays well below 1000 fps. Their 230 gr .45 Super at 1100 fps barely makes the low end of the supposed velocity range. While we’re at it let’s cite full power 10 mm data to represent .40 and 9×23 Winchester to represent 9 mm. I use those loads for unicorn defense.”


    5. It’s the operator, NOT the system.

    6. See 1.

    It’s a shame the LEO’s don’t train HARD with their weapon systems, even if that means on personal/time and $. On the battle field, everything possible is done to prevent unnecessary casualties, BUT they happen and are a fact of War. If civilian casualties happen for LEO’s, the fallout is beyond rational belief. Whatever gets more ACCURATE hits on target is the BEST weapon system for the operator. Personally I like .45, BUT I work my butt of with it. That said, I’ve never met a Sig 226 that I didn’t operate just as well as my 1911.

    Again, see 1.

    By M.E. Hall on Aug 2, 2013

  43. ron, you’re implying that the heavier bullet must also be “more powerful” (quantified how exactly?), but between 9 mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP you’re just trading mass for velocity and vice versa. The resulting wounds of this tradeoff are indiscernible, as first determined by the FBI wound ballistic workshop and that hasn’t changed since.

    By Marc on Aug 2, 2013

  44. My experience has been that most shooters will shoot a 9mm better than a .40, myself included. This has been shown by both my students and officers that I teach.

    Accuracy and shot to shot recovery are both improved by the 9mm over .40. While you can learn to shoot a .40 well with training, the cost, time and effort just are not worth the questionable gain.

    My tests of calibers mirror the results of others and show that with the recent improvements in bullet design the 9mm has made a quantum leap in performance.

    While those improvements may be applied across the board in calibers, I believe we’re seeing the greatest improvement in the 9mm.

    Given the increase in capacity and the other benefits, it’s had to ignore the modern 9mm.

    My Robar Glock 17 and modern 9mm ammo has made a convert out of me.

    And yes my duty pistol since 1995 has been a .40, so I have some experience with the caliber.

    By MDFA on Aug 2, 2013

  45. “Something I think wasn’t said was the problem is many agencies just don’t spend the time to train with their firearm. So with this is it important to find something you can qualify with and have done very little training with.”

    Then have them all switch to .357SIG, so they have to actually learn how to shoot, these people who the masses deem to be the only ones responsible enough to carry a firearm, have “high-capacity clips,” and possession of “assault weapons.”

    For the most part, I’ve carried 9mm pistols since 2002. I bought a Glock 21 when I read about the performance of the Federal HST 230gr +P round, but gave it up after experiencing the silly muzzle flip. Decided standard pressure .45ACP wasn’t the hammer of Thor, so went back to Gold Dot 124gr +P, and Ranger RA9T for the PM9 – both of which are well-enough street proven by police shootings for me. I grew up during the Wonder-9 boom, so I may be biased though.

    By Suburban on Aug 2, 2013

  46. As a .45 guy, I agree with all the points outlined above for switching from 40 or 45 to 9mm, technology marches on.

    Several thoughts come to mind while reading this thread.

    As department switch to 9mm the supply is going to tighten up.

    40 S&W with the exception of a few die hard departments will be in the future regulated to those competition shooters who what a round they can switch back and forth from major to minor easily. I know you can make 9mm minor but you are up against the pressure wall. 40 S&W supply should loosen up.

    I really need to move to a state that allows hollow points so I can take advantage of all this new technology.

    By rsa-otc (Scott) on Aug 2, 2013

  47. I have read your opinions and agree with many however with the new technology lets say Buffalo bore Corbon Hornady etc. what I am gleaning is that a 9mm putting out 450ftlbs of energy kicks less than a 40s&w with the same energy. The fact that the 9mm pistols mostly hold more rounds only tells me that the police depts. are either going for the NATO round or they just can’t shoot well.

    By Dennis Weiss on Aug 2, 2013

  48. I know I’m going to regret asking this, but…

    What “new technology” does Buffalo Bore have that a giant conglomerate like ATK does not/

    By ToddG on Aug 2, 2013

  49. “It’s a shame that most LEO’s don’t train HARD with their weapon systems, even if that means on personal/time and $.”

    Fixed it for ya. I carry a 9mm because it’s easier to shoot accurately. It’s also much cheaper to train with, which matters to me since the department issues .40 and I like to shoot. I have a key to the range and probably shoot more than the rest of the entire (small) department I work for.

    By redwal on Aug 2, 2013

  50. Ergo the word “most”. Thanks for the fix.

    By M.E. Hall on Aug 3, 2013

  51. I agree that shot placement is critical but I am wondering why no one ever gives mass ie bullet weight, the credit it should have. I believe there is more to this than the ballistics gel and numbers show. I shoot quite a bit of steel and vitually always if someone is shooting 9mm we have to set the steel lighter or it will not fall. And this is direct center of target hits by the 9mm and a 45, factory hard ball loads, nothing fancy. So in essence the target is absorbing all of the energy of both rounds yet the velocity of the 9mm won’t drop the target. Doesn’t this translate over to defensive shooting as well?

    By Tony Konovaloff on Aug 3, 2013

  52. A car moving 2mph will knock over any steel target but certainly isnt a deadly missle. Momentum is a very poor measure of terminal effectiveness.

    By ToddG on Aug 3, 2013

  53. You can knock over steel plates with a mild shove. The FBI wound ballistic workshop made very clear that momentum is not a wounding mechanism – at all.

    By Marc on Aug 3, 2013

  54. Todd

    Isn’t momentum (velocity) just how a 9mm is making up for a lower mass? Increasing velocity increases the ft lbs of energy but does not increase mass.

    I only used the steel plate example because the steel absorbs every bit of energy supplied by the bullet and reacts, ie falls over. Not enough energy and it doesn’t move. The steel plate is a fixed object that requires a certain amount of energy to move. It’s movement or lack thereof is an indicator of the energy being absorbed. (Simple physics that I don’t have the background to fully understand)

    I understand that momentum may not count. But mass most certainly does. If it doesn’t what explains that a heavier projectile traveling slower penetrates deeper in ballistics gel? Just look at Kenny T’s post above, all the same bullet but the heavy one always went deeper. Especially after having to pass through something else.

    By no means am I trying to say that a 45 is better just that mass may be more important than the standard tests indicate.

    By Tony Konovaloff on Aug 3, 2013

  55. Tony — You’re confusing a lot of different terms. Energy and momentum are different. They mean different things and do different things.

    Momentum = mass x velocity
    Energy = one half of mass x velocity x velocity

    So mass is “more important,” in a sense, to momentum than it is to energy. Momentum is what knocks steel targets down. But it’s not a wounding mechanism. You can see this for yourself pretty easily. A 55gr 5.56mm projectile at 2,700fps has about the same momentum as a typical 147gr 9mm projectile but few people would say they’re equal in terms of terminal ballistics.

    By ToddG on Aug 3, 2013

  56. Todd Thanks for adding to my education, that makes a lot of sense when you put it that way.

    Even though they have similar momentum, wouldn’t a 5.56 knock down steel that a 9mm wouldn’t? Might have to try this at a buddy’s range, who has both of these guns and the steel I made for him.

    Starting to wonder if there needs to be a different type of way to quantify what might best be described as impact energy

    Thanks for all the info both here and the rest of your site

    By Tony Konovaloff on Aug 3, 2013

  57. Tony — No. Momentum is what knocks a piece of steel down, basically. So assuming your steel is safe to shoot with a 55gr 2700fps round, it will be knocked over with the same “force” as a 147gr projectile moving at 1010fps. Neither will knock over a piece of steel that is set to fall only to a .45 (230gr at 850fps, say).

    In shooting, momentum is measured by “power factor” which is simply mass (in grains) times velocity (in fps). So given p=mv, you get:

    55gr @ 2700fps = 148500
    147gr @ 1000fps = 147000
    230gr @ 850fps = 195500

    By ToddG on Aug 3, 2013

  58. You have raised another question, Why does power factor seem to be a forgotten number when comparing defense rounds? I first learned about Power Factor at my IDPA matches but I have never seen it mentioned when discussing defense rounds or really any other type of round, only as a baseline at matches.

    Wouldn’t it be a contributing factor to the effectiveness of a round in a defense situation?

    By Tony Konovaloff on Aug 3, 2013

  59. Tony — See Marc’s comment above. Momentum (power factor) is not a wounding mechanism. That’s why no one knowledgeable discusses it as a measure of terminal performance. It’s only used in shooting games because it’s easy to measure and easy to calculate.

    By ToddG on Aug 3, 2013

  60. Todd

    Your answers got me inspired to look into the FBI wound ballistics workshop. Found it and anyone who carries for defense should read it.

    Here is a link to where I found it


    By Tony Konovaloff on Aug 4, 2013

  61. While Urey Patrick’s paper is very good, it is NOT one of the FBI wound ballistics workshop proceedings.

    Seems like you need to bring yourself up to speed on wound ballistics; you might wish to start here: http://pistol-forum.com/showthread.php?4328-Basic-Wound-Ballistic-Terminal-Performance-Facts

    By DocGKR on Aug 4, 2013

  62. More great info, thanks for the link. Learned a whole lot over the last few days, cleared up a lot of misinformation.


    By Tony Konovaloff on Aug 4, 2013

  63. I have a question regarding the momentum and “knocking power”. As far as I understood from the discussion, 5,56 is able to knock the same steel plates that 9×19 knocks, due to having about the same momentum. If so, why the companies that are manufacturing steel targets divide them by calibers and pistol poppers usually can’t handle carbine and rifle cartridges?

    By 0987654321 on Aug 7, 2013

  64. Although momentum isn’t a wounding mechanism, it does affect penetration. I don’t believe the 12″ gel standard is detailed enough. We need to develop a standard to find the minimum momentum required to break bone and still penetrate 12″ into gel. Easier said than done because of varying bone densities and angle of entry.

    By Alvin on Aug 7, 2013

  65. With all the caliber debate, I thought I’d throw in this interesting article I found not long ago.


    My first gun was a P226 in 9mm, I let my father somehow talk me into “stepping it up” to a 229 DAK in .40 but found myself not being so proficient and went back to a 229 9mm. Price of ammo, proficiency, and a dislike of the DAK trigger swapped me back.

    Reading that article is pretty eye-opening for those who swear by 45.

    By Michael on Aug 9, 2013

  66. My “magic numbers” are 400 ft/lbs muzzle energy and 1000 fps muzzle velocity.

    I refuse to use any round over those numbers since numbers beyond that are approaching .357 Mag levels. So .40S&W Gold Dots, Blazer light weights, Buffalo Bore, Cor-Bon, Double Tap, Extreme Shock, half of Federals, Grizzly, half of Magtechs, Remington Golden Sabers, most of Speer, Underwood, etc., are just too powerful, imo.

    Maybe if agencies used .40S&W in the 350#/900-1000fps range they would prove to be more manageable.

    The problem is that many agencies will make you qualify with duty ammo, like Gold Dots, for example.

    The 9mm Speer Gold Dots fall in the subsonic category, 147g: 317#/985fps. Those are “better” numbers than the Speer Gold Dots in .40S&W: 155g: 496#/1200fps; 165g: 484#/1150fps; 180g: 420#/1025fps.

    By Wally Johnn on Aug 28, 2013

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