Last one out turn the lights off

The Texas Department of Public Safety is switching to 9mm and getting rid of their .357 Sig pistols. While there are still a few agencies out there using the .355 Magnum Texas DPS was always the first one that fans of the cartridge would point to when defending their cartridge. Still standing for the .357 Sig are the Federal Air Marshals and the US Secret Service.

.357 Sig at left
.357 Sig at left

Sharp eyed reader will have noted that there seems to be a nationwide trend occurring of agencies switching off high pressure cartridges like the .40 and .357 Sig and going with 9mm. While the appearance of a trend may be in part due to selection bias, Texas DPS falling to 9mm is actually kind of a big deal. Perhaps because of the whole Texas Gun Culture mystique (even though Texas has worse gun laws than Indiana), Texas State Troopers and Rangers carrying .357 Sig was perceived by many as an appropriate choice. A commenter on one forum wrote that if “troopers can’t carry a .45, they should at least carry a cartridge with real stopping power like the .357 Sig;” demonstrating in one sentence exactly why the bottlenecked .40/9mm hybrid has stuck around for so long.

Of course, we all know that stopping power is just another myth. In service cartridges like 9mm, .40, .45 ACP, and even .357 Sig there’s just no significant difference in terminal performance by switching from a 9mm to a .40. There’s no loss in terminal performance by switching from a .357 Sig to a 9mm. With DPS going to 9mm, how long before the last two major bastions fall? Will the FAMS or the Secret Service ever switch to 9mm? Or will institutional torpor keep them using the .357 Sig until we finally get phased plasma rifles in the 40 watt range?

32 thoughts on “Last one out turn the lights off”

  1. I have heard Many,Many, Law Enforcement Agencies,are “Switching Back” to the 9 mm,for the reasons stated here,because with the vast “improvements” with the 9 mm round it is mostly the same in stopping power, ballistic trauma etc,and because of this, it allows more rounds per mag,thus more rounds overall (multi-mags)per Officer so with a good quality +P or+P+ Hollow Points,they are “Well-equipted” I am a Retired Law Officer with both State and Federal Backgrounds, and now here in Florida work as a “Close Protection Agent”–(Bodyguard) and carry 2–9 mm’s Primary and a “back-up” both loaded with top notch 9 mm +P+ Hollow Points– and I am not worried about my Clients or my Safety— Stay Safe and “Watch your 6”—Jim Brown

  2. But (obsolescent ballistics study from the early 80’s)! And don’t forget (apocryphal story distorted by internet)!

    And what was it that (gunwriter) said? “(Pithy saying)”

    1. You win the internet for the day! It’s sad I can hear all of the mad libs that you used in my head from all the BS I hear at the gun store.

  3. The level of derp in the commentary on this subject in various news stories I have seen is off the chart.

  4. As a wise man once pointed out to me, the max chamber pressures are the same for 9mm para and .40 S&W.
    9mm +P is actually higher pressure then .40 S&W.
    But don’t let that get in the way of an article. It never stops the main stream folks.

    1. One, they’re not the same. Close yes, but not the same. Two, comparing max pressures isn’t a realistic comparison. The latest SAAMI specs list 9mm max pressure as 1,000 PSI less than .40.

      1. Ok, so the newest standards have 1,000 PSI separates high pressure from not high pressure. Yet 9mm +P is still higher pressure then .40 S&W.

        1. *Citation needed.

          Since SAAMI doesn’t actually spec +P other than “over standard max pressure” what you’re saying is basically meaningless.

  5. One of my IDPA fellow shooters I used to know 5 years or so ago was a firearms trainer for DPS for 10+years here in Northern Texas. He started with the .357 Magnums and been along with the various other calibers. He has made numerous comments about the choice of .357 Sig. The folks who are “shooters” love it, the knock down, penetration is better than their previous round 45ACP i.e works great when shooting through cars (more common than I though). He shoots tons through his service Sig, 5000+ a year if I was going to guess. He shoots JHP duty ammo at matches just to keep his skill set.

    The comment he has made repeatedly, was the difficulty getting “non-shooters” to qualify with it. Don’t quote me on this, but I believe, he told me some shooters could get issued sig 228 or some other smaller framed 9mm if they physically couldn’t shoot it. He stated that he would rather get a person shooting a 9mm with good hits with reasonable amount training vs working with a person for hours or days just to get them to barely qualify, knowing they won’t practice until the next qualification time. Good DPS officers are not failing from the sky, so what do you do?

  6. I know Caleb doesn’t like the .40, to say the least, but I have to sorta call BS here. A larger, heavier bullet traveling faster, than a smaller, lighter bullet traveling slower, is not “no significant difference” in ballistics. In other words, IMHO, a .40 is better than a 9mm, given same bullet design, Speer Gold Dot for example, speaking in terms of bsllistics. Now there is a significant difference in the shootability of a .40 vs 9mm, with the 9mm being much better in terms of shootability. This makes the 9mm a far better choice for a large majority of shooters for carry, home defense or target shooting/competition. But enough of trying to imply that there’s basically no difference betwern the .40 and the 9mm, in term of ballistics. The .40 is better ballisticslly.

  7. David, the .40 and .45 are generally “better” than the 9mm when one looks at the fine print, however barely so, and this is where folks start to think the “juice aint worth the squeeze”.

    And then, there are times where the 9mm actually beats the bigger rounds in performance.

    To steal my own post on a forum where I got into a caliber war;

    Check these out;
    Win 230 gr Ranger Talon JHP (RA45T) fired from 1911 at ave vel of 911 f/s; 5 shot ave below:
    BG: Pen = 12.3″, Ave RD = 0.70″, Ave RL = 0.44″, Ave RW = 227.2gr
    4LD: Pen = 25.1″, Ave RD = 0.45″, Ave RL = 0.60″, Ave RW = 228.8 gr
    AG: Pen = 16.1″, Ave RD = 0.54″, Ave RL = 0.48″, Ave RW = 189.6 gr

    Fed HST 230 gr JHP (P45HST2) fired from 1911 at ave vel of 879 f/s; 5 shot ave below::
    BG: Pen = 12.6″, Ave RD = 0.80″, Ave RL = 0.44″, Ave RW = 231.5 gr
    4LD: Pen = 13.4″, Ave RD = 0.55″, Ave RL = 0.71″, Ave RW = 231.2 gr
    AG: Pen = 16.3″, Ave RD = 0.54″, Ave RL = 0.58″, Ave RW = 230.6 gr

    vs

    9mm Fed 147 gr HST JHP; ave vel=997 fps (G19)
    BG: pen=14.6″, RD=0.61″, RL=0.39″, RW=147.1gr
    4LD: pen=15.6″, RD=0.56″, RL=0.53″, RW=145.5gr

    Win 124 gr +P Ranger Talon (RA124TP) fired from G17 at ave vel of 1238 f/s; 5 shot ave below:
    BG: Pen = 13.0”, RD = 0.62”, RL= 0.35″, RW = 114.7gr
    4LD: Pen = 13.0”, RD = 0.59”, RL= 0.40″, RW = 116.8gr
    AG: Pen = 18.9”, RD = 0.50”, RL= 0.52″, RW = 117.5gr

    vs

    .40 S&W Fed 180 gr HST JHP; ave vel=959 fps (S&W 4006)
    BG: pen=14.0″, RD=0.70″, RL=0.43″, RW=181.2gr
    4LD: pen=15.0″, RD=0.56″, RL=0.52″, RW=180.7gr

    Note in my cherry picked tests, bolding the four layer denim test to illustrate (Which BTW is a very street realistic test in my observation of bullets recovered from real bodies), the 147gr 9mm beats both the .40 and .45 by either more expansion or more penetration, or both.

    Even through auto glass, the event where the bigger bullets are supposed to have some sort of huge edge, the 124gr non-bonded +P Ranger-T gives better penetration in the noted testing.

    The truth is, on average, they all work about the same, and they all work well if the shooter has all their crap in one bag, if not then none of them work.

    1. There was a ballistics comparison done by the FBI several years ago, that showed that depending on the material shot, all of the major calibers had a “RANGE” of penetration, and most of them overlapped. The most notable outcome of the study was that the 9mm held the record – most likely to over-penetrate, AND most likely to under-penetrate. I think it’s safe to say it’s the most unpredictable round, but I will always be a believer that shot placement is more important than the round. If more of your Officers can shoot the 9mm better, then it’s probably a better choice to issue, from a realistic standpoint.

  8. Velocity kills. And the .357 Sig is a very hot round. If the difference is nominal, why go to the expense of switching?
    LE have to carry 9mm or .40 where I am, .357 Sig is not an option. Ammo has to be Federal in one of two choices also. But if it were an option I’d carry a .357 Sig. My personal carry weapon is .357 Sig. It’s better in my opinion. The tac ops guys get to carry 1911s but their primary weapon is an AR-15 so the capacity isn’t an issue.
    Strange move IMO.

    1. “Velocity kills”? What’s that mean Jackson? I think your understanding of wound ballistics is off.

      The .357Sig is not in fact “better” in several ways, hence the move for a number of agencies to drop it and go with another caliber.

  9. Bought my SiG 229 in .40/357SiG based on research and a conversation with a DPS veteran who laid out the benefits of the 357. “Glass penetration…cuts right through” he said, better than .40 or .45, where the rounds DON’T go through the car glass. I also agree with the comment that says “better shot placement or control with 9mm” if someone can’t control something bigger. But to change over all the sidearms? And unless things have changed, the traditional carry for Texas Rangers remains a 1911 (But Cordell Walker shot more in a month than the rest of the Rangers do in a year..)

  10. The modern +P and +P+ loading of the 9mm have rendered any advantage the .357 SIG had moot. being able to carry 2 extra rds. in a slimmer pistol that’s easier to conceal is a “big effin’ deal” (to quote noted gun expert Joe Biden).

    But you’ll never convince those who maintain that nothing less than a grapefruit sized bullet traveling at a blistering 45 fps will effectively stop a man. For them, nothing beats a brace of .69 caliber flintlocks.

  11. 12 shots at a questionably calculated 99% effectiveness or 15 shots at a comparative 97%? Plus a lower recoil impulse meaning faster splits? Plus lower cost and better availability?

    I’ll trade the theoretical 2% for more shots quicker and more controllable every day.

    1. You’re right, because they will! They both carry a harder punch than a 9MM. Maybe not a lot but they still do. It would depend some on the bullet itself. Some slower muzzle velocities with JHP’s may not penetrate as well, but as long as it gets through the glass, such as into a car, they will still get the job done. I have seen tests with 9mm vs. 40cal. shooting through glass and it was hard to see much difference. You would need a chronometer to check velocities after the glass penetration in order to see any difference, and I would be surprised at any major difference.

  12. Well that is half true. The other half concerns bullet weight. 180 grain @ 35,000 psi is going to have quite a different pressure curve than a 115 grain @ 34,000 psi even with the same powder type.

    Reminds me of the Cordite/Smokeless powder problems. Pressure curves not maximums.

  13. All Troopers & Rangers getting better hits would be a good thing, IMHO.

    Texas having good gun laws is a myth. People confuse our good self, other and property defense law with our gun laws.

  14. ^^ THIS ^^

    YES, there is a slight (but statistically significant) terminal ballistics advantage to the larger service calibers (.40, .45) and hotter loadings (.357) with modern JHPs, but the difference is tiny.

    The difference in capacity and controllability, ESPECIALLY when you are a new shooter, or buying to equip a whole force (many of whom have little or no experience with handguns {or guns at all}) is NEITHER statistically insignificant nor tiny. It is significant, and readily observed — it’s generally easier to learn to shoot with a 9x19mm than an equivalent .40S&W or .357Sig pistol (I’ll allow weird, statistically insignificant cases of newbies who do better with, say, a Glock 23 vs. a Glock 19. . . people are weird that way). If you are buying for a whole bunch of shooters and the “duty” round is a modern JHP loading, go with the 9mm — cheaper ammo, (often) smaller grips, more rounds, lower recoil.

  15. Dangit, I keep forgetting threading never sorks for me here. . . That was in response to Matthew Carberry. . .

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