We’re going to open with a quote:
“…there is no appreciable difference in the effectiveness of the 9 mm and the .45 ACP cartridges.”
Vincent J. M. Di Maio, GUNSHOT WOUNDS: Practical Aspects of Firearms, Ballistics, and Forensic Techniques SECOND EDITION, Page 150.
The reason why I open with that quote is because it goes to a point I’ve wanted to make for a long time. When you tell someone that they have to carry a .45 or a .40, you’re creating a mindset that sets that person up for failure. “You have to carry a .45 because it has more stopping power” – well that’s great, but I’m issued a 9mm for work; does that mean I’m going to get killed because of my duty gun caliber? That mindset of failure isn’t a problem for experienced, talented shooters, but imagine someone is a new officer, with minimal firearms experience. It can absolutely create problems.
I mentioned on Friday that if I could kill one gun myth, it would be that the AR15 isn’t reliable because “it shits where it eats” as a DI gun. I thought about that a bit longer, and realized that what I really wanted to kill was the myth of handgun stopping power. If you’re talking about service cartridges like the 9mm, .357 Sig, .40 S&W, or .45 ACP, they all do the same thing. Even the legendary .357 Magnum in modern loadings isn’t going to blow a man up into a shower of sparks. Yes, when you start getting into heavy magnum loads for rounds like .44 Magnum or some of the crazy magnums things change, but that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about
practice service pistol cartridges.
So the question is why do people get so invested in handgun caliber wars? Because for most people guns aren’t a dispassionate purchase. In a perfect world, every gun selected for self-defense would be selected as free from bias as possible, but evaluating only the objective good and bad features. Unfortunately, that’s not usually how these things work, and people will let their feelings drive choices for the self-defense guns. Honestly, that’s not a bad thing when you’re picking between say, a Glock 19 or an M&P9, and decide on the M&P because you like the way it “feels” in your hand. Or if you’re choosing between a Beretta or a Sig and go with the Beretta because it looks cooler. Where the feels become problematic is when it drives self-defense purchases to do things that, for lack of a better term, aren’t smart. Like buying a gun from a sub-par company.
There’s a place for feels in gun purchases. I own a lot of guns because I like them, even if they’re not practice. For example: basically every revolver is not as good as a carry gun as a semi-auto. It’s just true. And I will often let my feels drive me to carry a wheelgun, because I like them more and as such am more likely to train with a wheelgun. I’m not immune to this by any stretch. That’s what causes caliber wars as well – people make emotional investments in their self-defense purchases, which is why some people react poorly when you tell them the fact that .45 doesn’t have any more “stopping power” than a 9mm. It’s not a rational thing, it’s an emotion thing.
They’re not hearing “All service handgun calibers are equal so it doesn’t matter what you carry,” what they’re hearing is “you made a bad choice and are wrong and dumb” regardless of whether or not that’s what is being said. When I carry a semi-auto, I carry a 9mm. I have in the past carried .40s and .45s as well, but anymore I just carry a 9mm because it’s easier to shoot well and holds more bullets. That’s if I’m not just being lazy and carrying a j-frame in a pocket or something, which honestly happens quite a lot. But even then I’m starting to carry my j-frame less and carry my Shield more…because for the same footprint I get 3 more rounds.
The bottom line of this post is simple: caliber wars are stupid. If you believe that your .45 is going to magically put a guy down harder than a 9mm, you’re wrong. It’s not. It’s just another tiny handgun bullet, and they’re all really not that great anyway. So instead of worrying about how hard your bullet hits, go to the range and get some trigger time in. It’ll be a better use of your time.