A matter of millimeters

On last night’s Gun Nuts Radio, Breda asked me what type of ammo I had in my carry guns. In this case, a picture is worth 1000 words though.

ooohhh shiny

From left to right:

  • CCI 40 grain JHP, .22 WMR
  • Speer Gold Dot 35 grain JHP, .25 ACP
  • Hornady Critical Defense 115 grain Flex tip 9mm
  • Winchester Ranger 140 grain JSP frangible, .40 S&W
  • Wolf Gold 185 grain JHP, .45 ACP
  • Hornady LEVERevolution 225 FTX, .45 Colt

It really is a matter of millimeters, though. When you look at a 9mm, a .40, and a .45 ACP all right next to one another like that, the size difference is almost laughable. It’s almost funny to think about the countless hours spent debating which of these has more “stopping power.”


  1. I was assuming is was a .380ACP, which is what I carry (in my small carry gun – the regular one is a .45ACP).

  2. The LEVERevolution is obviously a round specially built for lever action guns in .45 Colt. Since Lever guns have a tubular magazine, pointed rounds can be a problem (recoil can be an issue for a pointed bullet denting the forward round’s primer). In this case it has a plastic ballistic tip which won’t ding the primer in front of it. ….Or at least thats what the “review” in the NRA magazine I read a few months back seemed to indicate…

  3. Ryan, that’s correct. The initial intent was to give a more aerodynamic bullet shape without risking an AD with rounds in the magazine.

    I can also say without a doubt that it’s a hard hitting round on medium sized game.

  4. It’s not such a laughable debate when you enter into the arguments one of the most important variables: powder capacity. If we were to go strictly by caliber, then the .44 mag would have “.01” less stopping power than the .45. We all know that the .44 actually has more, due to the powder capacity. Using your argument, the .357 would have essentially the same stopping power as the 9mm (.356 cal) and the .38 special. That’s definitely not the case. And I don’t think you could argue the stopping power of the .223 as compared to the .22 short, even though their caliber is essentially the same. I could go on and on with comparisons, but my point is; you’re using flawed logic that you can base stopping power off looking at the bullet diameter.

  5. The difference in stopping power of a .357 vs. a 9mm is functionally non-existent. Same with a .45 vs a 9mm, and .40 vs. a .45. All of the rounds will reliably penetrate over 12 inches in human tissue and expand to roughly .60 inches. Also, I didn’t say “bullet diameter”. I said “size”, which includes case capacity. If you’ll notice, the case size between the 9mm, .40, and .45 ACP isn’t all that different.

    In fact, the phrase “stopping power” is largely bullcrap.

  6. Power capacity doesn’t matter as much as you think it does. The powder in the cartridge is really just potential energy, and if you look at the energy ballistics of .45 vs. .40 vs. 9mm it’s not that dramatic.

    .45 gets more of its energy from mass, while 9mm gets more from speed. But they aren’t all that different overall. Now I think it’s arguable that stopping power derives more from momentum rather than energy, in which case a slower, bigger bullet would be better than a lighter faster one. But that’s really academic. Caleb is right, when it comes to the real world, carry the gun you can hit something with. Whether it’s a 9mm or a .45 isn’t going to matter a whole hell of a lot as long as you’re making good hits.

  7. you’re using flawed logic that you can base stopping power off looking at the bullet diameter

    I describe here why it’s mathematically wrong to look at diameter. But as I said, it’s academic. The overall point Caleb is trying to make is correct.

  8. I didn’t realize that Hornady was making leverEvolution in .45 Colt. Have you only fired it through the carbine, or have you had the chance to fire it in a revolver? If you have, how’d it do?

    I’m one of those with the romantic idea of a lever gun adn revolver in the same caliber. I’m thinking .45 Colt would be a good choice, especially if the LeverEvolution ammo does for the .45 what it does for the .30-30 and .35….


  9. There is alot of discussion about stopping power. After many years of shooting many different calibers from 454 and 375 JDJ down to the 22, I decided it doesn’t really make any difference. There is not substitute for practice regradless of the caliber. I have seen a man killed (after the fact) with a 22. A well placed 22 at that.
    I ocassionly carry a 32 acp that I shoot often along with 38/357, 44-40, 44 mag. 45 LC and 45 acp. and of course a 22. The plan is simple shoot the SOB until the thing won’t shoot anymore, then reload. If thers no time to reload, then I will attempt to pistol whip the SOB into submission. High capacity magazines are a big selling feature for some folks, well, why is there some much emphisis place on stopping power with 14 more rounds ready to deliver. Once the first round is fired you are commited.

  10. HK, powder capacity alone should not be consider a major factor in ballistic performance the other factor to consider is pressure. For example, 9mm (35ksi) has less capacity than 38 special(14.5ksi), but 9mm roughly equal in ballistic performance.
    With respect to the first example comparing 45acp to 44 mag, 45 acp is a low pressure round(21KSI) and has less case capacity than the 44 mag(36KSI). Also the difference in diameter between 45 and 44 is actually .451-.429 = .022.

    However, I don’t really think bullet ballistic performance is that important. If the bullet is going fast enough to expand properly and penetrate deep enough then you’re probably good.

  11. Honestly, this debate reminds me of the years I spent as a commercial photographer. I’d see some photogs spending *hours* (if not days) arguing the merits of Canon vs. Nikon (Nikon. Durrh. 🙂 ) or Elinchrom vs. Broncolor or Ektachrome vs. Fuji. These photographers typically were not that successful and struggled in their careers because they spent their time yammering about the things that didn’t matter and not time honing their craft.

    It’s the process and the results that count, not the equipment. That’s just a means to an end.

  12. “In fact, the phrase “stopping power” is largely bullcrap.”

    I think a better name would be “incapacitation capability” but look at how many terms in the shooting sports don’t make sense. For example, “rimless” ammo should be called “grooved” because, well, that it what it is.

    If you want a discipline where labels make sense, you don’t what to be a shooter.

    Now, the idiots in marketing that make the lamest names for their guns, now THAT has got to go! (Really, what was Para thinking when they named a gun the CCO when is was the opposite of the Colt CCO? Shouldn’t it be called the OCC?)

  13. “Q: What is the “stopping power” of a cup of coffee? ”

    About half the stopping power of a Liberation Death Stare.

  14. “All handguns suck”.

    That is the end-all and be-all of “stopping power”.

    Admittedly, some handguns suck less than others. But all suck pretty badly. I believe the stat is that 50% of EVERYONE, shot ANYWHERE, with ANYTHING, cease to be threats — thus can be counted on as “stops”. That includes a non-penetrating gouge from a .22LR that just barely nicks you.

    Any of the so-called ‘service” cartridges (.38 Special, .357 Magnum, 9x19mm, .40S&W, .45 ACP, and similar if less common loads) will have veyr similar terminal performance with modern hollowpoints of appropriate weights and velocities for the gun/ammo combo in question. The difference between “87%” and “95%” “one shot stops” just isn’t realistically that much. If you manage to get TWO upper torso hits, the difference is pretty much negated.

    The next tier down (.380ACP, 9x18mm Makarov) isn’t going to be that much worse, either. If you “have to” go down to these to get a gun you WILL be carrying, and CAN get hits with, you’re still better off than if you have a gun too cumbersome for your lifestyle, or so powerful for it’s size that you neglect practice to avoid the unpleasant recoil.

    If you want to discuss “stopping power” in a meaningful way, wake me when you start bringing out the longarms. {grin}

    Of ocurse, having said that — I’ll generally go for the “more powerful” handgun cartridges when I have the choice, just because as long as it isn’t too much gun to get rapid controllable fire on target, extra joules expended in the target and larger holes left can’t hurt.

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