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9mm vs. .40 .vs .45: The Definitive Article On Caliber Performance

9mm vs. .40 .vs .45: The Definitive Article On Caliber Performance
Posted in: Ammunition
By Craig Chemaly
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9mm vs. .40 .vs .45: The Definitive Article On Caliber Performance

For decades, handgun shooters have argued over what is the most effective handgun caliber; a discussion that will likely continue well into the future.  The debate generally centers on three options, the 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP.  Which has the most stopping power?  Which is best for home defense? These are just some of the questions that fuel this argument.  Although you can find pieces claiming that each is superior, I set out to write this article as the definitive guide to which caliber is truly the best.  Clearly one is more powerful, one is more accurate, and one is more deadly…right?

As someone who thoroughly enjoys shooting, I have fired many rounds of different calibers while using a variety of weapons systems.  In my experience, I enjoy firing a .40 S&W handgun; finding myself to be far more accurate with it than with a .45 caliber weapon.  I do not shoot 9mm handguns very often, because they don’t have enough stopping power to be practical; a point I will explore shortly. In addition, most military units and law enforcement agencies use either .40 or .45 caliber pistols.  Certainly, their judgment must count for something.  Of course, I went into this article to test all three calibers fairly and scientifically, but I did have a good idea of what I would find before I began.  I expected the 9mm to be more accurate, as it is the least powerful and more controllable round. I anticipated that the .45 ACP would do the most damage and penetrate the deepest, but I also thought it would be the least accurate.  Finally, I presumed that my personal favorite; the .40 S&W, would be that sweet spot in the middle; the perfect mix of accuracy and power.  I could not have been more wrong; or more surprised, by the results.


THE TESTING:

Before we get into firing the weapons, let’s go through some math.  The energy released by each round is measured in foot-pounds and is scientifically calculated by the manufacturer:

9mm+P 115 grains: 323 foot-pounds
.40 S&W 140 grains: 390 foot-pounds
.45 ACP +P 185 grains: 411 foot-pounds

As you can see, the .45 ACP has approximately 27% more energy than the 9mm while the .40 S&W is almost dead in the middle.  No big surprise, right? Now let’s look at a measure that many experts believe is a better representation of a bullet’s power; momentum.  Momentum is not measured in foot-pounds, but rather pounds-feet per second (lb-ft/s).

9mm+P 115 grains: 18.5 lb-ft/s
.40 S&W 140 grains: 22.4 lb-ft/s
.45 ACP +P 185 grains: 26.4 lb-ft/s

Again, we find what we might expect – the largest caliber has a whopping 43% more momentum than the smallest caliber and the .40 S&W is once again comfortably in the middle.  So why continue with this article? Why continue any testing at all, when we can see the scientific results right in front of us?   As you keep reading, you might discover that this is where the expected results end and where the surprises begin.

We now know how the different calibers compare on paper, but how does that translate into real-world performance?  Let’s start by firing each caliber at a piece of ballistics gel at a distance of ten feet. After five shots of each caliber are fired, we will look at three different factors: penetration depth, size of the wound channel, and size of the expanded projectile.


THE RESULTS:

After 5 shots of each caliber were fired into a block of ballistics gel from a distance of ten feet, we discover something unexpected; all three projectiles penetrated to nearly matching depths and produced nearly identical wound channels.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N64URwHrMWM&feature=youtu.be%3E


As seen in this photograph from testing done by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, and recreated in the above video ; there are slight differences in penetration and size of the wound channel yet those differences are almost imperceptible and irrelevant in the real world.



Maybe even more surprisingly, the size of the expanded projectiles are nearly identical.  Of course, the .45 round is slightly larger than the 9mm round, but even in their expanded state, the difference between them is only around one millimeter.


Remember at the beginning of this article when I said that I didn’t shoot 9mm very much and that I intended to explore that reasoning further?   My early assumptions could not have been more wrong. During my research and testing for this article, I accidentally created the definitive article that solidly ends the debate on which round is superior.  The answer is: there is no answer! With the state of modern ammunition, there is no meaningful difference in the performance of these calibers.

In fact, there was also a study done that looked at military and law enforcement reports concerning victims and suspects shot by handguns which used the data to  analyze the various calibers for comparison. The results were entirely consistent with the testing.

9mm 40 S&W 45 ACP
Average number of rounds until incapacitation: 2.45, 2.36, 2.08
Percentage of people not incapacitated: 13%, 13%, 14%
Percentage incapacitated by one shot (torso or head hit): 47%, 52%, 51%


The data indicates that all three calibers had nearly identical properties when it came to real-world situations.  They all averaged more than 2 rounds to incapacitate someone, and nearly all the statistics are well within a reasonable margin of error.  The very slightest of edges goes to the larger ammunition for stopping people with one shot. This is likely attributed to the extra millimeter of expansion occasionally nicking something vital.

CONCLUSIONS:

I’m not exactly an “authority” on ammunition performance.  Sure, I can read some data and analyze some testing, but that hardly qualifies me as an expert.  Luckily, you don’t have to take my word for it. I think it is fair to consider the FBI to be a credible authority on firearms.  After conducting their own studies, they transitioned all of their agents to 9mm firearms. In fact; in their agency memo detailing the specifics of why they switched, the FBI’s Training Division determined:

9mm Luger now offers select projectiles which are, under identical testing conditions, outperforming most of the premium line .40 S&W and .45 Auto projectiles tested by the FBI”

They also found

“There is little to no noticeable difference in the wound tracks between premium line law enforcement projectiles from 9mm Luger through the .45 Auto”.

A major takeaway from the FBI’s findings is the clear message that it’s all about the ammo.  Testing makes it clear that the ammunition you use, regardless of caliber, is far more important than the caliber of the weapon itself. 

So the true answer to which caliber handgun is best is simple: whichever caliber you shoot most accurately.  A shot in the head from any of these rounds would be fatal, and a center-mass shot from any of them would do almost identical damage.  So find a firearm you like, practice with it, and it will serve you well. 

1 year ago
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randel bigelow
10 months ago at 6:25 PM
Very good. I had the same opinion as you. May have to Rethink that. Thank you
Dan
8 months ago at 10:31 AM
Is it just a typo, or are you comparing 9mm+P and 45cal+P to a non +P 40 Cal?
David Ratley
7 months ago at 2:27 AM
Good information, thanks
Douglas
7 months ago at 5:04 AM
Someone needs new batteries in his calculator.
Dave
6 months ago at 6:10 PM
Personally I prefer the good old 45 acp But with technology these days it’s all personal preference what you want to use
Bryan P Broderick
6 months ago at 6:17 PM
It has been my observation that the northern states, Michigan specifically, have gone from 9mm to 45. One explanation I got is that the energy delivered by the 45 was superior when heavy clothing was taken into consideration. It had also been an observation that the 9mm did not penetrate steel belted tires as well.
Tracy
6 months ago at 6:17 PM
I agree with everything in your article, except you left out that 45ACP is definitively better than 9MM or 40 S&W (kidding...er...mostly). :-)
Brian Smith
6 months ago at 6:21 PM
Where are the accuracy results? Shooting benchrest at a target @ 15 yds.......
Gustavo Guerrero
6 months ago at 6:34 PM
Well, aside from the fact that the ammo weights you first listed to calculate energy are seldom used in carry ammo and different than the ones tested, it was a wash.
Dave
6 months ago at 6:35 PM
Very well written article !! Thanks for the info !
R Anderson
6 months ago at 6:36 PM
Not sure how you figure most military units use .40 or .45 caliber... The standard issue sidearms for US Armed Forces since 1985 has been 9 mm Beretta 92S.
45_ACP
6 months ago at 6:39 PM
Momentum (terminal energy transfer) and number of rounds to incapacitate, along with larger diameter wound channel favors the 45 caliber clearly. Shot placement and training for a quick and accurate "double tap" are required.
Shawn
6 months ago at 6:52 PM
Just wanted to throw this out there. The US Army’s sidearm caliber of choice is 9mm the Berretta as well as the newly issued Sig Sauer both use 9mm FMJ. It’s against the Geneva convention for the Military to use hollow point bullets.
Jay Haney
6 months ago at 6:55 PM
Still making the same flawed argument as the FBI. If you shoot +p vs standard loads you would see that 9mm and 45 both produce energy in the high 300's and 40 does between 400 and 500. It is all about the ammo. But the comparison should be fair.
Matthew
6 months ago at 6:57 PM
It's like I always say, if you can hit what and where you are aiming, it doesn't really matter what round or gun you use. Just train with what you carry, sidearm and ammo.
Jim
6 months ago at 7:18 PM
What about 380 jhp ? Any good at all for CC?
Tom Etchberger
6 months ago at 7:19 PM
The results of your article were interesting, that the performance of the three calibers was so close that there isn't a clear enough difference between them to matter leaving the ultimate choice to personal choice, the ability to place your rounds on target, and live with your self after you pull the trigger. To me, a pistol is a tool to be used for self defense target practice, and some forms of hunting. In a nation founded on the freedom of choice, the best choice is what works best for you. I prefer my .40 S&W, my wife swears by her .45, as long as we can put our rounds were we want them to go then ultimately that is the best choice for us. In closing, find what works for you and stay with it. And remember, it's your ability to reacquire the target after the first shot should you need a second shot that should be a major factor in selecting your weapon of choice.
Dan
6 months ago at 7:23 PM
Most military units use a 9mm FMJ, very rarely do you see any other calibers. Other than that the article was a good read and was well written and practical.
Paul Vicalvi
6 months ago at 7:34 PM
Contrary to what you said in your article-the military does not use a 40 or 45 caliper pistol. They mostly use 9mm. The Army got away from the Colt 45 years ago. Usually they are Sig Sauer, Beretta or Glock.
Robert Shirley
6 months ago at 7:35 PM
Many invalid assumptions with the FBI report as well as the author's conclusion. In handguns, take s bigger, heavier bullet, make it faster, and then add a hi-tech modern bullet if you want.
Duane
6 months ago at 7:41 PM
Nobody that I know uses the grain weights you suggested for either 40 S&W or 45 ACP. For 40 S&W, I use 180 grain, and for 45 ACP, I use 230 grain.  This parallels the use of others I know who use these two cartridges. Was it Jeff Cooper who said, use the largest caliber handgun you can shoot effectively and shoot well? For me, caliber makes much less difference, then the social requirement I am required to carry in... If I had my druthers, I would always prefer to carry 45 ACP. However, in many social circumstances a compact 9mm affords me much greater concealability and is what I choose to carry. With the advent of high-performance projectables nowadays, the issue is perhaps less what caliber you carry amongst the three you mentioned, as is the issue of training and shot placement. My understanding is that the FBI backed off of their requirement of 40 S&W in favor of 9mm some time ago, so to me, having this article say that it is the definitive answer to this question seems somewhat presumptuous to say the least... Using the biggest caliber you feel comfortable with, in a firearm that feels second nature to you, that you have full confidence you can accurately hit anything you aim at, at a moment's notice, seems like great advice to me... Whether this is in a Glock 19, or a Sig 938 in 9mm, an H&K USP in 40 S&W, etc., or a Detonics CombatMaster VI, an original World War I Colt government, or an H&K USP in 45 ACP makes no difference to me. Just be sure to use a modern projectile that offers the combined effectiveness of both adequate penetration and extraordinary expansion... in which case, would you consider cartridge offerings such as FN's 5.7 x 28? Laughter Just a thought for those who think these three cartridges are the only ones out there, which might offer appropriate self-defense against two-legged predators...
Mike
6 months ago at 7:50 PM
Number one why +P rounds? Why 147 grn 9mm? !85 grn 45? You should keep to your charts 115 grn 9mm. And use 230 grn 45 ACP. The main thing with any pistol caliber is putting the rounds in a vital area. Good rule of thumb. Armpit to armpit. If you hit high, still hits vitals. Low other vitals. Never shoot center of mass with a pistol. It is stiil under powered compared to a rifle or shotgun. However it's what is on hand, unless like me, you carry a rifle when you hear that "bump in the night".
Lycanit
6 months ago at 7:53 PM
The tongue in cheek beginning was nice. My only"improvement" is that the typical carry for myself and associates is a 12? Grain to 135 +p. With a energy rating 400+. The 147 you selected is for suppressed fire.. hence the subsonic, and the below normal energy. But nice article none the less
John
6 months ago at 8:18 PM
Most military & police units use 40 or 45??? Really???
Joe
6 months ago at 8:25 PM
Thank you for a great, straightforward and honest write-up! I have been a fan of anything .45 for a very long time. But, long ago, I realized that sentiment was not based practicality. Your data included here corroborates my own rationale which I arrived at years ago as well. Ten years ago it was fairly easy to find 9mm ammunition (Double-tap, Corbon, Buffalo Bore) that approaches and even equals some .357 magnum factoty loads. And you know what? Nobody ever said .357 magnum isn't enough gun. So I changed my mind then about the bad press 9mm had received. Couple your findings with the superior round count and there is no question in my mind what makes sense to carry. I still live my 1911 .45 acp, Redhawk .45 Colt and 10mm pistols but 9mm makes a whole lotta sense. Funny that most every government department is just now discovering this. But then again government is truly rarely on the cutting edge of anything.
David Davenport
6 months ago at 8:30 PM
You are spot on. I have noticed that the average police officer in my Department shoots better with the 9mm than they did with the 40. Personally, I prefer the 40 with 180 grns.
Scott Puckett
6 months ago at 8:34 PM
My only issue with this article was the statement that "most Military and Law Enforcement use either .40 or .45 caliber weapons". The United States Military started issuing 9mm pistols around 1986 and continues to do so to this day. Most police agencies started issuing 9mm pistols in the late 80s or early 90s. Some flirted with the .40S&W or .357 Sig cartridges in their issue pistols but after a decade or two most went back to 9mm pistols. Otherwise I found this article pretty close to my own findings.
David Root
6 months ago at 8:49 PM
OK. I believe you. But what if you are restricted to "Ball" ammo (FMJ) as the military is? Which caliber excels at one shot stops under that restriction?
EnDangerEd Svanoe
6 months ago at 8:53 PM
Proving once again.... whatever you shoot BEST is what you should use.... Because One Hit beats a Full Mag of misses! Always!
Jack Dee
6 months ago at 9:36 PM
In Vietnam, I shot a VC 5 times with a .45 and they kept coming. As a LEO I carried a .40 for 15yrs. I switched to a 9mm after and RMS after following SAGE Dynamics training. Practice is targeting the cranial vault. Turn off the light switch, then shoot where you want. Practice..
Rob Margo
6 months ago at 9:38 PM
That’s why I choose 9mm. If all the major calibers act close enough to be with the error factor, then I will choose the one the gives more rounds to try and hit my target. Not to mention, some calibers don’t like to expand once you move down to a concealable barrel length. 9mm, whit it’s better velocity, will still have enough speed to expand most hollow points in a compact or subcompact barrel length (depending on your ammunition of course). 12+1 in my subcompact carry, with another 12 on backup, sounds good to me. But to each his own, and shoot what ya got!
Very good write up ,but I would have liked to seen it done with all ammo being the same if one has +P test all with +P ammo. And also testing with defense rounds like the criddicul defense / federal tactical and or the new G2 research RIP rounds fragmenta
6 months ago at 9:41 PM
See above remarks , using critical defense rounds or g2 r i p rounds
Doc Riley
6 months ago at 9:44 PM
Former LEO / military firearms safety instructor and USCCA instructor
Michael Miller
6 months ago at 10:10 PM
Thank you for this information, I found it very interesting!...
bob reis
6 months ago at 10:45 PM
Good article, very well written and informative, Thank You .
gene hempstead
6 months ago at 10:53 PM
Great article !! Thank you for posting. Gives us all something to think about.
Darryl Roach
6 months ago at 11:13 PM
Thanks for your input, very well stated. And proved.
Prehensile
6 months ago at 11:31 PM
Yes sir your not the first to draw this conclusion. I am still a 357Sig fan, love the necked down .40 in 9mm
Big Sarge
6 months ago at 11:42 PM
I’ll stick with my .45 thanks. Logic would dictate bigger hole, bigger damage. Cops use 9 mm because smaller officers (AKA women) can’t handle the recoil of the 45acp, and the .40 cal creates too much wear and tear on the pistols. People tout this new Ammo for 9s, they say that it makes it as good as the .45. Well guess what, the same “super Ammo” exists for the .45 too. I shoot corbon, buffalo bore, critical duty, etc. all +P Ammo. Most elite military units carry .45s too. Don’t buy the BS. Ballistic gel isn’t a human body. Look at all the ballistic measurements Hatcher, Thorniley, Taylor, etc. .45 blows the 9mm away.
Mike McIsaac
6 months ago at 12:23 AM
I'm reminded of the old adage "Figures don't lie but liars can sure figure." The FBI has a vested interest in creating the illusion that the 9mm is "just as good" as the .40 and the .45. Why? Because most female LEO's have a difficult time qualifying with anything more powerful than the ".380 Magnum". This is not to diminish the contributions that female LEO's make but lets be real - physiologically women have less upper body strength than men, therefore they cannot control big bores as well as they can 9mm's. I've been shooting .45 ACP's for over 40 years. Yeah it recoils but with proper training ANYONE can learn to shoot it well. The FBI and police departments don't want to invest the time and $$$ it takes to train their female officers to use the historically most effective pistol round available - the .45 ACP. The FBI tried the 10mm Auto for a short time after the infamous Miami shootout but that round is too powerful for routine use which is why the .40 S&W was developed. The .40 is an effective round but for some strange reason it has now fallen from favor too. Everybody in LE leadership positions wants the officers undergunned with wonder nines. This will not end well.
GRA
6 months ago at 12:36 AM
Thanks but I’ll stick to my .40 as my primary caliber. 9MM is kept around when there is a shortage of .40 and .380 ball is for inside the house. IMHO the .40 is the only round that beats the old U.S. Treasury round in .38 +P+ which I dearly miss in my revolver.
Vincent LaVallee
6 months ago at 1:56 AM
I am a very long time owner and shooter of revolvers - a .357 Mag Ruger Blackhawk, and a .45 Colt Ruger Blackhawk. Both of these are single action, western style 6-shot revolvers My .45 LC is a convertible model, which means it has two cylinders, one for the .45 LC ammo (which can be VERY powerful), and the other for .45 ACP ammo. So, I have a lot of experience in shooting these, although only about during the last 8 years with the .45 gun. My goal here is to tell the real story on this never ending saga of 9 mm vs 10 mm vs 45 ACP! Over years I have researched ammo for these two of my guns originally, and many other handgun calibers (and rifles) afterwards , ending up currently with 34 handgun calibers and 19 rifle ones. I have created a very extensive ballistics file, which has the ballistics for all of these calibers for ammo made by many, many manufacturers. This file has hot online links to where you can buy ammo online, showing the ballistics for each and every ammo sold I have found and linked to. There are 1730 handgun ammo entries and 589 rifle ones, each with ballistics info, cost and a link to an online seller. So, what does this have to do with the article that tries to compare 9mm with the 10mm and the 45ACP? The answer is A LOT! The ammo tested here is not so typical of any of these calibers, so it appears that they were chosen to come to a forgone conclusion, and not to really enlighten gun users or prospective gun owners. Here are the real facts about 9 mm ammo: (1) 9 mm ammo comes in three distinct bullet sizes: 115, 124, and 147 gr bullets, and these all come with a multitude of bullet types (JHP, FMJ, lead free, bonded, FTX, and more). The bullet types will have a definite impact on the expansion capability, along with the power rating. (2) The 115 gr ammo is the weakest of all three generally, although there are some 115 gr +p ammo entries out of my 214 listed. The '+P' means a lot higher MV than normal, so for 9 mm ammo, this means a MV above 1200 fps, whereas the normal MV for 9 mm ammo has a MV of 900-1150. The range of ME for the entire 9 mm listing I have varies from about a low of 264 to a high of 454 ft. lbs. (1 ft. lbs. the amount of energy it takes to move 1 lbs. one foot distance) over the entire 9 mm ammo range (weights varying from 115-147). The typical 115 gr 9 mm ammo has a ME range of 264 Ft. Lbs. to 432 ft. lbs. +P ammo traveling at 1300 fps (very high for a 9 mm). This ME of 432 FT. lbs. ammo is made by Speer Gold Dot with a JHP bullet. The average ME of all 214 9 mm ammo I have listed (excluding duplicates of exactly the same ammo) is 334 ft. lbs. Half of my 9 mm list is of the 115 gr bullet type (50%) so this weight was a somewhat good choice for a typical 9 mm ammo. Also, half of this list has FMJ ammo as well, so this bullet type was a common choice for 9 mm ammo as well, and is shown as the test model here in the article. But keep in mind that 50% of the 9 mm ammo I have listed is not of the 115 gr variety. Now on to the 40 mm ammo - here the 140 gr ammo is NOT typical at all. Although I have only 50 entries for this caliber, only a handful are below 155 gr bullet weight. Most are 180 gr and a few are at 200. But the typical power of the 10 mm ammo (the ME) is between 424-600 ft. lbs. This is considerably more than the 9 mm ammo. So, the example used in this test stated in this article is considerably weaker than what is the norm for the 10 mm caliber. Furthermore, the 200 gr 10 mm ammo can produce power all the way up to a max of 694 Ft. lbs. of ME! Given this, the test is made to make the 10 mm ammo look weak, and more like the 9 mm, which it is NOT! Now let us examine the much aligned .45 ACP ammo. The .45 ACP comes in two flavors: the standard .45 ACP with the +P, and the 45 Super, which is just a very, very hot .45 ACP which most semi-auto .54 ACP handguns cannot shoot since it is too hot. First, the typical .45 ACP ammo is 230 gr., and not 185, although the hotter loads do come in the 185 weight so that can get the velocity up fairly high (1225 fps). Since I shoot the .45 ACP in my guns, I have a lot of entries for the caliber - 300 to be exact. Of these 207 entries are 230 gr and 45 are 185 gr. The 230 standard loads (not +P) range in power from about 350 ft. lbs. to about 518, which is also considerably more than the 9 mm ammo 'tested' here in this article. The standard +P .45 ACP goes up to an ME of 616 by Atomic, 618 by Doubletap, and 591 by Buffalo Bore. I suspect that there are a fair amount of .45 ACP semi-auto handguns out there that cannot shoot these either, simply because they were not made to do so. But I suspect just about any revolver that can shoot .45 ACP can! And since I have a really high powered .45 revolver, I can shoot these and the Super 45 ammo as well with no issue! This is because the .45 LC ammo that my handgun is made for, can shoot a lot more powerful ammo. Also, with the typically more powerful .45 ACP ammo, the expansions will be a lot bigger as well, and if you actually look carefully, the .45 ACP expansion shown IS considerably larger already. To complete, I have to go into the 45 Super a little bit, since it exists, and the 45 revolvers and some semi-autos can shoot it. T=is ammo is a .45 ACP +P +P! This ammo can go as high power wise as high at 771 ft. lbs., one produced by MagSafe, and 694 by Buffalo Bore. So, in my conclusion, there is little comparison of the 9 mm to either of these other calibers. I suspect that the US military (poor choice for saving our guy's life when it counts), picked the 9 mm ammo much in the same light they brought on the M16 during the Vietnam War - quantity vs. effectiveness. The M16 shoots a NATO 5.56 mm FMJ round, which is tiny, and most of its power (only 5% more than my high powered .45 LC ammo!) is in its speed. But I have read reports that it is so fast it just goes thru unarmored men, and they keep coming! This would never happen with the WW II M1, or with the predecessor to the M16, the M14, which both shot 30-06 hunting rifle ammo! I watch countless documentaries, mainly on the Middle East wars with the US since 2003, and see how both sides keep shooting and not much happens! The AK47 shoots low powered ammo also. So, the semi-auto handgun can shoot more than either the 10 mm or the .45 ACP, but is it saving soldiers' lives better? This is very doubtful. Ask why are we still in Afghanistan and Iraq 17 years later??? They do not fear what we are shooting them with! One last comment on the ammo issue - the cost of the ammo is somewhat important. The 9 mm is the cheapest (apart from .22 LR ammo), with an average cost of $.42/rd, and down to as low as $.20/rd. The .45 ACP is next and averages out at $.60/rd, and as low as $.26/rd. The 40 mm ammo averages out at $.80/rd. and as low as $.31/rd. But keep in mind that these prices are before the Corona virus hit, and most everything has gone up and/or is not available now. If anyone is interested in my ballistics file, write back and let me know. It is free, and I email it as a PDF file, with all the hot links, so it is also totally safe. Vincent (04-13-2020)
Leonard Hovorka
6 months ago at 3:19 AM
This is a very good and useful article. The 9mm, 40 cal, and 45 cal debate often struck me as a debate among Chevy, Dodge, and Ford owners. Thank you much.
frank e. anderson
6 months ago at 6:22 AM
how about retesting the 45 acp for energy and momentum with 230 grain instead of 185 grain?
Gary Boswell
6 months ago at 7:43 AM
I'm glad to have found this article because I was trying to decide between a 9mm or a 45. This makes it a lot easier. Thanks.
Jeffrey Hillman
6 months ago at 8:14 AM
nice read - result are as expected I still prefer two other options handgun 357 mag Desert Eagle the sheer hugeness of the front end would stop most sane people and the projectile will cure the insane quite nicely. but in my home nothing says "go away or be carried away" quite like jacking a round into my pump 12 ga
Richard Taracka
6 months ago at 8:48 AM
I feel that the 9MM would have been better represented by the 124 grain HST bullet. 115 grain is on the light side although it held up quite well. Want to try a superb round, shoot the .357 Sig with the 125 grain Gold Dot put out by Underwood ammunition. Well over 600ft. lbs. of muzzle energy. Used by a number of Departments. Equal in every sense (if not a little better) than the same weight bullet in a 4" .357 magnum. Excellent article!
Bruce Storen
6 months ago at 9:07 AM
Have you tested hitting bone as opposed to just gel? There are a whole lot of bones in the human body and I think the results would be very different.
John e Garry
6 months ago at 10:22 AM
Thank you for this article, it was very informative. I enjoyed and learned!!
george moore
6 months ago at 11:55 AM
very interesting, I like you thought very differently
Bily M
6 months ago at 12:08 PM
The Miami shooting has left me turned off to 9mm. Even though I know there is a world of difference between 9mm ammo available in 1986 and now. But I am comfortable shooting .40 or .45. I even start shooters with no experience with pistols off with 9mm (after a number of rounds of .22LR). It's not the gun but the shooter. Reading some other studies, I use 124grn 9mm for self defense. 115 grain still leaves me with an uneasy feeling.
David Adams
6 months ago at 12:20 PM
Thank you for this in-depth article, extreemly informitive. I had reveiwed the balistics of each of these same caliber in various brands a while back and ended up going with the .40 cal 165 gr JHP. Just personal prefference at this point. But to echo your article I did notice that depending on the ammo balistics you could load a 9mm that would hit very close to a 45 and with that said, it's much cheeper to practice with a 9mm. Though I still went with the 40 cal lol. Great article and very informative. Thanks
Vette Monroe
6 months ago at 12:26 PM
Personally I have better results from the 9mm. I have all three xd45 xdm40 and xds9. My reason for this is I have arthritis. in my right wrist I can control the 9 mm better with less pain. But my preferred carry pistol is the Kel Tec PMR 30 22 mag.
thomas coleman
6 months ago at 4:36 PM
I still like the 40 sw I have a 9mm but I find I am more accurate with the 40
2daysolderndirt
6 months ago at 5:58 PM
Very informative article. Nice to see quantitative data w/o personal biasis. Best article on pistol calibers that I've read.
Robert Karkut
6 months ago at 9:36 PM
Why not have the 10 mm round included in this test. I think it outshines in penetration and in speed.
Joe McLachlan
6 months ago at 10:18 PM
Very interesting end to the piece, find what you shoot best then find the best ammo for it!
Kent Miano
6 months ago at 12:05 AM
Not surprised FBI ditched for 9mm ... guessing it has to do with 9mm being a “NATO” round ??... it’s cheaper...& their plastic Mattel Guns can hold more rounds ??(never been a fan of plastic guns) ... you are right concluding that whatever caliber you shoot best is the best caliber... thanks
Vincent LaVallee
6 months ago at 1:11 AM
I am a very long time owner and shooter of revolvers - a .357 Mag Ruger Blackhawk, and a .45 Colt Ruger Blackhawk. Both of these are single action, western style 6-shot revolvers My .45 LC is a convertible model, which means it has two cylinders, one for the .45 LC ammo (which can be VERY powerful), and the other for .45 ACP ammo. So, I have a lot of experience in shooting these, although only about during the last 8 years with the .45 gun. My goal here is to tell the real story on this never ending saga of 9 mm vs 10 mm vs 45 ACP! Over years I have researched ammo for these guns and many other handgun calibers (and rifles), ending up currently with 34 handgun calibers and 19 rifle ones. I have created a very extensive ballistics file, which has the ballistics for all of these calibers for ammo made by many, many manufacturers. This file has hot online links to where you can buy ammo online, showing the ballistics for each and every ammo sold I have found and linked to. There are 1730 handgun ammo entries and 589 rifle ones, each with ballistics info, cost and a link to an online seller. So, what does this have to do with the article that tries to compare 9mm with the 10mm and the 45ACP? The answer is A LOT! The ammo tested here is not so typical of any of these calibers, so it appears that they were chosen to come to a forgone conclusion, and not to really enlighten gun users or prospective gun owners. Here are the real facts about 9 mm ammo: (1) 9 mm ammo comes in three distinct bullet sizes: 115, 124, and 147 gr bullets, and these all come with a multitude of bullet types (JHP, FMJ, lead free, bonded, FTX, and more). The bullet types will have a definite impact on the expansion capability, along with the power rating. (2) The 115 gr ammo is the weakest of all three generally, although there are some 115 gr +p ammo entries out of my 214 listed. The '+P' means a lot higher MV than normal, so for 9 mm ammo, this means a MV above 1200 fps, whereas the normal MV for 9 mm ammo has a MV of 900-1150. The range of ME for the entire 9 mm listing I have varies from about a low of 264 to a high of 454 ft. lbs. (1 ft. lbs. the amount of energy it takes to move 1 lbs. one foot distance) over the entire 9 mm ammo range (weights varying from 115-147). The typical 115 gr 9 mm ammo has a ME range of 264 Ft. Lbs. to 432 ft. lbs. +P ammo traveling at 1300 fps (very high for a 9 mm). This ME of 432 FT. lbs. ammo is made by Speer Gold Dot with a JHP bullet. The average ME of all 214 9 mm ammo I have listed (excluding duplicates of exactly the same ammo) is 334 ft. lbs. Half of my 9 mm list is of the 155 gr bullet type (50%) so this weight was a good choice for a typical 9 mm ammo. Also, half of this list has FMJ ammo as well, so this bullet type was a common choice for 9 mm ammo as well, and is shown as the test model here in the article. But keep in mind that 50% of the 9 mm ammo I have listed is not of the 115 gr variety. Now on to the 40 mm ammo - here the 140 gr ammo is NOT typical at all. Although I have only 50 entries for this caliber, only a handful are below 155 gr bullet weight. Most are 180 gr and a few are at 200. But the typical power of the 10 mm ammo (the ME) is between 424-600 ft. lbs. This is considerably more than the 9 mm ammo. So, the example used in this test stated in this article is considerably weaker than what is the norm for the 10 mm caliber. Furthermore, the 200 gr 10 mm ammo can produce power all the way up to a max of 694 Ft. lbs. of ME! Given this, the test is made to make the 10 mm ammo look weak, and more like the 9 mm, which it is NOT! Now let us examine the much aligned .45 ACP ammo. The .45 ACP comes in two flavors: the standard .45 ACP with the +P, and the 45 Super, which is just a very, very hot .45 ACP which most semi-auto .54 ACP handguns cannot shoot since it is too hot. First, the typical .45 ACP ammo is 230 gr., and not 185, although the hotter loads do come in the 185 weight so that can get the velocity up fairly high (1225 fps). Since I shoot the .45 ACP in my guns, I have a lot of entries for the caliber - 300 to be exact. Of these 207 entries are 230 gr and 45 are 185 gr. The 230 standard loads (not +P) range in power from about 350 ft. lbs. to about 518, which is also considerably more than the 9 mm ammo 'tested' here in this article. The standard +P .45 ACP goes up to an ME of 616 by Atomic, 618 by Doubletap, and 591 by Buffalo Bore. I suspect that there are a fair amount of .45 ACP semi-auto handguns out there that cannot shoot these either, simply because they were not made to do so. But I suspect just about any revolver that can shoot .45 ACP can! And since I have a really high powered .45 revolver, I can shoot these and the Super 45 ammo as well with no issue! This is because the .45 LC ammo that my handgun is made for, can shoot a lot more powerful ammo. Also, with the typically more powerful .45 ACP ammo, the expansions will be a lot bigger as well, and if you actually look carefully, the .45 ACP expansion shown IS considerably larger already. To complete, I have to go into the 45 Super a little bit, since it exists, and the 45 revolvers and some semi-autos can shoot it. T=is ammo is a .45 ACP +P +P! This ammo can go as high power wise as high at 771 ft. lbs., one produced by MagSafe, and 694 by Buffalo Bore. So, in my conclusion, there is little comparison of the 9 mm to either of these other calibers. I suspect that the US military (poor choice for saving our guy's life when it counts), picked the 9 mm ammo much in the same light they brought on the M16 during the Vietnam War - quantity vs. effectiveness. The M16 shoots a NATO 5.56 mm FMJ round, which is tiny, and most of its power (only 5% more than my high powered .45 LC ammo!) is in its speed. But I have read reports that it is so fast it just goes thru unarmored men, and they keep coming! This would never happen with the WW II M1, or with the predecessor to the M16, the M14, which both shot 30-06 hunting rifle ammo! I watch countless documentaries, mainly on the Middle East wars with the US since 2003, and see how both sides keep shooting and not much happens! The AK47 shoots low powered ammo also. So, the semi-auto handgun can shoot more than either the 10 mm or the .45 ACP, but is it saving soldiers' lives better? This is very doubtful. Ask why are we still in Afghanistan and Iraq 17 years later??? They do not fear what we are shooting them with! One last comment on the ammo issue - the cost of the ammo is somewhat important. The 9 mm is the cheapest (apart from .22 LR ammo), with an average cost of $.42/rd, and down to as low as $.20/rd. The .45 ACP is next and averages out at $.60/rd, and as low as $.26/rd. The 40 mm ammo averages out at $.80/rd. and as low as $.31/rd. But keep in mind that these prices are before the Corona virus hit, and most everything has gone up and/or is not available now. If anyone is interested in my ballistics file, write back and let me know. It is free, and I email it as a PDF file, with all the hot links, so it is totally safe. Vincent (04-14-2020)
Colorado Rick
6 months ago at 4:23 AM
Well, first, thanks for taking a run at this. I always appreciate the input. I shoot all three, for different reasons, but my first choice would be the .45ACP (although I always thought the 10MM was a great idea). However, there's quite the mix of standards here. I wouldn't compare +P to non- +P. I would also use the "classic" weights of 124/180/230, at least as a starting point - and what was used for the 'incapacitation' figures? Is that a total number for all weights/velocities of each caliber? Or based on a specific weight/velocity for each caliber? Probably the former, but it would be nice to know. And yeah, 9MM bullet/cartridge engineering has reached the point where departments are moving from the .40 back to the 9MM. Thanks again.
patrick
6 months ago at 6:04 AM
great article. thanks for the info
Bob Tolle
6 months ago at 7:00 AM
Very Interesting and like had the same thought process in fact I have always steered clear of the 9 mm we are issued the 40 S&W for our duty weapon and I carry the same for my off duty weapon but now I may have some options Thanks for the info
Domenic Pastore Jr.
6 months ago at 11:18 AM
First, THANK YOU for your time & effort in creating this article. As you yourself have stated, your conclusion is that there doesn't 'appear to be any discernable difference' between the 3 calibers. As for myself however, I still remain to be convinced. Yes, there is an enormous amount of test data available to make a case either way, depending of course upon which camp you're inclined to side with. Some state that the FBI's primary reasons for the across the board adoption for the 9x19 NATO caliber was due to the a few ever increasing concerns; a] That their, & possibly others, testing had shown the 9mm to be equally as effective as any of the other currently used, issued handgun calibers. And yes, the Bureau's testing was both in depth & comprehensive. They noted, as others have previously, that projectile design, combined with its weight, velocity, penetration depth, all interact to determine how effective any given caliber & load combination may be. According to the Bureau, it is more desirable to ensure a solid torso hit with an well designed projectile of medium caliber, than to attempt for solid hits with a larger & heavier caliber, such as .40 S&W or .45 ACP. Well, to be totally honest, that is sound advice indeed !! But, before one attempts to rationalize the FBI's reasoning behind the 9mm change, you must delve a.but into their ever changing demographics, current work load, & that pending future missions. They feel that based upon their S.A. Recruit pool of the recent years, their task of training new SA's rudimentary weapons handling & marksmanship skills is becoming more difficult as their perspective Agent pool gets more diverse. Hopefully you'll see what I'm saying here ? The FBI has all it can do to instruct new SA's to shoot 9mm's, let alone a .40 or .45 ACP. Then, add to this 'dilemma' the fact of 9mm ammunition being substantially less to purchase than pretty much any other duty quality loading, & you've got an apparent winner ! No longer are out Federal Law Enforcement Agents strong men, with prior military service, but rather someone who's quite intelligent, of sound character, & 1 or 2 college degrees. Hey, that's simply the way it is out there, for better or worse. PERSONALLY, I feel that they should have remained with the .40 S&W, or perhaps the .357 SIG, which they could have taught most trainees to handle with perhaps somewhat more range time. [ Maybe, hopefully ? ] To me, it pretty much all boils down to one nagging fact, which try as I might, just can't come to terms with. How is an 147 grain .356" projectile going to perform as well as say an .451" 230 grain projectile when impacting the target ? Perhaps I'm just old enough to be included in the 'bigger is always better' mindset, but I find it very difficult to believe the Bureau's position on this. However, I guess we all must keep in mind that they did have a few separate issues to contend with when initiating the 'big 9 switch'. From what I can discern, it does appear that they've accomplished what they were trying to do, at least so far anyway. The real proof regarding the 9x19's suitability for all around Law Enforcement duty use has not yet been tendered. Such proof won't be available for another few years now, unless of course the Bureau happens to experience an unprecedented rash of shootings & Agent involved gun fights. Only then will their 'proof of ' that the 9x19 caliber is valid for basically all Law Enforcement use ? For their Agents longevity, I truly do hope it is !
Richard baker
6 months ago at 8:41 PM
good data...well done
Larry Duckett
6 months ago at 10:51 PM
I always thought that what ever you can shoot the best is the one you should carry?
Admiral
6 months ago at 11:17 AM
Right up until you try and stop a 260 lb suspect, then you will be wishing you had the .45, and just for the record, I am more accurate with my HK45 than my P30L in nine, I do however shoot my P30L in .40 the most accurately, go figure.
madmax3.6
6 months ago at 5:24 AM
Maybe you should have checked with trauma doctors that treat gunshot wounds instead of looking at FBI fake statistics!!!
James Ford
6 months ago at 7:18 PM
A very informative piece you wrote there. I have had the exact thoughts you had. Now I feel more comfortable with my choice of my 9 mm. Don't have to buy a bigger hand gun. Can spend my money on some more ammo. Thanks for the info.
Louis
6 months ago at 2:24 AM
Stopped me short at the initial sentence. It is not "what" handgun cartridge but "which". Thnx, //L
randy
6 months ago at 5:04 PM
10mm is a much better round than the 40
Frank Daniell Watson
6 months ago at 11:41 PM
As usual, you, like others, shortchanged the 40S&W. You obviously used +p for 9mm and 45acp but did not use anything in the realm of +p for the 40S&W. If you had used the Hornady 165 grain FTX, you would have gotten 506 ft/lbs or Powerball 135 grain @ 1325 ft per sec with 526 ft/lbs. You would have gotten more penetration and more expansion had you treated 40S&W equitably. Please do it again fairly.
Gary
6 months ago at 11:41 PM
I agree with you Frank,Also I’m hand loaded for a number of years I think it would be pretty tough to get the energy and velocity out of a nine mill you would a 40 caliber loaded hot
Scott
6 months ago at 12:35 PM
It would also be good to know about the energy transfer effect to the gel. Has someone done a test to measure the actual impact of each round by testing, rather than just the mathematics?
Robert Sanders
6 months ago at 1:47 PM
Golf ball, baseball or softball at velocity... Which would you rather be "hit" with.?.?.
Gene
6 months ago at 9:15 PM
Dan ,why do you have to be negative,it was a great article.take from it what you want
Randy
6 months ago at 12:59 AM
Very good article, lots of information in the article and the comments. One comment, the 9mm expanded hollow point and the 45 cal expanded hollow point differ in diameter by approximately 0.12 inches which is approximately 3.05 mm difference. It is critical to examine energies but also what a person feels comfortable shooting - it does no one any good to carry a 45 cal weapon if they are scared to shoot when they need to. Practice with what you carry, be comfortable with it, and know when you should pull your weapon to use it.
Timmy D
6 months ago at 1:44 PM
So stopping power verses accuracy if I shoot you four times with a 22 and you miss me a moving target with 45 who wins. The fastest runner stay in shape, for all the guy’s that don’t need to be on a diet. Find something to do like bowling fishing or handgun practice rent two or the three aforementioned guns at a range. Everyone reading this article has at least one weapon! When you have time at the range with these three calibers . You might have to trade it for the one you are most accurate with!
Bill
2 months ago at 3:20 AM
I agree with you, I own all 3 plus a few more. Many who are critical of the article keep saying that the given loads are not typical. The thing is that the FBI tested and found that these loads are the most appropriate for the task in each caliber. Another thing some talked about the need for universal deployment. The bureau actually did the testing as a guide find which loads in each caliber were appropriate so people had a choice. It isn't so much a recoil thing, small hands have more trouble reaching controls on larger frames. I can't manipulate mag release on a double stack 10mm for example but shooting it is fine.