.45 ACP vs. 9mm Cartridge Debate

Does it really matter?

We all love a good argument, especially when it comes to guns. But I’m always amazed when people speak in absolutes about the merits of the .45 ACP versus the 9mm.

What’s funny is that even with ballistic data that we can access to use to debate our arguments. It’s still not enough to see the value objectively.

Reading data can be mind boggling or just too hard to visualize. Viewing pictures of the caliber aftermath may be the way to go.

Back in 2014, the FBI Academy from Quantico, VA released a report on why they were trending toward the 9mm over other options, including the .45 ACP and the .40 S&W. In case you missed it, here’s what that summary included:
May 6, 2014
FBI Training Division: FBI Academy, Quantico, VA
Executive Summary of Justification for Law Enforcement Partners

  • Caliber debates have existed in law enforcement for decades
  • Most of what is “common knowledge” with ammunition and its effects on the human target are rooted in myth and folklore
  • Projectiles are what ultimately wound our adversaries and the projectile needs to be the basis for the discussion on what “caliber” is best
  • In all the major law enforcement calibers there exist projectiles which have a high likelihood of failing LEO’s in a shooting incident and there are projectiles which have a high ting incident likelihood of succeeding for LEO’s in a shooting incident
  • Handgun stopping power is simply a myth
  • The single most important factor in effectively wounding a human target is to have penetration to a scientifically valid depth (FBI uses 12” – 18”)
  • LEO’s miss between 70 – 80 percent of the shots fired during a shooting incident
  • Contemporary projectiles (since 2007) have dramatically increased the terminal effectiveness of many premium line law enforcement projectiles (emphasis on the 9mm Luger offerings)
  • 9mm Luger now offers select projectiles which are, under identical testing conditions, I outperforming most of the premium line .40 S&W and .45 Auto projectiles tested by the FBI
  • 9mm Luger offers higher magazine capacities, less recoil, lower cost (both in ammunition and wear on the weapons) and higher functional reliability rates (in FBI weapons)
  • The majority of FBI shooters are both FASTER in shot strings fired and more ACCURATE with shooting a 9mm Luger vs shooting a .40 S&W (similar sized weapons)
  • There is little to no noticeable difference in the wound tracks between premium line law Auto enforcement projectiles from 9mm Luger through the .45 Auto
  • Given contemporary bullet construction, LEO’s can field (with proper bullet selection) 9mm Lugers with all of the terminal performance potential of any other law enforcement pistol caliber with none of the disadvantages present with the “larger” calibers

Interesting stuff, but it doesn’t motivate one to toss their .40s and .45s into the garbage can.
For the FBI it can be other behind the scenes reasons as to why they’re more inclined to go with the 9mm in this report, such as:

  • Numbers of recruits and officers certifying with the 9mm – competency level
  • Number of seasoned officers maintaining competency level.
  • Number of incident involving firearms and aftermath resulting in poor marksmanship with a specific caliber.

On a personal level distinguishing which is the better choice has to be several factors such as:

  • Ease of carry and to operate
  • Does the caliber function properly with good reliability under many conditions?
  • Does the model handgun and ammo fit well with my purpose to carry?

How about you all, which ammo would you go with and why?, tell us below in the comments.

Sources: FBI Academy, John B Snow

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April 20th, 2017 by