Which is The Right Caliber for You?

Ford or Chevy?  Coke or Pepsi?  9mm or 45?  We have all heard people debating these issues before, in fact, if you are like me, you have had some pretty heated arguments in the past involving those questions.  (Okay, perhaps the Coke and Pepsi debate isn’t so much of a hot button issue, but come on, who hasn’t gone nose to nose over the issue of Ford vs. Chevy?)

If you carry a firearm for self-protection, be it as a concealed weapon or open carry, you undoubtedly have heard the arguments over which caliber is the best.  Ive  been there myself and at one time had very strong opinions on the issue as I’m sure many of you have.  Well, I don’t know if I will be able to persuade you either way in this short post, but I hope to at least offer some suggestions when it comes to choosing the right handgun caliber to carry, be it concealed carry or open carry.

First let me say that I for many years have carried a concealed weapon.  I made the choice a long time ago to be an active participant in my safety and security along with the safety and security of my family.  Let me also say that I have been a big proponent of the 45 ACP, but have almost always carried a 9mm concealed.  I always thought that 45 ACP was a better round for taking down a bad guy, but that 9mm afforded my the ability to carry a smaller gun with more ammunition.  I never really gave it much thought beyond that.  That was until recently.

It seems that recently I have been getting a lot of questions from my students during the concealed carry class that I teach about which round was best.  I really didn’t have any scientific answer to give them, so my default answer was to carry what ever firearm, in what ever caliber, makes you comfortable.  Since that answer didn’t seem to sit well with many who were hungry for answers, I decided to do some research on the topic.

Drum roll please!  The answer I have come up with after months of looking into which caliber is best, is the answer that I was already giving.  Pick the weapon in the caliber that works best for you.  Same answer, but with an explanation.

When you look at the two rounds, 9mm and 45 ACP, you will see that when you compare their size to that of the human body, there really isn’t that much of a difference.  The 45 is bigger than the 9, but not so much that it make that big a difference when it impacts a 200 pound man.  So in this instance, size really doesn’t matter.

When we discuss the topic of which caliber has the best stopping power, we need go no further in our research than to look at what has happened in the past when a person gets shot.  But not just the average Joe, we need to be looking at a well motivated attacker who, when he demands your wallet or your purse, won’t take no for an answer.  I general, a well motivated attack keeps attacking after being shot, no mater which caliber round he is shot will.  In fact, even when shot in the heart, a person can still function for 15 seconds before going down.  And even then, once on the ground, a person can still function well enough to be able to pull a trigger should they be armed themselves.

So the term stopping power is really nothing more than a myth, with the exception of two instances.  One, you shot them with a rifle, or two, you shot them in the spine, thus taking out their central nervous system.  Well, for the purposes of concealed carry, forget about a rifle, and to be realistic, shooting a person in an area that takes out their central nervous system is extremely difficult and not really even worth taking about here.

So given the myth of stopping power, what happens most in the real world is that you will have to shoot a bad guy multiple times, you must wait for them to bleed out, which could take awhile depending on where you shoot them.  So instead of stopping power, it is more accurate to take about the lethality of the round, meaning, which round is the best at killing a bad guy.

To answer that question, we go to the experts in the field of ballistics testing in terms of bullet lethality, the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The FBI is the premier organization in the world when it comes to ballistics testing.

According to the agent in charge of their ballistics unit, when it comes the lethality ammunition, there is no difference between the 9mm, the 40 cal or the 45.  In fact, the FBI is saying that the 9mm is actually a better handgun round when it comes to killing a bad guy.

(Note:  In the above comparison of the 9, the 40 and the 45, we are talking about hollow point ammunition designed for self-defense, not ball ammo for target shooting.)

Now, keep in mind that there are many different 9mm rounds made by many different manufactures and coming in different weights, so this isn’t the place to discuss all those different bullet nuances.  For purposes of this article, when we say 9mm, we are talking about 147 grain hollow point bullets.

So, if there is no difference as far as killing a bad guy between 9mm and 45, we have to look at some of the other considerations.  In the case of concealed carry, those considerations are the size of the weapon, the capacity of the weapon and the recoil.  Lets forget about the size of the weapon because the ability of a person to conceal a particular size weapon depends on that persons size.  What works for a 210 pound man wont work for a 110 pound women.

So that leaves ammunition capacity and recoil.  For the most part, a 9mm semi-auto has a greater ammunition capacity than does a 45.  I have a compact 45 cal Glock and a compact 9mm Glock.  The 9mm holds 5 more rounds and is for the most part the same size.  If I carry an extra magazine, which I do, that give me 10 more rounds in the same amount of space.  So from a standpoint of ammunition capacity, the 9mm wins.

Lastly we look at recoil.  Again, the 9mm wins as the recoil is less than it is with a 45.  And less recoil allows the shooter to get the sights back on the target.  And since we know that we are most likely going to have to shot a bad guy multiple times, this is extremely important.

To conclude, the FBI says that through their testing, they determined that there isn’t any difference in the lethality of the 9mm compared with the 45.  In fact, 9mm might be even a little better.  The 9mm affords you the ability to carry more rounds, and, the recoil is more manageable.  In my humble opinion, that makes the 9mm a better concealed carry round.

With all that said, I still believe that you can’t go wrong if you went with a 45 over a 9 or even with the 40.  To me, your life is on the line, so do what makes you comfortable.  Me, I’m sticking with my 9.

Don’t just survive, thrive!


Note:  In the below videos, both bad guys are shot, and shot, and shot again and continue to fight proving that a well motivated bad guy isn’t going to let a bullet hole or two stop him from staying in the fight.