I’d venture to guess that the caliber debate goes back to when two cavemen were arguing about whose spear was bigger before killing a wooly mammoth. While the weapons have changed the argument is pretty much the same. This question also comes up quite often in my Handgun Level 1 class. We discuss the myth of stopping power extensively. Undoubtedly a student will ask, “What do you carry?”
Before this sparks the holy grail of online debates, understand that this is my personal opinion. I will share the reasons I believe what I do, but each individual is entitled to carry whatever they want.
I, along with nearly every instructor I work with and know (which is quite a few) carry a 9mm as my primary CCW caliber. This isn’t to say I won’t carry anything else from time to time as I quite often will carry a G42 in .380ACP when pocket carry is required or G43 when a very slim/light gun in the summer is needed. However my .380 is the exception not the rule. Here are my reasons for carrying a 9mm.
- Modern Ballistics
- I am fortunate enough to have some close friends/fellow instructors that were asked to assist in a trauma lab for OSU Medical Center. 50 pigs were killed with calibers ranging from 380acp to 50BMG. The firsthand accounts from every single person I know that was involved, excluding the 50BMG, had they not labeled what caliber was used it would have been impossible to tell by the wound cavity and internal damage to the pig what caliber was used to kill it. Having the ability to view several pictures of the damaged tissue I would agree with each of them.
- The advancements of projectiles over the last 10 years have provided excellent defensive rounds in the “smaller” calibers such as .380acp or even 9mm if you consider it “small”.
- Cost of practice
- We all know ammo isn’t cheap. If you are serious about your shooting skills and practice frequently that cost can become even more burdensome. With few exceptions my practice is with good ole’ FMJ range ammo. 9mm is significantly cheaper than other defensive calibers and therefore allows me to increase the frequency that I practice without breaking the bank. A 1911 in 50GI might punch a big hole, but if I can’t afford the ammo required to stay proficient I’m doing myself a disservice and my skills will deteriorate.
- Recoil Management
- Before someone tells me I should just hit the gym more, let me explain. We all know recoil varies with caliber. I have/have had several 1911’s in .45ACP and they are a joy to shoot. Smooth, accurate, and classic they also have a higher recoil pulse than a 9mm. .45ACP, .40S&W, etc…..are nothing most of us can’t handle but it is hard to argue that the recoil of a 9mm isn’t less than a .45 or .40. Less recoil equates to sights back on target sooner, which leads to faster and likely more accurate follow up shots for most people. I’d much rather get 5 shots of 9mm accurately on target fast than 2 or 3 shots of .40 or .45 in that same time.
- Anyone familiar with LTC (Ret.) Dave Grossman is likely familiar with the Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs analogy. Those that would do us harm are the wolves…and like in the wild, wolves tend to travel in packs. Unfortunately life is not a movie. We all miss at some point. Under the extreme stress of a life threatening situation that likelihood of a miss is increased. I’d rather have the rounds necessary to deal with the threat in that situation.
- If my situation involves 2 individuals acting in such an aggressive manner I have to use my firearm. If I miss 2 shots I’m already down ¼ of my capacity. Knowing that it may take 1 to 3 to 5 rounds to stop an attacker depending on what narcotic he may be on I’m going to be out of ammo real fast. I’ll take my G19 with 15rd capacity and a 17rd reload mag.
You could say “he’s obsessed with having as many rounds as possible” but I accept the reality that it takes more than 1 shot to stop a bad guy threat.
What about the G42 then? Or even G43? Depending on my attire I may be forced to carry a smaller gun such as these with limited capacity, but it’s better than no firearm at all. Given the choice I’ll take my G19 every time.
As stated at the start, what you carry is your choice. But it is always work examining from time to time to ensure it is the best choice. Here are a few parting articles to conclude with that are EXTREMELY informational and well done. The first is from friend and fellow instructor Greg Ellifritz, and the second is a study done by Luckygunner.com.
Alternative Look at Handgun Stopping Power
Luckygunner.com Handgun Self-Defense Ammunition Ballistics Test
I carry a .45 cause they don’t make a .46…old joke. Social gatherings are a .45 ACP but milk runs are a .38