Mine’s Bigger Than Yours
So the other day I posted up on our Facebook page the question of what caliber peopler prefer: 9mm, 40 S&W, or 45ACP with the expressed intent of essentially inciting a pissing contest to give me the opportunity to rain some knowledge down on y’all….. School circle on the Sarge for a few minutes…
There is often the misconception that bullet size is directly relative to “stopping power” in reference to the caliber’s ability to stop a threat. Let us clear up that little myth for a second here: stopping power is bullshit fed to us by ammo manufacturers to get us to buy bullets that are more gooder than their competitor’s bullets. All bullets have the potential to stop an aggressor, whether or not they do it effectively is the crux of the argument.
Here’s the post:
Now we had a few interesting responses regarding what caliber people prefer and I agree with the majority of them, or at very least can see the point of the person responding. One thing kind of stuck in my mind as something that needed to be addressed and that is this notion of kinetic energy being the cause of threat stoppage post bullet strikes. My friend and fellow Jarhead, Josh VanSteenwyk of J&J Tactical hit the proverbial 10 ring with his responses: kinetic energy has nothing to do with threat stoppage. Think about it. If a round were to be able to stop a man in his tracks it has to overcome the energy being presented by that man, while imparting an equal and opposite reaction to the person firing the shot. Anyone ever seen Mythbusters?
There is only one way that a single round is going to stop a threat every time: hitting someone in the ocular cranial cavity (technical term for face) inducing instantaneous de-animation (technical term for turning out someone’s lights). Rounds to the center mass of a target often do not stop the threat immediately. If an attacker is motivated enough and/or chemically impaired, even multiple rounds can be ineffective at immediately stopping the threat. Don’t get me wrong, enough combat effective hits on a target will stop the threat sooner than later, but nothing should be considered to be absolute. Go for the high percentage shot based on the center mass of the available target area.
Now lets talk about wound cavities caused by different caliber handgun rounds. If you notice in the above photo, there is little difference between 9mm, 40 S&W and 45 ACP in regards to both temporary and permanent wound cavities, and overall penetration. The edge does go slightly in favor the the 45 as we see that there was quite of bit of tissue disruption within the initial 6 inches of penetration into the ballistic gelatin. What does that mean? In simple terms, more stuff got messed up by the round as it passed through. Excluding variables such as bullet deflection off of bone/clothing/etc, there appears to be a greater level of effectiveness within the desired space. Shots into the thoracic cavity are intended to have the effect of disrupting the major organs in such a way that the body simply stops functioning due to blood loss and failing circulation and/respiration. Organs are fragile and it does not take much to cause irreparable damage when a projectile passes through. All rounds go past the minimum required 12 inches of penetration so penetration really isn’t the issue.
I’m purposely trying to avoid the temporary versus permanent wound cavity issue here as it is a bit of a moot point when talking handgun rounds. (Rifle rounds are a different story) The temporary wound cavity refers to the stretching of tissue as the round passes through the body, whereas the permanent wound cavity refers to the damage left behind. Remember that little bit about bleeding out? Yup… That’s right folks, the bigger the permanent wound cavity the better. Ergo, the bigger the bullet, the bigger the permanent wound cavity. Don’t take my word for it though. Here’s what the FBI had to say in 1987:
Kinetic energy does not wound. Temporary cavity does not wound. The much discussed “shock” of bullet impact is a fable and “knock down” power is a myth. The critical element is penetration. The bullet must pass through the large, blood bearing organs and be of sufficient diameter to promote rapid bleeding. Penetration less than 12 inches is too little, and, in the words of two of the participants in the 1987 Wound Ballistics Workshop, “too little penetration will get you killed.”42, 43 Given desirable and reliable penetration, the only way to increase bullet effectiveness is to increase the severity of the wound by increasing the size of hole made by the bullet. Any bullet which will not penetrate through vital organs from less than optimal angles is not acceptable. Of those that will penetrate, the edge is always with the bigger bullet.44
Once again, there is no magic bullet and a 9mm… hell even a .22 is better than no gun in hand when involved in a lethal force situation. Threats are stopped by three things: disrupting the Central Nervous System, causing massive blood loss/permanent tissue disruption, or denying mobility (taking the legs out from underneath the threat). Nothing is guaranteed so shoot to stop.
My personal preference goes to the 45 as years of carrying one on duty and thousands of rounds in training have made me very comfortable with the caliber. I like the softer recoil impulse of the 45 as compared to the 40 S&W and prefer the ballistics over a 9mm. But that’s just my opinion. Take it for what it’s worth.
Having stated the above, logic dictates that you should bring as many rounds to the party as is reasonable. Bring a reload or three. You never know when the zombie hordes will be lurching up your street hell bent on smearing your brains on a Ritz cracker for a midnight snack. (Insert Zombieland references here)
That being said, logic also dictates that in areas where the powers that be have restricted our freedoms to ten rounds or less, bring the bullet that will have the greatest ballistic effect on the target. We can’t EDC a 12 gauge with rifled slugs here in Massachusetts so my M&P45 with 180gr JHP +P loads rides my hip. Add in a spare magazine and we have 21 total rounds on board. Would I like more, yup. Situations don’t always allow for it but my bailout bag has another 2 mags in conjunction with some Active Shooter Response equipment. (Review on that to follow)
Bottom line is this folks: train with what you have until you can effectively place multiple shots in combat effective zones. More importantly, never be satisfied with your level of accuracy. Always train and seek to improve. Seek instruction (we know some guys who can help) and NEVER be absolute.
And stop the madness when it comes to which bullet is better. Getting shot with anything sucks. You could also get hit by a bus. Cease the pissing contests on the interwebz and get on the range.
Don’t forget to share this post, follow our blog, and like our Facebook page for more great content!