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9mm vs 45

45 Vs 9mm For Defense And Other Purposes

The oldest debate in the handgun book at this point is 9mm vs 45 for concealed carry and/or self-defense. This has been a talking point for decades, partially on historical grounds (which we'll get to) and partially because people just love to have things to argue about.

The truth is that - just like 9mm vs 40 neither round is necessarily any sort of ballistic marvel; both are proven and effective self-defense rounds and you should just shoot whatever you like best and are most accurate with.

With that said, let's dig right in.

45 Vs 9mm: What Sets The Bigger Bullet Apart

45 vs 9mm

There's a reason why some people believe that 45 vs 9mm tilts in favor of the bigger bullet, which stretches back into history. Thing about 45 caliber rounds is they were the best thing going for a while there...back in the days before cars.

The quick version is that until ammunition quality became a major concern, a good insurance policy was to use the biggest, hardest-hitting ammunition one could be reliably accurate and fast with. The .45 caliber rounds like .45 Long Colt, .45 Schofield and - a bit later on - .45 ACP happened to work pretty well in this regard.

The basic version is that if you poke a little hole in someone with a bullet, it might not have much effect. If you poke a bigger hole in them, they may be more apt to cease hostilities. And it worked, so much so that the US armed forces adopted .45 caliber pistols (specifically the 1911 but don't forget the M1917 revolvers) as their standard sidearm starting in 1919 until the mid 1980s.

Today, .45 ACP has all the same virtues it had back in the day. It's a heavy bullet, moving rather slow (less than 900 fps from the muzzle) but carrying a decent amount of kinetic energy so it hits (relatively) hard. A quality hollow point, even at standard pressure loadings, can expand dramatically, up to almost an inch in gelatin or soft tissue. However, recoil is rather tame for a big bullet, and the .45 ACP round is known for great inherent accuracy with decent ammunition

The upshot is that since .45 ACP is an autoloading round, it can be carried more easily than revolvers chambered in .45 Colt, .44 Special, .44 Magnum and certainly .454 Casull. You can even get slim subcompacts like a Shield 45 or Officer 1911 for concealed carry.

In short, it's a big-bore bullet that's relatively easy to shoot, accurate, and a proven performer in a self-defense capacity.

9mm Vs 45: Rooting For The Little Guy

9mm vs 45 pistols

Why do so many people side with the littler guy in the whole 9mm vs 45 thing? Simple!

The 9mm Parabellum round is just big enough to be effective. It flies fast, flat and is very accurate. Recoil is very tame in a full-size gun, quite reasonable in a compact and more than livable in a subcompact.

When initially released, it was actually something of a hot load. European semi-autos of the day were more commonly chambered for hot .30 caliber pistol rounds such as 7.65mm Borchardt, 7.63mm Mauser and 7.65mm Luger. They flew fast (1,200 fps+) and flat, but Georg Luger wanted to make a round that carried a bit more "oomph," and created the 9x19mm Parabellum.

In that era, revolver rounds of similar size such as .38 Colt and .38 Special were much slower (800 or fewer fps) and were found lacking for punch in combat and on the street. The 9mm round offered some advantage in that regard.

You can also carry a pretty decent supply in a double-stack magazine, if you're okay with carrying a bigger gun. Then again, the Glock 19 isn't that big and carries 15+1, so you don't have to tote an enormous pistol to have a good amount of firepower on hand.

A complaint about 9mm for the longest time was that it lacked for power and ammunition didn't work very well in a defensive capacity. In 1970, that was a fair criticism. By the mid 1990s, not so much. Today, it's mostly bunk. Quality hollow point ammunition is widely available and effective, even for short-barrel pistols such as the type many people conceal and carry on a daily basis.

Big enough to be effective, easy to shoot, accurate and you can carry a pretty decent supply in most pistols. In other words, a Goldilocks bullet.

9mm vs 45: Which Is Better?

9mm vs 45

Which is better between 9mm vs 45? Well...better for what, exactly? Both are known and proven performers in defensive capacities. Good bullets are available for both, and neither is particularly difficult to shoot.

Go out and shoot both. Did you like one more? Were you a bit more accurate with that one? Good! That's the best one for you.

Just like the split between 9mm and .40, 9mm vs .45 ballistics are much the same story. The bigger bullet carries a bit more energy at the cost of more recoil.

The classic .45 ACP recipe is a 230-grain bullet at usually something like 830 fps (depending) carrying somewhere between 350 to 470 (again, depending) ft-lbs of energy. The classic 9mm is a 115-grain bullet traveling at somewhere between 1000 and 1150 fps (depending) carrying about 350 to 400 ft-lbs (also depending) of energy. The difference is merely incremental.

There is a difference in expansion, though not too terribly much. Hollow point .45 ACP rounds will expand in gel or in tissue from .455 inches in diameter to about .7 inches in diameter in many decent loadings. Some will expand to 1 in. A decent 9mm JHP will expand from .355 inches in diameter to between .5 inches to .6 inches in diameter, though some to almost 0.8 inches.

Granted, a bit too much can be made of expansion diameter. Placement matters more than how big the bullet gets in the body. A slightly bigger petal...just won't matter all that much in those terms. The bullet will come to a stop sooner, sure, but only accurate fire or psychological shock down an attacker.

That said, the heavier .45 ACP round makes it so some shooters don't care for it, especially in compact or subcompact pistols. Double-stack guns in .45 like the FNP or FNX 45 are usually quite large, so carrying capacity is usually reduced in a CCW gun compared to 9mm.

Another factor to consider is cost. A box of 50 rounds of hardball of .45 is usually about $15 to $20 for the cheap stuff; the same in 9mm goes for as little as $10. Thus, the budget-conscious shooter will be able to do a lot more of it with a 9mm handgun than a .45 and the truth about .45 vs 9mm is that the bigger bullet isn't so much better ballistically that it justifies the extra expense in this day and age unless you just like .45 ACP more.

So get out and shoot both. Get the one you like most and shoot best, because that's the best one for you.

About The Author

Writer sam hoober