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Which Caliber is Best - The Caliber debate

The Caliber wars were a brutal time, a bloody time, a messy time. The caliber wars were waged across the internet, through the videos of Youtube, on the forums of places like DefensiveCarry.com and AR15.com. Articles proclaiming the new wonder gun in this caliber or that caliber, would have comment sections that devolved into full blown wars. These wars were waged most often by the proponents of 9mm, 40 S&W and 45 ACP, and occasionally the revolver aficionados. The arguments could involves ballistics, stats, and studies, or questions of your mother’s character and the possibility of a goat in your lineage.

The calibers though are drawing to an end, or should be, so holdouts will always fight for their caliber of choice. Take a look at our previous article Best Caliber for Concealed Carry

Many different factors have led to the drawdown of the caliber wars and one of these in an influx of new shooters.

These new shooters are coming in with open minds and learning for themselves what they want. Newcomers are more willing to try different calibers, to learn about them, and to choose the one or several they enjoy. If you are introducing new people to shooting you may be interested in our previous article: How to introduce new people to firearms

The firearms drought of 2012

Another nail in the caliber war’s coffin was the severe ammunition and firearms drought of 2012. This forced a lot of people to adopt calibers outside of what they had praised for so long. Personally in my area, the drought sucked up all 9mm and 45 ACP, and 40 S&W was available everywhere. So I bought a H&K USP in 40 S&W, and love it. I could shoot every week since 40 S&W was abundant.

These two outside factors are important, but in honest is not why the caliber wars should end. The caliber wars are just foolish in general. A quick examination of the 9mm, 40 S&W, and 45 ACP shows they aren’t really that different, in size. We are talk less than 2mm between 9mm and 45 ACP.

The legends built behind these rounds are often accepted as fact without much critical examination applied.

For example a lot of the 9mm is weak comes from stories from military use, and they are then compounded and expanded on.

This stories are usually attached to any caliber and nearly any weapon. So why do these stories of poor performance come from so many military stories?

For one they are convenient, the 45 ACP enthusiast likes to point out how the 45 served American better than the foreign invented 9mm ever will. Second the 9mm get poor performance stories from the poor training most military member receive on the pistol.

The pistol programs are usually a qualification once or twice a year and that’s the amount of training most pistol carriers will ever receive. This leads to poor performance when the pistol, or any pistol is used. Poor training means poor shot placement, and that is the most important part of any gunfight. Shot placement is important regardless of weapon or caliber and is the first key to winning a gun fight.

Pistols are much weaker than long guns in a fight, and a pistol is going to be used at close range making the fight more intense, and more dangerous. So shot placement with a pistol is even more critical. A shot to the heart or any internal organ doesn’t know the difference between 9mm or 45 ACP. So the usual comeback is why don’t we all just use the 22 LR Round?

Bullet Penetration

Well the second key to winning a gunfight is penetration. Penetration is just as important as shot placement, if the round can’t make it there it won’t really matter. 22 can penetrate twelve inches, but not reliably, same with rounds like the 25 ACP and 32, as to a smaller extent the 380 ACP. These rounds are not known for their penetrative abilities and are often chambered in small weapons with short barrels which hamper velocity which affects penetration.

So the two keys to winning a gunfight with a pistol is shot placement and penetration.

Shot placement is on you, that’s the shooter’s job. Penetration is on the round, and the 9mm, 40 S&W and 45 ACP all are capable of penetrating. A shooter armed with any of these calibers is capable of winning a fight, as long as the shooter does their part.

There are rounds that are ballistically superior to the big three, but they come at a cost of recoil or capacity. 10mm Round can stop a bad guy sure enough, but any better than a 9mm? Once the bad guy is down he’s down regardless of what caliber hit him. 10 mm and 357 magnum are better at barrier penetration and shooting through windshields, etc, but that’s a different topic.

The caliber wars are over and should stay dead. Shoot what you prefer and what you feel comfortable with. That being said, always carry as much gun as you can effectively conceal daily and handle in a fight.

Travis Pike

About The Author

Travis Pike is a veteran Infantry Marine and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. He lives deep in the woods of North Florida, where he can shoot at his leisure. He has been hunting since he was 8 and has always enjoyed the outdoors. He splits time between writing and working with the Florida Forest Service. He is a vocal gun rights activist. When he’s not writing, shooting, or working he is often found sipping craft beer on his porch.