The caliber wars…
L-R 9mm, .40, .45 Hollow Points
My perspective, for what that is worth. This was what we did on INDEPENDENCE Day… And this is in response to a couple of emails and for my grandson.
I own guns in all three of the major calibers in the ‘war’, 9mm, .40 and .45; so I’m speaking from personal experience and knowledge based on my years of shooting these guns.
First the numbers games…
When you look at SAMMI pressures both the 9mm and .40 come in at 35,000 PSI and the .45 comes in at 21000 PSI; so right off the bat the 9mm and .40 are more ‘powerful’…
Next is size- 9mm is .355in (identical to .38 special and .380); .40 is .401 (stand alone), and the .45 is commonly considered to be .451 (copper jacket) or .452 if lead. In the bad old days, e.g. SAA it was a .454 diameter because they were all lead bullets and tolerances on barrels weren’t quite as good as they are today… And some .45 rounds weighed up to 255gr.
Now lets look at bullet weight 9mm comes in a range of weights, 95, 115, 124 and 147gr choices and FMJ (round nose), hollow point and semi-wadcutter. Muzzle energy and velocities vary but 295-326FP and 950-1000FPS in normal power ranges; +P and +P+ an range up to 1500FPS.
.40 comes in 135, 155, 165, 180 and 200gr choices and FMJ (round nose), hollow point and semi-wadcutter. Muzzle energy and velocities for 180gr vary but 360-400FP and 950-1000FPS are the averages; +P and +P+ an range up to 1200FPS.
.45 comes in 165, 185, 200 and 230gr choices and FMJ (round nose), hollow point and semi-wadcutter. Muzzle energy and velocities vary but 230gr normally falls in the 352-404FP and 830-890FPS range (yes you can get higher velocities up to 1200FPS with +P and others)
With the different weights and FPS, you get a different ‘felt recoil’ for each round, again just taking the heavy rounds (Courtesy of Chuck Hawks fine work HERE)
You get the following-
Round Pistol Wt. Recoil (FP) Recoil (FPS)
9mm 147/1000FPS 2.0 4.6 12.2
.40 180/1027FPS 1.5 10.4 21.2
.45 230/850FPS 2.25 7.9 15.0
Now common sense dictates the higher the number the ‘more’ the felt recoil…
BUT, that does not tell the whole story. Due to the powder loads, the felt recoil is sharply different between the three, and sometimes even within the same caliber. A ‘faster’ powder will exhibit a more pronounced felt recoil than a ‘slower’ powder. E.g. for you old farts that ever got any of the IAI 9mm “UZI marked” rounds back in the 80’s they had a VERY fast powder, and kicked like a mule out of a standard 9mm pistol. I never ran the chrono on them, but I’d swear they were up around the +P+ range for power, even though they were marked as ‘standard’ rounds.
Shooting the pistols below at the range with the 9mm/147gr, .40/200gr, and .45/230gr rounds yielded the following comments from me and a friend (9mm guy, doesn’t own a .40 or .45) that was also shooting that day.
L-R C&S 1911, Glock 22, BHP
Round comments as we fired them and I scribbled notes…
Me- Easy to shoot, some muzzle flip not too pronounced (BHP), maintained control of the gun easily, back on target fairly quickly
Him- Didn’t bother him, felt comfortable, some muzzle flip, easy control, back on target quickly
Me- Sharp felt recoil more of a ‘snap’, quite a bit of muzzle flip (G22), louder, felt like gun twisted, slow back on target.
Him- Sharper recoil than 9mm, more muzzle flip seemed to be trying to ‘rotate’ gun, definite increase in time to get back on target and felt like regripping was necessary.
Me- Push rather than snap on recoil, nominal muzzle flip (all steel Colt CDR), easiest to control, back on target the quickest.
Him- Softest ‘felt recoil’ to him, big muzzle blast distracted from muzzle flip, less control than BHP, middle of the three getting back on target.
Here is a video we shot of recoil, starting with a 22/45, then BHP, then Glock 22, then .45 CDR, then Kahr P-9 for small carry 9mm reference.
And here is the difference between a G17 (third Gen) and Kahr P-9 for grip size and width. Smaller hands ‘may’ find the smaller pistol easier to control, even with the additional recoil.
So for what it’s worth, this is my foray into the caliber wars, and we all know for every ‘one shot stop’ out there, there are multiple ‘shot X-teen times and still fighting’, regardless of caliber.
Bottom line, IMHO, shoot what YOU are comfortable with and can afford (get as good a pistol as you can) in that caliber. YOU are the final arbiter of the caliber best for you, not us…
Lastly, this old saw- “Bigger is better, but shot placement is EVERYTHING.”
Remember, Bobby Kennedy was murdered by a POS with a Iver Johnson revolver using .22 Shorts (unless you’re a conspiracy theorist, then it was a .38 by the security guard, or… or…).
YMMV, IANAL, Didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn, paid for my own damn ammo… yada, yada…
Edit- LL reminded me about wound channels vs. ballistics, here are two references for your perusal…
Excellent .pdf that gets to the bottom line of wound ballistics…
More numbers, covering all the handgun rounds out there…