9mm Versus .45ACP

Dear Fellow Survivalist;

One of the big controversies that gun owners like to argue about is whether the 9mm Luger or the .45ACP is the best round. This is an endless debate, sometimes debated hotly, but mostly needling each other.

A few years back I met my brother-in-law for the first time. Having learned from my then fiancé, now wife, that he also carried concealed, I asked him the question, “So, .45 or 9mm?” His answer, was “Both.” I like that, because it reflects my own attitude about the two calibers. I have both .45 and 9mm pistols in my collection and I carry different ones for different purposes.

Before you jump on me, telling me that I should only have one carry pistol and always carry the same one, hear me out. I have reasons for what I’m doing and I believe they are well thought out reasons. To understand them requires understanding the true difference between these two important pistol calibers and what they were developed for.

I’ll start with the .45ACP, as that was created first. Before the .45ACP, the Army’s issue sidearm was a .38 Long revolver. But that round proved insufficient at stopping Moro tribesmen in the Philippines, who would be high on drugs when attacking US forces. A pistil was needed with exceptional energy transfer, increasing the chances of physically stopping the tribesmen by knocking them down. While there are more powerful rounds available to us today, none excel the .45ACP in knockdown power.

A key element to the .45ACP’s success in energy transfer is a wide diameter, very blunt bullet. Although not square faced, like a wad cutter, the geometry of the bullet was developed not so much to penetrate the target, but to punch it, giving it that great energy transfer. While it does penetrate some, in my own testing, it has the worst penetrating ability of any round I’ve used.

On the other hand, the 9mm Luger or 9mm NATO was designed for greater penetration. If you look at a 9mm bullet, it is pointier than most other pistol rounds; although it is still not quite as pointy as a rifle round. That pointy bullet geometry penetrates better than anything else on the market, with the exception of FN’s FiveSeven, which does have the same bullet geometry as a rifle round. It looks like a shorter version of the 5.56 NATO round.

When designing the 9mm NATO round, the key design requirement was penetration. They were looking for 12” of penetration, so that if the shot was taken from the side and had to go through the adversary’s arm, it would still reach the vital organs. To accomplish this, they started with the 9mm Luger, which was the best round for penetration at the time. The big difference between it and the 9mm NATO, is that the NATO round has a higher muzzle velocity, improving its penetration even more.

Ok, with that information to build on, I’ve made the decision to carry a .45ACP as my daily carry gun. My decision was based upon my perception that if I am ever faced with a criminal threat, the criminal will either be high on drugs or high on adrenalin. In either case, it seems to me that it will be more important to put my assailant down on the ground as soon as possible, stopping their attack, than it will be to kill them. Since that’s what the .45ACP was designed for, I carry a somewhat compact 45.

But I also have a 9mm, which is my main survival gun. Should everything go to pot and we find ourselves in a long-term survival situation, I’ll set aside my .45 and start carrying my 9mm as my main gun. The 9mm is a more accurate gun, with a larger magazine capacity. Since I won’t be carrying it concealed, I’ll be using a full-sized pistol, which will increase the accuracy and magazine capacity even more. During that time, I don’t think drugs will be the issue, but I may find myself outnumbered by adversaries.

Let me add one more thing to that scenario – my survival holster is a drop-leg holster, which as far as I can tell, is the fastest draw for me, personally (maybe that’s why gunslingers in the Old West supposedly carried their guns low?). I also have a leg panel on my off side, where I carry four additional magazines, along with a knife and flashlight. The idea here, besides making sure I’ve got enough ammo for a firefight, is intimidation. I want to look like someone they don’t want to mess with. It may not work; but I figure it’s worth a try.

There is a third gun I carry at times; a compact pocket pistol. The only time I carry it is when I can’t carry my mid-sized .45 concealed. Normally I carry it in an ankle holster; which has got to be the slowest draw there is. It’s not the best; but at least I’m not walking around unarmed.

Granted, there are a lot of other ways of looking at this argument and everyone has their own opinion; but this is mine. What’s yours? Do you have a reason I haven’t thought of? Carrying is just like everything else we do to be prepared; keeping our powder dry and our survival gear close at hand. As such, it’s an important issue for all of us.

Dr. Rich

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