Which is Better – 9mm or .45ACP?

Dear Fellow Survivalist;

One of the great debates that exist amongst gun owners, especially those of us who carry regularly, is which caliber is better, 9mm or .45ACP. Other calibers occasionally end up as part of this discussion; but by and large the fiercest debate has been about these two calibers. Each has their group of proponents, full of reasons why their preferred caliber is the best.

Personally, I’m a 9mm/.45ACP sort of guy. In other words, I use both; and I do that because I see different benefits in the two calibers. They were originally developed for different things and understanding what those are makes a huge difference in the decision making process.

I’ll have to say that the argument that “bigger is better,” sometimes stated as “The reason why I carry a .45 is that they don’t make a .46 is actually a bit lame. It is essentially saying that the bigger the hole diameter, the better. While there are some definite advantages in making a bigger hole, diameter isn’t the only way it can be bigger. There’s also depth to consider.

The .45ACP was developed at a time when the Army’s biggest concern was the Moro tribesmen in the Philippines. These men would become high before attacking US troops, making it so that they basically didn’t feel the impact of bullets. That made it extremely hard to put them down. It was necessary to either make a killing shot, hitting something vital, cause the attacker to bleed out to the point where they fell down, or transfer enough energy from the bullet to their body to cause them to fall.

That’s what the .45ACP cartridge and the Colt M1911 were designed for. The shape of the .45ACP bullet is one of the bluntest out there. When it hits a target that blunt bullet transfers its kinetic energy into that target very well, giving it a high amount of what is commonly referred to as “knockdown power.” Let me say though, that a single hit from any pistol bullet is unlikely to knock anyone down.

This ability is still extremely useful today, when dealing with criminals who are on drugs. Just like those Moro tribesmen, they are unlikely to feel the impact of bullets. Since many criminals use drugs, it would make sense for police to carry the .45; but very few police forces do.

In contrast to that, the 9mm NATO or 9mm Luger was developed by a German man, named Georg Luger, as a cartridge to provide the best possible penetrating power, so that it would reach the organs, causing death by the failure of some organ, preferably the heart. It will supposedly penetrate 12 inches of flesh, ensuring that it will still hit vital organs, even if it shooting the person from the side, where the bullet has to go through their arm first. Of all the pistol bullets out there, the only one which has a pointier profile is the FN 5.7, which is really a rifle bullet (a copy of the 5.56), mounted in a short cartridge case so that it can be used as a pistol cartridge.

From my own testing, I can state that the 9mm has considerably more penetrating power than the .45. When shot at stacked layers of ½” plywood, the .45 only went through 2 layers, while the 9mm got caught in the 12th. When fired into a stack of pieces of Kevlar 29, the .45 ACP doesn’t even penetrate through the first layer, while the 9mm made it to the 5th layer.

Here’s what this really means. If you’re shooting at an attacker, the .45ACP is going to expend all its energy in the first inch or two of their flesh. It won’t go very deep, but it could cause them to stumble and even fall. On the other hand, if you’re shooting them with a 9mm, the bullet will go deep into their body and may even pass through it. the wound might not knock them down, but it is more likely to be lethal.

From a concealed carry point of view, I personally carry a .45ACP. There are two basic reasons for this. One is that I think there’s a high likelihood that any criminal I have to confront will be either high on drugs or high on adrenalin. The other reason is that I don’t want my bullets passing through an attacker I’m fighting, with the potential for the bullet to hit someone beyond them.

On the other hand, my chosen pistol for a post-apocalyptic event is a 9mm Glock. I want the higher magazine capacity and the increased chances of hitting something vital with my shots in that situation. I’m also thinking that there is less likelihood of anyone being on drugs during that time, simply because the drugs would not be available. So the advantage of the .45 will be largely negated.

So, when it comes to the debate about which is better, it really depends on the situation. While I carried a .45 during my years in the Army and was one of those who was against the switch to 9mm, if I had to do it again, I’d rather carry the 9mm. But then, I know more about it now, than I did back then.

I’ll keep both my .45 and my 9mm and make sure I keep the ammo dry for both; just like I keep my survival gear close at hand.

Dr. Rich

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