Sunday, May 8, 2011

There Are Some Questions That Just Don't Have Answers

For example, 9mm vs 45.  Unless you're really new with guns, you know that question goes back as long as both calibers have been around, and especially since the widespread adoption of 9mm as the standard sidearm by essentially every military in the world.  Small fast bullets vs. big slow bullets.  War against the Moros in the Philippines.  You've seen it all before.  It's almost a Coke/Pepsi thing, except caliber loyalty, not brand.

Fake motivational posters abound: 9mm – for those who squat to pee... Why .45?  Because they don't make a .46... (although they do make a 50) … 45 – because shooting twice is silly...9mm may expand but 45 never gets any smaller... and more.  It was only a few days after the shooting of congresswoman Giffords that I saw someone post that if the psycho had been shooting 45 instead of 9mm, she wouldn't have survived. On the other hand, I've seen ER doctors say "no physician ever saw a gun shot wound victim being wheeled in and said, 'don't worry, it's just 9mm'".  And the famous FBI "Handgun Wounding Factors and Effectiveness Survey" study (on Scribd, but other places, too) said there's no such thing as "knock down factor" in handguns, and the three most important considerations are shot placement, shot placement and shot placement. 

I recently came across a deal on used Taurus Millenium PT145PRO, my first .45.  My only experience with the caliber is that I shot one in my concealed carry class a couple of years ago.  So now I have 9mm, 40S&W and .45ACP available to choose from.  I posted about a year ago on changing EDC from my Taurus Slim 9mm to the XD Subcompact in 9, noting they were virtually the same size overall, but the XD carried almost twice the number of rounds.  It turns out the PT145PRO is virtually the same size as the XD; a tiny bit thicker, and a little longer in the grip.  Does it matter?  I haven't tried to dress around it.  The PT145 is a 10 round magazine (10+1), so less ammo than the XDsc, but more than the Slim.     

The Taurus and Springfield XD Subcompact together.  Clamped together, side to side, they look like this:
The .45 is on the left.  You can see it's about a quarter inch longer in the grip, but very similar in thickness.  

So far, I've run 200 rounds through the new PT145PRO, to ensure smooth functioning.  No problems except for a couple of FTEs in the last 50 rounds.  New gun break-in?  Dirt from  a few hundred rounds?  Don't know, but everyone who handles a semi-auto has to know how to clear a malfunction and a couple every few hundred rounds are not an extreme concern.  This was ball ammo; I'll have to try some good hollowpoints to make sure they function before I'd commit to that.  Two long-time friends have essentially the same gun.  One is trouble free, the other had to send it back to Taurus to make it trouble free.  Taurus has a lifetime warranty and will not only fix the defective gun, they'll upgrade parts to the latest version (or so I've heard).  Will I carry it?  Not through the summer.   

There is an interesting alternative – that I don't own.  Taurus has announced a successor to the PT709 Slim, the PT740 Slim in 40S&W – the same caliber as my Xdm.  It turns out the ballistics tables show the 40S&W (once derided as “40 small and weak”) as superior to both the 9 and 45 ACP.  Look at the advantage in impact energy of the 40S&W JHPs (155 grain) vs. the 124 grain 9mm and 230 grain .45ACP.  This screen capture is from the Federal ballistics program you can download here.
The red plot is the 40, green is 45 and blue 9mm.  All are representative weight bullets - I chose them because I own SD rounds for the 9 and 40 in those sizes.  I don't own any 45 yet, so I used the most common weight.  The impact energy you care about for self-defense ammo is typically along the left side - out to 5 or 10 yards.  The 40 S&W holds an advantage for longer distances than I'd care to explain having to shoot. 

The new PT740 just won the NRA's handgun of the year award, (to roars of derision from Glock Talk fanbois) and the PT709 is credited in some circles as starting the now very hot trend of single stack, slim 9mm pistols for concealed carry, although they certainly were on the market before it.  I'm not sure the Kel Tec PF9 was the first, but it was among the first.    

Could it be the answer to the perennial question of “9mm or .45?” is “Neither: .40 S&W”??


  1. I think the "first" CC 9mm I remember seeing was a Kahr. I've lusted after their .45 version since I saw one. They have .40, too. I can afford to support caliber creep, so I just stick to the .45.

  2. Excellent point, Scott. The first 9mm small, CC that my wife had any interest in was a Kahr. Something like $800. She looked at everything in the local shops and the gun shows until she found the 709 Slim, at about half the price.

    And good point about the caliber creep. I'm considering that.

  3. Yes, they're pretty spendy. I've never read a bad review of them, though, so I'm guessing they're worth it. The Taurus is a pretty good stand-in, by all accounts.

    You got my drift, but I meant to type that I *can't* afford caliber creep. If I could afford it, I'd have about a half-dozen more...9mm, .40, .357, .45LC, that big ol' .500...I'm sure there's one more I could futz around with, maybe the 5.7?

  4. I'm a lightweight when it comes to arsenal size and range time, but I've cast my lot with 9mm for two main reasons. First, weapons in 9mm carry more rounds in the same volume. Is killing ten bad guys better than disabling fifteen? Answers may vary, but I don't necessarily think so. Second, 9mm is relatively cheap. Theoretically, being able to buy more rounds means practicing more, which means more proficiency and achieving that all-important shot placement when the time comes.

  5. Xenocles - that's why I've been concentrating on the 9mm up to now. Even fairly recently, I've been able to get 9mm range ammo (115 gr. FMJ) at under $10 for 50. I'm having a hard time deciding about reloading when 9mm ammo is that cheap. I think reloading is a good skill to have and it's good to have the press and materials, should the SHTF.

    I should have talked to you guys before I went for that 45. I would have saved the money!

  6. SG,

    As a long time .45 owner/carrier, I agree with the whole "a 9mm may expand, but a .45 (11.4mm) will never shrink" concept.

    I tried downloading the Federal ballistics program, but it's Windows and I'm too lazy to run Windows on my Mac. The .40 155gr is the lightest standard bullet available commercially, and will therefore show the greatest velocity. Comparing it to the 230 gr .45 may not be "apples to apples" (that would be the 180 gr .40). Try running the 185 gr .45 (the lightest .45) against it in a +P configuration and see where you end up. It might show a significant difference.

    I believe having more rounds is a goodness thing, but if it takes two 9mm to do what one .45 will do, the 11 rounds in my G30 will perform just fine. Or I can slap in one of my 27 round extended mags. Frankly, I would rather have to swap the magazine out on my .45 than to spend several minutes trying to weigh a guy down with enough 9mm to anchor him. There might be a good reason that the SEALS, HRT and others have gone back to the .45, and I don't believe it is the "coolness factor".

    Just as our troops in the sand box talk about needing two or three rounds from an M4 to stop a textile-encased cranium, whereas one round from an M21 or M14 will often do the job, so it has proven to be with the 9mm vs the .45. Extra rounds are only useful if they mean servicing extra targets, not when they are _required_ to service one target.

    My understanding is that, with current ammo, the .40 is as good as the .45. I wouldn't feel I was "under-gunned" with my wife's G23, but I am simply more comfortable with my .45 from long usage and from everything I have read from the guys at the really sharp end of the stick (I don't give much credence to cop stories, having been one.) Also, the recoil impulse is different between the two calibers. My .45 is a big, slow push, while my wife's .40 feels snappier and shorter in duration. Not saying one is better, just different.

    Folks who have dealt extensively with bullet wounds, very large numbers of victims of ballistic damage, like Dr. Fackler, seem to think a bigger bullet is more effective (even if it happens to be slower, although mine aren't when I reload them :-).

    So. Don't give up on the .45. You haven't lost any money, and you may someday discover it was indeed money well spent.

  7. Reg, if you believe at least on report on the internet tubes, the SEALs carried 9mm Sig P226 in the OBL raid. I have no idea, of course, but that's the first I've heard of that model of firearm in the hands of America's top-drawer operators.

    Cheapness of ammo is important -- when I built my lousy armory, .45 ball was cheap. Now, 9mm is. The end result of that twist is that I don't shoot enough...can't afford to. Can't afford not to, either, but one of the two costs real shekels out of the pocket-book.

    Me, I shoot a .45 because that's what I grew up shooting and I'm used to it. The average FPS is faster than anyone I've ever met, and they generally get there with a fair amount of "mostest."

  8. I've heard in the past that reloading 45 can save quite a bit, so I did a little research. I don't know what to think "regular" pricing for commercial ammo would be: the PMC FMJ 230 gr. I bought was $20/50 or 40 cents/round. A quick look at Natchez and Midway makes it look like bullets are about 20 to 25 cents each, so I guess you could get by for about 30-35 cents/round by reloading. Sure, $15/50 instead of $20/50 is good, but you'd sure have to reload lots of boxes to buy your reloading equipment.

  9. I have a Ruger and a CZ75B in 9mm, an XD45C, and a 19byGod11. I don't have a .40S&W and to be honest I really don't feel the need for one. As far as I can see there's really nothing that the .40S&W will do that the good ol' 45 won't. The .40 does indeed show a KE advantage, but its only 69 ftlbs at 10 yards - not really enough difference to justify switching or adding another caliber (unless you just want to).

    I started out with 9mm because of the cheaper ammo and the learning curve with semiautos, but when I got my CWL I picked up the XD45C for carry because of the bigger bullet and its reputation. I thought about the .40 for a while before I made the choice, but ultimately I had to go for the old soldier instead of the new kid. Just fits me a little better...

  10. SG,

    Widener's has Remington 230 Gr FMJs for 13 cents a piece, and Powder Valley has Berry's plated bullets for 11 cents apiece.

    Besides, some of us feel that lead, copper, and brass are the precious metals we prefer to invest in. The return on that investment could prove to be quite substantial :-)

  11. Another way to say what Reg is saying is that if you have either .40 S&W or .45 ACP, there's not much change going from one to the other. In truth, any of them will do fine. Any "major caliber".

    13 or even 15 cents per bullet changes the situation a lot. If you save $5 a box, that's a couple of hundred boxes to break even. If you can reload for $10/box or less, that's pretty darn good.

  12. And we haven't even mentioned the savings in casting your own bullets from scrap/salvaged lead. I've put several thousand through my old Gen 2 G21 pistol, using the standard Glock octogonal barrel, just kept the speeds down around 700 FPS.

    Fun to do, and another way of assuring your own supply, if there comes a time when you can't, or aren't "permitted" to, buy them anymore. Got into it years ago for a Ruger Old Army black powder revolver first (requires pure lead), but I've got molds for all of my calibers now, including twelve gauge slugs. (Imagine a 12ga hollow point slug with a carbide (or are they tungsten?) snow tire stud inserted. Not sure what it's good for, but it was fun to play with. Same with .44 Mag HP and a tire stud.)

    If you _really_ want to get fancy, Corbin sells equipment for making your own jacketed bullets using fired .22 LR cases and extruded lead. I haven't gone there yet ;-)

  13. I have been CCing the PT145 for almost a year now, and I have been very pleased with it. It a good compact .45 that carries well.

    I stick with the .45 because I started with the .45 (1911, S&W 645, and now the PT145). As my buddy says when asked why he carries a .45, "Because they don't make a .46."