Larry Vickers: The Defense Handgun Caliber Wars Are Over
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Larry Vickers: "The Defense Handgun Caliber Wars Are Over"

Recently, I wrote a BCM Gunfighter Moment for Soldier Systems Daily, expressing my opinion that the defensive handgun caliber wars are over and that 9mm won. Actually, for anyone who has been paying attention, this comes as no surprise, and the FBI returning to 9mm in 2015 just sealed the deal.
One Handgun Caliber To Do It All
Last year Bill Wilson of the Wilson Combat fame sent out a questionnaire to a number of well-known instructors and top shooters in the firearms industry, most of whom are household names in the gun world. He had one simple question: if you had to pick one handgun caliber to do it all, from self-defense to sport shooting, what would it be? Every single person except for one picked 9mm Parabellum. One top competition shooter picked 40 S&W. This survey spoke volumes, particularly since many if not most on the list were, at one time, dyed in the wool .45 ACP 1911 shooters with untold millions of rounds of ammo shot over their lifetimes. What caused this seismic shift in attitudes toward a caliber that at one time was almost universally disliked by serious shooters? Actually, once you break it down it's quite simple.


The Track Record

1) Modern 9mm defensive ammo has a very good track record (for a handgun caliber) on the street. Many bad guys have been shot in the last quarter century with a variety of handgun rounds so we have a large amount of information to form our opinion on. To put it simply, you need to have a good shot placement (accurate hits in vital zones) and there is not much difference at all between the various common self-defense handgun calibers in terms of lethality. So, with that being said the following factors swing things toward 9mm.

2) The highest capacity self-defense handguns on the market are 9mm. Most double stacks in the full size to mid-size category hold between 14 and 18 rounds with one in the chamber. This is approximately twice as much ammo as a 1911 in .45 ACP. 


The Reasons Why

3) There are more quality 9mm pistols to choose from than ever before. In addition, they are reasonably priced and spare magazines are not very difficult to source. With a little planning, a shooter can have magazines and spare parts on hand to keep his pistol up and running with no problem. 

4) Practice ammo in 9mm is easy to locate and plentiful. When comparing 9mm practice ball ammo to .45 ACP it is significantly cheaper as well.

 5) 9mm pistols are easier to shoot. They have less felt recoil and are easier for any shooter to master. Remember, only hits count in the real world and it is easier for the average shooter to get those hits, and train to achieve those hits, with a 9mm pistol.

Change Is Constant

6) Functional reliability is more than sufficient in most every handgun caliber in a variety of pistols on the market. Because of this, 9mm doesn't really have an edge here but the I think everyone can agree that the most popular models in 9mm are about as reliable as a handgun can be made. We take this for granted now, but I remember a day when famous pistols like the Browning Hi-Power were known as hardball only pistols. This was due to the original feed ramp design being profiled to accept FMJ ammo only. This was remedied in later models of the BHP but countless thousands remain unmodified in the shooting public so this is a consideration for anyone looking to add one to their pile of pistols.
Many of you reading this will agree with me completely while others will be convinced I have completely lost my mind and need to be institutionalized. Think what you want, but I'm here to tell you; the shooting public, including law enforcement and military, have already made their decision (with their pocketbooks), the 9mm train has left the station. The 40 S&W is in the rear-view mirror, and before you know it .45 ACP will be as well. Change isn't always for the best, and it certainly isn't always comforting, but one thing is for certain, it is constant.
Be safe and I hope to see you at the range.

LAV out,

Larry Vickers
Master Sergeant (Retired)
US Army SOF Combat Veteran
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