Monday, July 14, 2014

Capacity vs Power

Trigger pullers frequently point out that a sidearm is something you only use when things have gone terribly wrong and you can't get to your rifle.  Pistols suck they smugly say.  They say there is no difference between 9mm and .45acp because inadequate is inadequate.  They may even prefer the 9mm... because if its inadequate... you mas as well have lots of chances to make it work.

The problem with this of course... is it isn't true.

Let me demonstrate...

A 9mm (9x19 parabellum to be specific) is going to hit with say... 420 pounds of energy.  That's for a 115 grain fmj.. and its being generous.

Now lets compare that to a .41 magnum wheel gun.

We'll give the 9mm pistol a capacity of say... 17.  Fair enough?   And we'll give the .41 magnum a perfectly modern capacity of 7.

17 to 7!  Obviously the 9mm is the better choice right?

Well... a 170 grain bullet out of that .41 magnum is rolling out at over 1800 fps.  That's more than 500 fps faster than what that pathetic little 9 is throwing that little 115 grain bullet.  The .41 is producing over 1300 foot pounds of force.

So... looking at the 9mm... 17 shots X 420 pounds of energy... equals 7140 pounds of potential energy.

But 7 shots from the 41... at 1320 each... well that equals 9240 pounds of energy.  2,100 pounds more that the pathetic 9.  In fact even at 21 rounds you're still around 1000 pounds less than what 7 shots of a .41 mag produces.

Something else to consider...  people think of the 9mm as a small fast bullet.  But please notice.. the .41 mag isn't just a much bigger bullet... its a much bigger bullet.. going much faster.  Same with the .45acp.  People thing its a big slow bullet.  In reality a 185 grain bullet rolls out of a .45 at over 1200 fps... meaning its faster than a 124 grain 9mm.  In terms of energy the .45 is hitting at over 600 pounds... so its no where close to the .41 mag above... but the ammo capacity is greater.  13 rounds in the case of a Springfield XD-M.  So lets do the math again..

13 rounds times 616 foot pounds equals... 7969 pounds of potential energy.  Again...  several hundred pounds more potential energy available than the 9mm in spite of lower capacity.

Sure...  if you have 21 paper targets threatening your life... I'm sure your 21 separate bullets will suffice to deal with it.  You can punch a hole in each one of them.

In real life though you're more likely to face one or two... three at most attackers... and in that case... you better have a big hitter on your hip... not some glorified pellet gun.


Russ said...

Where are you getting those .45 stats from? 1200 fps and 600 ft/lbs sounds pretty high to me.

patrick kelly said...

Yeah, show me the 185gr .45 acp that will leave even a 5" barrel at 1200fps, and if its some kind of +p-whatever, then compare 8 shots of it with at least 13 of +p something of 9mm.

When you compare standard ball 230g .45 to standard ball 115g 9mm, there is not much difference in raw flbs if that is the primary criteria.

Comparing that .41 with vanilla 9mm has nothing to do with the .45 vs 9mm pissing contest...heh....

FWIW, all other things being equal, I prefer to conceal carry a 6 shot .45 over a larger, hi-cap 9mm, but all things are rarely equal, hence it's more likely I have a lowly .32 acp pocket gun than either of those.......and I ain't all.....come to think of it....I'd prefer to have a full auto,11" SBR in 300blk carried slung all the time.

Nate said...

Wikipedia. I took all the info on loads and ballistics from there.

Res Ipsa said...

FWIW it takes APX 100 foot lbs of energy for a bullet to completely penetrate the human body.

Nate said...

there is a link to 200 grain 45acp ammo that's hitting 1125. Note that this is a standard pressure load.

Russ said...

So you're saying that you'd better have a bigger gun because a bigger gun can have more potential energy stored in its magazine? It certainly can. But it certainly might not on the other hand:

Springfield full sized XDM 9mm.

19 rounds loaded with Buffalo bore +p+ at 500 ft/lbs = 9500 total ft/lbs

Springfield Full sized XD .45

Loaded with 13 Nosler 185 gr. jhp at 616 ft/lbs = 8008 total ft/lbs.

If we drop power of the 9mm to 420, (slightly low for +P) we still get a total of 7980 pounds. A trade of
28 less pounds of force for a full six extra rounds, plus greater controllability. Maybe that extra kick would be negligible for you, but not for me, nor for most shooters.

If you're saying that since you'll only get one shot, or one hit, then according to the study toothy pointed out, 9mm (which includes crappy fmj) seems to be just about as effective at the one shot stop as yer larger auto rounds.

Look, I'm not saying everyone needs to carry nines. But modern rounds are very effective. Nothing I've heard you say actually refutes that. Saying that some guns are more powerful does not mean that the less powerful gun isn't powerful.

And to anyone who thinks this argument is silly, might I remind them that bickering about which weapon is best is an ancient and masculine pastime, going back to the days of charred wooden spears and rock clubs.

Nate said...

Again Russ... you're pulling the same shit as before... +P+ loads for your 9mm?


I get to play that game too.. So the XD gets 45ACP +p. 1500 fps at the muzzle... 185 grain... 924 lbs of energy. 13 shots... 12,012 lbs of energy.

Now are you really going to sit here and pretend that you didn't know that Bufalo Barnes makes +p .45acp?

Give me a break dude.

And not only that... you're talking about freaking +p+ that will literally destroy most firearms that you shoot it in over time. The Ruger SR and SW M&P are both examples of popular respected weapons that you should not be shooting +p+ out of.

wear as... the .45s don't care.

And recoil? You're complaining about recoil now?

I will repeat myself.

My wife shoots a Glock .45.

Nate said...

Toothy... I note that in that study... like so many others... he makes excuses for the 9mm... and then tries to lump all of its performances in with the bigger autos like it was just one of the boys.

Yet when we look at the numbers.. it isn't. It the worst performer of the bunch. And note that he sweeps the 357 under the rug like no one even uses it. No doubt that's because the one shot stop rate of 61% is far and away better than the 9mm.

He says he doesn't have a dog in the fight but he clearly does. He's another one of the guys that says "all handguns are the same" and he's reporting his own numbers in a way that supports that.

Booch Paradise said...

Whenever I look at the actual data that matters and that doesn't come from fan boys of various rounds, When ever I research this the best conclusion always seems to be that the practical difference between these 2 bullets just isn't enough to be that important, particularly when comparing jhp to jhp.

This could be in part because there really aren't any great studies to draw from as far as actually shooting people. But the best data I can find using ballistic gel is here: It does show more energy delivered by .45, but not way more, and for all rounds except federal efmj, the max transfer depth is deeper, which is less ideal. Add that to more recoil, a larger gun, and fewer bullets, and your really not gaining much taking .45 over 9mm.

For numbers that involve actually shooting people, Even Marshall's data backs up the theory that there isn't much of a difference in performance. I found this article interesting in that it took into account failure to incapacitate, and finds that anything less that .380 often doesn't get the job done. But 9mm vs .45? 9mm actually does better (although admittedly not by enough to be significant given the sample size).

Booch Paradise said...

Woops, I see toothy already reported my article.

Nate said...

I can't believe the commies or nazi's have actually done double blind experiments on this.


Honestly... if we're going to have a death penalty... shouldn't we at least learn something from it?

Booch Paradise said...

And for the record, I would not be singing the same tune if we were talking .357 vs 9mm. There the difference absolutely is significant.

Nate said...

I suggest you 9mm people look at it from a hunting perspective. Would you hunt an 100+ pound animal with your little 9mm?

no. You wouldn't.

But people kill deer with .44magnums and even .357s all the time.

And yes... you probably would shoot a deer with a 45acp.

But a 9?


And this just in... Lots of men are actually bigger and heavier than even bucks.

Nate said...

"And for the record, I would not be singing the same tune if we were talking .357 vs 9mm. There the difference absolutely is significant."

So why did you exclude the .357 when you were lumping the "popular" defensive rounds together? Because the .357 is still an extremely popular carry option.

Hell I carry one. My mom carries one.

Booch Paradise said...

I don't refuse to lump .357 with other defensive rounds. Honestly .357 is a big part of the reason I don't own any 45acp guns. I just don't see the point.

Nate said...

Mate... in your discussion... you ignored the .357 almost entirely.

"Between the most common defensive calibers (.38, 9mm, .40, and .45) there was a spread of only eight percentage points."

See anything missing from that? You repeatedly bring up .38 special but you ignore the .357.

I think on some level this is to make the 9mm look better... because the difference in effectiveness between the 9mm and .357 is so vast that it simply cannot be ignored.

Nate said...

Again here... you ignore the .357...

" The .38, 9mm, .40, and .45 all had failure rates of between 13% and 17%."

Booch Paradise said...

Quoting the article is not quoting me. I was just talking about 9mm vs 45acp because that's what everyone else was doing. And that article includes break downs on 45acp and 9mm.

I agree with you that the difference between .357 and 9mm are just too big to ignore. I also think that the difference between .357 and 45acp are too big to ignore.

jmyron said...


To my mind, there is nothing wrong with ignoring .357 especially when you are talking about guns you can carry concealed. In order to not waste the additional propellant in useless pyrotechnics you need a substantial barrel length. I for one prefer to wear clothes that don't shout "I'm concealing a large handgun" while I'm out in public.

It appears that no one is disputing that 45acp ball ammo is an effective man-stopper. If this is the case, it would be reasonable to assume that any pistol cartridge that offers similar performance would also be an effective man-stopper regardless of its initial diameter. Russ has demonstrated that commonly available 9mm +p ammunition does this.

Susan said...

All your reasoning regarding the .9mm makes sense to me Nate.

It also reminds me of that scene in Blazing Saddles where the Sheriff is preparing to shoot Mongo to stop the bar fight, and The Kid says "No, no don't shoot him. That will only make him mad." That scene comes to mind every time the .9mm discussion comes up anywhere.

Athor Pel said...

If you guys want another thing to argue about you should do some research into hydrostatic shock.

I found some things I had never read before. Namely that it is possible, as a result of being shot in one part of the body, for waves to travel through the fluids/tissues of the body and put too much pressure on blood vessels in another far away part of the body, the brain for example, making them burst, killing the person before he bleeds out.

Russ said...

Nate, isn't it true that any modern hp 9mm, .40, .45, .357 magnum is just going to go right through an assailant?

Russ said...

Yeah, hydrostatic shock is a theory on how rifle bullets work, but it seems to only apply at higher velocities, well above what we're talking about here.

patrick kelly said...

"And to anyone who thinks this argument is silly, might I remind them that bickering about which weapon is best is an ancient and masculine pastime, going back to the days of charred wooden spears and rock clubs."

Hell, no, not silly at all, I always learn confirm all my previously held biases and beliefs.......which I am very grateful to have....otherwise I would have experience shooting someone or being shot at....which I'm somewhat prepared for, but would prefer never to learn first hand........

Nate said...

"Nate, isn't it true that any modern hp 9mm, .40, .45, .357 magnum is just going to go right through an assailant?"

No. That is not true. I suppose if you're talking about a man that's perfectly average... then yes... but people are getting bigger and bigger.

A 350 pound man... your 9mm ain't gonna over penetrate. But the .357 may.

You also have to consider things like clothing... what if the guy is wearing 2 tshirts and thick leather biker vest? or a kevlar reinforced motorcycle jacket?

jmyron said...

"A 350 pound man... your 9mm ain't gonna over penetrate. But the .357 may."

Not if its coming out of a 3" barrel. Out of a short barrel a .357 is basically a louder 9mm.

Also, a 350 lb assailant can usually be incapacitated by jogging half a block.

In order to get the benefit of the larger handgun cartridges, you really need a larger handgun. This is just fine if you can get away with open carry, but becomes problematic when open carry is inadvisable.

Its not that 9mm is always a better cartridge, its just that 9mm is a better cartridge for civilian every day carry.

Susan said...

Not sure that it is a good idea to just assume that a large bulky guy can't run far.

Anything is possible of course, but when you look at how large athletes are, and how much running they have to do to keep up in their sport, I would not bank on my own speed VS a large bulky guy. Some of the ghetto kids, when seen in photos, look very large and tall.

Maybe if said bulky guy is under 6ft tall and bulky, well that is another story.

But 350lbs is what Shaq the retired weighs, and I am not sure I would want to try to out run him. So outgunning seems to be a better equalizer to me.

CunningDove said...

I'm sorry, but all this talk about +p, +p+ and whatever "Buffalo Bore" is. ??? Kind of misses the point - if you walk into a store & purchase a gun & ammo, which one is going to give you the best chance at "one hit, one kill" out of the box. No specialized expert know how. Looking at that question, the .45 is the top dog, .357 next.

The more important question is, what are you buying the gun for? I don't want to carry a 1911 when I go for a 5k run, that is what the .380 is for. I'm completely satisfied to put the 1911 in my truck, tucked away snugly in its holster.

I find it insulting & a sign that the salesman doesn't know boo about guns when they recommend that a 5'5" female carry something as small as a .22. A female has a much more vested interest in the need to stop their assailant as quickly as possible. If the lady can't shoot the .45, then go down to something smaller. Personally, I picked up 2 .40 cals. All they did was make me want the .45.

Nate said...

oh look.. now the 9mm girls are going to pretend that everyone carries a tiny pistol. I suppose this is the fall back position from the superspecialammo arguement... and the "but the recoil hurts!" argument.

Of course... as usual... if you actually look at the numbers you'll find they are either wrong or lieing.

3 inch barrel 357 135 grain hydroshok is rolling at 1194 fps.

A 9mm with a 5 inch barrel is 200fps slower.

Perhaps in gay 9mm world 200fps is "practically the same".

Russ said...

Recoil doesn't hurt, but you may have noticed how it tends to throw your sights out of alignment. If you've got time, money, and space to train constantly, it might not be a big problem for you, but you're still going to, on the same type of pistol, shoot faster with an 9 than with something bigger.

You're wrong about velocity of 9mm out of a 5 inch barrel. Cor Bon
125 gr. JHP +P makes 1282 fps. Speer gold dot 124 gr. is similar in velocity. Yeah yeah, silver bear ball is going to be slower. And?

Nate said...

again... +p. Every time its plus + p.

Get over your gay super ammo argument.

There are super ammos for all guns.

And no... all recoil is not the same. A 1911 is more of a soft push than the snap of a .40 for example... and is faster than both a beretta 96 or a gay glock 9.

Nate said...

And again Russ... we're talking ccw here... so if you can carry a 9mm with a 5 inch barrel why can't you carry a 357 with a 4 inch barrel or a 5 inch barrel?

Seems to me you are avoiding apples to apples comparisons because you know damned well your apples aren't good enough.

Russ said...

Before I give it up You'd have to prove that 9mm in +p is somehow insufficient.

"There are super ammos for all guns."

That's nice. Again, doesn't really say anything about the ammo I'm advocating. Cartridge X can have greater energy than cartridge Y, therefore cartridge Y is weak isn't a logical argument.

" A 1911 is more of a soft push than the snap of a .40 for example... and is faster than both a beretta 96 or a gay glock 9."

I actually accounted for that in the very point you are referring to.

Russ said...

First of all, I never mentioned .357 because I was talking about auto-loading pistols. That was the other guy.

Second, because since most people aren't going to carry full-sized pistols every day, they want something compact. I'm not a wheelgun guy, but looking at say, a Ruger SP101, you're going to be nearly three inches longer than a more compact auto-loader like a g19 for the same length of barrel. again, stuff like that might not matter to you, but it does to most people, judging by the extreme popularity of these compact guns.

Nate said...

You're correct. Most folks are carrying sub compact autos... and tell us... what is the barrel length of a subcompact auto?

3 inches.


And out of a 3 inch barrel.. your beloved +p corbon is coming out at 1170fps... 100 fps slower than a .357 with a 3 inch barrel. And several hundred FPS slower than the 7 shot .357 taurus tracker that I carry concealed just fine.

As for demonstrating that 9mm is ineffective... I do believe Toothy linked a study that demonstrated that quite well.

Stilicho said...

The correct question is what caliber is best for 1 shot take down using best generally available ammo for the job.

Russ said...

Nate, I'd appreciate it if you'd read my posts a bit more carefully.
" 9mm in +p is somehow insufficient."

Again, I have to say that it is dubious that even a small percentage of the 9mm shootings recorded in that link used what I'm advocating.

Anonymous said...

The correct question is what caliber is best for 1 shot take down using best generally available ammo for the job.

105mm 100% 1 SHOT STOP on human targets every time.

Nate said...

Can't argue with that.

Nate said...

Russ... its simple... 9mm bullets are just to small. Yes you can find some that have excellent expansion but there is only so much metal available. A bigger, more massive bullet will still make a bigger hole and transfer more energy because there is more mass and more metal to work with.

Its simple momentum. Your little fast bullet is not going to hit as hard or be as effective as my bullet that is both bigger and faster.

Outlaw X said...

Nates right a 357 wheel gun with even a 3" barrel is not only a serious man stopper, BP Vest or not. But the psychological effect of a gun that shoots with that much authority and scares people shitless even if you missed on the first shot. 9mm are better than nothing for sure, but the 357 gets more respect when it goes off and fires every single time without exception. Wghen you are being mugged in a parking lot or have a house intruder it is the only gun for me. Easily concealable, safe, reliable, bad ass and you don't have to remember that you have a round chambered.

I just don't see why anyone is arguing about something with him that is so basic in firearms.

Nate said...

intimidation is a good point Outlaw. Nothing will change an attacker's attitude like a huge explosion and fire shooting 3 feet out of a barrel.

Hydroshoks are cool like that.

jmyron said...

Nate, its not simple at all.

In terms of stopping an assailant with any kind of firearm, shot placement is always the deciding factor. Towards that end, proficiency with your weapon is more important than the theoretical maximum damage that your weapon can inflict. This means that when selecting the weapon you are going to carry you need to factor in the relative ease at which you can become proficient in its use. In this sense, 9mm is hands down the superior choice. This is the case for a couple reasons. First, 9mm training ammo is much more abundant and much cheaper than virtually any other kind of handgun ammunition out there. This means that dollar for dollar, you can get more practise with a 9mm than you can with any other kind of pistol. Second, with a lower recoil cartridge you can spend more time at the range before the muscles responsible for fine motion tire to the extent that you can no longer shoot accurately. The vast majority of people do not have unlimited time or ammunition for training and as a result they can become more proficient with a 9mm than they can with any other type of defensive handgun.

The lower recoil of the 9mm cartridge has the additional benefit of enabling you to deliver multiple shots with greater speed and accuracy. I don't care who you are or what you are used to shooting, less recoil movement means that you will bring your gun back into battery sooner which means you will be able to deliver more shots more accurately.

Then you look at the actual performance. While it's true that the .357 magnum is a more effective round than 9mm +p it is only at best about 6% more likely perform a one shot stop (10% if you compare it to a compact 9mm pistol).

9mm +p 124 grain:

.357 125 grain:

So basically, the trade off you are proposing means that I will end up with less rounds (60%!) at my disposal all while being less proficient with my weapon in order to have maybe a 10% greater chance of a one shot stop (if I hit with my first shot). This even though no matter what kind of handgun I carry I am going to have to shoot my assailant multiple times just to be on the safe side anyway.

It's also interesting to note that all the extra power in the .357 doesn't contribute to significantly greater penetration or expansion over even standard 9mm loads.

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