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Old 04-21-2011, 08:00 AM   #1
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Capacity or Caliber???

...all things being equal (yes, I know they never REALLY are... )which would you choose if you could???

I really am not too interested in the 9MM v .45ACP argument unless you feel it makes your case one way or the rational side says in handguns with quality ammunition, there shouldn't be too much difference between many handgun calibers taking out the Wildcat ones...

There IS a lot to be considered, where to get the ammunition (if you have one of the more difficult calibers to find or find yourself in a location where that particular round isn't located or found easily)...which do you shoot better...which weapon system do you shoot better (GLOCK, BHP/FNHP, SiG P220, etc.), safety...

I seem to lean to the .45ACP camp as I don't ever find it difficult to shoot and I like many of the platforms I have tried, 1911A1 type, FNP Tactical, GLOCK 21/21SF, SiG P220...but I also like 9MM...BHP/FNHP, SiG P225, P226, GLOCK 17, ...I don't really care much for the .40S&W but that's on me and not necessarily the cartridge...357 SiG is nice and snappy but...Super .38 is nice but I don't handload and my only pistol is a 1930's era Colt's... all things are nearly equal...and by that I can get a GLOCK, S&W, SiG, FN in .45ACP or 9MM and all I need to consider is capacity or caliber...18 to 9 or thereabouts...what might you pick and why???

I hope to gain some insight from all of you and really do not wish to start the one is clearly better than the other as I don't personally believe that...if I did or saw some real evidence of that, I am sure EVERYONE would carry whatever that device is...I am also confident that on this Forum...I won't be disappointed...


Last edited by silversport; 04-21-2011 at 08:35 AM.
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Old 04-21-2011, 08:54 AM   #2
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I've worked on a whole lot of shooting cases, and gotten to see a whole lot of reports about what various bullets of various calibers from various handguns did. Only things that seem to stand out as consistent is that in order to guarantee a stop, you need shot-placement to the vitals (those being heart/aorta or brain/spinal cord) and adequate penetration to reach those vitals. (Other shots certainly may stop a person, but these shots hitting the brain/spinal cord or heart/aorta will.)

So I worry more about the platform (gun) being one that I can utilize effectively, so as to make hits on those vitals more likely. I'd rather have a .45 that fits my hand and that I know that I can shoot accurately than a 9x19 that feels clunky and won't group for me. But I don't believe that the .45 is more effective in the manstopper role than the 9x19 (and I carry a 9mm a whole lot more often than I do a .45). And I'd note that most people fire more practice shots with their 9mms than their .45s due to nothing more than ammo cost. The gun you know is the gun you're going to be more effective with . . . .

Most of the time I'm not concerned with having only 7 or 8 rounds in the gun - odds of my trip to the grocery store turning into Blackhawk Down are sort of silly to contemplate. Were things to go downhill to the point where those odds change, I'd probably take a deep-mag 9mm. Certainly that's what I take when I'm going into a situation that seems notably more high-risk than normal.
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Old 04-21-2011, 09:02 AM   #3
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Assuming that all of the cartridges mentioned are capable manstoppers, your decision, in my mind, has to be based on two things: First, the potential situation you anticipate you are most likely to be confronted with, and secondly, finding the pistol that offers the greatest shootability and tactical advantage in your hands. I put this conviction to work as follows.

A couple of years ago we believe a home invasion was attempted on our home while we were at church. I decided it would be prudent to be armed in and around the house after that, but didn't care to lug an AR around the house and decided to stay with a pistol. (An AR and a shotgun are nonetheless readily available). My belief was that if I got into it with home invaders with serious firepower, reloading would impose a major tactical disadvantage which had to be kept to a minimum. Therefore, I decided to go with an alloy-framed hi-cap 9mm with 18 round magazine capacity (+1) to keep with me in and around the house. My nine is stoked with NYPD Speer 124 grain +P Gold Dot JHP's. I did this with the knowledge that there are a number of pistols on the market in that caliber that I can shoot well, so it was just a matter of finding the one that offered me the greatest shootability and tactical advantage in caliber and going from there.

I had to stay with the lightest hi-cap pistol possible due to recent surgery and a disability that made long-term carrying of a steel-framed hi-cap pistol unworkable. Therefore the alloy-framed part of the decision.

I live in a very low crime area and don't feel the need to be constantly armed while out and about in the community, and I certainly agree with Erich that high-capacity firepower is still basically unnecessary for everyday trips to the grocery store. Unfortunately, my situation falls somewhat into his worst case scenario and I do feel the need for the hi-cap capability when I pull into the driveway. So the hi-cap nine became my carry pistol as well, although of necessity. Prior to this my choice was a 12 shot .40.

After all is said and done, I've never heard a cop or a soldier say he had too much ammo in a fire fight, and a fire fight is what I feel most compelled to be prepared for.

So there are my choices and my reasons. I hope they contribute something to your discussion.

Best wishes,

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Old 04-21-2011, 09:19 AM   #4
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Best to all.
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Old 04-21-2011, 09:51 AM   #5
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Understanding this is a very broad topic with loosely defined terms where "caliber" can mean .14 to .75 and "capacity" can mean one round or one hundred, the simplest way I can answer is that I seem to be gravitating towards medium caliber at fairly high capacity.

I see most points of both sides (more bullets vs bigger bullets). Ideally, I would like a gun that held a whole bunch of large bullets, but I have not found one that comes close to fitting my hand or has a grip that doesn't seem as long as a that of a tennis racket.
Seeing points to both sides, I would either compromise, or flip flop from one side to the other.

My three favorite carry guns are chosen because they are the three I shoot the best and they also happen to be easy to carry IMO. They happen to be examples of low cap/big bullets, hi-cap/medium bullets, and low-cap/medium bullets:
- an 8+1 .45 ACP
- a 13+1 9mm
- an 8+1 9mm
Which is not as diametric as a 7-rd .45 and 18-rd 9mm, but there are some comparisons to be made.

Is the 8-rd 9mm as effective as the 8-rd 9mm? No. Not looking at the ammunition. I can, however, shoot that 8-rd 9mm better and with less effort than any other handgun, so that makes them a closer comparison.

Is the 13-rd 9mm as effective as the 8-rd .45? Probably not, but I think we are getting close there.
No bullet is magic, but they have improved almost every year. There have been more advancements in expanding bullets over any five year block from the last 25 years than all of the previous 80 years.
This does not eliminate caliber as a factor to me, but it closes the gap some.
I carry the Winchester Ranger-T 127 grain +P+ ammunition in 9mms. The 9mm Ranger throws a near-identical size and weight bullet as the much-praised .357 Mag 125 jhp. Though not as fast as the 357/125, in my chrono tests, the 9mm Ranger gets well within 100 fps of the 357/125 from an actual carry gun (4" S&W 19).
It is no slouch, and ammunition like that has changed my view of the 9mm.

I don't want to sound like I am using capacity as a marksmanship crutch. There have been times when people got their hits, but they still need more of them regardless of the caliber. It would take me a little bit, but I could come up with examples where people fired six or eight rounds or more and hit what they were aiming at before getting an effective hit on their attacker. Their marksmanship was fine, and in one example I can think of it was excellent, but these are cases where the attacker gave them nothing much to shoot at. They shot what was available in order to expose better targets. If one has to nibble away at an attacker like that, and it takes ten shots to get anything productive to shoot, a gun with fewer rounds in it could leave you with some problems.

On the other side, one could ask "What if you only have time for one shot?". Obviously, you would want the most effective shot.

Ten or fifteen years ago, I would have said the gap was too big and I would always accept fewer bullets to get bigger ones. When the gap tightened up some, I felt better about trading caliber for quantity. Now, I don't think much about it at all.

And things never go as we'd like. I was in a gunshot wound treatment class two or three years ago that included some shooting. I had a HiPower and Winchester Ranger-T ammunition. During one part of the class, we had to lay prone and fend off an "attacker" one-handed while we got a leg bandaged up. Although I only had five more rounds than the 1911 shooters, it seemed like I was able to keep dumping rounds into the target for a lot longer before we all had to struggle with a one-handed reload.
I guess a light bulb went on there. More power is nice, but so is delaying the need to do manipulations that keep the gun out of action.

Yes, I like caliber and capacity. But while the caliber gap has been bridged somewhat, I don't see a way around capacity. You either have the bullets or you don't.

And with either, I'll always take the gun that fits my hand better and/or I shoot better. This is why the 8+1 9mm is high on my carry gun list. It is neither hi-cap or big bore, but I might just be better off with it than anything else because I shoot it better.

Actually, looking at it another way, I am primarily a rifle fan, so I have little faith in any handgun round. This causes me to look at the choices and lean toward more bullets in a handgun regardless of what it shoots. Arguing between 9 and .45 is sometimes like comparing AMC Pacers and Chevy Vegas to me. If those are my choices, I'll take the model I can buy more of to give me a better chance of getting there eventually.

Last edited by BarryinIN; 04-21-2011 at 09:55 AM.
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Old 04-21-2011, 03:12 PM   #6
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Posts: 735 made some very good point (or at least ones I agree with )...

JayPee...I am an LEO and your thoughts mirror mine and my situation...I am mostly a desk bound LT right now but I get up from the desk and out there every chance I can...yesterday I responded to an armed bank robbery in progress and although feeling adequately armed with a SiG P220 in .45ACP, I thought to myself "I have 17 rounds...wish I wore the GLOCK 17...with one spare mag I'd have 35...(always wish for what we don't have) and I smiled at your "No one ever said they had too much ammo in a fire fight."

Stephen...I am embarrassed that I missed this as I was all over your site this morning...ALWAYS a good read...and great advice...

BarryIN...great info as well...the "What if you only had one shot..." is a great thought provoker...

...I know the answers...sometimes I just don't listen to it...and I can over think somethings too...

I have always played the scenario game in my head and I have run the gamut of carrying the .38 revolver (Colt Python but stoked with the .38+P FBI/Chicago/St. Louis/Everybody else the 9MM and every weight from 115 to 147 in standard and plus P....357 SiG and .45acp...both single and double stacked magazines...

Everything is a compromise and as Clint Smith is quoted as remarking (paraphrasing here): Your choice should be comforting and not comfortable...and of course the handgun should just be used to fight your way to the rifle...

Thanks for your thoughts...that's ANOTHER reason I love this Forum...that and you put up with me (or at least you humor me)...keep it coming if you are so inclined!

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Old 04-21-2011, 03:30 PM   #7
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A wag once told me that the measure of a man's true intelligence is how much he agrees with you on any given topic. Not too sure about that but...

I am of the opinion that only hits count. Military/LE or civilian - you actually have to hit the target to get the job done. I never felt underarmed or outgunned with only six shots in the cylinder. And they were only medium caliber as well!

Retired from the military and long out of law enforcement, I know that I am going to pay full retail for each shot fired at present. Militarily, the US has long had the advantage of a reliable logistics train that seldom let them run out of ammo for long. But it has been a narrow run thing on a few occasions. High capacity does not mean that you have to expend it all in the first few minutes. Therefore I am not a great fan of high capacity.

I am sort of a theoretical fan of big bore cartridges. However, I don't carry them very much any more. I am back at the medium caliber again.

To me, it is simply a question of selecting the right tool for the job at hand. I am told that you can get a screw out of a piece of wood with a claw hammer. It is just not pretty.
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Old 04-21-2011, 03:31 PM   #8
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...I probably shoot the .45ACP a bit better than I do the 9MM as I mostly have been shooting it for the last 15 years (for duty) in the SiG P220, GLOCK 21/21SF and several 1911 pattern pistols...except for range sessions with other calibers including the 9MM...

I no longer have the GLOCK 21 or 21SF as I found them a bit blocky...(but plenty accurate and of course everything that makes a GLOCK a GLOCK... )

I recently picked up a SiG P220 (1994 vintage just like my old duty pistol that was a co workers gun) and after qualifying with it had been carrying it instead of the 1911 pattern pistols I have carried mostly since 2003. (I found it a little easier with the alloy'd frame P220 than the full steel 1911s to tote after I broke my collar bone last December)

Much food for thought but I think I should stick with what I shoot best and if capacity has me changing for capacity's sake, well...perhaps I'll just carry another magazine...

thanks for the reality check...

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Old 04-21-2011, 03:43 PM   #9
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oberstlt I have to admit that since I have no real issues with the 9MM round (My SiG P225 and HK P7 both carry 8 +1) capacity is not the answer and we've been through this with the Wundernines of the '90s...

I know capacity does not/should not make up for skill...I admit to being comforted at times by carrying a large capacity pistol...and comforted at other times by carrying the bigger bullet...but it is the entire package, man, machine, moment that will hopefully carry the day...

...some of these other matters suddenly now seem trivial...

again...thanks for the reality check...I needed that...

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Old 04-21-2011, 04:21 PM   #10
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Excellent thread. I made a decision back in 1968, when I decided that my issue S&W .38sp was inadequate for where I would go with it, and bought a 9mm Browning Hi Power with two spare magazines (at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Exchange, which then had an excellent selection of handguns). I wore it on three flying carrier cruises against North Vietnam. I knew that 9mm ball would exit still 9mm in width, and that .38sp ball would do about the same. I wanted more cartridges.

So much has changed in the last few years. Most important are the changes in bullet design. According to some sources (Brass Fetcher, Stephen Camp among them), many modern 9mm hollow points penetrate the required 11 inches while expanding at some point to around 6/10s of an inch. My t-series BHP is now loaded with standard pressure Speer 124gr Gold Dots (for which I thank Stephen Camp for putting me on to). I shoot my t-series HP more or less weekly now, but seldom with those dollar-a-round cartridges. Incidentally, I simply cycle the chambered Gold Dot to the top of the magazine now. They always check out exactly on proper length. Once a year, maybe, I'll strip and reload the magazines, but I have stopped worrying about crimp jump -- at least with the batch I have.

Decades ago, I fired a lot of rounds from gov't issue 1911A1s. I also fired many from the 1911 that my father-in-law wore during WW1, and purchased for $24 when he was discharged in 1919. I just don't like that pistol. Doesn't fit my hand. The BHP is a perfect fit.

Last edited by jaydubya; 04-21-2011 at 04:29 PM.
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