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I always enter such a discussion with fear and trepidation - there is simply too much to consider and everyone has a differing points of view (which could change the order of preference with valid reasons).

Let me say that Steve and I have had a lot of private communication on handguns and that be pretty much agree but I characterize it from another angle. Which is summed up as follows;

Of normal defense cartridges given good hits but not CNS hits *none* of them work as well as we would like if the subject is a serious threat (if he wasn't a serious threat then why shoot him?).

To be a bit more clear, some people fall down immediately when shot (I even saw one when shot *at*) but that is not the result of ballistics (unless the CNS was hit). Under common circumstances we could expect a guy shot through the heart with a .44 Magnum to still be active for 2 to 15 seconds. Whether he can do us damage is up to him not us (except for defensive tactics we may be employing unrelated to ballistics). It does not always happen this way but we cannot affort to assume that ours will be the lucky one....if you are getting attacked it already is not your lucky day!

Now if I am shooting a deer and he goes down in 2 to 3 seconds (excellent performance) that is fine. If I am shooting a man at 7 yards who is pointing a shotgun at my middle (which is a considerable target :) ) for 2 to 3 seconds until he can no longer operate, let alone the more realistic 5-15, then that is not really what I call adequate.

Sadly, there probably arent any truly powerful defesne sidearms. It would be interesting to see what the .500 S&W would do in self defense (not so far fetched as the Coast Gurad and the CIA are using a very similar cartridge in carbines) but I truly don't see any normal person packing such a handgun on a daily basis.

Enough for now, I tend to go way to long on these things. Suffice to say, I agree with Steve, pundits tend to over state the differences between the cartridges. I truly beleive I have seen *some* difference but it is not enough to say that a person is silly for not picking cartridge "X".

One's ability with his weapon is still paramount!

Onward!
Jim
 

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Well put Bat Guano!

I toyed with mathematical models and statistics for 30 years...all I got was a sore finger from punching the calculator and a fried brain :-/

I do however still have the gut feeling (one I did not start out with) that bigger is somewhat better, but those 873 other reasons you mention do indeed complicate the issue.

And before someone points out that "X" works 95% of the time I will remind you that Babe Ruth lead the league in strikeouts! :)

Onward and upward!
Jim
 

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<snip>
So is this a fair enough yardstick by which to compare? Dare I step into a 9mm because of mere cost?? Because, once the deed is done, another will be long in coming. My choice will be my daily companion for some time to come.

-S
That is a worthy question. *How* you use it is more important than *what* you use (within reason - and I agree that the "floor" is a .38 spl +P or a 9mm).

Looking back over the years, one option (not necessarilly the only or best - just something to consider) is a .45 with a .22 Conversion unit.

You cannot learn all you need to know with the .22, you do have to practice some with the load that recoils about the same as your carry load, but you can do many of the fundamentals with it. Jimmy Von Sorgenfri (spelling?) was one of the Early IPSC World Champs. With .45 Ammo running $1 per round in the late 70's in his native South Africa he practiced with a .22 conversion finishing off each practice session with a couple of magazines of .45 Ball. With 9mm being plentiful and cheap in his locale I suspect that tells us what his preference would be.

Personally, I find the Browning in 9mm to be just as difficult to shoot as the 1911 in .45 so if one can afford to have both then he can practice with one and then use less of the more expensive ammo to "polish up"...this last is, however absolutely necessary. I would not say you get by with 100% practice in the lesser caliber... 90/10 perhaps, 80/20 would be better.

Or....start handloading....another fun thing to do if you have time. I used to load .45s for 6 cents a round (in fact at one time I got it down to 2cents but that was long ago and far away), I suppose it is higher now but still quite cheap.

Just random thoughts,
Good luck!
Jim
 

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Since entire books have been written on this subject (from about every perspective or camp), I don't hope to have much impact in a short post.

I don't disagree with much of the above. But having studied this a long time I have seen a few things that don't fit what most folks (including me up to the point of being shown) might assume.

1. It does not always hurt to get shot (I can tell you this from personal experience but also from dozens of interviews). That does not mean it *never* hurts to get shot. Unpredictable.

2. Some people pay no attention to getting shot...and this can include with some pretty potent calibers...not just handguns.

3. While there might be a norm (or a "Bell Curve") there are ample surprising cases. Enough to make me say... "you cannot count on..." These include:
.... a 125 .357 from a 4" barrel that penetrated less than 1"
..... 6 110 gr .357s to the chest that did not make it to the heart
.... a 12 gauge 1 oz slug that bounced off a forehead.
..... a .45 ball round that bounced off the forehead
..... a .38 +P 125 that penetrated the forehead only to the cannelure and stopped...pulled out while the subject was still concious!
I can go one (these are not war stories, I know the poeople who participated in or investigated those cases).

Reliable litereature will cite other similar cases. And it is not limited to pistols. A gentleman once brought me two recovered bullets which he claimed were 30-06 150 gr CoreLokts (they certainly appeared to be) which failed to penetrate 6" in two seperate deer.

None of this means the above is invalid (rather it backs some of it up). I simply find it interesting.

Placement is critical! But sometimes we can fail with good placement.

I think perhaps all ballistic comparisons should start with equally good placement...nothing is big enough or powerful enough to be relible with poor placement.

While I cannot bring myself to say that caliber or power (however you measure it) does not matter... I think some folks think it matters more than it does.

.45s and .357s don't bowl people over. .22s don't always fail.

some things work "somewhat" better than others but there is not a drastic difference. That little difference can be bloody important however!

Onward,
Jim
 

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Jim H. I stand by my theory of the RDL (Random Dumb Luck) factor, it must no longer be ignored!! ;) It's the variable in the equation that is totally out of human control, hence keeping any "stopping power formulae" from being a solidly known number.
I certainly cannot argue with that one.

I have an additional (but not competeing) theory. I once commented in jest that the .357 magnum showed up so well on some compilations of anecdotes because of flash and blast : the "Acoustic Theory of Stopping Power."

After long consideration, and recognizing that many incidents are indeed "psychological stops" (which cannot be predicted), I am not so sure it is a joke. I even witnessed such a case in person where a subject was momentarilly "incapacitated" (well he hit the ground like a ton of bricks and did not move for a few seconds) by a *miss* from a 2.5" .357.

Please don't think that I beleive you can count on this...but I think it may influence some cases.

Yet another reason why numbers don't work!

Jim
 
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