Handguns and Ammunition Forum banner
Not open for further replies.
1 - 3 of 3 Posts

Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've been holding off on this topic in deference to the passing of Colonel Cooper, but I feel that now is the time to get this off my chest. It's been stewing in my brain for too long to let it go any longer.

I've noticed something peculiar about caliber wars.

People tend to segregate revolvers and automatics; this should not be!

For instance, I've heard thousands of derisions brought against the 9mm, in my short life, but relatively few brought against the .38 special.

The attitude that I am addressing here is the one that states that the .38 is good, but the .357 is better, while also stating that the .45 is good, but the 9mm is horrible.

How can such a thing be when a 9mm is almost the ballistic twin of a .357!? Moreover, it can most likely be documented that many ardent opponents of the 9mm as a duty round, where it has 4 or 5 inches of tube to get it cooking, have espoused the .38 special snub, with its 2 inch barrel, as sufficient for self-protection.

I have seen and heard much steam blown against the 9mm, but relatively little against the .38, a round known to be ballistically inferior to the 9mm. If one intends to deride the 9mm, he must, by implication, deride every round that falls under such consideration. However, when opportunites to make such derisions prevent themselves, few, if any, derisions are actually made! How can this be when the discussions presenting said opportunities can clearly be found in precisely the same forums (internet and otherwise) as those presenting the so-often-seized-upon opportunities to deride the 9mm?

My point is this: Perhaps caliber wars have less to do with effectiveness, and more to do with people's obsession with certain pet calibers.

There could be any myriad number of reasons. Let me outline a few of my theories.

1. 9mm, the round most commonly attacked and denounced as ineffective, is the ONLY truly common defensive round in America today, which did not originate therein. This excludes 9x18mm, but I am unsure that this round should be considered a common American defensive round.

2. Many people consider the .45 to be "the man's round." It's masculine to have that big, black hole in the end of your gun, and these guys don't want anyone challenging their machismo by proving that they can do more, with less. .40 S&W squeaks by these guys by having a 4 right after its decimal point. never mind that this means that this crowd neglects the fact that only around .04" seperates this apparently acceptable round from the much-maligned 9mm.

3. Insecurity regarding capacity might force some who are wedded to the oftentimes-less-commodious platforms associated with the .45 to play up round-for-round "stopping power" in their own minds.

Please let it be understood that this is no attempt to elevate the 9mm or its proponents at the expense of anyone else, or any other caliber. I will gladly acknowledge that the .45 ACP is probably the single best defensive pistol cartridge ever, and likely will remain as such until we are all a part of time immemorial. I am merely pointing out some discrepancies that I have noted in the rguments made by the more ardent opponents of the 9mm.

Discussion Starter · #2 ·
I have also noted the issues of which you speak. I think the crux of this situation is due to long-term historical and cultural trends in the law enforcement/personal defense communities (not to mention a lot of "steam" that you mentioned:

In the historical context and in many people's minds, like it or not, revolvers and automatics are segregated. :

1. Before the 9mm had a significant profile in this country (say, the 1950's and 60's), the lack of effectiveness of the 158 gr. round-nosed .38 Spec. service load had been almost universally recognized, and by the late 50's both Colt and Smith had .357 Magnum service revolvers on the market. Individuals and LE agencys then had a better option. If you stuck with a .38 Spec. handgun (and many, many individuals and agencys did), that was your choice. But there was no question of the .38 Spec.'s inferiority, and when revolvers faded away in American law enforcement so did the .38 Spec. as a viable service handgun cartridge. The 9mm wasn't even in the picture at this point.

2. Since then and now: Because the .357 is pretty brutal in (all-steel, not to mention the recent fly-weight) snub revolvers, the .38 Spec. has always retained a very significant following for these types of handguns, given that a snub is usually considered a compromise, secondary or back-up weapon when a full-sized fighting handgun isn't practical or possible. A compromise caliber in a compromise handgun is considered acceptable to many, and since many prefer a revolver in this role over a pocket auto, the .38 Spec. is still very popular and accepted without discussion as to its effectiveness verses the autopistol-based 9mm.

3. When law enforcement began to turn to autos in the latest 1960's and 70's, there were only two options: The .45 ACP and the 9mm. Horror war stories of the failure of 9mm hardball became rampant (promoted largely by .45 ACP proponents) and continued on for decades. Some are still influenced by this drumbeat. Handgun ammo was pretty primitive at the time and even though there was handgun hollow-point ammo, it wasn't very reliable. The rational was that if the bullet failed to expand, a .45 caliber unexpanded bullet would do much more damage than a .355 one. Of course, with the developments in bullet design over the last 20-odd years, all this is pretty moot. But the mindset lingers.

In my view, these three issues together are responsible for the situation that you describe regarding the .38 Special vs. 9mm issue: It has to be viewed in the historical context and the applications that the cartridges are used for in modern personal defense. Not that it all is logical . . . . . . .

Of course, others see it differently and they can post their views.


· Registered
4,488 Posts
Hi there,

The Ammo section of H&A is intended to provide a way to obtain answers to questions about a particular brand, caliber, or source of ammunition. At the same time to post our experiences with any particular brand, caliber, or source. Polls are welcome on favorite ammunition for self defense, hunting, or just target practice. What we do not want is to start arguments about the merits of one or more calibers over another or others. Such arguments will not be tolerated here at H&A.


Please note that the senior staff will back Oldgranpa to the hilt on this as it directly reflects our vision for H&A. There is a miniscule minority here treading dangerously close to the edge on the "caliber wars" issue. The 9mm vs .40 vs .45acp has been done numerous times. Nobody changes their minds and stick to what they're comfortable with. In other words, it's just senseless bickering which takes up space, and it is not allowed, indeed, it's not been allowed since the inception of H&A.

Oldgranpa is spot on, and we thank him for this clarification of the rules.

Thank you, all.

Josh <><
This is the type of thread that the administrators and moderators had simply wanted to avoid for the reasons already stated and for all intents and purposes will be locked.

1 - 3 of 3 Posts
Not open for further replies.