Saturday, December 13, 2014

On the So-Called "Caliber Wars"

It seems everyone has an opinion, so I thought I'd take a turn stepping into the minefield weighing in on this highly divisive topic.

Photo of loose cartridges
(source: Gun Nuts Media)
Via Uncle, in turn via Roberta X, we have an article from Caleb over at Gun Nuts Media, "Let's Talk About Handgun Stopping Power". Caleb does a good job dissecting the issue and burning away the straw-man arguments that come up, both in the article and the following comments.

(Note: Before it comes up here, too, let me clarify one thing: For the purposes of discussion, we're talking about service calibers for pistols — 9mm, .357 SIG, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP. No rimfire or magnum loads, and no rifle or shotgun rounds. I'm aware that plenty of bad guys have been put down by .22LR, .25 ACP, and .32 ACP, and that the 12-ga shot-shell is king of one-shot-stops, but let's stay on topic.)

Handgun rounds arranged by caliber
What? No .357 SIG? No .38 Spl?
(source: Buckeye Firearms Assoc.)
I also found this article by Greg Ellifritz at the Buckeye Firearms Association site, "An Alternate Look at Handgun Stopping Power". Among other things, he points out that the vast majority of "one-shot-stops" are psychological; the wound isn't necessarily life-threatening, but the bad guy decides on his own initiative to cease his bad behavior. Being shot* tends to do that to most people, and if that's the case, even the lowly .22 will do the job. It's when the psychological aspect fails as a deterrent — when the bad guy is not inclined to cease after being shot or shot at — that the bigger calibers are useful for a physiological stop. It's worth a read, as well.

The bottom line: Assuming quality ammunition, a quality gun, and good shot placement, there's no appreciable difference between any of the "service calibers". So carry what you want. The "best" caliber is the one that you are comfortable with, that you practice and train with, and — most importantly — that you have with you when you need it. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, but the best "carry caliber" is the one you shoot well and will actually, y'know, carry.

Is that a non-answer? Yes. Does that make it an entirely personal choice? Yes.

Will people still insist that the 9mm is the best because of higher-round magazine capacity and lower felt recoil, or that the .45 ACP is best because it leaves a bigger hole (and because John Moses Browning!), or that the .40 S&W is the best because the FBI uses it? Absolutely. (The FBI, by the way, is switching to 9mm.**) Gun enthusiasts become invested — financially and emotionally — in their preferences, and will continue to present their opinions as if they were absolute truth. They're free to do that. Liberty is funny that way. But most will admit that when the feces connects with the rotary air impeller, any gun beats no gun.

Stay safe.
* - The threat of being shot tends to discourage most bad guys, as well. That the vast majority of defensive gun uses end with no shots fired is old news.
** - So, what's going to happen now to DHS' infamous order of 1.6 billion rounds of .40 S&W hollow points from a while back?

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