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If modern ammo has narrowed the gap, is the gap not still there??

Discussion in 'Caliber Corner' started by RedsoxFan4Lyfe, Aug 26, 2012.

  1. RedsoxFan4Lyfe


    Jul 16, 2007
    Florida USA
    I'm a bit confused here.

    Everyone after beating on the 9mm for 20+ years NOW says its a great round. Why you ask? Well because modern ammo has gotten so good that now they are "all the same" according to many.

    Now let me state up front, I am not anti 9mm. I have owned and carried many 9mm pistols over the years. Mostly the Glock 19 and Beretta 92FS. My all time favorite pistol is the 1911 in .45acp. However I have never felt unprotected with a 9mm at all. They have both been doing the job well for over a century.

    That being said, back to my original point here. Many will assert that the .45 or .40 were superior to the 9mm in years past. Bigger is better mentality etc. Now, bullet design is so good they all work pretty much the same.

    If the 9mm were not as good in years past, then how can it be as good now? Wouldn't the very same bullet technology that made it better, have made the BIGGER rounds better as well. In a sort of linear progression? If bullet technology stood still for everything but the 9mm I would believe it. How can the bullet technology that made the 9mm "as good" have NOT made the .40 and .45 BETTER still, and hence the gap is still there.

    Does this make sense to anyone else?

    That being said there is a Glock 19 on my desk as I type this loaded with 124gr. +P Gold Dots. I feel safe. :supergrin:

    Now in the draw next to my left leg there is a Colt 1911 loaded with 230gr. Winchester Ranger ammo. Either way I am good to go here.

    Whats the general opinion on this subject?
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2012
  2. SDGlock23

    SDGlock23 Glockoholic

    I shoot them all and like them all, but it's my opinion that they all perform similarly because they're designed to.

  3. janice6

    janice6 Silver Member

    Apr 4, 2006
    In the limit, the gap is gone and so is the difference. Carry what you like.

    ADDED: My preference is to use the caliber that makes the biggest hole.
  4. cowboy1964


    Sep 4, 2009
    OP: Your premise seems to be that "bigger is better", to the exclusion of everything else. By that definition than of the three calibers you list then clearly .45 should be "best".
  5. RedsoxFan4Lyfe


    Jul 16, 2007
    Florida USA
    Well that was the widely accepted premise for decades. Probably before I was even born in fact. I have seen everybody say "9mm is not good enough" and now everyone says "They are all the same." It just amuses me on some level.

    I feel fine with either of the calibers. I guess we have reached the limit of handgun ammunition development after twenty years of design and now there is no gap.
  6. G21MAN


    Jul 9, 2005
    Gilbert, AZ
    NYPD seems to have excellent results with this round. I EDC it due to its' street credibility. So to me , my G26 is enough. I used to carry a .40 cal glock. Rob Pincus and Larry Vickers carry a 9mm. Good enough for them, good enough for me.:tongueout:
  7. unit1069


    Oct 10, 2007
    So. Central US
    Bullet technology has narrowed the gap in relation to what bullets do in the human body.

    All things being equal the edge still goes to the larger diameter round by virtue of its being larger, if expansion is given as reliable.

    So anyone can set up parameters that present a particular situation and claim that one caliber is superior to another but in real world self-defense situations the technology seeks to stop a violent, potentially deadly confrontation against a human aggressor. Thankfully technology has given gun owners a lot of viable options without the necessity of buying new caliber weapons.

    There may be shootings where 0.01" or more of expansion carries the day but I suspect those instances are so rare as to be negligible. Absolute gun/ammo reliability and shot placement are what carry the day in my opinion.
  8. Burncycle


    Aug 31, 2004
    Well sure.

    Look at average penetration and expansion in your favorite hollow point in different calibers. A lot of times their website will have figures.

    Typically largest expansion is proportional to largest starting diameter. IOW, a good modern hollow point in 45 will have a larger expanded diameter than 40 which will have a larger expanded diameter than 9mm. We're typically talking tenths of an inch though. It will make a slightly larger hole but it won't make a miss a hit except in very rare cases where you happen to be .10" from the vital CNS / organ. IOW, put more stock into your ability to hit the target than split hairs over caliber.

    IMO as long as it expands reliably and penetrates deep enough you should be good to go with any of the major calibers. Same old guidance as usual -- find the biggest most powerful caliber you can control and go for it. If that's a 9mm, then that's ok.

    I like .45, but I carry a 9mm because I can't afford to feed my .45 and practice as much as I need to.

    The biggest advancement IMO made in hollow point design is not so much getting them to expand bigger, but getting them to expand more reliably and consistently in various conditions.
  9. unit1069


    Oct 10, 2007
    So. Central US
    Excellent point! I wish I could have said it as succinctly as you have.
  10. dudel


    Dec 10, 2008
    Texas Hill Country
    The ammo may have gotten better, but my last visit to the range tells me the shooters are not.

    Shooters need to use the caliber they can be accurate with; not the ammo that has the baddest rep. The "best" ammo is the one you can get hits with. I don't use +P because I'm not as accurate with it on strings.
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2012
  11. if a .380 is a step down from a 9mm whats a .40, and 357sig.?
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2012
  12. WinterWizard


    Jan 17, 2012
    According to 9mm fans, the 9x19 is the only caliber that has benefited from modern hollow point designs. They like to ignore that there are .45 JHPs expanding to near an inch.

    "9mm is the best, bro! - because that's what I carry and all I own." <<< Ha ha ha!!!
  13. paragon1


    Sep 18, 2009
    At one time it was difficult to get a 9mm to penetrate deeply, and expand reliably. It is not now. Gap closed, or at least narrowed a bunch. The 9mm used to have some real deficiencies. They have been resolved.:wavey:
  14. because 9mm JHP is compared to .45 FMJ.

    look ma! same size bullet!
  15. English


    Dec 24, 2005
    I know of at least two people who have each shot several people with .45s and several with 9mms who claim that there was no difference in effect. In both cases they were .45 aficionados and used .45s until they were forced to use 9mms. (Israelis did get lots of opportunity to shoot people!) They were reluctant to cary the 9mms but, never the less, found their performance to be as good. Both would have used ball ammunition but the 9mms would have been loaded hotter than the normal 9mm in the USA.

    One part of the confusion on this subject is that the unsubstantiated idea that bigger is better is very attractive as an idea and is easy to repeat. The testimony referred to above most probably shows that idea to be false. It is interesting to consider why that is.

    When a bullet is passing through flesh it creates a permanent cavity and a tempoary cavity. Both are the consequence of the dynamic pressure gradient at the front of the bullet and are really one process which produces different effects related to distance from the pressure source and its intensity. This pressure gradient has to push the flesh out of the way of the bullet to allow it to pass. The larger its frontal area and the faster the bullet's speed, the higher the pressure and the faster the flesh must be pushed to the side. This gives the individual sectors around the bullet track outward momentum which, for all but slow moving bullets, means that the flesh is thrown beyond the diameter of the bullet. There is no net change in momenum as the flesh is thown outwards because the sectors ballance each other unless the bullet is deflected. In fact the flesh is thrown forwards and outwards and the forwards component is the way that the bullet's momentum is shared with the body.

    The body's cells can withstand only a limited pressure gradient since it distorts their shape and stretches their cell walls. On top of this, the imaginary surfaces through the flesh at right angles to the movement are being stretched in both directions. The closer they were to the bullet the greater this effect. The result is that cells close to the bullet nose and track suffer damage which decreases with distance. So those closest are burst and turn to mush. This forms the permanent cavity. Outside that zone the flesh tends to tear under the stretch applied by the expansion of the temporary cavity. Outside that gross damage there is lesser damage to blood vessels and nerves. This process incapacitates a much wider zone than the permanent cavity and is why the comparisson of two loadings by depth of penetration and expanded diameter is highly misleading. The volume of the temporary cavity would give a better comparison but the depth of the wider part of that cavity is also significant.

    Because of the FBI's dictum about the desireable penetration depth of bullets, almost all manufacturers design their loadings to give that depth of penetration. This leads to people thinking that they are all equal and this is clearly not so from both experience and theory.

    If you do the simple sums, the frontal areas of the two cartridges at their different speeds produce results that are remarkably close and this is why 9mms perform very much the same as .45ACPs in standard NATO and US Army loadings. The 9mm in its NATO loading is already close to its limit but the .45ACP can be pushed further and the bullet weight can be reduced. That puts the .45 ahead, and in some cases, well ahead of the 9mm.

    The .40S&W was designed to have the same momentum as the .45ACP but with a lower weight bullet. The consequence is that it has more energy than the 9mm (at much the same speed with lighter bullet) or the .45 with its heavier and slower bullet. The result is that the .40S&W has more effective terminal ballistics than either. The 357SIG is a little better still.

    All of this comes down to the kinetic energy of the bullet because the bullet can do only as much work as its KE allows. By juggling with the bullet design and weight you can change the shape of the temporary cavity from short and wide to narrow and long but you can't get something for nothing. What modern HP bullets achieve is to make the cavity shorter and wider, and that is seen by results which almost everyone agrees to be more effective. The .45 needs to be wider to compensate for its lower speed.

    To answer the simple part of your question, roughly speaking, the effectiveness of most bullets has gone up with improvements in bullet design and so those which were genuinely better than others will remain better. Unfortunately for the great debate, the .45 and the 9mm were close to equal.

    Constrained by what can be put into a handgun which is convenient to its purpose, most handgun bullets are a compromise: in a fight you would like more power but while carrying you would like less weight and bulk. The Glock range is generally light for its loadings and the .40S&W is complained of by many for its snappiness. Given another 4oz or so in the Steyr that problem disapears for most. Grip design makes some difference to this, but a lot is a matter of the recoil speed of the frame of the gun. Before someone points out the significance of strength and training, I agree their significance, but at any one time they are constant for the individual.

    If you go beyond the big 4 to the 10mm and the 9x23mm you get a substantial jump in terminal performance with the bullet speed of the 9x23mm getting on for some 40% higher than the same weight bullet in the ordinary 9x19mm we all know and love. That difference is not wasted - it does lots more tissue damage.

    Last edited: Sep 1, 2012
  16. Chuck54


    Nov 8, 2007

    May I ask what is your daily carry choice?
  17. glock20c10mm


    Dec 4, 2004
    Out West
    Additional diameter of .9" over .7" = 129%

    Additional surface area of a .9" diameter circle over a .7" diameter circle = 165%

    It's more about surface area than diameter. Diameter is only one dimentional, giving only limited information to what's actually being compared when it comes to expanded bullet diameters. Surface area, being two dimentional, accounts for the whole expanded bullet surface area.

    Can anyone confirm my math? Just want to make sure I'm showing the correct percentages. Thanks in advance!
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2012
  18. PlasticGuy


    Jul 10, 2000
    The "gap" assumes that only one thing matters: the terminal affect of a single hit.

    Once you take into account recoil, capacity, and concealability, they all start looking about the same. They are all just trade offs.
  19. tcruse


    Jun 10, 2011
  20. 9mm +p+

    9mm +p+

    Mar 1, 2005
    Old Dominion
    I can see the OP's point, I've been guilty of saying the very same thing. I have and use both 9's and 45's. I feel equally well protected with both, WITH the proper loads. The 9mm has always been a load specific stopper, meaning that there are fewer really good on the street stoppers. The 45 has a bigger group to choose from. For my $ 45 bullets are Ranger T's or HST's, for 9mm it's +p/+p+ only for me and 124/127gr. I currently carry Underwoods 124+p+ but did carry Ranger T 127's, my 45's are loaded with +p 230 HST's. Both loads will ruin your day I guarantee it, IF I deliver they where they belong.