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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: In identical full size M&P guns, both 9mm +P and .40 S&W are more similar than I would have thought.

There are a lot of comparisons between calibers, but not too many are based on identical guns. I went to the range with two M&P full size, one in 9mm and one in .40. I'm used to the nine as it's my EDC gun. But I wanted to see how it compared to the .40.

.40 ammo was:

165 grain Winchester white box FMJ
180 grain hardcast handloads, max load in Accurate Arms reloading guide

9mm ammo was:

115 grain Winchester range fodder
115 grain FMJ handloads, loaded to max +P load in Accurate Arms reloading guide


This is not a quantitative test, just my impressions:

I fired not super rapid fire, but flash sight firing, about a round every second.

I expected .40 to be a whole different category of recoil. But it's really not all that much different. With a firm two hand hold you get some more muzzle flip. (Flip is much more noticeable shooting one-handed.) I think if you timed ten-shot strings you'd get ten off a bit quicker out of the 9mm, but not a great deal of difference. If I get a chance to do this test I will.

Firing at the rate I was shooting, accuracy at seven yards was equal. I was putting them in a fist-sized hole in the paper, with occasional outliers. Either one is combat-accurate at ordinary defense distances.



The 9 and the 40 are more alike than they are different, at least in full-size M&P. (Certainly neither is in the territory of my XDM 10mm with full power loads. That one is a bigger handful.) The M&P is known as a soft-shooting gun and you might have a different impression in some other pistol. I'd bet that there's a bigger difference, say, in 9mm Shield vs. .40 Shield.

I wanted to do a three-way test with the M&P45, but none was available.


In a full-size plastic pistol, either 9 or 40 should be fine for self-protection. I'd still give the edge to the 9mm. Save for possible barrier penetration, the 40 won't do a thing that the nine won't do on a bad guy, and you still have the advantage of more rounds, cheaper ammo, and less recoil.
 

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I never really noticed much difference between mine (1.0 FS .40 and 9MM). Load were 140 grain lead in the .40 and 115 or 124 grain in the 9MM.

But, the FS in .357 SIG kicked ass. Lots more recoil than either of the others. Loads were 124 grain in the .357 SIG FS 1.0. Recoil was so great on that pistol that when I then switched from it to the 9MM P09 I found it hard to believe the ammo was actually firing. I kept looking at the targets while my mind would reinforce the holes with the fact that there was noise.
 

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Great info. I have the 2.0 in 9mm and had a good first impression on the range this past fall.
I got a .40 Steyr for xmas and cant wait for spring to do some of these tests. I didnt buy the .40 for any reason but ammo availability. Cant get to the range fast enough!
 
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Good thread - I have both the 2.0 4 inch compacts in both 9mm and .40 cal. I also have the five inch 2.0 in .40 cal. I find the difference in recoil minimal, and use the .40 cal pistols exclusively. I can find no reason to shoot a 9mm. My 9mm pistols just collect dust, and I only own them in case the whole .40 cal world and it's ammo just disappears. The FBI and the military use 9mm basically for their weakest link personnel. I am not a government employee, and shoot what I think is best - and for me, it's the .40 cal. My favorite rounds are 165 grain HST's, as the recoil is pretty much the same as my range ammo, and it has 468 ft lbs of muzzle energy. ( I also use 135 grain Lehigh Defense Extreme Defenders - recoil is identical to a 9mm pistol with those) I personally believe shots at 25 yards are not that uncommon, and I don't like the energy 9mm has at 25 yards. And no, I'm not trying to start a caliber war lol. The Smith & Wesson pistols have stouter frames than most other - perhaps all other polymer pistols, therefore, it handles the .40 cal very well.

Let me go on further. I have 2 identical FNS .40 cal long slide pistols ( 5 inch barrels ) - and they handle the recoil just as well as my 5 inch .40 cal Smith 2.0. I find the grips on the FNS just a tad smaller than I like - but those pistols rock. However, and as I kayak and use my pistols around water, this matters to me - the FNS pistols must be let to drain for about 3 seconds after being submerged in water or the pistol won't fire - hydrolock occurs. That's a big deal for me - not for most others, or apparently to FN - but again, it is for me. My five inch Smith shoots and handles the recoil pretty identical to my FNS pistols. I can rapid fire them as fast as I can pull the trigger, and remain in a tight enough group to my satisfaction. Since my Smith pistols don't hydrolock after water submersion, I give a slight edge to the Smith.

I have a gen 4 Glock 23 in .40 cal. The compact 2.0 shoots and handles the recoil of the .40 NOTICEABLY better than the Glock 23 - My full sized pistols handle the recoil noticeably better than all my compacts though. And check this out - My Smith 2.0 pistols in .40 cal have proven to be much more reliable than my Glock 23 - That's right - more reliable than Glock. That includes my little torture tests too. I do shoot some reloads from Ventura Munitions that the Glock 23 feeds a little better than my Smith though. The Gen 4 Glock barrel simply has a slightly larger chamber which has helped feed the occasional out of spec reload I find in the 250 round boxes I buy from Ventura. But the Glock has failed to properly feed on about a dozen occasions for no reasons - which I find as strange from a Glock - but I'm speaking gospel truth here. The new Gen 5 Glock 23's have come out with wider slides, but it also has a bull barrel with a tighter chamber too - so it will lose some reliability with reloads - but will most likely shoot softer than the Gen 4.

My Smith 2.0 in 9mm shoots noticeably softer than my Gen 3 Glock 19, but the Glock 19 is a work horse, and outperforms the Smith compact in 9mm in torture tests. That being said, I found I had to cover the Smith in dirt 3 times before it would fail - then I had to take the slide off and wipe it down - but it then continued with no lubrication. So while the Gen 3 Glock 19 is more reliable than the Smith in extreme conditions, the Smith is no slouch - and I highly doubt anyone is going to have an occasion to get their pistol as dirty as I did during my comparison tests. Gen 4 and Gen 5 9mm Glocks shoot comparable to the Smith, but the edge for shootability still goes to the Smith. And for the record, the .40 cal 2.0 does noticeably better in torture tests than the 9mm - that extra umph from the .40 cal pushes thru all the debris with ease.

For the record, I take very good care of my pistols, but every firearm I own gets tested to the breaking point in my little torture tests. At the end of the day, I carry my 2.0 .40 cal compact Smith daily, and I feel not only safe, but that I have the edge on everyone who is not carrying what I am. People who have shot with me on side by side comparisons agree 100% with what I've just written too. The 2.0 Smith's are great pistols, and if you are a .40 cal shooter - the 4 inch compacts and the 5 inch pistols are top shelf on today's market. The 9's are up there and possibly surpass most or all of the competition too. The 9's may get beat out in torture tests by some others, but those are extreme circumstances that quite honestly will not happen to 99 % of people.

Sorry for the long post, but I love a good comparison type thread, and the opportunity to pass on what I've found with my experience of shooting - and I shoot more than most, and have for years now. So while most schoff at things like torture tests, along with just plain old practical shooting, I like to think some people might find some value in what I've found throughout the years. And I've owned a LOT of pistols - rifles too for that matter. I'm not an expert, but I've definitely been around the block I'll say.
 

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Meh, I like .40 S&W. A bigger, heavier bullet is a bigger, heavier bullet, and firearms chambered in .40 S&W tend to be cheaper than their 9mm counterparts these days. So why would I pay more for less?

Also, oddly enough, for all the articles I've read involving freak occurrences in which some thug took 2 dozen rounds of 9mm Luger or .45 ACP before going down, I've yet to see a single article about a thug who kept on coming after being shot a few times by a .40 cal. Coincidence? Perhaps, but regardless, nobody can argue that .40 S&W is any less effective than 9mm Luger, and as previously stated, .40cal pistols tend to be cheaper due to lower demand, and I honestly can't say that I shoot 9mm any faster nor more accurately than .40 S&W.
 

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I really don't know if it matters at all. Use what feels most comfortable to you.

In a textbook situation one may be slightly better than the other, but in the real world, shot placement isn't going to be perfect - and you are going to need to just keep going until the threat is neutralized.

For some, 9mm is just more manageable. Some like the higher capacity. I have a 9 at home for the family.

I don't have a .40, and have only shot it a few times, but I thought it was manageable as well.

Personally I prefer the bigger slower .45, but the overall effectiveness will be determined more by shot placement than caliber.
 

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Meh, I like .40 S&W. A bigger, heavier bullet is a bigger, heavier bullet, and firearms chambered in .40 S&W tend to be cheaper than their 9mm counterparts these days. So why would I pay more for less?

Also, oddly enough, for all the articles I've read involving freak occurrences in which some thug took 2 dozen rounds of 9mm Luger or .45 ACP before going down, I've yet to see a single article about a thug who kept on coming after being shot a few times by a .40 cal. Coincidence? Perhaps, but regardless, nobody can argue that .40 S&W is any less effective than 9mm Luger, and as previously stated, .40cal pistols tend to be cheaper due to lower demand, and I honestly can't say that I shoot 9mm any faster nor more accurately than .40 S&W.
They all work and they all fail. You would think that a 45 ACP would be vastly superior to a 9mm, but in reality there's about a 5% performance boost statistically. The reason is FPS, or lack thereof. The human body is elastic and can absorb the difference in energy and recover. Past about 2300 FPS and it can't anymore. So your temporal wound cavity becomes the permanent wound cavity. It's why a .223 55g projectile moving at 3000 fps is so much more deadly then a .45 230g projectile moving at 800 fps.

With pistol calibers and velocities it's all about shot placement. And 9mm gives you double the lottery odds in every magazine... :)

This video made it clear for me, YMMV.

Lucky Gunner Enlightenment Video
 

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They all work and they all fail. You would think that a 45 ACP would be vastly superior to a 9mm, but in reality there's about a 5% performance boost statistically. The reason is FPS, or lack thereof. The human body is elastic and can absorb the difference in energy and recover. Past about 2300 FPS and it can't anymore. So your temporal wound cavity becomes the permanent wound cavity. It's why a .223 55g projectile moving at 3000 fps is so much more deadly then a .45 230g projectile moving at 800 fps.

With pistol calibers and velocities it's all about shot placement. And 9mm gives you double the lottery odds in every magazine... :)

This video made it clear for me, YMMV.

Lucky Gunner Enlightenment Video
I agree.

One other good point made in the video you posted was the projectile - it has to be good.

Back in the day, 9mm and .45 FMJs just didn't perform well. The 9 typically punched right through without expanding, and the .45 was only slightly better. Bullet technology has evened the playing field.

Ballistically speaking, increasing the velocity of a projectile has a significantly larger effect on the force it delivers than does increasing its weight.

As noted, the much high velocity of a rifle round creates a much larger wound cavity than does a slower, but much heavier, pistol round.

On a side note, I feel the design of my M&P45 2.0 Compact does a lot to tame a .45 round. It shoots softer and more controllable than many other defense pistols I've fired. The 9mm Compact improves on that, making it super easy to control.
 

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I agree.

One other good point made in the video you posted was the projectile - it has to be good.

Back in the day, 9mm and .45 FMJs just didn't perform well. The 9 typically punched right through without expanding, and the .45 was only slightly better. Bullet technology has evened the playing field.

Ballistically speaking, increasing the velocity of a projectile has a significantly larger effect on the force it delivers than does increasing its weight.

As noted, the much high velocity of a rifle round creates a much larger wound cavity than does a slower, but much heavier, pistol round.

On a side note, I feel the design of my M&P45 2.0 Compact does a lot to tame a .45 round. It shoots softer and more controllable than many other defense pistols I've fired. The 9mm Compact improves on that, making it super easy to control.
Yes, as the video points out the advanced tech bullet is the playing field leveler. If we were to be artificially and politically limited to ball ammo, then 45 has the advantage.

It's why I sold off my 40's and kept a few 1911's and 357's. The 1911's and 357's are for when we are only "allowed" to carry 10 rounds or less. Which will probably be sooner rather than later, nowadays.

But until then my EDC is an M&P 2.0 sub compact with 12/15/17 mags depending on how liberal the city is I'm traveling through. Portland, Oregon gets 17/17/17 for example with AR's for back up... :) When I'm home I carry 12 and12. Boise, Idaho gets 15/15 :) All Federal HST 124 +P

10 round limits would see me carrying an SR1911 lightweight commander with 8+1 and 2-8 rnd backups with all Federal HST 230's.
 

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They all work and they all fail. You would think that a 45 ACP would be vastly superior to a 9mm, but in reality there's about a 5% performance boost statistically. The reason is FPS, or lack thereof. The human body is elastic and can absorb the difference in energy and recover. Past about 2300 FPS and it can't anymore. So your temporal wound cavity becomes the permanent wound cavity. It's why a .223 55g projectile moving at 3000 fps is so much more deadly then a .45 230g projectile moving at 800 fps.

With pistol calibers and velocities it's all about shot placement. And 9mm gives you double the lottery odds in every magazine... :)

This video made it clear for me, YMMV.

Lucky Gunner Enlightenment Video
I'm well aware of how Hydrostatic Shock works and all that jazz about how because handguns can't achieve it everything from 9mm and up is allegedly equal, but frankly, I'm not buying it.

First of all, while stretch cavities don't necessarily result in greater permanent damage, I imagine that they must be more painful, more disorienting, and therefore potentially more likely to result in a psychological stop in which an attacker may subsequently decide that he has better places to be.

Furthermore, any hunter can tell you that bigger, heavier bullets have far more traumatic effects against bone than smaller lighter bullets do, and obviously shattered bones are more incapacitating than bones which are merely fractured or otherwise have holes through them.

Lastly, larger diameter wounds are going to result in more bleeding, which again, will result in faster incapacitation.

Are the differences between duty cartridges particularly vast? No, but the difference is there, so I say that as long as it isn't detrimental towards accuracy, why not carry something more powerful? The difference in magazine capacity between 9mm and .45 ACP is admittedly pretty substantial, because you lose anywhere from 5 to 7 rounds in the magazine with .45 ACP, but between 9mm and .40 the difference is typically 2 to 3 rounds, which is a lot less substantial.
Heck, my M&P40 Shield only holds 1 round less than the M&P9 Shield.

Regardless, they'll all get the job done, because the most decisive factor in a gunfight is shot placement, but I feel more confident carrying something with a bit more oomph, so that's what I do. Besides, like I said, .40s are substantially cheaper and more available thanks to the prevalence of the sentiment that it offers practically nothing over 9mm Luger.
 

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(SNIP)
Are the differences between duty cartridges particularly vast? No, but the difference is there, so I say that as long as it isn't detrimental towards accuracy, why not carry something more powerful? The difference in magazine capacity between 9mm and .45 ACP is admittedly pretty substantial, because you lose anywhere from 5 to 7 rounds in the magazine with .45 ACP, but between 9mm and .40 the difference is typically 2 to 3 rounds, which is a lot less substantial.
Heck, my M&P40 Shield only holds 1 round less than the M&P9 Shield.
(SNIP)
There won't be any difference in magazine capacity if they get their way - max will be 10 rounds for everyone.
 

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I'm well aware of how Hydrostatic Shock works and all that jazz about how because handguns can't achieve it everything from 9mm and up is allegedly equal, but frankly, I'm not buying it.

First of all, while stretch cavities don't necessarily result in greater permanent damage, I imagine that they must be more painful, more disorienting, and therefore potentially more likely to result in a psychological stop in which an attacker may subsequently decide that he has better places to be.

Furthermore, any hunter can tell you that bigger, heavier bullets have far more traumatic effects against bone than smaller lighter bullets do, and obviously shattered bones are more incapacitating than bones which are merely fractured or otherwise have holes through them.

Lastly, larger diameter wounds are going to result in more bleeding, which again, will result in faster incapacitation.

Are the differences between duty cartridges particularly vast? No, but the difference is there, so I say that as long as it isn't detrimental towards accuracy, why not carry something more powerful? The difference in magazine capacity between 9mm and .45 ACP is admittedly pretty substantial, because you lose anywhere from 5 to 7 rounds in the magazine with .45 ACP, but between 9mm and .40 the difference is typically 2 to 3 rounds, which is a lot less substantial.
Heck, my M&P40 Shield only holds 1 round less than the M&P9 Shield.

Regardless, they'll all get the job done, because the most decisive factor in a gunfight is shot placement, but I feel more confident carrying something with a bit more oomph, so that's what I do. Besides, like I said, .40s are substantially cheaper and more available thanks to the prevalence of the sentiment that it offers practically nothing over 9mm Luger.
Greg Ellifritz's 10-year stopping power study of real-world gun fights would contradict what you believe to be true. I know it was part of what changed the way I thought about it.

The Best Handgun Caliber

According to the study, the mouse calibers are bad. 22/25/32 And there's no statistical difference between any of the standard defensive pistol calibers 38/9/40/44/45
 

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Greg Ellifritz's 10-year stopping power study of real-world gun fights would contradict what you believe to be true. I know it was part of what changed the way I thought about it.

The Best Handgun Caliber

According to the study, the mouse calibers are bad. 22/25/32 And there's no statistical difference between any of the standard defensive pistol calibers 38/9/40/44/45
Well, there’s statistics, and then there's being hit with one of them.

Big bullet holes let the bad out of bad guys quicker...
 

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Greg Ellifritz's 10-year stopping power study of real-world gun fights would contradict what you believe to be true. I know it was part of what changed the way I thought about it.

The Best Handgun Caliber

According to the study, the mouse calibers are bad. 22/25/32 And there's no statistical difference between any of the standard defensive pistol calibers 38/9/40/44/45
The problem with statistics is that their figures are most often formed with uneven sample sizes. Case in point, according to gunfight statistics.22LR has the highest probability of stopping an attack, but in reality that figure is hopelessly skewed by the fact that .22LR is simply used more often than anything else because both the ammunition and the firearms which shoot .22LR are extremely inexpensive.

9mm Luger also tends to receive higher statistical figures not only due to it's popularity, but also because it predates many other duty cartridges. So it's no surprise that a cartridge that dates back to 1903 would beat a cartridge that dates back to 1990, especially if the data that was compiled dates back before .40 S&W was even commercially loaded.
 

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The problem with statistics is that their figures are most often formed with uneven sample sizes. Case in point, according to gunfight statistics.22LR has the highest probability of stopping an attack, but in reality that figure is hopelessly skewed by the fact that .22LR is simply used more often than anything else because both the ammunition and the firearms which shoot .22LR are extremely inexpensive.

9mm Luger also tends to receive higher statistical figures not only due to it's popularity, but also because it predates many other duty cartridges. So it's no surprise that a cartridge that dates back to 1903 would beat a cartridge that dates back to 1990, especially if the data that was compiled dates back before .40 S&W was even commercially loaded.
The guys at Federal, Greg Elefritz, and the Marshall study, and everything else that I've ever read studying real world results of handgun caliber performance ALWAYS contradict the statement that "bigger bullets work better." If there is a study out there that shows that bigger bullets do in fact work better for modern hollow point self defense pistol calibers 9/38/357/40/45, I'd love to read it or see it.
 

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The guys at Federal, Greg Elefritz, and the Marshall study, and everything else that I've ever read studying real world results of handgun caliber performance ALWAYS contradict the statement that "bigger bullets work better." If there is a study out there that shows that bigger bullets do in fact work better for modern hollow point self defense pistol calibers 9/38/357/40/45, I'd love to read it or see it.
I bet the results are almost identical if you compare the same round in similar calibers.

Bottom line - get the best performing round you can get and put it in the right place. Don't expect one to do the job.
 

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Meh, I like .40 S&W. A bigger, heavier bullet is a bigger, heavier bullet, and firearms chambered in .40 S&W tend to be cheaper than their 9mm counterparts these days. So why would I pay more for less?

Also, oddly enough, for all the articles I've read involving freak occurrences in which some thug took 2 dozen rounds of 9mm Luger or .45 ACP before going down, I've yet to see a single article about a thug who kept on coming after being shot a few times by a .40 cal. Coincidence? Perhaps, but regardless, nobody can argue that .40 S&W is any less effective than 9mm Luger, and as previously stated, .40cal pistols tend to be cheaper due to lower demand, and I honestly can't say that I shoot 9mm any faster nor more accurately than .40 S&W.
I'm a big time 40 shooter too. My 9mm's are on display lately.
 

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Meh, I like .40 S&W. A bigger, heavier bullet is a bigger, heavier bullet, and firearms chambered in .40 S&W tend to be cheaper than their 9mm counterparts these days. So why would I pay more for less?

Also, oddly enough, for all the articles I've read involving freak occurrences in which some thug took 2 dozen rounds of 9mm Luger or .45 ACP before going down, I've yet to see a single article about a thug who kept on coming after being shot a few times by a .40 cal. Coincidence? Perhaps, but regardless, nobody can argue that .40 S&W is any less effective than 9mm Luger, and as previously stated, .40cal pistols tend to be cheaper due to lower demand, and I honestly can't say that I shoot 9mm any faster nor more accurately than .40 S&W.
I saw a video today of a shooting over the weekend. Montgomery county Maryland deputy put 12 rounds into a guy center mass before he stopped advancing.
I can't find what guns are used by that sheriff office but either way it took more than a few rounds to stop the threat.

The video is inside the story at this link.

WARNING: Graphic video!

If you don't like adult language DO NOT watch the video, the guy recording with his cell phone drops the F bomb very often.

 

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^ Hard to believe. He barely flinched the entire time. Caliber probably wouldn't make any difference.

As noted in the article, after a few rounds without any reaction, going from center-mass to head-shot would be a good idea.

It takes time to register that you've been shot, and in that time a person can still operate. It wasn't long, but still plenty of time to continue an attack.

We tend to think of young strong attackers on drugs as being hard to stop, but this guy proved otherwise.
 

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Well, first of all, when the Officer started shooting, the suspect had dropped the stick and was unarmed. Usually I'd have a problem with that. And no, I don't hate cops lol. I agree with 90% of law enforcement shootings. Many times when others don't too. Although older, this suspect appeared to be hopped up on speed, or in a rage that I wouldn't want to depend on a pepper spray of sort. Just by watching the vid, in my opinion, if it went hand to hand, the Officer was going to lose - perhaps even be killed. I would agree with a head shot, but we were able to see the vid and arm chair quarterback it - the cop did not. He backed up and tried to avoid shooting him, and shot like he was trained to do - center mass until the threat was over. Actually an excellent job by Police. It is sad to see the suspect lose his life over what I bet was a very out of character moment for himself - be it from drugs, bad day, or mental issues.

But to the point of caliber...looking at the recoil of shooting the pistol one handed, not only do I feel confident in saying it's a 9mm, but I'm wondering if he was using 115 grain bullets. Perhaps he's an avid shooter and just manages the recoil very well. This guy went down within 2 seconds of being shot I'd guess, it's just the Officer was able to shoot fast, and I'm sure it feels like an eternity when a shot man keeps coming at you after being shot. I mean - gees if you need to reload after a mag dump center mass at 10 ft away - I'd want to see the bullets that were expended to check on expansion and depth performance.

Thanks for posting the vid. The whole world gets to see what kind of person the person recording is too now. I have an old friend who signed on with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. We talked a bit about calibers one day, and he told me .40 has the most one shot stops compared to the 9mm and 45 acp. I have no idea where he got that information from or if it's true. Just because he's a cop doesn't make him the end all of intelligence. But I agree with the above statement in regards to a pain factor being a part of shootings. I'm aware of all the .40 cal jokes about people who shoot it. I say .40 cal shooters use the .40 because they want the round that delivers the most energy on target, and .40 does that, and with a decent sized bullet. 357 Sig is in the same arena, and .45 loaded with proper Plus P ammunition can give a little better performance. But .40 has a more readily available supply ammo that does it. Also, the flat nosed design of the .40 transfers energy pretty well. 9 mm is known to be the most common bullet to fail to expand it's hollow points too from my understanding. And I have preached for years, if bad times hit, and all you can get is cheap range ammo - kind of like the times we see today - do you really want to be shooting 115 grain fmj rounds at someone. They have proven to be pretty ineffective.

There is a vid on you tube comparing shooting watermelons with an AK 47, and a 30 30 lever action rifle. On paper they have pretty identical performance. Due to the rounded bullet design of the 30 30, the damage done by the 30 30 about doubled that of the AK 47. There is performance on paper, and there is real world performance in the field. I'm sticking with my .40 cals lol. And in closing, yes, shot placement is still king. (Sorry for 2 long posts in one thread - usually I'm pretty short and to the point)
 
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