9mm vs. .45 ACP; Just the Basics – Foundry Outdoors
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9mm vs. .45 ACP; Just the Basics

Learn the basics about the 9mm vs. .45 ACP caliber debate.

If you’re looking to pick a fight with someone try this. Walk into any establishment when handgun aficionados are present. This could be a gun show, drinking establishment, backyard barbeque, or at the handgun case at your local gun dealer. With a few well-educated people around, strike up a friendly debate about the 9mm vs. the .45 ACP. It won’t be long and you might see the sparks flying.

There are many caliber debates out there. Every one of them is based around the debate between trade-offs. Caliber X will excel at A,B,C, while caliber Y excels at E,F,G. Eventually shooters just have to decide what is most important to them personally. A previous post compared the .308, 30-06, and the 6.5 Creedmoor and fell into the same sort of traps. The debate between the 9mm and .45 ACP is no different.

A quick Internet search for 9mm vs. .45 ACP turns up around eight million returns. Needless to say there is an abundance of opinions out there about which caliber is superior. The purpose of this article is to serve as a general interest guide for someone who may be unfamiliar with the calibers. After doing the research, and knowing what you are looking for in a handgun, you can decide for yourself what is best.

The best place to start with both calibers is with their history. After all, each was developed out of necessity and are closely related. Over time each has proven itself time and time again throughout history.


History of the 9mm

The history of the 9mm, or 9mm Parabellum, began around the turn of the 20th century. Armies around the world were using .30 caliber pistols and were seeing some real deficiencies in the handguns. These small caliber side arms simply lacked the stopping power they needed for combat. As a result there was a push to develop a caliber that would prove capable in the field. One German company, Deutsches Waffen und Munitionsfabriken (DWM) developed the 9mm Parabellum in 1902 as an answer to that need.

By the first World War armies around the world were taking notice. It was exported around the world and used by both the Allies and the Central Powers. Although it didn’t initially knock people’s socks off, it was useful enough to keep it on the battlefield. One of the biggest advantages it offered on the battlefield was the ability to shoot more bullets at your target, an advantage people still tout today. The caliber saw extensive use in WWI and WWII.

By the end of the wars the caliber was gaining special popularity in police forces in America.  In fact today 9mm handguns are standard issue in some of the biggest police departments in America. These departments believe in the many advantages offered by 9mm caliber handguns.


History of the .45 ACP

Much like the 9mm, the .45 ACP, or automatic Colt pistol, comes out of the gloom of the late 19th century. While the DWM developed the high-velocity 9mm, Colt looked to a larger caliber to answer the call. In fact, during 1904 a round of military test concluded, “a bullet, which will have the shock effect and stopping effect at short ranges necessary for a military pistol or revolver, should have a caliber not less than .45.By 1906 they had successfully created the .45 ACP and in 1911 Colt released the model 1911. The rest, as they say, is history.

Since its introduction the .45 ACP has always been a favorite of many who depended on a sidearm for their survival. It was used by thousands of soldiers in WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. It was also the favored gun of outlaws like John Dillinger and was the cartridge used in the infamous Tommy Gun of the prohibition era. Wherever people have needed a handgun for their protection, the .45 ACP has been there for over 100 years doing the job.


9mm Advantages

While these guns have similar histories, they do offer shooters different approaches. Here are the advantages most often attached to a 9mm handgun.

  • High Velocity; 9mm handguns typically fire in the range of 950 – 1400 fps. These speeds are certainly faster than the 700-1150 fps of the .45 ACP.
  • Less recoil: Since it is a smaller caliber, and uses less powder, 9mm handguns are generally viewed as easier to hold on target for multiple shots and increase accuracy. The ability to hold steady makes this an ideal caliber for many people.
  • More bullet capacity: Another benefit advocates point to is the increased bullet capacity of most handguns. Since the cartridge is smaller, it is not uncommon for 9mm handguns to hold 10 to 17 rounds. Obviously, more rounds in the gun can make people feel better about their chances of connecting on a target.
  • Cheaper: One big advantage of 9mm handguns is their affordability. These are generally cheaper than a .45 ACP, sometimes up to 3 or 4 times cheaper.

.45 ACP Advantages

On the other side of the debate, many advocates of the .45 ACP feel it is superior for several reasons.

  • Larger Bullets: The major advantage touted for the .45 ACP is the larger bullet diameter. Larger bullets can tend to cause more tissue damage upon impact of the shot. The .45 ACP is a cartridge that has a proven track record of causing severe impact on soft tissue targets. Proponents feel that they don’t need the extra rounds offered by a 9mm if they can land a few well-placed shots with these big bullets.
  • Proven Track Record: Another advantage people point to when arguing in favor of the .45 ACP is the track record in military service. Like the 9mm, this round was developed for war and has proven itself proficient time and time again.

Here is a good video that compares how bow calibers perform on ballistics gel.


Which is Right for You?

If you are comparing the 9mm and the .45 ACP you’ve got some thinking to do. Both calibers do have a strong history backing up their credibility. Both were designed to replace calibers that were failing on the battlefield, and both have found their place in the modern world. Not only are both still relevant and useful today, each has a corner full of seasoned gun experts willing to tell you why their favorite caliber is the best.

If you are looking to purchase either of these, your best advice would be to think about what are you looking for. Do you want a gun with more shots in the magazine, or are you comfortable with fewer rounds that cause more damage individually? Are you looking for a gun that shoots a fast bullet, or are you ok with sacrificing some speed for perhaps the most popular military sidearm of the last 100 years? However you decide is up to you, and either way you are likely to end up with a proficient handgun.

NEXT: .22 LR vs. .22 WMR vs. .17 HMR: What's the Best Rimfire Cartridge?

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