by Sam Hoober
Alien Gear's Sam Hoober makes the case that good quality ammunition, or the bullet you carry, is actually more important than how big it is or how fast it flies.
U.S.A. –-(Ammoland.com)- The caliber wars are as redundant as they are hackneyed at this point, but that hasn't stopped people from going on and on about how 9mm is better than .45 ACP or vice versa, or how .40 is a great medium between the two and so on.
Some people even chime in that .380 is actually a viable defense round and everyone needs to stop trashing it.
Then the revolver guys start in on .357 Magnum and so on and so forth.
No Such Thing As Stopping Power
The truth is that stopping power is a myth, so unless you carry a .45-70 Mare's leg it's just not really an attribute that a handgun has. That said, all of the proven defensive calibers are great for a carry gun, but it isn't the number printed on the rim that matters.
What DOES matter? Shot placement, certainly, but what arguably matters almost more than anything is actually the ammunition you use. If there is anything that's held as true when it comes to the defensive use of the handgun over the decades is that quality ammunition makes far more difference than caliber.
Fully-jacketed bullets are very good at punching through targets, be they paper or of the fleshy variety. The reason why .45 ACP was popular was that a bigger bullet poked a bigger hole and thus did more damage than a smaller one. However, what we know now is that a decent 9mm JHP round is going to be better than 230-grain ball.
That is exactly the reason why it took law enforcement so long to adopt semi-auto pistols. In past eras, the only quality hollowpoints or semi-wadcutter hollowpoints made on any kind of scale were made for .38 Special and .357 Magnum pistols. Since good hollow points weren't available over-the-counter for 9mm or .45 ACP, departments and agencies relied on the ammunition that was known to be effective until semi-auto rounds began to catch up.
Ammunition Has Come A Long Way
Improvements in ammunition quality are why more and more police departments and federal agencies are switching to 9mm after dalliances with .40 S&W, .357 Sig and so on. With quality hollowpoints, a round that might otherwise seem underpowered becomes devastatingly effective.
Good carry ammunition doesn't punch through a target; it expands inside the target, creating a larger wound channel and coming to rest inside the assailant. The expansion causes more damage, hopefully enough to incapacitate the threat or at least convince them to quit the engagement. Penetration is also important, as a good defensive round should be able to penetrate through several layers of clothing as well as other materials before reaching the target.
While ballistic testing is far from perfect, it can at least start to approximate what a round may potentially do when shot into a human target. Testing by ammunition makers, governmental organizations, and private citizens has demonstrated that plenty of quality ammunition is available for all of the proven carry calibers, all of which are capable of sufficient penetration and expansion to be relied upon when it matters.
Granted, some calibers will require a bit more searching than others to find the best rounds, but there are .380 loads that are perfectly adequate for defensive purposes. A bevy of quality loads in 9mm, .40, .45 and so on are available on most gun store shelves or easily online, a number of which – such as Speer Gold Dot, Remington Golden Saber Bonded, Winchester Ranger and Federal HST – have an excellent track record in police service and are very well-suited to use in a concealed carry gun.
About Sam Hoober
Sam Hoober is a contributing editor at Alien Gear Holsters, as well as for Bigfoot Gun Belts. He also writes weekly columns for Daily Caller and USA Carry.