FBI Unlearns Gun & Ammo History … 9mm Vs 45 ~ VIDEO

9mm Versus The 45ACP
FBI Unlearns Gun & Ammo History … 9mm Vs 45
Don McDougall
Don McDougall

USA – -(Ammoland.com)- A while back (2014) the FBI published a long diatribe defending their decision to go to the 9mm round as their choice for their agents. They plan on going forward with that now.

For some of their reason, the FBI is going against history and the FBI’s own experience. With that in mind, I invite your comments. Mine is at the end of the article. The FBI Reasoning document is embedded below.


The Miami Shootout: Eight FBI agents cornered two serial bank robbers, in the shootout only one agent came out unscathed. The FBI wanted more “Stopping Power” that they got from their 9mm and .38 special firearms. The FBI went to the 10mm, then to a “light 10mm” then to the S&W .40.

Now we’re back to the 9mm as their primary choice. Remember the .38 special can penetrate 15 inches of ballistic jell. The same criteria used for selecting the 9mm today. Additionally, without the limitation on the shape of the round required to allow assured feeding, the .38 special is probably a better stopper than the 9mm.

If you read the FBI’s reasons endorsing the 9mm, there are a handful of things that stand out.

  1. They wanted a lighter round to avoid wear on their firearms. (Budget)
  2. 70-80% of their shots miss (Poor training)
  3. They wanted a high capacity magazine so that they could shoot enough rounds to maybe get one or two hits. (See #2)


The fact is this all sounds a lot more like politics, cheaper ammunition, lobbyists selling new guns and the same tired old bureaucracy driven decision process that you see throughout history. From the Civil war holding back repeaters and cartridged rifles because the troops might “shoot too fast” and use up the ammunition to the Philippines in 1902, to today.

Oh.. the Philippines, when the .38 long colt failed to perform.

From Wikipedia:

The .38 long Colt’s relatively poor ballistics were highlighted during the Philippine–American War of 1899–1902. A typical instance occurred in 1905 and was later recounted by Col. Louis A. LaGarde:

Antonio Caspi, a prisoner on the island of Samar, P.I. attempted escape on Oct. 26, 1905. He was shot four times at close range in a hand-to-hand encounter by a .38 Colt's revolver loaded with U.S. Army regulation ammunition. He was finally stunned by a blow on the forehead from the butt end of a Springfield carbine.

Col. LaGarde noted Caspi's wounds were fairly well-placed: three bullets entered the chest, perforating the lungs. One passed through the body, one lodged near the back and the other lodged in subcutaneous tissue. The fourth round went though the right hand and exited through the forearm.[8]

As an emergency response to the round's unexpectedly dismal performance, the U.S. Army authorized officers to carry M1873 Colt Single Action Army revolvers, chambered in .45 Colt, and issued from reserve stocks.

As a result of numerous instances of the new .38 service pistols being ineffective the US Army was forced to hastily re-issue mothballed Single Action Amy .45 Colts.
As a result of numerous instances of the new .38 service pistols being ineffective the US Army was forced to hastily re-issue mothballed Single Action Amy .45 Colts. IMG : historicalfirearms.info

So if shot placement is all that matters and stopping power is a myth what happened with the .38 long colt?

Can’t you hear the ghostly whispers from 1901? We can ship 3 .38 LC cartridges for the same cost as 2 .45 LC. Look at the savings in practicing! Stopping power is a myth! Pistols are obsolete anyway. All the same old tired arguments that get brave men killed.

In my opinion, they should spend the money on practice instead of new guns. (Missing a man size target at 15 feet 8 out of 10 times is a disaster.) In firearm selection, they should choose firearms that fit the shooters hands, and they select the largest caliber you can control. A .380 in the head is better than a 10mm miss. With a miss ratio of around 80%, you run the risk of a LOT of collateral damage.

One last note, LEARN from history; Mark Twain said history doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes. Look again at Miami and The Moro rebellion. Remember why the 1911 is in .45 and not 9mm Lugar. Maybe one size does not fit all? Remember the North Hollywood shoot out.

Look to the past and learn from went wrong. Look the US military issued 1911,s revolvers and Colt 1903’s in WWII. Concealability and Reliability often out weighted lethality.

Setting yourself up for a repeat of the Miami Shootout is not progress.

Do NOT let the brave agents who stood tall in Miami, and the men who gave up their lives to poor “management decision” in all the wars we’ve fought have died for nothing. Learn from OUR mistakes.

One last comment, EXPERIENCE shows us that the size of the grips on the GLOCK, is to large and boxy for women and many men. The increase in misses from 40% to 80% over the past 4 decades is due in large part to the width of the grip on the hi-capacity “wonder 9s”. Using lighter loads won’t stop the problem of gun ergonomics.

Executive Summary of Justification for Law Enforcement Partners

About Don McDougall:

Don McDougall is an NRA instructor and member of the Los Padres “Friends of the NRA” committee. If he’s not at the range you will find him setting the record straight with on gun issues and gun safety on AmmoLand Shooting Sports News.

  • 199 thoughts on “FBI Unlearns Gun & Ammo History … 9mm Vs 45 ~ VIDEO

      1. @Brian Bonner, Welcome to the site. Yes, the .40 S&W is often humorously referred to as the .40 cal. Short & Weak.
        But what ever a guy has with him is better than nothing, and I intend to shoot until the threat goes away. If it looks like the threat might survive, I may have to render first aid until I am sure that it does not happen.

    1. BJI,

      I couldn’t see your post on this site, but I did get notified of it via email, so here’s my response.

      I stand corrected on the proper diameters, and I thank you for the correction! Empirical evidence is the key factor in making real world quality decisions, and I prefer that to subjective opinion!

      I would note that you did say that the 45 ACP I had two different diameters, one being a .451 and the other being of .351.

      I figured you just made an error and hit the wrong key on the ladder figure.

      I would like your comments on the main points I was making, pertaining to shot placement accuracy, and the ability of individual Shooters to handle a calibers pertinent to their abilities.

      Thank you again for the correction I do appreciate it!

    2. Personally, were I in an exchange, I’d rather have my Grendel P30 or KelTek PMR-30 with .its 22WMR V-Max. Talk about accuracy and on-target repetition, it’s hard to beat. I’ve seen what it can do to a wild boar (including head-shots), and they drop like a rock. Since the vast majority of altercations occur within 7 meters, this “toy” is likely all you will need. Small recoil and 30+1 rounds to start…

    3. Some years ago my family and I visited the FBI Building in Washington, D.C. and witnessed the Shooting presentation. This was during the time the Bureau had changed to the.40 Cal. Having been in two Branches of our Military, I questioned the male Agent as to why anyone would want the .40, as opposed to the .45, with its outstand “impact” value. He only smiled and tapped his holster and said, “You’re preaching to the Choir”.

    4. Read Sanow and Marshall’s “Stopping Power” which chronicles actual cartridges used in combat that worked……and didn’t. It’s not a scientific study but a history of what happened. Foot pounds of energy that actually stay in the target appear to be a good indicator of effectiveness. 400 foot pounds appears to be a good bottom level for a duty cartridge. If it has good expansion and doesn’t go out the back of the adversary, you have a pretty good round. As much as I hated to read it, the 9mm Luger ball round has stopped a higher percentage of fights in which was used than .45 ACP. I know; ouch.

      1. Sanow and Marshall’s book has been discredited. Their math was made up. The IWBA did a statistical study of the book and found its math impossible for them to come up with the figures they came up with, Real world shooting and modern testing shows the statistical difference between 9mm, .40 and .45 is zip. With good ammo the 9mm gives huge advantages to the shooter.

    5. I am amazed at the sheer ignorance of some comments here. Lets establish a few facts here. Advertising or stories of fantastical nuclear like bullets, and even some hand selected cases of someone who was dead before he hit the ground with one bullet analogies are often rare to the extreme, and or plain made up stories that have been retold thousands of times and have become mere folklore devoid of reality. Marketing by fantasy..
      The idea that modern ammo is a end all, is entirely based on advertising and misleading ballistic gelatin assumptions. As one who carried a 9MM for years loaded with Corbon 115 grain JHP @1350 FPS I am far from anti 9MM. But years of study of N.I.J. (National Institute of Justice) reports and 21 years as a Detective in a Major Midwestern city know for it’s history of murders and decades as the “Murder Capital” changes ones perception in the face of reality. We can pretend we know things when we watch videos, but the stark reality changes what amounts to our assumptions. the 99% does not know that what propels much of hollow point changes and engineering is failure. Yes I did say failure, and facts back this up and this is not a subject the ammunition Industry wants to talk about, but even they are human and can error. Many hollow points still today fail to expand or only partially expand. Things such as a jackets zipper or buttons can drastically alter bullet expansion or worse yet, completely fail to expand. I have seen countless autopsy reports, seen this up close and personal and frankly I lost count of the many walking wounded took multiple supposedly fatal 9MM wounds with those magical expanding super bullets. One manufacturer I won’t mention produced a round with a rubber filled hollow point that showed a potential to fail to expand despite the designs promise to limit this reality. It got so bad it became national news. In talking to the reps of the company they were insisting those cases was officer failure. Now mind you the officers merely fired at and hit the perp so there was no failure on the part of the officers. The failure was the known in testing as they lacked a long line of volunteers offering to be a bullet catcher so they were forced to rely on subjective information, and the failed medium we call ballistic gelatin. yes Ballistic gelatin is a marker not a proper medium to make decisions about performance from. Don’t blame the engineers unless you offered to be their live gelatin subject. gelatin lacks certain human elements like skin, muscle density, bones, ligaments, tendons which all acts dramatically differently than the ballistic gelatin does to bullet travel.
      So we can either hope when we are defending our lives that the bullet will somehow be one of the 33% that perform as desired and expand reliably, or be faced with reality and see that bullets seem to completely miss our attacker and be his/her next victim. This is the reason I went to the 45 acp. My reasoning is based on science, autopsy reports, N.I.J. data of actual shootings that you never see in your life, such as a man taking 26 (9MM) rounds which are mostly torso hits and continues to terrorize the Police officers like some invincible movie monster who will not die. One case in California was 32 rounds of 9MM and countless other just like this.

      For me after 2 plus decades of seeing this first hand and in the countless shooting and autopsy reports, I am going to assume that the hollow point will fail to expand leaving me with a pseudo full metal jacket bullet and pick the 45 acp as I have today. I know it’s history, seen what it does first hand and know when the law of averages kicks in and the mountain of comparative evidence and detailed shooting reports that round will still perform at least as well as it’s Military FMJ counter part, plus the added velocity and the possible text book perfect expansion it will out perform the 9MM by a country mile.

      The sheer stupidity of the F.B.I. using a missed shot placement percentage as an excuse speaks to someone in needing to retire and not risk the lives of our nations best.
      This can be fixed with simple training and better handgun design to mitigate recoil and decrease shot recovery times. To brag that failure is an options is pure insanity knowing that missed shots equal dead children and other innocents. Mind you the fact that the brain dead main stream media, gun rag and Law Enforcement writers plus Law enforcement decision makers who are willing to accept such a high failure rate knowing this means the probability that Officers and the innocent may die as a result of such pathetic training is them begging to be replaced by those who are smart enough to demand better for our protectors and the citizens. 80% missed shots are inexcusable and I don’t blame the Agents and Officers as they need the “investment” required to keep us safe. Maybe that Politician needs a less costly Subaru and not his fancy taxpayer provided $55,000 vehicle to get to and from his seat shining job.

      I am sorry to bust the bubble of those who chose the 9MM based on folklore and advertising claims that can’t be proven and will never be because at the end of the day it is all about making money for all involved. But don’t despair, as chances and odds are you a mechanic, Dentist, welder or McDonalds employee may never be forced to take down a raging violent felon loaded with Flakka, PCP and or bath salts, the rest of us have no choice and that possibility is very real for us, thus we have not the luxury to use fantasy, myth, tales of magical bullets that stop Super man or those officials that lie through their teeth to excuse their incompetence as a basis of what we need to save lives and stop drugged up sociopaths from murdering you or your family, not to mention saving our own lives..

      In this case, bigger is actually better and proven so by reality and N.I.J. shooting reports which are not hypothetical which is the basis of the adoption and backwards mentality of the last eight years of Political manipulation and poor leadership since 2008.

      I have a almost 50 year history that spans from a NRA Jr Program National Match competitor, Vietnam combat, to law Enforcement, private Detective and security company owner, and in between many years of IPSC and other combat and three gun competition. Through all this 50 years I have been an avid reloader and had the pleasure and Honor of meeting Lee Jurras the Father of the Hollow point Bullet and creator of the ground breaking Super Vel brand of cartridges.

      1. William,

        You make many good points, and your bottom line that bigger is better, makes good sense as well, both logically and empirically!

        However, you have a major flaw in your logic when it comes to your poo-pooing of the 9mm: your pointing out that the jhp engineering fails quite often for 9 mm, is also the case for the 45 ACP! The engineering that went into the 9 mm is the same engineering that went into the 45 ACP jhps!!!

        So, at the end of the day your 45 ACP traveling at about 900 ft – 1000 ft fps, is still only going to put a .07 size larger hole in the target, given your point that failed JHP’s are still basically FMJ’s!!

        What’s a boy to do?

        What you don’t seem to wish to consider, is that ‘one size’ does not fit all, when it comes to sidearms, or vehicles for that matter, and certainly clothes!

        This is the reason that there are so many different side arms, rifles, and shotguns!

        A woman standing 5 foot 3 inches tall and weighing 120 pounds is not going to have the beefy hands that she needs to handle a double stack 40 S&W, or a full frame 1911!

        Same thing for a man that’s 5 foot 5 with small hands and weighs 135 or 140 pounds, the recoil of 40 S&W, or 45 ACP, in a medium or full frame pistol just won’t work!!

        The ‘best’ sidearm for ANY person is the one that person can shoot most accurately, which means caliber limits are indicative of said accuracy!!

        A person shooting a 32 ACP compact pistol accurately, will be able to place their shots into the heart-lung area of an assailant. Handing that same person, who can control their small side arm, full frame 1911 in 45 ACP doesn’t do any good, if they can’t maintain the same accuracy!

        Are you grokking what I’m saying here?

        Every instructor I ever had, whether for personal defense or hunting, kept stressing shot placement as the key factor in humane kills for hunting, and for quick resolution of life-threatening situations.

        The bottom line William, is that there are millions of people walking around in public today, who can physically and accurately handle a .380 subcompact pistol, but not a medium frame Flock in 40 S&W!

        I would rather they carry the .380 and hit the target, thus saving their lives and possibly others, rather than missing shots because they have too much pistol and/or caliber in their hands!!

        How about we look at all aspects of these issues?

    6. It is mind boggling that serious weight is given to the amount of “wear and tear” on the weapons that some ammunition might create, considering that police weapons are used so infrequently for any purpose including training.

    7. You can tell Don McDougall (author of this article) has done little investigation into the improvements in modern hollow point ammunition. The comment above has a lot more thought than this article does. Obviously he just wants to feel better about still trusting his old 1911.

      1. Law enforcement organizations are not allowed to issue hollow-point ammunition. While I agree with you that makes a difference in the effect of a given round, the article is about the FBI and its choices. Just my .02

        1. Yes law enforcement does use JHP ammunition. The military by treaty can not use JHP. (But they are trying to get around that.)

          1. Kim, yep I stand corrected. I took a law enforcement class in high school and the teachers (both police) had made it a point of discussion that they only could use fmj. That was a while ago and how times change. Interesting that the reason claimed is to prevent over-penetration. Thanks for the clarification.

          2. @Kim, you are correct the Hague Convention signatories have mutually agreed not to use expanding ammunition. The U.S. is a signatory. The concept is to have clean and survivable wounds, and the wounded become noncombatants.

            1. Oh, and neither the Hague Conventions on the Conduct of War nor the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners apply to civil police criminal matters or civil war.

    8. You might or might not agree with the theory that technical advances in ammunition have narrowed the gap in stopping power between 9mm and larger calibers such as .45 ACP, but you should at least mention it, since that was one of the major criteria for the FBI. Although tests on live animals such as those at the Strasbourg tests are no longer possible, anecdotal evidence from emergency rooms reportedly suggests little difference between would ballistics of 9mm vs. .45 ACP when modern ammunition (e.g. bonded bullets) is used. That, not capacity or training, should be the central point of any article discussing why law enforcement agencies are going back to 9mm. Oh, and comparisons with early 20th Century ballistics of the anemic .38 Colt, including solid lead bullets, are ridiculous.

      1. Your assumptions are the product of slick marketing and no actual street experience. I just retired after decades of working the streets of an infamous city where it’s history of violence and holding the coveted Murder Capital of the Wold for many years shows a different and factual reality, not folklore and subjective fantasy you were sold on. Hollow points fail to expand far more that you are willing to imagine and we have seen this first hand, and the walking wounded with several of these very bullets you just bragged about in their body. Decades of seeing failure of magic bullets has shown me and many other Detectives and officers that the 9MM is a fine weapon for someone who’s chances of combat are nearly impossible to extremely unlikely contrasted to use who seen more actual combat close up and personal than you will ever see in 40 of your life times. Buttons, zippers, heavy coats and teeth has caused the latest greatest bonded magical bullets to fail. Yes I did say teeth as one perp recently took a round in his natural teeth, those teeth stopped a .40 S&W in very well known brand than many Police depts use today.

        We did see a drastic change in the performance of the .40 S&W over the 9MM we used to have issued and we are not going backwards as we see hundreds of shootings and engage in hundreds of shootings more than the FBI will ever see in a decade or few. You must remember the FBI is NOT a ground troops operation they are paper pushers who have weapons. When they come to execute warrants we are the ones who charge into the fray while the agents wait outside to hear from u that it is okay. This IS reality and why the infamous FBI shootout went so horribly wrong. The ammo/caliber was a factor but sheer incompetence backed with stupidity was the real failure. You throw inept and inexperienced seat shiners into a raging gun fight and things will and almost always do go wrong. Television or movies are NOT reality.

        When you magical fairly super bullet fails and trust this they do at an alarming rate, you will pray a 1911 or Glock 21 falls from heaven and saves you. At the end of the day or gun fight the larger bore always wins with few exceptions in the hands of a trained shooter. That failed hollow point is still .45, not .33 (9MM) and I carried the 9MM for too many years, but knowing it’s propensity to fail I switched to the Corbon 115 grain JHP @1350 which can be almost a magical velocity, and my 5 inch Browning made that 1350 into a 1421 to 1426 FPS reality. But still I prefer the reliability of the .45 or 45 acp. Your ad based repertoire of Pseudo knowledge won’t stack against of hundreds upon thousands of shootings in my city yearly. Ballistic gelatin is not even close to a human body it has become akin to witch Doctor magic and useless in face of reality as a test medium. It is still controversial as a test medium in the industry and Law Enforcement.

        Remember when the predictable percentage of hollow point failure no one in the ammo industry or law enforcement wants to talk about happens they bury that information where it never sees the light of day, been there seen it happen.

        At the end of the day your bore size is the only reality you can bet on, and of that hollow point works as hoped then it is only a bonus.

        1. William,

          A 9mm is not .33, it’s .38.

          This means that the difference in diameter between an unfired 9 millimeter and an unfired 45 ACP, is .07 diameter!

          Again, you’re only looking at one aspect of someone being in a firefight: the size of the caliber, rather than the ABILITY of the shooter to ACCURATELY put shots on target!!

          Using your criteria, everyone should be carrying a Desert Eagle in .50AE, because that produces a MUCH bigger hole than a 45ACP, and it does it at high velocity!!

          For that matter, everyone should be carrying a MAC-11 in .45ACP, because of the sheer volume of big rounds a person can send down range!

          How about we discuss ALL the pertinent aspects of successful shoots, rather than the handfuls of EXCEPTIONS with which you protest, against the 9mm?

          1. 150 years ago a Colt 36 caliber revolver used as .375 or 38 caliber round ball. When converted to fire a metallic cartridge they called them 38 caliber because that was the size of the case.
            A 9mm, a 38 Special and a .357 Magnum all muse a 0.356 to 0.358 bullet diameter.
            A Colt 38/40 is a 40 caliber bullet. A 44 is a 43 caliber, 0.429 diameter to 0.431″. A 45 ACP, 45 Colt is 0.452-0.455. A 45/70 rifle is 0.458.

          2. HOO BOY!!!!
            The 38 Special DOES NOT use a 0.38 inch diameter bullet!!! It is a 0.357 inch diameter bullet IDENTICAL to the 357 Magnum bullet diameter.
            The 9 mm bullet diameter is 0.355 inch!!! The 380 Auto and the 357 SIG ALSO USE 0.355 inch diameter bullets!!!
            9 x 18 mm Makarov uses a 0.365 inch diameter bullet.
            The 45 ACP bullet diameter is 0.451!!!

          3. HOO BOY!!!
            The 38 SPL DOES NOT USE a 0.38 inch diameter bullet but uses a 0.357 inch diameter bullet IDENTICAL to the 357 Magnum bullet!!!
            The 9 mm bullet is 0.355 inch diameter IDENTICAL to the 380 Auto and the 357 SIG!!!
            The 9×18 mm Makarov bullet is 0.365
            The 40 S&W AND the 10 mm bullets are BOTH 0.40.
            The 41 Magnum is 0.410.
            The 44 SPL is 0.430.
            The 45 ACP is 0.351.
            The 45 Colt is 0.352.
            The 500 AE AND the 500 S&W Magnum are BOTH 0.500.
            Bullet diameters were ALL taken from the “HORNADY HANDBOOK OF CARTRIDGE RELOADING, TENTH EDITION”.

            1. Bji, after I made my other reply to you then the site took me to these comments where I could see your comment!

              Please take a look at my other comment which was in response to yours directly above this one.

              Thank you again for the correction knowledge is power!

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