Best Pistol Caliber for Self-Defense – Is the .45 ACP Outdated?

What is the best pistol caliber for self-defense? .45 ACP or 9mm? This is a storied debate, that generally ends with some agreement that the real determining fact is a shooter’s preference.

Arkansas-(Ammoland.com)-According to The Yankee Marshal, the .45 ACP is out of date. Well, actually, he says it sucks. Since I’ve subscribed to his YouTube channel for a while now, his claim here doesn’t surprise me. He’s generally amusing and often provocative, and even when I disagree—especially when I disagree—I like seeing opposing views. His specific point in this video is that the old .45 limits magazine capacity and lacks enough hard-barrier penetration. At the same time, he says that we each have to make our own decisions on what we carry.

But is he right that the .45 isn’t such a good choice today?

I agree with him that the cartridge isn’t significantly better than the other standard calibers. The classic Thompson-LaGarde report basically said the same thing—they couldn’t find all that much difference among the cartridges that they tested, but the Army wanted a .45, so they decided the .45 was the best.

45 ACP
45 ACP

As Jeff Cooper observed long ago, the .45 ACP is the semiautomatic version of the .45 Colt the round that fed the Single Action Army, a cartridge that had proved its worth. But was the Old West shooter right when he said that he carried the .45 because Col. Colt doesn’t make a .46?  My notion is what I call the three ps: placement, penetration, and punch. Use a bullet that you can put on target that will go deep enough and do enough to stop a lethal attack, and good luck unto you. And while the subject of stopping power is a dense thicket of competing claims, many dubious, what evidence we do have suggests what I’ve said, that lots of handgun rounds will do the job.

With that being said, shouldn’t we all go with the 9mm Luger?

The Yankee Marshal didn’t say so—that hard-barrier penetration, again—but I’m going a step further to say that the .45 ACP still has a job to do.

What if, for example, you live in a state that limits you to ten rounds in the magazine? One of the good arguments for the 9mm is capacity, but if you’re arbitrarily limited to ten, there are good choices in handguns that are reasonably compact and hold ten cartridges—or close to that number—of the semiautomatic version of the good old round used in the Colt Single Action Army. Bigger may not always be better, and hollow points may not expand, but as the saying goes, there ain’t no such thing as a shrinking bullet.

And then there are all the little guns, the beguiling subcompacts that make us buy pants with large pockets. If your magazine will hold only six rounds, again and in a single-stack model, six 45s isn’t that much more difficult than six of any small caliber.

Each One, Teach One: Preserving and protecting the Second Amendment in the 21st century
Each One, Teach One: Preserving and protecting the Second Amendment in the 21st century

There is the matter of recoil to consider. And this is for you and your hands to figure out. In my own experience, given all the variation in handgun sizes and weights, recoil to me is not all that different among 9mm Luger, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP. Your range experience may vary. And that’s the point.

As The Yankee Marshal said, pick your caliber. But the .45 doesn’t suck, and it hasn’t lost its usefulness.

About Greg Camp

Greg Camp has taught English composition and literature since 1998 and is the author of six books, including a western, The Willing Spirit, and Each One, Teach One, with Ranjit Singh on gun politics in America. His books can be found on Amazon. He tweets @gregcampnc.

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John

“Howdy” from the Northern Rockies, fellas… It was aways back (well past the staute of limitations) but there was this herd of cow elk daily raiding the hell out of our hay and the head cow was this nasty old Lesbo that kept kicking the hell out of our dogs and running off the kids when it came time to feed our livestock. And hay ain’t cheap even if you put it up yourself. Time is money and so are hours on machinery. So me and ma’ was in one of our pickups drinking some beer and smoking some ciggy-butts… Read more »

Vicente Taboada

My dear friends, don’t let anybody full you, 45acp is the best for self defense to carry,
After i see what i saw, no doubt for me that 45acp is by far a lot better than 9mm,

jeremiahCarlson

To keep it particular to the 9mm vs .45 debate, assuming both are similarly jacketed, .45 as a subsonic round and a larger projectile will produce a larger amount of impact trauma on the target, whereas the smaller, faster 9mm projectile will have a higher tendency to penetrate. Neither is “Best” – it depends on your needs and philosophy – are you trying to neutralize or to provide deterrence? If this is to be your last line of defense only, you wouldn’t want to give an attacker an opportunity to persevere – .45 is the best bet in that regard,… Read more »

Navy Davy

Carry a 9mm Luger pistol AND a .45ACP pistol and., for backup, a .38 Special revolver. Or vice versa.

No Name

The classic caliber argument is 100% personal preference and everyone already has their favorites. All of them have their pros and cons, no caliber is perfect.

For me if cost was not a factor I would choose the 45, since it is I choose the 9 – it is probably the best overall cartridge IMO. There must be a reason why the Military, FBI, and LE choose it more often over others. The 40 & 10 have their place too with superior hard target penetration

Christianitalian

Get some .357 Sig in Underwood with 1475fps and 604 fps and call it a day. You can change many 40 cal handguns into 357 Sig with just a barrel change.

Wild Bill

I really hate to return to this subject, but I am compelled. I just watched episode 39, first airing 22 November 2017, of “Gun Stories”. In this episode FAT Boy Institute (hereinafter FBI) Supervisory Special Agent Ray Cook of the Firearms Unit explains that after the 1986 Tamiami Highway shootout, the FeeBees did a study, including medical Drs, to find out which caliber served their needs best. SSA Cook claims that they found that the caliber did not really matter, but rather the critical factor was penetration. The FBI decided that 12 to 18 inches of penetration was optimal, more… Read more »

Stanley

40 sw in my p140 with 10 rds and night sights is carry gun. But a sw 45 is on my night stand.a jerico in 40 is the gun I have in my boat. My wife has a Walther 380. So I say buy and use what works for you. But vet will always have a 45 acp ready to fight with.

Gunwrites

I would not want to get shot with so much as a BB gun. No worries, I behave myself anyway. For those that refuse to behave I have 1911s in both 9mm and .45ACP. Someone always has to learn the hard way. I just hope I’m never forced to discipline bad behavior(read save my ass).

Gunwrites

“According to The Yankee Marshal, the .45 ACP is out of date. Well, actually, he says it sucks. Since I’ve UNSUBSCRIBED to his YouTube channel for a while now, his claim here doesn’t surprise me.”

Robert Lesko

The Colt 1911A1 45 Cal Pistol Over 100 Years Old and Still Going Strong!

Ansel Hazen

My brand of choice Steyr, now has a third party manufacturer about to release .357 Sig drop in barrels to go in their pistols chambered for 40 S&W. Same bullet as 9mm being pushed by nearly double the powder charge. As a reloader what’s not to love about that?

Brian

With the 45 there is not wasting bullets.

James Higginbotham

enjoyed reading everyone’s responses here. myself i own just about every caliber handgun. when i was a young Marine in Vietnam the 45 saved my butt more than once, and when you get nailed with that 230 grain FMJ you’re going DOWN. the gun i have on my night stand tho is a Ruger Security Six Stainless in 357 mag. loaded with full load 357 Mag loads. with just the wife and i at home now the kids are all grown and GONE lol. i but when i carry i always carry one of my model 1911’s loaded with those… Read more »

Roger T DeFouw

HooRah, Semper-Fi Brother!

Steward Rat

Folks: I am a Vietnam Veteran Infantryman and
let me tell you, the 45 round is no joke, please
do not get hit by one, you will call for Jesus and
your mama, oh the medic also!!

temujin

i beg to differ, getting hit with a 45 you will more than likely be facing Jesus, not calling out to him, and definitely not raping about being shot with one.

Kent

The best thing I ever heard about pistols, they are like ice cream pick your flavor and enjoy

Jim Biasella

Had a court officer tell me they all carried 45s cause of its stopping power and it wont go through and hit someone else. As far as capacity goes, if you think you are going to get into a gunfight using 16 rounds you have been watching too much tv. If you have to fire more than a couple shots chances are ur dead anyway. In a typical home invasion, carjacking, or mugging its going to be extremely close range and be over very quickly once shots are fired. An intruder isnt going to hang around for a gunfight.

Vanns40

And you’re speaking from experience? The average is 4 shots. My partner was in a shootout with well over 30 rounds fired. A fellow officer, who was murdered in a gunfight with two bad guys, fired every round he had before dying. In summary, you have no idea what the hell you’re talking about. You can never carry too much ammo but you sure as hell can carry too little.

LocalHero

It’s pretty obvious that he’s referring to average citizens not LEO’s. Are all of you so thick?

Vanns40

Okay Mister oh so smart, I’ll give you just one civilian example; the guy who engaged the church shooter just the other week with his AR15. That was a running gun battle outside the church with a lot more than six rounds. There are hundreds of examples like that. Care to withdraw your comments that are born out of ignorance?

Wild Bill

@Vanns, let the goof believe whatever he wants. Let him walk around with as few rounds as he likes. Reality is waiting and watching.

Adam

If you’re planning for the typical you wouldn’t carry a gun at all, because chances are you’ll never need to draw it (let alone fire). Unless you go looking for trouble on a regular basis, simply being in a gunfight means you’re already well outside circumstances that are typical or average. Criminals frequently work in groups, one hit from a handgun won’t reliably stop a threat, and unless you’re practically at contact distance there’s a good chance you’ll miss at least once due to stress and movement. All of this means you shouldn’t assume the gunfight you might find yourself… Read more »

Michael Fallon

The .45acp, particularly in a 1911 wasn’t out of date in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and stil isl in use bypresent day Police and Special Forces in our military. Why people believe that bravo sierra, is beyond me.

Mandew

Just another article to take up space.
And a question that won’t be answered here or anywhere else.

nowaytoday

old video from Yankee Marshall, never agreed with him. 45 is a stopper and always will be. Every round has its feature, and what a person can actually handle. I would rather have a 45, throw more weight and be able to control the weapon rather than using a 40. 9mm is nice, and still carry one. But the ass you breaks into our house at 2am, I want to stop them and within 20 feet +-5 the 45 will do the job.

George from Alaska

I worked as a cardiac medic/firefighter for over 34 years. During that time I want on thousands of ambulance calls. People shot in the torso with a 45 Werly made it all the way to the hospital and if they did they succumbed a short while later. I’ve seen lots of people shot in the chest cavity with 9’s that live to show off their scars. And for you people carrying 45s as a side arm or back up when you’re hunting, you must live in states where they don’t grow things bigger than three squirrels. Even the much talked… Read more »

Rokflyer

from Alaska, I beg to differ, we have some awful big tree squirrels here in South Virginia. No wonder their getting so big. Great food source in Richmond, it’s full of damned nuts*””””.

Naturalist

The .41 Magnum is ballistically superior to and will out penetrate the ,44 magnum. A modern ,45 Colt can be loaded hotter than a ,44magnum due to the stronger modern case and the metallurgy. . The .44 Magnum is over rated and it’s popularity is due to the Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry movies

L.L. Smith

When I was young we killed our own hogs every winter. Some weighed 500 pounds. We shot them between their eyes with a .22 short. They went down instantly. We would then cut their throats so they would bleed out. That might work on a human predator.

UpChuckLiberals

Except it’s called ‘excessive force’. Yeah kinda sucks but dem’s da rules.

Wild Bill

Everybody seems to be ignoring the Constitution. If those rules can be ignored then a little, old, unimportant rule like excessive force can be ignored where a human predator is involved. Maybe there will come a day. What the heck is an UpChuckLiberal, anyway?

Brad Snyder

The barrier penetration argument is only valid if you’re law enforcement where they routinely have to shoot through windshields and cover. IMHO there is little to no need for bonded deep penetrating bullets for the normal self defense scenario in the civilian world. I’ll go one step further and say I prefer handgun rounds that penetrate a max of around 10 inches in FBI protocol gel tests. I want enough penetration to hit vitals from a side shot and I want the bullet to dump all its energy in the target.
YMMV

Wayne

My .45 holds 14 rounds. ParaOrdnance P14. 9mm don’t carry much because you have to twice. L

Wild Bill

, the Para 14/45 is my favorite pistol.

brad parson

I have several guns in different calibers for concealed carry. But I have to admit the one that’s rarely ever considered is the Glock 32 357 Sig

Roy F. Wilt

The 45 acp is only outdated if you don’t want to WIN!

Widow maker 1-5

This BS “debate” of .45acp vs 9mm vs .40cal is a moot point with all the new bullet designs and technology in the past 10 or so yrs. IMO it’s all about getting your ass trained up by a good, professional and reputable firearms & tactics instructor. Thus one can be able to put good solid shot placement where it needs to be….repeatedly. Period

Rokflyer

I love 45 ACP, but I own and carry 9mm also. Recently I fell in love with the FNS9 C, and FNS 9L. I still carry my 45s in the mountains, my Glock 30 is a compact powerhouse that always goes hunting as a sidearm. The issue to me is really irrevelant in this modern time of great guns and new ammo. Find your own gun, you do that at the shooting range not you tube. Learn to shoot and maintain it expertly to the point of confidence and it will not let you down.

carl bellia

read all the articles,,look at the manufactueres websites,,and go rent and shoot what you think you like the best and feel the most confident and comfortable with..that way there is no buyers remorse..there is nothing worse thaN HAVING A HANDGIUN SITTING IN A DRAWER BECAUSE YOU donot like it..good searching.

Davis

This so called “debate” of .45acp vs 9mm vs .40cal is a moot point with all the newest bullet design technology. IMO it’s all about being trained up by a good and reputable trainer thus being able to put proper shot PLACEMENT….REPEATEDLY.

Rokflyer

10 mm is a great round, but rarely do my local gun shops and never any big box stores have them. When you find them they are expensive. It’s an okay hunting round, but reloading I can do more with a 357 magnum. Just my experience.

2WarAbnVet

The penetration extolled by the Yankee Marshal is one thing I most seek to avoid in a home defense weapon.
Why would I want a round that might go through walls and hit innocent people?

Mark

If you live in a slave state then drive to another state, buy some real magazines and your capacity issue is solved. They can’t prove that you didn’t have those mags before the ban. It is an unenforceable law.

Wayne

In CT, all “high” capacity mags had to be registered in order to be grandfathered. Possession of an unregistered mag of more than 10 rounds is a crime.
Carry a spare mag, but make the first double-tap count!

Diamondback

With any handgun cartridge, give’em two – minimum. Why I now prefer capacity of 9mm over .45ACP for EDC. Along with other factors like increased threat of runnin’ into mass shooter situation and better bullet technology. but, whatever you’re choice, these days PLEASE PRACTICE AND CARRY EVERY DAY, EVERY WHERE.

Vanns40

She’ll: I’ll say the same thing to you that I said to “strangern”, never been in a gun fight have you? Saying that “if you can’t get the job done with 8 rounds” proves that.

Wild Bill

@Vanns, Yeah, I’d hate to die for lack of shooting back.

Edd

Fnx 45(not the tactical version) 15+1 same recoil as a 9mm carry it every single day hopefully I will never have to use it but I will have it just in case I need to living in Detroit.

Robert

Well said! I have been cleet certified in private armed security and my instructor was a career military and I was lucky enough to find him as some just do enough to get through it! I like the big 10mm. As I have trained in multiple different calibers and with the Glock 20c compensated slide and barrel I have a lot of control. I however am not a big Glock fan so CZ 75 sp01 tactical 9mm is great! But I’m also big on the CZ 97 b .45 which is heavy but it handles like a 9mm everyone has… Read more »

Robert

I had one and you are correct! Very good pistol and big capacity. I work armed security nights and I never ever only have one firearm. I have trained over and over on multiple and for me CZ 75 p01 9mm.which the nsn marking means that it’s a NATO certified and wow what a pistol! So that will keep the 9 guys happy but out here in Oklahoma well I also have it’s big brother the CZ 97b which is a .45 and like the fn herstal it’s a very good weapon but I need a big belt because they… Read more »

matt tebbetts

Got the same thing has the capacity of the little baby 9 with the punch of daddy 45 . To all this bullshit about capacity and how many you can carry then a 22 should be your pick . Don’t stop being a dumbass at 9 go on down to a 22 if you are going to talk the talk walk the walk and carry that bad ass 22 and go around telling everyone how it’s the same as a 45.

newt

Maybe a little off subject but just this week I had the opportunity to compare penetration of the 357 and 45 acp. Shot an eight pointer and had to trail it. I came on it in about 100 yards with my son. I was carrying a SP101 snubbie with 130 grain Federal hydro shocks and he had a 1911 with Hornady critical duty. My 357 exited with about a quarter sized hole and his 45 I found when I skinned it under the skin on the other side. I guess there is a possibility his hit a rib while mine… Read more »

Jeff

Thats not even a fair comparison. The 357 moves at a volocity the 45 never could . the 357 magnum will penetrate a bullet proof vest.the 45 cant but that doesnt mean its not going to kill u. The 45 was desinged for to stop a person that bullet is moving fast enough that on impact it is such a shock to the system that 98% of the time it will stop your heart. No other bullet of any calibure can claim that, only the 45..as far as home defense goes I’ll stick with a 12 gauge firing 1oz slug… Read more »

Bob Shell

Those who say the 45 ACP is not adequate anymore are just displaying ignorance. Since the 45 came out there have been many improvements in both guns & ammo. There are some lightweight bullets and ammo available such as Liberty and ARX just to mane a couple. They are lightweight and very fast and the recoil is reduced somewhat. There are hi-cap 45 available but in my mind if you can’t solve the problem with 8 rounds of 45 then you need more then a handgun has to offer. Yes these improvements will apply to the 9 mm, 40 auto,… Read more »

JoeUSooner

The “bigger hole” theory is not entirely problematic. [The human body is a hydraulic machine (it operates by fluid/pressure). To stop/disable any such machine, simply remove the fluid. The larger the diameter of the hole punched into the machine, the faster the fluid will leak out (although that “faster” is a relative term).] By virtue of the relative sizes of hollow-point bullets, a .45ACP – at an average expanded size of .75 inch diameter – will indeed provide an advantage (about 9 – 10% of capacity) over the 9mm – at an average expanded size of .68 inch diameter –… Read more »

Rick Jay

I’m in the decision process of buying a new EDC pistol. I currently own weapons in .45 ACP, .40 S&W, and 9MM.
I like em all, and each of them will do the deed if the need arises. My main consideration right now is Ammo P&A, and the 9 takes the cake there. All things considered, I’ll buy what’s going to be most readily available in a SHTF situation, and I think the 9 is going to be it.

James Larson

Check out the 10 mm

Rokflyer

10 mm is a great round, but rarely do my local gun shops and never any big box stores have them. When you find them they are expensive. It’s an okay hunting round, but reloading I can do more with a 357 magnum. Just my experience.

Robert

Absolutely agreed!! Glock 20c with it I can make a Pepsi can dance! I seriously suggest you have what you are practiced with and confident because there is no wrong caliber unless you have non!!

Wild Bill

Jay, Brother, when the SHTF situation arises it will happen suddenly with no warning, and no ammunition will be readily available, except what you have secured. At first, ammunition and canned food will be the currency.

Rokflyer

So true wild Bill. Don’t even depend on reloading, it will not be a immediate option. Stack it deep. What you have is what you will have.

Ron

I like my M&P Sheild 45. Lighte r y Han a 1911, same capacity.. I havecaslwasys felt well armed with a 45acp Still do.

wkm1911

In training on the 9mm, they teach to shoot 2 shots as fast as you can in order to hit around the same place. So in doing that, if it works you have deleted the extra rounds you get compared to the single 45acp. After the army dropped the 45 long colt and picked up the 38 in the Philippines they realized they needed something better with stopping power. So they went to Mr Browning and came up with our 45acp. It is suppose to be subsonic, heavy grain 230. We went through 4 wars, and many soldiers still want… Read more »

Tom RKBA

Ummmm….no. It is called a “double tap” and it is taught regardless of handgun caliber.

Eddie

I’m a cake-and-eat-it-too kinda guy. I carry a double-stack Kimber in .45ACP (13+1) with 185 +P HP (same velocity as a 9mm.

Ben

It appears the bad guys are arriving in groups of 3 or 4. Which gun do you feel safe with?

Gunwrites

Ma Duce, John Browning’s M2. Still looking for pants with a big enough pocket to carry it though. Are you listening Carhartt?

Wild Bill

Geez Greg, Which is the Best Golf Club – Is the Nine Iron Outdated?

Samuel Stephens

No matter what caliber you use, if you hit your target it’s gonna hurt and get his/hers attention.

Kap

I would rather shoot a .45 than a 38 in a 15 Oz, snubbie. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, besides bigger bullets make bigger holes
back in the day the .45 stopped more better on hopped up VC that the POS 9mm.

Don L. Bailey

Talk about attempting to stir the poop in the pot, this subject has always guaranteed an argument about which is better. It all comes down to no one likes getting shot at, either by a 155 howitzer or a 22 short, –pucker factor will be guaranteed. Let’s all just agree that we should carry what we are most comfortable with and can hit with if the need arises.

Just1Saddletramp

The 9 mm Parabellum, in pistol form, began life in a single stack magazine same as the .45 ACP. There is a reason it is now found, in civilian form, almost exclusively in a double stack magazine.

Bill

Funny, he never said which caliber was the “best”, so this was just a bunch of hot air. The best gun for self defense is the one you shoot the best. I read a story on the subject once where a cop emptied his 9MM into a BG and then the BG fired one .22 round at him hitting him in the underarm and it traveled to his heart and died. Learn to shoot and you won’t need 20 rounds to stop a BG. I carry a Kimber 45 in the summer and a Glock 9MM in the winter since… Read more »

Vanns40

: Never been in a gun fight have you?

Just1Saddletramp

Regarding the comment by Strangern: The winner of a gunfight is the person who scores a hit with the lesser number of shots

Bud

The best gun for defense is the one you have with you. The one with which you practice. The one which comes most naturally comes into your hand. The one for which you carry extra magazines. And for sure, the one with which you can hit your target. Even a 22 beats a stick. Stay alert. Stay armed. Practice.