A buddy of mine posted this excellent article from the Lucky Gunner Blog. I wanted to share it and interject a few of my own thoughts.
All of the points in this article are great. And getting views from a panel of professional experienced shooters helps to keep us off the single train of thought wagon. One thing they didn’t address was the caliber myths. It seams like every self defense discussion always seems to devolve to a caliber war. Comes down to the fanboys of 1 particular caliber or other vs each other. Don’t get hung up on Caliber! What it really should be is Train, Train, Train. Accurate hits on target with small caliber rounds are still far superior to not having anything in the first place and good hits with small calibers are better than poor hits or misses with the big boys. (yes, that tiny bit of difference between a 38, 9mm, .40 or .45 is a tiny percentage of the overall picture.
Think of pistol caliber like race cars. You have 3 race cars. one goes 181 MPH, one goes 185 MPH and one goes 189 MPH. But your not a NASCAR professional race-car driver with years of real racing experience. You can get behind the wheel of any of these 3 cars and get decent track times. However, It’s unlikely you can push the faster cars enough to beat a real race driver driving the slower car. The minor differences between rounds can’t compensate for the user. The terminal performance of pistol rounds is so similar (And so far inferior to shotgun or rifle round performance) as to be negligible. You have to hit your target, hit it fast and accurately in the correct place to have the best chance at stopping an attacker.
I spent my formative years (17 to 23) on the 1911 platform putting more than 10,000 rounds of .45 downrange (And I was also guilty of the idea that the bigger bullet was better attitude), I was in the Army when we transitioned to the M9 from the 1911 and hated it for years strictly out of a fanboy .45 attitude. Thankfully I’ve matured a bit over the years. But now that I’ve put thousands of 9mm rounds down range also on varous platforms. I have changed my mind. Even my Springfield SubCompact -XD 9mm outperforms the 1911’s I’ve shot in my life and my full size 9mm duty pistol (An old Ruger P85 Mark II) is spectacularly accurate and fast as lightning.
There is a reason most professionals have swung over to the 9mm side from the larger calibers for self defense and training. Generally less recoil, (Although this is more dependent on the weight/design of the pistol). Less recoil means faster follow up shots, more accurate follow up shots (Less post shot deflection means less site realignment) and probably most importantly is training. Training is the single most important factor in preparing yourself to use a sidearm in self defense. More training equates to better real world performance. So if you can buy 1/3 to 1/4 more rounds of 9mm than .40, you can shoot 30% more and train 30% more. You have many gains over the tiny ballistic difference between calibers.
Tactical life also did a great article with a panel of 14 professional, experienced shooters/trainers giving their opinions. It was quite eye opening to see what direction the majority of them rolled
So really, it comes down to training and finding the gun/caliber combination that allows you to be as quick and accurate as possible. Don’t jump on the big boys based on that small ballistic difference. You can’t miss fast enough with a .357, or 44 mag, or .45 to make up for the small ballistic difference. Therefore the more you train, the more experience you get and the more proficient you become. Don’t focus on caliber, Stopping power itself is generally a myth with handguns. (Major cavitation effects just don’t occur through clothing at the velocities/bullet weights of handgun rounds).
I have a matrix that at least in my own opinion holds pretty true. The two most important factors in defensive shooting are Accuracy (Bullets on target) and Speed (both deploying the sidearm as efficiently and effectively as possible and the speed of follow up shots until the aggressor is stopped). To throw caliber in looks like this. 50% is Accuracy, 48% is speed (Can’ miss fast enough to stop someone so it falls below accuracy), and 2% is ballistics of the caliber round (With tiny differentials on the barrel length etc that can cause small changes in performance of the caliber rounds being used).
Get out there and practice, practice a lot, practice realistically, get training from many different sources to broaden your understanding which will help you train the best for you. (Everyone is different) and be mentally prepared as well as physically prepared. Wish everyone good luck and a safe life, but if something happens, I wish you quick hands and spot on accuracy.
Stay safe everyone. Situational awareness is key, avoiding a situation is a lot safer than dealing with the situation.