So, a while back I penned an article entitled Caliber Wars…again and in the article I was trying to convey a single point; don’t get caught up in the all they hype. My good friend Greg Ellifritz took the time to gather some incredible data on shootings and the terminal performance of several different calibers.
One shot stop
Here is a link to the article and I strongly suggest folks read it, pay special attention to his observations in the end. They are spot on and reflect my experiences and observations. I cannot help but bring this back up as a subject because I continue to get questions as to what caliber to select for personal protection.
The ballistic basics
I have said it before, but I will say it again for those who haven’t heard. You first need a firearm that is reliable, it must go bang every time you pull the trigger. I just finished a private class where we had a few old war horses that experienced some problems throughout the low round count. Second is marksmanship, you need to be able to hit and hit multiple times. All the latest hoopla will be of little use if you cannot hit the target. In the article from Greg of interesting note was the number of immediate stops that were generated from the common defensive rounds (38spl, 9mm, 40cal and 45ACP). You can expect a little bit more than half the time to see an immediate stop. Since the other half will require multiple hits you will then need to able to deliver multiple hits on target in a quick manner. One of the major points to take away was the time it takes to deliver multiple accurate hits quickly with the 9mm. I feel for the large majority of the population they will be more successful with the 9mm at achieving multiple accurate hits quickly than any other common defensive caliber. You will see some anomalies, but don’t get too wrapped around the axle with the few who might be somewhat faster.
Is it tomato or tomato???
The real take away from his article was how similar all the main defensive calibers were as far as terminal performance was concerned. So, with all things being equal what is the deciding vote. In my opinion it is pretty simple; capacity. The more rounds you can carry in the firearm the more likely you are to avoid a reload during a lethal encounter. That and the better equipped you are to handle multiple threats in a lethal encounter. Standard capacity for a primary defensive firearm should start at 10 rounds. If you can get higher capacity that is great, but I believe this is the minimum.
Plan for the worse and hope for the best
The other take away from the article is that while in a high percentage of the shootings people stopped their violent action after being struck one time anywhere on the body with just about any bullet/caliber it would be unwise to use this as justification for carrying anything other than the standard defensive calibers. Instead, folks should not expect the violent action to cease with one shot, they should expect it to continue forcing the violent action to be physically stopped with the continued application of effective fire.
We have come a long way, but it is funny that we are circling back to the “Wonder-9”.