Thursday, January 2, 2014

It Turns Out Nine is Just Fine

And I've been right this whole time... they're ain't nuthin' wrong about carrying a 9mm pistol for self-defense and personal protection. Nothing, nada, zippo, zilch.

The gun blogs are starting to light back up with stories and rumors of local, state, and Federal agencies making a move back to 9mm pistols which, for many, is the all-important litmus test of what's an OK caliber to strap on for CCW use. We teach our students that there's nothing wrong with MANY "sub-caliber" chambering as long as they use the new modern bonded JHP ammo which does away with issues of over-penetration, premature fragmentation, and energy delivery.

That said, there's something about the .45 Automatic Colt Pistol round that makes many carrying it feel all snug and warm and safe. It's the caliber equivalent of a security blanket. "No harm can befall me as long as I'm carrying JMB's trusty sidekick cartridge, right?"

100+ years of history can't be wrong, and LOTS of police, soldiers, and professional shooter types still carry it into the dark wild places. Therefore, we must be under-gunned without it... right? I myself own and carry .45s on occasion and my "house" pistol tosses lead 230 grains at a time. However, I have to work to be "combat proficient" with my .45s and train hard with them.

Many folks think that, right up to the first time they torch off that thumper and realize much work is needed to snug up their big boy / big girl grip. At that point, the shooter either steps up and learns to control the beast, or puts the pistol back in the safe, dreading the day they have to take it out "for real." I lost count of the number of people I saw at the range managing their own personal goat rodeo when it came to shooting their small-ish .45s built for carry. I also lost count of how many people I'd try to convince to look into the 9mm for range and carry use who just poo-poo'ed my advice and went back to their work creating abstract hole art in innocent paper targets.

Back during the dark days of the Clinton-era weapon and equipment bans, following the 10mm FBI debacle (agents not being able to hit the broad side of a barn qualifies as "debacle"), a new round hit the market which promised the ballistic performance of Ol' Faithful while offering 80% of the magazine capacity of the then-problematic 9mm round, and the age of "I carry a .40 because it shoots through windshields" was born.

Thankfully, that's one pitcher of Kool-Aid I managed to avoid until I started to shoot it in USPSA competition. Full-power .40 S&W ammunition has always felt like a "worst of both worlds" solution and we have Glock largely to blame for that silliness (that's a little-known history lesson worth looking up).

.40 S&W delivers a much sharper recoil than the 9mm cartridge and still requires diligence and training to shoot effectively in modern carry weapons. Sure, it offered near-.45 performance and near-9mm capacity, but the shooter experience is fairly brutal for CCW applications and has turned off many new shooters who felt they NEED "at least" a 'fawty' to tote around. Sadly, the gun magazines and shop talk about how it was the new miracle round for defensive use and that anything less would cost you your life.

Fortunately, some 20 years later, a warm sunny light is beginning to shine again on the little 9mm cartridge. Defensive loads are still easily managed by most, modern pistols chambered for it typically do not suffer the breakage and failures seen by many who adopted .40 S&W as a service caliber, and (barring ammo shortages) it's common, plentiful, and affordable.

Many of the guniverse's celebrity trainers are moving back to 9mm and advocating it as a viable self-defense option. In this new era of social media directing Gun Culture 2.0, I expect we'll see a gradual fall-off of .40 and hopefully a slowing of this craze of ultralight .45s making their way into the hands of new shooters being sold a line of bull by a low-information gun counter "expert."

And all of that is a roundabout validation of what I and many others have been telling folks all along... if you can QUICKLY and accurately deliver decisive and overwhelming force using the "big boy" guns, then by all means carry a .40 or a .45! However, if you're like most and want solid performance, minimal recoil, and a caliber you can effectively train with AND carry, ditch the hype and come back to the 9mm campfire. You may be surprised by who you'll see around the circle.

- Posted from somewhere on this big blue marble.

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