Saturday, June 3, 2017

9mm: The wimpy caliber, or my little buddy?



I'm not going to start a caliber war, I'm not important enough and that ship set sail centuries ago I'm sure.  What I want to do is make the case for 9mm Parabellum as a defensive caliber, and point out it's virtues.  I'll leave the court of public opinion to agree or disagree, and I hope you'll look me up at my Facebook page or leave a comment so we can discuss it.

9mm Parabellum/Luger/9x19, a funny little German round with a very slightly tapered case that shoots little bitty bullets compared to it's bigger brothers.  Let's start with that lightweight (relatively) projectile.  Typical payload weight varies from 90 grains to 147 grains, with a predictable effect on velocity (lighter = faster usually.)  That payload pales in comparison to the darling of WW2 America, the 45 ACP which flings 185-230 grain bullets, and much of the criticism of the round has been in part due to the (admittedly) small bullets found in this cartridge.  However, where large and heavy won the day half a century or so ago, modern ballistics and bullet design have increased the ability of 9mm to disrupt tissue and transfer energy tremendously.  Is it enough to completely bridge the gap between 9mm and larger calibers?  I'm not a ballistician, but one would be hard pressed to argue it isn't a capable round.

Velocity often comes up in this conversation, and yes I just stated that TYPICALLY lighter bullets travel faster, so of course the 9mm would enjoy a sizeable velocity advantage over 45acp.  It does, but not nearly as much as you would expect due to limited case volume.  The narrow dimensions and short length of the 9mm don't leave much room for powder, especially with the larger and heavier bullets utilized.  40 S&W isn't much slower and delivers heavier payloads, 45acp can deliver double the payload, 357 Sig shoots dramatically faster, and don't even bring 357 Magnum and 44 Magnum into this argument.  So yes, 9mm gives up a lot to other calibers, BUT it also gives up size, and being small is a virtue here.  That small size gives my new home defense gun, a CZ P-09 19+1 capacity with the standard magazines (though I must admit, I only load to 18 due to the pressure on that last round) more than double the magazine capacity of my single stack 1911.  Small bullets are lighter, and more of them fit into confined areas, and I've never known anyone to use a firearm in anger wish for less ammo.

Lastly is the dirty little secret a lot of people, especially really enthusiastic shooters, don't want to admit; recoil sucks.  Everyone has their own personal limit for what's fun and what's comfortable, personally I will shoot my father dry on 44 magnum no matter how much he brings to the range (he has a long barrel Ruger Super Redhawk that is an absolute artillery piece) but I know others that flinch at even 38 special.  Many if not all of the calibers I have previously rattled off all generate more recoil (all things equal, firearm weight and design does affect felt recoil) than 9mm.  9mm is simply put a very lightly recoiling, easy to control, unintimidating round for both new and veteran shooters.  The low cost of ammo means more practice per dollar, something important to consider and often overlooked.  9mm, due to it's acceptance by law enforcement around the country, comes in a simply staggering range of brands, features, specs, prices, and performance.  9mm is ubiquitous, not because it is amazing at any one thing, but by being good enough across the board.

So, 9mm is my go to home defense and personal defense round.  It's plenty capable of convincing a violent criminal to reconsider his previous course of action, as easy on the hands as it is on the wallet, and just about any handgun worth buying can be had chambered in it.  It's the Goldilocks of the caliber world, not too big, not too fast, just right.  While it will never had the "second kind of cool" appeal of some other rounds, the raw weight or 45 ACP, the blistering speed and power of the larger magnum rounds, it succeeds by being just perfectly adequate at everything it is asked to do. - Phil Rabalais


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