Why the Nine?
Advocating the 9x19mm
by Todd Louis Green, firstname.lastname@example.org
|Probably no other handgun cartridge has been so misunderstood
and maligned as the 9x19 (also called 9mm Luger, 9mm Parabellum, or just 9mm). But
in a world where new calibers seem to go in and out of vogue almost daily (10mm,
.40S&W, 357SIG, 400CorBon, what's next?), the venerable 9mm still seems to be a
popular choice for shooters. Why?
The reasons are legion and depend, to a great
extent, on each individual asking the question. However, the basics can all be
boiled down to what I call the Three E's of Ease of Use, Economics, and Effectiveness.
|Ease of Use
||Compared to most other defensive calibers, the 9mm has
relatively little recoil and muzzle flip. This affects both new shooters and more
Beginners frequently have problems taming recoil. This
can lead to bad habits such as flinching, which makes accuracy almost impossible to
achieve. More importantly, a shooter who is recoil sensitive might get discouraged
trying to learn with more punishing rounds and give up shooting altogether. With the
light recoil of the 9mm, inexperienced shooters can learn the basics of sight picture,
trigger control, etc., without being battered by the gun.
Of course, with experience, most shooters learn to handle recoil properly and can move
on to other calibers if they choose. However, recoil force has a direct impact on
things like muzzle flip, which in turn affect how quickly and accurately a person can make
follow-up shots. This shouldn't surprise anyone. The more the muzzle flips up,
the more time and effort it takes to bring it back down and on target. Time equals
marksmanship, and the more time you have to take your aimed shot, the more accurate you
will be. Therefore, the 9x19 allows a shooter of any given skill level to be faster
and more accurate when firing multiple rounds.
Most tactical handgun trainers agree that the ability to put multiple rounds
downrange into a target is critical for self-defense. The obvious conclusion, then,
is that the 9mm gives the shooter an edge when performing double taps (two rapid shots to
Center of Mass, or "COM") and similar defensive techniques.
||Nine millimeter ammunition is just plain cheap. Places
like Natchez and Cascade regularly have sales at
around $7/box of 50. You can find even better prices if you find a reputable
commercial reloader or quality surplus ammo at gun shops and gun shows. In fact,
9x19 ammo is so cheap that it's almost a waste of time and effort to reload for
By comparison, most other defensive ammo calibers are significantly more
expensive. Discussing just practice ammo (like FMJ or Blazer), the 9mm is usually
two to four dollars cheaper per box than comparable .40S&W and .45ACP ammo;
10mm and 357SIG ammunition can be twice as expensive! Of course, shooters of
these other calibers can save money by reloading, but that requires (1) an outlay of
substantial funds to buy the reloading equipment and (2) time and effort spent sorting
brass and loading ammunition. Many shooters would rather not be bothered with all of
that, myself included.
Also, in my experience, great deals (like specials, sales, etc.) on 9mm ammo are much
more common than for other calibers. Surplus NATO 9mm "ball" ammo makes an
excellent training/practice round.
Less expensive ammunition, of course, means more ammunition. Whether you
want to spend $10 or $100 or $1000 each month practicing, you'll get more for your money
with 9mm. More ammo means more practice, and more practice means greater skill.
In a defensive shooting situation, shot placement is much more important than tiny
differences in so-called "stopping power." The only way to improve shot
placement is by practicing. By switching to 9mm from .40S&W or .45ACP, you can
practice half again as much for the same cost.
When considered along with the 9mm's inherently reduced recoil, the economic efficiency
of shooting 9mm means that you get better, faster, cheaper.
||This is the big one, of course. Many of the "big
names" in the gunzine world disparage the 9mm right and left because, they claim, it
lacks "knockdown power" or "stopping power" or whatever they're
calling it this month.
I won't lie to you. They're right. The average 9mm
load probably isn't as effective as a defensive round as the average .40S&W, .45ACP,
357SIG, or 10mm round.
Whoa, hold on a minute! Did he just say the 9mm isn't as good as those others?
No. I said that the average load wasn't as good. When you start to
look at the best loads in each caliber, you begin to see that they're almost
identical in terminal performance (ability to penetrate, expand, and otherwise wound a
Here are some samples of performance in bare gelatin:
|9mm 124gr +P+
||44.8 sq. in.
||47.9 sq. in.
|.45ACP 185gr +p
||31.5 sq. in.
||28.4 sq. in.
Remington Golden Saber
As you can see, the 9mm versions of most "premium"
loads are very close and sometimes superior to the .40S&W and .45ACP versions.
It's all about bullet design, not bullet weight or velocity.
The problem is that while there are few "bad" loads in the other calibers,
there are tons of "bad" 9mm defensive choices out there. Many rounds
either fail to expand or fail to penetrate, or both. It is important that you, as a
shooter, do a little research and choose 9x19mm ammunition which is tailored to your
So for 9mm, load selection becomes paramount. (Click here to see CALIBERS recommendations in 9x19mm)
But once you choose a good load, it works just like a good load in .40S&W, .45ACP, or
any of those other calibers. Sure, it's not as heavy as the heavy bullets, and it's
not as fast as the fastest bullets. But if it penetrates the same, expands the same,
and disrupts tissue the same, who cares? All else being equal, I'd prefer a cheap,
easy to control gun rather than one that makes me work harder and spend more money to get
the same results.
||The 9x19 certainly isn't the choice for everyone.
Plenty of people are very hardware dependent or simply lack confidence in the 9mm because
of anecdotes and the performance of some of the "bad" ammo discussed
above. That's fine. Those people are certainly free to use bigger guns which
generate more recoil, which they cannot afford to practice with as often, just to have the
same terminal performance ("stopping power") as my wimpy little 9mm.
enough, I haven't found a single person so far who is so unimpressed with the
stopping power of a 9mm that he is willing to stand downrange and catch one fired out of
my Beretta. 8-)
Stay safe ...