9mm vs. .45 (Not The Typical Debate)


Ale Golem
January 31, 2013, 03:06 PM
I'm in the market for my first handgun and I thought I had my heart set on a .357 revolver however as the date draws near to pick my first purchase I find myself reconsidering a semi automatic. I've only ever fired firearms once, at an NRA pistol course in VT last August, so I have limited experience. The class I took was a bit large for the two instructors, 10 students, so our range time per person was minimal. I shot, one full magazine/cylinder each, of 9mm, .38 and .45 with several magazines of .22 in various handguns. I remember the 9mm and .38 feeling about the same when fire and the .45 knocked me back a half step with each shot however that is most likely due to improper stance and handling of the weapon.
My question to the more experienced users is about my body type versus the caliber I choose. I'm 5'5", 140lbs with hands slightly smaller than a standard size small glove. The 9mm was somewhat manageable however I'm wondering if the .45 will become easier with practice and proper fundamentals. Despite the difficulty I had shooting the .45 it was, and I can't stress this enough, the most fun cartridge I tried that day. Am I better sticking with a smaller more manageable round or should I go larger and just learn to compensate?

PS- This will not be a carry gun, simply a range/hobby firearm so stopping power is not a concern for me. Also, I live in NY so getting out and trying several firearms before purchase is not exactly a viable option. I had to drive three hours just to get to that one NRA class.

PPS- In case anyone is wondering my picks for a revolver were between a 6" S&W 686+ (Pre-lock), a 4" Ruger GP100 or a 6" Colt Python in stainless or nickle.

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Shadow 7D
January 31, 2013, 03:12 PM
It's a question of the gun
a light, small gun, in a larger caliber (more powerful) will kick more
A .45 through a small subcompact will feel MUCH different than a all steel 1911
a 9mm through a pocket gun, is a MUCH different beast than through a 5"XD...

It's about finding the gun and caliber you are happy with. Oh, and your shooting technique.
Check out WWW.Corneredcat.com, it's a site geared towards women, but is an excellent source for a novice

January 31, 2013, 03:19 PM
I have shot with and taught men and women.

Both have their quirks and to say it is the caliber is wrong,I do believe.

Close friends mom was shooting the heck out of my Sauer & Sohn .44 magnum with MAGNUM ammo a few decades back.

She did not know she was supposed to be afraid of note the recoil.

Generally women shoot all firearms better as they leave their ego at the door and have little of no preconceived notion of how they will do.

So hand size and body weith are not the problem,try stance and balance as well as grip.

Unless your having hand/grip problem such as age of arthritis = you should do just fine with most any caliber,if your being reasonable.

Shooting a COP or a .44 mag derringer is an example.

January 31, 2013, 03:22 PM
My advice would be that if you want the .45, you should go to a range that allows rentals, or find a friend with a .45 and go practice. Use advice here or have someone train you in the proper technique. If it is still too much to handle, then your decision is made: go with the 9. If you can handle it, then you get to decide 9 or .45.

As it stands, I would suggest a 9, if your experience with the .45 was fun, but can't handle it. But I am a practical person.

The most fun I've had was with a Taurus Judge. People knock it all the time, but that thing was a blast.

January 31, 2013, 03:32 PM
If you're just starting out and are buying a handgun to use at the range, then get a .22. You will end up being a better shooter in the end.

January 31, 2013, 03:55 PM
I''d advise whether it's a 9mm or a .45 to choose a semi-auto
that has a .22 conversion kit available. Shooting .22 will be
cheaper as well as letting an inexperienced shooter to learn

I shoot a 1911 full size 5" Bbl. len. as well as
a CZ 75B in 9mm - they are similar in that they are
both all steel and when loaded nearl the same weight.
The 9mm is also more economical,


January 31, 2013, 09:29 PM
About five years ago I was in your same shoes. (I have smaller hands, 5' 3" and weigh 140 lbs). I went with a full sized steel frame in 9mm. Everyone said start with a .22, but I wanted a centerfire. I bought a fullsized steel framed pistol and I love it. Enough recoil that I know I'm shooting something, but manageable enough that I could learn good techniques with it. I know have a 10mm that I love to death. Its my favorite. But its my favorite because of what I learned with my 9.

Right now you are in a tough spot, because what ever you get in an auto-pistol (short of some odd-ball stuff like 9mm makarov) you will likely have a hard time finding ammo. This to will pass.

You can buy a .45, but know it will likely be harder to learn good technique, and more likely to cause you to develop a flinch which can be hard to unlearn.

If you want both, but can't decide. Check out the EAA Witness/Tanfoglio pistols. They are built so that the slide's and barrels can be swapped out from a .22 lr, all the way up to the might 10mm (or a .45 if that is your king). My 5'0 wife can handle mine.

Know what you want to do. Find what fits that, and buy it.

January 31, 2013, 10:31 PM
I agree w/ BlindJustice. At first I was going to say to get the .22 first, then probably a 9mm. I used to live in a state with laws similar to New York, and given that situation would agree with BlindJustice. I would get a 9mm with a .22 lr conversion. The legal hassles of buying only one gun, but can shoot .22 lr on the cheap, with the same feel (up until you pull the trigger).

Back in the day I had a 1911 with a Ciener (sp?) conversion kit and also a CZ 75 (9mm) with a Kadet kit. Each of these kits let me shoot lots of cheap .22s but I was able to mail-order the kits w/out all of the hoops. I'm not sure what's available today, but those served me well at the time.

If you lived in a more free state I'd advise you to get a 9mm and a .22. It give you the same advantages of above, but if you take a friend shooting you can both shoot. The .22 pays for itself in a very short time, with lots more practice time.

If limited to your original question, I'd advise the 9mm over the .45. Not because of the recoil, but because you can shoot more 9mm for the same amount of money.

Good luck with whatever you decide, and welcome

January 31, 2013, 10:48 PM
Don't overthink it. Go for fun. You're just starting on a lifelong quest and you'll own many over the years, changing and tweaking and improving, selling, trading, bragging, winning, losing, etc.
Pick the one you had fun with. Enjoy.

January 31, 2013, 10:51 PM
Thanks HankR

FWIW - I have a full size 1911, as well as a 625 Revolver in .45 ACP
I'd like to get a .22 Conv. kit for the 1911 - I have a .22 LR 617 which
is similar in weight to the 625.

I also have a CZ 75B in 9mm Parabellum.... a Kaddet kit, factory .22
conv. kit is available and on my need one llist.


January 31, 2013, 11:09 PM
Like some have said, go with what makes you smile. If you think it is a. 45, have at it.

I really like your choices for the. 357 that you selected. All good, all different.

Remember that you will have more variety with the .357 with loads and bullet types. Soft .38s to screaming magnums all in one handgun. That is a plus.

As for hand size. If you go 1911 there are many grip options for you hand size. Go revolver and there are more than twice as many. Either way you cant lose.

Best of luck!

Ale Golem
January 31, 2013, 11:10 PM
I'm seriously looking at either a 6" Colt Python or a Sig Sauer P226 Elite as my first handgun. After some quick checking, the .45 may be a bit pricy to fire on a regular basis so it looks like it'll be either a 9mm or a .357. I'll have to see how the court battles turn out here, Coumo may have made my choice for me by effectively outlawing the P226 due to capacity. Picking up a second gun in .22 wouldn't be that difficult even in NY, they hard part is getting the license however adding a gun is easy. The only real restriction to adding a firearm in Saratoga county is that I can only purchase one handgun per month and from what I've heard about the time frame to get the license issued from the date I apply for it I'll have plenty of time to pick out a second gun.

February 1, 2013, 06:14 AM
I have three 357 mag revolvers. I really enjoy shooting my revolvers that are to large to conceal every day. My little Charter snubbie while impressive is not a lot of fun to shoot. I have a home range. A session with the snubbie is 12 rounds. By 12 rounds I am pushing the snubbie and need some 22 therapy. I have a JA-22 that I take most of my mouse gun practice with. People bastardize the JA-22 but you need plenty of practice to shoot mouse guns accurately. The JA-22 is small enough to keep you used to the short sight plane and it eats Federal bulk ammo.

February 1, 2013, 06:42 AM
If you're just starting out and are buying a handgun to use at the range, then get a .22. You will end up being a better shooter in the end.
I tend to agree with this. Learning requires practice. A 22lr is an excellent way to get the most practice per dollar amount. On top of that they are a blast to shoot. If you haven't already, try out a Ruger MII or MIII, or a Browning Benchmark. Both are excellent for learning technique, and are fun enough that you won't be sorry you have them. Like said before try first if you can rent or have a friend that has one. This is an easy way to master your faults and move into larger calibers, and with the quality control of bulk 22lr you'll also get practice clearing a FTF.
550 rds 22LR = $20-24
550 rds 45acp= $250-300

February 1, 2013, 08:31 AM
I have experience with several different categories of people within my own family. My father really does not like the feel of many .9X19mm pistols other than the Sig Sauer Series P226. He prefers the slimmer .45 ACP 1911 series. Some of the women regardless of their frame typically prefer the .9X19mm due to manageable recoil in their opinion. Much of it is fit to hand and proper stance and the basic fundamentals of how to hold the pistol properly. It really does change from person to person, I would suggest going to a gun range where they allow you to "Rent" a gun ... try different ones and see what fits you. Once you have made your decision... practice, practice, practice. Sometimes even cost of the ammunition is a determining factor, I know people that actually prefer a .45 ACP want to practice with one but determined that the cost of ammo was too high so they went with the .9X19mm instead and now they practice very regularly with it.

February 1, 2013, 08:40 AM
There is no body type that can't handle the strongest of recoil. With proper stance, technique, etc., you can shoot about anything. My wife and her sisters (ranging from 115-150 lbs, 5'3"-5'5") routinely shoot their Dad's .460 revolver without a problem. It just took a little instruction and practice. With minimal practice, you'd shoot the .45 just fine.

Also, a .357 would have more recoil than the .45, at least in my experience, particularly from a 4" 100.

Honestly, if you're not going to carry, then it's hard to argue with 9mm. It's cheap & offers the widest selection of ammo options (Although, in this current market, who knows?...). The recoil is more manageable, obviously, which isn't only an issue with being able to "handle" it, but also lends itself more to hours of range fun without taking a toll on your hand. That said, 9mm is acceptable for carry & defense, too.

February 1, 2013, 09:00 AM
Judy Tant is the womens bullseye pistol champ. In bullseye, you shoot the 45 with one hand. Judy is about 5'2" and of slight build.

If she can learn do to it, so can you. It just takes time.

Taurus 617 CCW
February 1, 2013, 09:06 AM
I used to own an all steel full size 1911. I loved that gun. It was easy to aim and shoot. Recoil was very mild being all steel. I ended up purchasing a Ciener .22 conversion kit for it later and had lots of fun shooting .22 at the range. I sold that gun a few years ago and ended up with a Glock 19 as my daily carry gun. I researched getting another conversion slide for it but ended up purchasing a dedicated .22 handgun. I picked a Smith and Wesson M&P 22 pistol (not the AR-15 handgun copy but the regular pistol). I have a lot of fun with that little gun every time I go to the range. You can't go wrong either way, just remember that the bigger the bullet, the more it's going to cost to shoot.

February 1, 2013, 09:47 AM
My wife is 5 feet tall with tiny hands. After a lot of looking and trying, she is most comfortable with a CZ75b 9mm. There's something about the weight and grip that really suits her and she shoots it well. We got the 22 Kadet conversion kit for it. One of our smarter purchases. It keeps the grip and balance she likes and is very accurate. She shoots it more often than her Ruger Mk II.

Also, I helped a friend's daughter pick out her first handgun. She is even smaller than you. She ended up with a Ruger GP100 357 magnum with a 4" barrel. I would never have predicted that choice.

The moral of the story is to try as many different guns as possible. The other moral is I never try to predict someone's firearms preferences. :rolleyes:

Good luck with the search.


February 1, 2013, 11:00 AM
I am also a smallish person -- 5'2", but way above that 140 lb threshold... Small hands too, so what I have to be cognizant of when I handle guns is the frame/grip size and location of the trigger. A long time ago a friend pointed out that a good chunk of my poor technique in shooting was based on how I gripped the gun. My hand was twisted around trying to get my finger to reach the trigger. So, it resulted in consistently poor shots.
I find 1911s, in general, (with the single stack mags) to be great fits in my hand. I find some double stack 9/40s to be a bit much due to the width/length of the grip and trigger position. Double stack 45s, whether 1911s or others, require a thought or two as I grip the gun prior to shooting.
Now, what I could mention or recommend is that maybe a 1911 style gun in either 9 or 45. Caliber won't matter in that case and you could find the 22Lr conversion kits for them too. Try one again for fit and welcome to the hobby.

February 1, 2013, 11:28 AM
Since you are in NY let me highlight the big thing you are dealing with because I don't think anyone has mentioned it...

1. 7 round capacity

There are zero full size 9mm handguns with a 7 round capacity. Guess what though? There will never be a shortage of 7 round magazines for a full size 1911 in .45 ACP! And then, when Cuomo's favorite bill is ruled unconstitutional and overturned, you will be able to find 8 and 10 round magazines as well.

With practice, and more instruction, your technique will get better and the .45 will not be a problem. If I was in your position, I would get a 1911 in .45.

February 1, 2013, 11:36 AM
1) The problem is not the gun, but your technique. You can handle 45 ACP easily.

2) Since your goal is to have a range gun, choose something that is accurate. This means longer barrels, different sights, good triggers, and so forth. 45 ACP is a very accurate round. Consider a high end 1911 (7 round magazines are plentiful and available everywhere). Also consider an open class revolver (see ICORE and IPSC rules). You may as well max out accuracy given your goal.

3) 22 Long Rifle is a great caliber for target shooting. The downside is you cannot reload for it (reloading is fun). There are many options, but the seven round magazine limit is a problem. You may want to consider a Ruger Single Six or similar. Ruger offers their double action SP-101 in 22LR. S&W has several guns to choose from.

4) Move to a non-state-slave state and buy what you want. Northern Virginia has lots of jobs and has the benefits of a state that honors its constitution. The Ruger 10/22 with 25 round mag is a hoot.

February 1, 2013, 11:50 AM
While a Colt Python is a very good revolver you might not want to buy one if you intend on shooting it a lot. There are probably very few spare parts available for this revolver and just as few gunsmiths who still know how to work on them.

I highly suggest you buy a 22 semi-auto or revolver first, before anything else. Shoot that for a while and develop good shooting habits. You will be surprised how much fun they are to shoot. Bad habits are easy to learn but very hard to break. You can easily develop a flinch which is evident by you telling us the 45 Auto knocked you back each time you fired it.

Please do yourself a favor and learn how to shoot with a 22 first. You will enjoy shooting for a lifetime much better if you learn correct form from the beginning.

February 1, 2013, 12:00 PM
Ruger GP100 would be my choice as a first handgun. Reasons are the .357 is one of the most versitile rounds ever. Good for home defense loaded with 38+p, good for big game hunting with 180gr JSP .357s, good for target shooting with .38spl, good for small game hunting with .38spl wadcutters. If you want the most versitile, handgun that will last generations, the 357 revolvers have it. Whether you pick a GP100 or a 686 or 66 a blackhawk or python.

twice barrel
February 1, 2013, 01:16 PM
" In case anyone is wondering my picks for a revolver were between a 6" S&W 686+ (Pre-lock), a 4" Ruger GP100 or a 6" Colt Python in stainless or nickle."

These are great choices for a first gun. And the bluing on Colt Python's is fabulous so don't neglect a good looking blued steel gun. And a 4" 686 would be nice.

Except for hunting or self-defense you'll spend most of your time hopefully feeding it 38 special ammo and not +p. Just enjoy getting to know your gun, handling it, cleaning/oiling it, holstering/carrying it, etc. Keep all your once-fired cases. Most important is that you feel comfortable in how the gun feels in your hand, balances, the trigger squeeze and letoff. These contribute greatly into how you sense recoil and how well you shoot the gun...any gun. I even suggest a nice model 19 or 66 S&W and you just ignore the .357 on it and just shoot 38 specials in it. Its a comfortable weight nice handling revolver and just plain fun to shoot.

The nice thing about a well maintained revolver is you don't concern yourself with FTF's or any other jamming and its easy to keep up with your fired cases. If you shoot regularly you may discover the joy of handloading and you'll be glad you kept your cases.

Mostly just have fun and relax. Shooting is a great pasttime.


February 1, 2013, 01:33 PM
Ale Golem, welcome to the forum. I used to drive through Port Henry on my way to the in-laws place in Keene (when I lived in VT.) I still miss Lake Champlain.

Since you liked the .45acp so much I would go with that. My daughter is about your size, after years of shooting 9mm she decided to try the .45acp in a 1911 style pistol last summer. She said she liked it better. Pistol grip size, and what its made of, are a big a big factor in getting comfortable with the .45 acp pistols. Highly recommended is an all steel pistol like the Rock Island Armory 1911-.45 tactical. The added weight of the steel pistol will dampen the recoil somewhat and after market grips are plentiful for the 1911. Additionally the RIA guns are not expensive (under $500) and are well thought of. I have two.

Normally I would join the posters who say start with a .22. This is always a good idea. But since you made it a point of how much the .45 appealed to you, go for it. Be aware that .45 ammo is expensive.

This the 1911-.45 my daughter and I shoot.


RIA 1911-45 Tactical. I could not hold on to the pistol using the original grips. These Pachmayer grips are fantastic.

I bought this pistol on a whim.

It's made to replicate the 1911-45, shoots the much cheaaper .22 LR.
It does a pretty good job of it in size and control layout, but it's much lighter than the 1911-45. The dif. in weight bothers me, but my daughter likes it for just that reason.

GSG 1911-22 Made in Germany, not expensive. (~$350).

Be aware that you can order anything you want through a gun shop or on-line store like Buds Guns. Your local laws need to be researched, find a coach to get you started. It's going to be difficult to buy from the net at the moment. But I think Bud's may have the GSG. Good luck.

February 1, 2013, 01:42 PM
x2 post

bubba in ca
February 1, 2013, 10:33 PM
Rule one for handguns for anyone is that it has to fit your hands. If it is an auto, it has to fit your hands AND the buttons must not get in the way (such as dropping your mag every other time you pick up the gun!). Fondle some guns at a store; if it doesn`t fit ignore all other issues including cost, brand, caliber, gun-of-the-month gimmickry.

Since it is a fun gun, 22s are a lot cheaper and fun to shoot.

For the centerfires, 38 and 9 are cheapest and have less recoil. If you go the 357, you have the advantage of shooting 38s.

I have felt for a long time that Ruger is the best for your money.

Over the years, single action guns have become my fun guns, including single-shot rifles and shotguns.

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