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A brief graphical analysis of the 9mm 115 gr. FMJRN and the .45ACP 230 gr. FMJRN

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by 481, Dec 28, 2012.

  1. 481

    481 Well-Known Member

    It seems that one of the perennial topics on internet gun forums is the comparison of the 9mm and .45ACP using ball ammunition.

    Using the Schwartz terminal ballistic model to analyze the maximum penetration depths and the corresponding mass within the permanent wound cavities of the 9mm 115 gr FMJRN and the .45ACP 230 gr FMJRN across a wide range of velocities (200 fps - 1600 fps), I thought that graphs might be a visually-informative way to illustrate the data for those who might be interested in it.

    Since a bullet that lacks the velocity necessary to penetrate skin will fail to penetrate a human body, it was necessary to determine the lower velocity limit to be used in the analysis.

    For this task, I used the skin penetration model found in the research paper below-


    -to determine the minimum velocity at which both the 9mm and .45ACP FMJRNs would successfully penetrate human skin of average thickness (~3mm). Those values are 194.5 fps for the 9mm 115 gr FMJRN and 179.4 fps for the .45ACP FMJRN.

    Since either round must have a minimum velocity of less than 200 fps to pass successfully through human skin, 200 fps was used for both rounds as the lower limit for the analysis.

    This graph illustrates the maximum penetration depths (in inches) of the 9mm 115 gr FMJRN and the .45ACP FMJRN at impact velocities of 200 fps to 1600 fps-


    This graph illustrates the mass (in grams) of permanently crushed soft tissue within the entire volume of the permanent cavity of the 9mm 115 gr FMJRN and the .45ACP FMJRN at impact velocities of 200 fps to 1600 fps-


    Using a manufacturer's ballistic table to determine the velocity of the FMJRN at a desired range, the maximum terminal penetration and the amount of permanently crushed soft-tissue within the permanent cavity can be found using the charts above.

    One of the most startling implications of this analysis (at least to me) is the amount of penetration that both rounds would produce even at extended ranges where velocities are well below 400 fps.

  2. meanmrmustard

    meanmrmustard Well-Known Member

    Think that's impressive? Add .40 S&W and .357 Sig to this analysis.
  3. Owen

    Owen Moderator Emeritus

    looking at the way those charts work, I'm guessing .357SIG (and Magnum for that matter) will be on exactly the same line as 9mm, and 40 will fall between the two.
  4. 481

    481 Well-Known Member

    If you want, I'll take a look at those rounds and try to get a chart or two put up- it's kind of tedious work to do it, but I'll do it if you wish.

    Just need a bullet weight and a shape (e.g.: FMJRN, FMJFN)...
  5. wally

    wally Well-Known Member

    All things being equal, penetration is proportional to the product of velocity and sectional density.

    Do the 230gr .45ACP vs. the 147gr 9mm.
  6. meanmrmustard

    meanmrmustard Well-Known Member

    I'm betting .40 smashes both, and .357 trumps the Smith offering.
  7. Owen

    Owen Moderator Emeritus

    look at the charts... impact velocity is the dependent variable (the X-axis) basically its going to come down to bullet weight, and the fudge factor his formula is using for expansion. The .357 SIG with its typical 125 gr bullet, is going to make a line very slightly above the 9mm line, and the .40 is going to split the difference between 9mm and .45 (or shade towards the 9mm line because the typical 155 gr bullet is closer to the 9mm weights than the .45 weights).

    Now if you put a specific point on each line depicting the impact velocity at say 10 yards, you'll start to see the differences.
  8. Owen

    Owen Moderator Emeritus

    (this is a SWAG)

    I think if you were to take these curves, and say do a curve for all of the common bullet weights in a given caliber, and then put a point on each line for the expected impact velocity at a given (short distance), and then connected those points, you's get a nearly straight line, with lighter non-expanding bullets doing slightly better. If you did the same thing out to extended ranges, you'd start to see curves showing the heavier bullets catching up and passing the lighter bullets in terms of penetration.

    I think I may just buy that book. I see an opportunity for endless worrying about small theoretical performance differences! We could tie up the forum for months!

    Oh, this is going to be so great!
  9. 481

    481 Well-Known Member

    Oh, joy! :evil:

    I'll have the next chart ready to go in just a bit- I think that you, wally, and meanmrmustard will be pleased with what I've done- I think that I got all of your requests wrapped up in one chart. I had to make the .45 230 gr. FMJ a flatpoint-truncated cone to keep the projectiles on an even playing field.
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2012
  10. 1SOW

    1SOW Well-Known Member

    Now, draw a line or place a dot on the lines at typical max velocities for those calibers--not loaded beyond published max loads.:D:D :D

    Bet is, one horizontal line will intersect the dots.
  11. 481

    481 Well-Known Member

    OK, guys... these charts take quite a while to produce so this will have to be "it" for the evening- there's always tomorrow. :cool:

    Here y'all are-


    The blue curve is for the 9mm/.357Sig 147 gr. FMJTC, the green curve is for the .40S&W/10mm 180 gr. FMJTC, and the red curve is for the .45ACP 230 gr. FMJTC.

    All of these rounds are very close in terms of sectional density and their respective curves are within 2" to 5" of one another across the range of velocities examined.

  12. Owen

    Owen Moderator Emeritus

    481, what is your graphing software? looks nicer than Excel.
  13. meanmrmustard

    meanmrmustard Well-Known Member

    I'm still calling the Smith and Sig as better penetrators on this one.
  14. 481

    481 Well-Known Member


    It is an older version of Excel that I keep around for goofing off like this. :D
  15. Owen

    Owen Moderator Emeritus

    oh wow. the kindle version of that book is only $3.99
  16. 481

    481 Well-Known Member

    That's what I have.
  17. 481

    481 Well-Known Member

    According to the chart (or more precisely, the model), you are correct. :)
  18. Bobo

    Bobo Well-Known Member

    Thanks 481 - saved for future use!

  19. meanmrmustard

    meanmrmustard Well-Known Member

    Sorry, we posted at nearly the same time.

    I KNEW they'd penetrate more. Maybe not the 9, but I've seen .45 bounce off of vests at 10 yards. Not a very good penetrator.
  20. 2zulu1

    2zulu1 Well-Known Member

    Nice thread, I like the graph idea. Going back a number of decades and we know the introduction of the Super 38 was instigated because 45 ball ammunition failed to give adequate penetration against auto sheet metal and soft body armor of the time. The Super's 356cal, 130gr FMJ/~1300fps changed everything and we can interpolate from the OP's graphs the penetration difference between 38/45 ball ammunition.

    In the pic below there is a hole in tin siding caused by a 135gr FMJ @1273fps, after penetrating through a combination of 9" of redwood and fir.


    10.5" of redwood yielded the same results. Loading on the left is a 357cal/140gr Sierra JHP.

    As the OP has illustrated, the fast nines are capable of producing significant penetration depths through soft tissue. A real world application could be a defensive home invasion scenario in which one needs to shoot through door framing.

    The kindle price of the QAS book is great, I have the soft cover version and its price was great too. :)

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