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Why the 9mm vs .45 debate? Where was this debate when 38sp was used?

Discussion in 'Handguns: General Discussion' started by 777funk, Jan 9, 2013.

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  1. 777funk

    777funk Member

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    I see this debate all the time. So that debate isn't the question here, I think overall most feel the .45 is a better defensive round but who knows the real answer. I guess the ones who've had to put both to the test would be the ones with the answer there. It does seem like the idea with 45 is impact the target in a big way and don't hurt anything else in the area (i.e. don't pass through).

    But why didn't we hear about this as much when most police forces were carrying 38 special revolvers? 38's were used for decades. It's the same basic diameter as a 9mm. Is it a heavier or slower bullet thing? If balistics is done right, shouldn't ALL of the 9mm's energy be transfered to the target? In that case, wouldn't the 9mm be a much better round for protection than the old 38 cartridge?

    Another thing I've wondered, couldn't someone create a mouse fart load for 9mm with a heavy bullet and low powder charge that would accomplish a similar idea to 45?
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2013
  2. dodo bird

    dodo bird Member

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    Because Al Gore had not invented the internet for us to discuss this before the 9 mm went to police departments
     
  3. 460Shooter

    460Shooter Member

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    Such debates no doubt happened in police stations and around card tables all the time. However the creation of the internet has allowed people like you and I to have these conversations across digital card tables from anywhere in the world.

    Also, police are most often issued guns and ammo. They don't necessarily choose the gun or cartridge themselves. .38 special ammo is still cheaper to this day than .45 ammo, so that no doubt has a bearing.

    Wheel gunners, and I'm including myself in this, seem to have a bit of a crochity "This works great so don't monkey with it!" attitude. I have no doubt that older police captains and department heads and city officials back then got into a "Well this is how we do it, and it works!" mode, just as happens today.

    Remeber, the standard .38 special was loaded a lot hotter back in those days, so energy transfer would be much higher than today's ammo. (I believe. Hopefully someone with more history knowledge will chime in on that.) Also, hollow point ammo changed the game as well. If you have an expanding bullet hitting a target and hopefully stopping in the target, do you need it as hot loaded?

    Balistics on a 9mm are arguably better than a .38. However we could get into a lot of debate over "effectivness" of the different platforms and "shootability" since those are inherantly linked in a discussion of this sort. That part can and does go around and around on this forum all the time. Overpenetration can become an issue also if the bullet continues to penetrate.

    Yes, but velocity must be kept high enough to ensure bullet expanssion. Would it accomplish the same thing as a .45? Well, in some ways. But a better solution is to just buy a .45 and live happy.
     
  4. smkummer

    smkummer Member

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    Timeline of debate 1970's and later

    At the time, the 9mm and 45 auto were the US auto pistol service rounds. 38 Super needed a 1911 frame but 9mm had several frame options such as smaller. 40S&W was not around then. Revolver guys still carried revolvers with 38/357 chambered guns being at least 90% of what was carried by revolver people. This was also the time that 38 special came in many flavors including Super Vel and Plus P Plus not sold to civilians.
     
  5. PabloJ

    PabloJ Member

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    There should be no debate. Just stand both cartridges next to one another. It should be obvious which is more effective. Now you know why Glock 21 is best all around combat pistol.
     
  6. brnmw

    brnmw Member

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    This and because everyone has an opinion. ;)

    And I will say yes, the .45 ACP is better on several fronts the only real drawbacks for some people I see is $$$ for ammo, the .45 ACP is more expensive to practice with and does have more recoil. In power terms it is a more effective round, but as with all things shot placement is key. The .9X19mm will kill make no mistake about that. G. Gifford's is a very lucky/ blessed women to be alive right now taking a shot like that. When she survived I kept hearing people say "That tears it I am selling my 9mm! I reminded them of the other "6 People" who did die that day.... so yes it will kill very effectively. (Bad Guy's beware)
    IMO "BOTH" are well suited for defense. :)

    As for the .38 Spl. debate I have pretty much come to the conclusion both are pretty close in ballistics (vs. .9X19mm only) especially in the .38 Spl. +P loads. (A "Hot" .45 ACP would be closer measured to a std. .357 Mag. load IMO.)
     
  7. Skribs

    Skribs Member

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    Dodobird hit the nail on the head: we did not have these internet debates when .38 specials were standard issue because we did not have the internet. I don't know whether or not there were in-person debates. The number of different calibers would suggest there was.
     
  8. jerkface11

    jerkface11 Member

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    Why debate 9mm vs. .45 when 10mm was invented 30 years ago.
     
  9. ApacheCoTodd

    ApacheCoTodd Member

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    I guess your question shows your age. That is not an insult, just an observation. Either you're too young to remember or didn't do a lot of gun mag reading back in the day. While not as easily accessible as internet babble these days, the debates were common in books, mags, locker rooms and anywhere fellas were gathered to shoot, buy or bench shoot.

    There was debate, lots of debate:

    .32 H&R Mag/.38
    .38/9mm
    .38/.357
    .38/.45
    .44 Special/.38 Special
    Semi auto/revolver

    Lots more I'm sure as well.
     
  10. benEzra

    benEzra Moderator Emeritus

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    If all defensive pistols were single-shots, perhaps that would be the only metric necessary to make a decision.

    However, given that .45 trades more unexpanded frontal area for much less reserve capacity and twice the weight per round, there are tradeoffs with either choice. Since most of us are not limited to low-capacity magazines, it is a reasonable choice to prefer 18 rounds of 9mm over 12ish rounds of .45, all else being equal.
     
  11. Bikewer

    Bikewer Member

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    There were people concerned about the .38 special as a police round for many years. The development of the .357 Magnum back in the 30s was a direct result of these concerns.
    Elmer Kieth details this in his old book, Sixguns... The availability of the large-frame .38s enabled experimenters to develop high-powered .38 Special loads which were initially marketed but then withdrawn under the fear they would be loaded into older weapons... Thus the slightly-longer .357.
    The old "police standard" load, a 158-grain swaged round-nosed lead bullet over a modest powder charge, was woefully inadequate.
    No expansion, little shock... Numerous anecdotes of individuals absorbing numbers of these projectiles and continuing to fight.
    Just before I started my own career around 1966, the local St. Louis police were involved in an incident where two officers were fighting with an "OBS" (insane) person and ended up shooting him some 14 times... Yes, one officer actually reloaded.
    The fellow still had to be fought onto the stretcher and recovered from his wounds.....
     
  12. 9mmepiphany

    9mmepiphany Moderator

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    Either you aren't old enough to remember or your interest wasn't as focused

    The some of the big debates before the 9mm vs..45ACP were:
    1. .38spl SWC vs. HP
    2. .38spl vs. .380 in small carry guns
    3. .357mag vs. .44spl in duty guns
    4. .32ACP vs. .380ACP in small autos

    They did. It was the 147gr JHP Subsonic load that was so popular after the 1986 FBI Miami shootout
     
  13. 777funk

    777funk Member

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    Lol, yeah I'm too young. I wouldn't say I'm young, my kids think I'm old, lol. But I'm still under 40 so I guess I'm still a little wet behind the ears.

    I grew up only shooting rifles and shotguns so pistol shooting has only been in the last several years. Lots of fun. I've got my kids shooting a .177 revolver. I think I enjoy it as much as they do.
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2013
  14. Skribs

    Skribs Member

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    777funk, I think you're on the young side of this forum.
     
  15. Vern Humphrey

    Vern Humphrey Member

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    When Smith and Wesson developed the .38 Special (by stretching the .38 Long Colt), they did their homework. Most police in the east carried a miscellany of small caliber guns. Then, even more than now, most cops never fired their guns in anger -- and if you're not going to shoot your gun in an actual shootout, what kind of gun do you choose? Why, the smallest, lightest one you can get away with, of course.

    But sometimes a cop did have to use a gun for real -- and the dinkey little revolvers they favored didn't do the job. Smith and Wesson offered a reasonable solution -- a cartridge more powerful than the Army's service pistol in a light-weight revolver.

    If you look at the competition -- the .41 Colt, the .44 S&W, the .45 Colt, and so on, all those came in much bigger revolvers.
     
  16. Rexster

    Rexster Member

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    Actually, the 9mm-versus-.45 debate is old and stale by now, as the .40-versus-.45 debate took over some time ago, itself now quite stale.

    And, I can tell you are a young'un! The .38-versus-.45 debate raged long and hard, not all that long ago, and I am not quite yet a senior citizen.

    Realistically, I am happy carrying anything in the .38 Special +P and 9mm range up to and including .45 ACP, assuming good premium modern JHP, because I know the major manufacturers have been making this ammo to meet FBI wound ballisticss standards since the last century. To get anti-personnel performance that is, perhaps, higher than this, I will carry a heavy .357 revolver, and load it with full-pressure 125-grain JHP ammo. That is what I used in my one defensive shooting incident to date, with devastating effect, and there is something about living through such an experience, well, let's just leave it at that.
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2013
  17. Vern Humphrey

    Vern Humphrey Member

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    Why thank you, young feller!

    The debate I remember is between the airdales and the ground pounders in Viet Nam. I saw many a Smith & Wesson decay into crud in a pilot's holster. And I was always willing to point out that if you want it for survival, the .45 ACP will take a bigger shot charge and launch a bigger flare.
     
  18. Rexster

    Rexster Member

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    Oops, I somehow managed to quote the wrong post! I meant to quote the OP! My sincere apologies! I meant the OP is a young'un. I just totally removed the quoted part from my above post.

    Mr. Humphrey, I respect you immensely, and would never use "young'un" in your case.
     
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  19. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    The .45 ACP was for most of its life primarily a military round that had some cross over use outside the military. But the 1911 platform was only very rarely used by police forces. These remained wedded to the revolver until the wondernines.

    So you didn't get a great debate because the two cartridge were linked to platforms that simply didn't compete with each other. And when there was discussion about amping up duty revolvers, the .357 Mag, .44 Special or .41 Magnum were suggestions rather than going over to any semiauto round.
     
  20. Rexster

    Rexster Member

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    FWIW, I started working, in 1983, for a PD that had standardized on 4" .357 revolvers for cadets and rookies, and allowed .38/9mm up to and including .45 revolvers and autos for senior officers. The great local debate was between .357 Magnum and .45 ACP, but a quite large number of officers stayed above that debate and carried .44 Magnum revolvers! .45 ACP was king, in 1911, SIG, HK, and a few other autos.

    I tried .44 Mag for about a year, then went the opposite direction for several months to 9mm, then settled on .41 Magnum for most of the rest of the 1980s. I carried .45 ACP on duty from 1991-1993 and 1997-2002. After deciding .357 really did deserve its reputation for effectiveness, I carried it on the clock from 1993-1997, and on my own time and as on-duty back-up to this day.

    Since 2002, I have carried the now-standard duty cartridge, .40 S&W at work. Off the clock, and for back-up at work, I mostly carry .45 ACP and .357 Mag.

    Oh, and don't think this weapon/ammo policy was some small PD; this is one of the largest non-federal PDs in the USA! Some high-seniority officers are still carrying "grandfathered" duty handguns that reflect the old days. Part of me regrets letting my 1911 pistols and .357 sixguns lapse from duty handgun status, though I can still carry them as "back-ups" and on my own time.

    Anyway, the reason I mention this variety of cartridge choices, is because, being a large agency, with several thousand officers, we shoot a number of bad guys, over time. The result? All common duty catridges perform well enough when we hit the important bits, and all can fail when we miss the important bits.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2013
  21. 777funk

    777funk Member

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    This is something I hope to never encounter and really never expect to, but I am one who prefers to be ready. I'd rather be ready and never need it than need it and not be ready.

    I was surprised to see someone here actually had to defend themselves by firing their weapon. Then I read you were an officer. That ups your chances a bit!

    My grandfather was Army in WWII and he always encouraged me to never join the armed forces. He saw more than he would have liked to see and fired more rounds than he would have wanted to fire. I've always thought of him as a good man and respected him for what he did. But I areed with him, not something I would want to sign up for unless I absolutely had to. A free country is worth it's defense.

    And as a civilian I am not afraid to use force as a last resort if the need arose and the situation called for ONLY that as a resort, but I hope the need should never arise. It's something I dread but the word 'ready' is also a good word.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2013
  22. 303tom

    303tom member

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    And the .327 Mag. is better than all of em...............
     
  23. M2 Carbine

    M2 Carbine Member

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    As a 1960's LEO we carried the 38 Special. I don't recall anyone being concerned about the round.

    I was a short white cop alone in a black getto. I don't ever recall, in the middle of the night, being concerned that all I had was a nightstick and a 6 shot 38 revolver.
     
  24. XD 45acp

    XD 45acp Member

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    Blast from the Past!!! These are left over from my brother's police car (Petersburg, Va P.D.) circa '71 - '72. Both are 158 gr. The Winchesters was the plain jane practice round, 855 ft/sec muzzle energy 256 ft/lb. The Super Vel was the on duty carry load, 1100 fps muzzle energy 420 ft/lb. Notice modern day Winchester 158gr .38 +P is rated only at 890 ft/sec. That Super Vel was a helluva load.

    policeammo.gif
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2013
  25. jmr40

    jmr40 Member

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    We didn't have the internet, but there was a lot of very heated debate then as now. It was just done around the campfire, watercooler, or gunshop counters.

    Cops were in the transition between 38 and 357 about the time 9mm started to gain in popularity. One of the best arguments came from a cop I once talked to. He stated that between 38 and 9mm he would not walk, but run to the closest gunshop to buy a 9mm. Between 9mm and 357 would require some soul searching.

    Everyone was pretty pleased with 9mm until the infamous FBI shootout in Miami. Then the debate between 9mm vs 45 vs 10mm vs 40 S&W heated up.
     
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