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  1. #1
    vjc123 is offline Junior Member
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    Question 9mm vs. .45 ACP Newbie Question

    First off this is a great forum, which has helped this newbie narrow my choice of handgun down to a 1911 9mm or .45 ACP. Where I live we have plenty of ranges, but none that rent, so I really have to go off of research alone.

    I am looking to have a gun for home protection, competitive shooting, and have something that my wife would not be afraid to shoot. The difference in ammo price between the two is really not a factor, but I want something reliable and accurate as I will go to the range and compete and then come home and want it to go bang when it needs to. I would like to stay under $1,000. Any suggestions on caliber or gun make would be appreciated.

  2. #2
    Baldy's Avatar
    Baldy is offline Senior Member
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    9mm XD, Glock, or S&W MP. There's plenty more. These will get you started. Good luck.

  3. #3
    vjc123 is offline Junior Member
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    I read today that many shooters prefer a 9mm to a .45acp because there is less recoil from a 9mm which keeps it more accurate. Also, if you use the right hollow point ammo it is just as effective as the .45 acp in a defense situation. Any truth to that?

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by vjc123 View Post
    I read today that many shooters prefer a 9mm to a .45acp because there is less recoil from a 9mm which keeps it more accurate. Also, if you use the right hollow point ammo it is just as effective as the .45 acp in a defense situation. Any truth to that?
    As many will quickly chime in here. Shot placement is of course the most critical issue. A .45 is alot bigger. It doesn't sound like alot, but when you calculate the difference in surface area you can put in better perspective.

    For example, a .40 is about 1mm bigger than a 9mm. The increase in surface area from a .40 to a .45 is just a shade more than 26%. So a .45 is about equal to .40 x 126%.

    I haven't calculated the increase from a 9mm to .40 though, but it is going to be about the same =/- a couple of percentage points.

    As for recoil, the weight of the pistol itself determines alot about how much recoil is felt. The heavier the gun, the less recoil is noticed. You don't want a boat anchor though.

    It's too bad that you can't rent a couple to feel the difference.

  5. #5
    JeffWard's Avatar
    JeffWard is offline Senior Member
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    If you've chossen a 1911 style gun, 99% will be .45 ACP.

    If you are looking for simplicity, reliability, and accuracy (predominantly for self/home defense) you might prefer a modern polymer framed gun (XD, Glock, M&P, etc...)

    The 1911's are a bit more complex, and need a bit more practice and service (thumb safety, bushings, etc), since they have more moving parts.

    In the same gun (frame, weight, etc) a .45 will kick a bit more, but the larger the gun, the less difference you will feel.

    That said, for target shooting and self defense, the .45 makes a bigger hole...

    Two schools of thought as man-stoppers:
    9mm: Higher Velocity 115gr bullet = High energy
    .45: Lower Velocity 230gr bullet = More "Momentum" and greater stability

    Assuming both bullets stop inside the target, the 9mm has more "knockdown" since it has more Kinetic Energy, but if the velocity blows it right through the target, some energy is wasted. If the bullet encounters twigs, clothing, ribs... on the way to the target, the .45 is superior, simply by Newtons laws...

    I carry a .45 ACP, Springfield Armory XD 45. So I'm biased. I'm also an experienced shooter, and 230+lbs, with big hands, so recoil is not an issue.

    Both are accurate, with practice. Both are proven man-stoppers. 9mm's are "easier" to shoot, and cheaper to shoot. But your "prefered platform" (the 1911 guns) come mostly in .45.

    Hope we all help in your decision... But before you drop $500-1000+ on a new toy, I'd highly suggest you FIND a range that rents, and shoot LOTS of guns. Invest a few hundred in gas, time, rentals, and ammo. Save yourself a lot in the long run with a gun you will enjoy, practice with, and can depend on...

    There's no such thing as a range employee who will not be more than happy to show you how they all work. But beware... there are only a few less opinions of the perfect gun, as there are guys who own them...

    Have fun, and welcome!

    Jeff

  6. #6
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    If you want to include your wife into the mix, it may be difficult for her to rack the slide.

    Are both of you new shooters?

    Since the ranges will not provide gun rentals, what about joining a gun club and having the member allow you to try out their 9mm and .45ACP?

    Good luck with your decision.

  7. #7
    falshman70's Avatar
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    Gosh - lots of things to consider. I love my 1911, but it took several hundred rounds to break in - i.e., become reliable. Also 9mm is lots cheaper to shoot at the range than .45ACP. Last time I visited Walmart Win White Box .45 was $28.95 for 100. 9mm was $19.95. I wouldn't want 1911 in anything but .45 ACP, however - although my wife has a Springfield EMP in 9mm and loves it. But it's not really a range gun.

    The point was raised earlier as to your wife's ability to rack the slide of a 1911. If it's a nightstand gun you can leave it cocked and locked but you have to make sure you're comfortable with that. Also an all steel 1911 will handle recoil better than an alloy framed one, but may be heavy for a woman to shoot much.

    Generally speaking there are a lot of good polymer framed guns out there. Many are striker-fired and some have hammers. There are lots of trigger and decocker/safety variations available, also. You both have to handle a few to see what you like. The Walther P99 has lots of fans around here, as it is quite ergonomic.

    FWIW.

  8. #8
    hideit's Avatar
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    you must check if the wife can rack the slide - she may not be able to
    (don't know your wife)
    you said a 1911 style - some of the above responses did not reply to your statement
    1911 style in 9mm: I'd check the Springfield EMP or Kimber's Pro Carry II
    1911 style in 45ACP: What joy to research - now that's fun!!!! there are just too many to suggest - you have to ask yourself
    - 3" or 4" or 5" barrell
    - high cap or 7 rounds
    - single action or LDA light double action in the Para-Ord

  9. #9
    hideit's Avatar
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    forgot one item
    go to www.wheretoshoot.org
    and find a range that is closest to you

  10. #10
    CLG
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    I have both and right now I really like the 9mm.

  11. #11
    wardog99s's Avatar
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    i'll take the .45 ACP

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    Think revolver. If she can't rack the slide, eliminate the slide.
    Look for a "K" or "L" Frame .357 magnum. A used one with a 3 or 4 inch bbl is a good consideration. Maybe only $250- $300. Load it with .38 specials and practice a lot. When you both become more proficiant use .38s for practice,and .357s for more serious social work.
    A revolver is a little more difficult to conceal, but that is not amongst your requirements.

  13. #13
    hideit's Avatar
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    relooked at your initial post
    If you are going into competitive shooting almost all use 45acp - the most notable is Springfield or Para-Ord (rob latham and todd jarrett)
    But in Production class competitive shooting the Glock 40cal is won alot by that Sigvigney (i think that is his name) guy.
    4 out of the last 5 years he has been the champ with his Glock
    then of course there is cowboy shooting where they all use single actions - Colt or Ruger or EAA

  14. #14
    vjc123 is offline Junior Member
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    First off, thanks for the help. You have all given me some good points to consider. I am not a new shooter, but I have been limited to what my Uncle brings to the range(.357 magnum and Sig 9mm). My wife on the other hand will probably show up to the range a few times a year only to make sure that if she ever really needs to use the weapon she is ready for it.

    Hideit, it is interesting that you say most competitive shooters use the .45 ACP. A guy at the club I belong to told me the 9mm was the gun of choice. What is the reasoning for the .45 ACP over the 9mm for competitive shooting?

    I guess after thinking about it a bit more, the 1911 is not the most important thing to me. This gun is going to get a lot of use, I shoot a couple times a week and really want to get into it competatively. So I would like it to be very accurate, reliable, built like a tank, and easy to clean. I would give up the 1911 idea as long as I could find those things.

  15. #15
    hideit's Avatar
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    thanks for the comment
    there are so many divisions in USPCA I guess what gets on TV is the production division, the open division and the 10 division, also the bowling pin competition.
    these are all 40 or 45s
    Get the 1911 from springfield or para-ord
    if you want a gun that is REALLY EASY to clean then get the glock 21

  16. #16
    nick_nameless is offline Junior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffWard View Post
    Two schools of thought as man-stoppers:
    9mm: Higher Velocity 115gr bullet = High energy
    .45: Lower Velocity 230gr bullet = More "Momentum" and greater stability

    Assuming both bullets stop inside the target, the 9mm has more "knockdown" since it has more Kinetic Energy, but if the velocity blows it right through the target, some energy is wasted. If the bullet encounters twigs, clothing, ribs... on the way to the target, the .45 is superior, simply by Newtons laws...


    You need to do some physics review, my friend Your statement that the .45 is superior by Newton's laws is correct, but how you get there is....ahem....slightly suspect. Allow me to help

    Not that this answers the question at hand of which caliber to choose, but when speaking of momentum and kinetic energy the following is important:

    Momentum = mass x velocity. momentum for a particular caliber can be easily calculated by taking the weight of the bullet and multiplying it by the muzzel velocity of the bullet. This can get somewhat complicated when you start looking at aerodynamics of the shape and size of the bullet being fired, but for the sake of simplicity in a short range firefight the effects of those factors can be ignored. Just for the sake of having mentioned it, those factors would more greatly affect the .45, which is part of the reason that they have a shorter range of reliable accuracy. Momentum is not exactly a force effect, though, as F=MA not F=MV. In terms of this discussion, force would be what the bullet applies on the body or vice versa, and the important factor is the time rate of change of the momentum. That is how much time does it take for the bullet to go from muzzel velocity at penetration to being stopped in the body. Not easy to calculate.

    It is much easier to use kinetic energy as a descriptor for the effectiveness of a round. In this case F=kx, where k is "spring coefficient" (ie. how springy something is), and X is the amount that the spring is compressed. The calculation for this is also a bit more complicated, because a round being shot into gelatin for testing purposes (the best way to do the test because the gelatin can have a relatively uniform structure and therefore resistance to the penetration) has to take into account both the depth of the penetration and the amount of gelatin being displaced by the bullet as it expands and travels deeper into the material.

    a 9MM bullet that penetrated roughly equal depth to a .45 ACP round indeed has less kinetic energy than a .45 round, and less momentum as well because of the need for the .45 to displace more gelatin, or tissue in a real world application. This is not a calculation I am prepared to present, but needless to say the ammunition companies would use some kind of a model like this to create their rounds based on expansion over distance travelled and increased resistance within the gelatin based on that expansion.

    Impact mechanics are really a difficult thing to model mathematically, and lots of factirs not mentioned need to be taken into account in these tests in order to execute good bullet design. A more simple and hands-on way to grasp this is to take 2 pistols of the same weight and design (as close as can be approximated) and fire a round of each from both. The .45 'kicks' more than the 9mm because the round leaving the chamber has more energy, and so it moves the pistol more in your hand.

    This is not an endorsement of one caliber over another, but more meant as an explanation as to why one round is more powerful than another. The factors of range and the ability to control the pistol past the first shot are important, as is accuracy and shot placement. You will do better with less powerful bullets that hit than more powerful bullets that miss. The goal for the ammo companies is to make rounds that are adequate to the job. 'Exceeding' the requirements is not desireable, because we want the rounds to only penetrate so deeply. The thing to be careful of is if a round will be effective if it first travels through an arm on the way to the torso, etc., and what effect that circumstance would have on different calibers based on different factors.

    As to the original question, JMO there is no weapon better suited to home defense than a pump action shotgun. Just like in the animal kingdom, many 'fights' are won in the posturing, and I would prefer to posture by chambering a round with that sweet sound that we all know and love made as the shotgun is pumped. If then the pistol becomes something you use only at the range and not something you plan to carry for self defense, then the best idea is to shoot both and see which one you like better! Nobody likes that answer, but it is the honest truth. I like to shoot 9mm much more than I like to shoot .45 ACP. I'm more comfortable with it, and would prefer to carry it for that reason. Plus it's cheaper to shoot, and will beat up your pistol less because it's less powerful. But that doesn't mean it's what you should choose.

  17. #17
    JeffWard's Avatar
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    So elequently presented, to no conclusion.... hahahaha



    Okay, lets see...

    Kinetic Energy = 1/2 (mass (velociy^2))

    From Guns and Ammo Magazine Ballistics Tables:

    Typical 9mm JHP +P
    Wgt Type M Vel K Energy
    115 JHP+P 1250 399

    Typical .45 ACP
    Wgt Type M Vel K Energy
    230 JHP 875 391

    KE is: 399 vs. 391 (a wash...)


    But in the REAL world...
    1250 fps / 875fps = 1.43, or 143%
    78.65 mph / 55 mph = 1.43, or 143%

    Would you rather be hit broadside by a 3000lb sportscar at 79 mph?
    ... or a 6000lb Suburban a 55 mph???


    I'll take the sportscar....

    LOL

    Big picture... In my opinion...

    1) If the energy is a wash... I'll take a bigger hole!
    2) 17 shots vs 14 in a high-capacity pistol??? Who cares?
    3) 2 oz more weight in the average .45?? Never feel it.

    Gimmee a .45 and a reloading set-up. I'll practice for $0.10 each... Buy your 9mm for $0.15 at Walmart...

    Gimmee my XD 45...

    Sorry... One martini later...

    Jeff

  18. #18
    nick_nameless is offline Junior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffWard View Post
    So elequently presented, to no conclusion.... hahahaha
    I do try, goos sir...I do try



    Quote Originally Posted by JeffWard View Post
    Okay, lets see...

    Kinetic Energy = 1/2 (mass (velociy^2))

    From Guns and Ammo Magazine Ballistics Tables:

    Typical 9mm JHP +P
    Wgt Type M Vel K Energy
    115 JHP+P 1250 399

    Typical .45 ACP
    Wgt Type M Vel K Energy
    230 JHP 875 391

    KE is: 399 vs. 391 (a wash...)


    But in the REAL world...
    1250 fps / 875fps = 1.43, or 143%
    78.65 mph / 55 mph = 1.43, or 143%

    Would you rather be hit broadside by a 3000lb sportscar at 79 mph?
    ... or a 6000lb Suburban a 55 mph???


    I'll take the sportscar....

    LOL
    I can't comment exactly on the guns and ammo tables, except to say that I am not exactly sure what they are trying to present with those figures.

    Taking just the "grain" and using that as weight, we can look at the following:

    Momentum = Mass x velocity

    Any physics 101 text will show you that.

    so in this case, the momentum of the light 9mm +P rouns is:

    115 grains x 1250 fsp = 143750 grains-fps

    for the .45 it is:

    230 grains x 875 fps = 201250 grains-fps

    Apply the simple physics principles of objects in motion tend to stay in motion and objects at rest tend to stay at rest. When the .45 hits, that momentum number will take more resistance to stop than the momentum number on the 9mm.

    With your car analogy, you have it right, and you are using the same logic.....martini induced or not

    3000 lb x 79 mph = 237000 lb-mph
    6000 lb x 55 mph = 330000 lb-mph

    so what we are saying (and agreeing on, meaning to or not ) is that for the first object that is half the weight of the second object to have equal momentum to the second object, it must travel at double the speed of the second object.




    Quote Originally Posted by JeffWard View Post
    Big picture... In my opinion...

    1) If the energy is a wash... I'll take a bigger hole!
    2) 17 shots vs 14 in a high-capacity pistol??? Who cares?
    3) 2 oz more weight in the average .45?? Never feel it.

    Gimmee a .45 and a reloading set-up. I'll practice for $0.10 each... Buy your 9mm for $0.15 at Walmart...

    Gimmee my XD 45...

    Sorry... One martini later...

    Jeff
    I am not disagreeing one bit with what you are saying here Indeed, all I was pointing out was a small error in the presentation of the physics, and then also that I just happen to prefer the decidedly less powerful 9mm to shoot with. And I am waaaaay to lazy to do my own reloads

  19. #19
    Mike Barham's Avatar
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    Energy is simply the ability to do work. In the case of a bullet, the "work" is making a hole in the target. With good modern JHPs, both 9mm and .45 will penetrate to about the same depth (11" - 14"). The 9mm will usually expand to about .70", while the .45 will usually expand to .80" or a little more. Neither round produces enough power to reliably damage tissue the bullet doesn't actually touch (unlike a rifle round).

    I am sort of the opposite of Jeff. I am a pretty experienced shooter, and I prefer 9mm to .45ACP. The lighter recoil allows me to shoot considerably faster, and I accept the slight penalty in target damage (.10" - .15" in bullet expansion) in exchange for that. 9mms are also often smaller than .45s, and 9mm is definitely easier to control in small guns.

    Regarding competition, it really depends on the game being played. Some competitions are biased toward momentum, like bowling pin shooting (which seems to be a dying sport). Others are more neutral, like IDPA. Guys who take these games seriously are invariably guys who handload/reload.

    I like the 1911 design. It is very easy to shoot well. However, it is typically not as reliable as a more modern gun, nor as easy to break down for cleaning.
    Last edited by Mike Barham; 10-11-2007 at 01:31 PM.
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  20. #20
    vjc123 is offline Junior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Barham View Post

    I am sort of the opposite of Jeff. I am a pretty experienced shooter, and I prefer 9mm to .45ACP. The lighter recoil allows me to shoot considerably faster, and I accept the slight penalty in target damage (.10" - .15" in bullet expansion) in exchange for that. 9mms are also often smaller than .45s, and definitely easier to control in small guns.

    I like the 1911 design. It is very easy to shoot well. However, it is typically not as reliable as a more modern gun, nor as easy to break down for cleaning.
    This seems to be a very honest answer, very much appreciated by me. Mike, can you explain why the 1911 design is easier to shoot well and with the proper care can it be just as reliable to shoot as modern guns?

    I went shooting last night and was able to shoot a few other guns of some guys that were at the range that said their guns would give me a good idea of the .45ACP, but came away more confused than I was the other day.

    I shot a .357 5" barrel with the .38 special round and a .38 snub nose with the .38 special round. I have to say the .38 snub nose had much more kick than the .357. At the end one of the guys says to me, "well, neither of us has ever shot a .45, so don't listen to us." THANKS A LOT!

    I have taken the advice to try and find a local range that rents guns, but I am having a hell of a time finding one near Syracuse, NY. Any one have an thoughts in this area.

    I am really enjoying the research part of this and have learned a ton thanks to all of you. I am leaning towards the 9mm though.

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