Ammo power - generalities based on caliber?

This is a discussion on Ammo power - generalities based on caliber? within the Defensive Ammunition & Ballistics forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; I am looking at a bunch of different calibers trying to figure out where they all lie in power compared to each other. Is this ...

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Thread: Ammo power - generalities based on caliber?

  1. #1
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    Ammo power - generalities based on caliber?

    I am looking at a bunch of different calibers trying to figure out where they all lie in power compared to each other. Is this order pretty accurate?

    .22LR, .380ACP, .38 special, 9mm, .40S&W, .45ACP, .357sig, .357mag, .45 long colt, .44mag, .454 casull, .460S&W, .500S&W

    Then there is +P on top of those.

    Some general searching I did resulted in the following numbers:

    .22LR 135ft-lbs, .380ACP ~200ft-lbs, .38 special ~200+ ft-lbs, 9x19mm ~300ft-lbs, .40S&W ~350+ ft-lbs, .45ACP 350-450ft-lbs, .45 Long Colt 350-550ft-lbs, .357sig ~550ft-lbs .357mag 200-600ft-lbs, .44mag 750-950ft-lbs, .454 Casull 1300-1900ft-lbs, .460S&W 1500-2500ft-lbs, .500S&W magnum 2000-2500ft-lbs..

    I noticed there was a lot of variation in the .357mag's. I also noticed that the case lengths varied quite a bit too.

    My goal is to come up with a guide as to where .38 special, .357mag, and .44 mag rate compared to the "standard" 9mm, .40, and .45 calibers common to the semi-auto realm. The .357mag looks like a good round for power and there are a wide range of platforms that shoot it, followed by the .44mag = more powerful but less platforms.

    The .357sig looks like it is a more potent round than a .45ACP for a semi-auto. Any reason to go with one over the other? Platform or ammo availability?

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    Senior Member Array NCSoxFan's Avatar
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    Are you asking this to determine what type of gun to purchase and carry?

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    Not for regular carry/EDC. I will probably stick to 9mm and .40 for carry exclusively. My EDC is a M&P40c so I'm set there. I was just curious as to the different powers in different calibers/rounds. A while back I was looking in to a weapon for defense against larger wildlife and the general consensus seemed to always come back to the .44mag. I know a couple people that have .357mag's but I didn't know much about the ballistics. The .38 special seems to be popular in revolvers also. I figured it was a more powerful round than it appears to be. The .460S&W, and the subsequent revolvers that shoot it, look interesting, but perhaps over-kill. So my thread is just that - comparing the different rounds.

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    You left out 10MM: 700 ft/lbs with Doubletap 200 grain hardcast.

    A serious advantage of 45ACP is standard ammo works fairly well for SD in a pinch, with .380, 9 and 40 you really need to spend the money for high end SD ammo, off the shelf stuff just won't cut it.

    45 is going to be cheaper to shoot than .357sig, however .357sig seems more available right now. IMHO

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    Senior Member Array CDW4ME's Avatar
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    Here are some real world numbers I obtained for a 5+ shot average over my chrono:
    Glock 26: Ranger T 127 Gr. +P+ @ 1,182 fps = 394# KE = PF 150
    Glock 33: Ranger T 125 Gr. @ 1,280 fps = 455# KE = PF 160
    Glock 27: Ranger T 165 Gr. @ 1,116 fps = 456# KE = PF 184
    Glock 30 SF: Ranger T 230 Gr. @ 874 fps = 390# KE = PF 201
    Generally speaking, Ranger T tends to be fairly hot ammo.

    Glock 29 SF: Hornady XTP 155 gr. @ 1,278 fps = 562# KE = PF 198
    Generally speaking, a regular power 10mm wins this KE contest.

    The 45 acp has the least "power" in that little comparison, as determined by KE, but there is more to it than KE.
    Objectively, bullet diameter must be considered as a variable in the "power" equasion.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carvin66 View Post
    You left out 10MM: 700 ft/lbs with Doubletap 200 grain hardcast.

    A serious advantage of 45ACP is standard ammo works fairly well for SD in a pinch, with .380, 9 and 40 you really need to spend the money for high end SD ammo, off the shelf stuff just won't cut it.

    45 is going to be cheaper to shoot than .357sig, however .357sig seems more available right now. IMHO
    40 sw needs high end exotic ammo to stop a human being? HUMMMM
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    VIP Member Array 40Bob's Avatar
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    .22LR, .380ACP, .38 special, 9mm, .45ACP, .45 Colt, .40S&W, .357sig, .357mag, .44mag, .454 casull, .460S&W, .500S&W
    Fixed it for you.
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    The problem is that you are looking at the one-dimensional world of muzzle energies which say absolutely nothing about real-world, downrange cartridge performance. For example, for probably 50 years the most common police round was the .38 Special with a 158 grain round-nose bullet. It was a fair round, but it was known to be a marginal fight-stopper. Then the round was improved with a semi-wadcutter hollowpoint bullet of the same weight, and launched at the same velocity, and all of a sudden a round with the same energy but a different bullet shape became a credible fight-stopper.

    Likewise, the 115 grain 9mm can be found at similar velocities loaded with either FMJ or JHP bullets. The FMJ makes "ice-pick" wounds, but the JHP expands and does more damage to tissue and blood vessels it hits.

    Bottom line - while muzzle energy is useful for a coarse categorization of cartridge effectiveness (e.g., .45 ACP vs. .380), many variables affect on-target effectiveness. Don't judge a round just by its catalogued ballistics.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carvin66 View Post
    You left out 10MM: 700 ft/lbs with Doubletap 200 grain hardcast.

    There are probably 30+ calibers I left out The reason being they don't seem to be as readily available/popular. Though, according to that logic, the .454 casull shouldn't be in my list, or the .357sig.


    Quote Originally Posted by 40Bob View Post
    .22LR, .380ACP, .38 special, 9mm, .45ACP, .45 Colt, .40S&W, .357sig, .357mag, .44mag, .454 casull, .460S&W, .500S&W
    Fixed it for you.
    Can you explain your "fix"? I see you changed the order of the .40S&W and .45 Colt....

    Quote Originally Posted by gasmitty View Post
    The problem is that you are looking at the one-dimensional world of muzzle energies which say absolutely nothing about real-world, downrange cartridge performance.
    With that in mind, that gets back to my first line in the first post. Are there other statistics, specifications, designs, configurations that can be thrown in to the different calibers that would reorganize them according to the actual performance, maybe making more generalities (one type, or a smaller number of types of ammo - factory first, hand-loads second)? Or are the variables too vast and too big to make any sense of it all?

    My list was working with something I could put numbers on - muzzle energy.

    Can a .357mag be as effective as a .44 mag? Can a .38 special be as effective as a .357mag?

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    VIP Member Array 40Bob's Avatar
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    Can you explain your "fix"? I see you changed the order of the .40S&W and .45 Colt....
    You can cherry pick loads all day, There are companies that load ammo hotter for special purposes. I moved the 40 up, because in the lighter bullet loads (155 HST and 135 JHP) it has the same energy as the 357 Magnum but if you use the subsonic 180's it is closer to a 45 ACP.
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    Quote Originally Posted by gun1 View Post
    With that in mind, that gets back to my first line in the first post. Are there other statistics, specifications, designs, configurations that can be thrown in to the different calibers that would reorganize them according to the actual performance, maybe making more generalities (one type, or a smaller number of types of ammo - factory first, hand-loads second)? Or are the variables too vast and too big to make any sense of it all?
    The variables really are quite vast to definitively rank the different rounds as to effectiveness. For over a century, people have tried to evaluate bullet/cartridge performance under controlled conditions. They have made valid measurements and reported lots of data, from how far the cadaver swung when it was hit by a bullet to how big the temporary expansion cavity was when the gelatin block was hit. But to date, none of these tests has been able to predict with certainty what the "best" round or rounds are in actual practice.

    There are generally two entrenched schools of thought; the "gelatin junkies" characterized by Marty Fackler and the IWBA (International Wound Ballistics Association), and the Marshall & Sanow study. Fackler is a career Army guy whose life's work is the study of wound ballistics and has made great strides in achieving a consistent lab representation of human flesh with ballistic gelatin, and it was probably his work that drew attention to the temporary wound channel created by expanding bullets. On the "real world" side are Evan Marshall and Ed Sanow (career cop, gun writer/part-time cop) who harvested data from thousands of shooting incidents and analyzed the data to draw some conclusions about cartridge effectiveness. Their observations were good but their analysis and statistics weren't, and their work has been largely discredited by academics - effectively throwing the baby out with the bath water.

    This is a good overview of the subject: Choose your ammo...police style by Massad Ayoob

    The best we can do is intelligently assimilate the laboratory data and empirical data and try to draw reasonable conclusions for ourselves. The really good news is that here in the 21st century, no one carrying a 9mm with modern ammo should feel under-armed compared to folks with .40s and .45s, although the 9 vs .45 argument will continue long past we've finally put the Civil War arguments to bed.
    Smitty
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    Are there any certifications that hold any merit? I'm not sure if it was here or somewhere else online but there was a thread where someone posted a list of rounds per caliber that the FBI, or whoever, certified as meeting their criteria. The list only included the big 3 as I recall (9mm, .40S&W, and .45ACP).

    I've also seen the argument about the effectiveness of different rounds penetrating clothing - especially here in the colder regions in the winter that could be a game changer. I'd think a round that doesn't expand as much as a standard hollow point might be better in that realm, like a Winchester PDX Supreme Elite (copper jacket wraps in to the divot = makes for better penetration before mushrooming I'd think).

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