Caliber vs Capacity

Caliber vs Capacity

This is a discussion on Caliber vs Capacity within the General Firearm Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; SIAP - taken from the Suarez International/WarriorTalk newsletter MAGAZINE CAPACITY FOR SELF-DEFENSE Last time we discussed calibers due to some new discussions at warriortalk. It ...

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Thread: Caliber vs Capacity

  1. #1
    Member Array Timberline's Avatar
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    Caliber vs Capacity

    SIAP - taken from the Suarez International/WarriorTalk newsletter


    Last time we discussed calibers due to some new discussions at warriortalk. It seems some people are still thinking like it was 1911 in terms of terminal ballistics. I think the truth of the matter is that all self defense handgun calibers (excluding the pocket pistol category) are basically the same when it comes to dropping an adversary. That being the case, should we carry a pistol that only holds seven marginal shots, or one that holds as many as twice that number?

    I wrote this one a while back and it seems the discussion and emailed questions I got come back to this issue.

    Magazine Capacity

    I suppose this will be yet another highly controversial issue, but what the heck. Controversy makes for interesting discussion, no? The issue is to look at whether high magazine capacity gives you a tactical advantage, or if we are better served by carrying an equally sized weapon with a smaller capacity of bigger bullets. Before I answer my own question, let me put forth some facts as seen both in force on force training and on the street.

    Point One - Pistol bullets, regardless of caliber are all, what one colleague calls, "iffy". None can be guaranteed to drop an adversary in his tracks reliably. The notion of a one shot stop is an urban myth dreamed up by those with a vested interest in such things. I have seen 45s work and fail, and I have seen 9mm both work and fail. For the record, the only one shot drop (excluding head shots) I have ever seen with a pistol was fired by a good friend as we entered a crack house during a SWAT raid. He shot the bad guy squarely in the heart with 9mm +P+ out of a SIG P-226. He only fired once because the bad guy fell before my friend could reset his trigger for the next shot!

    If we look at the most prevalent calibers we see that there is very little difference between them. A 9mm (also .38/.357) is only one little millimeter smaller than the 10mm (aka .40 S&W), and that is only one little millimeter less than the vaunted 11mm (aka .45 ACP).

    And before we get into the high speed light bullet versus the heavy slow bullet argument, lets remember that you can only drive a pistol bullet so fast without drastically affecting its integrity. Moreover, since penetration is affected by weight, sacrificing weight for speed will not yield good results. Finally, you can only make a bullet so light or so heavy. There are limits to what you can shoot out of a pistol.

    I have seen every one of these calibers fail at one time or another. There are those who disdain the 9mm as unsuitable for anything larger than squirrels. With modern ammunition, this is simply not true. There is also a myth and a cult grown up around the .45 ACP in this country. Sadly, it is not the deadly hammer of god its proponents suggest. This is not new. Read Fairbairn's Shoot To Live. He writes of two separate times when the .45 failed to work any better than anything else. Although one millimeter may give you a slight edge in a less than optimum body hit, under most circumstances, there will be very little difference between the effectiveness of the various calibers when modern anti-personnel ammo is used. Trauma injury doctors and reputable terminal ballistics experts tend to agree with this statement.

    Point Two - Private Citizen CCW Operators do not go looking for trouble. If they are called to fight it is either because they have inadvertently crossed paths with bad guys while they are doing bad guy stuff (walking in on a robbery in progress as an example), or because they have been specifically targeted and stalked (such as a carjack, or home invasion event). They will have to use extreme violence to fight off the surprise attackers. When we translate the conversion of fright and startle into a firearm application we wee that definition is high volume of fire. You will shoot a lot, and until the threat is no longer there.

    While these events share slightly different dynamics, the common thread often seen is that of multiple adversaries. The lone criminal or terrorist is an urban myth. If your fight only involves one, consider yourself lucky. More often than not you will be outnumbered.

    Another point is the time frames in which these events take place. Think three seconds. After this, either you will be dead, or your adversaries will be dead. Urban gunfights do not go for hours. Unexpected, short duration, high intensity, extreme violence, multiple adversaries. That is the back drop.

    Point Three - Our staff has collectively been in a large number of gunfights ranging from police, citizen, and military events. We draw on those experiences to set up mock gunfights in dynamic, unscripted force on force training drills. Although the surprise factor is missing (you generally don t know you will be in a gunfight until it is upon you), the dynamics of its evolution do not change much. Here are some other observations from watching hundreds of those drills.

    1). Defenders will fire their weapons until the threat disappears. That means that until the role player falls down (simulating effective hits delivered), or runs away (removing the target), the good guy will keep firing. The concept of school solutions, controlled pairs, or otherwise artificially limiting the number of shots (as one does in a firing string on the range) does not hold up even in guys who've been extensively trained to do it.

    2). When a training gun stops firing (due to running out of pellets), the shooter is still in the fight and still trying to shoot his enemy as well as trying to not be hit by him. We see them continue to try to work the trigger for one or two times before there is a realization that there has been a stoppage (malfunction or empty gun). This is followed by a visual examination of the gun, and only then is remedial action taken.

    This can take upwards f a second and a half before anything is even attempted to fix the gun, and then the additional time needed to reload. Thus the idea that one can read the gun s feel and immediately realize a need to speed load simply does not hold up. Running out of ammo is usually a fight ender if there has been a failure to stop, or there are multiple adversaries at hand.

    3). Participants in these reactive mock gunfights are debriefed immediately to get a clear picture of what happened before any rationalization takes place. Besides a shoot them to the ground firing process, most shooters do not remember seeing the crystal clear sight pictures they learned on the shooting range.

    We see a great deal of point shooting, and gun index shooting. I have yet to see anyone strike a classic shooting posture and press off a carefully sighted pair in these room distance drills.

    The point to remember is that in a fight such as what are likely for the private citizen, one can easily develop Bullet Deficit Disorder , and that this can have deleterious effects on the outcome of that fight.

    The idea that a pair or trio of quality rounds carefully delivered onto a high scoring target zone will stop the action fails both the terminal ballistics test as well as the applications test.

    A truth of gunfighting - Having more ammo immediately on board lessens the likelihood of ever needing to reload. Not needing to reload translates into more time delivering lead and less time manipulating the weapon. More trigger time increases likelihood of hitting, which increases survivability.

    So the question is this. Given that there is a limit to the size pistol one can carry, do I want that pistol to hold more rounds? My answer is a strong YES!

    Consider the similarly sized Glock 36 in .45 ACP, and the Glock 23 in .40 S&W. The latter holds nearly twice the ammo of the former in an almost identical package. The Glock 19 is an even more drastic comparison with 15 shots available. Of course there are also high capacity 45 pistols for those so inclined and for those who can wield them. I would argue that if your choice is a 45, a gun holding 13 would be better than a gun holding 6. And if your hand is too small for the 13 shooter, rather than decrease capacity, I d decrease caliber.

    I have a colleague is South America who has been in High Risk Police Service for close to three decades. He has been in over three dozen verified gunfight . His weapon was originally a Browning Hi-Power and later a Glock 17.

    I was very interested in hearing more so I asked him about the load he used. He said he had always used military ball full metal jacket. Astounded I asked him why he chose that. That is all we can get here. Hollow points are illegal .

    I shook my head and told him that there was a belief in the USA that 9mm was an anemic caliber, especially in the load he d chosen. He shrugged and said that his adversaries must not have gotten the word. He said he fired a burst at the chest and if they didn't fall fast enough, he fired a burst at the face. He never needed to reload and had enough on board so if he missed a shot or two he could catch up in the fight. And before we hear the careful shooter versus the spraying prayer, this man is one of the best shots I have seen and competes on an international level. Even so, he knows the chaos in a gunfight can play havoc with even the most gifted marksman. Perhaps we need to take a lesson from him.

    I still carry a Glock 17 with 17 rounds of Corbon DPX ammo in 9mm.

    Gabe Suarez

  2. #2
    Distinguished Member Array SonofASniper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Timberline View Post
    I shook my head and told him that there was a belief in the USA that 9mm was an anemic caliber, especially in the load he d chosen. He shrugged and said that his adversaries must not have gotten the word.
    That right there, is the best statement out of the entire read.
    I will support gun control when you can guarantee all guns are removed from this planet. That includes military and law enforcement. When you can accomplish that, then I will be the last person to lay down my gun. Then I will carry the weapon that replaces the gun.

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    Gabe always has a way of hitting the nail on the head!
    ALWAYS carry! - NEVER tell!

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  5. #4
    VIP Member Array Thanis's Avatar
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    Not only is this a popular discussion on internet threads, I think this is a thought process that most gunowners my have formed an opinion on, but also know there is no perfert answer. Both score points in the conversation. Simple facts, advantages, and disadvantages, either way.

    I get the thought process of the OP. When traveling (in a car), camping, and at home (middle of the night) go to firearm arm is my 15 +1 Glock. I could have gone with a .45 ACP or 9mm, but I went with the compromise most .357 Sig* / .40 S&W owners make. Navigating tight corners in a house (or a car for that mater) and additional rounds were deciding factors.

    In contrast, the 5+1 Buckshot is also close at hand (site sponsor "The Back-Up" is tempting). Hard not consider a shotgun as the go to home SD firerarm. Easy to hit the target and, as some say, the shotgun in a home SD situation is the energy equivalent of getting hit by a nine round burst from a submachine gun.

    So if I was headed into a gun fight, I've made my choice one of these two firearms. However, caliber vs quanity is not the only factor when a citizen CC. Others will disagree, they bracket the spectrum between carrying a full size 9mm vs the 45 ACP 1911. However for most, the firearm you have is far more effective then the one you left at home. Light, easy to CC, but effective. By the time you are fighting off an armed street gang, you already have significant odds stacked against you (and maybe made a few bad choices beyond what firearm you have).

    What the OP tells me is choose the right firearm for the application. Don't rely on your snubby revolver or sub-compact semi-auto pistol to be the best and only firearm you need (unless it is all you can afford).

    *I might argue the .357 Sig, .40 S&W, 9mm, etc is as effective as the 45 ACP in SD, but I'm willing to acknowledge, the .45 ACP has an edge in a typical SD situation if caliber is the only consideration.
    NRA Life Member

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    Member Array fatcat's Avatar
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    Great post.

    I like my 9mm and feel perfectly safe using it. The ammo is cheap which means I can practice more. And although it may not "stop" an adversary I don't know too many people that will take a 9mm hit and keep coming at you. 99.99% of people hit will turn and run because there is no way of knowing how hurt you really are. And I'm pretty sure they feel a 9mm when hit with it.

    For those few LSD/meth enraged psychos that will keep walking into a 9mm, well those people would probably walk through a .40 caliber too.

    I always felt shot placement was more important than caliber. So I say use whatever you are comfortable with.

  7. #6
    Distinguished Member Array Squawker's Avatar
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    While my preference is 45ACP, I also carry 9mm, which at any given time depends on a variety of factors. I never understood though, why people would choose the Glock 36, when they could get essentially the same size gun in a Glock 30, which is 10+1, or with an adapter, 13+1.

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    Ex Member Array Ram Rod's Avatar
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    Caliber vs. capacity really shouldn't elicit the arguments it seems to. Nor should it be the biggest factor in choosing a handgun for self defense IMO. Shot placement, training, and the best loads in the chosen caliber make the all differences what they are. I like my 9mm's and my 40's, but I couldn't be without my 45ACP...I just wouldn't be complete without one. I like options, and on any given day, I'll carry whatever I feel like without worrying about possible scenarios or outcomes due to my choice. All that being said, I'm still more likely to carry a loaded spare magazine with my 8 round single stack SIG P220 than I would be with any of my higher capacity Glocks in 9mm or 40S&W.

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    Distinguished Member Array Guardian's Avatar
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    I've seen these debates before. I am still of the view, caliber is not that big of a decider to me, capacity is close, but being able to hit what you aim at is the deciding factor in my view. Whether it's 6 shots or 13, if you can't hit it, you just live 7 seconds longer with 13 then 6.
    "I dislike death, however, there are some things I dislike more than death. Therefore, there are times when I will not avoid danger" Mencius"

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    Senior Member Array Landric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Timberline View Post

    ...Point Two - Private Citizen CCW Operators...
    What in the heck is a Private Citizen CCW Operator? I guess since I carry on a badge rather than a CHP, I'm an off-duty cop operator? This whole essay, while I don't disagree with the basic idea, is flooded with the essence of tacticool.

    Mr. Suarez isn't incorrect that all handgun chamberings are iffy, nor is he incorrect that all things being equal, more ammunition is better. The problem is that all things are not equal. I don't want to get into a discussion of 9mm vs. .45 vs. whatever. While it is my personal feeling that the .45ACP is a better defensive chambering than the 9x19, I don't think the difference is as great as many, and I don't feel under armed carrying a 9x19, so long as I can pick the ammunition.

    Were I to take the direction of the article to heart, I'd have to run out and buy all new carry weapons. I'm obviously not well armed enough going about my daily business carrying a Glock 36 or HK P7 with a S&W 37-2 Airweight as a backup. I carry one reload for each weapon, so fully equiped I have either 13 rounds of .45ACP 230 grain SXT or 17 rounds of 9x19 124 grain +P Gold Dot and 10 rounds of .38 Special 135 grain +P Gold Dot. Clearly not enough for the average guy out and about, let alone an off-duty cop who lives and spends most of his time in his jurisdiction right?

    I'm not saying that ammunition capacity is a bad thing. I don't think one can ever have too much. However, I'm comfortable with what I carry, and I don't feel outgunned because someone out there might have more ammunition than I do.

    All in all, I find the essay somewhat over the top, but I don't fault anyone for wanting to carry more ammunition, so long as they are confortable with the weapon(s) and skilled in their use.

    "The Engine could still seemed to scare them" -Felix

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    I choose the .40 for a nice balance of caliber and capacity. :) On the other hand I carry a .357 snubby as my edc 80% of the time. Better to have a small gun in a gunfight than a howitzer at home.
    My name is Frogman46 and I'm tougher than you.

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    Senior Member Array Devone6's Avatar
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    A truth of gunfighting - Having more ammo immediately on board lessens the likelihood of ever needing to reload.
    Actually, a truth of gunfighting - in a defensive situation - as we wouldn't be the aggressor - is on average around 3.5 shots fired according to/depending on most stats out there.

    I'm not against anyone carrying a high cap pistol or as much ammo as they want. Plan for the worst, hope for the best, but being realistic, the odds of being in a shooting for the average CCDWer are slim, and the odds of using all 17 rounds in your Glock is almost nill.

    So I agree with the saying "any problem that can't be solved with 6 bullets or less probably can't be solved with bullets to begin with."

    But hey, carry what and as much/many as YOU want, just as I do.
    My heroes are Veterans and My Father (who was a veteran).

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    VIP Member Array hogdaddy's Avatar
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    Distinguished Member Array SonofASniper's Avatar
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    Of course it sounds over the top. Most of it usually is. Studies reveal that most studies that are quoted by instructors are completely made up and false. Heck, I am even going to admit that the statement I just made is patently my own imagination, though it probably isn't far from the truth.

    Case in point, for years and years sniper instructers always quoted an average shot distance for sniper engagements as compiled by FBI statistics. When the American Sniper Association was formed, they went to the FBI so that they could actually review this legendary data that was so widely quoted. The FBI replied that not only did they not have the data, they never compiled any data, and no one knew where that myth started. It wasn't that until the ASA finnally conducted their own study, using hard evidence and a solid set of guidlines, did LEO snipers discover that the average shot was indeed much shorter.

    Why do well known authurs and instructors make these various claims. Some of it is based on experience and tried and true tactics. Mostly, its because it sells. Thats what it comes down to. This is how they make a living, and the more convincing they can make their viewpoint, the more likely it will somehow profit their pocket book.

    Their is a wealth of information out there, much of it can be very valuable. But as individuals, we have to all wade through it and reason out what will work best for us on an individual basis.

    As for me, I still subscribe to the shool of thought that if you want to win, you need to be the first one to put the biggest hole in the other.
    I will support gun control when you can guarantee all guns are removed from this planet. That includes military and law enforcement. When you can accomplish that, then I will be the last person to lay down my gun. Then I will carry the weapon that replaces the gun.

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    Member Array budokaitd's Avatar
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    I don't care what people think. I've been railed for carrying a 9mm time and time again, it doesn't bother me. Regardless of what people say, 17 + 1 and an extra mag with 147jhp is what I carry. In a gunfight, they say you are only half as good as your best day at the range. That tells me I need lots of practice and I can afford to practice more with a 9mm. It fits my budget and I can carry more rounds, I'm sold. Rather have more ammo and not need it.
    Join the NRA and Gun Owners of America.

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    VIP Member Array KenpoTex's Avatar
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    No matter how many rounds are fired in the "average gunfight" (whatever that is), I guarantee that the survivors never wish that they'd had fewer rounds on tap.
    "Being a predator isn't always comfortable but the only other option is to be prey. That is not an acceptable option." ~Phil Messina

    If you carry in Condition 3, you have two empty chambers. One in the weapon...the other between your ears.

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