A S.W.A.T. reader has asked what my opinion is regarding calibers and large-capacity magazines in off-duty or CCW carry configurations.
First and foremost, the purpose of having a pistol is for self-defense, right? That being said, on LAPD we have had dozens and dozens of incidents where the 9mm failed to stop the threat.
When I was in charge of the firearms and tactics program for Metro Division, I pushed everyone to carry the .45. Only one individual refused. He was a good guy and worked K-9.
One day he stopped by his parents’ hobby shop on the way to work. No sooner had he walked in than he realized his parents and their shop had been the victims of a take-over robbery. Three bad guys had placed his parents and an employee in a back closet and the officer was forced to join them. While putting him in the back room, the bad guy slammed the door shut, but it promptly opened up a bit. The officer had a high-capacity 9mm on his person. He then heard one suspect state, “Cap them.” One of the suspects started back toward the room. The officer steadied himself and waited.
Then things got interesting.
When the door opened, the officer fired approximately ten rounds into the suspect’s chest.
Then things became even more interesting.
The suspect and the officer became engaged in a running gunfight throughout the store. The suspect did finally expire, but not before the fight had continued for about a minute. I’d told the officer about the 9mm, but it had gone in one ear and out the other. He purchased a .45 the next day!
If everyone in “old school” Metro, SWAT and SIS carried a .45, then it was for good cause. These men and women confronted bad guys on a daily basis. By bad guys, I mean really, really bad guys. Serial killers, bank robbers, gang members, dope dealers—basically the worst of the worst. These people were involved in quite a few gunfights. We learned from history that it was far better to definitively stop the fight at the outset rather than allow it to drag on and on where the outcome might be somewhat uncertain.
The .45—based on history—seems to work fairly well in stopping fights with the fewest number of rounds placed downrange. I have personally used a .45 in three of my shootings (a shotgun in the other two).
Some individuals will point out that manufacturers have improved the 9mm and .40 rounds. They additionally state that these rounds are much more effective than the rounds available a few decades ago.
All true, but what they seem to have lost sight of is when ammunition manufacturers improve one round, they improve all the rounds. So the .45 round has been improved also. Applying simple deductive logic, an improved .45 round will still be more efficient than an improved 9mm round.
Some individuals like to point to large-capacity magazines. The minute the fight starts, it is not uncommon for bad guys to start moving, running and seeking cover. In other words, you can have a lot of rounds, but if within a fraction of a second a suspect has moved, run or gone out of sight, remaining rounds may be of little use.
To stop a fight effectively, the initial rounds downrange need to connect—and when they connect, they should possess the ability to severely degrade the opponent’s threat or stop it entirely.
One fact that people overlook is that in an off-duty capacity, you most probably have no shotgun, no rifle, no body armor, no communications, no air support, and no partner. And most likely those who are with you are more of a detriment than an asset in a life-or-death encounter. If at any time you needed the most effective round possible, this is it!
If one’s concern is high capacity, then carry more magazines. Don’t bet on the fact that the suspect is going to allow you to run through boatloads of rounds and bushels of magazines before his threat is neutralized. Some suspects will not afford you the opportunity for multiple follow-up shots. In other words, if you do not stop him at the outset, it may not go well for you.
All of this is my personal opinion. But it is my personal opinion based on 36 years of experience participating in, studying and investigating shootings.
More rounds downrange do not necessarily translate into a more effective stoppage of the threat. From my perspective, fewer and more effective rounds downrange that do connect seem to provide a more positive outcome in these situations.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I would listen to those who have used certain calibers in situations where the outcome was positive.