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9mm vs. .45 - Here We Go Again - Frontline Debriefs (permalink)

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.

Scott Reitz is a 30-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department and the director of the highly acclaimed International Tactical Training Seminars. Course information and schedules are available at their website at http://www.internationaltactical.com Looki.ng Back, a free monthly newsletter, is available by email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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I have read tons of these posts regarding the age old debate regarding which caliber is better for self-defense 9mm or .45 acp.  Every post I read completely misses the point when deciding what is best for you.  Most of these posts reference what police or military use.  And since law enforcement or military use them it must be the best caliber for you.  This is not how you should be deciding which caliber to use for your specific purpose.  Obviously most reader’s Googling this particular question are not law enforcement or military.  If you’re law enforcement or military you find yourself running towards assailants or the enemy to engage in a gun fight back and forth.  For the private citizen, who are only looking to defend themselves or family you most likely have a different mindset.  Many of these posts don’t talk about what is best for the everyday private citizen who only wishes defend themselves or family in a sticky situation.  So let’s answer this question for the majority of the readers who would be Googling 9mm vs 45 acp to figure out which caliber is better for self-defense.  First we need to establish which of the following two camps you fall into. 

Scenario: You’re at the mall with your family and an active shooter goes postal in a department store.

Camp 1
You’re in camp 1 if you’re the type of person who’s first reaction is to move away from the situation if you can safely and will only draw your firearm if it’s your last option to save yourself or family.  Not saying these types of people are better or worse.  Some people just place a higher value on not wanting to risk the possibility of their kids growing up without them around.

Camp 2
You’re in camp 2 if you’re the type of person who will not move away from the situation but rather move towards the assailant to take him/her out in order to save others’ lives and not just yourself.  These are the types that are willing to die to save random strangers.  Not saying these types of people are better or worse.

Some individuals may be in either camp depending where they are at that point in life.  It doesn’t mean you’re a better or worse person sitting in camp 1 or 2, but before you pick your caliber you need to be brutally honest about which camp you’re currently in.  I used to be in camp 2 most of my life before I had kids.  Now I’m in camp 1 since I have small children.  Once their grown I will most likely be back in camp 2. 

Now that you know which camp you’re in let’s talk about caliber. 

If you’re in camp 1 you are better served choosing .45 acp.  Let me explain.  If you’re only drawing your gun at the last moment or right before the assailant discovers your position then you don’t need to be concerned about accuracy.  You’re usually going to be within 15 feet, give or take.  In fact you probably don’t have time to line up your sites taking aim.  Usually you’re reverting to intuitive style shooting.  Intuitive shooting is pointing your gun in the general direction of the assailant and pulling the trigger (intuitive shooting takes lots of practice to become accurate).  Close quarter’s defense.  Since you’re unloading a .45 acp round into the assailant you’re not going to need to shoot more than once or twice since the wound will be massive and the .45 has incredible knock down power.  It thumps really hard since it’s a slow round at 850-900 fps (230g) and a much larger round (BTW you can get 165g and it will go almost 1,100 fps).  Center punch will knock them off their feet if they are 175 lbs or less.  If you’re using a 9mm at 15 feet, give or take, the round likely will pass through since it’s a much faster round traveling at 1,200-1,300 plus fps.  With that said you don’t need a high capacity clip due to the devastation of the .45 round.  If the assailant is on drugs and shot with a 9mm they can keep coming at you if not hit in a vital organ.  Even though modern ballistics of the 9mm round have become much more advanced in recent years, so has the advancement of the .45 round. With that said the advanced 9mm round still will not match the damage and knock down of the advanced .45 round.  If an assailant on drugs is hit with a .45 they most likely won’t be getting up for a second round.

If you’re in camp 2 you are better served choosing a 9mm.  Since you will most likely be shooting from more distance you will want the higher accuracy and higher capacity of the 9mm.  It’s a combat style weapon.  This is why military and law enforcement use the 9mm as side arm of choice. They are protecting citizens. 

Since I am a family man now, I personally conceal .45 acp.  If you are still having a hard time deciding which camp you are in and which caliber to choose then settle for the best of both worlds at 40 caliber which may start a whole different debate.

Can someone tell me what a “large-capacity magazine” is?

Jared Reston was using a .45

Wasn’t Reaston using a Glock 22 not 17, like to know how many shots he put into that would be cop killer of his.

There was a LEO that was shot 7 times with .45 at point blank range and is still alive and on duty to tell about it. I’ll come back with a link to the story…


Bad guys don’t fall after being shot in real life- that shit only happens in the movies. That’s why you keep pulling the trigger until either A- the threat stops, or B- you run out of ammo.

ETA: http://youtu.be/_1Pj1-Iw-X8