It’s an argument as old as time. The debate has crossed the minds of anyone entering a gun shop, attending a gun show or browsing online shooting forums. The benefits of stopping power behind a .45 and the capacity of a 9mm Luger. It does seem that there are pros and cons to either of the calibers, quite a few of each as a matter of fact. If you are new to the world of handguns and concealed carry, then keep an open mind while reading below. There are many seemingly insignificant factors that will sway your decision one way or another. In this article, we are going to take a look into the many considerations, and the nearly political divide of 9mm vs 45 ACP.
The debate of 45 ACP vs 9mm stems from many factors, but in reality, it boils down to two major schools of thought. Do you want more rounds of faster-moving, lower weight ammo in your magazine, or would you prefer to have fewer rounds of slow-moving, heavier bullets in the magazine?
9mm vs 45 ACP Ballistics
Before we go much further, we should discuss 9mm vs 45 ballistics, and more importantly, what that information means for you.
An average muzzle velocity of 9mm ammunition, that being the energy the bullet leaves the barrel with, is around 1,200 feet per second (commonly abbreviated as fps or ft/s). This is the true speed that the bullet is capable of traveling when fired from a standard handgun in good working order.
45 ACP Ballistics
This larger projectile moves slower in air, featuring a muzzle velocity of around 840 foot per second with standard 230 grain full metal jacket rounds. It does speed up considerably when using specialized defensive hollow point ammunition like Federal Hydrashock. Though these defensive rounds shave just under half of the bullet’s weight off, clocking in at 165 grains, the added pressure behind the lighter bullet allows the Hydrashock rounds to reach around 1,100 feet per second.
45 vs 9mm Stopping Power
All of this information leads us in to our next important consideration, that being 45 vs 9mm stopping power.
While this argument used to be much more important in the 1980s, it is still something to consider when perusing the handgun section of your local gun shop. Modern bullet technology has vastly improved in the last 40 years. We rarely ever hear stories of .45 rounds bouncing off of targets or 6 rounds of 9mm failing to stop an advancing threat. While a .45 may stop an attacker with fewer bullets expended, a 9mm with a larger magazine capacity may allow you to defend against multiple attackers. The important thing to note is that, when loaded with appropriate ammunition, they are both capable of stopping a threat.
45 vs 9mm for Home Defense
Let’s talk about 45 vs 9mm for home defense. While this may seem a little redundant considering that we have already established that either caliber can work just fine, it’s a little different inside the walls of a home. Bullets move fast, and they do so with an incredible amount of power propelling them. The walls inside of your home are likely made of wood studs and drywall or brick. If you live in an older home with brick or concrete walls, the issue of over-penetration may not be as large of a concern for you like it is for someone residing in a modern apartment building with drywall lining their home.
When we think of 45 ACP vs 9mm for home defense we must consider where our bullets will go if and when we inevitably miss a target. Bullets continue their path, even if we accidentally miss what we were aiming at. This is a factor to consider, especially if you share a home with a spouse, roommates or children. Bullets are very capable of punching through drywall with little effort, meaning that they can go through your bedroom wall with enough power to critically wound anyone on the other side. In this regard, the slower moving .45 tends to be preferred for its increased likelihood of slowing down enough between drywall layers to stop completely or strike a surface with low enough energy to bounce off.
Utilizing a 9mm is not impossible in home defense, however, provided that you carefully plan ahead. Walk through your home and learn the safer angles to fire toward. Don’t fire your weapon in the direction of a bedroom where your children or roommate sleeps. If you live alone, then consider the proximity and location of your neighbors. No matter the caliber, remember to take neighbors and businesses across the street or next door into consideration as well.
45 ACP vs 9mm for Self-Defense
Now that we have learned about the calibers and have home defense considered, let’s delve into 45 ACP vs 9mm for self-defense. Concealed carry is a vital aspect of protecting yourself and your loved ones. The ability to equalize force instantly is a critical part of any defense plan. Ensure that you consult an attorney about all matters regarding self-defense and carrying a weapon on your person, and ensure that you are not violating any laws regarding carrying with a loaded chamber or magazines over a certain capacity.
Magazine Capacity & Follow-Up Shots
When we speak on the concealed carry of 9mm vs 45 ACP, this is often the topic that divides most people when discussing the two calibers. For every one round of .45 that fits into a magazine, a 9mm will usually hold about twice as many. For example, a standard 1911 in .45 will hold seven rounds in the magazine plus one round in the chamber (commonly abbreviated as 7+1 in gun stores and online), for a total of eight rounds. A standard Glock 19 in 9mm will hold fifteen rounds in the magazine plus one in the chamber for a total of sixteen. This huge disparity in magazine capacity makes a sizable difference in the ability to effectively deal with multiple attackers or deliver follow-up shots in a critical engagement.
It is a common train of thought for those who prefer .45 to say that only one round will be needed to stop an attacker. While this may be true for landing a shot to center mass or another vital area of the body, it is certainly not true for a round that hits your attacker’s arm, leg, or one that completely misses. It is easier to draw your pistol and fire a well-placed shot at a shooting range with no real life or death pressure than it is to be sidelined by an armed attacker while walking to the convenience store or getting gas.
On the topic of missing a shot, we should consider follow-up shots as well. It is a widely reported fact that the first person in a gunfight to hit their target usually comes out on top. The body reacts to a gunshot wound immediately and shock will set in within moments. The first reaction to shock is the loss of fine motor function. This means fine tasks like opening a door handle, putting a key in a lock or aiming you pistol and squeezing the trigger.
45 ACP vs 9mm Recoil
The ability to quickly and reliably land a follow-up shot is a large factor in the debate of 45 ACP vs 9mm recoil. Recoil plays a part in this ability by causing your muzzle to climb with every successive shot fired. Meaning if you start rapidly firing your weapon you will find difficulty realigning your sights on your target. It is for this reason that 9mm is often preferred over .45 ACP. The smaller bullet size and higher speed of the 9mm mean that the firearm recoils less violently and has a significantly smaller amount of muzzle climb versus something like a 1911 in .45. First-time shooters and those with nerve issues in the wrist and hand will find 9mm to be a much more enjoyable experience at the firing range.
9mm vs 45 ACP Price
All of this information should have helped you select your preferred caliber, but there is also the factor of price. Guns are expensive, now more than ever, and the ammunition that feeds our firearms is expensive too. There are two different types of ammo that you will be buying: the less expensive full metal jacket ammo for range use, and the much more expensive jacketed hollow points for loading when you conceal and carry your pistol. Due to the surge of panic buying and pricing due to Covid-19, we are seeing higher than usual prices. This type of panic buying almost always dies down after a few weeks. For the purposes of this article, we are going to be discussing the average price before this panic buying ensued.
Most 9mm brass cased full metal jacket ammo produced for range use averages between $0.15 and $0.20 per round, depending on brand and retailer. Most high quality hollow point ammo produced for law enforcement and concealed carry is closer to $0.75 to $1.00 per round.
Most .45 ACP brass case range ammo sits at around $0.25 to $0.45 per round. The higher quality self-defense hollow points average $0.85 to $1.10 per round.
It may come as a surprise that self-defense carry ammunition is so much more expensive than full metal jacket offerings. This price difference offers superior stopping power and lowers the inherent risk of over-penetrating bullets hitting bystanders or passing through walls. Full metal jacket bullets are notorious for “through and through” wound channels, essentially passing right through an attacker without stopping them effectively. Hollow point bullets offer rapid expansion on impact with soft surfaces, such as flesh or cloth. This expansion causes a large permanent wound cavity while simultaneously slowing down as the bullet opens, visually similar to a flower blooming.
Popular 9mm & 45 ACP Firearms
Now that we know a little more about the ballistic properties, prices, and capability of these calibers, let’s briefly discuss a few firearm options and prices.
Glock 9mm vs 45 ACP
The most common handgun in the United States is the Glock 19 in 9mm. It is a compact pistol with the ability to hold fifteen rounds of 9mm in the magazine and one in the chamber. We could speak for hours on why Glock is so common, but for now, let’s keep on the topic of the pistols. If you are opting for a .45 variant of the Glock then consider a Glock 21. It is the same form factor as the Glock 19, simply chambered in .45 ACP instead of 9mm and holding twelve rounds in the magazine plus one in the chamber. Do consider that Glock does not include a manual safety, only relying on a trigger safety to prevent accidental firing. These pistols usually run around $500-$550 new.
XDS by Springfield
If Glock isn’t your style, then have a look at the XDS by Springfield. There are a couple of factors to the debate of getting an XDS in 45 vs XDS 9mm. Much like the Glock pistols, both the .45 and 9mm offerings by Springfield are the same size and feature different magazine capacities between the two calibers. The .45 option holds nine plus one in the chamber and the 9mm holds thirteen plus one. This series of pistols features some safety measures that are not present on Glock pistols, such as a grip safety that requires the pistol to be gripped in the hand to fire. These pistols usually run $400-$500 new depending on the retailer.
1911 9mm vs 45
Let’s talk about a hot topic pistol now: the 1911 9mm vs 45. Some would say that a 1911 in anything other than .45 would be blasphemy. That being said, there are some great options out there for 9mm 1911’s, usually holding nine rounds in the magazine plus one in the chamber versus the .45 that holds seven or eight plus one. These pistols also include manual safeties that prevent accidental fire. Most appealingly, 1911’s have a wide range of prices and decent ones start at around $500 and go up from there.
Hi Point Carbine 45 vs 9mm
There is one other option besides a pistol that was designed specifically for home defense. Let’s talk about the Hi-Point Carbine 45 vs 9mm. Both of these are pistol caliber carbines, that being a rifle sized weapon that shoots pistol bullets. These are much easier to handle for new shooters and offer a sizable reduction in recoil versus pistols with short barrels. The 9mm and .45 variants each hold ten rounds plus one round in the chamber with the option for a larger magazine as well. These carbines usually cost around $350 new.
So, when it comes to 45 Auto vs 9mm, you ultimately have to be the judge. Consider all of the factors we have discussed here and use that to make an informed decision to protect yourself. For more guidance for choosing between calibers, such as 9mm and 380, be sure to check out our other comparison articles!