Why Throw Stones When You Can Throw Boulders

This is a guest post from AJ Jensen.

I carry a 45 because they don’t make a 46.

That kind of he-man statements make me want to hurl in a bucket. One of my favorite games is going to a gun show, and telling some cartoonishbig gun gun dealer how I heard 9mm is more effective than the 45. Half of them go berserk, the other half just tell me to get away from their table.

Another gun dealer once told me, in between pauses to make out with his Asian girlfriend, how carrying anything less than a .45 ACP is tantamount to throwing raccoon poop at an attacker…. all the while, with the giant butt of a full-frame pistol leaning out of his hip holster. Really, pal? You sell a lot of hand-cannons to lady joggers, or soccer moms, or people whose body weight is less than a hundred and twenty pounds? Because I bet you don’t. Nor should any such people carry one in self-defense.

I’m a 40-year-old male who gets to the gym with fair regularity. I could theoretically carry the gun recommended to me by the man at the gun show. I would not, for reasons we’ll explore here. My girlfriend would never, for its total impracticality to her situation.

The reality of bullet size is simple physics: bullet A weighs twice as much as bullet B, but bullet B leaves the muzzle at twice the speed. On target, bullet B will impart four times the energy on a target. That’s right; double the speed, get four times the energy. Energy in this case means the kinetic force transferred by a bullet. According to physics you’re better off by far shooting a faster round than a heavy one. Added to which, a smaller round means you can pull the trigger more times. Documented police shootouts prove time and time again that capacity is more important than caliber.

The equation E= 1/2 Mv^2 bears this out. A 1400fps 120gr 9mm has 40% more kinetic energy on target than the 850fps 230 gr 45. All that scientific mumbo-jumbo about feet per second, grain weight of a bullet (a grain, based on a single seed of cereal, is jeweler’s weight equal to 1/7000th of a pound) and kinetic energy boils down to this one simple, immutable truth: velocity is king. The faster the bullet, the more dangerous.

Larger calibers also means larger frames, and in carry terms for most people the .45 is nothing short of enormous. That weapon is less likely to be in your pocket when you need it most. Unless you are a very large individual, you will feel a .45 pistol on your person. If you feel it enough you will be bothered by it. If you’re bothered enough you simply won’t carry it. Firepower means nothing until it’s also practical to carry.

There are not degrees of being dead. Dead is dead, is dead. All that should matter is putting a round on target, should the need arise. In order to do that, a firearm must be in your pocket first, and then second it must be controllable enough to deliver the shot with accuracy.

The .45 disciples are the Scientologists of the gun world, indoctrinated to a foregone conclusion about what round to carry. But bullet size isn’t even the most important aspect of choosing a self-defense gun. The first decision for self-defense carry is choosing between auto or a revolver. The second question is which among those is the easiest gun to handle, in terms of putting a bullet on target. The third question is whether to get the gun new or get it used. The fourth question—and here we are all the way down to four—is what caliber.

The .45 disciples are also quick to point out how long the cartridge has stood the test of time… there’s a reason it has lasted over a hundred years. True, but there’s a reason it was superseded by the 9mm in the US military inventory as well. The one mistake made by the US military is the insistence on parabellum ammunition, a ball-tipped round. In order to take full advantage of velocity energy of the faster 9mm, a bullet needs to be a hollow point. This makes the round expand on impact, and as a result much more likely to stay in (and transfer its ballistic energy to) a target. It’s also interesting to note that the 9mm Luger cartridge was invented seven years before the holy .45 ACP.

So in summation, throw boulders if you’re inclined to throw boulders… but stones work perfectly well too. The great thing is you have a choice what to carry, but that choice should be your own and made without the influence of someone who’s not taking your personal needs into account.

Let us know in the comments what kind of pistol you like to carry.


AJ Jensen is a web developer and writer, with eight years’ Army experience and an avid shooting sports enthusiast

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