All pistol rounds suck

This came over a mailing list I subscribe to. The poster, Jeff Mau, is an instructor at a respected training school, in addition to being a police officer and SWAT member, amongst his other credentials.

Shooting someone with a pistol in soft tissue is like sticking them under a drill press and drilling holes, or as Dr. Shertz states it is like poking them with a #2 pencil. It is simply not impressive to a motivated attacker.


  • A 9mm will make a 9mm hole with around 50 inches of penetration
  • A .40 S&W will make a 10mm hole (I don’t have depth of penetration info on hand, but it will be a lot)
  • A .45 ACP will make a 11.5mm hole with with around 65 inches of penetration

For quality JHP

  • A 9mm will make a 15.5mm hole with around 13 inches of penetration
  • A .40 S&W will make a 17mm hole with around 13 inches of penetration
  • A .45 ACP will make a 19mm hole with around 13 inches of penetration

50 plus inches of penetration is suboptimal. For defensive purposes, a quality JHP round is necessary.

The moral of the story is that all pistol rounds suck. Your skill to shoot a reliable weapon system fast and accurate is far more important than bullet size. That being said we all shoot 9mm.

And the reason they (the instructors at that school) all shoot 9mm is because they can shoot it faster and more accurately than the other 2 calibers. I’ve previously expressed my preference for 9mm.

Updated: Let me add some clarification.

There’s a long and seemingly endless caliber war on 9mm Parabellum vs. .45 ACP, and these days .40 S&W can get thrown into the war as well. Why is there a war, because the issue of “terminal ability” between these rounds is about the same. If one was distinctly superior in the area of “terminal ability”, there’d be no war/argument/discussion. Sure .45 ACP makes a bigger hole than a 9mm, but does a bigger hole necessarily equate to better terminal ability? In the laboratory, probably so. In a real life self-defense encounter? There’s far too many other factors involved. While caliber is important (.22 LR is not ideal for defensive work, but is arguably better than nothing at all), there are many other factors to take into account when choosing a handgun for self-defense. When talking about “all pistol rounds suck”, it is generally alluding to the terminal ability of the round, and in the end, all of the “major self-defense handgun calibers” are about the same in terminal ability.

Thus, if the 3 calibers are essentially the same in that area, what can differentiate them? Recoil for one. The recoil of .40 S&W is greater than the recoil of .45 ACP is greater than the recoil of 9mm Parabellum. If all things were equal other than the gun’s chambering, I’m sure first shots of guns in those calibers would all get off just as fast. But how about follow-up shots? The more the recoil, the slower follow-up shots will be. If you have more recoil to manage, it’s more effort to keep the sights in your field of vision and reacquire them before peeling off the next shot. To me, why exert all this extra effort and have to fight my weapon system more than is really required? Maybe it’s the engineer in me that likes efficiency, but if I can exert less yet get the same or better results, why wouldn’t I do that?

For me, shooting 9mm allows me to be a more effective handgunner. 9mm provides less recoil, so I can shoot it faster and ensure greater accuracy when I shoot it. This isn’t to say .45 or .40 are less accurate rounds, just one’s ability to shoot them. Sure I can shoot .45 and .40 fairly quickly and accurately (tho I admit I don’t care for the snappiness of .40’s recoil), but I can shoot 9mm better. Then you add in the increased capacity, less cost per round, and other such factors, and that’s why I prefer to shoot 9mm.

I’m not against .45 ACP. I think it’s a fine round. If you determine that .45 ACP works best for you, by all means use that. In the end, the key thing is to have something as that’s better than nothing. Then get training, practice, get more training, more practice, and become proficient with it. In the end, that “software” is going to take you further than any hardware.