9mm vs. .40 vs. .45 – A recoil comparison, in slow motion

Here’s an interesting video where they used a high-speed camera to slow down shots fired from 3 guns, similar in every way but their chambering: 9mm Parabellum (Luger), .40 S&W, and .45 ACP.

(h/t TFB, and here’s the original over at Vuurwapen Blog)

What’s great about the video is almost everything is the same, about as “apples to apples” comparison as you can get. Of course, chamberings are different, and of course ammo but then with ammo he chose “standard” ammunition for the caliber. The only thing I’m unsure about is the human factor: does Andrew have a consistent grip across all 3? And while he probably strove to do so, we’re human and can’t always register differences — too small for us to notice, but big enough to make a difference. Regardless, the video is still useful.

The video points out muzzle rise, but I also think it’s interesting to watch muzzle return. Again, this could be the human factor coming into play, and it’s possible Andrew had no intention of follow-up shots and thus a need to get the gun back on target. But taking the video for what it’s worth, it sure seems that with 9mm you’ll be off target less and back on target faster. Thus, follow-up shots can come quicker (i.e. you become the limiting factor, not your equipment).

So, since all pistol rounds suck about equally, when choosing the caliber for self-defense purposes you have to look at other differentiating factors.  This video points out some key factors such as recoil manageability, and how that affects your ability to shoot and handle the gun both in general and in particular situations (e.g. multiple shots). Consider that in a self-defense situation, every tenth of a second matters — do you want things to maximize or hinder your ability to make the most out of every tenth? do you want to ensure every tenth is used to fight and not to wait to fight again?

For the record, I carry a 9.

One thought on “9mm vs. .40 vs. .45 – A recoil comparison, in slow motion

  1. It looks to me like this shooter was accustomed to the “push” recoil of the .45. In any case, he set himself up better to work with it. I find both .40 and .45 to have “strong” recoil, but the push recoil of the .45 is harder for me to control, as it tends to shift my body mass more. I can get the .40 back on target faster, as the recoil is mainly muzzle flip, so affecting primarily the gun and my hands/forearms. This is, by the way, the same type of recoil as with the 9mm. It’s simply more of that, so the 9mm is easier to control.

    One thing to note, however, is that it takes some work to not over-compensate for the .40. In the video, if you watch the last portion of the slow-motion, you’ll see the shooter actually returns to _below_ neutral with the .40. I’d guess this guy is either a 9mm shooter or a .45 shooter, as neither would be accustomed to compensating for the .40 recoil (one would be unaccustomed to the amount of recoil, the other unaccustomed to the type).

    I currently carry a .40, but am seriously considering a return to a 9mm, because I shoot so much better with that round. While the 1-shot stop potential is lower with 9mm, I can get two shots on target with a 9mm faster and MUCH more reliably than with the .40 or .45, so I simply plan for a double-tap on every shot. IMO, 2x9mm beats 1x.40/.45.

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