Continuing the discussion on “pick your gear, and move on“.
Reading this post by DocGKR, he quotes “a very experienced senior SOF NCO” who “wrote the following superb analysis discussing pistol calibers”:
Not getting into the weapons transition issues from frame design to frame design (it’s the reason I love to hate the Glock), the fact of the matter is that the recoil on the G23 crosses the magic line of running the shit out of your pistol. Allow me to explain… Most of the guys mentioned that they can handle the reduced size of the 19 and the recoil increase over the G17 is acceptable. Most of us have also determined that this does NOT cross over to the .40 cartridge. Guys with a firm handle on recoil manipulation can use the G22 and G35 with acceptable results. However when you go down to G26’s and G23’s, the juice is not worth the squeeze. The recoil is now noticeably effecting times and it’s measurable. If you can’t effectively control recoil and are wasting time allowing your pistol to settle between shots then this is all a wash and means nothing to you, but if you can apply the fundamentals effectively you will quickly see that you can’t run a sub compact 9 or a compact .40 worth a shit. So a decision to accept a larger pistol in order to have an acceptable recoil impulse based upon caliber must be made. The smallest 9mm Glock recoil that I will accept is the G19 and I will not go below the G22 when bumping up to .40.
For reference, ordered by caliber, then from largest size frame to smallest.
- G17 – 9mm, Standard size frame
- G19 – 9mm, Compact frame
- G26 – 9mm, Subcompact frame
- G35 – .40 S&W, Competition frame
- G22 – .40 S&W, Standard size frame
- G23 – .40 S&W, Compact frame
- G27 – .40 S&W, Subcompact frame (not referenced in the above quote, and likely because if the G23 is unacceptable, the G27 is right out).
So what does this all mean?
Equipment matters (but only so much).
You need to be able to run the gun and run it well. While the old-school and Internet commando mantra demands you use only calibers that begin at least with a “4”, the reality is that using such calibers is difficult because, as above NCO stated, you can’t run it worth a shit. More correctly tho, when you have more recoil, it’s harder to run the gun. More recoil happens because of caliber (e.g. .40 S&W, .45 ACP, .357 Sig, .357 Magnum), but it also happens when there’s less gun (less mass, less area to grip) to help mitigate that recoil. That could be because of simple weight (e.g. an “airweight” revolver vs. an all-steel revolver), or because of size which naturally reduces available mass and grip area (e.g. G17 vs G26, G35 vs. G23).
So you have to ensure you have a gun that runs — for you. This is where things like “gun fit” matter. Here’s a good guide on the topic (and more).
But then amongst all those guns that run, there are other things that contribute to you being able to run the gun well. And I’ll put it pretty simply:
Pick the largest gun that fits you and your circumstances, in the biggest caliber you can acceptably run.
Let me break this down.
Larger guns aid in recoil management, both because they will have more mass, and also with more size comes more surface area to enable a better grip on the gun. They can also offer things like a longer sight radius, lighter recoil springs (makes it easier to rack the slide). Bottom line: you can shoot a larger gun better and more easily than smaller guns. This doesn’t mean to buy a monster gun that you cannot handle, it still has to be what properly fits you and fits your circumstances. But within those that fit, strive for the largest you can because you’ll shoot it better.
You want the largest caliber you can acceptably run. I’ve seen folks that cannot handle 9mm recoil but do OK with .380 Auto. While .380 Auto is marginal in performance, it’s better than nothing and if that’s what you can shoot best, then that’s a settled matter. I’ve also encountered some that can’t shoot more than a .22 LR; while that’s also not ideal, it’s still better than nothing so there you go. And note, while you might be a big strong guy with forearms like Popeye and can run .40 decently well, chances are still good you will run 9mm better due to simple physics.
So yes, for the majority of folks, getting a Glock 17 or Glock 19, or a Smith & Wesson M&P 9 (service model size) is good enough. They are proven reliable platforms, that provide acceptable performance. If those guns do not fit you, you may have to do some more shopping, but the end result is the same:
Pick your gun, and move on.