What is the BEST handgun round?!?
The debate over the 9mm and .45 ACP is one of the most heated conversations in the firearms community.
Enough to spawn sayings you’ll see all over forums (and t-shirts).
Both handguns have a huge following thanks to their popularity and success in the field.
But which one is better?
Well, let’s take a look at these two rounds and pit them against one another.
Table of Contents
Comparing 9mm vs .45 ACP
Let me start out by saying that the biggest mistake that most people make is taking a black-and-white stance on the .45 ACP and 9mm.
You’ll hear a lot of people say that the .45 is better because it shoots a bigger caliber bullet, or that the 9mm is better because of its capacity.
Click here to learn about more handgun calibers.
Both are valid points and very understandable reasons to prefer one over the other.
Even if you think size > capacity or more bullets is better, you have to admit having bigger bullets and having more bullets on tap are both worthy considerations when choosing one gun over the other.
The truth is…neither gun has a total advantage over the other one, and your personal preferences will play a lot in determining which handgun is for you.
Let’s take a look at the selling points of each one to help you decide.
About the 9mm
Praised for being compact and easier to handle than its .45 ACP counterpart, the 9mm has become one of the most popular rounds in the world.
For more than 30 years, the Beretta M9 and M9A1 have been the standard sidearm of the US Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps.
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The U.S. Army eventually switched over to the Sig Sauer P320…but they’re still sticking to the 9mm caliber design.
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Even the FBI has phased out the .40 S&W in favor of the 9mm.
This begs the question: is bigger necessarily better?
The 9mm features some interesting advantages. It offers a larger magazine capacity given a similarly sized firearm.
And its compact nature makes it easier to carry, especially when concealed carrying.
Not to mention, the 9mm brings less recoil, making it an easier gun to handle – especially for beginners.
The 9mm also has a higher muzzle velocity than the .45 ACP because of its lighter bullets.
This has caused a debate in the firearms community over what’s better, a fast and light cartridge or a heavy and slow one.
While the answer to this is up to debate, one thing is certain: higher muzzle velocity does equal slower bullet drop.
Something to remember when shopping around for a 9mm…
One of the most attractive things about choosing a 9mm for home defense is having more rounds at your disposal.
Unfortunately, this benefit may be completely canceled out in some states due to magazine restrictions.
So, it’s a good idea to review any state and local laws before buying a 9mm if you’re set on having a 15+1 capacity gun.
Regarding the .45 ACP
From the days of the trusty Colt M1911 to modern .45 caliber handguns like the Glock G21 and the Sig Sauer P220, the .45 ACP has always been one of the most reliable calibers on the market.
After all, it was the official sidearm of the United States Armed Forces during two World Wars and remained so up until the 1980s.
Many handgun enthusiasts believe that bigger is, in fact, better and love everything that the .45 ACP has to offer.
Over 100 years of testing and iteration have produced some very powerful .45 ACP ammo.
While slightly impractical, the .45 ACP also has the coolness factor on its side. It’s a battle-tested gun that’s played an important role in American history during the 20th century.
Measuring the Two
There’s no doubt that the .45 ACP is a classic handgun that’s not going anywhere in the foreseeable future, but it doesn’t outperform the 9mm.
Advancements in modern defensive ammo technology have helped the 9mm improve by leaps and bounds over the past 30 years. It’s not the same underpowered round that the FBI abandoned in the early 1980s.
With a good modern defensive ammo, the 9mm is just as powerful as any .45, just in different ways.
When comparing the two handguns, it’s important to note that the 9mm hasn’t become better than the .45 ACP…it just caught up to it.
A picture is worth a 1,000 words…new self-defense 9mm ammo opens up to create some nasty possible wound channels to stop attackers in their tracks.
That is some nice expansion from the 9mm ammo.
But let’s not forget the same developments in HP ammo that allowed 9mm to catch up to .45 ACP FMJ also allowed .45 ACP HP to beef up.
While the 147-grain Federal HST expanded from 9mm (roughly .35cal) to on average 15mm or .61-inches, the .45 ACP expanded from (again, roughly) 11.5mm to 25mm (.45-inches to 1-inches).
Both (roughly!) doubled in size…and since .45 ACP is bigger to start with, it became massive in the end.
Furthermore, the 9mm is more practical for the average shooter looking to spend time on the range.
With boxes of 9mm Luger rounds being 30% to 40% cheaper than .45 ACP ammo, increased range time isn’t going to break your budget. And after all, spending more time on the range does make you a better marksman.
(Here are more tips on how to shoot more accurately.)
However, there’s always something to be said for having really big bullets ready to deal with really big problems.
Velocity & Penetration
Also, for you suppressor enthusiasts out there, the .45 ACP is an inherently subsonic bullet.
It fires slow and heavy bullets at a lower muzzle velocity than the 9mm and can be suppressed to near-whisper levels.
One of the main reasons why military personnel and many LEOs made the switch to 9mm handguns was because of the deeper bullet penetration.
Unlike in a home defense situation, the ability to shoot through a wall, automobile, or various other objects in a combat scenario can be the difference between life and death.
According to a report released in 2014 by the FBI, the 9mm was preferred in the field because of the following:
- LEOs have a 20% to 30% accuracy rate in shootouts, so magazine capacity is important.
- 9mm Luger rounds have a deeper penetration than other handgun calibers.
- FBI agents have been observed to shoot faster and more accurately with the 9mm.
- The wound tracks of a 9mm and a .45 ACP are almost the same.
- The 9mm’s lighter recoil makes it easier for follow-up shots.
Considering all of the advantages of the 9mm, why would anyone want to use the .45 ACP?
Well, when it comes to home defense, the .45 ACP does hold one distinct advantage over the 9mm…shallower penetration.
Don’t worry, that’s a good thing here.
As mentioned in the video, over-penetration isn’t as big of a problem with the .45 ACP because of its slower, bulky bullets.
This means you have less of a chance of hitting an innocent bystander through a wall in a self-defense scenario.
Choosing the Best Caliber for You
You might be wondering which caliber is better for you…the 9mm or the .45 ACP.
Well, this might rock your world but I recommend getting one of each — assuming you have the money.
Many shooters like to have the .45 ACP for home defense. It’s the perfect grab-and-go handgun to fire in close quarters where recoil won’t pose such a problem.
Alternatively, the 9mm’s stopping power and smaller design make it ideal for open and concealed carry.
While there are a number of compact .45 ACP models on the market, as a general rule, you can expect the 9mm to be more comfortable to carry in a holster.
Also, in a self-defense situation outside of your home, there’s a higher likelihood that you won’t be firing your gun at close range like in a home-defense scenario.
In this situation, you’ll be glad that you have the faster follow-up speed and a larger magazine capacity of 9mm.
Ultimately, both calibers are great to have. Some people prefer the heavier feel of a .45 ACP, while others find the light and slim nature of the 9mm easier to use.
Either way, the 9mm and the .45 ACP both pack a strong enough punch to neutralize any threat.
And speaking of comments…we had some fun with this video…