Shortly after it was written, a 2014 executive summary by the FBI justifying their selection of the 9mm Luger as the agency-wide caliber of choice, over the .40 S&W and .45 ACP, was leaked to the public. Depending on who you ask, this either confirmed what everyone familiar with practical, tactical handgun ballistics already knew, or was an absurd perpetuation of a fiction that sounded good on paper but had no place in the real world.


The FBI’s justification report dismissed many of the conclusions that were held virtually universally by entire generations, including that for handgun calibers “bigger is better.” They insisted that the long-held notion that bigger calibers, .45 ACP ammo, in particular, is a “one shot stop” that no one walks away from—as they might a hit from a 9mm—was simply false and based wholly on “myth and folklore.” The substance of their findings was boiled down to one bullet point on which their conclusion was based: “Handgun stopping power is simply a myth.”

Is Handgun Stopping Power a Myth?

If there is “stopping power” that doesn’t involve a CNS-shot, it’s the muzzle energy transferred to the person hit with the round, and the penetration depth of that round, doing the stopping more than it is the size of the handgun round. The fact is, the 9mm hits harder and penetrates deeper than the .45. But there are more important considerations than muzzle velocity and terminal ballistics.

There is a very popular trope that’s brought up when people are discussing the best caliber handgun for home defense. It’s informally considered the ultimate template for judging caliber effectiveness: the really big guy looking to do you harm while both anesthetized by and powered-up on drugs. If the caliber being discussed isn’t judged sufficient to stop this boogeyman, it’s declared too “anemic” to be an effective carry. Undoubtedly, at some point, this scenario has probably played out somewhere. However, for most people, a scenario quite as extreme playing out is (hopefully) unlikely.

A Smaller Every Day Carry (EDC)

As such, the need for a lot of “stopping power” in your EDC is exponentially less important than a pistol that’s easily carried and/or concealed, comfortable to hold and train, and has a high capacity. The FBI report pointed out that trained federal agents miss 70-80% of the time in firefights. An adrenaline-wired civilian defending themselves is almost certainly not going to do better. That also means that having a caliber small enough to limit recoil and muzzle flip for subsequent shot placement is a priority.

Of course, the best-case scenario in which someone is required to draw a firearm in response to a lethal threat is one in which no one is shot or killed. For most people, including most criminals, having a gun leveled on them inspires them to get as far away from its business end as possible. It’s doubtful any of them are going to be checking the circumference of the bore to determine how much stopping power the caliber has, whether it’s a .32 or a .45. So if you like the feel, size, comfort, and capacity of a .380, go stock up on some .380 ACP ammo and practice with it consistently. After all, the best firearm is one you know how to use effectively.

About Ammunition Depot

Ammunition Depot is the best place to purchase ammunition online, bar none. If you need ammunition for a firearm, chances are excellent they have it, from .22 LR to .454 Casull, and everything in-between. Whether you’re looking for a single box or a bulk order of 1,000 rounds of .223 5.56 ammo, they’ve got you covered. As firearm enthusiasts and advocates, they are proud to support the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution, charities for our troops and law enforcement, and shooting sports. And they’re committed to continuing to create jobs in their home state of Florida, with an emphasis on hiring vets.

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