It’s that time again—delving into the world of the “BIg 3” calibers (9mm, 40S&W, .45ACP). If you’ve been a part of firearm discussions across the web, you know the back and forth on this topic can rage on for longer than we might like to admit.
If you are a new shooter, realize that there are good points to be made on behalf of each caliber. Here are a few reasons you should be giving 9mm its fair shake.
One of the best aspects of the 9mm cartridge is its availability. Many manufacturers produce 9mm from range-grade ammo to specialized, self-defense varieties. The large quantities of 9mm ammo also help make it a more budget-friendly option. And not only will you find a sea of 9mm ammo to buy, you’ll also have an ocean of pistol choices.
In fact, Springfield Armory® offers more than 20 pistol models in 9mm.
Generally speaking, 9mm is easier to handle than other pistol calibers, such as 40S&W or .45ACP. (Again, generally speaking.) Shooting 147 gr 9mm ammunition from a full-size pistol provides a more-enjoyable shooting experience, especially for new shooters, and, assuming proper technique, allows return of the sights back on target fairly quickly.
Due to the smaller size of the caliber, 9mm pistols are able to fit more rounds per magazine. So whether you’re going for a small, single-stack EMP or a full-size competition pistol, like the the XD(M)® 5.25, you’ll be gaining a couple extra rounds per mag.
Both NATO and the U.S. Military use the 9mm round in their sidearms, and the largest police department in America, the New York Police Department, uses 9mm pistols. This aspect alone won’t win over everyone, but it carries weight nonetheless.
The folks over at Lucky Gunner did an excellent test of self-defense pistol ammunition on gelatin blocks, including several varieties of 9mm. While .45ACP and .40S&W had some varieties penetrate significantly further than most of the 9mm, this Magtech 124gr JHP penetrated the block nearly 30 inches.
You also have to consider how the different varieties handle with your chosen pistol. If you pick a load that is too “hot” and can’t shoot it as accurately, you may want to scale back. With some practice and testing of your own, you’ll probably find a 9mm load that strikes the right balance.
With all this said, while people will lobby for their favorite caliber, you can't go wrong with any of the “Big 3”. Each has pros and cons. Pick the one YOU like the best based on feel, performance, comfort and results.