Faulty, Fabulous, or Fad? An M.D. Argues the 40 S&W


From left to right is a Gorilla Ammo .45ACP, a Browning .40S&W, and a Winchester 9mm Parabellum round.

Our patient was a heavily muscled young gladiator of the sort who frequents an urban emergency department. Stabbings and gunshot wounds are lamentable side effects of his day job. When he hobbled into the ER he had a bandana pressed against the lower right side of his abdomen yet seemed pleasant enough.

I forget the sordid details. Turf, drugs, or women accounted for the lion’s share of the chaos, so the impetus this evening was likely some toxic combination. Once we got him into the CT scanner we could see the 9mm round flattened against the back of his pelvis. The bullet had undoubtedly played holy havoc with the intervening entrails so the surgical residents got a laparotomy out of it, but I will never forget how calm he seemed. The round could have ricocheted or passed through some intervening barrier material to bleed a little horsepower, but its terminal effectiveness in this particular instance was decidedly underwhelming.

I have seen men killed with the 9mm round, but that experience with that thug in the ER made an impression. I like to shoot the 9mm because it is lightweight and fun. The round is cheap, produces modest recoil, and remains easy to carry. None of these attributes speaks to the crux of the issue, however, which is speedy incapacitation and expedient behavior modification.


The 9mm Parabellum is the most popular centerfire pistol cartridge in the world. Parabellum means, “If you seek peace, prepare for war.” Georg Luger contrived the round in 1902 to feed his eponymous toggle-locked handgun. 60% of the cops in America carry 9mm handguns, and the FBI relatively recently retired their .40-caliber weapons in favor of guns firing the smaller round. The 9mm is credited with the demise of the combat revolver in America in favor of high-capacity autoloading handguns.

In its military guise, the 9mm cartridge pushes a 124-grain metal-jacketed lead-cored projectile to about 1,150 feet per second. I have an acquaintance who shot a man in Iraq three times in the chest with his M9 Beretta handgun after an unfortunate surprise encounter in an alleyway. He then went on to develop a friendship with the hapless Iraqi after he recovered. When shooting ball ammo the 9mm never seemed to command respect in the ER.

The .45 ACP—Practical Tactical

This poor guy caught a .45ACP round to the head and was rapidly approaching room temperature when we met. The bullet separated from the jacket and went its own way, while the jacket lodged outbound between his skull and his scalp. The jagged scrap of copper measured 11mm on a piece of EKG paper. The job that thing did on that guy’s melon was the stuff of nightmares.

Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta employs some of the finest shooters on the planet. They called it the Combat Applications Group for a time. I think the Army’s pet name is Army Compartmented Element these days. JSOC calls it Task Force Green. The guys who actually serve there just call it “The Unit.” Delta is the best we can produce, and they are some rarefied warriors indeed. Their very existence is supposed to be a secret, but they have a Wikipedia page.

The Delta guys I bumped into back when I wore the uniform typically carried high-capacity 1911 handguns. Their pistols were built around Para-Ordnance frames and had all the bells and whistles. With 14+1 of .45ACP chaos onboard these were some of the most effective combat handguns in the world. They also must have been boat anchors to hump. I’m told there are more Glocks in those holsters nowadays, but these guys know guns and the .45ACP was their round.

The .45ACP was a John Moses Browning creation in 1905, and it pushed a bullet roughly twice as big as that of the original 9mm Parabellum. However, all that horsepower comes at a cost. The .45ACP is big and chunky to tote and a handful to run for those with modest mitts.

The .40S&W—The Grand Compromise

If there is a message to be found in the ignoble tale that follows it is that the sensible citizen should never try to run over a police officer with an automobile. The cop sidestepped the speeding car and fired a single .40-caliber round through the driver’s side window. The bullet struck the hapless felon in the chest and peeled open the left ventricle of his heart like a can opener. Had it happened in the operating room the guy still wouldn’t have survived. That high-performance police-issue expanding bullet performed exactly as it was intended. It passed through the glass, the dude’s shirt, his skin, and the intervening muscle without checking up before deploying like a miniature buzzsaw to thoroughly rearrange the guy’s chest cavity. It didn’t hurt long.

The .40S&W arose as the indirect result of the FBI’s 1986 Miami shootout. If you aren’t familiar with the details surf on over when you’re done here. Any student of small arms is well served to read up on it. Google is your buddy.

During the Miami shootout, two FBI special agents were killed and five wounded by a pair of bank robbers wielding a variety of weapons. One of the Bad Guys, in particular, took a 9mm round to the chest and went on to foment a great deal of mischief before he succumbed. With this as an impetus, S&W partnered with Winchester to produce the ideal Law Enforcement pistol round.

The resulting .40S&W was, in essence, a shortened 10mm auto cartridge. This rimless straight-walled round was short enough to fit into existing 9mm pistol frames yet pushed a 165-grain bullet to more than 1,100 feet per second. In many cases converting between 9mm and .40S&W was as simple as exchanging the barrel and magazine. The resulting magazine capacity was typically reduced from 2 to 4 rounds, but this interchangeability meant easier maintenance and a convenient transition for officers already familiar with the platform.

.40S&W does inevitably offer greater recoil than the 9mm but remains more pleasant than the .45ACP. There were some teething problems but in general, the .40S&W has lived up to its press releases. Why then might the FBI and 60% of American Law Enforcement agencies be switching back to the 116-year-old 9mm Parabellum when the .40S&W was specifically designed to replace it?

Despite its blocky utilitarian appearance, the Glock 22 is an exceptionally efficient combat implement.

Technology Marches On

The three anecdotes related above represent a comically small sample size. I have seen a guy survive being shot with a .45ACP to the torso and another paralyzed for life with a .25ACP to the neck. Shot placement is everything, and bullet design is indeed a combat multiplier. However, there’s way more to it than that. No handgun round will reliably guarantee one-shot stops.

Most of the thugs I have encountered feed their cheap crappy guns the cheapest ball ammo they can steal. As a result, the downrange effects can indeed be underwhelming. By contrast, trained Law Enforcement Officers running the finest antipersonnel rounds money can buy generally find their tools to be markedly more effective.

In 2014 the FBI produced a report that detailed how improvements in powder efficiency and bullet design had generated 9mm performance that was in some cases superior to comparable .40S&W and .45ACP Law Enforcement loads. Given that 9mm ammo is cheaper and produces less recoil, this equates out to less expensive training and better accuracy, particularly with small-statured officers. As a direct result, Law Enforcement agencies across our great republic seem to be tripping over themselves to trade out their .40S&W handguns for the 9mm sort.

Statistically, trained Law Enforcement Officers shooting under the stress of a life or death situation connect with their targets with one round in five. As a result, a softer-shooting handgun that yields better follow up accuracy can itself render a combat advantage so long as penetration is adequate. However, that takes us full circle to Miami, wherein a determined assailant hit in the chest with a bullet that rendered adequate penetration went on to kill two federal agents before he expired. What conclusions should we mere civilians draw from all this?

The Real Skinny

Whenever I am not asleep or in the shower I am invariably armed, but I’m not a cop. I carry my handguns concealed or in a vehicle and don’t expect to engage an armed assailant as part of my day job. However, I have a difficult time getting past the image of that guy standing in the exam room with the bandana on his groin.

The 2014 FBI report is itself fascinating reading, and it makes some great points. However, I’m personally not quite ready to cash in my .40’s for something smaller. I have carried most everything at one point or another, and I do prefer toting a compact 9mm as I wander through my daily sojourn. However, when I travel or am someplace static the game changes. If I have two otherwise identical handguns sitting on the table, one in 9mm and the other in .40S&W, it’s most typically the .40 that ends up in the center console of the truck.

A Few Options

Most popular modern combat handguns sport polymer frames and striker-fired triggers. The Glock 22 is the industry standard. The Glock 22 packs 15 rounds in its magazine and sports the raked grip-to-frame angle and low bore axis for which Glock has become justifiably famous. The sole external safety is a blade in the trigger, and the gun is arguably the most reliable autoloading handgun ever made.

The Glock 22 is the most popular .40-caliber pistol in Law Enforcement. Sporting legendary reliability and simple operation, the Glock and its Safe Action trigger precipitated the polymer pistol revolution.


The Smith and Wesson M&P offers an oblique grip-to-frame angle more akin to that of the 1911 and a pivoting safety as part of the trigger body. The M&P has interchangeable palm swells and a 15-round magazine. The M&P comes standard with steel sights and is a dream on the range.

The Smith and Wesson M&P .40 is a rugged and effective design. Sporting interchangeable palm swells and a bilateral slide release, the M&P .40 is an Amer-ican-made warhorse.

The Steyr L40A1 is the “Other Austrian Combat Pistol.” Featuring the same raked grip-to-frame angle and low bore axis as the Glock, the L40A1 has an extended slide and barrel for enhanced accuracy. Magazine capacity is limited to 12 rounds, but the gun looks like it fell off the set of a science fiction movie.

The Steyr L40A1 is the longest of their three .40-caliber combat handguns. The rakish design offers an exceptionally low bore axis and a fresh slick geometry.

The HK VP40 offers the most customizable grip of any combat pistol in the world with three interchangeable backstraps and six side panels of various thicknesses. The slide also includes polymer ears the company calls “charging supports” to enhance your grip when sweaty or rushed. There is the obligatory trigger safety, and the gun is available in black or FDE. The VP40 carries 13 rounds in its magazine. The VP40 is the most expensive gun of the four profiled, but it also sports a legendarily smooth crisp trigger.

The HK VP40 features the most customizable grip in the industry. Grip panels are interchangeable between 9mm and .40-caliber versions, so I just mixed and matched.


All things being equal I shoot a bit better with a .40S&W than I do a .45ACP. I also shoot a little bit better with a 9mm than a .40S&W. However, taken to an illogical extreme, I shoot even better than that with a decent .22LR. Life is all about compromises, and the .40S&W was designed from the outset to balance power and portability. As a result, I think until I can lay my hands on a phased plasma rifle in the 40-watt range I’ll hang onto my full-sized .40-caliber handguns. They all punch deep, but the .40 seems intuitively destined to make bigger holes.

The polymer-framed .40-caliber pistol still offers more power than the 9mm and less recoil than a .45ACP all in an envelope comparable to the weaker gun.

Technical Specifications

                             Glock 22     S&W M&P          Steyr L40A1         HK VP40

Caliber                  .40S&W     .40S&W               .40S&W               .40S&W

Barrel Length        4.49in       4.25in                   4.5in                     4.09in

Overall Length      8.03in       7.6in                     7.4in                     7.34in

Weight                  25.59oz       27.9oz                  28.8oz                 28.93oz

Mag Capacity        15               15                         12                         13

MSRP                  NP              $569                     $575                     $719

All of these guns are fast. Magazines drop away freely, and these tapered magazines find the magwell easily.


About the Author – Will was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta, having been immersed in hunting and the outdoors since his earliest recollections. He holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Mississippi and is the product of a traditional American nuclear family. Where most normal American kids get drunk to celebrate their 21st birthday, Will bought his first two machineguns.

Will served eight years as an Army Aviator and accumulated more than 1,100 flight hours piloting CH47D, UH1H, OH58A/C, and AH1S helicopters. He is scuba qualified, has parachuted out of perfectly good airplanes at 3 o’clock in the morning, and has summited Mt. McKinley, Alaska–the highest point in North America–six times (at the controls of a helicopter, which is the only way sensible folk climb mountains). For reasons that seemed sagacious at the time he ultimately left the Army as a Major to pursue medical school.

Dr. Dabbs has for the last dozen years owned the Urgent Care Clinic of Ox-ford, Mississippi. He also serves as the plant physician for the sprawling Winchester ammunition plant in that same delightful little Southern town. Will is a founding partner of Advanced Tactical Ordnance LLC, a licensed 07/02 firearms manufacturer and has written for the gun press for a quarter century. He writes solely to support a shooting habit that is as insensate as it is insatiable. Will has been married to his high school sweetheart for more than thirty years. He and his wife currently have three adult children and a most thoroughly worthless farm dog named Dog.

***Shop GunsAmerica for your next 40 S&W  handgun***


About the author: Will Dabbs was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta, having been immersed in hunting and the outdoors since his earliest recollections. He holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Mississippi and is the product of a traditional American nuclear family. Where most normal American kids get drunk to celebrate their 21st birthday, Will bought his first two machineguns. Will served eight years as an Army Aviator and accumulated more than 1,100 flight hours piloting CH47D, UH1H, OH58A/C, and AH1S helicopters. He is scuba qualified, has parachuted out of perfectly good airplanes at 3 o’clock in the morning, and has summited Mt. McKinley, Alaska–the highest point in North America–six times (at the controls of a helicopter, which is the only way sensible folk climb mountains). For reasons that seemed sagacious at the time he ultimately left the Army as a Major to pursue medical school. Dr. Dabbs has for the last dozen years owned the Urgent Care Clinic of Oxford, Mississippi. He also serves as the plant physician for the sprawling Winchester ammunition plant in that same delightful little Southern town. Will is a founding partner of Advanced Tactical Ordnance LLC, a licensed 07/02 firearms manufacturer and has written for the gun press for a quarter century. He writes solely to support a shooting habit that is as insensate as it is insatiable. Will has been married to his high school sweetheart for more than thirty years and has taught his Young Married Sunday School class for more than a decade. He and his wife currently have three adult children and a most thoroughly worthless farm dog named Dog.

{ 109 comments… add one }
  • Dr US ARMY January 26, 2020, 4:40 pm

    FBI 9mm change is political correctness. I worked at Walter Reed A.M.C. and N.N.M.C. Bethesda in the O.R. from before 11 Sept. 2001 until I ETS’d in 2010. I grew up hunting. Shot placement is first followed by bullet selection. Third is the unpredictability of the human body. A soldier took a RPG-7 which removed from the medial and inferior aspects of right or it of the skull and brain. In other words from from the bottom of the right eye upwards and from the border of the right eye and the nose outwards or sideways however you can understand it. He lost the whole right side of his brain. He walked out of WRAMC 16 months later. I carry 10mm unless circumstances dictate smaller then I carry .357 SIG. The only exception are my revolvers here in Alaska where I now live. 9mm is BS! All other calibers have also kept pace with bullets and powder. If you can’t hit with 10mm or your hand is far too small then use .357 SIG. If you can’t hit more than 30% of the time practice until you can. If you never achieve this CHANGE professions! My child is alive because as a toddler in diapers bears were thought to be cuddly and cute. I had to kick my child onto his butt, jump between him and an extremely aggressive and hungry 550lb+ female bear. I had time to draw my 10mm and fire one round. The family joke is don’t try to hurt one of Dad’s kids he’ll shoot you and according to the bear hide if Dad shoots you, you’ll die. I treated a non political FBI retiree at the old WRAMC who informed me the FBI watered down and eventually dropped the 10mm due to political correctness. The female agents couldn’t control it nor could several males. He informed me the “cracking of the frames” of the Smith and Wesson 1076, 1006 autoloaders was complete BS!! He said they were ordered to say they cracked and to give the 10mm a bad name. If it were up to me all cops would carry full charge (ie Buffalo Bore and Underwood—what we carry in Alaska because they will stop a charging or angry bear if you do your part with the right bullet. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here nor my son) in cases where concealment is paramount the .357 sig is my choice for an auto loader. However with new snub-4inch 8 shot .357 Mags from Smith & Wesson and Ruger, a couple of moon clips make these attractive to me in the lower 48 IF I can conceal them. If not it’s the .357 Sig if I can’t hide my 10mm. My medical peer and former military colleague is right. I too was a major and my specialty spends every day in the O.R. From a bizarre set of circumstances which saw me at the Pentagon trying to pull out live bodies from the 11 Sept. 2001 attack until I left the service I wanted the military to adopt the 10mm as its side arm. The RPG-7 incident taught me even correct shot placement (removing the complete right hemisphere of the brain) may not always be enough—even with proper bullet selection. Having said this I actually believe it just wasn’t that young mans day to die and I’m damn glad it wasn’t. He is the exception which proves the rule. Forget 9mm, 40 S&W, and 45ACP. 10mm or go home. If it has to be small .357Sig is borderline acceptable. I’ve just seen too many cases where the other calibers failed. OK attack me. I don’t care. Respectfully, MAJ. 10mm

  • Eddie September 29, 2019, 8:26 am

    This is a good read Although seeded with comedy, its actually a simple and straightforward conclusion I carried a Sig 226 in 9mm for 13 years I could shoot Rogers drills well with it
    Living in the country, i did some shooting experiments with different bullet weights and styles The author is right The expansion and penetration varies more than one might think Ive carried a Glock 22 for 12 years I hated it at first but highly sophisticated testing on pork ribs over watermelons yielded one sour tasting result The 40 Speer Gold Dot HP does considerably more damage than the 9mm version i wanted the 40 to fail Now i hide myself in shame for all the bragging i did about the 9mm being better

  • William June 20, 2019, 10:17 pm

    I finally read all the comments….now what was the Dr. talking about…lol

    Having spent two years running a M60 as a door gunner in Vietnam all this hand gun stuff is pretty scary.

    I have a Sig P226 .40 cal, a Sig 1911 .45 cal, a Glock 26 9mm, and several other hand guns. I don’t find the 9mm Glock has less recoil than the .40 cal Sig. Big heavy .40 small light 9mm.

    If you need more ammo carry more guns and mags. If you are old and run down like me learn to shoot better…one shot one kill is always a good idea if you can do that.

    If you really want to know what caliber is best…it is the one you did not have to use because you were smart enough to avoid the gun fight in the first place.

  • Only One Cannoli June 19, 2019, 7:30 pm

    The 9mm IS INFERIOR to the .40 S&W. Only when taking the most powerful 9mm and lesser .40’s and .45’s does the 9mm prevail. Don’t know if you heard, but the same magical hollowpoint tech that made its way to the 9mm has also touched the other common pistol calibers. I do not understand why reviewers like this continue to spew the ridiculous notion that somehow the 9mm has become more powerful with today’s modern bullet tech without acknowledging that the other calibers have also improved by similar margins. Here are some real numbers that will confirm what I’m saying. The first column is the energy expressed in foot-pounds, while the second is velocity expressed in feet per second.

    Federal HST (155g) .40 S&W 463 1160 Winner .40 S&W
    Federal HST +P (124g) 9mm 364 1150
    Federal HST +P (147g) 9mm 360 1050
    Federal HST (147g) 9mm 326 1000

    Federal Hydra Shok (155g) .40 S&W 447 1140 Winner .40 S&W
    Federal Hydra Shok (180g) .40 S&W 400 1000
    Federal Hydra Shok (165g) .40 S&W 352 980
    Federal Hydra Shok (135g) 9mm 337 1060

    Hornady 175 Critical Duty .40 S&W 396 1010 Winner .40 S&W
    Hornady 135 Critical Duty +P 9mm 369 1110
    Hornady 135 Critical Duty 9mm 306 1010

    Remington Golden Sabre (165g) .40 S&W 485 1150 Winner .40 S&W
    Remington Golden Sabre (180g) .40 S&W 412 1015
    Remington Golden Sabre +P (124g) 9mm 384 1180
    Remington Golden Sabre (124g) 9mm 349 1125
    Remington Golden Sabre (147g) 9mm 320 990

    Speer Gold Dot (155g) .40 S&W 496 1200
    Winner.40 S&W
    Speer Gold Dot (165g) .40 S&W 484 1150
    Speer Gold Dot (180g) .40 S&W 420 1025
    Speer Gold Dot (115g) 9mm 374 1210
    Speer Gold Dot (124g) 9mm 364 1150

    Underwood (165g) .40 S&W 528 1200
    Winner .40 S&W
    Underwood (180g) .40 S&W 484 1100
    Underwood (124g) 9mm (+P+) 465 1300
    Underwood (147g) 9mm (+P+) 451 1175
    Underwood (115g) 9mm (+P) 400 1250

    • fernando March 18, 2020, 12:55 am

      he “spews” it because that’s what all the 9mm faboys spew, so among them it is accepted truth and, by logical induction, acceptable to spew all over the internet like so much overindulged pizza and beer.

      the author is one gun writer I wouldn’t call a 9mm fanboy. in fact he seems pleasantly biased against 9mm. he must be putting forth that argument because, well, that’s the argument they have which he must be addressing.

      on the other hand he seems to be taken himself by the slight-of-hand trick the 9mm fanboys use when they say the 9mm is cheaper, lighter, more available and more handy, then use that to imply (but never directly say) that it is a better fight-stopper. he gets a start on that and says the 9mm now has more effective powder, then says it has less recoil. right.

      most 9mm ammo still sucks as bad as it always did, only a select handful have actually improved the caliber, and they still do not surpass the terminal performance of .40 .45 or God Forbid .357SIG or 20mm. that handful of cases where they approach .40 or .45 are where they explicitly do ther utmost to act like a bigger, heavier, more powerful bullet… with all the recoil that entails.

      just forget it, 9mm fanboys. (the liberal Bernie Sanders supporters of the gun world) if you want more stopping power, you need more power, there’s no two ways around it.

  • Alex May 6, 2019, 9:30 pm

    Occams, your anti-Isreal propaganda is out of place and terribly misinformed. I don’t care that this thread has long been dead. Isreal has offered peace to the Palestinians multiple times. Palestinians are the ones who target civilians and schools while hiding terrorists and weapons in their schools and hospitals.

  • Barry Newman January 27, 2019, 4:51 am

    I hear people talk about shot placement but each and every of my pistols has sights for that exact purpose.

  • A Scout January 8, 2019, 7:04 am

    Parabellum is Latin for “prepare for war.” Si vis pacem, para bellum, meaning “If you want peace, prepare for war.” Also Latin

  • Travis December 25, 2018, 7:36 am

    Why did Police change to 9mm? Well I will tell you, it’s simply $$$$ #1 Factor was 9mm frame plastic Glock pistols chambered in 40 S&W break down over thousands of rounds faster then the 9mm does and the .357 sig versions are even worse. The whole plastic frame takes more beating even with the tougher PSI recoil spring and tougher recoil spring guide rod made of plastic in some guns……..:( Not that anything is wrong with plastic but when you make a gun a 9mm and design around that PSI range for the parts a simple barrel drop in of either 1-3 calibers is not always the right thing to do. 9mm has been around the town………………………do you ever see them trying to make a 45+P+?????? They did it’s called 45 Super and you could pretty much shoot it in a regular well built 1911 of modern steel frame make with nothing more then a barrel change but you did not even need that…………it just wore the damn gun out very fast andeven cracked factory .45 ACP chambered barrels that had weak spots…..it was double 45 Auto +P pressures. The 9mm suffers from the same problem in older frame guns………..over time 127 and 115 grain bullets at 1200 FPS have went to +P and +P+ 1450 FPS velocity and lighter and lighter bullets also let in room for more of the modern faster and progressive burn rate powders. Just ask any shotshell loader who fools with 28 gauge or .410 or .44 magnum. All those rounds can use the same powders like Lil-Gun or H110 Hodgdon that are progressive slow rate powders that work well in small bore shotguns or large pistol calibers for heavy hard fast loads. Hell I push 7/8 oz 28 gauge loads up to 1300 FPS and over with the Lil-Gun. The wads come out the barrel looking like a monster chewed on them for dinner lol and patterns well, they are not great to speak of unless I tweek the loads but the pressure is low for the amount of weight i am pushing out the barrel in such a tiny bore diameter. Any other powder like Win571 or Win572 would burst the chamber pushing 1300 FPS 7/8 oz loads in 28 gauge. Or at least go over 12,500 PSI and well into 20,000 mark I would think. The handguns now have access to the powder of the gods so to speak so 9mm was the right way for the Police to save $$$
    To Sums it up a bit with out blabbing on about needless BS the Police were wearing out 40 caliber Glocks faster then the same 9mm Glock of comparing frame model #NO. Many Depts still had Generation 2 and 3 Glock firearms in 40 caliber and they were having to upgrade to Generation 4-5 Glock frames sooner then the 9mm Police Agencies were. Ammo Cost, Officer training cost, all factor in. Besides we all know 40 caliber S&W is nothing but a dickless 10mm auto. Both guns can carry the same ammo per magazine it’s the same diameter but you need a .45 ACP frame for the 10mm……………………..Cops are not concealing the handgun so frame size matters not only grip diameter. I always figured women or small handed people could be offered a single stacked Glock they do make them just not in anything full size, and other officers could have gotten the 10mm auto. The single stack small hand crowd could have also gotten the 10mm or 4 auto but carried more magazines on duty. It’s not about practical stopping power as much as it is money and training cost for police.

    • M zondo November 26, 2019, 9:24 am

      I’ve spoken with many Ex LEO friends and their friends and a few Ex FBI agents at many gun shows and every one of them said the same thing the only reason the 9mm was chosen by the FBI and LEO was not because the 9mm was a better choice because they even said it wasn’t, it was because there agents and officers were only hitting their targets less than 30 % or less of the time that’s right (look up the FBI report) which they the LEO and agents blamed on recoil of 40SW and 357Sig and with the 9mm you got less recoil for faster follow up shots and 2 extra rounds yet know the standard FBI and LEO 9mm round is now a 9+p or a +p+ round which know that so called recoil that they blamed on the 40sw and 357sig is worse with the 9MM then it was with the 40SW and 357SIG.

      * ****So rather than offering better training for their officers and agents which all the Ex LEO and a few Ex FBI agents all said (which is common sense they and they the agents and officers do need if since they were only hitting their targets less than 30 percent or less of the time) they went back to the 9MM .

      They all said the 40SW and 357 sig both were much better and a more powerful round at taking down people especially the 357 sig when loaded to where it originally was supposed to be (which originally was 1,450 -1500feet per second) for a 125 GR bullet they (ammo manufacturers) watered it down to 1350-1365FPS and it still out performs any 9mm +p and the 9MM +P+ round) and yet they the FBI and LEO still opted to go with the less powerful 9mm which is they all have said was under gunning there officers to a less lethal round.

      And for all the people who keep saying with today’s new bullet technology and new powders the 9MM is now better and faster round, well guess I hate to break your bubble but that same great bullet technology and new powders also went into making the 40 SW, 357SIG and the 45ACP also a better round. Just look at how now there a making 45acp + p rounds and 40SW rounds going 50-75 FPS faster and that’s something that was never heard of ten-15 years ago.

      Please watch the following 2 videos below in their entirety and just maybe if you can put politics aside you will understand how the 9mm though a good round and can get the job done but in most cases is not the perfect defense round and the 357sig and 40SW are truly a better round.



  • John Hoglin September 9, 2018, 4:53 pm

    The Miami shoot out, was finished with a 38spl backup gun.

  • William H Smith Jr August 10, 2018, 4:13 pm

    Every one’s articles are great and everyone is different and that is what makes things their BEST. The point I wish and give a thought of conversion of a Glock. What I have is a Glock 32 Gen 4, it is a .357 Sig. The cost on ammo is a nightmare. I have taken and put a stainless recoil spring and replaced the stock spring and put a match grade .40 caliber barrel. It is still a Glock 32, that is still 4 inches. I understand that it is only a 13+1, but that can be fixed. Now you have a Glock 23. Just a thought!

  • David June 15, 2018, 1:02 pm

    When I was looking for my first CCW, I asked a good friend who happened to be a DEA agent what he carried. Without the slightest pause he responded .40 cal. When I asked him about the 9mm he responded that the “bad guys just laugh at them”. I asked why not the .45 cal. and he responded “to heavy and you can’t carry enough rounds for a gun fight”. Basically, everything the good doctor wrote about here was what my buddy, whose life depends on his wits and his weapons, had explained to me. So I bought a used .40 cal. Taurus 24/7 off another buddy who wanted to make the change to 9mm. The Taurus was full size and he wanted something compact. Say what you will about a Taurus, but that gun shot great. Since it was a full size, all the complaints about the kick of a .40 cal. were really not a big deal. I did eventually move to a sub-compact for CCW. I bought a Springfield XDs .40. Understand that was at least 9 years ago and that is still my CCW. I have put a lot of rounds down the pipe of that gun and it continues to perform. I have also bought many other handguns since then, including 9mm and .45. But I think the .40 will continue to be my choice. There is one other consideration that may take the .40s place; the FN5.7. But for now….

    • fernando March 18, 2020, 1:08 am

      yep 9mm is just fine for small pocket pistols but for a full size full weight handgun there’s no excuse for it. other than money. and please don’t say it’s better than .45, that’s like a mouse trying to screw an elephant.

  • Kevin Townsend June 8, 2018, 1:09 am

    I was raised in the dark ages where cops carried revolvers (as I did for six years military and six years civilian LE). With the exception of the .357 Magnum with the Remington Peters 125 grain scalloped hollow-points the basic wisdom was, “If the caliber doesn’t start with a “4” it ain’t worth s****.” I carry a .40 S&W Glock 23 today. My .40 may expand to a .45 but it will never shrink to a 9mm (.355). I agree with the doc on this one.

  • JB June 2, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Also, like the physician points out, shot placement is everything. I was at two different felonious shootings in the same month some years ago. The first victim took a .22LR round to the gut: he died from blood loss due to his liver being eviscerated. The second took a .45ACP Eldorado Starfire to his chest just below his sternum. He should have been DRT (dead right there) but he lived to testify against his attacker. The slug just missed all the major organs by slipping past them where the puzzle pieces fit together and stopped just shy of his spine. Lucky indeed.

    With the aforementioned said, I’ve also see our .40 cal rounds do some nastiness to felons consistently. Why go smaller if you can handle something bigger? Carry and use what you shoot the best, but keep in mind that bullets do weird things & bigger is still better–generally. That whole high school physics thing again….

  • JB June 2, 2018, 10:31 pm

    I’ve been a police officer in a large SW agency for 22 yrs. I’m still packing my trusty Glock 35 on duty & the 23 for off duty/plain clothes. I have a semi tricked out Beretta 96A1 for S&G and wilderness use that shoots very very well.

    So many on my department have jumped on the 2014 FBI fanboy 9×19 bandwagon. I’m a stubborn holdout and refuse to give up my .40’s. This is my riposte to said fanboy’s: “the laws of physics have yet to be repealed”. Generally, that shuts them up.

  • Will Drider May 28, 2018, 11:35 pm

    So many prior comments, this may never be noticed but it should be of value to those that read it.

    This version is correct: A well placed shot from most guns is better then no gun at all. There are numerous examples of this with man and beast at the muzzle end receiving CNS or on the other end: non incapacitating hits.

    All bullets/ projectiles have the potential to fail depending on what it encounters prior to contact with flesh. This fact potentially renders all shots to hit and function as solids/FMJ. We should select cartridges by how they perform at their worst FMJ/Ball. When you find a Ball cartridge that provides your minimally acceptable hit performance with a firearm you shoot well: You have the right tools. From this point, you can pick and choose any “magic bullet” (FBI’s choice or one of the other 50 on the Market). At best, the magic bullets will work as advertised but if they fail you will still get adequate results. If you choose your weapon/caliber based on the performance of magic bullets and those bullets fail, you have no guarantee of a subordinate adequate result.

    The FBIs latest choice was driven by a few factors but the main one was advancements in bullet technology. So if your not carrying a full size handgun, your already compromising on capacity. Are you concerned with the recoil of your current carry gun or wear of parts as you intend to use it? Surely, you bought one you handle well. So the only thing on the FBI advantage list is bullet technology and you can buy and test what ever magic bullets you want in your current handgun/caliber. If it ain’t broke, just buy more bullets for it. Lol

    We all roll the dice but I prefer to remove a loosing variable from the odds.

  • BILL KING May 28, 2018, 7:32 am

    it is like the good dr. said….”I have seen a guy survive being shot with a .45ACP to the torso and another paralyzed for life with a .25 ACP to the neck. Shot placement is everything “….in times of duress, your training will save your life, god willing….shooting a static paper target that is not moving is much different than a real live gun fight …..what ever you shoot shoot well….your life and your loved ones lives depend on it.
    P.S. thanks doc for a well written article !

  • Green tip May 22, 2018, 8:23 pm

    Glad I’ve got the bases covered then. I’ve always felt very confident in the handguns I have. Not a Glock “fanboy”, not by a long shot, dislike the term as like everything else these days people abuse it. That being said, I ALMOST always carry a Glock; either a G19 or at times a G22, .40 S&W which is big to conceal for me. When I want to be a bit more discreet, I go to the M&P Shield 9. The bottom line is this:WHATEVER you carry, make sure it’s broken-in & reliable; RELIABLE with your defensive loads. Make sure you’re accurate with it & it’s comfortable on your person. Train, practice as much as possible, also AT NIGHT utilizing different lights/scenarios. Be confident in your training & aware of your surroundings

    • Green tip May 22, 2018, 8:26 pm

      ..I might add: be familiar with GSW first aid as you are a First responder…

  • ejharb May 22, 2018, 1:20 pm

    45acp when I can and a accurate 380 acp when I can’t.22 with a can when I don’t want to wake the neighbors.good enough for me.
    If I had to run a 9 I’d be ok with it.
    40 I care less about.ymmv

  • Purple People Eater May 22, 2018, 12:33 am

    For some bizarre reason guys want to believe everything must be a compromise, and that there is no such thing as a free lunch. When it comes to caliber the good news is you don’t need to compromise, 9mm does everything better, .40 and .45 offer no demonstrable advantage and have many disadvantages. This isn’t twenty years ago huge amounts of R&D have been put in to this by the government and industry since 9/11. Spend a weekend, thumb through the data produced by varied, independent and reputable, professional sources. There is a near consensus among professionals for the first time since the 80’s when rudimentary exploration of this topic began. Anecdotes and personal experience literally don’t mean a thing, the people who have studied this the most have reached a nearly universal conclusion 9mm is not just the best, it is the best in nearly every meaningful way.

    • fernando March 18, 2020, 1:14 am

      if you think .40 was a compromise, certainly 10mm is the solution

  • Joe May 21, 2018, 11:44 pm

    I believe I read all the comments…pro and con. Hyperbole and profundity! Look. We all have certain tastes, whether it be ice cream, coffee, females-whatever. I like pistols, rifles. I shoot a bow as well. Some guys will argue the the point whether a re-curve is better than a compound. It’s a matter of the palate. A healthy debate is great for heated conversation whether it is in a court environment or an online discussion trying to make our
    our own personal views validated.
    I personally have shot everything from a 44-40 ’73,back in 52,.357;44;45;454,(454 is a handful), all stuffed with lead hollow points for internal evisceration, to a 40 mm in the military and everything in-between. Bigger is naturally better, like trying to shoot down an approaching ME109 with a 30-30, or a 20mm. Which would you prefer? Better explained, I have shot and killed animals, deer especially, with a 22 hornet, to an elk with a .416 Rem Mag, quite an awesome hole, that .416 makes! I also shot and killed a mountain lion in California(many years ago when it was legal to do so), with a 38 spl JHP. The point being, as many of you already know by now, is that ANY bullet fired will kill. Single shot, double tap, it’s where the vital is hit and to whom it was applied to. One person’s body will react differently to another. I read once where an American GI was shot through the heart with an 8mm and lived! There goes that theory out the window about vital hits! How about the GI who parachuted out of a crippled 17 during WWII, chute didn’t open, landed in a snow bank and lived?
    What I’m trying to get at in conclusion is, we are preaching to the choir. we all enjoy going to the range and shoot, personal preferences aside, why deride each other over semantics is petty. We all have our opinions;good;bad, accurate or inaccurate. Is it a clip, or is it a magazine? It could be both. Not being an engineer of mechanical aptitude, it could be both, right?
    Enjoyed reading all the comments. First time here. Quite a few pertinent observations. It certainly was entertaining. I was ready to go to bed for the evening until I stumbled on this post. As said in my native Polish language, dzien dobry.

  • mikey May 21, 2018, 11:01 pm

    As a reloader 40S&W stinks. It is limited in decent data. There is always that gang GLOCKED BRASS! The price break between components between 9and 40 is steep. The load seems to be erratic also. Not just reloads but factory ammo is peculiar. It is hard to find round to round consistency. I’ve had squibs with factory loads. Even the expensive stuff seems to have too many empty “clicks” for my liking. Most of those had powder in them! I’ve also heard complaints that having the same gun in 9mm and 40S&W has led to a few too many 9mms having been fired in 40 S&W barrels.

  • Dollar Dr May 21, 2018, 8:08 pm

    This is a well-written article, but three anecdotes do not substitute for facts/research. Of course, one will never find volunteers to participate in a study that tests the effect of various caliber bullets in humans. While Massad Ayoob is extremely knowledgeable about firerms ( I have had the pleasure of taking a course taught by him), he does not have experience treating people with GSW’s in a busy trauma center and is not qualified to render a valid opinion regarding the field efficacy of various caliber bullets. I have been taught by the best and have been a state certified firwarms instructor, in addition to working as a service chief in one of the busiest trauma centers in the USA. Government abandoned the 10 mm because no one could reliably handle it in a rapid shootout, and the same reasoning applied to women in federal service not being able to handle the 40 cal. In my opinion, the women could have learned to readily manage the 40 cal IF THEY HAD PRACTICED MORE! I am of slight build, in my 70’s and have no difficulty managing the 40 cal. Shot placement, particularly the first one, is paramount. However, 22, 25, 380 and even the FMJ 9mm will deflect off the side of the human forehead. Yet I have seen victims die from well placed multiple 22 cal shots that hit the aorta and/or the origin of a vessel such as the superior mesenteric artery. In contrast, my colleagues and I have seen several criminals amped up on drugs with several 9 mm shots to the heart still require several police officers to restrain them. The latter reinforces the adage that you shoot until the treat is stopped. This is what the police do, and this also is the right of law abiding citizens. The best firearm is the one you have wth you when you need it. Virtually any adult can learn to shoot at least a 9 mm. I suppose one could get lucky with a 22 or 25, but I would not bet my life on it. I know a retired police captain who is one of the few national master NRA instructors who carries a 9mm. Another nationally well-known instructor with whom I have trained carries a 45 cal Glock. The lesson is get a larger caliber firearm that is comfortable to shoot, practice, practice and practice and get good instruction on a yearly basis so that you have good habits and are taught to be constantly aware of your surroundings. As Tom Givens states, “perfect practice makes perfect.” Practice the incorrect way and you will be an unfortunate statistic !

  • mike May 21, 2018, 6:26 pm

    good comments I read them all!
    9mm is popular right now,but lawenforcement will always change and the 40, 45, and 357 SIG could be found in holsters across this country. 9mm will never be the be all /end all round.

  • RMac May 21, 2018, 5:27 pm

    Discussion on this site are just like the ones on a bourbon group I’m on. I’m right, everybody else is wrong and your taste sucks. I’m just an ordinary 60+ working guy who loves guns, shoots what I like, and carry for self protection. I think, other than age, the vast majority of gun owners and shooters are in the same crowd. I’m with the any gun is better than no gun crowd. If your not comfortable with anything your shooting, in a high stress situation your gun is useless, and unfortunately you can’t practice life or death stress. At least if you practice and get comfortable with your weapon of choice, you have a chance.

    • Greywolf May 25, 2018, 5:10 pm

      Have you ever shot an IPSC (or similar) match? Good fun!
      Try it and see about stress…

  • Bill D May 21, 2018, 5:03 pm

    I really like the doctor’s writing style but I am more impressed with is biography. He has “been there – done that.” And, of course, in addition to the thoughtful responses, there are always those few who honestly believe that if you don’t fully agree with them, you just don’t know shi+.
    Several years ago, a friend an I both purchased S&W Compact M&P’s the same day at a gun show. His was in 9mm and mine was .40. After examining the two in minute detail, I came to the conclusion that the only difference was the barrel and magazine. I ordered a 9mm barrel and a couple of 9mm mags and have been shooting both rounds in my handgun.
    I like the .40 really well and have carried it CCW for several years. I also like the 9mm for practice and plinking. It makes me happy that no matter which round wins out in the opinion polls – I have them both. I also have a stainless Kimber compact 1911 in .45 which I also Carry in my vehicle. Bring it on, I’m ready!

  • Thomas Fowler May 21, 2018, 4:12 pm

    I hadn’t intended to read the whole article, but it was so well-rounded and written that I consumed it all. Thanks, Doc…not enough nodds to the .45ACP, for me…but still, nicely done. I have struggled with the caliber thing for many, many years. I carried the full-sized .45 long before it was sagacious to carry an automatic on police duty. Never had to shoot anyone, thank God above. That is a minefield that I never had to negotiate with my psyche. I think some nodd could have been given to shortened .40’s or .45’s…I carry a Kimber when needed to go heeled…which, as I grow older, is more and more seldom. I forget who advised, “Carry enough rifle”…probably about Africa…but, that is more than correct when applied to a fight with pistols. Avoid trouble when you can, yet–be prepared to deal out the most god-awful terror and power when you must…not pop the other guy, hoping that he does not pop you back. Enjoyed the article, Sir.

  • DEFENDER May 21, 2018, 3:56 pm

    When I was 30 I could lift my girlfriend over my head with 1hand.

    I shot&used 45cal, 40 and 357.

    Now at 71 I do good to lift my own “arm” over my head.

    Also not really considered in the arguments is shots on target “at speed”.

    Or multiple threats. Or Cost to practice.

    Anyway – now at a weaker, slower 71yo, I am a 9mm fan.

    1 – Cost – On fixed income, I can shoot a LOT more 9mm in practice.
    And “practice” is “where it is at”. I am talking 1k rds/mo.

    2 – Shots “on target” “at speed” favor the 9mm (see Newton’s laws of motion)(recoil)

    3 – Multiple Threats : 45 = 8rds vs 9mm = 17rds.

    Shooting 45=15sec vs 9mm=5sec (on target).

    I now “carry” (46rds – 9mm) vs (24rds – 45cal).

    4 – Carry – More likely to carry a lighter 9 than, 45 Brick.

    When you go from being 6ft 180lb(Bull) to 5ft 8″ 150lb(old, broke down).

    “Im going to need those extra rounds”

    Maybe?, but they are way more likely to hit something vital, quicker.

    I am talking modern Defensive HP’s. Critical Defense.

    I am a “Fan” of: Shot Placement, and Volume of Fire.

    And “Also Carry”(like the author) a 9mm Compact,

    and 2 xtra mags. 46rds. 12+17+17(Full Size Spare mags fit my Compact).

  • Kaniksu Kidd May 21, 2018, 2:50 pm

    This has been stated before and bears repeating: the best caliber for self-defense is the one you are carrying at the time you need it.

    I really like the doc’s writing style – keep it up sir!

  • FirstStateMark May 21, 2018, 2:47 pm

    The 40. If I read another article about the pros and cons of the 40 caliber my head is going to explode. I don’t give a rats ass if law enforcement drop the 40 or the military drops the 40. There are people out there who like the 40 and swear buy it. Leave these people the hell alone. It’s non of your business wh

    • FirstStateMark May 21, 2018, 2:50 pm

      (i don’t know what the hell happened here) Anyway, It’s non of your business what the other guy carries in his weapon. Please STOP with the 40 caliber likes and dislikes.

  • xt500max May 21, 2018, 2:33 pm

    I think you all are missing the point. You best shot is the first one, if you expect to spray and pray you are going
    to be left in a bad place.
    This energy to spray at the quickest point will leave nothing but rounds going everywhere.
    How did we get to this idea that anyone needs more than 6-8 rounds? TV? the movies?
    So many times the POLICE will shoot a trail of hits from the ground to the “target” its amazing more innocent bystanders
    get hit……and they are way more trained than most EVERYONE that has a concealed permit.
    I think it is more similar to hunting, if you use a single shot you aren’t thinking about a follow-up shot..you just make the
    one you have “work.”
    If you can’t hit with a standard single stack or a wheelgun, you have NO biz carrying any gun.
    Sorry guys, if you can’t hit target with an honest 2-3MOA (minimum), you should’t go hunting. I watch every year at
    sight in days and there are FEW that can keep the above in the reasonable zone.
    Heaven help up with people trying to “defend” us when it doesn’t appear many people can reach minimum ability
    to hit the broad side of a proverbial barn.
    Yes I am fixated on shooting competently, but you people are out of your mind.

    • Darryl May 21, 2018, 4:21 pm

      i know what you mean about the cops shootings, i’ve watched video’s when cops get into a shoot out and they just unload and the ones i’ve seen where their on a road you can just see all the hits that are hitting the street and like you said these are the highly trained cops. so when someone try’s to tell me we need to let the cops take care of us as they have all this training, well i say thanks but i can take care of my self. me i’ve always liked the .45 full size 5″barrel. maybe a little heavier then some others but if that what you carry and are use to it it’s not heavy at all.

  • BRASS May 21, 2018, 2:16 pm

    This guy has quite the resume.

  • Kevin Wimer May 21, 2018, 1:38 pm

    I have to agree with Dr. I carry the 45 daily, and keep the 40 on the nightstand. I understand that the military and police went back to the 9 only because so many had problems shooting the 40. It had nothing to do with which caliber was better. Many of the police at the time fought for the 40

  • Tyler Price May 21, 2018, 1:26 pm

    Ummm, so you roughly covered the 9mm, 45ACP and the 40 Smith, but left our the whole testing and choice of the 10mm (“40 Smith Sr.”) for use by the FBI. The 40 Smith evolved from that process. That might add to what you have to say. I still carry a Smith 1006 regularly and a Glock Model 40. I load them up and down for whatever purposes I need.

  • HEATH May 21, 2018, 1:26 pm

    I really like the fact that departments are switching calibers, cheap police trade in guns, it’s amazing that one can buy $300 glocks. Keep up the good work folks.

  • lukeum May 21, 2018, 12:17 pm

    ah the good old.357 mag

  • Mike Watkins May 21, 2018, 12:16 pm

    After reading what Dr. Dabbs and the commenters say, I can only reach one conclusion:

    From now on I’ll be carrying a 12-gauge full of double-ought buck.

  • Gustavo May 21, 2018, 11:57 am


    Statistics over one case, not ammo type, distance, gun ?
    I’m from South America, the 9mm takes 90% of the shootings, I will recommend to watch videos of Brazilian police responding with 9mm
    And write another article

    • Trevor March 10, 2020, 8:13 am

      Brazilian police secured a contract for Glock 22 (.40) in a gen 5… yes, gen 5. Look it up.

  • DIYinSTL May 21, 2018, 11:49 am

    A few years ago, when the ammo shelves were bare, the one cartridge I could always find was .40 S&W. Whether that is testimony as to why you should own at least one or evidence of a justified lack of popularity is open to argument.

  • DEFENDER May 21, 2018, 11:35 am

    Yup, well written, good supported arguments.

    For the 30 something Spec Force operator.

    My compliments.

    When I was 30 I could lift my girlfriend over my head with 1hand.

    I shot & used 45cal, 40 and 357.

    Now at 70 I do good to lift my own “arm” over my head.

    Also not really considered in the arguments is shots on target “at speed”.

    Or multiple threats. Or Cost to practice.

    Anyway – now at a weaker, slower, poorer, 71yo, I am a 9mm fan.

    1 – Cost – On fixed income, I can shoot a LOT more 9mm in practice.

    And “practice” is “where it is at”. I am talking 1k rds/mo.

    2 – Shots “on target” “at speed” favor the 9mm (see Newton’s laws of motion)(recoil)

    3 – Multiple Threats : 45 = 8rds vs 9mm = 17rds.

    Shooting 45=15sec vs 9mm=5sec (on target).

    I now “carry” (46rds – 9mm) vs (24rds – 45cal).

    4 – Carry – More likely to carry a lighter 9 than, 45 Brick.

    When you go from 6ft 180lb(Bull) to 5ft 8″ 150lb(old fart).

    “Your going to need those extra 9mm rounds” ?

    Maybe?, but they are way more likely to hit something vital, quicker.

    I am talking modern Defensive HP’s. Critical Defense.

    I am a “Fan” of: Shot Placement, and Volume of Fire.

    And “Also Carry”(like the author) a 9mm Compact,

    and 2 xtra mags. 46rds. 12+17+17(Full Size Spare mags fit my Compact).

    Trained Police have a hit rate of only 25%. (With 40cal!)

    With a 45 @ 8rds = 2 hits. Maybe?(but harder to shoot than 40)

    Ever been in a “real” fight?

    Do you shoot better than trained Police?

    With 45 You better be Way Better.

    Especially with multiple threats.

  • Tyler May 21, 2018, 11:11 am

    It may be old and admittedly older bullet technology, but any article about lethality of handgun rounds should mention the Strasbourg tests of ’91. It was lethality studied under controlled conditions… Not ER or crime scene anecdotes ie randomness

  • ding May 21, 2018, 11:09 am

    Another article to sell more ammo. It’s not about the cartridge people. Carry whatever the hell you feel comfortable with and are capable of shooting well. If that means 22 LR then by all means carry 22 LR. Remember this, ALL PISTOL ROUNDS SUCK as far as terminal performance goes. There isn’t anywhere that a person can be shot where a .45 will kill him and a .22 won’t. If something critical doesn’t get hit, the bad guy isn’t going down. Even then depending on his physical fitness and mental state even that might take awhile.

    A quick correction though, the military uses 115 gr FMJs in their 9mm round.

    • Brandon May 21, 2018, 2:01 pm

      Your “quick correction” is incorrect. The US Military uses the M882, a 124gr fmj. It would serve you well to use actual facts, especially if you are going to correct people.

      • Chris May 22, 2018, 12:26 am

        Nope. TM 43-0001-27, “Army Ammunition Data Sheets Small Caliber Ammunition FSC 1305” chapter 12 page 5 shows the M882 NATO Ball cartridge loaded with a 112gr projectile. I really don’t care what the internet says, this is the Army’s published ammunition specifications.

  • bobh May 21, 2018, 11:06 am

    Regardless of the author or his conclusions, every article I’ve ever read comparing 9mm to ,40 S&W to .45 ACP has invariably stated that the .45 ACP is harder to shoot for “small stature individuals” because of it’s greater recoil. That always puzzles me because as one of those “smaller stature” folks- barely 5’4″and 130 lbs soaking wet- who has carried pistols in all three calibers and shot thousands of full power rounds through each I’ve always found my .45s EASIER to control than the .40 S&W.

  • ~ Occams May 21, 2018, 11:04 am

    Google ISN’T ‘your buddy’, and if you’re awake and aware, or FINALLY waking up, you’ll know this. NO ONE awake uses anything Goolag.


  • justjim May 21, 2018, 10:56 am

    With an emphasis on shot placement and hitting what you are pointing at I’ll say: Carry and shoot what you shoot best.
    40. is a bit too “snappy” for me. I carried a G21 (a brick… maybe how Sisyphus felt) for a long time. Recently got a G19 and have taken to carrying it. I am able to hit and follow up effectively with either so that dictated my choices.

  • KCshooter May 21, 2018, 10:52 am

    The .40s&w round is dying, that is just a simple fact.
    Good riddance to a bad compromise.

  • Terry May 21, 2018, 10:52 am

    A doctor should know about making decisions based upon a sample size on 1. I am sure there was a guy that had his life saved by amputating one leg, doesn’t mean that you should always just amputate a leg…

    Proper bullet is always critical, and especially in 9mm for defensive use. The failed FBI shooting was with old 115gr silvertips, bullets that were then shown to plug and act like FMJs.

    Most special forces like 45ACP as full power loads are SUBSONIC, so easily suppressed compared to the high velocity of 9mm rounds. A huge factor in cartridge choice for those that will often need to suppress their pistols…

    I doubt most street punks care much about it and use whatever rounds. An educated legal owner should be more vigilant, and modern 124gr and 147gr 9mm loads have been shone to be order of magnitude better than the 115s, especially the old or the current cheap JHP rounds.

    A bias is fine, but being completely ignorant you have an inherent bias and just going with it is a terrible thing. Especially in a doctor. Confirmation bias… Hope that doesn’t also impact his treatment plans for patients.

  • B May 21, 2018, 10:37 am

    If the 40 is the end all be all for law enforcement why did it fail so badly when it came out the first time as the 41 AE?

    The biggest problem with the 9mm is that people keep trying to feed it light bullets. The 9 was designed to be used with 147 gr. bullets. Someone in the US decided to shave a few ounces off his/her load-out and went to 115 gr. and blamed the performance on the round.
    Use heavier bullets in the 9 and the differences between the main 3- 9/40/45 get pretty small. That said, I will take the higher round count and better recovery of a nine every time.
    If you are really concerned with power over placement, carry a full house 10mm. Same size firearm as the 45 and more power.

  • DEFENDER May 21, 2018, 10:33 am

    Yup, well written, good supported arguments.

    For the 30 something Spec Force operator.
    Who can likely shoot way better than Police.
    My compliments.

    BUT Most CCW’s Don’t shoot “better” than Police.
    And even Trained Police have a hit rate of only 25%. (With 40cal!)
    So with a 45 @ 8rds = 2 hits. Maybe?(but its harder to shoot than 40)(at speed)
    “And” a “real fight” is way different than the Range.

    Do you shoot better than trained Police?
    You best be Way Better.
    Especially if there is more than 1 threat.
    Are you 70yo or more? It “does” make a difference.

    ps I shoot a Defensive Pistol or Rifle competition every week.
    Have shot most (not all in competition): 22, 380, 9mm, 10mm, 38, 40, 44, 45, 454, 50cal. Pistol.

  • Jay May 21, 2018, 10:25 am

    This article as a whole reads like a 40 Cal sales pitch! Trying to revive a dead caliber to get rid of all the guns maybe. Just kidding, if you like the 40 more power to you! I don’t care if you shoot a 380, 9mm, 40, 45 etc… shot placement will always rule! The reasons given for the FBI and others to change back to 9mm were based on studies of wound ballistics and shooter performance. Not to mention the availability of better ammunition and real wound channel studies! The 40 cal wound channel was only at the most, 1 millimeter larger than the 9mm in real world wound channels!

  • NWJamie May 21, 2018, 10:07 am

    We all know why, the .40 isn’t being used in Law Enforcement. It’s BECAUSE everyone has a right, to be a police officer. Those ‘rights’ don’t help the 5’2″/165lb , 42 yr old rookie female cop. You know the one. She’s been involved in the gov’t union, since she was 18. She just recently retired from the county school lunch program, where she cooked hot dogs, for 4th graders…she did it, for 20 yrs.

    Her union suggested, she ‘double-dip’ her retirement, and get a SECOND GOVERNMENT JOB…

    A gov’t union, will rape your economy.


    • Phred May 21, 2018, 11:41 am

      Careful,Sir, with your generalizations

      • jamie May 21, 2018, 1:45 pm

        …sir…? talk about ‘IRONY’ You’re a walking, PHOOL…!

  • Barta May 21, 2018, 9:46 am

    It is too bad that he did not use the 147gr 9mm in the comparison. The muzzle pressure of the .40 does slow the follow up shot but as “fearfully and wonderfully made” humans, we can adapt it all sorts of things. Though, I guess the poor Israelis, who have sent a ton of terrorists to the next world, never read this article.

    • ~ Occams May 21, 2018, 11:11 am

      And what ‘terrorists’ would those be?

      “I am unaware of any animal that is as cruel as Israelis— not even crocodiles. They bomb schools, hospitals, refugee camps, orphanages, UN feeding stations, water works, power plants, ambulances, kids playing on the beach. They put millions of people in a siege. They shoot children going to school. They kidnap kids and harvest their organs. They inject prisoners with disease pathogens before releasing them. They murder by land, sea and air and worst of all, they slander their defenseless victims as ‘terrorists’. ”

      ~ David Attenborough

  • Zupglick May 21, 2018, 9:37 am

    .40 S&W is a fine round and the one I carry regularly. But, from personal experience as far as stopping power is concerned I prefer “Dirty Harry” .44 Rem. Mag. I had to shoot a 160lb dog that was threatening my wife and daughter and I grabbed my S&W 629. One round to the chest from the front and I had to clean up with a shovel and pressure washer.

  • krinkov545 May 21, 2018, 9:29 am

    Talking with the some big Twin Cities gun shop salesmen, they won’t even take trades of 40 S&W HGs so around here it’s looking like a dead round. About time too.

  • Norm May 21, 2018, 9:23 am

    As an FFL dealer at the time of the .40 S&W’s introduction, I was right on board, stocking up on guns and ammo. However, I remain unimpressed with the round to this day. Even so, not having Dr. Dabbs’ hands on ER history, I certainly find no fault in his accumulated opinions derived from personal experiences. Notwithstanding the 9×19 remains my “go to” round of first choice.

  • Vanns40 May 21, 2018, 9:14 am

    Thanks, enjoyed the column. I carried and trained with a Glock 23 for more than 23 years before finally retiring and going back to a Glock 19.

    One question; you mention the Mention the Miami shootout and the guy who took a 9mm to the chest. Weren’t all suspects wearing full body armor? If that was the case it wouldn’t have made any difference if it was 38, 9, 40 or 45. Slightly more blunt force but those guys were, if you watch the videos, heavily armored up.

  • Keith May 21, 2018, 9:04 am

    After working several murders, suicides, and attempted murders involving .25 ACP, .32 ACP, .380 ACP, 9mm, .40 S&W, .44 Special and .45 ACP at my first department and studying any verifiable cases and statistical data I can find, the only conclusion I have is that once you get to the major service calibers(.38 Special, 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP) or similar rounds caliber is irrelevant and shot placement and luck is the only things that matter. I worked an attempted murder where the “victim” was shot in the head with a .45 and then drove himself to the E.R. and never lost consciousness. I worked another where the guy was shot multiple times with a .40 and fought(hand to hand) and escaped and ran away and was still walking and fully conscious for thirty minutes until both of his lungs collapsed in the E.R. He was released from the hospital two days later and made a full recovery. I worked another where the victim was shot once with a .380 in the abdomen and the only reason he lived is witnesses grabbed him off the ground and drove him to the hospital before he bled out internally. I worked a murder where a guy was shot by his girlfriend with a .25 Auto and was DRT in the dining room floor where he was shot. Another where the victim was shot once with a .380 center mass and was DRT in his garage where he was shot. All total six murders with .380’s, one with a .25 Auto and two with 9mm’s that were all one shot kills. We never had a single murder with a .45 or .40 even with multiple shots to the abdomen and chest and all of those walked into the E.R. on their own steam including one where the bullet missed his heart by literally an inch.

    Quite frankly I would feel better armed and statistically would be better armed with a double stack 9mm and ball ammo over a double stack .40 or a .45 with hollow points simply because I would have anywhere two to nine more chances for good shot placement and I am not an advocate for carrying ball ammo unless it’s in .380 ACP or smaller rounds.

    • Luke May 21, 2018, 11:07 am

      Thanks for that.

  • Stephen davies May 21, 2018, 8:51 am

    All that new technology put in a 9mm to increase it lethality has also been put into 40sw and 45acp witch still makes them more lethal than a 9mm.
    For the FBI to change back to another caliber is just a waste of taxpayers money

    • Rane May 21, 2018, 10:13 am

      I agree completely. It seems people forget that all this new bullet and powder technology isn’t limited to one caliber. I handload all three of the calibers in this article and I can tell you the .40 offers the most potential for energy. A 135 gr hollow point in front of 11.5 gr of longshot powder pushes the bullet over 1450 fps from a P226, and 1430 fps from my favorite little .40 the walther PPS. That’s over 600 ft-lbs of energy. No 9mm or .45 has that capability. No matter how +p+++ you go. That load data is straight of Hodgdon’s website and it’s actually lower pressure that max.

  • Neil J May 21, 2018, 8:11 am

    Thank you for this article. I carried a S&W Shield, 40, for the last 5 yrs. Recently put it away for the 9mm Shield. The 40 goes back on my waist today.

  • Agent Smith May 21, 2018, 8:08 am

    First of all, loved your article. I especially cracked up at the Terminator reference, but then it did make me sad. Gone are the days where you could walk into a gun shop and purchase a full auto Uzi or the beloved spas-12, especially in the communist state of California; which regrettably is where I’m from. I did decide to live free and move to Texas years ago however.

    I think you hit the nail right on the head with the most important sentence of the entire article, “life is all about compromises”. Each caliber and its respective platform are going to offer different things that one could construe as a pro or a con depending on what you’re looking for in a firearm.

    I read a fantastic article on this website about a year ago where a gentleman compiled shooting data over thousands of test cases and the round that yielded the “best” data in terms of lowest amount of rounds fired in an engagement, most successful round to end an engagement after only one round on target, etc. was the .357. this was according to that one particular article, which I have exhaustively looked for in the archives but cannot find. If anyone finds the article or knows which one I’m talking about please feel free to attach a link to it! Bottom line: train or die.

  • Tom Szczepaniak May 21, 2018, 8:04 am

    Handgun ammunition performance has come a long way in the last 10 years but, effective incapacitation still relies on shot placement AND multiple rounds until the threat STOPS…….

    • Tom Szczepaniak May 21, 2018, 8:14 am

      Just to add, I do own handgun calibers in .380, 9mm, 40 S&W, 357 Sig and a 1911 45 ACP……

    • Terry May 21, 2018, 10:57 am

      Exactly. The good doctor cherry picked his examples to feed his bias. Why not include that guy that took a good 124gr to the chest that ripped apart the heart? And that guy that took a .45 to the pelvis area and kept on fighting…

      Sorry Doc, but I will take Masaad’s opinions over yours…

  • Infidel762X51 May 21, 2018, 8:04 am

    If the wonder bullets make a 9 so much beyter that using them in the 40 or 45 would also make those much more effective.

  • triggerpull May 21, 2018, 7:50 am

    40 S&W is just a 10mm wearing a tutu. ; )

  • Buff May 21, 2018, 7:48 am

    The 40 is an exceptional round, always has been. Bigger is better, to the point that you can control it.

    Good article, except you need to brush up on your Latin. Para Bellum does not mean “If you desire peace prepare for war”

    Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum, does.

    • Thomas Fowler May 21, 2018, 6:57 pm

      Buff is right, Doc.

  • Dr Motown May 21, 2018, 7:44 am

    Good comments from everyone and nice to see civility in this perpetual caliber debate! Not the usual screech-fest that we see on this topic

  • Delajoux May 21, 2018, 7:35 am

    “Parabellum” means prepare for war
    “Si vis pacem” means If you seek peace

    But it comes from the proverb: “Si vis pacem parabellum” if you seek peace, prepare for war.

  • Joe Gallagher May 21, 2018, 7:28 am

    Dr. Dabbs – Will, well researched and well written – an excellent article 🙂 The views, thoughts, and opinions regarding caliber choice and selection — EDC, home defence, etc. — seem to go on forever. In the end, I sense that it comes down to personal choice. I have a Glock Model 27 which I carry from time to time. However, my primary EDC is a S&W Shield in 9mm — flat easily concealable, and reliable. Look forward to additional articles.

  • Russell May 21, 2018, 6:46 am

    I’ve seen a bit penetrating trauma in the E.R. and from the head of the table as an anesthesiologist at an inner city trauma center and I think the emphasis on survivability is misleading. Incapacitation is the aim of a self defense round. No pistol round has the energy to assure that without a CNS, heart or great vessel hit. That macerated lung lobe may be hard to repair in the OR but it tells you nothing about how the patient responded after being hit. In essence this discussion comes down to the final effects of the calibers. Killing not defending. I carry a Glock 43 with the best self defense rounds I can find. The ability to place rounds on target and the determination of the aggressor will be the deciding factors for any pistol round.

  • Dennis Tucker May 21, 2018, 6:43 am

    And here I was thinking that they went back to 9mm because more rounds helps for all of the missed shots.

    My personal carry gun(s) are chambered in .40. I have a M&P compact and full size M&P with an RMR, STI and Hi Power all in 40. Round is a 155 gr HP at 1280 fps. It will handle most social work.

  • KCshooter May 21, 2018, 6:13 am

    Anybody who thinks terminal performance is significantly different between 9mm and .40s&w knows exactly shit about terminal performance.

    It’s all kool-aid, kids. Drink up.

    • Al May 21, 2018, 9:04 am

      Interesting comment, so YOUR view is better than others, eh?
      Tell us, what are YOUR credentials???
      Uh huh, thought so.
      BTW, if you’re such an expert, why did you leave out that terminal performance is MOSTLY about the bullet, and it’s placement?
      Uh huh.

      • KCshooter May 21, 2018, 10:41 am

        What are you butthurt about?
        (Facts and statistics upset the ignorant.)
        Must be one of those .40 fanbois.
        Sounds like you need a refill.
        More kool-aid?

        • Al May 21, 2018, 4:59 pm

          Not “butthurt” at all, I just love to mess with self declared ‘experts’ who make foolish comments.
          The gun world is full of ’em,
          You want ignorant? Look in the mirror.
          Mean spirited too.
          And you quoted NO facts nor stats, silly man.

      • KCshooter May 21, 2018, 10:58 am

        I don’t need credentials to make a statement that includes proven facts. I’m not trying to prove anything, I’m telling you what others have already proven. I don’t care if you approve of my statement, either, it’s still a fact.

        • Kenny Smith May 21, 2018, 6:25 pm

          KC there is one in every post these days , just ignore them !! Good comment BTW !!!

      • Terry May 21, 2018, 10:59 am

        Ever read any of Massad Ayoob’s works? He says about the same thing. SO go argue with him over his credentials…

        • Massad Ayoob May 22, 2018, 12:13 am

          Massad Ayoobs credentials are largely self fabricated. He filled a void with something, anything, during decades that had nearly no institutionally transferable or sharable professionally developed knowledge base or data sets relevant to self defense shooting or wound ballistics. Mostly he was a paid court room performer that people went to because largely in the 70’s, 80’s and even early 90’s there was no one else to go to and no one knew any better. While I laud his intentions (including profit) he was a self declared expert in a time that lacked almost any others to compare him too. This isn’t the 90’s, or even 2000’s both the commercial and government sectors have studied every aspect of this ad nauseaum over the last 15 years. To any one familiar with all the data and research that has been put in to this since 9/11 it really isn’t a matter of opinion any more. You sacrifice nothing by choosing 9mm for self defense and you never did not even using FMJ, you don’t have to compromise, .40 and .45 don’t do anything better. The F.B.I., state and local leo’s, nearly all elements of the military including JSOC, and most newer generation commercial trainers have seen all the data that has been professionally produced by varied sources and come to a near consensus. There are no demonstrable meaningful differences in “Terminal ballistics”, or barrier penetration among the majors in duty loads or any loads (including FMJ). There is literally no factual basis to believe .40 or .45 offer any advantage what so ever.

  • Sam Ricker Jr. May 21, 2018, 5:57 am

    Maybe the 40 cal.is good, but i still like my 45 XDS pistol,I shoot it all the time and i am very good with it.The recoil is not bad.I carry this gun all the time,keep up the good work Doc, for i did like what you wrote.

    • triggerpull May 21, 2018, 7:45 am

      +1 I have many pistols in many calibers–but my XD 45acp consistently turns in the best results for me even out to longer ranges–and I’m not a good handgun shooter. Recoil isn’t the whole story–it’s also how it hits and how easily you can contain the muzzle flip to get quickly back on target. Even a Glock will be happy to jam on you if you limp wrist it.

    • Freedomlover May 21, 2018, 6:56 pm

      I like the .45 Auto round but I like the .40 Smith & Wesson more. You get more rounds in your magazine with .40 Smith & Wesson. From my understanding almost all handgun rounds stink in stopping power minus a few cartridges like the 10 millimeter, the .44 Magnum and more powerful handgun rounds. This is why they teach the double tap to the torso with handgun rounds.

      Real stopping power is in rifle cartridges such as the 7.62 x 39 and more powerful rifle rounds and with shotgun slugs.

  • Derek May 21, 2018, 5:55 am

    I am a conceal carrier.My gun of choice is the Glock model 27 40 cal,love the gun and the round. If I feel like I may need a few more rounds I’ll also carry Sig P320 in 40 and fell confident with both carries.

  • Jeff May 21, 2018, 5:07 am

    I’m with the author on this! The switch back to 9mm is, for the most part, a quick fix in lieu of proper training and/or not receiving enough training. The .40 cal will cause more damage than a 9mm and the .45 will cause more damage than a .40 cal. At the end of the day round placement and bullet type is everything but if you are already good with all three calibers then the .40 cal is the best of both worlds. You get the capacity of a smaller caliber with the stopping power of a higher caliber. Combine that with proper training and good shot placement and there simply is no better choice than to carry the .40 cal. Keep in mind, each tool certainly has it’s place in the tool box which is why I carry a sub-compact single stack 9mm when carrying concealed but I always go back to my full size Glock .40 for regular duty carry. As soon as the FBI switched back to 9mm everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon…

  • Mike Birky May 21, 2018, 5:03 am

    Great article with excellent and realistic venues to prove his point. My wife uses a 9mm because she is small in hand size and statue. I bought my first pistol in Germany at the rod and gun club, a 1911. Once the 40 S&W came out, I was in love and since have purchased more of the pistols and it is my primary reloading program. That being said, it is about practice and getting very familiar with your carry gun. If a person does not practice, 1 out of 5 may not even be realistic. While police and military train for high stress scenarios, the average cc person probably does not. Practice may save a life.
    I will always carry a 40 at a minimum.

  • John May 21, 2018, 4:31 am

    I’m a .40 kind of guy myself as well. Been a fan of it for years.

  • Dalmane May 21, 2018, 3:00 am

    I carried a SIG P226 in .40 S&W for a long time, but changed barrels for the .357 SIG. I simply have better accuracy with it. I’m also fond of the 9mm Makarov, works great with a CZ-82.

    One thing that makes me shy from 9mm Luger is that the .40 has better stopping power vs. dogs. Humans might be deterred by a non-fatal wound, but a dog that attacks is usually determined to teat you up.

    • JHR May 21, 2018, 11:38 am

      Have you been in my gun safe? Quite ecstatic about my CZ 82, East German Makarov, and Polish P-64. Just placed an order for a .357 Sig barrel for my P-226 Stainless Elite so I could have a dual purpose handgun.
      I don’t buy the “.40” is dead mantra but consumers make or break any concept. I’ll keep my .40’s regardless.

  • Robert Smith May 19, 2018, 11:17 pm

    I like the .40 S&W and even more so the .45 ACP because they don’t depend on trick bullets to do their work. Sure the Gold Dots, Critical Defense and other high-performance, ( and high priced), 9mm works well, BUT, remember 2013? If you were lucky enough to find a box of 9mm on the shelf, chances are it was a 115 gr. FMJ.

    As for recoil, in a full-sized service pistol, I don’t find much difference. When it comes to the small single-stacks, the 40 can be petty hard, but even the 9 is jumpy in those little guns. One reason I like to go full-size whenever possible.

    Finally, this Dr. Dabbs is a pretty good gun writer. Reminds me of Col. Askins. Keep it up Doc.

  • Chris May 19, 2018, 2:13 pm

    I agree totally. I worked Washington Hospital Center in DC for 10 years, largest busiest trauma center in the District. Guys came in shot by each other or LEOs using 9mm and 8 out of 10 times walked out (well were escorted out) about a week or so later. The 2 that didn’t were hit in the head, heart or one of the great vessels.
    Conversely those hit by the .45acp or .357mag were usually taking the room temperature challenge either by the time they got to us or shortly thereafter. I like to look at a few cases in particular a couple of liver hits and lung hits. The “modern 9mm LEO rounds” made dime to nickle sized holes that seemed to tamponade on their own thus allowing us to save the poor soul quite easily in the OR with minimal use of our blood stores (maybe 6 units). The .45acp hit were a nightmare. Lemon sized jagged holes that just never stopped bleeding thus dead guy. The lung hits were about the same. Suture the smallish holes in the lung and move on with the 9mm, with the .45acp resect the lobe of mush that’s left and pray.

    The only reason the 9mm is so poplar is two reasons
    1. You can pack more in a magazine
    2. It’s easier to spray and pray because of the lower recoil.

    After 30 years in the OR (8 in the military during wartime) I can quantifiably state that the damage done by the 9mm self defence round, outside of hitting great vessel, long bone or brain, you will need those extra rounds to stop one man. The .40 is slightly better and the .45acp is the king of the 1 or 2 round stop without hitting the afore mentioned vitals.

    • Tom Szczepaniak May 21, 2018, 8:09 am

      Well stated sir……

  • SuperG May 18, 2018, 10:49 am

    I’ve been an ardent fan of the .40 for years and always will be, this article was a good reinforcement for my fandom! Thanks.

    • Drew May 18, 2018, 3:48 pm

      I agree with SuperG however, i know carry my Sig Pro 9mm with Lehigh Defense 9mm xtreme defense bullets loaded. The temp wound channel the 65gr bullet creates is enormous. I think a chainsaw does less damage.

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