The “Modern” 9mm
“You should tell someone what you know. There should be a history, so that men can learn from it.”
He smiled. “Men do not learn from history. Each generation believes itself brighter than the last, each believes it can survive the mistakes of the older ones. Each discovers each old thing and they throw up their hands and say ‘See! Look what I have found! Look upon what I know!’ And each believes it is something new.”
Everywhere you look these days, people are singing the praises of the Modern 9mm. Smallbore advocates have finally been vindicated and they are celebrating with jihadi fervor. I fully expect one of them to announce that the Modern 9mm has replaced the 30-06 as America’s premiere hunting cartridge. This is largely because of the FBI’s recent adoption of the 9mm as the Agency’s service cartridge. Their ‘Summary of Justification for Law Enforcement Partners’ says a lot about their reasons for adopting the Nine. When I first read this diatribe, I thought it was a joke. No matter how you cut it, the best 9mm loads are on par with the best ‘Plus P’ 38 Special loads.
For many years I had access to shooting reports, witness statements, medical records w/photos, radiology imagery and autopsy reports from those types of events. I also developed a base of experience from another two decades of attending these picnics myself. I’ve also shot dozens of animals (a few bent on doing me in) with handguns, ranging is size from 35 to 300 pounds. As you may have guessed, I developed some opinions along the way.
Over the past 45 years I’ve seen countless new pistol loads offered as the ne plus ultra of anti-personnel loads and I’ve seen the FBI christen ‘ideal’ service cartridges three times now- followed by a stampede of lemmings behind them. Frankly I’d rather watch Bullwinkle than suffer through another one. At least Bullwinkle was written by witty people who assumed their audience capable of conscious thought.
Here’s what I think. For unobstructed, face-on body shots to people who acknowledge getting shot’s a bad thing, almost any pistol will work. Pack anything up to & including a 9mm and be happy. If the shootee realizes he’s been hit, he’ll either kill you or retreat- most likely the latter.
If you add four legs, weight over 200 pounds, rage, drugs, alcohol, intervening limbs or oblique angles to the mix, everything changes. You better be able to bore a big hole through him/it from any angle and smash support structures along the way. This is best accomplished with larger bores, more bullet weight and ample velocity for full penetration. Yes, full penetration. Anything effective enough in the worst case will fully penetrate in the best case. Yes, it will have some recoil. Either commit to mastering it or carry something lighter- your choice.
Substantial capacity in your defense gun is an asset because it reduces the likelihood you’ll need to reload. The ability to get center-line hits quickly is priceless, but I’ve never seen a gunfight where ‘split times’ had an effect on the outcome. Generally, everybody opens with a barrage that often has minimal effect on all but the unlucky.* Sensible survivors then attempt to apply some precision and take the other guy out. With a cool head, common sense and persistence- that works.
My notion of an ideal anti-personnel rig is a 40/165/XTP or HST type bullet at 1100 fps from a pistol with substantial capacity, along with a spare magazine. I’ve made do with that on 100+ pound attacking dogs (plural) inside 7 yards and it was just enough. That’s the only event where a well directed burst of shots saved my bacon (all landed in the chest) and I distinctly remember wishing for my single action Ruger 45 Colt loaded with 255 SWC’s at 1050 fps. I guess to a degree, we are all products of our environment.
*You have to be good. The other guy only has to be lucky.
Edited for clarity, 11/25/16