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Why I switched from 9mm to 45 ACP

In the 1980s there were three events that helped influence my opinion on handguns and handgun calibers.

#1 – My dad and I were having a discussion on a revolver vs a pistol.  Even though a revolver holds fewer rounds then a pistol, my dad liked the revolver over pistol the  due to the reliability of the revolver.  There was nothing to jam with the revolver like there is with a pistol.

My dad worked as a Jasper County Texas deputy sheriff during the 1970s.  Even though I greatly respect his opinion, I feel that his opinion might have been influenced by organizations like the FBI who used a service revolver instead of a pistol like the 1911.

The service revolver my dad used was a S&W model 66 combat magnum.  When I graduated high school in 1986, mom and dad bought me a model 66 combat magnum just like dads.

There were two major sticking points on the revolver vs pistol discussion my dad and I had.  Those points where the effectiveness of the 357 magnum, and the reliability of the revolver.

If you are going to use a handgun, make sure its reliable and make sure the cartridge is large enough to get the job done.

#2 – When I was around 16 or maybe 17 years old, a buddy of mine and I went over to a mutual friends house.  The mutual friend brought us out to a field where we shot a 1911 45 acp.  The 1911 belong to the friends dad.  We had permission to be in the field, and the parent knew we had a handgun.

That was the first time I had ever shot a pistol, much less a 1911.

Shooting the 1911 was “enjoyable”.  I do not how else to describe it.  The recoil was not excessive, the trigger pull was just right, fast reloading as compared to a revolver.

#3 – Military testing in the 1980s as they were looking for a new handgun.

As the military test were being done, I picked up every gun magazine that talked about the test.  I just happened to have had a subscription to Shooting Times.  I remember getting the magazine in the mail that had “Beretta won the war” on the front cover.  A good bit of that issue was dedicated to the military testing.

As the military was looking for a 9mm pistol, there was always the 9mm vs 45 acp debate going on in the background.  People from both sides of the debate voiced their opinion, then there was the FBI ballistics test, how the 9mm and the 45 acp preformed in times of war.

There was one major difference between the military test and the civilian test, the military can not use hollow point ammunition.  While the civilian market was studying the effective of different types of hollow point ammunition, the military was focusing on the reliability of various handguns.

The military testing boiled down to the same thing my dad told me – effectiveness of the caliber and reliability of the firearm.

Beretta 92FS

I bought my Beretta 92fs in January of 1989.  Over the past 23+ years, the pistol has been a proven performer.  Some of my buddies and I used to go to a local sand pit where we would shoot over 2,000 rounds of 9mm in a single day.  The Beretta 92fs shot everything, and I mean everything.

The only type of ammunition that did not work well was CCI blazer aluminum case.  For some reason those rounds liked to turn vertical in the magazine.  If the magazine had an anti-tilt follower, the rounds turning vertical in the magazine would not have been an issue.

The military test greatly influenced my decision to buy a Beretta 92fs.  When the time came to buy, it was either the Beretta or the Sig Sauer, I went with the Beretta.

As much as I like my Beretta, I also have one major complaint, and that is the trigger. The trigger absolutely sucks. The first round (double action) is ok, the second round (single action) is terrible. The trigger feels like it has a mile of slack.

Overall, for the past 23+ years I have been very happy with the performance of the Beretta 92fs.

I have to admit, ever since I decided to go with the 9mm I have had doubts about its performance.  During the 1980s and 1990s there were various stories of heavy clothing that prevented the 9mm from achieving optimal penetration.

During the Moro Rebellion, the 38 long colt proved to be ineffective in stopping a charging Moro warrior. The inability of the 38 long colt has always been in the back of my head. How effective would the 9mm be in stopping a charging meth head?

Shortly after various police agencies adopted the 9mm in the 1980s, stories started coming out about police officers having to shoot people on PCP several times.

From the Moro warrior and PCP examples, I had doubts about how effective the 9mm would be in stopping looters during a SHTF situation.

Remington 1911 R1

My wife bought me a Remington 1911 R1 for my birthday. Ever since I shot a 1911 back in the mid-1980s I have always wanted one. I am not getting any younger, so why not go ahead and buy a 1911?

Around 15 years ago I bought a Ruger P90, which is chambered in 45 acp. About 10 years my wife and I got into a financial bind, and I had to sell the Ruger P90 to pay some bills. The P90 is a nice pistol, but its no 1911.

There is just something about the 1911.  It feels right in the hand, recoil is not excessive, its easy to field strip, its reliable,,, what is there not to like?

One of the things that makes the 9mm comparable the the 45 acp is how well the 9mm hollow points perform.  If you remove the hollow points from the equation, what you are left with is 45 acp making a bigger hole then 9mm.

If you are going to sling a chunk of lead down range, why not sling the biggest lead you can find?

I find comfort shooting a 220 grain bullet, as compared to a 115 grain bullet.

There is just something about the 1911 that feels “right”, if that makes sense to you.

Magazine Capacity

One of the big debates between the 9mm and the 45 acp is the magazine capacity. Would you rather have 15 rounds of 9mm or 7 or 8 rounds of 45 acp?

If magazine capacity should be the deciding factor, why did so maybe law enforcement agencies carry 6 shot revolvers after the 1911 was introduced? When the 1911 was introduced, and proven in world War I, why didn’t all law enforcement agencies switch over to the 1911 for the extra rounds?

One of the reasons why I originally picked the 9mm over the 45 acp is because of the 15 round magazine. I have to admit that I like having 15 rounds over 7 or 8 rounds.

Should magazine capacity be the deciding factor over cartridge performance?

Stockpiling Ammunition

From a survivalist point of view, while stockpiling ammunition for SHTF / TEOTWAWKI,its important to stockpile what works not only in your firearm, but also what works in your buddies firearm.

Lets say that some kind of long term SHTF / TEOTWAWKI situation happens.  You bug out to your Bug Out Location.  A couple of weeks later some relatives or friends of the family show up.  The guest bring whatever food, water, supplies and firearms they have.  Now you and your buddies are going to have to share the ammunition, just like all other supplies.

Its the classic debate, 9mm VS 45 acp.  Some people skip the debate all together and go with a 40S&W.  I do not care for the snap recoil of the 40, so I am staying with either the 9mm or the 45 acp.

We mentioned earlier that the 9mm relies on hollow point ammunition to match the performance of the 45 acp.  Why should I buy expensive hollow point 9mm when I can just buy 45 acp FMJ?

Share your opinion in the 9mm vs 45 acp debate.  Which one is your primary sidearm, and why?

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Kevin Felts was born and raised in southeast Texas, graduated from Bridge City high school Bridge City Texas, and attended Lamar College in Port Arthur Texas. Hobbies include fishing, hiking, hunting, blogging, sharing his politically incorrect opinion, video blogging on youtube, survivalism and spending time with his family. In his free time you may find Kevin working around the farm, building something, or tending to the livestock

Latest posts by Kevin Felts (see all)


    Because my main use for a handgun is urban concealed carry and self-defense, I have become rather settled on my 9mm S&W Shield. BUT… it so happens my first handgun was in fact a compact .45 semiauto….and in fact I just took it out today for the first time in about 8 months and didn’t do half bad with it either. My Shield holds 8+1, the Bersa 45 holds 7+1 and is definitely harder to follow up with in spite of the metal frame. I carry the Shield IWB and the Bersa OWB – it just works better that way overall…and in summer the Bersa is frankly a bitch to comfortably conceal. Although from a strictly one-shot ballistic point of view I feel more confident that the .45 would hypothetically stop an attacker a LITTLE faster, I feel that the agility, follow-up potential, and concealability afforded by the Shield…BECAUSE it’s a 9… LOGISTICALLY outweighs the ballistic benefit of the .45 for the WAY that I carry in my situation.. Oh wait…! The Shield comes in .45 now too…right?? Right! Why don’t I get one then? Well, for one the capacity drops down by 2 shots…and the felt recoil increases by a few pounds…which decreases anyone’s accuracy in such a light gun. So what it boils down to is that the logistics of carrying and shooting a handgun is a much bigger picture than the narrow world of terminal ballistics. However, TB still is a critical part of that bigger picture.

    It could well be that in a tactically (and thus logistically) different situation, I’d much prefer a large framed .45 of some sort. It’s just that for EDC it doesn’t seem to fit my personal situation and urban environment. In all honesty, within those parameters if my Shield ever isn’t available I’m most likely to drop down to my 9×18 Makarov. The reason being: it’s the only gun I have that I can actually draw and shoot from the hip and consistently hit something the size of a human head from about 5 – 7 yards without going into a combat stance. Even the Shield doesn’t quite let me do that…even though it is lighter, has same number of rounds, ammo is cheaper/more available, mags are cheaper/found in my LGS, has domestic support and parts available.

    If concealment/comfort/agility/dexterity weren’t issues I’d have no qualms with carrying a full size 45 or 357, maybe prefer it… esp for trail or SHTF. And here is something which I’ve NEVER heard mentioned: Chunky 45ACP rounds are much easier to grab and reload into a fat double stack mag or cylinder than just about any other arrangement of caliber and platform, giving a HUGE logistical advantage to the one who chooses it who may be highly stressed and literally fumbling around in the darkness when all mags have been spent. But how likely is this for EDC and SD in urban America? This is why my 9mm S&W Shield has come out on top over about 6 or 7 other compact handguns for this purpose. It just seems to wedge itself between all parameters to satisfy the following:

    1. You won’t leave it home.
    2. Perps, cops and libtards won’t see it.
    3. With HP’s it carries a potent enough round to get the job done on one perp with 1-3 shots in most cases.
    4. Ammo is cheap enough that you’ll practice a lot.
    5. Ammo is the most common handgun round in the world.
    6. Recoil is light in spite of the very concealable size and weight of the platform.
    7. The Shield is DAMN comfortable and ergonomic which probably is a result of the caliber it was originally designed for, 9mm. And this goes for most of the Shield’s 9mm peers like XD, Bersa BP, LC9, PF9, Sig 938, G26, PX4, etc.

    There’s a reason why “crossover” vehicles are rapidly becoming the most popular vehicles. They simply cover the most number of bases for the most people most of the time. And compact striker fired 9mm’s fill the same bill. Occasionally we may want or need something else but realistically most of us usually don’t.

  • Leo

    Hello Kevin,

    I am a fan of the 1911 in 45acp too. However, I’m starting to swing over to the 9mm side. Two main factors are causing me to switch over to 9mm. 1) is cost. As reloader/handloader I can buy 3x the 9mm brass vs 45acp brass. I can buy high quality 9mm jhp bullets for the cost of 45acp 230 fmj-rn bullets. So for a reloader that negates the 45acp fmj stacking policy to a large degree. If you’re not a reloader than your statement is very accurate and correct regarding stacking fmj 45acp being cheaper than quality 9mm jhp defensive ammo and the 45acp ball ammo still being somewhat effective.

    The second factor that influenced my decision is that my significant other can shoot the 9mm better and likes the lessor recoil. So if I can add in a force multiplier of additional family members in support that can greatly changes things in your favor. Now the cost favor of 9mm really helps when you have additional family members adding to your support group. As I 1911 fan, I’m still having trouble digesting this but this is life.



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