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Confused... Handguns too powerful for self-defense?

Discussion in 'Handguns: General Discussion' started by Trey Veston, Feb 13, 2020.

  1. Trey Veston

    Trey Veston Member

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    I've seen multiple comments over the years that state that handguns are really barely marginal for self-defense and that a handgun is just a tool so you can get to your rifle.

    Hence the caliber war stance that since all handgun calibers are so close it effectiveness, that it really doesn't matter what caliber you go with.

    But then I've also seen multiple comments about the 10mm and other larger calibers being too powerful for self-defense due to penetration concerns.

    So which is it?
     
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  2. Bill Raby

    Bill Raby Member

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    Its people that know everything and can't think of anything else to talk about.
     
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  3. Mainsail

    Mainsail Member

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    Sometimes someone respected will say something as hyperbole, and halfwits will hear it as stone cold fact. Get a few halfwits repeating something out of context and suddenly everyone starts calling it a fact.

    "My pistol is just a tool to get me to my rifle."
    "Two is one and one is none."
    "Most of the self inflicted gunshot wounds came from an unloaded gun."
    "All guns are always loaded."

    In some specific context it was appropriate to make those obviously erroneous statements. Outside of that context it's not.

    Once upon a time people used to think critically, and for themselves. They didn't blow to and fro on the wind of the latest internet guru, constantly changing their safety plan and gear.

    In what context? Home defense? Over penetration there may be a valid concern. Walking thru the parking garage to get to your car? Not so much. You aren't going to be mugged in a crowd; that sort of self-defense will occur somewhere isolated, so overpenetrate away.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2020
  4. ApacheCoTodd

    ApacheCoTodd Member

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    I'll tell ya what....

    I have been DAMN glad to have 45 rounds of 9mm for my M-9 in the past.

    And 7 rounds in my 1903 .32 for that matter.

    If the handgun is looked at in the military vein as a *side arm* it IS of course, a compromise weapon.

    If I hear a bump in the night at home, the pistol I grab is THE primary as in any case where it's all I have.

    I don't think it's an either/or scenario. Sometimes a handgun is the means to a rifle of carbine end and sometimes a handgun IS the end.

    Todd.
     
  5. LoonWulf
    • Contributing Member

    LoonWulf Contributing Member

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    Well....Ive got a few handguns I wouldnt choose for self defense/home defense simply because they are more powerful...

    Ruger SBH in .44 mag, which i run with full power magnums....I always chose my smaller lighter, and slightly less wriggly GP100 in .44 speciall with 240s at 950...even if its got one less round.

    My modded XD45 running 200s at 1250, was another I simply didnt have a great deal of confidence in making good repeat shots quickly with. When resprung and loaded with 230s at 900 it was fantastic tho.

    Ive got a Canik tp9SFX that is far easier to shoot than any of my current handguns, so thats why gets the nod as the bedside gun.

    For reference were a 10rnd state, so theres very little advantage to the 9s in the full size + guns i have besides being easier to shoot.

    Ill also opt for a long gun given an option........
     
  6. Hartkopf

    Hartkopf Member

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    I believe almost any handgun can be effective for self defense with the correct ammo. The only problem I have with the 10mm is the frame size of the guns being a tad too big for me. Some of the good defense hollow points do not over penetrated according to gel and they’re just a little faster than hot 40S&W. It might be hard to find tame, expanding ammo for something like a 44 Magnum tho.
     
  7. film495

    film495 Member

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    it is both and neither. just having a gun ends most civilian conflicts among innocent law abiding citizens, and no shots are fired - so in that context caliber is irrelevant, as is training, and even if the firearm is loaded or not. over penetration is something I've never heard an actual report on, since misses are more of a problem - but, you still don't hear of actual accounts of that being much of a problem either. if someone actually needs to fire their gun to stop a threat, my little .32 ACP I keep around - if I get one shot and one shot only, would be far less effective than a .357 or .45 ACP, or even 9mm. Since I have 8 shots, unless there are 3 attackers I personally don't think it would make much difference outside of my being able to aim faster, and make multiple follow up shots faster - it is convenient to carry and have around and I like it so I have it. I admit my interest is mostly in target shooting as a hobby, so - if I don't enjoy shooting it I don't have it, and .45 ACP makes me blink and flinch, and I'm not marching onto a battlefield so, just not for me.
     
  8. bluejeans

    bluejeans Member

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    10mm is great for self defense. Some people are just too liability oriented for anyone’s good. I read a lot about over penetration but I mostly see an application for people who live in apartments or who frequent crowded events. I think that ‘be aware of your target and beyond” is still the best advice for the average joe. I wouldn’t advise anyone to shoot a BG against a backdrop of innocent bystanders even if the gel test show the projectile will stop in 8”.

    There are many points of incongruity that people like to blather on about... I was struck by how the 223 in an ar15 is touted as a man stopper but at the same time “unethical” for shooting a 100 lb deer? How is something unethical on an animal and recommended for a 200+lb human?
     
  9. bluejeans

    bluejeans Member

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    Let me moderate my previous post... over penetrating means wasted energy. Ideally we would want our projectile to expend all of its energy inside the target at which point it would come to a stop... if it exits and continues its trajectory then whatever ft/lbs energy it had didn’t translate to the target. So there is a good reason to pay attention to over penetration outside of liability concerns.
    That being said, it’s more a matter of bullet type and construction than caliber and the 10mm would still be an excellent choice for self defense with defensive rounds.
     
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  10. LiveLife

    LiveLife Member

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    How about this?

    If there are TWO hungry wild wolfs on the other side of a large room about to be released and in front of you there are these on the table:
    • Glock 17 with 17 rounds of 9mm Gold Dot HP
    • Glock 22 with 15 rounds of 40S&W Gold Dot HP
    • Glock 21 with 12 rounds of 45ACP Gold Dot HP
    • Glock 20 with 15 rounds of 10mm Gold Dot HP
    You have a second to choose to defend your life.

    Which would you choose?


    How about from these against ONE hungry wild wolf?
    • Glock 19 with 15 rounds of 9mm Gold Dot HP
    • Glock 23 with 13 rounds of 40S&W Gold Dot HP
    • Glock 30 with 10 rounds of 45ACP Gold Dot HP
    • Glock 29 with 10 rounds of 10mm Gold Dot HP
    My choice?
    |
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    |
    |
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    |
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    |
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    For me, I would make my selection based on my ability to hit moving targets fast because missed shots don't count no matter what caliber it is. :)
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2020
  11. WestKentucky

    WestKentucky Member

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    Now you have done it. This may quickly devolve into an energy debate.

    The concern with penetration is a whole lot overblown. No we can’t look at a bullets effectiveness on deer and do a straight across comparison to a bad guy, but we can take some serious inferences. Handgun bullets aren’t known to expand well. The drive deep, and shed weight in the process. Having seen this on critters, I know that unless the shot is funky or point blank then the chances are very good that I will find what’s left of the bullet on the other side of the critter, or in defense on the other side of the bad guy, just under the skin. Missed shots go places, no matter what it is. A miss with a 22 short is as dangerous as a miss with a .50bmg but one has the uncanny ability to keep on going. If a person picks a gun that is not equipped with said uncanny ability then they have done their due diligence.
     
  12. GRIZ22

    GRIZ22 Member

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    Any handgun can effectively be used for self defense.

    Putting the overpenetration factor into the mix changes things. Nearly all SD calibers will penetrate a normal size human. Once you've made an entry and exit wound everything else is just wasted energy with the potential to do unintended damage.

    There is also the issue of control. A 500 S&W may be the most powerful handgun available but how well can you control it for followup shots? Bad guys and good guys have taken multiple hits with rifle rounds and still kept fighting. One needs to be prepared to shoot more than once.

    Shot placement is king but not always attainable. Your target is most likely moving and bobbing and weaving. Multiple hits is usually the winner not a precision shot. Bad guys have been shot through the heart and still kept fighting for a minute or more.

    Maximum power you can control is the answer. If you can put those 500 S&W, full power 10mm, or 44 magnums on target as fast as you can a 38, 9mm, or 45 ACP and sure you'll have no concerns about overpenetration have at it.

    Otherwise you need to make some decisions.

    When I was on the job and my agency issued a 357 most people used 38s as that's what they could shoot effectively.

    JMO

    If your situation dictates no concern for overpenetration
     
  13. LiveLife

    LiveLife Member

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    Very good points.

    For practical application, watch these videos of armed robbers and see which gun/caliber you would choose.

    Often, you will need more than one or two shots or three or four shots or even five and six shots and ... (Fast mag dump with large enough capacity and caliber magazine could have helped in this situation) - BTW, robber survived the shooting



    Fast draw and follow up shots are important (Good use of cover too) - BTW, robber died by the entrance

     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2020
  14. loneviking

    loneviking Member

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    Rounds like the 9mm, .380, 22’s, .32 are marginal for self defense.
    But the big pistol calibers are a different story. The .357 was created to penetrate car bodies and smash through windshields. The .41 Magnum was designed for a bit more power. And the 44 Magnum, 460 xvr, 454 Casull, 500-these are where you can find over penetration.
     
  15. Mosin Bubba

    Mosin Bubba Member

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    Well, it's kind of both.

    If you look at kinetic energy (which is just one measurement and not the be-all end-all, but it's not useless either, so I'm rolling with it). there's just not that much difference between calibers. 380 ACP is about 200 ft-lbs, 9mm is about 350 ft-lbs, and 45 ACP is about 400 ft-lbs. By comparison, a 223 carries 1200 ft-lbs of energy at the muzzle, and a 30-06 carries 2800. There's other factors that go into it - the diameter of the bullet matters more at low velocity when you're just punching a straight hole, penetration depth is still crucial - but in the grand scheme of things, "9 Sillymeter" and the "hand of God 45 ACP manstopper" just aren't that different. Not nearly as different as internet caliber wars play them up to be. So that's the root of "pistol calibers don't matter" - for carry sized semi auto pistols, it's generally true.

    When you start getting up to the magnums, things start getting more interesting. 357 magnum carries about 600 ft-lbs of energy, and the 44 Magnum carries about 1200. The energy comparisons get more and more strained as the calibers become less and less alike, but the salient point is that those rounds are carrying a lot more juice than something like a 9mm. Those are more than powerful enough to ruin any attacker's day, but then the question of size and controllability comes up. Are you going to pack an N-frame around like Dirty Harry, and if you do, how fast can you shoot it? Can you get 5 shots off faster with a 9mm or a 44 magnum? Which caliber can you hit more of those shots with, because misses aren't worth anything.

    So basically, the size of the pistol and the amount of recoil you can shoot well with sets an upper bound for an SD gun. The lower bound is where the rounds just aren't effective enough to stop a man anymore. There's disputes of where that line's at - obviously a 22 LR or 25 Auto isn't going to be anyone's first choice for an SD gun, but is a 32 ACP okay? 22 Mag? That's an argument that can go back and forth, but the usual standard is that you need a caliber that can penetrate 12" of flesh - the idea being that no matter what angle you hit a normal-sized man from, the bullet will penetrate far enough to hit something vital.

    So 12" of penetration minimum up to as big as you can shoot quickly. Any caliber in that range would be a reasonable SD choice.

    Overpenetration is a concern, but having a caliber you can handle is usually a more pressing priority. While something like a 44 magnum is going to penetrate a lot further than a 9mm, the unfortunate truth is that any caliber that can travel through 12" of Bad Guy can also travel through drywall and plenty of other things you don't want it to.
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2020
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  16. JohnKSa

    JohnKSa Moderator Staff Member

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    Penetration is largely a function of ammunition design--at least once you get into calibers that have sufficient energy to both expand and penetrate to acceptable self-defense depths. So the idea that some calibers are ruled too powerful due to overpenetration doesn't really fly. It may be that it's hard to get proper self-defense ammunition in some calibers, but that's another story.

    In handgun calibers that are designed and used primarily for hunting it's not uncommon for many/most of the loadings to be designed for more penetration than is commonly endorsed for self-defense, but again, that's not due to the caliber being too powerful, it's more of an ammunition issue.

    So first of all, I think that focusing on penetration as being a major issue in deciding if a gun is "too powerful for self defense" is not worthwhile.

    What it really comes down to, IMO, is that past a point, the extra "power" isn't really getting you appreciably more penetration or expansion and is costing you in areas that do make a significant difference. More "cost" in terms of recoil which means slower follow-up shots and less enjoyable practice. More cost in terms of expensive ammunition which means less practice (or more expensive practice). More cost in terms of gun size and weight which makes carry/concealment more difficult.
     
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  17. skeeterfogger

    skeeterfogger Member

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    The closest. One in each hand.
     
  18. Fine Figure of a Man

    Fine Figure of a Man Member

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  19. Sistema1927

    Sistema1927 Member

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    Hmmm, I wonder why almost every law enforcement agency has gone to 9mm? Hmmm.
     
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  20. loneviking

    loneviking Member

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    Because there’s fewer lawsuits if you only wound, and not kill the perp.
    Because there will be several officers all with high cap mags firing dozens of rounds at the perp so it doesn’t matter how anemic the round is.
    Because the round, in a full size gun, has less recoil so it’s easier to shoot and qualify with for officers who don’t shoot much. And that’s especially true for the ladies, whose arm and hand strength is usually less than a guys.
     
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  21. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    Terminal ballistics is an extremely complex and difficult subject. Even the true experts know less than they don't-know. And the majority of the shooting community has all kinds of nonsense in their heads about it.

    As others in this thread have pointed out, penetration and "power" aren't directly correlated. A projectile needs energy in order to move through a resisting medium (such as tissue), but it can "spend" that energy in various ways. If you start with a bigger energy budget, you can get more penetration... or you can spend it on more expansion and/or more energetic displacement of tissue around the projectile. If you are using a cartridge with a bigger energy budget, and you don't need more than X penetration, then you just select a projectile that will "spend" a higher percentage of the budget on something other than penetration.

    The harder trade-off is recoil and avoidance of pre-ignition push issues. For a lot of shooters, particularly more casual shooters, the point at which additional recoil and marksmanship issues outweigh any additional energy benefits is pretty low. Relatively few shooters can employ even a .40 cal gun with real competence, and fewer still a 10mm. Past that point, even shooters with a good deal of dedication are going to have a hard time driving the kinds of splits that might be useful in defensive shooting.
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2020
  22. JohnKSa

    JohnKSa Moderator Staff Member

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    LE tactics, ammunition selection and weapon selection is a very thoroughly discussed and explored topic. If the intent to wound vs. kill in the interest of reducing civil litigation is the motivation for selecting the 9mm, it should be easy for you to come up with some authoritative sources (e.g. from legal experts, LE publications, etc.) to support your assertion.
     
  23. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    I really think that is the big driver, along with reduced ammo cost (less material in a 9mm round than a 40 or 45 or 10mm, so less expense). And I think it's a pretty reasonable calculus. Most cops are not gun enthusiasts, and certainly don't spend tons of time practicing. Given that the majority of cops never fire their weapon in anger, that's not even crazy.

    There's no doubt whatsoever that it is easier to resist developing a pre-ignition push/blink-involved flinch with a 9mm than with a .40 or the like. And it is easier to achieve a barely-acceptable level of recoil control over 9mm than a more powerful round.

    Throw in natural biases of large institutions towards repeatable tests with simple, easily quantified outcomes (the FBI gel test) in making procurement decisions, and of course 9mm is going to win most procurement decisions for most agencies.
     
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  24. JERRY

    JERRY Member

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    most videos you see of shots not taking the criminal out quickly are the result of poor shot placement. that's why it can take four 9mm rounds poorly placed before the criminal is incapacitated, or one .25 acp round properly placed.
     
  25. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    Shot placement is a lot easier when the target isn't moving, shooting back at you, and forcing you to simultaneously move.
     
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