Top 4 Ballistics Myths Most People Believe

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I don’t consider myself more than a hobbyist when it comes to ammunition – I reload a little, play around in SolidWorks a bit, and read dry, dusty tomes full of other people’s hard work collating every minute detail about ammunition. I’m, frankly, an ammo nerd, but not really a true expert. Once I began writing, however, I found that very few people are ammunition nerds, at least in the same way that I am.

As an aside, this is neatly illustrated when you compare IAA Forum’s membership – about 3,200 at the time of this writing – with AR15.com’s, which is coming up on half a million. Keep in mind, too, that while IAA Forum is probably by far the biggest ammunition collecting/information forum on the Internet – at least so far as I know, AR15.com is just one out of many giant gun forums on the web.

Anyway, over the course of being involved in the gun world as both a shooter and writer, I’ve heard a lot of myths about ammunition and ballistics,  some of which are obvious to most people, and some of which get repeated a lot more often than they should. What follows are some of these myths, and the truth behind them.

 

1. Bigger is Better

I’ve put this one first because it is easily one of the most common. This is a myth that won’t die because it’s so viscerally apparent. If you have some handy, take a .45 ACP and compare it to a 9mm, or a .308 Winchester against a .223; any two cartridges that are significantly different in size and weight will do. It’s so obvious, in a way that is maybe hard to explain, that the bigger round is better, that it will do so much more damage. A .45 ACP hardball in your hand, all three-quarters of an ounce of it, just feels so much more substantial and powerful than a 9mm, or a .32, or another smaller round.

I won’t spend much time speculating as to why – maybe it goes all the way back to our ancestors plucking stones from the river to throw at game birds – but I think this reaction is what keeps the idea alive.

Regardless of the reason, the terminal ballistics of different projectiles is a complex subject, and often things shake out differently than just the size of different rounds would suggest. High velocity rifle projectiles that fragment violently as they enter the target, for example, may produce far more catastrophic wounds than much larger and heavier large-bore calibers, especially against thin-skinned targets. Expanding jacketed hollowpoint rounds even in smaller calibers like .32 may well crush and cause more tissue destruction than even a .45 cal hardball. Even the contour of a projectile can change its effect on tissue, as a flat, angular projectile may cut and crush tissue better than a round-nosed projectile in a larger caliber.

None of this is to say that bigger calibers are never more effective, or that all things being equal and with modern fragmenting or expanding bullets they will not be more effective to a certain degree, but instead the take away should be that terminal ballistics is a subject with considerable depth and complexity, and that often the actual performance of different rounds will defy expectation.

 

2. Longer Barrel = Proportionally Higher Velocity

This is one that is as intuitive as it is wrong. If you double the length of a gun barrel, you double the velocity, right? It will probably seem obvious to my readers that this is not correct, but there are many people who repeat it (in fact, gun designer Loren C. Cook repeated this same myth when promoting his submachine gun). It’s an obvious extrapolation from the information that longer gun barrels (often) produce higher velocities, though erroneous.

The relationship between barrel length and muzzle velocity is actually very nuanced, but it can basically be summarized as this: When the cartridge’s powder ignites, it creates gas that expands against the base of the bullet. When the bullet is seated in the case against ignited powder, the pressure is high, but as the pressure pushes the bullet down the barrel it spends its energy and also the volume of the firing chamber increases steadily. That means that the change in muzzle energy per inch of barrel starts very high with shorter barrels and steadily decreases as the barrel gets longer. Going from an 10″ to a 13″ rifle barrel can mean an increase in velocity of hundreds of feet per second, for example, while going from a 21″ to a 24″ barrel can mean an increase in velocity of just a couple dozen feet per second. You’ll commonly hear the change in pressure and force on the base of the bullet referred to as the “pressure curve”.

Further, this curve and its relationship to the length of the barrel varies for different propellants. Magnum rifle calibers tend to use very slow-burning propellant, which cause significant changes in velocity even when going from a long rifle barrel to an even longer one. Pistol calibers, in contrast, use extremely fast-burning propellant, meaning that after only a few inches the increase in velocity as the barrel gets longer becomes negligible. In fact, firing a pistol caliber from a longer rifle barrel can actually decrease the muzzle velocity slightly versus a shorter barrel, as the friction between the bullet and the bore begins to retard the bullet’s travel more than the additional pressure accelerates it.

 

3. Caliber Matters, Bullets Don’t

This is an odd conceit that comes up very consistently in conversation, usually expressed in the form of “[caliber X] isn’t enough. You need [caliber Y]”, where the two calibers in question are pretty similar to one another. While it’s certainly possible for one to choose a caliber that is truly inappropriate for the job in question, it seems that the majority of the time these discussions revolve around calibers that are all more or less appropriate, given proper bullet selection.

That’s where this goes beyond fussiness to being an actual myth: These discussions would virtually all be more productive if they accounted more for bullet selection than caliber and chambering. There is, after all, far more difference in effectiveness between a .45 ACP hardball and a .45 ACP HST, than there is between a 9mm HST and a .45 ACP HST. The choice of one chambering or another is not likely to make a tremendous amount of difference to the end result, but the choice of one projectile over another is!

 

4. Momentum = Stopping Power

Momentum, that is the product of mass times velocity, is a very easy-to-grasp physical quantity. A bigger man bumping into you on the street at the same walking speed will push you aside more violently than a smaller man. A larger rock or stone thrown with the same velocity will make a bigger splash in water. It’s a simple quantity that’s easily calculated and readily understood. The bigger something is, and the faster moving it is, the more oomph it has.

That’s why it’s very natural for momentum to be used as a rough metric for stopping power. This connection is made all across the gun world, from gun reviews noting that a bigger round rings steel more loudly than a smaller one, to the Taylor Knock-Out Index which combines momentum with the diameter of the bullet in an attempt to quantify stopping power against big game. However, although momentum is an important quantity in ballistics, it does not imply the degree of terminal effectiveness, or “stopping power”, that a projectile has.

Momentum is a conserved quantity, which means that as a bullet is driven forward by the force of expanding gases, the gun firing that bullet is also driven rearward with the same momentum as both the bullet and propellant gases combined. This means that the momentum produced by any bullet fired from a shoulder or hand fired weapon is not enough to significantly wound a human being, much less kill. The momentum of a bullet, when it strikes a target, does not do more than perhaps somewhat bruise the surrounding tissues and very slightly accelerate the target rearward. The killing power of a gunshot comes instead from the velocity at which the bullet is driven, and the permanent cavity created by the projectile’s material carving a wound channel into the target.


This topic is deliberately attention-getting and broad, as I’m considering covering more topics in this vein on all levels from introductory to advanced, and I am looking to see what kind of response I will get for subjects like this. If you’d like for me to cover more ammunition- and ballistics-related topics beyond this one, please let me know in the comments section.



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • me

    Mo bigga is mo betta

    • John

      Except for tumors…

      • Shocked_and_Amazed✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

        And in toxic substances

        • Tassiebush

          And the guy who’s keys one’s wife picks at the party.

          • Shocked_and_Amazed✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

            ??

          • Tassiebush

            It’s a tongue in cheek swinger reference

          • Shocked_and_Amazed✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

            Ah. That explains why I was at a loss

  • Christian Hedegaard-Schou

    Is #2 ACTUALLY a thing? A longer barrel (all other things being equal) ALMOST ALWAYS means more velocity. But I’ve never once ever heard anyone say that it’s proportional. The rule of diminishing returns always gets you in the end.

    I would substitute #2 with the far more common myth that a “Longer barrel is more accurate” (especially since it’s so closely related to barrel length/velocity). I still hear this one frequently and have to correct people that all things being equal, if you have two bullets leaving two different barrel lengths at the same velocity, you can generally expect the SHORTER barrel to be more accurate (more precise really is the correct term) because a shorter barrel is inherently stiffer. Since a longer barrel gets you more velocity, it helps you achieve longer range. If you’re shooting for long-range precision the longer barrel gets you more range, not more precision.

    • manBear

      Brilliant sir

    • Edeco

      Yeah, I don’t recall hearing/reading it with the term “proportional”. Phrasing it that way and calling it a myth… hmmm.

    • Slim934

      “….if you have two bullets leaving two different barrel lengths at the same velocity…”

      Strictly speaking that is pretty much true. But if you have 2 bullets leaving 2 different barrel lengths at the same velocity, then by definition you are going to need much different powder charges between the same 2 bullets fired. That seems like kind of an apples to oranges comparison. Also, this will likely not strictly be the case if only the barrel lengths are different and not the twist rates between the 2 barrels.

      I would also argue that the longer barrel by virtue of giving you greater velocity does give you greater accuracy. The faster the bullet goes from muzzle to target, the less the effect of extraneous non-gravity sources can have on it (wind for example will have a greater effect on drift the longer it takes the bullet to travel).

      In order for the stiffness argument to be valid in practical applications, you’d have to show that the improvement from stiffness is greater than the improvement from the higher velocity you’d undoubtedly get from using a longer barrel. From a real world standpoint I doubt you’d every really find that to be the case unless you start increasing the barrel length to where you are hitting the very low side of the pressure curve. But I’m open to being proven wrong.

      • Christian Hedegaard-Schou

        But the accuracy gains you’re talking about really are only an issue over longer ranges where it’s already established that you need more velocity in order to cover. It’s just confirming my point 🙂

        Also, just like you almost always get a velocity increase due to length, you will almost always add more precision/accuracy by increasing barrel stiffness. A shorter barrel is inherently stiffer than a longer barrel of the same diameter, but that doesn’t mean you can’t increase the longer barrels diameter to achieve the same stiffness (while increasing velocity at the same time).

        Sure, it’s all a complex set of variables, and it’s hard to wrap up into a comfortable small set of rules, but there are certain generalizations that are generally true, and certain ones that are generally false.

        Longer barrel = more velocity = generally true and
        Stiffer barrel = more precision = also generally true
        While longer barrel = more precision = generally false

        The article we’re discussing seems to be complaining about a misapplication of the “longer barrel = more velocity” generalization, calling it a myth. I think the way it’s being presented is a mischaracterization, especially given that the generalization is, again, generally true. I’m just bringing up the point that there is a larger generalization that I hear far more often that is generally false (in the way it’s presented) and that’s the “longer barrel = more accuracy”.

        We can discuss the nuances all day long, but I’m really more interested in addressing the gross generalizations.

        • Slim934

          I agree with the idea that the “myth” cited here is not really accurate. I have never heard someone say “proportionally higher” velocities from a longer barrel.

          I also can agree that greater stiffness is more better. But from a practical standpoint I don’t think stiffness from the standpoint of differing barrel lengths makes any appreciable difference. Now stiffness from a different action of the rifle or pistol is a different story (comparing say a Browning style tilting action vs. a fixed barrel design for example). But I have never seen data to show that testing specifically for the effects of barrel stiffness as it relates to barrel length, with everything else controlled for, to actually show this.

          Again if there is real data to show the effect this has I’d love to be proven wrong.

          • I have certainly heard it many times. I wouldn’t write about it if I didn’t.

          • RegT

            In rifles, especially, barrel stiffness relates to accuracy because all rifle barrels will flex under the dynamics of a fired round running the length of the barrel. Barrels have been shown to flex in a sine-wave fashion, and – quite naturally – a thinner barrel will flex more easily with a particular mass of bullet and pressure of burning powder. A stiffer bull-barrel on a .22, .223, or .308 will resist and limit the barrel flex, meaning the amount of flex will be greatly reduced (as will change of point of impact due to heat, which takes longer to change in a heavier barrel.

            When the bullet leaves the barrel, at what point in the “sine-wave” motion it leaves determines its trajectory. Point of impact will change if it leaves when the barrel is flexing upward (hits higher) or downward (hits lower). The smaller the degree of flexion (as barrel stiffness increases), the easier it is to hit at a more consistent point of aim. Various barrel weights and other methods have been tried to “tune” the barrel to the amount of flexion it experiences with a particular cartridge, but a heavier, stiffer barrel will usually improve accuracy with any cartridge made for that particular rifle.

        • G

          You would expect to see a lot of short barrel benchrest rifles if short barrels had more precision than long barrels.

          But you don’t

          100-300 yard/meter benchrest rifles have quite normal barrel lengths. 1000 yard/meter benchrest rifles usually have really long barrels.

          • RegT

            And _heavy_ barrels. To reduce flexion and to be affected less by heat.

      • Wakeupnow2014

        Not to mention barrel harmonics play a factor in MOA accuracy

      • DaveGinOly

        Christian’s point is that if two identical bullets exit barrels under identical conditions (such as velocity and spin rate) the bullets don’t care how far they traveled in a barrel before hitting the atmosphere and coming under the influence of gravity and neither do the atmosphere and gravity. The atmosphere and gravity will treat both bullets identically.

        In the real world we do use longer barrels to give us higher velocities for the benefits that bestows, but Christian is positing a theoretical situation in which identical external ballistics are realized in barrels of different lengths. The situation is not entirely hypothetical – within a limited scope (say, between 18″ and 22″ or 24″ barrels) it is possible to give two identical bullets identical spins and velocities out of barrels that are of different lengths. All other things being equal, once they leave the barrel with identical characteristics they will behave identically too with no regard for the length of the barrel from which they were shot.

    • Trey

      Longer Sight Radius has has more potential for accuracy would be correct, barrel length is often used as a short hand for Sight Radius, which of course it is not.

      • Anonymoose

        This. Stick a Tech-Sight on an AK and you can shoot it just as good as an iron-sighted M4.

        • Paladin

          Most people who complain about the AK’s “shorter sight radius” have probably never actually measured it. In actual fact, a standard AK’s sight radius is almost exactly the same as that of a standard M4.

          • Anonymoose

            The M4’s sight radius is also not long enough (just look at the current popularity of free-floated railed handguards and the old Dissipator models), but its aperture sight design makes up for that.

          • Kivaari

            In good light, use the smaller aperture and groups shrink. I like the mid-length carbines, and they are marginally better than the M4 original sights.

          • Kivaari

            The AK uses crappy sights. Open sights are simply poor compared to aperture sights. AKs and SKSs are accurate if held in a machine vise.
            The SKS is more accurate using sights as issued. Actual shooting using a Mk 1 eyeball shows that a typical M4 carbine is superior. Add optics and the gap decreases. Add an SSA trigger to the M4 and they really shine. Don’t use junk ammo in either. If you want performance in an M4 don’t use Wolf steel cased. In an AK use the unobtainium Chinese military (steel core) ammo, and it will surprise you. The Chinese service ammo of 30 years ago was superior to much of what can be found today.

      • DaveGinOly

        Both your comment and Christian’s are entirely true, but we often hear people state “longer is more accurate” even when speaking of firearms that are usually equipped with optics (like many hunting rifles). In these people’s minds, the link between barrel length and sight radius has been lost, they no longer relate accuracy to sight radius, and mistakenly default to barrel length as component of accuracy.

    • Anonymoose

      Yeah, 20″ pencil-d*ck barrels are so much better than 16″ HBARs!

    • Wakeupnow2014

      Then why do the long range competition shooters use longer barrels? Going on what you say they are doing it for no reason. Even US sniper rifles employ 24″ plus barrel lengths for long range accuracy

      • Wolfgang

        It depends on the case and powder. A .308 with a fast powder like Varget will get a 95% burn in an 18″ barrel but to get long range, as in 800-1000 yards, you need slow powders which need long barrels to do their work. As far as US snipers some rifles are 300 Win Mag which really needs a 24″ minimum barrel to be worth using at distance because of slow powders with a bigger case capacity and 338 Lapua Mag actually needs 26″+ to work at the distances they use because of the slow powders and massive case capacity. Also, if you use iron sights, like on an M1A, longer sight radius makes a bigger difference than minor muzzle velocity changes.

    • Wolfgang

      Longer barrels act against velocity when you have a case with a small capacity such as rimfires and old blackpowder rifle/pistol rounds and even some early smokeless rounds, such as .30-30, have shown this when using some of the much more recent powders.

    • Old Vet

      Harmonics has a say in that situation as well.

  • manBear

    Oh I can relate to #3 the most … I can hear the couch jockies now ‘X-caliber is WAY to small for deer hurr durr – you NEED a .300 WinMag to really stop a deer!’ …ha

    • Shocked_and_Amazed✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

      Especially here in Eastern NC where the deer are the size of my Danes

      • Jwedel1231

        Are you saying you have small deer, or huge dogs?

        • Shocked_and_Amazed✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

          I have Great Danes which are Yuuggee and the deer are young so a little of both

          • Jwedel1231

            I’ve seen Danes that would make decent sized deer, so I couldn’t tell which way you were going with that comment 🙂

          • Shocked_and_Amazed✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

            My Danes are on the small size about 145 pound range for the males. Average deer around here is in that same range. The deer just have longer legs 😀

    • NDS

      Heh even here in Missouri where whitetails are the size of horses a 300blk is more than enough. Love seeing guys sighting in their 7mm ultra super mags every November, lol.

    • Lew Siffer

      Those of us who are retirement age remember when it was legal to hunt deer with a .22, and yes, many deer were taken with them. Sadly, many more were wounded and escaped to suffer, which is why the .22 was banned in Michigan.

  • Ed

    AStill think .45 ACP is better than a piddling tacti cool 9mm.

    • sean

      Okay Grandpa, go to bed, you’re drunk

    • Zachary marrs

      9mm is older than .45 acp

      who’s tacticool now?

      • gunsandrockets

        Actually the 9mm cartridge is newer than the .45 ACP. The .45 ACP Luger came out before the 9mm Luger.

        At the time those cartridges were adapted larger bullet were considered tacticool. That’s the only reason 9mm Luger exists despite the equivalent 7.65mm Luger cartridge.

        • ostiariusalpha

          Uh, no. 9mm Luger, the actual cartridge, was designed in 1901; it’s been in production since 1902. Browning designed the .45 ACP in 1904.

          • gunsandrockets

            Well that will teach me about relying on youtube videos!

            I found some interesting links on identifying Lugers. On the one hand I saw I was wrong about the 9mm cartridge. On the other hand it looks like I might really have a Finnish Army M/23 Luger: 7.65mm caliber, 95mm long barrel, SA marked, number 6295. How about that.

          • ostiariusalpha

            As long as you come out ahead in the end. Congrats!

        • Zachary marrs

          It was my understanding that the 9mm was developed in 1902, while the .45 acp was designed in 1904

    • Austin

      Can’t we all agree that 10mm is the best overall?

      • randomswede

        If it wasn’t for 9x25mm Dillon.

        • iksnilol

          Even better if you neck it down to 7.62.

          • randomswede

            Is there a 7.62 with 10mm as parent case or are we talking Tokarev?
            I had to look it up but wikipedia tells me 9×25 has 155% case capacity over Tokarev, just putting it out there.

          • iksnilol

            I was thinking of necking down 10mm Auto 7.62.

            With a long OAL so you can load rifle bullets (backwards for obvious reasons).

          • randomswede

            Tradition, Obviously.

            What’s the pain threshold for handgun OAL 1.65″ (.30 Carbine)?

          • iksnilol

            I think that could work.

          • randomswede

            So, 7.62x25mm
            Parent Case: 10mm
            Here Loaded with a Hornady 123gr FMJ bullet (kinda, I rushed the modeling, the jacket is to thick)
            Roughly 22 grains of case capacity (1,42442 cm^3)

            Best for last OAL: 1.65″ or a hair longer.

          • iksnilol

            Something like that. Wonder how well it would work?

            The reason for backwards bullets is that the raindrop shape works better for subsonic velocities, thinking you can load a run of the mill 180-220 grain bullet backwards for subsonic shooting.

          • randomswede

            I suspect you’d be better off with a wadcutter or round nose bullet just to max out the mass BCD be damned.

            But if you could tool up some dies to use a backwards run-of-the-mill bullet that would be quite cheap.

            Subsonic armor piercing urban combat is the only place I could see this round being of any value. A lighter and probably cheaper 9x39mm “challenger”.

  • Tassiebush

    A longer barrel reaches a point where it reduces velocity in some cases. Particularly in examples like some rimfires and pistol cartridges where peak velocity is reached in a shorter barrel.

    • iksnilol

      Heard something about a 70 cm barrel in .22 LR being ear safe with regular velocity ammo.

      • Tassiebush

        Perhaps it was Ed Harris?

        • iksnilol

          I do not understand that reference. :/

          I heard it from a company that makes a bullpup 10/22 with electronic trigger. Coincidentally, CZ makes a bolt .22 also with an 70 cm barrel.

          http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/OAL_comparison.jpg

          • Tassiebush

            I’m trying to remember the website but you’ve mentioned it before. A Finnish website where reduced “cat sneeze” loads were discussed. Quiet without a silencer. Ed Harris was the author.

          • iksnilol

            guns.connect.fi IIRC.

            http://guns.connect.fi/gow/ed.html

          • Tassiebush

            That’s the one and it’s quite pertinent as a link to the talk about velocities

      • G

        I don’t consider 70cm 22LR barrels hearing safe. The sound gets really annoying after a while. But the difference, in sound volume, between a 70cm barrel and a 56cm barrel, when firing the same ammunition, is quite large. I brought my Sako Quad to my shooting club and several persons ask what kind of ammunition I was using because my rifle was much louder than their Anschütz target rifles. But I used exactly the same ammunition as they

      • Nigel Tolley

        Use pistol .22LR rounds, & you are correct. Use regular rifle .22LR rounds and it’s still quite loud.

        This relates to Myth 1 in the article: how far along the barrel does the powder finish burning? If further than the barrel end, loud and muzzle flash. If significantly less, very quiet.

        • iksnilol

          With regular velocity I meant something subsonic. Something like Eley Target or something.

  • Sulaco

    As to #1 maybe, but in talking with troops coming back from the sandbox, some multiple times over several years nearly all say the same thing. In CQB clearing rooms for instance they would prefer a big slow 230gr .45 or a 180gr .40 vs a 9mm of any type (not including JHP as they can’t use them). Myth or perception of war fighters? I take their experience and advice to heart. As to the rest of his points, ya mostly but its all conditional on circumstances and material used…

    • sean

      But where are these “troops” getting this opinion from. Its not like they are testing the stopping power of a 180gr 40cal or the 230gr 45 compared to the 9mm…Just because they are in the “sandbox” doesn’t mean they have any more hard data then anyone else.

      • Sulaco

        A lot of troops accuire .40 caliber pistols on their own with commanders approval and watch spel ops use them in close quarters. They also see the failures of the 9mm or required multiple rounds to put somebody down vs (in general at close range) one shot for higher calibers. Its not hard data its bloody experience at least from what they tell me….

        • CommonSense23

          I would love to see what units in which troops are getting commanders permission to carry a .40

        • iksnilol

          I laugh at the notion that people with some regularity get dropped with one shot, especially one shot of pistol ammo.

        • sean

          at first i thought some dumb “troops” where feeding you stories to sound cool…now it sounds like you are telling dumb stories to sound cool. If a American by chance has a 40 over there and used it that is not enough data to actually say 40 drops better then a nine…and any one using a hand gun instead of a carbine for room clearing doesn’t clear rooms for very long

          • Sulaco

            I have cleared a lot of rooms with a gun, how many have you cleared outside of Xbox?

    • CommonSense23

      What guys were rocking .45s or 40s that didn’t have access to hollowpoints in the “sandbox”?

      • Squirreltakular

        My thoughts, as well. Anyone special is more than likely not being held to the Hague Conventions.

      • Sulaco

        That is the problem they don’t generally have access to .40 caliber pistols and FMJ is required for military troops. private operators maybe different but if they are general Army, Marines, AF SF etc then it’s FMJ or nothing.

    • Gecko9mm

      So let me get this straight, the troops are telling you they would sling their carbine for a pistol caliber in a room clearing situation. Many, many of them? Trade a 5.56mm with a 30 round mag, 3 round burst for a 7/8 shot .45 ACP. Does that sound advice to you?

      • Sulaco

        No and try re reading my post. They report that in situations where a pistol is called for like room searchs/restricted area and movement they would take a pistol Yes over a carbine. And given the choice they would like a .40 caliber gun over a 9. Have you ever done any REAL clearance ops? Anything where a gun stood between you and injury of death? I didn’t think so if you had you would not make such a uninformed comment..

        • CommonSense23

          Have you done any real world clearnance ops?

          • Sulaco

            Nearly 40 years worth boyo.

          • CommonSense23

            So police work then,

        • iksnilol

          I dunno, his comment seems informed. 30 shots of 5.56 is better than 10 shots at best of .45 ACP. Doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure that one out.

          Also, you can move in a room just fine with an M4, especially those super short Mk 18s.

          • randomswede

            I can think of one exception to that:
            If you need one hand to open/move stuff you can stretch out one hand to do the work and pull the other hand close(r) to your body with your handgun.

            That said I suspect your partner behind you has a better shot using both hands on a carbine then you do with your arm in a pretzel shape.

            If the choice was between a handgun with .45 performance or a handgun with 5.56 performance, recoil and capacity being equal I don’t think many would choose the .45.

          • iksnilol

            I just don’t think it is as big of an problem as people think it is. I mean, you can hold out an M4 with one hand whilst your support hand opens a door or something.

        • Gecko9mm

          I see no reference to “where a pistol is called for.”

          “As to #1 maybe, but in talking with troops coming back from the sandbox, some multiple times over several years nearly all say the same thing. In CQB clearing rooms for instance they would prefer a big slow 230gr .45 or a 180gr .40 vs a 9mm of any type (not including JHP as they can’t use them). ”

          If you are saying that is what was intended OK. That’s a different matter. Unless you are saying CQB by default means sidearm rather than long arm. Maybe I missed something?

          As to my credentials, I am part of a Rapid Response Team at one of the largest retail complexes in the US so yes, I have done many room clearance drills.

          More importantly, I am from the Internet.

    • n0truscotsman

      Having been there and done that, I never slung my carbine in favor of my M9 and definitely wouldn’t have done that had I somehow ended up with a 45, which produces similar energy and penetration, but has generally *half* the magazine capacity. No thanks.

      I wish people would understand that in general MOUT environments, pistols do no “save” any more space as a generality than carbines. With the exception of very few niche conditions (which I haven’t encountered in my multiple trips over there), like clearing tunnels or crawlspaces. Maybe.

  • Jack Morris

    I feel like I’m always explaining #1 and #3. I’ve always told people, “If modern hollow points didn’t exist; I’d use a 45acp, but since ammunition like Federal HST is around; I’m going with the gun that holds more of it. The difference in wound cavities between varying popular pistol calibers is negligible anyhow. I’d rather have the extra rounds.

    • Holdfast_II

      Of course, when you’re limited by law to 10 rounds, might as well have big ones.

      • Vince

        ONLY if you can apply those 10 as fast and as precisely and even thenm you have not gained anything but 1 inch to your penis.

    • ozzallos .

      Why does modern technology only benefit 9mm again?

      • Jwedel1231

        It’s not that 45 ACP hasn’t benefited, it’s that the difference between a modern 45 vs a modern 9mm is less important to most people than the difference between 17 rounds and 13 rounds (for a full size frame).

        • Vince

          More important still is the shooters ability to APPLY said rounds to a bad guy.

      • iksnilol

        Because .45 ACP weighs as much as .308 whilst at best providing fewer rounds than your average compact pistol in 9mm. That and it provides about just as much killing power as 9mm. They both do the same thing. Only one is way more efficent at it. And yes, this applies to FMJ ammo as well, despite what your uncle’s brother’s neighbour who “was there, did that” says.

  • Jay

    “Bigger is better” is not always wrong.

    Heavier bullets have higher inertia, and have better chance to get to the vitals, and are harder to deflect off course by branches or grass. That’s why the 7.62×39 mm was more suitable for the jungles of Vietnam than 5.56mm.

    The same, I’d argue with the idea that a .32 that expands is more effective than a .45 that doesn’t. The laws of physics tell us that the more friction is placed on the bullet, the sooner it will stop. A bullet shot from a weak cartridge, if it expands very well, will have higher drag inside the target and may not have enough energy to reach the vital organs, even if it makes an impressive entry wound.
    The reason behind the “rule” on dangerous game is that you don’t always have the perfect shot and if your life is on the line better a bit of overpenetration, than not enough penetration.

    • It really depends on the .32. A .32 ACP that expands is not going to be better than .45 hardball, but a .327 Federal JHP or 7.62×25 JHP (basically .327 auto) will.

      • Holdfast_II

        Assuming the .32 ACP arrives with enough velocity to cause proper expansion. Not always a safe assumption.

      • Risky

        A hollowpoint that expands to the equivalent size of .45 should always do more tissue damage than a .45 ACP FMJ. Diameter is not the only factor in wounding mechanics.

        • That is absolutely true, especially given the sharp pressure spike that occurs when the hollow point expands, and the uneven, often sharp/jagged frontal profile of an expand JHP.

          However in the case of the .32 ACP the issue is the low energy of the round (125 ft/lbs – 220 ft/lbs depending on load) vs. .45 ACP FMJ (350 ft/lbs for 230gr x 830fps).

          Energy is “the capacity to do work.” And JHP’s typically shed most of their energy in the first 4″ of penetration due to the ‘parachute effect’ of the hollow point expanding , with energy progressively tapering off as penetration increases. The energy/do work effect is why 9mm, .40, and .45 duty ammo all perform so similarly – they all have nearly the same starting energy (in the case of Gold Dot, 410 ft/lbs, 420 ft/lbs, and 404 ft/lbs respectively.)

          In the case of the .32 ACP, it starts off with roughly 1/2 the energy of .45 ACP, and then loses say, 1/2 of that energy again in the first 4″ of penetration. The result is that it is just cruising through the rest of its wound path with minimal disruption, as its “capacity to do work” has been greatly diminished.

          By comparison, the .45 hardball is starting off with 2x the energy, and due to its FMJ profile combined with its high levels of momentum, it continues its penetration path with much higher levels of energy.

          So if the two rounds are shot with identical placement, and encounter an object 8″ into the penetration path, the expanded .45″ .32 ACP may only be striking with 30-40 ft/lbs of energy, while the the .45″ .45 ACP will likely be striking with 200+ ft/lbs of energy.

          I would absolutely not want to be shot with either. But if given a choice, I’d much rather be shot with a .32 JHP than a .45 FMJ.

          • iksnilol

            Don’t forget that .45 FMJ might do less damage. People assume that .45 leaves .45 holes, but it doesn’t really do that since tissue is flexible.

          • This is absolutely correct, and you can see that in action when shooting paper targets with a .45 – the actual hole punched out of the paper is around 0.3″, with the rest being torn area.

            However the same is true with JHP’s once they’ve settled down into the deeper part of their penetration tract. The initial penetration where energy is high, shows increased levels of dispersion, but the second 1/2 of the wound tract typically is indistinguishable from FMJ of the same diameter.

            Like I previously mentioned, a 400-500ft/lb .32 cartridge like .327 Federal of 7.62×25 will absolutely outperform .45 FMJ, and will be fairly comparable to .45 JHP in the case of the .327 loaded with Gold Dots (sadly there is no Gold Dot for the 7.62×25.)

            In terms of .32 ACP, the energy is not there. Actual gel tests of the 60gr Hornady XTP .32 ACP load by Fiocchi @ 1050fps from a 3.5″ barrel have 0.395″ expansion, 12″ of penetration, and 147 ft/lbs of energy. And this is the highest performance .32 ACP gel test I have been able to find in terms of expansion/penetration balance.

            If I was in some sort of bizarre, “Yakuza code of honor atonement situation,” where I had to be shot once in the chest to absolve myself with the gang, I would absolutely prefer being shot by that .32 ACP JHP load over the .45 FMJ.

          • Risky

            I misread the original post and glassed over the part comparing it also to 327 fed mag. Still though i think the idea of energy in sheer number doesn’t really matter though. That energy is just the potential of the the bullet to do work. A sharp edged 32 acp hp expanded to .45 should do more damage than a.45 fmj projectile given the same amount of penetration regardless of the velicocities, as long as we’re still talking about normal pistol velocities… it’s just that a normal 32 hp is going to vastly under penetration compared to and other fmj. The round nose of most fmj projectiles is just poorly suited to causing tissue damage at pistol velocities.

        • Kalroy

          I’ve noticed that the traditional comparison is JHP versus FMJ. You rarely every see someone comparing JHP to JHP or talking about it like, “Federal HST in 9mm versus Federal HST in 45ACP.”

        • Nigel Tolley

          .45 vs expanding to .45?
          Technically, you’ll lose some energy in the deformation of the slug so the .45 will have more energy into the target. However, that .45 is still likely pointy (so dumps energy slowly), & the expanded .45 slug is concave (so dumps energy comparatively quicker).

          Impossible to say without actual rounds for comparison.

  • TheSmellofNapalm

    What is the optimal point on the pressure curve for 5.56? If it’s indeed 20 inches, I think we need to think about developing a caliber with similar terminal ballistics and velocity, but with a shorter barrel. 20 inches is just not feasible for general infantry in this day and age.

    • CommonSense23

      The major issue that needs to drive small arms is going to be tactics. What’s killing us in Afghanistan isn’t our weapons it’s our tactics.

    • ostiariusalpha

      Optimal pressure curve is determined by how projectile and propellant interact, caliber isn’t very important. 55gr. Tula 5.56 ammo has a pressure curve that drops off rather quickly and favors short gas systems (and barrels), while 75gr. Hornady Superformance is perfectly happy with a 30″ barrel.

      • Right, there is no one pressure curve for 5.56mm. For example, M855 and M193 have a different curves than M855A1 and Mk. 318.

  • gunsandrockets

    What video?

  • Ben Wong

    other that those who served in combat or law enforcement or person that actually shot someone and live to see the aftermath all these myth are moot. As a combat veteran I wish I can CWP a M16A4 or M198 howitzer …. but alas I cannot. So my remedy is … I carry a firearm that I am proficient at (atm its a Springfield XDS in .45) although I wish I have a XDS in 9mm, today modern bullet technology (in my opinion) made all calibers equal (ok bring on ur hate mail and spreadsheet) its all about keeping calm hardwired muscle memory (practice practice practice) and judicious use of marksmanship cover and concealment. Semper Fi my brothers !

    • ostiariusalpha

      All of these myths apply to hunting, not just defensive and combat uses; humans aren’t the only critters that get shot. Even target shooting gets entangled with these myths to a large degree.

    • Anonymoose

      I still like .45 over smaller calibers. No hate, though.

    • Shayne Jenkins

      I, too, carry the XDs in .45. Reason: That’s all they made at the time. Would I go to a 9mm? Very possible. With wound channel similarities between the HP calibers, it’s really a toss-up.

    • RegT

      Ben Wong, the improvement experienced by new bullet design in the 9mm has also improved the other calibers as well. It follows that, if their terminal ballistics were better to start with, then the same improvement will naturally mean they remain better.

      The difference is this: the improvement in the 9mm projectiles used in 9mm ammo has made the 9mm successful at putting people down, whereas the older projectiles did not. So the only way the 9mm is equal to the .40 and .45 (using the same projectile designs) is that now it works. The .40 and .45 will continue to work better, and there may be times when it makes a significant difference – like passing through barrier material (sheetrock or windshields for example), where a 9mm may be defeated.

      The FBI has been trying to claim the 9mm is as good as all the other calibers, but they are really saying that weaker men and women agents are able to handle the size of the weapon and the lower recoil more easily, and therefore tend to be more accurate with it as well.

      • Gecko9mm

        I don’t think that’s what the FBI is saying now. I think they’re saying that modern bullet designs have made the 9mm as effective in terminal ballistics as 40 and .45 and since you can get more into a smaller design with less recoil, why bother?

  • Ike

    Definitely would like to see more posts like this, and more technical details are welcome. Thanks!

  • Kirk Newsted

    #1 Bigger is better. Nathaniel, answer honestly. Would you rather be shot with a 150 grain .308 or a 55 grain 5.56?

    • ostiariusalpha

      As long as it’s 150gr round nose ball vs. any 55gr HP or SP, I’d take my chances with the .308.

      • Dracon1201

        I think the point was to compare hardball. Changing bullets makes any comparison invalid.

        • ostiariusalpha

          Except that it goes directly to Nathaniel’s point that the bullet’s construction is more relevant than its caliber. My statement is entirely valid in the context of this discussion.

          • Dracon1201

            Both are important. The above reason is why we don’t sling 5.56 V-Maxes at 600 yds, though. Most people reach for the 6.5G or .308.

          • ostiariusalpha

            So, now we move the goalpost out to 600yds? How about 2000yds? Or how about we keep it sane at effective combat ranges like >200yds instead? At 600yds I’d still rather risk the 150gr. round ball than a 75gr. expanding bullet.

          • Dracon1201

            You missed the point. I was pointing out the fact that larger bullets maintain momentum and energy more effectively at distance, which is why we use them. You’re still failing to make a valid comparison between bullet types, which invalidates your point again. .308 still produces twice the energy at the muzzle, you’d be a fool to take that bet. Your “sane” combat range average is dangerous to believe, but there my .308 still has more than 1.5x the energy of the 5.56. You wouldn’t want to take a round from either, but scientifically speaking, a .308 still has the potential to cause more damage.

          • ostiariusalpha

            I understand the point all too well. Are you aware that your 150gr. bullet’s energy advantage is wasted on a round nose ball? They are very reliable about zipping straight through without any tumbling, while delivering very little of that energy to the target. I’d be a fool to voluntarily get shot with a .22 Short, but push-comes-to-shove, the .308 round ball’s wasted potential is the lesser of evils compared to a well constructed 5.56 round.

      • Kirk Newsted

        Quibbling. Assume same bullet type.

        • ostiariusalpha

          That assumption disregards the entire meaning of point #1 of this article: that bullet construction matters more.

        • Squirreltakular

          I would think that the 5.56 is more likely to destabilize and catastrophically fragment than the .308, even given the same construction.

        • Even with homologous bullets, larger caliber, higher energy rounds may be less effective than smaller, weaker ones.

    • Zachary marrs

      “Would you rather be shot” is stupid, it proves nothing

    • Word on the vine is that the Army goat labs use .30-06 M2 Ball (152gr) as a control because it’s so terminally ineffective.

      So what do you think?

      • Dracon1201

        I think you’re confusing point 1 with point 5. A bad, terminally ineffective bullet doesn’t mean that bigger is not better.

        • There is no point 5, and no I am not. In many cases, even holding bullet construction completely constant, smaller, weaker calibers are more terminally effective. Here is a paper for you, the seminal work “A Theory of Motion of a Bullet About Its Center of Gravity…”:

          http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/705381.pdf

          This was the formal paper describing the math behind the results found in the Pig and Goat Board tests, where smaller caliber rounds firing homologous bullets performed better than the larger, more energetic .30-06 rounds.

          We see this today, where smaller caliber 5.56mm M193 Ball rounds may do significantly more damage that larger-caliber 7.62mm rounds firing roughly homologous bullets, because the former’s higher velocity and proportionally earlier yaw induce more severe fragmentation.

          • Dracon1201

            Sorry, point 4 is what I meant. In soft tissue, comparing hardball ammo, yes, 5.56 is better than 7.62. Hard cover, not so much, because barrier penetration has a lot to do with the momentum. Thank you for the resource, it was fun to read. Again, I think this proves that bullet construction is important, as they show how ineffective .30 M2 Ball is, as we already knew. I expected nothing less. The bullet is not optimal for taking care of soft tissue, thereby correctly dumping it’s energy. Of course the M2 Yaws badly, it’s basically the poster child for icepicking. I would like to see a test that does this with modern varieties of ammo (Not just M2 ball), and see what happens. (Might be a good vid for TFBTV).

      • Kirk Newsted

        I think I would ask the Germans and Japanese what they think.

        And nion-answer to my question noted. Nice try.

        • Gecko9mm

          What do they think?

  • Dracon1201

    “The killing power of a gunshot comes instead from the velocity at which
    the bullet is driven, and the permanent cavity created by the
    projectile’s material carving a wound channel into the target.”

    So, the momentum of the round, or mass times velocity. Greater energy transfer always equals more damage, that’s where I think confusion comes from. No matter the medium, a round with higher momentum has the potential to do more damage. The kinetic energy/muzzle energy is a more appropriate measure, and I feel more accurately determines what the caliber is capable of before considering the terminal ballistics of the round.

    • “No matter the medium, a round with higher momentum has the potential to do more damage.”

      This is false. You are confusing the fact that momentum is the mathematical product of other relevant physical quantities and a mathematical factor in others, for it being a key physical quantity by itself.

      Momentum is (weakly) positively correlated with higher energy rounds, but so too are other irrelevant factors like cartridge mass, material consumption, and shipping container size per 20 rounds.

      • Dracon1201

        Well, no, it’s not incorrect. The more energy available, the more potential damage it can do. That’s just a fact. You’re confusing how it applies to your point 1. A bullet that properly dumps it’s energy in a target will only do more damage as momentum is increased.

        • You seem to be confusing momentum and energy. They are not the same quantity.

          • marathag

            And it’s energy transferred to the tissue

          • Dracon1201

            That’s why I explained that energy is quadratic (1/2MV^2). I’m an engineer. Momentum still scales, just in a different way since it’s a vector, and not a scalar quantity.

      • Giolli Joker

        “The momentum of a bullet, when it strikes a target, does not do more
        than perhaps somewhat bruise the surrounding tissues and very slightly
        accelerate the target rearward. The killing power of a gunshot comes
        instead from the velocity at which the bullet is driven, and the
        permanent cavity created by the projectile’s material carving a wound
        channel into the target.”

        I get your point, and I know that what you mean is right, however I think it’s counterproductive to decouple momentum and energy as in the example I quoted. You make it look like the bullets depletes its momentum while velocity remains… Energy and momentum are just mathematical models, a bullet has both until it’s perfectly still. While both can be useful to offer numerical examples* they cannot be taken as separate entities having different effects on target.
        Moreover, two bullets identical in shape, size and construction, with same terminal kinetic energy but different mass are going to have different penetration in the same media, as the heavier one (more momentum) decelerates less quickly, preserving energy longer. If penetration is particularly relevant (big game) to reach the intended target, it’s easy to understand why an index taking momentum into account can be considered useful. Of course everything has to be taken in the right perspective and electing momentum as “the measure of stopping power” is completely misleading.

        *icebergs aren’t that easy to grasp as an example, a heavy weight boxer punch vs a small caliber rifle bullet might be more helpful… 😉

        • Again, momentum is relevant to terminal effect, but not in the way that many people believe. Your penetration example is a pretty good one, for example. When it comes to “stopping power”, however, momentum is very nearly useless, the only possible exception I can think of being perhaps dangerous game hunting where a great deal of penetration is a necessity, but there are still much better models for that than pure momentum (specific momentum, which is a different quantity, for a start).

          • Giolli Joker

            Again, I got your point, I’m just saying that coming up with a sentence like this “The momentum of a bullet… does not do more than perhaps somewhat bruise the surrounding tissues and very slightly accelerate the target rearward” isn’t helpful at all, it only generates more confusion.
            Momentum is not stopping power, energy is not stopping power… stopping power is scientifically nothing… it’s purely the empirical result of a series of factors that all affect the wounding capability of a bullet… and plenty of factors are in the target itself
            Honestly, I’d rather have as a myth to debunk: “There is a measurable quantity called Stopping Power”.
            😉

  • smartacus

    the peer pressure to not appear like a myth-believer is so strong now I feel like my Keltec P3AT is stronger than my 500Magnum

  • DanGoodShot

    I’m quite the noob when it comes to this topic. With that said, I would absolutely love to read more articles about it. It’s a subject I find very fascinating and extremely interesting. Seeing as you’re just dipping your toe, I hope you find the water to be warm and inviting.

  • Myth #5 – 1911 carriers get more punanni. ;P

    • ostiariusalpha

      Dammit, but I swear after I bought that thing I was getting it super easy. Are you telling me they were totally unrelated?!

      • Correlation does not show causation. 😉

        • Volk

          If punanni’s your aim, a 32 or 380 Walther is the only real answer.

    • Squirreltakular

      Confirmed non-myth.

  • Mazryonh

    For myth number two, are ammo companies currently offering cartridges that use slower-burning powder to take advantage of longer barrels?

    Myth #5 might be “the shorter your rifle barrel, the more tacticool you are.”

    • Yes, it’s happening slowly, but they increasingly are.

  • Cal S.

    In regards to #2 and pistol calibers, it really depends. My 16″ Kel-Tec will spit .40 S&W (*GASP*) out faster than my 4″ G22. Even if it is only ~200fps faster.

    • gunsandrockets

      I saw a post online from someone who reloads 9mm, who did some very interesting experiments of reloading 9mm with rifle powder, and then test fired from a Hi-Point carbine.

  • Jim_Macklin

    About 50 years ago I shot a Tonka toy with my 1911. Range about 7 yards. 230 grain hard ball military ammo made a big dent, but did not penetrate. Tonka built tough toys.
    Later I shot a rabbit in the chest with a Ruger Hawkeye 256 Winchester which removed heart, lungs, liver, stomach and intestines. Quickest ready to cook rabbit ever.
    I carry a 3-1/2 inch 45 ACP with modern JHP. Now that I’m 70, I may get a 9mm to carry since it recoils less and with good bullets it is a stopper too.
    But a 223 is never a good dangerous game gun.

    • Zachary marrs

      Pretty good for hunting the most dangerous game of all

  • Jay

    as i told you, the video is gone now unfortunately. Was a Russian test of their assault rifle rounds shooting at a target behind a bush. The 5.45mm rounds deflected off target after hitting thin branches, but the 7.62mm, heavier bullets stayed on target. The difference was huge. I’m sure the light 5.56mm rounds in Vietnam had the same problem when shooting through thick brush, or tall grass.

    • CommonSense23

      The US has done extensive testing on this. 5.56 deflection was a none issue in Vietnam.

      • Gecko9mm

        Hey CommonSense, can you cite that? Not that I disbelieve you, but this runs contrary to common internet wisdom and it would be good to get something on the record that disputes it.

        • I plan to run my own controlled test on this soon.

          • Gecko9mm

            That would be great. Actual controlled testing with the correct conclusions made from it (and understanding the limitations of it) on yet another “everyone knows it to be true Gun Fact(tm)” would be great. I’ll never understand why the community has so much gun range/store derp rather than relying on controlled testing. AK > AR in ingress. AK inaccurate. .45 ball > 9mm JHP. All of the AK fire to failure of test lately have also been eye opening for some people too. Well, people who have open minds rather than religious preferences to a platform or caliber.

          • Based on undocumented and informal testing I’ve conducted previously, it should be an eye-opener for a lot of people. Or maybe an eye-opener for me, hahahah.

          • Gecko9mm

            Just remember to factor in the “this test is invalid ‘cuz the brush in ‘Nam’ was thicker and a darker shade of green.”

          • Vince

            I remember the great gun writer Dean Grennall Not being able to prove the ability of brush bucking bullets and one of the round best known for it the .35 Rem was THE worst he tested.

          • The Brigadier

            Please do and use .223 versus much bigger bullets. .375 magnums versus .223 would be indisputable proof.

  • Giolli Joker

    “take a .45 ACP and compare it to a 9mm, or a .308 Winchester against a .223”

    I’d rather pick 7.62×39 instead of .308 against .223, as 7.62×39 and .223 fill the same spot as much as 9mm and .45ACP do for handguns… between .223 and .308 there’s a performance difference due to factors other than just diameter, in fact both have their use on the battlefield, I find this specific example a bit misleading.

  • Laserbait

    I guess I’m thankful I just never have heard of these myths.

  • georgesteele

    Momentum is not used because it is a poor performance predictor, owing to threshold effects. No one wants to stand in front of a .45 ACP, yet it has exactly the same momentum as a 10 pound bag of sugar thrown at less than walking speed, and of a .220 Swift. But the terminal effects of all of these is dramatically different because of threshold effects like projectile frontal area, projectile shape, form factor, transsonic hydrostatic effects, etc. Kinetic energy is just a better, although not perfect, performance predictor when used in concert with these threshold effects.

    • Wakeupnow2014

      Agree. In short, how much energy the projectile can transfer to the target. A larger slower moving projectile can in fact transfer less energy than a smaller one at higher velocities. the effective variables being bullet design to transfer energy.

      • georgesteele

        Right, bullet design counts – and although the three projectiles above have the same momentum, they have radically different energies – the .45 300, and the .220 1400 times as much as the bag of sugar. A .45 FMJ will dissipate maybe 1/3rd of its energy while passing through a chest; the .220 BTHP will disintegrate in the first few inches, dissipating all its energy. But it’s hard to wear a varmint rifle in a shoulder holster . . .

  • randomswede

    Wouldn’t #4 be more like “There’s such a thing as Stopping Power”?

    I understand the thinking behind the concept of stopping power and I probably use it in conversation at times but it seems to me it’s like the concept of value.

    A taser has more “stopping power” than most any firearm, a .50 BMG to the toe is a bad, bad thing but a taser to the toe will lay you down flat or “stop” you.

    • Nigel Tolley

      My steel toe cap boots mess with your argument, I’m afraid.

      • randomswede

        As would a prosthetic foot, but I hope you understand the point I’m trying to make.

        • Nigel Tolley

          🙂

  • Michigan TrainingCounselor

    YES! More on ammunition.
    ~Training Counselor

  • Pat

    Since we’re talking ‘ballistic myths’, I’d also submit this one: “Rifling causes the bullet to rise after it leaves the muzzle”. I’ve met people who actually believe this, working at a local gun store.

    • iksnilol

      But it does happen.

      I zero my AK at 200 meters, and when I fire at 100 meters the bullet hits above my POA. Obviously the bullet rises, there’s no other explanation.

      • Shocked_and_Amazed✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

        So would a 12ga slug, without rifling. It rises because the muzzle is pointed up. It doesn’t jump up after leaving the muzzle

        • iksnilol

          Nah, I’m pretty sure it rises.

          • Shocked_and_Amazed✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

            Naw, I drops down and goes sideways with the rotation of the earth /s
            Sure it rises, the muzzle is pointed to the sky.

          • iksnilol
          • Shocked_and_Amazed✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

            Thanks for making my point. I was starting to draw you a picture but you found it online.
            Notice how the muzzle is not perpendicular to the plain [ie the muzzle is pointed up]. It is canted up from the line of sight.
            My only guess is that you are joking around

          • Pat

            I’m not sure if you’re trolling, or if you actually don’t understand how a ballistic trajectory works

          • Shocked_and_Amazed✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

            My guess is the charitable one that he’s just kidding. Otherwise, he shouldn’t be trusted with firearms

          • Tassiebush

            He’s kidding. He’s a loveable fiend sometimes.

          • Shocked_and_Amazed✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

            Just not this time 😉
            Thanks for the heads up. I’ll ignore the trolling

          • iksnilol

            The Kingdom of Norway means I should be trusted with firearms, or at least doesn’t mind… So yes, I might have been joking 😛

          • iksnilol

            You can clearly see the bullet rising, what kinda trolling would that be?

          • ostiariusalpha

            The masterful kind. 👏

    • Macht

      It actually can depending on wind direction and direction of twist. I suggest looking up the Magnus Effect. However, the effect is essentially negligible and is generally not what people are referring to when they say a bullet “rises”.

      • randomswede

        I suggest looking up the magnus effect again if you think it has anything to do with rifled barrels.
        If you are helping iksnilol, nevermind.

        • Macht

          I suggest you look it up again. Any standard ballistics text covers it, as well as any graduate fluid mechanics textbook. All rotating bodies simultaneously subjected to a crossflow are influenced by the Magnus effect. Given that the rifling is what causes the bullet to spin, I’d say rifled barrels have a lot to do with it.

          • randomswede

            My apologies you are right, I thought you’d mixed up how the magnus effect alters the flight of spherical balls such as golf balls with a topspin and a bullet with a spin axial to the vector.

            I’m not that interested in very/ultra long range ballistics so the magnus effect on a rifle round under crosswind wasn’t something I’d considered, I did indeed need to look it up again.

  • Jeff

    Probably the most common myth is that the shorter “horizontal distance” is the cause of bullets fired at an uphill or downhill angle hitting higher on the target. The horizontal distance has nothing whatsoever to do with the physics of why that happens.

  • iksnilol

    I’ve literally never heard that “double the barrel = double the velocity”, if that was even a thing we’d just get ARs with 2 meter barrels and use them for anti-materiel purposes (55 grains at 4 km/s should work, right?).

    • Shocked_and_Amazed✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

      A lot of that is a hold over from black powder cartridges where the barrel length had more of an effect. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it

      • randomswede

        I took a quick look at some pressure curves for black powder and they support your thinking.
        Black powder has a gentler curve without the huge spike in pressure we see in smokeless powder the pressure also falls slower.

        I doubt it equates to double for double in more than a few cases but it’s definitely more of a black powder “thing”.

  • Rodford Smith

    1) As an engineer, when someone claims that something is “obviously better” I ask “Better at what?” Is a hammer a better tool than a screwdriver?

    4) From what I have read and my own (admittedly narrow of application) shooting, it seems to me that momentum is more important than kinetic energy at typical handgun velocities, with the reverse applying at typical rifle velocities. Neither is the only important factor.

    The world is a complicated place, with few absolutes.

    • Shocked_and_Amazed✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

      The world is a complicated place, with few absolutes.
      Plus 5 sir

    • randomswede

      We agree fully on 1.

      Momentum versus Kinetic Energy is essentially “.45 vs 9mm” in engineer.
      (P = mV vs Ek = 0.5mV^2 incase someone else along with me needed the refresher)

      There’s a video of an anesthesiologist* giving a talk to ER personal, I couldn’t find the original so I’m not going to link it, but my understanding was that anything in the handgun range is “details”.
      Rifle round damage they don’t see much as the few (US civilians) who do get shot with rifles rarely make it to the OR.

      To sum up; I think you could be correct in that momentum trumps kinetic energy here, but I suspect it’s an academic difference in the sea of factors, as you so rightly allude to, the (real)world is a complicated place, with few absolutes.

      *Dr Andreas Grabinsky; There are some crappy versions on Youtube, it seems the original has been pulled.

      • Jonathan Ferguson

        It’s really not a “9mm vs 45” equivalent, because people still believe that momentum is a wounding mechanism. 9 v 45 is at least an argument with evidence on both sides. This is more of a “9mm vs a dead elk” argument. The 9mm can kill you, the dead elk can’t. A bullet crushing or stretching your tissues can kill you, the momentum imparted by small arm ammunition cannot. That’s the point Nathaniel is making.

        • randomswede

          I replied to the following:
          “…it seems to me that momentum is more important than kinetic energy at typical handgun velocities…”

          This relates to .45 vs 9mm as a heavy slower bullet will tend to have a higher momentum and the relatively lighter and faster 9mm tends to have more kinetic energy.

          I made no intentional reference to Nathaniel’s original point in my reply to “Rodford Smith”‘s post.

        • Nigel Tolley

          If you hit that dead elk in your car, the momentum of it (which makes it stay still) will kill you through your windshield. Unlike a pigeon flying at 40mph into your windshield at the same driving speed.

          It’s the change of momentum inside the target. Fast thing going straight through? Not much change, likely little damage. Slower soft thing that expands rapidly? Huge momentum change, huge damage. Light thing speed suddenly? Little damage, and possibly only surface damage. Fast heavy thing stopping nearly immediately? Guess what, that’s the best.

    • Arch Stanton

      That is one of the true absolutes!

    • LXL2LL

      I’m an engineer also. When I read these silly discussions, I ask “What is the definition of stopping power?”
      There have been studies made about which caliber has the best “one shot stopping power” where “stopping power” is defined as “when the altercation ends”. These studies obviously are focused police involved shootings and not hunting. The .357 magnum wins that every time.
      The reason the folks expressing their ignorance of Newtonian physics can’t agree on whether to use momentum, or kinetic energy to predict “stopping power” is that neither of these physics properties is relevant to predict any non-defined outcome.
      For this discussion, how about we define stopping power as one shot at a 225 pound man running hard toward you with a knife in his hand starting from 25 feet away. One shot must stop him from reaching you and stabbing you.
      You all can now debate whether a .45 ACP or a hopped up 9 mm is what you would use in this situation. And, most importantly, which would you predict would accomplish the outcome of not getting you stabbed. Would you use momentum or KE?
      Me, I’d use my .45-70 Government guide gun even though the bullet travels so slowly that you can see it in flight. That means it has little kinetic energy and not much momentum. Given another choice, I think I might select my 12 Ga. shotgun. I don’t know the momentum or the KE of a 3″ 00 shell, but I have high confidence it would outperform either a .45 ACP or a 9 mm.
      Now if the definition of stopping power is changed, we probably would all agree, that none of these calibers would be appropriate if the definition was one shot and dead with no forward motion from the running man.
      Both momentum nor KE is going to give you the answers that you are discussing here. Reason: definition of the problem not understood.
      Example: What does it take to “one shot stop” a 225 pound man at 25 feet (no forward motion toward you)?

  • ozzallos .

    5. And that you should never use .410 as a self defense round.

    • CommonSense23

      Right, but modern technology more effected the 9mm than either the 40 or 45.

  • Felipe

    Yes, do more topics like this.

  • kyphe

    Gah I have been trying to find where I read it, but from memory a 22LR stops gaining velocity at 25 inch and starts losing velocity at 32inch. It is more apparent in pistol caliber carbines due to the fast burn nature of the propellant. Long barreled high velocity rifles use slow burn to maintain even transfer of energy to the projectile through the length of the barrel.

    • Tassiebush

      Some would have that transition in much shorter lengths too. I’ve heard some .22lr loads reach max velocity at 14″

      • kyphe

        I remember that 14″ was said to be optimum for .22lr as the increase in velocity beyond that point was basically pathetic. You can cut a barrel from 25″ to 15″ and lose only about 50ft per second.

  • Some Rabbit

    The reason some folks assume the .45 must be more deadly is because you can feel the weight of the bullet in your hand, but not the velocity that will be imparted on firing. That’s an intangible people can’t grasp. When smokeless powder replaced black powder, there were military surgeons who refused to believe that pointy .30-06 bullets could ever be as lethal as the lumbering .45-70 because, BULLET WEIGHT.

  • RoyG

    In my opinion the bottom line here is the best caliber for the job is the one that you have in YOUR gun and the one you have spent time practicing with… weather its a 22 or a 45 no criminal breaking into your house is going to sit around and wait for you to fire to see what caliber is chambered in your firearm.. these days ammo manufactures have so many creative ways/designs to equalize the difference in bullet weight and size that i think the caliber issue is becoming a moat issue.. but in the end your well written article will still not squash the caliber debate and the myths will still live on… besides we gun enthusiast still need something to talk about…

  • Joel

    Excellent post.

    On a tangentially related topic, many of my students have come to believe that caliber is a viable substitution for speed and/or accuracy. There’s still lots of that out there.

  • A Fascist Corgi

    Just so everyone knows, Nathaniel actually tried to argue that the 5.56mm M855A1 round has superior terminal performance than a .308 ball round and even a .50 BMG ball round…

  • l2a3

    #2 is correct to a point. It depends on the caliber and cartridge. EG. The velocity of a 20 inch barrel shooting 5.56 is faster than the velocity of a 16 inch barrel, but in a .22LR the velocity is less in a 24 inch barrel than in a 16 inch barrel.

    As for the accuracy using only the barrel length and velocity, longer sight radius in the key not the length of the barrel (but it helps).

  • Bob

    #1. If you are comparing 45 BALL to 9 MM BALL, the 45 is superior on a human target!
    if you are comparing 55 grain 223 to 147 grain 7.62 Nato, the 7.62 Nato is superior on a human target!
    I’ve shot VC while on point with the MOUSE gun. I hosed them with three 18 round magazines (20 wouldn’t work in all M-16’s back in 68) and they were TURNING on me with their 7.62 x 39 AK-47’s. They did NOT DIE SOON ENOUGH!! Yeh they died, but NOT SOON ENOUGH! When you hit an enemy soldier, he is highly pi$$ed off and motivated to KILL you.
    #2 The bullet WILL speed up, to a certain length, then it will actually slow down due to friction. Of course, you are talking a LONG barrel here.
    #3. Here again. A 45 HST will out do a 9 mm HST !! now if you are comparing a 45 Ball to 9 mm HST, that is an entirely different story.
    #4 Stopping power in the REAL WORLD is far different then all of the arithmetic formulas.

    See number 1 above about STOPPING power. You want them DEAD NOW!
    Doubt me, then go enlist. Been there….Done that!

  • supergun

    I have always heard that a shorter barrel, say a 4.3 inch on a semi-auto pistol is less accurate than a 5, 5.5, or 6 inch barrel. That claim is not true.

  • machgman

    Regarding #1, it is silly to keep referring to FMJ 45 bullets for justifying the assumed superiority of smaller caliber rounds with modern, controlled expansion self-defense bullets. It is dumb to keep comparing new projectiles with FMJ 45 bullets. Its time to be intelligent and assume intelligent 45 shooters will load their 45s with Gold Dots, Golden Sabres, and other loadings from Federal, Barnes, Winchester, and other leading ammo makers who use state-of-the-art, designed expansion bullets that work at the load velocity window.

    Regarding #2, Camp Perry shooters proved a long time ago that the primary factors that affect barrel accuracy are connected to barrel harmonics and the quality of the muzzle crown.

    Furthermore, a longer barrel will give you proportionately more velocity if the pressure curve is proportinately adjusted. Using an identical load, incrementally longer barrels will only give you velocity increases dependent on the pressure curve until the pressure drop-off produces corresponding velocity decreases.

    Regarding #4, medical experts and scientist remain unsure and unable to properly quantify the factor momentum plays in the lethality of bullets and other projectiles.

    Also, the author dismisses the bruising and damage the momentun of bullets produces. The body of evidence produced from bullets blocked by vests that result in impact injuries and bruises refute the author’s unsubstantiated assertions. The Dept of Justice and FBI have many reports documenting after shooting results that show the true effect bullet momentum has.

    Obviously, being an ammo nerd does not make one immune to spouting erroneous, illogical opinions unsubstantiated by facts.

  • Archie Montgomery

    A better title for this essay would be “The Top Four Ballistic Myths I (the writer) Promote”

    I don’t know anyone who isn’t either a non-gun owner or one of the anti-firearms mass who even remotely think #2 has any validity. Mr. Hedegaard-Schou has a much better alternative myth.

    The ideas about calibers and the question of ‘kinetic energy’ versus ‘momentum’ is still very much alive. The author’s claim of a decisive answer is a myth.

    And the #3 “trick bullet” myth. Oh, please!

    • So then why don’t I get sent to the hospital every time I pull the trigger on a firearm? It has greater momentum in recoil than the bullet does.

      • Archie Montgomery

        It may be because the momentum from a bullet is a wound and applied internally. The momentum from a recoiling firearm is applied externally and has a greater area. Probably some other things you hadn’t noticed.

        Please, Nataniel; if you’re going to swallow all the myths presented herein, just do your hero worship to him and leave the knowledgable people alone.

        • My hero worship to whom? Myself? You know I wrote this article, right?

          Wait, doesn’t a bullet start applying its momentum externally? Then how does it penetrate the body if that’s just external momentum that doesn’t wound anything?

          As for the reduced area, one of these days, I am going to duct-tape a pencil to the buttstock of my AR-15 and prove to you guys that momentum over frontal area does not equal lethality.

          • Archie Montgomery

            Pretty much to yourself. You’ve published misleading and ultimately erroneous information and can’t find the ability to admit your error.

            I did miss your name; but the reply didn’t sound intelligent enough to have written the initial essay. Silly me.

            You miss a couple other points as well. You appeal to Newton’s Laws of Motion – the third one specifically. So you can explain to me why ‘momentum’ is A) enhanced in recoil and B) why the law of Motion applies to momentum and not energy.

            Additionally, you might explain why kinetic energy – the sort based on the mass of the projectile times the velocity of the projectile squared is more important than momentum at rifle shooting distance. I’ll give you a hint; lighter bullets – resulting from smaller calibers – lose velocity much quicker than heavier bullets. So much kinetic energy loss one hears multiple reports of 5.56 mm bullets which will not deliver much of a wound at ranges of 300 to 400 meters. However, the 7.62×51 NATO round from a rifle fares much better in such a situation.

            The impressive kinetic energy of the smaller, faster projectile only works at closer ranges. Whereas the heavier bullet of the larger rifle works at all ranges.

            One also notes the really impressive kinetic energy does not occur with handguns. The velocity of a 9×19 handgun is greater than a larger handgun, but isn’t so great as to create ‘shock’ in an adversary.

            Your claim about kinetic energy being more important than momentum is a long argued topic. It is still being argued, for that matter. There is no definitive information which ends the argument. None.

            Obviously, you lean toward the kinetic energy concept. Feel free. When you claim the discussion is over, you’re either mistaken or publishing false information.

            So far, I’ve shown you why you’re mistaken in your claims. All I’ve heard from you is “Is so!” Not to mention demonstrating your faulty understanding of ballistics and physics.

            Want to try to answer the questions?

          • You appear to be trolling me. Every single thing you said is wrong.

          • Archie Montgomery

            Since you have avoided any any answers to the questions I pose AND you have begun name-calling, you have admitted defeat. I accept your surrender and retire.

          • I am going to ignore your use of the pigeon chess strategy and continue.

            Where exactly did I call you a name?

            I wasn’t going to do this, but OK, here’s all the things you’ve gotten wrong:

            “It may be because the momentum from a bullet is a wound and applied internally. The momentum from a recoiling firearm is applied externally and has a greater area. Probably some other things you hadn’t noticed.”

            This is utter nonsense and does not need refutation. However, I took the liberty of refuting the second bit here.

            “You appeal to Newton’s Laws of Motion – the third one specifically. So you can explain to me why ‘momentum’ is A) enhanced in recoil and B) why the law of Motion applies to momentum and not energy.”

            Nope, wrong again. I am talking about conservation of momentum, that’s Newton’s first law. Conservation of momentum does not apply to energy – indeed, if you do the math, it cannot possibly apply for this problem! See my math here:

            “How can kinetic energy be conserved? We know that the momentum is conserved, so we can look at the figures I produced in another comment:

            “34 grain projectile at approximately 1,100 ft/s = 37,400 grn-ft/s

            2 grain propellant at approximately 2,000 ft/s = 4,000 grn-ft/s

            Total momentum of the ejecta: 41,400 grn-ft/s

            Weight of rifle, approximately 5.5lbs, 38,500 grains

            41,400 grn-ft/s divided by 38,500 grains = approximately 1.1 ft/s recoil velocity.”

            So we can calculate the kinetic energy of the projectile, about 124 J

            the propellant, about 24 J,

            and the rifle, about 0.151 J.

            So therefore, kinetic energy is far from conserved!”

            “Additionally, you might explain why kinetic energy – the sort based on the mass of the projectile times the velocity of the projectile squared is more important than momentum at rifle shooting distance. I’ll give you a hint; lighter bullets – resulting from smaller calibers – lose velocity much quicker than heavier bullets. So much kinetic energy loss one hears multiple reports of 5.56 mm bullets which will not deliver much of a wound at ranges of 300 to 400 meters. However, the 7.62×51 NATO round from a rifle fares much better in such a situation.”

            Yeah, you know that the last time ballistic models relied on the bullet’s momentum moving the air out of the way, there was still an Imperial Germany, right?

            Momentum is still a factor in a bullet’s flight through the air – that you bring this up in fact tells me you didn’t bother to read my post very thoroughly, because I say here:

            “However, although momentum is an important quantity in ballistics, it does not imply the degree of terminal effectiveness, or “stopping power”, that a projectile has.”

            “The impressive kinetic energy of the smaller, faster projectile only works at closer ranges. Whereas the heavier bullet of the larger rifle works at all ranges.”

            This is completely wrong, and lacks even the most rudimentary understanding of aerodynamics. Perhaps you oversimplified to talk down to me, or for some other reason, but all it did was cloud your point and make you look a bit silly.

            “One also notes the really impressive kinetic energy does not occur with handguns. The velocity of a 9×19 handgun is greater than a larger handgun, but isn’t so great as to create ‘shock’ in an adversary.”

            Are you saying that projectiles with insufficient striking energy do not produce work? Because if you’re not saying that, it implies you don’t understand the relationship between work and force, and how that applies to expansion and other projectile effects. Either way, you are completely wrong.

            “Your claim about kinetic energy being more important than momentum is a long argued topic. It is still being argued, for that matter. There is no definitive information which ends the argument. None.”

            Well, except this one.

            “Obviously, you lean toward the kinetic energy concept. Feel free. When you claim the discussion is over, you’re either mistaken or publishing false information.”

            Or I just know about conservation of momentum.

            “So far, I’ve shown you why you’re mistaken in your claims. All I’ve heard from you is “Is so!” Not to mention demonstrating your faulty understanding of ballistics and physics.”

            Let’s try a thought experiment. I go into a university department, let’s say math. I begin shouting about how 2 equals 3 and when you square a number you end with half the result, and how differential equations prove that prime numbers don’t exist and all sorts of nonsense.

            What response should the math department have to this behavior? Maybe one could argue that they should patiently sit me down and explain to me all the details and nuances of their art and leave me the better, more learned man.

            But hardly anyone would hold it against them if they laughed in my face and showed me the door, now would they?

          • Kevin Harron

            Being so retardedly wrong that someone gives up on talking to you isn’t winning. Unless you are trolling.

      • georgesteele

        How does a firearm have more momentum than the bullet it fires? Conservation of momentum dictates that they have equal momentum.

        • Archie Montgomery

          Mr. Steele, thank you. I cannot believe I missed that howling error! (I did, obviously.)

          Further, Mr. F seems to think that while ‘momentum’ is conserved – if not increased – ‘energy’ is not. Humpf.

          • Oh I am dying to hear how you can conserve both energy and momentum in a problem with two bodies of different weights. Take your time, I’ll wait here.

          • georgesteele

            Well, the problem is in the semantics; conservation of momentum and conservation of energy deal with two very different issues. That is, conservation of momentum deals with mass and velocity of two objects interacting. Conservation of energy deals with a closed system in which, for example, the potential (chemical) energy stored in primer and powder is directly convertible into kinetic energy of bullets moving, heat generated, frictional forces overcome, etc. They share the same word (conservation) but are really speaking to very different phenomena. Certainly, we know that momentum and kinetic energy are related by velocity, but in the boolits world, we have other practical, important, technical things to consider like ‘splodin’ water jugs.

          • xthetenth

            Energy and its conservation work differently from momentum (ha ha). The change in total internal energy of a system equals the added heat, minus the work performed by the system. That’s entirely different from momentum which is just that total momentum of the system is constant.

            Just for a really trivial high school example, look up what an inelastic collision is and what it means for the energy of the system versus the momentum of the system.

            Cripes.

        • You’re forgetting the momentum of the propellant, as well.

          • georgesteele

            Technically correct, but 4 or 5 grains of Bullseye pushing a 230 grain bullet does not contribute materially to the momentum. I’m differentiating, of course, between momentum and felt recoil, because clearly the jet effect of the outflowing gas has a noticeable barrel-axis vector of force that amplifies felt recoil. It’s more the effect of the momentum that is perceived, in that the force in recoil is distributed over a very large area, so that the unit area force against your hand is insufficient to cause material damage. Were you to distribute the same force with a pencil point against your hand, however, it would be a lot less comfortable. Momentum is just not a good metric to use, as I have written elsewhere. A 10 pound bag of sugar thrown at less than walking speed has the same momentum as a 4400 f/s 40 grain .220 swift, but no one considers them equal in stopping power. And they both have the same momentum as a .45 ACP.

          • George, you’ve mentioned the bit about area a couple of times in my comments section now. Today I have put my money where my mouth is in regards to that, and the article describing that experiment will go up tomorrow morning.

          • georgesteele

            Interesting! I look forward to reading it. Your articles are very thought-provoking.

        • xthetenth

          Conservation of momentum dictates that the entire system sums up to the momentum it had at the start. As a hint, is the bullet the only thing going out of the muzzle?

          • georgesteele

            Already addressed in my comment below. The ejecta include the unburned powder and the sum of the gases resulting from the burned powder, both of which are moving at a higher speed than the bullet (as can easily be seen from slo-mo muzzle videos of a bullet being fired), but as I say below, they contribute minimally to momentum because of the mass involved – in other words, that’s a first approximation statement. When I asked the above question, I thought the author might have been confusing momentum and recoil energy, which he was not. However, your statement is correct only in the vector sense; at the start, there is zero momentum (again, neglecting rotation of the earth, etc.); after firing, there are two moments, acting in opposite direction. As I say elsewhere, momentum is a very bad predictor of damage and lethality. It is not so bad when predicting things like overcoming resistance to penetration, when used within a context – that is, comparing a 230 grain .45 and a 40 grain .22 at the same velocity.

    • Ah, denial of Newtonian physics! Ain’t America beautiful !!!

      • Archie Montgomery

        So, Mr. Keene; ‘momentum’ is covered by Newton’s Third Law of Motion, but ‘energy’ isn’t?

        You and Mr. F both seem to have missed this; or you’re claiming the ‘energy’ possessed by the recoil of the arm is ‘different’ than the ‘energy’ possessed by the bullet.

        I am more than passing familiar with Sir Issac’s work and I’m pretty familiar with the late Albert Einstein’s additions to the issue.

        My main point is the essay itself does not merely discuss a set of myths – and misses some other more common ones – but propagates myths of its own.

        • ♪ Somebody’s never done a force diagram in his liiiiife! ♫

  • Kivaari

    I agree. It’s just that over the last 60 years I’ve heard all of those claims. over and over again. Having owned gun stores, the same stories show up OVER AND OVER AGAIN.

  • Kivaari

    Another reason to pick 9mm over .45, is the ability to actually hit the target fast and repeatedly. During qualifications the officers armed with the .45s missed the rapid fire targets more than they hit. After demonstrating how much difference there was between the hitting v. missing, the department switched from .45s to 9s.

  • Anthony “stalker6recon”

    I have been having the “size matters” fight for decades. Even today, I read commenter who claim they only use a “man stopping” round/caliber.

    My reply usually falls into this. “bet you never been shot by any caliber”, followed closely by “placement is more important than caliber”.

    They always pretend to have some size=power=victory knowledge that just doesn’t hold water. Gets boring after a while.

    • maodeedee

      But following the same logic, if a 9mm is just as good as a 45 then a 32 is just as good as a 9mm.

      • Anthony “stalker6recon”

        Again, caliber means less than placement and type of round. A ball round of 45 through the meat of the leg, does less damage than a 9mm hollow point in the same location. Those who argue that bigger is better, have never been shot, or likely even shot at. A 22lr is just as dangerous as any 45, and nobody would enjoy catching one on the face.

        • maodeedee

          Shot placement is important but being shot or having been shot at has nothing to do whatsoever with the relative effectiveness of different handgun rounds.

          I prefer the 9mm in a small concealable carry gun and the 45 as a bedside gun for home defense. And I like a 16 round 10mm Auto with the proper ammo as a woods gun for bear defense.

          To say that one is better than the other is like saying , “Which is better, a hammer or a saw?”

          • Anthony “stalker6recon”

            You are missing the point. It doesn’t have bearing on which is better/worse, and I have never eaten a bullet either.

            The point is, they get so hung up on caliber, they lose sight of the fact that any bullet hurts, any bullet can kill. That is the point. If someone that goes on and on about caliber being the most important factor, I just giggle. As if they could be hit with a round, and then say “woh, I got lucky, that idiot is using a 9mm,if he had shot me with a 45, I would be dead” as he lay bleeding from his wound.

          • Gecko9mm

            I guess the question is given the same objective of self-defense pistol for both ( not stopping bear right ) Why is your bedside pistol a .45? Are you giving up capacity to make that decision? Would it be more logical to carry the similar version of your CCW piece? Say G19 carry and G17 as a night stand gun? I also think the hammer/saw argument applies to 10mm/44 Magnum as those are clearly saws, not hammers. But when you get to 40/45/9mm, those are all hammers, just slightly different shaped hammers or colored hammers with the actual end result being so insignificant as to not make a difference.

  • Zebra Dun

    Bullet placement stops and kills.
    1. Forensic coroners and Doctors state otherwise.
    2. True, the .45 acp is actually slower out of a Thompson than an 1911A1. This is true for many cartridges and not true for others.
    3. Proper bullet placement on the target matters more than caliber or bullets shape, type and weight as long as the bullet is able to penetrate the target to a lethal depth in a CNS area.
    4. See number 3.

    This argument has been going on since gunpowder and projectiles were invented.
    It won’t be settled here by anyone.
    Good write up though!

    • maodeedee

      #2, “the .45 acp is actually slower out of a Thompson than an 1911A1” is false.

      While the 45 doesn’t gain much from 12 inches more of barrel, it doesn’t lose velocity either. I suggest you Google “Ballistics by the inch” and look at the actual chronograph figures.

      It shows a Federal 230 gr. Hi-Shok JHP clocking 817 fps out of a Five inch Para-Ord LDA 14 5″ barrel barrel and 989 fps out of a Kahr Thompson 16″ barrel.

    • Doctors and coroners aren’t ballisticians, so whether they think terminal effectiveness is more complex than just “bigger = better” or not isn’t really relevant.

  • Steve_7

    The one that I’ve heard so many times is that you need a fast twist to stabilize the SS109 bullet. I think most people realize you don’t need 1/7 but a lot of people seem to think anything less than 1/9 is too slow. Err…
    The SS109 bullet is actually shorter than the old M196 tracer bullet. It is stabilized in a 1/12 twist. They had to go to 1/7 because of the ridiculously long SS110 tracer bullet.

  • tyrannyofevilmen

    4b: The idea that with respect to handgun calibers “stopping power” is actually a thing.

  • Stomper

    Ha ha… Look at all the bullet nerds! 😜

  • BambiB

    Dumb. All of it. “All things being equal” most of the above is simply wrong. It’s only by adding some wildcard factor that the author has any point at all (besides the one on top of his head). So, Bigger is generally better. Longer generally means higher velocity (yeah, not proportional… if that’s the only point, imagine a million-mile long barrel and going for light speed). Caliber matters. The author is the only one I’ve ever seen say, “bullets don’t”. And generally, momentum is proportional to stopping power. Think not? Let’s duel. You take the Daisy BB gun, I’ll take the 500 S&W. Let’s see who gets stopped first.

    Now that you’ve killed all the straw men, what’s next?

  • hillausa

    Myth #1: Bigger is not better? Well just ask some of the ladies that you know. Is it ALWAYS better? Not ALWAYS. (Seriously ask them) But to argue the opposite is just as lacking as the first. Comparing .45FMJ against .32JHP is literally contradicting what our writer’s point was in myth #3. Which was bullet type is more important than caliber! The article is rank with irony don’t you think? However, anytime someone tries to push the envelope and tests our conventional wisdom of what we “generally” know….. I must applaud that effort even tho our writer was within 2 MOA of making sense. Stating the exceptions of smaller calibers were more relevant/effective than the rule of larger calibers is quite a stretch. 9mm is a great round and it’s an even better round today. But so is the .45. The tech improvements and development are not exclusive to the 9mm. At the end of the day there is a flavor for all the people to enjoy and I’m tired of reading from really bright individuals wasting their intellect on a discussion as basic and simplistic as chocolate vs. vanilla of the gun community.

    Myth #2: Again, Nathan found the exception and said it was the rule. I absolutely agree with him that it is not as simple as we all generally think. Not the common dominating result.

    Myth #3: ABSOLUTELY RIGHT.

    Myth #4: Agree and disagree but to tired to explain.

  • buzzman1

    #1 Why do they always fall back to comparing everything to a .45 hardball ammo? Why not .45 hollow-points? And the .32 cal is what is referred to as a belly gun. Very short range and generally worthless.

    #2 longer barrel does equal higher velocity however that stops at different barrel lengths for different calibers. Short barreled rifles waste most of the powder in the round.

    #3 Yes the terminal ballistics of different bullets of the same caliber does affect lethality. No shock their.

    #4 I have never heard anyone use the word momentum with bullets.

  • CavScout

    #4 is just arguing semantics, in a false or misleading way. All other traits of the bullets being the same, the one with more ft/lb force will have more EFFECT on target.

  • Steve W

    Carried a 9mm, 3.1″ for over 25 years. Served me well, put the hurt on more than a few bad guys and was an easy carry. Still wear it everyday in retirement. I prefer some talon type hollow point rounds though.

  • The Brigadier

    Nonsense.