Each and every day, more people throughout the country are getting their concealed carry permit. You want to load your handgun with the best hollow-point bullets that you can find in today’s scarce ammo market. That if you ever have to use it, you will have the best chance at stopping the threat. I personally recommend and prefer the 9mm for numerous reasons. It’s cheaper to train with, better recoil management, faster follow up shots, holds more rounds, great for first time shooters, for shooters of a wide age group, and the growing women audience. Premium 9mm thermal ballistics can match and exceeds some .40 and .45 calibers in some cases. 9mm has been around for over a century, it came a long way, improvements have been made. Using today’s premium rounds which will be discuss later in this article, there isn’t much difference in wounding between the 3 major handgun calibers. All three are great and will get the job done, the choice is yours.
Before I move on, I would like to discuss some handgun/ rifle ballistics. None of the top 3 handgun rounds that are used by LEO’s and private civilians which are the 9mm, 40 S&W and .45 ACP have true stopping power. That being said, if you know you’re going in to a gun fight, grab that rifle! Here are some basic ballistics to settle the handgun caliber war debate that people love to discuss. Even the popular 22 cal which is the .223/5.56 has more stopping power than that big 10mm. A standard ball 55 grain .223 will produce ~1200 ft·lb energy vs the .45 ACP with about ~400 ft·lb, 10mm ~500 ft·lb and a 9mm ~300 ft·lb. See Ballistics Chart for details. Kinetic energy is just a piece of the puzzle.
Hydrostatic shock (only can be achieve with rifle rounds) plays a major role in stopping power which can create remote tissue, organ, and bone damage. Now bring in some bonded SP .223 rounds which will farther increase the effectiveness of the caliber. Speed Kills! Please note that over penetration which can lead to the bullet exiting the body while dumping less energy and overall less damage which can endangering bystanders. So that millimeter difference is almost negligible, especially with today’s 9mm premium rounds. Like I said, shot placement, round count and follow up shots are more important than that minuscule size difference.
The Federal HST line is my primary everyday carry ammo of choice. You ask why? The FBI and others have done extensive testing throughout the years with this round. Along with the Speer Gold Dot, and the Winchester Ranger T series. The 124 grain, and 147 grain HST do well through standard barrier, bare gelatin and through 4 layers of heavy denim. Not to mention they do great in subcompact pistols which have barrels that are about 3 inches long. Some bullets perform great in standard size pistols with 4 – 4.8 inch barrels, but do poorly in shorter barrels such as the Hornady Critical Duty just to name one. The Hornady Critical Defense expands better than the Critical Duty in shorter barrels. I rather use the type of ammo that consistently excels in full size, compact & subcompact handguns through most common barriers and still deliver. Now a lot of us carry sub compact pistols such as, the M&P Shield, XD-S, Glock 26, and Ruger LC9. You never know what type of situation you will be in. The bad news is these ammo types are not easy to find, and can be relative expensive. They are marketed for law enforcement agencies. You have better luck finding them online than at your local gun show or LGS. Make sure you know your state laws regarding hollow point ammo.
Here are some great videos by ShootingTheBull410 whose test setup is to FBI specs.
Federal HST 124 grain
Federal HST 147 grain
Winchester Ranger T 147 grain
Good defensive handgun barrier test by Military Arms Channel.
9mm Defensive Loads Barrier Test