A little earlier this year, Tactical Life asked 14 respected firearms industry professionals whether they preferred the 9mm or the .45 ACP.
The results weren’t surprising. None came out clearly in favor of the .45. Several hedged with a “it just depends.” The rest pointed out that the 9mm offered greater magazine capacity, lower recoil, faster follow-up shots, lower cost, is easier to find, more consistent and better barrier penetration, and can be used effectively by a wider range of shooters in a wider array of handguns.
The FBI Training Division came to a similar conclusion in their justification to switch away from the .40 Smith & Wesson cartridge that they helped developed back to the 9mm.
When using any sort of “like” ammunition for comparison, the .451″ bullet of the .45 ACP is going to make a bigger hole than a .355″ 9mm bullet. That allowed, the FBI Training Division noted that with modern ammunition, the difference in actual wounds in human bodies is so slight that doctors can discern no difference between the wound channels caused by 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP handguns.
So is the “science settled?”
Yes… and it’s utterly irrelevant.
While scientific data, expert opinion, and real-life use all seem to weigh in the favor of a 9mm cartridge, the intangibles of personal preference are numerous.
The .45 ACP is a veteran of the First and Second World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam. In a much more limited role, it has also served in our modern wars in Africa and southwest Asia, and still serves in specialized units, such as the Marine Raiders. It is the handgun cartridge of Alvin York, John Basilone, and Basil Plumley as they performed stunning feats of bravery against seemingly insurmountable odds.
It is totemic. It is infused with myth and legend. It is a way of touching and owning those values that made the United States great.
So yes, you’ll find those professionals who can choose their weapons will most often choose 9mm pistols for their daily needs. You’ll also find that those same professionals have .45 ACPs in their gun safes, and often have a high-end 1911 in a place of honor that they would still trust implicitly.
In the end, there isn’t really a debate, just a preference, and most will choose to revere both the 9mm and the .45 ACP on their own merits.