Choosing Between a 9mm vs. .45 Handgun

9MM VS 45 ACP HEADER

How to Choose Between the 9mm and a .45 ACP handgun?

Choosing the suitable handgun and choosing between a 9mm vs. .45 handgun for your needs requires careful consideration of several factors. These include your intended use, personal preferences, skill level, and budget. Here are some tips to help you choose the suitable handgun and caliber.

Is a Handgun Right for me?

Researching whether a handgun is good decision

Doing a self-assessment before going down this road is always a good idea. If you’re considering owning a handgun, there are several factors to consider before making a decision.

Here are some things to think about when determining if a handgun is right for you:

Owning a Handgun Considerations

  • Purpose: Why do you want a handgun? Is it for self-defense, recreational shooting, hunting, or competition? The answer to this question will help you determine the type of handgun you need.
  • Training: Owning a handgun requires knowledge, training, and practice. You must understand how to handle, store, and operate a handgun safely. You also need to be comfortable with shooting and maintaining it. If you’re unwilling to invest time and effort in learning these skills, a handgun may not be the right choice. There are other self-protection options.
  • Cost: Handguns can be expensive, and ammunition, accessories, and training can add up quickly. Before purchasing, consider your budget and whether you can afford to own and maintain a handgun.
  • Legal restrictions: Handgun ownership may be restricted in some countries, states, or municipalities. Some restrictions are age requirements, background checks, waiting periods, and licensing. Make sure you understand the laws and regulations that apply to you.
  • Personal factors: Finally, consider your situation, such as your living situation, family dynamics, and mental health. If you live in a crowded area, have children or pets, or struggle with mental health issues, owning a handgun may not be the best choice for you.

Overall, owning a handgun is a serious decision that requires careful consideration. Considering these factors, you can determine whether a handgun is right for you and make an informed choice.

Intended Handgun Use

The first step in choosing a 9mm vs. .45 handgun is determining your intended use: Are you looking for a handgun for self-defense, target shooting, or hunting? Handguns are designed for different purposes, so choosing a gun that fits your intended use is important.

The type of handgun appropriate for each use can depend on several factors, such as caliber, size, weight, and design. Here are some examples:

Self-Defense

If you plan on carrying, handguns used for self-defense are typically small, lightweight, and easy to carry. Some popular models include the Glock 43x, Kimber Micro 9, and Smith & Wesson M&P Shield. Popular caliber choices for self-defense include. 380, 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP.

Between the 9mm and .45 ACP, the rule of thumb I use here is what is most comfortable and will allow you to shoot the most accurately. I would consider carrying it if you could shoot a .45 ACP very comfortably. You will sacrifice magazine capacity, and typically, the weight of your gun will be heavier, but it is a very effective personal defense caliber.

If you feel a situation could arise where magazine capacity could be an issue, the 9mm will typically carry twice as much (or more) ammunition than a .45 ACP. If you are sensitive to recoil, the 9mm is a better choice than the .45, and if you are very sensitive to recoil, consider the .380.

Considering magazine capacity

Target Shooting

The best target-shooting handguns are accurate, reliable, and comfortable to shoot. Some factors to consider when choosing a target-shooting gun include the following:

Personal Preferences and Factors

Beyond the technical characteristics, personal preferences and individual factors should also be considered when deciding between a 9mm and .45 ACP for self-defense. Factors such as hand size and strength, shooting ability, and recoil tolerance can influence your comfort and accuracy with each caliber. Evaluating these factors alongside the technical aspects is important to make a well-informed decision.

Factors to Consider9mm.45 ACP
Stopping PowerLowerHigher
RecoilLessMore
CapacityHigherLower
TARGET SHOOTING

If you only plan on target shooting, you could consider other calibers with less expensive ammunition than the 9mm or .45 ACP, for example, a .22 caliber. However, with that being said, if you know you want a 9mm or .45 ACP, you’ll want to consider the cost of ammunition will typically run 30 to 45% higher.

Target Shooting 9MM and .45 ACPs to consider

9MM Considerations

  • 9 MM
    • Glock 17: The Glock 17 is a 9mm semi-automatic handgun known for its accuracy and reliability.
    • Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm: The Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm is another popular choice for target shooting. It is a striker-fired semi-automatic handgun known for its accuracy and affordability.
    • Sig Sauer P320: The Sig Sauer P320 is a 9mm semi-automatic handgun known for its modular design and accuracy. It is a popular choice for target shooting and law enforcement.
    • Ruger SR9c: The Ruger SR9c is a 9mm semi-automatic handgun known for its compact size and accuracy. It is a popular choice for concealed carry and target shooting.
    • HK VP9: The HK VP9 is a 9mm semi-automatic handgun known for its ergonomics and accuracy. It is a popular choice for target shooting.

.45 ACP Considerations

  • .45 ACP
    • Glock 21: The Glock 21 is a .45 ACP semi-automatic handgun known for its accuracy and reliability. It is a popular choice for target shooting and law enforcement.
    • Smith & Wesson M&P .45 ACP: The Smith & Wesson M&P .45 ACP is another popular choice for target shooting. It is a striker-fired semi-automatic handgun known for its accuracy and affordability.
    • Sig Sauer P227: The Sig Sauer P227 is a .45 ACP semi-automatic handgun known for its modular design and accuracy. It is a popular choice for target shooting and law enforcement.
    • Ruger SR1911: The Ruger SR1911 is a .45 ACP semi-automatic handgun known for its classic design and accuracy. It is a popular choice for target shooting.
    • HK USP: The HK USP is a .45 ACP semi-automatic handgun known for its ergonomics and accuracy. It is a popular choice for target shooting.

Hunting

hunting handgun

Handguns used for hunting are typically larger, with longer barrels and more powerful calibers. Some popular models for hunting include the Smith & Wesson Model 629, Ruger Super Redhawk, and Taurus Raging Hunter. Popular calibers for hunting include .44 Magnum, .357 Magnum, and .45 Colt.

The 9MM and the .45 ACP are just not very suitable rounds for hunting, so if hunting is your primary for purchasing a

handgun, you really should consider going with a different caliber.

Competition Shooting

If you’re already involved in competitive shooting, you likely have already done this exercise; if you plan on getting into competitive shooting, once you have assessed comfort and recoil tolerance and factored in the cost of ammunition, you’ll likely have a good idea of which caliber you are leaning towards.

Handguns for competition shooting are designed to maximize accuracy, speed, and reliability. Some popular models for competition shooting include.

  • 9mm:
  • Glock 34: The Glock 34 is a popular choice for competition shooting thanks to its long slide and barrel, which provide increased accuracy and reduced recoil.
  • Smith & Wesson M&P 9 Pro: The M&P 9 Pro is a versatile competition pistol known for its accuracy, reliability, and customizable features.
  • CZ Shadow 2: The CZ Shadow 2 is a high-end competition pistol designed for precision shooting. It features a high-quality trigger and a weight-forward design that helps to reduce muzzle flip and increase accuracy.
  • .45 ACP:
  • Springfield Armory TRP: The TRP is a high-end 1911-style pistol explicitly designed for competition shooting. It features a match-grade barrel, adjustable sights, and a crisp trigger.
  • Colt Gold Cup Trophy: The Gold Cup Trophy is a classic 1911-style pistol that many competitive shooters favor for its accuracy and reliability.
  • Dan Wesson Specialist: The Specialist is a premium 1911-style pistol designed for competition shooting. It features a match-grade barrel, adjustable sights, and a hand-fit slide and frame for increased accuracy.

It’s important to note that the best choice for competition shooting will vary depending on individual preferences and shooting style. Therefore, it’s recommended that you try out several different models and calibers before making a final decision.

Types of 9MM and .45 ACP Handguns

There are many types of handguns available in both 9mm and .45 ACP calibers. Here are some common types of handguns in each caliber:

  • Semi-automatic handguns: These are the most common type of handgun, and they fire one round each time the trigger is pulled. Semi-automatic handguns can be either single-action or double-action. Single-action handguns require the shooter to cock the hammer before each shot, while double-action handguns cock the hammer automatically.
  • Revolvers: While not as common in 9mm OR .45 ACP as in .38 Special or .357 Magnum, some revolvers are chambered in 9mm. Due to their limited capacity, these guns are less popular for self-defense or target shooting.
  • 1911-Style Handguns: The 1911 is a classic handgun design chambered in 9MM and .45 ACP. It features a single-action trigger and a high-capacity magazine.
  • Striker-Fired Pistols: Striker-fired pistols use a striker rather than a hammer to ignite the primer in the cartridge. They are famous for their simplicity, reliability, and chamber 9mm and .45 ACP.

A day at the range renting different types of handguns will give you a good idea of which one will suit you best for your plan for the handgun.

Ballistic differences between the 9mm and .45 ACP

The ballistic differences between a 9mm and a .45 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) are notable. Here are some key differences:

  • Bullet diameter: A 9mm bullet has a diameter of approximately 0.355 inches, while a .45 ACP bullet has a diameter of about 0.451 inches.
  • Bullet weight: A typical 9mm bullet weighs around 115-147 grains, while a standard .45 ACP bullet weighs about 185-230 grains.
  • Muzzle velocity: The muzzle velocity of a 9mm bullet is generally higher than that of a .45 ACP bullet. For example, a typical 9mm bullet might have a muzzle velocity of around 1,200-1,400 feet per second (fps), while a standard .45 ACP bullet might have a muzzle velocity of about 800-1,000 fps.
  • Muzzle energy: Due to its greater bullet weight, the muzzle energy of a .45 ACP bullet is generally higher than that of a 9mm bullet. For example, a typical .45 ACP bullet might have a muzzle energy of around 400-600 foot-pounds (ft-lbs), while a standard 9mm bullet might have a muzzle energy of about 300-400 ft-lbs.
  • Recoil: A .45 ACP generally produces more recoil than a 9mm, making it more challenging to shoot accurately and more difficult to shoot rapidly.
  • Magazine capacity: A typical handgun chambered in 9mm can hold more rounds in its magazine than one chambered in .45 ACP. This is due to the smaller 9mm cartridges, which allow for a higher capacity in a size magazine.

Specification Table

9mm.45 ACP
Case Length (inches)0.7540.898
Bullet Diameter (inches)0.3550.452
Weight (grains)115-147165-230
Average Round Velocity (feet per second)1,200830

It’s worth noting that many factors can impact the ballistic performance of a handgun cartridge, including the bullet’s design, the barrel’s length, and the type and amount of gunpowder used. Additionally, shot placement and the shooter’s skill can significantly impact the effectiveness of a handgun cartridge.

Caliber Considerations (9MM vs .45 ACP)

The caliber of a handgun refers to the diameter of the bullet it fires. Larger calibers offer greater stopping power but may produce more recoil and be more difficult to handle. Choose a caliber that you feel comfortable shooting that is appropriate for your intended use.

9MM COMPARED TO 45 ACP
9MM compared to .45 ACP

Pros and Cons

Choosing between 9mm and .45 caliber handguns is a matter of personal preference and intended use. Here are some pros and cons of each caliber:

9MM

Pros of the 9mm :

  • High capacity: 9mm handguns typically have a higher magazine capacity than .45 caliber handguns, which means more rounds are available before needing to reload.
  • Manageable recoil: 9mm ammunition typically has less than .45 caliber ammunition, making it easier to shoot accurately and quickly.
  • Lower cost: 9mm ammunition is generally less expensive than .45 caliber ammunition, making it more affordable to practice shooting and maintain proficiency.

9mm Cons:

  • Smaller bullet: 9mm ammunition has a smaller bullet than .45 caliber. This can reduce its effectiveness for self-defense or hunting purposes.
  • Penetration: 9mm ammunition may not penetrate as deeply as .45 caliber ammunition. This can reduce its effectiveness in stopping a threat.

45 ACP

Pros of .45 Caliber :

  • Larger bullet: .45 caliber ammunition has a larger bullet than 9mm ammunition, which can increase its effectiveness for self-defense or hunting purposes.
  • Better penetration: .45 caliber ammunition is known for its ability to penetrate deeply, which can increase its effectiveness for stopping a threat.
  • More stopping power: .45 caliber ammunition is generally considered to have more stopping power than 9mm ammunition, making it more effective in self-defense.

.45 Caliber Cons:

  • Lower capacity: .45 caliber handguns typically have a lower magazine capacity than 9mm handguns, which means fewer rounds are available before needing to reload.
  • Higher recoil: .45 caliber ammunition typically has more recoil than 9mm ammunition, making it more difficult to shoot accurately and quickly.
  • Higher cost: .45 caliber ammunition is generally more expensive than 9mm ammunition, which can make it more costly to practice shooting and maintain proficiency.

Table: Comparison of 9mm and .45 ACP Handgun Sizes and Capacities

9mm Handguns.45 ACP Handguns
Typical Magazine Capacity10-17 rounds6-14 rounds
Average Weight (Unloaded)1.5-2.5 pounds2-3.5 pounds
Average Barrel Length3-5 inches4-6 inches
Overall Length6-8 inches7-9 inches

It’s important to note that these are general pros and cons, and a particular caliber’s effectiveness can depend on various factors, including the user’s skill level, the specific firearm, and the type of ammunition used.

Try Different Models

With so many choices and variations, you need to do some research. Visit a gun store or range and handle several different models of handguns to see which one feels comfortable and natural in your hand. Test fire other models to get a feel for the recoil and read handgun reviews online.

DIFFERENT TYPES OF HANDGUNS

Considerations when trying different models

  • Comfort: A handgun that feels comfortable in your hand is important. Make sure to hold and grip the gun in different ways to see how it feels in various shooting positions.
  • Ergonomics: The ergonomics of a handgun can affect how well you shoot and how comfortable the gun feels. Factors such as grip angle, size, and texture influence how the gun handles.
  • Sight picture: The sight picture refers to how the sights of the handgun line up with the target.
  • Trigger: The trigger is one of the most important parts of a handgun, and different models can have different trigger pulls. Test the trigger pull on different models to see which one you prefer.
  • Recoil: The recoil of a handgun can affect how well you shoot and how quickly you can follow up shots.
  • Accuracy: The accuracy of a handgun can depend on several factors, including the sights, trigger, and barrel length.
  • Reliability: A reliable handgun is crucial, especially for self-defense situations. Test different models with different types of ammunition to see which ones function reliably for you.
  • Price: Handguns can vary widely in price, and it’s important to consider your budget when choosing a model.

Considering these factors, you can find the right handgun that fits your needs, preferences, and budget. It’s important to test different models before purchasing to ensure that you make an informed decision.

Different Size Handguns in 9mm and .45 ACP

There are a variety of different sizes of handguns available in both 9mm and .45 ACP. The most common sizes are full-size, compact, subcompact, and pocket pistols.

The overall length, width, and height determine the size of a handgun. The length of the barrel is the most important factor in determining the size of a handgun. The longer the barrel, the more accurate the handgun will be. The width and height of the handgun are also important factors, as they determine how comfortable the handgun will be to shoot.

Different Sized Handguns

  • Full-size pistols are the largest type of handgun typically used for target shooting and self-defense. They have a longer barrel and grip than compact or subcompact pistols. It makes them more accurate and easier to control.
  • Compact pistols are smaller than full-size pistols and are designed for concealed carry. They have a shorter barrel and grip, which makes them easier to hide.
  • Subcompact pistols are the smallest type of handgun designed for concealed carry. They have an even shorter barrel and grip than compact pistols, making them easier to hide.
  • Pocket pistols are the smallest type of handgun and are designed for self-defense. They are typically single-shot and have a very short barrel.
different size handguns

Choose a handgun that fits your hand comfortably and is appropriate for your intended use. A smaller handgun is more accessible to carry and conceal but may be more challenging to shoot accurately. A larger handgun may be more accurate but more difficult to maintain and conceal.

Choosing the Best Size for You

Choosing the best handgun size for you involves several factors, including your hand size, intended use, and personal preferences. Here are some steps to help you determine the best handgun size for you:

  • Try different sizes: Start by using different handgun sizes to see which one feels the most comfortable in your hand. Most gun stores have display models you can hold and get a feel for the size and weight.
  • Consider your hand size: If you have larger hands, you may prefer a larger grip size for a more comfortable and secure hold on the firearm. If you have smaller hands, a smaller grip may be more suitable.
  • Think about intended use: A smaller handgun may be more suitable for concealed carry, while a larger handgun may be better for home defense or target shooting.
  • Consider the recoil: The size and weight of a handgun can affect the recoil, which can impact accuracy and follow-up shots. If you’re sensitive to recoil, a larger handgun may be more manageable.
  • Look for features: Some handguns come with adjustable backstraps or grip panels, allowing for a more customized fit. Other features, such as magazine extensions or compensators, can also affect the size and weight of the firearm.
  • Seek advice: Talk to experts, such as firearm instructors or experienced shooters, for recommendations on the best handgun size for you.

Consider the features

handgun parts

When evaluating and determining the best features for your handgun, as you know now, it’s important to consider use and your skill set. It’s also important to research and test different handguns to see how they feel and function in your hand. Look for features that provide a comfortable and secure grip. Also, reliable and accurate sights, and a trigger and safety system that you can operate with ease and confidence. Ultimately, the best features for your handgun will depend on your individual needs and preferences. Take the time to evaluate and test different options before making a purchase.

Parts and Associated Features

Below are primary handgun parts and their associated features.

  • Slide:
    • The slide is the upper part of the gun that houses the firing mechanism. It moves back and forth during firing and reloading.
      • Features to consider include finish, material, serrations, sight options, and profile.
  • Barrel:
    • The barrel is the metal tube through which the bullet travels.
      • Features to consider include finish, material, serrations, sight options, and profile.
      • length, material, twist rate, chamber, crown, and brand.
  • Magazine:
    • The magazine is the part of the gun that holds the ammunition.
      • Features to consider include capacity, spring, and baseplate,.
  • Grip:
    • The grip is the part of the gun that the shooter holds onto.
      • Features to consider include material, texture, size, and ergonomics.
  • Sights:
    • The sights are the devices on the top of the gun that help the shooter aim.
      • Features to consider include type, visibility, and adjustability.
  • Trigger:
    • The trigger is part of the gun that the shooter pulls to fire.
      • Features to consider include pull weight, travel, reset, trigger shape and size, and safety.
  • Safety:
    • Safety is the mechanism that helps prevent accidental discharges.
      • Features to consider include type, location, size and shape, ease of use and reliability.

Once you pick the Handgun- Try it in 9mm and .45 ACP

Most models of handguns are designed to be chambered in multiple calibers, including both 45 ACP and 9mm. However, not all handguns are available in both calibers, and some models may be chambered in other calibers as well.

The popularity of 45 and 9mm cartridges can vary depending on the market and region. In the United States, for example, 9mm is a very popular caliber for handguns due to its lower recoil and higher capacity compared to .45 ACP. However, there are still many people who prefer 45 ACP for its larger bullet size and stopping power.

Ultimately, the choice of caliber comes down to personal preference and the intended use of the firearm.

Obtain proper Training

Once you have chosen a handgun, obtain proper training on how to safely and effectively use your new handgun. One of our Guest writers here is Dennis Rousseau owner Force Solutions a professional handgun and self-defense training company. He has a great series of blogs in our firearms training section and is also open to questions.

Before you start training with your handgun, it is important to ensure that you have a basic understanding of firearm safety and the laws and regulations regarding firearms in your area.

Steps for beginner training with your handgun

Here are some initial steps for training with your handgun as a beginner:

  • Find a qualified instructor: It is important to learn from a qualified instructor who can teach you the proper techniques and safety protocols.
  • Familiarize yourself with your handgun: Get to know your handgun and how it works. Practice loading and unloading your firearm and become comfortable with its functions.
  • Practice your grip and stance: The way you hold your handgun and your body position can affect your accuracy and overall control. Practice your grip and stance before you start shooting.
  • Start with dry firing exercises: Dry firing is when you practice firing your handgun without live ammunition. This can help you develop proper trigger control and improve your accuracy.
  • Practice shooting at a range: Once you feel comfortable with your handgun, head to a shooting range to practice shooting with live ammunition. Start at close range and gradually increase the distance as you improve.
  • Always follow safety rules: Always follow firearm safety rules, such as keeping your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot, pointing the muzzle in a safe direction, and keeping the firearm unloaded when not in use.

Remember, training with a handgun is a continuous process. Seek opportunities to train regularly with qualified instructors and continue improving your skills.

Price Shopping

If you are shopping for your first handgun, it is essential to take the time to research and compare prices from different sources. Here at SSP Firearms, we are happy to assist you in the process, but there are also tips below if you prefer to do it yourself.

Handgun Price Shopping Tips

Here are some tips on how to price shop for your first handgun:

  • Do your research: Before you start shopping, research the type of handgun you are interested in and learn about its features, specifications, and market price.
  • Compare prices online: Once you know the type of handgun you want, visit several online retailers and compare prices.
  • Check local gun stores: Don’t overlook local gun stores when price shopping. Keep in mind that local stores may be willing to negotiate on price, so don’t be afraid to ask.
  • Attend gun shows: Gun shows are a great place to find a variety of handguns from different sellers, and you may be able to find a good deal.
  • Consider used handguns: If you are on a tight budget, consider purchasing a used handgun. You can find used handguns at gun stores, online retailers, and gun shows. Just make sure to inspect the gun carefully and have a knowledgeable person check its condition before purchasing.
  • Read reviews: Before purchasing, read reviews from professionals and other gun owners. This can help you make an informed decision and avoid any potential issues with the handgun.

9MM and .45 ACP Ammo Prices

CaliberCost (per round)Availability
9mm$0.20 – $0.40Widely available
.45 ACP$0.30 – $0.60Somewhat limited availability

Remember, price should not be the only consideration when shopping for a handgun. Make sure to choose a gun that fits your needs, is comfortable to shoot, and is reliable and safe.

Conclusion: Choosing Between a 9mm vs. .45 Handgun

After carefully considering the pros and cons of the 9mm and .45 caliber handguns, it is clear that choosing the right handgun ultimately depends on personal preferences and individual factors. Both calibers have advantages and disadvantages, and the decision should be based on factors such as self-defense needs, capacity, recoil management, and cost and availability of ammunition.

For individuals seeking a balance between stopping power and controllability, the .45 ACP may be a suitable choice. Its larger diameter and heavier bullet offer greater stopping power, although it comes with increased recoil. On the other hand, the 9mm provides less recoil and, higher magazine capacity, lower ammunition prices. These factors make it easier to control and allow for faster follow-up shots.

Other key considerations include the intended use of the handgun, bullet types, capacity, and size, as well as personal shooting ability and hand size and strength. It’s essential to evaluate these factors alongside the technical specifications and performance characteristics of the handguns to make an informed decision.

Choosing a Handgun Checklist

This checklist is designed to accompany our blog post and help you determine whether a handgun is a choice for you, and if so, answer your questions if a 9mm or 45 ACP is what you’re looking for.

Once completed, you should be able to provide this to any gun retailer or use it personally to refine your best choice.

A checklist of things to consider when discovering and choosing a handgun:

What did you choose?

Please let us know in the comments below if this post was helpful and what you chose.

Click above to download the “Choosing between a 9 MM or 45 ACP Handgun Checklist” pdf.

Author

  • Michael Hodgdon

    A firearm, shooting, outdoor, and hunting enthusiast for over 35 years. Thank you all for the suggestions on topics you would like to see; we'll keep posting as you keep sending them in. Please comment; we will try to answer all comments quickly.

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