9mm Versus The 45ACP
FBI Unlearns Gun & Ammo History … 9mm Vs 45
Don McDougall
Don McDougall

USA –-(Ammoland.com)- A while back (2014) the FBI published a long diatribe defending their decision to go to the 9mm round as their choice for their agents. They plan on going forward with that now.

For some of their reason, the FBI is going against history and the FBI’s own experience. With that in mind, I invite your comments. Mine is at the end of the article. The FBI Reasoning document is embedded below.


The Miami Shootout: Eight FBI agents cornered two serial bank robbers, in the shootout only one agent came out unscathed. The FBI wanted more “Stopping Power” that they got from their 9mm and .38 special firearms. The FBI went to the 10mm, then to a “light 10mm” then to the S&W .40.

Now we’re back to the 9mm as their primary choice. Remember the .38 special can penetrate 15 inches of ballistic jell. The same criteria used for selecting the 9mm today. Additionally, without the limitation on the shape of the round required to allow assured feeding, the .38 special is probably a better stopper than the 9mm.

If you read the FBI’s reasons endorsing the 9mm, there are a handful of things that stand out.

  1. They wanted a lighter round to avoid wear on their firearms. (Budget)
  2. 70-80% of their shots miss (Poor training)
  3. They wanted a high capacity magazine so that they could shoot enough rounds to maybe get one or two hits. (See #2)


The fact is this all sounds a lot more like politics, cheaper ammunition, lobbyists selling new guns and the same tired old bureaucracy driven decision process that you see throughout history. From the Civil war holding back repeaters and cartridged rifles because the troops might “shoot too fast” and use up the ammunition to the Philippines in 1902, to today.

Oh.. the Philippines, when the .38 long colt failed to perform.

From Wikipedia:

The .38 long Colt’s relatively poor ballistics were highlighted during the Philippine–American War of 1899–1902. A typical instance occurred in 1905 and was later recounted by Col. Louis A. LaGarde:

Antonio Caspi, a prisoner on the island of Samar, P.I. attempted escape on Oct. 26, 1905. He was shot four times at close range in a hand-to-hand encounter by a .38 Colt’s revolver loaded with U.S. Army regulation ammunition. He was finally stunned by a blow on the forehead from the butt end of a Springfield carbine.

Col. LaGarde noted Caspi’s wounds were fairly well-placed: three bullets entered the chest, perforating the lungs. One passed through the body, one lodged near the back and the other lodged in subcutaneous tissue. The fourth round went though the right hand and exited through the forearm.[8]

As an emergency response to the round’s unexpectedly dismal performance, the U.S. Army authorized officers to carry M1873 Colt Single Action Army revolvers, chambered in .45 Colt, and issued from reserve stocks.

As a result of numerous instances of the new .38 service pistols being ineffective the US Army was forced to hastily re-issue mothballed Single Action Amy .45 Colts.
As a result of numerous instances of the new .38 service pistols being ineffective the US Army was forced to hastily re-issue mothballed Single Action Amy .45 Colts. IMG : historicalfirearms.info

So if shot placement is all that matters and stopping power is a myth what happened with the .38 long colt?

Can’t you hear the ghostly whispers from 1901? We can ship 3 .38 LC cartridges for the same cost as 2 .45 LC. Look at the savings in practicing! Stopping power is a myth! Pistols are obsolete anyway. All the same old tired arguments that get brave men killed.

In my opinion, they should spend the money on practice instead of new guns. (Missing a man size target at 15 feet 8 out of 10 times is a disaster.) In firearm selection, they should choose firearms that fit the shooters hands, and they select the largest caliber you can control. A .380 in the head is better than a 10mm miss. With a miss ratio of around 80%, you run the risk of a LOT of collateral damage.

One last note, LEARN from history; Mark Twain said history doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes. Look again at Miami and The Moro rebellion. Remember why the 1911 is in .45 and not 9mm Lugar. Maybe one size does not fit all? Remember the North Hollywood shoot out.

Look to the past and learn from went wrong. Look the US military issued 1911,s revolvers and Colt 1903’s in WWII. Concealability and Reliability often out weighted lethality.

Setting yourself up for a repeat of the Miami Shootout is not progress.

Do NOT let the brave agents who stood tall in Miami, and the men who gave up their lives to poor “management decision” in all the wars we’ve fought have died for nothing. Learn from OUR mistakes.

One last comment, EXPERIENCE shows us that the size of the grips on the GLOCK, is to large and boxy for women and many men. The increase in misses from 40% to 80% over the past 4 decades is due in large part to the width of the grip on the hi-capacity “wonder 9s”. Using lighter loads won’t stop the problem of gun ergonomics.

Executive Summary of Justification for Law Enforcement Partners

About Don McDougall:

Don McDougall is an NRA instructor and member of the Los Padres “Friends of the NRA” committee. If he’s not at the range you will find him setting the record straight with on gun issues and gun safety on AmmoLand Shooting Sports News.