Wednesday, September 24, 2014

FBI moving to 9mm as its duty caliber

I've been interested to read about the FBI's decision to 'downsize' its duty caliber (i.e. the cartridge fired by the weapons that it issues to its agents) from .40 S&W to 9mm. Parabellum.

The gun blog Loose Rounds has published excerpts from what's described as an internal FBI document summarizing the reasons for the switch.  It includes these 'Executive Summary' points.

  • Caliber debates have existed in law enforcement for decades
  • Most of what is “common knowledge” with ammunition and its effects on the human target are rooted in myth and folklore
  • Projectiles are what ultimately wound our adversaries and the projectile needs to be the basis for the discussion on what “caliber” is best
  • In all the major law enforcement calibers there exist projectiles which have a high likelihood of failing LEO’s in a shooting incident and there are projectiles which have a high likelihood of succeeding for LEO’s in a shooting incident
  • Handgun stopping power is simply a myth [Note from Peter - I agree:  that's something I discussed in a previous series of articles]
  • The single most important factor in effectively wounding a human target is to have penetration to a scientifically valid depth (FBI uses 12” – 18”)
  • LEO’s miss between 70 – 80 percent of the shots fired during a shooting incident
  • Contemporary projectiles (since 2007) have dramatically increased the terminal effectiveness of many premium line law enforcement projectiles (emphasis on the 9mm Luger offerings)
  • 9mm Luger now offers select projectiles which are, under identical testing conditions, outperforming most of the premium line .40 S&W and .45 Auto projectiles tested by the FBI
  • 9mm Luger offers higher magazine capacities, less recoil, lower cost (both in ammunition and wear on the weapons) and higher functional reliability rates (in FBI weapons)
  • The majority of FBI shooters are both FASTER in shot strings fired and more ACCURATE with shooting a 9mm Luger vs shooting a .40 S&W (similar sized weapons)
  • There is little to no noticeable difference in the wound tracks between premium line law Auto enforcement projectiles from 9mm Luger through the .45 Auto
  • Given contemporary bullet construction, LEO’s can field (with proper bullet selection) 9mm Lugers with all of the terminal performance potential of any other law enforcement pistol caliber with none of the disadvantages present with the “larger” calibers

There's much more at the link.  Very interesting stuff for gun geeks.



Anonymous said...

Good info for any and all who may use a firearm - particularly a pistol - in personal defense. Even the 'guru' of the .45ACP (Jeff Cooper for those who don't know!) acknowledged that bullet placement is more important than caliber..........
Bottom line, use the most effective ammo available!

Erik said...

I've always wondered why they stuck with the .40. Everything I've read indictes that the difference in effectiveness is minimal, and the 9mm is both cheaper and gives you a few extra rounds in the magazine. As a trade off for a duty caliber, I would have thought the 9mm was a much better choice.
If comparing with 10mm or .45acp, then there's at least an argument to be made for more effectiveness, but I'd still think the 9mm would be a better choice as a duty caliber, just because it's cheaper and offer more rounds, while it's far from being inefficient.

One thing that I noticed in the text:
The majority of FBI shooters are both FASTER in shot strings fired and more ACCURATE with shooting a 9mm Luger vs shooting a .40 S&W (similar sized weapons)

This is interesting to me. I shoot IPSC, and I've used both calibers in my competition gun. While it's true that you're faster with 9mm (even if the difference get smaller with practice), I've noticed that I, as well as other people, are more accurate with .40. The reason is recoil. Once you practice enough you hardly notice the recoil of the 9mm, and you tend to shoot too fast, and accuracy suffers. I actually have to remind myself to slow down when shooting 9mm, to get the hits.
However if you don't practice a lot, I could see how the slightly heavier recoil in the .40 might make some shooters less accurate..

Will said...

They moved from 9mm to the 10mm, after the Miami shootout. Too powerful for some agents, so they downloaded the ammo, and ended up with the equivalent of the .40s&w, which was developed partly as a result of this.

Erik said...

Yeah, I read the history. It's just that to me it felt that when they abandoned the 10mm they should have gone back to the 9mm and be done with it. There's just so little benefit to be gained with the .40 compared to the 9mm, that the extra trouble and cost didn't seem worth it.

Not that I'm personally complaining, as an IPSC shooter I really like the .40 with it's slightly heavier recoil that makes major factor.
But considering the feeding problems that .40 is prone to in competition guns, I'd probably not want it if I was to carry a gun for protection.

Bob Mueller said...

Timely. My wife has taken her SDA class, and we'll be in the market for a defensive firearm for her very soon. I've wondered about the 9mm, and wondered as well about getting one for me (I carry a 1911 right now).

Will said...

Appearances/perception matter in the .gov world. Plus, back when the .40sw was new, with that era's bullet tech, it was better than the 9mm.

You can get a 1911 in 9mm. Reliability of vintage versions is questionable. It's thought that the different dimensions of the 9mm and .45acp may have had some bearing on it. Newer models are said to be redesigned to correct that problem.

Donald Sensing said...

Very interesting post, thanks! One point that stuck out to me: "LEO’s miss between 70 – 80 percent of the shots fired during a shooting incident."

I have always known that cops are lousy shots. When they hit their intended target bad guy it is almost never because they shoot well, but because they shoot a lot.

PapaMAS said...

I feel vindicated. I love my 9mm guns; I love my .45, too, but having more rounds which basically have the same effect with less recoil is why I carry 9mm. The old FBI study on handgun wounding effectiveness cited accuracy and penetration as the most important factors.

Dan said...

And they will use 9mm again till ANOTHER Miami shootout incident occurs where the round fails and they will start looking AGAIN for a different round.
Everything old is new again.....