Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Don't ditch that large-caliber pistol just yet

A lot of handgun owners are apparently moving to 9mm. Parabellum pistols, following recent improvements in ammunition technology that have allegedly improved the performance of the smaller cartridge until it rivals that of larger rounds.  I've noticed many more advertisements for .40 S&W handguns on, for example, the local Armslist than I have for 9mm. pistols, and anecdotal evidence from other bloggers and shooters also persuades me that the 9mm. is finding renewed popularity.

I'm not surprised by this;  I often carry a 9mm. pistol (for reasons explained here), and I know many other experienced, competent shooters who've made the same decision.  Nevertheless, the  number of quality .40 S&W pistols currently offered for sale means that their prices have become depressed.  I'd say that at present, in my area, a pistol chambered for 9mm. Parabellum will sell faster and fetch 10%-20% more than an almost identical model from the same manufacturer in .40 S&W or 357 SIG.

Apart from the lower price you'll get for it, there are three reasons why I suggest you hold on to your larger-caliber pistol, rather than sell it.

  1. For best-selling pistols like the Glock or Smith & Wesson M&P series, aftermarket caliber conversion barrels are available.  (See, for example - in alphabetical order - the products of Bar-Sto, KKM Precision, Lone Wolf Distributors and Storm Lake.  I currently use conversion barrels from KKM and Lone Wolf;  the latter are the lowest cost, in my experience, and their quality is quite acceptable.)  They convert larger-caliber pistols to shoot smaller cartridges (e.g. a .40 S&W or 357 SIG can shoot 9mm, or a 10mm. can shoot .40 S&W).  They can typically be had for $100-$200 - a lot cheaper than the price of a new pistol - and most have proven pretty reliable in service.  When fed with the right magazines for the cartridge in question, and after a break-in period of 500 rounds or so (an essential precaution, IMHO), I've found mine every bit as reliable as factory 9mm. handguns.  I wouldn't hesitate to trust my life to them if necessary.
  2. If another 'ammunition drought' strikes, expect the most popular cartridges to be the hardest to find.  During the most recent ammo drought, one couldn't find quality defensive 9mm. hollowpoints for love or money in some areas.  (Fortunately I had a decent stash of the good stuff, so that wasn't too much of a problem for me;  but other shooters of my acquaintance were hurting badly.)  However, even at the worst times one could always find quality defensive ammunition in larger and/or less popular and/or more expensive calibers on at least some gunshops' shelves.  If you find yourself running low on stocks in one caliber, and your pistol can accommodate another caliber by using a different barrel, you won't be in danger of running dry.
  3. The same improvements in ammo technology that have upgraded the 9mm. Parabellum cartridge have also upgraded other favorite defensive loads.  I still have several .40 S&W and .45 ACP pistols in my gun safe, and I'll carry any of them for defensive purposes without hesitation.  A great many law enforcement officers and agencies still entrust their safety to those rounds.  I trust their performance, and the .40 S&W sacrifices very little to the 9mm. in terms of magazine capacity - perhaps ten per cent at most in a typical handgun.  Why get rid of a good thing?

In fact, when I see a bargain-priced .40 S&W handgun for sale, and I know I can get a reasonably-priced 9mm. barrel for it, I tend to make an offer and see if I get lucky.  Right now is an excellent time to buy handguns like that.



Crucis said...

My BUG is a .38 snubbie. I always have it on me. But, I'm never far from my primary carry pistol, an officer's sized .45. I just prefer a pistol that makes bigger holes.

Anonymous said...

I just figured it was the .40S&W 'kabooms' which was scaring potential 1st time buyers away. But your reasons above sound good to me. I only own one .40S&W, a Sigma that was priced to move and came with 4 magazines besides - too hard to resist.

A lot of folks have bad to say about it, but I've put a bit more than 500 rounds and have no complaints - so far anyway. Even with the dreaded Wolf steel case ammo.

The Raving Prophet said...

You couldn't find 9x19 quality JHP?

Funny... I was seeing plenty of it and other calibers. Range ammo was near impossible to find but good defensive stuff (like Remington Golden Sabers) was right at the $1/round mark just like it had been before.

Ammoseek would show range ammo going for 50-60 cents each, but Golden Saber or other decent stuff stayed pretty steady. Some of the places that had had it for cheap prices sold out quickly but the $1/round mark was indeed stable from what I'd seen.

I just tend not to buy .40 or .357 Sig guns... while I have some kits for my Sig P250s in those calibers they're just not two I care to use all that much.

Murphy's Law said...

When you said "large caliber", I thought that you were talking about my preferred carry calibers: .45ACP, .41 Magnum and .45 Colt. I know that the .40S&W round has a "4" in it's name, but still...large? I'm thinking not so much.

PapaMAS said...

I never had a problem finding good 9mm ammo. Some of it got pretty expensive, and I might have to wait to get a specific brand, but availability was not the issue.

Also, I never seriously considered getting a .40. The 9mm and .45 each have their own advantages; it doesn't seem to me that the intermediate step of a .40 has enough of the advantages of either, and is unnecessary to begin with.

Old NFO said...

Yeah, .45 cause they don't make a .46... :-) And I like my .357s because I can usually find ammo in most places.

Reg T said...

"The same improvements in ammo technology that have upgraded the 9mm. Parabellum cartridge have also upgraded other favorite defensive loads. "

Thank you, thank you. So many folks miss this fact. Besides, as the true wound ballistics experts - and also the FBI Firearms Training Unit - have stated over and over, the only size hole you can _count_ on is the size of the bullet. It may or may not expand, even with premium ammo. Penetration sufficient to reach vital organs/tissue is what works. Everything else is gravy, but you don't want to bet your life on it.

If 9 mm is the only round you are willing to practice enough with to shoot accurately, fine. My diminutive wife can handle both .40 and .45 ACP, and I think probably most other folks can as well. Personally, I think the larger holes and (usually) deeper penetration of the other calibers is worth a little extra recoil.

Dale said...

Considering the .45ACP, 10mm, and .40, in order of your preference, how would you rank them, and why.



Peter said...

@Dale: I can't rank them, because there are far too many factors in play. See my three-part article on "The Myth of Handgun Stopping Power" - it's listed in the sidebar under the heading "Articles on firearms and self-defense".

tsquared said...

And I have a G26 "Baby 9", G19 9mm, and a G37 45GAP. I reload and I have more than enough loaded GAP ammo (and brass) to last my lifetime. Same goes for the 44 Mag. I only have about 1000 rounds of 9mm right now. I shoot it most of the time at the range because a can pump out 1300 rounds with just one pound of powder. It is cheap and easy to reload. the 45 and 44 take a lot more powder so the bullet count is lower with that same pound of powder. The 9mm keeps me well practiced but the 44 and 45 will be the goto pistols for SHTF situations.