Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Eyes, asks:
I wanted to ask Warren a gun question. I have a .38 Lady Smith, a PPK, and another .38 'Police Bulldog' by Charter Arms (I think). I'm not crazy about the PPK because the kick back concentrates the force in a very small area on my hand, so it hurts + the slide is really stiff also.

I want to get another gun, with more fire power. I can handle both of the .38's with no problem at all. I don't want to get something with so much power that it flies out of my hand.

Any suggestions?

People are frequently confused about the effectiveness of a given handgun caliber, recoil and actual power of a given round. I'll address all three and give some useful advice.

We'll start with actual power.

The power measurement of a bullet is usually given in foot-pounds but can be given in joules and is called "Muzzle Energy".

The ppk shoots either a:
.25 ACP @ (approx) 75 ft-lbs
.32 ACP @ 130 ft-lbs
.380 ACP @ 200 ft-lbs

The .25 and .32 are considered sub-powered and the .380 is considered marginal.

The two .38s (.38 specials) are about 220 ft-lbs

For over 30 years the .38 special with a 158 grain semi-wad-cutter bullet, (was the standard load for police departments across the nation), and had the record for "one shot" take downs. It's a proven round and gun combination and one I'm quite comfortable carrying.

.357 Magnum at about 550 ft-lbs.
This is the next logical step up from the .38 special and the revolver will also chamber .38 special bullets and allow you to practice with much cheaper and less recoil ammo. .357s can be punishing when fired out of a smaller gun the size of a chiefs special. The trick is to practice with the 38 specials and carry the gun with 357s, when ready for business, occasionally firing a chamber full when practicing to know what to expect.

9mm Parabellum/Lugar @ 350 ft-lbs
A lot of people love this gun but I'm no fan. It seems like a reasonable step up from the 38 and its possibly the most popular pistol caliber in the world and there are more handguns offered in this caliber than any other. If you plan on using this gun I would advise you to only carry with hollow point ammunition. The 9 mm is notorious for over penetration. If I have to shoot someone, I want the bullet to stay put and not hit the guy behind. The hollow point ammo, (if its good ammo), expands and dissipates its energy, staying put.

.45 ACP @ 370 ft-lbs
The good old 45. Its what I carry on a daily basis. Its a large slow bullet and a shot to center of body mass will put anyone down. People with small hands usually don't care for this pistol.

.44 special @ 475 ft-lbs
This is a revolver that's perfect for home defense. Less powerful than the .357 but more powerful than the .45 ACP. Its not very common anymore but the people that own them never seem to never get rid of them. Mild recoil and a powerful handgun. Who can argue with that combination!

.44 Magnum @ 1000
Just for comparison. Remember when dirty Harry said, "The most powerful handgun in the world". Well not anymore!

.500 SW @ 2600

That's all for tonight, more tomorrow.


nanc said...

yeah - but, can you hit your target with one of these when the time comes?

that's what i'm talkin' about!

good to see you back, warren.


nanc said...


where might i find my regular av - i mean if i need it?

remembered to forget where i left it...

Warren said...

I sent you the URL(s) in an Email.

Always On Watch said...

What was the caliber of that pistol I fired? You know the one I mean--the one which would have knocked me onto my ass if you hadn't been standing behind me.

Eyes said...

Hi Warren, That's a great explanation. I'll file it and save. It looks like the 'magnum' has more gun powder and hence greater muzzle velocity, and recoil - so I'm thinking that might be too much for me.

I don't like SemiAutomatics because I'm afraid of a jam when I need to fire... I prefer revolvers. Any advise if we just consider revolvers? I should have said that before... When we were getting our CWPs, two applicants had semi-automatics jam during the target portion of the test. We fired about 50 rounds and there were 3 with SAs, so 2 misfires per 150 shots is not so great IMHO... I don't want to have to clear a jam before terminating an attack - time would be of the essence.

.44 Magnum or .5 cal - I'm sure would have similar results to this (for me):


Eyes said...

My husband has a Browning 9mm SA - I haven't fired that one yet. Would it have greater recoil than my .38 revolvers? I like the SAs because they carry more bullets, but the jamming thing has me worried. BTW, the Lady Smith is perfect for daily concealed - a new higher 'power' and/or larger bullet would be for home protection and firing range.

I really appreciate your help:>D Thanks kindly.

BTW, Nanc - LOL! You're too funny!

Eyes said...

Sorry, just one more comment - neither of my revolvers have 'safety' locks on them. How weird is that? Just point and fire away!

Anonymous said...

Let me introduce you to my peace maker.

nanc said...

thank you, warren.


Anonymous said...

There's a LOT to trade in selecting any weapon. I like to compare ballistics. Here's a tool that focus' on so-called stopping power.

But any combo you pick is a trade. Moving to heavier grain bullets exacts a toll in range and accuracy.

cube said...

Mr. Cube will certainly enjoy this post. I'll have to direct him over here.

Eyes said...

DD2 I think something's wrong with that link:> Ah well...

FJ - I thought range was a function of gun powder volume and accuracy a function of barrel length. No?

Brooke said...

I like my semi for winter, and my S&W J frame for warm weather.

I REALLY like those new S&W M&Ps. :)

nanc said...

i just love the smell of gunpowder in the morning!


Anonymous said...

FJ - I thought range was a function of gun powder volume and accuracy a function of barrel length. No?

True, but again, those are even more trades. Powder selection and bullet aerodynamics & composition play heavily in the ballistics game as well. e=mv^2. m=bullet weight and v= initial muzzle velocity. An aerodynamic bullet can pack a whallop in terms of the energy transfer and accuracy... but if the bullet doesn't mushroom quickly upon penetration, the bullet passes through the body entirely and the extra energy is lost... warren alludes to that in using the term "over penetration".

So in looking at the numbers, those that don't penetrate as far are actually tranferring "stopping" energy more efficiently.

My gun-dreams are largely "theoretical". warren's got the experience. I have no idea how energy translates into the recoil of discharge. All I can say is that a semi-auto would "absorb" some of what a revolver wouldn't. But again, that's yet "another" trade. I'd defer to warren's recommendations.

All my old hunting buddies used to buy the super-hot Weatherby custom rifles that could drop a deer at 3-400 yards. Give me an old 30-30 or a Ruger .44 carbine w/open sights. I can't hit anything more than 75 yards away, anyway.

Whereas their super aerodynamic and accurate bullets might only drop an inch at 200 yards, mine would drop a foot and would have lost most of its' energy to the wind before it arrived. But up close and personal, in putting the deer down, I had a tremendous advantage. I'm not one want to spend all night following a blood trail.

Again, the gun should match the shooter. I like hunting in thick brush and ambushing my prey. My buddies liked sitting on mountaintops enjoying 1,000 yard views. That's why there's such a huge variety of weapons out there.

Anonymous said...

There's a lot "art" to selecting the right weapon. It's never a simple tale of the tape.

Anonymous said...

I sent this piece to a gun friend and he responded with this:

"Ted Cook, the former police chief for Culver City for twenty years is a friend of mine and he believes that the hand gun that you use should have the power to knock a person down, so that if a gun fight is in progress he is not standing there taking shots at you. An unlikely scenario but not impossible in this day and age. A Sigsauer P245 is one of the best, most reliable hand guns that fit that need."

How do you feel about that, Warren? I'm TOTALLY gun challenged, but find the conversation interesting, somehow.. zabelle

Eyes said...

I asked a friend at lunch today about the issue and he said a Colt 0.45 revolver sounds like what I'm looking for. What do you think?

Warren said...

MY! I've got a lot of comments to answer.


AOW said: "What was the caliber of that pistol I fired?"

That was the "Dirty Harry" .44 Magnum.
"Go ahead punk; make my day!"

Eyes said: "It looks like the 'magnum' has more gun powder and hence greater muzzle velocity, and recoil - so I'm thinking that might be too much for me.

I don't like SemiAutomatics because I'm afraid of a jam when I need to fire... I prefer revolvers. Any advise if we just consider revolvers? [...]
My husband has a Browning 9mm SA - I haven't fired that one yet. Would it have greater recoil than my .38 revolvers? I like the SAs because they carry more bullets, but the jamming thing has me worried.

I'll address revolvers thoroughly, but since this post has drawn attention and questions from others, I'll address semi-autos also. I'll make another post on recoil to answer your questions.

Eyes: "Sorry, just one more comment - neither of my revolvers have 'safety' locks on them. How weird is that? Just point and fire away!

Modern revolvers are inherently safe and have safety devices built in that will keep it from firing as long as there is nothing pulling the trigger, even if the gun is dropped on the hammer and its cocked. The safety devices just aren't visible unless you know where to look.

Bad link, DD. Try again.

That's a great link Farmer! I was looking for something like that last night.

Brooke said: "I REALLY like those new S&W M&Ps. :)"

Have you had a chance to fire one yet?

Warren said...

Anon/zabelle, All things being equal, that might be true, but there are so many factors involved that it isn't true for everyone.

A Sig Sauer P245 is a .45 ACP semi-auto pistol with a 6 round capacity and a 4" (actually 99 mm) barrel. Its a honey of a gun but its considered slightly heavy for concealed carry at 815 grams although concealed carry is what it was made for.

I generally carry a Ruger P90 its a .45 ACP semi-auto with a 7 round capacity and a slightly longer than 4" barrel (114 mm) and weighs 980 grams.

As you can see, the pistols are roughly similar, they also have the same safety features, bells and whistles.

Neither is magic!

Both shoot the same large and slow bullet that leaves a big hole and tends to stay in the target transferring the muzzle energy to the target.

Yes, if you hit someone in the center of body mass or the head or leg, they will go down.

No doubt about it, they will know they have been hit. That's what the .45 ACP bullet was designed to do and why its still a favorite after 100 years.

But it may not be the best choice for everyone or the right bullet for every need. We can't all carry a firearm strapped to our belt, for whatever reason. For one thing, the size of a .45 can make it very difficult for a smaller person to carry concealed. Many people are just naturally better with one firearm over another or have their own personal choice.

If I were a policeman, I believe that I would want to carry a .45 on duty.

When it comes to personal protection, any gun is better than none at all. I believe that there are many more occasions where a firearm is shown and stops a dangerous situation in its tracks rather than having to actually fire it.

QunQat said...

Basically you want the largest caliber you can comfortably handle. If you flinch and miss the target the size of the hole you blow in the wall isn't really helpful.

Anything from a .38 Special to a 10mm to a .45 Auto will be quite effective with the appropriate ammunition.

As was mentioned, bullet design can compensate for over penetration in most situations, but, some of those designs are NOT auto friendly. Test the combination to make sure!!!

If you don't have friends with the guns you want to try, best bet is to check the gun ranges in your area until you find one that has "house guns" for rent. You can try different calibers/styles to find something you feel reasonably comfortable with. One issue is that house guns are usually only fired with house ammo which is typically loaded light. Standard commercial loads will have more recoil/noise.

Another issue is that practicing regularly, most people will end up being able to effectively fire weapons with larger recoil/noise than when they started. You might not want to buy the real expensive one (unless you are starting or adding to a collection) until you have determined what your limit is.

Most of the modern automatics are very reliable. Quite often cheap ammo, or ammo not designed for a particular automatic (ramp angle/bullet style, barrel twist, load intensity) WILL reduce the dependability. If varying ammo types and quality is an issue then the revolver is a better choice.

Like anything manufactured there are lemons. Again, regular practice should bring up any issues so you can have them taken care of by the dealer or manufacturer.

PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE!!! It's fun and improves a skill that your life may depend on!!!

Interesting articles on bullet effectiveness:

Eyes said...

Great comments! I think the place to start is firing the Browning 9mm - and get used to that. Then, perhaps go to a gun show and check out all the other - they have them here once in a while:>D Thanks kindly all.

Nanc = Dirty Harry!!!! You go girl!

Eyes said...

Oops, upon re-reading I realized AOW = Dirty Harry!!! Yeah!

Z said...

Thanks, Warren....I sent your response to my friend whose question I copied/pasted for you. I appreciate your answer very much.


Warren said...

You're very welcome, Z.

The Frank Family said...

As a choice partially arrived at by money restraints I just purchased a S&W Sigma 9MM (SW9VE). It has a 16+1 capacity and came with an extra clip. S&W is also offering a rebate right now of $50 when you purchase one and they also send you two more magazines. For a pistol that cost $339 to start with that's a pretty good deal! The rebates run until April 30.

The Frank Family said...

Brooke -- the new S&W M&P's are also under the same $50 rebate with two free magazines.

Always On Watch said...

That was the "Dirty Harry" .44 Magnum.
"Go ahead punk; make my day!"

My father used to have a .44 Magnum, but I never got to fire it.

Good thing! I'd have broken my tail bone.

Anonymous said...


You responded to Brooke asking if she had a chance to try out the M&P pistol she liked. I own one in .40 cal and like it very much.

Specifically, it is the compact model which comes with 3 10 round mags and 3 grip panels which allow a custom fit for one's hand. I found it to be accurate (at 15 yards 2"-3") with 165 and 180 grain factory loads. It is not quite as accurate as my XD Subcompact or my Glock 23 but is slightly easier to conceal-we Cubes are licensed!

I hear the 9mm M&P is a little less lively in the hand and the
.357SIG is more so than the .40. But I think that is natural as the .357 is higher pressure.

Additionally, the Taurus PT145 is a nifty carry gun that also conceals well. The finish on mine though is best left for cooler weather as the summer heat here in FLA can be rough on its blueing-I've had to do some touch ups so I'd go with the stainless next time.

Any way the XD and the M&P are stainless and hold up well to the sweaty confines! Plus my handloads work fine in them.

Be well,

Jeff (Mr. CUBE)

Warren said...

I also prefer the stainless models for concealed carry. They just don't require as much maintenance as a blued gun.

I used to load my own .45ACP, .38 spec/.357 mag and assorted rifle cartridges. I don't seem to have much time for it anymore.

Everyone in my household is licensed to carry also.

Does your PT145 cycle with hollow point ammunition? I carried a Star PD for quite a few years but its simply not safe to carry with a round chambered.

Thanks for your critique on the M&P, XD and PT145