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Old 01-19-2007, 13:06   #1
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Differences between .40 S&W and .45 ACP

I'm curious if folks who have shot a lot of both calibers can clue me in on what are the practical differences between them. Right now, I own a 9mm Taurus 24/7, and am looking to expand my handgun options. What I'm considering is adding a couple more to my collection. One of these will definitely be a .40 S&W or a .45 ACP semiauto to use for home defense, possibly as a trail gun for camping/hunting/hiking, for target/fun shooting, and for a SHTF carry weapon.

The options for this gun, in my preference, have been narrowed down to the .40 SW and the .45. The problem I run into is, when I do research on these, the results don't look all that different. First, their actual record of one-shot stops is pretty similar (both .40 SW and .45 ACP are supposed to have one-shot stop rates in the 92-96% range, when using one of the several best types of defensive ammo for their respective calibers).

Second, there's ballistics to consider. From looking at some of the super-hot defense ammo loads, like Cor Bon, I can see that if you load up with 45 +P ammo, you can push your muzzle energy to 500+ or in some cases even 600 ft./lbs., which puts you up there with the .357 mag in raw force. Apart from the 45 +P loads, looks like the 40 SW and 45 rounds are VERY similar across the board in energy, though the 40 SW often exceeds the 45 in velocity. Bottom line, in ballistics comparison of these two calibers, looking at a range of types of defense loads and their muzzle energy and velocity, I cannot see a SIGNIFICANT difference to choose one over the other, unless you feel that the 45 +P loads are strongly more effective in stopping power. But even there, if you look around, you can find hot 40 SW loads that will equal the 45 +P loads, so again, I just cannot find a huge difference between them in ballistics. My evaluation? For ballistics, these 2 calibers are roughly in a tie, if you consider across the board a range of ammo loads.

Third, I looked at the issue of firepower, or total capacity of rounds. Here a slight and obvious advantage goes to the 40 SW, since it has smaller rounds, it can usually hold more of them in a typical double-stack mag configuration, compared to a 45. So, given cartridges in each caliber that would have roughly similar ballistics and stopping power, you could probably have more firepower with a 40 SW since you could pack more rounds.

Fourth, there's recoil to consider. What I hear repeatedly is that, the recoil between these two calibers is different in kind, but the total effect is roughly similar. More often than not, with 40 SW people report that it is a shorter, sharper recoil, kind of a "snap" type of action. With a 45, the recoil tends to be a larger, slower "oomph" type of thing rather than a quick snap. That's what I've experienced as well in shooting these calibers, and so once again, it seems roughly a tie. Does anyone else have any reason to prefer one over the other in the recoil area? Do you find that, for instance, the KIND of recoil you get from typical 45's is a little easier to manage and control than the sharper recoil of a 40 SW?

Fifth, there's convenience factors, like price, and availability of pistols and ammo. Here, it SEEMS like a slight edge goes to the 40 SW. This cartridge has really come on strongly the last few years, as it's now the predominant PD caliber, and in some cases you can get it for nearly the same prices as 9mm ammo. On any of the major ammunition websites I check, there are more total pages of listings for 40 SW than there are for 45, although there are still LOTS of pages of 45 options too. But it appears that in terms of both total availability of different kinds of ammo options, and in price, you can shoot 40 SW a LITTLE less expensively than you can 45.

Finally, there may be other issues to consider that I don't know about. For awhile, there were rumors that because the 40 SW is a high pressure round, it was somewhat more susceptible to safety problem (like exploding in the chamber) than 45 ammo, especially when using handloaded ammo. But this has apparently been resolved, I've read a number of reports now saying that 40 SW ammo, particularly when using factory loaded, is every bit as safe and reliable as 45.

So, taking all these things into consideration, I cannot see any strong reason to choose one of these calibers over the other, especially not in the area of stopping power. The only cases where there was a slight advantage (price and total availability of ammo options, and total firepower capacity), it went to the 40, but it's not a big enough difference that it would totally make the decision for me.

Apart from just continuing to test fire different guns in each caliber myself (which I am doing), does anyone else have any reasons that might help me to choose one caliber over the other? For example, do you think one of these likely be better positioned in the future to be more available, lower in cost, etc.? Or is one of them better at certain types of shooting scenarios, such as when you need to penetrate a barrier like a wall or a car door? Again, I've just not been able to find that many actual, real-world differences between them that are supported by concrete research. Sure you can always find people who will say that one does this better than the other, but often it boils down to their preference and is not supported by actual findings.

Last edited by timlt; 01-19-2007 at 13:10.
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Old 01-19-2007, 15:02   #2
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cost and availability of ammo. I like the .40 but the .45 is cheaper to shoot. If you are into handloading, then it really doesn't matter. Both are good rounds but of course I am partial to the .45acp. They are making new ones all the time.
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Old 01-19-2007, 16:38   #3
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The 45 is cheaper to shoot? I had thought it was the other way around. Here's the kind of info I was basing that on, using a few common types of ammo with Midwayusa.com prices as examples:

Black Hills reman. (blue box) 45 185gr JHP 50 ct: $25.99
Black Hill reman. 40 SW 180gr JHP 50 ct.: $18.99

CCI Blazer 45 230gr TMJ 50 ct: $16.49
CCI Blazer 40 SW 180gr TMJ 50 ct: $13.49

Federal Eagle 45 230gr FMJ 50 ct: $18.29
Federal Eagle 40 SW 155gr FMJ 50 ct: $13.99

Magtech 45 Clean range ammo 230gr TMJ 50 ct: $20.49
Magtech 40 SW Clean range ammo 180gr TMJ 50 ct: $16.49

Remington 45 UMC 230gr FMJ 250 ct: $89.99
Remington 40 SW UMC 165gr FMJ 250 ct: $69.99


In all fairness, I saw a number of cases where the prices were very close, a few cases where there was a sale on .45 that actually made it a bit cheaper than the 40 SW. But in general, it SEEMED to me like the trend was pretty clearly that the .40 SW was a bit cheaper to buy factory ammo.

Do you think that's NOT the case? Or are you saying that you can actually shoot 45 ACP cheaper, but only by reloading?
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Old 01-19-2007, 20:28   #4
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I don't think one's a whole lot different from the other. The biggest problem with the 45acp is finding it in a high cap package that is comfortable to get your hands around. The XD45 is the only one off the top of my head that hit a homerun taking this into consideration. Why not just buy the one you can get the best deal on, that fits your hand and let the fates decide?
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Old 01-19-2007, 21:08   #5
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both are great rounds

and in terms of self/home defense... the shooter is what really matters most in that situation

40 is cheaper in price per round and usually per firearm compared to a 45
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Old 01-20-2007, 00:41   #6
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Originally Posted by Billy_B0b View Post
both are great rounds

and in terms of self/home defense... the shooter is what really matters most in that situation

40 is cheaper in price per round and usually per firearm compared to a 45
Yeah, I could be wrong, but that's what I've been finding so far. That combined with the wider availability of new rounds being made for the 40 SW, and the fact that the one-shot statistics by the police indicate the 40 SW actually does equally well with the 45 in one-stop shots, defeating barriers (auto glass, etc.), and other scenarios, is causing me to lean slightly toward the .40. I'm strictly looking at this pragmatically, I know that some folks have this and respect it, but I have no nostalgic attachment to the 45, no longing for my Dad's old WW II 45, or anything like that, I just want the most effective gun, which will stop bad guys most efficiently, for the money, and that looks to be the 40 SW.
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Old 01-20-2007, 11:14   #7
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Originally Posted by timlt View Post
Yeah, I could be wrong, but that's what I've been finding so far. That combined with the wider availability of new rounds being made for the 40 SW, and the fact that the one-shot statistics by the police indicate the 40 SW actually does equally well with the 45 in one-stop shots, defeating barriers (auto glass, etc.), and other scenarios, is causing me to lean slightly toward the .40. I'm strictly looking at this pragmatically, I know that some folks have this and respect it, but I have no nostalgic attachment to the 45, no longing for my Dad's old WW II 45, or anything like that, I just want the most effective gun, which will stop bad guys most efficiently, for the money, and that looks to be the 40 SW.


yea a nice 40 will do the trick

i like 1911's, don't own one, but its on the list... but i do own a XD 4" 40 and its a sweet shooter... its my primary home defense weapon
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Old 01-21-2007, 16:10   #8
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I think either would be fine. but as a handloader I dont really care to reload 40 because somuch once fired brass out there is not any good because it was fired from glocks, glocks dont fully support the case which causes the case to buldge on the unsupported portion of the case causing a thin spot which can cause case head seperation if the brass is reloaded. case head seperation is not good it can be catastrophic in some cases not my idea of fun to chance it so I stay away from 40 S&W.

Another thing to think about is Col. Jeff Cooper has always stated especially when choosing a caliber, "You cannot replace mass with Velcoity". Another thing to think about is the 45 acp was specifically designed to be a 'Man Stopper' the 40 s&w came about because someone wanted to fit the 10mm auto into a smaller platform without the massive recoil of the 10mm. I know when you comapre ballistics between 45 acp and 40 S&W they are similar in kinetic energy but honestly kinetic energy is not a good way to compare performance between the two. because if you start comparing them with velocity or energy then you will also have to consider ballistic coeffient and sectional density to really figure which one is better ballistically. Bottom line is either will kill but the larger diameter of a 45 will kill faster even with poor shot placement the larger hole will leak blood faster.

Theres two sides of the man stopping spectrum either cause somuch shock to the nervous system that the heart stops and blood flow to the brain ceases which generally rifle rounds are the only thing powerful enough to do this. With pistol rounds you have to use two other options to your man stopping ability which are the obvious direct hits to the brain, spine and heart with these being such small targets and the chances of them being hit is slim you have to rely on the other option known as hemoraging internal or external hemoraging can happen faster with larger diameter bullets because of the obvious a larger openning will leak more blood. In this case you want the perp to bleed quickly to stop that flow of blood to the brain, aslong as blood is flowing to the brain the perp is still potentially dangerous. In a real life gun shot wounds may not disspatch a bad guy fast enough to end the danger to your life. If you think someone instantly stops once they are shot then you watch way tomany movies.

with everything said These are all my reasons for choosing a 45 acp.
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Old 01-22-2007, 10:17   #9
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As the research you've done shows, there is little difference between .40 and .45. Factors that you can consider,.40's fit on smaller frames like 9 mm pistols so they're better for people with small hands and conceal better. The .40 still has higher round capacity than most .45's. Since recoil is subjective, choose the one you prefer. As a side note, for years I have shot 9mm's and 45's and I had never found one the worked for me, they just never fit me well. I shot a Springfield XD9 Service model at my local range and it was extremely comfortable and super accurate. I bought an XD40 Tactical and now I have a XD40 Service model. I chose .40 cal because I live in California and we're limited to 10 rd. magazines. My thinking was 10 of .40 was better than 10 of 9mm. Springfield has since come out with the XD in .45, but the changes they had to make in the grip doesn't fit me as well. I'm totally satisfied with the .40 cal. and the most important thing is that I can hit my target everytime, and I have absolute confidence in my pistol. The secret is to find one that fits you, and that you can shoot well. Whether it's a .40 or a .45, doesn't matter. The journey may take a while, but its worth it. Best of luck
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Old 01-23-2007, 18:43   #10
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As far as wound effectiveness goes they are too close to matter IMO. WHat the main difference between the 2 rounds is recoil impulse. The 45 can be best described as a "push" while the 40 can be best described as "snappy" making the 40 a bit more challenging to shoot for me. IMO, if you can shoot a 40 then you can shoot the same size/type gun in 9 or 45 no problem.

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Old 01-23-2007, 19:43   #11
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I've been partial to the .45 acp most of my shooting life. I agree with Jeff Cooper when it comes to the .45 acp. The 9mm is next to useless (IMHO), the 40 & 10, are o.k., but if nothing else the 45 acp makes a big hole. And with today's ammo, it makes it even better. I remember early-on when you could shoot a JHP bullet and it would penetrate almost as well as an fmj. Then came Lee Jurras & Super Vel which started the revolution, or should I say evolution of the JHP/JHC. His work was the foundation of today's handgun ammo/bullets excellent expanding characteristics. But to get back to it, the 45 recoil is mild, you just have to learn how to control it in rapid fire. Builing up the wrist muscles helps alot. So does learning the recoil impulse and timing it to coincide with trigger slap. Easier said than done. With the 45 if you can hit your target, you won't need more than 7 rounds. More like two. I still can't figure out why everyone thinks they need a 20 shot mag. in their semi. Is it urban legend syndrome or what? IF you've got more than one guy wanting to do you harm and they have guns, my bet is that you might get shot, unless you're really proficient. So all that extra ammo is for? You can't be prepared for every scenario like, for example what if there's 6 guys surrounding me or a gang stops my car. I go with the gun of my choice for carry and what I feel is the best ammo for self defense. A friend said in jest to me a long time ago " When in doubt, fire two warning shots to the head"...............I tend to ramble and I apologize, but in a semi-auto, you won't find a better round than the .45 ACP, period. It's o.k. to play with this & that but the old 45 is still the best.
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Old 01-24-2007, 17:04   #12
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Originally Posted by Shakey View Post
I've been partial to the .45 acp most of my shooting life. I agree with Jeff Cooper when it comes to the .45 acp. The 9mm is next to useless (IMHO), the 40 & 10, are o.k., but if nothing else the 45 acp makes a big hole. And with today's ammo, it makes it even better. I remember early-on when you could shoot a JHP bullet and it would penetrate almost as well as an fmj. Then came Lee Jurras & Super Vel which started the revolution, or should I say evolution of the JHP/JHC. His work was the foundation of today's handgun ammo/bullets excellent expanding characteristics. But to get back to it, the 45 recoil is mild, you just have to learn how to control it in rapid fire. Builing up the wrist muscles helps alot. So does learning the recoil impulse and timing it to coincide with trigger slap. Easier said than done. With the 45 if you can hit your target, you won't need more than 7 rounds. More like two. I still can't figure out why everyone thinks they need a 20 shot mag. in their semi. Is it urban legend syndrome or what? IF you've got more than one guy wanting to do you harm and they have guns, my bet is that you might get shot, unless you're really proficient. So all that extra ammo is for? You can't be prepared for every scenario like, for example what if there's 6 guys surrounding me or a gang stops my car. I go with the gun of my choice for carry and what I feel is the best ammo for self defense. A friend said in jest to me a long time ago " When in doubt, fire two warning shots to the head"...............I tend to ramble and I apologize, but in a semi-auto, you won't find a better round than the .45 ACP, period. It's o.k. to play with this & that but the old 45 is still the best.

its funny you say that, because lately ive been carrying my XD-45 even with it being light weight combat tupper ware its starts to feel heavy by the end of the day with a full 13 round mag. the past few days ive been carrying it with only 9 rounds in it, maybe im just nutty but 4 less rounds seems to make quite the difference even though 4 rounds may only weigh 3 to 4 ounces.
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Old 01-25-2007, 05:32   #13
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win. 45acp $120 for 500 rds. walmart. hdwolf i agree that is gun control. a couple of well placed rounds will stop any man not wearing body armor. if he is hyped up on drugs keep shooting.

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