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Thread: Smith & Wesson M&P .40C vs. 9C

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    Regular Member OldGnome's Avatar
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    Smith & Wesson M&P .40C vs. 9C

    I am really new around here and still pretty new to hand guns and the idea of carrying (we live in FL). My wife owns a Walther P22 that we both have been shooting (but that's a topic for another thread).

    I have been looking at semi-automatic hand guns in search of something that will fit my predilection for left-handedness. Since the only two things I do right-handed are play guitar and deal cards, I really need a gun that is at least ambidextrous. I know that I can probably get a fully left-handed gun, if I'm willing to pay enough. I'm not.

    I like how the S&W M&P Compacts feel in my hands. I have heard a lot of arguments pro and con for both calibers. However, in the past few hours, I have come to appreciate the breadth and passion of the opinions offered around here.

    So, here's my question - is there a material difference between a .40 and a 9mm bullet when it hits a target?

    TIA

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    Regular Member mobiushky's Avatar
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    Well you're about to get a plethora of information in this thread that you probably don't care about. And there will be a combination of reasoned information and standard myth and wild speculation coming from all camps. From cap and ball musket is the best to lazer clad super expansion .500 magnum is the only way to go. buckle up.. LOL.

    This is my 2 cents. FWIW. When it comes to defense, pistols suck. It's something you have to come to terms with. Pistols are not the ideal defensive system. BUT, no one I know carries a rifle or shotgun every where they go. So we compromise.

    True effective difference between the 9mm and .40? Not really. Most information shows that it's going to take between 2 and 3 rounds to stop an attacker and that doesn't even matter what caliber you use. If you talk odds? Well odds are you won't ever need it. If you do, odds are you're facing an unmotivated attacker and even the P22 would stop them. But it's that one in a million event we plan for. In that case, you've got the same odds whether it's a 9mm or a .40 you're carrying.

    Some realities. .40 is a higher pressure round and will tend (not always) to wear out parts sooner. But buy sooner I mean like 20,000 rounds instead of 30,000 rounds. So in reality, nothing you'll probably ever care about. .40 tends to be snappier. The recoil is certainly manageable, it's just a sharper impulse curve. That means slightly more muzzle flip. So follow up shots take 2 tenths of a second longer. Or whatever. It's noticeable, but not a deal breaker. 9mm is generally cheaper, which means you can spend more on practice. But if you only plan to shoot like twice a year, that's irrelevant. If you plan to shoot 300 rounds a weak, maybe it would save you some money. (BTW, this is pre-panic pricing. right now on gunbot both are about the same price.) So really, it's like a coin toss.

    My only suggestion, choose what you want. Practice, practice, practice. Then practice more and then even more. The caliber is really not important when it boils down to actual defensive use. Having it, carrying it, knowing how to use it. That's what matters.

    Side note: I just went to the range with a buddy. He brought his .40 (his only gun) and I brought one of my 9mm (along with some others). After we were done (he shot my 9mm) he said "I should have bought a 9mm." That doesn't mean it's the best or the only way to go. More, if you have a chance, shoot both. You'll either come away not noticing anything different or you'll come away knowing which you want. And don't be afraid of .45. The S&W 45C is a pretty nice option. The actual felt recoil of the .45 is considered to be more comfortable and more controllable than the .40 because it has a longer impulse curve that spreads the force out over a longer time. That makes it feel more like a push than a snap. But that's another can of worms right?
    Last edited by mobiushky; 07-30-2013 at 09:34 PM.

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    Keep in mind a bigger bullet generally means a bigger wound channel, which in turn means faster bleed out - which translates to quicker stopping of the threat. This could be particularly important if less than ideal shot placement is expected.

    Here is a picture showing some gel tests.

    http://www.ar15.com/ammo/project/Mis...comparison.jpg

    Ammo tests:
    http://www.firearmstactical.com/ammo_data/ammodata.htm

    You might find this FBI document interesting:
    http://www.firearmstactical.com/pdf/fbi-hwfe.pdf

    FWIW- I do carry .380 and 9mm at times, but I prefer .45 whenever practical.

    Hope no one minds the links to external sites. I have no fist hand knowledge of firearmstactical, just that they had the info you were asking about...

    Blade

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    Regular Member ()pen(arry's Avatar
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    mobiushky's post is full of good sense. Heed it.

    I'd add a few things:
    • The most effective caliber is the caliber of the gun you shoot best. Spend some time renting different models in both calibers. Get a sense of the differences in recoil, and discover which one feels more comfortable and natural to shoot. Being comfortable with the caliber you carry is vital to being effective when you need it (but be aware that defensive rounds, particularly over-pressure rounds, can feel significantly different than target rounds). Moreover, renting different models will help you find out what style of frame fits your hand well, gives you natural aim, and helps you find your sight picture quickly. This also leads me to...
    • There are more models available in 9mm than in .40S&W. This is decreasingly true, as most of the major manufacturers produce at least very similar models for both calibers, if not outright identical. However, there remain some 9mm-only models that are worthy of consideration (and I have a vague sense that there are one or two .40S&W-only models of note, but I can't seem to remember what they are).
    • Don't make your decision because you went to Cabela's one day and they had ammo in one caliber, but not the other. Both are ridiculously scarce, right now, effectively equally so. Under normal circumstances, there is more 9mm available in more loads, but even under normal circumstances, I don't think that should be a factor in your choice of a defensive carry pistol.

    Also, before you pick your gun, do a little poking around to get a sense of whether the gun you're considering has accessories you're interested in available. If you only care about the magazines that come with it, and no other accessories, okay that was easy. However, some guns are especially hard to get accessories for, so at least let that inform your decision before you drop cash. I adore my first edition Walther PPQ, but getting magazines for it is pretty tough, and there really aren't a lot of holster options. Walthers in general are hard to find (except the P22, poor little guy), and hard to find accessories for. Some of us are willing to put up with that, but it's certainly not the right choice for everyone.

    Finally, ask lots of questions here. People on this forum love to help, and there are a lot of members who are very well-informed about handguns*.

    * I don't really consider myself one of them.

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    Re: Smith & Wesson M&P .40C vs. 9C

    Can you get a .357 or 9mm barrel for the compacts? I thought a while back, you could get either option with the purchase of a full size .40 caliber from S&W. If you can, why not purchase the .40 and pick up a extra barrel, and have the best of both?

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    Campaign Veteran MAC702's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldGnome View Post
    ...So, here's my question - is there a material difference between a .40 and a 9mm bullet when it hits a target?...
    Depends on the target.

    Assuming a bad guy that had targeted you for random violence, in most instances there is no difference in the result: the person stops attacking (The P22 will usually equal the same result as well). "Stopping power" is important, but often overrated.

    While the .40 will carry more energy, and deliver more energy if it stays in the target, the 9mm will be easier to shoot better with less training.

    The .40 is not a compromise between the 9mm and the .45; it is harder to shoot than either (more modern = higher pressure), especially often being in the same size gun as a 9mm.

    For those who can't practice enough to be as good with a .40 pistol, I think the 9mm or the .45 is a better choice.
    Last edited by MAC702; 07-31-2013 at 01:30 AM.
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    Regular Member SouthernBoy's Avatar
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    There is an accepted adage about handguns and calibers to carry. You should carry the most powerful caliber with which you can consistently, effectively, and confidently deliver rounds to target. Of course, reality does step in the form of clothing, vehicles, practicality, and other extraneous concerns. But that sentence does hold weight. The .40S&W is a fine caliber and does impart more energy and penetration to the body. Most of the time, this is a good thing. And there are some excellent defensive loads all of the popular calibers from which to choose so that shouldn't be a problem for you... except for finding them at present.

    Some good information has been mentioned here. Carry what you shoot best (see my second sentence above), and purchase what you are most likely to carry on a regular basis. I have an M&P in both calibers in the 4.25" barrel and both are fine guns. Reliable, very accurate, and with excellent feel and handling characteristics. But what goes out the door with me is one of my gen3 Glock 23's, which of course is a .40S&W. Loaded with either Gold Dot 165gr JHP (#53970, the "hot" load) or the Federal 165gr HST, this is my preference.

    So in a word, perhaps the best answer really is which gun do you shoot best? There is always another option. Get both. That way you'll know which one exits your home with you on a daily basis.
    In the final seconds of your life, just before your killer is about to dispatch you to that great eternal darkness, what would you rather have in your hand? A cell phone or a gun?

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    Regular Member mobiushky's Avatar
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    There are a couple things that tend to get lost in the caliber debate that are important to keep us all grounded. And btw, I'm not disagreeing with anyone above. There really is a surprisingly good amount of useful and valid information here. I love reading this kind of thread because I learn more every time. So I won't argue with anyone. This is more of a perspective comment when it comes to caliber.

    We hear the caliber numbers bandied about and each have our own mental images that come to mind. Something to remember are 2 things. First, a .40 S&W is only 1mm larger than a 9mm. Bullet diameter wise, it's still in essence a 10mm bullet. The effective difference between 9mm and 10mm in creating wounds is pretty minimal. For more perspective, that's a difference of 5 one-hundredths of an inch difference. Under expansion, the initial diameter of the bullet is really unimportant. Some hot 9mm can actually expand more than standard .40. And a hot .40 can expand more than a standard .45, etc, etc. That's why the full cartridge and load, the total package, can be more important than the caliber. And also why pushing a JHP beyond it's design (really hot rounds) can actually make things worse. It's possible to ruin the effectiveness of a .40 by pushing it beyond it's design. That goes for any round really. The point is, we should avoid the cliched ".40 is bigger so it's better" mindset. (Not accusing anyone here because I don't think anyone has actually said that in any way.) "Better" has little to do with the caliber and more to do with the shooter, the load, the expansion of the bullet, etc, etc. Caliber is the bottom of the list of priorities.

    Second, the gun community can too easily fall into the trap of "kinetic energy." This is a great area for manufacturer's to boast and sell and market. But when you really boil it down, the number is less than impressive. For instance, I'm not picking on SouthernBoy I just happened to use the Gold Dot he mentioned as a common point. Nothing he said is wrong. That 165gr Gold Dot. It's rated at 484 ft lbs at the muzzle. That's an impressive number and a lot of people see that and say "WOW" or whatever. And it's a good number. But for perspective, compare that to the average punching power of the average non-trained male. If you were to test your punch power (not being a professional boxer or even a weight lifter) you would find that the average non-trained male can punch with a power of between 250-350 ft lbs of force. Larger guys can push closer to 500 ft lbs. A professional boxer can punch as high as 1000 ft lbs. Now, what does that mean? Well, have you ever been punched in the chest by an average guy and flew back 20 feet? No. In fact, after being shot by modern rounds, many people state that they didn't even know they were shot at first. That's because "400 ft lbs" in a small diameter package isn't really that much force on a 200+ lb man. Now remember above I noted the 484 ft lbs. Underwood ammo makes a 9mm +p round that is rated at 467 ft lbs. That's high for a 9mm. Actually, they make a +p+ rated for 501 but I've heard that the higher speed is causing the gold dot they use to fail in the +p+ round and penetration is suffering. Anyway, lets compare the 9mm above to the .40. The difference is 17 ft lbs. If 300-400 ft lbs is barely noticeable to the average person, 17 ft lbs is nothing.

    Now I'm not arguing, "See the 9mm is better." Quite the opposite actually. I'm arguing, there is no "better." Modern ammo and modern handguns have become so close that the caliber IMHO has become irrelevant. So to be honest, why you chose the caliber you choose is pretty much equally as valid as why someone else chooses a different caliber. Whether it be, I want the most common, I want what the FBI uses, I want what my local police use, I like the flat top on the 40, I like pretty shiny nickel.... Doesn't matter. It's all equally valid.
    Last edited by mobiushky; 07-31-2013 at 10:34 AM.

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    Activist Member JamesCanby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blade10 View Post
    Keep in mind a bigger bullet generally means a bigger wound channel, which in turn means faster bleed out - which translates to quicker stopping of the threat. This could be particularly important if less than ideal shot placement is expected.

    Here is a picture showing some gel tests.

    http://www.ar15.com/ammo/project/Mis...comparison.jpg

    Ammo tests:
    http://www.firearmstactical.com/ammo_data/ammodata.htm

    You might find this FBI document interesting:
    http://www.firearmstactical.com/pdf/fbi-hwfe.pdf


    FWIW- I do carry .380 and 9mm at times, but I prefer .45 whenever practical.

    Hope no one minds the links to external sites. I have no fist hand knowledge of firearmstactical, just that they had the info you were asking about...

    Blade
    Excellent reading -- I've added this article to my 'Law and Firearms" reading library.

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    9mm 40s 45s 357s 41s and 44mags I carried them all and shot stuff with them all with good bullets they all get the job done.


    Buy the one you like the most them put the best ammo in it you can afford and carry it with confidence.


    I was seated in a restaurant once when this guy walked in from his tattoos one could tell he spent time in the prison system. The guy was huge 6'5 or so 300plus pounds arms the size of my thighs 18 inch neck or so, not fat, lots of muscle wearing tee shirt and shorts

    I thought to my self where's my 44mag with my bear loads. I forget what I was carrying that day a 40 or 9mm of some type.

    I was thinking if I have shoot this guy a few in the chest the rest head shots man was he big.
    Last edited by Firearms Iinstuctor; 07-31-2013 at 11:47 AM.
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    Campaign Veteran Cavalryman's Avatar
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    The effectiveness of a handgun round depends entirely upon doing significant damage to some organ/structure that the assailant can't function without. That's it. Calibers below .38/9mm generally do that less effectively because of their limited ability to penetrate enough non-critical structures to get to the critical stuff. Beyond that, it's entirely about shot placement. All other things being equal, I prefer a bigger and/or faster round over a smaller/slower one, but all other things are rarely equal. IMO, the recoil difference between a 9mm and a .40 is not enough to worry about, but I'm a very experienced shooter. My advice is, if possible, shoot both and see which one you shoot better, then buy that one.

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    Regular Member SouthernBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Firearms Iinstuctor View Post
    9mm 40s 45s 357s 41s and 44mags I carried them all and shot stuff with them all with good bullets they all get the job done.


    Buy the one you like the most them put the best ammo in it you can afford and carry it with confidence.


    I was seated in a restaurant once when this guy walked in from his tattoos one could tell he spent time in the prison system. The guy was huge 6'5 or so 300plus pounds arms the size of my thighs 18 inch neck or so, not fat, lots of muscle wearing tee shirt and shorts

    I thought to my self where's my 44mag with my bear loads. I forget what I was carrying that day a 40 or 9mm of some type.

    I was thinking if I have shoot this guy a few in the chest the rest head shots man was he big.
    I had something very much like this happen to me around two years ago and also found myself thinking about my carry caliber and load and how effective it might be trying to get into his vitals. Call it an epiphany if you will but it is eye opening.
    Last edited by SouthernBoy; 07-31-2013 at 06:30 PM.
    In the final seconds of your life, just before your killer is about to dispatch you to that great eternal darkness, what would you rather have in your hand? A cell phone or a gun?

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    Regular Member SouthernBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mobiushky View Post
    There are a couple things that tend to get lost in the caliber debate that are important to keep us all grounded. And btw, I'm not disagreeing with anyone above. There really is a surprisingly good amount of useful and valid information here. I love reading this kind of thread because I learn more every time. So I won't argue with anyone. This is more of a perspective comment when it comes to caliber.

    We hear the caliber numbers bandied about and each have our own mental images that come to mind. Something to remember are 2 things. First, a .40 S&W is only 1mm larger than a 9mm. Bullet diameter wise, it's still in essence a 10mm bullet. The effective difference between 9mm and 10mm in creating wounds is pretty minimal. For more perspective, that's a difference of 5 one-hundredths of an inch difference. Under expansion, the initial diameter of the bullet is really unimportant. Some hot 9mm can actually expand more than standard .40. And a hot .40 can expand more than a standard .45, etc, etc. That's why the full cartridge and load, the total package, can be more important than the caliber. And also why pushing a JHP beyond it's design (really hot rounds) can actually make things worse. It's possible to ruin the effectiveness of a .40 by pushing it beyond it's design. That goes for any round really. The point is, we should avoid the cliched ".40 is bigger so it's better" mindset. (Not accusing anyone here because I don't think anyone has actually said that in any way.) "Better" has little to do with the caliber and more to do with the shooter, the load, the expansion of the bullet, etc, etc. Caliber is the bottom of the list of priorities.

    Second, the gun community can too easily fall into the trap of "kinetic energy." This is a great area for manufacturer's to boast and sell and market. But when you really boil it down, the number is less than impressive. For instance, I'm not picking on SouthernBoy I just happened to use the Gold Dot he mentioned as a common point. Nothing he said is wrong. That 165gr Gold Dot. It's rated at 484 ft lbs at the muzzle. That's an impressive number and a lot of people see that and say "WOW" or whatever. And it's a good number. But for perspective, compare that to the average punching power of the average non-trained male. If you were to test your punch power (not being a professional boxer or even a weight lifter) you would find that the average non-trained male can punch with a power of between 250-350 ft lbs of force. Larger guys can push closer to 500 ft lbs. A professional boxer can punch as high as 1000 ft lbs. Now, what does that mean? Well, have you ever been punched in the chest by an average guy and flew back 20 feet? No. In fact, after being shot by modern rounds, many people state that they didn't even know they were shot at first. That's because "400 ft lbs" in a small diameter package isn't really that much force on a 200+ lb man. Now remember above I noted the 484 ft lbs. Underwood ammo makes a 9mm +p round that is rated at 467 ft lbs. That's high for a 9mm. Actually, they make a +p+ rated for 501 but I've heard that the higher speed is causing the gold dot they use to fail in the +p+ round and penetration is suffering. Anyway, lets compare the 9mm above to the .40. The difference is 17 ft lbs. If 300-400 ft lbs is barely noticeable to the average person, 17 ft lbs is nothing.

    Now I'm not arguing, "See the 9mm is better." Quite the opposite actually. I'm arguing, there is no "better." Modern ammo and modern handguns have become so close that the caliber IMHO has become irrelevant. So to be honest, why you chose the caliber you choose is pretty much equally as valid as why someone else chooses a different caliber. Whether it be, I want the most common, I want what the FBI uses, I want what my local police use, I like the flat top on the 40, I like pretty shiny nickel.... Doesn't matter. It's all equally valid.
    The reason some higher velocity JHP's tend not to penetrate nearly as deeply as their lower speed brethren is due to the speed at which the higher velocity loads expand once entering the target. When they do this, they present a larger frontal area which the bullet must try to continue to travel against a much greater resistance to its travel. Bullet design is a very specific and detailed art. On the one hand, one wants deep penetration and the bullet to hold together as it moves through the body. On the other, we also want good expansion to disrupt as much tissue as possible while the bullet courses along the way. A difficult task since these two factors work against one another.

    You wrote good responses. I agree with pretty much every thing you have stated. However, I also like to listen to people who have been there and done that. I was talking to a young fellow about three weeks ago in a local Lowes. He asked me what I was carrying. One thing led to another and in our conversation he remarked how he would not carry a 9mm because he saw guys get shot with it over in the sand box. He didn't offer that he was a shooter but I got the impression he did his share. He said he carried a .45ACP after seeing the 9mm not doing the job. I offer that what he saw was no doubt the use of ball ammo to which he affirmed it was. Nine millimeter is notorious for not doing the job in ball configuration. And some will also argue that even with the current crop of 9mm offerings, it isn't much better (one of these people is a poster on these forums).

    I don't know because I am of the opinion that in a gun fight, pretty much anything can happen. We try to do what we think is best with our carry sidearms. But the reality is this. You are not going to know if you took the right decision until that day comes when you have to call upon your gun to serve you. And even then, you will only know how it worked in that specific case.

    I like the .40S&W in my chosen loads but I cannot swear that it is going to be the one that saves my butt when I need it. I hope it does. I know I sure as heck don't want to ingest any of these rounds. Let's hope a future assailant thinks the same thing.
    In the final seconds of your life, just before your killer is about to dispatch you to that great eternal darkness, what would you rather have in your hand? A cell phone or a gun?

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  14. #14
    Regular Member mobiushky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SouthernBoy View Post
    The reason some higher velocity JHP's tend not to penetrate nearly as deeply as their lower speed brethren is due to the speed at which the higher velocity loads expand once entering the target. When they do this, they present a larger frontal area which the bullet must try to continue to travel against a much greater resistance to its travel. Bullet design is a very specific and detailed art. On the one hand, one wants deep penetration and the bullet to hold together as it moves through the body. On the other, we also want good expansion to disrupt as much tissue as possible while the bullet courses along the way. A difficult task since these two factors work against one another.

    You wrote good responses. I agree with pretty much every thing you have stated. However, I also like to listen to people who have been there and done that. I was talking to a young fellow about three weeks ago in a local Lowes. He asked me what I was carrying. One thing led to another and in our conversation he remarked how he would not carry a 9mm because he saw guys get shot with it over in the sand box. He didn't offer that he was a shooter but I got the impression he did his share. He said he carried a .45ACP after seeing the 9mm not doing the job. I offer that what he saw was no doubt the use of ball ammo to which he affirmed it was. Nine millimeter is notorious for not doing the job in ball configuration. And some will also argue that even with the current crop of 9mm offerings, it isn't much better (one of these people is a poster on these forums).

    I don't know because I am of the opinion that in a gun fight, pretty much anything can happen. We try to do what we think is best with our carry sidearms. But the reality is this. You are not going to know if you took the right decision until that day comes when you have to call upon your gun to serve you. And even then, you will only know how it worked in that specific case.

    I like the .40S&W in my chosen loads but I cannot swear that it is going to be the one that saves my butt when I need it. I hope it does. I know I sure as heck don't want to ingest any of these rounds. Let's hope a future assailant thinks the same thing.
    Agreed. Just to comment on the guy who carries .45, a very recent story was written by a LEO who (long story short) hit a BG with 17 shots of .45, JHP. 14 were center of mass, 6 of them determined to be fatal kill shots. After the initial 14 (with the 6 kill shots) the BG was still fighting back and the incident finally ended when the LEO shot the BG in the head with the final 3 rounds. Even then, the guy was still alive on the ER table. Finally died in the hospital. Tests showed no drugs, no alcohol, no steroids.

    Yes, that is one incident and it's not indicative of the rule. I understand that. Each incident it unique in it's events. So we never know. But I will say this. Since day one of the panic freak out, my local walmart has had .40 in stock the entire time. They even lifted the 3 box limit on .40 only. So at least you could buy that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by OldGnome View Post
    I am really new around here and still pretty new to hand guns and the idea of carrying (we live in FL). My wife owns a Walther P22 that we both have been shooting (but that's a topic for another thread).

    I have been looking at semi-automatic hand guns in search of something that will fit my predilection for left-handedness. Since the only two things I do right-handed are play guitar and deal cards, I really need a gun that is at least ambidextrous. I know that I can probably get a fully left-handed gun, if I'm willing to pay enough. I'm not.

    I like how the S&W M&P Compacts feel in my hands. I have heard a lot of arguments pro and con for both calibers. However, in the past few hours, I have come to appreciate the breadth and passion of the opinions offered around here.

    So, here's my question - is there a material difference between a .40 and a 9mm bullet when it hits a target?

    TIA
    Wow. Talk about a question likely to incite a flame war in some forums...

    Needless to say, you got your jello junkies (the guys who measure potential bullet effectiveness with gelatin trials), the fetal pig guys... etc. etc.

    And by "target" I assume you mean a beast or a person, and not paper.

    I recently transitioned from .40 S&W to 9 mm after carrying the former for most of my career. People I have a lot of respect for (in regards to their knowledge in this area) believe that the newer version of 9mm jacketed hollowpoint have finally achieved comparable stopping power as compared to .40 S&W. That was not the case in years past.

    I'm not trying to make an argument from authoritah, I'm just saying *I* believe these people enough to make the change.

    Ultimately, what is most important with any handgun and bullet is that you can confidently put lead downrange into the target accurately and reliably. I've seen with some people that they shoot substantially more accurately (at least in target practice and some reasonably tactical drills (moving targets, dim light etc. that try to more accurately simulate real world scenarios) with the 9 vs. the .40 . I suspect that is because the .40 has a much sharper recoil that messes with some people's firearm skills. The 9 is noticeably more comfortable shoot, and the difference is obviously more or less profound in various different handguns.

    So, I'm not giving a definitive answer, but I am saying that my "go to " experts claim that the modern 9mm round is comparable to the .40 S&W in stopping power. And of course the 9mm trumps the .40 in terms of rounds carried (you can fit more 9's in a comparable space. Compare the glock 22 to the glock 17 for instance) and ease of shooting (the recoil issue).

    Btw, I shoot left handed and play guitar right handed too.

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