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Thread: The USAF to switch to .45 ACP

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    http://www.airforcetimes.com/issues/stories/0-AIRPAPER-2748823.php

    In pursuit of stopping power - Why the Air Force wants to pack the wallop of a .45


    By Bryant Jordan - bmjordan@militarytimes.com
    Posted : May 21, 2007

    For five hours, Staff Sgt. Travis Cosby had fought with insurgents for control of a bridge crossing the Euphrates River, but still they kept coming.

    As Cosby tried to call in an airstrike, the enemy suddenly appeared so close to his M113 armored personnel carrier that he couldn’t point his .50-cal machine gun low enough to take them out.

    He drew his 9mm and emptied a magazine — 15 rounds — into the enemy, killing at least two.

    For his actions that day in Iraq in April 2003, Cosby received the Silver Star.

    Machine guns, M4 carbines — whatever — sometimes a handgun is what you need. And it’s got to be reliable and effective.

    Those are the arguments behind the Air Force’s recent request for nearly $90 million to buy thousands of new handguns for its airmen. But not just new M9s, though the Air Force has acquired replacement 9mms routinely. The Air Force wants a .45-caliber handgun to replace the Defense Department-standard M9 its airmen have used for 20 years.

    But while the blue-suit leadership hoped to start buying and fielding the larger-caliber gun as soon as it got the money in the current 2007 wartime supplemental budget, congressional negotiators kicked the .45 away from the Air Force’s reaching hand and — bang! — appropriated $5 million for a joint study on handgun requirements. If the switch is justified, officials hope to have the study done in time to include money for new handguns in the fiscal 2008 budget in the fall.

    The Air Force has not said why it is moving unilaterally to introduce a .45 into its arsenal, though it has previously waited for and even taken part in joint and Army programs aimed at drafting new pistol requirements, only to see them come to nothing. Its attempt to expedite the purchase of its next handgun might also be due to the age of many of its M9s.

    “Numerous M9s have failed during training,” said Brig. Gen. Mary Kay Hertog, director of Air Force Security Forces, “which led to recent purchases [of new Berettas] and made us aware that these older pistols may break in operational use.”

    Another Air Force official, who requested anonymity, pointed out that the service “started taking delivery of the M9 in 1987. Over the course of two decades, there have been changes in technology. We don’t believe the M9 provides optimum lethality, nor does it provide sufficient reliability in austere environments.”

    From the field, some talk less about technology and reliability in voicing a preference for a .45, and instead echo the arguments U.S. troops gave for wanting them more than 100 years ago during the Philippine Insurrection, when soldiers found that Moro warriors — fired up by religious zealotry — could take multiple hits from a .38-caliber Long Colt and keep charging.

    Nothing says “stop” like a slug from a .45.

    “We are authorized [to use] deadly force, and if you shoot someone with the current Beretta 9mm, of course you can kill them,” Senior Master Sgt. Paul W. Riffle, a security forces manager assigned to the International Zone Police in Baghdad told Air Force Times in May. “However, the Beretta 9mm does not have as much stopping power as larger caliber weapons such as the .45.”

    Indeed, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley remarked during a House subcommittee hearing in February that when he travels into the combat theater, he carries a .357.

    “If I have to pull a sidearm,” he said, “I really don’t want to mess [around].”

    Wanted: bigger, deeper wounds

    The Air Force is saying little about its delayed plans, but it described what it is looking for in a pair of requests for information from gun makers.

    In an October 2006 request, it said the proposed weapon must come in standard and compact versions but fire a round that makes a larger, deeper hole than that made by a 9mm and penetrate at least 12 inches into human flesh. Preferred rounds are .40-caliber Smith & Wesson and .45-caliber Automatic Colt Pistol because they are already available within the Defense Department or could be acquired quickly.

    In an April 16 request, the Air Force called for a handgun with a baseline caliber of .45 that could be reconfigured to fire other caliber ammunition.

    Doug Wicklund, a curator at the National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Va., said this is not an unusual specification. Previous versions of the .45, including the 1911 and 1911A models, had this capability, “so it could be reconfigured to .22 [caliber] for inexpensive exercises.”

    “The gun would feel the same as the big gun, but you’re able to shoot less expensive ammunition,” Wicklund said.

    The Air Force said its new handgun and magazines must operate in all climates and geographical areas. The pistol also must have a closed slide design to keep the barrel fully covered when not in use; this would require a redesign of the Beretta, whose slide has an opening that exposes part of the barrel all the time. Also, the handgun must be ergonomic with variable grip sizes, be configurable for night-aiming devices, be adaptable for a sound suppressor, and accommodate attachments such as a laser pointer or flashlight.

    Magazines for the standard or full-size weapon should hold at least 10 rounds; the compact, at least eight. The weapon must weigh less than the current M9, empty or fully loaded. The M9 weighs 33.86 ounces with an empty magazine — about the same as a quart of milk — and 40.89 ounces fully loaded, according to Air Force documents.

    Power versus quantity

    So what’s the best handgun for airmen?

    The Air Force’s official answer is the .45, evidenced by its go-it-alone bid to buy the weapon. From the field, some endorse the .45, others the 9mm because it’s easier for the widest range of airmen to learn to fire, and still others say it matters less which weapon the Air Force buys than it does buying what the other services use.

    Riffle, in Baghdad, says the 9mm Beretta “is adequate; kind of like driving a Ford. ... However, since we are in the process of updating our war gear, I would like to see us driving a Cadillac.” And the .45 is the Caddy of handguns, he said.

    The 9mm Beretta will kill, but for sheer stopping power a .45 is better, he said. “With our current fight in Iraq, it would be nice to know you will stop an insurgent the first time,” he wrote.

    Although 1st Lt. Robert McGowan has his own .45, he believes “the majority of [airmen] would fare better with the current 9mm” because they’d find it more difficult to accurately fire a .45.

    “Simple odds of accurately hitting a target are more important than the knock-down power/mass of the round,” said McGowan, who is deployed to Iraq with the 99th Security Forces Squadron.

    While airmen can tick off the pros and cons of the .45 and the 9mm, the .45 had no real detractors, even among those who want to give the Beretta its due. A .45 means fewer rounds per magazine because the ammunition is larger than the 9mm — maybe 10 to 12 rounds versus 15. The larger caliber has more kinetic force, which is what gives the .45 its legendary wallop.

    Today, troops are not encountering Moro tribesmen. Master Sgt. Darryl Miller, noncommissioned officer in charge for Combat Arms and Munitions, 820th Security Forces Group, Moody Air Force Base, Ga., said service members don’t usually go up against people too drugged up to know they’ve been hit — a criticism of a smaller round.

    “There are reports of people in [theater] being shot with a 9mm, and it didn’t take them down,” said Miller, who personally favors the .45, “but what’s the reason it didn’t take them down? Did they shoot the person in the leg, shoot them in the abdomen? Or did they get good, solid hits in the chest and they kept on coming?”

    Training is the key, he said. “We’re still teaching to shoot two or three times at a target ... and for shot placement. When you shoot a person, you shoot for the [chest] cavity.”

    Increasingly, too, Miller said, the handgun has become a secondary weapon, with the rifle the primary weapon. “If [the sidearm] would be a primary weapon, I’d want as much ammo as possible,” he said, a nod to the 9mm. “If it’s a secondary weapon, do I really need to have that much [.45-caliber] stopping power?”

    Tech. Sgt. Vernon Virtue, NCOIC for contingency operations with the 820th at Moody, said he does not have a preference, but believes the services would be wise to go with a joint handgun.

    “In a combat situation ... if you’re deployed with the Army or the Marines, having to use someone else’s pistol, you’re already trained, using the same ammo they do,” he said. “Working off the same equipment makes life a lot easier.”




    Who knows. It could happen.

  2. #2
    State Researcher HankT's Avatar
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    They should just switch over to Glocks. A G21 or a G30 for everyone and they'd be good to go.

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    HankT wrote:
    They should just switch over to Glocks. A G21 or a G30 for everyone and they'd be good to go.
    I was thinking the same thing!
    A. Gold

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    HankT wrote:
    They should just switch over to Glocks. A G21 or a G30 for everyone and they'd be good to go.
    My preference would be the XD .45 ACP. Glocks are great guns, but I just don't like the grip angle, and they feel like I am holding a brick.

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    I bet they could get ahold of a ton of the G37s that Glock is trying to get rid offor next to nothing...

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    Nothing says “stop” like a slug from a .45.

    I think I just wet myself.....





    Now they need to buy this: http://www.shottist.com/beltfed.html



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    Actually, the military would probably be better off with 10mm. Greater capacity, greater FPE.

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    I like my pt-745. It doesn't kick that bad. I can still put all 7 rds in a paper the size of an average chest.

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    HankT wrote:
    Actually, the military would probably be better off with 10mm. Greater capacity, greater FPE.
    Remember they have to use ball and with ball ammo it is all about the size ot he hole. Thus .45 beats 10mm.

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    tarzan1888 wrote:
    Remember they have to use ball and with ball ammo it is all about the size ot he hole.
    Good point. I had not considered that.

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    Ultimately, whichever way you cut it, the .45 is the perfect blend of stopping power and controllability. Especially for the armed forces which is predominantly young athletic males who shouldn't have a problem handing the recoil (which quite frankly is pretty mild in my opinion anyway.)

    Other rounds have a place in this world for different reasons, but I just can't think of why the military shouldn't be on the .45.

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    Founder's Club Member Hawkflyer's Avatar
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    This argument has a long history. There is a difference between the philosophy of military handguns and civilian or Law enforcement handguns that has historically driven the discussion. Part of that thinking is that the military is limited to "ball" ammo, and that is a significant factor in the decision. Also the US military took the decision that compatibility with European allies should take precedence over effectiveness. Europe (in particular NATO) prefers the 9mm.

    In Police and civilian use, the goal is an instant stop. While almost never achievable in normal shootings that is the goal. In military application (in conventional theaters) there is great advantage in incapacitating but only wounding the opponent. The thinking is that this ties up valuable personnel, equipment and supplies in caring for the wounded. In the current conflict, things are a bit different. Our opponents are less interested in caring for wounded so the thinking should be modified to take that into consideration. Also they are very likely to fight to the death when wounded.

    The government is wasting $5 Million on a study that was already done by the FBI more than a decade ago. They concluded that a downloaded .45 would serve well for turning off human clocks. They needed the downloading to accommodate a requirement for less recoil. But that issue is less important for military shooters who have more training, and better conditioning than most LEOs.

    The .40 was actually selected because it is virtually identical to the .45 ballistically, but the smaller diameter allows for greater capacity in the weapon, and a .40 has a slight weight advantage over a .45 of similar design.

    IMHO, Since any performance bullets are out, if the choice comes down to .40 S&W, 10mm or .45 I would go with the .45. Full boat 10mm has more recoil but produces a smaller wound cavity than .45. The .40 S&W while ballistically similar to the .45 on paper, makes a smaller wound cavity. The difference in capacity is not significant and is largely offset by more modern .45 designs.

    I would look at the CZ 75 and later designs in .45 as they have a double action capability, support cocked & locked carry, they have a lower internal rail slide and barrel (reduces recoil), and a grip design that can accommodate small or large hands. There are pistols of this type that are already compliant with the RFP requirements outlined by the Air Force. But as with Glock and many other compliant pistols they are of foreign manufacture and that is a BIG problem.

    Oh well, how about a 1911?

    The only valid argument against this is inter-service compatibly. But wait! They could all go back to .45. Problem solved.

    Regards
    "Research has shown that a 230 grain lead pellet placed just behind the ear at 850 FPS results in a permanent cure for violent criminal behavior."
    "If you are not getting Flak, you are not over the target"
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    Nothing says “stop” like a slug from a .45.
    Nothing says "stop" like a slug to a vital organ.

    Hit a guy in the arm with a .45 he will fall to the ground crying and 'bleed out'. Hell all they have to do is tell the enemy they have .45's and they will likely surrender.
    "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." - Thomas Jefferson

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    Hawkflyer wrote:
    But as with Glock and many other compliant pistols they are of foreign manufacture and that is a BIG problem.

    Oh well, how about a 1911?

    The only valid argument against this is inter-service compatibly. But wait! They could all go back to .45. Problem solved.
    I see Smith & Wesson as a player in this whole (new) dance. S&W is dying to be a major supplier to the military. In fact, it's part of its strategic plan to do so. I see the distinct possibility that the U.S. military will be toting Smith 1911s within a few years.

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    Maybe, but S&W has some political issues inside the government procurement offices. These may not be easily overcome, as they REALLY pissed off the wrong people. A few years may produce enough retirements to solve the problem, but the Government has a long memory.

    Remember Glock is not the only company with a plastic pistol. Weight was not the only issue that caused all those Glocks and not very many S&Ws on LEO hips. It used to be almost all S&W. S&W reputation with the military is a big part of why the military is carrying Berettas.

    Regards
    "Research has shown that a 230 grain lead pellet placed just behind the ear at 850 FPS results in a permanent cure for violent criminal behavior."
    "If you are not getting Flak, you are not over the target"
    "186,000 Miles per second! ... Not just a good idea ... It's the law!"

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    Hawkflyer wrote:
    This argument has a long history. There is a difference between the philosophy of military handguns and civilian or Law enforcement handguns that has historically driven the discussion. Part of that thinking is that the military is limited to "ball" ammo, and that is a significant factor in the decision. Also the US military took the decision that compatibility with European allies should take precedence over effectiveness. Europe (in particular NATO) prefers the 9mm.

    In Police and civilian use, the goal is an instant stop. While almost never achievable in normal shootings that is the goal. In military application (in conventional theaters) there is great advantage in incapacitating but only wounding the opponent. The thinking is that this ties up valuable personnel, equipment and supplies in caring for the wounded. In the current conflict, things are a bit different. Our opponents are less interested in caring for wounded so the thinking should be modified to take that into consideration. Also they are very likely to fight to the death when wounded.

    The government is wasting $5 Million on a study that was already done by the FBI more than a decade ago. They concluded that a downloaded .45 would serve well for turning off human clocks. They needed the downloading to accommodate a requirement for less recoil. But that issue is less important for military shooters who have more training, and better conditioning than most LEOs.

    The .40 was actually selected because it is virtually identical to the .45 ballistically, but the smaller diameter allows for greater capacity in the weapon, and a .40 has a slight weight advantage over a .45 of similar design.

    IMHO, Since any performance bullets are out, if the choice comes down to .40 S&W, 10mm or .45 I would go with the .45. Full boat 10mm has more recoil but produces a smaller wound cavity than .45. The .40 S&W while ballistically similar to the .45 on paper, makes a smaller wound cavity. The difference in capacity is not significant and is largely offset by more modern .45 designs.

    I would look at the CZ 75 and later designs in .45 as they have a double action capability, support cocked & locked carry, they have a lower internal rail slide and barrel (reduces recoil), and a grip design that can accommodate small or large hands. There are pistols of this type that are already compliant with the RFP requirements outlined by the Air Force. But as with Glock and many other compliant pistols they are of foreign manufacture and that is a BIG problem.

    Oh well, how about a 1911?

    The only valid argument against this is inter-service compatibly. But wait! They could all go back to .45. Problem solved.

    Regards
    Reading up on my Garand and 03's and the military's choice of the .30-06 M2 Ball ammo to conform to the Geneva Convention was quite advantageous for the same reasons. It was said that a well placed .30-06 round could pass through 2 enemy soldiers before finally stopping in the third. Three "mission kills" as they're called today for one round. Pretty demoralizing and a huge burden on enemy resources, as you said Hawk. But only works if you have hundreds charging at you at once. Not quite how we're fighting today, but the Geneva Convention still outlaws hollow points for military use. And I thought all was fair...?


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    Sweet, how cool would that be if we actually switched? I think it's just remarkable how, try as we might to move on, the .45 just won't stop being the best.

    And could this make the round cheaper stateside?

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    All this hemming and hawing. For God's sake, if the DOD had any brains they'd let a contract for a few hundred thousand 1911A1's, double-stacks perhaps,from one of the dozens of competent manufacturers out there that already make the damn things, and who make them with lots of improvements over the old GI version.

    Instead, they'll waste millions of dollars on "studies" to find an adequate .45, totally ignoring the 80 or so years of the 1911A1's provencombat history. No testing or studies required; this weapon was approved a hundred years ago and has proved adequate over and over again. The Marine Corps even bought a bunch of Kimbers a couple of years ago for special operations.

    They'll say it's because they want double acting and grips for small hands or whatever, but it's really because they are incompetent boobs who can't be trusted with your tax money.

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    Tomahawk wrote:
    All this hemming and hawing. For God's sake, if the DOD had any brains they'd let a contract for a few hundred thousand 1911A1's, double-stacks perhaps,from one of the dozens of competent manufacturers out there that already make the damn things, and who make them with lots of improvements over the old GI version.

    Instead, they'll waste millions of dollars on "studies" to find an adequate .45, totally ignoring the 80 or so years of the 1911A1's provencombat history. No testing or studies required; this weapon was approved a hundred years ago and has proved adequate over and over again. The Marine Corps even bought a bunch of Kimbers a couple of years ago for special operations.

    They'll say it's because they want double acting and grips for small hands or whatever, but it's really because they are incompetent boobs who can't be trusted with your tax money.
    Well Said!




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    Lew wrote:
    ...SNIP
    I think it's just remarkable how, try as we might to move on, the .45 just won't stop being the best.*

    And could this make the round cheaper stateside?
    Well of course.

    So long as the size, shape, and internal design of the target, people in this case, doesn't change much, and the laws of Physics remain fairly constant, punching a hole anywhere from about .40 to around .50 inches in diameter and from 6-14 inches deep is going to work pretty well as a clock stopper. Even better if you can cause a little hydraulic effect, but that is not really allowed, so you have to go with the big deep hole theory.

    So no matter how much they study all this, the answer for shooting average people will always come out about the same. .40-.50 caliber, 180-250 grain ball ammo, going between 850 fps to around 1200 fps. What this does not accomplish by direct crush injury, it will accomplish through leakage. Anything else is just to satisfy someone's politics.

    As to cost, yes the price will fall a little, but I am certain the anti-rights folks in congress will find a way to tax it to keep you from being able to afford too much of the stuff. Can you say "reloads"

    Regards
    "Research has shown that a 230 grain lead pellet placed just behind the ear at 850 FPS results in a permanent cure for violent criminal behavior."
    "If you are not getting Flak, you are not over the target"
    "186,000 Miles per second! ... Not just a good idea ... It's the law!"

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    Jeff Cooper said it this way,

    “The 1911 pistol remains the service pistol of choice in the eyes of those who understand the problem. Back when we audited the FBI academy in 1947, I was told that I ought not to use my pistol in their training program because it was not fair. Maybe the first thing one should demand of his sidearm is that it be unfair.” — Col. Jeff Cooper, GUNS & AMMO, January 2002





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    Founder's Club Member Hawkflyer's Avatar
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    tarzan1888 wrote:
    Jeff Cooper said it this way,

    “The 1911 pistol remains the service pistol of choice in the eyes of those who understand the problem. Back when we audited the FBI academy in 1947, I was told that I ought not to use my pistol in their training program because it was not fair. Maybe the first thing one should demand of his sidearm is that it be unfair.” — Col. Jeff Cooper, GUNS & AMMO, January 2002
    Of course Jeff was right.

    Yea, he had seven shots available and others in the class had six shot revolvers in .38 special. He also had a 5" Barrel and they all had 3". His reload time were reduced by the magazine, and they were still reloading from a pile of ammo kept in a jacket pocket. It was fair, the other people just failed to bring the right equipment to make it equal.

    Frankly, I have never considered there to be a requirement that a gun fight be "fair." Only that it be conducted within the rules of the application of deadly force, and that when it is over, I get to complete all the paperwork. To me that is a fair fight.

    Regards
    "Research has shown that a 230 grain lead pellet placed just behind the ear at 850 FPS results in a permanent cure for violent criminal behavior."
    "If you are not getting Flak, you are not over the target"
    "186,000 Miles per second! ... Not just a good idea ... It's the law!"

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    Indeed, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley remarked during a House subcommittee hearing in February that when he travels into the combat theater, he carries a .357.

    “If I have to pull a sidearm,” he said, “I really don’t want to mess [around].
    It doesn't say whether it is a .357 magnum or .357 Sig, but if he carries his own piece, obviously he lacks faith in the 9mm. When my dad was in the USMC, he spent some of his final months testing the berettas (his MOS was 2111) and he reported that they were junk even when they were phasing out the 1911s. But since it was NATO stylish, the 9mm replaced the revered .45ACP.

    As for myself, I still hold fast to the .357 magnum. In the informal "shoot a log test", my .357 killed more hostile logs than my brother in laws 1911 .45.

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    I think that Glock and the Springfield XD are out of the field. The military likes manual safeties. I think the 1911 may run into problems because of the nature of it's design. It makes people who don't understand it a little nervous. I hope the XD would never make it because of that stupid little beaver tail. The military is full of persons who are not very well trained on their firearms. They will give you the basics and then you are required to find out the rest on your own. I will bet money that they will chose a pistol with some kind of manual safety. The only thing I have run into in our inventories that still doesn't have a safety is the M2. We all know how old that is. If they replace it they will change that aspect.

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    Founder's Club Member Hawkflyer's Avatar
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    They will probably pick something with a key lockable safety.

    Regards
    "Research has shown that a 230 grain lead pellet placed just behind the ear at 850 FPS results in a permanent cure for violent criminal behavior."
    "If you are not getting Flak, you are not over the target"
    "186,000 Miles per second! ... Not just a good idea ... It's the law!"

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