Selecting Ammunition: Quality Over Caliber

Which ammunition is superior, the 9mm or the .45 ACP? What about the .380 or the .357 Magnum? Don’t forget about the .40. There is so much information and support behind various calibers, but does any of it truly matter? Is it really about the caliber of a round, or should it be more about the quality of the ammunition?

Stopping Power and the Great Myth of Ammunition

Unless your carry weapon of choice is a .45-70 Mare’s Leg, stopping power — as it relates to handguns — is a myth. Don’t go trading in your handguns for rifles. A handgun is a suitable and, in many respects, preferable self-defense weapon. Still, when looking at available defense calibers, there is more to consider than the number on the rim.

While caliber plays a role in inflicted damage, some things matter more — shot placement or marksmanship being among them. However, the most important thing to consider when purchasing ammunition is its quality.

Quality Is More Important Than Caliber

Traditionally, the assumption was the larger a round was, the more powerful the bullet. The thought played out with the popularity of the .45 ACP; it made a bigger hole than smaller bullets, leading to the belief of more sustained damage to either a paper or fleshy target. However, with further knowledge and testing, the firearm and ammunition industries realized that a smaller quality bullet, like a 9mm JHP, could perform better than larger varieties, even those with a 230-grain ball.

Unfortunately, assumptions skewed the market for a long time, making over-the-counter 9mm or .45 ACP largely unavailable, especially in comparison to the .38 Special or .357 Magnum. Fortunately, the recognition of quality over caliber has increased production volumes, and now smaller caliber rounds are growing in popularity significantly among home defense enthusiasts and even law enforcement.

Evolution of Ammunition and Community Understanding

Industry focus on ammunition quality and the development of more effective hollow point rounds has led to a consumer and professional market shift. More and more law enforcement agencies are trading in standby .40 S&W or .357 Sig ammo with more capable and lower caliber rounds.

Granted, good quality carry ammunition will not have the same punch through power as larger calibers, and it might seem underpowered for defense and law enforcement needs. However, the purpose of the ammunition is not to create a large entry wound; rather, it expands inside the target, creating a devastating wound channel. The goal is to create significant damage and incapacitate the threat, or at least deter further attack. A good quality defense round will also penetrate multiple layers, including clothing and flesh.

Does Ammo Matter?

The type of ammunition you purchase does matter; however, it is not so much about the caliber as it is the quality. Today, you can find several types of ammunition for defensive and carry purposes. For instance, you can walk into any gun store or online market and find adequate .380 loads or quality 9mm, .40, .45, and more. The primary focus should be on purchasing from a quality manufacturer.

What is your favorite caliber round for defense? Do you have any opinion about caliber and quality? Leave a comment below.