The .40 S&W Is a Better Defensive Caliber Than 9mm

Heads up, here it comes!

Noted firearms author Wiley Clapp is bucking the trend. In this article from the October 6, 2016 issue of American Rifleman, he stirs the pot and calls out the massive movement towards the 9mm as a carry caliber. While seemingly long on opinion and short of data to back up the claims, the article certainly nails the reason behind the development of the .40 S&W, and why it still is a defensive round worth of respect – for a handgunglock_19_katrina_pistol_trijicon_streamlight_tlr2_surefire_with_gerber_lmf-2

Personally, I historically slide towards calibers starting with a “.4” when choosing a defensive pistol. A Glock 27, then a S&W M&P Compact in .40 both did long-time EDC duty on my hip, and I loved both guns dearly. (Read my review of the M&P40C here). However, I have recently jumped on board the 9mm train as ammo costs skyrocket, and I start handloading my own practice ammo – you see, I get a lot more bang for the buck when I handload 9mm over the bigger calibers. A smaller bullet, combined with less powder used means I get more range time per dollar, and that matters most to me right now.

As a carry caliber, the 9mm with good modern ammo (such as the Sig Sauer Elite V-Crown 124-grain JHPs I carry in my Sig P320 Compact) gives me confidence that my handgun will, if needed, perform as well as a handgun can in a defensive situation. But I have the same feeling with a .357 Magnum, .40 S&W, or .45 ACP as well. In my mind, the two factors of: A) Having the gun with you, and B) proper shot placement override what the caliber of the gun is – as long as it’s at least a 9mm….and I’d be willing to bet I’m not alone in having that thought.

However, Mr. Clapp’s article should be read for a little enlightenment on the existence of the .40 S&W  – maybe it will sway your opinion.

Read the full article here, and let us know what you think in the comments below.

7 comments… add one
  • Matt in Oklahoma December 9, 2016, 10:22 pm

    This lackluster argument from someone who hasn’t killed with either caliber for comparisons isn’t worthy of a full read.

  • Donnie Kee December 10, 2016, 2:51 am

    Will a 9mm kill, yes! Will a .40 S&W kill, yes! Will one more times than not do a better job than the other, yes! If you had to choose one of the two to be shot by which would you choose? The 9 mm of course! Upon that statement alone I would side with the .40 as my carry gun over the 9mm, and I do. The truth is I think most people prefer the 9mm because of the cost of the ammo. If that’s all you think of yourself, then carry the 9mm, as for me, I value my life too much to tote the cheaper shooting less effective 9mm.

  • nick December 10, 2016, 3:14 am

    i hate these articles. decades of reading them. all the same…. everyone has an emotionalized preference. bottom line… shoot someone in the face with anything at all and theyll at the very least be distracted to where you can shoot them again. so, shoot what you like but shoot it well. that is all. sheese.

  • Dan Barnes April 18, 2017, 3:24 pm


  • BamaMan May 23, 2017, 8:22 pm

    9mm is better b/c of everything other than knockdown and ballistics. Ease of concealment. Weighs less. 17 rounds for many models. Cheaper ammo. Easier to stockpile. Easier to find.

    308 is better than 223 for the same reasons but you get the 223 for all the same reason mentioned above.

  • DKM June 21, 2017, 4:10 am

    All pistol calibers are underpowered…If you knew you were going to be in a gunfight would you take a pistol? Hell no! You would take a shotgun or a rifle. Pistols are carried as back up or for convenience because you can’t take a rifle to the grocery store or the bank. Also, in the US, police walking around carrying rifles is frowned upon by the general population.

    Putting aside penetration arguments, when fighting with an underpowered weapon like a handgun, shot placement is everything. A gunfight is ended by causing the body to undergo one of two failures 1. hydraulic (blood loss) or 2. electrical (brain/spine trauma) only the latter is occasionally instantaneous (brain/high spine) and that takes shot placement. I had the opportunity to view the autopsy of a man shot in the heart by a police officer at contact distance when he attacked him with a knife. The heart was shredded by a hollow point round. The man dropped the knife but continued to choke the officer for several seconds (7-10) per the officers partner while he bled out.

    So at the end of the day, no matter what caliber you choose, one of two things matter – rapid and multiple combat accurate shots or a very precise CNS hit. Fights don’t stop because you were hit in the pinky finger by a 45 ACP round.

    Shoot what you shoot…just be able to shoot it well and be able to do so under stress. The next time someone tells you that you are shooting the wrong caliber ask them to volunteer to be shot with it…I bet they decline that opportunity.

    And if you read this far and said so what the hell do you carry then? The answer is 45 ACP for duty and a glock 19 9mm off duty. I am equally confidant in either…They both suck. I want a rifle if I’m in a gunfight.


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