9mm vs .40 S&W vs .45 ACP | Which of the Three Calibers Gets the Job Done

40 caliber semi automatic handgun ammunition on black background 9mm vs .40 SW vs .45 ss featured

April 19, 2023 / Comments (28)

Guns & Ammo

9mm vs .40 S&W vs .45 ACPs are the most obvious choices when looking for handguns. While all three have their pros and cons, this article will surely help you find which one fits you best.

Who knows you might end up getting all?

RELATED: The Best Handgun Caliber

Here’s Our Practical Overview of 9mm vs .40 S&W vs .45

Man in a high crime area placing a handgun into the drawer of a bedside table in readiness to defend himself during a home invasion | 9mm vs .40 S&W vs .45

For Home Defense

The main reason why we all have guns in the first place is home defense. Many of us rely on a shotgun or an SBR, but most of us would own and keep at least one handgun at home. Countless 9mm vs .40 S&W vs .45 tests showed how each round performs.

From cinderblocks, and makeshift walls, to bricks and concrete, each round delivers varying results. When intruders come with established aggression, we all think of stopping power. But we should also consider ammo capacity and collateral damage.

The hefty .45 punches big holes and pulverizes cinderblocks. It will take down intruders for sure, but do we want all that damage? A fat round also gives us less magazine capacity.

Plus, we all know how cumbersome a double-stack .45 pistol could be in a gunfight. The fast-moving 9mm goes through and through almost anything found at home. 9mm also guarantees more mag capacity. More rounds give you more chances at hitting your target.

The 9mm also gives off the least recoil. You get quicker acquisition at follow-up shots, giving you more edge during a CQB gunfight. We all know the .40 S&W to be good at both follow-up shots and stopping power.

But, depending on whom you ask, the round is inconsistent and gives different results. Most people say that the .40 fires like a 9 and hits like a .45.

So, 9mm vs .40 S&W vs .45 for home defense?

Our practical advice: Get the round that your wife or kids could be comfortable shooting with.

For BeginnersWoman with pistol weapon in hands at shooting range with target | 9mm vs .40 S&W vs .45

We always tell someone who is about to try out shooting guns to start small. We all know of kids having a good time with the .380 and .22 of their parents. But for the long haul, they’d want a more popular caliber.

We lead them in on the 9mm vs .40 S&W vs .45 discussion. While accuracy remains a contention, let’s consider other crucial factors. The 9mm will not alienate the noob as it recoils less and gives more magazine capacity.

More mag cap means less time reloading and more time shooting. That translates to more fun downrange. The .40 does the same, only harder. This caliber recoils harder, and has lesser ammo capacity.

It could also get erratic and inconsistent in untrained hands. That doesn’t sound like fun at all. As for the .45, just tell the new guy that the boys in the last World War had to learn to fire this caliber in basic training. Tell him that this round won him the freedom he enjoys now, and he won’t bother about the recoil.

9mm vs .40 S&W vs .45 for beginners?

Our practical advice: Start small, and work your way up to get the most fun.

RELATED: Best Self-Defense Caliber Handguns

For Primary / Secondary WeaponCloseup of two pistols handguns trigger for shooting self defense or military | 9mm vs .40 S&W vs .45

The 9mm vs .40 S&W vs .45 contest also has its deep roots in real-world use. In 2015, the FBI ditched the .40 S&W, the chosen round for their use, and went to 9mm.

They have practical reasons to do so. Most local law enforcement prefers the .40 as their primary carry round. The police rely on its stopping power and reliability during gunfights.

Many still prefer the 9mm for the most magazine capacity and quicker follow-ups. The military employs mostly 9mm and .45 as their secondary carry round.

But with perps getting armed with better firepower, the handgun you’re carrying is your best tool. The key to sending more rounds on target is quick acquisition at follow-up shots.

One critical hit to the chest with a 9mm is still better than a missed .50 BMG shot. If you have more rounds, the better your chances are at taking down your target.

9mm vs .40 S&W vs .45: which should go as your primary or secondary weapon?

Our practical advice: Get the one that gives you better follow-up shots.

Concealed CarryYoung woman holding 9mm handgun in purses for concealed weapons | 9mm vs .40 S&W vs .45

9mm vs .40 S&W vs .45: which round should go in my CCW? You’d think that this is easy. The smallest round should be the best choice for concealed carry.

Is it? With concealed carry weapons getting smaller, should the round you carry still matter? Of course, it does. The smaller and lighter the gun, the more recoil you’d have to deal with.

And this is how we factor in the application of your CCW round of choice. If your CCW is your backup, you should use the same round as your primary. Consider using interchangeable magazines as well.


If your CCW is also your main weapon, then choose the round that is most capable for you given your circumstance.

Our practical advice: Say, you live in a place where violent men get as big as bears, get a bear-stopping round.

If the bad guys are like tiny ninjas, then get a fast-moving round that also gets you to shoot follow-ups faster. If they come anywhere in between, get the .40.

And to further bring light to the 9mm vs .40 S&W vs .45 debate, here’s Guns, Gear & On Target Training, LLC’s take on the matter:

The 9mm vs. .40 vs .45 debate is still going on and there are still no clear winners. All three rounds are capable and reliable. Choosing one only boils down to use. Heck, a lot of us own and fire all three.

Some would say that the best caliber is the one you have on you. So which one do you have on you?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Which is your favorite round and why? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Up Next:

Follow us on FacebookInstagram, Twitter, and Pinterest!

Disclaimer: All content on this site is for informational purposes only. Please read our full disclaimer here.

Editor's Note: This post was originally published on April 19, 2021, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

28 Responses to :
9mm vs .40 S&W vs .45 ACP | Which of the Three Calibers Gets the Job Done

  1. Larry Moore says:

    I have 9 mm with 147 gr and hollow point.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I have a .45 auto. Why? Because shooting twice is silly

  3. Michael says:

    I have a Glock 21 which is my primary Open Carry – Because 9mm kills the body but 45 ACP kills the soul.

    I have a Glock 22 which shoots 40S&W because when mounted in a Micro Roni it is Sweet!

    Finally I have a Glock 26 – for CC, 9mm is ok when I run out of the others

  4. JOHN P. MORA says:

    When it comes to my job and household the answer is the round that is available at the local store.
    I have found that I like both the 180 gr 40 S&W and the 124 gr 9mm 9×19. Reality sets in when 9mm are sold out and 40 S&W are available. 40 hits harder, and I have already lived through 11 ea. 9mm in one night. So had I been shot with the 40 S&W, I may not have been typing here. Does that make it look obvious?

  5. Rj Peak says:

    I shoot a 40 it’s pretty consistent at short range

  6. Wayne Jackson says:

    I own both the 9mm & 45 ACP. 45 has knockdown power. The 9 may over penetrate. Don’t want to hit anything behind my intended target. Having said that, if the 9 is the nearest choice, I won’t hesitate to use it.

    1. Stephen Penny says:

      That depends on what ammo you use! Like ARX for example, it won’t to my understanding penetrate through a body, but I know for sure what it will do to a human body, and that’s most definitely a life stopping round! There are many other rounds I’m sure you know that will be stopped by, well you know!

  7. Richard A says:

    I’ve trained with and carried all 3 calibers for duty and trained others to carry. I’m proficient, first with the 9mm, then the .45ACP and finally the .40S&W. I like the .40 S&W because it’s the best compromise between the two former. The speed and deep penetration of the 9mm and the heavy bullet (165-180 gr slugs) and “knockdown” power of the .45ACP.


    Trained with .45 early 80’s. Carried a 40 for work. Situations and experience played big role with my work in outdoor security. I pity the fool that tries unlawful entrance to my home. The first they will get is a 12 gauge double ot shot, then 45 then 40.

  9. John Houston says:

    My EDC is a 9mm Ruger EC9s, but for home defense I prefer 12gauge 3″ dbl 00 magnum, sorry guys but a scatter gun does reduce your over penetration issues a lot. My wife uses a 9mm Walther for carry and a semi auto 20gauge w/ No 2 buck for home defense, ya gotta go with what you feel most comfortable with is the golden rule.

  10. Joe M. Jones says:

    Capacity is good, and I own all three calibers. But capacity does not determine my carry. Considering a potential violent encounter will be over in 6 seconds or less, according to national crime statistics, I carry either the .45 or .40. I’m more concerned about quality than I am quantity. All will do with proper training. Don’t let size or number intimidate you, and don’t drop down to the tools level. And remember, there all just tools, the skill comes from you and your dedication to the level of skills training you commit to. Stay safe and train smart.

  11. Donald Anderson says:

    Springfield XDS mod 2 in 40cal right smack dab in the middle just perfect.

  12. Scott says:

    You say larger magazine capacity for the 9mm is better but in NY and other places we are limited to 10 round capacity by law. At home backup magazines are possible but carrying extra magazines can be a pain. You want to end the gun fight quickly.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I have a Sig P226 in 40 S&W, I’ve had 38s, 357, & .45s, liked them all but the .40 is my fave and I carry it as my EDC!

  14. Lawrence says:

    I just got my Glock 22, S&W 40 cal, sweet, and its pretty light. Got my training in the military & war zone, so I am ready, I don’t let people get close to, I am always checking the whole area for Scumbag. I carry a 10 million volt Stun box, this thing will boil your blood, lol.
    Have all kinds of rifles, next getting a Charter Arm wheel gun 5 shot 32 magnium 2″ barrel, nice and small but packs a punch.

  15. David says:

    Have a 9mm and shoot hollow points with 115 grain lower

  16. Ed says:

    Well if someone comes into my home,I get woke up by alarm they are getting a 7mm Mag,300 Mag,.45 or 50 cal put into them before the Police can arrive and coroner better come too just incase!!

  17. Don says:

    I have all three and my favorite is a Colt 1991 (basically a 1911) in 45 cal. I reload with 200-230 grain hollow points. I like the 40 cal bullet but both the 45 and 40 are a little heavy and bulky to carry, My carry gun is a very accurate Springfield 9mm. I’m 77 years old and will pit my pistol skill with most anybody. I live in the boon docks and the Cops would be late for either me or a bad guy.

  18. Lee Threlkel says:

    I have 9s and a 45 I swap it up witch one I pack most of the time I have a hammerless 38 in my pocket

  19. edwin t roberts says:

    glock 21 with Lazer on nightstand next to bed..
    m&p shield .40 in jeep …
    ruger p89 double action 9mm ccw shoulder holster winter or 4 wheeling.. summer 40 shield inside belt with shorts… 12 ga. 590a1 also in jeep when out of town rides… Idaho… in case 4 or 2 legged critters around looking for dinner….

  20. Anonymous says:

    head shoots 230 grain 45 cal

  21. Bill Ivey says:

    There are several articles about this subject matter floating around. Most of them have a more definitive conclusions, which this article did not. A question that repeatedly comes to mind is whether anyone proof reads articles in gun publications? Fixing grammatical errors, misplaced new paragraphs and the use of slang that needs to be looked up takes away from the flow of the article and would lend more credence to the person writing on the subject matter.

  22. Mark says:

    No pride or “machizmo” involved; Baretta M9 (main carry), Charter Arms Detectives Snub Nose 38 Special (CC), Galesi-Bresia 25acp (back-up), and Hi-Point C9 (fail safe – non carry). They all will do the job if “applied” correctly.

  23. Timothy Baka says:

    My first pistol was a CZ75 9mm – bought it for two reasons ; it was half the price of the Beretta, and the salesperson said, “You can throw it on the ground, run over it with a truck, pick it up, and it will still shoot.” I still have it, and I’ve put about 3,000 rounds through it, and it fits me really well. I have a Glock 23 (compact 40 S&W) . . . easier for concealed carry, but snappy recoil, which makes for less accuracy — I use it for carry, because if I shoot someone more than fifteen feet away, I’ll be going to jail, and less than fifteen feet, my three shot groups are about 6″. I have a Springfield 45, and I’ve never understood the “oh, the recoil!” angst. I’d rather shoot a 45 (ACP or Colt) than a 40, or 10mm or anything with “magnum” in the listing — it’s not a snap recoil, it’s more of a push – I can shoot a hundred rounds with no issues – but it’s a large frame, and has that single-stack capacity issue — but if I were in the country, I would be carrying the 45, with hollowpoints. As this article says, there are reasons for any of the three, depending on what you are doing.

  24. jim bell says:

    I’m a marine, fought in Vietnam. I carried a fourth five, also slept with it. In a fire fight I liked the idea of throwing a hog down range. I don’t care what people think, but even if you get hit in the arm, your going to the ground. I pick the .45 cal.

  25. Jim Platter says:

    I don’t have a lot of experience with pistols. I’ve once fired a 357, and a 22 caliber 50–60 rounds. The 357 had a lot of kick, but, it seems for us fragile humans that a 22 could be enough to stop us, or at least make of think twice about trying to commit that crime. And another thought is, you may want to kill that jerk that was beating up on your child or trying to rape your wife or daughter, or steel everything in your house but in the long run wouldn’t be better to let the cops have to deal with that creep, (If the cops would even show up in a reasonable time?) Not and hour and a half after the event took place.

  26. Jim Platter says:

    A second thought maybe a little off the subject, but one of my dreams it to go pig, or wild boar hunting. I have talk to a few people that have gone and they all have said that I should carry a side arm, as added safety. One person recommended a 10-mm. over a 9-mm, and over a 45 cal. Is there anybody out there that might have experience enough with both the 10-mm and the 45 cal. to be able to give reasons for Pro and Con for each 10-mm or the 45? I should clarify, I’d be using my 30-06 as the main weapon. Now there is another thought, using a 12-guage with slugs. How effective and how far could that be good for?

  27. Robert says:

    I have a Mossberg 12ga bolt and at 100 yards it will knock down what I shoot at. I’m a better than average shot with my 357 also.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Enter for a chance to WIN an Over Under Double Barrel Shotgun when you sign up today for our exclusive email newsletter subscription.