9mm vs .40 vs .45 | Which Is Better For Self Defense?

Feature | Three guns on a wooden table | 9mm vs .40 vs .45 | Which is Better for Self Defense?

October 7, 2023 / Comments (8)

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Who do you think wins in the 9mm vs .40 vs .45 face-off? Read and learn which of these calibers is the best in the business.

9mm vs 40 vs 45 Debate | Which Is Better for Self-Defense?

Caliber Facts

There has always been a debate over the best caliber for self-defense. There are those who are adamant that .45 caliber is the best, due to its stopping power.

Others think 9mm trumps all or the .40 caliber has its own merits. Truthfully, all of these calibers are awesome.

In reality, is a .45 caliber going to stop an intruder more effectively than a .40 or 9mm? Let's look at the facts and make a decision from there.

1. Caliber

Whatever caliber to get hits on target quickly and effectively counts more than having one caliber versus another.

Three bullets | 9mm vs .40 vs .45 | Which is Better for Self Defense?

Statistically, 7 out of 8 people who shot with a handgun survive. This is largely due to the level of trauma care we have in the United States.

RELATED: What’s The Best Handgun For Beginners?

2. Shot Placement

Handguns are relatively ineffective weapons but are used because we cannot carry long guns or shotguns with us at all times. Gun owners have to decide 9mm vs .40 vs .45 for concealed carry, not sure how these will affect their shooting.

A specific caliber is less important than an operator's ability to get effective hits on target. Shot placement is key to neutralizing a threat.

Target shooting using cardboard | 9mm vs .40 vs .45 | Which is Better for Self Defense?
If you miss all of your shots on a .45 caliber, then the bigger caliber did nothing for you. Same goes for a .40 and a 9mm.

If you are missing a lot of shots of any caliber, you aren't neutralizing your target. It's the hit to the chest or head that is most likely to take a target down.

3. 9mm vs 40 vs 45 Accuracy

I am personally more accurate on my 9mm Beretta than I am on my Colt 1911. I still love my 1911, but personally, I am much better at handling my 9mm.

Two handguns | 9mm vs .40 vs .45 | Which is Better for Self Defense?

The point is, that many people think they NEED a bigger caliber handgun to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. Whatever gun and caliber most effective for you is the one you should use.

You can also check out this full video on 9mm vs .40 vs .45 courtesy of USCCA:

No matter what caliber you have and use for self-defense, be sure you practice as much as you possibly can with it. You would also want to be more in touch with quality firearms information so you can arm and defend yourself effectively.

If you want your shooting skills to improve, knowing the right caliber to use will give you a particular advantage in a given situation.

Does the article give you an idea of which caliber suits you best as a shooter? Do you now have a better understanding of the 9mm vs .40 vs .45 comparison? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2015 and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

8 Responses to :
9mm vs .40 vs .45 | Which Is Better For Self Defense?

  1. stan says:

    I have all three…..S & W 9mm..Glock 23 .40..Springfield Armory XDS .45 ACP….

  2. Teeroovengadum Kevin says:

    Many professionnal shooters said That they dont feel undergunned carrying a .22 or a .32 for self défense.I agree with That because the Most confortable the gun Is the more You Will want to carry it and train with it.The Most important Is shot placement and i think That the Kel Tec P-32/7.65 Is the Most confortable for That.It is even lighter than the lightest .22 and have Great reviews telling That it Is very reliable.Id love to Read comments from those of You who have tried it and carried it.
    Best regards


    When the late president Reagan and his escorts were shot, they were shot with a 22 caliber.And the intended target and the agents were also shot as it is well known.None of the agents shot that sadly fell to the ground were able to get up.I do not need to rehash the terrible and unfortunate damage Press Secretary Brady sustained.All calibers are dangerous,and specially if they rounds hit the target areas mentioned in this article.I respect bb guns as well.

  4. Anonymous says:

    You said in the title that you were going to compare the effectiveness of various calibers. That is a notoriously difficult topic.
    You wussed out and essentially said “ Bring what you got”.
    While it is true that you don’t want to get shot at all, BB to .50 cal. It is also true that some calibers are better at stopping an aggressor than others.
    Shirley you will shoot whatever gun you brought, a pea shooter ( the breath and straw type ) but there is a sweet spot between hand cannon and pea shooter that you completely failed to address.
    Your article benefitted no one and was a wast of time.

    1. Anonymous says:

      I tend to agree. The writing is inarticulate and incomplete. (Hire an editor).

      The article could be summed up by saying “Shooting well matters the most”.

  5. Jim says:

    I am ex- US Army military police CID during the 1960’s ended up in VN Special Ops (xxx) when I was young and on the pistol teams etc. I carried a 1911 Colt 45 (Gold Cup) and much later as I was discharged I graduated later to a Kimber 45 ACP with Black Talon hollow point ammo and now in my 80’s a Ruger 380 LCP with hollow points. In summary, if I’m one on one in a dangerous situation and need to protect one of my loved ones I’ll take the 45 ACP no matter which weapon any time over any of the others. It has been my experience that the first one shot followed with a couple of more with the 45 is all I have needed so I’ve been very fortunate. I carry the Ruger LCP because it’s light and convenient and even though I’m 6’ 2” 195 and in fairly good shape physically for my age I am just not strong enough to carry my Kimber but still a good enough shot that my 380 will get that first shot in the right place and with follow shots also in the right places to stop any type of aggression. I guess I might say I’m currently carrying a 380 because it’s light and comfortable to curry and I am confident enough that I’m a good enough shot that I can stop anyone of any size with the 380. Do I prefer the 45?? yes, but I’m just not strong enough at my age to be able to handle it as quickly with the recoil as well as I would like to. I hope I haven’t bored anyone with my rhetoric . J

    1. Mike F says:

      To Jim,
      Quite the contrary, your message is a much appreciated practical viewpoint on how to comply with the first rule of winning any deadly force situation (i.e. have a gun with you) regardless of your age. I found it particularly pertinent as I am in my late 60s, a former Airborne MP (Ft. Bragg 1976-79), 37 year civilian police career, and still carry the physical effects of some serious encounters during that time. I think our similar backgrounds gave you instant credibility with me.
      I too am finding it more difficult to carry my Commander size 45 as often as I would like. It just seems heavier these days. I still carry it frequently but less than often. I have a S&W 3913 that seems less cumbersome but even it can be heavy to the point of distraction at times. Like your Ruger 380 my carry gun that is always right is a hammerless J Frame in .38 with two speed loaders. It fits great in any pocket, I can hit with it, practice dry firing it, and it was a weapon that I have felt comfortable with since very early in my career. Simply put, it just works. When I travel the 45 is usually in the car but the J frame is carried on my person in some fashion.
      For what it is worth I will pass on some advice regarding personal gun selection that I believe in and often passed on to other officers. Make sure you feel good with it and just because it is new does not necessarily make it better.
      To any fellow military or police veterans that might read this thank you for your service. To you civilians who believe in the 2nd Amendment thank you for your faith in and appreciation for our country.

      God Bless America and those who protect Her.
      Mike F
      Duty Honor Country

  6. chris says:

    I’ve been an ER Nurse for 20 years now. I’ve seen many handgun related injuries ranging from .22 LR to .45 ACP.
    I cared for a man who was shot in the head with a .22 LR handgun. There was an entrance wound but no exit wound..
    The man was cleaning his gun and when his young son asked if he could hold the gun he handed it to him. When the very young son pointed it at his father and pulled the trigger it fired. The father forgot to clear his loaded weapon.
    The man was able to walk, talk, and present himself for medical treatment but eventually died from his wounds later in hospital.
    I am haunted by the voice of the father telling his son it’ll be ok, it was just an accident, and by the son apologizing over and over while crying.
    Please clear your weapons ! !
    I also cared for a man who was shot in the head by a 9mm at close range. No exit wound and the man walked to the ER asking for help. He was angry at me for insinuating that anyone shot in the head at close range by a 9mm wouldn’t be able to walk into an ER and calmly ask for medical treatment.
    Much to my surprise he turned his head to show me an entrance wound from a 9mm. He died from the injury shortly afterwards and I’ll be haunted for the rest of my life for not initially believing him.
    Guns kill no matter what circumstance or caliber. If you pull the trigger you’ll have to live with the outcome.
    Be it accidental or intentional.

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