The question of “what’s the magic bullet for self-defense” is debated endlessly on all sorts of sites, but these tests show why I carry a big-ass unwieldy revolver with six shots of .357 magnum rather than smaller 9mm semi-auto that holds 17 shots.
I used to carry a 9mm. It’s much easier to carry, concealed or open, and doesn’t weigh as much as the hog leg revolver. But the ability of .357 to punch through stuff is unquestionable.
(click on each photo to see it big)
Guns used in test: .357: Ruger GP-100 (six-inch barrel model- I picked the longer barrel for extra power and accuracy):
9mm: Springfield XD:
Targets: steel plates, 3/32 of an inch thick (between 1/8″ and 1/16″ thick):
Shooting distance: 11 yards (33 feet.) Targets were not clamped down and were allowed to fall when hit.
AMMO: 9mm: Winchester 9mm Luger, 115 gr. FMJ. .357: Hornady, 140 gr. JHP
Hole is from .357 mag. Dents are from 9mm:
CONCLUSION: If you’re a good shot, and willing to deal with the extra weight and learn to use speedloaders quickly, a big .357 hog leg is probably a better carry gun for the Rocky Mountains than a small .9mm with more rounds. At least in winter. I have a friend here in Wyoming who says “9mm before Labor Day, .40 after Labor Day.”
I know there’s the whole argument of “penetration vs. expansion”, but JHP .357 expands once in. My point is it’s not going to be slowed down by heavy clothing. And .357 is the smallest caliber that can cause remote wounding by Hydrostatic Shock.
We have four-legged beasts here that can kill you, like cougars and bears. I’d rather face one with .357 than with 9mm.
From the FBI’s notes on the 10 mm:
“The fear of over-penetration is a misconception, which was created back when law enforcement was trying to overcome misinformed public resistance to the use of hollowpoint ammunition. In the process, we began to believe it ourselves. First, our lawyers are unaware of any successful legal action resulting from the injury of a bystander due to a round over-penetrating the subject. We are aware of numerous incidents of Agents/officers being killed because their round did not penetrate enough (Grogan and Dove, for example). Further, if you examine shooting statistics you will see that officers hit the subject somewhere around 20-30% of the time. Thus 70-80% of shots fired never hit their intended target, and nobody ever worries about them – only the ones that might “over-penetrate” the bad guy. Third, as our testing shows, even the most frangible bullets designed specifically for shallow penetration will plug up when striking wood or wallboard and then penetrate like full metal jacket ammunition. We are aware of successful legal actions where an innocent party has been struck by a shot passing through a wall, but as we have proven, ALL of them will do that.”
“Grogan and Dove were the two FBI agents killed in the 1986 Miami shootout with a pair of bank robbers named Platt and Matix. Five other agents were wounded. Matix fired only one shot, which missed. Platt did all of the rest of the fighting against the FBI agents and arriving Metro-Dade police officers. He soaked up numerous bullet wounds, including several rounds of 12 gauge 00 buckshot that hit his legs as he wriggled out of a wrecked car, and one 9 mm hollowpoint round that entered through his arm early in the fight and stopped just short of his heart. Platt was pretty much everyone’s worst nightmare – ex-military, well-practiced, and unrelenting. “As a result of ammunition failures in Miami, the FBI undertook a program of extensive ammunition testing. The FBI concluded that a minimum of 12 inches of penetration in ballistic gelatin was necessary for reliable incapacitation, and “18 inches is better.”
ALSO: On a note related to self-defense, but not related to the above tests, I’ve added an aftermarket front sight, fiber optic HiViz brand. Really helps find your target in low light: