Practical differences in defensive handgun calibers

The idea that the difference in splits do not matter in defensive shooting is a red herring at best. It does matter. We tend to cling to metrics that prove our point, despite the truth being otherwise. There is a difference in the calibers.

Square range capabilities carry little metric in real life defensive encounters. To say that “in a gunfight” this or that gives us a major disservice.

A skilled practitioner can say that there is very little difference in the calibers. That is what makes us skilled. We understand the fine detail in technique, understand the difference in results oriented shooting and process oriented shooting. But, to say that somehow that negates the fact there is a difference between the calibers is wrong.

Is there a practical difference in splits between a .25 and .35? Yes, one is faster. I keep hearing really good instructors say “I have never seen a timer in a gunfight,” to which I counter I have yet to hear a single gunfight survivor say “You know, I wish I could have scored hits slower and drug out that fight.”

Using the metric of “there’s very little difference” is hugely misleading and has little to do with value. Performance based evaluations are good. However, we can’t get wrapped around the axle about them. And I am a big splits guy.

If you believe that there is no practical difference in calibers, follow up shots, etc do this one simple thing for me.
Stay up 24 hours. Lay on the ground on your side. Place the gun in your weak hand. Have another shooter step on your neck. Fire five rounds for time and accuracy at a head box at 12 yards. Now, repeat that with a 9mm and report back on how huge he difference is.

Square range theatrics have little bearing on real world encounters. People talk about the “average” gunfight with great pride. 1-3 feet, 1-3 rounds, 1-3 seconds as if it is the holy grail. If that is the fight they are training for, all of this is academic. Any monkey can stare at the target at that distance and slap off four or five shots with NO skill. So easy a caveman can do it.

If you want to get average, the average gunfight never happens. So, if you truly want to be “average” there is no reason to carry a gun at all. Because that is truly “average” in the US. But, somehow, that “average” fight seeming becomes the bedrock of so much discussion. And it is flawed. Average is no fight at all. Beyond that nothing is average.

Gunfights rarely occur when we are expecting them. Rarely, if ever, do we get out of bed in morning and say “you know, I think I’m going to smoke check a dude today.” Rarely, if ever, can we directly relate out square range performance under stress. We can get close, but that .10 difference in calibers is probably going to be double that when you start taking rounds. That eight inch group into that circle we are used to shooting at probably just because sixteen inches. Rarely, do fights come when we are fresh. Rarely, do they come when the weather, lighting, or background is perfect. Rarely do we get to put the gun in both hands and stand flat footed.

So, yes, there is a difference. And the difference can be felt in skilled shooters. So, if a skilled shooter can feel it, what do you think it is like for a lesser skilled employee?

I carry a Glock 35 at work, and I love it. On the square range, I can bang out .19 splits all day long. I do not feel under-gunned strong hand, or weak hand. I hated the gun for years, but have gotten to the point I can shoot the crap out of it. That comes at the expense that I get quite a bit of training time, and have a near endless supply of .40 at my disposal. But, I can’t deny that my performance changes as the conditions go to crap. I can’t deny that my splits are faster on the square range with the 9mm. I can’t deny I am faster with a 9mm when the gun goes into one hand. I can’t deny that I am faster on transitions with a 9mm. All things that can have a bearing on an outcome of whether I live or not. There is a practical difference.

Yes, there is a practical difference in the guns in real world defensive shooting. Faster is better. Even up close. If we want to trade off a little speed for a bigger caliber, hey, drive on. Nothing wrong with that.

Original posted on SIGforum.com