Recently I have noticed a trend among not only beginning students but also hard core defense shooters.
Quite a few are choosing the high capacity 9mm pistol as a personal defense sidearm. Many experienced handgunners, including myself, did not have much use for the .40 caliber pistols and clung to the 9mm handguns once current with police forces. I know very few shooters who seek out and choose a .40 caliber handgun on their own time and their own dime.
If I want a lot of shots I will deploy a 9mm with the hottest possible loads and if we want the assailant to go down right now, I will deploy the .45.
SIG P 220 .45 and SIG P 226 9mm, Browning High Power 9mm and Colt 1911 .45, those are the choices. While there is no changing the laws of physics— the .45 is the bigger bullet with better wound potential—the best 9mm loads have a reasonably good track record.
But the reasoning behind the new surge in the popularity of the 9mm is the underlying concern with gangs.
We are seeing more and more gang related crimes and more takeover robbers. A revolver doesn’t look good and while the .45 takes ’em down one at a time, sometimes a lot of shots delivered quickly looks good. Some of the gangs are urban gangs and others are take-over bandits. But the fear of gangs on the border is especially real.
As an example, an acquaintance of mine recently called for a recommendation on the best 9mm load.
I knew him to be one of those hard bitten Western .45 men. Recent gang action around the border had convinced him that he may need more than the eight rounds in his .45. He now deploys a Beretta 92 in a shoulder holster along with two spare magpies on the off side. That is a total of 45 rounds of 9mm ammunition.
Paranoid? Hardly. These are trying times.
(Never in history has any elder or government been so unconcerned with its borders.
As long as 4,000 years ago the Egyptians and other nations patrolled and enforced their borders. They knew what they stood to lose if security lapsed.) Another plus for the 9mm shooter is that his handgun is proven if he chooses a quality model.
There are few handguns more proven than the Beretta 92. The SIG PRO, a popular and affordable high capacity 9mm pistol, was involved in a test program in which the French Gendarmes fired some 460,000 rounds in choosing the SIG as their new service pistol.
I am particularly pleased with the performance of the modern Heckler & Koch P30 pistol, as well.
The differences in handling among the better pistols are real to the shooter, but primarily conversational. Tactically all of the modern 9mms will do the same thing in the hands of a practiced shooter. They have a reserve of ammunition but the shooter must understand that the cadence of fire is set not by how quickly they may press the trigger but by how quickly they are able to realign the sights and control recoil. Some have smoother triggers, others have more rapid reset. All are tactical. I prefer the double-action first shot pistol in the high capacity 9mm.
I prefer a pistol with a safety for most uses but a pistol such as the SIG, with safety features including a long double action first shot press, is acceptable. I recommend always using a holster but in dire straits we may press a double action first shot handgun into service without a holster, simply carrying it in the waistband. You cannot do this with a cocked and locked 1911 or a safe action Glock. When the whole of the pistol and the advantages of the type are compared there is a lot to be said for the high capacity 9mm handgun. If you are caught in a dangerous situation with only the ammunition in the handgun, then a 15-round magazine looks good.
As I have previously stated, the test programs that back these pistols are verifiable and tremendously influential in swaying my thinking toward them for certain areas of conflict. At present I am not split between the Beretta, HK and SIG; I own all three! The Beretta is the largest and the heaviest, but also the easiest to control and the most proven. The SIG is user friendly, inexpensive for the quality exhibited and offers a light rail which my personal M9 Beretta does not. The HK P30 is the newest pistol. The ergonomics of this pistol are excellent, a great improvement over the USP pistol from the same maker. The P30’s decocker, located on the rear of the receiver, has been criticized by some. This new design is very tactical. Practically every competing type has been inadvertently depressed when the shooter wished to fire. The HK will not be deployed unless you intend to use it.
There is no need for a speed decock.
The Beretta features a manual safety. If you are willing to practice with the safety and learn the strong straight thumb action needed to address the safety, a manual safety offers important advantages.
During the past six months I have had the opportunity to allow interested shooters to fire all three handguns. The military types naturally excelled with the Beretta, while the SIG’s smoothness was praised.
The ergonomics of the HK impressed all who fired the piece. All three are accurate, with the SIG perhaps outperforming the others in the final determination, but only by a small margin. The Beretta is the heaviest, which is an advantage in off hand fire and a drawback in concealed carry. I am glad to have all three but tend to move toward the HK for concealed carry. I keep my hand in with dry fire and practice the basics often with live fire.
The Beretta and the SIG have conventional rifling, which means they digest a lot of my lead bullet hand loads. I use the Oregon Trail 125-grain RNL bullet primarily. Over enough WW 231 for 1,050 fps these loads are accurate enough for practice and burn clean. The HK has polygonal rifling, which means no lead bullets. I use the highly accurate Nosler 115-grain JHP bullet in the practice loads for this pistol. I have to admit that the ability to double tap three targets, take cover, double tap them again and still retain a good reserve of ammunition is attractive.
Nine-mm ammunition is economical and affordable. That’s great because it invites practice. While I use handloads primarily for practice, there is plenty of good practice ammunition available. Winchester USA in the white box is just one choice. Often available at the giant retailers, this is reliable ammunition that gives good service. Midway USA is just a phone call away and they usually have the affordable Black Hills remanufactured line in stock. The initial price and shipping as well is less with the 9mm than the larger calibers.
If you carry the 9mm for personal defense the utmost care must be taken in choosing personal defense ammunition. The 9mm runs a wide spectrum in penetration and the balance of expansion and penetration must be retained. There are only a few loads that maintain this balance. Black Hills offers an outstanding standard pressure load in the form of the EXP or Extra Power load. Loaded to the highest pressure in the standard pressure range this load breaks over 1,200 fps in most 9mm handguns. Accuracy is good and the famous Black Hills quality control is there. A step up to about 1,300 fps is found in the Black Hills 115-grain JHP +P. This load demonstrates an ideal balance between expansion and penetration and offers good accuracy.
It is up to the shooter to put the bullet where it will do the most good, but these loads maximize the caliber.
When it comes to concealment holsters there are few that do a good job in carrying and concealing the high capacity 9mm pistol. The big 9 has a lot of weight in the butt and this balance sometimes results in a handgun that tends to squirm in the holster.
You need a lot of retention in the long bearing surfaces. I have used a number of relatively inexpensive but workmanlike holsters from Falco Holsters with good results. For maximum retention with the inside-the-waistband holster, the Milt Sparks Summer Special, with its double loops and reinforced spine, is well worth your attention. The holster must be rigid enough to keep the pistol in place or you will experience a significant problem with comfort and concealment with a handgun this size.
All is not roses with the high capacity 9mm. If your hand does not fit the frame well, then you may not be able to control the piece and a slim-line 9 is more attractive.
But when all is said and done there is much to be said for a handgun that is easy to use well, with little kick, good accuracy, lots of shots and a high velocity cartridge. The 9mm may not be the sledgehammer the .45 is but it is a scalpel and will demonstrate good tactical penetration with the right load and with a skilled user behind the sights.
Choose a quality handgun and support gear and the 9mm high capacity pistol may be the answer you are looking for.