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Self contained cartridges have four components. A brass case grips the bullet at the case neck and is sometimes crimped into a groove in the bullet to keep it from shifting under the forces of recoil. The volume available for powder inside the case, the maximum pressure allowed for the cartridge, and the diameter of the base of the bullet all help determine the power of the cartridge. To ignite the charge, a small metal cup of impact sensitive chemicals, called a primer, is seated recessed in the primer pocket of the brass case just behind the flash hole leading to the main charge. The protected primer of this cartridge needs to be center struck by the gun's firing pin and is referred to as a centerfire. The brass case can be squeezed back to the right size, a fresh primer can be installed, and a new bullet can be crimped over a measured powder charge. The .22 shown on the left is called a rimfire because the priming mixture is put on the inside of the brass case all around the base so that a firing pin strike anywhere on the rim can set it off. Although they can't be reloaded, rimfire cartridges are much less expensive to produce. They require extra caution in their handling to avoid knocking the rims. All cartridges need to be confined in a firearm's chamber to build up the pressure and direct the bullet out of the barrel. Contrary to popular belief, a loose cartridge will not generate as much power if it goes off for example in a fire. The brass case, being the lighter component, may fly fast enough to break the skin or put an eye out, but the heavy bullet won't generally do much damage. A loaded revolver in a house fire is another matter.
.22 45 ACP 45 Colt
Ammunition for defensive use has to be reliable. A click when you expect a bang can be as deadly as a bang when you expect a click. The centerfire is more reliable than the rimfire. When a rimfire refuses to go off after a square hit from the firing pin, follow all range and safety rules pointing the gun safely downrange and waiting 30 seconds before clearing the stoppage. Reliability also means that the ammunition feeds smoothly through the gun without a hitch. Clean, fresh ammunition is a must. Keep moisture, oil, and solvents away from carry loads, especially the primers. Primers are usually sealed at the factory, however, a tiny bit of Nail Polish or clear lacquer around the primer and case crimp will protect against inclement weather. New guns usually require a break in period which can afford an excellent opportunity to assure yourself of the reliability of the ammunition you will carry for self defense. Find out what the police in your area are using and why. When legal to use, hollow point bullets are designed to mushroom, expend their energy quickly, and they do a lot of damage without penetrating too much. The small calibers may require a full metal jacket just to penetrate far enough. For defense against big animals with teeth and claws, careful shot placement with a heavy, hard cast lead flat point is paramount for extreme penetration through tough hide, fat, grizzle, and heavy bone.
.22 25acp 32auto 380 9mm 38spl 357mag 40sw 45acp 41mag 44mag 45colt
A selection of the most common pistol cartridges arraigned in four groups of three.
Based on the premise that a hit in the eye socket with a .22, if it fires, beats a hit in the toe with a 44 Mag, a lot of little guns in these calibers are purchased each year. The 25 ACP with its 50 grain full metal jacket and the 32 Auto with is 71 grain bullet promise small size, minimal recoil, and low noise. Ear protection and eye protection are still mandatory when shooting these short barrels. Except for the larger target .22's, these small guns aren't designed for accuracy. Usually an inexpensive weapon can mean questionable reliability. Some feel that a baseball bat might have more effect. But if the feeling of confidence and the purposeful stride these calibers bestow means that the bad guys will look elsewhere for an easier victim, your purpose has been well served.
These are marginal defensive calibers utilized in some back up role by those who have chosen more effective weapons for primary carry. Recoil and muzzle bark can be managed without much practice, especially for the petite or physically challenged. The attraction for the 380 Auto is the recent production of miniature featherweight concealable autos. Since the 380 is loaded to very low pressures, it is less punishing on the ears when fired in confined spaces. The 9mm Luger, already a high pressure cartridge, is much better now with the availability of heavier 147 grain bullets. The 38 Special has some higher pressure loadings available that give it a big boost. Be careful not to run them through an older revolver. For the beginner, a simple to operate revolver of 38 Special, or of .357 Magnum loaded with 38 Special ammunition, may be the minimum recommended. Nevertheless, perceived recoil is just that, perceived. With the proper training and technique, many novice female students have quickly found the more powerful calibers very acceptable and even fun to shoot.
.22 25acp 32auto 380 9mm 38spl 357mag 40sw 45acp 41mag 44mag 45colt
Studies of shootings clearly indicate the superior performance of these calibers in stopping an assailant with one shot. It may be another example of Newton's Laws at work. It may be that the extra practice required to handle the perceived recoil and blast has paid dividends through good shot placement. The 357 Magnum cartridge is legal for deer hunting in Minnesota, and revolvers so chambered can also fire the 38 Special Cartridge as a light practice load, but not vice versa. The .22 makes a better light practice load, and dry firing the 357 while watching for steady sight alignment, with Snap Caps in the cylinder, is the better way to learn trigger control. Real practice should be done with loads that approximate the power of real defense carry loads. In recorded shooting incidents, the .357 Magnum loaded with 125 grain hollow points received the highest score for one shot stopping power. The 40 Smith and Wesson caliber has won over many police departments recently, and many fine autos are chambered for it. Its high pressure loadings in the heavier bullets come close to the performance of the old low pressure 45 Automatic Colt Pistol round. In general, a low pressure cartridge is more pleasant to fire in confined spaces. The 45 ACP has compiled an impressive record as an effective stopper, virtually tied with the .357, and it is loaded with the heaviest bullets in this group. Its perceived recoil isn't much more than the 40 S&W and its muzzle blast is comparable. The large size of this cartridge may contribute to reliable feeding and the most dependable and accurate production autos, the Kimbers, are almost exclusively chambered for the 45 today. In my opinion, a heavy bullet works better. High velocity is nice, and the 9mm has been shown to penetrate just as far as the 45. However, deflection is a problem with lighter bullets. See the posts of a medical examiner found on mouseguns.com. I feel that a heavy bullet will fare better when breaking down the heavy bones of the pelvic structure in order to stop an advancing threat. A bullet that reliably expands, but doesn't break up, has been the "holy grail" of defensive handgunners. Cor-Bon's DPX may be the answer. It uses the pure copper Barnes X pistol bullet at high pressure loadings, and test results can be seen at the bottom of this page.
These powerful cartridges have gained their fame through the successes of handgun hunters taking every large game on both American continents. Typically, they use heavy, long barreled revolvers, and generate near rifle energy. One shot without ear protection is enough to cause permanent and progressive hearing impairment. More recently, short, light weight handguns in these calibers have become popular with hikers, backpackers, and fishermen in Alaska. These revolvers made from titanium and scandium are carried a lot but shot a little. The short barrels sacrifice velocity and power, but still have plenty left over with the heaviest hard cast bullets for protection against the unpredictable wildlife in the woods and mountains. The critical distance to survive an attack is greater when a large carnivore exhibits bursts of speed. It is important to develop the skills for effective shot placement at these distances, even if the short sight radius of the short barrel makes it a challenge.
Common Handgun Hunting Cartridges
357Mag 41Mag 44Mag 45Colt
It's evident that the 357 Magnum can't deliver as heavy or as hard hitting a bullet as the 40's.
.22 380auto 45ACP 41 Mag 45 Colt
38 gr 90 gr 230 gr 250 gr 300 gr moly coated
Five selected calibers and their specialized bullet weights in grains.
Mouseguns is a resource for more information about ammunition and effectiveness.
Be careful of squib, or weak, loads, because they may cause a catastrophic obstruction of the bore.
Cor-Bon DPX is the load I carry in my Kimber Ultra CDP and my backup Kahr PM40
Loaded to +P velocities, the Barnes pure copper X bullet that Cor-Bon uses is a real performer.
380 AUTO 80 grain copper bullet at 1050 fps yields 196 ft/lbs energy
38 Special 110 grain copper bullet at 1200 fps yields 352 ft/lbs energy
9 MM 115 grain copper bullet at 1275 fps yields 415 ft/lbs energy
40 S&W 140 grain copper bullet at 1200 fps yields 448 ft/lbs energy
45 ACP185 grain copper bullet at 1175 fps yields 475 ft/lbs energy
About DPX From John
10 Apr 06
From John Farnam:
26 Nov 06
More Cor-Bon DPX tests:
"We tried choking DPX with everything we had available: drywall, multiple
layers of fabric and leather, plywood, sheet steel, et al. DPX penetrated
through-and-through and subsequently expanded symmetrically in gelatin on the
other side in every case. Such intervening barriers invariably frustrated
subsequent expansion with nearly all conventional, jacketed/lead, hollow-points.
Then, we got a door from a wrecked, 2001 Dodge Dakota. At the upper edge,a
double-layer of sheet steel is folded back on itself in order to create a rigid
perimeter for both the inner and exterior panel. The effect is four layers of
sheet steel, a formidable barrier indeed!
We shot into it with every brand of conventional, lead HP we had on hand. A
shallow dent was the best we could do. Conversely, DPX, from a G26 (9mm), G30
(45ACP), and a BHP (40S&W) and all went through-and-through, punching a nice,
George and I just shook our heads. The stuff really works!"
6 Dec 06
40S&W DPX/G23 involved in fatal shooting today:
"I can hardly put into words the events that occurred this afternoon in my
life! I responded to a 'man-with-a gun' call. I was not in uniform, but one of
our uniformed sergeants and I arrived on the scene about the same time.
I was first to confront the suspect (not known to us before today). He was
standing on a street corner. No gun was visible. However, the instant our
marked car arrived, the suspect produced a pistol (brand/caliber unknown at this
writing) and fired one round at the vehicle. He then immediately pivoted around
and fired several rounds at me! Neither our sergeant nor I were hit.
I drew my G23 from concealment and fired two shots (Cor-Bon 140gr DPX, issued
by our department, starting in June of this year) at the suspect. Range was
eight meters. My front sight was on his body midline. To my great relief, the
offender abruptly dropped his pistol and straightaway collapsed where he had
been standing. Additional shooting was unnecessary. He was DRT. Never took
Evidence techs reported both of my rounds struck mid-chest, within three
inches of each other. Both bullets expanded perfectly, caused massive internal
damage, and came to rest just under the skin on the opposite side of the
suspect's body. Neither bullet exited.
I continue to live and breath this evening because of our department's
excellent training, my G23, and your ammunition technology. I thank you, Glock
and Cor-Bon. Our entire department thanks you!"
Comment: Competent training, personal decisiveness, and superior technology
combined to preserve this young officer's life. Oh, that it were universal!
From John Farnam:
From John Farnam:
31 May 11
Ten Signs You Are Not an Outdoorsman
10. You know what poison ivy looks like…BUMPS.
9. You think side by side shotgun means one in each hand.
8. You sprinkle trail mix on deer runs.
7. Your experience with a lever action is in the casino.
6. You carry aspirin for buck fever.
5. You think an auto loader is a beer keg.
4. You get your limit before the bar closes.
3. Your dog won’t hunt.
2. You carry so much gear your compass always points at you.
1. It’s the only chance you get to see a nice rack.
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