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Thread: Can we "group" handgun cartridge power levels?

  1. #1
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    Can we "group" handgun cartridge power levels?

    Some people mention that the "service calibers" can perform the same, the difference is in the bullet. So 9x19/.40/.45 doesn't matter.

    Well, it does at some point. I suggest the difference is when we can expect with some regularity that bullets for that cartridge can expand via JHP and penetrate "adequately".

    Perhaps we can group cartridges for a little better understanding?

    Group 1: Cartridges that can penetrate well enough, or expand, but usually not both when tested in synthetic mediums. These are also likely to fail to penetrate properly after barriers regardless of bullet design. The "not fit to be a service caliber group".

    .25 acp, .32 acp, .380 acp, and .38 special from short (2 inch) barrels.

    Group 2: Cartridges that often do have the power to expand and penetrate desirably in synthetic mediums. Many bullets here can also do well after penetrating barriers. The "service calibers".

    .38 special +p from 4 inch barrels, 9x19, .40 auto, .357 auto, .327 mag, .357 mag (from 2 inch barrel), .45 acp.

    Now there is some variation in these depending what you want. If you lean towards glass penetration you might prefer a tough .45 bullet. If you want to go 1600 fps you might want the 90 gr .357 auto, etc. But generally there is a lot of bullet design overlap in this group.

    Group 3: These cartridges in their typical loading's perform the same as the Group 2 service cartridges. The difference is they can be loaded "hot" and are capable of more. Being loaded "hot", with longer barrels and higher sectional densities than the Group 2 cartridges, these are capable of deep penetration especially useful against tough animals.

    10mm auto, .357 magnum, and .44 Special.

    10mm and .357 mag also offer the opportunity of over 1500 fps velocities if desired.

    Group 4: Cartridges that can give even deeper penetration and can offer stretch cavities that may start to matter.

    .44 magnum and up.

    This is just a thought I had about a way to group cartridges. Essentially, while there isn't a huge difference in any of these handgun cartridges, there is some. But there is very little between cartridges within a group. Bullet choice will matter much more within each.

    Is this helpful? It is the way It's been in my head lately.
    Last edited by Ron3; 09-09-18 at 23:53.

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    Are you then going to group them based on bullet construction? Even hollow points the same caliber and weight from different manufacturers behave differently based upon construction and materials used.

    Here is how I would group them, based upon yours. I base my opinions on 30 plus years as a street cop/ military.

    .25 acp, .32 acp,
    Group 1


    .380 acp, and .38 special from short (2 inch) barrels.
    Group 2

    .38 special +p from 4 inch barrels, .327 mag,
    Group 3

    .40 auto, 9x19,.357 mag (from 2 inch barrel), .45 acp.and .44 Special.
    Group 4

    .357 auto, (Sig)?10mm auto,.40 auto,(depending on load used) .357 magnum,
    Group 5 Most 10 mm loads are no hotter than 40 loads.

    .44 magnum and up.
    Group 6 here the proper bullet for SD is critical.
    Last edited by Nanuk; 09-10-18 at 07:31.

  3. #3
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    I feel you could make three categories.

    1 Too little.
    2 Service calibers.
    3 Too much.

    But really I have 9mm, and then everything else.

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    I vote no. Most service caliberes do not meet penetration threshold while expanding consistently though various barriers.

    Maybe group 1: things that dont meet docs list
    Group2, loads that meet doc’s list
    Group3: loads that meet doc’s list with extra recoil and flash.
    Group4: loads suited for big game/4-legged defense

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by MegademiC View Post
    Most service caliberes do not meet penetration threshold while expanding consistently though various barriers.
    Can you explain what service caliber means to you?
    To me it's 9/40/45, and there are plenty of choices in any of those on the list.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Todd.K View Post
    I feel you could make three categories.

    1 Too little.
    2 Service calibers.
    3 Too much.

    But really I have 9mm, and then everything else.
    This. Like the three Goldilocks bears.

    Too Little: .22, .25, .32; .380 is marginal. These rounds frequently fail to penetrate.

    Too Much: 10mm, .41 magnum and larger. Low capacity, high recoil, costly ammo, no real advantage.

    Just Right: .38 spl, .327 magnum, .357 magnum, 9mm, .38 super, .40, .44 spl., .45, .357 sig.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Todd.K View Post
    Can you explain what service caliber means to you?
    To me it's 9/40/45, and there are plenty of choices in any of those on the list.
    Yes, 9,40,45. Yes plenty of options, but “most” service rounds do not. Anything on Docs list is g2g. But if you factor in all the fmj and all the crappy HP (which is even worse than fmj IMO), there are a lot of self-limiting service-caliber loads.

  8. #8
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    In that context your answer makes sense.

    I think the OP was looking more to classify what has enough power to be able to make the list, not that every load in that caliber makes it. That was the direction of my answer at least.

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