I've been a hardcore follower of the M1911 platform and it's .45ACP cartridge for close to 10 years. I felt that if it wasn't an M1911, then it wasn't a serious pistol. If it wasn't a .45ACP, then it wasn't a fighting gun. Shooting is much like any other skillset: as time goes on and your experience widens, your techniques, tactics, and mindset evolve.
In addition to my own combat experience, I also perform personal research through:
* Military After Action Reports (AARs) of operations in Iraq/Afghanistan
* Actual police reports of law enforcement shootings.
I determined that there are at least two common denominators of a gun fight:
1) Shot placement always has, and always will play a role in the successful elimination of a threat.
2) Multiple shots will be necessary in order to ensure the successful elimination of a threat.
I put a lot of thought into whether or not my current platform/cartridge preference (M1911A1/.45ACP) reflected these two factors of a gun fight. In the broadest spectrum of environments and scenarios, I could not confidently say that the M1911A1/.45ACP was the best choice.
One of the most limiting features of the M1911 platform is it's magazine capacity. The standard M1911 magazine contains 7-rounds, but 8 and 10-round magazines are available also. So let's assume that the shooter is carrying a factory 7-round magazine with a round in the chamber. That's eight rounds to end a gun fight before a magazine change is required.
Statistically, a gun fight will more than likely occur under low-light conditions and against typically more than one assailant. Under these conditions, with the additional factors of stress, adrenaline, and possibly injuries, eight rounds sounds less and less sufficient.
The .45ACP is a large projectile, the largest mainstream automatic cartridge on the market. While it's generous recoil is more of a "push" than a harsh "snap", it is still more difficult to manage it's recoil than say a 9mm pistol. This makes engaging multiple targets with multiple shots much more difficult.
While I certainly appreciate the history, legacy, and capabilities of the M1911 platform, I could not allow it to be my go-to pistol. With time and more thought, my operational requirements were evolving. I wanted an accurate pistol with a larger magazine capacity and easily managed recoil. I looked to the 9x19mm cartridge...
I've got a lot of trigger time with the 9mm, mainly Berettas, Glocks, XDs, H&Ks, and Browning HPs. During my time in the Marine Corps, I became very familiar with the M9 service pistol and the handling characteristics of it's 9mm cartridge. I've always found the 9mm to be accurate, cost effective, and fun/easy to shoot.
The 9mm get's a bad rep, namely from the military, where servicemen are forced to use ineffective FMJ ball ammunition. Combine a good hollow point projectile with the velocities of the 9mm, and you have a potent combination on your hands. For example, the 9mm 147 grain Speer Gold Dot will expand to 0.62 inches reliably, despite having to penetrate heavy clothing like denim.
Within the next few weeks, we'll see how my 9mm pistol shopping goes, and what I end up with!
Before I wrap up this post, I'm sure many of you might ask: "What about the .40S&W cartridge?" The .40 fills a middle ground between the 9mm and the .45ACP, and in theory would be the best of both worlds. Having shot a number of .40 pistols (Berettas, Glocks, H&Ks, and even an XD with a ported barrel), I've never found a .40 pistol that I enjoyed to shoot.
Regardless of which platform I was shooting the .40 out of, I always found the .40 to have a very snappy recoil. A while ago, I suffered a minor injury that left my wrist sore and sensitive to movement. Believe it or not, shooting .45ACP or 9mm caused me no discomfort, but when shooting the ported XD .40, I felt a sharp pain in my wrist during recoil. The .40S&W may work for some, but it just simply does not work for me.