Pennsylvania Firearm Owners Association
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  1. #1
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    Default Caliber differences??

    Ok guys, I'm fairly new to pistols and I am not really understanding some of the differences in calibers. Obviously .45 is bigger than .22, .357 is the same but longer than .38, etc.

    My confusion comes in when you start to throw in 9mm, .380, etc. Where does a 9mm fall into place in terms of size and stopping power? What is the difference between a .38 and a .380? Any general terms or ways calibers are names that can help sort these types of things out, or is it just a matter of learning more about the various calibers?

    Thanks guys!
    - I support Israel; "If guns kill people my pencil causes bad spelling."

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Caliber differences??

    In your terms.
    38 is longer than a 380
    380 has been called a 9mm short and is weaker than a 9mm. 380 is the same diameter however it is shorter.
    I would just start doing research and draw your own conclusions.
    Caliber size and stoping power is a battle feild.
    Everyone has varied opinions.
    There is alot of great info out there. start with the stickied post under pistols and wikipedia.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Caliber differences??

    The only "General" thing I can think of is that the numerical designation will give you SOME IDEA of the approximate bullet diameter. if the first number is followed by an "X" and then another number, the second number is usually the length of the empty cartridge case (in millimeters). If the first number is followed by a "/", the second number MAY be how many grains of blackpowder were loaded in the round way back when the round was invented. There are always exceptions....you gotta learn them through experience and/or reading.
    There are three kinds of people in this world....them what's good at math and them what ain't.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Caliber differences??

    Quote Originally Posted by imp81318 View Post
    Ok guys, I'm fairly new to pistols and I am not really understanding some of the differences in calibers. Obviously .45 is bigger than .22, .357 is the same but longer than .38, etc.

    My confusion comes in when you start to throw in 9mm, .380, etc. Where does a 9mm fall into place in terms of size and stopping power? What is the difference between a .38 and a .380? Any general terms or ways calibers are names that can help sort these types of things out, or is it just a matter of learning more about the various calibers?

    Thanks guys!
    Buy yourself a copy of "Cartridges of the World". It's good reading and will answer your questions and explain a lot more besides.
    Je suis Charles Martel.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Caliber differences??

    Basically its metric vs English measurement system. Cal is thousands of an inch, thus22 is 220 thousands of an inch diameter. MM is just that 9mm is 9mm diameter. Here is a good link for mm to cal conversion.

    http://www.unitconversion.org/length...onversion.html

  6. #6
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    State College, Pennsylvania
    (Centre County)
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    Default Re: Caliber differences??

    I'll second the "Cartridges of the World" to increase your knowledge base of firearm cartridges. It will explain (or you will be able to figure it out by the information given) the dots, dashes, slashs, x's, etc that make up a cartridges "name". It will explain why a .38 Special will fit into a .357 Magnum handgun (it's because of how the .38 Special was originally made, BTW).
    Ron
    USAF Ret E-8
    NRA Endowment Member

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Caliber differences??

    9mm Luger (9x19mm), 9x21mm, .380ACP - 0.356" diameter bullet
    .38 Special, .357 Magnum - 0.357" diameter bullet
    .40 S&W, .40 Super, 10mm - 0.401" diameter bullet
    .45ACP, .45 Super - 0.452" diameter bullet

    Stopping power? I'm not touching that one. Definitely not going to try to compare cartridges with different bullet diameters.

  8. #8
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    York, Pennsylvania
    (York County)
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    Default Re: Caliber differences??


  9. #9
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    Default Re: Caliber differences??

    Quote Originally Posted by tapman View Post
    Good link... thanks for posting it
    JG

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Caliber differences??

    .38 Special is a rimmed cartridge, generally found in revolvers. I only know of one semi-auto pistol it is chambered in. The .380 ACP is a rimless cartridge, found in smaller semi-automatic pistols. The .38 Special generally uses heavier bullets.

    The "power ladder" kind of goes like this:

    .380 ACP
    .38 Special
    9mm
    .40 S&W
    .45 ACP
    .357 Magnum

    Frankly, differences in terms of "stopping power" from .38 Special through .45 ACP is going to be kind of close. With good ammo, a .38 Special is a perfectly fine defensive weapon, pleasant in recoil which leads to being easier to shoot and more practice, but is lower powered. 9mm is the cheapest ammo of the bunch to buy, pleasant recoiling, and a fine defensive round with good ammo. .45 ACP is a heavier recoiling round, but hardly offensive or overly hard to handle. In fact, my wife carries a 1911 in .45 ACP because she prefers the recoil characteristics to a 9mm. The .45 has heavier recoil, but it's more of a push. The 9mm has lighter recoil, but it's snappier, and she doesn't like the snappy. .40 S&W has a recoil feel that, to me at least, combines the snapiness of the 9mm with the heavier push of the .45. I personally do not care for the .40.

    .380 ACP is, IMHO, a marginal round. Good enough to do the job, but just barely. What makes it a good self defense round is that it is usually chambered in small, thin, light, easy to carry guns. This means guns that folks are more likely to carry.

    .357 is the most powerful round of those commonly used for self defense (there are much more powerful handgun rounds available, but self defense isn't usually their prime purpose). It is a very versatile round, adequate for both self defense and hunting, within the limitations of the round. It's got the best stopping record of common self defense rounds. The trade off for the power is that the recoil is much heavier and snappier than the aforementioned rounds, and the muzzle blast (noise) is flat out unpleasant, especially with the 125 grain jacketed hollowpoint rounds that are best for defensive uses. One neat thing about the .357 Magnum is that it is just a stretched .38 Special case. This means you can shoot the more pleasant, and often cheaper, .38 Specials in your .357 Magnum, and save the Magnums for more occasional shooting and defensive use if you are able to handle them effectively. You CAN NOT shoot .357 Magnum rounds in guns chambered for .38 Special only.
    "Never give up, never surrender!" Commander Peter Quincy Taggart

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