Rob vs. Rob: A Return of the Great Caliber Wars

I’m old enough to recall the debates of .357 Magnum vs. .45 ACP in the gun magazines. Those arguments came before the rise of the Wonder 9 pistols of the mid to late 1980s.

Once semi-automatic pistols became the norm at police departments and with shooting enthusiasts, I witnessed the arguments of 9mm vs. .40 S&W (and skirmishes over the .357 SIG, 10mm, .400 Corbon and others.)

bullet effectiveness

I thought that shooters got the ill-informed bickering out of their system during those decades and people were off to settle more important issues. Issues like what is the best technique to add an electric fan to your holster or what style of Realtree matches which caliber.

I’m afraid I was wrong.

Recently, Springfield Armory announced a Mod.2 version of the XD-S pistol. Like the original XD-S, Springfield Armory introduced the first guns in .45 ACP. I would expect the company will follow its existing pattern of introducing the follow up gun in 9mm.

It seems that the choice to introduce the gun first in .45 caused some small dust up in social media. At about the same time, competition shooter Rob Leatham, a Springfield Armory representative, put out a video about his preference for the .45 ACP.

In Leatham’s video, he talks about the .45 ACP being “more powerful” than the 9mm. He seems to imply that because the .45 ACP cartridge tends to have more momentum than the 9mm, that it is a better choice for self-defense. Leatham could have demonstrated this with a paper shooting target but opted instead to knock down some steel targets to better illustrate his point. (Ed. note: Leatham’s original video appears to have been taken down.)

In the video, he specifically mentions trainer and author Rob Pincus. Pincus holds a  preference for the 9mm cartridge as a self-defense round.

In response, Pincus posted a bit of a tongue in cheek article that offers evidence to the 9mm cartridge’s usefulness in actual self defense encounters. You can read that article here.

I should note that Leatham and Pincus have worked together in the past, and I believe they are friends. I have no reason to believe there is any animosity between them.

I have a great deal of respect for both Leatham and Pincus. Both have accomplished a great deal in their respective careers. In this video they talk about the calibers and “controversy” here:

Leatham is an accomplished competition shooter. However, in the original video – which has been removed – Leatham appears to make an argument that the .45 offers better “stopping power” than the 9mm based on the concept of momentum. I haven’t heard a serious argument made for momentum being an indicator of load effectiveness against an attacker since the early 90s. I was a bit stunned by his emphatic assertion that momentum as being something of significant note.

However, Leatham appears to suggest in the above video that he wasn’t making any references to the effectiveness of the cartridges in stopping a violent attacker. He said the video was made while he was in his “annoyed mood” and that he might have “snapped” during a conversation off camera about the differences in the two cartridges. Leatham even admits that he was being a “smart ass” with his comment about 9mm being adequate for people that can’t handle .45 ACP.

People rarely make good decisions when they are angry, and the original video may be an example of that.

During the last 30 years, we’ve seen significant advances in both bullet technology and lab testing of defensive loads. Additionally, emergency medical personnel have been interviewed and surveyed to get their insight into the effectiveness of various bullet wounds.

By and large, what is most likely to stop a violent attacker is multiple gunshot wounds delivered quickly into vital areas. That could be from a 9mm, .38 Special, .45 ACP or virtually anything else that can penetrate deeply enough to cause massive bleeding by hitting the heart, lungs or other areas. Barring a hit to the central nervous system (brain and spine), rapid blood loss is what will shut down an attacker.

A quality 9mm hollow point will do the job as effectively as a quality .45 ACP round. Some might argue that extra width gives the .45 a slight advantage in wounding capacity, while others will say that the decreased recoil of the 9mm allows for more rounds to be delivered into the attacker.

My opinion: both will get the job done. Carry what you like and treat everyone’s opinion with a healthy degree of skepticism.


New Cartridge: 6.5 SOCOM

6.5 SOCOM Ammunition

PCP Ammunition will show its new 6.5 SOCOM cartridge at the 2018 SHOT Show according to information released by the company.

Although details about the new cartridge are scant, it would appear that the cartridge was designed for the new sniper rifle system that the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is exploring. Earlier this year, SOCOM indicated it was looking at 6.5mm cartridges for use in a semi-automatic snipe rifle platform.

Although the .260 Rem and 6.5 Creedmoor were mentioned in this Military Times article, a new cartridge that offered substantial benefits over existing ones could draw the attention of SOCOM. Those benefits would have to outweigh the known performance of the existing rounds, however. But weight may be one of the key factors in the search.

6.5 SOCOM CartridgeIn the same Military Times article, Major Aron Hauquitz said that SOCOM was also looking at developing polymer ammunition to reduce the weight carried by soldiers in the field. Since PCP Ammunition manufactures polymer cased ammo, it seems the company may be ideally suited to make a run at the sniper cartridge need.

Based on the limited information released by the company, the 6.5 SOCOM will indeed use a polymer case. So far, one load has been mentioned by the company, and it uses a 130 grain Berger Hybrid Tactical bullet. No information on velocity or other measurables was available at the time of this writing.

The cartridge will be paired with a new semi-automatic rifle called the GF-10 at launch. The rifle will be manufactured by Gorilla Firearms, a sister company to PCP Ammunition and Gorilla Ammunition. The GF-10 is designed as a lightweight AR-10 style rifle.

As additional information on the new cartridge and rifle come out, I will update this page. Thoughts on the 6.5 SOCOM are welcomed in the comments section below.


MEC Gets Into Metallic Reloading: The Marksman Press

MEC Shooting Sports, better known in the shooting community as just MEC, announced it was moving into metallic reloading starting with its first single stage press: the MEC Marksman.

MEC is well known for its high quality shot shell reloading equipment, but has not really attacked the metallic reloading market. That seems to have changed.

MEC Marksman reloading press

The MEC Marksman appears to be a sturdy press. It is made of ductile cast iron and has a seriously beefy appearance. According to MEC, the press is suitable for loading everything from .22 Hornet to .416 Rigby.

Standard 7/8-14 threaded dies are used in this press, and it should be compatible with any of the dies currently being made by Lee, Hornady and others.

mec marksman shell holder

The press uses a floating shell holder that helps to properly align the case with the die. It seems this self-centering shell holder is unique as the company has obtained a patent for it. I have to admit ignorance here and say that I’ve never loaded shotshells. So, I do not know if this floating shell holder uses any similar technologies that MEC might use on its shot shell machines. Can anyone help me out?

MEC does not list a suggested retail price for this press. However, a quick check at Midway USA shows the press listed at $179.99 and an expected arrival date of 11/20/2016.

In addition to the press, the company has plans on introducing a complete range of reloading gear to include:

  • a powder measure
  • a powder trickler
  • calipers
  • powder scale
  • case prep tools
  • components

I expect we will see a range of products at the SHOT Show in 2017. I’ve already seen a number of reloading products from other companies announced, such as the CFE BLK powder from Hodgdon.

Right now the pistol and rifle loading market is represented by several quality manufacturers including Hornady, RCBS, Lyman, Dillon and Lee. (Note: You should definitely read the book Modern Reloading by Richard Lee.) MEC is already established in the shotshell market, so it will be interesting to see if the company can gain a foothold with metallic loaders. Competition is good for us consumers, so I hope MEC does well.

Last Update: June 19, 2022


Hornady’s .357 Magnum Critical Defense Load – Quick Ammo Review

Combine the legendary stopping power of the .357 Magnum with modern bullet design and you can potentially create an amazingly effective self-defense round. That seems to be exactly what Hornady had in mind when it developed the Critical Defense load chambered for the classic Magnum.


World’s Fastest Handgun Cartridge – or Not? The 7.5 FK BRNO

FK Brno introduced a new cartridge and pistol system a few months back, and some are calling it the fastest handgun cartridge made. But, is it really? Leaving out the handguns developed to fire traditional rifle cartridges, is the new cartridge/handgun combination the speediest on the market?

Cartridge Basics

The new FK Brno cartridge is officially called the 7.5 FK. It is a bottleneck design that is not based on any existing cartridge cases, so don’t expect to make your own with existing brass.

7.5 FK Fastest Handgun Cartridge

The 7.5 FK has a 7.8mm diameter bullet (roughly .30 caliber) with an overall cartridge length of 35mm. The case length is 27mm long.

As it was developed by FK Brno, a company located in the Czech Republic, the cartridge was standardized under Commission Internationale Permanente pour L’preuve des Armes Feu Portatives, or C.I.P. for short. This commission tests small arms and ammunition and sets certain safety standards. Although not a perfect comparison, C.I.P. is similar to the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute (SAAMI) in the United States.

According to FK Brno, the design of the 7.5 FK began in 2010 when the company was approached by a customer that wanted a system to bridge the gap between existing handgun and rifle performance. Although the company does not identify this client, it appears that the cartridge was intended for military use.

7.5 FK Cartridge

Development parameters included:

  • the cartridge should be fired from a typically sized/shaped pistol,
  • using the pistol at 100 meters, the rounds should group within a 10 cm x 10 cm box, and
  • recoil should be no more than that of a .45 ACP +P cartridge.

Ultimately, the client did not pursue the design, but the company continued its development for the commercial market.

Fast…But Fastest?

In the company’s advertising, FK Brno states the new round has a muzzle velocity of 2,000 fps with a 100 grain bullet. Without reservation, that is impressive from a duty sized handgun.

But, is it really the fastest? Let’s take a look at some currently manufactured handgun ammunition.


One of the obvious cartridges to check is the 5.7x28mm developed by FN Herstal. FN developed the round to be fired from both handguns and PDWs – a mission that is similar to the original design inspiration for the 7.5 FK cartridge. Although I’ve seen 5.7×28 ammunition rated at velocities in excess of 2,000 fps, I’ve never come close to those numbers from a handgun.

For example, the SS197 SR round with the 40 grain Hornady V-MAX bullet only measures an average of 1,683 fps across my chronograph when fired from the company’s Five seveN pistol. Likewise, the American Eagle 40 grain TMJ load from Federal averages 1,638 fps across my chrony. Military loads may do better, but I’d say the 7.5 FK is likely faster.


Interestingly, the oft-maligned 9mm is capable of more than 2,000 fps from normal handguns. I’ve extensively tested the Civil Defense line of ammo from Liberty Ammunition. With a 50-grain hollowpoint bullet, I measured 5-shot average velocities in excess of 2,000 fps with a range of pistols:

  • CZ P-07 Duty: 2,015 fps
  • Glock 17, Gen4: 2,087 fps
  • Glock 19, Gen2: 2,069 fps
  • Glock 19, Gen4: 2,025 fps
  • Glock 43: 2,028 fps
  • HK VP9: 2,057 fps
  • Springfield Armory XD-S 4.0: 2,001 fps

While Liberty Ammunition might be a niche load company, I daresay the 7.5 FK is a niche caliber so I believe the comparison is fair. Of course, the 7.5 FK is very impressive as its driving a bullet that is double the weight of the one used in the Liberty Ammunition round to roughly the same speeds.

Of course, one could also argue that obsolete cartridges like the .357 Maximum and .475 Wildey Magnum could also surpass 2,000 fps by loading a lighter bullet. In fact, both of those cartridges would likely blow past the 2,000 fps threshold with a 100 grain (or heavier) bullet.

.460 S&W Magnum

This monster cartridge has loads from Hornady and Winchester that are rated at or above 2,000 fps. Smaller ammo manufacturers may have a few more. However, I am unaware of any semi-automatic pistol chambered in .460 Magnum.

.221 Fireball

If any handgun caliber deserves the “fastest” label, it might be the .221 Fireball. Developed for use in a bolt action handgun, the .221 Fireball threw lead in excess of 2,500 fps. Although the original Remington x100 is no longer made, ammo is still available from Remington, Nosler and others.

Currently manufactured loads are rated at up to 3,200 fps. I suspect that those numbers may be from a rifle length barrel, but even so, I would expect handgun length barrels to well exceed 2,000 fps.

Of course even the Fireball can’t touch the theoretical 25,000 fps claimed in a patent application from Smith & Wesson. Even assuming that was a typo (read the article), a 2,500 fps revolver cartridge is nothing to sneeze at.

So, is the new 7.5 FK the “fastest” handgun cartridge. Strictly speaking, no. However, speed is only part of the equation. I wouldn’t classify the .221 Fireball or .460 S&W Magnum as self-defense or combat cartridges in a normal context – something the 7.5 FK appears to have been designed for.

While Liberty Ammunition is able to push the 9mm beyond 2,000 fps, the 7.5 FK is designed from the ground up to do that. Who knows what limits others could push the 7.5 FK to?

What About Energy?

Bullet energy is another thing we can measure in an effort to predict the usefulness of a given cartridge. While I do not think bullet energy equals “stopping power,” I do believe energy plays a role in the terminal effectiveness of a round. Energy levels are also used by some hunters as a rule of thumb when deciding what cartridges may be suitable for what kinds of game.

7.5 FK shot in ballistic gel

A 100 grain bullet moving at 2,000 fps generates about 888 ft-lbs of energy. That is extremely impressive from a handgun. So, how does that compare the the above mentioned cartridges?

Bullet WeightVelocityEnergy
7.5 FK100 gr2,000 fps888 ft-lbs
5.7×28 (FN SS197 SR)40 gr1,683* fps252 ft-lbs
9mm (Liberty Defense)50 gr2,025* fps455 ft-lbs
.460 S&W Magnum (Hornady Custom FTX)200 gr2,200 fps2,150 ft-lbs
.221 Fireball (Nosler Custom Ballistic Tip Varmint)40 gr3,200 fps910 ft-lbs
*velocity measured by author

Compared to the 5.7×28 and 9mm loads, the 7.5 FK generates significantly more energy. If the felt recoil is that of a .45 ACP +P, then that might be a good trade off for many people.

What is also impressive about this cartridge is that at 100 meters, the bullet is still able to deliver more than 500 ft-lbs of energy.

The Guns

7.5 FK Field Pistol

Ok, so FK Brno has an interesting little cartridge, but its all for naught if there isn’t a reliable gun from which to shoot them. Enter the 7.5 FK Field pistol.

The pistol is a single action handgun that uses a tilting barrel and holds 14 rounds in the magazine. It has a 6″ barrel and weighs just under three pounds. The rear sight is designed to be easily replaced by a Trijicon RMR sight.

According to FK Brno, the new 7.5 FK Field pistol is an entirely new design with a special recoil attenuation system that has been patented by the company.

7.5 FK Recoil System

The company has not offered specific details on how the system works, but has provided the graphic above comparing a standard recoil system with their new system.

Proprietary Pricing

Right now, the 7.5 FK pistols are not being imported into the United States. However, American Rifleman reported that the company was in negotiations with a Florida-based importer to bring the guns into the country. There are several importers here in Florida, but two large ones immediately jump to mind: Century Arms and EAA Corp.

Of course, all of this is pending BATFE import approval.

most expensive pistol

The real problem for this gun and cartridge is the rumored price. According to an article in the American Rifleman, the gun “…could be well north of $5,000.” If that is so, I do not expect many of these guns to sell.

Last Update: October 17, 2022