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Old May 8, 2020, 03:21 PM   #1
simonrichter
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Are we approaching a "unipolar" (semiauto) caliber world?

Sorry for borrowing the term from political science, but it kind of fits, I guess.

When my interest in modern firearms sparked, in the early '90ies, there seemed to be a plethora of calibers not only available, but widespread as well: The 1911 platform typically in .45, the likewise venerable PPK in .22, .32 and .380,
small Berettas in .32 and even .25, and already a variety of "wonder nines", in aluminium and polymer, all somewhat coexisting.

Today, it appears to me, while all the calibers aforementioned are still available, they become more and more niche varieties against the dominance of 9mm in the military, LE and private sector. Even newer developments like the 5.7, .357 SIG or .40 S&W, after some short fame, were outshone by the increasingly ubiquitous 9x19.

Again, I'm not saying there's nothing else on the market, but seems that 9mm has become the informal "norm" in the semiauto world, even in the U.S., formerly land of the 1911.

Or maybe I am getting that all wrong in terms of actual sales numbers...?
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Old May 8, 2020, 03:29 PM   #2
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I guess I'll steal a term from economics and say that with 9mm many people feel they have achieved equilibrium. In other words the supply of ammo and the demand for performance are maybe not equal, but adequate.
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Old May 8, 2020, 04:36 PM   #3
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We are far from "unipolar" (whatever that means).

For roughly 75 years, the United States issued .45 ACP sidearms. Despite this, in the civilian marketplace other calibers/chamberings thrived: .32 ACP, .380 ACP, .38 Special, .38 ACP, .38 Super, .44 Special, .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, .45 Colt, ...

In 1985, the U.S. military adopted a 9mm handgun to replace the venerable 1911. They didn't do that because 9mm is "better" than .45 ACP, they did it because they thought 9mm is good enough, and because it was considered expedient to share a common handgun caliber/chambering with our NATO allies. Meanwhile, most of those other cartridges continue unabated. Yes, a lot of people buy 9mm handguns. One reason is that 9mm ammunition is arguably the most affordable factory ammunition you can buy (other than .22 LR). It doesn't mean any of the others are going to disappear.
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Old May 8, 2020, 04:37 PM   #4
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I think it’s due to reasonable cost and availability of ammunition, very manageable recoil, and good performance. All of these factors are very attractive to new shooters/gun owners, and us old timers too.
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Old May 9, 2020, 03:32 AM   #5
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Every cartridge adopted by the US military and the police has enjoyed a strong commercial success, some of them dominating their field for some time.

.45-70, .30-40 Krag, .30-06, .308 Win (7.62 NATO) and .223 Rem (5.56mm), .45ACP, .38 Special and .357 Magnum, all of these had part of their commercial success because they were military or police rounds. And, today that list includes the 9mm Luger, as well.

The .30 carbine might fit on the list, but it never got the commercial popularity, that the others did, and while its still around, once the supply of surplus rifles and ammo was used up, it kinda tanked. One can name all the common commercially available guns in .30 carbine on one hand, and have fingers left over...

It's a circular thing. The 9mm is popular and so people buy 9mms and because people buy 9mms the 9mm is popular.

If there is such a thing as the most improved cartridge in the past 100 years, I think I'd vote for the 9mm Luger. Though other rounds have also improved from their beginnings, I don't think any of them has had the effort put into improving it that the 9mm has had.

Look at the history. Virtually all the early pistol rounds stayed as what they were for a long time. Before the 1930s and the upgraded .38 Special loads (.38-44) that became the .357 Magnum, the only pistol round that got a significant improvement in velocity was the .38ACP becoming the .38 Super.

And up until the later 60s-early 70s factory pistol ammo came only in two basic flavors, lead bullets (for revolver rounds) and FMJ for semi auto cartridges. Handloaders could get and use JHPs but until Super Vel proved there was a market, the main ammo makers didn't offer them.

Back then, the .38 Special was considered a superior stopper over the 9mm. The (generally soft) lead bullet in the .38 would often deform and sometimes even expand a bit, and seemed to work a bit better than 9mm FMJ.

Today that's not the case. Because a lot of people actively worked very hard to develop 9mm bullets that expanded reliably (and this did take some time), along with jacking up the 9mm's velocity, turning the 9mm Luger into an acceptably reliable personal defense round.

When the US adopted the 9mm, it wasn't just the military, but also every armed branch of govt got 9mm guns. When, in their wisdom some groups (FBI, for one) decided the 9mm was no longer adequate, going first to the 10mm, and then later the .40 S&W, and some police forces followed their lead, 9mm popularity took a hit, but not a real serious one, plus there were even more 9mms on the market from police trade ins.

Now the FBI and others have been going back to the 9mm. And since its the caliber "everybody" uses, civilian sales and popularity are about as big as anything ever has been, and bigger than a lot of things ever were.

So, are we headed for a 9mm only world? No. Other rounds that do things the 9mm can't aren't going away. Despite the heavy focus, there is more to handgunning than service/duty guns and personal self defense.

The 9mm will continue to dominate the duty class, until/unless someone comes up with something significantly more effective, with the same approximate level of recoil, and at the same or lower cost.

I don't see that happening anytime soon.
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Old May 9, 2020, 12:30 PM   #6
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And then there are oddballs like the Rock Island TCM-22 that come with a 9mm barrel. 5 minutes (or less) and you change caliber.

Similar with some of the 9mm frames with conversions to .40S&W.
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Old May 9, 2020, 12:37 PM   #7
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No, not even close. .380ACP is more popular than it ever has been, for one thing.

And there are still people who like and shoot other calibers besides 9mm. .45ACP will always have a strong following. Manufacturers continue to design and release guns at a good clicp in that caliber.

10mm is probably as popular as it has ever been. The selection of 10mm firearms is good right now, and I don't expect that to change.

.40S&W may have declined in popularity, but it's not going away either.

I'm not seeing increases in popularity for calibers like .32ACP, .25ACP, but I also don't see them declining much either.

There is one thing that I see changing in the handgun world, and that is that the introduction of new calibers has slowed way down over the past years. I don't know that it will ever completely halt, but I do think we're going to see fewer and fewer new handgun calibers developed. Not because innovation is slowing down, but because the bases are covered pretty well and there just aren't gaps that need to be filled.
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Old May 9, 2020, 03:35 PM   #8
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No, not even close. .380ACP is more popular than it ever has been, for one thing.

And there are still people who like and shoot other calibers besides 9mm. .45ACP will always have a strong following. Manufacturers continue to design and release guns at a good clicp in that caliber.

10mm is probably as popular as it has ever been. The selection of 10mm firearms is good right now, and I don't expect that to change.

.40S&W may have declined in popularity, but it's not going away either.

I'm not seeing increases in popularity for calibers like .32ACP, .25ACP, but I also don't see them declining much either.

There is one thing that I see changing in the handgun world, and that is that the introduction of new calibers has slowed way down over the past years. I don't know that it will ever completely halt, but I do think we're going to see fewer and fewer new handgun calibers developed. Not because innovation is slowing down, but because the bases are covered pretty well and there just aren't gaps that need to be filled.
.25 is dead, I can't justify the cost of it relative to .22 rimfire, nor in terms of performance with .32 ACP.

.32 ACP tho is slowly getting more recognition tho, it's just nobody is making new guns in the chambering, even tho every one of the micro .380's could have a .32 version and offer reduced recoil in guns that have no business being .380's.

Given it's popularity in Europe and other parts of the world, the .32 ACP's price is equal to .380. It's a cheaper, yet more common ammo for using in .32 and .327 Mag revolvers, so it has dual use.

The only thing I wish was available with .32 ACP is steel case ammo because then I could see the price of it dropping to $10 for 50 rds.
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Old May 9, 2020, 10:44 PM   #9
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.32 ACP tho is slowly getting more recognition tho, it's just nobody is making new guns in the chambering, ...
Ummm ...

http://seecamp.com/products.htm

Ya want a gun with a cult following? The Seecamp .32 is your huckleberry.
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Old May 10, 2020, 01:23 AM   #10
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9mm is the kingpin between the stopping power myth and capacity. IOW its the best option between effectiveness and capacity, so it wins the popularity contest.

The other calibers aren't going away though.
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Old May 10, 2020, 03:44 AM   #11
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Simon.

Quote:
Again, I'm not saying there's nothing else on the market, but seems that 9mm gas become the informal "norm" in the semiauto world, even in the U.S., formerly land of the 1911.
Replace with has! Interesting post.

I have visited Austria a few times, the Glock Factory attracted me.
Are concealed carry permits/licenses available in Austria? For private citizens?

I carry a Glock 19 4th Gen pistol every day. My thoughts on calibres? It is more where you put the bullet than the calibre, within reason.
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Old May 10, 2020, 06:21 AM   #12
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thanks, already corrected!

No, unless you work as s bodyguard or security officer, you won't get anything better than a permit to own up to two semiauto weapons. "Owning" means you need to store them in your safe, and you may only carry them on your property or take them to the range unloaded and separated from the ammo. Needs a lot of paperwork and a psychological examination, though. Still better than e.g. Germany which is, in this respect, "Europe's California"...
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Old May 10, 2020, 08:21 AM   #13
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When someone makes a “What caliber is best for self-defense” thread and no one replies, then I’ll agree we’ve become “unipolar”.

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Old May 10, 2020, 09:52 AM   #14
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I own and handload for 7 different pistol calibers and none of them are 9mm. For the average guy a 9mm or even a .380 might be just fine but you couldn't even give me one.
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Old May 10, 2020, 12:36 PM   #15
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Just ask the 41AE fans.
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Old May 10, 2020, 03:06 PM   #16
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When someone makes a “What caliber is best for self-defense” thread and no one replies, then I’ll agree we’ve become “unipolar.
Astute observation!
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Old May 10, 2020, 08:36 PM   #17
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Based on what I see and read there's a good chance we're headed in that direction. The most serious forum I visit is all 9mm all the time, except for their revolver forum and 9mms show up there too.

I have not yet bowed down at the alter of the mighty 9, but then I'm an old geezer who learned handgun shooting on Magnum revolvers and 45 ACP 1911s. Heck, I'm so out of touch I shoot black powder in my 45 Colt single actions. (LOL)

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Old May 10, 2020, 10:21 PM   #18
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Like other "standards" you're effectively noting, 1 (or 2 or 3 or ...) sizes doesn't fit all, and likely never will.
You want lightweight big bore.
Someone else want's lowest recoil.
Another person wants a minimum 17 round double stack magazine in any caliber about .30.
Etc, etc, etc...
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Old May 11, 2020, 04:35 AM   #19
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I don't know about unipolar, but I would say that 9x19 has become the standard from which other handgun rounds are compared. Other cartridges have uses, which is why they still exist. That said, for defense against human attackers and in many competitions, 9x19 has shown to be a good (and economical) balance of power, recoil, etc.
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