Pistol caliber carbines like the Sig MPX seem to gaining favor again, but they certainly aren’t new.
The aging MP5 has been around since the Mid 60′s, but historically even American cowboys carried rifles chambered in the same caliber as their pistols (and I think their choice made more sense).
There are 4 reasons to choose a pistol caliber carbine, as opposed to a true rifle cartridge…
1) If you already have to keep a supply of a pistol caliber, having to add a rifle cartridge make the logistics/supply chain harder. Police officers have a ready supply of pistol ammo for their officers guns and cowboys had to carry pistol ammo for personal defense anyway… why carry two calibers?
2) The longer barrel increase the velocity of the round increasing its reach and effectiveness.
3) The lower recoil makes fast follow-up shots easier to manage. (Full-auto)
4) The cost per round is less… in many cases.
In this post, I want to look at #2 more closely and discuss why some rounds may be better suited for a carbine than others.
In every caliber debate there are 2 positions a shooter can take… light and fast or big and slow. In a nut shell that is the 9 vs 45 debate do you prefer a 124gr 9mm bullet going 1060ft/sec or a 230gr .45auto bullet going 860ft/sec.
The problem with this debate when talking about pistols is that all pistols suck. We carry them because they are handy, not because they are effective.
The reason they aren’t effective is that the bullet just isn’t moving fast enough!
For the geeks and/or handloaders the formula for calculating kinetic energy is…
Energy = Mass * Velocity^2
Because the velocity is squared, it is far more important in determining the the total energy expended.
Once the energy reaches a certain level it has the ability to create hydrostatic shock or a shock wave that sends enough energy through nearby organs or the brain and causes them to shut down. There is some debate at what level this becomes effective, because frankly it is dependant on the bullet and the target, but I have never seen anyone suggest that velocities below 1100ft/sec would cause it and many believe that a reliable figure is around 2000ft/sec.
Below those velocities you are relying on crush damage from the wound channel or blood loss to stop the threat or game.
Here are the results of Ballistics by the Inch‘s tests on 8 common pistol calibers and the .223 for comparison.
|Sample Cartridges||4″ V||16″ V|
|9mm – Federal 124gr. Hydra-Shok JHP||1061||1243|
|.357 Sig – Federal Premium 125gr. JHP||1426||1723|
|40 S&W Federal 180gr. Hydra-Shok JHP||1022||1175|
|.45 Auto – Federal 230gr. Hydra-Shok JHP||865||994|
|.38 Spl – Federal 125gr. Hydra-shok JHP||954||1252|
|.357 Mag – Federal 125gr. JHP||1511||2051|
|.44 Spl – Cor Bon 200gr. DPX||972||1307|
|.44 Mag – Federal 240gr. Hydra-Shok JHP||1251||1619|
|.223 – Remington UMC 55gr. MC||1564||2943|
While every cartridge benefits from extending the barrel length, you may notice only the .357sig, .357mag and .44mag reach velocities that meet the mid-point of the hydrostatic shock figures (and even those require at least a 8-10″ barrel).
In fact the rimless cartridges designed for use in semi-autos on gained between 32 and 46% more energy by increasing the barrel length a foot. The revolver cartridges saw gains of a low of 67% to a high for the .357Mag of an 84% increase! ( The .223 was 253% more effective.
I think this validates my belief that .357 is a rifle cartridge and not a pistol cartridge!
One of the topics I’d like to discuss this year is the use of a lever gun for home defense, after all it is the Cowboy Assault Rifle… er maybe that should be the Historical Sporting Rifle… Either way, mine will be in .357!
Obviously there are other issues regarding the use pistol caliber carbine like over penetration, but my house doesn’t have enough drywall to even stop a .223 so it is sort of a moot point.
What to you think of a .357 lever gun as a home defense choice?
I’d really like to hear from cowboy action shooters. If you shoot cowboy leave a comment below. Or if you know a cowboy shooter that might have an opinion share this post with them by e-mail, Facebook or Twitter.