Handgun Ballistics: Comparing Stopping Power

Many people come to this site looking for information on the stopping power of the .357 magnum handgun. So I thought I should oblige by providing some info and some links to where you can find more.

[Visit Amazon.com for Books on Handgun Stopping Power]

I selected the Ballistics Charts compiled by Sportman’s Guide because they are nicely organized. Also, you should note that all of the manufacturers sell several variations of each of the popular handgun cartridges. Different primers, different bullets and bullet weights, different powder loads all combine to influence stopping power, which is recorded as foot pounds of energy delivered down-range. This is just meant to be an example of the differences/similarities between the various calibers.

1911Just for a comparison, lets look at one typical load for a .357 magnum and compare to a similar load for 9mm Luger and one for .45 ACP. (All of this ballistic data is for specific cartridges, and is just meant to be representative of the differences between these cartridges.) Since we are mostly interested in defensive use of these rounds, we wull look at defensive loads. (e.g. Jacketed Hollow-points.)

Caliber Weight (grains) Type Muzzle Velecity (fps) Muzzle Energy (ft-lbs) Energy @ 50 yards
9mm Luger 147 Silvertip Hollow Point 1010 333 302
45 Automatic 230 Brass Enclosed Base 835 356 329
357 Magnum 158 Jacketed Soft Point 1235 535 428

Note: A grain is a unit of measure for weight (mass actually) used for measuring bullets and gunpowder. There are exactly 7000 grains in one pound. (thanks to Boomershoot for the definition)

12 thoughts on “Handgun Ballistics: Comparing Stopping Power

  1. i was thinking about the ulimate ONE shot stopper cartridge against a maniacal home intuder.
    i forgot to add that i was considering only handgun cartridges.again ONE SHOT.
    here’s my idea.how about 454 casull loaded to the hilt with a 230 grain jhp designed for a 45 acp.
    i can’t think of anything more effective than this combo.any idea’s??,..keep safe.


    • Well I have 3 handguns 9mm auto 1911 model, a 45 auto 1911 model all 5 inch barrels, and my monster my 357 magnum 6 inch barrel. I look at all the charts, and the 357 may with the 6 inch or better barrel is you Pitbull. I own over 50 rifles and shot guns, and I studied ballistics for years, if you want to wound the intruder aim low, the guts the legs if you got good gun practices, if not go to shotguns, the best for sounding and putting them on the floor is a 410 3 inch magnum heavy shot. if you want to do a room there is very nice couch guns that are 12 gauge and you can use a heavy shot and do a nasty blood soaked room, too a lite shot where you going to get the perp, and he or she is out of commission, and trying to get away from you and trying to go to a hospital. In my home I always go for the 12 short barrel coach gun 12 inch barrel,, and use a SSG 3 inch magnum or 3 1/2 magnum in a dark room it is the best weapon going, mine is a pump 5 shot. I like my hand guns,,, BUT if you are not in a well lighted room, you best go for a shotgun,.., I have a 3 inch grouping in all my handguns, at 25 yards, took lots of practice,,, but it took no practice with my 12 gauge 3 1/2 inch magnum to clear a room.. I just wish they built a 6 inch barrel 12 gauge shot gun that held 6 or 7 shots. man talk about just aim in general direction and shoot…


  2. Your problem with “exotic loads” is that a DA will hang you out to dry.
    They will say you are using “too much” gun. That you are hoping to kill someone, not just stop an attack.
    The only way to defuse that situation is to use something “standard” and to buy factory ammo. (DA’s have made much of the fact that people load their own ammo… Juries don’t know anything about firearms. Are are afraid of gun owners, and no matter the trial – they LOVE to convict.)


    • Good point Deb. Let us not forget the man in Arizona convicted of shooting a deranged attacker in a state park with a 10mm Glock. The over zealous prosecutor successfully argued that the defendant used an extremely powerful weapon and intended to kill someone.


  3. I wonder what the law would say if u used a 12ga. with double 00 ? its the only 1 I’ve got & besides it not a “assualt rifle”


  4. So according to “the law”, choosing the most effective means of self defense is incriminating to the intended victim of the criminal?


    • Prosecutors have been know to make an issue out of the caliber used, whether or not you hand-load your own ammo. Anything to get a “win.” The Criminal Justice System is not interested in Justice, is a system (dedicated to protecting itself) and acts a bit criminal from time to time. In short, it is just another government bureaucracy.


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