Handgun Ballistics: Comparing Stopping Power

357 Magnum[Originally posted 7/28/2005 on TFS Magnum – my old Blogspot home.]

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 a link to where you can find more.

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

I selected the Remington ammunition ballistics table (it is a PDF – You are warned!) because I shoot a lot of Remington ammo. (I also shoot Winchester and Federal and others, but Remington’s info was easy to find, and organized nicely.) Also, 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.

[Update: June 29, 2017] OK, so I need to update this page… Remington has revamped their ballistic tables – or at least the presentation of same. Here is Compare Handgun Ammo from GunData.Org. While some of the data may be out of whack with what is below, it will have to do for now. I will rework this page as time permits and interest dictates.

Just 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 Remington cartridges, and is just meant to be representative of the differences between these cartridges.)

1911A 125 grain Semi-jacketed hollow-point bullet loaded for .357 magnum can deliver 427 foot pounds of energy at 50 yards, while a 124 grain jacketed hollow-point bullet loaded in 9mm Luger can deliver 291 foot pounds at 50 yards. A 185 grain jacketed hollow-point bullet loaded in .45 ACP can deliver 372 foot pounds at 50 yards. (Though people tell me that many 1911s won’t feed hollow-points, I use this bullet for comparison to keep everything equal. I also don’t know if that is true, but I am sure some 1911 expert will set the record straight in the comments.)

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)

Update – Sept. 5, 2005: Like everything else in life, your mileage may vary. I am told that the .45 hollow-point issue is a function of which gun and which ammo. “Try it and see” is the message, and you can probably find a hollow-point that will work.


8 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.

  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. 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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