How important is it for me to consider the number of grains in the various 9mm offerings out there? What are the pros and cons of the various grain amounts? Which are best for home defense/concealed carry?
Grains are not as important as bullet type. There are 7000 grain in 1 pound. But typically a heavy bullet carries more energy down range but bullet type determines how the bullet delivers that energy. A 147gr full metal jacket will poke holes while a 124gr hollow point will put holes that you can put your fist in.
It’s just one data point. I think it’s far from the most important. Bullet construction has way more impact on a given round’s effectiveness.
As a general rule, lighter weight projectiles go faster than heavier weight projectiles. If you fire them from a longer barrel (like with a PCC) the lighter weights will gain more velocity than the heavier ones.
Velocity does NOT equal effectiveness. A well-constructed bullet is made to work at the velocity it is expected to reach.
This is really splitting hairs, but if your CCW is a short barrel (3" or so) you should probably lean towards a heavier weight in 9mm. The reason is they are already going so slow, the loss of velocity in such a short barrel doesn’t really affect them much.
Your barrel twist rate, and length, may also play a part in how well any certain cartridge loading will work for you, in your gun. The old standard was 115gr, however many modern twist rates will prefer either 124, 135, or 147gr. There are also some zippy 90gr ones too. You have to try them.
Self Defense bullets are designed to work within certain velocity and barrier parameters. For some cartridges, this will also include certain powders for short barreled guns too. As an example, Hornady Critical Duty is meant for Service size guns (4" or greater barrels). Hornady Critical Defense is intended for shorter barreled, and smaller, guns that are typical of concealed carriers. These are just two examples. HD ammo will also typically have lower flash powders too.
Given a similarly constructed boolit of differing weights the performance factor will be velocity. Heavier boolits are slower while maintaining the safe C.U.P. (Copper Units of Pressure) while lighter boolits go faster.
The real question is which shoots better in YOUR firearm?
A lot depends on length of barrel and less so in a pistol, twist rate of the tube. Then there is the “feel” of the round. Lighter boolits I often equate to getting smacked with a ruler, Mid range a 2x2, Heavies a 2x4. (All subjective of course but if you try various flavors you will get the jest (the auto computer would not let me use Ji st) of my point).
Another question will be penetration. A lighter faster boolit may penetrate and fail to expand or possibly explode on impact given it’s construction. Mid ranges may go all the way through and expand. Heavies most often will always expand and may or may not go all the way through.
My personal preference is to carry/use the heaviest boolit that my particular platform will shoot well.
Our 9mm carry loads are Speer Lawman 124 grain +P JHPs. They clock ~1225 FPS from my SIG P-226 and not quite 1200 from the P-228. These ballistics are similar to those imparted to 123 grain FMJs in the original 1902 9mm Luger loads. In the USA such loads are rated “+P”, but that moniker is semi-bogus. Such loads properly place the 9mm at a ballistic midway point between the 38 Special (125 grain JHP @ 950-975 FPS) and the 357 Magnum (125 grain JHP @ 1425-1450 FPS). The excreble 147 grain JHP “Sub-sonic” 9mm rounds barely makes 950 FPS in 4" barrels, which barely meets 38 Special standards. Laws of physics get no plea bargains. Most law agencies have followed in FBI’s footsteps by issuing these 147 grain rounds, and I recommend AGAINST using these loads for serious social purposes. They were meant to help barely-trained law officers to qualify with their sidearms as the primary goal, because effective felon-stoppers like the 40 S&W and 45 ACP take a bit more skill to place well than do the soft-kicking sub-sonic 9mms and 38 Specials. Yeah, I’m a heretic. So sue me.
I can be a mite OPINIONATED on the subject of effective handgun ammo, and I come at it from a variety of perspectives–range trainer, homicide/ADW detective, forensics assessments, and tactics consultant. The 9mm is not a marginal caliber when it is carried with full-snort Euro-level ammo, just keep in mind that the 9mm has traditionally been down-loaded by most USA ammomakers out of an abundance of caution that their ammo would make its way into some of the wheezy European milsurp 9mm pistols that landed here after the 20th Century wars. There were lots of 9mm pistols that WEREN’T 9mm Luger, and most weren’t as strong as a good 9 x 19.
This is why I like to ask on the forum and not Google or, necessarily, YouTube. I’m looking for answers from people, like yourself, who have been in the trenches for a long time and actively work with these tools of the trade. I guess there will be a name for people like me, if there isn’t already, but, years ago, of all the scenarios I kinda played out in my head as I entered my 60’s, I never envisioned that I would be one of the new gun owners due to the insanity going on these days. I now have a Glock 43X for my EDC and a Glock 19X for home defense, with a H&K .22 LR rifle coming and hopefully a Mossberg or two.
The technical data down thread is excellent but in the current market it’s often all you can do just to FIND ammo. Under the circumstances, I’d ignore considering bullet weight and use any available JHP for defense, to minimize overpenetration and ricochet, and use–ration–FMJ for practice
I do not mean to plug a business but Lucky Gunner has very comprehensive ammo tests on their website and on Youtube. Their tests are to FBI standards and use both short and long barrels. Results might surprise you.
To amplify this and make the picture bigger, think of rifle bullets. A small, light, fast bullet from a rifle, can be made to virtually explode in the small space and depth of a small varmint animal, thereby being more effective and reliable for that particular job. Being fast, it’s also flat shooting, but it will loose energy, ( velocity ) quickly, limiting it’s useful range. By contrast, a larger, heavier bullet, which can be longer and more efficient at retaining it’s energy, can both maintain it’s energy for greater distance, and be made to expand less rapidly, therefore penetrating more deeply, and so, be much more effective taking larger game where deep penetration is more desirable and an explosively expanding bullet would fail to get in deep enough, and cause only wounding that would fail take the animal.
Weight, velocity, and bullet type all combine to make a given loading perform specific jobs. To include a balance of felt recoil to the shooter. In short, you want a design that will deliver as much energy into the target as possible while not passing through it and becoming a danger to things beyond, while also getting in deep enough to be effective. This is often balanced with the recoil issue as well, resulting in multiple options that are often recognizable in the form of heavier, slower options that usually have greater recoil, versus lighter, faster options that usually have less reoil or a flatter trajectory. FMJ bullets, that don’t expand at all, often penetrate too well, even passing clear though, and fail to deliver sufficient energy to the target to have the needed effectiveness.
That is over simplified, but it’s one brief way to express it.
For personal/home defense, consider the scenario you may encounter. The majority of encounters will be at fairly close range where your involvement will determine the outcome, which is high up on my list of reasons to carry. A fast round, 115gr fmj, will increase the risk of collateral damage to others in the vicinity so evaluate your situation to help you determine what would work best for you. My personal favorite for close quarters (indoors or outdoors) is a slower 147gr jhp which has the stopping power but not the speed of the lighter loads. Evaluation of yourself and your environment will help you determine what works best for you