The caliber wars rage on, but we don’t participate in them the same way everyone else does. We look at terminal ballistics, cost, shootability, etc., in order to figure out which caliber your next gun should be in.
Don’t misunderstand, we aren’t here to name a winner, per se. Instead, our desire is to help you choose which gun you should carry for self-defense, based on hard facts. Let’s get started —
357 SIG VS 9mm, Which Is Better?
In terms of ballistics, meaning the velocity of the projectile and the amount of energy it delivers to target, the 357 SIG beats the 9mm more often than not. The 9mm starts to close the gap when +P ammo is used, but even then it is still lagging behind. (Ballistics tables below).
The 357 SIG delivers a bullet of similar or slightly heavier weight as the 9mm Luger does, but it does it at a much higher velocity. Because the velocity is so much greater, it means that more energy is transferred to target.
At least a part of what makes the 357 SIG show better ballistics on paper, is that it holds more powder, but has a very similar overall size as the 9mm. The 357 SIG makes use of a necked down and shortened 10mm cartridge case. It is therefore thicker and holds more powder.
9mm VS 357 SIG Stopping Power
All at the same time the term “stopping power” is both largely a myth and a reality that can be achieved. Though, it is more of a myth than a reality that can be achieved.
In other words, while a bullet may stop an attacker, there really is no such thing as “stopping power.”
The main reason why stopping power is a myth is because any given person could get hit with either caliber and walk away from the attack. This is true because under stress most people cannot shoot a gun with proper accuracy. They may hit their target, but miss all of the vital organs necessary for keeping a body moving.
For example, a defender may aim for center mass and hit the thigh or shoulder. Both of which are painful injuries, but a pissed off person will be able to fight through it.
Or, if that person is high on some sort of narcotic, your attacker may still be able to keep fighting unless you sever the connection between the brain and the rest of the body.
Having said all of that and tackled the myth of stopping power, let’s get on to the reality of what is possible in the best case scenario with each round.
9mm Stopping Power
The 9mm has come a long way in terms of being able to stop an attacker from continuing his attack, and modern cartridge technology continues to get better. Though, more often than not the 9mm Luger will send a lighter weight projectile downrange at slower speeds and with less energy than the 357 SIG will. The Luger gets most of its “stopping power” in the form of fast follow up shots and the ability to put multiple rounds on target in an accurate fashion. In other words, because the 9mm is easier to shoot, both under normal and stressful situations, it can land more rounds on target.
357 SIG Stopping Power
The 357 Sig sends an, often but not always, heavier projectile to target. The difference is that the projectile is moving faster than 9mm and delivers significantly more energy to target. Because this is true, it creates more damage to the inside of the body and is technically more capable of stopping a bad guy in his tracks. I say “technically” because this assumes that you’d be able to hit your target with the associated muzzle blast and recoil produced by the hotter round. Worded differently, the 357 SIG gets much of its stopping power from being a fast moving round that delivers a lot of energy to target.
357 SIG VS 9mm Luger Ballistics
Below you’ll see a slightly modefied version of our ballistics chart for each caliber. If you’d like to learn more about each caliber or see more in depth ballistics information, please check out each caliber’s dedicated page.
If you want to learn more info still, we have a dedicated handgun ballistics chart with all of the calibers on it.
The following ballistics test uses one of the heavier bullet weights found in 9mm, a Hornady 147 grain XTP fired out of a 4 inch barrel.
357 SIG Ballistics
The following ballistics test uses a 135 Grain (slightly lighter than the 9mm test) Hornady Critical Duty Flex Lock fired out of a 4 inch barrel.
In an attempt to show a closer matchup between 9mm VS 357 SIG, I wanted to compare similar grain bullets and use +P ammo on the 9mm side. The results from that test are below:
9mm +P HST Ballistics
This next 9mm Luger +P shows 124 grain HST hollow points from Federal, fired from a 4 inch barrel.
357 SIG HST Ballistics Chart
This next 357 SIG ballistics chart shows a 125 Grain Federal HST hollow point fired from a 4 inch barrel.
357 SIG Vs 9mm, Recoil and Other Info
This is where things really start diverge in favor of the 9mm Luger. The extra powder from the bigger case that sometimes propels a larger grain bullet almost always results in greater recoil in the 357 SIG cartridge.
In similar guns with similar sizes and weights, the 357 will recoil harder just based on how the cartridge is designed alone.
Even though many shooters won’t admit to it, most people have a harder time shooting 357 SIG based on this alone. This is amplified under the stress associated with a self-defense scenario when the tunnel vision and fight or flight kicks into full gear.
357 SIG VS 9mm Cost
The 9mm Luger wins here, as well — even in the midst of a massive ammunition shortage and the inflated prices of 9mm. The 9mm Luger wins hands down and is overall much cheaper.
Before the shortage and mass price increase, a box of 9mm target loads would have been at or under $15 for 50, depending on where you lived. Now a box of similar ammo ordered directly from Federal will be $27.
And, before the shortage and mass price increase, a box of 357 Sig ammo would be between $25-35 per box of 50. Now, that same box can be as much as $50 or $60 per.
This equates directly into you being able to train more, or less, depending on the gun you buy. You can afford to shoot more with the 9mm, and we all know that the price of ammo is directly related to how often you train.
357 SIG VS 9mm Luger Availability and Aftermarket
Both the 9mm Luger ammo and the guns that shoot it are more available than the 357 SIG is. This is one of the reasons why the above sub heading about cost is true. The 9mm has been around longer and has a much bigger following, with more guns and many different loads of cartridge available.
The 357 SIG, on the other hand, never widely caught on outside of law enforcement, though it does have a following. Because it was never as popular, there are less ammo companies who make ammo for it, and there are only a handful of gun makers who still produce 357 SIG chambered guns.
9mm VS 357 SIG, Which One Wins?
In terms of what is capable as a self-defense round, the 357 SIG wins, but only by marginal numbers. The 9mm Luger has caught up drastically over the past several years in terms of ballistics, however, and because it is much cheaper to shoot and practice with, it wins for most people.
However, the 357 SIG has a following and for the people who have learned to master its recoil, don’t mind paying a lot more for it, and practice — this cartridge is a great option.
Check out my 9mm VS 45 Auto comparison, next.