Throwback Thursday: Self-Defense Calibers — Best and Worst Options

calibers for self-defense

In response to a question about what calibers to use for self-defense, the venerable Jeff Cooper once said something along the lines of, “Use the biggest caliber you can shoot well.” He had other qualifiers, but that is the important part for this article. He did not live through 2020, but the sentiment and fact remain the same.

That, of course, does not mean .460 S&W is the best choice for concealed or open carry if you can manage to shoot it well. There are concerns like your hearing (and that of the innocents within a city block), massive over-penetration, and being vilified by a District Attorney. A gun-unfriendly DA may well consider it overkill/excessive force/”Ramboism”… and then, the process becomes the punishment. (Please understand, that doesn’t mean a .460 S&W is always the wrong choice either.)

If I am on a bear hunt in Alaska, a six-inch barreled .460 might be the appropriate sidearm. The reason for carrying that revolver would be “in case of bear surprise.” It is not my fault that the surprise I got was a couple of furless bears in human suits. Their attempt to jack my truck deep in the woods may make my use of an “overkill revolver” quite justified. If the situation is there is no one else within 20 miles and two slovenly guys comment on how nice “their” new truck is. One guy has a baseball bat and the other guy has already started digging a hole with his shovel. I think I can articulate my choices quite well to the DA.

Having said that, in normal suburbia circumstances, the common choices in calibers are .380 ACP, 9mm Luger, .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP. In order to forestall the hate mail, other calibers might include 10mm Auto, .357 SIG, .327 Magnum, and .32 ACP. Other even less common calibers might include .25 ACP, 9×18 Mak, .22 Magnum, or .22 LR. We will focus on the first six in some detail, then discuss some of the others from the “con” position.

Some Disclaimers

The rules for the discussion: these are my opinions. Backed by fact where I can, but they are opinions, treat them as such. We are using probabilities, not the rule of one (rule of one definition — just because it happened once, doesn’t make it the way to bet). You are welcome to choose whatever calibers you like. Just know, choosing .25 ACP is a far less common (and less effective) choice FOR A REASON.

I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice. Carrying and not carrying are both potentially dangerous, so is reading this article if you are a fanboy of any particular caliber’s evangelical awesomeness. You have been warned.

Springfield Hellcat pistol

Calibers To Consider

9mm Luger

I carry 9mm Luger in my fairly modified Smith and Wesson M&P. I consider this to be one of the best 9mm pistols. I also carry 9mm (0.355”) in a Kel-Tec PF9 as a backup gun (BUG). I carry .380 ACP (0.355”) in my Kel-Tec P3AT and for those times when concealed really needs to mean concealed.

My girlfriend carries .40 S&W (0.40”) in her duty weapon (Glock 22). For off-duty, she either carries 9mm in her Glock 17 or her Glock 43. Her usual choice is the G43, as she is small and it is much more concealable on her. She is frequently with me, so our combined load-out is, usually, at least my full-sized M&P with two backup mags and her Glock 43 with one backup mag. Our primary choice for carry is obviously 9mm Luger.

Within the 9mm realm, I carry the Federal 150-grain HST Micro in the M&P. In the PF9 and Glock 43, we both carry the Barnes 115-grain TAC–XPD +P. The question becomes, why do we choose 9mm and why do we choose those particular bullets? The answers:

In the full-sized guns, independent testing shows the Federal 150-grain HST Micro produces (in gel) an average penetration of 17-inches with 0.71-inch of bullet expansion, with an average velocity of 900 fps. This is at the upper end of the FBI penetration parameter and is also at the upper end of the bullet expansion matrix for available 9mm ammunition. The heavy-for-caliber projectile helps with penetration, and the slightly low bullet velocity helps with recoil mitigation and speed of follow-up shots. We use this both in the M&P and the Glock 17 to good effect.

For the smaller-barreled guns, we use the Barnes 115-grain TAC–XPD +P. Our personal testing has shown the above round performs well in our BUGs. The lower velocity of the shorter barrels does impede performance in comparison to full-sized guns. The reduced performance is not as diminished as it is for the Federal 150-Grain Micro. The Barnes velocity drops, but it starts out much quicker, so the expansion is less affected. We do not get the optimal 0.70 inches that we get from our full-sized guns, nor the 13.5 inches of penetration, but we still get an average of 0.55-inch expansion along with just under 12 inches of penetration.

In our limited testing, this seems to be the best performance compromise. The round is also quite controllable in the smaller platforms. In comparison, a former choice of mine the 135-grain Hornady Critical Duty. From a full-sized gun, it produces an average of just under 19 inches of penetration, with 0.45-inch expansion at 1,050 fps. Another former choice, the 124-grain Speer Gold Dot +P shows just under 17 inches of penetration with 0.51-inch expansion at 1,150 fps. Those numbers would be much lower for our shorter-barrel options.

.40 S&W

In the Glock 22 (.40 S&W), she has no choice but to use issue ammo. Her agency issues 180-grain Speer Gold Dot, a solid performer at 14.5 inches penetration with 0.65-inch expansion (unlike the 165-grain with 27.1 inches penetration and no expansion) for non-patrol officers. As an SRO, she is still issued a .40 S&W. The patrol officers have transitioned to 9mm.

If I was in charge of purchasing for her agency, I would likely choose the Winchester 165-grain Ranger Bonded. The Winchester is VERY consistent in both expansion and penetration. The deviation in penetration was less than an inch from deepest to most shallow. The expansion also varied very little and was quite large, at an average of 0.77 inches. Also, the 165-grain projectile is a bit more recoil-friendly for faster and more accurate follow-up shots than most of the similarly performing 180-grain options.

.40 S&W Speer ammo

.380 ACP

My choice of .380 ACP ammo for my P3AT is the Hornady 90-grain FTX Critical Defense. This is one of the few ammo choices that performed well both for penetration and expansion. The test showed 13.2 inches of penetration and 0.52-inch expansion.

In comparison, most other options either gave good penetration, Remington 88-grain HTP with 16.8 inches, but had almost no (0.36-inch) expansion, or had good expansion, Winchester PDX-1 at 0.63-inch, but had poor penetration, average of 9.5 inches. These tests used the shorter barrel of a Glock 42.

.380 ACP hornady ammo

.45 ACP

In a complete act of HERESY, the only .45 ACP (.0452”) platform I own is an AR. This means I do not have a “go-to” choice for .45 carry ammo, but if I did, here would be some of my thoughts.

The Winchester Ranger T-Series, the 230-grain Ranger T and Ranger T +P both perform at the absolute top of the expansion range at 1.00-inch and 0.99-inch respectively. They also perform well in penetration, with both running consistent averages of 14.5 inches.

The Federal HST and HST +P also perform well. Expansion averages 0.85-inch and 0.79-inch, with consistent penetrations averaging 14.0 inches and 14.9 inches. As with the Ranger T-Series, I do not see the advantage to the extra recoil of +P, as the lower pressure rounds expand more and had little penetration handicap.

.45 ACP Ammo in mags with 1911 pistol

Calibers To Question

.45 ACP

There are choices that perform very poorly when it comes to self-defense. The Liberty 78-grain (yes, a 78-grain .45 ACP), despite its blistering 1,850 fps initial velocity, can only manage 10.9 inches of penetration and almost no expansion (0.47-inch) and did not retain over 90% of projectile weight.

In a surprise to me, the Remington Ultimate Defense 230-grain had 23.9 inches of penetration but no (0.45-inch) expansion. I should also note, the Winchester Ranger Bonded (not the Ranger T-Series) did not perform consistently. Penetration ranged from 17 inches to 30 inches and expansion ranged from .048-inch to .065-inch, for an average of .056-inch.

.38 Special / .357 Magnum

For those of you who run revolvers, the .38 Special and the .357 Magnum calibers (both .0357″) are the most common choices. The next issue is what barrel length to utilize. The most common carry choice would be something like a Smith and Wesson J-Frame with roughly a two-inch barrel.

Most people these days who choose to carry a four-inch gun will run a semi-auto of some sort. My only revolver in this caliber area is a 5.5-inch, N-Frame Model 27. She does NOT see carry duty, but the load I choose to run is the 125-grain Speer Gold Dot in .357. My numbers are likely better from a 5.5-inch barrel, but the four-inch numbers are 1,427 fps, .054-inch expansion, and 19.3 inches of penetration.

For comparison, the same choice in a two-inch barrel produces 1,200 fps, 0.36-inch expansion, and 29.3 inches of penetration. As you can see, zero expansion and way too much penetration. This would be a poor choice for a snub nose.

As a general rule, .357 produces lots of extra recoil and muzzle blast for no increase in performance until you run at least a four-inch barrel. The extra powder just doesn’t have enough barrel to make a useful difference. If you just have to run .357 in your snub nose, there are better choices.

The Barnes 125-grain TAC–XPD runs 1,250 fps with 0.75-inch expansion and 14.2 inches of penetration. The Barnes 140-grain XPB VOR-TX, Buffalo Bore 125-grain with the Barnes 125-grain SPB short barrel, and the Federal 140-grain Barnes XPB all perform well. You may notice a pattern with those choices. For most of us running a snubbie, the proper performance-to-recoil ratio is going to be found in .38 Special loads.

.357 Mag ammo and revolver

For those needing the lowest recoil, the Hornady 90-grain Critical Defense Lite gives decent performance (very good considering the projectile weight and super low recoil) at 896 fps, with 0.43-inch expansion and 11.8 inches of penetration. The four-inch barrel increases velocity by 100 fps, but decreases penetration by an inch with the same expansion.

The best performance is from the Federal 130-grain Micro HST at 824 fps, with 0.73-inch expansion, and 13.0 inches of penetration. I have not shot this load, but it should be mild in recoil as well.

Moving to a four-inch barrel gun increases velocity by 30 fps and penetration by just over an inch, with similar expansion. The minimal increase in velocity means most of the powder has burned in the two-inch barrel, so muzzle blast should be low in either barrel length.

The Remington Golden Saber 125-grain +P provides 877 fps, with 0.62-inch expansion and 13.9 inches of penetration. The four-inch barrel increases velocity by roughly 130 fps, so a fair amount of powder remains unburned in the two-inch barrel. This will create a fair amount of muzzle blast and excess recoil. Most +P .38 Special rounds will be this way and should perform best in the four to eight-inch barrel length.

The penetration decreases by almost 1.5 inches and the expansion drops a tad to 0.59-inch in the longer option. This is likely a result of a soft bullet intended to begin expansion at slower velocities. It has likely expanded to at least the 0.62-inch mark and peeled back to a smaller diameter due to excess velocity.

Calibers To Avoid

I am going to give a small amount of information regarding the calibers that I think have VERY little place in the self-defense role. These calibers are (in order of worst to least worst) .25 ACP, 9×18 Mak, .22 LR, and .22 Magnum.

.38 Special Ammo

.25 ACP

The .25 ACP’s only advantage is it normally comes in a tiny gun that is easily concealed. Most of those guns have names like Raven or Jimenez, and are known for being just as likely to harm the shooter as the target.

The other joke is (for a very good reason) “I will beat a guy to a pulp if he shoots me with a .25 ACP and I ever find out about it.” This caliber provides poor penetration, no expansion, and normally comes in a rattle-box gun.

This may be the exception that proves rule number one of a gunfight, bring a gun. You only think you have a gun with most .25 ACP choices. No bullets tested have significant expansion and none had consistent penetration to the 12-inch mark.

.25 ACP Ammo

9×18 Mak

The 9×18 Mak has most of the components needed for successful carry. There are plenty of decent guns. The velocity is there, the real issue here is there is not much choice in appropriate self-defense ammo.

Most of what is available is ball or non-expanding. This creates strong over-penetration and a distinct lack of stopping power. Please realize this is not easily fixed by reloading, as the bullet diameter is .365”, not the .355” of the more common 9mm Luger.

The Hornady 95-grain FTX is an example that could work well, with 13.5 inches of penetration and 0.46-inch expansion. It is on par with the low end of the middle of the pack for 9mm Luger rounds.

9x18 Mak caliber calibers self-defense

.22 LR

Many people choose .22 LR, and for those with severe arthritis, it has its place. Some people will also choose a .22 LR NAA revolver as a BUG. This does fulfill the first rule of a gunfight. Just realize that you are essentially shooting ONE pellet from a #4 buck load at someone. Most #4 buckshot has 27 (or more) pellets. The combination of being hit by most of those pellets is what stops the target. A single one CAN, but it isn’t the way to bet. If .22 LR is all you can run, make sure you train to shoot several rounds for increased effectiveness.

One advantage .22 LR has over a single #4 buck is it is heavier. The #4 buck is about 20 grains, whereas the .22 LR typically runs from 30 to 40 grains, with some up to about 60 grains. The extra weight will help with penetration. Be aware the 60-grain options will not stabilize in many pistols and may fail to cycle the bolt in a semi-auto.

Of the choices tested, from a two-inch barrel, the best performer was Winchester Varminter 37-grain HE. It provided 0.25-inch expansion and 12.7 inches of penetration. Not exactly stellar, but most other choices had no expansion and often less than 10 inches of penetration.

.22 LR Ammo calibers self-defense

.22 Magnum

Our last discussion choice is the .22 Magnum. For those who are very recoil adverse, this is a potentially better option than .22 LR. Like with the revolver choices, here barrel length makes a big difference. Almost all options performed better than .22 LR, but using a +four-inch barrel (like on the Kel-Tec PMR-30) greatly increased performance.

Hornady 45-grain Critical Defense provided 0.37-inch expansion and 12 inches of penetration with a two-inch barrel and 0.40-inch and 13.6 inches, respectively, with the longer barrel. Speer 40-grain Gold Dot also performed well at 0.33-inch and 12.9 inches from the short barrel and 0.42-inch and 14.7 inches from the longer option. Neither is what I would call optimal, but considering the platform size, the minute recoil, and the diminutive round, this is fair performance.

If you are using the Kel-Tec PMR-30, having 30 rounds can make a large difference. Even a five or six-shot revolver will take the starch out of most attackers.

22 magnum ammunition calibers

Conclusion: Self-Defense Calibers

You now have more information on calibers than you likely had before reading the article. You are hopefully better informed and are free to flame me on why .25 NAA is the best self-defense round ever. Just be aware, I will quietly (or not so quietly) laugh at you.

What are your favorite self-defense calibers and why? Let us know in the comments section below!

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in February of 2021. It has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and clarity.

About the Author:

John Bibby

John Bibby is an American gun writer who had the misfortune of being born in the occupied territory of New Jersey. His parents moved to the much freer state of Florida when he was 3. This allowed his father start teaching him about shooting prior to age 6. By age 8, he was regularly shooting with his father and parents of his friends. At age 12, despite the strong suggestions that he shouldn’t, he shot a neighbor’s “elephant rifle."

The rifle was a .375 H&H Magnum and, as such, precautions were taken. He had to shoot from prone. The recoil-induced, grass-stained shirt was a badge of honor. Shooting has been a constant in his life, as has cooking.

He is an (early) retired Executive Chef. Food is his other great passion. Currently, he is a semi-frequent 3-Gun competitor, with a solid weak spot on shotgun stages. When his business and travel schedule allow, you will often find him, ringing steel out well past 600 yards. In order to be consistent while going long, reloading is fairly mandatory. The 3-Gun matches work his progressive presses with volume work. Precision loading for long-range shooting and whitetail hunting keeps the single-stage presses from getting dusty.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (71)

  1. Examining the practicality and legal implications of a bag for guns prompts a deeper conversation on responsible firearm storage, accessibility, and societal expectations.

  2. I guess that I’m the odd man out here. My biggest fear is not, do I have enough firepower, my biggest fear is that I will have to kill someone. My goal in carrying a firearm is to break contact in an attack long enough to get away. Period. If I am shooting at an attacker I’ll be shooting center mass and I can only hope to stop him long enough to get away. But more accurately I’m hoping that I’ll make him question his (her) choice of victims. No one enjoys be shot, not even with a lowly 22.
    Look at it this way. If I take a Phillips screwdriver with an 8” shank and bury it to the handle in your chest and you know there is a chance of me burying 6 more, what’s running through your head?
    Yes, I have other choices in my gun safe but the calibers I carry regularly are the 22 and 380’. Why? Convenience, conceal ability and cost.
    Even as I sit at home typing this you’ll find an 8” screwdriver in my front right hand pocket. lol

  3. Very interesting article with good advice for self defense calibers.

    Our carry options range include an H & R 929 .22LR revolver, 5 round S&W .38 special revolvers, an S & W 686 .357 magnum revolver for hiking carry, and a classic .40 S & W Interarms Firestar single action automatic.

    I tend to favor the S & W Bodyguard .38+P 5 round hammerless revolver. Easy to conceal and ammo is relatively inexpensive and available in our central SC living area. Accuracy is good to around 10 yards especially with .38 Special rounds and with manageable recoil for an upcoming 65 year old. Have put close to 500 rounds through it with no failures and easy to keep clean and serviced.

    The best advice is indeed what we can control and shoot well. We as responsible gun owners are responsible for where the bullets we fire end up regardless of circumstances.

  4. Very much enjoyed the article. I was once enamored of the Kel-Tec PMR-30 (and the .22WMR) for the reasons mentioned, for my wife; but the nice feeling of having 30 rounds was dampened by the many non-fires, stovepipes, &c. I get that the pesky rim is tricky in semiautos, having been designed for revolvers. And I note that Kel-Tec in its manual states with some level of specificity which brands and weights of ammo to use (and not to use); but even scrupulously following those instructions, I am not sure that the level of unreliabilty made it worth betting on, even though the pistol did seem to “get better” with use. A .38 special snubbie, even with only a fraction of the 30 shots, seemed in the end a wiser option.

  5. Good article. My sentiments exactly on carrying the largest you can shoot comfortably. When I take new shooters to the range, after some familiarization with my .22LR and .22WMR pistols, I start them with a 9mm S&W M&P. We then go up to a Gen 4 Glock 22 in .40. Then I have them try an 1911 in .45ACP. My thoughts are, they are getting a taste of the different calibers for a comparison. I do not carry 9mm. The Miami shootout in 1986 left a bad taste in mouth for 9mm, even knowing that bullet technology has advanced tremendously since then. My carry is a Gen 3 Glock 23 or 27, or one of my 1911. I live in south Louisiana and it gets HOT and HUMID down here, but I don’t have a problem with carrying one of those pistols concealed. A good t-shirt with a Columbia or Magellan fishing shirt, unbuttoned, goes a long way toward concealment and comfort.

  6. Interesting article. Enjoyed reading it. I would add that the effectiveness of any weapon is no better than the shooter’s ability to hit the target. Train, train, train, and remember the first rule of self-defense: always look for a way to avoid a fight and escape an aggressor.

  7. Came upon this article after several months and read the comments. As Col. Cooper once said, “I carry a .45 because nobody makes a .46.” In the 1970’s, I would agree with Col. Cooper. In the 2020’s, I do have to rethink what I can actually shoot. As mentioned in my earlier post, I prefer a revolver, in fact a S&W “J” frame. The push for “airlite” or “ultralite” handguns makes it even harder for Seniors, as recoil management becomes a major concern. The original CA .44 Bulldog, with the 3″ barrel, is another candidate for Seniors. As any cartridge will be a failure if one doesn’t hit the target, some form of a laser aiming device is almost a must have for us older shooters as well. Using a .38 or 9mm, need to be as accurate as possible in a stressful situation, and is where a laser is a big plus. Would I use a .25 or .32 ACP? Only if I was BOND, JAMES BOND. Of course, he wasn’t real. Would I use a .45 1911? Wish I could still, but after so many years, some days racking the slide is difficult.

  8. I chose to not invest in several calibers in numerous guns for economic reasons. Therefore, I invested in one firearm, a Springfield Armory XDs, in 45 ACP. It is just a tad too big for concealing, but, when I carry it is usually open carry. But the 45 ACP would do the job as home defense and also serve me well, defending my creel of trout from a black bear too lazy to catch his own.

  9. I pretty much agree with Shep. If it’s as bad as all that move. I’ve had a permit since 1973 and have never carried. Except to the range. And have been all over the country. (CDL)

  10. First let me say, “Good Article “, and of course I have some disagreements with your opinion as you will with mine.

    While mostly your article is focused on calibers, you do address your girlfriends as well as your own choice of guns. I’m hands down would follow her choice over yours big time.

    The Glock 43 is a great concealed carry weapon, just try wearing a “T” shirt in the hot summer weather all the while trying to avoid scaring the crap out of everyone who sees you as the next lone gunman with your full frame gun looking like you got some huge tumor on your side.

    While I choose the Kimber Mico9 myself, because I feel it the better choice for head shots out to 50 yard. I have no desire to find myself in that one in a million chance of having to close in on a active shooter spraying bullets out of of a AR in some shopping complex.

    As to calibers, while it’s been said that “The best caliber, is the one with you at the time”, I’ll have to go with the idea bigger is always better. Your girlfriend’s 40 SW is way more superior to a 9mm. While I carry a 9mm in my Kimber Micro9, I view it as well as the 38 Special the least acceptable caliber size for self defense.

    My son has carried Berretas and Glocks chambered in 9mm in more countries than I can count on my fingers and toes and discharged tens of thousands of rounds in 9mm, so he and I’ve had this discussion before and he finally after his own research grudgingly admitted that a 9mm is nothing more than a semiautomatic version of the 38 special, in general same caliber, same velocity.

    I’ve always joked that with a 9mm you would need to put enough bullets in the bad guy to weight him down so he couldn’t get away and that’s why Glock has 17 and 21 round magazines.

    I teach self defense, it does no good to show someone how to defend there self, if they don’t practice what you have taught them till it becomes a natural, even a automatic response.

    Case in point, I took a friend of mine who goes close to 300 pounds and had him stand 20 feet away while facing me, while armed with his Glock43 ( no bullets), concealed under his T-shirt, while I at 175 pounds stood facing him with a pocket knife, clipped in my right front pants pocket. I explained to him when he felt threatened to go for his gun and attempt to shoot me. So the seen played out with me calling him a bunch names, you know the crap that can get out of hand in a parking lot between to dumb asses. So from 20 feet I went after him and pulled the knife ( without opening the blade), when I got to him his hand was on the gun trying to pull it out of the holster whereby I trapped his hand and gun using my left hand preventing him from getting his gun free, while at the same time I was stabbing him with the closed pocket knife, his mind was trapped in that one response to my attack of pulling that gun out and could not do anything to protect himself till it was to late. When my friend finally tried to protect himself we ended up falling over the hillside, me on top of him still preventing him from pulling his weapon and me still stabbing the hell out of him.

    I scared the crap out him that day, he found out carrying a gun want protect you from shit, if you don’t get properly trained on how to defend yourself and if possible to avoid situations that could escalate into a life and death encounter.

    By the way, all my friend needed to do was step back with his right leg, the side is gun was on, in to a fighting stance and extend his left arm to hold off his attacker, all the while drawing his firearm, keeping it close to his body, above his holster and out of his attackers reach and then firing his weapon.

    As for as my choice on calibers in full sized guns, I’ll stick with the legendary 45ACP loaded in 185 grain XTP hollow points, more than capable of knocking someone on their backside and still providing a trajectory that I don’t have to do any guessing on where to aim out to 50 yards.

    I’ve killed deer with this and I’m well pleased on how the bullets performed.

    Though I carry a Para Ordnance 45ACP during cooler weather, my favorite two calibers are not available in many different firearms, that being the 38 Super and the 357SIG. Either one, if you can shoot gives you a range out to 75 to 100 yards if you know what your doing with all the death and destruction you could ever need. With any caliber you should choose your bullets for your specific need, again I don’t want to have to go toe to toe with some bad guy that cant shoot worth crap only to have him get lucky and actually shoot my ass.

    While there are a few other calibers like the 10mm that are available, I’ve got some minor problems with them, not that I don’t like them, but they usually cost a lot more or are not available in a wide selection of weapons.

    One last point, I recommend a revolver for women mostly, but also for anyone else that doesn’t get to shoot a lot, unable to practice very much. I recommend it be chambered in either a 44 magnum, 44 special, 357 magnum, or at least a 38 special for one good reason, shot shells.

    If you load the first two rounds available in the cylinder for discharge with shot shells a person who doesn’t shoot much want run the risk of totally missing the attacker and while aiming for the face of the attacker they stand a good chance of blinding the attacker.

    Anyone caught up in a high stress situation where one’s life and death is at risk without a lot of repetitive practice that allows your body to automatically respond in the correct manner to protect yourself, is at a huge disadvantage to an attacker that is basically in control of the situation and is dictating how things will play out, if your not able to defend yourself and change the outcome.

    Case in point, I was at a second home my wife and I had in North Carolina by myself and with out telling my wife, I decided to return to our primary home. I arrived at our home after 1:30 am in the dark of night and entered our home through the garage and then into the laundry room, I had the laundry room light on and when I looked up my wife was trying to shoot me, but the gun would not go off. In her excitement she forgot about the safety on my Berreta, so she is struggling with trying to get the safety off and I see she is not even looking at me, so I figure I better say something before she gets the safety off, so I asked her if she is really going to shoot me? Luckily she recognized my voice or at least giving her pause enough to actually look at me. I thought it was funny once she recognized me, but she about had a nervous breakdown right there and then.

    Lesson learned, I purchased her a Charter Arms 38 special revolver, put in a few shot shells followed by 125 grain hollow points and I never come home late anymore without her knowing when I will be coming through the door.

    Again I think bigger is better when it comes to self defense calibers in a handgun, while there are plenty of other factors to consider, for one my wife couldn’t hold a 44 magnum revolver up long enough to shoot anything let alone consider a second shot. A gun and it’s caliber needs to be chosen with the user’s abilities in mind as well as what it’s primary use will be and where it will be used at. Like many thing there seems to be no single perfect gun for all applications.

    Now to end this way to long response, please all that read this do consider shooting more and practice defensive tactics that mimic scenarios played out in every day life you hear about in the news each and every day, robbery, carjacking, parking lot disagreements just to name a few. Plus one last bit of advice, know the law in your state and how it can effect to you, getting all macho and showing someone your armed is in legal terms,?brandishing a firearm, that can cost you jail time and a ten thousand dollar fine.

    Bigger is still better….

  11. Question: Has anyone comparison tested 9mm ammo in a revolver v semiauto?

    I ask because (1) I favor revolvers and (2) 9mm seems to be about 1/2 way between 38spcl and 357 mag in many of the stats. I just don’t know if that superiority of 9mm over 38spcl carries over to snubby revolvers.

  12. Retired pd. For me I carry 9mm, 380, and 22lr Depends on where I am going and how I am dressed. The 22 and 380 are most carried. Supper accurate, supper fast on follow up shots. Wife carries kel tec p17 because she can not pull the trigger on even a s&w ez 380. She has a muscle disease. I trained her to shoot , 2 left Lung,
    2 center, 2 right lung, 2 head . As fast as she can. Then repeat if needed.

  13. If you and your girlfriend have to carry that much weaponry you must live in a terrible place. Do you also drive a armored personal carrier to the grocery store, you know, just in case? I think I’d find another place to live if I were you. Just saying. I’ve got weapons but I live in a pretty safe area and don’t feel the need to carry every time I leave the house.

  14. I would Still trust a .25 over a .22 but hey if those are the only calibers you have at the time it’s better than having none at all that also includes a .380

  15. There are very few one-shot kills. Shot placement is important. Bad things never happen at a good time and happen very quickly. You might not get the best placement with the first shot.
    You might not have the best grip on the weapon. AS Wyatt Earp said (take your time in a hurry).
    Follow up shots may be required to put the offender down.
    Nine MM. is the absolute minimum defensive round I would consider.
    I bought a Sig 365 to replace my 1911 Commander in .38 Super +P.
    It was one of the first Lightweight Commanders built and got too valuable to carry.
    I find the Sig 365 hand grip a little small for my hands to grip. The 15-round magazine makes it easer
    to draw the weapon.
    I liked the My 1911’s in .38 Super because it’s more powerful than the 9MM and the lock time is much faster with less noticeable recoil making follow up shots quickly and on target.
    I have a 6-inch 1911 in 10MM. that shoots very nicely with 185 grain ammo.
    I carry a full-size Colt Government in .38 Super often. Also, my Long Slide .10MM 1911.
    My 75-year-old hands don’t work as good as they used to, but I can grip and shoot my handguns well. The P 365 works Okay for me, but that now I’m officially a geezer I still preferer my1911’s

  16. There is a saying in street racing , “Run What You Brung!” Same principal in a gunfight, “Shoot What You Got!” One drill I use is quite simple. Lineup your first shot and fire. Then close your eyes and do a mag dump, or cylinder empty. Then see how your group looks. PRACTICE until you can consistently get a fist sized group. Closing your eyes is similar to the flash blindness you will get shooting in a dark or near dark Room. I am not saying this is perfect but it will make you a better shooter.

  17. Better to have it and not need it…….
    .327 Federal is the perfect choice in your snubbie……shoots like a .38 Special, hits like a .357 mag (almost)! I have a couple new Kimber Micro 9s but take the factory advice and run lots of hardball through the tube for break-in…..same goes for their 1911 .45s. They are tight due to close tolerances in their manufacture.and practice never hurts. That said,my Kimber Custom .45 is the go-to handgun at home, stoked with good ol’ Golden Saber 185 grain+p fodder! That’s if I can’t get to one of my shotguns. Guns cause crime like flies cause garbage! 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

    Never commented before to my recollection!

  18. Better to have it and not need it…….
    .327 Federal is the perfect choice in your snubbie……shoots like a .38 Special, hits like a .357 mag (almost)! I have a couple new Kimber Micro 9s but take the factory advice and run lots of hardball through the tube for break-in…..same goes for their 1911 .45s. They are tight due to close tolerances in their manufacture.and practice never hurts. That said,my Kimber Custom .45 is the go-to handgun at home, stoked with good ol’ Golden Saber 185 grain+p fodder! That’s if I can’t get to one of my shotguns. Guns cause crime like flies cause garbage! 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

  19. My personal take is – it makes far less difference what you carry than people assert. A couple of points: (1) why is expansion always such a big deal? For example, if a .355 bullet expands to .44, why is that any better than a .45 wadcutter that doesn’t expand at all? (2) I like to carry target ammo. For one thing, it’s usually lower recoil and far less likely to be labelled “rambo ammo”, especially if you actually do shoot targets. My favs here are the Federal Syntek flat-nose (148 or 150 grain) in 9mm and 148 or 150 grain wadcutters in 38 spcl revolvers. These loads are subsonic, relatively low recoil, and way down the scale from “rambo” loads. I like the Federal Punch in 22 mag 7- or 8-shot revolvers.
    Somebody famous once said – nobody likes to leak.

  20. I am probably going to irritate folks, but I spent 20+ years plus as a big city cop. Seen all sort of shot people over those years. My take is carry/shoot what you have. The percentage of high/insane folks ho have attacked people s small. Most of the time it s a gangbanger or opportunity robber. No-one wants to be shot, least of all an attacker, he has to go to a hospital and explain how he had been injured. If you have a .380, a .22 or a .32, use it. The odds are great that the attacker will flee. You takes your chances with home defense. If you have a 38, .9mm, .40 or .45, good for you, if you can use it. Whatever you have, use it. Heck, keep a machete handy and use it. Anything is better than risking death by not resisting. Hope this isn’t too long long but I have spent decades in South L.A. and have consistently believed that fighting back is your best bet!

  21. I think the writer of this article needs to do a little more research on ammo selection. There was no mention of the Federal Punch rounds currently out for self defense along with Norma rounds that resemble the end of a phillips screwdriver. Just my thoughts.

  22. I confess to being old school. My Browning HP 9mm is kept loaded with some carefully saved up Remington BP’s or the police only +P+. Either will do the job. I stocked up on these years ago. The 115g +p+ equals the ballistics of the 357 Sig.

  23. Good day Mr. Bippy!
    Just a quick response to remind you of what was determined by the FBI after the infamous Miami massacre many years ago. Because a number of agents were out-gunned and murdered, the FBI vowed to never again send their agents out into the field under-armed, they performed exhaustive weapon/caliber/ammo tests to determine the best caliber and weapon combination for their agents to carry. Long story short, it was determined “hands-down” the 10mm and the Smith & Wesson 1006 to be the ideal man/threat stopper!! Just a reminder for you because your article never mentioned the absolute tactical superiority of the 10mm cartridge!! For 20+years, working High-Profile security details in Las Vegas, my duty weapon was a full-sized Glock Model 20 loaded with a low-penetrating 135 grain Nosler HP. Off duty, concealed carry and to this day, I carry the Glock Model 29 sub-compact also in 10mm loaded with a 155 Speer Gold Dot loaded by Underwood……….

  24. Lots of great information here I believe. I wouldn’t carry ANY gun that I wouldn’t want to get in a firefight with. I like Lefty and Dennis’ comments as I sometimes I carry .41 mag or a Glock 20 in 10mm. I don’t feel under armed at all unless I’m in the Chugach Mountains of Alaska. But like Lefty, I feel safe around my family with my .44 Spc snub and speedloaders. I use Buffalo Bore ammo in it. It also shoots well for me. The backup for that is a 3″ .357. Also have M & P’s in 9 and 40 as I like a thumb safety similar to my 1911. 1911’s are just to heavy for me though, I do not like having my pants pulled down. I have a .380 and .32 but have never carried them, or my .500 S & W either. My novice gut feeling is that 9mm or .40 is about the minimum that I would carry. (Not .38 Special though) –Good stuff

  25. Oy… the p****** contest Biggie and Bo had going was entertaining. I’ve shot and shot at people, I’ve been shot at and shot. None of it pleasant. Shot at with a .40 at about 8 ft in a small room…luckily the shooter was a terrible shot and missed by about a foot to my left at belt buckle height. Muzzle blast was horrible and a ruptured ear drum came of it. Loud isn’t the word. Shooter was taken down with no return shots fired. On serving a warrant one evening I was hit center mass with a 9mm. Wearing soft armor only it put me on my back. No fractured sternum but turned about half a dozen shades of bruised. Personally, I still carry one of three options… an S&W SD chambered in .40, a Shield Plus in 9mm, and an M206 6 shot revolver chambered in .38spl. While I’m not exactly a 9mm fan, Honestly I don’t feel undergunned carrying the Shield Plus with 124gr Federal Hydra-Shok and wouldn’t feel undergunned carrying the .38spl revolver with 125gr Federal Nyclad standard pressure if I could find a holster I actually liked. I prefer the .40 cartridge and carried it on duty for years and still carry it on occasion with 180gr Winchester Ranger but the SD is a fullsize frame so it’s not as often. I most definitely wouldn’t feel undergunned with it but out of the three I’m least accurate with the 9mm although more than capable of hitting what I aim at. Any of the three I have confidence will be plenty adequate… I certainly don’t plan on hanging around within arms reach to get my brains bashed in to find out if they were not. Those that have been killed by their attacker after shooting them kind of missed something somewhere along the way… like use your weapon and then if at all possible retreat to a safe distance/location… not stand there and attempt to evaluate the effectiveness of their caliber of choice.

  26. As the old adage goes in real estate, “Location, location, location,” it applies in self-defense as well. Put the round in the right location.

  27. If U think that Harry home owner will get off more than one round from a 357, 45, or 44mag, u are dreaming. The blast and kickback from high powered guns is frightening
    to the unprepared. Therefore
    They should look at guns around the 380 size. Having seen members firing these
    high powered guns with with
    loud reports and hard kickbacks, (and they have missed the target anyway) they are not ready to fire another round for minutes, and they would be dead anyway. I am not talking —-
    about the person who goes to the range and practices often.
    But Harry home owner.
    God Bless them!

  28. Okay, I get that. But from what I have seen in more than 30 years in ER, and have been told by cops in at least a half dozen different municipalities, you are far more likely to be the first fatality if you ever have to shoot that gun at another person than whomever at whom you shoot it . I have seen that too many times.

    People have trusted that round to protect themselves right up until they were being beat to death or shot with a different gun. I did see one case where the shootee actually took the gun away from the shooter and killed him by putting the gun in the original shooter’s mouth and emptying the magazine straight into the victim’s brain. He was DRT when the cops got there. We got the shootee and shipped him to surgery. The cops arrested him for murder before he was discharged from the hospital.

    From what I, and many others, have seen the .32 is the last bad choice of dead people everywhere. Just saying…

  29. You keep missing the point, if you can’t use something that you and I both consider better than a 32 well use a the 32. Your keep saying use something better isn’t changing the fact I can’t.

  30. Oh my, Biggie,
    I was correct in my assumption that you were totally missing my point. Your last comment proves it. My point, from the very beginning, was, and always will be, that anyone who carries a .25 or .32 is more at risk from being killed by the shootee than the shootee is from dying from being shot with those calibers. I believe that those calibers are more dangerous to the shooter than to anyone the shooter is trying to shoot; ERGO, get a REAL gun that has a higher potential for lethality and can inflict enough damage that it will stop an attack, not infuriate someone enough to kill you. I have seen that SO many times. I do not want you to draw your gun, shoot someone and have them KILL you with either a different, more powerful weapon or just plain BEAT you to death with their bare hands before they even realize that their wound has potential to be serious.

    I believe you are more at risk carrying a .32 or a .25 than when you are NOT carrying, and that is why I wanted you to upgrade your weapon… to remove that elevated risk. I am not saying don’t carry. I am saying GET A BETTER GUN, preferably, a real one with more reliability than that .32 ACP, AKA the last bad choice of dead people everywhere.

  31. And when push comes to shove as you say, and I had to resort to using a gun, feel free to explain to my family that I wasn’t carrying anything because your principles decided that an armless sheep is better.

  32. Biggie,
    Okay, no more trying to convince you. One favor, though. Tell your family how you won this argument with me. That way, if and when push comes to shove and you have to resort to using your gun, they will understand that you stood on your principles to the very end… of your life.

  33. Bo
    I have no idea what I need to do to convince you that I am in agreement with you right up to the point you say nothing is better than something. If it is ALL ONE CAN USE, your never going to get me to say I should let someone kill me because Bo said a 32 isn’t as adequate as something I can’t use.

  34. What the… Biggie?
    “Your smoke and mirrors for hard proof is nonsensical.” No, that comment is nonsensical. I have given you real-life, real world experiences in an area where you have NO experience, by your own admission. My experience in this matter goes back to 1971. I did not realize that life experiences of others are all smoke and mirrors or is it just for those whose life experiences cast doubt on your own biases that you reserve the term smoke and mirrors?
    You seem to think there is not a lot of hard data, on the major rounds. Go to YouTube and punch in the major calibers and ballistic tests. You should be able to find a lot.
    But, I am still getting the feeling that you have missed a lot of what I have been saying.

    Let me recap:
    #1. There are two calibers that in the last 50 years that I have seen to be more likely to cause the death of the shooter rather than the shootee. They are .25 ACP and .32 ACP. As I said, “They are the last bad choice of dead people everywhere.” I am not alone in that assessment. I have known Police Officers who, when they found out certain people were using those calibers for self-defense, almost begged the person to get a different caliber weapon because that gun would get them killed. When they were telling me about it, they reported that frequently that is what happened. They hated that gun because it gave people a sense of security and that sense was… I think you described well when you said, “smoke and mirrors”. That is all the security you will get from a .32, SMOKE AND MIRRORS. Would you use a ¾” wooden dowel to protect yourself from a rabid German Shepherd? No, you would at least try to grab a baseball bat, tire tool, jack handle, something of substance. The .32 is the ¾” dowel of guns. The .25 ACP is a ¼” dowel.

    #2. I am not saying that a .45 is the answer for everyone. That is my choice, for me. I understand that even the Army decided that some people could not handle that round and they went to the 9 mm. I accept that.

    #3. You describe yourself as being less than the prime physical specimen. I am 70, and am nowhere close to being in the physical condition I was even 10 years ago. You also seem to think that you know how you will respond should that situation arise. No one knows what they will do until it happens. In my experience, that is a make or break, life and/or death crisis that requires all of one’s emotional and physical resources. Being able to swat a rabid German Shepherd with a ¾” dowel is not using adequate physical resources for the situation.

    #4. You admit that there is no data to support your unfounded beliefs and you maintain without any evidence to support those beliefs that your weapon is better than nothing. I have tried to relate what I, and others, have seen concerning your choice, but somehow, you think that in spite of the experience of others who have seen what can happen using the same resources you are holding onto, your case will be different and those examples will not apply to you. It is alleged that Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.”

    I have been trying to show you a reality that you are refusing to acknowledge and I do not understand why you think that you are so different from those people who died trusting the same weapon on which you want to rely.

  35. Bo

    Your smoke and mirrors for hard proof is nonsensical. Sorry not a lot of data laying around from 1930’s. Even today after your whole progression of bigger is better that once again I AGREE with you would be hard pressed to find data on the major defense rounds 45, 40, 9mm and 38/357. The lesser rounds even less, as they are not used as much for a good reason. They are not as effective. Not sure I can make it any more clear that I agree.

    Let me bottom line it for you. You are never going to convince me that nothing is better than something. Are all something’s equal, no. Yes that means some something’s are better than others. I have always agreed with you on what is more effective. The caveat is if you can use that something effectively. Not sure what good a 45 would do if I can’t hit anything with it. Carry is different than home defense. Break in, my S&W 586 is what I’m reaching for. Still shoot that very well and it has never jammed or failed to go boom.

  36. Oh, Biggie, Biggie, Biggie…
    I will go back to the statement I made in response to your first comment to me, “…my question, then, is what life experience has led you to the conclusions you have? Do you have hard data, as in case studies, where these rounds proved effective. Because, I have seen no data anywhere which indicate that those rounds will be efficacious for anything other than target practice.” You have given me not a single example of a situation in our lifetime that shows these rounds are efficacious.

    BTW, what you refer to as my “antidotal evidence” (the word is actually anecdotal, meaning based on personal experience rather than facts or research,) is still more than you have been able to present. You presented a case that there might possibly be those who were not injured. I would like to see your data on that. As I said, “I have had many cops working those shooting agree with us about that (.25 and .32 ACP) being the victim’s last bad choice.
    How do you explain how Police Officers in three different cities had all come to the same conclusion about those rounds? And yes, we did see most of those cops many times, they patrolled in our area and we knew most of them rather well. And I would talk about guns with most of them. Also, I went out shooting with a number of them at their invite to the Police range.

    When you say that the .32 has been used by various Police forces, including NYPD. Did you ever consider WHY they quit issuing this weapon? I will tell you why. It DID NOT DO the job. Have you found any evidence anywhere to prove that statement wrong? I do not care about what was used formerly by anyone. The double action .38 caliber pistols used by the US Army were found to be getting more soldiers killed in the Philippines during the Spanish American war. That was what the ARMY found and they upgraded to a weapon that had a better chance of eliminating a threat to our men on the battlefield. You may heard of the weapon that replaced the .38, it was a .45 ACP in Model 1911. Please, tell me what makes the .32 ACP more reliable than the .38 that the Army was using then? My arguments hold more water and are based on more evidence than what you have presented.

    If you are going to quote me, please maintain the context of what I was saying. The statement as you edited, would lead me to believe if I was reading it for the first time, something other than what I was stating. The entire statement was “Time and again, I have seen cases where people died thinking that their weapon would protect them and it DID NOT. In fact, if it did anything, it almost guaranteed the shooter was going to die.” That statement as written is true and ACCURATE. Those people who used that gun as a means of self-defense made a choice which led to their death. If they had chosen a better weapon, they probably would have had a higher chance for survival. Telling me it is not so, does not make it not so. I have asked for hard data, and you have failed to provide that.

    You asked me, “1) How is me having a 32ACP more likely to make me more dead?” I believe I have answered that but I will try again. If you shoot someone and he does not go to the ground immediately, because he is on drugs, alcohol, or whatever, or he was not mortally wounded, as I said, whatever, there is a chance that all you have done is P!$$ him off. And now he is mad. AT YOU! You have hurt him! How are you going to deal with him when he comes at you, bent on killing you. What are you going to do? What will you do if he grabs ahold of you, (remember you said you “cannot outrun a turtle”) and he proceeds to beat you to death because he outweighs you by 80-100 lbs and those bullets with which you shot him were slowed down just enough by his his fat that he will not die until after you are dead, that is, IF he dies at all. This is the scenario I have seen multiple times and have been presenting from the beginning. I asked for hard evidence to prove me wrong. I still have not seen any evidence.

    If you are going out on a lake and you trust your life to a life preserver that should have been recalled as it has no buoyancy but will sink as soon as it gets wet, will it save your life because you believe it to be good? Uh, NO! You would be better off trying to go it alone because that life preserver will insure that you will drown. The .32 ACP is a non-floating imitation life preserver that in my experience will sink you to the bottom of the lake. Again, I ask for evidence to prove me wrong.

    You have presented less than anecdotal evidence of the efficacy of the round you have chosen. I do not understand the faith you are placing in a round that history has shown time and again to be unreliable. I hope you never have to use that gun to defend yourself, because I do not hold out any hope that you will survive in that case. That thought kind of makes me sad.

  37. You do realize the 32, ACP in Europe and .32 S&W Long like Colt New Police Revolver issued to the NYCP has been around for a long time. Your saying all the people that were ever shot by one, it’s “almost guaranteed the shooter was going to die.” No. Not even close. Your antidotal evidence is great. You see a lot of people in the ER that have been shot. Now what of the guy who shoots his attacker and does not get shot, knifed or beat. Didn’t see him in the ER how did he get figured into your list. You don’t see that cop after.
    “To say something is better than nothing…” YES! Your analogies don’t hold water:
    1) How is me having a 32ACP more likely to make me more dead? Guy comes intent on doing harm and to stab me. I would answer something is better than nothing in that case. The others are just foolish.

    I own a Taurus 92 in 9mm. Bought it while in Navy shortly after Army went with the Beretta. I liked it better. At that time it had frame mounted thumb safety that that worked like a 1911. I think newer ones have a decocker incorporated into it now. Also have my cousin’s Beretta 92. He was a Marine who was in a bad accident when stationed in Hawaii, because of TBI he is not allow to keep it. I can still shoot those fairly well, but can’t carry that all day.
    I live in Mass-of-two-shits so what one can buy is limited. I would go with a CZ P-01 Ω Convertible (Omega) if it was allowed here. Liked shooting friends a lot. It meets my requirements:
    Have a hammer, I dislike striker fired guns.
    Have enough grip area for my hand, don’t like ring or even pinky hanging off if possible.
    Not a fan of decocker.

    Thinking aluminum frame like my old commander depending on size. Last carry was an Astra 70 in 40S&W. Tends to be a bit now also it is all steel, so bit heavy. I would go 9mm if I saw something that worked for me, but it also has to be approved. Would move if wasn’t for family here. I just shot Beretta 81 and loved it. Think the make one they will sell here in .380 but only the single stack. Hate to buy something I have never shot before.

  38. @Biggie,
    I have not missed your point. Not at all. My point has NOT BEEN to say that .45 ACP in the answer for everyone’s situation. I understand that there are some who, for reasons you mentioned and many others, cannot shoot a .45 ACP. My point is… in my experience, people who use a .25 or .32 ACP for self-defense are more likely to die after shooting someone with it than the person who is shot with it. I have seen multiple people shot with it who killed the person who shot them before they died, that is IF the person who was shot died, and many did not. I am talking about people shot multiple times center of mass. Time and again, I have seen cases where people died thinking that their weapon would protect them and it DID NOT. In fact, if it did anything, it almost guaranteed the shooter was going to die.

    To say something is better than nothing… Well, let me put it a different way. If you had an inkling that the weapon you were carrying was just as, if not more, likely to make you dead than having nothing, would you still carry it? I say that because we had a saying in the ER about the .25 and .32. calibers. It went something like this… They are the last bad choice of dead people everywhere. And it didn’t seem to matter if there were a lot of hits, the shooter always seemed to be dead before the person they shot. I have had many cops working those shooting agree with us about that being the victim’s last bad choice.

    Let me reframe the situation. What would you say if your 21 year old daughter said she was marrying a 53 year old man who has been divorced 10 times. Is her love for and belief in him going to make him reliable? Consider the history… She has a better chance of that marriage lasting 50 years than anyone who relies on a .25 or .32 ACP to stop an attack has of surviving that attack.

    Let me give you another analogy. Would you allow your daughter or your grandmother to go out during a blizzard to drive a hundred miles knowing the car she was driving had bald tires, a bad battery, no heater, and less than 2 gallons of gas in the tank? She says she HAS to make the trip and that is all she has to do it. That is what carrying a .25 or .32 is, bald tires, a bad battery, and no heater or gas.

    As far as caliber, I am not a fan of 9 mm, but it has a much higher potential for stopping an attacker. Have you considered any weapon in that caliber? There are some good rounds out that are starting to show some promise. I just don’t want to see good people dying because they mistakenly placed their faith in something that had a long history of unreliability like a .25 or .32 ACP.

  39. Bo
    You totally missed my point. “As you seem to disagree” I don’t. I told you I agree with you on which calibers work best. My point is if you can’t hit what you shoot at with those calibers for other reasons, then it isn’t the best option unless your hoping the noise scares them. I love my 95 year old grand mother. She cant heft a handgun of any of the significant caliber or rack the slide on any of those pistol. MY POINT is if all she can do is use a Walther PPK well then that’s better than going oh well it is not a 45 so why bother.
    Yes all your data and years of experience are correct. The 32ACP is not a 45APC. Not even same zip code. I am not relying on manufacture data or Great uncle Bob’s friend that says he killed someone instantly during the war with his Colt 1903 general officers pistol.
    I say prepare as best one can. Most cops suck at shooting in my experience. They go to the range once a year and qualify. Unless they are a gun person. Their hit ratio has always sucked and got worse when they went to pistols from revolvers. More ammo to miss with. Why I practice.
    “I am talking hard data to support your belief that it will do the job, why do you carry at all?” So if I can’t shoot my 45 anymore your answer is to not carry at all. Sorry That is just wrong. I would rather take my chance with something than nothing.
    No, I don’t think that I will not experience “fight or flight” response. I do hope my lifetime of past things will help me. I do not tend to panic in situations. During a drill on my sub we lost all power. I would say we all kept pretty calm and continued with our duties to restore stuff. Having been a first responder at work I didn’t panic when people were injured in machines. I even even managed to find the guys thumb. Granted that was not me getting hurt. My only other reason to think this is because of how I am. Your grand mother would probably pass me. I can’t out run a turtle. I don’t have any flight in me. Not saying I won’t get the heart rate increase and tunnel vision and all the rest. This is where I hope, yeah hope, muscle memory and all the practice takes over. Why else would the Army spend so much time on it.

  40. Although the book may be somewhat dated,”Handgun Stopping Power “by Evans&Marshall used actual morgue autopsy results “for one shot center of chest” stops.Yes ammunition has improved,in some cases,since the book was written and Jeff Cooper was opinionated about the 45ACP/1911 pistol.
    Nonetheless,I’ll stick with >=357Mag in a revolver,45ACP in an auto.For revolver snubbies:44Special or 45Colt.Already having glaucoma,cataracts,hearing loss:muzzle flash and muzzleblast are concerns.Incidentally,glaucoma reduces color vision[red,brown]so red dot sights/lasers are of no use to me.

  41. @Biggie,
    To continue thoughts on your post; the human body is an amazing things. And we, as humans, are somewhat under the control of the autonomic nervous system. One part of that is the sympathetic nervous system; this is what controls the “fight or flight” response. This is where it takes over your heart rate, respiratory rate, pupillary response among other things. This is not something that anyone can control, at least not initially. After going through certain stressful situations multiple times, one’s body becomes acclimated to the stimulation and is able to deal with it better. But that first time, there is adrenaline dumped into your system that raises your heart rate and respirations as your body gets ready to go into action. People develop tunnel vision because the sympathetic nervous system is doing that. Not something anyone can control the first several times they go through that kind of stress.

    The only people who do not seem to experience this phenomenon are those mass shooters who are doing it for God knows what reason. They are either sociopaths or psychopaths who do not feel what the rest of us do. Some of them do not feel at all. Columbine comes to mind and proves my point there.

    And there are a few who seem to think that there are different emotions one goes through on the battlefield than someone in a home invasion. Not really. If you have not been in either one of those, why would anyone think that? But many people do. Both situations are high stress affairs that trigger the sympathetic nervous system, and the physical dynamics regardless of the cause are the same.

    I have talked to a number of police officers who have been in just one police shooting, and you know what, they seem to have experienced what many vets go through, that is how those conversations came up. In some ways, it is harder on the officer, because they only experienced that one incident. Most of the vets that I know who have had the worst time dealing with the aftermath were the guys who only had a single contact and they forever see that one person’s face, ingrained in their memory for the rest of their life. Some of them could not deal with that and unfortunately joined the ranks of the highest demographic for suicide in the US. Twenty two vets choose to take their life every day. Many of them only saw that one face in their memory until the end.

    You talk about practicing for muscle memory and that is true. Don’t know if you know this but in the Army, we spent 6 weeks of Basic Training on the range just developing our muscle memory for using our weapon. That is 6 weeks, forty hours a week developing muscle memory. That was separate from other training like hand to hand, first aid, basic survival, and other classes on recognizing various kinds of threats. Not to mention PT. If that soldier goes into an infantry MOS, 11 Bravo was what it was when I was in, they have another 14 weeks or so, of training, reinforcing muscle memory, that is far more training in a concentrated time than most civilians will experience in their lifetime. And guess what, even after that, the first time they see action, the sympathetic nervous system takes over and they go through all of that that I have discussed. The Army and the Marines probably do a better job at working on muscle memory for those high stress situation than anyone else anywhere. And soldiers still go through “Fight or Flight” because they are human.

    The sympathetic takes over in times of high stress, and drawing down on another person is about as high stress as most of us will ever experience, trust me on that, as I have had more than one occasion to draw down on other people. And if I ever have to do it again, I will probably go through the same things everyone else does as it has been many years since I have done that.

    What I fail to understand is how so many people who have never experienced something, can somehow think they will be in the 0.00001% of the population who will not experience what the other 99.999999% have been shown to experience. But I see it a great deal when people think they will be different from EVERYONE else if they are the one who gets in that situation. You won’t be.

    You said, ” Doesn’t mean you lose it all.” That is correct but you don’t retain it all either, (ALL being the operative word) and there is no way to tell what you will lose or retain until the time comes. Everyone falls back on default training and sometimes that is what gets them through it. If you have not been battle tested, you don’t know what you will do. Don’t be one who thinks they will be different that almost every other person in the world.

  42. @Biggie,
    The point I have been trying to make (and I feel too many people are deaf to it because it challenges a bias that they do not want to face) is that there are some calibers that people use and really want to believe that it will be adequate, but they are not wanting to hear the truth that it doesn’t work and has a long history of not working. I am not saying what I am to put people down or, as you put it, to disparage their caliber choice, I am saying it to save people’s lives. I don’t want anyone to be a statistic on a police blotter or a DOA in the Emergency Department because they trusted a sub-par round for self-defense and died as a result of that choice.

    I have spent more than 30 years seeing people die from choosing the wrong caliber. I was pointing out that in my experience, rounds such as .22’s, .25, .32, .38, and .380, more times than not were more dangerous to the shooter than to the shootee, as in, the shooter also ended up dead, killed by the shootee, after shooting him with that round.

    As you seem to disagree, my question, then, is what life experience has led you to the conclusions you have? Do you have hard data, as in case studies, where these rounds proved effective. Because, I have seen no data anywhere which indicate that those rounds will be efficacious for anything other than target practice. But I have seen well into the hundreds of cases where real people died because they trusted a round that was completely inadequate when it came down to the real deal. It is too late when the hammer is dropped and the bullet has exited the barrel to find out all you have done is really p!$$ off someone, who might well die from it, but not before he spends his last bit of life to kill you before that happens. I have seen that too many times and that has been the rule rather than the exception for those rounds in my real life experience in the ER.

    If you are basing your choices on an ammo manufacturer’s claims about what their round will do on paper, or if it is a gut feeling, or based on something your uncle Joe told you that his cousin’s brother-in-law’s other cousin said about it, it will have a high probability to get you killed. Show me the data in real life shooting cases for your chosen rounds and prove me wrong. If you can’t, you have a problem.

    I don’t get why anyone would take comfort in using a round that has been shown more times than not to NOT DO THE JOB? Is your decision driven by data or the romance of that round? Again, if you are choosing a round based on anything other than it has been proven by multiple cases over several years, I am talking hard data to support your belief that it will do the job, why do you carry at all?

  43. Bo not sure being in a war equates to stopping a home invasion. I like most of, and agree with what you said. I believe a .460 S&W Magnum will take care pretty much any problem. Am I carrying that cannon around, no. Do I want to blow a hole through mine and the neighbors house, no. So yes some calibers are better than others. Doesn’t mean you need to be to disparage every other center fire caliber. I do believe shot placement can help diminutive calibers. Otherwise what is the point of practice but if not to hit what you shoot at and not some bystander. You practice for muscle memory. Is everything going to happen perfectly as on the range, no. Doesn’t mean you lose it all.

    At some point there is a tipping point. When I was in the Navy I shot a .45 1911 very well, had one built for me. Even then did not like shooting buddies model 29 unless I used .44 special. That was quite a few years ago now. At this stage in my life shooting more than a magazine or two well is hard out of my 1911. I do not consider that adequate practice. Not as strong as I once was and recoil bothers me more. I find it much easier to shoot something not as punishing there by getting much more practice. I get the benefit of being able to take faster second shots and carrying more rounds. I’ve settled on a Beretta Cheetah in .32ACP, just under a 4″ barrel. Is it the ideal drop them in there tracks round, not by a long shot. I do think with a good hollow point like Hornady Critical Defense XTP or Winchester Silver Tips I have upped its ability significantly. This was a round that served as a police and military cartridge in Europe for around 90 years with FMJ rounds. Ideal, in my case yes.

  44. @Kevin,

    I don’t know for sure, but it seems to me that you have not read anything else I have posted. Let me give you some history. Fifty years ago, I went into the Army where I was trained to be a medic. When I was overseas, as I have said on numerous occasions, it was long ago and far, far away, I was assigned to a team that was trained in Search and Rescue, as well as Recon. I was issued a 1911A1. We were all armed with real weapons that fired real ammo. I was in the field a lot. The Army was my first exposure to real GSW’s.

    After reading your comments, I would say that if I was a betting man, I would bet that #1. You have never been in a firefight, and #2. you have never seen a patient with a real GSW. Reading about them doesn’t count, nor does playing video games, or watching war movies on any screen.

    After I got out of the Army, I worked in busy civilian ER’s for more than 30 years, and in that time, I saw hundreds of patients with GSW’s. I have no idea how many chests I have seen cracked in order to save the patients life, but probably in the dozens. I was one of the designated nurses to perform open chest cardiac massage as soon as the doc cracked the chest.

    In your “General comment;” you state “Any caliber will work for self defense, if you know how to use it, and hit what you aim at. Proper shot placement will do more.” My question to you is this based on your personal experience, that is, have you lived through that experience, or did you just hear about it, read about it or intuit it.

    You sound like what we called a “Cherry” soldier. I was going to say something else but I will keep this G rated. I am telling you what I have seen first-hand. A lot of guys arrived in country and tried to put up a brave face and “be a man.” Many young men went overseas and thought it was no big deal to kill someone until they did it or died because they hesitated when the initial incoming enemy fire started. Every person’s attitude changes remarkably after initial contact with less than friendly forces. Things you thought you knew, you will find do match up with your new reality. This new reality is tough and many people do NOT deal with it well at all. That is why 22 vets take their own life every day.

    To talk about shot placement during a live fire conflict shows you do not have any idea what happens to you when you draw a weapon on another human being. I have been shot at and I did not like it one bit, I still don’t. It doesn’t sound like you have been there in that situation. Let me see if I can paint a picture of what it is like for you.

    You draw your weapon, it is locked and loaded; as you point your weapon at your perceived target, you start to develop tunnel vision, every one of your other senses are dulled and time passage is completely altered. It is possible to get shot in a firefight and not be aware of the injury until it is over or until you keel over. A friend of mine stepped on a landmine, blew his left foot off and he was still trying to get up to fight them when someone grabbed him and dragged him to cover. He wasn’t aware his leg was gone until after he had his first morphine and the tourniquet was being applied.

    When you point your weapon at another human being for the first time, and drop the jammer, you may or may not be aware if you fired it. You may or may not remember if you even used the sights on your weapon, mostly because your tunnel vision made the sights difficult, if not impossible, to see. You may or may not have noticed when you pointed your weapon, the barrel was rising up and down as you were trying to bring it to hear on your target. That is from your heartbeat causing you to raise and lower it with each pulse. If you are breathing at all here, that also interferes with aiming the weapon. At some point in time, you will be aware that you ears are ringing, depending on how much participation on the part of those around you was taking place. You may even vomit up your guts all the way down to include your toenails afterward.

    I have some questions for you. What real world experience do you have that correlates with or casts a shadow of doubt on what I have just presented. I want what you yourself have lived through. You say all these calibers (“22LR or .22 WMR, or a .32 or .380”) are good choices. That leads me to ask this, do you know anyone who has actually used them to stop or even thwart an attack. I have treated people who were shot with those calibers who then killed the person who shot them before the cops arrived. And some of them actually died from their wounds. The shooter was dead, and that tells me it was not a good choice, and ineffective at stopping or thwarting an attack.

    So, I ask, in those cases, their choice of caliber was good for who? The only I know who will benefit is the undertaker. He will have one client for sure, that is the shooter, and hey, who knows, the undertaker might get lucky and the shootee will also be his client.

    You sound very sure of yourself, but have you been there? If you have not walked that path, how can you “know” what you would do in that situation? That is something akin to someone who has never driven on snow telling someone who has what they did wrong when their car slid into a ditch.

  45. When the commentary title includes “Self Defense Calibers” and the article title doesn’t specifically say that the issue is concealed carry or even open carry, then the subject should consider concealed carry, open carry, and home defense. The commentary as written seems to focus only on concealed carry or slightly on open carry. The commentary makes more sense in this context, but when I am asked about the general topic of self-defense calibers, I don’t limit myself that way.

    From what I’ve read in many places, I think that there are four calibers that should be considered the “Big Four” of self-defense. These are the 9mm, the .40 S&W, the .45 ACP, and the .357 Magnum. With jacketed hollow-point ammunition, these calibers will generally do the job if the person shooting in self-defense does his or her job of putting a bullet into the 9 or 10 ring of the attacker’s torso. With the .357 Magnum, I would rather be shooting from a gun with a four to six inch long barrel, but a revolver with a two-inch barrel will likely do the job. For home self-defense, a .357 Magnum with a four-inch barrel and a good home defense plan is still an excellent choice. People can point out exceptions where an attacker took shots from one of these calibers and kept fighting. Those unlikely scenarios cannot be the basis of rational choices.

    A year ago, I would have recommended the 9mm as the top choice of these four because the 9mm was the most available and the least expensive. I believe that the person with a 9mm who has shot 500 rounds in training will generally be more effective than a person with any other caliber who has shot only 100 rounds in training. If we get back to a time when 9mm ammunition is readily available and affordable, this caliber will be my top recommendation once again.

    Just behind these top four choices for self-defense would be numerous other calibers. The two most popular of these would be .380 ACP and .38 Special. These calibers are lesser calibers both by the numbers and in real-world experience. I’ve seen tests that suggest that a .38 Special with a 158 grain, lead round nose bullet is just as effective as many hollowpoints from a snub-nosed revolver. The .380 ACP seems to have a little more effective hollowpoint ammunition, but the short barrels of some of these guns can lead to low velocity and poor expansion. Even so, I believe that these calibers will do the job most of the time in self-defense situations.

    A range of other less popular calibers are worth mentioning. The .327 Federal Magnum has great ballistics numbers. The real world data is lacking because this caliber isn’t as popular, but I suspect that this caliber would do fine in self-defense, particularly if fired from a revolver with a four-inch barrel. The .44 Special should perform fairly well in self-defense. Again, the data is sparse, but when the defender does his/her job of putting a shot into the center of an attacker’s torso, I believe that the bullet will do the job of stopping the attack. The same could be true for the old .45 Colt caliber. I disagree with the authors about the 9mm Makarov. The speed and bullet weight are there. This round will perform slightly better than a .380 ACP. Maybe finding good hollowpoint bullets is difficult, but if one finds them, they have a good chance of doing the job. For home defense in rural areas, calibers like the .41 Magnum, the .44 Magnum, and the 10mm are worth considering. In a rural area with a home defense plan that has missed shots and bullets through attackers going towards open areas, the power of these calibers is not a problem. Reduced power loadings are also available. In outdoor settings where self-defense could be against two or four footed attackers, the extra power could be an advantage. While we don’t always think of 5.7×28 when we’re thinking of self-defense calibers, I think this caliber could be plenty effective. I know that finding hollowpoint ammunition in 7.62×25 is difficult, but I wouldn’t rule out this caliber as an effective choice for self-defense.

    Once upon a time, we thought of self-defense in terms of stopping someone like the former Green Beret from the 1886 Miami shootout or someone high on PCP or bath salts. While those people still exist and could be possible attackers, the world has changed. We’re going to be seeing more people who are just desperate as the economy tanks. Despite his rhetoric, Obama allowed fracking and that raised the economy. As Biden becomes more and more captive of the extremists, we could see an economy failing in ways that we haven’t seen since the Carter administration, and our society is much more evil than it was in the late 70’s. We could be defending more and more against thieves rather than the worst case attackers that we used to consider. We could also be defending more and more against self-righteous but ultimately cowardly thugs like those who make up Antifa and BLM. Most of these are not tough guys. Any good wound is likely to stop them. Someone facing a mob of Antifa types with a 10/22 and a 30-round magazine has a good chance of driving them all away. Once they start taking wounds from .22LR shots, many are going to run back to their modern feminist dance professors and ask why their mindless, arrogant, self-righteousness didn’t stop a real American from shooting back at them. Against these kinds of attackers, even .380 ACP in lead round nose could be enough to stop the attack.

    I doubt that I’ll ever be able to afford just buying an extra gun completely for fun, I don’t condemn someone who finds a .32 ACP that works for him or her. I’ll never really trust a .22LR semi-automatic rifle or pistol not to jam at the wrong time, but I don’t condemn someone who has one of these for self-defense. Someone armed with a 9-shot revolver in .22LR will have a good chance to stop many kinds of attackers who could be encountered in these dark days.

  46. @Bo,
    While your story about a .25 is interesting and perhaps valid, there have been many reports of people shot multiple times with 9mm, .38, .357, including fatal shots, where the individual continued to fight and injure or kill others before actually collapsing from the injuries.

    There was a story about a woman who took her two children and a .38 and went to the furthest corner of the house upstairs and crawled in the attic area… only to have the intruder follow and try to crawl in. She shot him about 5 times with a .38 in the face, neck and shoulders, and he crawled out and left… he was found nearby, still alive. So, it happens with any caliber.

    While a .25 might not be the best of choices, there are cases where most any caliber will not do well.

    Your story speaks more to ..once you shoot your attacker, do not stand there and let them beat you…. or when shooting starts, get off the mark and move… seek cover.

    General comment;
    Any caliber will work for self defense, if you know how to use it, and hit what you aim at. Proper shot placement will do more. Most handgun calibers do not have ‘stopping’ power, even though most people will speak to ‘stopping’ power, it is generally shock and pain of being shot that stops most attacks. Not always, but generally.
    Depending on attire, event you are attending, and perhaps personal factors, a choice to carry a .22LR or .22 WMR, or a .32 or .380 are all good choices, even as EDC might be .38/.357, 9mm, .40, or .45.

  47. I like .40s&w. With a .40 the capacity is almost as much as a 9mm and you get added stopping power. I’m a fan of the Smith and Wesson M&P so I’ll use them as an example. The full size .45 has 10 rounds. Whereas the .40 holds 15 rounds, an increase of 50%. The 9mm holds 17 rounds. just 2 more than the .40. Oh, and that .45 is larger and heavier too.
    As I’m getting older and am developing arthritis, in the future I may want to rethink my caliber choice but, for now I’ll stick with my .40.
    I also own a couple of revolvers. While I rarely carry them they are both .357 magnums.

  48. the”rub”with the “percentage game”=leftist paradises like NYState i.e.10 rounds[or less]. When that idiocy/tyranny occurred,I went to 45ACP.Having a 200 lb black bear 20 yards from the house,was also an encouragement for the 45ACP.
    Wear looser fitting clothes and carry the bigger calibers.In revolvers go 357Mag,44Special,45Colt [s.n. factory only loads]

  49. In regards to the 9mm not doing sufficient damage, it happens with all calibers. With 9mm it happened a lot 20 years ago as many of the projectiles claimed to be useful hollow points but in fact were anything but reliable expanders. With the projectiles on the list above, you are getting consistent expansion to where quality 45 ACP expanded 20 years ago. Quality 45’s expand much better today but just like with the 9mm, many still use the inconsistent projectiles of years past with the 45 ACP and all other calibers.

    The point of my article was NOT to say 9mm is a good as 45 or any other caliber, per say, but to get you to look at what you carry in the caliber you run. Then evaluate if it is on the quality list or the inconsistent list. With the exception of 25 ACP, EVERY caliber has at least one choice that performs MUCH better than the rest or than the average. Knowledge is useful.

  50. I can’t recall who said it but the partial quote goes something like this “….don’t engage in a gunfight with any gun with a caliber that starts with less than .4 …” My EDC is a Glock 30 in .45 A.C.P.!

  51. @Mike, no hate here, just concern for you as the holder of that weapon. I have related this incident before but it apparently bears repeating. We had a man brought into our ER with 5 GSW’s to the chest. He was shot with a .25 ACP. Three of those rounds were stopped by the man’s sternum, one of those rounds fell out on the table as we were cutting his clothes off. Two of those rounds penetrated between ribs and bounced off ribs inside his chest, punching small holes in his aorta, both pulmonary arteries, and both pulmonary veins. He succumbed to his injuries in our ER after we cracked his chest and found all those punctured vessels. One of the investigating police officers told us that this situation was a drug deal gone bad. After our patient was shot, he responded by beating to death with his bare hands the man who shot him. The victim of the beating died before our patient collapsed which was just as the police arrived. That is not the only case I have seen where the shootee killed the shooter before collapsing from their wounds. Some of the shootees did not even suffer damage from being shot.
    I have only seen a few patients die after being shot with a .25, and none of them succumbed to their injuries in a timely manner. In my experience, the .25 is frequently unable to deter the advances of the intended target. Think about it, you are more likely to really p!$$ someone off if you shoot him with a .25 than anything else. Seen it multiple times. BTW, that does not sound like any kind of adequate self-defense plan to me.

  52. I’ve always been a bigger fan of calibers that begin with “4” for self-defense, but one caveat not mentioned was the almost incredible firepower available in a highly concealable 9mm, for instance.
    One must score hits on target before stoppage will occur. Since, as you made note to, it’s really a percentage game, may as well increase ones’ odds with more chances to hit said target.

  53. I believe what BO says. Been shooting since I was twelve. Started with a.45 cal 1011. Gone through lots of different calibers over the last 68 years (I am 80) About 5 years I ended back up with a Glock 30 .45 A.C.P. I have only been in one very short fire fight a long time ago As i mentioned before I am 80 plus years old. I train regularly (at lest once a month). I still shoot fist sizes groups at about seven yards (the longest distance in my house. .45 FOREVER!!

  54. I wonder how many people have actually been shot by their favorite defensive round. Since most often the distances are quite close, I can attest personally that a.380 will do the job nicely. I was making sure a gun was unloaded before I went to work and had an accidental discharge. Now I am missing my middle finger on my left hand. This was with standard practice ammo. No one else was injured, thank God, and I felt like an idiot that it happened in the first place. After almost 40 years of owning various firearms this was the first time and hopefully will be the last, barring Murphy’s Law. I’m just glad it wasn’t with a 9mm.

  55. Hate on me if you want, but I prefer my .25 in the house. Is it my EDC? Oh heck no! But it gives a very loud bang (scary sound to an intruder) and I’m not blasting holes in the neighbors walls while getting to the “okay let’s get serious” weapon.

  56. I am in agreement with everything you have covered in your article, but would also like to know your thoughts on the .327 Magnum round as a self-defense choice. Thanks.

  57. To all those who believe shot placement is the key understand this as BO explained adrenalin effects one in ways one could not imagine also consider that you have good marksmanship skills at the range BUT range targets are stationary and don’t shoot back!!!

  58. In the article, you mentioned and broke down all the calibers, good points and bad, except the 10mm, which is my choice for carry. I use the HST 165 JHP as my most often load out in a Glock 29 with Plus 2 extensions for 13 rounds total with two spare mags. I would like to see you review and comment on the plus and minus merits on this caliber.

  59. I am curious about 2 of my favorite:

    What about .41 Mag? It seems the it has the same muzzle energy as the .44 mag, but is much easier to control.

    The other is the 5.7 x 28. Lots of rounds in the mag, very high velocity, flat trajectory, accurate and virtually no kick. Of course one has to have the ability to buy the FN SJHP “red tips.”

    But mostly I carry a Sig 229 Legion with Hornady Critical Defense.

  60. I’m partial to the 7.62 X 25, but obviously its somewhat of a novelty, and impossible to find nowadays. Having said that, a .22 round can kill you just as dead as a .50 BMG.
    Location, location, location.

  61. Having seen and treated more GSW’s than I can count, I cannot resist throwing in my .02 in any discussion on the matter of Self-Defense Calibers. I was a medic in the Army long ago and far, far away. I may have seen a GSW or two during that time. When I got out, I began to work in civilian Emergency Department’s for the next thirty plus years, retiring to end up in Nursing Education.
    During my time as an ER nurse, I worked in three of the busiest ER’s in my state and saw several hundred GSW patients in a variety of calibers during that time. I was present when we cracked no small number of chests in our attempts to save the patient’s life. Seeing those cases has given me real world experience in what calibers are realistic for self-defense and it is not based on numbers written on paper.

    First, I will tell you the calibers that I have seen to most effective at stopping the victim. I say this because these were patients who were brought in with a single GSW that stopped them forever and there were no interventions we made any difference in patient outcome.
    Any of the .44’s, Magnum or Special, were all fatal to the patient. Most of the .45 ACP were Dead On Arrival, there were some who had a pulse as they were wheeled in, but they lost their heartbeat shortly after they arrived and even cracking their chest only showed us that they were truly Dead Right There. Those were the only caliber GSW’s which I saw that did not survive. I am aware that people have been shot in center of mass with those calibers and survived. I have NOT seen any who did.

    I have seen patients shot in the head with .22, .32, .38, and 9 mm who did not succumb to their injuries. Some of them had devastating disabilities, but some of them did not. One man was in a gunfight with Police and was hit in the head with a 9; he went ahead to shoot and kill one of the Police officers shooting at him. He was stopped when he was hit two more times in the head with a 9. He survived and was after extensive time in the hospital, was sent back to jail awaiting trial for first degree murder of that officer. While in jail, he realized just how deep the do he was in and committed suicide, saving the taxpayers a bundle and the officer’s family the agony of a protracted trial.

    That being said, have I seen people who were killed with 9 mm with one shot? Yes, but for most of them, it was not a stop right there situation. Some of those seen in my ER after being shot by a 9, some of whom had their chest cracked, survived the experience; however, some of them did not. I am not going to argue about shot placement or any of that, other than to say many of these were chest wounds that we were surprised survived. It was seeing these cases which turned me against the 9 as an adequate self-defense weapon. I have seen too many hit with a 9 who were not completely stopped by that weapon.

    Next on my list are what I call the No Way, No-How calibers. These are calibers that not only did they not stop the person shot, but the person shot went on to kill or injure the person who shot them. We worked these cases, not the person who was the shooter. Not in every case, but with a frequency that is alarming as it indicates to me that these calibers are inadequate to stop an attacker. On this list are all of the .22’s, .25, .32, .38 Sp, and .380. Have these calibers killed people? Yes, in thirty plus years in ER, I have seen people killed with all of these calibers, but I have seen far more who survived than died.

    I know people who begin to talk about how it is all about shot placement not caliber. They are usually people who have never been in a live-fire firefight. The first firefight a person is in changes them in ways they can not imagine. Anyone who thinks they will be different than 99% of the population who has been in a firefight is demonstrating how much they do not understand the dynamics involved. There was another recent situation where shots were fired by a bad guy and the local cops. No one at all was hit. That makes three or four of those in the last couple of years. When you draw down on a real human being, adrenaline kicks in, your ability to perform things that you think you know how to do is markedly diminished. Your vision tunnels and your perception of time becomes very distorted. Your ability to focus on the target seems to disappear.

    Don’t believe me? See a study on how bad police officers did in NYC in an 11 year study on the HIT-RATIO in police shootings here:

  62. As one of the “older” shooters Randy mentioned, I am looking to drop back to the .32 APC. The older part of me is not a fan of polymer and striker fired pistols. Also as a larger man with big mitts I prefer something I can grasp. Have shot the Walther PPK, an unfortunately the web of my hand seems to ride up over beavertail resulting in being cut by slide. I am trying to find a Beretta Cheetah to try now.
    I know the .32 doesn’t have the power of other rounds but back in the day it was a a well proven round, even carried by police in Europe. Since that time ammo has improved all along. We now have 60gr hollow points. So an easier shooting pistol which is not shooting through walls might start to make since.
    “Use the biggest caliber you can shoot well.” Carrying 10mm is nice but if do to physical limitations it works adversely against you, you are really better off with a smaller round. One needs to remember that means practice. Shot placement is also right up there.

  63. 22Mag-are you kidding?,in a 6.5″Single Six it has worse muzzleblast and recoil than a 38Spec in a 4″;in a [4″]revolver the 1st load is the”old FBI load”:Spec.+P 158grLHP,followed by 2 speedloaders of 357Mag 158grJHP:
    the only arguably good thing about 25ACP is the centerfire primer[more reliable vs rimfire priming], otherwise go with 22LRs.Try finding these Aquila SSS 60grainers.Reliable yes..if your firearm will handle them?
    If you’re determined to use a snubbie,go with the Charter Arms,etc 45Colt or 44Special-big hole even sans expansion,moderate recoil&.muzzleblast.Read Evans&Marshall’s:”Handgun Stopping Power”[they used actual autopsy results.Yes the 357Mag 125gr has good stopping power but HORRENDOUS MUZZLEBLAST/FLASH in a snubbie-been there.
    I like #4 buckshot for a shotgun-patterns better than 00 buckshot

  64. Good article. For most people, the advances in bullet technology has created 9mm rounds that are effective to a level not possible 20 years ago. HOWEVER, many older folks don’t have the strength to shoot striker fired pistols. Even racking the slide can be an issue.

    A 3″ model 60 S&W is my choice, with a model 638 S&W as an alternate. Both choices allow cocking for SA shooting, and with replacement grips, such as a CT LG 305 set, makes possible to still shoot accurately. Only difference is that I prefer the 110 gr Hornady SD rounds.

    If I didn’t have a .38, wished that a .327 mag/3″ revolver and a Hornady hot .32 H&R or .327 “lite” (90 gr ???) combo was available. Just give me a decent set of grips.

  65. Great analysis! I thought I had this figured out long ago, but I got an eye-opener on the best self-defense round for my 2.5” Smith Model 19 .357 mag, and will modify that load accordingly. Also agree on the effectiveness of the 165 grain .40 S&W loading, which does help with the snappy recoil. As you anticipated, I’m one of those .357 SIG fanboys, but now need to check what bullet I’ve been handloading in light of expansion info. Thanks again for the detailed analysis.

  66. Well thought out and well written. A nice correlation between actual world carry with reasoning and ballistics. I disagree with one of the ammo you have listed but otherwise agree with 98%. I think for many of us over penetration is a concern. Liberty is designed to break-up on impact so bullet weight retained and the varied flight path of the pedals through the body could make a difference. I haven’t seen actual field performance data on a lot of ‘defensive’ ammo.

    I carry a full size 1911 99% of the time (a double stack 9mm or 45 auto), on dress occasions (a funeral or such) I switch to a XD sub compact 45. I also carry a different brand of specialty ammo, Allegiance, which has worked well stopping on hogs.

    Cooper also said “You are only outgunned if you miss.” I know people who are ‘older than I’ and they have dropped back to .25 and .32 autos. But they are very accurate. I’d rather be grazed with a .50AE than punched in the Adam’s apple with a 22LR.

    Overall, John, a good read, worthy of one’s time.

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