If you are carrying a handgun for self-defense then anything under .35 caliber is not going to do a good job. Ammo in the .22, .25 and .32 calibers, commonly called “mouse gun” calibers, will not stop most motivated attackers. The only benefit is that the handguns are lighter to carry.
At the Middle of the scale, we have the .38 calibers which can be difficult to hold when firing and sometimes unreliable. In my opinion, the best calibers are the .357 Magnum and the .380 Special. Because they are Revolvers then the rate of fire can be reduced to some degree. I would avoid the .38 snub nose revolvers due to their small grips and poor sites.
Next to consider is the 9mm, .40 and .45 which should stop most attackers with a single shot compared to two shots with the lower caliber handguns. These calibers are currently the most popular choices for concealed carry.
The capacity of a handgun can give you one of the easiest comparisons. The calibre of the handgun is going to determine how much ammo it will hold. With 9mm rounds being smaller than .45 you are going to fit more 9mm into a cartridge than the .45 rounds. Using the table below we can compare the carrying capacities of Glocks;
The laws of physics dictate that you cannot have a big bullet with high velocity. To achieve high velocity you would need a small bullet. So we are forced to make a compromise. Most law enforcement have been using the .40 Smith and Wesson from 1990 when the FBI popularized the use of them. This model was chosen by the FBI as it was a compromise. It had more capacity and less recoil than a .45 Model but with more power than a 9mm.
Recently the FBI have changed to the 9mm as they say it is more accurate and faster and of course a better compromise. Other law enforcement agencies will probably follow the FBI’s example and it gives you a good example of what to buy. This should not stop you from trying out other options though.
Why the 9mm is so popular;
There are a large number of firearms available that accept the 9mm round. This has become the favorite among self-defense calibers.
- It is a good compromise caliber.
- Ammunition is readily available and most stores stock it.
- It is sold in a number of options such as FMJ, frangible and hollow point.
- The caliber has become one of the favorites due to its accuracy, easy control, low recoil and all this in a lightweight handgun
- The lighter bullets may not penetrate thick clothing
- Some people prefer a heavier handgun
Popular among law enforcement agencies and has a good record of stopping attacks.
- There is a wide range of handguns made for this caliber.
- One shot will stop a person in most cases.
- Large bullet but still fast
- Difficult to control for some persons due to its sharp recoil.
Has been used by the military and is the largest calibre available.
- Available in most stores for a reasonable price
- good selection of ammunition options.
- Guaranteed to stop anyone attacking with one shot.
- Requires a larger gun to handle the ammunition
- Can be slightly harder to conceal.
- Possibly to much recoil for some in smaller semi-automatics.