This is a discussion on my take on caliber within the Concealed Carry Issues & Discussions forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; this is a repost from my newsletter LearnHowToShootGuns - I am looking for some good feedback and educated opinions. If law abiding citizens don’t arm ...
this is a repost from my newsletter LearnHowToShootGuns - I am looking for some good feedback and educated opinions.
If law abiding citizens don’t arm themselves with the tools and knowledge to defend themselves, their families, and their friends, they leave themselves vulnerable to those who are armed and will gladly do them harm.
There is much discussion lately about what gun to buy for self-defense. Most people want “one stop shot” capability, but often don’t know what it takes to accomplish that feat. Those of us who are trained well can comfortably make a “one shot stop” with a .22 caliber bullet. Of course this is without the surge of adrenaline and the chaos involved in any situation that would require us to use a firearm in self-defense . Others insist that they must have a .45 ACP. To fully understand the implications of each round and figure out which one suits your needs best, you have to have a basic understanding of the rounds themselves.
There is a modest selection of calibers to choose from when looking at a self-defense handgun. You can start as small as the .22 and go as high as the .50. For the purposes of this discussion we will stick with the calibers between .22 and .45 as the handguns chambered for these rounds can be reasonably concealed. I will be addressing only the most popular calibers for those of you who know there are a few missing from the following very basic descriptions.
The .22 LR (or Long Rifle) is a rim fired round used most often in target practice, plinking, and small game hunting. The round causes very little recoil and is often used to teach shooting fundamentals. The round is .22 inches in diameter. It is very small. It has been used quite successfully in self -defense situations. The round tends to penetrate two legged targets and deflect off of bones and create nasty wounds. To those who say it is too small, I say, it would not be my choice for primary carry, but I would not hesitate to use one if it was handy and I needed to defend myself.
The next round I will cover is the center fired .38 caliber series. I say “series” because for our intents and purposes, the .38 caliber bullet is used in the .380, 38, 9mm, 357 special, and .357 sig cartridges. For purists, I know you will talk about the difference in case and bullet sizes among these calibers, but the bullets are all the same basic size. The difference lies in the velocities these cases are able to create for the different rounds. A .380 is the slowest of these calibers and is quite popular among todays concealed carry license holders. This is because the guns can be made in the “micro” size and they fit neatly in a pocket making them ideal for personal protection. The rounds cause a small amount of recoil which is easily managed by even the smallest hands. Because the casing for these rounds is so small, not much powder propels the round to the target, making it the slowest of the rounds in this series.
The .38 is generally a revolver (or wheel gun) cartridge. It has a much higher velocity than the .380 and therefore creates more damage in two legged targets. It has long been used by wheel gun enthusiasts for personal carry and has an impressive track record for self- defense shootings. The recoil created by this round is moderate and very manageable.
The 9mm is a popular round and many autoloaders can be found in this chambering. The round is basically the same as a 38, but cased differently for auto loaders. It can be found easily and generally cheaply. It is a medium velocity round and due to its size many compact autoloaders can carry a large quantity of them in their magazine. In most handguns this round creates moderate recoil which is easily managed.
The .357 magnum and the .357 sig are both high velocity rounds. The magnum is most often found in wheel guns while the sig is made for autoloaders. The .357 sig was created in an effort to replicate the performance of the .357 magnum in an autoloader. Because of the high velocity of these rounds, targets of the two legged variety often have devastating wounds. The recoil generated by each of these rounds is sharp and requires practice to control for accurate consecutive shots which may be required in self-defense situations. As with any firearm, the heavier the gun, the lighter the recoil. This means that the popular sub-compact sized pistols chambered in .357 sig will be lighter and have heavier recoil. If you acquire one, practice well and often!
The .40 caliber round is .40 inch in diameter. Because of the diameter, it is a larger heavier bullet that travels at a medium to high velocity. It is ideal for personal defense due to its speed and ability to penetrate heavy clothing and still penetrate deeply into a target. Again, the amount of felt recoil varies on the size of the gun.)
The .45 caliber is the “go to” caliber for many who carry concealed. This round has a medium velocity and hits hard. It was made popular by soldiers in World War Two who swore by its power to stop the enemy. Because it is a slower, heavier bullet, it works much like train – the bullet will penetrate and smash and create large wound tracks in targets. The handguns chambered for the .45 are often heavier and therefore decrease the amount of recoil to a very manageable level. That being said, there are several manufacturers that are marketing sub-compact models (some of which are lightweight polymer) which have sharp recoil. Practice, practice, practice. I prefer the .45 but I also practice well and often.
The ultimate goal when firing a weapon in self- defense is to persuade an attacker to stop attacking. The truth is that all of these calibers are capable of making an attacker refocus his or her attention. The difference lies in how many shots on target it will take to either re-focus that attention, or incapacitate your attacker. With practice, no one will deny the “stopping “power and efficiency of larger caliber rounds. Practice will increase your accuracy and shot placement is the king in any self -defense situation involving firearms. If you have small hands and recoil is an issue for you, a smaller caliber will suit you better than a larger one. You may just have to make your gun sound like a jackhammer before your assailant is thwarted. At any rate, the first rule of a gun fight is to have a gun. The gun you will carry all the time is better than the one you left at home because it was too heavy and too bulky for what you were wearing. Pick your poison and practice with it until putting well placed rounds where you intend them to go no longer surprises you…. Then practice a lot more!
Well thought out and balanced. Like you wrote, there really is no one stop shot or knock down round. It's better to have a gun that you will carry all the time than a large one that is hard to carry and conceal that is left at home.
"Was there no end to the conspiracy of irrational prejudice against Red Ryder and his peacemaker?"
Revolvers, “more elegant weapons for a more civilized age.”
jtcomega Sounds like good commone sence.
Good article, and hello from Pittsburgh.
Though defensive violence will always be a sad necessity in the eyes of men of principle, it would be still more unfortunate if wrongdoers should dominate just men -St. Augustine
Or this... IMHO...
"Death is lighter than a feather, but Duty is heavier than a mountain" Robert Jordan
Si hoc legere scis, nimis eruditionis habes
My take on caliber is this................
In one shooting a .32 will put the perp down with one or two shots, even if marginal.
In the next one , it may be a .45 that puts the BG down in the same fashion.
Then in the next it may take 12 rounds of 9mm to do the job.
It is all about risk.
And how comfortable you are with taking risk. If you are alright with the idea and the notion that should your life be on the line, you are good with a .380 and 6-7 rounds and only one BG.
Murphy generally has a way of tagging along with me when I explicitly tell him to buzz off.
That is why I will carry @ minimum, a 9mm w/12 rnd. mag.
Once in a blue moon will I venture out with a 5 shot .38.
For those who have never read about Peter Soulis, and the tribulation he encountered one day, here's the link.
Officer Down: The Peter Soulis Incident - Below 100 - LawOfficer.com
Remarkably, Palmer had taken 22 hits from Soulis' .40-caliber Glock, 17 of which had hit center mass. Despite the fact that the weapon had been loaded with Ranger SXTs considered by many to be one of the best man-stoppers available Palmer lived for more than four minutes after the last shot was fired. His autopsy revealed nothing more than a small amount of alcohol in his bloodstream. Although Soulis could not have known it, Palmer was wanted for murder in a neighboring state.
I would rather die with good men than hide with cowards
If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.
"Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy."
M&Pc .357sig, 2340Sigpro .357sig
My take on caliber is this...
Shoot until the threat ceases.
With some calibers, you may have to shoot awhile...with others, not so much.
Even so, if you keep shooting until the threat stops...caliber wont matter much.
Universal Background Checks...the next step towards registration and confiscation.
AR. CHL Instr. 07/02 FFL
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Whatever you choose, when the time comes to shoot, shoot well and often.
Know Guns, Know Safety, Know Peace.
No Guns, No Safety, No Peace.
Kerberos, is that a 416 Rigby? Has the earmarks.
OP, with good ammo and practice, it's all good.
A few nitpicks -- with the largest being that I'm not shooting to convince someone to stop what their doing. I'm shooting to make them be unable to continue what their doing. I don't want any semblance of choice being involved.
With that being said, as noted, all handguns are a compromise. There is a diminishing return and at the 9x19 and .38 spl +p level the real world performance of defense rounds levels off. This means you should pick the handgun you're most comfortable with that's .38 spl +p or better. And since there is no real "knock down" power in handguns I live by the adage of anything worth shooting once is worth shooting twice.
There are some typo's in the article. It is an overly simplistic view with far too much anecdote and very little real information.